Category Archives: Wall Street

Tenth Anniversary Of Financial Collapse, Preparing For The Next Crash

Jail Bankers Not Protesters, Occupy Wall Street, 2011 (Photo by Stan Honda for AFP-Getty Images)

Ten years ago, there was panic in Washington, DC, New York City and financial centers around the world as the United States was in the midst of an economic collapse. The crash became the focus of the presidential campaign between Barack Obama and John McCain and was followed by protests that created a popular movement, which continues to this day.

Banks: Bailed Out; The People: Sold Out

On the campaign trail, in March 2008, Obama blamed mismanagement of the economy on both Democrats and Republicans for rewarding financial manipulation rather than economic productivity. He called for funds to protect homeowners from foreclosure and to stabilize local governments and urged a 21st Century regulation of the financial system. John McCain opposed federal intervention, saying the country should not bail out banks or homeowners who knowingly took financial risks.

By September 2008, McCain and Obama met with President George W. Bush and together they called for a $700 billion bailout of the banks, not the people. Obama and McCain issued a joint statement that called the bank bailout plan “flawed,” but said, “the effort to protect the American economy must not fail.” Obama expressed “outrage” at the “crisis,” which was “a direct result of the greed and irresponsibility that has dominated Washington and Wall Street for years.”

By October 2008, the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), or bank bailout, had recapitalized the banks, the Treasury had stabilized money market mutual funds and the FDIC had guaranteed the bank debts. The Federal Reserve began flowing money to banks, which would ultimately total almost twice the $16 trillion claimed in a federal audit. Researchers at the University of Missouri found that the Federal Reserve gave over $29 trillion to the banks.

This did not stop the loss of nine million jobs, more than four million foreclosures and the deep reduction in wealth among the poor, working and middle classes. A complete banking collapse was averted, but a deep recession for most people was not.

The New Yorker described the 2008 crash as years in the making, writing:

…the crisis took years to emerge. It was caused by reckless lending practices, Wall Street greed, outright fraud, lax government oversight in the George W. Bush years, and deregulation of the financial sector in the Bill Clinton years. The deepest source, going back decades, was rising inequality. In good times and bad, no matter which party held power, the squeezed middle class sank ever further into debt.

Before his inauguration, Obama proposed an economic stimulus plan, but, as Paul Krugman wrote:

Obama’s prescription doesn’t live up to his diagnosis. The economic plan he’s offering isn’t as strong as his language about the economic threat.

In the end, the stimulus was even smaller than what Obama proposed. Economist Dean Baker explained that it may have created 2 million jobs, but we needed 12 million. It was $300 billion in 2009, about the same in 2010, and the remaining $100 billion followed over several years — too small to offset the $1.4 trillion in annual lost spending.

New York Magazine reports the stimulus was “a spending stimulus bigger, by some measures than the entire New Deal.” But unlike the New Deal, which benefited people at the bottom and built a foundation for a long-term economy, the bi-partisan post-2008 stimulus bailed out Wall Street and left Main Street behind.

Wall Street executives were not prosecuted even though the financial crisis was in large part caused by their fraud. Bankers were given fines costing dimes on the dollar without being required to admit guilt or having their cases referred for prosecution. The fines were paid by shareholders, not the perpetrators.

Protest near Union Square in New York, April, 2010. Popular Resistance.

Still at Risk

Many of the root causes of the crisis remain today, making another economic downturn or collapse possible. The New Yorker reports that little has changed since 2008, with Wall Street banks returning to risky behavior and the inadequate regulation of Dodd-Frank being weakened. Big finance is more concentrated and dominant than it was before the crash. Inequality and debt have expanded, and despite the capital class getting wealthier in a record stock market with corporate profits soaring, real wages are stuck at pre-crisis levels.

People are economically insecure in the US and live with growing despair, as measured by reports on well-being. The Federal Reserve reported in 2017 that “two in five Americans don’t have enough savings to cover a $400 emergency expense.” Further, “more than one in five said they weren’t able to pay the current month’s bills in full, and more than one in four said they skipped necessary medical care last year because they couldn’t afford it.”

Positive Money writes:

Ten years on, big banks are still behaving in reckless, unfair and neglectful ways. The structural problems with our money and banking system still haven’t been fixed. And many experts fear that if we don’t change things soon, we’re going to sleepwalk into another crash.

William Cohen, a former mergers and acquisitions banker on Wall Street, writes that the fundamentals of US economy are still flawed. The Economist describes the current situation: “The patient is in remission, not cured.”

From Occupy Washington DC at Freedom Plaza

The Response Of the Popular Movement

Larry Eliott wrote in the Guardian: “Capitalism’s near-death experience with the banking crisis was a golden opportunity for progressives.” But the movement in the United States was not yet in a position to take advantage of it.

There were immediate protests. Democratic Party-aligned groups such as USAction, True Majority and others organized nationwide actions. Over 1,000 people demonstrated on Wall Street and phones in Congress were ringing wildly. While there was opposition to the bailout, there was a lack of national consensus over what to do.

Protests continued to grow. In late 2009, a “Move Your Money” campaign was started that urged people to take their money out of the big banks and put it in community banks and credit unions. The most visible anti-establishment rage in response to the bailout arose later in the Tea Party and Occupy movements. Both groups shared a consensus that we live in a rigged economy created by a corrupt political establishment. It was evident that the US is an oligarchy, which serves the interests of the wealthy while ignoring the necessities of the people.

The anti-establishment consensus continues to grow and showed itself in the 2016 presidential campaigns of Senator Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. They were two sides of the same coin of populist anger that defeated Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. Across the political spectrum, there is a political crisis with both mainstream, Wall Street-funded political parties being unpopular but staying in power due to a calcified political system that protects the duopoly of Democrats and Republicans.

Occupy Wall Street 2011

Preparing for the Next Collapse

When the next financial crisis arrives, the movement is in a much stronger position to take advantage of the opportunity for significant changes that benefit people over Wall Street. The Occupy movement and other efforts since then have changed the national dialogue so that more people are aware of wealth inequality, the corruption of big banks and the failure of the political elites to represent the people’s interests.

There is also greater awareness of alternatives to the current economy. The Public Banking movement has grown significantly since 2008. Banks that need to be bailed out could be transformed into public banks that serve the people and are democratically controlled. And there are multiple platforms, including our People’s Agenda, that outline alternative solutions.

We also know the government can afford almost $30 trillion to bail out the banks. One sixth of this could provide a $12,000 annual basic income, which would cost $3.8 trillion annually, doubling Social Security payments to $22,000 annually, which would cost $662 billion, a $10,000 bonus for all US public school teachers, which would cost $11 billion, free college for all high school graduates, which would cost $318 billion, and universal preschool, which would cost $38 billion. National improved Medicare for all would actually save the nation trillions of dollars over a decade. We can afford to provide for the necessities of the people.

We can look to Iceland for an example of how to handle the next crisis. In 2008, they jailed the bankers, let the banks fail without taking on their debt and put controls in place to protect the economy. They recovered more quickly than other countries and with less pain.

How did they do it? In part, through protest. They held sustained and noisy protests, banging pots and pans outside their parliament building for five months. The number of people participating in the protests grew over time. They created democratized platforms for gathering public input and sharing information widely. And they created new political parties, the Pirate Party and the Best Party, which offered agendas informed by that popular input.

So, when the next crash comes. Let’s put forward a People’s Agenda. Let’s be like Iceland and mobilize for policies that put people first. Collectively, we have the power to overcome the political elites and their donor class.

India: The State of Independence

India celebrates its independence from Britain on 15 August. However, the system of British colonial dominance has been replaced by a new hegemony based on the systemic rule of transnational capital, enforced by global institutions like the World Bank and WTO. At the same time, global agribusiness corporations are stepping into the boots of the former East India Company.

The long-term goal of US capitalism has been to restructure indigenous agriculture across the world and tie it to an international system of trade underpinned by export-oriented mono-cropping, commodity production for the global market and debtThe result has been food surplus and food deficit areas, of which the latter have become dependent on agricultural imports and strings-attached aid.

Whether through IMF-World Bank structural adjustment programmes, as occurred in Africa, trade agreements like NAFTA and its impact on Mexico or, more generally, deregulated global trade rules, the outcome has been similar: the displacement of traditional, indigenous agriculture by a corporatized model centred on transnational agribusiness and the undermining of both regional and world food security. The global food regime is in effect increasingly beholden to unregulated global markets, financial speculators and global monopolies.

India, of course, has not been immune to this. It is on course to be subjugated by US state-corporate interests  and is heading towards environmental catastrophe much faster than many might think. As I outlined in this previous piece, the IMF and World Bank wants India to shift hundreds of millions out of agriculture and has been directed to dismantle its state-owned seed supply system, reduce subsidies and run down public agriculture institutions.

The plan for India involves the mass displacement of people to restructure agriculture for the benefit of western agricapital. This involves shifting at least 400 million from the countryside into cities. A 2016 UN report said that by 2030, Delhi’s population will be 37 million.

One of the report’s principal authors, Felix Creutzig, says:

The emerging mega-cities will rely increasingly on industrial-scale agricultural and supermarket chains, crowding out local food chains.

The drive is to entrench industrial agriculture, commercialise the countryside and to replace small-scale farming, the backbone of food production in India. It could mean hundreds of millions of former rural dwellers without any work (India is heading for ‘jobless growth’). Given the trajectory the country seems to be on, it does not take much to imagine a countryside with vast swathes of chemically-drenched monocrop fields containing genetically modified plants or soils rapidly degrading to become a mere repository for a chemical cocktail of proprietary biocides.

The plan is to displace the existing system of livelihood-sustaining smallholder agriculture with one dominated from seed to plate by transnational agribusiness and retail concerns. To facilitate this, independent cultivators are being bankrupted, land is to be amalgamated to facilitate large-scale industrial cultivation and those farmers that are left will be absorbed into corporate supply chains and squeezed as they work on contracts, the terms of which will be dictated by large agribusiness and chain retailers.

Some like to call this adopting a market-based approach: a system in the ‘market-driven’ US that receives a taxpayer farm bill subsidy of around $100 million annually.

The WTO and the US-India Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture are facilitating the process. To push the plan along, there is a strategy to make agriculture financially non-viable for India’s small farms. The result is that hundreds of thousands of 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.

For all the discussion in India about loan waivers for farmers and raising their income levels, this does not address the core of the problem affecting agriculture: the running down of the sector for decades, spiralling input costs, lack 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 has effectively driven 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 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).

On the one hand, there is talk of India becoming food secure and self-sufficient; on the other, there is pressure from the richer nations for the Indian government to further reduce support given to farmers and open up to imports and ‘free’ trade. But this is based on hypocrisy.

Writing on the ‘Down to Earth’ website in late 2017, Sachin Kumar Jain states some 3.2 million people were engaged in agriculture in the US in 2015. The US govt 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 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.

How can the Indian farmer compete with an influx of artificially cheap imports? The simple answer is that s/he cannot and is not meant to.

In the book The Invention of Capitalism, Michael Perelmen lays bare the iron fist which whipped the English peasantry into a workforce willing to accept factory wage labour. A series of laws and measures served to force peasants off the land and deprive them of their productive means. In India, we are currently witnessing a headlong rush to facilitate (foreign) capital and turn farmers into a reserve army of cheap industrial/service sector labour. By moving people into cities, it seems India wants to emulate China: a US colonial outpost for manufacturing that has boosted corporate profits at the expense of US jobs. In India, migrants – stripped of their livelihoods in the countryside – are to become the new ‘serfs’ of the informal services and construction sectors or to be trained for low-level industrial jobs.

Even here, however, India might have missed the boat as it is not creating anything like the number of jobs required and the effects of automation and artificial intelligence are eradicating the need for human labour across many sectors.

India’s high GDP growth has been fuelled on the back of debt, environmental degradation, cheap food and the subsequent impoverishment of farmers. The gap between their income and the rest of the population, including public sector workers, has widened enormously to the point where rural India consumes less calories per head than it did 40 years ago.

Amartya Sen and former World Bank Chief Economist Kaushik Basu have argued that the bulk of India’s aggregate growth occurred through a disproportionate rise in the incomes at the upper end of the income ladder. Furthermore, Global Finance Integrity has shown that the outflow of illicit funds into foreign bank accounts has accelerated since opening up the economy to neoliberalism in the early nineties. ‘High net worth individuals’ (i.e. the very rich) are the biggest culprits here.

While corporations receive massive handouts and interest-free loans, they have failed to spur job creation; yet any proposed financial injections (or loan waivers) for agriculture (which would pale into insignificance compared to corporate subsidies/written off loans) are depicted as a drain on the economy.

Making India ‘business friendly’

PM Modi is on record as saying that India is now one of the most business-friendly countries in the world. The code for being ‘business friendly’ translates into a willingness by the government to facilitate much of the above, while reducing taxes and tariffs and allowing the acquisition of public assets via privatisation as well as instituting policy frameworks that work to the advantage of foreign corporations.

When the World Bank rates countries on their level of ‘ease of doing business’, it means national states facilitating policies that force working people to take part in a race to the bottom based on free market fundamentalism. The more ‘compliant’ national governments make their populations and regulations, the more ‘business friendly’ a country is.

The World Bank’s ‘Enabling the Business of Agriculture’ entails opening up markets to Western agribusiness and their fertilisers, pesticides, weedicides and patented seeds with farmers working to supply transnational corporations’ global supply chains. Rather than working towards food security based on food sovereignty and eradicating corruption, building storage facilities and dealing with inept bureaucracies and deficiencies in food logistics, the mantra is to let ‘the market’ intervene: a euphemism for letting powerful corporations take control; the very transnational corporations that receive massive taxpayer subsidies, manipulate markets, write trade agreements and institute a regime of intellectual property rights thereby indicating that the ‘free’ market only exists in the warped delusions of those who churn out clichés about letting the market decide.

Foreign direct investment is said to be good for jobs and good for business. But just how many get created is another matter – as is the amount of jobs destroyed in the first place to pave the way for the entry of foreign corporations. For example, Cargill sets up a food or seed processing plant that employs a few hundred people; but what about the agricultural jobs that were deliberately eradicated in the first place to import seeds or the village-level processors who were cynically put out of business via bogus health and safety measures so that Cargill could gain a financially lucrative foothold?

The process resembles what Michel Chossudovsky notes in his 1997 book about the ‘structural adjustment’ of African countries. In The Globalization of Poverty, he says that economies are:

opened up through the concurrent displacement of a pre-existing productive system. Small and medium-sized enterprises are pushed into bankruptcy or obliged to produce for a global distributor, state enterprises are privatised or closed down, independent agricultural producers are impoverished. (p.16)

The opening up of India to foreign capital is supported by rhetoric about increasing agricultural productivity, creating jobs and boosting GDP growth. But India is already self-sufficient in key staples and even where productivity is among the best in the world (as in Punjab) farmers still face massive financial distress. Clearly, productivity is not the problem: even with bumper harvests, the agrarian crisis persists.

India is looking to US corporations to ‘develop’ its food, retail and agriculture sectors. What could this mean for India? We only have to look at the business model that keeps these companies in profit in the US: an industrialised system that relies on massive taxpayer subsidies and has destroyed many small-scale farmers’ livelihoods.

The fact that US agriculture now employs a tiny fraction of the population serves as a stark reminder for what is in store for Indian farmers. Agribusiness companies’ taxpayer-subsidised business models are based on overproduction and dumping on the world market to depress prices and rob farmers elsewhere of the ability to cover the costs of production. They rake in huge returns, while depressed farmer incomes and massive profits for food retailers is the norm.

The long-term plan is for an overwhelmingly urbanised India with a fraction of the population left in farming working on contracts for large suppliers and Walmart-type supermarkets that offer a largely monoculture diet of highly processed, denutrified, genetically altered food based on crops soaked with chemicals and grown in increasingly degraded soils according to an unsustainable model of agriculture that is less climate/drought resistant, less diverse and unable to achieve food security.

Various high-level reports have concluded that policies need to support more resilient, diverse, sustainable (smallholder) agroecological methods of farming and develop decentralised, locally-based food economies. There is also a need to protect indigenous agriculture from rigged global trade and trade deals. However, the trend continues to move in the opposite direction towards industrial-scale agriculture and centralised chains for the benefit of Monsanto, Cargill, Bayer and other transnational players.

Devinder Sharma has highlighted where Indian policy makers’ priorities lie when he says that agriculture has been systematically killed over the last few decades. Some 60% of the population live in rural areas and are involved in agriculture but less than 2% of the annual budget goes to agriculture. Sharma says that when you are not investing in agriculture, you are not wanting it to perform.

It is worth considering that the loans provided to just five large corporations in India are equal to the entire farm debt. Where have those loans gone? Have they increased ‘value’ in the economy. No, loans to corporate houses left the banks without liquidity.

‘Demonetisation’ was in part a bail-out for the banks and the corporates, which farmers and other ordinary folk paid the price for. It was a symptom of a country whose GDP growth was based on a debt-inflated economy. While farmers commit suicide and are heavily indebted, a handful of billionaires get access to cheap money with no pressure to pay it back and with little ‘added value’ for society as a whole.

Corporate-industrial India has failed to deliver in terms of boosting exports or creating jobs, despite the hand outs and tax exemptions given to it. The number of jobs created in India between 2005 and 2010 was 2.7 million (the years of high GDP growth). According to International Business Times, 15 million enter the workforce every year. And data released by the Labour Bureau shows that in 2015, jobless ‘growth’ had finally arrived in India.

So where are the jobs going to come from to cater for hundreds of millions of agricultural workers who are to be displaced from the land or those whose livelihoods will be destroyed as transnational corporations move in and seek to capitalise small-scale village-level industries that currently employ tens of millions?

Development used to be about breaking with colonial exploitation and radically redefining power structures. Now we have dogma masquerading as economic theory that compels developing countries to adopt neoliberal policies. The notion of ‘development’ has become hijacked by rich corporations and the concept of poverty depoliticised and separated from structurally embedded power relations, not least US-driven globalisation policies resulting in the deregulation of international capital that ensures giant transnational conglomerates are able to ride roughshod over national sovereignty.

Across the world we are seeing treaties and agreements over breeders’ rights and intellectual property being enacted to prevent peasant farmers from freely improving, sharing or replanting their traditional seeds. Large corporations with their proprietary seeds and synthetic chemical inputs are trying to eradicate traditional systems of seed exchange. They have effectively hijacked seeds, pirated germ plasm that farmers developed over millennia and have ‘rented’ the seeds back to farmers

Corporate-dominated agriculture is not only an attack on the integrity of ‘the commons’ (soil, water, land, food, forests, diets and health) but is also an attack on the integrity of international institutions, governments and officials which have too often been corrupted by powerful transnational entities.

Whereas some want to bring about a fairer, more equitable system of production and distribution to improve people’s quality of lives (particularly pertinent in India with its unimaginable inequalities, which have spiralled since India adopted neoliberal policies), US capitalism regards ‘development’ as a geopolitical tool.

As economics professor Michael Hudson said during a 2014 interview (published on prosper.org under the title ‘Think Tank Times’):

American foreign policy has almost always been based on agricultural exports, not on industrial exports as people might think. It’s by agriculture and control of the food supply that American diplomacy has been able to control most of the Third World. The World Bank’s geopolitical lending strategy has been to turn countries into food deficit areas by convincing them to grow cash crops – plantation export crops – not to feed themselves with their own food crops.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) could further accelerate the corporatisation of Indian agriculture. A trade deal now being negotiated by 16 countries across Asia-Pacific, the RCEP would cover half the world’s population, including 420 million small family farms that produce 80% of the region’s food.

RCEP is expected to create powerful rights and lucrative business opportunities for food and agriculture corporations under the guise of boosting trade and investment. It could allow foreign corporations to buy up land, thereby driving up land prices, fuelling speculation and pushing small farmers out. If RCEP is adopted, it could intensify the great land grab that has been taking place in India. It could also lead to further corporate control over seeds.

Capitalism and environmental catastrophe joined at the hip

In India, an industrialised chemical-intensive model of agriculture is being facilitated. This model brings with it the numerous now well-documented externalised social, environmental and health costs. We need look no further than the current situation in South India and the drying up of the Cauvery river in places to see the impact that this model has contributed to: an ecological crisis fuelled by environmental devastation due to mining, deforestation and unsustainable agriculture based on big dams, water-intensive crops and Green Revolution ideology imported from the West.

But we have known for a long time now that India faces major environmental problems, many of which are rooted in agriculture. For example, in an open letter written to officials in 2006, the late campaigner and farmer Bhaskar Save noted that India, next to South America, receives the highest rainfall in the world. Where thick vegetation covers the ground, and the soil is alive and porous, at least half of this rain is soaked and stored in the soil and sub-soil strata. A good amount then percolates deeper to recharge aquifers, or ‘groundwater tables’. Save argued that the living soil and its underlying aquifers thus serve as gigantic, ready-made reservoirs gifted free by nature.

Half a century ago, most parts of India had enough fresh water all year round, long after the rains had stopped and gone. But clear the forests, and the capacity of the earth to soak the rain, drops drastically. Streams and wells run dry.

Save went on to note that while the recharge of groundwater has greatly reduced, its extraction has been mounting. India is presently mining over 20 times more groundwater each day than it did in 1950. Much of this is mindless wastage by a minority. But most of India’s people – living on hand-drawn or hand-pumped water in villages and practising only rain-fed farming – continue to use the same amount of ground water per person, as they did generations ago.

According to Save, more than 80% of India’s water consumption is for irrigation, with the largest share hogged by chemically cultivated cash crops. Maharashtra, for example, has the maximum number of big and medium dams in the country. But sugarcane alone, grown on barely 3-4% of its cultivable land, guzzles about 70% of its irrigation waters.

One acre of chemically grown sugarcane requires as much water as would suffice 25 acres of jowar, bajra or maize. The sugar factories too consume huge quantities. From cultivation to processing, each kilo of refined sugar needs two to three tonnes of water. This could be used to grow, by the traditional, organic way, about 150 to 200 kg of nutritious jowar or bajra (native millets).

While rice is suitable for rain-fed farming, its extensive multiple cropping with irrigation in winter and summer as well is similarly hogging water resources and depleting aquifers. As with sugarcane, it is also irreversibly ruining the land through salinization.

Save argued that soil salinization is the greatest scourge of irrigation-intensive agriculture, as a progressively thicker crust of salts is formed on the land. Many million hectares of cropland have been ruined by it. The most serious problems are caused where water-guzzling crops like sugarcane or basmati rice are grown round the year, abandoning the traditional mixed-cropping and rotation systems of the past, which required minimal or no watering.

Unfortunately, policy makers continue to look towards the likes of Monsanto-Bayer for ‘solutions’. Such companies merely seek to break farmers’ environmental learning ‘pathways’ based on centuries of indigenous knowledge, learning and practices with the aim of getting farmers hooked on chemical treadmills for corporate profit (see Glenn Stone and Andrew Flach’s paper on path-breaking and technology treadmills in Indian cotton agriculture).

Wrong-headed policies in agriculture have already resulted in drought, expensive dam-building projects, population displacement and degraded soils. The rivers are drying, farmers are dying and the cities are creaking as a result of the unbridled push towards urbanisation.

In terms of maintaining and creating jobs, managing water resources, regenerating soils and cultivating climate resilient crops, agroecology as a solution is there for all to see. Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are now making a concerted effort to roll out and scale up zero budget agroecological agriculture.

Solutions to India’s agrarian crisis (and indeed the world’s) are available, not least the scaling up of agroecological approaches which could be the lynchpin of rural development. However, successive administrations have bowed to and continue to acquiesce to the grip of global capitalism and have demonstrated their allegiance to corporate power. The danger is that without changing the capitalist relations of production, agroecology would simply be co-opted by corporations and incorporated into their global production and distribution chains.

In the meantime, India faces huge problems in terms of securing access to water. As Bhaskar Save noted, the shift to Green Revolution thinking and practices has placed enormous strain on water resources. From glacial melt in the Himalayas that will contribute to the drying up of important rivers to the effects of temperature rises across the Indo Gangetic plain, which will adversely impact wheat productivity, India has more than its fair share of problems. But despite this, high-level policy makers are pushing for a certain model of ‘development’ that will only exacerbate the problems.

This model is being driven by some of the world’s largest corporate players: a model that by its very nature leads to environment catastrophe:

… our economic system demands ever-increasing levels of extraction, production and consumption. Our politicians tell us that we need to keep the global economy growing at more than 3% each year – the minimum necessary for large firms to make aggregate profits. That means every 20 years we need to double the size of the global economy – double the cars, double the fishing, double the mining, double the McFlurries and double the iPads. And then double them again over the next 20 years from their already doubled state.

— Jason Hickel

While politicians and bureaucrats in Delhi might be facilitating this economic model and all it entails for agriculture, it is ultimately stamped with the logo ‘made in Washington’. Surrendering the nation’s food sovereignty and the incorporation of India into US financial and geopolitical structures is the current state of independence.

Final thoughts

Neoliberalism and the drive for urbanisation in India have been underpinned by unconstitutional land takeovers and the trampling of democratic rights. For supporters of cronyism and manipulated markets, which to all extents and purposes is what economic ‘neoliberalism’ across the world has entailed (see thisthis and this), there have been untold opportunities for well-placed individuals to make an under-the-table fast buck from various infrastructure projects and privatisation sell-offs.

According to the Organisation for Co-operation and Economic Development, the doubling of income inequality has made India one of the worst performers in the category of emerging economies.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, struggles (violent and non-violent) are taking place in India. The Naxalites/Maoists are referred to by the dominant class as left-wing extremists who are exploiting the situation of the poor. But how easy it is to ignore the true nature of the poor’s exploitation and too often lump all protesters together and create an ‘enemy within’. How easy it is to ignore the state-corporate extremism across the world that results in the central state abdicating its redistributive responsibilities by submitting to the tenets of Wall Street-backed ‘structural adjustment’ pro-privatisation policies, free capital flows and largely unaccountable corporations.

Powerful (mining) corporations are shaping the ‘development’ agenda in India and have signed secretive Memorandums of Understanding with the government. The full backing of the state is on hand to forcibly evict peoples from their land in order to hand it over to mineral-hungry industries to fuel a wholly unsustainable model of development. Around the world, this oil-dependent, urban-centric, high-energy model of endless consumption is stripping the environment bare and negatively impacting the climate and ecology.

In addition to displacing people to facilitate the needs of resource extraction industries, unconstitutional land grabs for Special Economic Zones, nuclear plants and other projects have additionally forced many others from the land.

Farmers (and others) represent a ‘problem’: a problem while on the land and a problem to be somehow dealt with once displaced. But food producers, the genuine wealth creators of a nation, only became a problem when western agribusiness was given the green light to take power away from farmers and uproot traditional agriculture in India and recast it in its own corporate-controlled image.

This is a country where the majority sanctifies certain animals, places, rivers and mountains. It’s also a country run by Wall Street sanctioned politicians who convince people to accept or be oblivious to the destruction of the same.

Many are working strenuously to challenge the selling of the heart and soul of India. Yet how easy will it be for them to be swept aside by officialdom which seeks to cast them as ‘subversive’. How easy it will be for the corrosive impacts of a rapacious capitalism to take hold and for hugely powerful corporations to colonise almost every area of social, cultural and economic life and encourage greed, selfishness, apathy, irretrievable materialism and acquisitive individualism.

The corporations behind it all achieve hegemony by altering mindsets via advertising, clever PR or by sponsoring (hijacking) major events, by funding research in public institutes and thus slanting findings and the knowledge paradigm in their favour or by securing key positions in international trade negotiations in an attempt to structurally readjust retail, food production and agriculture. They do it by many methods and means.

Before you realise it, culture, politics and the economy have become colonised by powerful private interests and the world is cast in their image. The prevailing economic system soon becomes cloaked with an aura of matter of factuality, an air of naturalness, which is never to be viewed for the controlling hegemonic culture or power play that it really is.

Seeds, mountains, water, forests and biodiversity are being sold off. The farmers and tribals are being sold out. And the more that gets sold off, the more who get sold out, the greater the amount of cash that changes hands and the easier it is for the misinformed to swallow the lie of Wall Street’s bogus notion of ‘growth’ – GDP.

If anyone perceives the type of ‘development’ being sold to the masses is actually possible in the first instance, they should note that ‘developing’ nations account for more than 80% of world population but consume only about a third of the world’s energy. US citizens constitute 5% of the world’s population but consume 24% of the world’s energy. On average, one American consumes as much energy as two Japanese, six Mexicans, 13 Chinese, 31 Indians, 128 Bangladeshis, 307 Tanzanians and 370 Ethiopians.

Consider that the Earth is 4.6 billion years old and if you scale this to 46 years then humans have been here for just four hours. The Industrial Revolution began just one minute ago, and in that time, 50% of the Earth’s forests have been destroyed.

We are using up oil, water and other resources much faster than they can ever be regenerated. We have also poisoned the rivers, destroyed natural habitats, driven species to extinction and altered the chemical composition of the atmosphere – among many other things.

Levels of consumption were unsustainable long before India and other countries began striving to emulate a bogus notion of ‘development’. The West continues to live way beyond its (environmental) limits.

This wasteful, high-energy model is tied to what ultimately constitutes the plundering of peoples and the planet by powerful transnational corporations. And, as we see all around us, from Libya and Syria to Afghanistan and Iraq, the outcome is endless conflicts over fewer and fewer resources.

The type of ‘progress and development’ and consumerism being sold makes beneficiaries of it blind to the misery and plight of the hundreds of millions who are deprived of their lands and livelihoods. In Congo, rich corporations profit from war and conflict. And in India, tens of thousands of militias (including in 2005, Salwa Judum) were put into tribal areas to forcibly displace 300,000 people and place 50,000 in camps. In the process, rapes and human rights abuses have been common.

If what is set out above tells us anything, it is that India and other regions of the world are suffering from internal haemorrhaging. They are being bled dry from both within and without:

There are sectors of the global population trying to impede the global catastrophe. There are other sectors trying to accelerate it. Take a look at whom they are. Those who are trying to impede it are the ones we call backward, indigenous populations – the First Nations in Canada, the aboriginals in Australia, the tribal people in India. Who is accelerating it? The most privileged, so-called advanced, educated populations of the world.

— Noam Chomsky.

Underpinning the arrogance of such a mindset is what Vandana Shiva calls a view of the world which encourages humans to regard man as conqueror and owner of the Earth. This has led to the technological hubris of geo-engineering, genetic engineering and nuclear energy. Shiva argues that it has led to the ethical outrage of owning life forms through patents, water through privatization, the air through carbon trading. It is leading to appropriation of the biodiversity that serves the poor.

And therein lies the true enemy of genuine development: a system that facilitates such plunder, which is presided over by well-funded and influential foreign foundations and powerful financial-corporate entities and their handmaidens in the IMF, World Bank and WTO.

If we look at the various western powers, to whom many of India’s top politicians look to for inspiration, their paths to economic prosperity occurred on the back of colonialism and imperialist intent. Do India’s politicians think this mindset has disappeared? The same mentality now lurks behind the neoliberal globalisation agenda hidden behind terms and policies like ‘foreign direct investment’, ‘ease of doing business’, making India ‘business friendly’ or ‘enabling the business of agriculture’.

Is India willing to see Monsanto-Bayer, Cargill and other transnational corporations deciding on what is to be eaten and how it is to be produced and processed. A corporate takeover spearheaded by companies whose character is clear for all to see:

The Indo-US Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture with agribusinesses like Monsanto, WalMart, Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill and ITC in its Board made efforts to turn the direction of agricultural research and policy in such a manner as to cater their demands for profit maximisation. Companies like Monsanto during the Vietnam War produced tonnes and tonnes of ‘Agent Orange’ unmindful of its consequences for Vietnamese people as it raked in super profits and that character remains.

— Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Behind the World Bank/corporate-inspired rhetoric that is driving the overhaul of Indian agriculture is a brand of corporate imperialism which is turning out to be no less brutal for Indian farmers than early industrial capitalism was in England for its peasantry. The East India company might have gone, but today the bidding of elite interests (private capital) is being carried out by compliant politicians, the World Bank, the WTO and lop-sided, egregious back-room trade deals.

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook: Serf Labor, Overpriced iPhones, and Wasted Burning Profits

The New York Times screamed its Headline— “In 1997, Apple was 90 Days from Going Broke. On Thursday [Aug. 2, 2018], It Became the first publicly traded American company to be valued at…$1,000,000,000,000.” The first trillion dollar company!

The boosters and commentators cheered, adding, “How High Could it Go?” In CEO’s Tim Cook’s announcement, we learned that there were $20 billion more of the shareholders money spent on wasteful stock buybacks. Stock buybacks enable fatter compensation metrics for Apple’s bosses (see Steven Clifford’s The CEO Pay Machine). Corporate managers love stock buybacks.

Earlier this year Apple executives dictatorially announced that it was going to spend $100 billion to buying back its stock, without of course, receiving the owners-shareholders’ approval. The owners might have preferred that some of that amount be used to pay them greater cash dividends. More far-sighted shareholders consider the presumably longer-view: institutional shareholders might have recommended more productive and equitable uses for that vast sum.

Some suggestions: Two billion dollars (a mere 2 percent of that $100 billion) would double the wages of its 1.3 million serf-workers driven to the wall by Apple’s Chinese-based mega-factory contractor. Another two billion would have made major improvements in the global recycling of the present deadly (to the environment and workers) handling of toxic discarded iPhones and computers. Some of that $100 billion could have gone to productive investments, R&D, shoring up Apple’s pension plan, raising wages of Apple’s employees, paying Apple’s fair share of taxes or, consumers take note, lowering the prices of their over-priced phones and components.

Apple’s media cheerleaders can only see blizzards of dollars. They don’t see the damage that this touted “successful business model” is doing to Apple stakeholders.

Exceptionally, Mark Phillips in his page one New York Times story on Apple’s report takes note of the corporate concentration in business profits and markets. “Economists,” he writes, “are starting to look into whether the rise of so-called super-star firms is contributing to the lackluster wage growth, shrinking the middle class and raising income inequality in the United States. The vast social and political influence wielded by their mega-companies has prompted lawmakers to demand more regulation to rein them in.”

Apple’s business model rests on low wage-labor in China and gouging iPhone consumers in the U.S. The federal cops on the corporate antitrust beat have been asleep for years— a somnolence well recognized by Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google.

Phillips reports, “Apple and Google provide the software for 99% of all smartphones. Facebook and Google take 59 cents of every dollar spent on online advertising in the United States. Amazon exerts utter dominance over online shopping and is quickly getting bigger, fast, in areas liking streaming of music and videos.”

The CEOs of these companies behave like “Emperors,” a designation levelled at Exxon/Mobile’s CEO years ago by prominent shareholder advocate Robert Monks at the company’s annual meeting. These new CEOs exude arrogance (sometimes with false Zuckerberg-like public humility). Once they hook their customers, the network costs for customers switching to a competition become higher with time and also serve to discourage any new would-be competitor. Years ago, dominant Hertz rent-a-car had Avis as a competitor. Who are the domestic non-collusive Avis equivalents to the aforementioned Big Four today?

The big institutional shareholders like Vanguard, Fidelity and giant worker pension-funds better wake up. Tim Cook can ignore small shareholder complaints with impunity. The big institutional shareholders, with their skilled staff, can get his attention. They can take a longer, responsible view and demand that he stop burning all their shareholder money with buybacks and give shareholders more in cash dividends and other important investments that produce productive and equitable outcomes.

Concentration of market power in other fields feed the likelihood of future instability through a domino effect. The top five megabanks in the U.S. control about half of the deposits, compared to about one-fifth twenty years ago. Labor’s annual share of the nation’s wealth gains have been declining since the 1990s. Speculation on Wall Street, slowed after the great crash of 2008, is roaring ahead toward the inevitable cliffs of unbridled greed. More taxpayer bailouts?

Grave risk levels are signaling caution; yet incredibly, a Republican Congress and Trump have loosened regulation on Wall Street.

As for you the people, your next big chance to grab hold of Congress and slow down these corporate supremacists comes in November. Do a little homework and find out who is on your side. “Slogan voters” are suckers.

Trump Takes on the Fed

The president has criticized Federal Reserve policy for undermining his attempts to build the economy. To make the central bank serve the needs of the economy, it needs to be transformed into a public utility.

For nearly half a century, presidents have refrained from criticizing the “independent” Federal Reserve; but that was before Donald Trump. In response to a question about Fed interest rate policy in a CNBC interview on July 19, 2018, he shocked commentators by stating,

I’m not thrilled.  Because we go up and every time you go up they want to raise rates again. … I am not happy about it.  … I don’t like all of this work that we’re putting into the economy and then I see rates going up.

He acknowledged the central bank’s independence, but the point was made: the Fed was hurting the economy with its “Quantitative Tightening” policies and needed to watch its step.

In commentary on CNBC.com, Richard Bove contended that the president was positioning himself to take control of the Federal Reserve. Bove said Trump will do it “both because he can and because his broader policies argue that he should do so. . . . By raising interest rates and stopping the growth in the money supply [the Fed] stands in the way of further growth in the American economy.”

Bove noted that in the second quarter of 2018, the growth in the money supply (M2) was zero. Why? He blamed “the tightest monetary policy since Paul Volcker, whose policies in the mid-1980s led to back-to-back recessions.” The Fed has raised interest rates seven times, with five more scheduled, while it is shrinking its balance sheet by $40 billion per month, soon to be $50 billion per month.

How could the president take control? Bove explained:

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve is required to have seven members. It has three. Two of the current governors were put into their position by President Trump. Two more have been nominated by the president and are awaiting confirmation by the Senate. After these two are put on the Fed’s board, the president will then nominate two more to follow them. In essence, it is possible that six of the seven Board members will be put in place by Trump.

Those seven, along with five federal district bank presidents, compose the Federal Open Market Committee, which sets monetary policy; and one of those district bank presidents, Minnesota Fed head Neel Kashkari, is already arguing against further rate increases. Bove concluded:

The president can and will take control of the Fed. It may be recalled when the law was written creating the Federal Reserve the secretary of the Treasury was designated as the head of the Federal Reserve. We are going to return to that era.

Returning the Fed to Treasury control, however, means more than appointing new Board members. It means “nationalizing” the central bank, making it a public utility responsive to the needs of the public and the economy. And that means modifying the Federal Reserve Act to change the Fed’s mandate and tools.

The Controversial History of Central Bank Independence

Ever since the 1970s, the Fed and other central banks have insisted on their independence from political control. But according to Timothy Canova, Professor of Law and Public Finance at Nova Southeastern University, independence has really come to mean a central bank that has been captured by very large banking interests. It might be independent of oversight by politicians, but it is not a neutral arbiter. This has not always been the case. During the period coming out of the Great Depression, says Canova, the Fed as a practical matter was not independent but took its marching orders from the White House and the Treasury; and that period was the most successful in American economic history.

According to Bernard Lietaer, a former Belgian central banker who has written extensively on monetary innovation, the real job of central bankers today is to serve the banking system by keeping the debt machine going. He writes:

[W]e can produce more than enough food to feed everybody, and there is definitely enough work for everybody in the world, but there is clearly not enough money to pay for it all. The scarcity is in our national currencies. In fact, the job of central banks is to create and maintain that currency scarcity. The direct consequence is that we have to fight with each other in order to survive.

The rationale for central bank independence dates back to a bout in the 1970s of “stagflation” – rapidly rising prices along with stagnant productivity. The inflation surges were blamed on political pressure put on Fed Chairman Arthur Burns by the Nixon administration to follow easy-money policies. But the link between easy-money policies and inflation is not at all clear. The Japanese have had near-zero interest rates for two decades and cannot generate price inflation although they are trying to. An alternative explanation for the rising prices of the 1970s is that producers’ costs had gone up, largely from increased labor costs due to the strong bargaining power of unions and the skyrocketing cost of oil from an engineered 1973-74 oil crisis.

Fed policy nevertheless remains stuck on the “Quantity Theory of Money,” which says that increasing the money in the system will decrease the value of the currency, driving up prices. The theory omits the supply factor. As long as workers and materials are available, increasing “demand” (money) can generate the supply needed to meet that demand. Supply and demand increase together and prices remain stable. And while the speculative economy may be awash in money, today the local productive economy is suffering from a lack of demand. Consumers are short of funds and heavily in debt. Moreover, plenty of workers are available to generate the supply needed to meet any new demand (injection of money). According to John Williams at ShadowStats.com, the real unemployment figure as of April 2018, including long-term discouraged workers who were defined out of official existence in 1994, was 21.5 percent. Beyond that is the expanding labor potential of robots and computers. A vast workforce is thus available to fill the gap between supply and demand, allowing new money to be added to the productive economy.

But the Fed insists on “sterilizing” every purported effort to stimulate demand, by making sure the new money never gets into the real economy. The money produced through quantitative easing remains trapped on bank balance sheets, where the Fed pays interest on excess reserves, killing any incentive for the banks to lend even to other banks; and the central bank has now begun systematically returning even that money to its own balance sheet.

The High Price of Challenging the Fed

An article in The Economist on July 28, 2018, contends that Nixon was pressuring the Fed to make the economy look good for political purposes, and that Trump is following suit. But there is more to the Nixon story. In a 2010 book titled The American Caliphate, R. Duane Willing says the Nixon White House had quietly drafted and sponsored a Federal Charter Bill that would have changed U.S. financial history. Willing worked for the Federal Home Loan Bank Board during the Nixon era and was tasked with defining the system requirements that would make a central computerized checking account and loan system available to the new banking system. He writes:

Only John Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln and two other assassinated presidents, James Garfield and William McKinley, prior to Nixon, had actively contemplated changes of such magnitude in the U.S. financial system.

President Garfield observed that “whoever controls the volume of money in our country is absolute master of all industry and commerce . . . and when you realize that the entire money system is very easily controlled, one way or another by a few powerful men, you will not have to be told how periods of inflation and depression originate.”

. . . The hidden secret since the beginning of modern capitalism is that money is created and managed by bank control over checking accounts in the loan-making process.

Willing says Nixon was preparing the Federal Home Loan Bank Board to change the traditional role of American savings and loan associations, giving them money creation powers like the big Wall Street banks had, providing a full-service nationwide banking system. The national money supply would thus be regulated according to needs at the local level rather than dictated from the top by the central bank.  The proposed legislation provided for a separate central bank to backstop local credit unions and a much greater degree of competition for a wide array of financial services.

But Nixon’s plan for national finance, along with his plan for healthcare and a guaranteed income, alarmed the Wall Street/Federal Reserve power block, which Willing says was about to be challenged like never before. Nixon was obviously not blameless in the Watergate scandal, but Willing contends it was pushed by “the Wall Street Great Merchants as owners of the Senate,” who “were making certain that the money dreams of ‘Tricky Dick’ and his vision for the Republic protected with a network of converted Savings and Loan associations was doomed.”

An “Independent” Central Bank or a Public Central Bank?

Challenging the Fed is thus risky business, and the president should be given credit for taking it on. But if he is planning to change the makeup of the Federal Reserve Board, he needs to appoint people who understand that the way to jump-start the economy is to inject new money directly into it, not keep the money “sterilized” in fake injections that trap it on bank balance sheets until it can be reeled back in by the central bank. Interesting proposals for how the Fed could inject new money into the economy include making direct loans for infrastructure (as the Chinese central bank is doing), making low- or no-interest loans to state and local governments for infrastructure, or refinancing the federal debt interest-free.

Better than changing who is at the helm of the central bank would be to change the rules governing it, something only Congress can do. Putting the needs of the American people first, as Trump promised in his campaign speeches, means making the Fed serve Main Street rather than Wall Street.

• A previous version of this article was published at Truthdig.com

Trump Era: “There Is Great Disorder Under The Sky, So The Situation Is Excellent!”

The quote in the headline comes from Mao Tse Tung. It was aptly used by Professor Slavoj Žižek to describe the situation we find ourselves in during the Trump era. There are many things to dislike about President Trump, but he is shaking up the establishment and raising mishandled issues that would not otherwise be discussed. He is causing chaos and his policy prescriptions are rarely correct, but he is unintentionally creating opportunities for positive change, if people can rise to the occasion in an informed and strategic way.

Žižek writes an interesting review of Trump’s recent European trip but falls short in his conclusion that the election of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shows a path forward within the Democratic Party. While we were pleased to see ten-term Congressman Joe Crowley defeated, as he epitomizes the corporate-corruption of the Democratic Party, the reality is that movements for peace and justice lose power when they enter the Democratic Party. Ocasio-Cortez’ election occurred in a low-turnout primary in a solidly-blue congressional district where the ethnic makeup has moved from white middle class to Latinx working class and Crowley was focused on taking Pelosi’s place rather than his re-election.

Democrats Not Turning Left, More Likely Deepening Their Role as a Wall Street and War Party

The democratic socialism of the Bernie Sanders type that Ocascio-Cortez stands for could be popular across the country where workers are struggling after decades of neoliberal economics that increase the wealth at the top in the false claim it will trickle down. Most people in the United States are worse off; tens of millions are in poverty and all but the wealthiest are economically insecure. This is one reason the anti-establishment campaign of Trump defeated the elitist establishment candidate Clinton. Trump also played on the reality that most people are ready to end the never-ending wars and cut the obscene spending on militarism when necessities at home are not being realized. President Obama also campaigned as a peace president, even though he did not govern that way, showing the public has been ready to end 21st Century wars for a long time. While the population is ready for transformative change, the Democratic Party is successfully resisting it.

Ocasio-Cortez’ victory was a rare progressive victory in the primaries. Joe Crowley is the only House incumbent to have lost a primary, and thanks to the fake third party, the Working Families Party, which is really the Democrats in disguise, Crowley will still be on the ballot in November.

Just 22 percent of self-defined progressive candidates have won, with many of them coming from seats where Democrats have little chance of winning in November, so they will not change the makeup of House Democrats. And, progressive candidates who lost their races are supporting establishment Democrats. More likely than a progressive takeover among House Democrats is the deepening of the military-intelligence policies of the party as many new Democratic candidates are veterans of military and intelligence agencies. In the Senate, there was not even one progressive challenge in the primaries even though many of the Democrats running for re-election are in the right-wing mainstream of the Democratic Party.

While there is a lot of left-progressive energy in the Democratic Party base, the establishment is containing it. The leadership wants just enough energy to win back the House in November, and a less-likely takeover of the Senate, but not a progressive takeover of the Democratic Party. Thus far 2018 indicates the Democrats will remain a corporate Democrat-dominated party consistent with their Wall Street and war agenda.

The real path to transformation is to break free of the duopoly and build a political alternative, such as the Green Party, into a national force that can win elections and be the party that puts people and planet before the donor-militarist class that dominates the political duopoly. This will require progressives beaten down by the Democratic establishment to break their abusive relationship with the Democratic Party. It will require workers who have gone downhill since the 1930s, when unions allied with the Democratic Party, to say — “Enough, we will build our own political power.” And, it will require African Americans who in every measurement from lack of wealth and income, to high levels of incarceration, lack of investment in their communities and poor education to say — “Enough, we will not fall for black Democratic Party misleadership and build our own power outside of the Democratic Party.”

The Contradictions of Trump’s Trip to Europe

Trump’s recent trip to Europe was filled with inconsistencies and contradictions. The reaction of the establishment from both parties and the corporate media showed they favor conflict with Russia over a working relationship.

President Trump told NATO countries they need to spend even more on militarism, avoiding the real issue with NATO. They have already increased their spending due to Trump’s bullying; now he says, even more, is needed, demanding four percent of their GDP. This is absurd when the truth is NATO should be disbanded, as its purpose no longer exists. The threat of the Warsaw Pact is gone and NATO should follow their lead.  The fear-mongering of Russia is a fraudulent mirage. There is no need for bases along the Russian border with Europe; doing so only provides profits to the militarists while decreasing security in Russia and Europe.

After Trump jawboned Europe to spend money to defend themselves against Russia, he contradicted that fearmongering with a friendly meeting in Helsinki with President Putin. His display of friendship, which we view as a positive step by Trump, showed that NATO is no longer needed. What is needed are more meetings between Trump and Putin. These “Treason Summits” have the potential to de-escalate threats of military conflict and solve crisis problems that the world is facing.

Trump also attacked the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, at the NATO summit claiming that “Germany is totally controlled by Russia because they’re getting between 60% to 70% of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline.” This was an exaggeration, but was this really about “control” by Russia or about selling US oil and gas? Shortly after the NATO meeting, Trump met with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Washington, DC. One of the results of their meeting was increased purchases of carbon energy by Europe from the United States.

The real energy news in Germany is that it is breaking from carbon energy and leading the way on clean energy. Germany is setting new records in the use of clean, renewable energy by providing more than 40 percent of the country’s power supply in the first half of 2018. In July, renewables overtook coal for the first time and the country is seeking to transition to clean energy. The market for oil and gas may be short-term.

The recent Trump trip to Europe also once again highlighted the declining role of the US in the world.  There are escalating signs in the Trump era of the decline of US empire. The move from a unipolar world to a multi-polar world is underway. Just one year ago, the US War College published a report, At Our Own Peril: DoD Risk Assessment In A Post-Primacy World, which recognized the decline of US global influence as both a military and corporate power. Their recommendation was more militarism, but the chaos of the Trump era shows an opportunity and responsibility of the people of the United States. We must find a justice-based way to a multi-polar world and an end to US empire where the US becomes a member of the community of nations, not a dominator of the world.

A Public Bank for Los Angeles? City Council Puts It to the Voters

California legislators exploring the public bank option may be breaking not just from Wall Street but from the Federal Reserve.

Voters in Los Angeles will be the first in the country to weigh in on a public banking mandate, after the City Council agreed on June 29th to put a measure on the November ballot that would allow the city to form its own bank. The charter for the nation’s second-largest city currently prohibits the creation of industrial or commercial enterprises by the city without voter approval. The measure, introduced by City Council President Herb Wesson, would allow the city to create a public bank, although state and federal law hurdles would still need to be cleared.

The bank is expected to save the city millions, if not billions, of dollars in Wall Street fees and interest paid to bondholders, while injecting new money into the local economy, generating jobs and expanding the tax base. It could respond to the needs of its residents by reinvesting in low-income housing, critical infrastructure projects, and clean energy, as well as serving as a depository for the cannabis industry.

The push for a publicly-owned bank comes amid ongoing concerns involving the massive amounts of cash generated by the cannabis business, which was legalized by Proposition 64 in 2016. Wesson has said that cannabis has “kind of percolated to the top” of the public bank push, “but it’s not what’s driving” it, citing affordable housing and other key issues; and that a public bank should be pursued even if it cannot be used by the cannabis industry. However, the prospect of millions of dollars in tax revenue is an obvious draw. Los Angeles is the largest cannabis market in the state, with Mayor Eric Garcetti estimating that it would bring in $30 million in taxes for the city.

Bypassing the Fed

State Board of Equalization Member Fiona Ma, who is running for state treasurer, says California’s homegrown $8-20 billion cannabis industry is still operating mostly in cash almost 2 years after state legalization, with the majority of businesses operating in the black market without paying taxes. This is in large part because federal law denies them access to the banking system, forcing them to deal only in cash and causing logistical nightmares when paying taxes and transferring money.

Cannabis is still a forbidden Schedule 1 drug under federal law, and the Federal Reserve has refused to give a master account to banks taking cannabis cash. Without a master account, they cannot access Fedwire transfer services, essentially shutting them out of the banking business.

In a surprise move in early June, President Donald Trump announced that he “probably will end up supporting” legislation to let states set their own cannabis policy. But Ma says that while that is good news, California cannot wait on the federal government. She and State Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Los Angeles) have brought Senate Bill 930, which would allow state-chartered banks and financial institutions to apply for a special cannabis banking license to accept clients, after a rigorous process that follows regulations from the US Treasury Department. The bill cleared a major legislative hurdle on May 30th when it passed on the Senate Floor.

SB 930 focuses on California state-chartered banks, which unlike federally-chartered banks can operate under a closed loop system with private deposit insurance. As Ma explained in a May 17 article in The Sacramento Bee:

There are two types of banks – those with federal charters, and banks with California charters. Because cannabis is still considered a Schedule 1 narcotic, we cannot touch federal banking wires. We want state-chartered banks that are protected, regulated and certified under California law, and not required to be under the FDIC.

State income taxes, sales taxes, unemployment, workers’ compensation and property taxes could all be paid through a closed-loop system that takes in revenue from the cannabis industry, but is apart from the federal banking system. . . . Cannabis businesses could be part of a cashless system similar to Apple Pay, and their money would be insured by a state-licensed institution.

That is a pretty revolutionary idea – a closed-loop California banking system that is independent of the Federal Reserve and the federal system. SB 930 would bypass the Feds only for cannabis cash, and the bill strictly limits what the checks issued by these “pot banks” can be used for. But the prospects it opens up are interesting. California is now the fifth largest economy in the world, with 39 million people. It has the resources for its own cashless “CalPay” or CalCoin” system that could bypass the federal system altogether.

The Bank of North Dakota, currently the nation’s only state-owned depository bank, has been called a “mini-Fed” for that state. The Bank of North Dakota partners with local banks to make below-market loans for community purposes, including 2 percent loans for local infrastructure, while at the same time turning a tidy profit for the state. In 2017, it recorded its 14th consecutive year of record profits, with $145.3 million in net earnings and a return on the state’s investment of 17 percent. California, with more than 50 times North Dakota’s population, could use its own mini-Fed as well.

Growing Support for Public Banks

It is significant that the proposal for a closed-loop California system is not coming from academics without political clout. Fiona Ma is slated to become state treasurer, having won the primary election in June by a landslide; and the current state treasurer John Chiang has been exploring the possibility of a public bank that could take cannabis cash for over a year. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the front runner for governor, has also called for the creation of a public bank. These are not armchair theoreticians but the people who make political decisions for the state, and they have substantial popular support.

Public bank advocacy groups from cities across California have joined to form the California Public Banking Alliance, a coalition to advance legislation that would facilitate the formation of municipal banks statewide under a special state charter. A press release by Public Bank Los Angeles, one of its founding advocacy groups, notes that 15 pieces of legislation for public banks are being explored across the nation through municipal committees and state legislators, with over three dozen public banking movements building in cities and states across the country. San Francisco has created a 16-person Municipal Bank Feasibility Task Force; Seattle and Washington DC have separately earmarked $100,000 for public banking feasibility studies; and Washington State legislators have added nearly a half million dollars to their budget to produce a business plan for a public depository bank. New Jersey state legislators, with the backing of Governor Phil Murphy, have introduced a bill to form a state-owned bank; and GOP and Democratic lawmakers in Michigan have filed a bipartisan bill to create one in that state.

Cities and states are seeking ways to better leverage taxpayer dollars and reinvest them in the needs of local communities. Public banking serves that purpose, providing local determination and the opportunity for socially and environmentally responsible lending and investments. The City Council of Los Angeles is now taking it to the voters; and where California goes, the nation may well follow.

• A version of this article first appeared in Truthdig.

The Underworld of Banksters

The financial industry is but one of many industries in the modern world. Besides whatever their stated purposes may be, every one of their modus operandi can be “unmasked” to reveal some degree and form of wrongdoing and harm done, as I did once in a very cursory way.1

One of those industries, the financial industry, is comprised of numerous sectors such as the insurance industry, for instance. I have written about how it along with its government ally are financially soaking the public.2 This present article burrows into another sector, what I call the industry’s “underworld of banksters.” A bankster is a bank or banker that relies on illegal or unethical wrongdoing in their financial dealings. The wrongdoing to be found in their underworld is monumental and incalculable in size and harm done.

Hijacking a Public Domain

Permit me to issue and control a nation’s money and I care not who makes the laws.

— Mayer Amschel Rothschild3

Mayer Amschel Rothschild was a German banker and the “founding father of international finance” that grew into the Rothschild banking dynasty that still exists today in full force, with ownership or control of banks in over 150 countries.4 In 2005 he was ranked seventh on the Forbes’ magazine list of “The Twenty Most Influential Businessmen of All Time.”5

Forbes, naturally, did not characterize him as a bankster of the financial underworld, but we can judge whether that is so just from the above quote. In its first clause he says he would like to privatize what should be in the public domain, namely, the exchange of money for goods and services, an exchange essential to any society’s existence. In its second clause he is saying exactly what would be expected of a bankster.

Bankrolling Wars

All wars are banksters’ wars!

The Rothschild banking dynasty has bankrolled “war operations for the past several centuries.”6  And they bankrolled both sides!7  And why not? Why would they care so long as they profited from the bloodshed? Mayer Rothschild’s wife reportedly quipped on her deathbed “If my sons did not want wars, there would be none.”8 Such was the power of her five sons sent by their father to establish banks in five countries. I don’t think there is any evidence to show that they did not want wars.

The banksters do not wait for wars to just happen, they help get them started and then bankroll them for munificent profits. For instance, President Woodrow Wilson promised to keep the U.S. out of WWI, but the Morgan Bank, then the most powerful bank, nudged him into declaring war and then promptly bankrolled over 75 percent of the financing for the allied forces.9  Behind US involvement in more recent wars was the banksters’ intention of enfolding all countries into a Western, private central banking powerhouse.10

Woodrow Wilson was hardly the only captive U.S. president. A knowledgeable insider once examined archives of U.S. presidents for over a century and discovered that banksters were “in constant communication with the White House — not just about financial and economic policy, and by extension trade policy, but also about aspects of World War I, or World War II, or the Cold War.”10 U.S. presidents obviously listen when the banksters come calling!

Besides its full war operations, declared or undeclared, the U.S. government officially approves millions of dollars to fund terrorist groups.11 It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the banksters unofficially milk the fund. Successfully suing them on behalf of families of U.S. military members slain by the funded terrorists seems to be an insurmountable hurdle, especially when the banksters being sued were a conduit to other banks that did the funding. But indirect funding should be irrelevant, as one of the lawyers who filed the lawsuit observed; “Does it matter whether a particular bank was the physical conduit of the transfers to the terror apparatus, or is it enough that they were in a conspiracy which made that possible, and that they were, as a legal matter, deliberately indifferent to that result?”12  Well, Mr. Lawyer, you are dealing with the banksters, whether first hand or second hand.

Banksters are also profiting from and preparing for the ultimate war, a nuclear blowout. PAX recently issued a report on its findings from January 2014 through October 2017 that showed “329 banks, insurance companies, pension funds and asset managers from 24 countries that invest significantly in the top 20 nuclear weapon producers.”13  If blowback gets the banksters nuked that would be poetic justice, but it is not something to wish for since the fallout would engulf everyone else as well.

Arranging Assassinations

Befitting Mafia hit men, banksters have been suspected of arranging the assassinations of several U.S. presidents, a member of Congress and a Justice, all of whom dared defy the banksters: Andrew Jackson (attempt failed), Zaccary Taylor, James Buchannan (survived arsenic poisoning), Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, Louis T. McFadden (a member of the House of Representatives in the twenties and thirties), Justice Martin V. Mahoney, and John F. Kennedy.14

Banksters are cunning enough to arrange for perfect murders, ones that will never be solved in a court of law. Each of the assassinated had with their policy decisions angered the banksters, a strong enough reason to suspect their complicity in the murders. In each case the banksters undoubtedly had foils with their own grievances against their targets do the assassinating. This account obviously amounts to conspiracy theorizing, yet there may be some truth to it. For instance, one author claims in his book that “persuasive evidence suggested that Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, had been hired for the job by Judah Benjamin, Treasurer of the Confederacy. Judah Benjamin was a close associate of Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), British Prime Minister and an intimate of the London Rothschilds.15  As time rolls on and with more digging the theory may start looking more like reality.

Bankrupting America

When America Suffers, the Banksters Thrive

There have been three major economic calamities in America’s history. The first and third were geographically widespread in scope. The first is known as the Great Depression that occurred from 1929 to 1939. The third that started around 2008 and has never ended is generally referred to as The Second Great Depression, although I named it Economic Katrina after the second, a localized calamity, Hurricane Katrina, that devastated the New Orleans area in 2005.16 The banksters, of course, were behind all three of these calamities.

The Great Depression

Poor Americans were devastated by this economic meltdown. Unemployment soared. Home foreclosures soared. Homelessness soared. The suicide rate soared. Repossessions soared. I was a little boy in the second half of this meltdown and recall how my parents struggled to make ends meet. Since my father held onto his job, my mother’s job was given to someone without a job. Yet, as a lower middle-class family, we fared much better than did millions of Americans.

So too, needless to say, did the wealthy, and that included, of course, the banksters, not to be confused with the thousands of small bankers whose banks folded. The mysteriously poisoned Congressman Louis McFadden had contended shortly before his death that the Great Depression “was no accident. It was a carefully contrived occurrence. The international bankers sought to bring about a condition of despair, so they might emerge as rulers of us all.”17

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina was reportedly the costliest natural disaster to hit America. To Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine, hurricane Katrina was an example of how commercial interests such as the banksters swoop down in an “orchestrated raid” to capitalize on new market opportunities.18 The banksters themselves obviously window dress their role in the disaster, as exemplified in this remark by a spokesperson for one of the bank members of the Federal Reserve Board, which is a citadel for the really big banksters; “resourceful banks have designed creative ways to resume business, incorporating “flexibility” and “customization” into their vocabulary, engaging in recovery area investment projects and forming alliances with community partners.”19  That quote is sheer PR. No bankster, of course, other than anyone like a Mayer Rothschild, would boast about turning any disasters to others into bonanzas for themselves.

The Second Great Depression

America has never recovered from this third calamity that in 2008 started sweeping away main street and keeping the banksters and Wall Street high and dry, for the most part through unconscionable and astronomical government bailouts. After doing extensive research on the matter, I have concluded that there is one single, pivotal event that triggered this economic calamity, and I see that at least one Wall Street insider agrees with me.20 That event was the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act that had prevented banks from operating both regular commercial loans and investments. The banksters gradually were able through lobbying and arm twisting to puncture some loopholes into the law, and then in 1994 the Act was replaced by one that allowed a bank to do both forms of business. The new law led to the creation of megabanks, but because they got greedy and careless with their selling of securities they suffered a financial setback of their own making but still had enough influence to get bailed out by government. It was simply a quid pro deal. One dirty hand washes the other. Or Napoleon Bonaparte would have put it differently; “When a government is dependent upon bankers for money, they and not the leaders of the government control the situation, since the hand that gives is above the hand that takes.”21

A Line Up of the Banksters

(a) Bank for International Settlement

Before doing the research for this article I had never heard of BIS. Now I know it is the most powerful private central bank in the world with the avowed aim of coordinating and controlling all monetary activities in the industrialized world and indebting it to the International Monetary Fund (a member of the Unholy Trinity to be discussed shortly). It was established in 1930 by bankers and diplomats of Europe and the United States to collect and disburse Germany’s World War I reparation payments. In WWII the BIS was used to launder money for the Nazis.22  As you can see, the BIS is not a wholesome bank to say the least.

(b) The Unholy Trinity

This well-deserved nickname refers to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB), and the World Trade Organization (WTO).23  They became the primary enabler of the globalization of the world’s money.

The trios’ purpose ostensibly from the beginning has been to reduce poverty and to develop the economies of Third World countries. In reality the aim of its work has been totally different, very “unholy.” Huge amounts of money masquerading as developmental loans and contingent on the currency devaluation and paring of the borrowing country’s social programs are siphoned off to huge, transnational corporations, many of which are U.S. firms, and the pockets of the governing and power elite of the country. The country goes further into debt and becomes even more vulnerable to being further exploited, including being subjected to sham debt relief programs.

No matter where on the globe the exploitation takes place there is a similar pattern of corporate/bankster behavior involved that includes such despicable, inhumane practices as relying on militaries and militias to purchase commodities made by forced labor; using armed groups to protect corporate assets; supplying arms to rebel and government forces; actually participating in military actions; engaging in smuggling, money laundering, and illegal currency transactions; and sweat-shop production of goods.24

(c) The Federal Reserve Board

The Fed is America’s banksters’ subordinate counterpart to the BIS and the Unholy Trinity.

A cabal of banksters got together in 1913 at the idyllic Jekyll Island resort off the coast of Georgia (where my family has stayed several times, not knowing we may have slept in banksters’ bedrooms). They coyly added the adjective “Federal” to disguise the intent, since twice before efforts to establish similar controlling banks had failed.17

As you may know, the Fed is made up of 12 branches around the country. All 12 and the headquarters are owned by 10 mega banks, four of which are headquartered in the U.S. As you might suspect, two of the owners are Rothschild banks, one in London and one in Berlin. About 100 very powerful individuals own those banks and thus also own the Fed. It is, therefore, no more a “Federal” agency of the government than is “Federal” Express. Being a private entity, one would expect the government would tax it. Not so, the Fed only pays property tax.17

Remember my including U. S. Congress Representative Louis T. McFadden as one of the likely victims of an arranged assassination? At the time he was Chairman of the Committee on Banking and Currency. Here is what he said that angered the banksters; “The Federal Reserve Board has cheated the Government of the United States and the people of the United States out of enough money to pay the national debt. Our people’s money, to the tune of $1,200,000,000, has within the last few months been shipped abroad to redeem Federal Reserve Notes and to pay other gambling debts of the traitorous Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Reserve Banks.”17  Today’s Fed is no less of an abominable bankster.

(d) Mega Banksters at Home

These mega banksters in the U.S. have assets totaling trillions of dollars. They didn’t get these assets through socially responsible investments to help the common good. They got them through bankrolling wars, through bankrupting the U.S. economy with fraudulent subprime securities that plummeted the U.S. into its Second Great Depression, and through all sorts of other ways to fleece the public out of its money. Put simply, these mega banksters are criminals on the loose throughout the country.

The Medium

Bad Capitalism

People, banksters included, do not depend only on themselves to go from birth to death. They must also depend on the circumstances and situations they encounter and sometimes help create. These circumstances and situations are the medium of life.  Bad capitalism is the banksters’ medium. Without it there would be no underworld of banksters.

Adam Smith, the putative “father of capitalism,” was a moral philosopher. He understood the importance of morality and the difference between good and bad capitalism and thought the emerging corporations of his time posed threats emanating from their unlimited life span; unlimited size; unlimited power; and unlimited license.25  How prescient he was!

I have written copiously about good and bad capitalism and have presented a plethora of my own as well as others’ proposals to turn bad capitalism into good capitalism.26 They have all come to naught. The banksters would guffaw if they read my work.

Public Banking to the Rescue?

Since the banksters made America’s public money private it stands to reason that a straightforward solution to ridding America of the banksters or at least curtailing them would be to establish a network of public banks throughout America. That is precisely what Ellen Brown, President and Chair of the Public Banking Institute is trying to accomplish. Through her stature and persuasive skills, she managed to get published in the OpEd section of the establishment paper, New York Times, no less, a piece promoting public banking.27 Her efforts are quite commendable and worth following.

Two additional strategies I should think would be to abolish the Fed and replace it with a truly Federal Reserve of Public Banks, and to prosecute and jail banksters instead of looking the other way or giving them token fines. Doing all this would take a herculean political effort, and I don’t expect it will ever happen.

Conclusion

A two-sentence conclusion ought to be enough. One, the banksters control most of the world’s money and will stop nothing short of fueling wars and creating economic havoc to keep growing their money and control. Two, commercializing peace or commercializing war — never the first, daily routine the second.

Acknowledgments

Wrongdoing is like mushrooms, thriving in the dark. The Fed shrouds itself in secrecy. In 2012, the Fed attempted to rebuff a Freedom of Information Lawsuit by Bloomberg News claiming that as a private banking corporation and not actually a part of the government, the Freedom of Information Act did not apply to the “trade secret” operations of the Fed.17

It is basically through the alternative media that we learn about the Fed’s secret dealings and its adverse impact on society at large. It was an article from the alternative media, for example, that told us the Fed is ruining our economic future because it caters to itself and the rest of the banksters.28  People drawn to the alternative media should rightly be fed up with the Fed.

As the author of this article who relied so heavily on one individual’s trailblazing efforts to dig up the facts that the government withholds, I must acknowledge Michael Rivero, who dominates my list of footnotes. He is my Internet friend of yesteryear. Without his efforts I could not have written this article. It was his quote, “Behind all wars are bankers” that I cited in one of my books. It was only after rereading one of my book reviews about corporate gangs, which ironically had little to say about banking, that I conceived the opprobrious “banksters.”29

  1. Brumback, GB. “Corporate America Unmasked“, The Greanville Post, January 3; OpEdNews, January 4; Dissident Voice, January 4; Uncommon Thought Journal, January 7, 2018
  2. Brumback, GB. Soaking the Public: The Insurance Industry and Captive Government, OpEdNews, July 11; Dissident Voice, July 12; 2016.
  3. Lendman, S. Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity, Clarity Press, Inc., 2012.
  4. See: Complete List of BANKS Owned or Controlled by the Rothschild Family.
  5. Noer, M. “The Twenty Most Influential Businessmen of All Time”, Forbes, July 29, 2005.
  6. Dmitry, B. “Rothschild Wealth Is Now Greater Than 75% Of World Population Combined,” January 21, 2017.
  7. USWGO. The Rothschild Dynasty Funded Both Sides of Every War, USWGO, March 14, 2011.
  8. Collier, A. “Perspective on the World”, March 7, 2014.
  9. Washington Blog. “Bankers are Behind the Wars“, April 18, 2014.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Khabieh, B. “Obama Approves $800m Funding for Terrorist Groups in Syria and Ukraine”, Reuters, November 28, 2015.
  12. Profess, B. & Clifford, S. “Suit Accuses Banks of Role in Financing Terror Attacks”, The New York Times, November 10, 2014.
  13. Beenes, M. & Snyder, S. “Don’t Bank on the Bomb, A Global Report on the Financing of Nuclear Weapons Producers”, PAX, March, 2018.
  14. Rivero, M. “All Wars are Bankers’ Wars“.  See also, pik_artist, “Judge Poisoned After Ruling Bank Forclosure Is Illegal and All Mortgages Are Null and Void, Hub Pages, January 17, 2018.
  15. Engdahl, WF. Gods of Money: Wall Street and the Death of the American Century, 2009.
  16. Brumback, GB. The Devil’s Marriage: Break Up the Corpocracy or Leave Democracy in the Lurch, 2011, pp. 151-152.
  17. Rivero, Op. Cit.
  18. Klein, N. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. 2007.
  19. Owens, D. “After the Storm: Banks Respond to Katrina’s Punch”, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Spring, 2006.
  20. Rickards, J. “Repeal of Glass-Steagall Caused the Financial Crisis”, U.S. News and World Report, August. 27, 2012.
  21. Rivero, OpCit.
  22. Epstein, E.J. “Ruling the World of Money”, Harper’s Magazine, 1983.
  23. Peet, R. Unholy Trinity: The IMF, World Bank and WTO, 2009 (Second Edition).
  24. For more on the Unholy Trinity and the globalization of the world’s economy see John Perkins’ riveting book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, 2004, and my review of it in Personnel Psychology, Vol. 59, No. 2-Summer, 2006, Book Review Section, pp. 489-493.
  25. Smith, A. The Wealth of Nations, 1776.
  26. See Brumback, Op. Cit. 2011; and also, Brumback, GB. Corporate Reckoning Ahead, 2015.
  27. Brown, E. “Public Banks Are Essential to Capitalism”, NYTimes Op Ed, October 2, 2013.
  28. Parramore. LS. “How the Federal Reserve is Destroying Your Economic Future”, Alternet, April 16, 2015.
  29. Nace, T. Gangs of America: The Rise of Corporate Power and the Disabling of Democracy, 2003. I reviewed this book in the 2004 Fall Issue of the Book Review Section of Personnel Psychology, pp. 780-783.

A Stock Market Primer in Six Easy Steps

What is the stock market?

  1. It’s not real economic activity—it’s a form of mass hysteria or mass psychosis.
  2. Stock prices reflect a mass-hysteria impression of the worth of a piece of paper you hold—a stock certificate. The worth of that piece of paper is sometimes tethered to some economic reality of some corporation—at least partially—but sometimes not. Often a stock price bears little relation to the economic health of a company, as illustrated in the wildly gyrating stock price-to-earnings ratios through the decades. Hence the stock price is often a matter of caprice, covert manipulation, and/or unfathomable crowd psychology, not necessarily real economic “health” or productivity.

If, say, you are fortunate enough to own a stock that has doubled or tripled in price, this does not mean that you have accrued new wealth—that stock valuation is meaningless as long as you still own the piece of paper (the stock certificate); you realize that wealth only by selling the stock. And if you do cash out—sell the piece of paper—to someone else, you are transferring to another person the hazard of seeing that valuation drop or evaporate—an opportune fobbing off of risk to someone else, a transfer of cash to you, but no real creation of wealth—just the passing on of a piece of paper in exchange for currency. Eventually, down the road, your gain will be someone else’s loss when the music stops playing and the last holder of the piece of paper finds there is no chair for him to land on—the stock market as Ponzi scheme.

If everyone or most people decide to sell their pieces of paper—to take their profits—all at once, then the stock prices tumble, so the idea that everyone can cash out and realize this imaginary wealth equally and universally is a mirage: if everyone tried to access it at once, it would evaporate. Hence the common notion that rising stock prices indicate a general increase in wealth or national prosperity is delusional. A stock crash does not erase billions or trillions in “wealth” overnight, as we are commonly told. There was never any “wealth” there to begin with, in the sense that a stock price rationally or measurably reflects the worth of tangible goods or services; that price is just a mass fever dream, a collective, chaotic, bidding war about the worth of pieces of paper.

  1. The stock market is a swindle. Much of the movement of these equities markets originates in the decisions of large funds or high-speed traders who have access to esoteric information, advanced algorithms, or trading networks from which Joe Trader, playing the market at home on his laptop, is excluded. Hence Joe Trader inevitably gets screwed. The author Michael Lewis draws the veil from this complicated high-tech rigging in a 2014 interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes:

Steve Kroft: What’s the headline here?

Michael Lewis: Stock market’s rigged. The United States stock market, the most iconic market in global capitalism, is rigged.

Steve Kroft: By whom?

Michael Lewis: By a combination of these stock exchanges, the big Wall Street banks and high-frequency traders.

Steve Kroft: Who are the victims?

Michael Lewis: Everybody who has an investment in the stock market. . . .

Steve Kroft: And this is all being done by computers?

Michael Lewis: All being done by computers. It’s too fast to be done by humans. Humans have been completely removed from the marketplace. “Fast” is the operative word. Machines with secret programs are now trading stocks in tiny fractions of a second, way too fast to be seen or recorded on a stock ticker or computer screen. Faster than the market itself. High-frequency traders, big Wall Street firms and stock exchanges have spent billions to gain an advantage of a millisecond for themselves and their customers, just to get a peek at stock market prices and orders a flash before everyone else, along with the opportunity to act on it. . . . The insiders are able to move faster than you. They’re able to see your order and play it against other orders in ways that you don’t understand. They’re able to front run your order.

Steve Kroft: What do you mean front run?

Michael Lewis: Means they’re able to identify your desire to, to buy shares in Microsoft and buy ‘em in front of you and sell ‘em back to you at a higher price. It all happens in infinitesimally small periods of time. There’s speed advantage that the faster traders have is milliseconds, some of it is fractions of milliseconds. But it’s enough for them to identify what you’re gonna do and do it before you do it at your expense.

  1. The MSM commentators on the markets are all industry touts. Their unvarying counsel, under all circumstances, is this: Get into the market. Get in if you’re not in already. Stay in if you’re already in. A plunge is a buying opportunity. A surge is a buying opportunity. A buying opportunity is that which puts a commission in their pockets. A mass exit from the stock market is the end of their livelihood. I don’t know the Latin term for the logical fallacy at work here, but I think the English translation is something like this: bullshit being slung by greedy con artists. These are people with no more conscience or expertise than the barking guy with the Australian accent on the three a.m. informercial raving about a miracle degreaser or stain remover.
  2. This market, more than most, is a big fat bubble, ready to pop. This bubble is a cloistered biosphere of Teslas and beach houses, of con artists, kleptocrats, and financial sorcerers. It is rigorously insulated from the dolorous real economy inhabited by the 99 percent: declining living standards; stagnant real hourly wages; lousy service-industry jobs; debilitating consumer and student debt peonage; soaring medical insurance premiums and deductibles that render many people’s swiss-cheese policies unusable; crumbling cities and infrastructure; climate disasters of biblical proportions; and toxic food, water, and air. This stock-market bubble has been artificially inflated by historically low interest rates (so the suckers have to go into the market to get a return on their money) and Fed “quantitative easing,” a technocratic euphemism for a novel form of welfare for the one percent that has left untold trillions of “liquidity” sloshing around among the financial elites with which to play Monopoly with one another and pad their net worth by buying back shares of their own companies to inflate stock prices. Moreover, this bubble is even more perilous and tenuous than previous ones because the “air” inside is being pumped by unprecedented levels of consumer and institutional debt that will cause a deafening “pop” when some of the key players start to lose their shirts, and suddenly all the Peters start calling in the debts of all the Pauls who can’t pay.
  3. The end game is near. We can console ourselves that these latest innovations in financial prestidigitation and fraud are stretched about as far as they can go. The financial elites are out of three-card monte scams to suck the wealth out of the economy. The heroic productivist heyday of capitalism, celebrated by Marx himself, is over in this country—no more driven visionary builders of railroads, factories, skyscrapers, and highways to a better tomorrow: just endless financial skullduggery and hoarding at the top, and for the rest of us the cold comforts of cell phones, smart televisions, and the endless streams of plastic consumer junk circulating through Amazon and Walmart. What Baudrillard called “the mirror of production” is a prison for the planet earth and every species on it. All that is left for the bipartisan predator class of the United States is scavenging: massive tax breaks for the rich today and tomorrow, perhaps, no more Medicare, no more Social Security, no more public schools—if they have their way, and they probably will. Pop goes the stock market, the illusion of prosperity, the whole unsustainable carbon-poison “economy,” and pop goes the planet and the human race. But look at it this way: it’s a buying opportunity.

How Uncle Sam Launders Marijuana Money

In a blatant example of “do as I say, not as I do,” the US government is profiting handsomely by accepting marijuana cash in the payment of taxes while imposing huge penalties on banks for accepting it as deposits. Onerous reporting requirements are driving small local banks to sell out to Wall Street. Congress needs to harmonize federal with state law.

Thirty states and the District of Columbia currently have laws broadly legalizing marijuana in some form. The herb has been shown to have significant therapeutic value for a wide range of medical conditions, including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, glaucoma, lung disease, anxiety, muscle spasms, hepatitis C, inflammatory bowel disease, and arthritis pain. The community of Americans who rely on legal medical marijuana was estimated to be 2.6 million people in 2016 and includes a variety of mainstream constituency groups like veterans, senior citizens, cancer survivors, and parents of epileptic children. Unlike patented pharmaceuticals, which are now the leading cause of death from drug overdose, there have been no recorded deaths from marijuana overdose in the US. By comparison, alcohol causes 30,000 deaths annually, and prescription drugs taken as directed are estimated to kill 100,000 Americans per year.

Under federal law, however, marijuana remains a Schedule I Controlled Substance – a “deadly dangerous drug with no medical use and high potential for abuse” – and its possession remains a punishable offense. On the presidential campaign trail, Donald Trump said the issue of marijuana legalization “should be up to the states,” continuing the “hands off” policy established under President Obama. Under the 2013 Cole Memorandum, the Department of Justice said it would not prosecute individuals and companies complying with robust and well-enforced state legalization programs. But on January 4th, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded that memo and gave federal prosecutors the authority to pursue marijuana cases at their own discretion, even in places where the herb is legal under state law. The action has made banks even more afraid to take marijuana cash, which can be prosecuted as illegal “money laundering,” an offense that can incur stiff criminal penalties.

The Government Has “Unclean Hands”

As explained by Dr. Richard Rahn, author of The End of Money and the Struggle for Financial Privacy:

Money laundering is generally understood to be the practice of taking ill-gotten gains and moving them through a sequence of bank accounts so they ultimately look like the profits from legitimate activity. Institutions, individuals, and even governments who are believed to be aiding and abetting the practice of money laundering can be indicted and convicted, even though they may be completely unaware that the money being transferred with their help was of criminal origin.

The law has focused on banks, but all sorts of businesses accept money without asking where it came from or being required to report “suspicious activity.” As Rahm observes, even governments can be indicted and convicted for money laundering. Strictly construed (as Attorney General Sessions insists when interpreting the law), that means the US government itself could be indicted. In fact, the US government is the largest launderer of marijuana cash in the nation. The IRS accepts this tainted money in the payment of taxes, turning it into “clean” money; and it is not an unwitting accomplice to the crime. Estimates are that marijuana business owners across the U.S. will owe $2.8 billion in taxes to the federal government in 2018. The government makes a massive profit off the deal, snatching up to 70 percent of the proceeds of the reporting businesses, as opposed to the more typical rate of 30 percent. It does this by branding marijuana businesses criminal enterprises which are not entitled to deduct their costs when reporting their income. This is not only a clear case of the unequal protection of the laws but is a clear admission by the government that it is knowingly accepting illegal funds. The government is a principal beneficiary of a business the government itself has made illegal.

Under those circumstances, both marijuana businesses and banks should be able to raise the “unclean hands” defense. As summarized in Kendall-Jackson Winery, Ltd. v. Superior Court (1999), 76 Cal.App.4th 970, 978-79:

The defense of unclean hands arises from the maxim, “He who comes into Equity must come with clean hands.” The doctrine demands that a plaintiff act fairly in the matter for which he seeks a remedy. . . . The defense is available in legal as well as equitable actions. . . . The doctrine promotes justice by making a plaintiff answer for his own misconduct in the action. It prevents a wrongdoer from enjoying the fruits of his transgression.

The government is enjoying the fruits of money it considers “dirty.” It has unclean hands, a defense against prosecuting others for the same crime.

Should “Money Laundering” Even Be a Crime?

In an article titled “Why the War on Money Laundering Should Be Aborted,” Dr. Rahn asks whether money laundering should even be a crime. It became a criminal activity in the US only in 1986, and in many countries it still is not a crime. Banks operating in the US must now collect and verify customer-provided information, check names of customers against lists of known or suspected terrorists, determine risk levels posed by customers, and report suspicious persons, organizations and transactions. The reporting requirements are so burdensome and expensive that they have caused many smaller banks to sell out to larger banks or close their doors. According to Dr. Rahn:

[I]t has failed to produce the advertised results and, in fact, has not been cost effective, has resulted in wholesale violations of individual civil liberties (including privacy rights), has violated the rights of sovereign governments and peoples, has created new opportunities for criminal activity, and has actually lessened our ability to reduce crime.

. . . Banks are required to supply the government with not only Currency Transaction Reports but also Suspicious Activity Reports. These reports impose huge regulatory costs on banks and require bank employees to operate as police officers. As a result, the total public and private sector costs greatly exceed $10,000,000 per conviction. This whole effort not only does not make any economic sense, but is clearly incompatible with a free society. The anti-money laundering laws allow almost complete prosecutorial discretion.

One small banker complained that banks have been turned into spies secretly reporting to the federal government. If they fail to comply, they can face stiff enforcement actions, whether or not actual money-laundering crimes are alleged. In 2010, one small New Jersey bank pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Bank Secrecy Act and was fined $5 million for failure to file suspicious-activity and cash-transaction reports. Another small New Jersey bank closed its doors after it was hit with $8 million in fines over its inadequate monitoring policies. The cost of compliance and threat of massive fines for not complying have been major factors in the collapse of the community banking sector. The number of community banks has fallen by 40 percent since 1994 and their share of U.S. banking assets has fallen by more than half, from 41 percent to 18 percent.

“Regulation is killing community banks,” Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin said at his confirmation hearing in January 2017. If the process is not reversed, he warned, we could “end up in a world where we have four big banks in this country.” That would be bad for both jobs and the economy. “I think that we all appreciate the engine of growth is with small and medium-sized businesses,” said Mnuchin. “We’re losing the ability for small and medium-sized banks to make good loans to small and medium-sized businesses in the community, where they understand those credit risks better than anybody else.”

If the goal of the anti-money laundering statutes is to identify and deter criminal activity, strictly enforcing the law could actually backfire in the case of state-legalized marijuana businesses. As noted in a January 9 article in The Daily Beast:

Marijuana businesses have to register and incorporate in states and that puts them on the IRS radar. . . . Sky-high federal taxes on top of state taxes can make it almost impossible to operate a legal business. . . . If the government fails to cut businesses a break, legal marijuana could be sold on the black market to dodge taxes.

On the black market, cash proceeds can be dispersed in a way that avoids banks and makes the money hard either to trace or to tax.

Federal Law Needs to Be Changed

With more than half the states legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, Congress needs to acknowledge the will of the people and remove this natural herb from the Schedule I classification that says it is a deadly dangerous drug with no health benefits. The Tenth Amendment gives the federal government only those powers specifically enumerated in the Constitution, and regulating medical practice is not one of them. Federal courts have held that the federal Controlled Substances Act does not allow the federal government to usurp states’ exclusive rights (pursuant to their inherent police powers) to regulate the practice of medicine.

H.R. 1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, sponsored by Virginia Republican Thomas Garrett and 15 cosponsors, would remove marijuana from Schedule I and eliminate federal penalties for anyone engaged in marijuana activity in a state where it is legal. Congress just needs to pass it.

In its zeal for eliminating burdensome, costly and ineffective regulations, the Trump administration might also consider lightening the heavy reporting burden that is killing community banks and the local businesses that have traditionally relied on them for affordable credit. On Tuesday, January 16th, a bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general sent a letter to leaders in Congress requesting advancement of legislation such as the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act to “provide a safe harbor” for banks that provide financial products or services to state-legal marijuana businesses. If the government can accept marijuana money in the payment of taxes, banks should be able to accept it to keep track of it and prevent the crimes associated with storing and transporting large sums of cash.

When Your Bank Fails, Don’t Walk …Run!

So. The US economy is just fine. The post-recession 2010 Dodd-Frank legislation has cured all. Banks have lots of cash. Congress is your friend and that certain-to-pass Tax Cut and Jobs bill will finally allow you, your family and America to… MAGA.

Really?!

“I’m sorry, Sir. We are unable to cash this check,” were the ominous words delivered to me by a fresh-faced, none-too-friendly, Wells Fargo Bank manager. He had just kept me waiting ten minutes while in consultation about my requested transaction. Returning to his cubicle he sat down quickly, now looking at me intently through narrowed eyes.

Three feet away, between us and in front of him, were three forms of my personal identification face up. However, he gazed down glowering at two personal checks also laying before him, written to me by a client and drawn on his bank. Not being a “Wells” customer I had expected a shake-down, hence the multiple forms of ID.

These two checks totalled a seemingly paltry sum of almost US$8,000.00. Not expecting this much difficulty I insisted on a reason, to which he now looked up from considering the two checks and replied, “I’m sorry, but the bank does not have sufficient funds on-hand to cash these checks.”

Really?!

Naturally, like the majority of incorrectly indoctrinated US bank depositors I assumed that, as is traditional with banks, this one would have lots and lots of cash.

Au Contraire.

Unapologetically he informed me that he was “sorry” but he could only cash one of the checks at this time. Both checks were for about the same amount. I inquired if this was a new bank policy and was told that the bank simply did not have enough cash on hand, and, “no”, I could not come back at the end of the day after the bank had received the day’s cash deposits. However, if I went to a larger Wells branch they might be able to handle both checks.

This rather unique news seemed worthy of delving into further, so I declined his opening offer and left with my two onerous withdrawals. Being away from home, I decided to wait and stop by my home town’s main Wells Fargo branch office. For anyone following the factual and very dire condition of the world’s economy and its bank’s magnificent set of past, pending, future – and unpunished – financial crimes, my sojourn into the realm of Kafka would become a very cautionary tale.

Oh, those evil banks! The shadowy corporatist denizens of New York, London, and Brussels, all guilty of a staggering set of every-expanding frauds couched in the beneficent language of greedy short-term materialistic gain. Financial “crimes of the decade,” like the Savings and Loan meltdown, the Enron Collapse, and the Great Recession are nowadays reported almost monthly. With metered US justice amounting only to a monetary fine for the offending criminal bank – usually a small fraction of the money it previously stole, hypothecated, leveraged or manipulated – and with criminal prosecution no longer a possibility, these criminals continue to shovel trillions – not billions – into off-shore, non-tax paying accounts of the already uber-rich. There is never enough.

Just in time for Christmas, Americans received the “Tax Cut and Jobs Bill 2017” that, of course, contains not one word about jobs, but sounds so good to the ignorant who are still transfixed on the false mantra of MAGA.

LIBOR, FOREX, COMEX, which used high-speed program securities trading combined with insider manipulation, were the first serious examples of recent bank frauds. Since the Great Recession magically became the Great Recovery, Wachovia and HSBC banks plead guilty to laundering money for Mexican drug cartels, dictators, and terrorists. Wells Fargo and Bank of America were also guilty of defrauding 10’s of thousands of homeowners of their properties during the “robo-signing” scandal; that was a scandal…until Wells and BA paid the mortdita and all returned to business as usual. Example: In July 2017 it was revealed that more than 800,000 customers who had taken out car loans with Wells Fargo were charged for auto insurance they did not need.  Barely a month later, Wells was forced to disclose that the number of bogus accounts that had been created was actually 3.5 million, a nearly 70 percent increase over the bank’s initial estimate. Why not? When the predictable result will be a small percentage fine … and keep the rest. Now that’s MAGA!

If the individual retail – Mom and Pop – investor actually had a choice of where to put their cash money, then no one with better than a fifth-grade education would put a penny into the major stock markets. However, the goal of the many banking manipulations have had one goal: eliminate financial investment choices to one – stocks.

One choice, Gold and silver, the previous historical champion alternative in preserving one’s wealth, was deliberately eliminated from short-term, private investment. The banks, issued and sold massive amounts of worthless certificate gold and derivative gold (not bullion), and the same in silver, at a current ratio of 272 paper instruments to one measly ounce of real physical gold. All this has been leveraged against real precious metals, and next used to influence the price of gold-down- by selling huge tranches of these ostensibly worthless gold contracts (1 contract=100 paper ounces) within seconds when the spot price of gold begins to rise. The banks have done this so often that gold has not risen to levels it would likely reach without this manipulation. This has driven massive liquidity that would have gone to precious metals towards stocks. This is likely evidenced by the advent of the meteoric rise in the price of BitCoin, one that-like gold- escapes the bank’s control and a super-inflated stock market.

Similarly, thanks to the economic trickery that has been three rounds of Quantitative Easing, the other two conventional options; the bond market and personal bank savings accounts, have been manipulated to also produce a very low rate of return, driving these cash funds to stocks. It is this entire package of criminality – providing no other place for liquidity to go – that has performed as the plot to push a surging world stock market to obscene levels that have no basis in factually-based accounting or economic methods… or history.

Banks Are Ready for the Next Crash – You’re Not!

The banks know the next crash is coming. Like 2007, they have set in motion the next great(est) recession. Predator banks know that most people, thanks to the aforementioned financial control, media omission and an inferior education system, are “stupid,” especially regarding the nuances of financial fraud. As the majority of Americans and Europeans live in the illusion that their financial institutions will protect their savings, they miss their bank’s greedy preparations for the next stock market crash slithering through the halls of their Parliament or Congress. This already completed legislation states in plain English, and the language of endemic corruption, that your bank intends to steal your money directly from your savings account. And…your government will let them do this to you.

30,000 pages make up the Dodd-Frank post-recession legislation, authored by the banks in the aftermath of the Great Recession. The Dodd-Frank legislation was touted as eliminating the massive bail-outs the US gave virtually every ill-defined too big to fail worldwide bank and US corporation in 2008-9. In reality, Dodd-Frank was as much a fraud against Americans as LIBOR or COMEX manipulation, et al.

Title II of the media-acclaimed 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act provides the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) with new powers and methods to again guarantee – first and foremost – the massively leveraged derivatives trade once this massive leverage plummets as it did with AIG in 2007-09. However, that collapse was singular. The next will include all banking sectors.

The bank’s paid-for politicians made sure a post-crash congress did not regulate derivatives via Dodd-Frank, and thereby encouraged a further increase in this financial casino betting, despite it being the root cause of the original problem. Thanks to Dodd-Frank and its predecessor, the 2005 Bankruptcy Act, Congress made sure these new fraudulent bets on stock market manipulation would surely be paid. But, not to worry; there would be no more “Bail Outs.” Next time, these banks would use their depositors’ savings, including yours. Meet: the “Bail-In.”

Really?!

All Americans recall the massive “Bail-Outs” of 2007-9 and how their corporately controlled Federal Reserve Bank and an equally controlled US Congress threw several trillions of US taxpayer dollars at US banks, dozens of foreign banks, and any corporation with enough political pull to be defined as “Too Big To Fail” (TBTF). In the aftermath a year later, the banks understood that Americans and European citizens had lost enthusiasm for any future government Bail-Out, most preferring instead that any institution suffering self-inflicted financial duress should enjoy the fruits of their crimes next time, via the reality of formal bankruptcy proceedings.

The will or financial safety of the public is, of course, no concern to criminal corporations, and so easily circumvented via congress and the president. So, the banksters have redefined their criminality using two newly defined methods, both rebranded to be far more palatable to the public.

Currently,“Too Big to Fail,” (TBTF) has a very fraudulent and elitist connotation just like, “Bail-Out.” To millions across the world who have lost their homes, pension funds, retirement plans, and dreams, this decade-old moniker for financial oppression and fraud has now been conveniently re-branded. The bailed-out TBTF banks now have a far more magnificent definition: TBTFs are now, “Globally Active, Systemically Important, Financial Institutions” (G-SIFI).

This sounds so much better.

But, “Bail-Out”? No… No. Would you not prefer a “Bail-In”? Not if you know the details.“Bail-Outs,” may have also lost their flavour but in the new world of the G-SIFI, the next one is actually just a “Bail-In,” away.

Yes, Bail-Ins, the new “systemically” correct term for publicly guaranteed bank fraud are already named as such in new national policies and laws, appearing in multiple countries. These finance laws, such as Dodd-Frank and its pending UK and European Union version, make upcoming Bail-Ins legal. These Bail-Ins allow failing G-SIFI banks to legally convert the funds of “unsecured creditors”(that’s you) into bank capital (that’s them). This includes “secured” creditors, like state and local government funds.

Really?!

With this in mind, I entered the main branch of Wells Fargo. The two checks in hand. On the way in I was greeted warmly, one after the other, by three more fresh-faced and eager proteges, all smartly uniformed to match the Wells décor, and who proffered, “Good morning, Sir!,” again, and again… and again. Certainly, these little fish were not in possession of authority enough to cash my mammoth checks, so I asked for bigger game, the Branch Manager.

Thus, I explained my plight to a very lovely lass who predicted she “would be glad to help me.”

“Cheryl,” patiently explained that I had come to the right place and she would be glad to cash both checks. Regarding my previous polite banking experience, she admitted that it was indeed bank policy to have limits on the availability of cash for withdrawals and that different branches had different limits. This was the main branch so my request here was meritorious. Further, she admitted that whatever daily cash coming into the branches in the form of deposits was not available for withdrawal, but was sent from the main branch for daily accounting at a central point common to all area Wells bank branches. Only a prescribed amount of cash was provided with each bank for daily customer cash withdrawals.

Really?!

“A couple of times your current request,” was her cautious response to my question about her branch’s limits on check cashing. Not to be put-off, I asked about a hypothetical US$25,000 check. She admitted this would be beyond her branches authority. “But,” she smiled, “Today, you’ve come to the right place.”

The financial law firm Davis Polk estimates the final length of Dodd-Frank, the single longest bill ever passed by the US government, is over 30,000 pages. Before passage, the six largest banks in the US spent $29.4 million lobbying Congress in 2010 and flooded Capitol Hill with about 3,000 lobbyists prior to Obama predictably signing its final unread version. No US congressman or senator had read it. But, the bank’s congressional minions were told to vote for it. And dutifully they did.

The major cause of the upcoming financial meltdown, as with the pre-2008 conditions, is globally systemic gambling against national economies, called derivatives. Derivatives are sold as a kind of betting insurance for managing fraudulent banking profits and risk. So, why fix systemic banking fraud when the final result allowed these same banks to make even more money in the aftermath of the national and personal financial destruction they originated in the first recession?

Instead, thanks to Dodd-Frank, derivatives suddenly have “super-priority” status in any bankruptcy. The Bank for International Settlements quoted global OTC derivatives at $632 trillion as of December 2012. Naked Capitalism states that $230 trillion in worthless derivatives are on the books of US banks alone. Applied to Dodd-Frank this means that all these bad bank bets on derivatives will be paid-off first… before you may have your savings cash. If there’s actually any cash left once you get to the teller’s counter.

Normally in a capital liquidation or bankruptcy proceeding, secured creditors such as a bank’s personal depositors are paid off first because these are hard assets, not investments, and thus normally have a mandated priority. Under these new “Bail-In” Dodd-Frank mandates, your government has re-prioritized your bank’s exposure and your cash deposit. Derivatives and other similar banking high-risk ventures are now more highly protected than bank depositor’s savings. In the 2013 example of Cyprus, Germany and the ECB also made depositors inferior to other bank holdings leaving depositors with, after many months, a small fraction of their deposits.

And then came Greece.

Selling the lie while using the language of Dodd-Frank, we are told by media whores that banks will not be given taxpayer bailouts next time. True. The preamble to the Dodd-Frank Act claims “to protect the American taxpayer by ending bailouts.” But how, then, to Bail-In the G-SIFIs without another taxpayer Bail-Out? No problem.

Enter the FDIC and another new banking term, “cross-border bank resolution.” As the sole US agency required to pay back depositors who lose savings up to $250,000, FDIC is armed with a paltry US$25 billion war chest to pay depositors. Under Dodd-Frank, the FDIC will be the mechanism to replace deposits lost or squandered by bank fraud. The public, however, has an estimated total US cash deposits of US$7.36 trillion so, once the banks steal your savings, FDIC will be just a little bit short of funds.  How to fix this mathematical shortfall?  With, of course, more of your money via emergency taxes or a massive new round of Quantitative Easing (QE). Either way, by the time this happens your money is long gone. And it gets worse.

Really?!

Say, “Goodbye” to your Savings- Two Greedy Methods

It’s [FDIC] already indicated that they will confiscate [savings] funds….

— US congressman Ron Paul

On December 10, 2012, a joint strategy paper was drafted by the Bank of England (BOE) in conjunction with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) titled, “Resolving Globally Active, Systemically Important, Financial Institutions.” Here the plot to steal depositor savings is clearly laid out.

The report’s “Executive Summary” states:

… the authorities in the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) have been working together to develop resolution strategies…These strategies have been designed to enable [financial institutions] to be resolved without threatening financial stability and without putting public funds at risk.

Sounds good until you read the fine print; i.e., whose risk are they actually protecting?

While claiming to protect taxpayers, Title II of Dodd-Frank gives the FDIC an enforcement arm, the Orderly Liquidation Authority (OLA) which is similar to its British counterpart the Prudent Regulation Authority (PRA). Both now have the authority to punish the personal depositors of failing banking institutions by arbitrarily making their savings deposits subordinate – actually tertiary – to bank claims for the replacement value of their derivatives. Before Dodd-Frank savings deposits were legally senior and primary to these same claims in a routine bankruptcy.

With the US banks holding only $7 trillion in personal cash savings deposits compared to $230 trillion is US derivative obligations, FDIC’s $25 billion will not be enough. The creators of Dodd-Frank knew this before it was signed. As John Butler points out in an April 4, 2012, article in Financial Sense:

Do you see the sleight-of-hand at work here? Under the guise of protecting taxpayers, depositors… are to be arbitrary, subordinated… when in fact they are legally senior to those claims…Remember, its stated purpose [Dodd-Frank] is to solve the problem… namely the existence of insolvent TBTF institutions that were “highly leveraged with numerous and dispersed financial operations, extensive off-balance-sheet activities, and opaque financial statements.

Oh, but bank depositors can rest easy in the knowledge that replacing their savings will not come out of their pockets via another bank Bail-Out. Thanks to Dodd-Frank, the first line of defence will allow Congress to instead replace personal savings with a government paid for $7 trillion bail-in to FDIC to “replace” these savings.

But, that’s the good choice.

Worse, Dodd-Frank gives new powers to FDIC and its OLA that allow an even more powerful and draconian resolution: any deposited funds in a bank, from $1 to $250,000 (the FDIC limit), and everything above, can instead be converted to bank stock! FDIC has provisions so this can be done, via OLA, quite literally overnight.

Really?!

An FDIC report released in 2012 ago reads:

An efficient path for returning the sound operations of the G-SIFI to the private sector would be provided by exchanging or converting a sufficient amount of the unsecured debt from the original creditors of the failed company [meaning the depositor’s cash] into equity [or stock].

Additionally, per April 24, 2012 IMF report, conversion of bank debt to stock is an essential element of Bail-Ins included in Dodd-Frank.

The contribution of new capital will come from debt conversion and/or issuance of new equity, with an elimination or significant dilution of the pre-bail in shareholders. …Some measures might be necessary to reduce the risk of a ‘death spiral’ in share prices.

Really?!

For affected depositors to retrieve the value of what was formerly the depositor’s account balance, the stock must next be sold. When Lehman Brothers failed, unsecured creditors (depositors are now unsecured creditors) got eight cents on the dollar.

This type of conversion of deposits into equity already had another test-run during the bankruptcy reorganization of Bankia and four other Spanish banks in 2013. The conditions of a July 2012 Memorandum of Understanding resulted in over 1 million small depositors becoming stockholders in Bankia when they were sold without their permission — “preferences” (preferred stock) in exchange for their missing deposits. Following the conversion, the preferences were converted into common stock originally valued at EU 2.0 per share, then further devalued to EU 0.1 after the March restructuring of Bankia.

Canada has also stated they are planning a similar “Bail-In” program. The Canadian government released a document titled the Economic Action Plan 2013 which says, “the Government proposes to implement a “Bail-In” regime for systemically important banks.”

However, don’t be getting cute by hiding your cash, precious metals, or passport in a bank safe deposit box. There are no longer safe either. Dodd-Frank took care of that, too.

Under Dodd-Frank the FDIC, using the auspices of Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) can legally, without a warrant, enter the bank vault, have the manager secretly open any and/or all safe deposit boxes and inventory, or seize the contents. Further, if the manager is honest enough to inform the depositor of the illegal incursion he is subject to criminal charges and termination from bank employ. Independent reports reveal that all of America’s safe deposit boxes have already been invaded and inventoried for future confiscation.

This already happened in Greece. Depositors who removed their jewellery or precious metals were met at the bank’s door by security, a metal detector and confiscation.

Really?!

The power of the now remaining G-SIFI banks and FDIC was further evident when, cash finally in hand, I headed to my bank, JP Morgan Chase, right next door to Wells Fargo. The manager confirmed that the cash withdrawal policy at Chase was in keeping with that at Wells; very little cash available on demand. I posed a slight untruth and inquired as to what I should do about my upcoming need for $50,000 in hard cash. No, her bank would not do that on demand, but arrangements could be made to have the cash transferred to her bank. That would only take “about two days.” Of course, I would need to fill out a few forms.

What a Difference a Congress Makes!

With the American and UK public again on the hook by law for the anticipated loss of the banks a distressed depositor might think the plot to defraud them now complete. Au Contraire.

In its rush to transfer further wealth upwards to off-shore bank accounts, US president Trump and his recently re-aligned republican bootlickers have left no stone unturned. First, Trump issued a memorandum that sets in motion his plan to scale back the provisions of Dodd-Frank and repeal the Fiduciary Rule.

It should be noted that the only voice of economic reason at the White House, Former Fed Chairman, Paul Volker, divorced himself from this growing scandal of basic mathematics very publicly. As head of Obama’s recession inspired, President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, Volker ran into the headwinds of fiscal insanity for too long, resigning in January of 2011 in disgust. His departure thus coincided with the renewal of the litany of criminal financial manipulation already discussed here. And now…

The House approved legislation on February 2, 2017, to erase a number of core financial regulations put in place by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, as Republicans moved a step closer to delivering on their promises to eliminate rules that they claim have strangled small businesses and stagnated the economy. Said Trump:

I have so many people, friends of mine, with nice businesses, they can’t borrow money, because the banks just won’t let them borrow because of the rules and regulations and Dodd-Frank.

Poor banks!

Never mind, of course, that these poor banks are holding derivative exposure thirty-five times the total cash deposits of US savers…nor that their ill-gotten riches – such as the UBS, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, RBS multi-billion dollar frauds – were taken off-calendar in Federal court for approximately 15% of the total crime. The banks kept the rest.

And they want more?!

“We expect to be cutting a lot out of Dodd-Frank,” Trump said further defining the mantra of MAGA. This will likely see the deterioration of the newly created Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) since these agencies curb further excessive risk-taking and the existence of too-big-to-fail institutions on Wall Street.

Well, depositors, your extreme caution is required. The wording of these new, bank-inspired sets of legislation is silently waiting to be used by many nations to prioritize banks before their citizen’s. When the time comes, the race to the bank will be a short-lived event indeed.

With this in mind, I stepped into the bright sunshine outside the walls of JP Morgan/Chase bank, all but $100.00 of my day’s take stuffed deep- and securely- in my pocket, its final outcome no one’s business but my own.

However, for almost everyone else? Well… when YOUR bank fails, don’t walk, run!  YOU do not want to be second in line.

Really!