Laurie Penny talks #OWS with a Goldman-Sachs mouthpiece, totally crushes it

In this clip from BBC Newsnight, Boing Boing pal Laurie Penny (who's in NYC covering the Occupy demonstrations) takes on a former Goldman-Sachs partner who tries to concern-troll the #OWS movement, saying that they're flacid, decentralized, and have the wrong target, because the problem isn't banks, it's those damned liberal governments who incurred huge debts with their deuced social spending. Laurie wipes up the floor with the bloated plutocrat, without breaking a sweat.

Goldman Sachs view on crooked banker protests (17Nov11) (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)


  1. Completely the opposite. She is in denial that the state has any debts. 

    Governments are running ponzis. 

    The total accrued government debt in the UK is 7,000 bn when you include the pension liabilities that have no assets to back them up. [Unless you count bonded labour and slavery. Even then that isn’t sufficient]

    She’s in complete denial about those debts and the man from Goldman’s was quite patient in explaining it. 

    Now the banks are not responsible for those government debts. Not one penny. 

    To put it in context, the bank bailout of the retail banks (not casino banks) has cost 70 bn.

    Of that a considerable proportion can be laid at the door of government, and in particular Gordon Brown.

    GB bought shares at a high price. He over paid. Just as he sold gold at a low price.

    GB insured the banks after the building had burnt down. 

    GB set up the regulatory environment. They didn’t regulate

    GB was the head of regulation. They didn’t regulate.

    GB told the banks to loan to people on low incomes. They (stupidly) did and lost money

    A considerable proportion of the 70 bn losses is down to Government.

    Now, Laurie Penny won’t admit that the government has debts 100 times larger than the bank bailouts, and that the banks aren’t responsible. 

    Instead she is running with a statist, class warfare agenda.


    No one from OWS will ever come out with figures as to the size of government debts. 

    1. I’m sorry but your arguments sounds a lot like the kind a person that sleeps with a married person makes. By claiming that the married person was at fault the paramour is supposedly absolved. As far as I can tell the big bad government is in bed with the rampant corporate culture. It’s not only about picking a suitable target.

      It’s that we are in a target rich environment. There are plenty of places to put blame….plenty. If anything this is why OWS seems unfocused; there is too much to criticize.

      1. s far as I can tell the big bad government is in bed with the rampant corporate culture. 

        So here’s an analogy. 

        I go to you and say give me lots of money. 

        Now you have a decision. Do you hand over the cash or do you say no?

        If you hand over the cash, aren’t you at fault when latter you decide its a bad idea?

        Now rent seeking, which is what the corporates are doing is a bad idea. However, I don’t blame them for asking. I blame the government for giving them my money. [And yours]

        Don’t you see the difference?

      1. Nope. My words. My post. Do a google if you want,.

        So come on, what’s the UK government’s debts, pensions included?

    2. “Governments are running ponzis. ”

      Please note: When having a conversation about banks obliterating the global economy on purpose… and getting away with it… these words are the point where we realize that it isn’t a mouth and that brown stuff isn’t words.

      1. See still having the problem analysing what the problems are now.

        1. 50% of your earnings are going to one entity, and its not the banks.
        2. That same entity has run up an off the books debts of 6,000 bn on top of the 1,050 billion debt they admit too. 

        Government pension schemes are Ponzis. It’s the reason why they hide these debts off the books. 

        Your challenge is to show where the debts owed to the state pensions for the money they have handed over appear on the books. 

        Good luck, because its not there. 

        That’s the problem. 

        7,000 bn of debts, (not including bailing out those with no pension provision).

        Taxation 550 bn a year. From that we take the NHS, the schools, the police, … whatever you call core spending. 

        What’s left is what is available for servicing the debt. 

        So you then take the 7,000 and divide by 550 (or less if you remove core spending) to see how geared the government is. 

        It’s worse than they will allow any bank to be geared. 

        So the conclusion is simple. They won’t pay out on civil service, state pension, state second pensions, or the guarantees in full because they can’t. 

        That’s the lesson that needs to be drawn.

        Now if tax revenues carry on dropping, the debt carries on getting bigger because its not linked to GDP, the problem gets more extreme.  It’s bad enough now. 

        The government cannot get growth above the cost of borrowing. So its a downward spiral. 

        1. Firstly, I’d like to point out to those who missed is that LordBlagger is discussing the UK economy, not the US one.

          Secondly, the UK is not broke. Its not even in debt, as a nation. What it is, much like the US in this respect, is suffering from the expansion of the misappropriation of wealth by a small minority. Its not as unequal as the US, but there remains ample wealth within the UK to pay for everything that is owed, everything that is done. At the moment, however, an ever increasing amount of that wealth is controlled by people who have absolutely no intention of it being used for that purpose. The result? A government with insufficient income to meet its obligations. And when the government proposes (though its not as though Cameron is going to do so) to raise revenue from that pool of wealth made inaccessible by the shenanigans of the last 30 or more years, what happens? People like LordBlagger will insist that (a) its not enough (b) its all going to be wasted anyway (c) its unfair.

          What is going on in western industrialized nations is not so different from what went on the past, and what continues to happen in the somewhat or massively less democratic states else where in the world: a society collectively decides to do A, B and C, which will require some percentage of the national wealth to accomplish. A small minority, typically those already controlling significant wealth and/or power, decide that they do not support this decision, and seek to undermine the allocation of that percentage of the national wealth by any means possible. The more openly democratic a society tries to appear, the more subterfuge is involved in the attempts to undermine it.

          We used to call them barons. It amazes me to realize that so many people think that human nature has changed in some fundamental way, and that the motivations of the barons of old have somehow vanished from this world.

          1. So the UK government has no debts? 

            Well tell me how much the government owes for the following debts.

            1. Gilts. It’s borrowed the money. OK, I’ll tell you the figure because its an easy one to find out, its 1,050 bn.

            2. Now for the civil service pension scheme. It’s unfunded, which means it has no assets to back it up. [Unless you count slavery or debt bondage]. Hint, 1,300 bn. Now here I do agree with you. It’s misappropriate of wealth by a minority at the expense of the majority.

            Now what about the other debts, such as the state pension, state second pension, …

            Since when are these misapproporiation of wealth by the minority against the majority?

            Now you say there is ample wealth to pay the debts. Well in order to make that statement you have to have calculated the size of the debts. Please list them, and use present value so they can be compared. Next you need to list the government income, so you can evaluate if there is ample money. 

            Next, if you think you can raid the rich for the money, can you explain how many Richard Brason’s you need to raid each week to pay for it.

            The problem is that you think its the corporates who are responsible, when it is the small minority in Westminster who are responsible, and when you get round to posting some numbers, you will see why that is the case. 

            However, my prediction is that you wont’ post any numbers at all as to the size of the debt. 

          2. Its true that the UK government carries obligations to repay various parties large amounts of money – I don’t need to mention the numbers because you’ve already done that upthread. But the UK government is backed by the assets of the UK as a nation, and these assets are substantially more valuable than the debt owed, which is why the government can still borrow money. So yes, the government has debt, but the nation is not broke, which is claim that tends to be thrown around by conservative leaning politicians.

            you’ve claimed over and over that you think that the decisions made by the elected representatives of the UK people are a problem. from my perspective, they are only a fiscal problem to the extent that the government cannot raise the revenue to pay for them. and why can it not raise that revenue? what do you think is stopping it? do you think that the GDP of the UK (last year, around US$2.25 trillion) is insufficient? if it isn’t, why not? and if it is, why is the government having trouble raising revenue?

    3. Dismissing the investment of the government into it’s people, and their reciprocal  investment in their government as ‘slavery’ is a fairly novel take on citizenship, and it completely misses the point. Your argument is an excercise in sophistryThat same citizengovernment investment structure was in place in the 1990: moreso, as a matter of fact. It didn’t lead to the global ecomonic collapse: the illegal and immoral practices of wall street and other financial juggernauts did. You can talk around it all you like, but the truth is stubborn. Unregulated markets will lead to fraud, recession, and depressions. We saw it in the ’20, and we’re see it now. We need more regulation, and we need it now. That’s just simple common sense. 

    4. I am in no way associated with OWS but here are a couple of government debt figures for Ireland, mentioned as an example by the Goldman-Sachs weasel man:

      Ratio of government debt to GDP prior to bank bailouts – 25%
      Ratio of government debt to GDP at start of November 2011 – 111%

      1. So ask yourself several questions.

        If you go to the bank to ask for a mortgage, they like to calculate the ratio of what you are borrowing to your income. 

        Would you include your income as well as your neighbor’s income when you ask for the loan?

        If the answer is no, and I hope it is because it would be fraud otherwise, why does the government use GDP (includes everyone’s income) rather than tax revenues?

        Next, do the figures for Ireland include all those pesky off balance sheet debts such as the pensions they have agreed to pay for taking the money up front?

        Now, I have said that they banks should have been bankrupted. Now in the case of Ireland, which idiots took the debts onto the books? Ah yes, the governments. In this case the Irish government. And that’s said as an Irishman. 

        All roads lead back to politicians when it comes to debts. Taking bank debts on, (and not on the books in the UK), taking money from people for their retirement and not investing it, but spending it. (Ponzi). 

        Now to OWS. Their diagnosis of the symptoms are spot on. The young are being shafted. Citizens are being shafted. Debts are being dumped onto the tax payer. There are fewer jobs, lots of unemployment, …

        Where they are wrong is with the cause. The cause is governments, and that set of chickens is coming home to roost. Some banks are at fault, and governments have compounded it by bailing them out. But at the end of the day, 7,000 bn (debts) versus 70 bn (bank bailout). 1% is down to the banks. 

        Next we have corporatism. It takes two parties to screw over the taxpayer. The company and the government that allows the rent seeking. Another road leading to the government.  Stop all rent seeking, and the tax payer might get a break. Except they are spending so much they can’t do that and refloat the economy.

        Cameron’s just finding that out, but it was blatently obvious to anyone who thought it through. 

        1. Dont get me wrong, I think the Irish government behaved in a manner which could reasonably be described as treason.

          However it is obviously dishonest for a GS spokesman to dismiss the vast sums of money used to bail out the global financial system by saying “The debts of governments are government debts”. He also described it as socialism. As far as I can tell it is exactly this kind of socialism for the rich that the OWS movement is protesting against.

          For the record I thought it was equally dishonest when the Irish politicians responsible for the disastrous bank guarantee blamed Irelands problems as being purely a result of Lehman’s collapse. Their dishonesty is not what the above clip highlights however.

          1. It’s called rent seeking. Companies getting governments to do their dirty work. It happens with banks. It happens with the Greens and the Feed in Tarriff in the UK as well. It’s not a left right thing. It’s called get the government to screw the consumer for us.

            But I’ll come back to the basic problem. OWS are screaming and shouting about the mouse that’s running around, but haven’t looked over their shoulder’s at the stampeding herd of elephants. 

            In the UK, bank bailout costs are 70 bn, most of that down to that idiot Gordon Brown. That’s the mouse. 

            Government debts, things they owe, come to 7,000 bn, going up with inflation 

            That is the real problem. Politicians of course are going to waggle fingers as banks, but that’s only a distraction from their incompetence. 

            Now that is 14 times geared, which ignores core spending in the UK. Banks got into a mess on less gearing, and they don’t have massive core spending. The UK is bust. They are just remortgaging like mad trying to postpone it and hope it happens on the other parties watch. For example, far from cutting spending, they have increased it in real terms over the last two years. 

            Now you can take it anyway you want. However, think it through. Think and question government.

            1. Are they reporting all their debts?
            2. What is core spending that they can’t cut?
            3. Think what they owe you? (140,000 for a full state pension)
            4. Think if they can’t pay it, what are you going to do
            5. Think what others will do in that situation
            6. Make your plans. 

    5. Completely missing the fact that the U.S. economy cratered, and had spent most of the previous 28 years under conservative, not liberal governments.  Blaming socialist or liberal government is a facile excuse to avoid the huge amount of responsibility that belongs to bankers and the “Wall Streets” around the world.  Those bankers bought off government regulation precisely so that they could build their greed-frenzy house of cards.  Politicians on the left and right are equally culpable, because they’re all bought and paid for by big money, and bankers are a major faction in the big money market (along with big Pharma, oil companies and a hand full of others).

      You bet it’s class warfare!  The 1% have been waging class warfare on the rest of us in the 99% for the last hundred plus years, and in the past 3 or 4 decades, they’ve started to make real head way. Finally the average person is starting to fight back.  No amount of propaganda by the 1% and its ignorant apologists is going to change that fact.

      1. Again, you aren’t taking on board the scale of the government debts, compared to the banking bailouts. One’s a mouse, the other a herd of stampeding elephants. 

        It doesn’t matter which party caused it. In the UK as in the US, both are responsible. Look at what Obama has put on the debt in three years. Look at Regan and Bush. All equally guilty.  It’s not one or the other, its both. They have all run Ponzis, spending your money for your retirement on other people and things. YOUR MONEY. 

        Now are people fighting back? Yes. However OWS has the wrong target. All this rent seeking by banks and others. It’s easy to stop because the common factor in all of it is government setting up the rules on the basis of payments and lobbying. If you hit the common factor, you can stop it. 

        There is no point going after the banks, or the power companies, or civil service pension etc. 

        The route is like the old joke about the quickest way to a mans heart – through the rib cage. You need to hit at government.

        Now it can be done. I’ve had one Peer jailed for a year for fraud. I’ve a few more in my sights. Hence the moniker. It winds the Peers up no end. 

  2. “totally crushes it”? I’m all for the OWS movement, but a sensationalist headline doesn’t change the fact that both persons made valid comments, and from what I can see nobody crushed anybody. The guy has a point: OWS needs 100 times more people involved to make it a real power and movement for change. It needs an organised leadership, a memorandum of complaints and of suggestions for change. Yes, this is a financial crisis, but the US, and various EU nations, have been going into debt recklessly way before this. It’s a culmination of a few decades of fake growth. The blame can lie with each of us too – did we need all that cheap crap from China? Do you need all those mobile phones, did you refinance your house to try get “free money”? Don’t get me wrong, the purposeful actions of bankers have directly resulted in billions of writedowns, and most of the current mess, but I think this is a serious issue and governments are equally, if not more, guilty.

    1. What you list won’t work. These protests need to be different, they need an algorithm that’s confusing to the current army or wealth. When you have two individuals, private citizens, like the Koch brothers, who lead a large financially backed war machine, familiar battle grounds don’t work. This protest needs to be unique, non-predicative, be one unit yet pliable, cast a large net, and scream as loud as possible. 

      Another thing, the United States is a hard country to protest in. We are spread out, with vast swaths of land in between populations. But take places like Europe, which is really 50 sovereign states, where their citizens promote change, from high-schooler’s to senior citizens. 

      U.S. citizens are too complacent, and things like the debt crisis are allowed to happen. Also, the United States is much like Europe, each state acts (or wants to act) in a sovereign manner, that’s why some are much MUCH better to live in than others. If things continue on, immigrants won’t be filing a VISA to enter the United States, it will be for California (which already is a country all it’s own, GDP wise.)

  3. From my point of view, Cory called it with “concern troll”.    He wasn’t just saying that the problem was with the governments — he was saying that it *wasn’t* with the banks.  Trying to misdirect the blame.

    Sure, government irresponsibility with regards to money is a real problem.  But it’s not this problem.

    1. Well analyse who was to blame.

      1. People who borrowed and didn’t repay the money.
      2. The banks that went bust
      3. The regulator who didn’t who is and was an idiot.
      4. The idiot who paid a high price for the shares
      5. The same idiot who didn’t let the banks go bust
      6. The same idiot who sold them insurance after the event.
      7. The same idiot (and others) who now insist that banks loan to risky governments

      Who wasn’t to blame were the bankers who didn’t go bust. 

      Notice that the solution to the stupid banks is to bankrupt them. Sack all the workers. Wind them up. That teaches others a lesson, but they didn’t get into trouble. 

      So what wasn’t mentioned by Penny? Anything to do with the state of government finances. For the same reason as the blame being heaped on banks, its a distraction from the real issues. 

      Yes, this is a financial crisis, but the US, and various EU nations, have been going into debt recklessly way before this.

      And how can the banks be blamed for this? 7,000 bn of unfunded liabilities.

      1. Nice of you to explain who was to blame.  Thanks for that.   Do you have proof?  Or is this — gosh, surely not — just your opinion masquerading as fact?

        I don’t think we’re going to agree on who we think is to blame.   But the difference is I know my opinion is just that.

        1. Ok Shadowfirebox.

          There is the obvious challenge to you.  I agree with you on the bankers at RBS, NR, B&B, Lloyds being guilty. 70 bn of blame to lay at their feet and Gordon Brown’s. 

          Now, for the debts that can’t be laid at the door of coporates or banks, and that is government debts. 

          You clearly think that it isn’t 7,000 bn.

          So that means you have some evidence to the contrary, or you have no evidence at all. 

          Post the numbers. Call my bluff, if you can. 

          Starter for 10. Gilts come to 1,050 bn. Available from the debt management office DMO if you want to Google. 

          1. So now, not only are you an expert on the world debt crisis, but a telepath too? 

            You don’t know what I think the bankers are guilty of, or whether I think government debts are 7000 billion.  Because I haven’t said what my opinion is on any of these things.

          2. Not a telepath. However I’m literate and can read your posts. 

            So when you say I don’t know what you think about the bankers, I just look at your posts. 

            I happen to think that our respective governments were, in fact, wrong to bail out the criminally greedy banks.>

            At least we are in agreement on that. Those banks should have gone to the wall. That’s my take. I think its criminal that Gordon Brown used other people’s money to bail them out. 

            That’s what I think. 

            So am I telephathic when I read what you wrote about what you think? !! :-)

            So, what do you think about the government debts the relative size of the debts caused by the bank bail out, compared to the other debts run up by government?

  4. If there has to be one single purpose of the Movement, it has to be this:
    to get corporate money out of politics.
    All other regulation and taxation can follow from there, unimpeded by vested interests.
    This reason alone should be more than enough to unite the cause and set an identifiable goal to move to.

  5. Well “chrushing it” looks different. But he’s pointing away from his brethren and gets a bashing for this impudence alright.

    And something entirely new:  Germany has full employment?!
    Never heard such nonsense in my life!

     There are about 3 Million people in Germany who are “officially unemployed”.  That’s the tip of the iceberg. An there are about 8 Million people in “atypical employment”, which boils down to having a form of mini- income that doesn’t let you support yourself but forces you to apply for yes, unemployment benefits. That’s what they call “Aufstocker” or “Up-toppers” in Germany. Because people need additonal state benefit to survive.

    Ex-Goldmans call this full employment. Well, that is interesting.

    1. we have this in the UK too… loads of people employed by supermarkets and other firms on just 20 hours a week and basically forced to claim benefits to make up the shortfall…

  6. I don’T see any crushing either. Just a lame face-to-face about common perspectives in the occupy movement.

  7. What an opportunity wasted. For me the message behind OWS is the need for public independent investigations of the mass fraudulent/treasonous behaviour of the banks and government. There is such overwhelming evidence of corruption and this is why things have speeded up dramatically. Either way life on earth will change. Occupyworld is about starting a
    new way of life without slavery. Things are in the balance and the evil
    elite will not give up easily. Look deeper into this.

  8. I agree the protests are targetted incorrectly. While “Wall Street” represents the problem, it is the bankers behind wall-street who were doing what they were told to do – play with money in any way allowed. You surely wouldn’t protest against the children who set the forest on fire by playing with matches while their parrents allowed them to do so under the well ballanced act of  manipulation to which only a child and a wide-eyed puppy are capable.

    If the protests were pointed towards the correct target, they surely would have succeeded to a degree by now (2 months into it). So powerful of a point made by the protesters sure would have made an impact if it were directed to the right target. The force is there,t he message is powerful, but it hits outside the mark – therefore the wrong results in return – a BANG (read pepper spray) onto the wall that hits back. Not Wall Street. It is indeed the government which can be hurt, banks ultimately are the government, in a wierd twisted way.

    I agree the protests may not be succeeding indeed for the reason not being pointed at the right target.  Listen to the inside intel this guy is spilling out.

    1. Yes, yes, yes, a million times to this.  Where are the people marching on Washington demanding the repeal of the Bush-era tax cuts on the wealthy?  Or dubious subsidies to various industries?  Or the special tax breaks granted just to the Church of Scientology?  

      Wall Street is under no obligation to listen to you.  Our government is.  So, if you want to make a difference, get your ass down to DC now, pick a SPECIFIC battle, and fight it instead of whining about greedy bankers.

  9. Seems like everyone not included in the #OWS movement has the best ideas for it. How about you join the movement and “actually get something done”. Kill 2 birds with one stone, not only will you contribute your steller ideas, but you will add to the numbers it  needs to “actually get something done”.

  10. I’m not sure we watched the same video.  The banker didn’t get pwned.  He was just calmly explaining the reality of government finance, in that governments spent money they didn’t have on government programs the people demanded but didn’t find a funding mechanism for, and they borrowed liberally from the private sector to offset their spending, primarily (in Europe) on social programs (and in the U.S., the military, Medicare, and Social Security entitlements).  Instead of collecting taxes, government’s issued IOUs, which are far more expensive than just collecting the monies in the first place, because you have to pay interest on the debt.  How else do you explain Greece, which is on the verge of a public sector economic meltdown?  Everyone there is probably guilty of significant tax evasion, and the government is guilty of pandering to the public.  I’m all for social spending and limiting military spending, but you have to actually raise enough taxes to pay for those programs, because they cost a lot of money.  I can see how concentrating wealth in the financial sector can be a significant problem, but it’s also true that overspending by the consuming public is also a problem, because it feeds this kind of behavior.  Everyone has a little bit of blame, here, not just the usual suspects at Goldman Sachs.  

    1. “Instead of collecting taxes, government’s issued IOUs, which are far more expensive than just collecting the monies in the first place, because you have to pay interest on the debt. How else do you explain Greece, which is on the verge of a public sector economic meltdown?”
      You can’t directly compare the US financial situation with Greece due to a single fact. The US issues it’s own currency, and all debts are in US currency, it can never become insolvent, and can always pay it’s debt (assuming that debt is in US dollars).

      Greece on the other hand, must pay its debts in Euros. And it doesn’t control the issue of any Euros. So Greece is actually more akin to State governments, not federal governments.

      “but you have to actually raise enough taxes to pay for those programs, because they cost a lot of money.”
      The US federal government doesn’t need taxes to “pay” for things, its actually the other way around, it pays for things, so it can collect taxes.

  11. I think its a shame that Penny was maybe too self-effacing about being a representative. I understand entirely why she said ‘I can’t speak for them all’ but she had a chance to clearly spell out some good points about what the OWS movement stands for on UK  national television and didn’t take it. What was really enlightening were the comments from Richard Sharp. I don’t get the impression that he was briefed on what to say to try to discredit the OWS movement (although its possible). I think that he, and his friends and colleagues, genuinely don’t believe that they did anything wrong. Either that or they have decided the best ‘get out of jail free’ card to play is ‘blame it on the last government’. Judging by some of the trolltastic comments on this page I guess some others have also swallowed that one.

    1. You know, it’s possible to both [1] agree that there is corruption in the relationship between the financial sector and government, while still acknowledging that [2] this corruption is not the cause of the structural problems facing governments across the Western world.  Not sure why this is so hard for the OWS crowd to understand.

    2. No, I think you’re confused, as well you should be. He kept jumping around the WORLD. He slyly tried to discredit her by tripping her up and tricking her into making it appear that she spoke for the entire world. She couldn’t speak for the New York crowd, she’s not even American, she’s British. Notice how he tries to trip her up by switching from country to country, protest to protest and talking about different crisis’ in one breath. What’s amazing, is she survived it. 

      This is one reason why there are protests. Other countries are willing to debate, on national television even, about #OWS. But all-the-while, there’s a complete blackout in my redneck, gun toting, Republican haven of Arizona as well as many other Republican states. It’s sick. 

  12. Well that pretty much sums up OWS for me.

    If OWS believes that the US arrived with the amount of debt we are sitting on now just by bailing out the financial sector they are so so wrong.

    News flash – social security was going broke WAY WAY before 2008 and the financial meltdown.

    LordBlagger up there has it right – ponzi scheme – using the money working people are paying in now to cover the payments on people that are using the system.  That’s a lose lose situation.

    1. Social security has a $2.6 trillion dollar surplus, the rest of the government has been borrowing from it for years.  Can you fiscal doomsayers stop lying for like three weeks while the grown ups talk about what needs to be done?


    2. let’s take a look at the gov’t debt in the US then.  Reagan came in in 1980 complaining about the US still paying WWII debt. National debt was $1 trillion when he started, $2.7 when he ended. Nearly tripled it, ie. added more than all the past presidents combined. As did GWBush who inherited a surplus budget, immediately gave a $600 billion tax cut to the top earners, which if ou recall did nothing to stimulate the economy. GW took a $5.6 trill debt and nearly doubled it to $10.7 trillion. 

       Two wars (neither of which was really won) costing an estimated $3.7 trillion so far (not including the burden on the economy ie. injured vets etc). Homeland security costing an estimated $1 trillion – (and did not prevent the two most serious attempted terrorist incidents – the underwear bomber who was taken down by passengers – even after his father told the CIA his son is a threat, and the Times Square bomber was reported to the police by street vendors) And there is of course the $2-3 trillion bailout of Wall Street.  The WWII debt was paid off under Clinton who incidentally added the least to the national debt.  And GW Bush considers not privatizing social security his greatest failure (I wonder what state that would be in after the financial meltdown)

       I agree that governments shouldn’t overspend, in Canada it was a Liberal gov’t  in the 90s that reduced the deficit to zero,  didn’t let the banks merge and maintained stricter lending rules that avoided liar mortgages. In the US Greenspan kept the interest rates artificially low to stimulate the economy which is one of the prime causes of the housing bubble.  In Europe, much of the problem stems from the stimulus spent after the meltdown, but there is also the fact that 17countries with varying levels of productiveness, didn’t have a kids table for the underperforming countries, as well as a central gov’t with the ability to raise taxes.

      By the way, the US gov’t has been in debt every year but two in its 235 year history.

  13. The closest she comes to articulating what we thinks #OWS wants is this:

    “[what OWS protesters want is] just a little bit of leeway, a little bit of leeway so people can live their lives with dignity and don’t have to be forced into pay more and more for the financial recklessness of the super rich.”

    This meaningless rant hardly constitutes ‘wiping the floor’ with the ex Goldman director (the “bloated plutocrat,” to employ the ad hominem insult from Cory, a simple man who wears $180 pajamas as he jets around the world giving speeches), who actually makes some really solid points.  He is correct that the cost of dealing with the bank bailouts is a very small part of the structural financial problems that governments around the world face.

  14. A little shocked at the number of ‘apologists’ that have posted so far.  This IS the point; it is the WHOLE system.  Not being able to link the notion of government debt and perceived failings with the tentacles of corporatism, dishonesty, greed, hatred, and the vulgar desires of a minority of self-serving narcissists is just pathetic.

    Actually makes me proud to be British for a change (even if boy ‘born with a silver cock in his mouth’ is a reactionary pile of mashed-potato).  Did I see a look on Emily’s face (in spite of the fact that she’d been on the receiving end of Laurie’s rightful indignation at the quality of the questioning) at around the 6.50 mark that just screamed ‘you’ve been pwned’?  Also, it might just be an auditory abberation but, at around the 6.07 did he try to interject by saying ‘girls’?

  15. “Crushes it”? The only thing she said with any conviction was incorrect: That the debt that the US has is because of the bail outs. That’s absolutely false. The US is 14 Trillion Dollars in debt. How much did the combined bailouts cost? 4.6 trillion.

    The debt is caused by an unbalanced budget. You can blame in on war or unfunded public services but it all comes down to budget and the politicians who control it.

    EDIT: Sorry, had a typo in the original debt figure – extra digit. Also, the 4.6 trillion for bailout is not all lost, some of it is coming back in as return on investments.

    1. Another very good point.  If the OWS crowd was venting their angry indignation at how much money is spent on bombs when the government is finding it more and more difficult to fund social obligations, I would be out in the streets with them.  THAT is a very serious issue, unlike rage vaguely directed at financiers who make easy targets.

    2. That’s absolutely false. The US is 114 Trillion Dollars in debt.

      Since we’re discussing what’s true and what’s false, you might want to check that stat, chief.  $114 trillion seems a little, um, incorrect.  Like nearly $100 trillion off.

      today’s lesson: when you accuse others of being wrong, make sure you are right.

        1. You do indeed get a larger figure, but it doesn’t reflect the public debt.  That article is talking about future commitments, not the current public debt.  The public debt stands at around $15 trillion, which is still ridiculously high but let’s not inflate it higher dishonestly.

          To draw an analogy, by your logic I could call myself a billionaire based on my how much I intend to earn in the next 20-30 years.  No way I could buy a Fifth Ave penthouse based solely on this argument.

  16. While “Wall Street” represents the problem, it is the bankers behind wall-street who were doing what they were told to do – play with money in any way allowed. 

    So put some numbers to it.

    What has the bailout cost? [Losses]

    What are the total government debts in comparison?

  17. So the real question is… What is the OWS movement doing to the 2012 elections? Will it hinder or help the left? Will the right try and cherry pick some of the more astute convictions of OWS? How will this play out politically? 

  18. I won’t disagree that governments are badly run and in debt in huge part due to their own mismanagement.

    But the system that allows financial companies to juggle government bonds into absurdity, to collect government debt at shark-like rates, to sell what they know to be bad investments, bad deals, bad agreements to a state system, to buy off politicians’ opinions and votes, to as good as write legislation as they wish, can’t be swept away as inconsequential.

    The financial sector is toxic, and it has become incredibly powerful, to such a degree that it seems almost to have the power to implode national governments – and it would sooner do that and dig its heels into securing that, than risk endangering itself.

    You can focus attention on governments, because they have made reams of terrible decisions regards the financial sector, but you can’t in good faith claim that this washes the bankers’ hands of the actions they took, or the traps they laid in order to facilitate such regrettable government decisions.

  19. Although he doesn’t put it very well, the GS guy reflects what a lot of bankers think…

    As a headhunter my job is mostly talking to investment bankers hedgies, and within the industry the self criticism is both harsher and better. Frankly we are disappointed with the quality of the criticism we get from the Occupy people.
    Much of my work is in London and the consensus there about the protest is that it resembles an enormous busking session; the people who’ve come out of this looking worst are the London Stock Exchange who weren’t liked by many people even before their heavies started harassing people who actually work in the financial district. The City police are showing an unusual (for them) degree of competence in keeping the peace, engaging with the occupiers and handling trouble quite well. There appears to be a good working relationship with the people in charge, even though the protestors seem to genuinely believe it’s run by consensus. They were highly effective at repelling the advances of violent anarchists, though it does seem inevitable that it will end loudly and badly.
    Like many finance people I’ve stopped for a chat and they seem amiable enough and considering the diversity of people, ranging from the homeless to the middle class with nothing better to do it is managed well.
    My wife walks past it at night and says she doesn’t feel in any way endangered by them, but again like a lot of people the Stock Exchange heavies are criticised.
    One reason few London bankers feel any hostility towards the Occupy people is that they don’t seem to be criticizing us at all. They seem more interested in the various mid-east wars, feminism and the environment, indeed they average City worker would agree with several of their points.
    But… their criticism of finance is frankly pathetic, a newbie banker who expressed their views would risk being laughed at in an interview. The spread of political views in finance is also wider than the media or protestors seem to want to grasp and the left wing bankers are the most contemptuous of their slogan based politics.  They utterly fail to grasp that it is the structure of bonuses not their size that was a factor, don’t understand any of the mechanics of debt, don’t seem to see government spending exceeding taxation as a problem or that regulators were pathetically ill equipped. Most naively of all see banks as monoliths when in fact the dysfunctional politics and factionalism would sometimes make an Arab state look well run.

    There is a view that your status may be defined by the quality of your enemies and we have cause to feel slighted by our self declared foes not even troubling themselves to offend us in any major way. I’m not the only person to feel this, in various bars the idea has arisen for an “Occupy the Occupy University” where people who understand finance point out the gruesome deficiencies of the system so that we may be criticised in a way that shows us respect by being hard and accurate.

    1. That may be, but frankly, the rest of us are disappointed by the quality of oversight and service provided by the bankers. I concede that perhaps there are flaws in some of the OWS arguments, or some individuals may not know all of the facts, but to a very large degree the banking system itself is to blame. Bankers sit in their ivory towers, divorced from the world at large and they don’t engage with society. The only time I see any sort of engagement is when a self-serving CEO is trotted out, or when my TV screen risks melting from the smugness of Angela Knight.

      I do find it a bit rich for you to say that a “newbie banker” would be laughed at, as far as I can tell those who work in the financial services don’t have a clue either, otherwise we wouldn’t be in quite the mess we are now. The system is overly complex and those who work in the system don’t have a full grasp on the facts. Rating agencies produce flawed assessments, bankers are allowed to run rogue with insufficient oversight, and no-one knows how to get us out of this mess. I’m sorry, I have no faith in the financial institutes of this world, and until we have a root and branch shake-up of the global financial system things aren’t going to get any better.

    2. As a headhunter my job is mostly talking to investment bankers hedgies, and within the industry the self criticism is both harsher and better. Frankly we are disappointed with the quality of the criticism we get from the Occupy people.

      Oh really?  People who aren’t experts in finance are not fielding expert criticisms of the financial industry?  Well, that changes everything.


  20. Though I broadly side with OWS, ‘totally crushes’ hardly describes it. She let the Goldman guy get away with a number of default interview positions that I would have dismantled.

    First his line about them being disorganised etc – as Penny does in fairness allude to, every pro-OWS BBC interviewee of the last month has systematically dismantled all these arguments, only to see the next interviewee have to address them afresh. This is the inherent flaw of mainstream media, which casts itself as partisan and reactive, but is actually part of, and for many people leading the discourse.

    Then he goes on to describe more reporters than supporters. First off I doubt that’s true and she gave him too mush space on that, when the appropriate response should have been to cite a lack of appropriate news coverage. Then his point about OWS lacking leadership, which is deliberate and it’s greatest strength. Penny completely fails to address or contradict this indictment.

    She basically let him run off, reinforce and present as reality all the standard rhetorical criticisms. I was particularly dissapointed that she let them get away with ‘the movement loosing momentum and support’ which is in no way consistent with what I’m seeing around me everywhere – and then the guys trump card which was “the reason you wont hear an answer”

    She just answered him, and he says to her face “the reason you won’t hear an answer”. THAT is the worst and most transparent sort of both cognitive dissonance, and a deeply patronising attempt at audience manipulation “what she just said, she didn’t really say it folks”. I would have had the floor with him for that.

    And if anyone is stupid enough to invite on Newsnight some time, whatever the reason, I’m bringing a little sign with me that says ‘THE PREVIOUS GOVERNMENT’ and I’m going to hold it up, troll style, every time someone tries to use that vacuous position.

    She also invites on herself a variation on that internet adage ‘You are dressed as a Romulan, your argument is invalid’

  21. It must be their new, desperate talking point – social spending caused the financial crisis!
    I read last summer that the Federal Reserve has handed out $16 trillion (that’s Trillion) to bail out banks worldwide so far. That’s something they did on their own, yet the US government, meaning US citizens, is backing that money. See, they allow us to participate when the bills come due. So add that to the deficit. And considering that the World Economy is still in crisis, it didn’t solve the problem.

  22. The only pwning I see here is the big bank apologists pwning OWS sympathisers.

    This shouldn’t be an argument about big banks vs government. They are BOTH as guilty and shamelessly in bed. And OWS ‘representatives’ should stop falling for the ‘where is the message’ trap. OWS isn’t ONE MESSAGE! It is a flood of messages and frustrations that has stayed bottled in for at least 3 years. In the US, the banks are the first target of frustration because it’s the banks that are repossessing people’s homes. If you say the people who are losing their homes deserve it because they bought something they couldn’t afford, just go look up the hundreds of stories of Bank of America repossessing homes after reneging on newly negotiated terms. Do you know that once those repossessed homes are auctioned off, the auction value shows up as income on the borrower’s tax returns, so they now owe taxes for losing their homes?? Then these newly homeless borrowers see those same homes being sold for dimes on the dollar to speculators whereas the banks refuse to renegotiate slightly lower borrowing terms with the original buyers/borrowers.

    I could go on and on about why people are frustrated with big banks, but again, that’s not the point of OWS. Banks are just one of their targets of frustration. The current political system is actually a bigger target, and they just haven’t come around to venting on that front. This venting, we are sure to see during the 2012 election cycle in the US. US Congress has less than 20% approval ratings – which means 80% of the people don’t see the Congress as doing their job! People don’t even agree to that extent on their liking for beer! OWS has done very well to keep any major political figure out of this movement so they don’t end up getting corrupted the way the Tea Party movement ended up.

    Yes, the center-left doesn’t have a single voice. But you don’t need a single voice to induce large changes. Egypt is still trying to figure out how to build their next government. Libya just finished cleaning up the first major barrier on the road to freedom – the Gaddafi government. They were all rag-tag groups that vented their frustration without deciding what they all wanted first. There are definitely pros and cons to that, and pundits can argue it all they want. But that doesn’t stop it from becoming a movement.

  23. That was a shame indeed.  I kept waiting for her to crush him.  I didn’t hear it.

    LordBlagger – you have the first half right.    However, the reason for the government debt is that  the corporations started a crusade to cut taxes in the early eighties, while ramping up and leaching off of national security spending.  They gamed the system to give themself subsidies and no-bid contracts, all while pointing to “government waste” in systems like Medicare, which has less waste than any of the private insurance companies.

    We had social services in the ’50s and the ’60’s, but we could pay for them because we paid taxes.  Major corporations in the US don’t pay them.  The City of London exists to launder the money.

    This isn’t about class warfare – it’s about class fairness.  The people who take the most are not paying for the infrastructure that supports their obscene wealth.  Look at what major corporations pay in taxes: oh – they pay nothing.  Asking them to pay for everything they get is not class warfare, it is common sense.     After all, the rich have been practicing organized, carefully calculated class warfare against everyone below them for the last thirty years.

  24. See what $850,000 gets you? 

    This video is a perfect example of a discussion between a paid mouth piece and a social activist. One’s doing it to earn money. For the other, it’s about how money gets earned. 

  25. Actually, I think both opponents do have some valid points there.It’s just Laurie is concentrating on the massive handouts the super-rich have been getting and are continuing to get, with a memorably peak called the “financial crisis bailouts”.On the other hand it is true that many governments have been overspending in other areas as well (which actually includes the German government, especially in the 80s).Instead of saving money during good times to use as economic stimulus when the economy cools down, some governments racked up debts even during those times (with the notable exception of Sweden).As a consequence, when the Banks overplayed their reckless ponzi-scheme in the (specially created) derivatives market and presented society with the bill, government funding was stretched already.But make no mistake, while Bankers keep raving the reason for the problem was goverments creating and spending too much money, there ecactly lies the heart of the power of the big banks!Ask any banker if he thinks it might be a good idea to break the central bank monopoly on issuing money, and they will cry out in anguish!

  26. Investment banks are like junkies or gambling addicts. Their very expensive addiction to credit default swaps got them into trouble and now the rest of us are supposed to pick up the pieces. It seems to me they’re the recipients of the biggest social spending of all.

  27. She didn’t pawn him, she told him he was spewing nonsense.  He was. 

    Bailouts for banks, tax cuts for the rich and increased military spending (borrowing) on unwinnable wars clearly more than cover the national debt. 

    Anyone here own Halliburton stock?  They are from number 73 up to number 18 on the list of the Pentagon’s top contractors. 
    They had their own president for 8 years. 

  28. For me, the highlight of the interview came when the interviewer asked what “change” do the protestors want? “Are they anti-Obama? Are they anti-capitalist?” This points to the whole problem with media and a large segment of public response to this movement. They have to want /something/ so the bigwigs can /give it to them/ so they will /go away/ and let the get on with their big-wiggery. It’s the system itself that needs change.

    What they don’t want is a system where a poor person gambling with his $100 at the casino is a bad person, but the billionaires who gamble (even more recklessly it turns out) with their money AND those of lots of other people that never wanted to gamble in the first place are the enlightened few deserving of gov’t subsidies (read: bailouts) and lauded as job creators and fawned over endlessly for their sage wisdom. Now, the same people that sat in boardrooms and /broke the whole world/ are now being put in charge of chunks of it and seem upset that the rest of us are mad about it. 

    And to you Randians–why are you always running to defend the utterly reckless bankers who pissed away BILLIONS (> TRILLION?) dollars of wealth on with-any-foresight terrible financial deals? Because they were able to convince the public sector that they were too big to fail and could finally work the ultimate moral hazard? Is that what success is now? If so, why not similarly laud the poors who gamed the system and bought a fucking mansion with money they never had and got to live it in for two years before a payment became due (option ARMs + refi’s! Whooo!!!). Why do you not equally spread the love between these two Machiavellian strategies for short-term successes? Just admit you worship money and those who have it. Your philosophy has subverted sin into virtue. 

    Picking a new random rich dude who sucks at the teats of Wall Street is not going to “change” anything. In Greece, Spain, or in the US. The taxpayers who work too hard to spend their time lobbying for bullshit pay the price for the follies of the superwealthy and world suffers for it.

  29. There are bankers who bought up securities which they knew or believed to be crap, because they intended to use their political influence to demand and receive a bailout.  They ought to be in jail.  Not rewarded with additional loans and bonuses as they have been under this administration.

    There are other bankers who followed a prudent course and did not buy into the housing bubble hype, and took no bailouts.  Their loans and balance sheets remained solid.  They should be rewarded and publicly recognized for their integrity.  Even if they have private jets.

  30. .. the Goldman guy also got away with “The problem is… this is an argument of the left” again implying that division with ‘the left’ and by implication within OWS is a weakness, and not in fact what qualifies it as more legitimate than any one group or party. This as much as anything else is anti-intellectual and anti-democratic. The implied antithesis of this is the cohesive, fiscally minded Right. Whi it would have taken no great effort to discredit as demonstratably rubbish at math.

    Again, waaay too many easy rebuttals left hanging. I’m sorry to say that in televisual terms, even with both Penny’s evidently siding against him, he still clearly won (despite talking pernicious nonsense).

  31. ‘Crushed’? really? REALLY? Blimey, didn’t see it. What lenses have you got in? (Mine adjust to the left by default, and even they spotted no crushage whatever). Actually the banker was clearly smart – don’t agree with him – but it’s a basic, immature tactic to name-call (‘bloated plutocrat”..)your opponents: if you dismiss them like that you underestimate their calibre and don’t try hard enough to outsmart them as a result.  These toxic GS f***squids and their ilk were smart enough to game the whole system. If one of them starts pointing out what makes the opposition’s game ineffective, might just be worth a listen.  Remember Patton studying Rommel’s tactics and how that paid off?  Know your enemy, don’t dodge the responsibility by calling names and thus absolving yourself of the more useful opportunity to study them and learn how to bring ’em down.

    1. If one of them starts pointing out what makes the opposition’s game ineffective, might just be worth a listen.

      “I think you’d do best if you attacked immediately after a 40 mile forced march, attacking uphill with the sun in your eyes.”

      Brilliant plan, Sun Tzu.

  32. I haven’t read all the comments, so forgive me, but I think what is missing is the acknowledgement that the “free market” is a complete myth.  There isn’t one industry (I’m speaking for the US, but I would imagine it would apply to the UK as well) that doesn’t “benefit” in some way by government subsidies, much to the consternation of the Ayn Randian conservative crowd.  So when we talk about government debt and bank bailouts, what we are seeing is a relationship akin to them being each other’s crack dealer, one not surviving without the other without massive intervention and/or disruption, with the eventual rotting away of the connective tissue that holds them together.

    She is right, but he is a little bit as well.  What I’ve noticed being an American, is a complete breakdown of any kind of systemic functionality, mostly due to extreme belief systems fostered by the far right.  Line up the wars of the last decade, casino capitalism gone wild, patriotic fervor whipped up by 9/11, and the core belief that a God is somehow blessing the exploits of those that exploit, and you have a perfect storm of belief driven policy and economies that have no basis in reality.

  33. What I saw was some suit wearing banker with Tory talking points that fit his corporate agenda.  He was pretty sharp with those and stuck to them.  Classic media training. 

    On the other side was a woman who was trying very hard to NOT to stick to any specific talking points.  Trying NOT to represent a broad movement.

    What she should have done was call him out.  Here’s a guy who’s basically been a leader in both the financial corporate world and in the government.  He’s with the folks who’ve screwed things up.  And he’s complaining that the OWS movement isn’t doing it right.  What an arrogant prick!

  34. It’s not right vs. left, or public sector vs. private sector. It is a small number of people with an effective monopoly on (centralised) economic power vs. everyone else with none. What we have today is the economic equivalent of a feudal political system.

  35. I believe that Goldman Sachs was instrumental in assisting Greece, and perhaps other nations, in circumventing EU debt rules.

    From an article in : “Goldman Sachs helped the Greek government to mask the true extent of its deficit with the help of a derivatives deal that legally circumvented the EU Maastricht deficit rules.”Another note:  It sounds like a lot of the responders are shilling for the Republicans and are attempting to whitewash the past antics of many of the major banks..

  36. “class warfare agenda”

    I know I can stop listening when some one trots this out in defense of banks. Thanks. Next time put it at the top with a tealdear notice.

  37. The total cost of the bailout will end up being north of $10,000,000,000,000. And yeah, we can talk about that some of that money being paid back, but then we would also have to talk about the ruin the financial sector brought to our economy and ascribe THAT a monetary value. And we’d have to talk about the rampant dicking around in commodities that inflates the price of day to day stuff like gas and food. Wall Street isn’t on the hook for our whole giant deficit, but the deficit isn’t the only issue. Their highway robbery and their recession caused a lot of problems other than our national debt.

  38. The banks ARE the government when you have the revolving door. Bank execs go into govt., makes changes to benefit banks, and then go back to work for the same banks they just regulated.

  39. Interesting.  The corporate apologists are out in force on this post, in a way that they aren’t in the UC Davis posts.  Some of that may be due to BB’s excellent “no victim blaming” comment policy, but also – when you go on a political show and debate that is sort of their turf- they’ve been winning those skirmishes for years.  When you hold up signs and face pepper spray, that is turf they have never won on and don’t know how.  That’s what I’m learning, anyway.

    As for why #ows chooses the target of wall street instead of government, it is simple: if there is public uprising against government someone will happily dismantle it for us- they want to drown it in a bathtub anyway.  If there is a public uprising against wall street then the government is placed in a position to decide what to do.  And if the pressure is strong enough for long enough, they may decide to side with the 99% to save their own political hide – which is what we call winning.

    Government is not the team we are competing against.  Government is the game itself.  Currently, the 1% are winning that game, as in: they own this government.  We wish to defeat them and take more field advantage, as in: more of government on our side.  

    This guy’s position is like the Yankees playing the Toledo Mud Hens and trying to convince the Mud Hens that the real enemy is baseball itself.


    1. Wow, I read that through three times and it still made absolutely zero sense. 

      It seems like you think that people who dont want the government to “help” the economy any more are corporate stooges, but we can’t also regard the pepper-sprayed protestors with sympathy when that same government (an extremely liberal college one to boot) calls in the goon squad to stomp them into line. 

      I have a lot more faith in a company to run itself, respond to public criticism and rightly go out of business rather than a a bunch of congressional morons who are cashing checks from every special interest and pushing their thumb firmly on the scales while talking about ‘fairness’. None of the failed startups I worked for had books as crooked as the federal ledger and none of them had a SWAT team escort the employees out of the building.  

      1. Well, I think part of the lack of understanding (and I admit I had to read your response a few times too) comes from the fact that we’re operating with different assumptions.  

        Here’s where I’m coming from: I think #ows is a positive force, so I am discussing tactics for how it can win.  I think that money has taken over our government and that nothing good will come until that ends.  That means an end to “corporate money is protected free speech”, among other specific things.  See, I think it’s the money that’s the problem, not the govenrment.  AMybe we differ there?

        In this video, Penny is arguing that side and Goldman Sachs Suit is trying to discredit her and the movement, blaming government social programs for the economic crisis.  That is a position I find ludicrous.

        Note that my post is not meant as a debate with the suit or the suit’s fans, it’s meant as a discussion of strategy with people who already are pro #ows and it’s general concerns.  Maybe that’s why you didn’t get it?

  40. From other comments I see that I’m not alone in the fact that I also waited in vain for her to crush him. When she was given the last word with 15 second left I was thinking these are going to have to be the most impressive  3 sentences television has ever broadcast.  Didn’t happen.

  41. I was disappointed by this  “face off”. While I agree with Penny’s statements — unspecified as they were (and fair enough; not presenting a fixed ideological target is as important as nonviolence in these early days) — they hardly were the sort of refutation that I would expect to such nonsense as “the movement has damaged itself by making the cleanup a bigger story than their demands”. (To which my response was Really? Who was the one making that a story again?)

    There was no victory; just a contrasting of incompatible viewpoints, one of which was corporate tripe, and the other a deliberately inclusive presentation of the motivations for OWS. This is managed media, nothing more, but perhaps its one more step forward to have people sympathetic to the Occupy movement on national television. Just so long as it avoids becoming a dancing bear in the circus.

    1. Most interesting thing here I thought was that the Ring Master, Penny Mathis personal sympathies with the OWS shone through, even while hosting said managed, faux partisan circus.

      Side note; never google Penny Mathis.

  42. But the UK government is backed by the assets of the UK as a nation, and these assets are substantially more valuable than the debt owed, which is why the government can still borrow money.

    I’m disputing your assumptions. 

    First, it is the UK government that has the debt problem. For most individuals in the UK they don’t. Their equity in their assets exceeds their liabilities. It’s only those who have negative equity or who have gone mad on the credit cards that have the problem. Most citizens are long equity.  You can get this information from the BoE when it reports on mortgage lending and on debts. 

    The UK government on the other hand has major debts. It doesn’t have assets it can liquidate to pay its debts. How does it sell off a hospital to get money, and not have to pay rent afterwards? It can’t. The public will still want its health services that its paying for. It is for all intents and purposes asset poor. 

    Now, the solution of the left is to say, if we treat the citizen’s as assets, we can solve it. Well, in part yes. You can say that everyone is a slave or a serf of the state and the state owns their output. Bonded debt slavery is the name in the third world. [It’s already running the equivalent of a state stud book for horses and people] That’s one take on it. 

    However, lets ask the question related to your assumption that the citizen can fund out of taxes the debts. 7,000 bn present value, the majority of which is linked to CPI. 5.2% The debt is increasing at 340 bn a year at the moment.  The deficit is current 150 bn, and a lot of this relates to the 7 tn debt. The rest is pure overspend. 

    Tax take is 550 bn. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t see the government being able to close the deficit by adding another 150 bn to taxation. We are on the wrong side of the Laffer curve now. It won’t be able to get 340 bn either. 

    So its not affordable. 

    Don’t forget the 7 tn doesn’t include bailing out the 50% of people in the UK who have less than 5,000 in savings.  That’s on top.

    So what evidence do you have for believing it to be affordable?

    1. @LordBlagger:disqus : The UK government has a *lot* of assets. It owns oil reserves bigger than most members of OPEC the land it owns is worth a trillion or two.  It has sold most of the industries it once owned and grossly mismanaged, but there are still a few billion there if it wants to.
      Gold reserves are a bit slim, but it has good coal reserves that are only unused because of politics, not economics.

      Who told you it can’t sell hospitals ?
      The previous *Labour* government did stuff like that, indeed a useful chunk of the NHS budget is coming from selling property deemed as “redundant”, it also does PFI (just google) which is in effect often a sale and leaseback. You can argue whether this is good, but it happens which meets most people’s definition of “possible”

      Also I don’t see why you think the “majority” of UK state debt is inflation linked, it is about 20%
      That means the other 80% is declining in real value, indeed it is well known amongst people who’ve done economics that inflation is one way governments ease their way out of debt.

      The UK debt portfolio has been managed well enough that it isn’t hitting the liquidity crunch seen in Italy and Spain, which means it doesn’t have to go to the market so much in bad times.
      Of course it is plausible to argue that efficient debt management encourage mismanagement at a political level, certainly that was true in the 60s and 70s.

      So there is no short/medium term problem anything like the PIGS.

      In the longer term you may be right, the UK government has for too long spent more than it took in taxes. That is affordable in economic terms, quite easily since the long term structural deficit is not such a big % of UK GDP. But it’s an open question whether a government of any political hue will actually make the tax and spending choices necessary since they are hugely unpopular.

    2. “the wrong side of the Laffer curve”. well chortle me donuts … that must tbe same Laffer curve that comes with no units on either axis, and despites its elegant theoretical appeal has yet to demonstrated to describe the real world in any way? and we’re on the wrong side of it, you say?

      a country that has a GDP of around UKP1.5trillion is in no worse a position to pay off its debt of 7 trillion than someone who carries a mortgage on a home that cost UKP700,000 and earns UKP150,000 a year. there’s plenty of evidence that nobody would consider that much of a problem at all. overall household debt going up? somewhat more difficult, but fundamentally not really a game changer.

      long term trends are important, but as dominic connor laid out right here in this thread, it really doesn’t look particularly problematic if it gets tackled by people whose committment is the right thing (which probably doesn’t mean zero debt, but probably does mean an averaged zero deficit over, say, a 10 year window), rather than furthering their own personal wealth. of course, there’s no guarantee that will happen. are you a part of that problem?

      1. Ah yes, The government owns everything. The government can divert all earnings towards the debt, and the people have no debts of their own. They leave and eat nothing. They have no need for shelter. They are willing to slave for the government to pay its past debts. No NHS, no schools, no defense, no police, nothing. 

        Don’t forget that this figure excludes bailing out those with no pensions, so I presume they are going to work until they drop dead. If you add that on top, its 20 tn.

        As for furthering my wealth, I have some opinions on that. My aim is to save money to retire, to support my young family. My aim is not to bail out someone on benefits in Scotland. Part of that involves avoiding paying the government if I legally can. For two reasons. First, it means I can support those nearest and dearest to me. Secondly, if it brings around the inevitable crash earlier whilst the problem is smaller. The longer it goes on the more damage. I’d rather a small prang than a massive shunt at high speed. 

        As for an average zero deficit, the plan is just to halve the deficit, ie get it down to 75 bn a year. That doesn’t include the debt servicing. However, you are already seeing the Laffer curve kick in. Tax rates up, revenues down. Spending up in real terms over the last two years. Not surprising it isn’t working. 

        Hence companies are moving overseas. 

        One point for Daniel

        Social security has a $2.6 trillion dollar surplus,

        What you need to realize is that Surplus has different meanings in the private and public sector. In the private sector if a pension fund has a surplus it means that assets exceed liabilities. In the public sector, they have a different sort of accounting, divorced from reality. Their surplus is an excess of contributions over payouts. So they spend the excess. With Social Security in the US, the then fiddle the books where the government writes itself an IOU. You can do the same. Write on a piece of paper, I owe myself 1 billion pounds. There you are. You have a valuable asset and are now a billionaire. Exactly what the US government has done. 

        Now a surplus of income also means that debts are accruing faster. It means there will be more payouts in the future, compared to the number of people contributing in. Just the flip side of the same coin. With no assets, it means hitting future generations for the bill, when they didn’t sign up for it. Some legacy.

        1. What you need to realize is that Surplus has different meanings in the private and public sector.

          I do realize that.  It’s not my fault that you and the other idiot aren’t properly qualifying your arguments.

          With Social Security in the US, the then fiddle the books where the government writes itself an IOU. You can do the same. Write on a piece of paper, I owe myself 1 billion pounds. There you are. You have a valuable asset and are now a billionaire. Exactly what the US government has done.

          Golly gee, the U.S. government can do things that would be ridiculous if I, as a citizen, tried to do likewise.  Quelle surprise.  I guess my idea to single-handedly open a mint and declare war on Nicaragua WAS a little silly.

          Now a surplus of income also means that debts are accruing faster. It means there will be more payouts in the future, compared to the number of people contributing in. Just the flip side of the same coin. With no assets, it means hitting future generations for the bill, when they didn’t sign up for it. Some legacy.

          As long as all the money that has been borrowed from SS is paid back then the amount that has been paid into social security is exactly equal to the amount it owes back to citizens.  Yes, that’s a big “as long as”.  I have an idea, though.  Let’s put U.S. taxes back at the rates we had under Eisenhower.  That seemed to clear up the >100% of GDP debt the U.S. had at the time (you know, during the biggest economic boom of the 20th century).

          Let me guess, that’s bad because grrr taxes.

          1. Write on a piece of paper, I owe myself 1 billion pounds. There you are. You have a valuable asset and are now a billionaire. Exactly what the US government has done.

            Incidentally, this is EXACTLY the cause of the Icelandic banking disaster — but banks doing it instead of the government.

          2. “Let’s put U.S. taxes back at the rates we had under Eisenhower.”

            Put back federal spending as a percent of GDP to where it was under Eisenhower and I’ll absolutely take that deal.

        2. Ah yes, The government owns everything. The government can divert all
          earnings towards the debt, and the people have no debts of their own. They leave and eat nothing. They have no need for shelter. They are willing to slave for the government to pay its past debts. No NHS, no schools, no defense, no police, nothing.

          Inasmuch as a representative government makes decisions for (which includes spending decisions) on behalf of citizens, there is some limited sense in which what you just said is true. But extremely limited, because no representative government is going to make the choices you outline above. The point is that the UK government currentlydiverts a percentage of the GDP to pay for its activities and its debts. It can as equally easily increase the percentage as it can curtail its activities. Would that make everyone happy? Would it be done fairly? Probably not. But would the people who experience the worst of it be more likely to be those who have already done rather well from the infrastructure and policies of the UK, or those who still suffer anyway? That’s a rhetorical question, btw.

          However, you are already seeing the Laffer curve kick in. Tax rates up, revenues down

          Except that in the US, tax rates are down, and revenues are down (though there is some debatable evidence that the last Bush cuts raised revenue, it was certainly short lived). Relative to the evidence for the Laffer curve (which gains support based on an appeal to common sense more than anything else), there is a wealth of circumstantial evidence that the main thing that tax cuts generate is a bubble in speculation.

          With Social Security in the US, the then fiddle the books where the government writes itself an IOU

          This is just utterly untrue. The SS trust fund accumulates HUGE amounts of cash. Absolutely enormous amounts of cash. Something has to be done with it. What they actually do is to give it to the Treasury (as in “backed by the full faith…”), who gives them a note. There are alternatives: they could dig a huge hole in the ground and put it there, taking it out as needed. Is that your alternative?

          This is not to say that the US Congress has not misappropriated money under the “cover” provided by the SS trust fund. But this is entirely different than what you (and many others) describe.

          Overall, it sounds to me as though you should consider to a country more in line with your values. Somewhere that you can pay lower taxes. Somewhere that won’t call you out for being a selfish SOB. Somewhere that will extoll and support your rugged individualism, and allow you to experience the short, brutish and nasty life of, if not a Hobbesian individual, then an individual family. I’d suggest the USA, but I did that move 22 years ago, for different reasons, and I’d prefer to have one less person living here with your perspective on life.

          1. Well, its still an IOU from the US government to the US government. That doesn”t make an asset.

            So what are the alternatives? 

            Well, here is an alternative. If you back test the state pension in the UK. Ask the question would a median worker have been better off if they had put their NI in the FTSE (subject to its volatility), or if they give (have it taken) it to the government. Now median wage is 26K a year. You can get a pretty good idea of what wages were in the past, using the ONS average wage index. So you’ve got a historical record of past wages. 

            Now we take the same percentage of employment related NI, and we put that in the FTSE. At the end of the year, we get some dividends, and the value of the fund goes up or down. We carry on for 40 years. At the end, we buy an annuity. 65 years old, joint life, RPI linked. About the most expensive going. You end up with 21K a year. A lot more than 5K a year, at 67, CPI not RPI, and not fully joint life. 

            Now what does this tell us? That you are better off in a fund, purely because it has a large element of compound interest. Secondly, that huge amounts of money are being diverted to other things. Hence the ‘surplus’ 

            If you then start reducing the level of pay to find out where people would be better off with the state system, its below minimum wage. 

            So what’s the solution.

            1. Stop accruing any more state pension. People keep their rights, but no more.

            2. Compulsory savings. NI gets diverted into personal funds.

            3. At retirement, people go into draw down.  

            Now some people will live a very long time and run out. Others won’t have managed to save enough to outlive them. At this point, we all help and provide the safety net. 

            Now since the safety net is 5K, and a 40 year of contributions for most people will take them over the limit, its a very low cost guarantee. 

            4. For those that die young, the money goes to their heirs’ funds. That is more likely to the poor, so they slowly get richer. The rich on the other hand have to spend more because they live longer. 

            It’s cheap to administer. It’s a one off check, when someone applies for the bailout. For the rest its cheap. 

            Now I would add, that there needs to be a clamp down on charges. That means an end to corporatism, and high charges. Just make them illegal. Very simple to do. The business is still attractive because of the money coming in.

            There are some side effects to this that are also kick in. 

            Some people are money say for 20 years, and are then poor. They are still likely to be considerably better off. 

            The money being invested, is very good for growth. That results in more work, and helps the less well off. After all they will be better off in work than not working, particularly with the way its going with governments.

            One condition is needed. It needs a referenda to start taking the funds or contributions. Withdrawals have to be taxed in the same way as income. This prevents a government from targeting the fund for cash when it feels like it. 

            The same needs to be done for civil servants and in particular politicians. Currently their interest is to hit the private sector for their gain. Instead with the system above, its not in their interest. It aligns their behaviour with that of the majority.

            As for you SOB comment.  It does indicate your aim. I’m not particularly interested in the US. It’s not a particularly good example. In particular for its health service. However neither is the NHS, it kills too many people. Instead for the health service, Switzerland is the better model. Separation of regulator, insurer and supplied. Removes the major conflicts of interests. Universal coverage too boot. 

  43. It seems that that the number of people being paid to defend the 1% with obfuscatory arguments in the blogosphere has ballooned exponentially.

    The chutzpah of the Goldman-Sachs guy is on par with the patricide who pleads mercy because he’s an orphan. Putting the blame on public spending, when the major impetus for that spending was bailing out the irresponsible megabanks who managed to exempt themselves from responsible government oversight, is total B.S.

    Don’t be fooled, folks; this disinformation is being promulgated because OWS is actually waking a lot of people up to some truths that folks in power don’t want the unwashed masses to be aware of.

    1. I happen to think that our respective governments were, in fact, wrong to bail out the criminally greedy banks.  After all, wasn’t the argument that this money would trickle down to the little people?  And did it?

      But to claim that it is our governments’ *fault*, and not the banks’, is a spectacularly poor piece of misdirection.  All he managed to acheive, to me, is to sound like that Iraqui Information Minister.

  44. The United Federation of Planets called, they want their shirt back.

    Sorry… I’m easily distracted.

  45. Nope, the banker won that interview hands down.

    Not on substance, but he got a solid minute to lay out his talking points at the end of the interview and Penny got 5-10 frequently interrupted seconds to respond.

  46. please try not to get lost in the endless lies and betrayals we have all been fed. This issue could be solved in a week if we just stop fighting and supporting war in any way. We are currently fighting so many fake wars now it is impossible to make sense of any of it. It is this writers opinion that we have been attacking ourselves for a very long time. It is time that it is stopped. The military are the police. The police are military. They believe the lie even though its very badly told,we don’t believe the lie we never did. It is a sham and a scam to keep us apart and endlessly fighting amongst ourselves.
    Lets try the best we can to stick together as we expose the simple fact that we are all
    living in a reality created by war a secret military and a corrupt US government. Stop the fake wars now and fix the problem. Such a simple answer. Love your brothers and sisters,we are all one. Iran,Iraq, Afghanistan. We are all real people. Don’t believe the hype. Stop the wars now.
    and no she did not crush it unless you count how many times she said uhh, she did crush that.

  47. OK, I’ll raise to the bait of why the governments had little option but to bail out the banks.

    For any economy, you need a financial system, just like you need water, power, food transport, etc.

    I ask you to imagine what would have happened in terms of civil order if people could not use ATMs or use their cards to buy food, fuel etc. That would lead deterministically to the level of civil disorder that requires the army on the streets armed with bullets not Tasers or pepper spray.

    We were at that point, no government had a real choice.

    A valid criticism is that it was done badly.

    That was a mix of incompetencies on all sides and if you’re interested I can explain what happened about bonuses….

    But taking the specific example that banks were supposed to lend the money that was pumped in, everyone involved was at fault, there are no heroes here.

    When I applied for a mortgage in the 1980s, a real human being checked I was a white male, a graduate from a decent university and in one interview my accent and quality of suit combined with the fact I worked at the London Stock Exchange tower combined to get me an offer without the tiresome checking of income.
    This was an expensive process and it was clear even to retail bankers that lending on skin colour, sex and accent wasn’t optimal.
    So they bought in IT systems to make the decisions on loans and gradually expensive accountancy types and bank managers who had some business sense were retired for most low-mid end lending. Today in a retail bank you meet people who had the choice of retail banking or supermarket assistant, but without the personal integrity of your local drug dealer.

    The top management genuinely believed that they had efficient systems for making loans to SMEs when in fact they had poor systems and worse people but the previous boom hadn’t shown that up. The politicians believed them when they said they’d make loans but the reality is that they haven’t a clue how to do it without creating yet more bad debts.

    They still have the expertise for lending to larger outfits which is why you see them pretty much throwing cash at them.

    The institutional experience of SME lending has been lost a generation ago, it would be like Boeing trying to makeWWII B17s, give it a few years they could do it, but I wouldn’t fly in the first.

    No one knows what to do about this.

    1. The old cant that the ATMs and so on would have stopped working because some Suits were fired for incompetence is pure misdirection.  The ATMs and so on wouldn’t have disappeared in a puff of smoke any more than anything else vanishes in a bankruptcy proceeding.  All of this would have still been in place and could have continued in operation via whatever trustee arrangement was come to, and then under new owners.  The incompetent and corrupt management of the financial industry like to conflate their management teams with what they are mismanaging but, at the very least, they should have been separated: at the very least by firings but preferably by long prison terms.  There is no argument to be made that any of them had super-special skills that couldn’t be replaced as there was no requirement for further reckless gambling skills.

      And let’s not forget that the only reason these bankruptcies were happening at all was because the banksters got their employees in government to get rid of all of the regulations that were put in place after the last time reckless gambling and fraud in the financial industry collapsed that same industry.  Their ludicrous excuse was that “things are different now because we have computers and computers don’t make mistakes”.  To the surprise of no one with a tiny shred of computer (or even mathematical) literacy they just ended up exactly repeating the last go round.

      Note that even if some or all of the banks no longer had assets to cover their deposits from non-financial industry depositors no technical problem existed either.  For  a tiny fraction of what was spent on TARP a new government owned banking system (in which there would be no need to pay any employee over $100,000 per year) could have been capitalised.  Debts within the financial industry, the bulk of the problem, could have simply been erased with the stroke of a pen in the bankruptcy process.  It was all Monopoly money without connection to any matter or energy in the real world anyway.  If money isn’t tied to these things then it is simply an abstract, useless set of integers: rather like a Bejeweled score – of no interest to anyone but the other game enthusiasts.

      The only arguments against this were the (fake) argument that having government step in to cover for the perennial incompetence of the private sector is somehow wrong and the (real) argument that this would have endangered campaign contributions from the financial industry.  It is quite clear that government will always have to step in now and then due to the bust-and-boom cycle of the capitalist system.  Very, very few organisations can grow to even a large, let alone a too-big-to-fail, size without filling up with non-productive, brown-nosing, popularity-contest-winning members: ie. politicians – albeit ones in a system without as transparent electoral process as the real politicians have.  Your average corporation doesn’t have the organisational skills of the local DMV and is just coasting along on momentum.  They can’t form long term plans or change their business models to reflect changing conditions.  This is why the competitive system exists: to get rid of the dinosaurs and replace them with other animals who are in turn replaced.  On a periodic basis every industry collapses but the problem is that some of them are doing things that society needs to function and so the, much more durable, government has to step in at least until version 2.0 is booted.

      Of course, as is the case here, if the government is corrupt what you get is the reverse: the government uses the money of that good old sucker the taxpayer to prop up failed business models (such as casino financial markets and record companies) and incompetent management teams.  This is known as Socialism.

  48. This is an old argument.  Look at history.  The great depression happened because of the banks, and the market crash is because of the banks.  The UK/GB might be a different story but the fact remains that the whole global crash was a giant scheme to make themselves richer without letting anyone know the investments they sold were bad.  That’s like selling a car with a busted transmission without telling the buyer.

    Buyer beware, yes… but there still has to be some level of trust in the transaction.  Now they’ve all fucked each other over they still don’t want to invest in each other and the market is one big fuck you right now.

    The government is a ponsy scheme yes… we pay for our parent pensions.  Its one big pay it forward scheme.  Thats why we need lots of immigration (too many pensions not enough people)

  49. a) Laurie, will you marry me?
    b) I’ve come to understand that the extreme politically right/capitalist position is not about reason – it is a belief system. I had many conversations with rich & poor right wingers, and it seems pointless to come with rational arguments, facts, or statistics. They will just not hear it. This is no longer about facts, this is about feelings, defenses and denial. The more obvious the facts, the more irrational the arguments. Newt’s ‘take a bath’ is a perfect example. I have seen the same phenomenon with some Germans born into the 3rd Reich. There were highly intelligent people who could not, despite the obvious destruction that system had produced, let go of the ideology. They were born into the doctrine that 1+1=3 and they would defend this doctrine to the bone. Because accepting such fundamental betrayal is too painful to realize.

  50. government debt is a huge chunk of the problem but social spending isn’t the source. War spending I think would be the whammy for the UK and US. Lack of regulation is a big one as well, countries that had forceful regulation found themselves not having to bail out their banks, and have relatively strong economies as a result. As was said above, the banks and the governments are both to blame because they both worked to cause the current financial crisis.

  51. During the time period that Corporate Income Taxes were replaced with Payroll Taxes (i.e., the last 40 years) multi-national corporations have found greater and greater means to avoid paying taxes altogether.  This, along with “wars” that disappear huge masses of taxpayer dollar, is a significant factor in the continuously dwindling reserves of the government.

  52. I get that you are going the shotgun and beans route.

    If you look at my comments again though you will see that your replies contain so little in the way of response to them that you could be replying to any comment on any post.

  53. Well, the banks and the plutocrats they represent are not exactly innocent of responsibility for the actions of government prior to the 2008 crash.

    Much of the current and past deficits in many countries – including the US but also Canada and elsewhere – can be ascribed directly to ill-advised but thoroughly lobbied for tax cuts that benefit the wealthy and the extremely wealthy.  These benefits are either entirely benefiting the wealthy or merely ‘mostly’ benefiting the wealthy.

    The current right wing government in my province inherited a healthy surplus from the ‘socialists’ and immediately implemented an across the board tax cut that put us into a massive deficit from which, ten years later, we still have not escaped.  The tax cut, in dollar terms, was about equally split between the top 500 individuals and the rest of us (about 4 million).  That was and is a bought and paid for government for the wealthy.

    It is not the social programs that are bankrupting us, nor were they in the past.  It was and is regulatory capture combined with a well financed campaign to ensure that governments throughout the western world give the rich a free ride.

    Our current federal government (Conservative, of course), has the biggest deficits in our national history, surpassing those of the last Conservative government we had (with center party balancing budgets in the middle).  These deficits are superficially blamed on social programs, but are almost 100% the result of an idiotic and ideologically based reduction in the sales tax combined with corporate tax cuts.  Again, we wouldn’t have any deficit at all if these things had not happened. I have no problem with cutting taxes in times of surplus, but it is pure stupidity in an economic crisis.

    It is far too simplistic to point to social programs as the cause of debt, when the ability to support social programs (and military etc) has been thoroughly slaughtered through a comprehensive attack on taxation in all forms – especially and often only on the taxation of the very wealthy. 

    These tax cuts and deficits are a direct result of the corrosive effect of money on democratic elections.  When parties and officials need millions or billions to have a hope of election, then only the wealthy will be represented.

    With luck OWS will change that.  But it isn’t going to be easy.  The parade of simplistic responses in this discussion alone is evidence of that.

  54. Although many of the big banks and financial institutions are implicated, Goldman Sachs is largely responsible for the financial corruption and eventual economic collapse in the US and Europe.  It just amazes me these financial sociopaths have any voice at all after the amount of crime and fraud they committed to make short term profits.  Goldman Sachs robbed blind their OWN CLIENTS, for Christ sake.  When the house of cards collapsed, they went whining to the federal government threatening an economic meltdown if they didn’t receive a hefty bailout; all while they had – and as far as we know continue to have – billions in offshore accounts they should have been forced to use to bail themselves out. Government should have demanded that, but the Whitehouse appears to be owned by big finance and insurance. If Obama had been a little more on the ball and less influenced by these horseshit spinners, he would have bailed out homeowners.

    The only reason this pretentious fucknuckle is still able to buy expensive suits and sit there speaking as if he has any authority at all is because HE BENEFITED DIRECTLY FROM THE BAILOUT. And got to keep every dime of the money he made during the period of the big hedge fund and derivatives scams.

    The only suitable place for the guy in the video is a public stock so people can throw rotten eggs at him.

  55. Cory, there are issues out there that need to be addressed. Both individuals make proper points but Penny crushes it? Really?

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