Economics and politics, for a large measure, operates on a psychological principle not so far removed from the Jedi Mind Trick. All you have to do is believe. Already in the final months of last year, TV pundits endlessly repeated how we were all essentially to blame for this collapse: living on credit, buying cheap property, riding on the boom. However, some of us may be itching to ask: What’s this we business paleface? Against the new additions to the middle class, all the have-a-go landlords and the serial house buyers, the little stock-market gamblers, the working-Tory entrepreneurs, the owners of the next ‘new young business’ marketing yet more pointless art-school designerware, there has been a hundred other people who were still just getting-by. These people never make enough to get a mortgage (even if they wanted one); never actually lived off maxed-out credit cards trying to live that still-present Reagan-Thatcher dream of ultra-material success, unless is was to pay for food and the gas bill. Unfortunately a slice of this group believed the lies of investors and mortgage brokers who told them (and sold them) the idea that in these days of financial wizardry anyone can get the money for their dream house, even with only the collateral amounting to several dead-end jobs and a battered car. Ironically at the very bottom, the trinket consumers, kidding themselves that they’re not this economic system’s biggest losers.
It’s a wily gambit trying to evenly spread out the blame. Trying to hoodwink everyone into believing that all this wasn’t actually an economic policy purposefully devised and heavily implemented over the last thirty years. Kept afloat by rigged tax loopholes, government-corporate collusions, backhanders, vacuous politics, police state tactics (where necessary), and just simple bare-faced lies.
Among the many hit by this deep, inevitable recession there are probably some who are kicking themselves that they didn’t know enough about how the system works to stop themselves getting into a financial trap they couldn’t possibly hope to get out of. After all it’s the public’s fault that they aren’t all high-level economists and financial experts, isn’t it?
Last week in the English parliament, a gang of bankers (some still in the driver’s seat, some not) were summoned in front of MPs to answer questions about the banking fiascos. All that this grilling session finally produced, with its questions about why things were allowed to dangerously run off the rails and where, in the name of Zod, all those billions of bailout money have gone to, was a pathetic and insulting ‘sorry‘ offered by each banker-criminal (the terms can be used interchangeably), with as much sincerity as they could muster for the cameras. This display is directly related to the other varieties of apportioning blame. In this version, all you have to do is get the representatives, make them admit things and then force (or encourage, or wait for) them to apologise. In politics, apologising is considered something like Catholic confession or plenary indulgences.
Back in the real world, in the early months of the banking crisis not much thought was given to the potential loss of jobs this giant Monopoly game would create, they were still reported as ‘local’ losses—not on the scale that they are being lost now. No-one outside the official channels can expect to have realistic numbers to quote at this stage, but a generous estimate would probably be that 1 in 10 will probably disappear. Both the bank bailouts and stimulus plans have singularly failed to either protect or create any jobs, yet the double-think position of governments has been that there are jobs still available and that people should be helped back into work. In a political-economic environment that for thirty years has had little sense and credibility, it’s not a surprising position, but it remains false and delusional. The neo-liberal economic machine will still blame people whose jobs and livelihoods have been ruined, for their own unemployment; still try to find its scapegoats for why ‘the system went wrong’, because the common thread running through this is that only people fail, whereas the system and the policy that creates it is thought to be sound. How well can the ‘a few bad apples…’ theory be put forward when almost everyone seems to be essentially to blame? Almost everyone and everything except the neo-liberal capitalist machine and its architects: the policy-makers and holders of power and wealth, whose names never seem to get mentioned when blame is being apportioned.