Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A Day Without a Leader

Remember the 2004 film "A Day Without a Mexican"? A pink fog come in from the Pacific one night and envelops California. When it leaves the next morning, it has taken every single Mexican-Californian with it. Instantly the entire state grinds to a halt Mexican-Californians do everything from feed Anglo kids in the morning to suing slumlords - a huge amount of the real labor on which society depends.

I'm starting the New Year by imagining A Day without a Banker. What if they all disappeared? Would we miss their labor? We wouldn't miss the 2 and 20 fees charged by hedge fund operators? We wouldn't miss the capital the finance community extracts from non-financial firms rather than raises for it (as Doug Henwood showed in Wall Street). We wouldn't miss their endless authoritative statements on CNBC that serve their own positions, and are reversed the following week. We wouldn't miss their fund management skill, since stock indexes outperform the vast majority of professional managers. We wouldn't miss the outsized slice they take out of the national income for their services. What exactly would we miss? Ah - a day without a banker.

What about a Day Without a Leader? I think about this one a lot, most recently via:
- les voeux du president de la republique, a New Years Eve address to the French public by in these days their Jogger-in-chief. Not only has the Omnipresident as Le Canard Enchaine calls him accomplished nothing except infinite publicity for himself, but he speaks to the French with the weird guilty resentment of the philandering husband addressing his kids. "I would never betray you," he exclaimed. Well a) you already have and b) who cares about our "relationship" with you- we want results.
- more broadly, the main job of world leaders today is to shift wealth from the working majority of their countries to, well, bankers - the world of finance capital and their allies. Le Monde Diplomatique has a nice piece about this in its January issue. Francois Ruffin cites among various bank-authored technical papers a Bank of International Settlements Working Paper whose title sums it up: "The Global Upward Trend in the Profit Share." One estimate is that by 2006, about 120 billion Euro more of France's Gross Domestic Product goes each year to capital rather than to labor than was the case in equivalent monetary units in 1983. France has somewhat more than 60 million people, so say each man, woman and child has 2000 Euro less per year than he or she would have had prior to the shifts in tax policy, pricing, and a thousand other technicalities. If each household has around 3 people, that means that each French household would have an extra 500 Euro a month under the regime prior to the great "revolt of the haves."

Ah: a Day without a Leader!

No comments: