Monday, March 8, 2010

Pen Meets Paper Mar.8'10

Opinion by Helge Nome

There was a referendum in Iceland on Saturday, March 6, where voters were asked whether they were prepared to pay back money owing to depositors in three failed commercial banks in Iceland. Actually, the depositors, most of whom are English and Dutch people in their own countries, have already been paid back by their respective governments and now the dispute is between the governments of England and Holland on one side and Iceland on the other.
At the core of this dispute is the demand by the British and Dutch governments for the repayment of funds that they forwarded to their own nationals in the wake of the Icelandic banks in question closing their doors. And the only source of possible repayment is the Icelandic tax payer who is understandably very upset because the banks were privately owned and engaged in highly leveraged high risk lending practices. They were reportedly helped along in this by the failed Lehman Bros. bank in New York.
The Iceland government had already cut a deal for repaying this money, using the taxpayer’s pocket, when the island nation’s President, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, unexpectedly refused to sign it, triggering the referendum.
Of the 62.7% of eligible voters that turned out 93.2% said no to repaying Britain and Holland. 1.8% said yes. The rest of the votes were invalid. Icelanders understandably feel that they are not responsible for decisions made by private bank owners, who by now have likely set up shop in the Bahamas, protected by their hijacked money and old friends.
The big sledge hammer over the Government of Iceland’s head, is a promised loan from the International Monetary Fund to tide Iceland over its present financial problems into a more prosperous future. This loan is currently being withheld.
Time will tell where this process is heading. The interesting thing here is that the old viking spirit is still alive in Iceland, in contrast to the United States, where senators, congressmen and a puppet president were easily bullied into taking over privately created debts during their financial crisis. The big banks walked all over them.
The process we have watched in the US and the unfolding drama in Iceland has one central theme:
Privatizing profits and socializing debt. Elevating the few to positions of power and privilege at the expense of the many, by way of financial manipulations. The Icelanders have shown us that you don’t just have to lie down and take it. The bullies are relatively few in number and are only able to make you cower if you choose that path as the “easy” (read: hard) way out.

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