And then there were…
I think anybody who follows politics and finance closely could probably guess the identities of at least half of the ten bankers involved (I hasten to add that I have no inside knowledge as to their identities).
There’s an extraordinary race taking place at the moment between media outlets to be the first to out The Troublesome Ten. Will it serve any public purpose besides a dose of schadenfreude? Probably not. It’s a bit of a distraction. The only political significance is if there was indeed a ‘golden circle’, a nexus between these guys and Fianna Fail in government. I just can’t swallow that line. Sorry.
The real trope? A seasoned Fianna Fail TD saluted me today as I trundled through the carpark. Like all FF TDs you meet these days, he said something along the lines of “things are bad and it’s worse it’s getting”.
He added – and a lot of them do – that the people (ah yep, the great unwashed out there ) are just not attuned to that grim horrible reality as yet. “They don’t realise what’s going to hit them,” he declared.
He’s wrong. I was down in Galway at the weekend. And knocking around the streets of Dublin this week. And every conversation I was involved in, or eavesdropped, or half-heard, was been about the state of the nation and it being banjaxed (though the word used was shorter and less polite in most cases) or about poor Brian Goggin having to survive on less than €2 million this year.
Misery has had a viral effect on people. The contagion has spread. They are being accosted with it everywhere. And that’s caused an inertia, a hoovering of confidence from consumers, from employers, from workers.
The constant barrage of doom-laden stories in the media is also relentless. Misery seems to be the only thing that’s in plenty now.
The visual clues have also emerged: the ’for sale’ signs on every high street and on every housing estate; the fact that we all know somebody who has been let go or can’t find a job; or know a public servant who has discovered they are a lot less well off than they were a couple of weeks ago. Now there are stoppages. Soon there will be strikes. Not long after, there will be street protests. And possibly riots.
Most people are wise to all of this.
We are all doomed. And we all know it. The other thing that’s changed (unsurprisingly) is that people have become very politicised… and very polarised too. Just a flick through the comments we get on this one blog (besides the ones that berate my spelling and my grammar) show how strongly and quickly people have adopted sides and positions (and occasionally prejudices!). And boy are they sticking to their principles and to their guns.
If you are a politician (usually FF or Green) in their crosshairs, beware. They are angry. Very angry. That Fianna Fail TD out having his cigarette in the Dáil carpark declaring that people don’t really know what’s going to hit them is as familiar with the zeitgeist as Pat Kenny was with the world and world-view of Pete Doherty.
And in all that, is there no place for hope, or for some kind of solidarity in all of this? Does Brian Cowen and his government have the emotional wherewithal to spell out the reality of the situation but offer some semblance of hope and normality, some distant gleam of light over the far horizon?
I suspect that, ultimately, they don’t. Nor does the Fianna Fail side have the vocabulary or maturity to ready up and admit the mistakes, its culpability (along with the PeeDees) in overheating the market and ratcheting up the greed factor over ten years.
It begs a few questions: Was the mantra of low personal and low corporate taxes a spur for the Celtic Tiger or was it just a massive loan we drew down for a decade?
The more I look at it, the more the Celtic Tiger seems like a massive Bernie Madoff wheeze… a State-wide Ponzi pyramid scheme that fooled us all for a decade that growth and profits could continue indefinitely. That moral hazards had been consigned to the past.