Friday, December 09, 2011
Them The 1%
After my last posting, Ruan Mor commented that we have currently “the austerity story (austerity for some while the rich carry on trousering vast amounts of money).”
A corollary of this, at its most simplistic, is that the government spending cuts are wrong. It’s as though it’s the bankers and wealthy people who should be suffering, not us, as if they could afford to pay off the country's debts. (I think it's quite right, though, that they should be asked to pay more than they do.) I find a lot of the protests against the cuts hard to understand. It’s basic housekeeping, and it has to be done, because we are in debt, for whatever reason. I can understand protests against specific cuts, but even then you need to suggest what should be cut instead. But the protests aren’t usually like this. The cuts often seem to be billed as unnecessary per se.
If we took the excess salaries of these bankers and CEOs and distributed the money around the country, it would not go very far. Their salaries, in themselves, do not make other people poor. But those salaries are symbolic of a system that has been allowed to get out of balance. And who allowed that to happen? If you live in a democracy, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t elect a government and then blame the politicians, or the bankers, when it all goes wrong.
For many (myself included), the bankers salaries are representative of what has gone wrong. But that doesn’t make the bankers bad people, or make them the cause of what has happened. I was watching an interview with the actor James Earl Jones. And he said that top actors, including himself, get paid far too much, and that is at the expense of the other actors in the film. But, he said, you don’t therefore refuse your salary, you take what you are paid. Some bankers undoubtedly have been and are greedy and corrupt. But most of them, like everyone else, do their job and take home their pay, and if they are capable and ambitious, they take home a lot of pay. That is the way the system works in all industries, for better or for worse.
No, it is not the bankers who are to blame. Bankers are bankers, and we need them. It is we the 99% who are to blame for electing governments who didn’t properly regulate the financial system and who overspent and who allowed far too much wealth to be concentrated in too few hands. But we were enjoying the boom times too much to question them.
In the 30s, after the last Uranus-Pluto square, a load of regulation was brought in to control the financial system and avoid another crash. In the 1990s, the regulation was repealed and within a decade or so the same thing happened all over again.
This is the nature of the idealism of Uranus-Pluto. There is good in it, but it also polarises, it divides, it demonises. We worship wealth and we condemn it. What is needed is reform, not revolution. Camping out in the middle of cities isn’t going to do it, because where are the politicians who reflect that mood? Is the West really so enervated from decades of good living that all it can manage is a minority silent protest with no clear message? The Arab world has taken the bull by the horns and overthrown its dictators. We do not need to do that. But we need their energy, and we need to vote in reformers.