Wednesday, November 25, 2009

This is a stick up

So, the banks have won again. They've expropriated billions from the public treasury to cover their dodgy dealings, insisted that the public have to pay for it, and now they've got the official benediction of the supreme court. They don't have to worry about the OFT ruling out their excessive charges, and millions of people who might have expected some refund from their banks will now be met with hard-faced refusal. This is not just a consumer issue (as if there is ever such a thing as 'just a consumer issue'). Unfair bank charges are a significant part of the means by which the banks extract a levy from workers' wages, as is interest on loans and mortgage repayments. These charges necessarily affect the poorest most, as it is they who are most likely to go into the red without being able to anticipate or prevent it. As to the scale of this overcharging, up to a billion pounds had already been repaid to a number of customers by UK banks, and some headlines suggest that they may have had to pay up to £20bn back to 8m customers, plus they would have lost £2.6bn a year they make in profits from the practise. Now they will be able to continue - in the short run at least - to appropriate this particular form of rent from working class wages.

So, here I am on this same old hobby horse again: nationalise the banks already. Take them over. They are public utilities. Debt is a public utility. It should be disbursed on the basis of need, and no one should make any profit from it. At the very least, the banks already partially nationalised should be converted into a socialised banking service (PostBank, The People's Bank, the Woolworths Comeback Tour, you pick the name). I am betting that the costs of running such a system would be so low, and the improvements to service sufficiently great, that millions of customers would switch to it immediately. It could be like the 'public option' of banking, forcing down costs in the short term, and leaving open the possibility of a Kenyan-born Islamofascist turning the country communist in the long run. In the meantime, if you'd like to continue lobbying your bank for some of your money back, check this site out.