I grew up in a small town called Bingley in West Yorkshire in the UK, where there are two major employers – the head offices of a building society (or what was once a building society, but became a failed bank – see picture above) and a clothing business.
My late parents worked most of their working lives for the B&B and I worked there during the summer when I was student, to pay off debts built up through excessive drinking (I was an arts student, thank goodness – none of this obsessive “grow old too young” nonsense of MBAs and other business degrees that are serving very little purpose at the moment. You’d be better staying at home and writing poetry).
In the financial maelstrom, you might have noticed that the B&B has been partially nationalised by the British government.
This used to be a dull but worthy lender that became more aggressive and, like most of the rest of us, didn’t believe that there was a down as well an upside when we were all caught up in the economic supercycle.
Before the nationalisation occurred 370 jobs were axed last week – which will greatly affect Bingley’s economy, from the direct job losses, of course, to the shops and the restaurants. More jobs are at risk among the remaining 3,000 employees.
My dad worked down a coal mine, fought in the Second World War in North Africa and Italy in an artillery regiment, returned from the war to work on the railways and then spent the rest of his working life as a caretaker (or a janitor as the Americans have it) at the building society. If he had been still around, he could have been out of work – but exactly what portion of the blame for the crisis would you have apportioned to him, Mr Paulson?
Multiply the impact of job losses around the world as other banks and businesses fail and this means much less chemicals demand – from the plastic packaging used in restaurants to cancelled bigger ticket purchases such as automobiles and TVs. Again, we need to be looking hard at demand-growth numbers in an attempt to contemplate what this will mean for all our businesses – whether we work directly in the chemicals industry or as service providers.
But the bigger tragedy is that real people, not those with fantastic salaries and parachute payments who are responsible for this financial mess, will suffer greatly.
These are real people who deserve protecting because they had no idea, and had no chance of gaining any kind of idea, of the potential scale of the crisis we are now confronting.