The Praetorian Guards of the financial markets

When it comes to putting forward prescriptions for dragging their economic system out of its current mess, the breathtaking arrogance of members of the capitalist establishment never ceases to amaze.

When it comes to putting forward prescriptions for dragging their economic system out of its current mess, the breathtaking arrogance of members of the capitalist establishment never ceases to amaze.

Mr. Peter Sutherland is but the latest to demand that even more savage cuts should be inflicted on the living standards and public services of ordinary people.

Speaking last week at the “Autumn Lunch” of the Institute of Directors, Mr. Sutherland clearly indicated that, instead of a cut of €3 billion in the December Budget, far more is required and “if all the mainstream parties accept that more is required… we can find a way. The Governor of the Central Bank said we should do so. These cuts involve pain.”

The pain, however, will not be felt by Mr Sutherland who is very rich from his many big business interests, including being formerly Chairman of BP, one of the biggest multinational companies in the world. Mr Sutherland’s pain will instead be felt by those plunged into unemployment, and low and middle income workers whether in the public or private sectors.

Apart from the inappropriateness of millionaires preaching the virtues of more hardship to hard pressed working people, the unemployed and the poor, there is another reason why Peter Sutherland should keep his counsel, but, since he hasn’t done so, why that counsel should be treated with contempt.

Peter Sutherland is the Chairman of Goldman Sachs International, a subsidiary of Goldman Sachs one of the biggest banks in the world. This financial giant was one of the institutions that was synonymous with the crazed speculative activities on the world’s financial markets leading up to the cataclysmic financial crash of 2008 in the United States.

In a searing article in Rolling Stone magazine, journalist Matt Taiba described Goldman Sachs as, “The world’s most powerful investment bank” and “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” He asserted that its enormous power enabled it to manipulate “whole economic sectors for years at a time, moving the dice game as this or that market collapses and all the time gorging itself on the unseen costs that are breaking families everywhere – high gas prices, rising consumer credit rates, half eaten pension funds, mass layoffs, future taxes to pay off bailouts.”

Goldman Sachs didn’t just make money on the subprime mortgage scene as the bubble was being inflated. With consummate cynicism, when it suspected that the bubble was about to burst, it made billions betting on a collapse of the house of cards engaging in what is known as shortselling.

One would imagine that anybody associated with this company would at least have maintained a shamed silence as the financial casino it had helped to construct spectacularly crashed .

Last week Mr. Sutherland was not the only representative of finance capital who was demanding a scorched earth economic policy to try and rescue their system. William Slattery, the Executive Vice President of another major financial services company, State Street, demanded that 30,000 public service workers – one tenth of the total –should be sacked.

In the armies of the Roman Empire when the commanders wanted to punish or terrify the foot soldiers, they ordered the “decimation” of the ranks, meaning, literally, the execution of every tenth soldier. Now this Praetorian of the financial markets would like to see the decimation of the ranks of the public sector, plunging services into even greater crisis.

Even more extraordinary was the fact that the Sunday Independent devoted an extended editorial outlining how this jobs massacre could be whitewashed and justified. The extraordinary logic proposed in this newspaper which, is owned by two billionaires, is that, since the crisis of Irish and international capitalism has plunged thousands of workers employed by private companies into unemployment with their living standards attacked and their pensions slashed, equality means that this fate should also be inflicted on tens of thousands of more workers, this time in the public service.

The headline of the piece is “Cherishing all our children equally” echoing the famous aspiration from the 1916 proclamation. Perversely, however, whereas the writers of the Proclamation intended that “cherishing all the children of the nation equally” was meant in the sense of lifting up the poor and deprived, the Independent’s spurious version demands the impoverishment of others. What an utter indictment of the bankruptcy of the captains of finance and their media cheerleaders.

Today, all over Europe, millions of workers are marching in opposition to the attacks on their livelihood and living standards as part of the European Trade Union Confederation’s Europe wide mobilisation. They need to raise their voices much louder in opposition to the shrill demands of the financial speculators and their media cheerleaders.

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