Rearranging the Deckchairs on the Titanic?

I don't know about you, but I have had this Titanic feeling for quite a while now.

There was this big, fat, menacing iceberg straight ahead, a few alert crew members (NOT the senior officers, mind) spotted it early enough and sounded warnings. And a few journalists, too, sort of from the lower deck (your's truly included, if you recall).

A deckchair from the Titanic, tastefully rearranged.
A deckchair from the Titanic, tastefully rearranged.

But, the captain did what captains of that very sinkable "unsinkable" Titanic have done so tragically since the first silent-movie version: nothing, of course, apart from reassuring passengers and crew that "this ship is UNsinkable!"

And ordering to "move those deckchairs" ... what could have been more superfluous, eh? That's, of course, why the saying has entered our urban dictionary as "ridiculous activities in the face of crippling adversity." (Maybe I should point out here that, contrary to common belief, the expression doesn't date back to the Titanic disaster at all, but to the 1970s and referred to a PR debacle during the US primaries at the time - - NOT unheard of even nowadays, eh?).

So, don't you get the feeling -- the teensy-weensy feeling -- that for the past year or so, that's precisely what our political leaders and leading bankers have been doing: rearranging those deckchairs on this our global financial market Titanic, while the hull of the big ship is balefully scraping along that big, fat, menacing iceberg?

(Full coverage of the European banking crisis.)

That's right ... let's move them deckchairs!

Mind you, since Lehman went overboard overnight, it does seem as if the orchestra in the ballroom stopped playing and more and more of the first-class passengers were making a frantic dash for the lifeboats. But sadly, ethics have deteriorated since the good old days. No more women and children first! It's everybody for his- or herself.

Because, you see, like with that unfortunate not-so-unsinkable Titanic of the icy sea, one thing has by now become painfully clear: there are not nearly enough lifeboats!

And as in a matter of a year we have gone through the familiar stages of the Titanic catastrophe unfolding -- ignorance, unprecedented cockiness, denial, disbelief, fear -- we have now reached the final emotional stage: panic!

To be fair, the Fed and the U.S. government panicked first (well, they were at the bow of the ship, the Kate-and-Leo position closest to the iceberg!). Others, like German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück were, if not moving the deckchairs at least handing them out to German banks and public INSTEAD OF lifeboats. "Crisis? What crisis? It's all in the U.S., not in Europe!" had been Peer's line until a couple of weeks ago.

Hmmm, sorry Peer, wrong, very wrong.

With Hypo Real Estatewe're no longer talking midsize, midcap lender like IKB or regional clearing banks for the savings and loans like Sachsen. We're talking Dax 30. This is not second or third class, this is right at the Captain's table in the ballroom.

The German government, and others around Europe, are frantically handing out life jackets for depositors, backing ALL private deposits by government guarantees.

Maybe too little, too late?

Let's hope not. Because, if those depositors decide to take their money out of the bank and put in under their mattress, well, THEN you might as well continue rearranging deckchairs. Or rather, grab one if you can and try to sell it! Might be the only way to get hold of SOME cash ...

Ciao for now! Silvia

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