"Where has all the money gone?"

7 Billion, 24 billion, 35 billion….
Bail Out,
ECB,
Bond Markets,
Ollie Rehn,
Front loaded adjustments,
Budget deficit,
Blah Blah Blah,
Gobbeldy gook
It streams from my radio.
It jumps from the pages of my newspapers.
It scares me to death and yet it is meaningless.
Intangible.
Words, totally unconnected to my day to day existence.
But yet words that are part now of the soundtrack to our lives.

Before these words became common language, long, long ago, at the very beginning of this recession, my daughter Mia, then 8 years old asked me “Mom, where has all the money gone?” At the time I smiled at her innocent grasp of the new financial reality. “Yes, child” I answered her “wouldn’t it be great if the Government could just print some more money for us all.”

I was recounting this anecdote recently to a friend when I thought again of her question “where has all the money gone?” The question stayed with me all day. Yes, where indeed has all the money gone?

Our current financial meltdown was triggered in large part by the property developers. The men who paid hugely inflated prices for parcels of land on which they had ambitious and unimaginative plans to build houses and apartments. We all know what happened next. The property market collapsed. The land became almost worthless and the developers couldn’t pay back the huge loans they had borrowed from greedy and clueless bankers.

So, Mia innocently asked “where did all the money go?” Someone got paid the large sums borrowed from the banks, which we are now effectively paying back! Surely there is a case to be made for an investigation into those who were paid the hugely inflated prices for their land. I understand that this is how land and property speculation works. But it is morally right that this modest cohort of people, whose bank accounts now bulge with possibly millions of euro, should be allowed to hold onto it? Meanwhile our Government considers reducing the Old Age Pension, Children’s Allowance and other benefits, our young people emigrate in thousands and our economy collapses all around us. We in effect are paying for their financial windfall.

To go after this money, would take courage and determination. I know that it wouldn’t solve all our problems, but it would go some way towards restoring a sense of fair play to the rest of us who profited only very modestly by comparison and then only by working hard during the Celtic Tiger’s roar. At the very least surely some kind of extra tax could be levied on the millions paid for what are now useless fields of dreams.

My daughter has a point – “where did all the money go”. We know where a lot of it went, and we seem happy to pay it back in order to protect some principle of a free market economy. I don’t think that Mia, now 10 years old, would consider that to be very fair. And neither do I.

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6 Comments

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  1. You–and Mia–make an excellent point! I read this morning another succinct question that seems relevant: Since the average Irish public never stood to benefit had the banks' gambles paid off, why should they now foot the bill?

  2. Yes indeed….where did it all go. And now everyone suffers for the insatiable greed of the few. A time of reckoning is more than warranted. But alas…the fat cats get fatter and the average Joe on the street gets thinner and waner with each revelation.

  3. I remembered the word thingy!! Yay me!

  4. I used to live in a town that has a yearly garlic festival. It's big business, brings in millions each year, and local groups and schools from the town staff the festival. One time a friend asked me a similar question as your daughter's “Where does all the money go? Every year the town rakes in millions from this festival, yet our town looks like Little Tijuana.” I didn't know, but I figured corruption and greed had a LOT to do with it. It usually always does.

  5. Absolutely, where did it all go? I guess we'll never really know. I'm trying to ignore all news articles, broadcasts, radio programmes as all they talk about is the recession – it's kind of hard though!

  6. Well said. And unfortunately it's so very true that greed is at the root of it all. I listen to the news only enough to know basically what's going on–since I can't do much about most things, just tend my own garden. But I always feel an underlying anxiety for my loved ones, friends, and other innocent hardworking people who are suffering!!

    I'm re-following you because a glitch in Blogger forced me to make a new blog and abandon the old one. I exported then imported the old one but you can't import your followers. So I don't want to lose those that I want to keep in touch with!! However, I've missed out on some of your posts in the past few weeks. I'll have to catch up!
    Ann

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