Some of the greatest journalists and analysts in America also happen to be comedians. Watching The Last Laugh with John Bird (in the guise of investment banker, George Parr) and John Fortune (together known as the Long Johns), the same can certainly be said of British comedians as well.
The following is a transcript of this insightful comedian team who brilliantly and accurately describe the mindset of the bailed-out bankers.
John Fortune: George Parr, you are an investment banker.
John Bird: Well, I don’t think there is any call for insults or name calling.
Fortune: Sorry, I was just…
Bird: We have after all just been through a very difficult situation.
Well, but let’s face it, you are an investment banker, and I just wanted to get your view of the turmoil that is now engulfing the financial world.
Well, I’m of a certain age, there aren’t many of us left from my generation, and I can look back at a time when the world seemed a simpler place, with some sense of certainty and order. I think this is a golden age of banking.
You’re thinking of the 60’s perhaps or even the 50’s.
No, I was thinking more of June last year. Why can’t we go back to the time when people took the word of a banker as gospel. Now we get suspicion, finger pointing, people arguing, and all sorts of difficult questions.
What sort of questions?
Nit-picking pointless sorts of things like, I don’t know… Where’s the money gone? As if I’m supposed to know.
But it is generally thought that it is people like you who are generally responsible for this crisis.
Yes, well I think that’s broadly true. We’ve given far too much credit, we’ve been paid far too much, and we’ve been stupidly greedy.
And so, what are you going to do about it? I mean, where do you go from here?
I’ve given this a great deal of thought. And what I’ve decided to do is to go on doing the same things as long as I possibly can.
Surely that is an extraordinarily irresponsible attitude.
Well, yeah, you might say so, but I’ve considered all the options, and what seems to be the way it works is that I go to the government and I say, “I’m sorry, but I’ve done some-thing exceptionally foolish which will cause enormous damage to the economy.”
And they say, “have you? Oh. Well, then, here’s 15 billion pounds.”
So like nearly everybody else, you lost a great deal of money on the property and derivatives.
A colossal amount of money. But there is a silver lining to it all, if you look hard enough.
Yes. Luckily, I lost other people’s money and not my own… that’s something of a consolation.
It must be. So, you’re all right personally.
Well, you know over the past decade it’s been up and down, sometimes I’ve had good years. Sometimes I’ve had incredibly good years. But with the best job in the world, it’s been impossible to spend the amounts I’ve earned, so I’ve still got quite a lot of it left. If other people had been doing what I’d been doing, they wouldn’t be moaning about their food going up.
Many people would say that it’s those who could least afford it who will suffer most from your mistakes. Those with mortgages and credit card debt, and the lower paid.
Well, I think it shows extraordinary lack of gratitude by these people for what we’ve done. I mean if it hadn’t been for us, the city of London would be just a pathetic backwater instead of the financial center of the world. Think of the billions that would flow into London every day, or it used to. Think of the enormous amount of tax revenue that generates.
But people like you hardly pay any taxes.
Yes, but think of how much it would be if we did!
But haven’t people in your world insisted on light regulation by the government? And a generous tax regime. In 2002, the Gordon Brown cut the capital gains tax on business assets held for two years from 40% to 10%. If you were a partner in a private equity firm making millions out of deals, these millions would be taxed at 10%. In effect, they would be paying income tax at 10% while their office cleaners were paying 20%.
Yes, as is often said, but it’s quite simplistic a lot of private equity partners weren’t paying anything like 10%.
No, a lot of them were paying 5%. Some of them were paying nothing. In 2006 there were 52 billionaires in this country, 32 of them didn’t pay any income tax at all.
Well, why did the government go along with this?
Because the private equity firms went to them and threatened to move their businesses abroad, and the government said, “Please don’t do that. We want you to stay here.” If an office cleaner went to the government and threatened to go and clean an office in the Cayman Islands, the government would say, “Well, piss off then.”