Corporate Watch has just released the first publication in its ‘Banking on Crisis’ series, and like most of the work undertaken by the 16 year-old research group it’s worth a read.
‘Demystifying the Financial Sector’ – is a 24 page, easy to read ‘Nuts and bolts guide’ to the financial sector that now lies ‘at the very core of contemporary capitalism and acts as the primary organising principle of a global economy driven by the single aim of profit maximisation – whatever the social and environmental cost’.
Readers with little – or no – knowledge of the world of finance and banking get an accessible overview of its working and why ‘highly speculative forms of investment authority, which were previously taken on only by a limited section of society [i.e the ultra-wealthy] have become generalised across a much wider public sphere, with banks acting to facilitate and manage this expansion’.
Particularly interesting is how workers pension funds, once largely invested in government bonds, are now indirectly invested in financial derivatives such as shares and property. When the former dips then so too does the pension fund, and to prevent this corporations’ are placed under pressure to up levels of exploitation of their workforce and the environment. Union-busting, tax evasion and waste-dumping are the consequences, a case of workers money being used to drive down their fellow workers wages and conditions at work.
Not of course that this necessarily even guarantees a decent return for the investors. In August 2011 the stock market crash wiped £250 billion from the value of ordinary peoples’ pensions, with average savers estimated to have lost one fifth of their pensions. Save more, work longer, retire later and die earlier. And that will certainly be the case for many households, as it is estimated that currently 15% of household spends in the UK are going just to cover the interest payments arising from debt.