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Friday, 25 May 2012

How we all got screwed – and who did the screwing

For some time I had heard people say Robert Peston of the BBC was an extremely irritating individual.

He did a programme early this week about the great European catastrophe, and I can  see what they meant.

As he strode about the ruins of Rome in an ill-fitting overcoat (why can't these buggers keep still?) he gave out a sort of spurious enthusiasm which did jar a lot. He combined this with the common habit among TV presenters of emphasising certain words for no good reason. But the strong temptation to switch off was more than offset by what he revealed about the mess we're in.

Many people have pointed out the flaws in the European experiment - that a common currency is a straight-jacket; that the various countries are almost uniquely ill-suited to be yoked together; that economic union can't work without political union and so on.

But for the first time he showed in simple language how the politicians deliberately sidelined the safeguards originally built into the Euro experiment.

To get more nations involved and make things look better than they were they relaxed or even removed the good housekeeping requirements. Countries were allowed to get into more debt than they should have; they were deluged with cheap money.

And who connived at concealing what was going on? The banks. They invented derivatives that enabled countries to hide how deeply in debt they were by delaying the need for payment - in effect taking the rubbish off the books for a few years.

Well, here we are. In the shit. The culprits are exactly who you thought they were.

The people who will pay are exactly who you thought they were. too. You and me.

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