I am still working, losing billable hours weekly as my contract with an “anti-poverty/social capital” organization winds down. This is with a non-profit that is pushing over $100 million (“donated” by millionaires, billionaires, philanthropies and in some cases state and city programs) that came down the pike just in the past six months for so-called Covid-19 relief money for, right now, the 110,000 folk already, from Oakland to Detroit to Chicago and Austin and Seattle, who have applied for funds varying from $500 a person in King County, WA, from the Starbucks Mafia for out-of-work restaurant folk (that was $6 million of Schulz Foundation blood coffee profits), to home owners in Chicago who can apply for eviction relief.
I’ll do a piece on the outfit as my time with them ends soon, but for now, any Google search for my name, well, that’s a killer. For instance, again, I need the work, and for two jobs for which I interviewed via Zoom, I got the thanks but no thanks — a permancey worker for foster children, and then a worker for folks with developmental disabilities. In each case (and I have written about both this and reverse sexism, and anti-socialist crap before) five women (a state job and then a country job) interviewing me. All these teams are stacked with women, and in the illogic of neoliberalism and this bizarre mentality, why not keep a man off the team. As if young foster youth and youth who might need to be reunited with biological families, and those with developmental disabilities NEVER EVER need to see or hear from a male case worker. You think it is true these HR folk do a Google on me? Yep.
So, now, limping along, imagine, I am working as a contractor – on the 1099 IRS form– and there is little broad connection to the organization I work for in terms of my own benefit and contribution for the organization. There is a lot of fakery, a lot of on-the-screen fake comradeship. These people are siloed, as they work remotely (before lockdown Covid-19 Zoom Gulag). There is a lot of cliqueness, and the entire concept of remote work and conference calls/training/management is dead from the navel up.
But it is the thing of the future, thanks to the thousands upon thousands of outfits pushing on-line banking, on-line education, on-line med, on-line psychiatry, on-line family reunions, on-line weddings/divorces/funerals/ anniversaries/birthdays/dating/sex. The world is the app developers’ and the tech monsters’ virtual oyster.
But the working with the devil noise is now much more pronounced with this outfit I ended up working with starting a year ago July. We are talking about a non-profit that is now working hand in hand with the Koch Brothers (Stand Together) and Charles Schwab and all that lovely stuff that is part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Koch Network Reorganizes as ‘Stand Together’ May 22, 2019. The Seminar Network , a network of nonprofits funded by Charles Koch and like-minded conservatives and libertarians who donate at least $100,000 annually to “help people improve their lives,” has announced that going forward it will be known as Stand Together .[ Source ! ]
So, this non-profit is over 18 years old, and used to have sites where household members met monthly, shared stories, shared resources, and did journals to receive some cash assistance. It was always the “data in the monthly journals was aggregated, not connected to one specific person or household.” And the non-profit got seed money and in-kind app development and AI support from, well, you guessed it, Google.
Connecting to the Koch Brothers is a dance with the devil. That started in Februart, 2020. Talk about cognitive dissonance —
Koch-Backed “Libre Initiative” Purports To “Empower Hispanics,” But Pushes Policies That Would Disproportionately Hurt Poor Hispanics. Libre Initiative, backed by more than $10 million in Koch funding, purports to “empower Hispanics,” but experts say the organization supports policies that “disenfranchise Hispanic voters” and opposes programs that would help millions of Hispanics living in poverty. Libre opposes the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and minimum wage increases, both of which would disproportionately benefit the Hispanic community, especially those living in poverty, and supports voter ID laws that would “disenfranchise Hispanic voters, other minorities, and the poor.” — Media Matters.
So, this Stand Together is supported by the billionaires who hate teachers, hate unions, hate raising the minimum wage, hate the science around global heating/warming, hate universities, hate hate hate. And, the non-profit I work with is mostly made up of BIPOC, and many are 20-somethings and 30-somethings. Many came from poverty. Some are originally from places like Puerto Rico and Columbia.
Read about the Koch Brothers in “Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America,” by the Christopher Leonard.
As a 1099 contractor on the outs — who goes to bat for the few hundred Oregonians in the project I am/was heading up, money from Department of Human Services, to the tune of $720,000 total (most of which has not been distributed) — I am way left-left of field, the most radical person these young and youngish people will ever meet. I am not a capitalist, and I know what capitalism does. The proof is in the pudding — and if I sent this over to any of the people I work with, nah, I’d expect more than just push back. I’d expect narcing in the true sense of that term.
Read, Wrench in the Gears:
One of the biggest things we’re up against, and something few people are talking about, is social impact investing and pay for success finance. Within the hollowed out shell of the welfare state, which admittedly was always inadequate and used for purposes of racialized social control, global finance has built a new machine that will use predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, and wearable and screen-based technologies to monitor the global poor and profit from their misery.
This effort is being carried out in partnership with the non-profit sector, higher education, think tanks, and global foundations. Many involved identify as liberal, even progressive. Successful resistance will require stopping Trump, the Koch brothers, and ALEC, as well as a corporate, militarized Blue Wave that has every intention of stabilizing late-stage capitalism with technocratic “evidence-based” solutions. Make no mistake; this is a fully bipartisan enterprise.
Outcomes-based contracts are this machine’s operating system. Contracts employ pay-for-performance agreements that reimburse service providers IF they produce specified success metrics. These metrics are narrowly defined and chosen for their ability to be gamed. Contrived solutions offer up fake “success” to enrich investors at the expense of vulnerable populations. Think standardized test scores as success metrics for education or fit-bit step counts for preventative health.
This machine requires a steady supply of people labeled deficient by those in power. Like batteries in the Matrix, the poor are meant to be the fuel. The machine does not care for their actual wellbeing; its sole purpose is to maximize profit. In that it is similar to the capitalist Western medical model where Big Pharma opts for chronic disease management over research leading to cures. Pay for success will not empower the poor, but instead manage them and harvest their data, indefinitely. — Pay for Success Finance Preys Upon The Poor: Presentation at Left Forum
You can read more about the reality of capitalism NEVER dying because it is, a., running through the BlackRock filter ($100 trillion that for-profit scheme has on its ledgers as handlers of money), b., part of a huge effort to colonize most people on earth to abide by the Dashboard overlord. That is, people in dire straits will abide to almost anything to get paid, to get food, rent money, something, whether an at-home-paycheck, or some UBI – universal buffoon income.
It’s not just the vaccine passport that will be on the Dashboard, monetized, collected, used against you (if you don’t get one of those shots), or in your favor (if you get the shot, let the shot people put more data about you on the Dashboard, and let the AI and tech fascists decide what is or is not a viable human being on planet earth). Everything you do or say or believe or put on Facebook, that all will be collected, parsed, judged (AI) and then used to determine your worth, whether you are near the value of Soylent Green or some cubicle worker developing code.
Education is already dead in the water. So the concept of a smart, educated, critically thinking, independent, demanding, critical of government/ corporations/media student, well, that has been gone-gone-gone. Now, look at the Pre-K plans for the future below:
Look, they will be collecting BMI’s and all those details of all our chronic illnesses, all reports from the cops, all prescriptions taken, all notes from the social worker/psychologist/psychiatrist. They will collect all movements in your work history, all movements in your credit history, all moving and non-moving violations.
Capitalism is not dying, but rather, it is a Philip K. Dick nightmare, making Minority Report and Gattaca and Blade-Runner look like a bicycle ride around Mister Rogers neighborhood.
Make no bones about it – capitalism is in its 4.0 iteration of surveillance punishment. Capitalism is never just that – a form of economic relationships, that is supposed to be fair, balanced and with that free hand helping the community of businesses come together and practice fair market sharing, and using that all boats rise kind of communitarian logic. Nine sheep farmers on the island working out how much bite the flocks can make, which fields stay off limits during certain seasons, how to share the streams, the fields, the pathways, the roads and access to markets. Even a collective of shearers and ways to store the wool and how to enhance all their lives. Sure? But then that 10th farmer comes on board, moves to the island and well, a true capitalist maximizes profits, finds ways to cut corners (expenses), and has ways to not share the water and share the commons. Alas, yep, tragedy of the commons, and without communism and participatory democracy, then the common good is thrown out with the blood and guts and shit, put in a pond, collected out back, where the poor workers live. The common good has been replaced by the corporate good, the good of the stockholders, the good of the few at the expense of the many. Children understand this. Good things are not bad things done to good people. Duh. But capitalism is all about bad and mean and horrors done to good people.
But children can’t be taught this anymore, and alas, what passes as education today, moreover, for the past 30/40 years, has been a mix of indoctrination and pacification.
‘Traditional education can be seen as sculptural in nature, individual destiny is written somewhere within the human being, awaiting dross to be removed before a true image shines forth. Schooling, on the other hand, seeks a way to make mind and character blank, so others may chisel the destiny thereon,’ John Gatto, The Underground History of American Education
Much of Gatto’s writing is focused on the basic yet often overlooked distinction between schooling and education. At the heart of his work is the simple yet radical suggestion that mass schooling, a 19th-century European import to the U.S., is not the modern manifestation of the ancient concept of education but, rather, its diametric opposite. See: Truthout Vincent Kelley, October 25, 2019
I have written about my own decades teaching, from community colleges, to universities to prison programs, and K12. It is an absolute mess under capitalism, patriotism and commercialism. A society that believes in the red-white-and-blue and the power of the sword, well, you need willing participants and fools in that game. Start them off young. And no matter how radical and true to education one teacher or a million might be, the American will is to have outsiders and outside-the-box participants break.
Rockefeller’s General Education Board summed up in a 1906 document on scientific schooling:
In our dreams … people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present educational conventions [intellectual and character education] fade from our minds, and unhampered by tradition we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk…. The task we set before ourselves is very simple…. We will organize children … and teach them to do in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way.
It is only worse a hundred and 14 years later.
Capitalism has always been a stacked deck, and always has been based on penury, parasitic, predatory financial exchanges; and socialism for the corporations. Every aspect of capitalism has been set forth as a system of dog-eat-dog, and survival of the fittest. In fact, it is a form of Organized Crime, a unique Mafia … and those externalities and economies of scale that have set about mass murders of people – either softly, through economic violence, or, deliberately, through the myriad of toxins and poisons and slow/moderate/fast death by a thousand carcinogens.
Then it makes sense that self-driving cars, Internet of Things, vaccine markers and RFIDs, mass surveillance and real time data collecting, from saliva to ulcers, from keyboard clicks to Netflix picks, the entire system is set up to use regular humans as sources of data. Like big lakes of human blood to be harvested.
Forget about the mass media and mass indoctrination. Forget about Madison Avenue and the applied psychology and behaviorism of perceived or planned obsolescence. Forget about the dopamine hits from gambling, lotteries, shopping, eating, vegging out. Forget about the manipulation through the dark arts of subliminal advertising. Forget about the colonization of the mind through malls, box stores, and now the on-line tyranny of the Walmart/Target/Amazon kind.
Forget about the blood and guts and shit and cancerous tumors chopped up and mixed in with the All American hotdogs, or the shit and fetuses and unusable offal of the birds-swine-cattle used to feed The Jungle on Steroids. Imagine, a system – capitalism – that has the dark arts of lobbying, prostituting politicians, and the economic hitmen/snake oil salesmen/grifters/outright thieves/destroyers/takers all allowing mercury in baby formula, lead in water, microplastics in everything, untested nanoparticles pulverized and mixed in with the pancake batter, all the gas-fuel additives that cause future mommy to have ovarian cancer at 25 and future daddy to have a sperm count one-half that of a guy like Willy Loman.
Imagine that system, man, of zero precautionary principle which, in fact, has already been reversed as the cost of doing business. Forced arbitration, death of class action lawsuits, $2000 an hour lawyers to bankrupt any plaintiff, and this great system, called Capitalism, moves like a rabid pack of dogs ten million strong across the land, the globe.
The conversations with both left and right of that manure pile called American national politics, well, vapid, and hinging on insanity all the time.
Read more on social impact bonds — man, capitalists make money on every single bad move, bad decision, bad health care outcome, bad driving record, bad physiology, bad mental health performance, bad check, bad report card, bad loan, bad divorce, bad habit, bad addiction, bad sin, bad purchase, bad trip, bad death.
Now back to the ground-level stuff – I am working as a journalist (one paid gig, others free), editing Cirque Journal as guest editor (a $100 honorarium). I have a new book out and three more to get ready, and alas, where is that publishing money? Right: in the hands of the overlords and their mutants. From Mary Trump to Michael Cohen to Joe Rogan, well, the list of undeserving “authors” and complete trash products of nothingness is very very long. A hundred blog pages long. And that’s just a start!
Yet, I live in an area of the world (Central Oregon Coast) where many people are either really hurting with small fixed incomes or those that have gotten some form of the brass ring and are holding steady in their fairly middle class retirement. Plus, the service economy, and their families and their struggles are to the tenth power.
Many of the people I communicate with on social media, well, I wonder about them – they seem to also have some form of semi-secure stream of income. And yet, boy, do we hear a lot from those left-of-Al Gore types writing for blogs, Facebook posts, and on-line magazines. A LOT.
They have in most cases no concept of what homelessness is, or how housing insecurity destroys all hope. They are all raring to go with the “masks don’t work” thesis, or, “Biden is worse than Trump hands down” yammering. It is a bizarre time. They know nothing of two or let alone ten opposing ideas that all need parsing and critical discussion.
Many of my more secure friends think I am all 401-k-ed up. “Man, books, years as a journalist, decades as a college instructor, social worker . . . blah-blah-blah.” They just are as out of touch as those who believe Biden and Trump are two peas in a pod, or that the democrats hands down across the board are as bad or worse than republicans across the board.
Man, it is a shit show. Look, I have worked to lobby for part-time faculty rights, to lobby for stricter river rights, lobbied to increase minimum wage, lobbied to do a lot of progressive things. The conversations and the level of intelligence those two-bit senators and representatives who deem themselves blue compared to the level of intelligence, depth, humanity of those two-bit senators and representatives who deem themselves red are absolutely night and day, hands down.
We are not talking Karl Rover or Bill Clinton or James Carville or Cheney or Pence or Biden or Trump and all their lackeys and money-grubbing pukes. I am talking about small-town politics, about small districts, about large state districts.
Yep, few are going to be able to talk about Zapatistas, anarchism, ecosocialism, any of the progressive issues, but many conversations with democrats I have had over 4.5 decades, from Idaho to Seattle, from Las Cruces to Houston, from Portland to New York City, well, it doesn’t take some Off-Guardian winner to give the world the daily news – I can attest to the complete retrograde, misanthropic, mean-as-cuss, dog-eat-dog mentality of EVERY GOP or republican I have talked to in those 4.5 decades. Inherently, they are pro-cop, pro-war, pro-unfettered capitalism; they are anti-union; anti-collective bargaining; anti-environmentalism; anti-Medicare-for-all. They are fucking misanthropes, making neoliberals seem like saints. And we know what neoliberalism is!
For anyone to talk differently, well, that is one big fat lie. Delusion. Game. Devil’s Advocacy. Or just inherent love of some of Trump’s melodies of hate, from his anti 1619 Project, to his hate of critical race theory, to his complete ignorance, man, complete. Something about the white whore Trump that some of these lefties sort of like. Ask them.
Try it, really, with two-bit GOP v. two-bit democrat. Mayoral candidate? County supervisor? Try it. REALLY. Talk to both of them about those progressive issues, those radical ideas, those socialistic ideals. You will have ears with democrats, and rants and closed minds of the GOP.
Yep, you have to have the gift of gab, and you have to pull them into their subterfuge. In most cases, you have to be a white male talking to these fellows and women. It doesn’t take a Gore Vidal level of debate skills to flush them out of their racist, anti-raising-the-minimum-wage-to-a-living-wage mentality.
Yet, oh, yet – how broken the American soul is, and I can’t lump all the lower middle-class folk who go for the Elephant in the big state races, etc. Many can and do have intelligent conversations, and can understand false balance, invented dichotomies and do know how to process counterintuitive thinking.
I dare anyone to talk to a GOP or MAGA or military industrial complex whore about peace, getting USA out of any place, but let’s just say Venezuela. Try it. Try and discuss how corporations who lie-cheat-pollute-steal-murder must not only be prosecuted and fined, but community-wide reparations must be exacted from them as restorative justice. Try that one out with the neighbor posting the “Trump is a Sign from Out God” sign on their front yard.
Is it expected that liberals (democrats) might say and believe and understand stupid things? Sure, a bunch came out recently with “Romney is the only ethical guy” when it was first known of Ruth Bader’s demise (and like the human stain he is, Mister Bain Capital, reversed that statement about holding off on a SCOTUS vote until after the “election”). Or, how Cynthia McCain is great, and so was John McCain. This sort of bizarre rah-rah is definitely part of America’s Amnesia, and the country’s general collective Stockholm Syndrome. We are (and have been for a very long time) living in a country with two piss-ass bad national parties that have blood on their hands.
And part of the blood is on us all, as we pay for goods and services with those greenbacks – In God We Trust. Every tax filing, yep, money to-for-because of the military industrial complex, which we should know by now is everything from toilet paper to sunscreen, from pickles to window frames, from blue plastic tarps to armor-piercing ammunition, from drones to Hellfire missiles, from endless replacement parts to the tenth power each for every Hummer and Stryker parked on planet earth, to the B-1 bomber, the DARPA and Plume Island and Fort Detrick bioweapons lap dance. Every single person in academia who gets a grant from Rockefeller, Ford Foundation, any of the 2,700 billionaire-smeared non-profits and foundations and think tanks, well, they too are part of the Structural Violence and Military-Chemical-Drug-Oil-Med-Banking-Insurance-Prison-Ag-Law-Real Estate-Patent-AI-IT-Engineering-Space-Mining-Surveillance Complex.
Capitalism is about selling out and the Faustian Bargain. It is a cancer, a colonization of the mind-body-spirit-history-cultures-futures. You can strip away one layer after another layer, opt out of one thing after another thing, advance a socialist agenda in this or that arena, but in the end, Capitalism not only has us all by the short hairs, the future will be dictated by Criminal Capitalism. Every single thing coming out of Hollywood or Madison Avenue or Publishing has the stench of Sulphur, so to read all those Off-Guardian writers who just go full force on the Democratic Party, full force on the Democratic governors pushing lockdowns, full force on the Democrats who want to curtail individual and community rights, they fail the litmus test when it comes to the history of what a Republican/Conservative perverse racist and supremacist Trump or Pence or Nixon or Reagan or you-name-the-piece-of-human-stain Republican believes and wants for the world. Ask them about anything Native American, anything about the history of colonialism, manifest destiny, any of it. Question them about reparations, about genocide, about community rights, about the people’s right to push out bad businesses, bad industries, bad companies from their communities/towns/cities/states. Ask them, man, about private property, about the right to own a bazooka, about any of it, and you will hands down get the same answer through and through – from a republican, and it is, a fact, every GOP is a racist, corporatist, anti-intellectualist cult member. Do the democratic administrations have blood on their hands? Are they hypocrites? Are they in bed with Wall Street?
But have that conversation with a mayor or county supervisor or district representative. Flush them out, and see which GOP is open to any sort of liberal thinking. Good luck on that one.
But now, down to brass tacks: the unemployment, underemployment, bad-employment (Shit Jobs, David Graeber, may you rest in peace) rates in the USA, the real buying power, the real economy, all of that has been the shits since 1970. Before. There was never a real middle class, and most Americans are part of the debtor class. New car, second car, house, boat, new roof, college education, a trip, new fridge, you name it, including surgeries and dental work, all of that is on CREDIT. For most Americans.
You might have a better time framing these realities with naïve Democrats, but try it, brothers and sisters, with GOP and MAGA and Reaganites and Nixonites. Try those talks with them, your neighbors, anyone you know or suspect of being a cult-infused Trump-loving Christian-bowing Republican.
I’ve been having those conversations since I was 13, so mark that: one-half a century debating military, debating republicans, debating capitalists, debating the idea of America being anything other than North America, Canada, colonized and trashed, and then this USA colonized and trashed, and alas, Mesoamerica and Central America and South America, colonized and trashed before the United States ended up sending millions to their deaths through capitalism, structural economic warfare, propping up despots and dictators, and, here we are, then:
So many of my friends who vote blue are freaked out about Trump, about the Proud boys, about the anti-BLM movement, about the homeless problem, the climate heating problem, the entire shooting match – capitalism on steroids.
They are depressed and can’t even come to talk about the ways many of us who have been battling capitalism and faux democracy and this White Western Civilization’s rapacious and warring ways fight off that cynicism. They believe the world is cooked and ruined, and they in one fell swoop – in their naïve and shallow democratic party leaning ways – consign young and old to the dust bins of history even before the entire ranch has been sold down the river.
I enjoy one gig: focusing on people and their narratives and struggles. It’s for Street Roots, a paper that has won a lot of awards, but is a street newspaper, in Portland. Again, small potatoes, compared to the vaunted stuff over at Off-Guardian or Truthout or even now the Grayzone or Mintpress. But what I am finding is the stories in this newspaper are so more relevant than anything coming out of Glen Greenwald’s mouth, out of the celebrity culture that is either in overdrive, tied to MSM, or then those like Thom Hartmann (small potatoes) and now the $100 million deal given to Joe Rogan from Spotify.
I’m now interviewing Portland artists and the art community with the proposition around this — What is Art in a Time of Lockdown. Where Does Art Go Now that Artists Are Dropping to the Wayside like Flies. Is There No Exceptional and Out-of-the-Bourgeoise Box Art Anymore. Along those lines, but really, just talking to people who were already challenging the Art Biz mentality of American (Western Art) popular art that has permeated the art world for decades but now supercharged.
I just finished this older book: The Art Biz: The Covert World of Collectors, Dealers, Auction Houses, Museums, and Critics Hardcover, June 1, 1991 by Alice Goldfarb Marquis
And I watched again, this documentary, which lifts a lot from Alice Goldfarb Marquis’ book.
From acclaimed director Barry Avrich and executive producer Jonas Prince, BLURRED LINES: INSIDE THE ART WORLD lifts the curtain on the provocative contemporary art scene, a glamorous and cutthroat game of genius versus commerce. Featuring insider accounts from the most influential and powerful players in the industry, audiences will hear from renowned artists such as Julian Schnabel and Marina Abramovic, experts from prominent museums like MoMA and art fairs like Art Basel, insiders at Sotheby’s and Christie’s, and leading gallerists.
Imagine the degradation of thinking, discourse and debate over at the Rogan Show. And, Americans love their red-faced yelling heroes, their MC’s who do Mixed Martial Arts play-by-play, then a podcast, and now this big ass deal. Americans legitimize only those who are, a., high up on the You Tube platform, and, b., make news about themselves, and, c, have wads of money and wads of followers.
This is what we have gotten to – Entertaining/Amusing/YouTubing/Reality TV-ing/Art of Dealing Ourselves to Death.
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.
This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.”
― Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business
Of course, Huxley didn’t quite describe the New World as a cultist crew of One Percenters and their Five Percent Eichmann’s and the other 15 Percenters who are the managers and bosses pushing this capitalism for the rich, trickle down, voodoo economics, what have you, for the POOR. But it is a cult, really, from celebrity to academic to overpaid idiots, and on and on, until we have perversions of humanity, whether Trump and his narcissism on steroids and Adderall, or Biden or Harris or Clinton, well, what fools we are for having new overlords in the administrations and the supreme courts, and even judgeships and DAs, inside the entire mess of America, run by people who get the mic, control the medium, get the print and copy and air time. All with big bucks thrown in.
Celebrity — turned into the cult of the self, a la Chris Hedges:
We have a right, in the cult of the self, to get whatever we desire. We can do anything, even belittle and destroy those around us, including our friends, to make money, to be happy and to become famous. Once fame and wealth are achieved, they become their own justification, their own morality. How one gets there is irrelevant. It is this perverted ethic that gave us Wall Street banks and investment houses that willfully trashed the nation’s economy, stole money from tens of millions of small shareholders who had bought stocks to finance their retirement or the college expenses of their children. The heads of these corporations, like the winners on a reality television program who lied and manipulated others to succeed, walked away with hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation and bonuses. The ethic of Wall Street is the ethic of celebrity. The Man in the Mirror, Chris Hedges
It usually makes sense to follow the money when seeking understanding of almost any major change. The strategy of following the money in our current convergence of crises in late summer of 2020 leads us directly to the lockdowns. The lockdowns were first imposed on people in the Wuhan area of China. Then other populations throughout the world were told to “shelter in place,” all in the name of combating the COVID-19 virus.
Understanding of the enormous impact of the lockdowns is still developing. The lockdowns are proving to pack a far more devastating punch than any other aspect of the strange sequence of events that is making 2020 a year like no other. Even when the issues are narrowed to those of human health, the lockdowns have had, and will continue to have, far more wide-ranging and devastating impacts than the celebrity virus.
The lockdowns have, for starters, been directly responsible for explosive rates of suicide, domestic violence, overdoses, and depression. In the long run, these maladies from the lockdowns will probably kill and harm many more people than COVID-19.
But this comparison does not tell the full story. The nature and length of the lockdowns are causing millions of people to lose their jobs, businesses and financial viability. It seems that the economic descent is still gathering force. The assault of the lockdowns on our economic wellbeing still has much farther to go.
The lockdowns have proven to be a powerful instrument of social control. This attribute is becoming very attractive especially to some politicians. They have discovered they can derive considerable political traction from hyping and exploiting the largely manufactured pandemic panic.
The lockdowns are still a work-in-progress. There are past lockdowns, revolving lockdowns, partial lockdowns, mandatory lockdowns, voluntary lockdowns, severe lockdowns and probably an array of many lockdown types yet to be invented.
The lockdowns extend to disruptions in supply chains, disruptions in money flows, drops in consumption, breakdowns in transport and travelling, increased bankruptcies, losses of finance leading to losses of housing, as well as the inability to pay taxes and debts.
The lockdowns extend beyond personal habitations to prohibitions on large assemblies of people in stadiums, concert halls, churches, and a myriad of places devoted to public recreation and entertainment. On the basis of this way of looking at what is happening, it becomes clear the economic and health effects of the lockdowns are far more pronounced than the damage wrought directly by the new coronavirus.
This approach to following the money leads to the question of whether the spread of COVID-19 was set in motion as a pretext. Was COVID-19 unleashed as an expedient for bringing about the lockdowns with the goal of crashing the existing economy? What rationale could there possibly be for purposely crashing the existing economy?
One possible reason might have been to put in place new structures to create the framework for a new set of economic relationships. With these changes would come accompanying sets of altered social and political relationships.
Among the economic changes being sought are the robotization of almost everything, cashless financial interactions, and elaborate AI impositions. These AI impositions extend to digital alterations of human consciousness and behavior. The emphasis being placed on vaccines is very much interwoven with plans to extend AI into an altered matrix of human nanobiotechnology.
There are other possibilities to consider. One is that in the autumn of 2019 the economy was already starting to falter. Fortuitously for some, the new virus came along at a moment when it could be exploited as a scapegoat. By placing responsibility for the economic debacle on pathogens rather than people, Wall Street bankers and federal authorities are let off the hook. They can escape any accounting for an economic calamity that they had a hand in helping to instigate.
A presentation in August of 2019 by the Wall Street leviathan, BlackRock Financial Management, provides a telling indicator of foreknowledge. It was well understood by many insiders in 2019 that a sharp economic downturn was imminent.
At a meeting of central bankers in Jackson Hole Wyoming, BlackRock representatives delivered a strategy for dealing with the future downturn. Several months later during the spring of 2020 this strategy was adopted by both the US Treasury and the US Federal Reserve. BlackRock’s plan from August of 2019 set the basis of the federal response to the much-anticipated economic meltdown.
Much of this essay is devoted to considering the background of the controversial agencies now responding to the economic devastation created by the lockdowns. One of these agencies is empowered to bring into existence large quantities of debt-laden money.
The very public role in 2020 of the Federal Reserve of the United States resuscitates many old grievances. When the Federal Reserve was first created in 1913 it was heavily criticized as a giveaway of federal authority.
The critics lamented the giveaway to private bankers whose firms acquired ownership of all twelve of the regional banks that together constitute the Federal Reserve. Of these twelve regional banks, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York is by far the largest and most dominant especially right now.
The Federal Reserve of the United States combined forces with dozens of other privately-owned central banks thoughout the world to form the Bank of International Settlements. Many of the key archetypes for this type of banking were developed in Europe and the City of London where the Rothschild banking family had a large and resilient role, one that persists until this day.
Along with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, BlackRock was deeply involved in helping to administer the bailout in 2008. This bailout resuscitated many failing Wall Street firms together with their counterparties in a number of speculative ventures involving various forms of derivatives.
The bailouts resulted in payments of $29 trillion, much of it going to restore failing financial institutions whose excesses actually caused the giant economic crash. Where the financial sector profited greatly from the bailouts, taxpayers were abused yet again. The burden of an expanded national debt fell ultimately on taxpayers who must pay the interest on the loans for the federal bailout of the “too big to fail” financial institutions.
Unsettling precedents are set by the Wall Street club’s manipulation of the economic crash of 2007-2010 to enrich its own members so extravagantly. This prior experience bodes poorly for the intervention by the same players in this current round of responses to the economic crisis of 2020.
In preparing this essay I have enjoyed the many articles by Pam Martens and Russ Martens in Wall Street on Parade. These hundreds of well-researched articles form a significant primary source on the recent history of the Federal Reserve, including over the last few months.
In this essay I draw a contrast between the privately-owned regional banks of the Federal Reserve and the government-owned Bank of Canada that once issued low-interest loans to build infrastructure projects.
With this arrangement in place, Canada went through a major period of national growth between 1938 and 1974. Canada emerged from this period with a national debt of only $20 billion. Then in 1974 Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau dropped this arrangement to enable Canada to join the Bank of International Settlements. One result is that national debt rose to $700 billion by 2020.
We need to face the current financial crisis by developing new institutions that avoid the pitfalls of old remedies for old problems that no longer prevail. We need to make special efforts to change our approach to the problem of excessive debts and the overconcentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands.
Locking Down the Viability of Commerce
Of all the facets of the ongoing fiasco generally associated with the coronavirus crisis, none has been so widely catastrophic as the so-called “lockdowns.” The supposed cure of the lockdowns is itself proving to be much more lethal and debilitating than COVID-19’s flu-like impact on human health.
Many questions arise from the immense economic consequences attributed to the initial effort to “flatten the curve” of the hospital treatments for COVID-19. Did the financial crisis occur as a result of the spread of the new coronavirus crisis? Or was the COVID-19 crisis set in motion to help give cover to a long-building economic meltdown that was already well underway in the autumn of 2019?
The lockdowns were first instituted in Wuhan China with the objective of slowing down the spread of the virus so that hospitals would not be overwhelmed. Were the Chinese lockdowns engineered in part to create a model to be followed in Europe, North America, Indochina and other sites of infection like India and Australia? The Chinese lockdowns in Hubei province and then in other parts of China apparently set an example influencing the decision of governments in many jurisdictions. Was this Chinese example for the rest of the world created by design to influence the nature of international responses?
The lockdowns represented a new form of response to a public health crisis. Quarantines have long been used as a means of safeguarding the public from the spread of contagious maladies. Quarantines, however, involve isolating the sick to protect the well. On the other hand the lockdowns are directed at limiting the movement and circulation of almost everyone whether or not they show symptoms of any infections.
Hence lockdowns, or, more euphemistically “sheltering in place,” led to the cancellation of many activities and to the shutdown of institutions. The results extended, for instance, to the closure of schools, sports events, theatrical presentations and business operations. In this way the lockdowns also led to the crippling of many forms of economic interaction. National economies as well as international trade and commerce were severely impacted.
The concept of lockdowns was not universally embraced and applied. For instance, the governments of Sweden and South Korea did not accept the emerging orthodoxy about enforcing compliance with all kinds of restrictions on human interactions. Alternatively, the government of Israel was an early and strident enforcer of very severe lockdown policies.
At first it seemed the lockdown succeeded magnificently in saving Israeli lives. According to Israel Shamir, in other European states the Israeli model was often brought up as an example. In due course, however, the full extent of the assault on the viability of the Israeli economy began to come into focus. Then popular resistance was aroused to reject government attempts to enforce a second wave of lockdowns against a second wave of supposed infections. As Shamir sees it, the result is that “Today Israel is a failed state with a ruined economy and unhappy citizens.”
In many countries the lockdowns began with a few crucial decisions made at the highest level of government. Large and proliferating consequences would flow from the initial determination of what activities, businesses, organizations, institutions and workers were to be designated as “essential.”
The consequences would be severe for those individuals and businesses excluded from the designation identifying what is essential. This deep intervention into the realm of free choice in market relations set a major precedent for much more intervention of a similar nature to come.
The arbitrary division of activities into essential and nonessential categories created a template to be frequently replicated and revised in the name of serving public heath. Suddenly central planning took a great leap forward. The momentum from a generation of neoliberalism was checked even as the antagonistic polarities between rich and poor continued to grow.
To be defined as “nonessential” would soon be equated with job losses and business failures across many fields of enterprise as the first wave of lockdowns outside China unfolded. Indeed, it becomes clearer every day that revolving lockdowns, restrictions and social distancing are being managed in order to help give false justification to a speciously idealized vaccine fix as the only conclusive solution to a manufactured problem.
What must it have meant for breadwinners who fed themselves and their families through wages or self-employment to be declared by government to be “non-essential”? Surely for real providers their jobs, their businesses and their earnings were essential for themselves and their dependents. All jobs and all businesses that people depend on for livelihoods, sustenance and survival are essential in their own way.
Was COVID-19 a Cover for an Anticipated or Planned Financial Crisis?
A major sign of financial distress in the US economy kicked in in mid-September of 2019 when there was a breakdown in the normal operation of the Repo Market. This repurchase market in the United States is important in maintaining liquidity in the financial system.
Those directing entities like large banks, Wall Street traders and hedge funds frequently seek large amounts of cash on a short-term basis. They obtain this cash from, for instance, money market funds by putting up securities, often Treasury Bills, as collateral. Most often the financial instruments go back, say the following night, to their original owners with interest payments attached for the use of the cash.
In mid-September the trust broke down between participants in the Repo Market. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York then entered the picture making trillions of dollars available to keep the system for short-term moving of assets going. This intervention repeated the operation that came in response to the first signs of trouble as Wall Street moved towards the stock market crash of 2008.
One of the major problems on the eve of the bailout of 2008-09, like the problem in the autumn of 2019, had to do with the overwhelming of the real economy by massive speculative activity. The problem then, like a big part of the problem now, involves the disproportionate size of the derivative bets. The making of these bets have become a dangerous addiction that continues to this day to menace the viability of the financial system headquartered on Wall Street.
By March of 2020 it was reported that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York had turned on its money spigot to create $9 trillion in new money with the goal of keeping the failing Repo Market operational. The precise destinations of that money together with the terms of its disbursement, however, remain a secret. As Pam Martens and Russ Martens write,
Since the Fed turned on its latest money spigot to Wall Street [in September of 2019], it has refused to provide the public with the dollar amounts going to any specific banks. This has denied the public the ability to know which financial institutions are in trouble. The Fed, exactly as it did in 2008, has drawn a dark curtain around troubled banks and the public’s right to know, while aiding and abetting a financial coverup of just how bad things are on Wall Street.
Looking back at the prior bailout from their temporal vantage point in January of 2020, the authors noted “During the 2007 to 2010 financial collapse on Wall Street – the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the Fed funnelled a total of $29 trillion in cumulative loans to Wall Street banks, their trading houses and their foreign derivative counterparties.”
The authors compared the rate of the transfer of funds from the New York Federal Reserve Bank to the Wall Street banking establishment in the 2008 crash and in the early stages of the 2020 financial debacle. The authors observed, “at this rate, [the Fed] is going to top the rate of money it threw at the 2008 crisis in no time at all.”
The view that all was well with the economy until the impact of the health crisis began to be felt in early 2020 leads away from the fact that money markets began to falter dangerously in the autumn of 2019. The problems with the Repo Market were part of a litany of indicators pointing to turbulence ahead in troubled economic waters.
For instance, the resignation in 2019 of about 1,500 prominent corporate CEOs can be seen as a suggestion that news was circulating prior to 2020 about the imminence of serious financial problems ahead. Insiders’ awareness of menacing developments threatening the workings of the global economy were probably a factor in the decision of a large number of senior executives to exit the upper echelons of the business world.
Not only did a record number of CEOs resign, but many of them sold off the bulk of their shares in the companies they were leaving.
Pam Marten and Russ Marten who follow Wall Street’s machinations on a daily basis have advanced the case that the Federal Reserve is engaged in fraud by trying to make it seem that “the banking industry came into 2020 in a healthy condition;” that it is only because of “the COVID-19 pandemic” that the financial system is” unravelling,”
The authors argue that this misrepresentation was deployed because the deceivers are apparently “desperate” to prevent Congress from conducting an investigation for the second time in twelve years on why the Fed, “had to engage in trillions of dollars of Wall Street bailouts.” In spite of the Fed’s fear of facing a Congressional investigation after the November 2020 vote, such a timely investigation of the US financial sector would well serve the public interest.
The authors present a number of signs demonstrating that “the Fed knew, or should have known…. that there was a big banking crisis brewing in August of last year. ” The signs of the financial crisis in the making included negative yields on government bonds around the world as well as big drops in the Dow Jones average. The plunge in the price of stocks was led by US banks, but especially Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase.
Another significant indicator that something was deeply wrong in financial markets was a telling inversion in the value of Treasury notes with the two-year rate yielding more than the ten-year rate.
Yet another sign of serious trouble ahead involved repeated contractions in the size of the German economy. Moreover, in September of 2019 news broke that officials of JP Morgan Chase faced criminal charges for RICO-style racketeering. This scandal added to the evidence of converging problems plaguing core economic institutions as more disruptive mayhem gathered on the horizons.
Accordingly, there is ample cause to ask if there are major underlying reasons for the financial crash of 2020 other than the misnamed pandemic and the lockdowns done in its name of “flattening” its spikes of infection. At the same time, there is ample cause to recognize that the lockdowns have been a very significant factor in the depth of the economic debacle that is making 2020 a year like no other.
Some go further. They argue that the financial crash of 2020 was not only anticipated but planned and pushed forward with clear understanding of its instrumental role in the Great Reset sought by self-appointed protagonists of creative destruction. The advocates of this interpretation place significant weight on the importance of the lockdowns as an effective means of obliterating in a single act a host of old economic relationships. For instance Peter Koenig examines the “farce and diabolical agenda of a universal lockdown.”
Koenig writes, “The pandemic was needed as a pretext to halt and collapse the world economy and the underlying social fabric.”
Inflating the Numbers and Traumatizing the Public to Energize the Epidemic of Fear
There have been many pandemics in global history whose effects on human health have been much more pervasive and devastating than the current one said to be generated by a new coronavirus. In spite, however, of its comparatively mild flu-like effects on human health, at least at this point in the summer of 2020, there has never been a contagion whose spread has generated so much global publicity and hype. As in the aftermath of 9/11, this hype extends to audacious levels of media-generated panic. As with the psyop of 9/11, the media-induced panic has been expertly finessed by practitioners skilled in leveraging the currency of fear to realize a host of radical political objectives.
According to Robert E. Wright in an essay published by the American Institute for Economic Research, “closing down the U.S. economy in response to COVID-19 was probably the worst public policy in at least one-hundred years.” As Wright sees it, the decision to lock down the economy was made in ignorant disregard of the deep and devastating impact that such an action would spur. “Economic lockdowns were the fantasies of government officials so out of touch with economic and physical reality that they thought the costs would be fairly low.”
The consequences, Wright predicts, will extend across many domains including the violence done to the rule of law. The lockdowns, he writes, “turned the Constitution into a frail and worthless fabric.” Writing in late April, Wright touched on the comparisons to be made between the economic lockdowns and slavery. He write, “Slaves definitely had it worse than Americans under lockdown do, but already Americans are beginning to protest their confinement and to subtly subvert authorities, just as chattel slaves did.”
The people held captive in confined lockdown settings have had the time and often the inclination to imbibe much of the 24/7 media coverage of the misnamed pandemic. Taken together, all this media sensationalism has come to constitute one of the most concerted psychological operations ever.
The implications have been enormous for the mental health of multitudes of people. This massive alteration of attitudes and behaviours is the outcome of media experiments performed on human subjects without their informed consent. The media’s success in bringing about herd subservience to propagandistic messaging represents a huge incentive for more of the same to come. It turns out that the subject matter of public health offers virtually limitless potential for power-seeking interests and agents to meddle with the privacies, civil liberties and human rights of those they seek to manipulate, control and exploit.
The social, economic and health impacts of the dislocations flowing from the lockdowns are proving to be especially devastating on the poorest, the most deprived and the most vulnerable members of society. This impact will continue to be marked in many ways, including in increased rates of suicide, domestic violence, mental illness, addictions, homelessness, and incarceration far larger than those caused directly by COVID-19. As rates of deprivation through poverty escalate, so too will crime rates soar.
The over-the-top alarmism of the big media cabals has been well financed by the advertising revenue of the pharmaceutical industry. With some few exceptions, major media outlets pushed the public to accept the lockdowns as well as the attending losses in jobs and business activity. In seeking to push the agenda of their sponsors, the big media cartels have been especially unmindful of their journalistic responsibilities. Their tendency has been to avoid or censor forums where even expert practitioners of public health can publicly question and discuss government dictates about vital issues of public policy.
Whether in Germany or the United States or many other countries, front line workers in this health care crisis have nevertheless gathered together with the goal of trying to correct the one-sided prejudices of of discriminatory media coverage. One of the major themes in the presentations by medical practitioners is to confront the chorus of media misrepresentations on the remedial effects of hydroxychloroquine and zinc.
On July 27 a group of doctors gathered on the grounds of the US Supreme Court to try to address the biases of the media and the blind spots of government.
Another aspect in the collateral damage engendered by COVID-19 alarmism is marked in the fatalities arising from the wholesale postponement of many necessary interventions including surgery. How many have died or will die because of the hold put on medical interventions to remedy cancer, heart conditions and many other potentially lethal ailments?
Did the unprecedented lockdowns come about as part of a preconceived plan to inflate the severity of an anticipated financial meltdown? What is to be made of the suspicious intervention of administrators to produce severely padded numbers of reported deaths in almost every jurisdiction? This kind of manipulation of statistics raised the possibility that we are witnessing a purposeful and systemic inflation of the severity of this health care crisis.
Questions about the number of cases arise because of the means of testing for the presence of a supposedly new coronavirus. The PCR system that is presently being widely used does not test for the virus but tests for the existence of antibodies produced in response to many health challenges including the common cold. This problem creates a good deal of uncertainty of what a positive test really means.
The problems with calculating case numbers extend to widespread reports that have described people who were not tested for COVID-19 but who nevertheless received notices from officials counting them as COVID-19 positive. Broadcaster Armstrong Williams addressed the phenomenon on his network of MSM media outlets in late July.
From the mass of responses he received, Williams estimated that those not tested but counted as a positive probably extends probably to hundreds of thousands of individuals. What would drive the effort to exaggerate the size of the afflicted population?
This same pattern of inflation of case numbers was reinforced by the Tricare branch of the US Defense Department’s Military Health System. This branch sent out notices to 600,000 individuals who had not been tested. The notices nevertheless informed the recipients that they had tested positive for COVID 19.
Is the inflation of COVID-19 death rates and cases numbers an expression of the zeal to justify the massive lockdowns? Were the lockdowns in China conceived as part of a scheme to help create the conditions for the public’s acceptance of a plan to remake the world’s political economy? What is to be made of the fact that those most identified with the World Economic Forum (WEF) have led the way in putting a positive spin on the reset arising from the very health crisis the WEF helped introduce and publicize in Oct. of 2019?
As Usual, the Poor Get Poorer
The original Chinese lockdowns in the winter of 2020 caused the breakdowns of import-export supply chains extending across the planet. Lockdowns in the movement of raw materials, parts, finished products, expertise, money and more shut down domestic businesses in China as well as transnational commerce in many countries outside China. The supply chain disruptions were especially severe for businesses that have dispensed with the practice of keeping on hand large inventories of parts and raw material, depending instead on just-in-time deliveries.
As the supply chains broke down domestically and internationally, many enterprises lacked the revenue to pay their expenses. Bankruptcies began to proliferate at rates that will probably continue to be astronomical for some time. All kinds of loans and liabilities were not paid out in full or at all. Many homes are being re-mortgaged or cast into real estate markets as happened during the prelude and course of the bailouts of 2007-2010.
The brunt of the financial onslaught hit small businesses especially hard. Collectively small businesses have been a big creator of jobs. They have picked up some of the slack from the rush of big businesses to downsize their number of full-time employees. Moreover, small businesses and start-ups are often the site of exceptionally agile innovations across broad spectrums of economic activity. The hard financial slam on the small business sector, therefore, is packing a heavy punch on the economic conditions of everyone.
The devastating impact of the economic meltdown on workers and small businesses in Europe and North America extends in especially lethal ways to the massive population of poor people living all over the world. Many of these poor people reside in countries where much of the paid work is irregular and informal.
At the end of April the International Labor Organization (ILO), an entity created along with the League of Nations at the end of the First World War, estimated that there would be 1.6 billion victims of the meltdown in the worldwide “informal economy.” In the first month of the crisis these workers based largely in Africa and Latin America lost 60% of their subsistence level incomes.
This pandemic has laid bare in the cruellest way, the extraordinary precariousness and injustices of our world of work. It is the decimation of livelihoods in the informal economy – where six out of ten workers make a living – which has ignited the warnings from our colleagues in the World Food Programme, of the coming pandemic of hunger. It is the gaping holes in the social protection systems of even the richest countries, which have left millions in situations of deprivation. It is the failure to guarantee workplace safety that condemns nearly 3 million to die each year because of the work they do. And it is the unchecked dynamic of growing inequality which means that if, in medical terms, the virus does not discriminate between its victims in its social and economic impact, it discriminates brutally against the poorest and the powerless.
Guy Ryder remembered the optimistic rhetoric in officialdom’s responses to the economic crash of 2007-2009. He compares the expectations currently being aroused by the vaccination fixation with the many optimistic sentiments previously suggesting the imminence of remedies for grotesque levels of global inequality. Ryder reflected,
We’ve heard it before. The mantra which provided the mood music of the crash of 2008-2009 was that once the vaccine to the virus of financial excess had been developed and applied, the global economy would be safer, fairer, more sustainable. But that didn’t happen. The old normal was restored with a vengeance and those on the lower echelons of labour markets found themselves even further behind.
The internationalization of increased unemployment and poverty brought about in the name of combating the corona crisis is having the effect of further widening the polarization between rich and poor on a global scale. Ryder’s metaphor about the false promises concerning a “vaccine” to correct “financial excess” can well be seen as a precautionary comment on the flowery rhetoric currently adorning the calls for a global reset.
Wall Street and 9/11
The world economic crisis of 2020 is creating the context for large-scale repeats of some key aspects of the bailout of 2007-2010. The bailout of 2007-2008 drew, in turn, from many practices developed in the period when the explosive events of 9/11 triggered a worldwide reset of global geopolitics.
While the events of 2008 and 2020 both drew attention to the geopolitical importance of Wall Street, the terrible pummelling of New York’s financial district was the event that ushered in a new era of history, an era that has delivered us to the current financial meltdown/lockdown.
It lies well beyond the scope of this essay to go into detail about the dynamics of what really transpired on 9/11. Nevertheless, some explicit reckoning with this topic is crucial to understanding some of the essential themes addressed in this essay.
Indeed, it would be difficult to overstate the relevance of 9/11 to the background and nature of the current debacle. The execution and spinning of 9/11 were instrumental in creating the repertoire of political trickery presently being adapted in the manufacturing and exploiting of the COVID-19 hysteria. A consistent attribute of the journey from 9/11 to COVID-19 has been the amplification of executive authority through the medium of emergency measures enactments, policies and dictates.
Wall Street is a major site where much of this political trickery was concocted in planning exercises extending to many other sites of power and intrigue. In the case of 9/11, a number of prominent Wall Street firms were involved before, during and after the events of September 11. As is extremely well documented, these events have been misrepresented in ways that helped to further harness the military might of the United States to the expansionistic designs of Israel in the Middle East.
The response of the Federal Reserve to the events of 9/11 helped set in motion a basic approach to disaster management that continues to this day. Almost immediately following the pulverization of Manhattan’s most gigantic and iconographic landmarks, Federal Reserve officials made it their highest priority to inject liquidity into financial markets. Many different kinds of scenario can be advanced behind the cover of infusing liquidity into markets.
For three days in a row the Federal Reserve Bank of New York turned on its money spigots to inject transfusions of $100 billion dollars of newly generated funds into the Wall Street home of the financial system. The declared aim was to keep the flow of capital between financial institutions well lubricated. The Federal Reserve’s infusions of new money into Wall Street took many forms. New habits and appetites were thereby cultivated in ways that continue to influence the behaviour of Wall Street organizations in the financial debacle of 2020.
The revelations concerning the events of 9/11 contained a number of financial surprises. Questions immediately arose, for instance, about whether the destruction of the three World Trade Center skyscrapers had obliterated software and hardware vital to the continuing operations of computerized banking systems. Whatever problems arose along these lines, it turned out that there was sufficient digital information backed up in other locations to keep banking operations viable.
But while much digital data survived the destruction of core installations in the US financial sector, some strategic information was indeed obliterated. For instance, strategic records entailed in federal investigations into many business scandals were lost. Some of the incinerated data touched on, for instance, the machinations of the energy giant, Enron, along with its Wall Street partners, JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup.
The writings of E. P Heidner are prominent in the literature posing theories about the elimination of incriminating documentation as a result of the controlled demolitions of 9/11. What information was eliminated and what was retained in the wake of the devastation? Heidner has published a very ambitious account placing the events of 9/11 at the forefront of a deep and elaborate relationship linking George H. W. Bush to Canada’s Barrick Gold and the emergence of gold derivatives.
The surprises involving 9/11 and Wall Street included evidence concerning trading on the New York Stock Exchange. A few individuals enriched themselves significantly by purchasing a disproportionately high number of put options on shares about to fall precipitously as a result of the anticipated events of 9/11. Investigators, however, chose to ignore this evidence because it did not conform to the prevailing interpretation of who did what to whom on 9/11.
Another suspicious group of transactions conducted right before 9/11 involved some very large purchases of five-year US Treasury notes. These instruments are well known hedges when one has knowledge that a world crisis is imminent. One of these purchases was a $5 billion transaction. The US Treasury Department would have been informed about the identity of the purchaser. Nevertheless the FBI and the Securities Exchange Commission collaborated to point public attention away from these suspect transactions. (p. 199)
On the very day of 9/11 local police arrested Israeli suspects employed in the New York area as Urban Movers. The local investigators were soon pressured to ignore the evidence, however, and go along with the agenda of the White House and the media chorus during the autumn of 2001.
In the hours following the pulverization of the Twin Towers the dominant mantra was raised “Osama bin Laden and al-Qeada did it.” That mantra led in the weeks, months and years that followed to US-led invasions of several Muslim-majority countries. Some have described these military campaigns as wars for Israel.
Soon New York area jails were being filled up with random Muslims picked up for nothing more than visa violations and such. The unrelenting demonization of Muslims collectively can now be seen in retrospect as a dramatic psychological operation meant to poison minds as the pounding of the war drums grew in intensity. In the process a traumatized public were introduced to concepts like “jihad.” At no time has there ever been a credible police investigation into the question of who is responsible for the 9/11 crimes.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld chose September 10, the day before 9/11, to break the news at a press conference that $2.3 trillion had gone missing from the Pentagon’s budget. Not surprisingly the story of the missing money got buried the next day as reports of the debacle in Manhattan and Washington DC dominated MSM news coverage.
As reported by Forbes Magazine, the size of the amount said to have gone missing in Donald Rumsfeld’s 2001 report of Defense Department spending had mushroomed by 2015 to around $21 trillion. It was Mark Skidmore, an Economics Professor at the University of Michigan, who became the main sleuth responsible for identifying the gargantuan amount of federal funds that the US government can’t account for.
As the agency that created the missing tens of trillions that apparently has disappeared without a trace, wouldn’t the US Federal Reserve be in a position to render some assistance in tracking down the lost funds? Or is the Federal Reserve somehow a participant or a complicit party in the disappearance of the tens of trillions without a paper trail?
The inability or unwillingness of officialdom to explain what happened to the lost $21 trillion, an amount comparable to the size of the entire US national debt prior to the lockdowns, might be viewed in the light of the black budgets of the US Department of Defense (DOD). Black budgets are off-the-books funds devoted to secret research and to secret initiatives in applied research.
In explaining this phenomenon, former Canadian Defense Minister, Paul Hellyer, has observed, “thousands of billions of dollars have been spent on projects about which Congress and the Commander In Chief have deliberately been kept in the dark.” Eric Zuesse goes further. As he explains it, the entire Defense Department operates pretty much on the basis of an unusual system well outside the standard rules of accounting applied in other federal agencies.
When news broke about the missing $21 trillion, federal authorities responded by promising that special audits would be conducted to explain the irregularities. The results of those audits, if they took place at all, were never published. The fact that the Defense of Department has developed in a kind of audit free zone has made it a natural magnet for people and interests engaged in all kinds of criminal activities.
Eric Zuesse calls attention to the 1,000 military bases around the world that form a natural network conducive to the cultivation of many forms of criminal trafficking. Zuesse includes in his reflections commentary on the secret installations in some American embassies but especially in the giant US Embassy in Baghdad Iraq.
The US complex in Baghdad’s Green Zone is the biggest Embassy in the world. Its monumental form on a 104 acre site expresses the expansionary dynamics of US military intervention in the Middle East and Eurasia following 9/11.
The phenomenon of missing tens of trillions calls attention to larger patterns of kleptocratic activity that forms a major subject addressed here. The shifts into new forms of organized crime in the name of “national security” began to come to light in the late 1980s. An important source of disclosures was the series of revelations that accompanied the coming apart of the Saudi-backed Bank of Credit and Commerce International, the BCCI.
The nature of this financial institution, where CIA operatives were prominent among its clients, provides a good window into the political economy of drug dealing, money laundering, weapons smuggling, regime change and many much more criminal acts that took place along the road to 9/11.
The BCCI was a key site of financial transactions that contributed to the end of the Cold War and the inception of many new kinds of conflict. These activities often involved the well-financed activities of mercenaries, proxy armies, and a heavy reliance on private contractors of many sorts.
The Enron scandal was seen to embody some of the same lapses facilitated by fraudulent accounting integral to the BCCI scandal. Given the bubble of secrecy surrounding the Federal Reserve, there are thick barriers blocking deep investigation into whether or not the US Central Bank was involved in the relationship of the US national security establishment and the BCCI.
The kind of dark transactions that the BCCI was designed to facilitate must have been channelled after its demise into other banking institutions probably with Wall Street connections. Since 9/11, however, many emergency measures have been imposed that add extra layers of secrecy protecting the perpetrators of many criminal acts from public exposure and criminal prosecutions.
The events of 9/11 have sometimes been described as the basis of a global coup. To this day there is no genuine consensus about what really transpired to create the illusion of justification for repeated US military invasions of Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and Eurasia.
The 9/11 debacle and the emergency measures that followed presented Wall Street with an array of new opportunities for profit that came with the elaborate refurbishing and retooling of the military-industrial complex.
The response to 9/11 was expanded and generalized upon to create the basis of a war directed not at a particular enemy, but rather at an ill-defined conception identified as “terrorism.” This alteration was part of a complex of changes adding trillions to the flow of money energizing the axis of interaction linking the Pentagon and Wall Street and the abundance of new companies created to advance the geopolitical objectives emerging from the 9/11 coup.
According to Pam Martens and Russ Martens, the excesses of deregulation helped induce an anything-goes-ethos on Wall Street and at its Federal Reserve regulator in the wake of 9/11. As the authors tell it, the response to 9/11 helped set important precedents for the maintaining flows of credit and capital in financial markets.
Often the destination of the funds generated in the name of pumping liquidity into markets was not identified and reported in transactions classified as financial emergency measures. While the priority was on keeping financial pumps primed, there was much less concern for transparency and accountability among those in positions of power at the Federal Reserve.
The financial sector’s capture of the government instruments meant to regulate the behaviour of Wall Street institutions was much like the deregulation of the US pharmaceutical industry. Both episodes highlight a message that has become especially insistent as the twenty-first century unfolds.
The nature of the response to 9/11 emphasized the mercenary ascent of corporate dominance as the primary force directing governments. Throughout this transformation the message to citizens became increasingly clear. Buyer Beware. We cannot depend on governments to represent our will and interests. We cannot even count on our governments to protect citizens from corporatist attacks especially on human health and whatever financial security we have been able to build up.
Bailouts, Derivatives, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York
The elimination of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 was essential to the process of dramatically cutting back the government’s role as a protector of the public interest on the financial services sector. The Glass-Steagall Act was an essential measure in US President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Some view the New Deal as a strategy for saving capitalism by moderating ts most sharp-edged features. Instituted in 1933 in response to the onset of the Great Depression, the Glass-Steagall Act separated the operations of deposit-accepting banks from the more speculative activity of investment brokers.
The termination of the regulatory framework put in place by the Glass Steagall Act opened much new space for all kinds of experiments in the manipulation of money in financial markets. The changes began with the merger of different sorts of financial institutions including some in the insurance field. Those overseeing the reconstituted entities headquartered on Wall Street took advantage of their widened latitudes of operation. They developed all sorts of ways of elaborating their financial services and presenting them in new packages.
The word, “derivative” is often associated with many applications of the new possibilities in the reconstituted financial services sector. The word, derivative, can be applied to many kinds of transactions involving speculative bets of various sorts. As the word suggests, a derivative is derived from a fixed asset such as currency, bonds, stocks, and commodities. Alterations in the values of fixed assets affect the value of derivatives that often take the form of contracts between two or more parties.
One of the most famous derivatives in the era of the financial crash of 2007-2010 was described as mortgaged-backed securities. On the surface these bundles of debt-burdened properties might seem easy to understand. But that would be a delusion. The value of these products was affected, for instance, by unpredictable shifts in interest rates, liar loans extended to homebuyers who lacked the capacity to make regular mortgage payments, and significant shifts in the value of real estate.
Mortgage-backed securities were just one type of a huge array of derivatives invented on the run in the heady atmosphere of secret and unregulated transactions between counterparties. Derivatives could involve contracts formalizing bets between rivals gambling on the outcome of competitive efforts to shape the future. An array of derivative bets was built around transactions often placed behind the veil of esoteric nomenclature like “collateralized debt obligations” or “credit default swaps.”
The variables in derivative bets might include competing national security agendas involving, for instance, pipeline constructions, regime change, weapons development and sales, false flag terror events, or money laundering. Since derivative bets involve confidential transactions with secret outcomes, they can be derived from all sorts of criteria. Derivative bets can, for instance, involve all manner of computerized calculations that in some cases are constructed much like war game scenarios.
The complexity of derivatives became greater when the American Insurance Group, AIG, began selling insurance programs to protect all sides in derivative bets from suffering too drastically from the consequences of being on the losing side of transactions.
The derivative frenzy, sometimes involving bets being made by parties unable to cover potential losses, overwhelmed the scale of the day-to-day economy. The “real economy” embodies exchanges of goods, services, wages and such that supply the basic necessities for human survival with some margin for recreation, travel, cultural engagement and such.
The Swiss-based Bank of International Settlements calculated in 2008 that the size of the all forms of derivative products had a monetary value of $1.14 quadrillion. A quadrillion is a thousand trillions. By comparison, the estimated value of all the real estate in the world was $75 trillion in 2008.
As the enticements of derivative betting preoccupied the leading directors of Wall Street institutions, their more traditional way of relating to one another began to falter. It was in this atmosphere that the Repo Market became problematic in December of 2007 just as it showed similar signs of breakdown in September of 2019.
In both instances the level of distrust between those in charge of financial institutions began to falter because they all had good reason to believe that their fellow bankers were overextended. All had reason to believe their counterparts were mired by too much speculative activity enabled by all sorts of novel experiments including various forms of derivative dealing.
In December of 2007 as in the autumn of 2019, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was forced to enter the picture to keep the financial pumps on Wall Street primed. The New York Fed kept the liquidity cycles flowing by invoking its power to create new money with the interest charged to tax payers.
As the financial crisis unfolded in 2008 and 2009 the Federal Reserve, but especially the privately-owned New York Federal Reserve bank, stepped forward to bail out many financial institutions that had become insolvent or near insolvent. In the process precedents and patterns were established that are being re-enacted with some modifications in 2020.
One of the innovations that took place in 2008 was the decision by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to hire a large Wall Street financial institution, BlackRock, to administer the bailouts. These transfers of money went through three specially created companies now being replicated as Special Purpose Vehicles in the course of the payouts of 2020.
In 2008-09 BlackRock administered the three companies named after the address of the New York Federal Reserve Bank on Maiden Lane. BlackRock emerged from an older Wall Street firm called Blackstone. Its former chair, Peter C. Peterson, was a former Chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
The original Maiden Lane company paid Bear Stearns Corp $30 billion. This amount from the New York Fed covered the debt of Bear Stearns, a condition negotiated to clear the way for the purchase of the old Wall Street institution by JP Morgan Chase. Maiden Lane II was a vehicle for payouts to companies that had purchased “mortgage-backed securities” before these derivative products turned soar.
Maiden Lane III was to pay off “multi-sector collateralized debt obligations.” Among these bailouts were payoffs to the counterparties of the insurance giant, AIG. As noted, AIG had developed an insurance product to be sold to those engaged in derivative bets. When the bottom fell out of markets, AIG lacked the means to pay off the large number of insurance claims made against it. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York stepped in to bail out the counterparties of AIG, many of them deemed to be “too big to fail.”
Among the counterparties of AIG was Goldman Sachs. It received of $13 billion from the Federal Reserve. Other bailouts to AIG’s counterparties were $12 billion to Deutsche Bank, $6.8 billion to Merrill Lynch, $5 billion to Switzerland’s UBS, $7.9 billion to Barclays, and $5.2 billion to Bank of America. Some of these banks received additional funds from other parts of the overall bailout transaction. Many dozens of other counterparties to AIG also received payouts in 2008-2009. Among them were the Bank of Montreal and Bank of Scotland.
The entire amount of the bailouts was subsequently calculated to be a whopping $29 trillion with a “t.” The lion’s share of these funds went to prop up US financial institutions and the many foreign banks with which they conducted business.
Much of this money went to the firms that were shareholders in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or partners of the big Wall Street firms. Citigroup, the recipient of the largest amount, received about $2.5 trillion in the federal bailouts. Merrill Lynch received $2 trillion,
The Federal Reserve Bank was established by Congressional statute in 1913. The Federal Reserve headquarters is situated in Washington DC. The Central Bank was composed of twelve constituent regional banks. Each one of these regional banks is owned by private banks.
The private ownership of the banks that are the proprietors of the Federal Reserve system has been highly contentious from its inception. The creation of the Federal Reserve continues to be perceived by many of its critics as an unjustifiable giveaway whereby the US government ceded to private interests its vital capacity to issue its own currency and to direct monetary policy like the setting of interest rates.
Pam Martens and Russ Martens at Wall Street on Parade explain the controversial Federal Reserve structure as follows
While the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in Washington, D.C. is deemed an “independent federal agency,” with its Chair and Governors appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, the 12 regional Fed banks are private corporations owned by the member banks in their region. The settled law under John L. Lewis v. the United States confirms: “Each Federal Reserve Bank is a separate corporation owned by commercial banks in its region.”
In the case of the New York Fed, which is located in the Wall Street area of Manhattan, its largest shareowners are behemoth multinational banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.
There was no genuine effort after the financial debacle of 2007-2010 to correct the main structural problems and weaknesses of the Wall Street-based US financial sector. The Dodd-Frank Bill signed into law by US President Barack Obama in 2010 did make some cosmetic changes. But the main features of the regulatory capture that has taken place with the elimination of the Glass-Steagall Act remained with only minor alterations. In particular the framework was held in place for speculative excess in derivative bets.
In the summer edition of The Atlantic, Frank Partnoy outlined a gloomy assessment of the continuity leading from the events of 2007-2010 to the current situation. This current situation draws a strange contrast between the lockdown-shattered quality of the economy and the propped-up value of the stock market whose future value will in all probability prove unsustainable. Partnoy writes,
It is a distasteful fact that the present situation is so dire in part because the banks fell right back into bad behavior after the last crash—taking too many risks, hiding debt in complex instruments and off-balance-sheet entities, and generally exploiting loopholes in laws intended to rein in their greed. Sparing them for a second time this century will be that much harder.
Wall Street Criminality on Display
The frauds and felonies of the Wall Street banks have continued after the future earnings of US taxpayers returned them to solvency after 2010. The record of infamy is comparable to that of the pharmaceutical industry.
The criminal behaviour in both sectors is very relevant to the overlapping crises that are underway in both the public health and financial sectors. In 2012 the crime spree in the financial sector began with astounding revelations about the role of many major banks in the LIBOR, the London Interbank Offered Rate. The LIBOR rates create the basis of interest rates involved in the borrowing and lending of money in the international arena.
When the scandal broke there were 35 different LIBOR rates involving various types of currency and various time frames for loans between banks. The rates were calculated every day based on information forwarded from 16 different banks to a panel on London. The reporting banks included Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, UBS, and Deutsche Bank. The influence of the LIBOR rate extended beyond banks to affect the price of credit in many types of transactions.
The emergence of information that the banks were working together to rig the interest rate created the basis for a huge economic scandal. Fines extending from hundreds of millions into more than a billion dollars were placed on each of the offending banks. But in this instance and many others to follow, criminality was attached to the financial entities but not to top officials responsible for the decisions that put their corporations on the wrong side of the law.
One of the factors in the banking frauds comprising the LIBOR scandal was the temptation to improve the chance for financial gains in derivative bets. The biggest failure of the federal response to the financial meltdown of 2007-210 was that little was done to curb the excesses of transactions in the realm of derivatives.
Derivatives involved a form of gambling that exists in a kind of twilight zone. This twilight zone fills a space somewhere between the realm of the real economy and the realm of notional value. Notional values find expression in unrealized speculation about what might or might not come to fruition; what might or might not happen; who might win and who might lose in derivative speculations.
The addiction of Wall Street firms to derivative betting remains unchecked to this day. The bankers’ continuing fixation with unregulated gambling, often with other people’s money, is deeply menacing for the future of the global economy…. indeed for the future of everyone on earth. According to the Office of the Controller of Currency, in 2019 JP Morgan Chase had $59 trillion in derivative bets. In July of 2020 it emerged that Citigroup held $62 trillion in derivative contracts, about $30 trillion more than it held before it was bailed out in 2008. In 2019 Goldman Sachs held $47 trillion and Bank of America held $20.4 trillion in derivate bets.
A big part of the scandal embodied in these figures is embedded in the reality that all of these banks carry their most risky derivative bets in units of their corporate networks that are protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. This peril played a significant part in deepening the crisis engendered by financial meltdown that began in 2007.
One of the most redeeming features of the Dodd-Frank Act as originally drafted was a provision preventing financial institutions from keeping their derivative portfolios in banks whose deposits and depositors were backed up by federal insurance.
Citigroup led the push in Congress in 2014 to allow Wall Street institutions to revert back to a more deregulated and danger-prone economic environment. The notoriously inept decisions and actions of Citigroup had played a significant role in the lead up to the financial debacle of 2007 to 2010. Since 2016 Citigroup has become once again the biggest risk taker by loading itself up with more derivative speculations than any other financial institution in the world.
By returning derivative speculations to the protections of federal financial backstops, taxpayers are once again forced to assume responsibility for the most outlandish risks of Wall Street’s high rollers. It is taxpayers who are the backers of the federal government when it comes to their commitment to compensate banks for losses, even when these losses come about from derivative bets.
How much more Wall Street risk and public debt can be loaded onto taxpayers and even onto generations of taxpayers yet unborn? How is national debt to be understood when it plunders working people to guarantee and augment the wealth of the most privileged branches of society? Why should those most responsible for creating the most excessive risks to the financial wellbeing of our societies be protected from bearing the consequences of the very risks they themselves created?
Along with Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase stands out among a group of financial sector reprobates most deeply involved in sketchy activities that extend deep into the realm of criminality. In a simmering scandal six of JP Morgan Chase’s traders have been accused of breaking laws in conducting the bank’s futures trading in the value of precious metals. They have been accused of violating the RICO statute, a law meant for people suspected of being part of organized crime.
In the charges pressed by the Justice Department on JP Morgan Chase’s traders it is alleged that they “conducted the affairs of the [minerals] desk through a pattern of racketeering activity, specifically, wire fraud affecting a financial institution and bank fraud.”
In 2012 JP Morgan Chase faced a $1 billion fine for its role in the “London Wale” series of derivative bets described as follows by the Chair of the US Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigation. Senator Carl Levin explained, “Our findings open a window into the hidden world of high stakes derivatives trading by big banks. It exposes a derivatives trading culture at JPMorgan that piled on risk, hid losses, disregarded risk limits, manipulated risk models, dodged oversight, and misinformed the public.”
Traders at Goldman Sachs appear to have been part of the Wall Street crime spree. The tentacles of corruption in the Goldman Sachs case apparently extend deep into the US Justice Department. The case involves allegations of embezzlement, money laundering and missing billions. These manifestations of malfeasance all spin out of a scandal-prone Malaysian sovereign wealth fund administered by Goldman Sachs.
A big part of the scandal reported in Wall Street on Parade in July of 2020 involves the fact that the Justice Department’s prosecutors seem to be dragging their feet in this possible criminal felony case against Goldman Sachs. The prosecutors, including the US Attorney-General, William Barr, worked previously for the law firm, Kirkland and Ellis. Kirkland and Ellis was retained to defend Goldman Sachs in this matter.
Pam Martens and Russ Martens express dismay at the failure of US officialdom to hold Wall Street institutions accountable for the crime spree of some of its biggest firms. They write, “Congress and the executive branch of the government seem determined to protect Wall Street criminals, which simply assures their proliferation.”
Even racketeering charges against officials at JP Morgan Chase, where Jamie Dimon presides as CEO, failed to receive any attention from the professional deceivers that these days dominate MSM. The star reporters of Wall Street on Parade write, “Crime and fraud are so de rigueur at the bank led by Dimon that not one major newspaper ran the headline [of the racketeering charge] on the front page or anywhere else in the paper.
While federal charges that JP Morgan Chase’s Wall Street operation engaged in criminal racketeering was not of interest to the press, Jamie Dimon’s surprise visit in early June to a Chase branch in Mt. Kisco New York aroused considerable media attention. Dimon was photographed with staff wearing a mask and taking the knee. By participating in this ritual Dimon signaled that his Wall Street operation is in league with the sometimes violent cancel culture pushed into prominence by the Democratic Party in partnership with Black Lives Matter and Antifa.
*(JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon takes a knee with employees in front of a bank vault. Credit: JPMorgan)
In an article on 21 July marking ten years since the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, the Martens duo conclude, “So here we are today, watching the Fed conduct another secret multi-trillion dollar bailout of Wall Street while the voices of Congress and mainstream media are nowhere to be heard.”
In March it was announced that representatives of the US Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve Board and the BlackRock financial management were joining forces to make adjustments in the US economy. The aim was to address the financial dislocations resulting from the decision to lock down businesses, citizens, schools, entertainment, and social mingling outside the home, all in response to the health care hysteria promoted by governments and their media extensions.
The format of this process suggested some relaxation in the strict distinctions historically drawn between the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve. What would be the role of the third member of the group? In reflecting on this topic Joyce Nelson observed, “the new bailout bill not only further erases the line between the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury, it places BlackRock effectively in an overseer position for both.”
Some saw as symbolically instructive the delegation to BlackRock of a larger role than that assigned it during the first bailout of 2007-2008. It would be hard to overestimate the significance of this prominent Wall Street firm’s return to a strategic role near the very heart of this major exercise of federal power. This invitation to take part in such crucial negotiations at such a consequential juncture in history caused some to characterize BlackRock as a “fourth branch of government.”
As Victoria Guida commented in Politico, “This is a transformational moment for the Fed, and BlackRock’s now going to be in an even stronger position to serve the Fed in the future.”
BlackRock officials had been instrumental in helping to manoeuvre their company into such a strategic role by responding proactively to the understanding in some elite circles that another financial debacle was imminent. Only months before the financial meltdown actually occurred a group of former central bankers all commissioned by BlackRock delivered a recovery plan in August of 2019.
Presented at a G 7 summit of central bankers in Jackson Hole Wyoming, the plan for the government responses to the looming financial collapse was entitled Dealing with the Next Downturn. Its authors are Stanley Fischer, former Governor of the Central Bank of Israel, Philipp Hildebrande, former Chairman of the Governing Board of the Swiss National Bank, Jean Boivin, former Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada, and Elga Bartsch, Economist at Morgan Stanley.
The BlackRock Team at Jackson Hole put forward the case that a more aggressive and coordinated combination of monetary and fiscal policy must be brought to the job of stimulating a financial recovery. Monetary policy includes the setting of interest rates. Where monetary policy has historically been the domain of the central banks, fiscal policy, involving issues of taxation as well as the content and size of government budgets, lies within the jurisdiction of elected legislatures.
The nub of the proposal to unite fiscal and monetary policy put the US Treasury and the US Federal Reserve on the same political platform. As the author of this merger of monetary and fiscal policy, BlackRock became third member of the triumvirate charged to address the broad array of economic maladies that arrived in the wake of the lockdowns.
In the spring of 2020 BlackRock has been hired by the Bank of Canada and by Sweden’s Central Bank, the Riksbank, to deliver on the approaches to crisis management its representatives had laid out at Jackson Hole. BlackRock’s most high-profile and strategic engagement, however, began with its involvement in the negotiation of the $2 trillion CARES stimulus package that passed through the US Congress in March of 2020.
The CARES Act included $367 billion for loans and grants to small business, $130 billion for health care systems, $150 billion for state and local government, $500 billion for loans to corporate America, and $25 billion for airlines (in addition to loans).
The heart of the plan involved a payout of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child for households making up to $75,000. This payment to citizens approaches the concept of disseminating “helicopter money” as referred to in BlackRock’s initial outline for dealing with the “downturn.” Helicopter money distributed by the federal government to its citizens was also related to the concept of “going direct” in strategies for stimulating the economy.
BlackRock seems to be moving into the space recently held by Goldman Sachs as Wall Street’s best embodiment of ostentatious success including in the preparation of its corporate leaders for high-ranking positions in the federal government. Laurence Fink, BlackRock’s founder and CEO, might well have replicated this career path to become Treasury Secretary if Hillary Clinton had succeeded in becoming US President in 2016.
BlackRock’s leadership went to great lengths to avoid being tagged with the title in the United States of a “systematically important financial institution” (sifi). To be subject to this “sifi” label entails added federal scrutiny and regulation as well as heightened requirements to keep high amounts of capital on hand. BlackRock’s status as a private company not subject to sifi regulations makes the financial management firm more attractive to its federal partners in the federal payout operation presently underway.
One of the reasons for including a private company in the trio of partners involved in the payouts is to sneak around limitations on the legal powers of the Federal Reserve. As explained by Ellen Brown in her essay, Meet BlackRock: The New Great Vampire Squid, the Federal Reserve can only purchase “safe federally-guaranteed assets.” As a private company, BlackRock apparently faces no such restrictions. It can purchase more risky assets not backstopped by federal insurance.
The regional banks of the Federal Reserve Board are owned by private companies whose directors seem to have been part of the decision to include BlackRock in the implementation of the CARES process. There can be no doubt that the format of the CARES negotiations pulled the supposedly independent Federal Reserve more deeply into the political orbit of the US Treasury branch. The presence of a major Wall Street firm in the process, however, apparently gave the advocates of the Fed’s supposed independence from politics a sense that they retained some leverage in the process.
The inclusion of private companies in the conduct of government business has become in recent decades a very common expression of neoliberalism. One of the reasons for this embrace of public-private partnerships in the conduct of government business is to take advantage of the legal nature of private companies. The apportionment to private companies of significant roles in deciding and implementing public policies helps put veils of secrecy over the true nature of government decisions and actions.
Private companies can more easily assert claims to “proprietary information” than can public institutions when they act on behalf of citizens. This feature of privatization in the performance of public responsibilities by elected government runs counter to the imperatives of democratic transparency. It puts obstacles in the way of genuine accountability because the public is more likely to be kept in the dark about key aspects of what is being decided and done on their behalf.
Suck Up Economics and State Monopoly Capitalism
BlackRock owns, controls, or manages about $30 trillion in total in securities. It directly controls or owns somewhat less than a third of this amount. The remainder of the assets BlackRock manages are to service clients responsible for taking care of pension funds, philanthropies, foundations, endowments, family offices, superannuation funds and such.
A big part of BlackRock’s business model involves attracting customers by allowing them access to great masses of timely information of significant utility to those responsible for making investment decisions. This technological wizardry happens on a very advanced computational platform known as Aladdin.
Aladdin remains a work-in-progress, one that is widely recognized as the most sophisticated medium of its kind for assessing all manner of financial risks and potentials for profit. Its future as an investment platform is to become more and more integrated into the complex mix of hardware and software animating Artificial Intelligence.
BlackRock’s job is to dispense funds ushered into existence through the money-creating powers of the Federal Reserve. These transactions are to take place through eleven so-called “special purpose vehicles” similar to the Maiden Lane companies that BlackRock administered during the prior bailouts.
The funds it distributes in this round starting in 2020 are meant, at least at this early stage of the crisis, as payments for various sorts of assets. These assets might include an array of corporate bonds spanning a range from so-called investment grade to garbage grade junk bonds. The losses incurred in this exchange, involving supposed assets that might turn out to be worthless, or loans that might not be paid back, are to be charged to the US Treasury. Ultimately the liability lies on US taxpayers who are the holders of the national debt.
Bonds of varying levels of worth lie beneath another asset eligible for transformation into cash. This instrument of value is referred to as Exchange Traded Funds, ETFs. ETFs happen to be a specialty of BlackRock ever since the company launched a range of commercial ETFs into Stock Market circulation through its iShares division. BlackRock’s role on both sides of buying and selling ETFs comes up repeatedly as one of the many conflicts of interest of which the Wall Street firm stands accused.
Given that BlackRock is involved in one way or another in the proprietorship of pretty much every major company in the world, there is plenty to back up the allegation that Black Rock is an interested party in most of the transactions in which it engages as part of its partnership with the US Fed and Treasury Branch.
Pam Matens and Russ Martens have been very critical of the role of the Federal Reserve and BlackRock in the current economic crisis. They have anticipated that, if the current drift of events continues, American taxpayers will once again be gobsmacked with a huge growth in the national debt. This development would amount to another major transfer of wealth away from working people to the beneficiaries of Wall Street firms and the same commercial institutions that received the lion’s share of funds during the last bailout.
The co-authors picture BlackRock is part of a scheme to use “Special Purpose Vehicles” like “Enron used to hide the true state of its finances and blow itself up.” They entitle their article published on 31 March, 2020 as “The Dark Secrets in the Fed’s Wall Street Bailout Are Getting a Devious Makeover in Today’s Bailout.”
The authors observe. “What makes the New York Fed’s bailout of Wall Street so much more dangerous this time around is that it has decided to use a different structure for its loans to Wall Street – one that will force losses on taxpayers and, it hopes, will provide an ironclad secrecy curtain around how much it spends and where the money goes.”
I find this account of an effort by the Federal Reserve to create an “ironclad secrecy curtain” shocking under these circumstances. It suggests an intention to exceed the deceptiveness of the last bailout. This warning renews longstanding suspicions that the failures of transparency and accountability have not subsided since the beginning of the era when deregulation and the 9/11 deceptions converged in the domestic and international operations of Wall Street.
The structural problems already identified in the process initiated to implement the CARES Act could have enormous consequences if the current economic crisis continues to deteriorate. This deterioration is not likely to stop anytime soon given the depth of the crash and its probable domino effects. It was reported in late July that during the second quarter of 2020 the US Gross Domestic Product collapsed at an annualized rate of 33%, the deepest decline in output ever recorded since the US government began measuring GDP in 1947.
The CARES Act helped set in motion a program with the potential to repeat elements of the earlier bailout. The amount of $454 billion was to be set aside to assist the banking sector. The Fed can leverage this amount by ten times according to the principles of fractional reserve banking.
The news of this development caused Mike Whitney to imagine “the Fed turning itself into a hedge fund in order to buy the sludge that has accumulated on the balance sheets of corporations and financial institutions for the last decade,” Whitney pictured an onslaught of “scheming sharpies who will figure out how to game the system and turn the whole fiasco into another Wall Street looting operation.”
Meanwhile the Martens Team at Wall Street on Parade called attention to the $9 trillion already injected by the New York Fed to flood liquidity into the still-troubled Repo Markets that began to falter in September of 2019. Add to this revelation the news that the Fed “has not announced one scintilla of information on what specific Wall Street firms have received this money or how much they individually received.”
There is no doubt that the nature of economic relations will be substantially altered in the process of dealing with the financial meltdown induced by the lockdowns and by the overreliance on high debt rates combined with artificially low interest rates prior to 2020. The altered political economy that is beginning to emerge following the lockdowns is sometimes described as state monopoly capitalism.
In deciding what companies get bailed out and what companies don’t, the financial authorities that are intervening in this crisis are pretty much deciding what enterprises get the advantage of federal financial backstops and what enterprises will not enjoy government sanction. Increasingly, therefore, it is the state that determines winners and losers in the organizing of financial relations. This development further undermines any notion that some idealized vision of competition and market forces will determine winners and losers in the economy of the future.
As Peter Ewarts has observed, it seems that BlackRock is being delegated by federal authorities to exercise “discretionary powers to pick winners and losers,” a choice that is “where the real bonanza and clout lies.” Will the winners be chosen from the companies run by executives that used the money gained from the prior bailouts to engage in stock buy backs? This process of buying back stock tends to be reflected in CEO bonuses and higher share prices. Alternatively this way of allocating funds tends to short change workers as well as innovation and efficiency in industrial production?
Will companies be rewarded whose executives have moved production facilities overseas or issued billions in junk bonds? Will companies be rewarded whose directors have participated in the effort to censor the Internet, bring about lockdowns or foment mask hysteria? Why is it that the coddled elites serving the financial imperatives of most wealthy branches of society are being put in the best position to decide who gets a life preserver from the state and who must sink and drown?
Might this bias be a factor in the current process that led Forbes Magazine to conclude in a headline that “Billionaries Are Getting Richer During the Covid-19 Pandemic While Most Americans Suffer.”
There can be no doubt that the financial transactions beginning with the CARES Act represent a crucial initial stage in what the promoters of the World Economic Forum have been labeling as the Great Reset. Laurence Fink and the BlackRock firm are significant participants in the World Economic Forum. The WEF helped introduce the pandemic in Event 201 in October of 2019 even as it is now trying to put a positive face on the fiasco.
Why should the people most harshly affected by the lockdowns tolerate that the very Wall Street interests dispossessing them, are tasked once again to lead and exploit the reset of the financial system? As presently structured by the likes of BlackRock and its beneficiaries, this process is once again transferring new wealth to the most wealthy branches of society. Simultaneously it is burdening the rest of the population with yet another massive increase in both personal and national indebtedness.
There is no more discussion of “trickle down” economics, a frequent metaphor invoked in the Reagan-Thatcher era. Instead we are in the midst of an increasingly intense phase of suck up economics. The rich are being further enriched and further empowered through the dispossession of the poor and the middle classes. This procedure, initiated when locked down citizens were sidelined from the political process, has the potential to result in the largest upward transfer of wealth so far in history.
BlackRock Versus the Debt-Lite Legacy of the Bank of Canada
At the end of March Laurence Fink, CEO and founder of BlackRock, announced in a letter to his company’s shareholder, “We are honored to have been selected to assist the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Bank of Canada on programs designed to facilitate capital to businesses and support the economy.”
This announcement might leave the impression that the Bank of Canada and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York are similar institutions. This impression is unfounded. The two banks have very different structures and histories. A spotlight on these differences helps illuminate the nature of a number of core financial issues.
These financial issues should command avid attention during this time of reckoning with a serious economic crisis that may well be still in its early stages. Such issues inevitably draw attention to the current manifestations of very old questions about the character of money and its relationship to the concepts of usury and debt. Questions about debt, debt enslavement as well as the possibility of debt renunciation or debt forgiveness are becoming especially pressing.
These controversial queries arise in an era when a tiny minority is aggressively asserting sweeping claims to ownership of vast concentrations of the world’s available assets. The other side of this picture reveals that the largest mass of humanity is sinking into a swamp of rising debt on a scale that is concurrently unsustainable and unconscionable. How did this level of inequity reach such audacious extremes? Are there any remedies in sight?
There is nothing to suggest structural remediation in the current approach to the economic crisis. In fact so far there is every indication that the current approach of bringing about an enormous expansion in the availability of debt-laden money will only compound the further dispossession of the already dispossessed in order to expand the wealth of the already wealthy.
As already noted, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York is one of twelve regional banks that together constitute the US Federal Reserve. Every regional Federal Reserve Bank is owned by a group of private banks. Each of the private banks at the base of a Federal Reserve regional bank marks its proprietorship through the ownership of shares. These shares cannot be freely traded in stock markets. The ownership of these shares expresses the private ownership of the US banking system.
The Fed’s New York regional bank has a special role in money creation given its location at the heart of the US financial sector on and around Wall Street. In this crisis, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York is creating new money in the name of holding back onslaughts of destitution and penury in a traumatized society. Ever since 1913 every new dollar brought into existence by the Federal Reserve, which is the central bank of the United States, creates added debt that collects compound interest as long as it is left unpaid.
The Bank of Canada was created to counter the delegation of money-creating authority to privately-owned banks. The Bank of Canada was founded during the Great Depression, a time when the failure of many existing institutions created the conditions to try out alternative entities in the attempt to improve economic relationships.
One of the driving forces in the creation of Canada’s new banking system was Gerald Gratten McGeer. McGreer was an elected official in British Columbia dedicated to changing the system so that the people of Canada could generate their own currency through the sovereign authority of Canada’s Parliament. McGeer helped to push the national government of Prime Minister R.B. Bennett in this direction. The wheels were set in motion in 1933 through the work on the Royal Commission on Banking and Currency.
McGeer drew much of his inspiration from former US President, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln led the US federal government throughout the US Civil War. To finance the Armed Forces of the Union, Lincoln used the authority of the federal government to create “Greenbacks” as a means of paying the troops. By employing the sovereign authority of the US government to create its own currency, Lincoln avoided the intrigues that often accompanied the process of borrowing money from foreign lenders.
McGreer had obtained what he viewed as credible evidence that Lincoln had been assassinated because of his antagonism to the designs of private bankers seeking to widen their base of power in the United States. The Canadian politician had taken to heart a comment attributed often to Lincoln: “The privilege of creating and issuing money is not only the supreme prerogative of Government, but it is the Government’s greatest creative opportunity.”
The Bank of Canada was created in 1934 and nationalized as a Crown Corporation in 1938. To this day it retains its founding charter that affirms,
WHEREAS it is desirable to establish a central bank in Canada to regulate credit and currency in the best interests of the economic life of the nation, to control and protect the external value of the national monetary unit and to mitigate by its influence fluctuations in the general level of production, trade, prices and employment, so far as may be possible within the scope of monetary action, and generally to promote the economic and financial welfare of Canada.
The Bank of Canada formed an essential basis of a very creative period of Canadian growth, development, and diversification throughout the middle decades of the twentieth century. The Bank of Canada created the capital that financed the Canadian war effort from 1939 until 1945. After the war the Bank of Canada lent money at very low rates of interest to the municipal, provincial and national governments. The monies were used for infrastructure projects and for investments to increase the wellbeing and creative potential of Canada’s most important resource, its people.
This type of low interest or no interest financing formed the economic basis for projects like the creation of a national pension plan, national health care insurance, the Trans-Canada Highway, the St. Lawrence Seaway, the Avro-Arrow initiative as well as a formidable system of colleges and universities.
One could say that the Bank of Canada provided an indigenous money supply that was spent into the operations of a fast growing economy greased with lots of federal liquidity. The new money derived its value from the efforts of Canadian workers. Together they brought about significant increases in the country’s net worth through practical improvements that bettered the lives of all citizens.
Consider the contrast between this type of national development and the kind of larceny facilitated by the Federal Reserve’s infusions of the money it creates into Wall Street’s operations in the twenty-first century. In, for instance, the financial bailouts of 2007 to 2010 the largest part of the newly-created money ended up in the coffers of the wealthy whereas the new debt created ended up as part of a US national debt.
The burden of carrying this debt falls inter-generationally on average working people who form the lion’s share of taxpayers. They have long been saddled with an “inextinguishable debt” that unrelentingly grows, hardly ever shrinks, and remains basically unpayable forever. The very concept of “compound interest” conveys the image of an overall debt spread out over many venues. This debt must grow in perpetuity. There is a constant need for additional debtors while existing debtors must face constantly growing personal debt.
There is reason to suspect that the financial debacle of 2020 will re-enact some the worst excesses of the 2008 bailout. Might the payouts this time around to derivative-addicted Wall Street firms like Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase exceed the scale of the prior bailout? Would there be any way of even knowing whether the current round of payouts outdoes the former round of bailouts? The current process of federal disbursements is not transparent. In fact the process has been described as one designed to “provide an ironclad secrecy curtain around how much [the Fed} spends and where the money goes.”
Why is the Canadian government turning to the very firm that emerged as Wall Street’s main fixer and winner in the 2008 bailouts? Why is Justin Trudeau looking to BlackRock to respond to the Canadian aspects of the 2020 economic crash?
Justin Trudeau seems unwilling or unable to provide a coherent answer to this question and others requiring thoughtful replies rather than barrages of platitudes. Why is Justin Trudeau instituting what Joyce Nelson has characterized as a “new feudalism” in Canada’s economic policies?
Any decent effort of response on Trudeau’s part would have to make some reference to the background of the current debacle. There would have to be some acknowledgment that between 1934 and 1974 the Canada government did not build up any significant national debt. Then, between 1974 and 2020, the national debt of Canada skyrocketed from $22 billion to $700 billion.
Why was such a good and sustainable use of the Bank of Canada put aside, one that contributed magnificently to the health and wellbeing of the Canadian people as well as the Canadian federation? Who lost out? Who gained besides the international bankers?
The incomprehensible abandonment of a winning formula for Canadian development by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau puts a special onus on his son, Canada’s current PM, to explain the incredibly costly mistake of his father. Why won’t Justin Trudeau fix the mistake of his father and restore the Bank of Canada to its former role in Canadian nation building?
There has never been a full and satisfactory explanation of what really happened in 1974 to persuade Pierre Trudeau to throw aside the means of developing infrastructure with resources generated internally within Canada. Trudeau Senior’s decision to stop building up Canada through the operation of the Canadian people’s own national bank was not debated in Parliament. The option was never part of an election platform let alone the subject of a national referendum.
Apparently the Swiss-based Bank of International Settlements, which is often referred to as the central bank for central bankers, had some role in Pierre Trudeau’s decision to cease using the Bank of Canada’s powers to generate near-debt-free Canadian currency.
Government as a Means of Escaping Debt Entrapment
That powers of debt-lite money creation invested by Parliament in the Bank of Canada have never been formally withdrawn. The Bank of Canada could still revert back to the direct creation of Canadian currency to be spent into an economy of national recovery; to be spent in investments in infrastructure as well as in cultivating and applying the creative skills of the Canadian people.
Between 2011 and 2017 a court case was brought against the government of Canada with the aim of restoring the Bank of Canada to its former role. As Rocco Galati, the lawyer for the Committee on Monetary and Economic Reform (COMER) explained “Not only has the government abandoned its constitutional duty to govern, but it has transferred it to international private banks which corresponds to an abandonment of its sovereignty.”
After some significant rulings and contentious appeals, the COMER case came to an end without delivering results that its plaintiffs sought. But the court case helped to put a spotlight on the potential of the Bank of Canada. If properly utilized, this institution could provide a model corrective to the subordination of governance to the international Lords of Debt Explotation and their minions.
This process of politicizing the role of the Bank of Canada should extend to a process of calling out Justin Trudeau’s current approach to selling off key components of Canada’s infrastructure.
This topic came up in private discussions between Larry Fink and Justin Trudeau at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January of 2016. Fink apparently got Trudeau interested in attracting private investors to the project of improving or building Canadian infrastructure projects like roads, high-speed trains, airports and such. This kind of approach to developing infrastructure projects runs counter to the role once played by the Bank of Canada in incorporating self-sufficiency into the process of national building.
The dangers and opportunities in this time of manufactured crises are indeed unprecedented. Instead of rejecting the Davos crowd’s preoccupation with a giant reset, why not embrace the concept? Why not treat this moment as an opening to reset the global economy in a way that would restore the Bank of Canada to some of its former functions. Why not highlight this return to the sovereign embrace of benevolent nation building as an example for the rest of the world?
Why not reconstitute the worldwide structures of the international system of economic relations to restore elected governments to the functions that have been pre-empted by unaccountable institutions like the US Federal Reserve or the Bank for International Settlements? Why not renew the model of banking as an exercise and expression of national sovereignty and the self-determination of peoples in a dynamic global arena of rules-based economic interaction?
Why not withdraw the power from private bankers to create national currencies? Why not follow the advice of the deceased Abraham Lincoln by restoring “the greatest of all creative possibilities available to governments,” namely their power to issue money and set interest rates. The restoration of economic power to governments and the people and peoples they represent would involve the infusion of life into conceptions of globalization very different than those used to justify the industrialization of China and the deindustrialization of North America.
By delegating to international organizations much of their capacity to influence the economic conditions affecting their own people, national legislatures have lost much of their capacity to provide responsible government. Governments thus weakened are not realistically in a position to derive their authority from the consent of the governed. When representative bodies cannot effectively express the right of their constituents to collective self-determination in economic realm, what legitimacy is left to the institution of representative government?
This strange moment puts humanity face to face with much that is novel and unprecedented and much that is old and integral to the history of human interaction. The economic dimensions of this crisis constitute its most devastating and far-reaching attribute. The supposed remedy being rushed into operation is to flood large quantities of debt-laden loans into existence and for governments to distribute the borrowed funds to individuals, businesses, and organizations as they see fit.
Once again, vast quantities of debt-laden money are being created without the informed consent of those on whose shoulders the vastly increased loads of debt are falling. Once again governments are rewarding political friends and punishing political enemies by means of the way the new funds are being apportioned.
Decisions are pushed forward that emanate not from citizen constituents but from cabals of supranational connivers actively engaged in wrecking what little remains of responsible government. As governments lose legitimacy by engaging in collusion with corrupt cronies and international crime syndicates they must depend more and more on police state thuggery to enforce some semblance of order.
This process is going forward in spite of the fact that alternative means exist to create as much new money as is required without having to pay large amounts of compound interest to private bankers. Every sovereign government has the capacity to generate new money by following the model of the Bank of Canada between 1938 and 1974.
There is an especially urgent need at this time for some serious reckoning with the economic dimensions of the crisis before us. This reckoning will inevitably meet the resistance of extremely powerful interests who are deriving great benefits from the existing system. The process of privatizing the creation of money has enriched and empowered a clique whose institutionalized, deep-rooted and continuing kleptocracy was exposed in part by the bailout of 2008.
Why should we take for granted in 2020 that the best way to deal with the economic debacle put before us is to create new money by agreeing to go much deeper into a quagmire of debt entrapment. This debt trap, whose cumulative amount will soon be more that $300 trillion globally, creates gross liabilities in a trajectory of disadvantage that severely limits the life chances even of many generations still unborn.
The other side of debt is embodied in assets. Who gets the assets and who gets the liabilities that coalesce to form indebtedness? What is to be made of the role of birth or inheritance or race or natural ability or social connections in apportioning assets or imposing the enslavements of accumulated debt?
John Perkins addressed some of these issues in his Confessions of an Economic Hit Man and in a subsequent follow-up volume. Perkins chronicled how an inter-related complex of US institutions aligned themselves with his own greedy and unscrupulous interventions. The goal of their coordinated aggressions was aimed at imposing the enslavements of massive debt with compound interest. Their version of loan sharking is one of many manifestations expressing a very old and common phenomenon. It often happens that powerful interests parasitically exploit the weak to further enrich themselves.
This partnership between John Perkins and the kleptocratic agencies directed by the US government has long been drawing wealth from struggling countries by pushing them more deeply into national indebtedness. Once the governments of target countries succumbed to greater dependence on debt-based financing, the conditions were ripe to force officials into adopting policies of austerity that harmed local citizens in order to augment the assets of international investors.
Significantly the World Bank demonstrated how this coercion works in the context of the current economic crisis. The World Bank attempted to impose conditions on a loan of $940 million to Belarus because the WB wanted Belarus to conform to the lockdowns that are a primary cause of the current manufactured crisis.
As revealed by the Belarus’s President, Alexander Lukashenko, the World Bank wanted his country to adopt the full set of COVID-19 measures that had been implemented by the Italian government. Lukashenko said no to the loan. He refused to accept the conditions and carried on the established policies of Belarus, a country that has “not implemented strict coronavirus containment measures.”
Lukashenko is far from alone in his contempt for the manipulative tactics of the apparatus promoting the manufactured crisis. For instance Tanzanian President, John Magufuli, tested the accuracy of the testing procedures being forced on his country by the World Health Organization. President and Medical Doctor Mugufi included in the samples submitted to the testing agency some tissue of a goat and a papaya. Both the goat and the papaya tested positive for COVID-19, an outcome he publicized before ordering the WHO group to leave his country.
The Political Economy of Usury From the Middle Ages to the Era of Social Credit and Ezra Pound
We cannot assess the division of humanity between a massive group of debtors and a much smaller group of creditors without touching on the issue of usury. The subject of usury, the lending of money with the addition of interest payments, has been an extremely contentious issue throughout much of human history.
There were prohibitions against usury in ancient Greece, ancient India and the Roman Empire. Throughout much of the last thousand years usury has been regarded as a sin outlawed in the Bible, the Torah and the Koran. At different times in history the Roman Catholic Church has been an especially zealous opponent of some forms of usury.
Considering the nature of our current predicaments including obscene levels of economic inequality, usury might yet again arouse contentions. Some of the core ethical issues raised by the resort to usury remain unresolved. How is it ethical, for instance, to subject disinherited children in poor countries to the indignities of deepened poverty so that rich folks in rich parts of the world can reap larger dividends?
Beginning in the Middle Ages, forms of usury began to show up first in the Italian city states and in the towns of the Franco-Flemish realm. The act of loaning money with interest gradually spread throughout Europe. In some predominately-Muslim jurisdictions, the concept conveyed in the Arabic term, “riba,” approximated the idea of usury or interest. Over time various versions of riba have affected Muslim banking practices.
Often there were prohibitions preventing Jews from demanding interest on loans made to other Jews. There were many Talmudic teachings, however, permitting interest to be collected from gentiles when they borrowed money from Jews. Many accounts of Jewish efforts to break down prohibitions on usury highlight obstacles preventing Jews from pursuing other lines of work. The case is made that the pull of some Jews into banking came about in part because of their exclusion from other occupations.
Whatever the case, the obstacles to usury continued to be lessened including through the changes to Biblical interpretation that came with the Protestant Reformation. Even in the twentieth century, however, usury continued to arouse criticism and distrust. Ezra Pound was one of those who became very outspoken when it came to problems with usury.
The modernist poet and scholar, Ezra Pound, was one of the most influential literary figures of the twentieth century. The importance of his work was expressed not only in his own literary efforts but also in his contributions to other authors in his circle of friends and colleagues.
Pound’s outspoken criticism of usury formed part of the discourse that was integral to the political movements seeking economic reform. The creation and successful nationalization of the Bank of Canada was one of the outgrowths of the concerted quest to give substance to economic institutions that would more effectively serve human needs.
The creation of the Bank of Canada drew on the ideas of Abraham Lincoln and also on those of many other theorists including Major C.H. Douglas. While Major Douglas and John Maynard Keynes each denounced one another’s work, both sought to stimulate economic activity by expanding the supply and distribution of money. Major Douglas’ vision of Social Credit, one that Pound enthusiastically embraced, sought to bring about greater harmony and equilibrium between the forces of production and consumption.
A biographer of Pound has explained that this formidable literary figure believed “there was the prospect of building a Social Credit society where money served the consumer and served the producer.” As Pound pictured it, “the middle men” seeking usurious, interest bearing profit” to be collected “without work or prior motivation, could be cut out.” During the Depression the hope of prosperity through the application of Social Credit principles was seized upon by many. One of them was an evangelical preacher in the Canadian province of Alberta.
Largely as a result of the popularity he gained by incorporating Major Douglas’ analysis of Social Credit into his Sunday afternoon Christian radio broadcast, “Bible Bill” Aberhart became the Premier of Alberta. His Social Credit Party gained 56 of 63 seats in the Alberta Legislature. The Social Credit Party continued in power until 1971.
The Social Credit preoccupation with bringing about changes in the relationship of citizens to financial institutions helped add to the discourse from which the Bank of Canada emerged as a dynamic instrument of nation building.
The enthusiasm was well placed of those who threw their lot in with the movement to create and enlivened the Bank of Canada. The generations that put their trust in this federal financial institution had the satisfaction of knowing that their taxes were not devoured to pay big amounts of interest to private bankers in the style that presently prevails almost everywhere.
Like his good friend and colleague, Ernest Hemingway, Pound was a devotee of clear, terse and succinct prose.
This characteristic of his writing comes through strongly in his harsh condemnations of usury. “Usury is the cancer of the world,” Pound wrote. He explained, “Until you know who has lent to whom, you know nothing of politics, you know nothing whatever of history, you know nothing of international wrangles.”
Ezra Pound was born in Idaho but was attracted to Italy throughout long periods of his life. In Italy he lionized its fascist leader, Benito Mussolini. He embraced the Axis side in World War II developing close relations with the British fascist leader, Oswald Mosley. Pound threw himself into the contest producing a torrent of radio broadcasts seeking to win over English-speaking converts to the Axis side. These broadcasts are today widely described as war propaganda.
Pound was indicted in the United States in 1943 and arrested at the war’s end by the US Armed Forces in Italy. After being jailed in Pisa, Pound was charged with treason. Then Pound was diagnosed as being mentally unfit to face charges.
The finding that he was mentally ill caused Pound to be locked up as a patient in St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in the Washington DC area for the next 13 years. In spite of his severe prejudices against Jewish bankers and his active embrace of fascism during the war years, Pound continued to carry on very lively interactions with his formidable circle of poets, essayists and novelists.
Pound’s circle included James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, and T.S. Eliot. All these writers wrote works that won a Nobel Prize for Literature. These and many other authors benefited from Pound’s encouragement and mentorship. In 1948 Eustace Mullins joined Pound’s circle. Mullins was introduced to the famous poet and scholar through Pound’s wife, Dorothy Shakespeare,
When he first met Pound, Mullins was an art school student and a veteran of the US Air Force. He had already published some short pieces in the British journal, Social Creditor. Mullins remembered Pound’s place of forced residence as “a hideous, urine-soaked madhouse in Washington D.C.” As their visits became increasingly regular, Pound encouraged Mullins to conduct research into the history and activities of the Federal Reserve.
When Pound proposed the idea Mullins was unaware of the existence of the Federal Reserve. Nevertheless, Mullins threw himself into the project that he supported by combining his research with work as a book stacker at the Library of Congress. At the Library he befriended George Stimpson who was well known among Washington journalists and government officials for his wealth of knowledge and his ability to locate relevant research materials.
Stimpson happily worked with Mullins. He helped the aspiring author by guiding him into the primary and secondary literature illuminating many facets of the Federal Reserve’s history
Eustace Mullins Explores the Secrets of the Federal Reserve
An initial edition of the volume appeared in 1952 as Mullins on the Federal Reserve. Another edition with added information was published in 1954. The text has been republished many times, sometimes in different editions under the title Secrets of the Federal Reserve. The text is organized around both thematic and chronological facets.
Mullins lays out the history of the Federal Reserve with considerable attention to the institution’s roots and origins. The author emphasizes several strands of continuity showing the links of the Federal Reserve to the banking establishments of Europe but especially those of Great Britain and Germany.
Mullins characterizes the Federal Reserve as the most powerful institution in the United States whose influence grew so that “it gradually superseded the popular elected government of the United States.” The power of the Fed and its core facet, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, is said to have become so formidable because the agency operates in secrecy without any genuine form of accountability to any public institution. The NY Fed combines the power of secrecy with the enormous power to create new currency and to set interest rates becoming in the process “the most gigantic trust on earth.”
Mullins makes the case that the financial district known as the City of London exercised enormous influence over the activities of the Federal Reserve and many of the large Wall Street banks. Mullins wrote, “London is the world’s financial centre, because it commands enormous sums of capital created at its command by the Federal Reserve Board of the United States.”
Mullins is conscientious in presenting many citations to back up his observations and interpretations. He cites, for instance the New York Times on January of 1920 where it states, “The Federal Reserve is a fount of credit not capital.” The manipulation of credit, however, can greatly affect the industrial economy by affecting the ability of manufacturers and farmers to produce.
Mullins emphasizes throughout the text how events are often engineered to strengthen the hand of the Lords of Credit in the matrix of society’s operations. In referring, for instance, to a secret banker’s plan to crash the stock market in 1929, Mullins expressed a view that could as easily describe the growing suspicion in 2020. Could it be that the lockdowns of businesses and workers were purposely engineered to strengthen the hands of the Lords of Credit whose main platform is the Federal Reserve Bank of New York?
Mullins explains that sometimes “bankers paralyse the industrial energies of the country” in order to highlight and strengthen “their tremendous powers” over the financial and business organization of the American economy. Mullins’ observation that “panic is an instrument of [financial] power” is another statement with obvious relevance to the current crisis.
As have many authors since, Mullins emphasizes the importance of a top-secret meeting on Jekyll Island in the state of Georgia in 1910. At this meeting Paul Warburg essentially took the intellectual lead in creating a plan for a Central Bank in the United States. Such an institution was long contemplated and promoted but it had been stopped repeatedly, most famously be Andrew Jackson. Jackson’s political career culminated in his winning the US presidency between 1829 and 1837.
Warburg left his family banking business in Hamburg Germany in 1902. He joined the Wall Street Office of Kuhn Loeb, a Wall Street House that helped finance the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. Mullins devotes much effort to describing the complex of alliances and rivalries that characterized banking before and after the founding of the Fed.
Weaving throughout these networks of financial activity were the banking operations of the Rothschild family. Mullins leaves no doubt that the operations of the Rothschild family of bankers were extensive, elaborate and very influential.
In the nineteenth century the Rothschild banking establishment gradually wove its operations into those of large segments of Europe’s royal and aristocratic establishments. Mullins emphasizes the genesis of the close business relationship between the Rothschild banking clan and a London-based US company, George Peabody and Company.
Peabody’s bank was passed on to a father and son team, Junius Spencer Morgan and John Pierpont Morgan. In the days of the Fed’s founding and even today, the name of J.P. Morgan is synonymous with New York banking. Mullins explains how the Rothschild bankers kept a fairly low profile in New York by conducting much of their American business largely through the financial organizations associated with the name and reputation of J.P. Morgan.
Mullins outlines the role of the Federal Reserve in the funding of two world wars. Many of the topics covered in Secrets of the Federal Reserve were later pursued in much more detail in the prolific writings of Antony C. Sutton.
Most of Sutton’s volumes describe the role of Wall Street in helping to bring about many of world history’s major turning points during the twentieth century. These turning points include Wall Street’s funding of the rise of the National Socialist government in Germany in the 1930s and the role of Wall Street in financing the Bolshevik Revolution and the business activities of the Soviet Union.
The capacity of the New York Bank of the Federal Reserve to create vast quantities of credit to finance wars, often with the same bankers funding competing sides in conflicts, provided the key to the creation of huge fortunes. The funding of both sides in war can be seen as an early form of hedging one’s bets. This kind of high impact intervention through banking sometimes created huge leverage for a very small number of people to steer history towards preconceived destinations.
As Mullins explains it, the Federal Reserve was founded in extreme secrecy and often employs deceptive tactics to misrepresent its true nature. As Mullins sees it, for instance, the creation of the twelve regional banks was a ploy to gain political acceptance for the Central Bank’s core entity, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Mullins explains, “the other eleven banks were so many expensive mausoleums erected to salve local pride and quell the Jacksonian fears of the hinterland.”
The ability of Wall Street bankers to invoke the credit creating powers of the New York Fed forms a key aspect of the frequent military adventurism of the US government. This military adventurism continued full force even after the United States became the world’s largest debtor nation after 1990. How large has been the role of the US Fed in building up the US national debt together with the tens of trillions missing from the books of the US Defense Department?
The Israel Lobby and the Federal Reserve
Much of the military adventurism of the United States especially after 9/11 was directed into invasions of Muslim-majority countries that threaten a particular view of Israel as a dominant power in its region and in the world. Why would it be that the Federal Reserve is any less involved in creating the available credit for the waging of wars in the twenty-first century than it was in creating the wars of the twentieth century?
In his authorship of The Secrets of the Federal Reserve, Mullins seems largely oblivious to the role in world history of Zionism and the genesis of Israel. His main attention lay elsewhere. As I read his text, he accurately conveyed how the large Jewish influence in the banking institution of Europe, including the influence of the Rothschild consortium, was extended into Wall Street including the Federal Reserve.
While Mullins does not shy aware from dealing with the Jewish component of the story he set out to tell, I don’t think he belabours this subject or becomes aggressively polemical about it. Certainly the same cannot be said of some of his critics whose condemnations of Mullins can sometimes be extremely polemical.
Mullins might have made more of the identity politics prevailing throughout the twentieth century. The sensibilities of the dominant Christian constituency in the United States probably influenced the decisions of many customers shopping for banking services. Quite likely some of them would have been more comfortable dealing with firms identified with names like J.P. Morgan, Rockefeller and Mellon rather than Warburg, Greenspan or Fink. Times, however, have changed.
Some of the more severe prejudices seem to have subsided around the time that Sandy Weill combined his Travellers Insurance Company with Citicorp to create Citigroup. This merger helped create the political momentum leading to the elimination of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999. With Glass-Steagall’s elimination, Citigroup tried to become a giant department store of varied financial services. In its inner sanctums, however, Citigroup developed a preoccupation with derivatives that continues yet.
In the twenty-first century it happened that some of the cosmetic overlays were removed that had previously been imposed to disguise the large representation of Jews in Wall Street banking, including in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. For good or bad, usury has become a core features of how the contemporary world is organized. Some reckoning with the ethnic inheritances attending usury are therefore inescapable, especially when dealing with the some of the most dramatic displays of usury on steroids in Wall Street institutions.
Where I see the need to draw a line in the sand is not on the question of the ethnicity of Wall Street personnel. Rather this line in the sand involves the question of how power is used or abused at the domineering heights of our financial institutions. Generally speaking it is not a justifiable use of the Federal Reserve to produce credit that enables the waging of wars that are offensive rather than defensive in character.
The waging of war has long been one of the big bonanzas producing major windfalls for international bankers. In the twenty-first century so many of the wars involve the flexing of military might by the United States to advance the expansionary designs of the Israeli state. The US Federal Reserve has been part of the process of creating what some would consider wars for Israel in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Iran.
Why are the money-generating powers of the secretive Federal Reserve being invoked to help fund wars for Israel and also to help shape public opinion to accept the US role in these wars of aggression. Especially sensitive is the further indebting of the American people to subsidize the production of propaganda aimed at persuading them to back wars for Israel. This propaganda is deemed necessary to deflate opposition to Israel’s actions including the ruthless dehumanizing treatment of Palestinian Arabs.
We have seen that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was deeply engaged in 2008 in transferring tens of trillions into the coffers of its own member institutions and counterparties. What uses were made of this bailout produced through a dubious process of legalized financial larceny?
One way or another the Israel Lobby must be a prime beneficiary of the machinations of Wall Street and its money spigot, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. This pattern of priority can easily be related to US federal funding of the Israel project as a higher priority in federal budgeting than even the basic needs of the domestic population of the United States. Black Lives Do Matter but why is it that the lives of Israel First Partisans seem to matter more than any other group?
This Israel Lobby has the power to prevent any critic of Israeli policies from gaining the nomination of a major US party to run for US president. The result is that, in election after election, Americans are offered a very limited choice between competitors who are equally supportive of Israel.
The Israel Lobby can intervene to prevent the leadership of opposition parties from adopting policies that emphasize equity in Israel-Palestinian relations. Through its campaign contributions, the Israel Lobby dominates the process of choosing and electing representatives in Congress. How much does it cost to buy the political obedience of most federal politicians? How much does it cost to replicate this feat in the state legislatures and even municipal governments?
Through the ownership and/or control of major media outlets, the Israel Lobby exerts major influence in determining the main outlines of much public discourse when it comes to US-Israeli relations and many related subjects. How could one calculate the amount of money it took to achieve this feat? How much of this money is directed into payments for compliance, in other words, bribery? In the post-Epstein era what is the role of bribery’s criminal cousin, namely backmail?
The Israel Lobby is deeply engaged with other lobbies in transforming the Internet from an open forum of public interaction and debate into a centrally controlled propaganda instrument. Prominent among the Internet’s most aggressive censors and thought police are Google, You Tube, Facebook, Twitter and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.
Through all kinds of interventions the Israel Lobby asserts significant forms of control over a broad array of institutions and operations including those of the judiciary, the universities, book publishing, magazine publishing, municipal governments, trade unions and cultural groups. The biggest and most influential cultural group of all is the Hollywood film industry. Not surprisingly there is little in its cinematic output that provides critical perspectives on Zionism and its emanations.
The injection of huge amounts of money are essential to the exercise of so much concerted influence over such a broad sweep of political, intellectual and cultural organizations. Where do the large quantities of money supporting the activities the Israel project come from? Why is it that so many of agencies of the Israel Lobby have the status of charitable organizations with the capacity to extend tax write-offs to donors? What is the relationship of the Israel Lobby to Wall Street and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York?
Even the act of asking such questions will be seen by some as heretical. There is, however, nothing wrong with looking into issues that have so much impact on the quality of our political discourse… so much impact on our capacity to live together with the civility and security we have been losing so quickly with the imposition of the economically crippling lockdowns.
It is no less legitimate to ask questions about the ethnic identity of those who benefit most from the US economy than it is to ask questions about what groups suffer the most from the deprivations of poverty. Wouldn’t it make sense to try to moderate the disparities beginning with processes of research and discussion?
In a book of the same name, former ADL Executive Director, Abe Foxman, has opened the discussion of Jews and Money. Foxman effectively counters the view that all Jews are rich. Foxman, of course, is correct in this assertion. All Jews are not rich. Some are outright poor. A fairly large number of Jews, however, are somewhat rich and a small minority of Jews are disproportionately invested with wealth and power. Jews are especially well represented in the billionaires club both within the United States and internationally.
Some of the wealthiest Jews are part of the Wall Street establishment including the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Perhaps the time has come to begin retiring this, “the most gigantic trust on earth.” Perhaps it is time to retire some of the debt created over more than a century of putting private bankers in charge of dictating interest rates as well as creating debt-laden dollars. Perhaps the time has come to lessen the debt burden that is narrowing the life chances of so many people who have been funding the wars for Israel mounted in the wake of the 9/11 deception.
The severity of the crisis before us compel all thoughtful people of conscience to look beyond the redeployment of old institutions and old remedies for old problems that are different from the challenges facing us now. One of the most obvious ways to avert further calamity is to move away altogether from the empowerment of private bankers to massively expand national debts with compound interest charged to tax payers.
The alternative to this approach is to change the present means of creating new money. The creation of many banking systems similar to that of the Bank of Canada should be considered in the quest for the main ingredients of a global reset. The Bank of Canada brought about an almost-debt-free run of prodigious nation building before Pierre Trudeau bent the policies of his government to meet the impositions of the Bank of International Settlements.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is basking in the popularity of his meticulous Covid-19 news briefings and simultaneously predicting a pandemic-driven $61 billion state deficit over four years. Astonishingly, the Governor electronically rebates an existing tiny stock transfer sales tax back to Wall Street. This stock transfer sales tax, bringing in an estimated 13 to 16 billion dollars a year, would reduce forthcoming budget cuts in health, education, transportation, and other safety nets.
No Governor in the country has the luxury of simply keeping very significant tax revenues that are already collected to avoid cutting necessities of life. Yet Governor Cuomo has supported these rebates for the past ten years, as have previous New York state Governors all the way back to 1981 when this early 20th-century tax stopped being retained in the state’s treasury. As much as a staggering $250 billion dollars has been immediately returned to the stockbrokers over that time period.
Bear in mind, a fraction of one percent of this tiny sales tax is paid by the investors buying stocks, bonds, and engaging in massive volumes of derivative speculation. Since the great bulk of trading is conducted by upper-income people and large companies, this sales tax, unlike the regressive 8 percent sales tax ordinary New Yorkers pay when they buy from stores, is progressive in its impact.
So why hasn’t the media taken this eminently timely and newsworthy story to the people? I’ve been explaining this surrender to Wall Street for years. Most recently, given its timeliness, calling up reporters and columnists of major press outlets, but to no avail; with the exception of the Buffalo News. This indifference is inexplicable. After all, Governor Cuomo regularly talks about drastic budget cuts.
Well, a new factor may change this equation. Blair Horner, a longtime, prominent director of the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), an influential university college student-funded civic advocacy group is now on the case.
On May 28, 2020, Mr. Horner held a virtual news conference in Albany, presented a letter signed by over fifty labor, consumer, women’s, educational, minority, health, taxpayer, elderly, and justice organizations – all calling on the Governor to keep the many billions of dollars from the stock transfer tax. The number of New York groups supporting this proposal will only grow. Attentively advanced by the seasoned Horner and his team, a detailed news release was distributed and several speakers, including me, briefly spoke. At question time, only a Newsday reporter asked about Wall Street’s reaction.
A half-hour later, no reporter asked Governor Cuomo during his long daily briefings about keeping the collected revenues. The next day there was no media coverage of this event and the benefits the revenue could have for communities whose members will be bearing the brunt of avoidable service cuts and job losses.
Everyday New York state rebates about $40 million to an upper-economic class, already further enriched by Trump’s 2017 tax bonanza. Nor have these privileged plutocrats shared, via a wealth tax, a fraction of the sacrifice of New York’s 2.2 million front-line Covid-19 workers. Shameful!
Bills mandating the retention of this stock sales tax are already in the state legislature. A prime sponsor, Assemblyman Phil Steck believes that there will be overwhelming left/right support in the polls.
However, the legislature’s leaders await the signal from a thus far reluctant Governor Cuomo. But not, I suspect for long.
With Wall Street’s Robert Rubin and Michael Bloomberg coming out for a financial transaction tax (thanks probably to the Bernie Sanders movement), can the son of Mario Cuomo be much far behind?
See the Coalition release, letter to Governor Cuomo, and the New York State Assembly and Senate bills to stop the rebate of the stock transfer tax at https://nader.org/ny-stock-tax/
Without trampling through all the historical details, we can designate the entire history of [Americans]—the glorious past so eulogized by our fathers—as the history of shame, for in that history there is more betrayal, apostasy, perfidious intrigue, ignominious defeat, well-deserved failure, base vengeance, merciless retaliation and brutality that no hypocrisy can mask…So let’s forget about the past and old glories, namely let’s leave it be, let’s no longer bring up those shames of the past and the jumbled mendacities considered worthy of praise, it’s more than enough for us just to remain on the surface of that swamp if at all possible, the swamp denoting the state of moral values today…Whoever is [American] continually postpones his present, exchanging it for a future that will never arrive.
What subcategory of human being takes a knee on a handcuffed man, mashed face down on the pavement and, ultimately, forces him to die? Such was the action of a psychopathic white Minneapolis, Minnesota, police-paramilitary officer named Derek Chauvin, that resulted in the death of a black man, George Floyd.
Right there, on the street, recorded live by a bystander. Chauvin continued his personal application of the death penalty even as he knew he was being filmed. Idiot or no? Did he think he’d be exonerated by his superiors? Now the world can watch a uniformed member of the Minnesota State paramilitary apparatus snuff the life out of a human being. For what? An allegedly forged $20 bill?
And the result?
A long overdue protest movement in major cities across the United States that is posing a challenge to the State-Wall Street monopoly on violence that disproportionately eliminates blacks, Latino’s and poor whites. And let’s not forget those citizens in foreign countries wiped off the map by perpetual US bombing and drone attacks. (State-Wall Street: referring to corporations, lobbyists, finance houses, politicians, mainstream media, upper echelon military, etc.)
Power to the State-Wall Street, Not the People
It’s not the death of a black, white, Latino, Syrian or Iraqi, that is of concern to the State-Wall Street; rather it is the fear of the violent challenge posed by the protestors here at home (or insurgents abroad, China, Russia) to the State-Wall Street monopoly on violence.
The fear of the State-Wall Street crowd is so intense that the governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz, called the Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to talk about strategy and tactics to subdue the protestors. Is that such a good idea given that the Taliban is pushing the US military out of Afghanistan?
The Pentagon is finally going to go to open war against its own—again— people first starting with the National Guard deployment in Minneapolis and followed by active duty military police. Most Americans will not care as they have been pummeled with constant propaganda about the military being a divine institution. What’s next? Another Jackson State?
The protests underway have at their foundation the totalitarian economic conditions which the State-Wall Street benignly incarcerate the larger population leaving them with the sham outlet of elections that simply replaces one prison warden with another. Vote for what? Another fascist like President Donald J. Trump or governors around the country who have their eyes on senate or house seats?
Why would someone like Floyd, allegedly, try to pass off a $20 note? You can’t separate that act from the grueling austerity measures and unemployment in the USA that leaves the young and poor, and lower classes of all stripes with no economic future and struggling to make ends meet each day, even to put food on the table.Yeah, sure, the COVID-19 Pandemic has been really tough on most Americans. But where are the trillions of federal dollars in the form of food aid, unemployment benefits, jobs programs for the Floyd’s and others in this country?
The State-Wall Street act as if over 100,000 Americans deaths from COVID-19 (largely poor, elderly, black) don’t matter at all. Nothing to see here, move along, the dear leaders say. Put the American flags at half mast, the president says. Here’s $1200 for each household, the US Congress says. Bow your heads in remembrance of the 100K religious leaders say. With this kind of American psychopathic leadership mentality that seems now to have infected nearly all American political and economic leaders, what’s one more George Floyd to them?
And it was chaotic ineptitude by the Trump administration, and his predecessors, that led to so many deaths. Even the nonpartisan Lancet weighed in on the matter with an unsigned editorial:
Funding to the CDC for a long time has been subject to conservative politics that have increasingly eroded the agency’s ability to mount effective, evidence-based public health responses. In the 1980s, the Reagan administration resisted providing the sufficient budget that the CDC needed to fight the HIV/AIDS crisis. The George W Bush administration put restrictions on global and domestic HIV prevention and reproductive health programming.
The Trump administration further chipped away at the CDC’s capacity to combat infectious diseases. CDC staff in China were cut back with the last remaining CDC officer recalled home from China CDC in July 2019, leaving an intelligence vacuum when COVID-19 began to emerge.
If You Can Kill 1 or 100K Americans, Why not Kill the Environment and Wildlife?
Everywhere across the spectrum that you look you can see the State-Wall Street turning the clock back to the early 1960s. Nowhere is this more evident than in the repeal of environmental and wildlife protections.
The Trump administration is relaxing a rule on the hunting and killing of bear cubs and wolves in their dens. According to Newsweek this report:
The National Park Service described the new rule as an effort to reinstate federal alignment with the state’s hunting regulations, according to an NPS news release. The rule, which is expected to go into effect in late June, would reverse course on hunting restrictions introduced in 2015 by President Barack Obama’s administration.
NPS spokesperson Peter Christian told the Anchorage Daily News that hunters would be allowed under the new rule to use artificial lighting to entice black bears out of their dens, employ bait to attract black and brown bears, hunt wolves and coyotes during their denning season, and catch caribou while they are swimming.
The New York Times has a running list of Trump’s assault on the environment. It notes that:
The bulk of the rollbacks identified by the Times have been carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency, which repealed and replaced the Obama-era emissions rules for power plants and vehicles; weakened protections for more than half the nation’s wetlands; and withdrew the legal justification for restricting mercury emissions from power plants. At the same time, the Interior Department has worked to open up more land for oil and gas leasing by cutting back protected areas and limiting wildlife protections.
And, Oh, The Joy of Watching People Suffer and Die
Isn’t it enough for Americans to have hunted down Osama Bin Laden and killed him (a video somewhere); captured Saddam Hussein only to watch him hang in a stairwell; or have Muammar Gaddafi killed and stabbed in the anus with a bayonet?
Insolvent Wall Street banks have been quietly bailed out again. Banks made risk-free by the government should be public utilities.
When the Dodd Frank Act was passed in 2010, President Obama triumphantly declared, “No more bailouts!” But what the Act actually said was that the next time the banks failed, they would be subject to “bail ins” – the funds of their creditors, including their large depositors, would be tapped to cover their bad loans.
Many economists in the US and Europe argued that the next time the banks failed, they should be nationalized – taken over by the government as public utilities. But that opportunity was lost when, in September 2019 and again in March 2020, Wall Street banks were quietly bailed out from a liquidity crisis in the repo market that could otherwise have bankrupted them. There was no bail-in of private funds, no heated congressional debate, and no public vote. It was all done unilaterally by unelected bureaucrats at the Federal Reserve.
“The justification of private profit,” said President Franklin Roosevelt in a 1938 address, “is private risk.” Banking has now been made virtually risk-free, backed by the full faith and credit of the United States and its people. The American people are therefore entitled to share in the benefits and the profits. Banking needs to be made a public utility.
The Risky Business of Borrowing Short to Lend Long
Individual banks can go bankrupt from too many bad loans, but the crises that can trigger system-wide collapse are “liquidity crises.” Banks “borrow short to lend long.” They borrow from their depositors to make long-term loans or investments while promising the depositors that they can come for their money “on demand.” To pull off this sleight of hand, when the depositors and the borrowers want the money at the same time, the banks have to borrow from somewhere else. If they can’t find lenders on short notice, or if the price of borrowing suddenly becomes prohibitive, the result is a “liquidity crisis.”
Before 1933, when the government stepped in with FDIC deposit insurance, bank panics and bank runs were common. When people suspected a bank was in trouble, they would all rush to withdraw their funds at once, exposing the fact that the banks did not have the money they purported to have. During the Great Depression, more than one-third of all private US banks were closed due to bank runs.
But President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who took office in 1933, was skeptical about insuring bank deposits. He warned, “We do not wish to make the United States Government liable for the mistakes and errors of individual banks, and put a premium on unsound banking in the future.” The government had a viable public alternative, a US postal banking system established in 1911. Postal banks became especially popular during the Depression, because they were backed by the US government. But Roosevelt was pressured into signing the 1933 Banking Act, creating the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation that insured private banks with public funds.
Congress, however, was unwilling to insure more than $5,000 per depositor (about $100,000 today), a sum raised temporarily in 2008 and permanently in 2010 to $250,000. That meant large institutional investors (pension funds, mutual funds, hedge funds, sovereign wealth funds) had nowhere to park the millions of dollars they held between investments. They wanted a place to put their funds that was secure, provided them with some interest, and was liquid like a traditional deposit account, allowing quick withdrawal. They wanted the same “ironclad moneyback guarantee” provided by FDIC deposit insurance, with the ability to get their money back on demand.
It was largely in response to that need that the private repo market evolved. Repo trades, although technically “sales and repurchases” of collateral, are in effect secured short-term loans, usually repayable the next day or in two weeks. Repo replaces the security of deposit insurance with the security of highly liquid collateral, typically Treasury debt or mortgage-backed securities. Although the repo market evolved chiefly to satisfy the needs of the large institutional investors that were its chief lenders, it also served the interests of the banks, since it allowed them to get around the capital requirements imposed by regulators on the conventional banking system. Borrowing from the repo market became so popular that by 2008, it provided half the credit in the country. By 2020, this massive market had a turnover of $1 trillion a day.
Before 2008, banks also borrowed from each other in the fed funds market, allowing the Fed to manipulate interest rates by controlling the fed funds rate. But after 2008, banks were afraid to lend to each other for fear the borrowing banks might be insolvent and might not pay the loans back. Instead the lenders turned to the repo market, where loans were supposedly secured with collateral. The problem was that the collateral could be “rehypothecated,” or used for several loans at once; and by September 2019, the borrower side of the repo market had been taken over by hedge funds, which were notorious for risky rehypothecation. Many large institutional lenders therefore pulled out, driving the cost of borrowing at one point from 2% to 10%.
Rather than letting the banks fail and forcing a bail-in of private creditors’ funds, the Fed quietly stepped in and saved the banks by becoming the “repo lender of last resort.” But the liquidity crunch did not abate, and by March the Fed was making $1 trillion per day available in overnight loans. The central bank was backstopping the whole repo market, including the hedge funds, an untenable situation.
In March 2020, under cover of a national crisis, the Fed therefore flung the doors open to its discount window, where only banks could borrow. Previously, banks were reluctant to apply there because the interest was at a penalty rate and carried a stigma, signaling that the bank must be in distress. But that concern was eliminated when the Fed announced in a March 15 press release that the interest rate had been dropped to 0.25% (virtually zero). The reserve requirement was also eliminated, the capital requirement was relaxed, and all banks in good standing were offered loans of up to 90 days, “renewable on a daily basis.” The loans could be continually rolled over. And while the alleged intent was “to help meet demands for credit from households and businesses at this time,” no strings were attached to this interest-free money. There was no obligation to lend to small businesses, reduce credit card rates, or write down underwater mortgages.
The Fed’s scheme worked, and demand for repo loans plummeted. Even J.P. Morgan Chase, the largest bank in the country, has acknowledged borrowing at the Fed’s discount window for super cheap loans. But the windfall to Wall Street has not been shared with the public. In Canada, some of the biggest banks slashed their credit card interest rates in half, from 21 percent to 11 percent, to help relieve borrowers during the COVID-19 crisis. But US banks have felt no such compunction. US credit card rates dropped in April only by half a percentage point, to 20.15%. The giant Wall Street banks continue to favor their largest clients, doling out CARES Act benefits to them first, emptying the trough before many smaller businesses could drink there.
In 1969, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi nationalized 14 of India’s largest banks, not because they were bankrupt (the usual justification today) but to ensure that credit would be allocated according to planned priorities, including getting banks into rural areas and making cheap financing available to Indian farmers. Congress could do the same today, but the odds are it won’t. As Sen. Dick Durbin said in 2009, “the banks … are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place.”
Time for the States to Step In
State and local governments could make cheap credit available to their communities, but today they too are second class citizens when it comes to borrowing. Unlike the banks, which can borrow virtually interest-free with no strings attached, states can sell their bonds to the Fed only at market rates of 3% or 4% or more plus a penalty. Why are elected local governments, which are required to serve the public, penalized for shortfalls in their budgets caused by a mandatory shutdown, when private banks that serve private stockholders are not?
States can borrow from the federal unemployment trust fund, as California just did for $348 million, but these loans too must be paid back with interest, and they must be used to cover soaring claims for state unemployment benefits. States remain desperately short of funds to repair holes in their budgets from lost revenues and increased costs due to the shutdown.
States are excellent credit risks – far better than banks would be without the life-support of the federal government. States have a tax base, they aren’t going anywhere, they are legally required to pay their bills, and they are forbidden to file for bankruptcy. Banks are considered better credit risks than states only because their deposits are insured by the federal government and they are gifted with routine bailouts from the Fed, without which they would have collapsed decades ago.
State and local governments with a mandate to serve the public interest deserve to be treated as well as private Wall Street banks that have repeatedly been found guilty of frauds on the public. How can states get parity with the banks? If Congress won’t address that need, states can borrow interest-free at the Fed’s discount window by forming their own publicly-owned banks. For more on that possibility, see my earlier article here.
As Buckminster Fuller said, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, create a new model that makes the old model obsolete.” Post-COVID-19, the world will need to explore new models; and publicly-owned banks should be high on the list.
The coronavirus pandemic is worlds apart from the financial meltdown of 2008-09. Even so the government’s response was identical in one telltale way. Congress once again gave a special dose of tender loving care to taxpayers who need it the least.
The 2008 bailout suspended annual required minimum distribution (RMDs) from retirement accounts. Surprise, surprise, the same tax break showed up in the $2.2 trillion stimulus signed by President Trump.
Waiving RMDs is welcome news for the well-heeled. They have plenty of income outside their IRAs and 401(k)s. They’re fine with passing up a distribution, and seriously happy to avoid the taxes that come with it.
(A quick history: The first retirement accounts didn’t need any waiver to avoid taxes. In addition to untaxed contributions and tax-free capital gains, there were no mandatory distributions either. The party ended when lawmakers finally laid down a time limit. A 1986 tax reform mandated minimum distributions starting at age 70 1/2. It’s been reset at 72 effective this year.)
The new waiver lets retirees off the hook for 2020. The hook is still in, though, for the millions who actually rely on their accounts and can’t get along without withdrawals.
They’ll be forced to do what the affluent have been spared from doing. They’ll have to liquidate holdings at prices battered by the fastest stock market crash in U.S. history (including three record drops in the Dow over just eight days). Wall Street has rallied since its late-March low but remains well in the red for the year.
The stimulus bill did slightly better for younger workers. Account withdrawals prior to age 59 ½ normally incur a 10 percent penalty; taxpayers financially harmed by the pandemic won’t have to pay that penalty. Income taxes can be spread out over three years, but the full amounts remain due. There’s also an option to repay the distribution back into a retirement plan.
Withdrawing savings ahead of time, however, carries a penalty all its own. David Certner, the legislative counsel and policy director for the AARP, put it this way:
It’s never a good idea. It’s particularly not a good idea when the market is down. But for people who are in really bad shape, this may be their one emergency alternative.
Now for a look at the waiver from a fiscal perspective: the government will be losing billions at the worst possible time.
The stock market racked up giant gains last year. RMDs are based on account balances as of December 31, so the taxes on distributions were certain to hit new highs. Revenues have steadily trended up as millions of boomers reach minimum distribution age. Coupled with the market’s 2019 performance, bumper RMD taxes should be flowing into the Treasury.
Now most of those dollars will likely be staying in the pockets of taxpayers whose pockets are already full. At the same time, Congress will be shoveling money out the door in the biggest national bailout ever.
Waiving RMDs is tax policy tilted toward the upper incomes. The timing makes it financially foolhardy as well. The waiver might last only a year, just as the first one did. Even so, a government already starving for revenue may never make up what it’s now passing up.
Some have argued that now isn’t the time to worry about who gets what, or for what reasons, or anything else. All that can come later; the only thing government should concern itself with at the moment is doing everything possible to help as many people as possible.
Point taken. We’re all in this together. It’s an extraordinary time demanding extraordinary measures. Nothing else matters.
All the same, suspending RMDs has little to do with going all out for America. It has everything to do with going all in for those at the top.
Same old, same old. Here’s to a post-pandemic with fewer tax favors for the haves.
Congress seems to be at war with the states. Only $150 billion of its nearly $3 trillion coronavirus relief package – a mere 5% – has been allocated to the 50 states; and they are not allowed to use it where they need it most, to plug the holes in their budgets caused by the mandatory shutdown. On April 22, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was opposed to additional federal aid to the states, and that his preference was to allow states to go bankrupt.
No such threat looms over the banks, which have made out extremely well in this crisis. The Federal Reserve has dropped interest rates to 0.25%, eliminated reserve requirements, and relaxed capital requirements. Banks can now borrow effectively for free, without restrictions on the money’s use. Following the playbook of the 2008-09 bailout, they can make the funds available to their Wall Street cronies to buy up distressed Main Street assets at fire sale prices, while continuing to lend to credit cardholders at 21%.
If there is a silver lining to all this, it is that the Fed’s relaxed liquidity rules have made it easier for state and local governments to set up their own publicly-owned banks, something they should do post haste to take advantage of the Fed’s very generous new accommodations for banks. These public banks can then lend to local businesses, municipal agencies, and local citizens at substantially reduced rates while replenishing the local government’s coffers, recharging the Main Street economy and the government’s revenue base.
The Covert War on the States
Payments going to state and local governments from the Coronavirus Relief Fund under the CARES Act may be used only for coronavirus-related expenses. They may not be used to cover expenses that were accounted for in their most recently approved budgets as of March 2020. The problem is that nearly everything local governments do is funded through their most recently approved budgets, and that funding will come up painfully short for all of the states due to increased costs and lost revenues forced by the coronavirus shutdown. Unlike the federal government, which can add a trillion dollars to the federal debt every year without fear of retribution, states and cities are required to balance their budgets. The Fed has opened a Municipal Liquidity Facility that may buy their municipal bonds, but this is still short-term debt, which must be repaid when due. Selling bonds will not fend off bankruptcy for states and cities that must balance their books.
States are not legally allowed to declare bankruptcy, but Sen. McConnell contended that “there’s no good reason for it not to be available.” He said, “we’ll certainly insist that anything we borrow to send down to the states is not spent on solving problems that they created for themselves over the years with their pension programs.” And that is evidently the real motive behind the bankruptcy push. McConnell wants states put through a bankruptcy reorganization to get rid of all those pesky pension agreements and the unions that negotiated them. But these are the safety nets against old age for which teachers, nurses, police and firefighters have worked for 30 or 40 years. It’s their money.
It has long been a goal of conservatives to privatize public pensions, forcing seniors into the riskier stock market. Lured in by market booms, their savings can then be raided by the periodic busts of the “business cycle,” while the more savvy insiders collect the spoils. Today political opportunists are using a crushing emergency that is devastating local economies to downsize the public sector and privatize everything.
Free Money for Banks: The Fed’s Very Liberal New Rules
Unlike the states, the banks were not facing bankruptcy from the economic shutdown; but their stocks were sinking fast. The Fed’s accommodations were said to be to encourage banks to “help meet demand for credit from households and businesses.” But while the banks’ own borrowing rates were dropped on March 15 from an already-low 1.5% to 0.25%, average credit card rates dropped in the following month only by 0.5% to 20.71%, still unconscionably high for out-of-work wage earners.
Although the Fed’s accommodations were allegedly to serve Main Street during the shutdown, Wall Street had a serious liquidity problem long before the pandemic hit. Troubles surfaced in September 2019, when repo market rates suddenly shot up to 10%. Before 2008, banks borrowed from each other in the fed funds market; but after 2008 they were afraid to lend to each other for fear the borrowing banks might be insolvent and might not pay the loans back. Instead the lenders turned to the repo market, where loans were supposedly secured with collateral. The problem was that the collateral could be “rehypothecated” or used for several loans at once; and by September 2019, the borrower side of the repo market had been taken over by hedge funds, which were notorious for risky rehypothecation. The lenders therefore again pulled out, forcing the Fed to step in to save the banks that are its true constituents. But that meant the Fed was backstopping the whole repo market, including the hedge funds, an untenable situation. So it flung the doors wide open to its discount window, where only banks could borrow.
The discount window is the Fed’s direct lending facility meant to help commercial banks manage short-term liquidity needs. In the past, banks have been reluctant to borrow there because its higher interest rate implied that the bank was on shaky ground and that no one else would lend to it. But the Fed has now eliminated that barrier. It said in a press release on March 15:
The Federal Reserve encourages depository institutions to turn to the discount window to help meet demands for credit from households and businesses at this time. In support of this goal, the Board today announced that it will lower the primary credit rate by 150 basis points to 0.25% …. To further enhance the role of the discount window as a tool for banks in addressing potential funding pressures, the Board also today announced that depository institutions may borrow from the discount window for periods as long as 90 days, prepayable and renewable by the borrower on a daily basis.
Banks can get virtually free loans from the discount window that can be rolled over from day to day as necessary. The press release said that the Fed had also eliminated the reserve requirement – the requirement that banks retain reserves equal to 10% of their deposits – and that it is “encouraging banks to use their capital and liquidity buffers as they lend to households and businesses who are affected by the coronavirus.” It seems that banks no longer need to worry about having deposits sufficient to back their loans. They can just borrow the needed liquidity at 0.25%, “renewable on a daily basis.” They don’t need to worry about “liquidity mismatches,” where they have borrowed short to lend long and the depositors have suddenly come for their money, leaving them without the funds to cover their loans. The Fed now has their backs, providing “primary credit” at its discount window to all banks in good standing on very easy terms. The Fed’s website states:
Generally, there are no restrictions on borrowers’ use of primary credit….Notably, eligible depository institutions may obtain primary credit without exhausting or even seeking funds from alternative sources. Minimal administration of and restrictions on the use of primary credit makes it a reliable funding source.
What State and Local Governments Can Do: Form Their Own Banks
On the positive side, these new easy terms make it much easier for local governments to own and operate their own banks, on the stellar model of the century-old Bank of North Dakota. To fast-track the process, a state could buy a bank that was for sale locally, which would already have FDIC insurance and a master account with the central bank (something needed to conduct business with other banks and the Fed). The state could then move its existing revenues and those it gets from the CARES Act Relief Fund into the bank as deposits. Since there is no longer a deposit requirement, it need not worry if these revenues get withdrawn and spent. Any shortfall can be covered by borrowing at 0.25% from the Fed’s discount window. The bank would need to make prudent loans to keep its books in balance, but if its capital base gets depleted from a few non-performing loans, that too apparently need not be a problem, since the Fed is “encouraging banks to use their capital and liquidity buffers.” The buffers were there for an emergency, said the Fed, and this is that emergency.
To cover startup costs and capitalization, the state might be able to use a portion of its CARES Relief Fund allotment. Its budget before March would not have included a public bank, which could serve as a critical source of funding for local businesses crushed by the shutdown and passed over by the bailout. Among the examples given of allowable uses for the relief funds are such things as “expenditures related to the provision of grants to small businesses to reimburse the costs of business interruption caused by required closures.” Providing below-market loans to small businesses would fall in that general category.
By using some of its CARES Act funds to capitalize a bank, the local government can leverage the money by 10 to 1. One hundred million dollars in equity can capitalize $1 billion in loans. With the state bank’s own borrowing costs effectively at 0%, its operating costs will be very low. It can make below-market loans to creditworthy local borrowers while still turning a profit, which can be used either to build up the bank’s capital base for more loans or to supplement the state’s revenues. The bank can also lend to its own government agencies that are short of funds due to the mandatory shutdown. The salubrious effect will be to jumpstart the local economy by putting new money into it. People can be put back to work, local infrastructure can be restored and expanded, and the local tax base can be replenished.
The coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated not only that the US needs to free itself from dependence on foreign markets by rebuilding its manufacturing base but that state and local governments need to free themselves from dependence on the federal government. Some state economies are larger than those of entire countries. Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose state ranks as the world’s fifth largest economy, has called California a “nation-state.” A sovereign nation-state needs its own bank.
“This will be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment.” That was U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams on April 5, touring the Sunday morning shows to warn of the worst week yet for pandemic death in the United States.
During these interviews, the Surgeon General also managed to show off his mask-making skills, an unwitting allusion to the fact that — contrary to the spectacular events of 1941 and 2001 (not to mention his own previous “guidance” against the efficacy of face masks) — we are far more likely on the brink of a 1918 moment. Not that the Surgeon General’s mission was to raise awareness of pandemics past. Instead, Adams’ appearances were wholly in keeping with the Trump regime’s pivot to an ominous war footing media strategy following the March 11 “National Emergency” declaration — after, of course, previously downplaying the COVID’s threat to the country’s health. Mixed messaging is trending pretty hard these days…
The comparison to the 1918 influenza catastrophe is both more topically relevant, given the kind of emergency, as well as more historically significant. According to consensus estimates, 675,000 Americans died during the 1918-19 pandemic. Despite a recent scaremongering model predicting as many as 1.2 to 2 million deaths from the current coronaviral outbreak, it appears that the sheer number of fatalities will be far less this time. It should also be noted that the U.S. population has tripled during the last hundred years. In other words, despite the botched initial response to this novel coronavirus, the United States is considerably ahead of the “Curve” in relation to the 1918 flu. Even the briefly touted worst case scenario for the current coronaviral flu falls far short of U.S. Army Surgeon General Victor Vaughn’s 1918 concern that “If the epidemic continues its mathematical rate of acceleration, civilization could easily disappear from the face of the earth.” This time around, not even the most morbid of forecasts have suggested anything like an extinction event. The Apocalypse will have to hold its horses — at least for now…
So, there’s some good news in this historical comparison of the two pandemics; we’re all still going to die, but more than likely not because of this novel pathogen, the COVID-19. Nevertheless, there’s another factor to consider in this virological context. One hundred years ago, the United States was manifestly on the rise, whereas today, America is evidently in decline. To use a boxing metaphor: the 1918 influenza “haymaker,” staggering though it was, did little to impede the relentless onslaught of the “American Century,” while a flurry of jabs — initially dismissed as mere feints — from the COVID-19 has the American Leviathan on the ropes, and the canvas is calling. How is this possible?
To rephrase and re-focus Surgeon General Adams’ unwittingly uncanny linkage a click: America never left “our 9/11 moment.”
Back in 2001, if not for the 9/11 event and its anthrax annex, the collapse of Enron would have been the Story of the Year. Enron had been the poster child of a financially driven “Boom!” economy. By the time the NYC Trade Towers and the Pentagon were struck, out of a clear blue sky, the almighty Stock Market had already been quietly slumping, and the sham of Enron was about to be unmasked for the fraud that it was (See: Alex Gibney’s “Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room,” 2005). Enron’s free fall showed that fakery and swindling were really the order of the day on Wall St — not to mention Pennsylvania Avenue, and the rest of Washington, DC. While the “New American Century” had gotten off to an obviously disastrous start, the dubiously elected Bush 2 regime, which was practically inert on the day of those fateful attacks, proceeded to make things much worse in the wake of 9/11.
Slapped into reaction, America invaded Afghanistan and Iraq in quick succession. These pointless and unwinnable wars soon morphed into defense industry gravy trains costing trillions of dollars. Among other delusionalisms at the time, Americans were told that Iraqi oil would pay for that invasion; it never did. In fact, the price per gallon of gasoline actually doubled between 9/11 and the peak of Iraq-Attack-Two in 2006, amounting to an undeclared war-time gas tax on the average American. Many a clever economist has failed to note this radical, and ironic, price spike in a commodity so basic to the fossil fuel-driven United States. Was it, perchance, merely an unintended consequence of the war?
In other domestic news, 0% financing became the rage, encouraging a shook-up consumer-citizenry to splurge in a post-9/11 climate of “shock and awe.” For its part, Wall St was allowed to indulge in toxic financial instruments like “derivatives” and “credit default swaps” tied to an ever more precarious “subprime mortgage market.” All of this crazy credit and debt-based speculative activity finally melted down into the famous financial crash of 2008, the second coming of which we are experiencing now.
Against this grim backdrop, the previously obscure Barack Obama was voted into office. Obama had promised “Change,” but only managed to deliver more “paper,” as the Federal Reserve turned to the money printing presses to bail out the big failing banks. Wall St was saved! — but with no “change” for the little guys and gals. Ever the smooth functionary in his caretaker role, Obama signaled to Wall St that their “free for few” could continue, unfettered…
Today, the bailout business is booming again, but this time with a small twist: Main St is being thrown back a few crumbs by the fake, financialized economy, even as the big stakeholders take most of the cake, just like in 2008. Presumably, this helicoptering of crumbs will forestall some form of a citizens revolt, which may be inevitable, given that 22 million Americans — a truly staggering number — have lost their jobs in the first 4 weeks since Trump’s national emergency declaration, with millions more to soon follow. Under the cover of this novel coronavirus, the Debt-cult of post-9/11 America, led by the Fed, is reaping the whirlwind it has sown, with most Americans left holding an increasingly empty bag.
Wither the way out of this dire Scylla and Charybdis strait, caught between a pandemic and possible national bankruptcy? If history, and especially recent history, is any guide, things can get a whole lot worse…
In a way to begin again: Historically, War and Pestilence go hand-in-hand, or, horse-to-horse, to pursue an equestrian to apocalyptical metaphor. “Chariot! Taxi! Uber!” So it’s right there, at the beginning of the western literary tradition, in Homer’s Iliad, the opening lines, declaring the Wrath of Achilleus. Well, the well-benched Achaeans investing the citadel of “oriental” Troy (a.k.a. Ilium), had been there 9 circling years, with no positive return (Nostos?) on their investment to show for it; and, furthermore, were confounded by a plague wasting their idle ranks, which were hostilely ringed around Troy. Who knew “Whatever for?” this mad adventurous war was still for?
Today, the masked-mad-Max-man of the World, the Lone Ranger United States, is somewhat in the role of Achilleus, and sidelined by the COVID-19, however much this disease-aster was brought upon itself by its own self or selves, truths be told! Not that Donald J Trump’s anyone’s Agamemnon — except that Agamemnon’s far from the strongest leader in the western literary tradition; indeed, he’s a distinctly bipolar, moody figure, a fact which lightly re-invites the Trump analogy…
So, who is the “Achilleus” figure in the COVID-19 registrar? Probably the Death Star, also known as the Pentagon. Remember: the American Leviathan’s been thrust upon the ropes of ever thinning Finance, and Betsy Ross has been laid off, which means that the Flag’s a no masking position, so to speak, based on Betsy’s whereabouts, which are currently unknown, even to the Gates-Bezos-Jimmy Buffet-to-Zuckerberg crowd, even though their surrogates will social-media about it all day, including the likely hideouts of Betsy Ross during this global-national health crisis, and everything else besides…
In 1918, a plague of disproportionate lethality followed quickly upon a war that was never expected to yield the same — and yet it did, beyond everyone’s expectations, which were only considered to be “realistic” until the realistic actually happened. Historians rarely connect the influenza to the Great War that epigraphed it. Whatever else the current crop of Historians think, pandemic flu is a “Thing”; not necessarily John Carpenter’s, which is another “Thing,” whatever anyone thinks about that movie, or cinematic photo-play, as pre-COVID films may now in the future be known by. The “Thing” has changed, and it’s a Trickster virus. No one’s safe, but everyone’s OK. That’s the deal. People die every day, but no one really knows why. Every death is a question mark: or, is it just a death? Did the United States of America just invade Saudi Arabia, or is that simply another fake news story? After all, there was an “imminent threat,” some sources from Iran reported…
War is the Disease! This is the headline that we all must understand, sooner rather than later…
The so-called Defense Department does not live up to its name; instead, the acronym and word Bloateddescribe this behemoth and its budget. We the people need defense, but the trillion tax dollars we spend a year do not provide it. Instead they pay for:
Some 800 US overseas military bases
The Nuclear Arsenal
Billions for Bombers and Battleships
These do nothing to make us secure. They have benefited few people in the US or the world, apart from bloated arms manufacturers and merchants, bloated military contractors, bloated generals, bloated politicians, and those in the high echelons of bloated corporate power.
The Defense We Need
We need a strong, universal free-of-charge public health system to help defend us against COVID-19 and other health problems; the bloated Department steals resources that could provide the true security for a healthy population.
We need defense against climate disruption and heating of the planet. The bloated Department aggravates these problems by emitting more greenhouse gases than any other institution in the world and more than many entire nations.
We needed defense against Wall Street predators when they stole home ownership from millions of people – especially people of color and other working class people – during the 2008 economic meltdown. The bloated Department offered no defense.
Women especially need defense against sexual harassment, assault and domestic violence. The bloated Department exacerbates these problems: military culture promotes sexism, Military Sexual Trauma is rampant; the military protects sexual perpetrators of women and men within its ranks .
Veterans who have survived the endless and earlier wars need to heal from physical, emotional and moral injury. The resources offered are inadequate and often inappropriate. The bloated Department’s promotion of war and hyper-masculinity tends to aggravate veterans’ trauma.
The bloated Department did not even defend against a military attack on its own headquarters on September 11, 2001. Nobody in the Pentagon lost their job over that “failure”.
Truth in Language
Toward the goal of ending war and militarism, let us have truth in language. Bloated is an accurate word and acronym for the Department that oversees the enormously wasteful and destructive military. As the COVID pandemic makes painfully clear, funds now squandered on the military are urgently needed to meet the real security needs of US people – for healthcare, housing, infrastructure, and food security.
Let us also stop using the term defense expenditures when referring to costs that do not defend human beings from real problems that we face. Military or war expenditures are accurate terms.
Changes in language in our writings, speeches, conversations and on social media can help change thinking and help lead to right action.