Category Archives: Banks/Banking

Put the Banks Under State Control!


In recent years, the ripping off of customers, deceit and even outright fraud practiced by Australian finance sector businesses has gained much attention. Four years ago it was revealed how CommInsure, the insurance arm of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), had refused to make promised life insurance payments to heart attack survivors. They “justified” this by using a definition of a heart attack that was so dodgy that even some people who had such a severe heart attack that they had to be resuscitated were denied their entitled pay outs! Such devious practices have been undertaken by finance sector enterprises big and small – from the big four banks and insurance giants to brokers and loan enablers and to retail businesses that hand out loans. As a result the banks, insurance companies and the brokers and others connected to them are widely hated by the masses. With good reason! Yet finance sector institutions have a decisive influence on society. For it is they who determine how credit is distributed and credit is absolutely critical to the running of modern economies. Especially at this desperate time when this country and much of the world face both a public health emergency and economic collapse, it is vital that credit is allocated in ways that can best respond to the COVID-19 virus threat and into areas that can best ensure that the jobs and wages of millions of working class people are guaranteed. Yet would you trust the lying, greed-driven bosses of the banks and insurance companies to do this? You would be totally nuts if you did! We need to put all the banks and insurance companies under state control! In other words, we need to nationalise the finance sector.

In late 2017, there was so much anger built up against the banks, insurance giants and brokers that former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, realising the need to “restore the credibility” of the finance sector, finally acceded to widespread demands for a royal commission into the banking and insurance industry. That Royal Commission revealed more details of what many of us already knew. Banks were giving secret commissions to brokers to entice them to get home buyers to take out home loans with their particular banks. Banks hid these payments in order to trick their customers into believing that their customers’ “own” brokers were “independent.” But, actually, the payments that these brokers received from particular banks gave them an incentive to get people to take out mortgages with these same particular banks even if that was not the best option for the broker’s customer. And the brokers did this in spades! Moreover, since the commission received by the broker got larger the bigger the loan taken out by their customers, the brokers, with a nod and a wink from the banks paying them, often pushed their customers into buying a more expensive house than they could actually afford. That is part of why household debt is so frighteningly high in Australia.

One of the aspects of the finance sector industry that was exposed is the practice of charging clients fees for no service. Banks and insurance companies and their financial planning and superannuation subsidiaries were found to be charging people “advice” and “service” fees for their investments and superannuation accounts but then providing no advice at all. Put simply, the banks and insurance companies were downright stealing from hundreds of thousands of their customers. AMP, NAB, CBA, ANZ and Westpac were found to be the worst offenders. The amount that these companies stole from their customers through fees for no service was officially estimated to be well over a billion dollars. The real figure could be even higher. Moreover, some of these institutions had even knowingly continued to charge their customers fees for no service … after they had died! The fees would then be paid out of the estate of the deceased customers – in other words, be paid largely by the close relatives of the deceased customers, most often their spouses and children. The Commonwealth Bank even knowingly charged one of their dead clients fees for “financial planning advice” for more than a decade after they died! Meanwhile, insurance giant AMP continued to charge some of their dead customers life insurance premiums.

A Slap on the Wrists for the Swindling Banks and Insurance Companies

The banking royal commission and the media coverage surrounding it tended to focus on atrocities committed against small business owners, farmers and other middle class customers – especially upper-middle class ones – or against better paid workers able to acquire substantial savings. Indeed, under the capitalist system the big capitalists – at the apex of which stand the bank owners – rip off the small-scale capitalist exploiters and all of them, while leaching the most from wage workers, skim off also from the middle class, even from the upper middle class. Yet, the people most hurt by the thieving greed of the banks and insurance companies are average income workers and especially lower-paid, casual and unemployed workers. They are the people most hurt by the banks charging large set fees as these fees often make up such a big proportion of their modest savings. It is poorly paid workers, retrenched workers and long term unemployed workers who are also the most burdened by the extortionate interest rates charged by banks in credit card accounts. It is the low income of these people which pushed them to get into debt in the first place, while the cruel interest rate they must pay off with their debts plus their meagre incomes ensures that many have little possibility of ever paying off these debts. And often desperate for credit, casual and unemployed workers, low income single mothers and people with disabilities are the most vulnerable to being ripped off by loan brokers and short term credit providers handing out loans with exorbitant interest rates.

The banking royal commission did hear about how insurance companies were using aggressive telemarketing and deceptive policies to rip off Aboriginal customers, many struggling on low incomes. It was told of how insurance companies operating in remote Aboriginal communities took advantage of language barriers and Aboriginal people’s tendency to be friendly and polite to sign up on the phone Aboriginal people to life and funeral insurance that they neither truly consented to nor even needed. One of the enterprises exposed for pushing unnecessary funeral insurance on Aboriginal people is the “Aboriginal Community Benefit Fund” (ABCF). With its name including “Aboriginal Community” and its use of a rainbow serpent image, ABCF gave the impression that it was an Aboriginal community-run organisation. But it was not! It was a private, profit-driven company that was neither owned nor managed by Aboriginal people. However, ABCF used the trust gained by the appearance of being a community-run organisation to push Aboriginal people into forking out large amounts for funeral insurance that they did not need. Thus ABCF often signed up healthy young Aboriginal woman in their twenties and early thirties for funeral insurance. They even pushed thousands of Aboriginal parents into getting funeral insurance for their babies in schemes that would cost up to $100,000 over a lifetime! ABCF owners then quietly excluded families of Aboriginal people who died from suicide from receiving payouts, thus ensuring that they would not to have to pay claims of a very large proportion of the insured children that actually did die young.

The banking royal commission did also hear snippets about the massive exploitation of low-income people by businesses handing out consumer leases and so-called payday loans – where people are lent money until their next pay check at massive interest rates. Aboriginal financial counsellor, Lynda Edwards, also told of how car dealers took advantage of the necessity for cars in remote areas to sell Aboriginal people dud cars with ultra-high interest loans. A report published a year ago by Flinders University detailed how one Aboriginal customer was made to pay $52,000 for an $18,000 car at an interest rate of 35% despite the fact that the over-priced used car stopped working long before the loan was repaid! Indeed, the royal commission was told of how some Aboriginal people had been charged even higher interest rates for car loans, rates of 48%!

Yet the nature of the Royal Commission was such that it did not compel those involved in such scams and high-interest loan pushing to defend their actions. As senior counsel assisting the commission, Rowena Orr QC, explained: “We will not be considering consumer leases, payday loans or in-store credit arrangements in these hearings because they do not fall within the terms of reference of the commission.” Put simply, the Royal Commission was not meant to truly protect the interests of low-income people from the predatory behaviour of banks, insurance firms and retail business owners. To the extent that the banking royal commission was not entirely about “restoring the credibility of the finance sector” or simply about allowing the furious masses to vent steam in a way that does not actually harm the interests of the finance industry bigwigs, the investigation was aimed at curbing the excesses of the bank owners in the interests of other sections of the capitalist class – including retail sector bigwigs, “small and medium size” enterprise bosses and big farm owners – as well as the more privileged sections of the middle class that the upper class rely on for social and political support. After all, the state in capitalist countries is an executive committee for managing the affairs of the capitalist labour-exploiting class as a whole. At times they have to slightly clip the wings of even their most powerful section – the finance sector bigwigs – in order to ensure the interests of the rich ruling class as a whole. But even here the Royal Commission’s impact was minimal. Sure, there were some stunning revelations of the depth of the banks and insurers’ greed and deceit. Several finance sector CEOs and directors also had to resign from their positions in the wake of the revelations and, mind you, then take away multi-million dollar severance pay and shareholdings, thank you very much. Yet Royal Commission head, Kenneth Hayne, did not recommend one single charge against any specific finance sector boss despite the fact that the hearings of the commission plainly showed that banks and insurance companies had stolen and swindled well over a billion dollars from hundreds of thousands of their customers. Instead, the commissioner handed over 24 recommendations to the regulators over instances of misconduct and charged them with the responsibility of considering any action. However, he refused to even name the people and institutions involved. And over a year since the final report of the commission was handed down, not a single finance sector boss has been charged let alone been put behind bars. Meanwhile, even after having promised to implement nearly all of Commissioner Hayne’s recommendations, the government has yet to even introduce legislation to turn several of the recommendations into law.

The more important point is that Commissioner Hayne’s report only recommended cosmetic changes to the finance sector. Cold calling of financial products over the phone was recommended to be banned and mortgage brokers would be required to act in the best interests of their customers (as if that is going to actually happen!). However, the economic power, profitability and overall impunity of the finance sector corporations will be largely untouched. In fact, the bank owners were so delighted with the outcome of the Royal Commission that the first stock market trading after the commissioner handed down his final report saw the share prices of the big four banks skyrocket by almost A$20 billion – their biggest one day rise ever!

The limp recommendations of the Royal Commission are, indeed, what the right-wing Australian government always intended to be the outcome. Indeed, the Liberal government was so intent on enhancing the reputation of the bank bosses that shortly before the Royal Commission was announced, they and the bank heads arranged for the bank bosses to send a letter to the government themselves calling for the Royal Commission! This enabled the government to put the bank bigwigs in good light by saying that the banks themselves wanted the inquiry. Indeed, the relationship between bank owners and the government is so cosy that the letter from the heads of the big four banks to the government calling for the Royal Commission was first sent in draft form to the then treasurer, Scott Morrison, to be vetted by him before being made an official letter the next day! Let’s not forget that the then prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who, kicking and screaming, called the Royal Commission was himself the owner of an investment banking firm and later a managing director for the Australian arm of U.S. banking giant, Goldman Sachs.

In order to appease their working class base and appeal to widespread middle class public opinion, the ALP Opposition has been more critical of the banks than the Coalition government. But let us remember that when they were in government previously from 2007 to 2013, when some of the most blatant fraud by the finance sector companies was being committed, the ALP also did nothing to stop it. Today in the wake of the Royal Commission, the ALP only called for implementing its weak recommendations. Nothing more. The ALP are certainly not calling for putting the banks under state control or even under greater regulation. After all it was the former Hawke-Keating ALP government that carried out the biggest deregulation of the finance sector in Australian history. They removed the cap on the interest rates that banks could charge for home loans and abolished other controls on bank interest rates. In short, the Hawke-Keating Labor government freed up bank owners to do whatever it takes to maximise profits regardless of the consequences to society. Most harmfully, they also privatised the formerly state-owned Commonwealth Bank.

While the ALP is a party with a working class base, its futile program of trying to improve the lot of workers while accepting the capitalist order means that it necessarily needs to collaborate with – and ultimately kowtow to – that apex of capitalist power, finance capital. Thus, the ALP’s ties to the bank bosses are not far behind those of the conservatives. The investment banking firm that Malcolm Turnbull established, referred to above, was actually set up in a partnership with none other than former NSW ALP premier, Neville Wran, and Nicholas Whitlam – the son of former prime minister and ALP icon, Gough Whitlam. The bank was actually called Whitlam Turnbull & Co Ltd. Today, the CEO of the Australian Banking Association, who has done so much to deceive the population by being the chief apologist for the bank bosses is former Queensland ALP premier, Anna Bligh. Meanwhile, during the last financial year that disclosures of political donations have been revealed, 2018-19, the ALP received more than $2.5 million from Westpac alone! They were also given $50,000 from the main body representing general insurance firms, the Insurance Council of Australia, as well as plenty of other big donations from individual insurance companies and other banks. And that does not include the large amount of political donations that are disguised or hidden.

Of course, the banks and insurance companies also made big donations to the Liberal Party too. The Insurance Council of Australia gave them $27,500 and Anna Bligh’s Australian Banking Association the same amount. For its part, CBA donated $55,000. Westpac Bank donated a hefty $82,500 to the Liberals but that pales against their $2.5 million donations to the ALP during 2018-19. Likely, the Westpac bigwigs knew that they already had the Liberals fully in their bag!

The Myth that the Big Corporations are Owned by “Everyday Australians” through Our Superannuation

The problem isn’t simply that the banks and other finance businesses sometimes engage in open theft from their customers and other deceptive conduct. It’s the normal working of these enterprises that is the main problem. Banks make their money by extracting fees from account holders and primarily by charging a higher interest rate on the loans that they give out than the rate that they pay depositors. And they leach a lot of money that way! In the 2018-19 financial year, the “big four” Australian banks and the three biggest Australian-owned insurance companies, IAG, Suncorp and QBE, together extracted nearly $29 billion from us and that’s not including the huge amounts also grabbed by smaller banks and insurers as well as by mortgage brokers, consumer lease providers and payday cash operators. And that was considered a bad year for them! All this money extracted by the finance sector businesses is like an extra tax on the masses. But it is a tax where the proceeds don’t go into the public budget but into the hands of the wealthy finance sector business owners. If we note that there are currently about 9.8 million households and then do a quick calculation we find that the biggest four Australian-owned banks and largest three Australian-owned insurers are leaching $3,000 in profit, on average, from each household every year. To put that in perspective, that is more than one in five dollars of what an unemployed single person receives in the Newstart Allowance (if one excludes the temporary increase to the Newstart Allowance granted during the Covid-19 pandemic)!

Most working class and middle class people are only too aware that “The Banks” are ripping us off. But who do we exactly mean when we talk about “The Banks” that leach from us. Most of us think of the CEOs and the directors that award themselves huge salary packages. And with good reason! Last year, Westpac’s CEO took home over $5 million, ANZ CEO Shayne Elliot even more and IAG CEO Peter Harmer topped the lot receiving a five and a half million dollars package. And that was all in a year when the bank bosses, aware that they were under the spotlight, wanted to pretend that that they were feeling contrition for their devious deeds by awarding themselves lower payments than usual!

Yet as obscene are the payments are to the bank executives, that is still only a small percentage of bank profits. Where else are banks gigantic earnings going? Certainly not to their rank and file employees! So let’s take a look at Australia’s biggest bank, CBA. Last financial year CBA had a total operating income of $24 billion. Some of it they spent on equipment, wages, occupancy and operating costs. Most of their income then, after paying tax, ends up as profit for their owners. Nearly $8.5 billion to be precise. Of that nearly a billion went to beef up the assets of the bank to help its owners make greater profits in the future and $7.6 billion was given as dividends to the banks shareholders, i.e. to the banks owners. That’s who is taking most of the wealth extracted from the masses by the banks. By contrast, the more than 48,000 employees of the CBA received $5.5 billion in salaries and superannuation, which is a lot less than the shareholders received for doing absolutely no work at all. The amount received by the bank employees is also less than a quarter of the bank’s overall operating income. And of these more than 48,000 employees, the majority of them, the rank and file employees – say at least 40,000 of the workers – would each receive small slices of the salary cake while the managers and executives each take gluttonously big slices. After all, the bank’s top executives and other directors (there are just 20 of them), alone were paid $40 million last year; and that is counted as a “staff” cost. By contrast the average salary package, including superannuation, of CBA’s other employees is $114,000 – which is 40 times less than what the CEO took home. Moreover, when you exclude the managers and others in the top 20% of highest paid staff who would bring up that average income number, one would find that the annual wage of the vast majority of CBA workers wouldn’t be much more than – and in many cases less than – $75,000 and certainly well below $100,000. Moreover, to the bank bigwigs, these bank workers are expendable. As soon as the bank bosses decide that they can make a still higher profit with fewer workers, they will throw into the dole queues the employees whose hard work has allowed bank executives and big shareholders to acquire such immense wealth. Over the last several years, the bigwigs of the big four banks have together retrenched tens of thousands of workers. In late 2017, then NAB CEO, Andrew Thorburn, infamously announced the axing of 6,600 jobs at the very same time that he gloatingly announced that the bank had made a whopping annual profit of $6.6 billion.

So, who then are the shareholders who are reaping the rewards of the banks’ ripping off of the masses’ money? The finance corporations’ bosses and their bigwigs try to sell us the line that their companies are owned mostly by superannuation funds and through the dividends distributed to these funds their profits end up going to “ordinary, everyday Australians.” Nothing could be further from the truth! But before exploring this point in more detail, it is important to here make a point about superannuation more broadly. Superannuation, as a means of distributing income to the aged, in contrast to pensions, is not fair. It is not fair not only in practice but in the very concept of it.

Under the superannuation system a proportion of people’s income (9.5% of their gross wage currently) when they are working goes into their personal accounts which gets managed by superannuation companies and is then accessible when they retire. So a worker on the minimum wage in a full-time job gets $3,467 of superannuation put into their account each year. By contrast, the Westpac CEO last year received $44,320 in superannuation payments, nearly 13 times more than a worker on the minimum wage gets. Many bosses get even more. Last year, the CEO of Australian-owned mining giant, BHP, received a staggering $425,000 in superannuation payments – that’s more than 120 times greater than what a worker on the minimum wage gets! By contrast if you are a worker unfortunate enough to be either unemployed or one of the increasing number of cash in hand workers or a domestic worker or a casual worker who gets only a few hours in a month of work you get no super whatsoever. Yet it is precisely these people who need higher payments when they are aged because they would have much less savings and assets than people who had been receiving higher superannuation contributions. Moreover, the superannuation system reinforces the discrimination in employment affecting women, Aboriginal people and migrants from African, Middle Eastern and Asian countries. For in addition to the gender pay gap that women endure, the racist discrimination that causes Aboriginal people to have a much higher rate of unemployment than the broader population and the greater propensity of migrants to only be given lower paid jobs, women and migrants are much more likely to be in non-super receiving cash in hand and domestic work jobs than their male and Australian-born counterparts.

There is one rationale for superannuation – that wealth produced today needs to be set aside for when we have an ageing population in the future – that does have validity. But this should be addressed by making the bosses pay into a single, common pension fund out of which aged pensions can be paid equally to all of the elderly. Instead of the system of low pensions supplemented by people’s individual superannuation accounts, there should be much higher pensions for all and no individual superannuation. At least when a group of people are at an age when none of them are working, they should finally get paid equally! The current system, instead, carries through all the terrible inequality when people are of working age through to when people are retired.

So given how unequal people’s superannuation balances are, even if it were true that the banks and other big corporations are owned mainly by superannuation funds this would be grossly unfair. However, the truth is even more inequitable. For it is the very rich who own most of the stocks of the banks and other big companies. Superannuation funds own just a minority. How small a minority? Let us calculate that here using publicly available data. Given how much mythology there is about superannuation funds owning corporations, we will show each stage of the calculation. According to the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, i.e. the industry body of the superannuation companies themselves, at the end of December 2019 these funds had a total of 1.9 trillion dollars in assets of which 22.0% was invested in Australian equities (https://www.superannuation.asn.au/resources/superannuation-statistics , accessed 3 April 2020). That comes to a figure of $418 billion for the total holdings in the Australian share market by the superannuation funds. Now the total market capitalisation of the Australian share market at the same time, the end of December, was $2339.71 billion (see https://www.gurufocus.com/global-market-valuation.php?country=AUS and scroll to 20 December 2019 in the graph “Australian Total Market Cap”). That gives the proportion of the shares in the Australian stock market owned by domestic superannuation funds at just 17.9%. That is a lot less than one in five shares.

To see the significance of this truth that local superannuation funds own just a minority of major Australian corporations, let us consider the following scenario. Imagine in the year 2022, after having to prune their profits slightly in 2019 following the exposure of some of their fraudulent practices and the lower profits that they could expect in the coming two years in the wake of the COVID-19 induced recession, the banks seek to raise their profits back to the extreme levels of a few years ago. Through hitting their customers with still higher fees and by charging a high interest rate on the loans they lend out relative to that which they give to depositors the banks raise their profits by, say, an extra $10 billion. Now the bank bosses and their many apologists in parliament would then spin the line that these higher profits are a good thing as they end up in the pockets of “ordinary everyday Australians” through the dividends being accumulated by superannuation funds investing in the banks. However, if all these additional profits end up being distributed as dividends to shareholders and assuming that the percentage of bank shares owned by Australian super funds is about the same as the overall proportion of Australian stocks owned by these funds, just $1.79 billion of these extra share dividends would go to these funds. Even less would make their way into actual superannuation accounts. For the superannuation companies would take a healthy portion of the dividends as commissions and fees – and as we know even as advice fees when they give no advice! And guess what, many of these superannuation companies are themselves directly owned by banks or insurance companies. So part of the bank profits supposedly going into superannuation funds end up going back to the bank and, thus, into the pockets of its big non-superannuation shareholders. The amount actually going to the superannuation accounts of the public may be closer to $1.4 billion. Yet, to get to this scenario of higher bank profits, we have paid out $10 billion in extra fees and higher interest payments. So, excluding the big shareholders of the banks, the public end up much worse off overall, worse off by about $10 billion less the approximately $1.4 billion that we reclaim in higher returns on our super; i.e. we together end up about overall $8.6 billion worse off. And it is working class people who would suffer the pain disproportionately. For a low-paid worker, while paying the higher fees and higher interest rates paid by others, gets very little back in the way of higher returns on their superannuation and many workers none at all.

While we are dealing with this subject, the same analogy would apply to the issue of wages and profits. If the bosses managed to drive down our wages throughout the economy so that they collectively make a $10 billion higher profit than they otherwise would, the apology that business leaders give, that this ends up back in workers’ pockets through increases to their superannuation, is completely false. Wage and salary earners would collectively end up about $8.6 billion worse off. And again the pain would be borne most by lower paid, cash-in-hand and unemployed workers. So, the next time a co-worker, who has been influenced by ruling class propaganda, tries to tell you that higher profits for banks and other corporations is good for us, please, please, please educate them about the reality!

Who are “the Banks”?

So now that it is clear that we are not the indirect owners of the banks through our superannuation funds, who then are the actual owners of these hated corporations? The second lie that apologists for the banks promote, other than the one about superannuation funds, is that the banks are simply owned by “ordinary, everyday Australians” – so called “mum and dad shareholders.” This is actually an even bigger lie than the first one! Why? Firstly, most working class people don’t have the significant savings that would enable them to invest in the stock market. Low paid workers, unemployed workers and casual workers struggle to replace worn out clothes, deal with high electricity costs, pay the rent and often keep up with credit card debts too, let alone save significants amounts of money. Meanwhile, more decently paid workers often spend most of their working life paying off their home mortgage. Far from the majority of the working class being able to invest in shares, the reality is that household debt in Australia is at record levels. A small layer of better paid, more skilled and often older workers do sometimes invest in shares or alternatively in wealth management schemes that in turn invest in shares. However, most of the people holding shares are members of the capitalist, business-owning upper class and the more comfortable layers of the middle class – especially high-paid, upper-middle class professionals. So the “mum and dad shareholders” who supposedly hold most of the banks should more precisely be referred to as the “affluent mum and dad shareholders.” However, even this tells only a small part of the story. For average middle class shareholders – and even the upper middle class ones – while they are large in number only hold a very small portion of bank ownership. To see this, let us have a look at the latest annual report, the one for 2019, for Australia’s largest bank, CBA. According to the bank’s own report, those owning less than a 1,000 shares, who make up nearly three quarters of shareholders, own just one in ten of all shares. Now, given that the share price of the bank at the time that those figures were quoted for (15 July 2019) was $81.06, any one shareholder who was not in this category, i.e. was a shareholder who had more than 1,000 shares in the bank, had more than $81,060 invested there. These big investors who each invested more than $81,060 in the bank own 90% of the bank. Few workers and average middle class people could afford to put that kind of money in the shares of one company. Moreover, even amongst the upper middle class and wealthy capitalists who own most of the bank shares, it is the latter who own the lion’s share. Thus, the people and institutions who own more than 5,000 shares – that is who have the spare cash to invest more than $405,000 in the shares of just one company – own over two-thirds of the CBA. Moreover, the top 20 shareholders alone own nearly half the bank!

So who then are these very rich individuals owning most of Australia’s banks? That is censored information! The wealthy own much of their stakes in the finance sector through other banks acting as nominees for them. In other words, these rich investors get other banks to hold shares on their behalf in a way that hides their own identities. Without exception, in Australia’s big four banks at least the top six shareholders in each bank are these bank nominee holders. In the case of ANZ, all the top eight shareholders, who own 57% of the bank, are these nominee holders. That about typifies the nature of “democracy” within capitalist countries. The ruling class talk a lot about “transparency” but really it is only things that don’t matter too much that are transparent whereas the really important stuff is hidden from the masses. So here we have the most powerful economic institutions in the country, the ones who decide how credit is distributed and whose combined assets of $3.4 trillion (for the big four banks alone) are almost twice the country’s entire annual GDP … and we don’t even really know who owns them!

We do, however, know a few things about the major owners of the Australian banks and insurance companies. One thing that we do know is that they are rich Australians rather than people from overseas. CBA, for instance, is nearly four-fifths Australian-owned. You can bet that among the major owners of the banks and insurance companies, hidden through bank nominee holders, are many of Australia’s richest 200 people – capitalists whose combined wealth last year was found to be a staggering $342 billion! So if you managed to break through the secrecy wall of nominee holdings you would surely find that among the major shareholders of the banks would be people of the ilk of Andrew Forrest, Gina Rinehart, James Packer, Anthony Pratt, Clive Palmer and Kerry Stokes.

The $160 million mega-yacht bought in 2017 by financial executive John Symond. Symond is one of the largest individual shareholders of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. The ultra-rich Australian owners and executives of Australia’s banks and other finance sector companies leach billions off the masses while the institutions that they control misdirect credit away from the areas most needed by working class people.

Where there is greater transparency is in the holdings of the executives and directors of these finance sector corporations. And they do have big shareholdings. ANZ CEO, Shayne Elliot, held nearly $5 million of shares in that bank. IAG boss, Peter Harmer, owned an even larger stake in his corporation, owning $7.6 million of shares. However, compared to the murky holdings held in secret by nominee companies, even these huge numbers are pretty small. One big bank shareholder who is not hidden behind a nominee company is the couple, Barry and Joy Lambert, who at the time of the CBA’s last annual report owned a whopping $220 million dollar stake. Joy and Barry Lambert are indeed, by the way, a “mum” and a “dad” – and these are precisely the type of “Australian mums and dads shareholders” that own the lion’s share of this country’s banks and other major corporations!

The Big Banks, Big Insurers and the Owners of Smaller Finance Companies

What about the institutions holding major stakes in the big finance corporations – that is, other than the companies acting as nominees for others? One such institutional investor, which is among the top twenty shareholders of each of Australia’s big four banks as well as of the big insurers, Suncorp and QBE, is Netwealth Investments. If we look at the last annual reports of these big finance corporations, we find that at that time, Netwealth held a total stake of $814 million in them. Now Netwealth Investments are a wealth management firm, so they are largely investing the money of other capitalists and upper middle class individuals in the big finance corporations. But Netwealth also takes a big chunk out of the money invested through these shareholdings as commissions and management fees. And who owns Netwealth? More than half of it is owned by the joint managing directors of the firm, Michael Heine and his son Matt. The last published Australian rich list has the family holding a combined wealth of more than $1.5 billion. As we can see, a big part of this wealth comes from grabbing a share of the profits that the banking and insurance corporations leach out of all of us.

So there you have it, the big banks and insurance companies act as a big collective feeding trough for capitalist pigs. Different capitalist exploiters come to put their snouts into the mega-earnings extracted by the big banks and insurers. And when they do so, they get a huge feed. The last CBA annual report, for example, boasted that shareholders gained a total return on their investments of 21% in just one year. That means, for instance, that the Lambert family’s stake in the bank would have given them a $46 million return in just one year … and that from doing no work whatsoever! By contrast a full-time cleaner doing hard and especially crucial and dangerous work at this time of pandemic will get 1,200 times less than this and only if her boss actually pays her the minimum wage.

The Heine family who own Netwealth are one of many owners of smaller finance sector businesses that have made a fortune by engaging in a similar kind of parasitism as the big banks do. At least fifteen of the people on Australia’s list of the richest 200 people extracted much of their money by running such enterprises. You very often see these people being interviewed on ABC current affairs programs related to the economy, which is worth noting for anyone who thinks that the ABC is substantially fairer and more independent of capitalist influence than the tycoon-owned media outlets. Among the finance sector bigwigs are Hamish Douglass, the biggest shareholder of wealth management firm, Magellan Financial; Jeff Chapman, owner of Bennelong Funds Management; Graham Tuckwell, owner of investment management firm, ETF Securities; David Paradice, owner of Paradice Investment Management and Kerr Neilson, the billionaire who owns the main stake in Platinum Asset Management. Supporters of public housing may recognise the latter name. Neilson was one of the ultra-rich people who notoriously bought up former public housing and publicly-owned buildings in Sydney’s inner-city Millers Point after the right-wing NSW government drove out low-income working class tenants and sold off the housing to wealthy individuals and speculators. In 2018, Neilson bought up three historic dwellings in Millers Point, known collectively as the George Talbots Townhouses, for $5 million.

The $30.5 million Point Piper mansion bought in 2014 by Nick Langley, owner of investment management firm RARE Infrastructure. Australia’s banks and other finance sector companies are largely owned by filthy rich capitalists and not by “everyday mum and dad shareholders.”

Another filthy rich owner of a finance sector corporation is the boss of buy-now-pay-later company, Flexigroup, Andrew Abercrombie. Abercrombie is also a Liberal Party powerbroker and major donor and is notorious for having stridently supported right-wing extremist, media commentator Andrew Bolt, when Aboriginal people took legal action against Bolt over vile racist slurs. Recently, Abercrombie was in the news after a high-society party that he hosted at his extravagant chalet in the US Aspen ski resort became the source of COVID-19 infection clusters after several of the super-rich guests refused to self-isolate and after returning to Australia spread the disease acquired at the party to Melbourne, Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula and Sydney.

Many of the finance sector bosses in Australia’s rich list run businesses that not only make profits from operations here but also leach profits from people overseas. That is to be expected from major components of a ruling class that is not only capitalist but imperialist. However, as well as making profits from their own operations, these owners of smaller finance sector companies stand alongside mining magnates, media moguls and industrial capitalists in grabbing hefty slices of the loot extracted by the operations of the big banks and big insurers. This is both through their own major shareholdings in the banks – like those of the Lambert family who made their initial wealth through Barry Lambert’s previously owned financial planning company, Count Financial – and through gaining a big slice of the dividends from bank shares received by the funds that they manage. In this sense, the big banking and insurance companies operate like a legal, crime syndicate. Different, loosely connected capitalists come together through these corporations to jointly loot the masses.

Nationalize the Banks! Nationalize the Entire Health System!

The banks extract money from the masses in four different ways. The first two ways are obvious: through charging interest and fees and through exploiting the mental labour of their own workers. Thirdly, by lending to those buying investment properties, banks, from the interest that they receive, gain a share of the rent extracted by greedy landlords from tenants. There is also an important additional way that banks extract their revenue. For banks, insurance companies and investment managers put some of the money under their control into the shares and bonds of other businesses. In the case of banks they also make loans to these other firms. These other business bosses, whether they be those of manufacturing firms, retailers, developers, telecommunication and IT firms, transportation companies, mining corporations or agribusiness operations in turn make a profit through exploiting their own workers. Part of the wealth extracted from these workers is then returned to the banks as interest on loans and on any bonds held by the banks and also returned to finance sector firms more broadly as dividends on the stocks that they hold in these other companies. In this way, the owners of the finance sector companies gain a share of the profits exploited from workers throughout the economy.

This role of the finance sector – and the banks in particular – in the whole economy points to perhaps the biggest problem with the capitalist-owned finance sector. It is not simply that they leach from the people, it is also the way that they allocate credit and financial resources. And like everything else they do, they allocate credit almost solely on the basis of what can bring them the highest returns. That is partly why there is so much speculation in the housing sector and so little affordable housing available, both to buy or to rent. Banks know that they can gain much higher and more secure returns by giving loans to wealthy people buying multiple holiday homes and speculative high-end investment properties than to lend for the construction of cheaper housing for working class people to buy or to rent. Similarly, banks would rather allocate loans and investments to climate change-inducing coal mines and fossil fuel power stations that have little long term future than to focus their credit allocation into renewable power projects even if the former bring only slighter higher and more secure returns to the bank. Meanwhile, the profit-driven mode of the banks mean that medical research in Australia can struggle to get funding unless the chances of an immediate profit-making breakthrough are immediate. Yet medical science cannot but advance except through the trialling of many different ideas, only a tiny proportion of which will end up being used. Similarly in Australia, important technological development and scientific research – especially in basic sciences where the monetary benefits are not immediate – struggle to get bank loans or investment. By contrast, casino operators and advertising firms – who produce no net benefit to society but instead only help one lot of business owners to get richer at the expense of their rivals (and then vice versa!) – don’t seem to have any trouble raising credit.

One of the growing number of people in Australia forced to sleep the streets. A major reason for the large amount of homelessness is that Australia’s profit-driven banks, rather than directing credit to the building of public housing and housing affordable for the poor, divert credit to more lucrative high-end housing projects as well as for speculative housing investments.
Photo credit: ABC

If the misdirection of credit causes terrible problems in “normal” times, it can be literally fatal at a time of public health emergency and economic implosion like we are experiencing right now. Although, as we go to press, the rate of new infections in Australia appears to be slowing, people continue to die from COVID-19 and, what is more, the threat of much greater virus spread will emerge once social distancing measures are eased. That is why immediately, we need financial resources directed to urgent medical research to help find vaccines and better treatments for COVID-19. We need this research not only for the few projects seemingly most likely to bring financial profits in the future but for a wide range of research. That includes work into developing any non-vaccine treatment methods for the virus. Such research into treatment methods can be hugely life-saving but its results are also likely non-patentable and would bring the researchers – and thus their bank creditors – no real financial rewards. Even more urgently we need loans directed to particular manufacturers that are able to very quickly turn their factories into making personal protective equipment, infra-red thermometers, virus testing kits and ventilators. We also need credit being allocated into areas that will help reduce the level of job losses and at the same time direct jobs into areas that would aid the virus response – for instance by making home delivery of groceries and food more widespread. Yet the only way any of this has even a chance of happening is if control of the organisations that have the power over lending – that is, the banks – are taken out of the hands of their profit-driven owners and brought under state control. This gives the potential to plan the allocation of financial resources to both respond to the virus threat and avert economic collapse. For such planning to be effective, the banks really need to be run together as a single national entity. Modern computing technology and big data make that quite simple whether or not the banks actually operate under one logo. In summary what we need is the nationalisation of the banks and their conversion into a single state-run bank. We need that right now and we need that all the time!

Putting the banks under state control is not the only thing that the working class masses need right now. To respond to the COVID-19 threat we need health resources mobilised in a planned way. The government has announced that it would requisition the resources of private hospitals to deal with the crisis. But this measure is partial and predicated on a massive bailout of private hospital owners. In contrast to the Morrison government’s half-baked hospital plan we need the immediate nationalisation of the entire health system – including not only private hospitals but smaller health facilities like pathology labs. This must remain even after this epidemic is over. Having a big part of the Medicare budget going into the bank accounts of greedy private health operators – for example, Medicare pays 75% of the schedule fee of private patients – as opposed to the actual treatment of patients not only drains the public budget but means that less resources are available for the long overdue tasks of increasing the number of available public hospital beds and public health nurses and reducing the waiting times at public hospitals. Furthermore, for the level of one’s access to health care to depend on the “logic of the market” – in other words how much money one has to fork out for health care – goes against the needs of the working class and all principles of decency. The irrationality of having health facilities being run by for profit operators has been proved during this COVID-19 crisis by the fact that private health care operators like Healthe Care in March stood down, or laid off, hundreds of nurses at a time when the virus was spreading rampantly and nurses were needed more than ever.

The section of Australia’s population most vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 is the well over hundred thousand homeless people. This includes not only those forced to sleep the streets but those “couch surfing” in the homes of friends and relatives. With so many people thrown out of work or stood down on reduced or no pay, homelessness is set to skyrocket. The government’s tentative six-month moratorium on evictions does not provide adequate security to tenants. There are so many loopholes that landlords are already evicting tenants. Moreover, current measures do not stop landlords and estate agents from pressuring tenants to pay rent even when they have little income. Therefore, there must be a six month halt to all rent payments for residential tenants from now. We also need an immediate halt to the sell-off of public housing and for homeless people to be housed in public housing dwellings slated for sale. This will help but will not in itself be enough to house all homeless people. Therefore, we also need a massive increase in public housing. Another crucial reason why we need more public housing is so that low-income women can move away from any abusive relationships and know that they will still have a roof over their heads if they do so. This is an even more urgent matter now than ever as COVID-19 restrictions are leaving women copping domestic abuse in situations where they are more socially isolated and, thus, more vulnerable to violent attack. But new public housing cannot be built fast enough right now in the midst of a pandemic. Therefore, the state must requisition the unoccupied holiday homes and investment properties of people owning more than three homes and convert them immediately into public housing.

We must also demand that the millions of casual workers in this country be immediately granted permanency with all the rights of permanent workers – including being granted guaranteed minimum work hours and sick leave. This is necessary to both protect the rights of casual workers and to ensure that such workers have no compulsion to risk their own well-being and that of others by going to work when ill. Similarly, we must ensure that all workers be granted special paid pandemic leave for self-isolation, quarantining and treatment if they may have COVID-19, or to care for ill family members. The government’s new scheme only allows for unpaid leave which for many low-paid workers will not only cause hardship but may push them to try sticking it out at work when they could be a risk to themselves and others.

At this time of economic crisis, temporary migrant workers and wage-working international students are the hardest hit section of the working class. Many have lost jobs or are casual workers who have suffered big cuts to the number of shifts that they get and, like most casual workers, the government’s much touted scheme to pay bosses of businesses that have lost significant revenue to retain workers will not help them at all. Moreover, unlike all other workers they will not get any Centrelink payments and international students are not even covered by Medicare. This is outrageous! These migrant workers face destitution and many now not only have no money to return to their home countries but cannot even do so due to travel restrictions. That is why it is absolutely urgent that we demand that all workers resident here get the same rights as people who are citizens. Full citizenship rights for everyone who is here! Moreover, in counter-position to the government’s JobKeeper scheme that will still allow hundreds of thousands of workers to lose their jobs while giving a windfall to many bosses, we must fight for jobs for all through preventing companies that have been making a profit over the years from cutting their workforce and by forcing still profitable companies to increase hiring at the expense of their profits.

Such an agenda can only be won through working class-led struggle. Although, at this moment, it may even be from the point of view of the overall interests of the capitalist class partly rational to put the banks under state control in order to avert an economic collapse, the exploiting class will resist any demands for such measures, not least because such a nationalisation would immediately pose the question that if the capitalist owners cannot be trusted to run the banks themselves then why shouldn’t the banks and the rest of the economy be taken completely out of their hands and put into public ownership. As a crucial part of any working-class fightback the workers movement must champion the cause of all other sections of the oppressed. In particular the working class must support Aboriginal people’s struggle against racist state killings of black people in custody, a movement that has been injected with renewed energy in the wake of the mass anti-racist resistance struggles in the U.S.

Mass struggle at this time of pandemic is, of course, difficult. However, let’s not forget that the working class movement has had to struggle in the past – and often in the present too in not only openly capitalist dictatorships but to some degree in the so-called “democracies” as well – in difficult conditions where protests, strikes and leftist political activity have faced repression or even been outright outlawed. This time of virus-related restrictions is, of course, very different in that we ourselves uphold – and actually actively promote – genuine social-distancing measures. However, like in times of intense of police-state repression, it is still a matter of finding ways to overcome major obstacles. We certainly don’t need to come up with all the ways that we can have an impact here. Politically active working class people will themselves come up with suitable methods – the masses are very innovative and that has been proven over decades and decades of struggle.

State-Controlled Banks and COVID-19 Response: A Case Study

If anyone wants to see why we need to put the banks under state control they should look at how the finance sector works in the world’s most populous country – and Australia’s biggest trading partner – the Peoples Republic of China (PRC). In China all the major banks are nationalised. And that was part of why the PRC was so effectively able to respond to the COVID-19 threat. Although China was the place where the virus – whose exact origin remains unknown – first spread in a really big known way, the PRC was able to respond so effectively and quickly that today in China, and even in the city of Wuhan, the former centre of the outbreak, people are again socialising, starting to resume eating out at cafes and restaurants, travelling long distances on public transport, slowly returning to tourist sites, working at factories and other works sites and gradually returning to full school operations. More importantly, the PRC’s response has been so successful that per million residents, far less people have died from the virus in China than have died in wealthier countries that have had much, much more time to prepare for the virus spread. Thus, the number of deaths per resident as of July 18 is already 45% higher in Australia than in China, 133 times higher in the U.S. than in China and in Switzerland, the country famous for its free-wheeling, scantily regulated capitalist banks, the number of deaths per resident is already 71 times higher than in China.

It is important to see why the PRC has been able to respond so effectively to the virus threat. In particular let us see how having a nationalised banking sector made a difference. Crucially, as soon as it become apparent just how contagious and deadly the then newly discovered virus was, China’s banks started supplementing PRC government outlays to firms to boost production of – or in many cases to entirely switch over the output of their operations to produce – items crucial to the epidemic response. Such products included surgical masks, goggles and full protective suits for medical workers, face masks for the public, COVID-19 testing kits, ambulances, disinfectant and ventilators. Within two weeks, PRC banks had already lent out tens of billions of dollars in very low interest rate loans to support the production of these items. By March 13, the amount that the PRC’s state-controlled banks had lent out to contain the impact of the virus had grown to $330 billion!

Left: Medical workers in full head-to-toe, spacesuit-style protective gear at Wuhan’s Fan Cang Makeshift Hospital in February 2020. Right: Medical workers at Tasmania’s North West Regional Hospital. Australian health workers have usually not been provided with the same level of protective gear that medical workers in China have been equipped with. Often the faces and necks of Australian health workers are left exposed and sometimes they are only equipped with normal face masks rather than surgical grade N95 masks. As a result, the coronavirus transferred from infected patients to medical staff at Tasmania’s North West Regional Hospital causing an outbreak that took eleven lives. Moreover, as of 21 July 2020, 429 health workers have been infected with COVID-19 in Victoria alone. The capitalist system is unable to ensure the switching over of production to meet pandemic response needs anywhere as decisively as a system dominated by public ownership, like that in the PRC.
Photo credit (photo on Right): Mitchell Woolnough

The production of pandemic relief goods – especially PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for medical workers – is absolutely vital in the fight against this pandemic. Unfortunately, in the very early days of the outbreak in Wuhan, before it was realised just how contagious the virus was – and even what it was – and how crucial was the need for protective gear, many medical staff in Wuhan became infected with the virus and also spread it to other colleagues, and several of the infected staff later died. In late January, with a large number of ill people pouring into Wuhan hospitals the hospital system in Wuhan was obviously overwhelmed and there was a shortage of protective gear, medicine and equipment. However, before long, with PRC manufacturers, armed with cheap credit doled out at lightning speed by her nationalised banks, rapidly switching over to producing protective gear, all nurses, hospital cleaners and doctors in China were wearing full space-suit-style head-to-toe protective gear. As a result, not a single one of the more than 42,600 health workers who travelled from other parts of China to Hubei Province to aid the virus response became infected, let alone died from the disease. By contrast, the capitalist countries with their private, profit-driven banks have not been able to equip their health workers with PPE effectively. Capitalist banks resist any loans that do not guarantee them a sizable and secure return. Moreover, they would also take considerable time approving any loans made for epidemic response as they ponder and calculate what they can get out of lending large amounts to any particular project for manufacturing epidemic prevention materials. In Australia, any switching over of production to aid the pandemic response by manufacturers is happening way too little and way too late. Therefore, even though authorities in countries like the U.S., Australia and Italy have had the big advantage of knowing for several weeks, if not months, just how infectious the virus was before it spread widely in their own countries, they have not even been able to ensure adequate protective equipment for their health workers. In the U.S., many nurses have had to resort to wearing home-made “protective gear,” like garbage bags, as poor substitutes for personal protective equipment. In Italy, as of April 17, at least 159 medical workers had died from COVID-19. Apart from the personal tragedies here, the effects of health workers becoming infected is devastating for the overall pandemic response. It means that large numbers of medical staff are not able to contribute to the response effort as they languish in quarantine, while other doctors and nurses, before they are identified as having COVID-19, end up passing on the virus to other medical staff and to patients who have come in for non-COVID-19 illnesses. In Australia, the failure to be able to outfit all health workers with the head-to-toe PPE that China’s nurses, doctors and janitors are equipped with has meant that as of July 18 over 400 nurses, doctors and health workers in Victoria alone have been infected. The failure to provide adequate PPE for health and aged care workers is also a key reason for the deadly virus spreads in North-West Tasmanian hospitals and in the Christian-run nursing home in Sydney’s Outer West that took the lives of 30 people between them.

Build toward the Future Confiscation of Banks, Industry, Mines, Communications Infrastructure and Agricultural Land and their Transfer into Public Ownership

It is not only in responding to the direct virus threat that the PRC’s nationalised banks have come into their own. To avert mass layoffs and economic shocks during this pandemic, China’s banks have sacrificed profits by rolling over and extending loans to hard-hit firms and self-employed people and by lending large amounts of money at low interest rates to assist enterprises to re-start production with the curbing of the epidemic spread. In a similar way, the PRC’s nationalised banking sector played a crucial role in allowing China to sail through the late noughties Global Recession as they lent huge amounts of money to finance high-speed rail lines, water conservation projects, environmental projects and the massive construction of low-rent public housing.

Yet it is not just during a crisis that the advantages of the PRC’s state-controlled finance sector is apparent. These Chinese banks have been directed to ensure that their lending practices are in lockstep with the PRC’s “Homes Are For Living In, Not for Speculation” policy. Thus, they have provided much credit to support public housing construction. Moreover, very different to Australia’s profit-obsessed banks, China’s banks charge any family seeking a bank loan for buying a second home a much higher interest rate than they charge those buying their first home, while they don’t lend at all to anyone trying to buy a third home. More broadly, China’s state-controlled banks are directed to lend to projects that may not be very profitable for the banks but which are important for the society and for the people’s economic development. Thus, these banks have specially lent to research and development projects in areas that are important for that country’s future economic progress like nanotechnology, advanced materials, artificial intelligence, advanced electronic hardware, aircraft research etc. Meanwhile, given that the PRC state has identified environmental protection as one of its three principal tasks, alongside poverty alleviation and curbing financial risks, the banks have directed a significant part of their lending to projects aimed at curbing water and air pollution. In particular, by supporting renewable energy projects with credit, they have helped China to become the world leader in renewable energy, with more than three times the installed solar power capacity of any other country and more than twice the wind generation capacity of the next biggest wind power producer. However, the most crucial practice of the PRC’s nationalised banking sector is its support for the country’s poverty alleviation drive. Over the last several years, as part of the PRC’s drive to lift every resident out of extreme poverty by the end of 2020, China’s state banks have lent literally hundreds of billions of dollars to poverty alleviation projects in poorer parts of the country. Many of these projects involve renovation of shantytowns and upgrading of infrastructure in impoverished and remote parts of the country as well as supporting community-based aged care facilities provided for lower income residents. Crucially, the PRC’s state-controlled banks have also provided credit for the development of job-creating industries in poorer, rural parts of the country including food processing operations, agricultural co-operatives, rural tourism and renewable energy projects. Partly as a result of such support for her poverty alleviation drive from her nationalised finance sector, China remains on track to achieve her poverty alleviation target by the end of this year despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is important to be aware that the PRC’s banks are not just state-controlled, they are overwhelmingly also state-owned. Thus, each and every one of China’s big four commercial banks are state-owned. Indeed, even if we include all the medium-sized banks in China, we find that majority state-owned banks so dominate the PRC’s finance sector that there is really only one significant sized bank – China’s tenth largest bank – that can be considered to be truly privately-owned; and even in that one case state-owned companies have recently become its largest shareholders owning around a quarter of the bank. Moreover, in addition to her commercial banks, the PRC has three massive, 100% state-owned policy banks whose lending is completed devoted to projects that are deemed in society’s overall interest. Two of these policy banks in particular, the China Development Bank and the Agricultural Development Bank of China, whose combined assets would make them China’s second largest bank, have been at the forefront of lending to support China’s poverty alleviation drive and more recently for the pandemic response effort.

There is a notable difference between banks being merely state-controlled and being actually state-owned. For one, even if banks are state-controlled, if they remain privately-owned their wealthy owners will act as a constant pressure on the state pushing for the banks to be run largely according to the profit motive as opposed to according to social needs. Secondly, if banks remain only state-controlled their massive profits would still be flowing into the hands of their largely ultra-rich owners rather than into the public budget. Remember, last year, in a “bad” year for them, Australia’s big four banks alone leached $26 billion in profits. To be sure, if they became state-controlled their profits would drop somewhat as their lending and investment becomes partially re-directed away from areas that simply bring the highest return. Nevertheless, even if their profits were halved as a result of being placed under state control, that’s still $13 billion that could go into the public budget if these corporations were only brought into state ownership. How much badly needed public housing could we get with that?! Well, actually, we can calculate that. According to the government’s own figures (see Table 18A.43 in the appendix of Excel spreadsheets under Part G, Section 18 of the Report on Government Services 2020 in the Australian Government Productivity Commission website https://www.pc.gov.au/research/ongoing/report-on-government-services/2020/housing-and-homelessness/housing), the average annual cost of a public house unit, including the capital cost, is $39,714 per dwelling. So if we had even half the current profits extracted by the biggest banks in Australia go into the public coffers we could support an extra 327,340 public housing dwellings which would easily more than double the existing stock of public housing. That could really solve the problem of homelessness and make good strides towards addressing the extreme shortage of low-rent housing in Australia.

That is why what is finally needed is to confiscate all the banks, insurance corporations, superannuation companies, wealth management firms and securities businesses from their ultra-wealthy owners and bring them all into state-ownership. This should be accomplished without giving any compensation to the big shareholders. However, to avoid unnecessarily antagonising the middle class, the stock holdings of the numerous small shareholders who together own a tiny fraction of these corporations can be bought out. Since the superannuation firms will be confiscated too, workers won’t need to worry about losing their super when the banks get taken. They will still get their retirement funds from the now publicly owned providers and with less eaten in fees by billionaire finance sector bosses to boot. However, the retirement payment system will progressively be switched from one based on individual superannuation accounts to one based on a higher and equal pension for all.

Our agitational demand to put the banks under state control, that is to nationalise the banks, that we made in the headline of this article, is not in itself a call to confiscate the banks and put them into public ownership. Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin made a similar call some six weeks prior to the working class seizure of power in the October 1917 Russian Revolution. As Lenin explained:

It is absurd to control and regulate deliveries of grain, or the production and distribution of goods generally, without controlling and regulating bank operations….

The ownership of the capital wielded by and concentrated in the banks is certified by printed and written certificates called shares, bonds, bills, receipts, etc. Not a single one of these certificates would be invalidated or altered if the banks were nationalised, i.e. if all banks were amalgamated into a single state bank…. whoever owned fifteen million rubles would continue after the nationalisation of the banks to have fifteen million rubles in the form of shares, bonds, bills, commercial certificates and so on.

— V.I. Lenin, The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It, September 1917

Lenin’s Bolsheviks made the demand for the nationalisation of the banks in this period as an urgent measure to control economic life at a time when Russia’s masses were being struck down by mass unemployment, disorganised industry and terrible shortages of food and other staple items. However, the revolutionaries also understood that by showing the masses the need to take the control of the banks out of the hands of the capitalists they were thus leading working class people to the conclusion that they ultimately need to also take the ownership of the banks from the capitalists. Indeed, in the period after the October Revolution, the new workers government of Soviet Russia confiscated the banks along with the railways, industries and agricultural land and transferred them into public ownership.

Putting the banks under state control or even confiscating the finance sector, while a vital measure, does not solve all problems – not even the most urgent ones. So while we need state banks to lend to certain manufacturers to aid them to switch their operations to produce vitally needed pandemic relief goods, if the manufacturing bosses still can’t find a way to make a big profit out of those operations, even with low-interest loans, they are very unlikely to change over their factories; and if they do many would do it too slowly or only in a token way to gain positive publicity. So we need to have a perspective of confiscating not only the finance sector but also taking the key industries, the mines that produce the raw materials, transport and distribution means, power, communications and other infrastructure as well as construction out of the hands of the profit-driven capitalists and placing them into the collective hands of the people. In China it is not just their banks that are under state-ownership but all their key sectors. As a result when there was a need for firms to switch over their production to make pandemic relief goods, the relevant state-owned enterprises not only got access to cheap credit to assist them but were basically ordered to make the conversion. That is why you have all sorts of Chinese industries, seemingly unrelated to making protective and medical gear, contributing to China’s pandemic relief effort. For example, state-owned Shanghai Three Gun group, China’s biggest producer of underwear, is now producing more than one million masks per day.

What a society where public ownership plays the backbone role can do was seen most clearly in the way that the PRC built two large brand new hospitals from the ground up in less than two weeks when the number of people getting seriously ill from COVID-19 started surging in late January. The challenge in building these hospitals in Wuhan so quickly was especially steep given that these specialist infectious disease hospitals, unlike other hospitals, needed to have negative pressure wards to ensure that the air leaving wards with the infected patients is ejected safely rather than seeping out to potentially infect hospital workers and others. The first of these hospitals put into service, the 1,000 bed Huoshenshan (“Fire God Mountain”) Hospital was built in just 10 days. The second, the 1,600 bed Leishenshan (“Thunder God Mountain”) Hospital was put into service just days later. And it was thousands of workers organised through the PRC firms under public ownership that played the key role in pulling off these amazing feats. Financing for the project was provided both from the central government and by the 100% state-owned policy bank, the China Development Bank. The design of the hospital was performed by the CITIC General Institute of Architectural Design and Research, a subsidiary of the giant PRC public-owned conglomerate, CITIC. The actual construction of the hospitals was undertaken by the Third Engineering Bureau of state-owned China State Construction Engineering, the largest construction company in the world. Meanwhile, China State Grid organised 260 workers in around the clock shifts to ensure that the power connection was ready in time. Communications within the hospital and a stable 5G internet connection was achieved within 36 hours through a collaborative effort of China’s state-owned communication giants China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom and China Tower. Meanwhile, CT scanning equipment and X-rays were provided by Shanghai United Imaging, a high-tech firm jointly held by a range of PRC state-owned firms.

18 February 2020: One of the first two patients to recover from COVID-19 at the Leishenshan infectious disease hospital in China’s Wuhan says farewell to nurses and doctors. The specialised 1,600 bed Leishenshan Hospital was built in less than two weeks by the Third Engineering Bureau of China State Construction Engineering, one of China’s huge socialistic state-owned enterprises.

Right now the mass of working class people in Australia does not yet appreciate the need for the confiscation of the banks and industry from the capitalists and their transfer into public ownership. The very most politically advanced workers and leftist activists do understand that this is what is needed. However, ruling class propaganda has been able to tentatively convince the majority of working class people that private ownership of the economy should be “respected.” Nevertheless, right now there is widespread distrust of the banking system at the very same moment that many working class people are very worried about the pandemic, about whether they will have a job and about their ability to pay rent and buy essentials. That is why we today emphasise the call for the nationalisation of the banks as a slogan around which to mobilise united front struggle that will, on the one hand, demand this immediate measure necessary for both the COVID-19 response effort and to protect the masses from unemployment and poverty and that will, on the other hand, in the course of their struggle to win this demand, point working class people towards the ultimate need for the confiscation of the banks and all key sectors and their transferal into public ownership.

We Need a Workers State

If powerful working class struggle were able to force the capitalist government to nationalise the banks, the question then becomes posed: who would be administering this now state-run finance system? Sure, a finance system under state control would face more mass pressure to run its operations according to people’s interests than privately owned banks do. However, would you trust the anti-working class Morrison government or the desperate-to-not-scare-the-capitalists-Albanese led ALP to ensure that a state bank would actually serve the masses rather than the big end of town?

The problem is not simply the government but the bureaucracy. No matter the political stripe of who sits in ministers’ chairs and who wins elections, the fact is that the same layer of high-ranking state officials who have been allowing the finance sector corporations to fleece the public will still be the ones “regulating” them. The “regulator” of the finance sector, ASIC (Australian Securities and Investments Commission) has been so deferential to the finance industry bosses that even the limp Royal Commission criticised it for its “softly, softly approach” to illegal activity by the banks. However, ASIC is not going to fundamentally change. If you see who leads it, even now after getting a slap on the wrist from the Royal Commission, you will know why. ASIC’s leadership remains people with strong ties to the finance sector bosses and other corporate bigwigs. Thus ASIC chair, James Shipton, spent ten years as the managing director of various divisions of the Asia-Pacific office of American banking giant, Goldman Sachs. Of the six other commissioners who lead ASIC, one previously had senior roles in NAB and ANZ (and does anyone expect him to now go hard on them?!!), two had been top bosses of other finance services companies and one had been most recently CEO of the Myer Family Company.

Yet, it is not only their leaders’ previous links to the corporate bosses that tie state institutions like ASIC to the capitalist class. For one, the wealth that these ASIC heads would have acquired when they were high fliers in the banking and broader corporate world – and the ensuing investing of part of this wealth that they have no doubt made into shares and/or share-investing wealth management schemes – would make them very much identify their interests with those of the big end of town and not with working class people. Moreover, since wealthy business owners control the economy and, thus, largely determine who gets hired and at what pay, they can, without even saying a word, entice senior bureaucrats at state institutions with the prospect of future lucrative jobs at their companies should they “respect” their interests; and, in effect, threaten these state officials with being locked out of future employment prospects should these bureaucrats dare step on their toes. One only has to look at who are the directors leading the big finance sector companies and other corporations and one will see how this works. Let’s take ANZ bank as a case study. ANZ’s David Gonski, prior to being appointed chairman in 2014, had been a top official of a number of Australian state bodies. He had been head of the Future Fund which directs government investments into long-term projects. From 2010 to 2011 he also headed a government commission to look into education funding which produced the well-known Gonski Report. In the year prior to becoming ANZ chairman, Gonski had also been appointed to ASIC’s External Advisory Panel and actually continued there until last year. Consider this: say Gonski had, if he hypothetically wanted to, tried to direct Future Fund investments in a way that actually benefited working class people rather than the corporate owners, had in his Gonski Report called to slash public funding for private schools rather than agree to perpetuate it and while on ASIC’s External Advisory Panel pushed for a severe crackdown on the banks, does anyone think that ANZ’s big shareholders would have then appointed him their chairman? And wouldn’t being aware of how his future career prospects in the corporate world are affected by how he acts while heading state institutions colour his conduct when being a high-ranking Australian state bureaucrat? Actually, Gonski is not the only ANZ boss who had been on ASIC’s External Advisory Panel. One of ANZ’s top executives had previously been Vice-Chair of this ASIC body and the current chairman of Suncorp is still on that panel, all of which highlights further the links between ASIC and the finance sector bosses that they supposedly “regulate.” Meanwhile, an ANZ director had previously held the top bureaucrat position, Secretary, in both the Australian Department of Finance and the Australian Department of Health. This director, Jane Halton, is currently also one of the ten council members that lead the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the state defence think tank notorious for being the most fanatical force promoting Australia’s military build up and its war-mongering hostility to socialistic China. This also highlights the fact that some capitalists hold key positions in the state machinery even while they are still directors of corporations. Thus, one of the NAB’s directors, is also a director of Infrastructure Victoria. Moreover, the chairman of the NDIS, Helen Nugent, is also a director of insurance corporation IAG. So if disabled and ill workers are wondering why they often face intrusive interrogations from the NDIS and sometimes even cop bullying threats to cut them off the Disability Support Pension just know this, the boss of the NDIS is a director of one of the leaching insurance giants who holds over $220,000 worth of shares in that corporation (according to their last annual report) and is paid by them almost a quarter of a million dollars a year for basically attending a meeting every 16 days (on average) and reading some reports. Prior to being appointed NDIS supremo in 2017, Nugent had been up until 2014 a director of Macquarie Group for 15 years. And controversially, the NDIS has awarded Macquarie a contract to build disability housing for them while Nugent actually conducts her leadership of the NDIS in an office rented from Macquarie!

Left: One of the ANZ Bank’s super high-paid directors is Jane Halton. As well as also being a director of James Packer’s Crown Resorts, Halton is one of the ten council members that lead the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the government defence think tank notorious for being the force most fanatically promoting Australia’s military build up and its aggressive military posture. Through shared occupancy of leading positions, personal ties and the economic dominance of capitalist corporations, Australia’s capitalist class ensure that all state institutions are subordinate to their interests. Right: One of the many unarmed civilians being murdered by Australian SAS special forces troops in Afghanistan. This particular war crime took place in May 2012 in Uruzgan province. The unarmed person being executed in cold blood was a man in his mid-twenties known as Dad Mohammad, a married father of two young children.

The intertwining between the capitalist bosses and the upper echelons of the bureaucracy extends into state institutions crucial to shaping the ideological direction of society. Thus, much of the leadership of the universities is held by corporate bigwigs. The chancellor of UTS is, for example, none other than the chairman of CBA. Meanwhile the deputy chairman of the broadcaster SBS, George Savvides, is a director of IAG, while another member of the nine-member board that sets SBS’s direction, Peeyush Gupta, is a director of NAB. This is worth knowing in case anyone is tempted to believe that SBS is any more “independent” of the capitalists than the Murdoch media or the commercial TV and radio stations.

Through their economic power and wealth, the capitalists not only ensure that the upper ranks of the state bureaucracy are tied to them by thousands of threads – if they are not actually personally holding these positions themselves – they also subordinate to their interests all the other coercive bodies of the state. This includes the legal system. ASIC have not only been extremely timid when facing the banks because of their ties to the bank bosses. That is, of course, very true. However, part of the reason for ASIC’s prostration is that they are downright intimidated at the prospects of taking on the banks in the courts. Since the courts are biased towards the corporate bigwigs and since the bank bosses have enormous financial resources to hire the best, most expensive barristers and to fund expensive court proceedings and appeals, ASIC fears losing expensive court battles with the banks.

Left: Former Commonwealth Bank of Australia top executive, Annabel Spring. She had been responsible for some of the sections of CBA most responsible for charging customers fees for no service and for setting up dodgy insurance schemes with contracts so tightly worded that customers were basically ineligible to claim anything on the policies. In 2015, the then CBA wealth boss bought a Centennial Park trophy home (Centre) for nearly $10 million from one of NSW’s top judges, Antony Meagher (Right). Meagher is a judge at the Court of Appeal of the NSW Supreme Court, the highest court for civil matters in NSW. The high-paid judges, bureaucrats and other officials at the top of Australia’s state organs share much in common with the corporate bigwigs and have numerous financial, social and familial ties to them.

That is why alongside agitating for putting the finance system under state control, we need to fight for people’s supervision of the banks. We cannot trust state institutions tied to the capitalists to regulate even a state-controlled finance system. Therefore, we must demand – and indeed assert – inspection of all commercial bank transactions and big accounts by committees consisting of unionised bank employees’ representatives alongside of representatives of other unions and mass organisations. Such committees can call in financial experts as consultants to help make sense of information but the great advantage of having class-conscious finance sector employees involved in these inspections is that they themselves understand all the terminology of the finance world. These working peoples’ committees can then collate the information and highlight the key results – as well as egregious cases of fraud and manipulation by the very rich – to the public in a form easily understood by the masses. In that way the people can know to which businesses and which sectors credit is being lent and what is the proportion of housing loans going into homes for the debtors to actually live in as opposed to for the sake of housing speculation. Moreover, we will be able to finally discover who the exact owners of the finance sector corporations are. We will also be able to expose which wealthy capitalists have been hiding their true income to avoid tax and by how much. Similarly, the extent to which corporate bosses have been ripping off the public budget when acting as contractors for state projects as well as bribery of state officials by the capitalists can be exposed.

Thus, a state-controlled finance sector where working people’s committees make transparent to the masses the operations of a united state bank will enable the masses to exert enough pressure to have some control over this key pivot of a modern economy. Yet this will only be some control. For as long as the state as a whole – including its key coercive organs of the courts, the police, the prison, army, the regulators and the broader bureaucracy – remains the existing capitalist state that has been created and built up to serve the interests of the wealthy business owners then any attempt to exert workers’ control over the economy will face sabotage and obfuscation through bureaucratic means. As Leon Trotsky, leader of the Fourth International, which at the time (albeit with some mis-steps) continued the fight for the revolutionary internationalist program that guided Lenin’s Bolsheviks, emphasised in The Transitional Program, the program that the Fourth International adopted in 1938 at a time of acute capitalist crisis in the lead up to World War II:

“… the state-ization of the banks will produce these favourable results [large scale industry and transport directed by a public bank to serve the vital interests of the workers and all other toilers] only if the state power itself passes completely from the hands of the exploiters into the hands of the toilers.”

This is the goal that we must advance towards: the sweeping away of the capitalist state and the construction of a new state to serve the interests of the working class and all the other oppressed. The building of such a workers state is needed not only to ensure that any state bank truly operates for the masses but as the pre-condition necessary to enable the confiscation of all the backbone sectors of the economy and their transferral into socialist, that is public, ownership. For while the capitalist class, in a crisis, may, to save their system as a whole, nationalise some sectors and in other cases may acquiesce to some nationalisations as a concession to powerful working class struggle, they will never accept the wholesale dispossession of their ownership of the economy unless they are actually deposed from political power.

China’s Bank’s are Genuinely under Public Ownership because the PRC is a Workers State

It took the revolutionary overthrow from power of the capitalists, the agricultural landlords and the henchmen of Western imperialism in 1949 to enable China’s banks, industry, mines and agricultural land to be transferred into collective ownership by the people. The 1949 Revolution was a heroic struggle in which tens of millions of agricultural labourers, poor tenant farmers and workers directly participated. However, although this great revolution brought the toiling classes to power, because the revolutionary forces were heavily based on hard-to-unite tenant farmers (unlike the 1917 October Revolution that was based on united workers organised through elected workers-led councils) who, while suffering common exploitation by greedy landlords, nevertheless produced for themselves and competed in the markets to sell their produce, the new society had to be held together and administered from above. The ruling middle class bureaucracy, while they still had to administer the society in the interests of the victorious toilers, did so in an imperfect way and in a manner that ensured their own privileges. In the late 1970s, the bureaucratic PRC government, faced with the need to boost production and in the face of intense pressure from the surrounding capitalist world, turned to pro-market reforms. In the following years, a sizeable private sector has developed in China, far in excess of the partial concessions to a private sector that can sometimes be needed in the transition phase between capitalism and socialism. This has brought with it some of the vices of capitalist society such as inequality. Nevertheless, the socialistic public sector still thoroughly dominates the key means of production in China.

Moreover, the fact that the PRC is a socialistic state and the mostly smaller private businesses rely on state-owned giants for raw materials, transportation and energy means that even China’s private sector is sometimes constrained to partially serve broader social goals. If we compare China with capitalist countries, we find that the relationship between private bosses and the state are the very opposite of each other. In Australia, Indonesia, India, Italy or the U.S., the capitalist state and its officials suck up to the rich capitalists who are the real power. In contrast in Red China, the private business owners that do exist suck up to the workers state and are desperate to show their deference to the socialistic order. As a result, during this COVID-19 pandemic even some privately-owned businesses contributed to the relief effort. Indeed, even greedy capitalist billionaire, Jack Ma, with rumours swirling that he was forced to retire last year to try and head off being cracked down upon – as has deservedly happened to so many other high-flying capitalist exploiters in China before him – tried to win favour with authorities by making significant donations to the pandemic response.

However, the existence of a too large private sector remains a problem in China. Although the PRC was able to mobilise its state-dominated economy to very quickly and effectively build hospitals and produce urgently needed items for the pandemic response, the fact is China would have been able to respond even faster had the proportion of the economy under state ownership been even higher. And that would have saved still more lives. Moreover, the existence of a sizeable capitalist class with wealth and influence presents a mortal threat to China’s socialistic system. These capitalists are not happy that they are largely cut out of the most profitable sectors of the Chinese economy like the banks, the oil and gas companies and the other strategic sectors. They resent being pressured to sometimes sacrifice their profits for the social good. These frustrated capitalists are, thus, constantly seeking to expand their tenuous “right” to “freely” exploit labour unrestricted by any constraints. Moreover, many of these capitalists quietly harbour more ambitious aims. They are waiting for the moment, during some sort of social or economic crisis, when they can make a bid for power. They know that they will have the full backing of the capitalist powers around the world in this endeavour.

Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen the already intense hostility towards China of the U.S., Australian, British, Japanese, German and other imperialist rulers rise to still higher levels. These imperialist ruling classes have engaged in a hysterical campaign of lies to blame socialistic China for the pandemic spread. The capitalist rulers fear that their own working class masses will compare China’s effective and successful response to the virus threat with their own flawed and ineffective response and will thus draw the conclusion that the socialist system is superior and needs to be fought for in their own countries. This is, in fact, the greatest fear of the capitalist rulers. But for the very same reason that the capitalists hate the fact that the world’s most populous country is under socialistic rule – and is actually proving that socialism works – the working classes in the capitalist world should defend socialistic rule in China. For the existence of the PRC workers state – despite all its bureaucratic deformations, its concessions to capitalists and its resulting fragility – makes the struggle for working class rule in Australia and the rest of the capitalist world stronger. That is why the workers movement must oppose the Australian regime’s military build up against China and her socialistic North Korean ally, must stand against the U.S. and Australian Navy’s military’s provocations against China in the South China Sea, must oppose Australian support for anticommunist forces within China (from the far-right Falun Dafa outfit to the pro-colonial, rich kid rioters in Hong Kong) and must resist the Australian regime’s attempts to intimidate and silence pro-PRC voices within Australia – including those of pro-PRC Chinese international students. Right now we especially need to refute all the China-bashing lies being spread over the COVID-19 pandemic. We also need to explain to the masses that for all the incompleteness of China’s transition to socialism, the fact that public ownership plays the backbone role in her economy was what made the PRC so effectively able to respond to the virus threat. In doing so we will at the same time motivate the need to fight here for a system of public ownership based on working class rule, i.e. a socialist system.

However, working class people will not be won to seeing the need for socialist revolution simply through hearing explanations of its necessity. The masses learn mainly through participating in – and drawing lessons from the experience of – struggles for their immediate interests. That is why all those who understand the need for a socialist future must fight to build such campaigns. At the same time, we must work hard to ensure that these struggles for immediate gains are waged in such a manner as they teach the working class to distrust all the parties and factions of the capitalist class, convince the masses to trust only their own power, place no reliance on any institutions of the capitalist state and are based on slogans that advance the working class towards the conclusion that they will in the future need to take both the economy and state power into their own collective hands. Today that means building struggles to fight for the nationalisation of the banks and for the winning of jobs for all through forcing companies to hire (and in many cases re-hire) more workers at the expense of their profits.

The Program of Nationalization of the Banks vs the Green Party’s Agenda

If anyone thinks that urgently needed measures like the nationalisation of the banks can be won merely through the parliamentary process, one has only to look at the agenda of the current parliamentary parties to see why not. Of all the parliamentary parties the Australian Greens have been the most critical of the current banking system. So their program deserves to be given some scrutiny. The Greens call for more regulation of the banks. As a policy principle, they say that, “Publicly-owned financial institutions should form a key component of Australia’s banking sector”, without offering any program about how that would arise. But they fail, even now during this time of public health and economic emergency, to call for the nationalisation of the banks. At most their agenda amounts to a return to the system that we had before the Hawke-Keating reforms of the 1980s and 1990s – and in some ways not even that since the Greens do not call for the reimposition of state control over bank interest rates. Yet, while the banks were slightly more constrained in their operations before the Hawke-Keating reforms, they hardly operated even then in the service of the people. They were still largely driven by the imperative to maximise profits.

A major part of The Greens agenda for turning back the clock is to split up financial planning and superannuation operations from the banks. However, the banks themselves are doing this now in the wake of bad publicity. Indeed, in good part they have already completed this. Last year Westpac sold off its financial advice arm BT Financial and CBA sold off its financial planning arm, Count Financial. The Greens hope that making the banks smaller will reduce abuses by them. However, the new broken up or sold off, but still massive, corporations will still be run for profits. Moreover, the new wealth management corporations will likely be significantly owned by the very same very rich people – yes and through those “bank nominee” fronts – as the banks are. The bank owners quite happily pursued this break up option because by separating out its wealth management arms that had a particularly bad reputation, their banking operations can be shielded from the foul publicity arising from the openly fraudulent practices of the financial planning operations.

Much of the remainder of The Greens practical program for the finance sector like calling for “effective regulatory supervision to enforce prudential regulation” is very similar to what the limp Royal Commission recommended. Overall, The Greens platform will not fundamentally change the way the financial system operates. Banks will still be run largely on the profit motive and will still have freedom to decide who they lend to and at what rates. And many working class people couldn’t care less if the banks own wealth management operations or not because they have little money to put into these funds anyway! So even though The Greens say in the abstract that the “banking and finance industry should serve the broader public interest”, their actual program will not get anyway near this. The reason that The Greens’ agenda cannot come even close to advocating what is really needed to begin to make “banking and finance industry serve the broader public interest,” that is the nationalisation of the banks, is that such an agenda can only be won through working class struggle against the capitalist class. But The Greens cannot truly promote such an agenda as their party includes and appeals to all classes – including capitalists. Owning operations in areas like renewable energy, services, online business, hospitality, tourism and the arts, the full-blown capitalist exploiters that support The Greens feel that the Greens push to favour their sectors over fossil-fuel and energy guzzling sectors would dovetail with their own business interests. Sure, these capitalists accept a more far-sighted view of the threat of climate change than coal mining bosses do. But they are still capitalists who exploit workers! To even speak of nationalisation of any sector would scare these “enlightened capitalist” exploiters as it would make them fear that their own operations could face nationalisation next. Meanwhile, playing a very prominent role in The Greens are well-heeled, upper-middle class professionals. This latter chunk of Greens supporters are, to be sure, somewhat “progressive” minded. But, just like the actual capitalists in The Greens, this does not stop them from having considerable sums put into wealth management products – who in turn invest this money in shares (including bank shares) – or into their own direct shareholdings. So, they would not be too thrilled about any measures that could radically slash the profits of banks.

This same dilemma faces The Greens more broadly – an abstract wish for less inequality and a more “people-oriented society” but no program that would deliver this. Take, for instance, the signature policy of The Greens and its new leader Adam Bandt: “A Green New Deal.” They say that the aims of this “Green New Deal” are “tackling social and economic inequality,” reducing underemployment, increasing wages, having more secure jobs, giving young people more hope of buying a house and ensuring action to beat the climate crisis. OK, but The Greens say this would be achieved through “a government-led plan of investment and action.” However, any reduction of inequality requires struggle against the exploiting class by the working class masses. Government investment in social programs and “clean jobs” requires someone to pay for such measures which requires a struggle against the capitalists to make them pay. The Greens do not even mention this crucial element of class struggle without which talk of building “a caring society” is meaningless. They want to make capitalist society fairer without standing up to capitalist power. And how could they when actual capitalists play a significant role in their own party! Without challenging capitalist power, any government spending and policies will inevitably bend to the demands of this powerful class. That is why when The Greens have actually been in office they have administered society in a way barely different to the other pro-capitalist parties. As part of a coalition with the ALP, the Greens had two ministries in the Tasmanian governments from 2010 to 2014 that cut the jobs of hundreds of nurses, closed public hospital beds, reduced funding for ambulance services, slashed funding for public housing maintenance, cut public sector jobs and reduced public sector pay increases below inflation. In his portfolio as minister for Education and Corrections in these governments, then Tasmanian Greens leader, Nick McKim, oversaw a prison system with substandard conditions for prisoners and tried to close 20 public schools before angry mass opposition forced him to back down. Meanwhile, the Australian Greens counterpart in Austria proved the commitment of this brand of politics to the anti-working class status quo by earlier this year joining in a government coalition with the right-wing, anti-union and anti-immigrant Austrian People’s Party.

Therefore, while we support action to fight for certain particular policies that Bandt has also advocated – like dental into Medicare and free education – we oppose overall The Greens and Bandt’s program of refusing any challenge to the power of the capitalists, while greening capitalism, under a “Green New Deal.” Remember how The Greens’ platform, including the Green New Deal, does not even call for the nationalisation of the banks. Unfortunately, however, much of the far-left in Australia have been cheering The Greens program. The Socialist Alliance have been the most enthusiastic. The Solidarity group are not far behind, only adding that “Adam Bandt’s Green New Deal won’t be won through electoral dead end.” The Communist Party of Australia (CPA) meanwhile ran an editorial in the February 17 issue of their paper, The Guardian, that pushed for overall (albeit qualified) support for Bandt’s Green New Deal, even while very correctly acknowledging that The Greens are a bourgeois party. This despite several contributors to their newspaper insightfully and convincingly attacking the Green New Deal agenda last year. Thus, in the 19 September 2019 issue of the CPA’s newspaper, an article titled “Socialism or perish” rightly argued that “we should be openly and loudly challenging the ideas put forward by many young climate activists and NGO groups who argue for a `Green New Deal’ or other policies that amount to the greening of capitalism.” In effect, in response to such points, the February 17 CPA editorial raises the argument that supporting the Green New Deal would be a united front with The Greens. Here they confuse agreements between communists and one or more reformist tendencies within the workers movement – which may include Laborite union leaders, “democratic socialist” groups and mass social democratic parties based on our unions (of which the ALP is a very right-wing version) – to launch particular united-front actions, or a series of actions, when common demands arise (like supporting a strike for higher wages or a protest march against right-wing welfare cuts) with ongoing support, however qualified, for the program of a bourgeois party. In the former case, building workers’ united front actions, when it is advantageous for the overall struggle to do so, will result in increased class struggle of the working class against the capitalists and an opportunity for communists to explain to the masses the need for more deep-going attacks on the power of the capitalists. However, in the latter case, a “people’s front” alliance between leftist workers parties and a bourgeois party (that is, a party like The Greens that does not even see itself as a party for workers’ particular class interests and which includes – and is thus subordinate to – members of the dominant capitalist class), the effect is to retard class struggle by promoting the notion of salvation through a supposed “progressive” wing of the exploiting class. Now it must be said that those nominally Marxist groups that promote The Greens party’s signature platform do in their own right call for class struggle against the capitalists and for policies that do begin to challenge capitalist influence, like calling for the nationalisation of the banks. However, promoting the platform of a bourgeois party like The Greens and seeking an ongoing alliance with such a party undercuts the class struggle aspects of these left groups’ own agenda, because it ties the workers that they influence to a section of the capitalists and, thus, also promotes the illusion that the masses can win concessions without struggle against the exploiting class.

The Struggles of Today that Can Blaze the Path to a Socialist Future

There is another reason why genuine socialists should not be promoting The Greens party, in however a qualified form. For The Greens are just as much as the Liberal-Nationals, the ALP and the far-right One Nation Party part of the Cold War drive against the world’s biggest socialistic country. Indeed, Greens NSW upper house MP, David Shoebridge, has been just as fanatical in inciting hostility to the PRC workers state as the likes of hard-right Coalition politicians like Peter Dutton, Andrew Hastie, Tim Wilson and Eric Abetz. Although Shoebridge seems to be today rejecting the far-right conspiracy theories about the World Health Organisation and China, he has spent the last several years energetically promoting other far-right conspiracy theories against China, including the ridiculous claims that China is executing members of the extreme right-wing (and rabid Trump-supporting) Falun Dafa group to harvest their organs.

Left: Filthy rich developer and tech capitalist, Graeme Wood, has donated millions to the Greens including Australia’s largest single, individual political donation. The Greens embrace of such capitalist exploiters among their ranks and donors ensures that despite objecting to the inequality of the current society and despite being critical of Australia’s financial sector, the Greens recoil from any sort of class struggle opposition to the capitalist exploiting class or any call for the nationalisation of the banks. Instead, the Greens only offer a toothless strategy of liberal middle class pressure and parliamentary manoeuvres to try and ameliorate the worst excesses of capitalism. At the same time, on fundamental issues, the Greens often line up with the rest of the capitalist class – including vehemently supporting the Australian rulers’ Cold War drive against socialistic China. Centre: NSW Greens upper house MP, David Shoebridge, hosting a rally supporting the extreme right-wing, pro-Donald Trump, Chinese opposition outfit, Falun Dafa in its propaganda campaign against Red China. Shoebridge has been among the most fervent supporters of this anti-communist campaign. Right: Notorious far-right Liberal Party federal MP, Craig Kelly, speaks at a similar Falun Dafa event.

The harm done by The Greens’ support for the anti-communist drive against the PRC does not only consist of the anti-Asian racist violence that it is fuelling and the blows against the Chinese workers state that it is landing. For by attacking the world’s largest socialistic state, The Greens, no matter what else they may say, are assisting the Australian ruling class to trick the masses into believing that there is no real alternative to capitalist “democracy” and that a socialistic state dominated by public ownership would be a nightmare. In other words, The Greens’ opposition to Red China makes them an enemy of the fight for socialism in this country.

That The Greens, a party that many young leftists have hopes in, and the Labour Party, the party that retains the support of most workers, have agendas that support the ruling class drive against the world’s biggest socialistic country, that fail to call for putting the banks under state control and which accept the “right” of capitalists to sack workers whenever it is most profitable to do so proves that we need to build a new workers’ party that will truly serve the interests of the exploited and oppressed. Such a party would refuse to restrict its program to what can be tolerated by the capitalists but would, instead, lay out an agenda based on what the working class and all the downtrodden actually need. Instead of feeding into the nauseating talk, that we are hearing so much of lately, that we are “all in the same boat”, the workers party that we need would be based on a clear understanding that the interests of the working class are counterposed to those of their capitalist exploiters. Thus rejecting “national unity” with the capitalists, such a party would instead fight for the closest possible alliance between the working class in Australia and the working classes of the world. In summary, the workers party that we need must be an authentic communist party like the Bolshevik party that led the Russian Revolution. We in Trotskyist Platform work hard to contribute to the building of such a party. We understand that such a party will be built in the course of laying out a perspective based on militant class struggle in the course of joining in actions that fight for the urgent needs of the masses. Today, at this time of public health emergency, massive unemployment and growing immiseration of the masses that means agitating and mobilising to demand: Put the banks and insurance companies under state control! For the complete and permanent nationalisation of the health system! For jobs for all workers through preventing companies that have been making a profit over the years from cutting their workforce and by forcing still profitable companies to increase hiring at the expense of their profits! Permanency for all casual workers! Grant the rights of citizenship to all migrants, refugees and international students! For a six-month halt to all rent payments for residential tenants! Requisition the unoccupied dwellings of people owning more than three homes and convert this immediately into public housing!

24 July 2020: Woolworths workers on a picket line as part of a 24-hour strike. Five hundred workers at Woolworths’ warehouse in Wyong, NSW took the action to demand decent pay and conversion of long-term casuals to permanency. We need militant class struggle to win permanency for casuals, to force profitable companies to increase hiring at the expense of their profits, to win the nationalisation of the banks and to fight for a massive increase in public housing.
Photo Credit: United Workers Union
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    The Gamers’ Uprising Against Wall Street Has Deep Populist Roots

    Wall Street may own the country, as Kansas populist leader Mary Elizabeth Lease once declared, but a new generation of “retail” stock market traders is fighting back.

    A short squeeze frenzy driven by a new generation of gamers captured financial headlines in recent weeks, centered on a struggling strip mall video game store called GameStop. The Internet and a year off in this shut down to study up have given a younger generation of investors the tools to compete in the market. Gerald Celente calls it the “Youth Revolution.” A group of New York Young Republicans who protested in the snow on January 31 called it “Re-occupy Wall Street.” Others have called it  Occupy Wall Street 2.0.

    The populist uprising against Wall Street goes back farther, however, than to the 2010 Occupy movement. In the late 19th century, the country was suffering from a depression nearly as severe as the Great Depression of the 1930s. Kansas populist leader Mary Elizabeth Lease declared in a fiery speech in 1890:

    Wall Street owns the country. It is no longer a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, but a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street, and for Wall Street. The great common people of this country are slaves, and monopoly is the master.

    Wall Street still owns the country. Millions of people have been forced out of work, while billionaires have doubled their money in the stock market. But a new generation of “retail” stock market traders is fighting back. (“Retail” traders are individuals trading for their own accounts as opposed to institutional investors.) Occupy Wall Street succeeded in raising awareness of the issues and putting a spotlight on the villains: the chief fault for the subprime crisis and 2008 crash was not with the defaulting homeowners but was with the banks. The Wall Street bankers, however, were not much fazed by the protests on the streets outside their windows. Not until January 2021 was Wall Street actually “occupied,” with millions of small traders landing a multibillion-dollar blow to at least a few of the mighty Wall Street hedge funds. GameStop was the most heavily shorted stock on the market, and the losing hedge funds were on the short end of the stick.

    The Short Squeeze

    “Short selling” works like this: an investor borrows shares from a broker middleman and immediately sells them, hoping to buy them back later at a lower price, return them to the broker, and pocket the difference. The trade, however, is quite risky. If the shorted stock keeps going up, the shorter’s potential loss is unlimited. “Covering” the short position by buying the shares at the higher price and returning them to the lender will result in a loss. But if the shorter fails to cover, the broker will eventually demand more collateral as protection against its own potential losses.

    “Naked” short-selling involves selling stock without borrowing it. Naked short-selling is illegal, but the regulation is not well enforced; and in this case short-sellers had sold 40% more GameStop shares than were in existence. That made the short sellers extremely vulnerable to a “short squeeze.” WallStreetBets, a Reddit social media forum that then had 2.7 million members (a number that has since risen to about 8 million) called the shorters’ bluff and bought furiously, using a game-like trading app called “Robinhood.” The hedge funds had to buy the shares back to cover at the new price, further driving the stock up; and other players, seeing the action, jumped in. This is what is known as a “short squeeze” – driving the shorters to buy before the stock is out of reach. The WallStreetBets short squeeze drove the GameStop stock price up nearly 900% in five days, to around $380 on January 27. The 52-week low before that was $2.57.

    Legally, traders cannot engage in “market manipulation,” but the term is poorly defined and the rule is poorly enforced. Hedge funds are reported to hold “idea dinners” where they get together and pitch each other on their favorite trades. As pointed out in a Peak Prosperity interview with financial researcher Jim Bianco, the big players routinely act together. Wall Street has been run as a cartel, and the house always wins; or at least it did until recently.

    Bianco explained that formerly, small traders lacked the tools to compete. They lacked the knowledge base, the money to buy full shares of the higher priced stocks, and the time needed to study the market. But in the last two decades, technical advances have given the “little guys” connectivity and access to market information. And in 2020, forced lockdowns gave them the time to sit in front of their computers studying the market and playing it, while stimulus payments gave them some extra cash to play with. New game-like online trading apps such as Robinhood, billed as “democratizing” investing, waived commissions. The purchase of fractional shares was allowed, and social media groups such as WallStreetBets shared investment information and strategies with each other.

    The “little guys” learned how to use the rigged stock market system to beat the big boys at their own game. By January 30, short-sellers had lost an estimated $19 billion on GameStop alone, and other heavily shorted stocks were hit as well. Hedge funds lost over $70 billion in January 2021, with GameStop jumping 1000% the last week of the month.

    The Empire Strikes Back

    Predictably, on January 28 the game came to a screeching halt. Robinhood restricted trades of GameStop and other shorted stocks, allowing investors to settle their trades but not make new purchases. GameStop closed down 44%. This market manipulation appeared to be so blatantly in favor of Goliath against David that congressional representatives from both sides of the aisle protested. Rather than a left/right issue or a racial issue, it was a class issue, one that has fortuitously served to align the 99% on all sides of the political spectrum.

    By February 2, the GameStop stock price had plummeted to $97, and hedge fund losses dropped to $13 billion, half of what they were the previous week but still a serious hit. Some retail investors had struck it big, and used the proceeds to pay student loans or rent or mortgages; but others, those who bought or sold last, lost big. The rule is to invest no more than you can afford to lose, but some desperate gamers may have unfortunately learned that lesson the hard way.

    According to the message boards, however, for other players it was not chiefly about making money on a single trade. It was an uprising, a show of force against a Wall Street behemoth that had destroyed small businesses, turned families out of their homes, and robbed young people of the “American dream.” In a February 6 post titled “This Is for You, Dad,” Matt Taibbi recounts the touching tales of young people whose parents’ lives were ruined by the 2008 crash, who were willing to risk their own money to see justice done.

    In that sense it is an emotionally satisfying “Robinhood” tale, but it has a dark side. Pam and Russ Martens point out that the short squeeze was not actually a spontaneous, grassroots uprising. It was coordinated by a “sophisticated” trader in the Reddit sub-group, whose trading license forbids that sort of practice.

    He could be in trouble with his employer or his licensing board, but the larger WallStreetBets group does not seem to have been guilty of “market manipulation” as usually defined. The group did not engage in fraudulent activity; for example, a “pump and dump” scheme based on false advertising of a product. The Reddit group was not conspiring behind closed doors to commit fraud. They were quite open about what they were doing, and there is nothing illegal about advocating the purchase of a stock, something investor newsletters do routinely. GameStop was a beloved retail store of the young traders, and they wanted to save it from the marauding hedge funds. As Jill Carlson observed on Yahoo.com:

    When hedge fund managers get together and share insights and ideas, it is all in the name of moving towards a more efficient free market. Yet, when the online mob of retail traders comes to consensus about which stock is worth buying, they are considered by some to be artificially pumping the name and manipulating the market.

    And there’s the rub. The disruption of the market caused by the WallStreetBets play could be the rationale for new regulations that hurt retail investors. It could also be another excuse to shut down free speech on the Internet and social media. And as Whitney Webb points out, it was not just a battle of David versus Goliath but one of hedge fund against hedge fund. The biggest winners included some of the most notorious Wall Street institutions – BlackRock, J.P. Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs. They saw what was happening, bought early, bought big, and sold near the top. BlackRock made a staggering 700% on its trades.

    In a February 9 article, Pam and Russ Martens show that the biggest winners were high-frequency program traders. They jumped in front of the WallStreetBets trades using sophisticated algorithms feeding on data provided by Robinhood and other trading platforms. Lance Roberts argues that Wall Street won again.

    The Power of the People

    So what was achieved by the GameStop short squeeze? Financial analyst Wolf Richter contends:

    What all this shows, for all to see, is just how massively the stock market has been manipulated, from the Fed on down. Most of these manipulations attempt to manipulate prices up. But some manipulations are aimed at pushing prices down. What the millions of people conspiring on WallStreetBets to exact their pound of flesh accomplished was nevertheless enormous: They showed for all to see just how completely broken the stock market is.

    True, but they showed more than that. They showed that the 99%, if organized and acting in concert, have the tools to overwhelm the 1%. Information, communication, and collective action are key.

    The American people acting together have beaten the financial elite before. In the 18th century, it was London bankers who held the British colonies in financial bondage. The American colonists broke free by issuing their own paper currencies. The colony of Pennsylvania and then Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton refined that system by establishing publicly-owned banks that extended the credit of the colony and then of the nation; and Abraham Lincoln’s government avoided a 30% interest rate by reviving the colonial practice of issuing debt-free, interest-free paper currency.

    The 19th century movement against Wall Street largely faded after Populist and Democratic Party candidate William Jennings Bryan lost to Republican candidate William McKinley in the 1896 and 1900 presidential elections. But a remnant of the Midwest movement triumphed in 1919, when the Non-Partisan League (NPL) was formed in protest against widespread foreclosures on North Dakota farms. The NPL won a statewide election and beat Wall Street at its own game by establishing a state-owned bank. The Bank of North Dakota cut out the Wall Street middlemen and partnered with local community banks; and by 2014, according to the Wall Street Journal, it was more profitable than either J.P. Morgan Chase or Goldman Sachs.

    We the people need to recapture our local and national governments and regulators. If we had a popular nonpartisan government that put the public interest above the Corporatocracy, we could do remarkable things as a nation. Congress could even follow Lincoln in exercising its constitutional right to mint some very large coins, perhaps $1 trillion each, buy a controlling interest in some major corporations (Amazon? The New York Times? Some pharmaceutical or energy or telecommunications giants?), and distribute the dividends to the people. The public acting together is Goliath. E pluribus unum: strength in unity.

    • This article was first posted on ScheerPost.

    The post The Gamers’ Uprising Against Wall Street Has Deep Populist Roots first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    Tackling the Infrastructure and Unemployment Crises: The “American System” Solution

    A self-funding national infrastructure bank modeled on the “American System” of Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt would help solve two of the country’s biggest problems.

    Millions of Americans have joined the ranks of the unemployed, and government relief checks and savings are running out; meanwhile, the country still needs trillions of dollars in infrastructure. Putting the unemployed to work on those infrastructure projects seems an obvious solution, especially given that the $600 or $700 stimulus checks Congress is planning on issuing will do little to address the growing crisis. Various plans for solving the infrastructure crisis involving public-private partnerships have been proposed, but they’ll invariably result in private investors reaping the profits while the public bears the costs and liabilities. We have relied for too long on private, often global, capital, while the Chinese run circles around us building infrastructure with credit simply created on the books of their government-owned banks.

    Earlier publicly-owned U.S. national banks and U.S. Treasuries pulled off similar feats, using what Sen. Henry Clay, U.S. statesman from 1806 to 1852, named the “American System” – funding national production simply with “sovereign” money and credit. They included the First (1791-1811) and Second (1816-1836) Banks of the United States, President Lincoln’s federal treasury and banking system, and President Franklin Roosevelt’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) (1932-1957). Chester Morrill, former Secretary of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, wrote of the RFC:

    [I]t became apparent almost immediately, to many Congressmen and Senators, that here was a device which would enable them to provide for activities that they favored for which government funds would be required, but without any apparent increase in appropriations. . . . [T]here need be no more appropriations and its activities could be enlarged indefinitely, as they were, almost to fantastic proportions. [emphasis added]

    Even the Federal Reserve with its “quantitative easing” cannot fund infrastructure without driving up federal expenditures or debt, at least without changes to the Federal Reserve Act. The Fed is not allowed to spend money directly into the economy or to lend directly to Congress. It must go through the private banking system and its “primary dealers.” The Fed can create and pay only with “reserves” credited to the reserve accounts of banks. These reserves are a completely separate system from the deposits circulating in the real producer/consumer economy; and those deposits are chiefly created by banks when they make loans. (See the Bank of England’s 2014 quarterly report here.) New liquidity gets into the real economy when banks make loans to local businesses and individuals; and in risky environments like that today, banks are not lending adequately even with massive reserves on their books.

    A publicly-owned national infrastructure bank, on the other hand, would be mandated to lend into the real economy; and if the loans were of the “self funding” sort characterizing most infrastructure projects (generating fees to pay off the loans), they would be repaid, canceling out the debt by which the money was created. That is how China built 12,000 miles of high-speed rail in a decade: credit created on the books of government-owned banks was advanced to pay for workers and materials, and the loans were repaid with profits from passenger fees.

    Unlike the QE pumped into financial markets, which creates asset bubbles in stocks and housing, this sort of public credit mechanism is not inflationary. Credit money advanced for productive purposes balances the circulating money supply with new goods and services in the real economy. Supply and demand rise together, keeping prices stable. China increased its money supply by nearly 1800% over 24 years (from 1996 to 2020) without driving up price inflation, by increasing GDP in step with the money supply.

    HR 6422, The National Infrastructure Bank Act of 2020

    A promising new bill for a national infrastructure bank modeled on the RFC and the American System, H.R. 6422, was filed by Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., in March. The National Infrastructure Bank of 2020 (NIB) is projected to create $4 trillion or more in bank credit money to rebuild the nation’s rusting bridges, roads, and power grid; relieve traffic congestion; and provide clean air and water, new schools and affordable housing. It will do this while generating up to 25 million union jobs paying union-level wages. The bill projects a net profit to the government of $80 billion per year, which can be used to cover infrastructure needs that are not self-funding (broken pipes, aging sewers, potholes in roads, etc.). The bill also provides for substantial investment in “disadvantage communities,” those defined by persistent poverty.

    The NIB is designed to be a true depository bank, giving it the perks of those institutions for leverage and liquidity, including the ability to borrow at the Fed’s discount window without penalty at 0.25% interest (almost interest-free). According to Alphecca Muttardy, a former macroeconomist for the International Monetary Fund and chief economist on the 2020 NIB team, the NIB will create the $4 trillion it lends simply as deposits on its books, as the Bank of England attests all depository banks do. For liquidity to cover withdrawals, the NIB can either borrow from the Fed at 0.25% or issue and sell bonds.

    Modeled on its American System predecessors, the NIB will be capitalized with existing federal government debt. According to the summary on the NIB Coalition website:

    The NIB would be capitalized by purchasing up to $500 billion in existing Treasury bonds held by the private sector (e.g., in pension and other savings funds), in exchange for an equivalent in shares of preferred [non-voting] stock in the NIB. The exchange would take place via a sales contract with the NIB/Federal Government that guarantees a preferred stock dividend of 2% more than private-holders currently earn on their Treasuries. The contract would form a binding obligation to provide the incremental 2%, or about $10 billion per year, from the Budget. While temporarily appearing as mandatory spending under the Budget, the $10 billion per year would ultimately be returned as a dividend paid to government, from the NIB’s earnings stream.

    Since the federal government will be paying the interest on the bonds, the NIB needs to come up with only the 2% dividend to entice investors. The proposal is to make infrastructure loans at a very modest 2%, substantially lower than the rates now available to the state and local governments that create most of the nation’s infrastructure. At a 10% capital requirement, the bonds can capitalize ten times their value in loans. The return will thus be 20% on a 2% dividend outlay from the NIB, for a net return on investment of 18% less operating costs. The U.S. Treasury will also be asked to deposit Treasury bonds with the bank as an “on-call” subscriber.

    The American System: Sovereign Money and Credit

    U.S. precedents for funding internal improvements with “sovereign credit” – credit issued by the national government rather than borrowed from the private banking system – go back to the American colonists’ paper scrip, colonial Pennsylvania’s “land bank”, and the First U.S. Bank of Alexander Hamilton, the first U.S. Treasury Secretary. Hamilton proposed to achieve the constitutional ideal of “promoting the general welfare” by nurturing the country’s fledgling industries with federal subsidies for roads, canals, and other internal improvements; protective measures such as tariffs; and easy credit provided through a national bank. Production and the money to finance it would all be kept “in house,” without incurring debt to foreign financiers. The national bank would promote a single currency, making trade easier, and would issue loans in the form of “sovereign credit.” ’

    Senator Henry Clay called this model the “American System” to distinguish it from the “British System” that left the market to the “invisible hand” of “free trade,” allowing big monopolies to gobble up small entrepreneurs, and foreign bankers and industrialists to exploit the country’s labor and materials. After the charter for the First US Bank expired in 1811, Congress created the Second Bank of the United States in 1816 on the American System model.

    In 1836, Pres. Andrew Jackson shut down the Second U.S. Bank due to perceived corruption, leaving the country with no national currency and precipitating a recession.  “Wildcat” banks issued their own banknotes – promissory notes allegedly backed by gold. But the banks often lacked the gold necessary to redeem the notes, and the era was beset with bank runs and banking crises.

    Abraham Lincoln’s economic advisor was Henry Carey, the son of Matthew Carey, a well-known printer and publisher who had been tutored by Benjamin Franklin and had tutored Henry Clay. Henry Carey proposed creating an independent national currency that was non-exportable, one that would remain at home to do the country’s own work. He advocated a currency founded on “national credit,” something he defined as “a national system based entirely on the credit of the government with the people, not liable to interference from abroad.” It would simply be a paper unit of account that tallied work performed and goods delivered.

    On that model, in 1862 Abraham Lincoln issued U.S. Notes or Greenbacks directly from the U.S. Treasury, allowing Lincoln’s government not only to avoid an exorbitant debt to British bankers and win the Civil War, but to fund major economic development, including tying the country together with the transcontinental railroad – an investment that actually turned a profit for the government.

    After Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, the Greenback program was discontinued; but Lincoln’s government also passed the National Bank Act of 1863, supplemented by the National Bank Act of 1864. Originally known as the National Currency Act, its stated purpose was to stabilize the banking system by eradicating the problem of notes issued by multiple banks circulating at the same time. A single banker-issued national currency was created through chartered national banks, which could issue notes backed by the U.S. Treasury in a quantity proportional to the bank’s level of capital (cash and federal bonds) deposited with the Comptroller of the Currency.

    From Roosevelt’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation (1932-57) to HR 6422

    The American president dealing with an economic situation most closely resembling that today, however, was Franklin D. Roosevelt. America’s 32nd president resolved massive unemployment and infrastructure problems by greatly expanding the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) set up by his predecessor Herbert Hoover. The RFC was a remarkable publicly-owned credit machine that allowed the government to finance the New Deal and World War II without turning to Congress or the taxpayers for appropriations. The RFC was not called an infrastructure bank and was not even a bank, but it served the same basic functions. It was continually enlarged and modified by Pres. Roosevelt to meet the crisis of the times until it became America’s largest corporation and the world’s largest financial organization. Its semi-independent status let it work quickly, allowing New Deal agencies to be financed as the need arose. According to Encyclopedia.com:

    [T]he RFC—by far the most influential of New Deal agencies—was an institution designed to save capitalism from the ravages of the Great Depression. Through the RFC, Roosevelt and the New Deal handed over $10 billion to tens of thousands of private businesses, keeping them afloat when they would otherwise have gone under ….

    A similar arrangement could save local economies from the ravages of the global shutdowns today.

    The Banking Acts of 1932 provided the RFC with capital stock of $500 million and the authority to extend credit up to $1.5 billion (subsequently increased several times). The initial capital came from a stock sale to the U.S. Treasury. With those modest resources, from 1932 to 1957 the RFC loaned or invested more than $40 billion. A small part of this came from its initial capitalization. The rest was financed with bonds sold to the Treasury, some of which were then sold to the public. The RFC ended up borrowing a total of $51.3 billion from the Treasury and $3.1 billion from the public.

    Thus the Treasury was the lender, not the borrower, in this arrangement. As the self-funding loans were repaid, so were the bonds that were sold to the Treasury, leaving the RFC with a net profit. The RFC was the lender for thousands of infrastructure and small business projects that revitalized the economy, and these loans produced a total net income of over $690 million on the RFC’s “normal” lending functions (omitting such things as extraordinary grants for wartime). The RFC financed roads, bridges, dams, post offices, universities, electrical power, mortgages, farms, and much more–all while generating income for the government.

    HR 6422 proposes to mimic this feat. The National Infrastructure Bank of 2020 can rebuild crumbling infrastructure across America, pushing up long-term growth, not only without driving up taxes or the federal debt, but without hyperinflating the money supply or generating financial asset bubbles. The NIB has growing support across the country from labor leaders, elected officials, and grassroots organizations. It can generate real wealth in the form of upgraded infrastructure and increased employment as well as federal and local taxes and GDP, paying for itself several times over without additional outlays from the federal government. With official unemployment at nearly double what it was a year ago and an economic crisis unlike the U.S. has seen in nearly a century, the NIB can trigger the sort of “economic miracle” the country desperately needs.

    This article was first posted on ScheerPost.

    The post Tackling the Infrastructure and Unemployment Crises: The “American System” Solution first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    No Work, Little Work, Too Much Work, UBI/DIY/Gig Economies

    It’s an unprecedented coalition of business networks that have come together to raise our ambition. Not just to help our individual CEOs succeed, we’ll do that for sure. But to actually bring their voices together to help shift culture. So that the pushback on the BRT [Business Roundtable] from different business publications or other people within the business community lessens. So there’s less of a headwind culturally for this type of leadership. 
    — Jay Coen Gilbert, co-founder of B Lab and B Corporations [Source]

    [These are not good people, and if anyone thinks otherwise, then, well, War is Peace, Truth is Lies, Hate is Love!]

    We Are Big Data’s Dregs

    The great data dredge. Everyone’s hired through a digital head hunter, staffing firm, and the result is a continuation of atomizing society with no water cooler, so to speak, from which to complain about working conditions, to discuss the next austerity measure concocted by the boss/management/ CEO/Corporation. No after work bull session at the local Chili’s or T.G.I.F. to compare notes about those exploding gas tanks and caustic chemicals and faulty electrodes in the air bag systems.

    This is what Ford would have wanted, and this is what the heads of retail and data and manufacturing want. They’ve already put most of us over a barrel with forced arbitration clauses, non-compete agreements (sic), and rule after penalty after threat after law after delimitation, that, well, in this knowledge (sic) economy and post-Industrial (sic) economy, the white collar and pink collar workers are hemmed in by management. More than the field hands picking this country’s lettuce!

    The hemming in is an oppression planned and sealed, and a deep seated zombifcation of the “higher castes” and to be honest, people of the land, even those in struggle, in other countries that have been deemed shit-holes by Trump and Third World by Biden have more gumption about them, more ability to fight the systems, the oppressors, than any member of the Western Civilization.

    Just drive around your town or suburb, anywhere. Take a look at what and how the systems have been set up for and about the rich, for the money changers, for the money takers, for the dream hoarders. Take a look. How many bus stations, how many covered and art-imbued public amenities? How many public toilets, public waysides, public paths, public trails, public pedestrian overpasses, public bandstands, public gazebos, public museums, public eateries, public statues, signs, art, historical markers? How many trees and shrubs and open spaces set up for the public? How many picnic tables and interpretive trails, and …? How many tiny home villages for the houseless? How many community gardens? Theaters and cinemas for and by the people?

    Talk about dead and lobotomized citizens, as we have allowed the captains of industry and oppressors of finance and the legions of pushers of the realm rule: retailers, consumer crack salesmen/women, middle managers, ant hill after ant hill of processors and facilitators of the entire house of cards built upon the dopamine hits of lizard drips of the brain. “I betcha can’t eat just one Lays potato chip,” now on steroids – “I betcha you can’t just have 3 big screen TVs in your pad … “And now you fill in that blank – Just look at the so-called Black Friday ads.

    Amazing, junk, junk and more junk. Families buying deep fryers and rice steamers and any number of electronic junk that they can’t or don’t know how to use. All that plastic and tin, diodes and LED screens. All of that planned obsolescence. Nary a word about the embedded energy, the packaging, the toil and slave labor, the life cycle analysis. Piles and piles of worthless junk, planned to break, parts planned to snap, wires planned and ready to melt.

    Planned Human Obsolescence

    This is not a difficult thing to comprehend,  about socialism for the land and people versus capitalism for the elite and bankers and small group of sociopaths, who will fight tooth and nail (well, with a battalion of lawyers at $1500 an hour each, not really a fight per se) to push the poisons, hawk the faulty products, demand the welfare for the rich and corporations, and deposit all the externalities of their profit schemes onto the public and the commons’ health.

    But …  Man, those “buts.” I talk all the time with great white saviors, who just start spewing at the mouth of the evils of socialism, and that, well, capitalism is good, and “we let Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk and Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg” accumulate so much wealth and power, so it’s our fault, and really, is it that bad we have these Titans who give us goods and services? This is like heaven compared to countries who push that bullshit democratic socialism crap. Do you know what the 10 pillars of socialism/communism/Marxism are?”

    Try putting “debunking the critics of socialism” into the Google Gulag Search, and you shall receive so much hatred and polemics around anything tied to socialism on the first 50 pages of the search, that, well, you get the picture why these big white saviors will dare  come up to me and challenge me the socialist on how and why socialism is bad-bad-bad while capitalism is god’s work.

    As these great white saviors are pushing a cart filled with two TV’s, a new printer, two iPads, and junk junk junk, 50 pounds of kitty liter and a hundred pounds of dog chow. While walking past the two young men I am working with who are taking in shopping carts as part of their competitive work as people who happen to be living with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. These Great White Hopes are Blind to “them.”

    These great white saviors, well, it’s all about survival of the fittest. All about the colonized mind. All about – “you majored in the wrong subject matter, sucker … born into the most messed up family, sucker grew up on that side of the railroad tracks, dufus … got stuck with those bills and foreclosures, sucker.”

    Oh, the invisible hand of the oppressors, and these people – Biden and Trump supporters, what have you – are criminal thinkers, really, because with one huge swath of their inhuman brain, they disregard 90 percent of the planet’s people.

    “They are all sucka’s for being born where they are and from the loins of ‘those’ rotten people.”

    A Sucker Borne Every Nanosecond

    Oh, and I am seeing more and more quasi-leftist stuff, saying, well, the left needs to embrace the Trumpies, to work with them on labor rights, on environmental rights, on health care for all, on all those issues, and not be so hung up on their misogyny, racism, classism, white Duck Dynasty Ted Nugent shit.

    Insanity, man. Leftists writing from the comfort of their offices, well, they are a dime a dozen. The reality on the ground is that this country has a cool 100 million or so hateful, resentful, ignorant of the world, pro-war, rah-rah, hate welfare of all kinds sort of people. They don’t have to be Proud Boys and KKK. These people in this USA, the white ones, mostly, have come from that evil spawn stock, back even before SCD, Smith Colony Disease.

    Then, again, we have Democrats with a wilted big “D” who need their comeuppance, and who are just one half brain shy of a squid, and somehow, the other squids (sorry about the dispersion to cephalopods) with another load of brain cells missing need to be embraced, because, the GOP and Trumpies and the like want to move toward a truly socialist society?

    Again, the reality is some bad-ass slow, consistent and in many cases rapid death by a 1,000 capitalist cuts.

    I meet people in my new job, working with Adults with ID/DD, to get job ready and jobs in the community – real jobs, not stuck in some sheltered workshop getting one-tenth the wage of anyone else in the same job.

    Sure, I am doing great work, god’s work, the work of an angel (they really say this stuff to me, a commie, a devoted atheist), and while I get the gist of that, we talk about how it is my careers have been shit for pay, highly exploitive and yet highly regarded in some sense: teaching, social services, and, well, community journalism.

    “Ha-ha, you are doing these great services knowing you are not going to get rich doing it, but thank you for your service.”

    Imagine that stupidity, that dense mentality. Imagine, the hard jobs that need doing in a broken capitalist society with wave after wave of damaged, chronically ill, economically strafed, mentally poisoned, generously precarious, and one paycheck away from bad ass disaster citizens on the precipice? PayDay Loans? That in and of itself defines capitalism. The Mafiosi aspect of this spiritually deserted society.

    Yet, now, these great leftist warriors are saying the Trumpies and the GOP of the world – the log cutters, the mill workers, the truckers, the blue collar millionaires – that they want workplace rights, the right to strike, the right to squat, the right to refuse bad and dangerous work; that they want to be able to shut down polluting industries, and the right of the people to take over industries? That these Trumpies and GOP want universal health care, universal rights for all people. That these GOP and Trumpies want real education, more education, holistic education, writing and thinking across the curriculum, across disciplines, across industries. That the GOP-Trumpies will work so-so well with organizers and “the people” over defunding and holding to task “the police-backed” banks-warehouses-fulfillment centers. Right!@#$%

    So how does anyone on both sides of the manure pile called USA politics square this fact?

    Ahh, the world’s 26 richest people currently have the same amount of wealth as the poorest 3.8 billion—down from 61 people in 2016. As the rich get richer, sea levels are rising, tribalism is flourishing, and liberal democracies are regressing. Even some of the wealthiest nations are plagued by job insecurity, debt, and stagnant wages. Ordinary people across the political spectrum are increasingly concerned that the system is rigged against them. Trust in public institutions is near an all-time low.

    So that Google search got one hit on the “other side” of the dividing line (not really) – “What the Right Gets Wrong About Socialism. As Scandinavia shows, it does feature plenty of public ownership—but also a thriving economy.”1

    Sure, we get this from the Norwegian:

    Norway’s success has not come without costs—wealth accrued through oil and other extractive industries has had harsh ecological consequences. But students there and across Scandinavia graduate without the horrifying debt burdens of their U.S. counterparts. Those who sustain injuries in traffic accidents never have to beg bystanders not to call for an ambulance, for fear of drowning in medical debt. Norwegian diabetics don’t need to crowdsource their insulin. As seniors, they don’t spend their golden years working at Walmart or living in their vehicles. Their homes were not repossessed en masse by banks during the Great Recession. Extensive public ownership shields Norwegians from the harshest aspects of unfettered capitalism.

    But then he attacks North Korea and Venezuela for being failing socialist countries, and without the context of the international transnational monetary criminal system of sanctions and debt and theft of Venezuela’s treasury, and war war war with Korea still on the hot plate. Then the illegal maneuvers of governments like the USA and supported by all those others, including Norway, in its attack on Venezuela’s elected leaders and support of the dirty rich racist opposition groups, that is not mentioned.

    Yep, there is a link in the Norwegian’s piece to another article – July 2018, “There is Nothing Inherently Wrong with State Ownership” by Matthew Bruenig over at Current Affairs Magazine.

    Again, short anemic, and an essay in response to an attack on Norway and Sweden and “socialist” countries in the Nordic category by a New York Times “writer,” a Bret Stephens, who is sloppy and makes untrue claims in this piece, “Democratic Socialism Is Dem Doom.”

    No Richard Wolf and no Michael Parenti or any thousands upon thousands of thinkers who know about societies and economies and cultures and ecologies who could put this tripe to rest. This is it?

    Hemming Us In

    Imagine, a 69-year-old working in a deli at a national chain. “I was once a speech therapist with a thriving private practice. And then my retirement went bust, thanks to Enron.” So, Molly works with a terrible limp, arthritis everywhere and almost no hair left. Fryers, slicers, prepping, and she runs it. Since age 55, when not only her measly retirement went bust, but the speech therapy arena turned more and more into high end certification racket, and gobbled up by, well, monopolies, agencies that scarf up the independents, or make it impossible to compete against the aggregators and services felons.

    Then another guy, James, working the parking lot, bathrooms, carts, etc., making a wage when he started at this national grocery chain, of $9.75 an hour. He busts his butt, and we talked about his chronic heart failure, the meds he takes each month, all of that, including the pace maker and other aspects of his life, at age 60. He is at $12 an hour after five years with this outfit, and he tells me his supervisor likes his work, and his helping the other cart people, so much so that he is in for a wage increase to $15 an hour. He has to wait 90 days for the higher ups to approve that.

    Hemming in. Working hard jobs at an old age to keep bad health insurance that is part of a for-triple-profit system of penury and theft. Oh, stories of an item being charged 18 times more during this Covid “crisis.”

    A study that revealed hospitals may be charging as much as 18 times over their costs.

    Nurse Jean Ross – “ Yes. Again, unconscionable, but that seems to be the way in this country. Up to 18 times. So, for example, if your true cost — it’s called the charge-to-cost ratio, or CCR — if your true cost for your service is $100, they are, in many cases, charging up to $1,800. And they do it because they can.” This from a study put out by National Nurses United.

    Sit on the Ground and Try and Pull Yourself Up by Bootstraps

    Those great white hopes, those big happy white males and big happy white females who voted for Trump and then those that believe Biden is better, well, that’s what we have – “Just let it take place, and that’s the way the Capitalist Cookie crumbles. What would Cuba be doing? The great invisible hand will fix things!”

    Where I currently work – a small non-profit – the amount of software and tracking-time management apps and all the government agencies I have to get my mandatory trainings on and get my certifications renewed, well, it’s almost daunting. That’s the squeeze, the money train to the middle men, having nothing to do with my job, my humanity, work.

    This is a non-for-profit agency working with adults with ID/DD.

    Imagine all those warehouses and factories and office buildings and other places where the atomization was already on overdrive before the plan-pandemic.

    Now, with the lockdowns, the on-line doom dungeons, and alas, with more and more AI and IT measures in place to keep us out of each other’s social distance arena, things are really degrading big time.

    Teaching to the New Technology

    I want to look at another gig I had – substitute teaching. Not just the bad working conditions of the public schools and anxious teachers and idiotic principals and the dictatorial superintendent. Let’s look at the payrate. Look at this – substitute teachers, K12, in Oregon, on the Coast, now managed by a Tennessee outfit. Note the hourly rate, and of course, coming into substitute teaching, a teaching certificate is required, and that means, well, most teachers like me, we have master’s degrees. That Oregon licensing costs another cool $400 to get the license and jump through the hoops. We get no mileage expended to get to and from very remote schools.

    Job details — $14 an hour; Full-time/ Part-time; The State of Oregon requires all substitute teachers to hold an active Oregon Teaching License, Restricted Substitute Teaching License, or an Oregon Reciprocal License.  As leaders in the education staffing space since 2000, ESS specializes in placing qualified staff in daily, long-term, and permanent K-12 school district positions including substitute teachers, school aides, and other school support staff. With more than 700 school district partners throughout the US, ESS supports the education of more than 2.5 million students every day.

    I had been teaching as a substitute a year ago. I had been hired by the District, and my contacts were through the District. I was making $80 for four hours and $160 for seven. In many cases I could get called in late and then get ready, make the drive in the rural county, get to the school and still  get the full day’s pay rate. That’s more than $18 an hour, and alas, I got to know the teachers who wanted me when they had planned absences, and the school secretaries also knew me.

    There is a shortage of substitutes, and, well, if things were better all around, substitutes could be integrated more seamlessly and holistically to provide amazing outside the box perspectives and teaching.

    Not so in Lincoln County, as is true of most counties, with plenty of Administrators, plenty of bullshit curriculum cops, plenty of teach-to-the- test zombies running roughshod over the entire project of working with our youth, our kids, our aspiring young adults.

    This staffing “solution” is killing again teachers getting together, working with the district, getting to know people in the district, airing grievances with the district. Everything goes through this Tennessee outfit. Complaints go nowhere, and if you get a complaint leveled against you by a school, ESS will NOT go to bat. They have taken that $18 an hour and whittled it to $14 an hour. Then, they probably charge more than just that $4 per each hour taught to the DIstrict. Add to the fact they will manage who gets called, how they get called. These people are running call centers, data dredging centers, and know zilch about the schools, the roads, the weather, the culture, the teachers, the students.

    I am sure they will not be allowing teachers to get a few extra hours pay if they are called in late and end up working a partial day. I am sure there are all sorts of cost-cutting (human-killing measures) this Education Staffing Solutions outfit deploys.

    And, they probably pay Google for a net cast to see how many hits on the world wide web Education Staffing Solutions gets mentioned or Yelped or rated on Indeed or Linked In. You can only imagine if I was still employed as a substitute teacher, through ESS, that conversation happening, as ESS would be the outfit that would be managing me, so to speak. Finding this article criticizing them, well, sayonara subbing Mister Paul Haeder.

    Management fees, man, and government (local, city, county and state, and federal) giving up oversight and decent livable wages for all the agencies and the public utilities (that we could have) and everything else, gone to middle and middle and middle men.

    Again, these warped folk with ESS probably backed Trump and believe in Capitalism on Steroids, while they make bank on all the public entities across the land, AKA, public schools.

    That the bus systems for schools is now outsourced from sea to shining sea, that again, defines the bottom line of pathetic capitalism. All the food cooked in cafeterias, outsourced to Sodexo. There is nothing local anymore, and these multinationals, these huge stockholder and stock board run outfits, they are making money off of us, US taxpayer, and in that formula, they are welfare recipients, and mostly welfare cheats, and with ESS, they are ripping off the very people that do the work – teachers, para-educators, more.

    My comeuppance it seems was being banned from the entire District because of a few students I was in charge of at a local high school accused me of “upsetting” them when we were having a classroom discussion about homelessness, about epigenetics and families, about poverty, about the potential for many people to become substance abusers. We were talking about the books Of Mice and Men and Animal Farm.

    What happened was La-La-Land level stuff, and while I think some students are crackpots, and little versions of really bad parents, I am ready to deal with crackpots and talk them off their cliff.

    I did not get my day in court, so to speak, and I was not allowed to explain what could have been the students’ (three of them) hysteria, and I had no chance to query the people involved or bringing in the rest of the classroom students who were both inquisitive and enthralled to have a well-traveled, well-read, well-educated, well-experienced person like me in their classroom, albeit, temporary.

    And ESS did nothing to defend me, protect me, or gain some sort of redress. That was a year ago.

    Here’s a positive story — “Musings on a Monday After Teaching High School Get You Down? Nope!”

    Another — “Professor Pablo and Fourth Grade Enlightenment in Lincoln City”

    Education By and Because of the Corporation

    The backdrop of my teaching debut … was a predicament without any possible solution, a deadly brew compounded from twelve hundred black teenagers penned inside a gloomy brick pile for six hours a day, with a white guard staff misnamed ‘faculty’ manning the light towers and machine-gun posts. This faculty was charged with dribbling out something called ‘curriculum’ to inmates, a gruel so thin [that this school] might rather have been a home for the feeble-minded than a place of education.
    — John Taylor Gatto, “The Underground History of American Education,”

    I did get a bird’s eye and on-the-ground look at the elementary, middle and high schools in this District. I have done substituting elsewhere, as in Vancouver, Seattle, Spokane and El Paso. Things are not looking good for youth. And I have written about that fact decades ago, and, yes, way before COronaVIrusDisease-2019, and, now, in a time of stupidity, fear, self-loathing, and complete loss of agency, the world is flipped around and, in most cases, crushed for our young people.

    Did I mention fear, and while this Intercept piece below is a superficial look at the digital divide, there is so-so much more to write about this lockdown and social (pariah) distancing. It is a caste system on steroids. Calling it “remote learning” is doublespeak, oxymoronic.

    In agro-industrial Watsonville, California, English-language learners struggle with remote learning. It’s much easier for students in a nearby Bay Area suburb.

    I have a daughter, a step-daughter and a niece in various schooling situations. One is in med school, one is getting a chemistry degree and one is in esthetician school. Hmm, you’d expect hands-on for med school and chemistry majors. Nope. The fear factor for one of the three young women is high, and she is not wanting to leave campus, and the great reset is not in her vocabulary. There is a bombastic, “I am so glad Trump is gone. I hate him. I wish he was dead” from one of the college students. But that’s about it.

    The med school woman, well, she is still having to pay out the nose for the school, yet there are less hands-on classes, again, through this doublespeak system of “remote learning.”

    Now the esthetician student is hands-on, learning about the human skin dynamics, the chemistry of things in the body and outside, and working on clients, hands on. Seems very interesting that this one area – not to knock one career choice over another – has more practical hands on work than university-level chemistry majors and medical school attendees.

    Now, the chemistry major’s school is introducing an “app of paranoia and tracking 101” – you put it on your smart phone, and all those who accept this app, well, as soon as someone tests (sic) positive for the virus (sic), then the entire network of users will get a notification and a detailed map of that person’s whereabouts. Oh, it’s secure, safe, no personal data shared (or mined – right!) they say, and that is a blatant lie-lie-lie. This is the Great Reset, and it’s pathetic and a gateway drug to implanted RFID’s.

    The two college students, well, they are focused on their majors, but because of the siloing (atomization) of schooling, the demands on S/T/E/M do not enter the real of STEAM, science technology engineering arts math as  interdisciplinary critical studies and as a praxis of seeing how the world could, should and might work outside the Corporate Thievery of Capitalism.

    The net effect of holding children in confinement for twelve years without honor paid to the spirit is a compelling demonstration that the State considers the Western spiritual tradition dangerous, subversive. And of course it is. School is about creating loyalty to certain goals and habits, a vision of life, support for a class structure, an intricate system of human relationships cleverly designed to manufacture the continuous low level of discontent upon which mass production and finance rely.” —John Taylor Gatto, The Underground History of American Education

    More atomization, and more dumb-downing, and more caste systems, and more social-economic-intellectual-employment-philosophical-cultural distancing. This is it for us, no?

     …. the world’s 26 richest people currently have the same amount of wealth as the poorest 3.8 billion—down from 61 people in 2016. As the rich get richer, sea levels are rising, tribalism is flourishing, and liberal democracies are regressing. Even some of the wealthiest nations are plagued by job insecurity, debt, and stagnant wages. Ordinary people across the political spectrum are increasingly concerned that the system is rigged against them. Trust in public institutions is near an all-time low.” [source]

    Read some of this report, and the surface stuff, well, just surface feel good stuff, but dig deep — Oxfam Report. It’s harrowing.

    Nick Hanauer, entrepreneur and venture capitalist:
    I am a practitioner of capitalism. I have started or funded 37 companies and was the first outside investor in Amazon. The most important lesson I have learned from these decades of experience with market capitalism is that morality and justice are the fundamental prerequisites for prosperity and economic growth. Greed is not good.

    The problem is that almost every authority figure – from economists to politicians to the media – tells us otherwise. Our current crisis of inequality is the direct result of this moral failure. This exclusive, highly unequal society based on extreme wealth for the few may seem sturdy and inevitable right now, but eventually it will collapse. Eventually the pitchforks will come out, and the ensuing chaos will not benefit anyone – not wealthy people like me, and not the poorest people who have already been left behind.

    Ironically, the woman going into the beauty field is much more keenly aware of the economic and social disasters befalling small businesses in her own city, her own state and her region of the country.  She is super left, but is keenly aware of her democratic governor’s insipid lockdown measures.

    I have many friends who now are going bankrupt, closing their businesses. Those businesses are part of a multiplier fabric. The town is or was so much better off with all these independent and mom and pop owned businesses. Not just the cool eateries and breweries, but many people I know opened up furniture stores, businesses around building and construction, all kinds of services you can’t find at the national level. Heck, used computer parts and computers, and even car rental places. Things that are not part of the monopolizing Fortune 500 set. Gone.

    That means, of course, STEAM is damaged, in that, sure, the arts are hit hard, but the rest of the STEM also are hit hard on many levels. These STEM folk like their food, beer, edgy stuff, locally sourced and owned. The neutron bomb  that the lockdowns and lack of financing and wages and deep-deep help for the small guys and gals, well, it is hollowing out and even more hollowed out economy. The STEM folk will follow the money, while the arts folk and those deeply tied to something richer than science for profit and engineering for war and math for building and construction and technology for the Fourth Industrial Revolution will embed and grow a city’s or town’s or area’s culture.

    This all leads us back to the semi-liberal class, even the youth who hate Trump and who don’t get all the conspiracies because they go to schools (universities) which are nothing to shake a stick at, since they are tied to social constructs and hierarchies reliant on the investor class; and they pay out the nose, take out loans and go to classes that are on-line, given to them now largely by scared educators, monitored and mashed up by the Titans of Technology, who have colonized every aspect of our society, ESPECIALLY, PK12 and higher education.

    The young woman working on beautifying people and supporting their self-esteem and confidence on a superficial level (skin deep beauty, so to speak), well, she is more acutely aware of the lies of the authorities on both sides of the political manure pile than these card-carrying creeps who actually think Kamala Harris is something good. Anyone-but-Trump is what got us here, this evil of two lesser, lesser of two evils. The two college-going/educated ones are more and more tied into getting out and making money, and not to knock them, because they too know the disgusting reality of poverty and more and more people who once had decent lives, who were the fabric of communities, from that baker to the speech therapist, from that teacher to the counselor, from that glass blower to that coffee shop owner, from all those service workers with lives outside just the service economy (if they are budding or bustling artists).

    The creative class is not what Richard Florida yammers about. The liberal class, as Chris Hedges writes, is dead. Education has been gutted and sold down the river, as Henry Giroux states. The New Jim Crow, as Michelle Alexander states, is the new normal for not just American mindsets at the citizen level, but on the economic and investor and Capitalist level.

    But conditions today favor the amateur. They favor “speed, brevity, and repetition; novelty but also recognizability.” Artists no longer have the time nor the space to “cultivate an inner stillness or focus”; no time for the “slow build.” Creators need to cater to the market’s demand for constant and immediate engagement, for “flexibility, versatility, and extroversion.” As a result, “irony, complexity, and subtlety are out; the game is won by the brief, the bright, the loud, and the easily grasped.”  — “The Great Unread: On William Deresiewicz’s The Death of the Artist

    Capitalism is fascism, and it takes over entire cities and states and regions. It operates on the “buyer beware” mentality, which relies on consumers to take it up the rear, no foul called on the billionaires and CEOs and capitalist systems;  and it is protected through the fascist laws of the land created by the massagers of the law from the Supreme Court down to traffic court.

    More Nazis Than They Knew What to do With

    Again, the great reset tied to Dashboards, a million different types of Education Staffing Solutions (ESS), universal buffoon incomes, all of that inculcated by Karl Schwab, Bill Gates, the Aspen Institute, the TED-X-ers, the World Economic Forum, all of them in the elite class, their handlers, their sycophants, all of those billionaires determining the course of cradle to grave predetermination for billions of people (Zuckerberg has encircled the African continent with his cables and lines and  fiber optics), that reset was started decades ago. Debt. Foreclosures. Bailing out corporations. Drugs for guns; Crack Cocaine and the CIA; and, well, the CIA is god, into everything, right, making sure the reset has already been ensured. CIA and Nazis, and Mossad and Jihad, and, these are the merry makers of the world of Lords of War, Lords of Disruptive Economies, Lords of Predatory-Parasitic-Vulture-Usury Capitalism.

    Operation Paperclip – 1,600 of Hitler’s Angels of Death. Housing, citizenship, and carte blanc living in the United States. Families welcomed. Italy’s and Germany’s intelligent agencies working closely with the National Security State, and this was in the form of so-called the rat-lines. Tens of thousands going to South America. Tens thousand other Nazi’s allowed to come to USA.

    And this was the plan, from the last days right before WWII ended with an illegal double bang of Atomic Murdering Tools – all these stay-behind armies from those defeated fascists of Italy and Germany. Check out this interview on RT –Chris Hedges talks to Gabriel Rockhill about the undercurrents of fascism in America’s DNA, and the US role in internationalizing fascism after World War II through clandestine activities such Operation Paperclip and Operation Gladio.

    Rockhill is a Franco-American philosopher and the founding Director of the Critical Theory Workshop and Professor of Philosophy at Villanova University. His books include Counter-History of the Present: Untimely Interrogations into Globalization, Technology, Democracy, Interventions in Contemporary Thought: History, Politics, Aesthetics, Radical History & the Politics of Art and Logique de l’histoire.

    Try having conversations with liberal (illiberal) college-educated and college-loving Democrats about USA’s bioweapons program dating back to again, WWII, and Japanese scientists who were working on all sorts of bioweapons but were captured by the USA and reappropriated and brought back to the USA for, well, good paying jobs.

    That is capitalism, right, reappropriating and stealing and setting up systems of mental, physical, psychological, biological, ecological, cultural repression, and eventually, disease and illness, because it pays more to treat and encourage the disease than it does to have a society living disease-free or at least living with those old time religion concepts of – precautionary principle, do no harm, preventative medicine, treat your fellow human as you would want to be treated. You know, all of that mumbo-jumbo that is not put into practice one iota in Capitalism, but certainly is mishmashed into the systems of propaganda, and, alas the “Si Se Puede” marketing of such criminals at Audacity of Hope Obama. et al makes some feel like there is change where change will NEVER be.

    Until we get this liberal archetype  who says Columbus was a bad guy, and that the USA was built upon the deaths and murders of Indians and Blacks, but, shoot, when ordering from the Prime Amazon account, or when scrolling up and down the iPhone, and, well, all of that which we take for granted in this First World which comes on the back of people here and now in this country and especially in other countries, then, well, the tune changes.

    Fascism: Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality

    Because in an economic fascism, when again, old worn out people have to still hoof it to Walmart and stock shelves, and when there is no home health care for the sick and dying, young or old, unless there is always huge exchanges of money going out into the pockets of the purveyors of capitalism, you will be getting variations on a theme of a people hooked on Netflix, hooked on buying, hooked on not knowing, hooked on confusion and chaos and, well, this is what is planned.

    The great reset and fourth industrial revolution are no-brainers. We’ve given up our fingerprints for a shit job, we have given up blood and urine for a shit job, we are guilty before we can attempt to prove our humanity, our innocence, and in reality, we are always guilty in the eyes of Capitalists.

    Western and ruling class ideologies have played a crucial and cruel role in the violent transformation of the peoples, ecosystems and biosphere. The Fourth Industrial Revolution represents the most violent transformation of all. For as long as the ruling class is allowed to exist, social and environmental justice remain pipe dreams. [Cory Morningstar, source]

    We are now taking those supposedly benign things like tracking outcomes – you know, if you have prenatal education and vitamins as a pregnant teen, and if you get the little tikes reading on a Chromebook, watching Sesame Street and if you eat this veggie over that deep friend morsel, and, all of those metrics that the data ditzes love, all of it is now being used AGAINST self-agency, AGAINST not just individuals, but all manner of classes, groupings, economic strata. You do the stuff “right” which Bill and Melinda have studied are right, then there will be s few more digital dollars in your bank account. If you fail to do them, well, no more dialing for dollars.

    Because the jobs are going. The mom and pops are folding. Even chains like bowling alleys and movie theaters, all of that, they are shuttering. This revolution was already in the works before Marshall McLuhan and the medium is the message and Herman and Chomsky’s manufacturing consent. Way before deadly at any speed, a la Nader, and way before the lies of better angels of our nature Pinker.

    The fix was in long-long time ago, when the food was locked up and the agricultural revolution forced us to stop being human and humane, and made us into the cogs in so many machines of oppression and suppression.

    Until today, when the Catholic freaks are coming in their vestments with their exorcising tools for anyone who would dare desecrate the statue of Columbus or any Fray who pushed their stinking selves and their stinking religions onto this continent and the one south.

    In response to Indigenous-led efforts that demanded land back and the toppling of statues, Catholic Church leaders in Oregon and California deemed it necessary to perform exorcisms, thereby casting Indigenous protest as demonic. [Truthout]

    LaRazaUnida cover the Fray Junípero Serra Statue in protest at the Brand Park Memory Garden across from the San Fernando Mission in San Fernando on June 28, 2020.

    Exorcism: Increasingly frequent, including after US protests

    This is 2020, and the trillionaire Catholic Church is walking in downtown Portland with these conquistadors of nothingness, while the great reset is happening, with the green light of the Pope. “The story did not end the way it was meant to,” Pope Francis wrote recently, deftly excommunicating about a half-century’s worth of economic ideology.  [source] In a striking, 43,000-word-long encyclical published last Sunday, the pope put his stamp on efforts to shape what’s been termed a Great Reset of the global economy in response to the devastation of COVID-19.”

    Here it is imperative to note the consolidation of power happening in real time. World Economic Forum founder and CEO Klaus Schwab refers to this consolidation as a new global architecture; the new global governance. The following dates of are of paramount significance. On May 18, 2018, the World Bank partners with the United Nations. On June 13, 2019, the World Economic Forum partners with the United Nations. On March 11, 2020, the World Economic Forum partners with the World Health Organization (a UN body) launching the COVID Action Platform, a coalition of 200 of the world’s most powerful corporations. This number would quickly swell to over 700. On this same day, March 11, 2020, the WHO declares COVID-19 a pandemic. The UN-WEF partnership firmly positions Word Economic Forum at the helm of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, also referred to as the Global Goals), which they are frothing at the mouth to implement. This is not because they care about poverty, biodiversity, the climate, or world hunger. Marketed with holistic language, dressed with beautiful images of brown smiling children, SDGs represent the new poverty economy (impact investing/social impact bonds) and emerging markets. Children as human capital data to be commodified on blockchain linking behaviour to benefits. Coercion has been repackaged as empowerment. The human population to be controlled via digital identity systems tied to cashless benefit payments within the context of a militarized 5G, IoT, and an augmented reality environment. A world where every function of nature is monetized, to be bought, sold and traded on Wall Street. — Cory Morningstar, The Great Reset: The Final Assault on the Living Planet [It’s not a social dilemma — it’s the calculated destruction of the social — Part III]

    Pope Francis meets with members of the clergy after his weekly general audience at the San Damaso courtyard, at the Vatican, September 30 2020. REUTERS/Yara Nardi - RC2X8J96HY8F
    [Pope Francis meets with members of the clergy after his weekly general audience at the San Damaso courtyard, September 30 2020. Image: REUTERS/Yara Nardi]
    1. Erlend Kvitrug, June 29, 2019 at Foreign Policy Magazine.

    The post No Work, Little Work, Too Much Work, UBI/DIY/Gig Economies first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    Lockdowns, Coronavirus, and Banks: Following the Money

    FED in the Trojan Horse 7e820

    It usually makes sense to follow the money when seeking understanding of almost any major change. The strategy of following the money in our current convergence of crises in late summer of 2020 leads us directly to the lockdowns. The lockdowns were first imposed on people in the Wuhan area of China. Then other populations throughout the world were told to “shelter in place,” all in the name of combating the COVID-19 virus.

    Understanding of the enormous impact of the lockdowns is still developing. The lockdowns are proving to pack a far more devastating punch than any other aspect of the strange sequence of events that is making 2020 a year like no other. Even when the issues are narrowed to those of human health, the lockdowns have had, and will continue to have, far more wide-ranging and devastating impacts than the celebrity virus.

    The lockdowns have, for starters, been directly responsible for explosive rates of suicide, domestic violence, overdoses, and depression. In the long run, these maladies from the lockdowns will probably kill and harm many more people than COVID-19.

    But this comparison does not tell the full story. The nature and length of the lockdowns are causing millions of people to lose their jobs, businesses and financial viability. It seems that the economic descent is still gathering force. The assault of the lockdowns on our economic wellbeing still has much farther to go.

    The lockdowns have proven to be a powerful instrument of social control. This attribute is becoming very attractive especially to some politicians. They have discovered they can derive considerable political traction from hyping and exploiting the largely manufactured pandemic panic.

    The lockdowns are still a work-in-progress. There are past lockdowns, revolving lockdowns, partial lockdowns, mandatory lockdowns, voluntary lockdowns, severe lockdowns and probably an array of many lockdown types yet to be invented.

    The lockdowns extend to disruptions in supply chains, disruptions in money flows, drops in consumption, breakdowns in transport and travelling, increased bankruptcies, losses of finance leading to losses of housing, as well as the inability to pay taxes and debts.

    The lockdowns extend beyond personal habitations to prohibitions on large assemblies of people in stadiums, concert halls, churches, and a myriad of places devoted to public recreation and entertainment. On the basis of this way of looking at what is happening, it becomes clear the economic and health effects of the lockdowns are far more pronounced than the damage wrought directly by the new coronavirus.

    This approach to following the money leads to the question of whether the spread of COVID-19 was set in motion as a pretext. Was COVID-19 unleashed as an expedient for bringing about the lockdowns with the goal of crashing the existing economy? What rationale could there possibly be for purposely crashing the existing economy?

    One possible reason might have been to put in place new structures to create the framework for a new set of economic relationships. With these changes would come accompanying sets of altered social and political relationships.

    Among the economic changes being sought are the robotization of almost everything, cashless financial interactions, and elaborate AI impositions. These AI impositions extend to digital alterations of human consciousness and behavior. The emphasis being placed on vaccines is very much interwoven with plans to extend AI into an altered matrix of human nanobiotechnology.

    There are other possibilities to consider. One is that in the autumn of 2019 the economy was already starting to falter. Fortuitously for some, the new virus came along at a moment when it could be exploited as a scapegoat. By placing responsibility for the economic debacle on pathogens rather than people, Wall Street bankers and federal authorities are let off the hook. They can escape any accounting for an economic calamity that they had a hand in helping to instigate.

    A presentation in August of 2019 by the Wall Street leviathan, BlackRock Financial Management, provides a telling indicator of foreknowledge. It was well understood by many insiders in 2019 that a sharp economic downturn was imminent.

    At a meeting of central bankers in Jackson Hole Wyoming, BlackRock representatives delivered a strategy for dealing with the future downturn. Several months later during the spring of 2020 this strategy was adopted by both the US Treasury and the US Federal Reserve. BlackRock’s plan from August of 2019 set the basis of the federal response to the much-anticipated economic meltdown.

    Much of this essay is devoted to considering the background of the controversial agencies now responding to the economic devastation created by the lockdowns. One of these agencies is empowered to bring into existence large quantities of debt-laden money.

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    The very public role in 2020 of the Federal Reserve of the United States resuscitates many old grievances. When the Federal Reserve was first created in 1913 it was heavily criticized as a giveaway of federal authority.

    The critics lamented the giveaway to private bankers whose firms acquired ownership of all twelve of the regional banks that together constitute the Federal Reserve. Of these twelve regional banks, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York is by far the largest and most dominant especially right now.

    The Federal Reserve of the United States combined forces with dozens of other privately-owned central banks thoughout the world to form the Bank of International Settlements. Many of the key archetypes for this type of banking were developed in Europe and the City of London where the Rothschild banking family had a large and resilient role, one that persists until this day.

    Along with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, BlackRock was deeply involved in helping to administer the bailout in 2008. This bailout resuscitated many failing Wall Street firms together with their counterparties in a number of speculative ventures involving various forms of derivatives.

    The bailouts resulted in payments of $29 trillion, much of it going to restore failing financial institutions whose excesses actually caused the giant economic crash. Where the financial sector profited greatly from the bailouts, taxpayers were abused yet again. The burden of an expanded national debt fell ultimately on taxpayers who must pay the interest on the loans for the federal bailout of the “too big to fail” financial institutions.

    Unsettling precedents are set by the Wall Street club’s manipulation of the economic crash of 2007-2010 to enrich its own members so extravagantly. This prior experience bodes poorly for the intervention by the same players in this current round of responses to the economic crisis of 2020.

    In preparing this essay I have enjoyed the many articles by Pam Martens and Russ Martens in Wall Street on Parade. These hundreds of well-researched articles form a significant primary source on the recent history of the Federal Reserve, including over the last few months.

    In this essay I draw a contrast between the privately-owned regional banks of the Federal Reserve and the government-owned Bank of Canada that once issued low-interest loans to build infrastructure projects.

    With this arrangement in place, Canada went through a major period of national growth between 1938 and 1974. Canada emerged from this period with a national debt of only $20 billion. Then in 1974 Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau dropped this arrangement to enable Canada to join the Bank of International Settlements. One result is that national debt rose to $700 billion by 2020.

    We need to face the current financial crisis by developing new institutions that avoid the pitfalls of old remedies for old problems that no longer prevail. We need to make special efforts to change our approach to the problem of excessive debts and the overconcentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands.

    Locking Down the Viability of Commerce

    Of all the facets of the ongoing fiasco generally associated with the coronavirus crisis, none has been so widely catastrophic as the so-called “lockdowns.” The supposed cure of the lockdowns is itself proving to be much more lethal and debilitating than COVID-19’s flu-like impact on human health.

    Many questions arise from the immense economic consequences attributed to the initial effort to “flatten the curve” of the hospital treatments for COVID-19. Did the financial crisis occur as a result of the spread of the new coronavirus crisis? Or was the COVID-19 crisis set in motion to help give cover to a long-building economic meltdown that was already well underway in the autumn of 2019?

    The lockdowns were first instituted in Wuhan China with the objective of slowing down the spread of the virus so that hospitals would not be overwhelmed. Were the Chinese lockdowns engineered in part to create a model to be followed in Europe, North America, Indochina and other sites of infection like India and Australia? The Chinese lockdowns in Hubei province and then in other parts of China apparently set an example influencing the decision of governments in many jurisdictions. Was this Chinese example for the rest of the world created by design to influence the nature of international responses?

    The lockdowns represented a new form of response to a public health crisis. Quarantines have long been used as a means of safeguarding the public from the spread of contagious maladies. Quarantines, however, involve isolating the sick to protect the well. On the other hand the lockdowns are directed at limiting the movement and circulation of almost everyone whether or not they show symptoms of any infections.

    Hence lockdowns, or, more euphemistically “sheltering in place,” led to the cancellation of many activities and to the shutdown of institutions. The results extended, for instance, to the closure of schools, sports events, theatrical presentations and business operations. In this way the lockdowns also led to the crippling of many forms of economic interaction. National economies as well as international trade and commerce were severely impacted.

    The concept of lockdowns was not universally embraced and applied. For instance, the governments of Sweden and South Korea did not accept the emerging orthodoxy about enforcing compliance with all kinds of restrictions on human interactions. Alternatively, the government of Israel was an early and strident enforcer of very severe lockdown policies.

    At first it seemed the lockdown succeeded magnificently in saving Israeli lives. According to Israel Shamir, in other European states the Israeli model was often brought up as an example. In due course, however, the full extent of the assault on the viability of the Israeli economy began to come into focus. Then popular resistance was aroused to reject government attempts to enforce a second wave of lockdowns against a second wave of supposed infections. As Shamir sees it, the result is that “Today Israel is a failed state with a ruined economy and unhappy citizens.”

    In many countries the lockdowns began with a few crucial decisions made at the highest level of government. Large and proliferating consequences would flow from the initial determination of what activities, businesses, organizations, institutions and workers were to be designated as “essential.”

    The consequences would be severe for those individuals and businesses excluded from the designation identifying what is essential. This deep intervention into the realm of free choice in market relations set a major precedent for much more intervention of a similar nature to come.

    The arbitrary division of activities into essential and nonessential categories created a template to be frequently replicated and revised in the name of serving public heath. Suddenly central planning took a great leap forward. The momentum from a generation of neoliberalism was checked even as the antagonistic polarities between rich and poor continued to grow.

    To be defined as “nonessential” would soon be equated with job losses and business failures across many fields of enterprise as the first wave of lockdowns outside China unfolded. Indeed, it becomes clearer every day that revolving lockdowns, restrictions and social distancing are being managed in order to help give false justification to a speciously idealized vaccine fix as the only conclusive solution to a manufactured problem.

    What must it have meant for breadwinners who fed themselves and their families through wages or self-employment to be declared by government to be “non-essential”? Surely for real providers their jobs, their businesses and their earnings were essential for themselves and their dependents. All jobs and all businesses that people depend on for livelihoods, sustenance and survival are essential in their own way.

    Was COVID-19 a Cover for an Anticipated or Planned Financial Crisis?

    A major sign of financial distress in the US economy kicked in in mid-September of 2019 when there was a breakdown in the normal operation of the Repo Market. This repurchase market in the United States is important in maintaining liquidity in the financial system.

    Those directing entities like large banks, Wall Street traders and hedge funds frequently seek large amounts of cash on a short-term basis. They obtain this cash from, for instance, money market funds by putting up securities, often Treasury Bills, as collateral. Most often the financial instruments go back, say the following night, to their original owners with interest payments attached for the use of the cash.

    In mid-September the trust broke down between participants in the Repo Market. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York then entered the picture making trillions of dollars available to keep the system for short-term moving of assets going. This intervention repeated the operation that came in response to the first signs of trouble as Wall Street moved towards the stock market crash of 2008.

    One of the major problems on the eve of the bailout of 2008-09, like the problem in the autumn of 2019, had to do with the overwhelming of the real economy by massive speculative activity. The problem then, like a big part of the problem now, involves the disproportionate size of the derivative bets. The making of these bets have become a dangerous addiction that continues to this day to menace the viability of the financial system headquartered on Wall Street.

    By March of 2020 it was reported that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York had turned on its money spigot to create $9 trillion in new money with the goal of keeping the failing Repo Market operational. The precise destinations of that money together with the terms of its disbursement, however, remain a secret. As Pam Martens and Russ Martens write,

    Since the Fed turned on its latest money spigot to Wall Street [in September of 2019], it has refused to provide the public with the dollar amounts going to any specific banks. This has denied the public the ability to know which financial institutions are in trouble. The Fed, exactly as it did in 2008, has drawn a dark curtain around troubled banks and the public’s right to know, while aiding and abetting a financial coverup of just how bad things are on Wall Street.

    Looking back at the prior bailout from their temporal vantage point in January of 2020, the authors noted  “During the 2007 to 2010 financial collapse on Wall Street – the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the Fed funnelled a total of $29 trillion in cumulative loans to Wall Street banks, their trading houses and their foreign derivative counterparties.”

    The authors compared the rate of the transfer of funds from the New York Federal Reserve Bank to the Wall Street banking establishment in the 2008 crash and in the early stages of the 2020 financial debacle. The authors observed, “at this rate, [the Fed] is going to top the rate of money it threw at the 2008 crisis in no time at all.”

    The view that all was well with the economy until the impact of the health crisis began to be felt in early 2020 leads away from the fact that money markets began to falter dangerously in the autumn of 2019. The problems with the Repo Market were part of a litany of indicators pointing to turbulence ahead in troubled economic waters.

    For instance, the resignation in 2019 of about 1,500 prominent corporate CEOs can be seen as a suggestion that news was circulating prior to 2020 about the imminence of serious financial problems ahead. Insiders’ awareness of menacing developments threatening the workings of the global economy were probably a factor in the decision of a large number of senior executives to exit the upper echelons of the business world.

    Not only did a record number of CEOs resign, but many of them sold off the bulk of their shares in the companies they were leaving.

    Pam Marten and Russ Marten who follow Wall Street’s machinations on a daily basis have advanced the case that the Federal Reserve is engaged in fraud by trying to make it seem that “the banking industry came into 2020 in a healthy condition;” that it is only because of “the COVID-19 pandemic” that the financial system is” unravelling,”

    The authors argue that this misrepresentation was deployed because the deceivers are apparently “desperate” to prevent Congress from conducting an investigation for the second time in twelve years on why the Fed, “had to engage in trillions of dollars of Wall Street bailouts.” In spite of the Fed’s fear of facing a Congressional investigation after the November 2020 vote, such a timely investigation of the US financial sector would well serve the public interest.

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    The authors present a number of signs demonstrating that “the Fed knew, or should have known…. that there was a big banking crisis brewing in August of last year. [2019]” The signs of the financial crisis in the making included negative yields on government bonds around the world as well as big drops in the Dow Jones average. The plunge in the price of stocks was led by US banks, but especially Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase.

    Another significant indicator that something was deeply wrong in financial markets was a telling inversion in the value of Treasury notes with the two-year rate yielding more than the ten-year rate.

    Yet another sign of serious trouble ahead involved repeated contractions in the size of the German economy. Moreover, in September of 2019 news broke that officials of JP Morgan Chase faced criminal charges for RICO-style racketeering. This scandal added to the evidence of converging problems plaguing core economic institutions as more disruptive mayhem gathered on the horizons.

    Accordingly, there is ample cause to ask if there are major underlying reasons for the financial crash of 2020 other than the misnamed pandemic and the lockdowns done in its name of “flattening” its spikes of infection. At the same time, there is ample cause to recognize that the lockdowns have been a very significant factor in the depth of the economic debacle that is making 2020 a year like no other.

    Some go further. They argue that the financial crash of 2020 was not only anticipated but planned and pushed forward with clear understanding of its instrumental role in the Great Reset sought by self-appointed protagonists of creative destruction. The advocates of this interpretation place significant weight on the importance of the lockdowns as an effective means of obliterating in a single act a host of old economic relationships. For instance Peter Koenig examines the “farce and diabolical agenda of a universal lockdown.”

    Koenig writes, “The pandemic was needed as a pretext to halt and collapse the world economy and the underlying social fabric.”

    Inflating the Numbers and Traumatizing the Public to Energize the Epidemic of Fear

    There have been many pandemics in global history whose effects on human health have been much more pervasive and devastating than the current one said to be generated by a new coronavirus. In spite, however, of its comparatively mild flu-like effects on human health, at least at this point in the summer of 2020, there has never been a contagion whose spread has generated so much global publicity and hype. As in the aftermath of 9/11, this hype extends to audacious levels of media-generated panic. As with the psyop of 9/11, the media-induced panic has been expertly finessed by practitioners skilled in leveraging the currency of fear to realize a host of radical political objectives.

    According to Robert E. Wright in an essay published by the American Institute for Economic Research, “closing down the U.S. economy in response to COVID-19 was probably the worst public policy in at least one-hundred years.” As Wright sees it, the decision to lock down the economy was made in ignorant disregard of the deep and devastating impact that such an action would spur. “Economic lockdowns were the fantasies of government officials so out of touch with economic and physical reality that they thought the costs would be fairly low.”

    The consequences, Wright predicts, will extend across many domains including the violence done to the rule of law. The lockdowns, he writes, “turned the Constitution into a frail and worthless fabric.” Writing in late April, Wright touched on the comparisons to be made between the economic lockdowns and slavery. He write, “Slaves definitely had it worse than Americans under lockdown do, but already Americans are beginning to protest their confinement and to subtly subvert authorities, just as chattel slaves did.”

    The people held captive in confined lockdown settings have had the time and often the inclination to imbibe much of the 24/7 media coverage of the misnamed pandemic. Taken together, all this media sensationalism has come to constitute one of the most concerted psychological operations ever.

    The implications have been enormous for the mental health of multitudes of people. This massive alteration of attitudes and behaviours is the outcome of media experiments performed on human subjects without their informed consent. The media’s success in bringing about herd subservience to propagandistic messaging represents a huge incentive for more of the same to come. It turns out that the subject matter of public health offers virtually limitless potential for power-seeking interests and agents to meddle with the privacies, civil liberties and human rights of those they seek to manipulate, control and exploit.

    The social, economic and health impacts of the dislocations flowing from the lockdowns are proving to be especially devastating on the poorest, the most deprived and the most vulnerable members of society. This impact will continue to be marked in many ways, including in increased rates of suicide, domestic violence, mental illness, addictions, homelessness, and incarceration far larger than those caused directly by COVID-19. As rates of deprivation through poverty escalate, so too will crime rates soar.

    The over-the-top alarmism of the big media cabals has been well financed by the advertising revenue of the pharmaceutical industry. With some few exceptions, major media outlets pushed the public to accept the lockdowns as well as the attending losses in jobs and business activity. In seeking to push the agenda of their sponsors, the big media cartels have been especially unmindful of their journalistic responsibilities. Their tendency has been to avoid or censor forums where even expert practitioners of public health can publicly question and discuss government dictates about vital issues of public policy.

    Whether in Germany or the United States or many other countries, front line workers in this health care crisis have nevertheless gathered together with the goal of trying to correct the one-sided prejudices of of discriminatory media coverage. One of the major themes in the presentations by medical practitioners is to confront the chorus of media misrepresentations on the remedial effects of hydroxychloroquine and zinc.

    On July 27 a group of doctors gathered on the grounds of the US Supreme Court to try to address the biases of the media and the blind spots of government.

    Another aspect in the collateral damage engendered by COVID-19 alarmism is marked in the fatalities arising from the wholesale postponement of many necessary interventions including surgery. How many have died or will die because of the hold put on medical interventions to remedy cancer, heart conditions and many other potentially lethal ailments?

    Did the unprecedented lockdowns come about as part of a preconceived plan to inflate the severity of an anticipated financial meltdown? What is to be made of the suspicious intervention of administrators to produce severely padded numbers of reported deaths in almost every jurisdiction? This kind of manipulation of statistics raised the possibility that we are witnessing a purposeful and systemic inflation of the severity of this health care crisis.

    Questions about the number of cases arise because of the means of testing for the presence of a supposedly new coronavirus. The PCR system that is presently being widely used does not test for the virus but tests for the existence of antibodies produced in response to many health challenges including the common cold. This problem creates a good deal of uncertainty of what a positive test really means.

    The problems with calculating case numbers extend to widespread reports that have described people who were not tested for COVID-19 but who nevertheless received notices from officials counting them as COVID-19 positive. Broadcaster Armstrong Williams addressed the phenomenon on his network of MSM media outlets in late July.

    From the mass of responses he received, Williams estimated that those not tested but counted as a positive probably extends probably to hundreds of thousands of individuals. What would drive the effort to exaggerate the size of the afflicted population?

    This same pattern of inflation of case numbers was reinforced by the Tricare branch of the US Defense Department’s Military Health System. This branch sent out notices to 600,000 individuals who had not been tested. The notices nevertheless informed the recipients that they had tested positive for COVID 19.

    Is the inflation of COVID-19 death rates and cases numbers an expression of the zeal to justify the massive lockdowns? Were the lockdowns in China conceived as part of a scheme to help create the conditions for the public’s acceptance of a plan to remake the world’s political economy? What is to be made of the fact that those most identified with the World Economic Forum (WEF) have led the way in putting a positive spin on the reset arising from the very health crisis the WEF helped introduce and publicize in Oct. of 2019?

    As Usual, the Poor Get Poorer

    The original Chinese lockdowns in the winter of 2020 caused the breakdowns of import-export supply chains extending across the planet. Lockdowns in the movement of raw materials, parts, finished products, expertise, money and more shut down domestic businesses in China as well as transnational commerce in many countries outside China. The supply chain disruptions were especially severe for businesses that have dispensed with the practice of keeping on hand large inventories of parts and raw material, depending instead on just-in-time deliveries.

    As the supply chains broke down domestically and internationally, many enterprises lacked the revenue to pay their expenses. Bankruptcies began to proliferate at rates that will probably continue to be astronomical for some time. All kinds of loans and liabilities were not paid out in full or at all. Many homes are being re-mortgaged or cast into real estate markets as happened during the prelude and course of the bailouts of 2007-2010.

    The brunt of the financial onslaught hit small businesses especially hard. Collectively small businesses have been a big creator of jobs. They have picked up some of the slack from the rush of big businesses to downsize their number of full-time employees. Moreover, small businesses and start-ups are often the site of exceptionally agile innovations across broad spectrums of economic activity. The hard financial slam on the small business sector, therefore, is packing a heavy punch on the economic conditions of everyone.

    The devastating impact of the economic meltdown on workers and small businesses in Europe and North America extends in especially lethal ways to the massive population of poor people living all over the world. Many of these poor people reside in countries where much of the paid work is irregular and informal.

    At the end of April the International Labor Organization (ILO), an entity created along with the League of Nations at the end of the First World War, estimated that there would be 1.6 billion victims of the meltdown in the worldwide “informal economy.” In the first month of the crisis these workers based largely in Africa and Latin America lost 60% of their subsistence level incomes.

    As ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, has asserted,

    This pandemic has laid bare in the cruellest way, the extraordinary precariousness and injustices of our world of work. It is the decimation of livelihoods in the informal economy – where six out of ten workers make a living – which has ignited the warnings from our colleagues in the World Food Programme, of the coming pandemic of hunger. It is the gaping holes in the social protection systems of even the richest countries, which have left millions in situations of deprivation. It is the failure to guarantee workplace safety that condemns nearly 3 million to die each year because of the work they do. And it is the unchecked dynamic of growing inequality which means that if, in medical terms, the virus does not discriminate between its victims in its social and economic impact, it discriminates brutally against the poorest and the powerless.

    Guy Ryder remembered the optimistic rhetoric in officialdom’s responses to the economic crash of 2007-2009. He compares the expectations currently being aroused by the vaccination fixation with the many optimistic sentiments previously suggesting the imminence of remedies for grotesque levels of global inequality. Ryder reflected,

    We’ve heard it before. The mantra which provided the mood music of the crash of 2008-2009 was that once the vaccine to the virus of financial excess had been developed and applied, the global economy would be safer, fairer, more sustainable. But that didn’t happen. The old normal was restored with a vengeance and those on the lower echelons of labour markets found themselves even further behind.

    The internationalization of increased unemployment and poverty brought about in the name of combating the corona crisis is having the effect of further widening the polarization between rich and poor on a global scale. Ryder’s metaphor about the false promises concerning a “vaccine” to correct “financial excess” can well be seen as a precautionary comment on the flowery rhetoric currently adorning the calls for a global reset.

    Wall Street and 9/11

    The world economic crisis of 2020 is creating the context for large-scale repeats of some key aspects of the bailout of 2007-2010. The bailout of 2007-2008 drew, in turn, from many practices developed in the period when the explosive events of 9/11 triggered a worldwide reset of global geopolitics.

    While the events of 2008 and 2020 both drew attention to the geopolitical importance of Wall Street, the terrible pummelling of New York’s financial district was the event that ushered in a new era of history, an era that has delivered us to the current financial meltdown/lockdown.

    It lies well beyond the scope of this essay to go into detail about the dynamics of what really transpired on 9/11. Nevertheless, some explicit reckoning with this topic is crucial to understanding some of the essential themes addressed in this essay.

    Indeed, it would be difficult to overstate the relevance of 9/11 to the background and nature of the current debacle. The execution and spinning of 9/11 were instrumental in creating the repertoire of political trickery presently being adapted in the manufacturing and exploiting of the COVID-19 hysteria. A consistent attribute of the journey from 9/11 to COVID-19 has been the amplification of executive authority through the medium of emergency measures enactments, policies and dictates.

    Wall Street is a major site where much of this political trickery was concocted in planning exercises extending to many other sites of power and intrigue. In the case of 9/11, a number of prominent Wall Street firms were involved before, during and after the events of September 11. As is extremely well documented, these events have been misrepresented in ways that helped to further harness the military might of the United States to the expansionistic designs of Israel in the Middle East.

    The response of the Federal Reserve to the events of 9/11 helped set in motion a basic approach to disaster management that continues to this day. Almost immediately following the pulverization of Manhattan’s most gigantic and iconographic landmarks, Federal Reserve officials made it their highest priority to inject liquidity into financial markets. Many different kinds of scenario can be advanced behind the cover of infusing liquidity into markets.

    For three days in a row the Federal Reserve Bank of New York turned on its money spigots to inject transfusions of $100 billion dollars of newly generated funds into the Wall Street home of the financial system. The declared aim was to keep the flow of capital between financial institutions well lubricated. The Federal Reserve’s infusions of new money into Wall Street took many forms. New habits and appetites were thereby cultivated in ways that continue to influence the behaviour of Wall Street organizations in the financial debacle of 2020.

    The revelations concerning the events of 9/11 contained a number of financial surprises. Questions immediately arose, for instance, about whether the destruction of the three World Trade Center skyscrapers had obliterated software and hardware vital to the continuing operations of computerized banking systems. Whatever problems arose along these lines, it turned out that there was sufficient digital information backed up in other locations to keep banking operations viable.

    But while much digital data survived the destruction of core installations in the US financial sector, some strategic information was indeed obliterated. For instance, strategic records entailed in federal investigations into many business scandals were lost. Some of the incinerated data touched on, for instance, the machinations of the energy giant, Enron, along with its Wall Street partners, JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup.

    The writings of E. P Heidner are prominent in the literature posing theories about the elimination of incriminating documentation as a result of the controlled demolitions of 9/11. What information was eliminated and what was retained in the wake of the devastation? Heidner has published a very ambitious account placing the events of 9/11 at the forefront of a deep and elaborate relationship linking George H. W. Bush to Canada’s Barrick Gold and the emergence of gold derivatives.

    The surprises involving 9/11 and Wall Street included evidence concerning trading on the New York Stock Exchange. A few individuals enriched themselves significantly by purchasing a disproportionately high number of put options on shares about to fall precipitously as a result of the anticipated events of 9/11. Investigators, however, chose to ignore this evidence because it did not conform to the prevailing interpretation of who did what to whom on 9/11.

    Another suspicious group of transactions conducted right before 9/11 involved some very large purchases of five-year US Treasury notes. These instruments are well known hedges when one has knowledge that a world crisis is imminent. One of these purchases was a $5 billion transaction. The US Treasury Department would have been informed about the identity of the purchaser. Nevertheless the FBI and the Securities Exchange Commission collaborated to point public attention away from these suspect transactions. (p. 199)

    On the very day of 9/11 local police arrested Israeli suspects employed in the New York area as Urban Movers. The local investigators were soon pressured to ignore the evidence, however, and go along with the agenda of the White House and the media chorus during the autumn of 2001.

    In the hours following the pulverization of the Twin Towers the dominant mantra was raised “Osama bin Laden and al-Qeada did it.” That mantra led in the weeks, months and years that followed to US-led invasions of several Muslim-majority countries. Some have described these military campaigns as wars for Israel.

    Soon New York area jails were being filled up with random Muslims picked up for nothing more than visa violations and such. The unrelenting demonization of Muslims collectively can now be seen in retrospect as a dramatic psychological operation meant to poison minds as the pounding of the war drums grew in intensity. In the process a traumatized public were introduced to concepts like “jihad.” At no time has there ever been a credible police investigation into the question of who is responsible for the 9/11 crimes.

    Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld chose September 10, the day before 9/11, to break the news at a press conference that $2.3 trillion had gone missing from the Pentagon’s budget. Not surprisingly the story of the missing money got buried the next day as reports of the debacle in Manhattan and Washington DC dominated MSM news coverage.

    As reported by Forbes Magazine, the size of the amount said to have gone missing in Donald Rumsfeld’s 2001 report of Defense Department spending had mushroomed by 2015 to around $21 trillion. It was Mark Skidmore, an Economics Professor at the University of Michigan, who became the main sleuth responsible for identifying the gargantuan amount of federal funds that the US government can’t account for.

    As the agency that created the missing tens of trillions that apparently has disappeared without a trace, wouldn’t the US Federal Reserve be in a position to render some assistance in tracking down the lost funds? Or is the Federal Reserve somehow a participant or a complicit party in the disappearance of the tens of trillions without a paper trail?

    The inability or unwillingness of officialdom to explain what happened to the lost $21 trillion, an amount comparable to the size of the entire US national debt prior to the lockdowns, might be viewed in the light of the black budgets of the US Department of Defense (DOD). Black budgets are off-the-books funds devoted to secret research and to secret initiatives in applied research.

    In explaining this phenomenon, former Canadian Defense Minister, Paul Hellyer, has observed, “thousands of billions of dollars have been spent on projects about which Congress and the Commander In Chief have deliberately been kept in the dark.” Eric Zuesse goes further. As he explains it, the entire Defense Department operates pretty much on the basis of an unusual system well outside the standard rules of accounting applied in other federal agencies.

    When news broke about the missing $21 trillion, federal authorities responded by promising that special audits would be conducted to explain the irregularities. The results of those audits, if they took place at all, were never published. The fact that the Defense of Department has developed in a kind of audit free zone has made it a natural magnet for people and interests engaged in all kinds of criminal activities.

    Eric Zuesse calls attention to the 1,000 military bases around the world that form a natural network conducive to the cultivation of many forms of criminal trafficking. Zuesse includes in his reflections commentary on the secret installations in some American embassies but especially in the giant US Embassy in Baghdad Iraq.

    The US complex in Baghdad’s Green Zone is the biggest Embassy in the world. Its monumental form on a 104 acre site expresses the expansionary dynamics of US military intervention in the Middle East and Eurasia following 9/11.

    The phenomenon of missing tens of trillions calls attention to larger patterns of kleptocratic activity that forms a major subject addressed here. The shifts into new forms of organized crime in the name of “national security” began to come to light in the late 1980s. An important source of disclosures was the series of revelations that accompanied the coming apart of the Saudi-backed Bank of Credit and Commerce International, the BCCI.

    The nature of this financial institution, where CIA operatives were prominent among its clients, provides a good window into the political economy of drug dealing, money laundering, weapons smuggling, regime change and many much more criminal acts that took place along the road to 9/11.

    The BCCI was a key site of financial transactions that contributed to the end of the Cold War and the inception of many new kinds of conflict. These activities often involved the well-financed activities of mercenaries, proxy armies, and a heavy reliance on private contractors of many sorts.

    The Enron scandal was seen to embody some of the same lapses facilitated by fraudulent accounting integral to the BCCI scandal. Given the bubble of secrecy surrounding the Federal Reserve, there are thick barriers blocking deep investigation into whether or not the US Central Bank was involved in the relationship of the US national security establishment and the BCCI.

    The kind of dark transactions that the BCCI was designed to facilitate must have been channelled after its demise into other banking institutions probably with Wall Street connections. Since 9/11, however, many emergency measures have been imposed that add extra layers of secrecy protecting the perpetrators of many criminal acts from public exposure and criminal prosecutions.

    The events of 9/11 have sometimes been described as the basis of a global coup. To this day there is no genuine consensus about what really transpired to create the illusion of justification for repeated US military invasions of Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and Eurasia.

    The 9/11 debacle and the emergency measures that followed presented Wall Street with an array of new opportunities for profit that came with the elaborate refurbishing and retooling of the military-industrial complex.

    The response to 9/11 was expanded and generalized upon to create the basis of a war directed not at a particular enemy, but rather at an ill-defined conception identified as “terrorism.” This alteration was part of a complex of changes adding trillions to the flow of money energizing the axis of interaction linking the Pentagon and Wall Street and the abundance of new companies created to advance the geopolitical objectives emerging from the 9/11 coup.

    According to Pam Martens and Russ Martens, the excesses of deregulation helped induce an anything-goes-ethos on Wall Street and at its Federal Reserve regulator in the wake of 9/11. As the authors tell it, the response to 9/11 helped set important precedents for the maintaining flows of credit and capital in financial markets.

    Often the destination of the funds generated in the name of pumping liquidity into markets was not identified and reported in transactions classified as financial emergency measures. While the priority was on keeping financial pumps primed, there was much less concern for transparency and accountability among those in positions of power at the Federal Reserve.

    The financial sector’s capture of the government instruments meant to regulate the behaviour of Wall Street institutions was much like the deregulation of the US pharmaceutical industry. Both episodes highlight a message that has become especially insistent as the twenty-first century unfolds.

    The nature of the response to 9/11 emphasized the mercenary ascent of corporate dominance as the primary force directing governments. Throughout this transformation the message to citizens became increasingly clear. Buyer Beware. We cannot depend on governments to represent our will and interests. We cannot even count on our governments to protect citizens from corporatist attacks especially on human health and whatever financial security we have been able to build up.

    Bailouts, Derivatives, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York

    The elimination of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 was essential to the process of dramatically cutting back the government’s role as a protector of the public interest on the financial services sector. The Glass-Steagall Act was an essential measure in US President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Some view the New Deal as a strategy for saving capitalism by moderating ts most sharp-edged features. Instituted in 1933 in response to the onset of the Great Depression, the Glass-Steagall Act separated the operations of deposit-accepting banks from the more speculative activity of investment brokers.

    The termination of the regulatory framework put in place by the Glass Steagall Act opened much new space for all kinds of experiments in the manipulation of money in financial markets. The changes began with the merger of different sorts of financial institutions including some in the insurance field. Those overseeing the reconstituted entities headquartered on Wall Street took advantage of their widened latitudes of operation. They developed all sorts of ways of elaborating their financial services and presenting them in new packages.

    The word, “derivative” is often associated with many applications of the new possibilities in the reconstituted financial services sector. The word, derivative, can be applied to many kinds of transactions involving speculative bets of various sorts. As the word suggests, a derivative is derived from a fixed asset such as currency, bonds, stocks, and commodities. Alterations in the values of fixed assets affect the value of derivatives that often take the form of contracts between two or more parties.

    One of the most famous derivatives in the era of the financial crash of 2007-2010 was described as mortgaged-backed securities. On the surface these bundles of debt-burdened properties might seem easy to understand. But that would be a delusion. The value of these products was affected, for instance, by unpredictable shifts in interest rates, liar loans extended to homebuyers who lacked the capacity to make regular mortgage payments, and significant shifts in the value of real estate.

    Mortgage-backed securities were just one type of a huge array of derivatives invented on the run in the heady atmosphere of secret and unregulated transactions between counterparties. Derivatives could involve contracts formalizing bets between rivals gambling on the outcome of competitive efforts to shape the future.  An array of derivative bets was built around transactions often placed behind the veil of esoteric nomenclature like “collateralized debt obligations” or “credit default swaps.”

    The variables in derivative bets might include competing national security agendas involving, for instance, pipeline constructions, regime change, weapons development and sales, false flag terror events, or money laundering. Since derivative bets involve confidential transactions with secret outcomes, they can be derived from all sorts of criteria. Derivative bets can, for instance, involve all manner of computerized calculations that in some cases are constructed much like war game scenarios.

    The complexity of derivatives became greater when the American Insurance Group, AIG, began selling insurance programs to protect all sides in derivative bets from suffering too drastically from the consequences of being on the losing side of transactions.

    The derivative frenzy, sometimes involving bets being made by parties unable to cover potential losses, overwhelmed the scale of the day-to-day economy. The “real economy” embodies exchanges of goods, services, wages and such that supply the basic necessities for human survival with some margin for recreation, travel, cultural engagement and such.

    The Swiss-based Bank of International Settlements calculated in 2008 that the size of the all forms of derivative products had a monetary value of $1.14 quadrillion. A quadrillion is a thousand trillions. By comparison, the estimated value of all the real estate in the world was $75 trillion in 2008.

    [Bank for International Settlements, Semiannual OTC derivative statistics at end-December, 2008.]

    As the enticements of derivative betting preoccupied the leading directors of Wall Street institutions, their more traditional way of relating to one another began to falter. It was in this atmosphere that the Repo Market became problematic in December of 2007 just as it showed similar signs of breakdown in September of 2019.

    In both instances the level of distrust between those in charge of financial institutions began to falter because they all had good reason to believe that their fellow bankers were overextended. All had reason to believe their counterparts were mired by too much speculative activity enabled by all sorts of novel experiments including various forms of derivative dealing.

    In December of 2007 as in the autumn of 2019, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was forced to enter the picture to keep the financial pumps on Wall Street primed. The New York Fed kept the liquidity cycles flowing by invoking its power to create new money with the interest charged to tax payers.

    As the financial crisis unfolded in 2008 and 2009 the Federal Reserve, but especially the privately-owned New York Federal Reserve bank, stepped forward to bail out many financial institutions that had become insolvent or near insolvent. In the process precedents and patterns were established that are being re-enacted with some modifications in 2020.

    One of the innovations that took place in 2008 was the decision by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to hire a large Wall Street financial institution, BlackRock, to administer the bailouts. These transfers of money went through three specially created companies now being replicated as Special Purpose Vehicles in the course of the payouts of 2020.

    In 2008-09 BlackRock administered the three companies named after the address of the New York Federal Reserve Bank on Maiden Lane. BlackRock emerged from an older Wall Street firm called Blackstone. Its former chair, Peter C. Peterson, was a former Chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

    The original Maiden Lane company paid Bear Stearns Corp $30 billion. This amount from the New York Fed covered the debt of Bear Stearns, a condition negotiated to clear the way for the purchase of the old Wall Street institution by JP Morgan Chase. Maiden Lane II was a vehicle for payouts to companies that had purchased “mortgage-backed securities” before these derivative products turned soar.

    Maiden Lane III was to pay off “multi-sector collateralized debt obligations.” Among these bailouts were payoffs to the counterparties of the insurance giant, AIG. As noted, AIG had developed an insurance product to be sold to those engaged in derivative bets. When the bottom fell out of markets, AIG lacked the means to pay off the large number of insurance claims made against it. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York stepped in to bail out the counterparties of AIG, many of them deemed to be “too big to fail.”

    Among the counterparties of AIG was Goldman Sachs. It received of $13 billion from the Federal Reserve. Other bailouts to AIG’s counterparties were $12 billion to Deutsche Bank, $6.8 billion to Merrill Lynch, $5 billion to Switzerland’s UBS, $7.9 billion to Barclays, and $5.2 billion to Bank of America. Some of these banks received additional funds from other parts of the overall bailout transaction. Many dozens of other counterparties to AIG also received payouts in 2008-2009. Among them were the Bank of Montreal and Bank of Scotland.

    The entire amount of the bailouts was subsequently calculated to be a whopping $29 trillion with a “t.” The lion’s share of these funds went to prop up US financial institutions and the many foreign banks with which they conducted business.

    Much of this money went to the firms that were shareholders in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or partners of the big Wall Street firms. Citigroup, the recipient of the largest amount, received about $2.5 trillion in the federal bailouts. Merrill Lynch received $2 trillion,

    The Federal Reserve Bank was established by Congressional statute in 1913. The Federal Reserve headquarters is situated in Washington DC. The Central Bank was composed of twelve constituent regional banks. Each one of these regional banks is owned by private banks.

    The private ownership of the banks that are the proprietors of the Federal Reserve system has been highly contentious from its inception. The creation of the Federal Reserve continues to be perceived by many of its critics as an unjustifiable giveaway whereby the US government ceded to private interests its vital capacity to issue its own currency and to direct monetary policy like the setting of interest rates.

    Pam Martens and Russ Martens at Wall Street on Parade explain the controversial Federal Reserve structure as follows

    While the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in Washington, D.C. is deemed an “independent federal agency,” with its Chair and Governors appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, the 12 regional Fed banks are private corporations owned by the member banks in their region. The settled law under John L. Lewis v. the United States confirms: “Each Federal Reserve Bank is a separate corporation owned by commercial banks in its region.”

    In the case of the New York Fed, which is located in the Wall Street area of Manhattan, its largest shareowners are behemoth multinational banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.

    There was no genuine effort after the financial debacle of 2007-2010 to correct the main structural problems and weaknesses of the Wall Street-based US financial sector. The Dodd-Frank Bill signed into law by US President Barack Obama in 2010 did make some cosmetic changes. But the main features of the regulatory capture that has taken place with the elimination of the Glass-Steagall Act remained with only minor alterations. In particular the framework was held in place for speculative excess in derivative bets.

    In the summer edition of The Atlantic, Frank Partnoy outlined a gloomy assessment of the continuity leading from the events of 2007-2010 to the current situation. This current situation draws a strange contrast between the lockdown-shattered quality of the economy and the propped-up value of the stock market whose future value will in all probability prove unsustainable. Partnoy writes,

    It is a distasteful fact that the present situation is so dire in part because the banks fell right back into bad behavior after the last crash—taking too many risks, hiding debt in complex instruments and off-balance-sheet entities, and generally exploiting loopholes in laws intended to rein in their greed. Sparing them for a second time this century will be that much harder.

    Wall Street Criminality on Display

    The frauds and felonies of the Wall Street banks have continued after the future earnings of US taxpayers returned them to solvency after 2010. The record of infamy is comparable to that of the pharmaceutical industry.

    The criminal behaviour in both sectors is very relevant to the overlapping crises that are underway in both the public health and financial sectors. In 2012 the crime spree in the financial sector began with astounding revelations about the role of many major banks in the LIBOR, the London Interbank Offered Rate. The LIBOR rates create the basis of interest rates involved in the borrowing and lending of money in the international arena.

    When the scandal broke there were 35 different LIBOR rates involving various types of currency and various time frames for loans between banks. The rates were calculated every day based on information forwarded from 16 different banks to a panel on London. The reporting banks included Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, UBS, and Deutsche Bank. The influence of the LIBOR rate extended beyond banks to affect the price of credit in many types of transactions.

    The emergence of information that the banks were working together to rig the interest rate created the basis for a huge economic scandal. Fines extending from hundreds of millions into more than a billion dollars were placed on each of the offending banks. But in this instance and many others to follow, criminality was attached to the financial entities but not to top officials responsible for the decisions that put their corporations on the wrong side of the law.

    One of the factors in the banking frauds comprising the LIBOR scandal was the temptation to improve the chance for financial gains in derivative bets. The biggest failure of the federal response to the financial meltdown of 2007-210 was that little was done to curb the excesses of transactions in the realm of derivatives.

    Derivatives involved a form of gambling that exists in a kind of twilight zone. This twilight zone fills a space somewhere between the realm of the real economy and the realm of notional value. Notional values find expression in unrealized speculation about what might or might not come to fruition; what might or might not happen; who might win and who might lose in derivative speculations.

    The addiction of Wall Street firms to derivative betting remains unchecked to this day. The bankers’ continuing fixation with unregulated gambling, often with other people’s money, is deeply menacing for the future of the global economy…. indeed for the future of everyone on earth. According to the Office of the Controller of Currency, in 2019 JP Morgan Chase had $59 trillion in derivative bets. In July of 2020 it emerged that Citigroup held $62 trillion in derivative contracts, about $30 trillion more than it held before it was bailed out in 2008. In 2019 Goldman Sachs held $47 trillion and Bank of America held $20.4 trillion in derivate bets.

    A big part of the scandal embodied in these figures is embedded in the reality that all of these banks carry their most risky derivative bets in units of their corporate networks that are protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. This peril played a significant part in deepening the crisis engendered by financial meltdown that began in 2007.

    One of the most redeeming features of the Dodd-Frank Act as originally drafted was a provision preventing financial institutions from keeping their derivative portfolios in banks whose deposits and depositors were backed up by federal insurance.

    Citigroup led the push in Congress in 2014 to allow Wall Street institutions to revert back to a more deregulated and danger-prone economic environment. The notoriously inept decisions and actions of Citigroup had played a significant role in the lead up to the financial debacle of 2007 to 2010. Since 2016 Citigroup has become once again the biggest risk taker by loading itself up with more derivative speculations than any other financial institution in the world.

    By returning derivative speculations to the protections of federal financial backstops, taxpayers are once again forced to assume responsibility for the most outlandish risks of Wall Street’s high rollers. It is taxpayers who are the backers of the federal government when it comes to their commitment to compensate banks for losses, even when these losses come about from derivative bets.

    How much more Wall Street risk and public debt can be loaded onto taxpayers and even onto generations of taxpayers yet unborn? How is national debt to be understood when it plunders working people to guarantee and augment the wealth of the most privileged branches of society? Why should those most responsible for creating the most excessive risks to the financial wellbeing of our societies be protected from bearing the consequences of the very risks they themselves created?

    Along with Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase stands out among a group of financial sector reprobates most deeply involved in sketchy activities that extend deep into the realm of criminality. In a simmering scandal six of JP Morgan Chase’s traders have been accused of breaking laws in conducting the bank’s futures trading in the value of precious metals. They have been accused of violating the RICO statute, a law meant for people suspected of being part of organized crime.

    In the charges pressed by the Justice Department on JP Morgan Chase’s traders it is alleged that they “conducted the affairs of the [minerals] desk through a pattern of racketeering activity, specifically, wire fraud affecting a financial institution and bank fraud.”

    In 2012 JP Morgan Chase faced a $1 billion fine for its role in the “London Wale” series of derivative bets described as follows by the Chair of the US Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigation. Senator Carl Levin explained, “Our findings open a window into the hidden world of high stakes derivatives trading by big banks. It exposes a derivatives trading culture at JPMorgan that piled on risk, hid losses, disregarded risk limits, manipulated risk models, dodged oversight, and misinformed the public.”

    Traders at Goldman Sachs appear to have been part of the Wall Street crime spree. The tentacles of corruption in the Goldman Sachs case apparently extend deep into the US Justice Department. The case involves allegations of embezzlement, money laundering and missing billions. These manifestations of malfeasance all spin out of a scandal-prone Malaysian sovereign wealth fund administered by Goldman Sachs.

    A big part of the scandal reported in Wall Street on Parade in July of 2020 involves the fact that the Justice Department’s prosecutors seem to be dragging their feet in this possible criminal felony case against Goldman Sachs. The prosecutors, including the US Attorney-General, William Barr, worked previously for the law firm, Kirkland and Ellis. Kirkland and Ellis was retained to defend Goldman Sachs in this matter.

    Pam Martens and Russ Martens express dismay at the failure of US officialdom to hold Wall Street institutions accountable for the crime spree of some of its biggest firms. They write, “Congress and the executive branch of the government seem determined to protect Wall Street criminals, which simply assures their proliferation.”

    Even racketeering charges against officials at JP Morgan Chase, where Jamie Dimon presides as CEO, failed to receive any attention from the professional deceivers that these days dominate MSM. The star reporters of Wall Street on Parade write, “Crime and fraud are so de rigueur at the bank led by Dimon that not one major newspaper ran the headline [of the racketeering charge] on the front page or anywhere else in the paper.

    While federal charges that JP Morgan Chase’s Wall Street operation engaged in criminal racketeering was not of interest to the press, Jamie Dimon’s surprise visit in early June to a Chase branch in Mt. Kisco New York aroused considerable media attention. Dimon was photographed with staff wearing a mask and taking the knee. By participating in this ritual Dimon signaled that his Wall Street operation is in league with the sometimes violent cancel culture pushed into prominence by the Democratic Party in partnership with Black Lives Matter and Antifa.

    Jamie Dimon takes a knee 039df

    *(JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon takes a knee with employees in front of a bank vault. Credit: JPMorgan)

    In an article on 21 July marking ten years since the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, the Martens duo conclude, “So here we are today, watching the Fed conduct another secret multi-trillion dollar bailout of Wall Street while the voices of Congress and mainstream media are nowhere to be heard.”

    Enter BlackRock

    In March it was announced that representatives of the US Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve Board and the BlackRock financial management were joining forces to make adjustments in the US economy. The aim was to address the financial dislocations resulting from the decision to lock down businesses, citizens, schools, entertainment, and social mingling outside the home, all in response to the health care hysteria promoted by governments and their media extensions.

    The format of this process suggested some relaxation in the strict distinctions historically drawn between the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve. What would be the role of the third member of the group? In reflecting on this topic Joyce Nelson observed, “the new bailout bill not only further erases the line between the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury, it places BlackRock effectively in an overseer position for both.”

    Some saw as symbolically instructive the delegation to BlackRock of a larger role than that assigned it during the first bailout of 2007-2008. It would be hard to overestimate the significance of this prominent Wall Street firm’s return to a strategic role near the very heart of this major exercise of federal power. This invitation to take part in such crucial negotiations at such a consequential juncture in history caused some to characterize BlackRock as a “fourth branch of government.”

    As Victoria Guida commented in Politico, “This is a transformational moment for the Fed, and BlackRock’s now going to be in an even stronger position to serve the Fed in the future.”

    BlackRock officials had been instrumental in helping to manoeuvre their company into such a strategic role by responding proactively to the understanding in some elite circles that another financial debacle was imminent. Only months before the financial meltdown actually occurred a group of former central bankers all commissioned by BlackRock delivered a recovery plan in August of 2019.

    Presented at a G 7 summit of central bankers in Jackson Hole Wyoming, the plan for the government responses to the looming financial collapse was entitled Dealing with the Next Downturn. Its authors are Stanley Fischer, former Governor of the Central Bank of Israel, Philipp Hildebrande, former Chairman of the Governing Board of the Swiss National Bank, Jean Boivin, former Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada, and Elga Bartsch, Economist at Morgan Stanley.

    The BlackRock Team at Jackson Hole put forward the case that a more aggressive and coordinated combination of monetary and fiscal policy must be brought to the job of stimulating a financial recovery. Monetary policy includes the setting of interest rates. Where monetary policy has historically been the domain of the central banks, fiscal policy, involving issues of taxation as well as the content and size of government budgets, lies within the jurisdiction of elected legislatures.

    The nub of the proposal to unite fiscal and monetary policy put the US Treasury and the US Federal Reserve on the same political platform. As the author of this merger of monetary and fiscal policy, BlackRock became third member of the triumvirate charged to address the broad array of economic maladies that arrived in the wake of the lockdowns.

    In the spring of 2020 BlackRock has been hired by the Bank of Canada and by Sweden’s Central Bank, the Riksbank, to deliver on the approaches to crisis management its representatives had laid out at Jackson Hole. BlackRock’s most high-profile and strategic engagement, however, began with its involvement in the negotiation of the $2 trillion CARES stimulus package that passed through the US Congress in March of 2020.

    The CARES Act included $367 billion for loans and grants to small business, $130 billion for health care systems, $150 billion for state and local government, $500 billion for loans to corporate America, and $25 billion for airlines (in addition to loans).

    The heart of the plan involved a payout of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child for households making up to $75,000. This payment to citizens approaches the concept of disseminating “helicopter money” as referred to in BlackRock’s initial outline for dealing with the “downturn.” Helicopter money distributed by the federal government to its citizens was also related to the concept of “going direct” in strategies for stimulating the economy.

    BlackRock seems to be moving into the space recently held by Goldman Sachs as Wall Street’s best embodiment of ostentatious success including in the preparation of its corporate leaders for high-ranking positions in the federal government. Laurence Fink, BlackRock’s founder and CEO, might well have replicated this career path to become Treasury Secretary if Hillary Clinton had succeeded in becoming US President in 2016.

    BlackRock’s leadership went to great lengths to avoid being tagged with the title in the United States of a “systematically important financial institution” (sifi). To be subject to this “sifi” label entails added federal scrutiny and regulation as well as heightened requirements to keep high amounts of capital on hand. BlackRock’s status as a private company not subject to sifi regulations makes the financial management firm more attractive to its federal partners in the federal payout operation presently underway.

    One of the reasons for including a private company in the trio of partners involved in the payouts is to sneak around limitations on the legal powers of the Federal Reserve. As explained by Ellen Brown in her essay, Meet BlackRock: The New Great Vampire Squid, the Federal Reserve can only purchase “safe federally-guaranteed assets.” As a private company, BlackRock apparently faces no such restrictions. It can purchase more risky assets not backstopped by federal insurance.

    The regional banks of the Federal Reserve Board are owned by private companies whose directors seem to have been part of the decision to include BlackRock in the implementation of the CARES process. There can be no doubt that the format of the CARES negotiations pulled the supposedly independent Federal Reserve more deeply into the political orbit of the US Treasury branch. The presence of a major Wall Street firm in the process, however, apparently gave the advocates of the Fed’s supposed independence from politics a sense that they retained some leverage in the process.

    The inclusion of private companies in the conduct of government business has become in recent decades a very common expression of neoliberalism. One of the reasons for this embrace of public-private partnerships in the conduct of government business is to take advantage of the legal nature of private companies. The apportionment to private companies of significant roles in deciding and implementing public policies helps put veils of secrecy over the true nature of government decisions and actions.

    Private companies can more easily assert claims to “proprietary information” than can public institutions when they act on behalf of citizens. This feature of privatization in the performance of public responsibilities by elected government runs counter to the imperatives of democratic transparency. It puts obstacles in the way of genuine accountability because the public is more likely to be kept in the dark about key aspects of what is being decided and done on their behalf.

    Suck Up Economics and State Monopoly Capitalism

    BlackRock owns, controls, or manages about $30 trillion in total in securities. It directly controls or owns somewhat less than a third of this amount. The remainder of the assets BlackRock manages are to service clients responsible for taking care of pension funds, philanthropies, foundations, endowments, family offices, superannuation funds and such.

    A big part of BlackRock’s business model involves attracting customers by allowing them access to great masses of timely information of significant utility to those responsible for making investment decisions. This technological wizardry happens on a very advanced computational platform known as Aladdin.

    Aladdin remains a work-in-progress, one that is widely recognized as the most sophisticated medium of its kind for assessing all manner of financial risks and potentials for profit. Its future as an investment platform is to become more and more integrated into the complex mix of hardware and software animating Artificial Intelligence.

    BlackRock’s job is to dispense funds ushered into existence through the money-creating powers of the Federal Reserve. These transactions are to take place through eleven so-called “special purpose vehicles” similar to the Maiden Lane companies that BlackRock administered during the prior bailouts.

    The funds it distributes in this round starting in 2020 are meant, at least at this early stage of the crisis, as payments for various sorts of assets. These assets might include an array of corporate bonds spanning a range from so-called investment grade to garbage grade junk bonds. The losses incurred in this exchange, involving supposed assets that might turn out to be worthless, or loans that might not be paid back, are to be charged to the US Treasury. Ultimately the liability lies on US taxpayers who are the holders of the national debt.

    Bonds of varying levels of worth lie beneath another asset eligible for transformation into cash. This instrument of value is referred to as Exchange Traded Funds, ETFs. ETFs happen to be a specialty of BlackRock ever since the company launched a range of commercial ETFs into Stock Market circulation through its iShares division. BlackRock’s role on both sides of buying and selling ETFs comes up repeatedly as one of the many conflicts of interest of which the Wall Street firm stands accused.

    Given that BlackRock is involved in one way or another in the proprietorship of pretty much every major company in the world, there is plenty to back up the allegation that Black Rock is an interested party in most of the transactions in which it engages as part of its partnership with the US Fed and Treasury Branch.

    Pam Matens and Russ Martens have been very critical of the role of the Federal Reserve and BlackRock in the current economic crisis. They have anticipated that, if the current drift of events continues, American taxpayers will once again be gobsmacked with a huge growth in the national debt. This development would amount to another major transfer of wealth away from working people to the beneficiaries of Wall Street firms and the same commercial institutions that received the lion’s share of funds during the last bailout.

    The co-authors picture BlackRock is part of a scheme to use “Special Purpose Vehicles” like “Enron used to hide the true state of its finances and blow itself up.” They entitle their article published on 31 March, 2020 as  “The Dark Secrets in the Fed’s Wall Street Bailout Are Getting a Devious Makeover in Today’s Bailout.”

    The authors observe. “What makes the New York Fed’s bailout of Wall Street so much more dangerous this time around is that it has decided to use a different structure for its loans to Wall Street – one that will force losses on taxpayers and, it hopes, will provide an ironclad secrecy curtain around how much it spends and where the money goes.”

    I find this account of an effort by the Federal Reserve to create an “ironclad secrecy curtain” shocking under these circumstances. It suggests an intention to exceed the deceptiveness of the last bailout. This warning renews longstanding suspicions that the failures of transparency and accountability have not subsided since the beginning of the era when deregulation and the 9/11 deceptions converged in the domestic and international operations of Wall Street.

    The structural problems already identified in the process initiated to implement the CARES Act could have enormous consequences if the current economic crisis continues to deteriorate. This deterioration is not likely to stop anytime soon given the depth of the crash and its probable domino effects. It was reported in late July that during the second quarter of 2020 the US Gross Domestic Product collapsed at an annualized rate of 33%, the deepest decline in output ever recorded since the US government began measuring GDP in 1947.

    The CARES Act helped set in motion a program with the potential to repeat elements of the earlier bailout. The amount of $454 billion was to be set aside to assist the banking sector. The Fed can leverage this amount by ten times according to the principles of fractional reserve banking.

    The news of this development caused Mike Whitney to imagine “the Fed turning itself into a hedge fund in order to buy the sludge that has accumulated on the balance sheets of corporations and financial institutions for the last decade,” Whitney pictured an onslaught of “scheming sharpies who will figure out how to game the system and turn the whole fiasco into another Wall Street looting operation.”

    Meanwhile the Martens Team at Wall Street on Parade called attention to the $9 trillion already injected by the New York Fed to flood liquidity into the still-troubled Repo Markets that began to falter in September of 2019. Add to this revelation the news that the Fed “has not announced one scintilla of information on what specific Wall Street firms have received this money or how much they individually received.”

    There is no doubt that the nature of economic relations will be substantially altered in the process of dealing with the financial meltdown induced by the lockdowns and by the overreliance on high debt rates combined with artificially low interest rates prior to 2020. The altered political economy that is beginning to emerge following the lockdowns is sometimes described as state monopoly capitalism.

    In deciding what companies get bailed out and what companies don’t, the financial authorities that are intervening in this crisis are pretty much deciding what enterprises get the advantage of federal financial backstops and what enterprises will not enjoy government sanction. Increasingly, therefore, it is the state that determines winners and losers in the organizing of financial relations. This development further undermines any notion that some idealized vision of competition and market forces will determine winners and losers in the economy of the future.

    As Peter Ewarts has observed, it seems that BlackRock is being delegated by federal authorities to exercise “discretionary powers to pick winners and losers,” a choice that is “where the real bonanza and clout lies.” Will the winners be chosen from the companies run by executives that used the money gained from the prior bailouts to engage in stock buy backs? This process of buying back stock tends to be reflected in CEO bonuses and higher share prices. Alternatively this way of allocating funds tends to short change workers as well as innovation and efficiency in industrial production?

    Will companies be rewarded whose executives have moved production facilities overseas or issued billions in junk bonds? Will companies be rewarded whose directors have participated in the effort to censor the Internet, bring about lockdowns or foment mask hysteria? Why is it that the coddled elites serving the financial imperatives of most wealthy branches of society are being put in the best position to decide who gets a life preserver from the state and who must sink and drown?

    Might this bias be a factor in the current process that led Forbes Magazine to conclude in a headline that “Billionaries Are Getting Richer During the Covid-19 Pandemic While Most Americans Suffer.”

    There can be no doubt that the financial transactions beginning with the CARES Act represent a crucial initial stage in what the promoters of the World Economic Forum have been labeling as the Great Reset. Laurence Fink and the BlackRock firm are significant participants in the World Economic Forum. The WEF helped introduce the pandemic in Event 201 in October of 2019 even as it is now trying to put a positive face on the fiasco.

    Why should the people most harshly affected by the lockdowns tolerate that the very Wall Street interests dispossessing them, are tasked once again to lead and exploit the reset of the financial system? As presently structured by the likes of BlackRock and its beneficiaries, this process is once again transferring new wealth to the most wealthy branches of society. Simultaneously it is burdening the rest of the population with yet another massive increase in both personal and national indebtedness.

    There is no more discussion of “trickle down” economics, a frequent metaphor invoked in the Reagan-Thatcher era. Instead we are in the midst of an increasingly intense phase of suck up economics. The rich are being further enriched and further empowered through the dispossession of the poor and the middle classes. This procedure, initiated when locked down citizens were sidelined from the political process, has the potential to result in the largest upward transfer of wealth so far in history.

    BlackRock Versus the Debt-Lite Legacy of the Bank of Canada

    At the end of March Laurence Fink, CEO and founder of BlackRock, announced in a letter to his company’s shareholder, “We are honored to have been selected to assist the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Bank of Canada on programs designed to facilitate capital to businesses and support the economy.”

    This announcement might leave the impression that the Bank of Canada and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York are similar institutions. This impression is unfounded. The two banks have very different structures and histories. A spotlight on these differences helps illuminate the nature of a number of core financial issues.

    These financial issues should command avid attention during this time of reckoning with a serious economic crisis that may well be still in its early stages. Such issues inevitably draw attention to the current manifestations of very old questions about the character of money and its relationship to the concepts of usury and debt. Questions about debt, debt enslavement as well as the possibility of debt renunciation or debt forgiveness are becoming especially pressing.

    These controversial queries arise in an era when a tiny minority is aggressively asserting sweeping claims to ownership of vast concentrations of the world’s available assets. The other side of this picture reveals that the largest mass of humanity is sinking into a swamp of rising debt on a scale that is concurrently unsustainable and unconscionable. How did this level of inequity reach such audacious extremes? Are there any remedies in sight?

    There is nothing to suggest structural remediation in the current approach to the economic crisis. In fact so far there is every indication that the current approach of bringing about an enormous expansion in the availability of debt-laden money will only compound the further dispossession of the already dispossessed in order to expand the wealth of the already wealthy.

    As already noted, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York is one of twelve regional banks that together constitute the US Federal Reserve. Every regional Federal Reserve Bank is owned by a group of private banks. Each of the private banks at the base of a Federal Reserve regional bank marks its proprietorship through the ownership of shares. These shares cannot be freely traded in stock markets. The ownership of these shares expresses the private ownership of the US banking system.

    The Fed’s New York regional bank has a special role in money creation given its location at the heart of the US financial sector on and around Wall Street. In this crisis, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York is creating new money in the name of holding back onslaughts of destitution and penury in a traumatized society. Ever since 1913 every new dollar brought into existence by the Federal Reserve, which is the central bank of the United States, creates added debt that collects compound interest as long as it is left unpaid.

    The Bank of Canada was created to counter the delegation of money-creating authority to privately-owned banks. The Bank of Canada was founded during the Great Depression, a time when the failure of many existing institutions created the conditions to try out alternative entities in the attempt to improve economic relationships.

    One of the driving forces in the creation of Canada’s new banking system was Gerald Gratten McGeer. McGreer was an elected official in British Columbia dedicated to changing the system so that the people of Canada could generate their own currency through the sovereign authority of Canada’s Parliament. McGeer helped to push the national government of Prime Minister R.B. Bennett in this direction. The wheels were set in motion in 1933 through the work on the Royal Commission on Banking and Currency.

    McGeer drew much of his inspiration from former US President, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln led the US federal government throughout the US Civil War. To finance the Armed Forces of the Union, Lincoln used the authority of the federal government to create “Greenbacks” as a means of paying the troops. By employing the sovereign authority of the US government to create its own currency, Lincoln avoided the intrigues that often accompanied the process of borrowing money from foreign lenders.

    McGreer had obtained what he viewed as credible evidence that Lincoln had been assassinated because of his antagonism to the designs of private bankers seeking to widen their base of power in the United States. The Canadian politician had taken to heart a comment attributed often to Lincoln: “The privilege of creating and issuing money is not only the supreme prerogative of Government, but it is the Government’s greatest creative opportunity.”

    The Bank of Canada was created in 1934 and nationalized as a Crown Corporation in 1938. To this day it retains its founding charter that affirms,

    WHEREAS it is desirable to establish a central bank in Canada to regulate credit and currency in the best interests of the economic life of the nation, to control and protect the external value of the national monetary unit and to mitigate by its influence fluctuations in the general level of production, trade, prices and employment, so far as may be possible within the scope of monetary action, and generally to promote the economic and financial welfare of Canada.

    The Bank of Canada formed an essential basis of a very creative period of Canadian growth, development, and diversification throughout the middle decades of the twentieth century. The Bank of Canada created the capital that financed the Canadian war effort from 1939 until 1945. After the war the Bank of Canada lent money at very low rates of interest to the municipal, provincial and national governments. The monies were used for infrastructure projects and for investments to increase the wellbeing and creative potential of Canada’s most important resource, its people.

    This type of low interest or no interest financing formed the economic basis for projects like the creation of a national pension plan, national health care insurance, the Trans-Canada Highway, the St. Lawrence Seaway, the Avro-Arrow initiative as well as a formidable system of colleges and universities.

    One could say that the Bank of Canada provided an indigenous money supply that was spent into the operations of a fast growing economy greased with lots of federal liquidity. The new money derived its value from the efforts of Canadian workers.  Together they brought about significant increases in the country’s net worth through practical improvements that bettered the lives of all citizens.

    Consider the contrast between this type of national development and the kind of larceny facilitated by the Federal Reserve’s infusions of the money it creates into Wall Street’s operations in the twenty-first century. In, for instance, the financial bailouts of 2007 to 2010 the largest part of the newly-created money ended up in the coffers of the wealthy whereas the new debt created ended up as part of a US national debt.

    The burden of carrying this debt falls inter-generationally on average working people who form the lion’s share of taxpayers. They have long been saddled with an “inextinguishable debt” that unrelentingly grows, hardly ever shrinks, and remains basically unpayable forever. The very concept of “compound interest” conveys the image of an overall debt spread out over many venues. This debt must grow in perpetuity. There is a constant need for additional debtors while existing debtors must face constantly growing personal debt.

    There is reason to suspect that the financial debacle of 2020 will re-enact some the worst excesses of the 2008 bailout. Might the payouts this time around to derivative-addicted Wall Street firms like Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase exceed the scale of the prior bailout? Would there be any way of even knowing whether the current round of payouts outdoes the former round of bailouts? The current process of federal disbursements is not transparent. In fact the process has been described as one designed to “provide an ironclad secrecy curtain around how much [the Fed} spends and where the money goes.”

    Why is the Canadian government turning to the very firm that emerged as Wall Street’s main fixer and winner in the 2008 bailouts? Why is Justin Trudeau looking to BlackRock to respond to the Canadian aspects of the 2020 economic crash?

    Justin Trudeau seems unwilling or unable to provide a coherent answer to this question and others requiring thoughtful replies rather than barrages of platitudes. Why is Justin Trudeau instituting what Joyce Nelson has characterized as a “new feudalism” in Canada’s economic policies?

    Any decent effort of response on Trudeau’s part would have to make some reference to the background of the current debacle. There would have to be some acknowledgment that between 1934 and 1974 the Canada government did not build up any significant national debt. Then, between 1974 and 2020, the national debt of Canada skyrocketed from $22 billion to $700 billion.

    Why was such a good and sustainable use of the Bank of Canada put aside, one that contributed magnificently to the health and wellbeing of the Canadian people as well as the Canadian federation? Who lost out? Who gained besides the international bankers?

    The incomprehensible abandonment of a winning formula for Canadian development by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau puts a special onus on his son, Canada’s current PM, to explain the incredibly costly mistake of his father. Why won’t Justin Trudeau fix the mistake of his father and restore the Bank of Canada to its former role in Canadian nation building?

    There has never been a full and satisfactory explanation of what really happened in 1974 to persuade Pierre Trudeau to throw aside the means of developing infrastructure with resources generated internally within Canada. Trudeau Senior’s decision to stop building up Canada through the operation of the Canadian people’s own national bank was not debated in Parliament. The option was never part of an election platform let alone the subject of a national referendum.

    Apparently the Swiss-based Bank of International Settlements, which is often referred to as the central bank for central bankers, had some role in Pierre Trudeau’s decision to cease using the Bank of Canada’s powers to generate near-debt-free Canadian currency.

    Government as a Means of Escaping Debt Entrapment

    That powers of debt-lite money creation invested by Parliament in the Bank of Canada have never been formally withdrawn. The Bank of Canada could still revert back to the direct creation of Canadian currency to be spent into an economy of national recovery; to be spent in investments in infrastructure as well as in cultivating and applying the creative skills of the Canadian people.

    Between 2011 and 2017 a court case was brought against the government of Canada with the aim of restoring the Bank of Canada to its former role. As Rocco Galati, the lawyer for the Committee on Monetary and Economic Reform (COMER) explained  “Not only has the government abandoned its constitutional duty to govern, but it has transferred it to international private banks which corresponds to an abandonment of its sovereignty.”

    After some significant rulings and contentious appeals, the COMER case came to an end without delivering results that its plaintiffs sought. But the court case helped to put a spotlight on the potential of the Bank of Canada. If properly utilized, this institution could provide a model corrective to the subordination of governance to the international Lords of Debt Explotation and their minions.

    This process of politicizing the role of the Bank of Canada should extend to a process of calling out Justin Trudeau’s current approach to selling off key components of Canada’s infrastructure.

    This topic came up in private discussions between Larry Fink and Justin Trudeau at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January of 2016. Fink apparently got Trudeau interested in attracting private investors to the project of improving or building Canadian infrastructure projects like roads, high-speed trains, airports and such. This kind of approach to developing infrastructure projects runs counter to the role once played by the Bank of Canada in incorporating self-sufficiency into the process of national building.

    The dangers and opportunities in this time of manufactured crises are indeed unprecedented.  Instead of rejecting the Davos crowd’s preoccupation with a giant reset, why not embrace the concept? Why not treat this moment as an opening to reset the global economy in a way that would restore the Bank of Canada to some of its former functions. Why not highlight this return to the sovereign embrace of benevolent nation building as an example for the rest of the world?

    Why not reconstitute the worldwide structures of the international system of economic relations to restore elected governments to the functions that have been pre-empted by unaccountable institutions like the US Federal Reserve or the Bank for International Settlements? Why not renew the model of banking as an exercise and expression of national sovereignty and the self-determination of peoples in a dynamic global arena of rules-based economic interaction?

    Why not withdraw the power from private bankers to create national currencies? Why not follow the advice of the deceased Abraham Lincoln by restoring “the greatest of all creative possibilities available to governments,” namely their power to issue money and set interest rates. The restoration of economic power to governments and the people and peoples they represent would involve the infusion of life into conceptions of globalization very different than those used to justify the industrialization of China and the deindustrialization of North America.

    By delegating to international organizations much of their capacity to influence the economic conditions affecting their own people, national legislatures have lost much of their capacity to provide responsible government. Governments thus weakened are not realistically in a position to derive their authority from the consent of the governed. When representative bodies cannot effectively express the right of their constituents to collective self-determination in economic realm, what legitimacy is left to the institution of representative government?

    This strange moment puts humanity face to face with much that is novel and unprecedented and much that is old and integral to the history of human interaction. The economic dimensions of this crisis constitute its most devastating and far-reaching attribute. The supposed remedy being rushed into operation is to flood large quantities of debt-laden loans into existence and for governments to distribute the borrowed funds to individuals, businesses, and organizations as they see fit.

    Once again, vast quantities of debt-laden money are being created without the informed consent of those on whose shoulders the vastly increased loads of debt are falling. Once again governments are rewarding political friends and punishing political enemies by means of the way the new funds are being apportioned.

    Decisions are pushed forward that emanate not from citizen constituents but from cabals of supranational connivers actively engaged in wrecking what little remains of responsible government. As governments lose legitimacy by engaging in collusion with corrupt cronies and international crime syndicates they must depend more and more on police state thuggery to enforce some semblance of order.

    This process is going forward in spite of the fact that alternative means exist to create as much new money as is required without having to pay large amounts of compound interest to private bankers. Every sovereign government has the capacity to generate new money by following the model of the Bank of Canada between 1938 and 1974.

    There is an especially urgent need at this time for some serious reckoning with the economic dimensions of the crisis before us. This reckoning will inevitably meet the resistance of extremely powerful interests who are deriving great benefits from the existing system. The process of privatizing the creation of money has enriched and empowered a clique whose institutionalized, deep-rooted and continuing kleptocracy was exposed in part by the bailout of 2008.

    Why should we take for granted in 2020 that the best way to deal with the economic debacle put before us is to create new money by agreeing to go much deeper into a quagmire of debt entrapment. This debt trap, whose cumulative amount will soon be more that $300 trillion globally, creates gross liabilities in a trajectory of disadvantage that severely limits the life chances even of many generations still unborn.

    The other side of debt is embodied in assets. Who gets the assets and who gets the liabilities that coalesce to form indebtedness? What is to be made of the role of birth or inheritance or race or natural ability or social connections in apportioning assets or imposing the enslavements of accumulated debt?

    John Perkins addressed some of these issues in his Confessions of an Economic Hit Man and in a subsequent follow-up volume. Perkins chronicled how an inter-related complex of US institutions aligned themselves with his own greedy and unscrupulous interventions. The goal of their coordinated aggressions was aimed at imposing the enslavements of massive debt with compound interest. Their version of loan sharking is one of many manifestations expressing a very old and common phenomenon. It often happens that powerful interests parasitically exploit the weak to further enrich themselves.

    This partnership between John Perkins and the kleptocratic agencies directed by the US government has long been drawing wealth from struggling countries by pushing them more deeply into national indebtedness. Once the governments of target countries succumbed to greater dependence on debt-based financing, the conditions were ripe to force officials into adopting policies of austerity that harmed local citizens in order to augment the assets of international investors.

    Significantly the World Bank demonstrated how this coercion works in the context of the current economic crisis. The World Bank attempted to impose conditions on a loan of $940 million to Belarus because the WB wanted Belarus to conform to the lockdowns that are a primary cause of the current manufactured crisis.

    As revealed by the Belarus’s President, Alexander Lukashenko, the World Bank wanted his country to adopt the full set of COVID-19 measures that had been implemented by the Italian government. Lukashenko said no to the loan. He refused to accept the conditions and carried on the established policies of Belarus, a country that has “not implemented strict coronavirus containment measures.”

    Lukashenko is far from alone in his contempt for the manipulative tactics of the apparatus promoting the manufactured crisis. For instance Tanzanian President, John Magufuli, tested the accuracy of the testing procedures being forced on his country by the World Health Organization. President and Medical Doctor Mugufi included in the samples submitted to the testing agency some tissue of a goat and a papaya. Both the goat and the papaya tested positive for COVID-19, an outcome he publicized before ordering the WHO group to leave his country.

    The Political Economy of Usury From the Middle Ages to the Era of Social Credit and Ezra Pound

    We cannot assess the division of humanity between a massive group of debtors and a much smaller group of creditors without touching on the issue of usury. The subject of usury, the lending of money with the addition of interest payments, has been an extremely contentious issue throughout much of human history.

    There were prohibitions against usury in ancient Greece, ancient India and the Roman Empire. Throughout much of the last thousand years usury has been regarded as a sin outlawed in the Bible, the Torah and the Koran. At different times in history the Roman Catholic Church has been an especially zealous opponent of some forms of usury.

    Considering the nature of our current predicaments including obscene levels of economic inequality, usury might yet again arouse contentions. Some of the core ethical issues raised by the resort to usury remain unresolved. How is it ethical, for instance, to subject disinherited children in poor countries to the indignities of deepened poverty so that rich folks in rich parts of the world can reap larger dividends?

    Beginning in the Middle Ages, forms of usury began to show up first in the Italian city states and in the towns of the Franco-Flemish realm. The act of loaning money with interest gradually spread throughout Europe. In some predominately-Muslim jurisdictions, the concept conveyed in the Arabic term, “riba,” approximated the idea of usury or interest. Over time various versions of riba have affected Muslim banking practices.

    Often there were prohibitions preventing Jews from demanding interest on loans made to other Jews. There were many Talmudic teachings, however, permitting interest to be collected from gentiles when they borrowed money from Jews. Many accounts of Jewish efforts to break down prohibitions on usury highlight obstacles preventing Jews from pursuing other lines of work. The case is made that the pull of some Jews into banking came about in part because of their exclusion from other occupations.

    Whatever the case, the obstacles to usury continued to be lessened including through the changes to Biblical interpretation that came with the Protestant Reformation. Even in the twentieth century, however, usury continued to arouse criticism and distrust. Ezra Pound was one of those who became very outspoken when it came to problems with usury.

    The modernist poet and scholar, Ezra Pound, was one of the most influential literary figures of the twentieth century. The importance of his work was expressed not only in his own literary efforts but also in his contributions to other authors in his circle of friends and colleagues.

    Pound’s outspoken criticism of usury formed part of the discourse that was integral to the political movements seeking economic reform. The creation and successful nationalization of the Bank of Canada was one of the outgrowths of the concerted quest to give substance to economic institutions that would more effectively serve human needs.

    The creation of the Bank of Canada drew on the ideas of Abraham Lincoln and also on those of many other theorists including Major C.H. Douglas. While Major Douglas and John Maynard Keynes each denounced one another’s work, both sought to stimulate economic activity by expanding the supply and distribution of money.  Major Douglas’ vision of Social Credit, one that Pound enthusiastically embraced, sought to bring about greater harmony and equilibrium between the forces of production and consumption.

    A biographer of Pound has explained that this formidable literary figure believed “there was the prospect of building a Social Credit society where money served the consumer and served the producer.”  As Pound pictured it, “the middle men” seeking usurious, interest bearing profit” to be collected “without work or prior motivation, could be cut out.” During the Depression the hope of prosperity through the application of Social Credit principles was seized upon by many. One of them was an evangelical preacher in the Canadian province of Alberta.

    Largely as a result of the popularity he gained by incorporating Major Douglas’ analysis of Social Credit into his Sunday afternoon Christian radio broadcast, “Bible Bill” Aberhart became the Premier of Alberta. His Social Credit Party gained 56 of 63 seats in the Alberta Legislature. The Social Credit Party continued in power until 1971.

    The Social Credit preoccupation with bringing about changes in the relationship of citizens to financial institutions helped add to the discourse from which the Bank of Canada emerged as a dynamic instrument of nation building.

    The enthusiasm was well placed of those who threw their lot in with the movement to create and enlivened the Bank of Canada. The generations that put their trust in this federal financial institution had the satisfaction of knowing that their taxes were not devoured to pay big amounts of interest to private bankers in the style that presently prevails almost everywhere.

    Like his good friend and colleague, Ernest Hemingway, Pound was a devotee of clear, terse and succinct prose.

    This characteristic of his writing comes through strongly in his harsh condemnations of usury. “Usury is the cancer of the world,” Pound wrote. He explained, “Until you know who has lent to whom, you know nothing of politics, you know nothing whatever of history, you know nothing of international wrangles.”

    Ezra Pound was born in Idaho but was attracted to Italy throughout long periods of his life. In Italy he lionized its fascist leader, Benito Mussolini. He embraced the Axis side in World War II developing close relations with the British fascist leader, Oswald Mosley. Pound threw himself into the contest producing a torrent of radio broadcasts seeking to win over English-speaking converts to the Axis side. These broadcasts are today widely described as war propaganda.

    Pound was indicted in the United States in 1943 and arrested at the war’s end by the US Armed Forces in Italy. After being jailed in Pisa, Pound was charged with treason. Then Pound was diagnosed as being mentally unfit to face charges.

    The finding that he was mentally ill caused Pound to be locked up as a patient in St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in the Washington DC area for the next 13 years. In spite of his severe prejudices against Jewish bankers and his active embrace of fascism during the war years, Pound continued to carry on very lively interactions with his formidable circle of poets, essayists and novelists.

    Pound’s circle included James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, and T.S. Eliot. All these writers wrote works that won a Nobel Prize for Literature. These and many other authors benefited from Pound’s encouragement and mentorship. In 1948 Eustace Mullins joined Pound’s circle. Mullins was introduced to the famous poet and scholar through Pound’s wife, Dorothy Shakespeare,

    When he first met Pound, Mullins was an art school student and a veteran of the US Air Force. He had already published some short pieces in the British journal, Social Creditor. Mullins remembered Pound’s place of forced residence as “a hideous, urine-soaked madhouse in Washington D.C.” As their visits became increasingly regular, Pound encouraged Mullins to conduct research into the history and activities of the Federal Reserve.

    When Pound proposed the idea Mullins was unaware of the existence of the Federal Reserve. Nevertheless, Mullins threw himself into the project that he supported by combining his research with work as a book stacker at the Library of Congress. At the Library he befriended George Stimpson who was well known among Washington journalists and government officials for his wealth of knowledge and his ability to locate relevant research materials.

    Stimpson happily worked with Mullins. He helped the aspiring author by guiding him into the primary and secondary literature illuminating many facets of the Federal Reserve’s history

    Eustace Mullins Explores the Secrets of the Federal Reserve

    An initial edition of the volume appeared in 1952 as Mullins on the Federal Reserve. Another edition with added information was published in 1954. The text has been republished many times, sometimes in different editions under the title Secrets of the Federal Reserve. The text is organized around both thematic and chronological facets.

    Mullins lays out the history of the Federal Reserve with considerable attention to the institution’s roots and origins. The author emphasizes several strands of continuity showing the links of the Federal Reserve to the banking establishments of Europe but especially those of Great Britain and Germany.

    Mullins characterizes the Federal Reserve as the most powerful institution in the United States whose influence grew so that “it gradually superseded the popular elected government of the United States.” The power of the Fed and its core facet, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, is said to have become so formidable because the agency operates in secrecy without any genuine form of accountability to any public institution. The NY Fed combines the power of secrecy with the enormous power to create new currency and to set interest rates becoming in the process “the most gigantic trust on earth.”

    Mullins makes the case that the financial district known as the City of London exercised enormous influence over the activities of the Federal Reserve and many of the large Wall Street banks. Mullins wrote, “London is the world’s financial centre, because it commands enormous sums of capital created at its command by the Federal Reserve Board of the United States.”

    Mullins is conscientious in presenting many citations to back up his observations and interpretations. He cites, for instance the New York Times on January of 1920 where it states, “The Federal Reserve is a fount of credit not capital.” The manipulation of credit, however, can greatly affect the industrial economy by affecting the ability of manufacturers and farmers to produce.

    Mullins emphasizes throughout the text how events are often engineered to strengthen the hand of the Lords of Credit in the matrix of society’s operations. In referring, for instance, to a secret banker’s plan to crash the stock market in 1929, Mullins expressed a view that could as easily describe the growing suspicion in 2020. Could it be that the lockdowns of businesses and workers were purposely engineered to strengthen the hands of the Lords of Credit whose main platform is the Federal Reserve Bank of New York?

    Mullins explains that sometimes “bankers paralyse the industrial energies of the country” in order to highlight and strengthen “their tremendous powers” over the financial and business organization of the American economy. Mullins’ observation that “panic is an instrument of [financial] power” is another statement with obvious relevance to the current crisis.

    As have many authors since, Mullins emphasizes the importance of a top-secret meeting on Jekyll Island in the state of Georgia in 1910. At this meeting Paul Warburg essentially took the intellectual lead in creating a plan for a Central Bank in the United States. Such an institution was long contemplated and promoted but it had been stopped repeatedly, most famously be Andrew Jackson. Jackson’s political career culminated in his winning the US presidency between 1829 and 1837.

    Warburg left his family banking business in Hamburg Germany in 1902. He joined the Wall Street Office of Kuhn Loeb, a Wall Street House that helped finance the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. Mullins devotes much effort to describing the complex of alliances and rivalries that characterized banking before and after the founding of the Fed.

    Weaving throughout these networks of financial activity were the banking operations of the Rothschild family. Mullins leaves no doubt that the operations of the Rothschild family of bankers were extensive, elaborate and very influential.

    In the nineteenth century the Rothschild banking establishment gradually wove its operations into those of large segments of Europe’s royal and aristocratic establishments. Mullins emphasizes the genesis of the close business relationship between the Rothschild banking clan and a London-based US company, George Peabody and Company.

    Peabody’s bank was passed on to a father and son team, Junius Spencer Morgan and John Pierpont Morgan. In the days of the Fed’s founding and even today, the name of J.P. Morgan is synonymous with New York banking. Mullins explains how the Rothschild bankers kept a fairly low profile in New York by conducting much of their American business largely through the financial organizations associated with the name and reputation of J.P. Morgan.

    Mullins outlines the role of the Federal Reserve in the funding of two world wars. Many of the topics covered in Secrets of the Federal Reserve were later pursued in much more detail in the prolific writings of Antony C. Sutton.

    Most of Sutton’s volumes describe the role of Wall Street in helping to bring about many of world history’s major turning points during the twentieth century. These turning points include Wall Street’s funding of the rise of the National Socialist government in Germany in the 1930s and the role of Wall Street in financing the Bolshevik Revolution and the business activities of the Soviet Union.

    The capacity of the New York Bank of the Federal Reserve to create vast quantities of credit to finance wars, often with the same bankers funding competing sides in conflicts, provided the key to the creation of huge fortunes. The funding of both sides in war can be seen as an early form of hedging one’s bets. This kind of high impact intervention through banking sometimes created huge leverage for a very small number of people to steer history towards preconceived destinations.

    As Mullins explains it, the Federal Reserve was founded in extreme secrecy and often employs deceptive tactics to misrepresent its true nature. As Mullins sees it, for instance, the creation of the twelve regional banks was a ploy to gain political acceptance for the Central Bank’s core entity, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Mullins explains, “the other eleven banks were so many expensive mausoleums erected to salve local pride and quell the Jacksonian fears of the hinterland.”

    The ability of Wall Street bankers to invoke the credit creating powers of the New York Fed forms a key aspect of the frequent military adventurism of the US government. This military adventurism continued full force even after the United States became the world’s largest debtor nation after 1990. How large has been the role of the US Fed in building up the US national debt together with the tens of trillions missing from the books of the US Defense Department?

    The Israel Lobby and the Federal Reserve

    Much of the military adventurism of the United States especially after 9/11 was directed into invasions of Muslim-majority countries that threaten a particular view of Israel as a dominant power in its region and in the world. Why would it be that the Federal Reserve is any less involved in creating the available credit for the waging of wars in the twenty-first century than it was in creating the wars of the twentieth century?

    In his authorship of The Secrets of the Federal Reserve, Mullins seems largely oblivious to the role in world history of Zionism and the genesis of Israel. His main attention lay elsewhere. As I read his text, he accurately conveyed how the large Jewish influence in the banking institution of Europe, including the influence of the Rothschild consortium, was extended into Wall Street including the Federal Reserve.

    While Mullins does not shy aware from dealing with the Jewish component of the story he set out to tell, I don’t think he belabours this subject or becomes aggressively polemical about it. Certainly the same cannot be said of some of his critics whose condemnations of Mullins can sometimes be extremely polemical.

    Mullins might have made more of the identity politics prevailing throughout the twentieth century. The sensibilities of the dominant Christian constituency in the United States probably influenced the decisions of many customers shopping for banking services. Quite likely some of them would have been more comfortable dealing with firms identified with names like J.P. Morgan, Rockefeller and Mellon rather than Warburg, Greenspan or Fink. Times, however, have changed.

    Some of the more severe prejudices seem to have subsided around the time that Sandy Weill combined his Travellers Insurance Company with Citicorp to create Citigroup. This merger helped create the political momentum leading to the elimination of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999. With Glass-Steagall’s elimination, Citigroup tried to become a giant department store of varied financial services. In its inner sanctums, however, Citigroup developed a preoccupation with derivatives that continues yet.

    In the twenty-first century it happened that some of the cosmetic overlays were removed that had previously been imposed to disguise the large representation of Jews in Wall Street banking, including in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. For good or bad, usury has become a core features of how the contemporary world is organized. Some reckoning with the ethnic inheritances attending usury are therefore inescapable, especially when dealing with the some of the most dramatic displays of usury on steroids in Wall Street institutions.

    Where I see the need to draw a line in the sand is not on the question of the ethnicity of Wall Street personnel. Rather this line in the sand involves the question of how power is used or abused at the domineering heights of our financial institutions. Generally speaking it is not a justifiable use of the Federal Reserve to produce credit that enables the waging of wars that are offensive rather than defensive in character.

    The waging of war has long been one of the big bonanzas producing major windfalls for international bankers. In the twenty-first century so many of the wars involve the flexing of military might by the United States to advance the expansionary designs of the Israeli state. The US Federal Reserve has been part of the process of creating what some would consider wars for Israel in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Iran.

    Why are the money-generating powers of the secretive Federal Reserve being invoked to help fund wars for Israel and also to help shape public opinion to accept the US role in these wars of aggression. Especially sensitive is the further indebting of the American people to subsidize the production of propaganda aimed at persuading them to back wars for Israel. This propaganda is deemed necessary to deflate opposition to Israel’s actions including the ruthless dehumanizing treatment of Palestinian Arabs.

    We have seen that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was deeply engaged in 2008 in transferring tens of trillions into the coffers of its own member institutions and counterparties. What uses were made of this bailout produced through a dubious process of legalized financial larceny?

    One way or another the Israel Lobby must be a prime beneficiary of the machinations of Wall Street and its money spigot, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. This pattern of priority can easily be related to US federal funding of the Israel project as a higher priority in federal budgeting than even the basic needs of the domestic population of the United States. Black Lives Do Matter but why is it that the lives of Israel First Partisans seem to matter more than any other group?

    This Israel Lobby has the power to prevent any critic of Israeli policies from gaining the nomination of a major US party to run for US president. The result is that, in election after election, Americans are offered a very limited choice between competitors who are equally supportive of Israel.

    The Israel Lobby can intervene to prevent the leadership of opposition parties from adopting policies that emphasize equity in Israel-Palestinian relations. Through its campaign contributions, the Israel Lobby dominates the process of choosing and electing representatives in Congress. How much does it cost to buy the political obedience of most federal politicians? How much does it cost to replicate this feat in the state legislatures and even municipal governments?

    Through the ownership and/or control of major media outlets, the Israel Lobby exerts major influence in determining the main outlines of much public discourse when it comes to US-Israeli relations and many related subjects. How could one calculate the amount of money it took to achieve this feat? How much of this money is directed into payments for compliance, in other words, bribery? In the post-Epstein era what is the role of bribery’s criminal cousin, namely backmail?

    The Israel Lobby is deeply engaged with other lobbies in transforming the Internet from an open forum of public interaction and debate into a centrally controlled propaganda instrument. Prominent among the Internet’s most aggressive censors and thought police are Google, You Tube, Facebook, Twitter and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.

    Through all kinds of interventions the Israel Lobby asserts significant forms of control over a broad array of institutions and operations including those of the judiciary, the universities, book publishing, magazine publishing, municipal governments, trade unions and cultural groups. The biggest and most influential cultural group of all is the Hollywood film industry. Not surprisingly there is little in its cinematic output that provides critical perspectives on Zionism and its emanations.

    The injection of huge amounts of money are essential to the exercise of so much concerted influence over such a broad sweep of political, intellectual and cultural organizations. Where do the large quantities of money supporting the activities the Israel project come from? Why is it that so many of agencies of the Israel Lobby have the status of charitable organizations with the capacity to extend tax write-offs to donors? What is the relationship of the Israel Lobby to Wall Street and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York?

    Even the act of asking such questions will be seen by some as heretical. There is, however, nothing wrong with looking into issues that have so much impact on the quality of our political discourse… so much impact on our capacity to live together with the civility and security we have been losing so quickly with the imposition of the economically crippling lockdowns.

    It is no less legitimate to ask questions about the ethnic identity of those who benefit most from the US economy than it is to ask questions about what groups suffer the most from the deprivations of poverty. Wouldn’t it make sense to try to moderate the disparities beginning with processes of research and discussion?

    In a book of the same name, former ADL Executive Director, Abe Foxman, has opened the discussion of Jews and Money. Foxman effectively counters the view that all Jews are rich. Foxman, of course, is correct in this assertion. All Jews are not rich. Some are outright poor. A fairly large number of Jews, however, are somewhat rich and a small minority of Jews are disproportionately invested with wealth and power. Jews are especially well represented in the billionaires club both within the United States and internationally.

    Some of the wealthiest Jews are part of the Wall Street establishment including the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Perhaps the time has come to begin retiring this, “the most gigantic trust on earth.” Perhaps it is time to retire some of the debt created over more than a century of putting private bankers in charge of dictating interest rates as well as creating debt-laden dollars. Perhaps the time has come to lessen the debt burden that is narrowing the life chances of so many people who have been funding the wars for Israel mounted in the wake of the 9/11 deception.

    The severity of the crisis before us compel all thoughtful people of conscience to look beyond the redeployment of old institutions and old remedies for old problems that are different from the challenges facing us now. One of the most obvious ways to avert further calamity is to move away altogether from the empowerment of private bankers to massively expand national debts with compound interest charged to tax payers.

    The alternative to this approach is to change the present means of creating new money. The creation of many banking systems similar to that of the Bank of Canada should be considered in the quest for the main ingredients of a global reset. The Bank of Canada brought about an almost-debt-free run of prodigious nation building before Pierre Trudeau bent the policies of his government to meet the impositions of the Bank of International Settlements.

  • First published at American Herald Tribune.
  • The post Lockdowns, Coronavirus, and Banks: Following the Money first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    Crushing the States, Saving the Banks: The Fed’s Generous New Rules

    Congress seems to be at war with the states. Only $150 billion of its nearly $3 trillion coronavirus relief package – a mere 5% – has been allocated to the 50 states; and they are not allowed to use it where they need it most, to plug the holes in their budgets caused by the mandatory shutdown. On April 22, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was opposed to additional federal aid to the states, and that his preference was to allow states to go bankrupt.

    No such threat looms over the banks, which have made out extremely well in this crisis. The Federal Reserve has dropped interest rates to 0.25%, eliminated reserve requirements, and relaxed capital requirements. Banks can now borrow effectively for free, without restrictions on the money’s use. Following the playbook of the 2008-09 bailout, they can make the funds available to their Wall Street cronies to buy up distressed Main Street assets at fire sale prices, while continuing to lend to credit cardholders at 21%.

    If there is a silver lining to all this, it is that the Fed’s relaxed liquidity rules have made it easier for state and local governments to set up their own publicly-owned banks, something they should do post haste to take advantage of the Fed’s very generous new accommodations for banks. These public banks can then lend to local businesses, municipal agencies, and local citizens at substantially reduced rates while replenishing the local government’s coffers, recharging the Main Street economy and the government’s revenue base.

    The Covert War on the States

    Payments going to state and local governments from the Coronavirus Relief Fund under the CARES Act may be used only for coronavirus-related expenses. They may not be used to cover expenses that were accounted for in their most recently approved budgets as of March 2020. The problem is that nearly everything local governments do is funded through their most recently approved budgets, and that funding will come up painfully short for all of the states due to increased costs and lost revenues forced by the coronavirus shutdown. Unlike the federal government, which can add a trillion dollars to the federal debt every year without fear of retribution, states and cities are required to balance their budgets. The Fed has opened a Municipal Liquidity Facility that may buy their municipal bonds, but this is still short-term debt, which must be repaid when due. Selling bonds will not fend off bankruptcy for states and cities that must balance their books.

    States are not legally allowed to declare bankruptcy, but Sen. McConnell contended that “there’s no good reason for it not to be available.” He said, “we’ll certainly insist that anything we borrow to send down to the states is not spent on solving problems that they created for themselves over the years with their pension programs.” And that is evidently the real motive behind the bankruptcy push. McConnell wants states put through a bankruptcy reorganization to get rid of all those pesky pension agreements and the unions that negotiated them. But these are the safety nets against old age for which teachers, nurses, police and firefighters have worked for 30 or 40 years. It’s their money.

    It has long been a goal of conservatives to privatize public pensions, forcing seniors into the riskier stock market. Lured in by market booms, their savings can then be raided by the periodic busts of the “business cycle,” while the more savvy insiders collect the spoils. Today political opportunists are using a crushing emergency that is devastating local economies to downsize the public sector and privatize everything.

    Free Money for Banks: The Fed’s Very Liberal New Rules

    Unlike the states, the banks were not facing bankruptcy from the economic shutdown; but their stocks were sinking fast. The Fed’s accommodations were said to be to encourage banks to “help meet demand for credit from households and businesses.” But while the banks’ own borrowing rates were dropped on March 15 from an already-low 1.5% to 0.25%, average credit card rates dropped in the following month only by 0.5% to 20.71%, still unconscionably high for out-of-work wage earners.

    Although the Fed’s accommodations were allegedly to serve Main Street during the shutdown, Wall Street had a serious liquidity problem long before the pandemic hit. Troubles surfaced in September 2019, when repo market rates suddenly shot up to 10%. Before 2008, banks borrowed from each other in the fed funds market; but after 2008 they were afraid to lend to each other for fear the borrowing banks might be insolvent and might not pay the loans back. Instead the lenders turned to the repo market, where loans were supposedly secured with collateral. The problem was that the collateral could be “rehypothecated” or used for several loans at once; and by September 2019, the borrower side of the repo market had been taken over by hedge funds, which were notorious for risky rehypothecation. The lenders therefore again pulled out, forcing the Fed to step in to save the banks that are its true constituents. But that meant the Fed was backstopping the whole repo market, including the hedge funds, an untenable situation. So it flung the doors wide open to its discount window, where only banks could borrow.

    The discount window is the Fed’s direct lending facility meant to help commercial banks manage short-term liquidity needs. In the past, banks have been reluctant to borrow there because its higher interest rate implied that the bank was on shaky ground and that no one else would lend to it. But the Fed has now eliminated that barrier. It said in a press release on March 15:

    The Federal Reserve encourages depository institutions to turn to the discount window to help meet demands for credit from households and businesses at this time. In support of this goal, the Board today announced that it will lower the primary credit rate by 150 basis points to 0.25% …. To further enhance the role of the discount window as a tool for banks in addressing potential funding pressures, the Board also today announced that depository institutions may borrow from the discount window for periods as long as 90 days, prepayable and renewable by the borrower on a daily basis.

    Banks can get virtually free loans from the discount window that can be rolled over from day to day as necessary. The press release said that the Fed had also eliminated the reserve requirement – the requirement that banks retain reserves equal to 10% of their deposits – and that it is “encouraging banks to use their capital and liquidity buffers as they lend to households and businesses who are affected by the coronavirus.” It seems that banks no longer need to worry about having deposits sufficient to back their loans. They can just borrow the needed liquidity at 0.25%, “renewable on a daily basis.” They don’t need to worry about “liquidity mismatches,” where they have borrowed short to lend long and the depositors have suddenly come for their money, leaving them without the funds to cover their loans. The Fed now has their backs, providing “primary credit” at its discount window to all banks in good standing on very easy terms. The Fed’s website states:

    Generally, there are no restrictions on borrowers’ use of primary credit….Notably, eligible depository institutions may obtain primary credit without exhausting or even seeking funds from alternative sources. Minimal administration of and restrictions on the use of primary credit makes it a reliable funding source.

    What State and Local Governments Can Do: Form Their Own Banks

    On the positive side, these new easy terms make it much easier for local governments to own and operate their own banks, on the stellar model of the century-old Bank of North Dakota. To fast-track the process, a state could buy a bank that was for sale locally, which would already have FDIC insurance and a master account with the central bank (something needed to conduct business with other banks and the Fed). The state could then move its existing revenues and those it gets from the CARES Act Relief Fund into the bank as deposits. Since there is no longer a deposit requirement, it need not worry if these revenues get withdrawn and spent. Any shortfall can be covered by borrowing at 0.25% from the Fed’s discount window. The bank would need to make prudent loans to keep its books in balance, but if its capital base gets depleted from a few non-performing loans, that too apparently need not be a problem, since the Fed is “encouraging banks to use their capital and liquidity buffers.” The buffers were there for an emergency, said the Fed, and this is that emergency.

    To cover startup costs and capitalization, the state might be able to use a portion of its CARES Relief Fund allotment. Its budget before March would not have included a public bank, which could serve as a critical source of funding for local businesses crushed by the shutdown and passed over by the bailout. Among the examples given of allowable uses for the relief funds are such things as “expenditures related to the provision of grants to small businesses to reimburse the costs of business interruption caused by required closures.” Providing below-market loans to small businesses would fall in that general category.

    By using some of its CARES Act funds to capitalize a bank, the local government can leverage the money by 10 to 1. One hundred million dollars in equity can capitalize $1 billion in loans. With the state bank’s own borrowing costs effectively at 0%, its operating costs will be very low. It can make below-market loans to creditworthy local borrowers while still turning a profit, which can be used either to build up the bank’s capital base for more loans or to supplement the state’s revenues. The bank can also lend to its own government agencies that are short of funds due to the mandatory shutdown. The salubrious effect will be to jumpstart the local economy by putting new money into it. People can be put back to work, local infrastructure can be restored and expanded, and the local tax base can be replenished.

    The coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated not only that the US needs to free itself from dependence on foreign markets by rebuilding its manufacturing base but that state and local governments need to free themselves from dependence on the federal government. Some state economies are larger than those of entire countries. Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose state ranks as the world’s fifth largest economy, has called California a “nation-state.” A sovereign nation-state needs its own bank.

    Economic Epidemic

    Dynamic duo:  Same bat virus, same fat profits

    From Havana to Helmstedt

    The major reason for Cuba’s travel restrictions — always used as grounds for slandering the Cuban state — is the extreme difficulty Cuba has maintaining foreign exchange reserves essential for international trade,  especially since the end of trade-in-kind with the COMECON. Every traveller from Cuba spends pesos that have to be covered by Cuba’s USD or EUR reserves. Since there are already more than enough obstacles imposed by the US embargo, every forex transaction is critical for Cuba’s balance of payments — for its ability to buy what it cannot produce. In fact, those who can still recall crossing from West Berlin to East Berlin will also remember that it was necessary to exchange DM 30 for M 30 for every day one spent in the GDR. This was heavily criticised in the West, especially by travellers who would complain that it was impossible to spend the M 30 in a day since everything was so inexpensive. Of course, the GDR was trying to compensate for the discriminatory exchange rates that made trade with the West a drain on its foreign currency reserves.

    While many ordinary visitors complained and the Western media encouraged Germans in the East to complain about the buying power of the GDR mark, the fact is that throughout the world national economies only survived the Bretton Woods regime as long as they maintained currency controls. A major element in the economic warfare waged by the US Empire since 1945 has been to abolish fixed exchange rates. Having rigged the post-war international monetary regime to replace the British pound with the US dollar as the benchmark currency, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank were deployed to stabilise the US dollar with advantage over the old European currencies.

    Although officially these were international institutions, they were organised like private corporations. The decisions were to be made by the majority of shares held in the IMF or World Bank. Since the US held the majority of capital in both, it was endowed with the most votes over any Fund or Bank decision. The quasi-currency of the Fund and the Bank was called special drawing rights (SDR). These units of account were based on a weighted value of the underlying “reserve” currencies, mainly the USD. SDRs could be used to resolve balance of payments discrepancies. Members of the IMF were extended SDRs according to the relative strengths of their economy. Based on the SDRs allocated to a country it could draw dollars or another reserve currency in amounts sufficient to pay temporary imbalances between imports and exports, transactions that after WWII were almost all USD business.

    As the late Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley once pointed out — when the Bretton Woods agreements were signed most of the countries, like Jamaica, were still colonies or protectorates of some European or North American power. Hence no provision was made for them to even have independent economies or national currencies. As a result most of the world’s population and any of the newly independent countries that did not adopt a version of a Euro-American currency had no way to monetize their economic activity in international trade. They were left entirely dependent upon the USD, GBP, and FF for foreign trade of any kind. In order to limit USD hegemony in Africa, the French invented the CFA-Franc. This African franc tied its former African colonies to France by giving the CFA-franc a favourable exchange rate with French franc, although not parity. Overall, however, the post-war independence movements were all faced with the inherent dependence of their currency systems from the machinations of US and European banks with their control over the two major foreign exchange markets, the City and Wall Street. The exceptions to this regime were the Soviet Union and COMECON as and after 1959 Cuba.

    When the US economy faced possible financial collapse toward the end of its war in Vietnam (it had been fairly successful in transferring the costs of the Korean War to the “United Nations”), secret negotiations by the Nixon administration with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had, through their offices within OPEC, saved the USD by abolishing the gold fixing and establishing the USD as the sole currency for the world oil trade. At one fell swoop any country that did not have domestic oil supplies or had to trade oil on the world market was forced to use US dollars. To prove the point the US regime has never hesitated to wage war against any OPEC member that does not comply with this iron rule. Of course, the US is the only country which can issue US dollars and its banks are the only ones who can sell USD denominated debt, directly or indirectly, hence the central role of the Federal Reserve System — the private banking cartel chartered to issue dollars and control US monetary policy. The US regime has also pursued rigorous policies, even if not always entirely successful, to draw all those dollars back into US assets or to permit US entities to acquire foreign assets through the unlimited capacity to generate USD and to monetize private business (while on the other hand prohibiting the monetizing of public debt for social services, infrastructure etc.)

    This is the context in which the current economic war with China and to a lesser extent with Russia has to be seen. This economic war entered a new phase with the Wuhan attack.

    Lucrative lockdown

    Fast-forward: European and US authorities order various degrees of “lockdown” and international travel, even within the EU itself, comes to a virtual halt. Airlines, hotels, and the rest of the travel sector have practically no more than essential business. The transport sector is also substantially restricted. The everyday economy is almost in coronary arrest.

    What are the benefits of the general lockdown in the West? Is it really possible that the corona virus was so shocking that the economy as a whole was only an afterthought? Are we to believe that it was merely an oversight on the part of government to contemplate contingencies for epidemics but not for economics? It would be nice to think that Western governments care so much about the health of their citizens but that is rubbish. What is really very important — in fact, it is the only important issue for those who own our governments is MONEY and, of course, the power that goes with it.

    What are the immediate consequences of the lockdown in economic terms?

    1. a) restriction of travel by masses of a generally mobile and consuming population (at least in the EU)
    2. b) restriction — soon to reach extinction of a substantial percentage of SMEs
    3. c) obstruction of supply chain transactions, not least of which with China
    4. d) increased unemployment beyond the already deliberately understated figures
    5. e) inevitable price increases, whether scarcity induced or because of added “safety” costs
    6. f) the creation of potential for a layer of corruption and contraband traffic that will not only raise the prices of everyday life but partly criminalise it.

    At the same time we have heard more than a few reports of new QE (aka giving trillions to so-called banks). *

    In the Western media one finds accusations that China caused the “corona crisis” to benefit from a fall in asset prices (not only stock markets but also for businesses damaged by the lockdown) to buy them up on the cheap. Personally I follow a golden rule when reading Western official statements, whether directly from regime mouthpieces or through their Great Wurlitzer: what they accuse is what they are hiding. It is like that classic scene in many a classroom: the bully slaps another pupil. Pupil slaps back and bully screams. The teacher only sees the return slap and never the first strike. The slapped pupil is punished and the bully rewarded.

    If we ask critically what the new QE is supposed to do — is it to protect all these banks from another 2008 failure? No, not really. Instead it is to fill the “banks” with cash for pre-emptive buying following the price crashes so that China can be blocked out of any further investment in the West’s critical sectors.

    It is also survival money so that all the defaults and bankruptcies in the SME sector can be written off without damaging the overall profit line.

    In other words a) and b) can be directly linked not only to strategic population control objectives, linked also to the now infamous universal vaccination programme, but also to the imposition of currency controls. In Europe, fewer euros will flow to China and in the US obviously the USD flows will be reduced.

    1. c) The disruption of supply chains is mainly an organisational measure. This will reduce the number of channels by which China can trade in the West. In the first stage it will also facilitate the consolidation of the economy in fewer hands so that those supply chains can be better managed from the top.
    2. d) As argued elsewhere, purchasing power has declined steadily over the past thirty to forty years for most of the working population on both sides of the Atlantic. There is a need for a fundamental demographic adjustment. Germany, for instance, has used imported labour since its reestablishment in 1949. First it was a substitution for labour shortages immediately after its defeat by the Soviet Union.  The so-called Economic Miracle — the reconstruction period — in large part funded by orders from the US war machine in Korea — quickly absorbed its available German labour force. Hence it started to suck workers from impoverished Italy and Greece. If the German government is to be believed, then the domestic labour force is too old or too small to meet current demands, hence while domestic workers are under house arrest, the flow of persons displaced by NATO wars; e.g., in Syria, continues uninterrupted. Thus the new generation of industrial and technical labourers at the bottom of the German social hierarchy will not be Turkish but Arabic speaking. There is no reason that they will be able to return to their homes any time soon since NATO is not finished destroying them.

    At the same time the crushing of the domestic small and medium-sized sector will — as it always has — have a positive effect by forcing wages down even more. If the virus is really as effective as some claim at killing people aged 60 and above, then the state pension funds will be able to declare surpluses soon, net revenues from immigrants and a sudden decline in beneficiaries. This sounds cynical but the insurance model for social security installed under Bismarck anticipated much shorter lifespans and fewer eligible retirees than today. The government’s plan to raise the retirement age to 70 cannot solve the problem because there are no jobs for these 65+ citizens. Hence they have to live from savings or the dole. Better just let them die.

    If there is an economic meltdown in the West, then these assets have to remain denominated in USD/EUR in order to prop up these currencies and preserve the fortunes of dollar/euro/or sterling billionaires.

    Now add to this the lockdown and recall the case of CUBA.

    The lockdown makes good economic sense from the commanding heights of the Western economy! By more or less crushing the SME sector with its increasing exposure to China; e.g., import of components and finished goods for resale, a substantial foreign exchange gap is closed. China is deprived of these payments. Thus foreign trade with China becomes ever more concentrated in the few cartels that share control over the monetary policies of the FED, Bank of England and ECB.

    For normal mortals this is insane.  Why would the West want to crush the lower third of its economy? For years people have been whining about the 1% but otherwise not doing very much about it. In fact, the 1% can live very well without most of the normal economy as long as they have currency stability for their stores of wealth in the world.

    Not only travellers, like for Cuba, but much of the real economy, constitute a genuine risk to the monetary system the great Western private banks created in the BoE, in 1913 with the FED, and later with the ECB. The ECB and the euro can be sacrificed as long as the USD and GBP remain world standards.

    1. e) One of the virtues of the system which could emerge as a short-term or medium-term result of the lockdown and its associated policies and practices is the creation of a new class of criminal activity — the real economy. Since it is unlikely that the West can suborn China and together with Russia impossible, the West has an obvious potential as far as I can see that has hardly been mentioned. Perhaps it is worth recalling from mainstream history the narrative of feudalism: the peasants were tied to the land. The aristocracy and royalty fought over land plus the chattel (the people occupying and working the land). Movement from the land was forbidden without permission by the feudal lord (a prohibition also enforced by the Churc; e.g., through the Inquisition). Pursuing a craft or trade was almost only possible in cities, which may or may not have been “free”. The details can be found in most standard history books about this period.

    Casino royale and camino real

    However, we have almost no peasantry left — something that can be detected in the abysmal quality of food found in countries like Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain. Instead there are only “free labourers” some of whom imagine they own their homes. Immediately after the collapse of the GDR any traveller could see an explosion in the number of hairdressers and small restaurants or similar personal service enterprises. Much of this business was the desperate attempt to recover earning capacity after West German government and business closed GDR factories and other employing institutions causing an explosion in unemployment that is still vastly understated and concealed by half-hearted social policies. These businesses are vulnerable to taxation and other cost-intensive regulations that are characteristic of modern bureaucratic states like Germany. It is also no wonder that they offer little more than a marginal income that often has to be compensated by some other job or social benefit.

    At present that is all very exhausting and frustrating for the vast majority of people in this low-income sector. Yet it is still legal. The first step toward terrorizing the bulk of the soon to be even more under- or unemployed is to restrict or effectively prohibit the personal service sector — for health reasons. Now it is almost impossible to get a haircut or a manicure anywhere because these businesses have been forced to close as part of the policy of “social distancing”. Reality, however, knows no such prohibitions. Those people who have no other means of earning a living except personal services and those who need those services will find a way to meet and transact business.

    This is where the spirit of Mr Gates is especially pernicious — but not simply because of some billions more that he may steal. What Mr Gates, as the poster boy, and the whole public health paramilitary/civil affairs regime that is nascent as I write offer us — or may well force upon us — is spiritually and socially akin to the Prohibition regime created by the Volstead Act in the US. Prohibition was introduced ostensibly to control alcohol abuse. However, it failed to get substantial legislative support until people like Henry Ford — then along with Rockefeller one of the world’s richest men — insisted that Prohibition would give them the power to destroy the meeting places of immigrants, especially those from Eastern and Southern Europe where beer and wine were integral to social life. Forbidding alcohol to people who for centuries considered wine and beer part of their diets was a serious attack on their private and family lives. However, since this was a “health” issue the Volstead Act did not violate any constitutional rights. Any place could be closed for serving alcohol of any kind. The meeting venues for almost all immigrants could be shut by armed police wholly within the law.

    Although this was a draconian law, it was not really enforceable. In fact, the famous Kennedy political dynasty was only one family whose wealth came from breaking the law. At no time during the period of Prohibition in the US was the ruling class deprived of intoxicating drink. Moreover the covert sale of alcohol, the bribery of police and other officials, the payment of protection money to gangsters, created an entire corporate structure, which survives today although its product range is based mainly on opiates. The illegal and legal drug businesses constitute one of the main pillars of USD supremacy, along with oil and weapons, but that is just a detail here.

    The important point here is that the culture of prohibition has clearly mutated into the field of “communicable disease”; i.e., highly infectious viruses. Whether or not Mr Gates and his friends will succeed in their ID2020 scheme — vaccine or subcutaneous identity chips — is certainly a very serious question. But even if this particular model does not get forced under our skin, the struggle in the lower half or third of the population to survive through personal services and hospitality will become a target for the same kind of parasitical class that developed and enriched itself under the Prohibition regime, and in the environment of permanent war (which was what 1984 most nauseatingly described) scarcity and corruption are designer processes — intended to punish and discipline the majority of the population while extracting every bit of surplus from their already meagre incomes. This artificially created illegality will empower a class of people who profit from serving it and have no interest whatsoever in return to normal human relations. The already immanent price increases and due to increased unemployment parallel decline in wages — with the risk that one can be excluded from work or income for “health” reasons — will further enrich those at the top while undermining solidarity downward as people become caught in the net of this policing regime.

    Therefore, it is absolutely essential to resist any further imposition of this state of siege. In this matter, I cannot help paraphrasing some otherwise noxious colonial from the 18th century: we must all be sick together, or each of us will be sick separately — in isolation.

    There are some people who read George Orwell’s books as prescriptions; after all he spent his last years working for an office in the British “Ministry of Truth”. Then there are those who completely misread his books as attacks on the Soviet Union and communism. However, those who read his books carefully will see that he understood the spirit and actions of his employers very well. Orwell’s fiction is ambivalent, like his entire career and his nonfiction works as well. Perhaps the best way to understand them is as the diaries of a colonial police officer, who knew his duty and no matter how disagreeable did it. That duty was to hold down the hands and feet of the ruled while the rulers emptied their pockets. Orwell knew he was working for gangsters, but he needed the job. That was the price he paid.

    AND yes, if Madeleine Albright was ready to see half a million Iraqi children dead for the policies she was appointed to represent, you can bet that some 60 million, dead or enslaved, is also a price the 1%  find worth paying to keep their privilege on this planet intact.

    *QE = quantitative easing: a term of financial jargon used by the US Federal Reserve System to denote privileged financial support to the top tier “banks” to prevent them from suffering (or collapsing) under the weight of their own elaborate extractive operations; e.g., debt siphons and gambling rackets. The mechanism involves the quasi-governmental (but actually privately owned and managed) Federal Reserve System purchasing the “bad” or uncollectible debts or gambling chits of these top tier “banks” by issuing Treasury obligations (e.g. so-called T-notes), basically certified claims that these “banks” may then assert against the US government to siphon tax receipts and other public income into their coffers. These claims are negotiable too, meaning they are traded on financial markets and can be used like money to buy non-financial assets.

    Was the Fed Just Nationalized?

    Did Congress just nationalize the Fed? No. But the door to that result has been cracked open.

    Mainstream politicians have long insisted that Medicare for all, a universal basic income, student debt relief and a slew of other much-needed public programs are off the table because the federal government cannot afford them. But that was before Wall Street and the stock market were driven onto life-support by a virus. Congress has now suddenly discovered the magic money tree. It took only a few days for Congress to unanimously pass the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which will be doling out $2.2 trillion in crisis relief, most of it going to Corporate America with few strings attached. Beyond that, the Federal Reserve is making over $4 trillion available to banks, hedge funds and other financial entities of all stripes; it has dropped the fed funds rate (the rate at which banks borrow from each other) effectively to zero; and it has made $1.5 trillion available to the repo market.

    It is also the Federal Reserve that will be picking up the tab for this bonanza, at least to start. The US central bank has opened the sluice gates to unlimited quantitative easing, buying Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities “in the amounts needed to support smooth market functions.” Last month, the Fed bought $650 billion worth of federal securities. At that rate, notes Wall Street on Parade, it will own the entire Treasury market in about 22 months. As Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari acknowledged on 60 Minutes, “There is an infinite amount of cash at the Federal Reserve.”

    In theory, quantitative easing is just a temporary measure, reversible by selling bonds back into the market when the economy gets back on its feet. But in practice, we have seen that QE is a one-way street. When central banks have tried to reverse it with “quantitative tightening,” economies have shrunk and stock markets have plunged. So the Fed is likely to just keep rolling over the bonds, which is what normally happens anyway with the federal debt. The debt is never actually paid off but is just rolled over from year to year. Only the interest must be paid, to the tune of $575 billion in 2019. The benefit of having the Fed rather than private bondholders hold the bonds is that the Fed rebates its profits to the Treasury after deducting its costs, making the loans virtually interest-free. Interest-free loans rolled over indefinitely are in effect free money. The Fed is “monetizing” the debt.

    What will individuals, families, communities and state and local governments be getting out of this massive bailout? Not much. Qualifying individuals will get a very modest one-time payment of $1,200, and unemployment benefits have been extended for the next four months. For local governments, $150 billion has been allocated for crisis relief, and one of the Fed’s newly expanded Special Purpose Vehicles will buy municipal bonds. But there is no provision for reducing the interest rate on the bonds, which typically runs at 3 or 4 percent plus hefty bond dealer fees and foregone taxes on tax-free issues. Unlike the federal government, municipal governments will not be getting a rebate on the interest on their bonds.

    The taxpayers have obviously been shortchanged in this deal. David Dayen calls it “a robbery in progress.” But there have been some promising developments that could be harnessed for the benefit of the people. The Fed has evidently abandoned its vaunted “independence” and is now working in partnership with the Treasury. In some sense, it has been nationalized. A true partnership, however, would make the printing press available for more than just buying toxic corporate assets. A central bank that was run as a public utility could fund programs designed to kick-start the economy, stimulate productivity and generally serve the public.

    Harnessing the Central Bank

    The reason the Fed is now working with the Treasury is that it needs the Treasury to help it bail out a financial industry burdened with an avalanche of dodgy assets that are fast losing value. The problem for the Fed is that it is only allowed to purchase or lend against securities with government guarantees, including Treasury securities, agency mortgage-backed securities, debt issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and (arguably) municipal securities. To get around that wrinkle, as Wolf Richter explains:

    [T]he Treasury will create (or resuscitate) a series of special-purpose vehicles (SPVs) to buy all manner of financial assets, backed by $425 billion in collateral conveniently supplied by the US taxpayer via the Exchange Stabilization Fund. The Fed will lend to SPVs against this collateral which, when leveraged, could fund $4-5 trillion in asset purchases.

    That includes municipal bonds, non-agency mortgages, corporate bonds, commercial paper, and every variety of asset-backed security. The only things the government can’t (transparently, yet) buy are publicly-traded stocks and high-yield bonds.

    Unlike in QE, in which the Fed moves assets onto its own balance sheet, the Treasury will now be buying assets and backstopping loans through SPVs that the Treasury will own and control. SPVs are a form of shadow bank, which like all banks create money by “monetizing” debt or turning it into something that can be spent in the marketplace. The SPV decides what assets to buy and borrows from the central bank to do it. The central bank then passively creates the funds, which are used to purchase the assets backing the loan. As Jim Bianco wrote on Bloomberg:

    In other words, the federal government is nationalizing large swaths of the financial markets. The Fed is providing the money to do it. BlackRock will be doing the trades. This scheme essentially merges the Fed and Treasury into one organization. …

    In effect, the Fed is giving the Treasury access to its printing press. This means that, in the extreme, the administration would be free to use its control, not the Fed’s control, of these SPVs to instruct the Fed to print more money so it could buy securities and hand out loans in an effort to ramp financial markets higher going into the election.

    Of the designated SPVs, none currently serves a public purpose beyond buoying the markets; but they could be designed for such purposes. The taxpayers are on the hook for replenishing the $425 billion in the Exchange Stabilization Fund, and they should be entitled to share in the benefits. Congress could designate a Special Purpose Vehicle to fund its infrastructure projects, and to fund those much-needed public services including Medicare for all, a universal basic income, student debt relief, and similar programs. It could also purchase a controlling interest in insolvent or profligate banks, pharmaceutical companies, oil companies and other offenders and regulate them in a way that serves the public interest.

    Another possibility would be for Congress to fund these programs in the usual way by issuing government bonds, but to enter into a partnership agreement first by which the central bank would buy the bonds, roll them over indefinitely, and rebate the interest to the Treasury. That is how Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has funded his stimulus programs, with none of the predicted inflationary effects on consumer prices. In fact, the Japanese consumer price index is hovering at a very low 0.4%, well below even the central bank’s 2 percent target, although the Bank of Japan has monetized nearly half of the government’s debt. Half of the US debt would be over $11 trillion. Assuming $6 trillion for the current corporate bailouts, that means another $5 trillion could safely be monetized for programs benefiting individuals, families and local governments. (How to do this without driving up consumer prices will be the subject of another article.)

    Relief for State and Local Governments

    State and local governments, which are on the front lines for delivering emergency services, have for the most part been left out of the bailout bonanza. While we are waiting for action from Congress, the Fed could make cheap loans available to local governments using its existing powers under Federal Reserve Act Sec. 14(2)(b), which authorizes the Fed to purchase the bills, bonds, and notes of state and local governments having maturities of six months or less. Since local governments must balance their budgets, these loans would have to be repaid, but the loans could be extended by rolling them over for a reasonable period, as is done with repo loans and the federal debt; and the loans could be made at the same near-zero interest rate banks can borrow at now. State and local governments are at least as creditworthy as banks – they have a taxpayer base and massive assets. In fact, the private banking industry would have been insolvent long ago if it were not for the deep pocket of the central bank and the bailouts of the federal government, including the FDIC insurance scheme that rescued the banks from bankruptcy in the Great Depression.

    There is a way state and local governments can take advantage of the near-zero interest rates available to banks even without federal action. They can set up their own publicly-owned banks. Besides giving them the ability to borrow much more cheaply, having their own banks would allow them to leverage their loan funds. A $100 million revolving fund issuing loans at 3% would gross the state $3 million per year. If that same $100 million were used to capitalize a bank, it could issue ten times that sum in loans, grossing $30 million per year. Costs would need to be deducted from those earnings, including the cost of funds; but the cost of funds is quite low for banks today. They can borrow to meet their liquidity needs from their own deposit pool, or at 0.25% in the fed funds market, or at about the same rate in the repo market, which is now backstopped by the central bank.

    The blatant disparities in the congressional response to the current crisis have shone a bright light on how our financial system is rigged against the people in favor of a wealthy elite. Crisis is when change happens; this is the time for advocates to unite in demanding change on behalf of the people. As Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis admonished in a recent post:

    [T]his new phase of the crisis is, at the very least, making it clear to us that anything goes – that everything is now possible.… Whether the epidemic helps deliver the good or the most evil society will depend … on whether progressives manage to band together. For if we do not, just like in 2008 we did not, the bankers, the spivs [petty criminals], the oligarchs and the neofascists will prove, again, that they are the ones who know how not to let a good crisis go to waste.

    From Rags to Riches, from Plague to Profits

    One of the lessons I recall from school was about the theory of spontaneous generation with regard to disease. Of course, there is the well-known phenomena of spontaneous combustion, when something starts to burn without any apparent external ignition. Spontaneous generation we were taught was the idea that something considered dirty or impure, like rags, could give inception to diseases. This was superseded by the germ theory, where microorganisms — that might actually be harboured by such rags — actually were the cause of the illnesses blamed on the rags.

    In economics a similar theory still prevails.  It could be called spontaneous wealth. It was popularised in the US by stories like those of Horatio Alger, Jr.  It has also been called the “rags to riches” myth whereby under rather ambiguous conditions rags could also give inception to wealth. Although this has been superseded by other theories, whereby microeconomics — that might actually cause the production of such rags — actually caused the wealth originally attributed to the bearer/ wearer of said rags.

    During the period of European peninsular history known as the Middle Ages, there was an outbreak of disease also called the Black Death, identified as bubonic plague. The result of the epidemic that swept through the peninsula was not only a reduction in the population but an increase in the cost of labour. Since the rich do not work, the scarcity of those who do meant that labour costs increased drastically, whether measured in wages or weaponry to acquire forced labour.

    Fast forward to 2020. China appears close to controlling, if not eliminating, the residue of baggage left behind by abusive visitors. These might have been borne in rags, but certainly not in dead bats. As has been argued elsewhere, the response of the PRC leadership, the Chinese Communist Party, was commensurate with the intended threat and reflects government policies since Mao and Deng that are diametrically opposite to those of the US, EU and its vassals.

    While the mass media in the West — both state-held and privately owned — has continuously attacked China for its reactions to anything the West does to it, the fact remains that such attacks serve to reinforce the prejudices and ignorance promoted by the China Lobby after it was evicted from the mainland seventy years ago. Not only does the 80% US-controlled mass media feed upon two centuries of cultivated racism, it also distorts history beyond recognition—with ease given the general ignorance of accurate history fostered in Western schools and universities, where Forrest Gump has become the standard.

    The central economic doctrines foisted on the post-WWII world by the Anglo-American establishment could be summarised as “socialism for corporations” and “private enterprise for everyone else”. It would exceed the scope of this comment to explain all the silliness that has become economics orthodoxy in the West. However, it is important to recognise that the argument I make here is not from a “Marxist” perspective. Rather it is a sober restatement of the policies adopted, in fact, by the oligarchy that runs the West and the world financial system too. The so-called Great War, great for firms like DuPont, J P Morgan, et al., was followed by the Great Depression primarily to force states to return to the system by which profits of 40-100%, as were made during that war, would again be possible.1

    The Great Depression only ended once these folks has a major war against the Soviet Union and to conquer Asia under way. George Kennan wrote sincerely or cynically at the end of World War II that only military force exercised worldwide would guarantee the profits and US access to 60% of the world’s resources after 1945.2 This meant war in the Congo, war against Korea, war against Vietnam and the overthrow of independent governments from Indonesia to Iraq, not to mention an iron fist in Latin America. It is a testimony to that very 80% of the US-controlled world media that this was all called a “Cold War” and blamed first on the Soviet Union and then on China. This slander persists today when Europeans and North Americans blame Russia and China for all the violence and destruction perpetrated by NATO since 1989.

    Permit me to return to our “economics”. Elsewhere I have explained the persistent tubercular myth called the American Dream, the result of trillions spent since 1916 to create a popular vision of America only rivalled by the Catholic Church’s vision of the Resurrection3. (At least the Resurrection does not depend on Hollywood or whatever sock puppet occupies the W**** House.)

    There is a lot of needless debate about the motives and intentions of possible actors in the lead-up to what has obviously been well described by the “experts” at Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security October last. As I wrote in February the “cause” of the present global calamity is deniable. There will never be an admission nor unimpeachable “broken vial” or saliva-saturated handkerchief to prove the author(s) of the contagion known as novel corona virus or COVID-2019. The “cause” cannot be the point of departure.

    It is necessary to recognise first of all that this is not a medical problem! Moreover we must recognise that the institutions that have positioned themselves since October as authorities are not medical experts nor is their central mission — despite nomenclature — human health and well-being. The US CDC and the WHO bureaucracies are extensions of the Western corporate and state intelligence apparatus. One must understand that “health security” in practice and in the language used is just a mutation of “national security”. It is a part of what US doctrine calls “full spectrum dominance”.4

    Why do I say that? I have no privileged information. However, if one reads the official biographies of the key persons in the WHO, for instance, detailed with handling the novel corona event, one will find that they are all directly concerned with vaccination/ inoculation. This is their career path. This is hierarchical militarised science at its worst.

    Vaccination/ inoculation is an industrial-chemical value chain; in other words, it is the biological warfare equivalent to the career path for those who serve in the armed forces and develop other weapons systems. Vaccination/ inoculation has nothing to do with public health, per se. Rather public health is the battlefield/ battlespace in which population control operations are conducted — since 2020 globally.

    For over 30 years in Europe, and as permanent policy in the US, what the US regime calls “socialised medicine” has been vigorously attacked. The most aggravated form now pursued is so-called “individualised medicine”: an approach which aims to use genetic engineering to restrict any kind of medical treatment by creating disease-treatment combinations which can only be used exclusively for one individual. It does not take much fantasy, just a little legal knowledge, to understand that the individual caught in the grips of such a medical model will be entirely dependent upon the intellectual property held by the disease-treatment delivery firm. This would end the threat of every pharmaceutical company’s horror — expiry of the patent and cheap generics.

    As a result of this international corporate onslaught — supported overtly and covertly — public hospitals, state health services, statutory health insurers, GPs and other medical practitioners bound to the state-sponsored/ managed remuneration systems have been deliberately and maliciously destroyed or handicapped beyond the capacity to do more than issue prescriptions and administer injections. Nurses and physicians who chose medicine not for maximum profits but because they felt committed to the profession of healing the sick have been driven into bankruptcy or unemployment. Those from the professional classes who have only sought the best income for the least effort have prospered, albeit only if they became full merchants rather than physicians.

    Hospitals have been privatised both as a means of undermining social services, per se, and on the pretext of solving municipal and state indebtedness foisted upon governments by criminal banking cartels infesting the finance ministries and the central banks. Since cartels are not taxed realistically but as if they were ordinary enterprises, there has been a “purification” of the economy, just like under the Weimar and NS regimes. In addition to an inadequate tax base, the other income sources of the State have been depleted by sales — privatisation of assets that generated rents and user fees. Now all that income accrues to the bondholders in whose hands the State and its citizens are now in thrall.

    This is obviously just a sketch. Whoever has done their homework over the years and read the public sources and listened carefully to what is said and watched what was done, cannot take any statements made by the EU, the governments in the member-states, or in the US seriously. Even if the dragon corona were slain by the St. Georges and Georginas, we would still be stuck with their malicious policies of the past thirty years. If tomorrow every alleged corona patient were healed — like the sudden recovery of everyone in Saramago’s Blindness — we would have the same insipid parasitical and militarised full spectrum dominance of our demolished public healthcare infrastructure!5

    That is definitely very different from the situation in which China finds itself. Over the past 70 years, the Chinese and the Chinese Communist Party have worked against all odds to put 20% of the world’s population in a condition which the US regime has spent all its energy denying, even to its own working people. There are lots of long-noses who will say — oh, but what about human rights, etc… Those folks ought to ask about the human rights of the Blacks, Mexicans, Asians and poor whites who have been systematically deprived of rights like housing, jobs, healthcare, pensions, relief from police brutality, freedom to express their views and defend themselves at the workplace etc. Those folks ought to ask why the US, for example, has the largest prison population in the world? But that too is beyond the scope of this comment.

    Thinking, caring, human beings have to stop their senseless panicking and blind obedience to whatever messages they receive in their solipsistic social media. We have to recognise that this is not a pandemic but a political crisis. The crisis is not medical, it is mental!

    Since the first governments in Europe decided to follow siege methods and to police the population, quite accidentally preventing public demonstrations or any meetings of popular organisations, the very effective propaganda already described has led people to forget very important questions:

    • Who decides in our society what the acceptable relationship between health risks and overall social risks: economic, political, sociability, etc. is? And what measures are appropriate to take this relationship into account?
    • Who defines what the objectives of any health prevention policy are?
    • When has enough been done? Who decides that?
    • What kind of public social, health and economic policy is to be pursued now and after this calamity?

    Under the present conditions the vast majority of the population on the European peninsula and in North America have surrendered their political and social capacity to the national security state, to soldiers dressed in surgical gowns, wearing stethoscopes or masks like pre-schoolers. The “white” EU leaders of the North; e.g., Macron and Merkel, have made it quite clear that their “brown” brothers and sisters will only get aid if they refrain from working with China and Russia and are willing to pledge even more of their income streams to the banks for which Brussels, Berlin, Paris, Vienna, The Hague, and Helsinki most happily work. It should be clear to all that the token financial relief fed now is symbolic and divisive.

    It is symbolic because these grants; e.g., up to EUR 9,000 for small businesses in Germany, feign an active response while the purification of small and medium sized enterprises continues.6 Selective awards now will divide the victims of the ludicrous large-scale closures into those who got some subsidy and those who will get nothing but unemployment. The psychological tactic will divide those who believe they are worthy from those who deserve to fail. It is also symbolic because every member-state knows that they cannot monetise their aid. They will have to finance it within the Maastricht regulations administered through Brussels on behalf of those who own the West’s central banks.7 That means that any further aid—and massive aid will be necessary Europe-wide—can only be financed by more privatisation and a conversion to what Macron advocates—tax farming via Brussels. Two hundred years ago the owners of the British East India Company destroyed India by the same crimes.8

    In August 1914, what Barbara Tuchmann so prosaically called the “guns of August” began to fire.9 What Pauwel later called The Great Class War began — it was to be over by Christmas.10 By 1921, some fifty million were dead, almost as many as Event 201 assumed in its little plan game. A century of organising the labouring classes ended in the West. Not the scarcity of labour was the problem, but the scarcity of life itself among labourers was the result.

    We find ourselves a herd of deer, caught in the blinding headlamps of the great armoured car racing down the road, having shot out all the streetlamps with its top-mounted MG. Not one is able to drive them across the road and away from the crushing steel plate under which their bones and flesh will be melded into the slowly cooling tar of one hot summer’s day.

    1. Gerald Colby-Zilg.  DuPont Dynasty: Behind the Nylon Curtain, 1974.
    2. Cold war ideology, formulated by Bernard Baruch, Walter Lippmann, and Winston Churchill leads most attention to Kennan’s article in Foreign Affairs about the Soviet threat. His more sincere work comprised the papers leading to the draft of NSC 68.
    3. T.P. Wilkinson. Rethinking Anglo-American Empire, Dissident Voice,  October 21st, 2017; To the Halls of Montezuma, from the Shores of Tripoli:  Donald Trump as “Anti-Wilson“, February 6th, 2017.
    4. “The cumulative effect of dominance in the air, land, maritime, and space domains and information environment, which includes cyberspace, that permits the conduct of joint operations without effective opposition or prohibitive interference.“ See also Joint Vision 2020, US Department of Defence, although this doctrine was pronounced much earlier with the so-called Global War on Terror and derived from the Project for the New American Century.
    5. Jose Saramago, Blindness, (1995). To see the entire problem as presciently as Saramago did the sequel Seeing (2006) is a must.
    6. Franz Neumann, Behemoth, Part 2 (1942) details the economic policy of Germany from Weimar through the NS era. “Purification” in the German edition “auskämmen” was the strategy of Germany’s cartels together with the quasi-governmental industry and commerce chambers to prohibit workers from running small craft and trade shops. These small businesses helped many who were hit by the depression to survive wage and hour cuts and maintain union organisation in heavy industry. When they were prohibited by withdrawal of their business licenses on “efficiency” grounds, then they joined the unemployed — allowing industrial cartels to more aggressively lower wages and increase hours. This policy has been pursued by the German tax administration for years now by means of discriminatory auditing and refusal to defer tax assessments—while granting large corporations tax holidays.
    7. For those that do not recall, the Maastricht regime prohibits member-states from public borrowing in excess of limits set by the European Commission (in fact, the banks that control it). Within the euro, the European Central Bank decides how much money—in euros—may be circulated at under what conditions. All governments are prohibited from issuing their own debt to cover their public expenditure—they must cover public expenditure by floating debt on the private capital markets (also controlled by said banks). Any similarity between the heads or senior officials of major European central banks or finance ministers and alumni of either Goldman Sachs or Rothschild Group is merely coincidental.
    8. Nick Robbins. The Corporation that Changed the World: How the East India Company Shaped the Modern Multinational, 2006.
    9. Barbara Tuchmann. The Guns of August, 1962.
    10. T.P. Wilkinson. “Romanticism and War”: Contextualising a Theory of Interpretation, Dissident Voice, September 15, 2016.

    Trillions in Disaster Relief for Corporations and Banks, Spare Change for the People, Hospitals, Small Businesses, State and Local Governments

    Our doctors and nurses are being thoroughly mobilized and worked to limit… Many cases receive no attention at all.

    — Acting Governor Calvin Coolidge, Massachusetts, 9/25/1918

    Some things never change. When it come to the unhappy conjunction between corporate capitalism, greed and pandemic — be it 1918 or 2020 the U.S. response to a health emergency is underwhelming. On March 26, 2020 with over 3.3 million Americans out of work and applying for unemployment, wondering how they are going to pay their rent, the mortgage, their credit cards bills and student loans, the Senate has unanimously passed a bailout bill giving corporations access to trillions of dollars with no strings attached. This is Round 2 of the corporate enrichment program masquerading as pandemic relief for the people.

    Round 1 occurred in 2008 when Obama rescued the banks from a disaster caused by their own greed and incompetence and nearly 10 million innocent Americans lost their homes to foreclosure. Obama’s plan distributed virtually free money with no oversight to the banks. Via stock buybacks, hefty bonuses and huge shareholder dividends, they became “too big to fail.” The jobs they had paid lip service to creating never materialized.

    Twelve years later, with the Republicans in charge, the same fleecing of the American people is underway. The media-hyped relief bill advertised as a $2.2 trillion stimulus for desperate Americans is actually an opportunity for corporations and banks to loot the treasury. Larry Kudlow, Trump’s chief economic adviser, made no bones about it in a press conference on Fox News — “The total package here comes to $6 trillion. $2 trillion direct assistance, roughly $4 trillion in federal reserve lending power.” Economic jargon be damned, that $4 trillion in federal reserve lending power is a multi-trillion-dollar basketful of goodies for tycoons that run the biggest U.S. banks and corporations. And that may not be the end of the raid on the public purse. Several respected economists predict that $4 trillion will eventually morph into $6 or $8 trillion.

    “An abomination beyond comprehension” — that how one former TV host and progressive activist, Dylan Ratigan described it. As it was in (2008) and is now (2020), we are seeing an upward distribution of wealth handed over to corporations and banks while real pandemic relief for suffering Americans, for a disintegrating public health system, short-of-cash cities and states and desperate small businesses is dribbled out of a much smaller pie.

    The enormity of the corporate bail out is breathtaking. Trump and his cronies in the administration and Congress (including most Democrats) are applying a huge band aid to the self-inflicted harm that twelve years of corporate buybacks and investor dividends have wrought. Many corporations are so strapped for cash that even a few weeks of lost economic activity threatens their viability. That’s why the foreclosure king Steve Mnuchin, who if there were any justice for the wealthy in the U.S. would be occupying a jail cell rather than a cushy seat as the Treasury Secretary and his homeboys at the Fed cooked up a scheme to store $4.3 trillion at the Federal Reserve, a made-to-order ATM that large corporations and banks can access with almost no strings attached. To make sure their greed and irresponsibility put them in the hole again, the ever-obliging Fed will soak up any losses using your tax dollars.

    The game is rigged. They can’t lose but you can. After your one-time means-tested relief check comes in, after the paltry enlargement of your unemployment check, what then? You won’t be sitting pretty feasting on $4 trillion of zero interest loans which if history is any guide will quietly be forgiven down the road. What about the twenty-seven million small business which create two-thirds of new jobs in the U.S? Their share of the relief package is a measly $300 billion and they are persona non grata at the Federal Reserve trough where trillions are parked. Their only recourse is to squeeze money out of that dysfunctional agency known as the SBA (Small Business Administration) which will control the disbursement of the $300 billion. Many small businesses unable to keep their businesses afloat will eventually become sitting ducks for large corporations with trillions in bailout money. Here’s Jim Cramer, host of a CNBC show and a long-time cheerleader of corporate welfare, inadvertently (we presume) letting the cat out of the bag:

    If we come out of this sooner, then other, small businesses can open. If we come out of this later, there are going to be three retailers in this country. There’s going to be Amazon. There’s going to be Walmart. And there’s going to be Costco. Can you imagine what it means for this country to just have three retailers?

    Surely progressive leaders in the House and Senate discerned the grotesquely unfair allotment of resources in this ironically-named Cares Act. Not Bernie Sanders who, after a little grandstanding rhetoric— “I am very, very, very concerned about 500-billion-dollars that will go out to the corporate world without…the accountability or transparency that is needed. We do not need at this moment in history a massive amount of corporate welfare to large profitable corporations…” voted yes.

    If Bernie had bothered to read the bill, he would have seen the not $500 billion, but $4 trillion worth of pork larding a mere $2 trillion dollars of real pandemic relief. Maybe he fears losing his senatorial privileges if he does anything more than spout moralistic aphorisms He had plenty of company as clueless as he was. The entire Senate lined up to do the bidding of the lords of the universe. That included those self-described progressive senators who were either too craven, too corrupt or too cowardly to use their leverage (the bill required 60 votes) to block the bill as written and demand changes that would prioritize the needs of hospitals, local and state governments, small businesses and the American people. Instead they followed the Pied Piper-in-chief and his loyal band of Republican co-conspirators into the swampy waters of corporate plunder and voted Yes.

    In the House the fix was solidly in. Choosing the cowards way out, representatives settled for a voice vote to avoid going on the record. Only one representative even bothered to register a (small) protest after which amazingly she voted for the bill.

    Hospital workers do not have protective equipment. We don’t have the necessary ventilators…. What did the Senate majority fight for? One of the largest corporate bailouts, with as few strings as possible, in American history—shameful. The option that we have is to either let [families] suffer with nothing or to allow this greed of billions of dollars, which will be leveraged into trillions of dollars, to contribute to the largest income-inequality gap in our future… (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes)

    Of course, it wasn’t meant to and didn’t change a single vote of this bunch of corporate tools. Small comfort to know that Trump and Congress didn’t get the whole enchilada. The original bill contained a provision to keep their dirty dealings secret for six months. That provision was later removed.

    What a fall from grace. A country shut down, becoming the epicenter of the world’s confirmed coronavirus cases, Americans dying from gross shortages of life-saving equipment — ventilators, ICU beds, and test kits. Lack of protective equipment Incapacitating or killing healthcare workers by the dozens. This is not the time to equate pandemic relief with a trillion-dollar payday for corporations and banks. Too many Americans are scared and hurting and dying. Remember that when you decide this Fall who will represent you in Congress and try to pick the best from what is guaranteed to be a bad lot.