1 May, 2008
Have you noticed that whenever we see/hear a corporate boss or government hack open their mouths, they’re invariably no more than mediocre creeps in shiny suits?
Either, they’re trying to worm their way out of their role in the latest disaster to befall us or, they’re peddling some twaddle intended to obfiscate, confuse or just plain lie about events and their causes and of course, their role in it.
And it stretches across every sector of business and government, from agriculture to telecoms. Under ‘New Labour’ all kinds of ‘regulatory’ bodies have been created (or they’re revamps of existing ones). But it’s all smoke and mirrors, window-dressed by creepy PR and marketing sleazoids. In reality, these ‘regulatory’ bodies are no more than rubber stamps for Big Business.
Worse, these servants of Capital are, by and large, mediocre individuals with limited intellect, driven only by a lust for money and power. As a rough guide, you have to ask yourself if you’d like to hang out with these characters. I think not.
But on occasion television does a really good job of revealing these thieves and con-men (and for the most part, they are men). So for example, on 28 April, Channel 4’s ‘Dispatches’ program was about the gigantic rip-off by the cellular networks, or as one network exec put it:
“The purest form of profit ever invented.”
Which is another way of saying that the networks have a license to print money.
But it’s the role of government that’s scrapes the bottom of the barrel for they are unashamedly in bed with the operators. The government’s ‘regulatory’ body, OFCOM makes no bones about whose side it’s on:
“[Margaret Hodge, the then minister of telecommunications] was playing the role of spokesperson for the telecoms industry,” and according to an EU minister investigating the outrageous roaming charges which were some 400% higher than the highest prices charged across the EU, “are in cahoots with the [network] operators”.
The same woman wrote to the UK minister for telecoms several times without even receiving a reply. And leaked emails between Vodafone and the government reveals that the government is “2/3rds for the operators”.
But this goes for every government department. We see it at work in the National Health Service and Education, where corporations (all with intimate connections to government) are cleaning up big time and NOT delivering anything except big profits for themselves.
In the UK, with some 66 million cellphones, the network operators generate 17% of their profits from text messaging (sent mostly by kids) at 5p a pop. The REAL cost for each message is actually a fraction of a penny. Yes indeedy, a license to print money.
The outrageous roaming charges come from what is in reality nothing more than a toll for connecting one network to another, a process which costs virtually nothing to do. It’s literally (electronic) highway robbery.
Of course, at the bottom of it all is the £23 billion the government got from auctioning licenses for the frequencies to the operators, thus from the getgo the government had to make sure that the operators got their investment back and as fast as possible. It’s one gigantic rip-off, with government well and truly in bed with Big Business (an accusation the government predictably denies).
So who do these so-called regulatory bodies work for, us or the industries they claim to be regulating?
Could there be a clearer example of how ‘innovation’ and technological development works only to the advantage of Big Business? Talk about getting more for doing less, for once the networks have been built (repeater masts and off-the-shelf servers and software), as long as the network operators have control of the data, they have a lock on OUR content, without which they can’t make a penny.
So how do they get away with it? Well for example, privatizing public services is dressed up as ‘Public-Private Financing’, citing the fallacy that business is more ‘efficient’ than government when the reality is that Big Business is really good at spending our money and literally walking away from all the cock-ups they engineer. And to add insult to injury, the government hides the real costs of these so-called efficiencies by leaving them out of its accounting procedures. Ten or twenty years down the line, the REAL cost of ‘New Labour’s confidence trick will come back to haunt us (by which time, Blair, Brown will be dust. What a brilliant way to ‘balance the books’ eh.
The point is, such blatant robbery and deception would not be possible without an army of wordsmiths and image consultants, in a word, propagandists for capitalism, propagandists who have successfully utilized the power of advertising to deliver a false reality.
One need only look at the people ‘New Labour’ have gathered around them, people who move freely between the political class, advertising, PR and journalism. All, as the latest Media Lens piece reveals (‘Flexible friends – the Observer, the Independent, and the myth of a media spectrum’), share a common educational background and come from the same sector of society, the so-called middle class. All are firmly in bed with Big Capital on whose ‘largesse’ their careers depend.
Totally divorced from the realities of everyday life, they have (so far) successfully created a mythological version of capitalism that taps directly into people’s fears, insecurities and desires.
We need only look at how they handled the latest crisis of capital, the so-called credit crunch to see how they do it. How quickly the ‘sub-prime mortgage’ disaster and its causes disappeared from the ‘news’, to be replaced by all manner of jargon:
“Much more important was their [the banks] naïve and reckless lending and investing, most of which was on their balance sheets, not off it. What’s mullered their capital is markdowns and losses on CDOs, subprime, Alt-A, CLOs, monoline exposure and loans to private-equity deals (if that’s impenetrable gobbledegook, just think “investments which were too clever by half”).
“Yesterday, the governor, Mervyn King, put the blame for this mess squarely on the remuneration incentives for bankers to do as many deals as possible, and never mind the long-term consequences.” — ‘Brown and banks’, BBC Business News Website, 30 April, 2008.
So it’s just the greed of individuals that’s the cause? The real cause, vast amounts of surplus capital sloshing around the system is not even alluded to, nor is the role of ‘deregulation’ of the financial sector mentioned. Instead, Mr. Preston, the author of these ‘words of wisdom’, reduces it all to “investments which were too clever by half”, but what does this mean?
As always, rather than the fundamental contradictions of capitalism being the cause, we are presented with a view which blames individual greed, and of course individuals are greedy but they don’t create the system, they merely exploit it.
When the financial sector was ‘deregulated’ in the 1970s, the controls imposed on capitalism in the 1930s (in theory to end the same financial speculation that led to the ‘29 Crash), it created a free-for-all environment. Banks, previously barred from using depositors’ money to invest in speculative ventures (ie, “CDOs, subprime, Alt-A, CLOs, monoline exposure and loans to private-equity deals”) were now able to do so.
Yes, greed, but greed driven by the need to satisfy the owners of gigantic investment portfolios, who are not individuals but mostly insurance companies and pension funds, who freed from the controls of regulation saw vast profits to be made. Great while business boomed, after all, the banks are not using their money but yours!
No mention of any of this on the BBC’s Website. The previously mentioned “CDOs, subprime, Alt-A, CLOs, monoline exposure and loans to private-equity deals” are only possible because Capital, freed from the controls imposed (reluctantly) on them by the state were free to be real clever with other people’s money. “Too clever by half”? I think not for the entire point of ‘deregulation’ was to allow Capital free reign regardless of the consequences (just as it had been in the ‘good old days’). If it all goes wrong, it will be the poor who pay the price and be assured, their voice will not be heard on the BBC nor will anyone who dares challenge the (God-given?) right of Capital to do as it pleases.
It explains why when Northern Wreck went belly-up, we heard a chorus from all the usual suspects of ‘no nationalization!’ (even though the reality was nationalization), for to admit that the ‘market’ is in fact not self-regulating is to expose the myth so carefully constructed by the propagandists that capitalism, with all its faults, is the best of all possible worlds.
And, as subsequent events so forcefully demonstrate, Capital is structurally incapable not only of not regulating itself or, of solving its inbuilt contradictions. The state, forced by circumstances has no choice but to intervene, or, watch the entire house of cards collapse, and even then, caught between keeping the clapped out contraption running, that is to say, keep on buying, buying, buying by lowering interest rates (and no doubt a little polite arm-twisting at a slap-up meal) and in the process, knowing full well that it has to extend credit even as inflation eats away at everyone’s buying power and the only way to do this is to print more money, thus fueling yet more inflation. It’s a no-win situation and one that we’ve experienced many, many times before.
And lurking in the background, but always present is the ominous cause, the USA. Remember when all the ‘pundits’ were telling us that the US ‘sub-prime mortgage’ wouldn’t affect the ‘vibrant’ UK economy, ‘We don’t behave that way’ they said. But it’s got nothing to do with the way Brit business is run, as Northern Wreck demonstrates, proving that anyway it’s not that different.
The UK is the world’s numero uno conduit for money, in all its varied and wonderful guises and, as far as the financial sector is concerned, it’s a question of how many ways are there of skinning a cat through devizing all kinds of financial ‘products’ that can be bought and sold (at a profit) by other financial institutions trying to do the same thing, namely producing ‘wealth’ out of thin air. It’s even simpler than the network boss’s ‘purist form of profit ever invented’ as you don’t actually have to make anything.
All deregulation did was make it legal for any financial institution to commit fraud, for there are now no controls over how money can made and made by a small number of very big players. We’re talking here about corporations that move billions around on a daily basis, with what is effectively a mark-up being put on these ‘financial instruments’ every time they undergo some metamorphosis into another ingenious ‘product’. Which is what got all these banks in deep doo-doo in the first place; they didn’t know (nor care) what they bought (or sold) as long as they made a buck out of the transaction. It’s mostly composed of various kinds of gambling on the future value of all these fictitious ‘financial instruments’ ‘packaged’ together in bundles, including your mortgage, your credit card debts, oil futures, you name it they’ve got it packaged. And look where it’s landed them (and us)!
This is speculation on a grand scale but I call it thievery on a global scale because the results of this gigantic con-game that’s been played on the planet is rapidly unravelling and threatening the lives and livelyhoods of billions.
It’s simple in a dumb, capitalist kind of way. If you’re not producing real wealth, that is, products and their associated services, then the wealth being produced is fictitious, it’s a mere accounting sleight-of-hand but, and this is the crucial bit: you can only pull of this gigantic fraud by stealing real wealth from everyone else, and I mean the entire planet. This is what ‘globalism’ is all about and that’s why there are food rebellions all over the planet. It’s ripping off the real wealth of the planet by forcing every nation on the planet to play by the capitalist’s rules.
It explains why the hatred of anything that smacks of that awful word socialism; why Hugo Chavez is treated so derisorily and with such venom in the Western media, for it’s the idea that a country could put its citizens before the American Way that simply cannot be tolerated. Chavez, whether he and his comrades succeed in building ‘21st century socialism’ or screw it all up, makes no difference, he’ll be dealt with in the same manner, as an enemy of (Western) ‘civilization’.