Category Archives: Debt

Financial Tyranny: Footing the Tax Bill for the Government’s Fiscal Insanity

We’re not living the American dream. We’re living a financial nightmare.

The U.S. government—and that includes the current administration—is spending money it doesn’t have on programs it can’t afford, and “we the taxpayers” are the ones who will be forced to foot the bill for the government’s fiscal insanity.

We’ve been sold a bill of goods by politicians promising to pay down the national debt, jumpstart the economy, rebuild our infrastructure, secure our borders, ensure our security, and make us all healthy, wealthy and happy.

None of that has come to pass, and yet we’ve still been loaded down with debt not of our own making.

This financial tyranny works the same whether it’s a Democrat or Republican at the helm.

Let’s talk numbers, shall we?

The national debt (the amount the federal government has borrowed over the years and must pay back) is $28 trillion and growing. That translates to roughly $224,000 per taxpayer.

The government’s answer to the COVID-19 pandemic has been to throw more money at the problem in the form of stimulus checks, small business loans, unemployment benefits, vaccine funding, and financial bailouts for corporations. All told, the federal government’s COVID-19 spending has exceeded $4 trillion.

The Biden administration is proposing another $2 trillion in infrastructure spending.

The amount this country owes is now greater than its gross domestic product (all the products and services produced in one year by labor and property supplied by the citizens). And the top two foreign countries who “own” about a third of our debt are China and Japan.

That debt is also growing exponentially: it is expected to be twice the size of the U.S. economy by 2051.

Essentially, the U.S. government is funding its very existence with a credit card.

We’re paying more than $300 billion in interest every year on that public debt, not including what COVID-19 just added to the bill. That breaks down to more than $2400 per household.

According to the Committee for a Reasonable Federal Budget, the interest we’re paying on this borrowed money is “nearly twice what the federal government will spend on transportation infrastructure, over four times as much as it will spend on K-12 education, almost four times what it will spend on housing, and over eight times what it will spend on science, space, and technology.”

Clearly, the national debt isn’t going away anytime soon, especially not with government spending on the rise and interest payments making up such a large chunk of the budget.

Still, the government remains unrepentant, unfazed and undeterred in its wanton spending.

Indeed, the national deficit (the difference between what the government spends and the revenue it takes in) is expected to be $2.3 trillion for fiscal 2021.

If Americans managed their personal finances the way the government mismanages the nation’s finances, we’d all be in debtors’ prison by now.

Despite the government propaganda being peddled by the politicians and news media, however, the government isn’t spending our tax dollars to make our lives better.

We’re being robbed blind so the governmental elite can get richer.

This is nothing less than financial tyranny.

“We the people” have become the new, permanent underclass in America.

In the eyes of the government, “we the people, the voters, the consumers, and the taxpayers” are little more than pocketbooks waiting to be picked.

Consider: The government can seize your home and your car (which you’ve bought and paid for) over nonpayment of taxes. Government agents can freeze and seize your bank accounts and other valuables if they merely “suspect” wrongdoing. And the IRS insists on getting the first cut of your salary to pay for government programs over which you have no say.

We have no real say in how the government runs, or how our taxpayer funds are used, but we’re being forced to pay through the nose, anyhow.

We have no real say, but that doesn’t prevent the government from fleecing us at every turn and forcing us to pay for endless wars that do more to fund the military industrial complex than protect us, pork barrel projects that produce little to nothing, and a police state that serves only to imprison us within its walls.

If you have no choice, no voice, and no real options when it comes to the government’s claims on your property and your money, you’re not free.

It wasn’t always this way, of course.

Early Americans went to war over the inalienable rights described by philosopher John Locke as the natural rights of life, liberty and property.

It didn’t take long, however—a hundred years, in fact—before the American government was laying claim to the citizenry’s property by levying taxes to pay for the Civil War. As the New York Times reports, “Widespread resistance led to its repeal in 1872.”

Determined to claim some of the citizenry’s wealth for its own uses, the government reinstituted the income tax in 1894. Charles Pollock challenged the tax as unconstitutional, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor. Pollock’s victory was relatively short-lived. Members of Congress—united in their determination to tax the American people’s income—worked together to adopt a constitutional amendment to overrule the Pollock decision.

On the eve of World War I, in 1913, Congress instituted a permanent income tax by way of the 16th Amendment to the Constitution and the Revenue Act of 1913. Under the Revenue Act, individuals with income exceeding $3,000 could be taxed starting at 1% up to 7% for incomes exceeding $500,000.

It’s all gone downhill from there.

Unsurprisingly, the government has used its tax powers to advance its own imperialistic agendas and the courts have repeatedly upheld the government’s power to penalize or jail those who refused to pay their taxes.

While we’re struggling to get by, and making tough decisions about how to spend what little money actually makes it into our pockets after the federal, state and local governments take their share (this doesn’t include the stealth taxes imposed through tolls, fines and other fiscal penalties), the government continues to do whatever it likes—levy taxes, rack up debt, spend outrageously and irresponsibly—with little thought for the plight of its citizens.

To top it all off, all of those wars the U.S. is so eager to fight abroad are being waged with borrowed funds. As The Atlantic reports, “U.S. leaders are essentially bankrolling the wars with debt, in the form of purchases of U.S. Treasury bonds by U.S.-based entities like pension funds and state and local governments, and by countries like China and Japan.”

Of course, we’re the ones who will have to repay that borrowed debt.

For instance, American taxpayers have been forced to shell out more than $5.6 trillion since 9/11 for the military industrial complex’s costly, endless so-called “war on terrorism.” That translates to roughly $23,000 per taxpayer to wage wars abroad, occupy foreign countries, provide financial aid to foreign allies, and fill the pockets of defense contractors and grease the hands of corrupt foreign dignitaries.

Mind you, that staggering $6 trillion is only a portion of what the Pentagon spends on America’s military empire.

The United States also spends more on foreign aid than any other nation ($50 billion in 2017 alone). More than 150 countries around the world receive U.S. taxpayer-funded assistance, with most of the funds going to the Middle East, Africa and Asia. That price tag keeps growing, too.

As Dwight D. Eisenhower warned in a 1953 speech, this is how the military industrial complex will continue to get richer, while the American taxpayer will be forced to pay for programs that do little to enhance our lives, ensure our happiness and well-being, or secure our freedoms.

This is no way of life.

Yet it’s not just the government’s endless wars that are bleeding us dry.

We’re also being forced to shell out money for surveillance systems to track our movements, money to further militarize our already militarized police, money to allow the government to raid our homes and bank accounts, money to fund schools where our kids learn nothing about freedom and everything about how to comply, and on and on.

It’s tempting to say that there’s little we can do about it, except that’s not quite accurate.

There are a few things we can do (demand transparency, reject cronyism and graft, insist on fair pricing and honest accounting methods, call a halt to incentive-driven government programs that prioritize profits over people), but it will require that “we the people” stop playing politics and stand united against the politicians and corporate interests who have turned our government and economy into a pay-to-play exercise in fascism.

Unfortunately, we’ve become so invested in identity politics that pit us against one another and keep us powerless and divided that we’ve lost sight of the one label that unites us: we’re all Americans.

Trust me, we’re all in the same boat, folks, and there’s only one real life preserver: that’s the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

The Constitution starts with those three powerful words: “We the people.”

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, there is power in our numbers. That remains our greatest strength in the face of a governmental elite that continues to ride roughshod over the populace. It remains our greatest defense against a government that has claimed for itself unlimited power over the purse (taxpayer funds) and the sword (military might).

Where we lose out is when we fall for the big-talking politicians who spend big at our expense.

The post Financial Tyranny: Footing the Tax Bill for the Government’s Fiscal Insanity first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Ring Out The Old: Ring In The Old

While our sacred democracy was allegedly being served by a stupid attempt to unsuccessfully impeach an ex-president for the second time and essentially tell more than 70 million Americans that they might as well vote for Pavlov, FDR, Hitler or Oprah Winfrey since any alleged exercise of supposed freedom on their part would be meaningless in the rape of language we call a democracy. You know, the one with a billionaire class getting richer by the second and Americans across the board sinking lower by the minute. But enough good news, let’s move on to the even better signs of our political economic progress against logic, morality and majority rule, something that vanished in practice the moment our euro ancestors arrived and the people who’d lived here for millennia were brutally forced out of their homelands.

The world’s most expensive medical wealth-care system has killed more than 500,000 Americans while we’re being told that China has only created protection for its people that makes us look like bloodthirsty private profit fanatics because it is run by authoritarians and isn’t a sacred democracy like ours. You know, the one where your vote and mine are equal to the vote of any billionaire, if you believe nose picking is a way to perform a self lobotomy or you are a venture capitalist interested in a start up called Butt Coin which operates on a revolutionary AI system (Amoral Intelligence) called Blockhead. Its stock just went up 23 billion points ten minutes ago so as soon as your Mindlessness class ends, college graduates should start investing and show just how good your education was and how strong your belief is in capitalist democracy. After all, how can any formally indoctrinated American not appreciate the incredible logic of our free market in which milk is more expensive than gasoline. What could make more economic sense? Milk comes from a cow, which produces more of it on a daily basis while petroleum takes millions of years to reproduce its supply. Even without consideration of either ones affect on the environment, that makes at least as much sense as nose picking self-lobotomies.

Or are you one of those deplorables concerned about our environment and the market green profit ventures said to be our only hope for moderate and therefore useless long-term change to save humanity and not just its upper classes? Who is most responsible for creating the destruction of nature reduced to a branding title of Climate Change? A menacing American socialist gang has pointed out that the wealthiest billion people on earth produce 60% of greenhouse gases while the poorest billion produce only 5%. But who can trust a murderous institution like The National Academy of Sciences? Worse, another unholy representative of global communism reports that the tens of trillions of dollars in debt carried by earth residents collectively – whether we like it or not – represent a threat to the entire human race while the 2,000 richest people on earth have amassed more wealth than 4.5 billon human beings combined. But who can believe a communist conglomeration of the richest institutions on earth and calling itself The World Bank?

Both institutions were talking about something much bigger than the egocentric American chosen people mythology since we play a major role in creating that inequality but also suffering it, with a public debt of 19 trillion and private debt of 27 trillion. And if we believe, as too many of us still do, in what consciousness control and its professional staff of mind managers tell us, it’s all due to greedy union labor getting far too much in wages, salaries and pensions while a struggling investor class has to wait anxious moments for their deliveries of pet food, cosmetics, weapons, bitcoins, jewelry, and leisure wear. And this with union membership which has been dwindling for the past forty years under assault by minority capital while the affluent top ten percent has seen its wealth skyrocket with the support of that same minority. Isn’t the free market a marvel of democracy? Yes, if you are among those who find rape a cost effective form of dating that avoids dinner and a movie and gets right to the sex.

While pondering this, be sure to participate in a round of democratic marketing called the 2022 elections with requests for money – the real stuff of our financially sacred democracy – coming along with any and all messages about how we need to elect progressives or regressives to maintain the system of two party politics that makes sure the capitalist market continues setting us against one another to prevent us from ever uniting as a people and not a collection of reduced-to-less-than human minorities who compete with one another across identity groups with common interest hidden by the tiniest minority in the country: the incredibly richest of the rich and their wealthy – and diverse –   servant class.

The warfare state continues without the fiery if intellectually empty rhetoric of the last president replaced by the most recent who quietly, if he had any idea what the hell was going on, presided over another bombing of a foreign country- Syria- to protect American lives. Those not yet reduced to total brain death under the abuse of consciousness by anti-social corporate and personal media might well ask: what the hell are Americans doing in Syria? And if there are Syrians in America does Syria now have the right to bomb America in their defense? But logic has no place in our government market where laws of political supply and demand assure continued profits for the tiny ruling minority and its well-paid servants in corporate business. The real menace, we are warned by the triumphant sector of the ruling class representing the best educated bigots in America, are terrifying groups with names that make them sound like gay dance troupes. Of course, the horrible fears we are taught to react to when told of blood thirsty white supremacist* groups like the “Proud Boys” are nothing compared to the corporate investor class which would never dream of attacking our revered national capital: they already own it.

Make no mistake, the new team at the helm of our titanic ship of state isn’t nearly as dumb, domestically, as the last egotist led cabal with a leader who at least spoke like a populist while acting like a pampered rich brat. But the warfare state in which Israel exercises far more power in our sacred democracy than the average American citizen, will continue and hundreds of billions of our tax dollars will be rubber stamped by a hired staff of corporadoes in order to fend off alleged menaces like China, which has ended urban poverty in a population of more than 850 million, three times greater than our total, while we suffer rising poverty among millions of families in a population of less than 330 million. Quick, more bombs, death rays, drones, and especially propaganda from our free press which is available for a price, like the bombs, pet food, health care, entertainment, sports and democracy like no other in the world.

We have a new board of directors which still serves the same corporation with an experienced if nearly addle pated leader replacing the most dangerous one ever in that he bluntly acted as the boorish at best murderous at worst executive of an imperial danger to humanity masked as a democracy by psycho-neurotic therapists and other professionals. Every few years we are indulged in moving from fundamentalist theologians of the market-church to fundamentalist economists of the church-market and we call that belief system our democracy. Who else can perform self-lobotomies and pay more for milk than gasoline? Just wait until the pandemic is overcome, more likely if we asked China to help us organize a more cooperative than individualistic gang of identity groups, each with beliefs that it transcends humanity and will best be served by accepting slavery as long as it works in the house and not in the fields. No wonder China is such a menace to the gods of capital when it ought to be a lesson to the people of earth. Especially Americans who are propagandized by their mind managers to mind too many other people’s business in imperial fashion while being told it’s all about democracy. You know, like cheap gas, self-lobotomies and all that other good stuff. The real thing and the demand for it is growing, worldwide, and the sooner we end our alienated domination and begin working together as members of the one and only human race, the better for the future.

And that future cannot be run, as it still is, for the benefit of private profit but for the public good.

* White supremacist and white privilege are among the favorite all-encompassing labels attached to lesser beings by people of higher intellectual and moral awareness made obvious by the fact that they are all members of the more privileged bigot class.

The post Ring Out The Old: Ring In The Old first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Vaccinations and Stimulus Packages Won’t Mend the Economy

The social and economic destruction engulfing the U.S. and dozens of other countries remains out of everyone’s control and more chaos, instability, and insecurity now mark the global landscape.

The ruling elite have repeatedly shown their inability to tackle any serious problems effectively. They are at a loss for how to deal with current problems and refuse to consider any alternative to their obsolete economic system. The best they can do is recycle old ideas to maintain their class power and privilege. Their efforts to block the New focus mainly on promoting disinformation about “new and better forms of capitalism,” including oxymorons like “inclusive capitalism,” “responsible capitalism,” and “ethical capitalism.”

Since the outbreak of the “COVID Pandemic” in March 2020 every week has been a roller coaster for humanity. The economy and society keep lurching from one crisis to another while incoherence and stress keep amplifying. It is said that 1 in 6 Americans went into therapy for the first time in 2020.

Unemployment, under-employment, inequality, mental depression, anxiety, suicide, environmental decay, inflation, debt, health care costs, education, and poverty are worsening everywhere. Thousands of businesses that have been around for years keep disappearing left and right.

Top-down actions in response to the “COVID Pandemic” have made so many things worse for so many people. Many are wondering which is worse: the covid-19 virus or the top-down response to the pandemic. Governments everywhere have steadfastly refused to mobilize the people to solve the many problems that are worsening. The moral climate is low and more people are worried about the future.

An atmosphere has been created whereby people are supposed to feel like the exhausting “COVID Pandemic” will last forever and we can all forget about getting back to any normal healthy non-digital relations, activities, and interactions. No society in history has worn face masks for an entire year. We are told over and over again that there is no returning to anything called “normal.” Moving everything online and repeatedly asserting that this is great, “cool,” and wonderful is proving to be unsatisfactory and unfulfilling. People want and need real, direct, non-digital connections and interactions with other human beings. Life behind a screen is not life.

Even with all the restrictions and shutdowns the virus, according to the mainstream media, continues to wreak havoc at home and abroad. It is almost like none of the severe restrictions on people’s freedoms made any difference. People have had to endure this humiliation while also not being permitted any role in deciding the aim, operation, and direction of the economy or any of the affairs of society; they are left out of the equation every step of the way and not even asked for superficial “input” that always goes unheeded anyway. Existing governance arrangements are simply not working to empower people or affirm their rights. The people’s interests and will are blocked at every turn by an outdated political setup that advances only the narrow interests of the rich.

Despite intense pressure to blindly rely on the rich and their political representatives to “figure things out,” this is not working. Nor does it help that the mainstream media approaches multiple crises and issues with endless double-talk, disconnected facts, catchy sound-bites, dramatic exaggerations, angry voices, political axe-grinding, and lots of confusion. Coherence and a human-centered outlook are avoided at all costs. People are constantly left disoriented. Jumping arbitrarily and rapidly from one thing to another in the most unconscious way is presented as useful analysis and information. This is why sorting out basic information has become a full-time job for everyone. People are understandably worn-out and overwhelmed. Disinformation overload degrades mental, emotional, and physical health.

The world has become an uglier and gloomier place—all in the name of “improving health.” It is no surprise that a recent Gallup Poll shows that the majority of Americans are extremely dissatisfied with government, the economy, the culture, and the moral climate.

In this hazardous unstable context, there are two ever-present key pieces of disinformation operating side by side. Both are designed to deprive working people of any say, initiative, outlook, or power.

First there is the “once everyone is vaccinated things will be much better” disinformation. This ignores the fact that capitalist crises have endogenous causes not exogenous causes and that the economic crisis started well before the “COVID Pandemic.” More than 150 years of recessions, depressions, booms, busts, instability, chaos, and anarchy have not been caused by external phenomena like bacteria, germs, and viruses but by the internal logic and operation of capital itself. A so-called “free market” economy by its very nature and logic ensures “winners” and “losers,” “booms” and “busts.” It is called a “dog-eat-dog” fend-for-yourself competitive world for a reason. The modern idea that humans are born to society and have rights by virtue of their being is alien to “free market” ideology.

Despite the fact that millions have been vaccinated at home and abroad, poverty, inequality, unemployment, debt, and other problems continue to worsen. Businesses continue to suffer and disappear. Hospitality, leisure, recreation, and other sectors have been decimated in many countries. Air travel is dramatically lower. So are car sales. It is not enough to say, “Yes, the next few months will be rough and lousy economically speaking but we will get there with more vaccinations. Just be patient, it will all eventually work out.” This is not what is actually unfolding. The all-sided crisis we find ourselves in started before the “COVID Pandemic” and continues unabated. Such a view also makes a mockery of economic science and the people’s desire to decide the affairs of society and establish much better arrangements that exclude narrow private interests and do not rely on police powers.

In the coming months millions more will be vaccinated but economic decline and decay will continue. Both the rate and amount of profit have been falling for years. And owners of capital are not going to invest in anything when there is no profit to be had and when it is easier instead to balloon fictitious capital and pretend everything is a stock market video game. The lack of vaccinations did not cause the economic collapse the word is currently suffering through, nor will more vaccinations reverse economic decline and decay. The “COVID Pandemic” has largely made some people vastly richer and millions more much poorer. The “COVID Pandemic” has significantly increased inequality. Unfortunately, the so-called “Great Reset” agenda of the World Economic Forum and Pope Francis’s recent call for a “Copernican Revolution” in the economy will make things worse for millions more because they will perpetuate the existing moribund economic system. Such agendas are designed to fool the gullible, block working class consciousness and action, and keep the initiative in the hands of the global oligarchy.

The same applies to so-called “stimulus packages.” Various versions of these top-down monetary and fiscal programs have been launched in different countries, and while they have assuaged some problems for people, they have not been adequate or fixed any underlying problems. They have not prevented poverty or mass unemployment. Economies remain mired in crisis. In most cases “stimulus packages” have made things worse by increasing the amount of debt that many generations will have to repay. This is in addition to the many other forms of debt Americans suffer from and rent payments that will one day have to be paid.

Many are also wondering why trillions of dollars can be printed and instantly turned over to the banks and corporations with no discussion but the same cannot be done for social programs, public enterprises, and the people. Why, for example, can all not get free healthcare or have taxes eliminated? Why can’t various forms of personal debt be wiped out instantly? If the government can print money for “them” why can’t they print money for “us”? Who is government supposed to serve? Billionaires?

Nether the CARES Act of 2020 nor the stimulus package passed in December 2020 nor the one President Biden is pushing for in March 2021 will be adequate or solve any major problems. Many felt that the $600 stimulus checks that went out in December 2020 were pathetic and insulting.

The problem lies with a socialized productive economy run by everyone but owned and controlled by a tiny handful of competing private interests determined to maximize profit as fast as possible regardless of the damage to the social and natural environment. There is no way for the economy to benefit all individuals and serve the general interests of society so long as it is dominated by a handful of billionaires. The social wealth produced by workers cannot benefit workers and the society if workers themselves do not control the wealth they produce and have first claim to.

The outlook, agenda, and reference points of the rich must be rejected and replaced by a human-centered aim, agenda, direction, and outlook. The current trajectory is untenable and unsustainable. The situation is dangerous in many ways, but perhaps one good thing to come out of the accelerated pace of chaos, anarchy, and instability are the contradictions that are presenting new opportunities for action with analysis that favors working people.

The post Vaccinations and Stimulus Packages Won’t Mend the Economy first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Will More Police-State Arrangements Foster Democracy?

The events of January 6, 2021 in Washington D.C. were historic and will be analyzed for some time to come. Many were rattled and shaken to their core by what unfolded that day in the nation’s capital. Others were excited, relieved, and hopeful.

Since then, all sorts of disinformation, confusion, and illusions have filled mainstream accounts of what happened that day and why, but it is already clear that certain things are emerging that once again do not bode well for the people. It is always important to ask: “when a major event happens, who ultimately ends up benefitting from it?”

As with past events and crises, and keeping in mind the role and significance of “disaster capitalism,” it is not unreasonable to assume that the events of January 6, 2021 will be used by the rich and their political and media representatives to expand police-state arrangements under the banner of high ideals (e.g., “protecting the citadel of democracy” and “our democracy is in peril”). The irony of the situation did not escape numerous world leaders and millions around the globe who proclaimed in unison: “Finally the U.S. is getting a taste of its own medicine. The U.S. has actively organized ruthless coups, conflicts, wars, rebellions, and insurrections in more than 100 countries over the past 200 years.” For many, the events of January 6 further lowered the credibility of “representative democracy” in the “bastion of democracy.”

Further degrading the legitimacy of outmoded governance arrangements, the world saw how Washington D.C. was recently turned into a large military camp with armed soldiers and armed state agents everywhere. Many police and military forces will remain in and around the area well after the January 2021 presidential inauguration and contribute to establishing a “new normal” of police presence. How does this look at home and abroad? Like a robust vibrant democracy which is the envy of the world, or a scandalous troubling situation? The massive militarization of Washington D.C. has only added to the dystopian, humiliating, and bizarre life everyone has been forced to endure since March 2020 when the never-ending and exhausting “COVID Pandemic” started in earnest.

But contrary to media accounts the struggle today is not between democrats and republicans. It is not between those who support Trump or revile him. It is not between racists versus anti-racists, pro-diversity or anti-diversity advocates, or “progressives” versus “right-wingers.” Nor is it between “right-wing thugs” versus the police, or ANTIFA versus right-wing militias. These are facile dichotomies that consolidate anticonsciousness and further divide the polity. Such superficial characterizations miss the profound significance of what is unfolding—an intense legitimacy crisis—and the fact that no one is talking about how to empower the people as sharp conflicts among factions of the ruling elite intensify and ensnare people. Ramzy Baroud reminded us recently that:

While mainstream US media has conveniently attributed all of America’s ills to the unruly character of outgoing President Donald Trump, the truth is not quite so convenient. The US has been experiencing an unprecedented political influx at every level of society for years, leading us to believe that the rowdy years of Trump’s Presidency were a mere symptom, not the cause, of America’s political instability.

In the current fractured, chaotic, and dangerous context, all manner of inflammatory and provocative remarks are still being made by a range of politicians, media outlets, and “leaders.” Words like “treason,” “insurrection,” “violent mob,” “coup,” “rebellion,” and “sedition” are being thrown around loosely and quickly. There is no sense of how such discourse takes us all further down a dangerous road. Different individuals, groups, and factions are being lumped into overly-simplistic categories and classifications while ignoring the long-standing marginalization of the polity as a whole and the continued failure of “representative democracy.”

In this foggy context, it can be easy to forget that whether you are a democrat, republican, or something else, the economy and society are not operating in your interests. Debt, poverty, inequality, hunger, homelessness, unemployment, under-employment, stock market bubbles, environmental decay, and generalized anxiety continue to worsen nationwide and harm Americans of all political stripes while the rich get much richer much faster. Existing governance arrangements marginalize more than 95 percent of people. Working people have no real mechanism to effectively advance their interests in the current political setup. They are reduced to perpetually begging politicians and “leaders” to do the most basic things. There is an urgent need for democratic renewal.

In the coming months we will not only see more economic collapse but also more police-state arrangements put in place in the name of “security” and “democracy.” A main focus will be “domestic terrorism,” leading to the further restriction of freedom of speech and criminalization of dissent. Freedom of movement will also be constrained. This will be far-reaching, affecting everyone, even those currently throwing around words like “sedition,” “coup,” and “insurrection.” Already, the atmosphere has been chilled; many are more carefully self-monitoring their speech and actions so as to not be targeted by the state.

At the end of the day, conflicts, divisions, social unrest, political turmoil, and economic deterioration will not go away so long as the existing authority clashes with the prevailing conditions and the demands emerging from these conditions. Objective conditions are screaming for modernization and solutions that the rich and their entourage are unable and unwilling to provide.

Unemployment, under-employment, hunger, homelessness, poverty, debt, inequality, despair, and generalized anxiety do not care if you are black or white, democrat or republican, right-wing or left-wing, a “Trumper” or “anti-Trumper.” Concrete conditions are screaming for the affirmation of basic rights like the right to food, shelter, education, healthcare, work, and security.

Their struggles and demands may take different forms and express themselves in different ways, but it is the long-standing absence of these rights that people from all walks of life are striving to bring into being.

And while their policies may differ in some respects, the different factions of the rich and their political representatives have only more of the same to offer people: more inequality, more debt, more under-employment, more worry and insecurity, more stock market bubbles, and more empty promises. Lofty phrases and grand “plans” from the rich and their representatives won’t change the aim and direction of the economy. People are not going to suddenly become empowered because one party of the rich or the other holds power now. Divisions, dissatisfaction, and marginalization are not going to disappear just because a different section of the rich wields power. Many believe that the road ahead will be very rocky.

Democratic renewal does not favor the rich or their representatives, it is something only working people themselves will benefit from and have to collectively fight for. In this regard, it is key to consciously reject the aims, outlook, views, and agenda of the rich and develop a new independent aim, politics, outlook, and agenda that favors the polity and the public interest.

The post Will More Police-State Arrangements Foster Democracy? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Vaccine Will Not Reverse Economic Problems

No matter how many vaccines are rush-produced by large for-profit corporations with a long record of malpractice, vaccines will not reverse severe economic deterioration because the economic collapse, nationally and internationally, was not caused by any virus.1

The economic depression that is unfolding was a long time in the making and was accelerated and intensified by the “COVID Pandemic” but not the direct result of it. A severe economic collapse was going to take place with or without a virus. If anything, the virus provided convenient cover for what was inevitable.

It is well-known that the unplanned chaotic capitalist economic system habitually goes through violent upheavals, leaving millions perpetually insecure, poor, unemployed, and stressed. This is not news to anyone. Equally disturbing, we are routinely told that the so-called “business cycle” is inevitable and normal—just a “natural” part of life, as if the economy is beyond human comprehension and conscious control. There is supposedly no alternative to the “invisible hand” of the so-called “free market” regularly wreaking havoc on us. We are all to feel helpless against “forces larger than us.” We are to believe that there is no economic science that can ensure stability and prosperity for all. The “law of the jungle” is allegedly the best humanity can muster and no alternative to this inhuman system is to be considered.

Long after vaccines have come and gone the economy will continue to deteriorate because the economy is in the hands of competing owners of capital who treat the socialized economy as theirs to plunder for private gain, no matter the damage to the social and natural environment. The tendency for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer was going on for decades before the “COVID Pandemic” and will continue so long as those who actually produce the wealth in society remain disempowered and marginalized, alienated from and unable to deploy the very wealth they produce for the benefit of society.

Economic crises, recessions, and depressions—including wars—are usually how the obsolete capitalist economic system temporarily “resets” itself before crashing again. During periods of over-production and under-consumption, labor and production are destroyed until a “new zero” can be established. “De-leveraging” has to take place, sometimes for years, before capitalism can establish a temporary “new equilibrium” again. Carnage is unavoidable in this historically-exhausted economic system that privileges a tiny ruling elite. The problem is that each crisis, recession, and depression sets the stage for a deeper crisis, recession, and depression the next time. Just look at the number of long-term unemployed, inequality, the labor force participation rate, the number of homeless, the “gig economy,” and debt at all levels. All keep steadily worsening, leaving many anxious about the future. In June 2020 the Congressional Budget Office went so far as to say it would take ten years to return to pre-pandemic economic conditions, which were not that great to begin with. Recall as well that after the 2008 economic collapse most countries ran on gas fumes for years, there was no real and meaningful “comeback” for most countries. International imperialist organizations like the IMF and World Bank continually revised not-so-rosy growth predictions downward. The economy has been stagnant and lackluster for a long time and this is not about to suddenly change in the final and highest stage of capitalism. Without organized working class resistance, more parasitism and decay is in store for the economy. The rich and their representatives have no solutions.

The economy will not serve people and the general interests of society until there is a change in the aim, direction, and control of the economy. It does not matter what “plan” is put forward by establishment politicians or “leaders.” So long as maximizing profits as fast as possible for a tiny ruling elite and depriving workers of any say in anything remains the norm, problems will keep going from bad to worse. Things will not magically improve on their own or when left in the hands of a few billionaires. There is no scenario in which the economy serves people and society while the actual producers of wealth remain sidelined and removed from the levers of power. Lofty words, phrases, and promises from politicians and “leaders” are designed to dupe the gullible and prevent people from engaging in action with analysis that favors them. The rich and their representatives do not want people to break free from capital-centered thinking and think and act independently. All thinking and action is to take place from a capital-centered reference point.

The main thing the “COVID Pandemic” revealed very sharply is that the richest and most powerful countries are not set-up to serve the basic needs of the people. In these and other countries where the neoliberal antisocial offensive has been wreaking havoc for decades, the “COVID Pandemic” left millions sick, dead, unemployed, depressed, dehumanized, and poor while the rich got much richer. Does this make sense to anyone? Would this happen if sovereignty was vested in the people and they decided the affairs of society? “Representative democracy” is increasingly revealing itself to be defunct, corrupted, and ineffective. There is no mechanism for people to effectively direct affairs in their own vision and interests. Existing institutions block people from affirming their rights. The so-called “social contract” underpinning economic and political arrangements for decades in the U.S. died long ago, and “leaders” and politicians have left everyone rudderless and disillusioned.

A main task confronting working people is how to open the path of progress to society under very difficult conditions. Already it can be seen from a variety of events and actions that unfolded in 2020 and early 2021 that people from all walks of life are in motion on several fronts. People are striving to affirm their rights and are gradually developing better actions and better analyses. Many are fed up with an outmoded system that keeps making life more difficult for them. This sentiment can be seen and felt worldwide. One can sense a change in the energy of the world’s people and a more robust pro-social thrust and desire among people. It is critical to nurture this drive so that it is not continually sabotaged by the anticonsciousness and disinformation of the rich and their political and media representatives. The current heroic struggles of farmers in India is a good example of workers defending their rights in the context of defending the rights of all.

Health crises, economic crises, and social crises cannot be resolved so long as society and the economy are dominated by a handful of billionaires. Only when defunct liberal governance arrangements are rejected and social consciousness and the human factor are unleashed can problems be solved effectively by the people themselves who already know what is needed to move society forward.

  1. It is even said that covid-19 vaccines will not prevent virus transmission and everyone still has to wear masks and socially distance. And many continue to experience a range of side effects from covid-19 vaccines.
The post Vaccine Will Not Reverse Economic Problems first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Debt Tsunami 

Imagine this scenario if you will… You are the head of a small family of 5 people, including your 3 children, you live in a small street in an average house, and drive 2 average Ford or Chevy cars. You have a normal mortgage, credit card bills, which you manage to keep on top of, just about, as both adults work in average jobs.

In this make-believe situation, one of your children, when you return home from work, reveals that they have run up a $5 million gambling debt. What is worse is that the debt is with Mr Big, the local gangster who will not send letters, but send around the heavies to kick you out of your home, take your cars and anything of value, if you don’t pay up.

In despair you go to see your best friend, who lives 2 doors down the street. To your utter dismay you discover that your slightly richer friend has been thrown under the bus by their kids, for an even more ridiculous gambling debt. Both of you sit down on the lawn and cry your eyes out, in frustration and anger that there is nothing you can do – except run away, make a violent last stand or wait for Mr Big and his goons to evict you!

Clearly this is a ridiculous scenario that is extremely unlikely in real life, except that it is a perfect metaphor for what your national government has done to your country. With the exception of a handful of countries, the same thing has happened all over the world. Governments, like the kids, have gambled the nation’s tax revenue and lost – running up debts that are so gigantic that they can never be repaid.

The level of national debt across the world was catastrophic before the 2008 crash, which resulted in more corporate debt being mopped up by governments (at the expense of tax payers, of course). So here we are again in the same situation as 2007 – Mr Big has temporarily gone away with an interim payment, but is absolutely guaranteed to return, looking for the rest of his money – knee-caps could be lost.

Sadly, most countries in the world are technically bankrupt as they owe so much money that not only can they never repay the principal loan, but they are struggling just to maintain the interest payments, while still increasing their borrowing on an ongoing basis.

If your teenage kid behaved like this they would be grounded, given a stern lecture on financial accountability and banned from access to finance until they had grown up a bit. Unfortunately, the public of the country you live is not a parent and has little or no control over the wayward behaviour of its government. To make matters worse, everyone is at it, pretty much every major government and economy is over-leveraged and just hanging on until the moment of reckoning.

As with irresponsible teenagers that expect parents to step in and clear up their mess, the governments of the world will not want to take responsibility for the imminent financial crash caused by this tsunami of debt, trillions of which is reaching maturity (pay back time). Once again, if the debt cannot be kicked down the road and deferred for another few years, it is the public (like dismayed parents) that will foot the bill.

We will foot the bill in higher taxes, loss or reduction of government services, loss of jobs, collapse of small businesses and property repossessions. To make matters worse, once again the governments will probably look to bail out the ‘too big to fail’ corporations, once more paid for by the tax payer. Once stabilised, the corporate sector will be able to mop up the casualties – a plethora of cheap domestic and commercial property, land, undervalued businesses etc.

This is exactly what happened in the aftermath of the 2008 crash. This time it is going to be much, much worse as the fundamentals are worse than they were then. While Wall Street appears strong, Main Street and the real-world fabric of society is far weaker now than back in 2008.

So what happens when it hits? Will it be so bad that the whole crazy system will collapse – ushering in the Great Reset, or will we have a nastier repeat of 2008? At this point in time it’s hard to say, but either way it is bad news for individuals who have any significant debt and/or an insecure job. Ask yourself – are you okay with getting ripped off by your government yet again? Are you okay with vulture funds buying up your street, your local businesses, your town, all for half-nothing?

This is not just a horrific tsunami that is going to hit, it is a process of depriving the public of its wealth and further enriching the top tier of society. This is, in truth, a rinse and repeat process that happened not just in 2008, but in 1989, 1973, 1929 and beyond. Are you okay with that?  Or is it time we just refused to cooperate?

The post The Debt Tsunami  first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Critical Lessons From Dr. Martin Luther King For These Times


NOTE: Margaret Flowers and Askia Muhammad will co-host an inaugural special on Pacifica Radio on Wednesday, January 20 from 6:30 to 8:00 pm Eastern. It can be heard on WBAI and WPFW. The theme will be Dr. King’s triple evils and what Biden’s cabinet picks tell us about what we can expect from this administration. Guests include Dr. Greg Carr, Abby Martin and Danny Sjursen.

Also, on Tuesday, January 26 at 8:00 pm Eastern, Popular Resistance will co-host a webinar, “COVID-19: How Weaponizing Disease and Vaccine Wars are Failing Us.” The webinar will be co-hosted by Margaret Flowers and Sara Flounders and it will feature Vijay Prashad, Max Blumethal, Margaret Kimberley and Lee Siu Hin. All are editors or contributors of the new book “Capitalism on a Ventilator.” Register at bit.ly/WeaponizingCOVID.

This week we celebrate the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and witness the inauguration of our next president, Joe Biden. This inauguration will be unique, first, for being held during a pandemic and, second, for its heightened security in fear of another attack by Trump supporters. Downtown Washington, DC is normally secured during an inauguration and people must pass through checkpoints to get into the Mall and parade route, but this time is different.

There are 25,000 members of the National Guard on duty in the city to protect the President and Members of Congress. But even this does not guarantee security. The FBI is screening every national guard member for ties to right wing militias and groups responsible for the January 6 assault on the Capitol. The ruling class experienced what it is like when those who are supposed to protect you don’t.

This insecurity is another facet of a society in break down. As Dr. King warned us over 50 years ago:

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin to shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-centered’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. . . . A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

Migrants march from Honduras to the United States with the hope of a better reception under a Biden administration (Luis Echeverria)

The pandemic and recession have exposed more widely what many communities have known for a long time, that corporate profits are more important than their lives and that lawmakers serve the wealthy class. During the pandemic, the rich have gotten richer, the Pentagon budget has ballooned with bi-partisan support and the people have not received what they need to survive. Unemployment, loss of health insurance, hunger and poverty are growing while the stock market ended the year with record highs.

Many are hopeful that a Democratic majority in Congress and a Democratic President will turn this around, and it is reasonable to expect there will be some positive changes. The Biden administration claims it will take immediate action to raise the federal minimum wage to $15/hour, extend the break on student loan payments, provide a one-time $1,400 payment and invest more in testing and vaccine administration, among other actions.

These actions are welcome, but they are a far cry from what is necessary. A family with two parents working full time for minimum wage will still live in poverty, even at $15/hour. The majority of people in the United States, 65%, support giving $2,000/month to every adult during the pandemic. This is supported by 54% of Republicans polled and 78% of Democrats. People with student loans are calling for them to be cancelled, not delayed. And, as I wrote in Truthout, Biden’s priority for managing the pandemic is on reopening businesses and schools, not on taking the public health measures that are called for such as shutting down with guarantees of housing and economic support and nationalizing the healthcare system, as other countries have done.

What is required is massive public investment in systemic changes that get to the roots of the crises we face. In addition to the triple evils that Dr. King spoke about, racism, capitalism and militarism, we can add the climate crisis. An eco-socialist Green New Deal such as that promoted by Howie Hawkins would get at the roots of each of these crises.

Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute argues that the economy can handle a massive investment of public dollars without fear of negative consequences, such as inflation, because for too long the economy has been starving the public while funneling wealth to the top. It is time for redistribution of that wealth to serve the public good.

In fact, Sam Pizzigati of Inequality.org writes that throughout history, governments have fallen when they fail to address wealth inequality and meet the people’s needs. This is the finding of a recent study called “Moral Collapse and State Failure: A View From the Past.” They write that the fall of pre-modern governments “can be traced to a principal leadership that inexplicably abandoned core principles of state-building that were foundational to these polities, while also ignoring their expected roles as effective leaders and moral exemplars.”

From Socialist Alternative

So far, it looks like what we can expect from the Biden Administration is a few tweaks to the system to placate people and relieve some suffering but not the system changes we require. Biden is actively opposed to national improved Medicare for All and a Green New Deal, two proposals that a majority of people, especially Democrats, support. Mark Dunlea explains why the Biden climate plan is inadequate for the dire situation we face.

Biden’s cabinet picks and language make it clear that the United States’ aggressive foreign policy of regime change and wars for resources and domination will continue. Samantha Power, a war hawk, has been chosen to head the USAID, an institution that invests in creating chaos and regime change efforts in other countries. Victoria Nuland, who was a major leader of the US’ successful coup in Ukraine that brought neo-Nazis to power, has been picked for Deputy Secretary of State for Political Affairs. Biden’s choices for CIA Director, Mike Morell, and Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, are both torture proponents. Abby Martin of Empire Files exposes the dark backgrounds of several other nominees for Biden’s cabinet, including Antony Blinken as Secretary of State, Jake Sullivan as National Security Adviser, Linda Thomas-Greenfield for United Nations Ambassador and Michael Flourney to head the Pentagon.

It also doesn’t appear that Democrats in Congress will show the necessary courage to fight for what the people need. Danny Haiphong of Black Agenda Report writes about the “Obama-fication” of “The Squad” and how they serve to protect the status quo and weaken the progressive movement. It is important to understand how they are the “more effective evil,” or as Gabriel Rockhill explains, they are the arm of liberal democracies that convince people to consent to the neo-liberal capitalism that is destroying our lives and the planet. This is how Western fascism rises within legislative bodies. Already, we are seeing champions of national improved Medicare for All, Bernie Sanders and Pramila Jayapal, back down to a position of lowering the age of Medicare eligibility, which would not solve our healthcare crisis, only delay that solution.

Chris Hedges often warns us that we need to know what we are up against if we are to effectively challenge it. Dr. King warned us that our nation was heading toward spiritual death if we did not get to the roots of the crises, the triple evils. He demonstrated that social movements should not align themselves with capitalist political parties because then the movement becomes subservient to their interests and compromises its own interests. And he told us what we must do. Prior to King’s death, he was organizing an occupation of Washington, DC to demand an end to poverty.

During the Biden administration, many of the progressive forces will work to weaken those of us who make demands for bold changes. They will try to placate us with a diverse cabinet of women and people of color who were chosen because they support capitalism, imperialism and systemic racism despite their identities. Chris Hedges describes this as a form of “colonialism.”

Our tasks are to maintain political independence from the capitalist parties, struggle for systemic changes and embrace a bold agenda that inspires people to take action. Through strategic and intentional action, we can achieve the changes we need. We have a key ingredient for success – widespread support for the changes we need. Now, we only need to mobilize in ways that inspire people and that have an impact – strikes, boycotts, occupations and more that are focused on improving the lives of everyone.

We can turn things around and reduce the suffering that is driving the polarization and trend towards violence in our country. It’s time to embrace our radical Dr. King.

The post Critical Lessons From Dr. Martin Luther King For These Times first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Indian Farmers on the Frontline Against Global Capitalism

In a short video on the empirediaries.com YouTube channel, a protesting farmer camped near Delhi says that during lockdown and times of crisis farmers are treated like “gods”, but when they ask for their rights, they are smeared and labelled as “terrorists”.

He, along with thousands of other farmers, are mobilising against three important pieces of farm legislation that were recently forced through parliament. To all intents and purposes, these laws sound a neoliberal death knell for most of India’s cultivators and its small farms, the backbone of the nation’s food production.

The farmer says:

Corporates invested in Modi before the election and brought him to power. He has sold out and is an agent of Ambani and Adani. He is unable to repeal the bills because his owners will scold him. He is trapped. But we are not backing down either.

He then asks whether ministers know how many seeds are needed to grow wheat on an acre of land:

We farmers know. They made these farm laws sitting in air-conditioned rooms. And they are teaching us the benefits!

While the corporations that will move in on the sector due to the legislation will initially pay good money for crops, once the public sector markets (mandis) are gone, the farmer says they will become the only buyers and will beat prices down.

He asks why, in other sectors, do sellers get to put price tags on their products but not farmers:

Why can’t farmers put minimum prices on the crops we produce? A law must be brought to guarantee MSP [minimum support prices]. Whoever buys below MSP must be punished by law.

The recent agriculture legislation represents the final pieces of a 30-year-old plan which will benefit a handful of billionaires in the US and in India. It means the livelihoods of hundreds of millions (the majority of the population) who still (directly or indirectly) rely on agriculture for a living are to be sacrificed at the behest of these elite interests.

Consider that much of the UK’s wealth came from sucking $45 trillion from India alone according to renowned economist Utsa Patnaik. Britain grew rich by underdeveloping India. What amounts to little more than modern-day East India-type corporations are now in the process of helping themselves to the country’s most valuable asset – agriculture.

According to the World Bank’s lending report, based on data compiled up to 2015, India was easily the largest recipient of its loans in the history of the institution. The World Bank thus exerts a certain hold over India: on the back of India’s foreign exchange crisis in the 1990s, the IMF and World Bank wanted India to shift hundreds of millions out of agriculture.

In return for up to more than $120 billion in loans at the time, India was directed to dismantle its state-owned seed supply system, reduce subsidies, run down public agriculture institutions and offer incentives for the growing of cash crops to earn foreign exchange.

The plan involves shifting at least 400 million from the countryside into cities.

The details of this plan appear in a January 2021 article by the Research Unit for Political Economy, ‘Modi’s Farm Produce Act Was Authored Thirty Years Ago, in Washington DC’. The piece says that the current agricultural ‘reforms’ are part of a broader process of imperialism’s increasing capture of the Indian economy:

Indian business giants such as Reliance and Adani are major recipients of foreign investment, as we have seen in sectors such as telecom, retail, and energy. At the same time, multinational corporations and other financial investors in the sectors of agriculture, logistics and retail are also setting up their own operations in India. Multinational trading corporations dominate global trade in agricultural commodities. For all these reasons, international capital has a major stake in the restructuring of India’s agriculture… The opening of India’s agriculture and food economy to foreign investors and global agribusinesses is a longstanding project of the imperialist countries.”

The article provides details of a 1991 World Bank memorandum which set out the programme for India. It adds:

At the time, India was still in its foreign exchange crisis of 1990-91 and had just submitted itself to an IMF-monitored ‘structural adjustment’ programme. Thus, India’s July 1991 budget marked the fateful start of India’s neoliberal era.

It states that now the Modi government is dramatically advancing the implementation of the above programme, using the Covid-19 crisis as cover: the dismantling of the public procurement and distribution of food is to be implemented by the three agriculture-related acts passed by parliament.

The drive is to drastically dilute the role of the public sector in agriculture, reducing it to a facilitator of private capital and leading to the entrenchment of industrial farming and the replacement of small-scale farms. The norm will be industrial (GMO) commodity-crop agriculture suited to the needs of the likes of Cargill, Archer Daniels Midlands, Louis Dreyfus, Bunge and India’s retail and agribusiness giants as well as the global agritech, seed and agrochemical corporations. It could result in hundreds of millions of former rural dwellers without any work given that India is heading (has already reached) jobless growth.

As a result of the ongoing programme, more than 300,000 farmers in India have taken their lives since 1997 and many more are experiencing economic distress or have left farming as a result of debt, a shift to cash crops and economic liberalisation. The number of cultivators in India declined from 166 million to 146 million between 2004 and 2011. Some 6,700 left farming each day. Between 2015 and 2022, the number of cultivators is likely to decrease to around 127 million.

We have seen the running down of the sector for decades, spiraling input costs, withdrawal of government assistance and the impacts of cheap, subsidised imports which depress farmers’ incomes.

Take the cultivation of pulses, for instance. According to a report in the Indian Express (September 2017), pulses production increased by 40% during the previous 12 months (a year of record production). At the same time, however, imports also rose resulting in black gram selling at 4,000 rupees per quintal (much less than during the previous 12 months). This effectively pushed down prices thereby reducing farmers already meagre incomes.

We have already witnessed a running down of the indigenous edible oils sector thanks to Indonesian palm oil imports (which benefits Cargill) on the back of World Bank pressure to reduce tariffs (India was virtually self-sufficient in edible oils in the 1990s but now faces increasing import costs).

The pressure from the richer nations for the Indian government to further reduce support given to farmers and open up to imports and export-oriented ‘free market’ trade is based on nothing but hypocrisy.

On the ‘Down to Earth’ website in late 2017, it was stated some 3.2 million people were engaged in agriculture in the US in 2015. The US government provided them each with a subsidy of $7,860 on average. Japan provides a subsidy of $14,136 and New Zealand $2,623 to its farmers. In 2015, a British farmer earned $2,800 and $37,000 was added through subsidies. The Indian government provides on average a subsidy of $873 to farmers. However, between 2012 and 2014, India reduced the subsidy on agriculture and food security by $3 billion.

According to policy analyst Devinder Sharma subsidies provided to US wheat and rice farmers are more than the market worth of these two crops. He also notes that, per day, each cow in Europe receives subsidy worth more than an Indian farmer’s daily income.

The Indian farmer simply cannot compete with this. The World Bank, World Trade Organisation and the IMF have effectively served to undermine the indigenous farm sector in India. The long-term goal has been to displace the peasantry and consolidate a corporate-controlled model.

And now, by reducing public sector buffer stocks and introducing corporate-dictated contract farming and full-scale neoliberal marketisation for the sale and procurement of produce, India will be sacrificing its farmers and its own food security for the benefit of a handful of billionaires.

The post Indian Farmers on the Frontline Against Global Capitalism first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Economic Nightmare Shows Need for New Aim and Direction for the Economy

The U.S. labor force participation rate stood at 61.5% in November 2020, the lowest rate in 44 years. According to Investopedia:

The labor force participation rate is a measure of an economy’s active workforce. The formula for the number is the sum of all workers who are employed or actively seeking employment divided by the total noninstitutionalized, civilian working-age population.

Note that this metric includes those who are not employed, meaning that the labor force participation rate is actually lower than 61.5%.

In related news, nearly 60% of Americans withdrew or borrowed money from their IRA or 401(k) during the never-ending “COVID Pandemic.” Further, tens of millions are still unemployed and 700,000–900,000 people are still filing initial unemployment claims every week (40 weeks in a row).

In addition, Trading Economics recently reported that:

The US economy cut 140K jobs in December [2020], missing market expectations of a 71K rise. It was the first decline in employment levels since a record 20.787 million loss in April [2020].

On January 7, 2021, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. reported that:

[C]ompanies in the Entertainment/Leisure sector, which includes hotels, restaurants, amusement parks, and movie theaters, announced the highest number of cuts in 2020 with 866,046, 5,688% higher than the 14,963 announced in all of 2019.

On January 8, 2021, the Economic Policy Institute stated that:

Long-term unemployment (27 weeks and over) continues to rise, increasing by 27,000 in December [2020]. The share of the unemployed who have been unemployed at least 27 weeks is now at 37.1%.

While the official unemployment rate was 6.7% in December 2020, the real unemployment rate according to many exceeds 20%. Not surprisingly, many people plan to take on a second or third job just to stay afloat. The situation today is such that many do not even have enough to cover a $400 emergency.

Over the past 10 months, about 110,000 restaurants have permanently closed and several thousand more businesses are expected to shutter their doors forever in the coming months, with or without “stimulus” money. Car sales, it is worth noting, fell about 15% in 2020. And as for corporate bankruptcies, S&P Global Market Intelligence reported on December 15, 2020 that, “There have been 610 bankruptcies this year through Dec. 13, exceeding the number of filings seen in any year since 2012” (emphasis added).

The multi-faceted nature of the still-unfolding economic nightmare is such that millions of U.S. renters are thousands of dollars behind in rent while many are homeless and others are spending several hours in long food charity lines in many cities. On January 6, 2021, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities stated that:

Some 29 million adults — 14 percent of all adults in the country — reported that their household sometimes or often didn’t have enough to eat in the last seven days, according to Household Pulse Survey data collected December 9–21.

The real number of people experiencing “food insecurity” is higher.

On top of all this, wages and salaries have been cut for millions of workers, as have benefits and retirement contributions. Annual salary increases have been frozen as well. More people are living paycheck to paycheck. And more than eight million Americans have sunk into poverty in under 10 months. So-called “stimulus checks” are simply too small and too infrequent to make any lasting positive changes. “Stimulus bills” seem to only further enrich the wealthy and exacerbate existing inequalities.

As if the news could not get any grimmer, a June 1, 2020 headline in the Wall Street Journal read: “CBO [Congressional Budget Office] Says Economy Could Take Nearly 10 Years to Catch Up After Coronavirus.” Ten years!

The economic nightmare that is unfolding is also a global phenomenon, meaning that there is a multiplier negative effect across the board. Poverty, inequality, debt, and unemployment have increased significantly in many countries. It is one thing for a few countries to experience severe economic decline and decay but it is something else entirely when more than 100 countries simultaneously experience significant economic deterioration. This is especially true in an increasingly interconnected world. The imperialist World Bank is already talking about (another) “lost decade of growth” for many countries, coupled with massive debt accumulation in Western and other countries. The U.S. alone has tacked on at least $5 trillion extra dollars to the nation’s debt in less than a year.

This is the tip of the iceberg. There is no shortage of depressing statistics. The economic nightmare is not going away anytime soon. There is no vaccine for the economic catastrophe gripping the world. A vaccine will not stop growing inequality, poverty, debt, and unemployment. More than a few believe that rising unemployment rates, poverty, debt, and inequality will lead to civil unrest, violent protests, and political and economic conflicts.

The pain is deep and widespread—far worse than the 1930s or 2008. The scale and damage of the current economic decline is quantitatively and qualitatively bigger than previous recessions and depressions. In many ways, there really is no such thing as “economic recovery” under capitalism. That is a loaded and misleading phrase that the short-sighted rich and their political and media representatives like to overuse. Objective developments and contradictions have given rise to an economy that largely rolls from crisis to crisis. The so-called “new normal” is deeper crisis.

The actions of the rich and their governments did not prevent the 2008 economic collapse. Nor have the steps taken by the government and the private U.S. Federal Reserve after 2008 prevented the much-deeper 2020 economic collapse just 12 years later.1 With enormous amounts of debt still accumulating at all levels, with endless digital money printing, with more stock market bubbles growing, and with no real government oversight and accountability for what is unfolding it is hard to see a future without another momentous economic collapse. Then what? More of the same failed policies and arrangements from a failed state? How long can that go on? Where does this leave people, society, and the environment? Will there be pressure to continue to believe that things will still somehow be OK?

These and other economic data point to an economic system that is obsolete, one that habitually leaves millions unemployed, insecure, and unsure of their fate and well-being. Voluminous data expose a historically-exhausted economic system that cannot unleash its full productive capacity and instead lays waste to enormous human potential while the rich get richer even more rapidly. Nothing has stopped the tendency of the rich to get richer while the poor get poorer. No major problems have been solved in capital-centered societies.

Lurching from crisis to crisis is backward, irrational, and inhumane. The necessity to fight for an alternative and build the New is sharper than ever. This cannot be done by following the ideas, views, outlook, and agenda of the rich and their cartel parties; they offer no solutions, just more disasters. The rich have not come up with anything that overcomes the deep problems documented by thousands of economists and sociologists for decades. The rich and their representatives are opposed to a self-reliant, balanced, vibrant, diverse economy that is human-centered and recognizes that humans are born to society and depend on society for their livelihood and well-being.

An economy based on the aim of maximizing profit as fast as possible for a tiny ruling elite is an economy that belongs in the past. It is a failed economy. It cannot open the path of progress to society. A new aim and direction are needed for the economy. Along with this there is a need for democratic renewal of the political process so that the will of the people can be given effect. The rich must be deprived of their ability to carve up and use a productive socialized economy for their narrow privileged interests.

  1. The 2020 economic collapse was intensified and accelerated but not caused by the “COVID Pandemic.”
The post Economic Nightmare Shows Need for New Aim and Direction for the Economy 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.

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