Iâ€™m just an Ordinary Joe willing to give everything to the poor bankers
By Fergus Finlay
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
HELLO, how are you old chap?
I thought Iâ€™d give you a ring because I know youâ€™ve been going through a rough time. I wanted to see how I could help.
How are things at my end? Not too bad, I suppose.
Weâ€™ve had to take a load of cutbacks, of course, and a lot of our friends are suffering quite a lot.
Quite a few of them are out of work, to tell you the truth. Itâ€™s the old recession, you know. Canâ€™t be helped.
Iâ€™ve a feeling things are a lot worse for you. Youâ€™ve suffered a real collapse as far as I can see, and my heart goes out to you.
No, no, not at all. Of course I donâ€™t blame you for whatâ€™s happened. Sure what would be the point of that?
This is no time to be playing the blame game. I meet people all the time who say youâ€™re responsible and the last thing we should be doing is bailing you out. But I donâ€™t have any time for that. I just want to help if I can.
So tell me what the story is, anyway. Your share values are worthless. Right, Iâ€™d heard that on the news. And you made a massive loss last year. OK, that doesnâ€™t sound too good. And all sorts of people owe you money, mostly builders and developers. And it looks as if they wonâ€™t ever be able to pay.
My God, thatâ€™s a lot of trouble all right. Itâ€™s going to take some doing to get you out of that mess.
And especially since there are all those begrudgers out there who think the whole thing was your own fault.
Ah no, really, theyâ€™re going around saying you knew the risk all the time, that you knew property couldnâ€™t keep going up in value.
But like I say, thatâ€™s just begrudgery. Nothing more. And I have no time for that. Sorting the problem, thatâ€™s what we need to do.
If we can get you back on the road, Iâ€™m sure thatâ€™ll be good for all of us.
Ah, no. Thereâ€™s no need to be grateful. I want to help â€” in fact I think itâ€™s my duty to help.
Sure where would we be without the banks? We have to do whatever is necessary, each of us in our own way, to get you back on the road again.
And if it means a few more cutbacks and sacrifices for the rest of us, sure what of it. Colm McCarthy can look after that side of things.
Do you know him at all, Colm? Sure heâ€™s a great fella. Follows the Dubs all the time â€” youâ€™ll always find him on Hill 16 â€” thatâ€™s if heâ€™s not having an oulâ€™ pint in Doheny and Nesbitts.
Youâ€™d never think to talk to him that he had brains to burn. And the courage of a lion, as well, after recommending all those cuts for the elderly and the disabled.
Heâ€™d want to stay well out of their way â€” theyâ€™re nothing but trouble with all their whingeing and moaning!
Anyway, can we get back to your troubles? I know youâ€™ve all these bad debts on your books now and theyâ€™re getting in the way of a decent operation. I was wondering what can I do to help at all? Ah, no come on. I want to help. Iâ€™ll tell you what â€” I owe you this much because we need the banks, after all. Iâ€™ll take on some of the debt. Iâ€™m sure Iâ€™ll be able to get something back for all that development land.
How much? Well, how much debt have you got? Oh, Jaysus. Thatâ€™s a bit more than I thought.
If I got stuck with all that debt it will take me the rest of my life to pay it off â€” and the kids, and probably their kids too. But still. I feel I should do something. So itâ€™s a deal. Iâ€™ll take responsibility for your debt.
Now look, to be fair, youâ€™re going to have to take a bit of a hit too. But I think we can work something out.
What have I in mind? Well, since the collapse of the property market, everyone reckons that the best youâ€™ll be able to do is get back about 30% of what you lent out in the first place.
I know, I know, you canâ€™t afford that. And it wouldnâ€™t be right. It would leave you in a really weak position. So Iâ€™ll tell you what ... Iâ€™ll give you â‚¬70 for every â‚¬100 of debt. If I canâ€™t get that back, thatâ€™s my problem.
Now, now, now. Donâ€™t go crying on me. Thereâ€™s no need to feel guilty, no need to say thank you. Like I said at the start, all I want to do is help.
I think we all have to pitch in and do our bit â€” and Iâ€™m sure when I explain to the wife and the kids that itâ€™s in the national interest that we should all take responsibility for your debt, theyâ€™ll understand.
Even though, when I look at the sums, it looks a bit as if the kids are going to have to leave school early â€” Iâ€™m not going to be able to afford their education as well as handling all this.
Still, the national interest, eh? What do I want in return? Sure, nothing at all. I just want you to get back to the good old days, when money was no object, when you could look at a deal and not have to worry about any risk involved. Look, I realise it could cost me everything if I have to take on responsibility for your debts. But just let me worry about that, all right?
No, youâ€™re right, of course. I probably could demand total control of your operation in return for taking responsibility for paying off all your debts. But that would be mean, and sure, youâ€™d be left with nothing then.
Iâ€™M NOT one of those bloody socialists who wants to nationalise everything. Sure isnâ€™t it enough that we decide to nationalise all the bad debts â€” why would we want the assets too?
Iâ€™m confident that if we do it this way, one of us at least will be earning a big fat bonus in a year or two.
And sure, anyway, what would I do with all the assets of a bank? Sure Iâ€™ve no experience in banking. Iâ€™m just an ordinary Joe Soap.
The last few years have been good to me, and even if everything went wrong just because of a few lousy property deals and a few misjudged tax breaks, sure wasnâ€™t it great while it lasted?
And after all, things were rough for most of my generation and the generation before that until the Celtic Tiger came along. At least we had a few years of the swanky cars and the posh holidays, didnâ€™t we?
Listen, Iâ€™ve got to go. I think itâ€™s time for my medication. But you look after yourself. And donâ€™t you worry about all the bad debts youâ€™ve accumulated. From now on, theyâ€™re my responsibility.
This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Tuesday, August 11, 2009 http://examiner.ie/opinion/columnists/fergus-finlay/im-just-an-or etc ...