Pandora Papers is not the entire Pandora’s Box; but a part of it only. The full picture is yet to emerge, in one sense, and in another sense, the whole is already perceptible.
The way the rich have their wealth, the way they accumulate, the way they hide, the way they deceive, the way they deprive, the way they lie are in the Pandora Papers. It’s not a tale of only a king, of a few powerful and a few politicians – a section of seemingly magicians. The Papers, as like their earlier friend, Panama Papers, convey a single fact: Exploitation, an exploitative system, the system’s power.
If that wealth of the rich is compared with the “wealth” the poor of the world own, if that power is compared with the “power” the poor of the world “wield”, the inequality’s brutality stands under sun – open, stark, it’s barbaric. The lie, the deception are two of the sharpest, most effective and functional weapons the rich employ against the people, the working people – the social force that produces the wealth at societal level but stolen by the rich.
Whose hands are behind the exposure – is not the only question related to the exposure. The exposure explains itself – the exposure is a part of factional fight among the wealthy at world level. But, the question that should also be in agenda is the system itself – what and how is the system that gives birth to such richness, such theft, such deception, such lie? The question that should also be in agenda is the “wealth” and “power”, if any, and even, if non-existent, of people, the poor, especially the working persons producing wealth and being deceived by the wealthy. The question that should also be in agenda is the relations between such wealth and power, essentially political power, used to do misdoings – theft, lie, deception. This is the question of inequality of political power – the question missed most of the time by most of the mainstream economists discussing inequality. An amazing business it’s!
There’s law, a gamut of law; and the purpose pronounced powerfully and forcefully behind enacting the gamut of law is execution of justice, execution of equity, kick out theft and deception. All the business the Pandora Papers show is an execution of law – the way it’s executed. No enactment could prohibit the deception. Whatever was done by the rich – floating of companies, transfer of money or capital, etc. – was by faithfully following all laws. The system of law, so, can’t escape the very question: what were you doing Sir when such a great business with such a great amount of money was transacted? Are you ineffective or a party to it? A sleeping partner, are you? Has this been enacted only to hoodwink the ordinary tax payers, the person begging on a street in Karachi, the mother with her hungry children in Lebanon, the person searching for medical treatment in a dysfunctional health care system in a capitalist economy that accumulates profit from the health care system it has elaborately set up?
There are executioners of law enacted to stop theft and “flying away” of capital. There’s supervisory authority keeping eyes open so that all laws related to theft and deception are executed properly. What were these executioners and supervisory authority doing while the theft, the deception – dodging taxes – were carried on by the rich with smile in their faces? Are they, the executioners and the supervisory authority, thus, party to this great job? They are part of the system of taxation and ensuring proper implementation of taxation, revenue, etc.; and thus, haven’t they made the system party to the lie, deception, dodging of tax, loss of revenue? Who the criminals will be, then?
Politics was obviously there behind these thefts, deceptions. Without political clout this system couldn’t have operated, couldn’t have operated for months and years, and thefts, the dodging of taxes, weren’t done in a day, weren’t done once, weren’t done by a single person.
These are difficult questions – difficult to the powerful, the owners of the system that creates and sustains with loopholes to lie, to deceive, that sustains with unequal political power sharing between the exploiter and the exploited.
These are questions unknown to the unaware, to the disorganized, to the political-powerless millions – the masses struggling with hunger in Afghanistan, struggling with poverty in Brazil, struggling with inequality in Nigeria.
But, these questions, instead of superficial and trivial issues, should reach them. But, these questions, in most cases, don’t reach them. The facts are hidden from them – the millions whose labor is stolen by a few.
Thanks to the exposure or the factional fight, whatever that’s. It has provided some facts – facts to understand the system, not only loot, not only theft – dodge tax. The Papers has opened up the powerful’s Pandora’s Box – a system full with theft, deception, lies, and inequality.
Loot – appropriation and expropriation – the exploiters continue with, tricks they follow and lies they propagate to hide their loot, agents they employ to keep people demobilized, to make people fail perceiving the loot-facts and sources and relations of the facts get exposed everyday if the exploiters’ acts and pronouncements are closely observed.
To keep the power of loot intact, the exploiters’ first tact is to wipe out the question of appropriation and expropriation from discussion, and stuff whole agenda with whatever rubbish they produce and collect. This move distracts the exploited, the part of society falling prey to the exploiters, keeps the exploited busy with issues not related to the existence of the exploited, serve the exploiters’ interests, make the exploited get busy with the agenda helpful to the exploiters. The question of loot withers away, thus.
The question of loot is connected to the question of the exploiters’ economic interests – dominance of exploitative system. The question of loot is connected to the question of the relations the exploiters establish – exploitative relations with private property – in the sphere of economy. Private property – capital, made by reproduction of surplus value as a result of exploitation of wage labor, “not a thing, but rather a definite social production relation, belonging to a definite historical formation of society, which is manifested in a thing and lends this thing a specific social character.” (Marx, Capital, vol. III) – is part of the economy. The question doesn’t move without politics – politics of the exploiters. The entire question withers away when these aspects don’t find place in agenda.
It’s regularly, thus, observed in most lands: these questions, essential and urgent to people, regularly go without discussion while questions related to people – of economy and politics – are discussed. Non-essential questions, questions related to the exploiters interests, questions serving the exploiters are discussed in a manner and with such force that push back questions related to people’s interests.
Here are the tricks the exploiters employ: overwhelm the exploited with problems, so that people don’t get respite – the space required to summarize the hostile situation; make non-questions questions, engage adventurers with the task of raising fiery slogans instead of proper analyses and well-thought out ideas – a task that subverts people’s initiatives for having well-composed ideas and getting organized. A tricky job it’s. The adventurers turn “friends” and “well-wishers”, theoreticians advocating measures that torpedo people’s initiatives, and at the same time, camouflage self-face.
There are persons subverting organizations people have or whatever initiative people take to claim space while the persons pose as friends of people. Engaging such persons is one of capital’s tasks to counter people. The engaged persons hide self-identity, in the payroll of masters, and spread lies, misinterpret and create confusion.
The question is: What should people do in this perspective? History presents lessons: Get aware, get organized, have organization, have leadership, foil attempts subverting people’s initiatives.
The pandemic-induced disruption of the global economy of neoliberal capitalism has strengthened the appeal of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). The fundamental idea of this policy prescription is that state spending, a national budget deficit, can be used to combat recession. Raising overall demand in a given country will facilitate a recovery insofar as there is the disposable productive capacity (unemployed workers, stocks of raw materials, machines working below capacity). These unused resources are mobilized by the additional purchasing power created by the budget deficit.
While governments generally fund their deficit spending by selling interest-bearing bonds and owing their debts to bondholders, MMT suggest that the central bank buy up these bonds with money that it has the power to create. In this way, the central bank becomes the one to whom the government owes money. Since no central bank has any need to insist on a government ever paying off a debt created with money it simply printed, the government debt to the central bank is of no real significance. Central bank money creation does not actually involve “printing money”; it involves an expansion of the figures in the electronically-recorded central bank balance sheet, and a corresponding growth in the bank account balances of the government.
A number of criticisms can be made of MMT. First, it is inapplicable to the poorer countries. MMT does not convincingly address the constraints upon fiscal deficit imposed by the financial markets, current account imbalances and exchange rates, thus making it mostly inapplicable in the context of a financially globalized, open economy. As Neville Spencer writes: “Printing money in countries with less favored currencies risks those currencies being dumped in preference to what are seen as more reliable currencies. This can potentially put the local currency into a hyperinflationary spiral. There are also governments that don’t have their own currency, such as members of the Eurozone. For them, MMT simply isn’t an option.”
Monetarily non-sovereign countries have open capital markets which are subject to the inflows and outflows of globally mobile “hot money” — financial capital that travels freely and quickly around the world looking to earn the best rate of return or to exploit interest rate differentials. Surges in hot money are associated with increased liabilities on the balance sheets of local borrowers, instability in exchange rates, and difficulties managing liquidity conditions. Such inflows can often lead to overvalued exchange rates, current account deficits, and rapid capital outflows, leaving local financial institutions and businesses with increasing debts that are hard to service and repay.
Within the confines of capitalism, a strong assertion of monetary independence by poorer countries would alarm the financial oligarchy, leading to an economic crisis. Capitalists would either move their money out of the country or carry out a strike of capital; the currency would become worthless, leading to rampant inflation – heavily impacting the real wages of workers. To bring an end to this turmoil, the government would be forced to hike up interest rates in order to attract investors, leading to a strong restriction on investments of capital in the productive economy. Now, most of the money the state would collect through the bonds would be used to repay the interest rather than to fund social welfare programs or public infrastructure. While proving to be catastrophic for the working class, this profit scheme would enrich bankers.
Even in the limited context of the US, which enjoys a great amount of latitude to pursue fiscally expansionary policies, thanks to the special status enjoyed by the dollar (“as good as gold”), there are institutional constraints on monetization of fiscal deficits imposed through the autonomy granted to the Federal Reserve vis-à-vis the Treasury. Second, while a sovereign state can generate simple fiat money in the domestic economy, this power is structurally circumscribed by the realities of production and exchange. While the state can create money, it cannot guarantee that this money has any value. Without a productive economy behind it, money is meaningless. Money, as the universal equivalent of the values of the commodities, is the counter-value of quantities of socially necessary labour.
This means that real value is created in production, as a result of the application of labour-power. As Fred Paterson — a popular Australian communist — succinctly put it:
Some people think that all you have to do to solve the economic and money problem is to print money and keep on printing it, and everything will be satisfactory. I, for one, as a member of the Communist Party, suggest that is absurd…Everyone knows that no matter how much money you issue by the printing press you could not produce an extra gun or an extra tank, or an extra plane, or produce an extra bushel of wheat or maize, unless you have available resources of manpower and materials…On the basis of production we get the amount of goods and services at our disposal. Once we have the goods and services there is the question of the creation and issue of money: therefore, that is a secondary matter.
The money that a state creates, therefore, will only be of any worth in so far as it reflects the value that is in circulation in the economy, in the form of the production and exchange of commodities. Where this is not the case, destabilizing inflation will set in. In other words, money-financed deficit spending is at best a temporary free lunch. Once the economy reaches full employment, taxes become necessary to restrain aggregate demand and prevent inflation. Even MMT proponents acknowledge this. In the words of Stephanie Kelton: “Can we just print our way to prosperity? Absolutely not! MMT is not a free lunch. There are very real limits, and failing to identify – and respect – those limits could bring great harm. MMT is about distinguishing the real limits from the self-imposed constraints that we have the power to change.”
Insofar government programs ultimately have to be paid for via taxes, an appropriate form of class politics needs to be developed for taxation. Tax outcomes are ultimately shaped by class conflict and depend on power relations, which in turn are determined by the economic mechanics of capitalism. Instead of paying adequate attention to these issues, prominent representatives of MMT spend their time convincing the rich that they don’t need to pay taxes. In 2019, Kelton wrote:
My wealthy friend doesn’t want to pay for your child care. He doesn’t want to help pay off your student loans. And he sure as heck doesn’t want to shell out the big bucks for a multi-trillion-dollar Green New Deal…consider what happens if we simply invest in programs to benefit the non-rich…without treating the super-rich as our piggy bank.
Kelton’s pro-rich proclivity raises the following question: who must give up portions of their incomes so that we can meet collective needs? If income is expropriated from the working masses of taxpayers, the efficacy of deficit-financed government spending would decline as the propensity to consume is much higher for those with lower incomes. To avoid the negative effects of a pattern of distribution skewed toward top earners, the government can tax companies. Capitalists will primarily react to it by postponing investment. Furthermore, disposable wages can drop even if the government taxes firms, since firms can offload taxes onto prices, thus negatively affecting real wages. Hence, it is the state’s dependence on the private sector which erodes its economic power. As Costas Lapavistas and Nicolas Aguilla argue:
[T]he state does not produce output and value (nationalised industries aside) and merely claims those of others. It is true…that the state can boost aggregate demand through its own expenditures and thus support, and even expand, the overall production of output and value. Yet, the creation of output and value also follows its own internal logic summed up by the profits of private producers, which depend on far more than aggregate demand…capitalism is about accumulation through the extraction of surplus-value in production. The state can protect and support accumulation by boosting aggregate demand but cannot direct accumulation without radical supply reforms.
If the government increases the workers’ wages to counteract price increases, a cost-push inflationary spiral would be initiated, with money wages and prices chasing one another; this would inevitably happen because any increase in the “relative wage” – defined by Rosa Luxemburg as “the share that the worker’s wage makes up out of the total product of his labor” – cuts into the capitalist’s share of profits. If deficit-driven inflation is to be decelerated through the taxation of the bourgeoisie, then pricing of products cannot be left to capitalist enterprises (for that would cause a wage-price spiral). There must then be state intervention in the form of an incomes and prices policy. The state in such an economy must then not only carry out demand management; it must also engage in distribution management.
As is evident, the maintenance of monetary financing and an economy at near-full employment requires increasing intervention by the state which undermines the social legitimacy of the capitalist system and which therefore is impossible to sustain within the barriers of the capitalist system. When the unutilized capacity has been eliminated, governments wanting to sustain a people-centered economy have no other choice than to resolve such problems through radical measures, such as prices and incomes policies, nationalizations, workers’ management of factories etc. As Michal Kalecki said, if capitalism cannot maintain full employment, “it will show itself as an outmoded system which must be scrapped”.
It is important to note that the employment policies envisioned by MMT — employer of last resort (ELR) — are not up to the mark. According to the ELR scheme, the government should “buy up” any excess stock of workers by offering employment to “surplus” labour during downturns, so that the government effectively acts as an employer of last resort. Government-employed “stocks” of workers are then released to the private sector on demand, whenever the economy picks up. The buffer stock employment wage must be less that the private sector employment wage in order to avoid incentivizing buffer stock employment and thus effectively converting the public sector into an employer of first resort.
Through the decoupling of the hiring process from productivity and skill, ELR creates a population that is distinct from both public and private sector workers. Whereas public and private sector workers face a competitive job market and need to match their skills to a relevant job, ELR workers get hired on-the-spot to do work that is by its nature temporary and low-skill. The poor nature of these jobs means that the ELR population is ready and waiting to be hired by capitalists. In this way, a “reserve army of the employed” is created, which is made up of workers who, occupying a position in the working class separate from those who are employed in the private and public sector, constitute a threat to the traditionally employed.
As David Sligar states, “compared to the regular unemployed, participants in a job guarantee are more likely to be the sort of compliant job-ready eager beavers that are attractive to employers. Thus they pose a greater threat to those in employment than the unemployed when wage bargaining is underway.” In addition, the job guarantee pay rate is fixed – participants have no right to collectively bargain in the manner of conventional employees – so its effect on labour markets is same as an unemployment benefit. Summarizing these contradictions, Hugh Sturgess writes of an “impossible quadrilateral” which “expects the JG [job guarantee] to eliminate involuntary unemployment through jobs that are accessible to all regardless of skill, but are of social value, yet not currently done by the private or public sectors, and can be started and stopped at any time”.
To conclude, MMT remains hesitant to take the decision-making on investment and jobs out of the hands of the capitalist sector. As long as the bulk of investment and employment remains under the control of capitalism, government expenditure can’t be raised permanently since deficit-financed spending ultimately meets its limits in the contradictions at work in the sphere of private production. In the long run, the concentrated dominance of big business and private monopolies needs to be broken down if the effects of monetary financing are to be sustainably continued even after the exhaustion of unused resources. In short, MMT provides an anti-neoliberal opening but does not reach the socialist conclusion that a radical reconstitution of the system is not only desirable but necessary. As Sam Gindin says:
At bottom, how societies determine the allocation of their labour and resources – who is in charge, what the priorities are, who gets what – rests on considerations of social power and corresponding values/priorities. Transforming how this is done is conditional on developing and organizing popular support for challenging the private power of banks and corporations over our lives and with this, accepting the risks this entails. Controlling the money presses is certainly an element in this, but hardly the core challenge.
The fourth of John Talbott’s criteria is the need for cultural sustainability: Satisfying our need as human beings to be creative and expressive; to learn, grow, teach and be; to have a diverse, interesting, stimulating and exciting social environment and range of experiences available.
― Christine Connelly, Sustainable Communities: Lessons from Aspiring Eco-Villages
And, we can take what Connelly states in her book to the level of — There is relatively little sharing of facilities, faculties, things, social capital, land, farming, cooperative everything, largely due to the dispersement of collective action capitalism has welded to the capitalist consumer, err, citizen. In one sense, many people in this Western society like the idea of big familial situations, and dispersing extra “things” and extra “time” in a cooperative sense, but the systems of oppression, the systems of dog-eat-dog, the systems of malformed educations and coocoo histories, all of that and the retail mentality AND the psychological fears (real, imagined, post-hypnotically suggested through a debt society) of losing home, health, humanity with the wrong throw of the mortgage and employment dice, we have now mostly a society that is not a sharing society, not a sharing economy, not a cadre of millions who believe in a genuine progress index as a marker of a democracy’s overall health.
But to allude to the title, specifically, I am looking at more and more systems of shutting out the ground-view of things versus the global view, or the international view. I am seeing more and more web sites forgetting the lynch-pin of humanity — the family, the community around a family, and the attempt to create tribes and communities of similar purposes and communities of place. Leftist websites spend countless miles of digital ink repeating what the take is on Imperial power, what the take is on the perversities of the American Chaotic diseases, what the world is in those white nations (sic) of more and more poverty, fencing out solutions and global bullshit tied to hobbling literally China, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and any country where a social contract with the people and the land is emerging. Important, sure, but some of us are Marxists because we look at the ground as a way toward the larger truths.
Keeping it Local for Global Perspectives
The reality is that, like Thoreau, most do not have to travel far geographically or scholastically to understand systems from one example or a limited set of examples. If a community, or town or county can’t stop job-killing, physiology-killing, ecological-killing things/ideologies/processes coming into said community, such as, say, aerial sprays of mountains and valleys and hills that have been razed by industry, then, what sort of hope do people hold out in the larger view that your country will do the right thing with say, oh, Cuba. You know, stopping the plague of economic and financial and shipping sanctions/blockades. You can see in plain view the results of stealing countries’ bank accounts or stopping the shipping of valuable life saving “stuffs.”
So, how can that Lincoln County, OR, attempt to go to the State Supreme Court to lobby these shyster judges to do the right thing — stop the spraying of neurological and gut killing sprays to inhibit the unnatural grown and profusion of noxious weeds and opportunist shrubs and bushes on a part of mother earth that once was a dynamic forest with dynamic species, with shaded creeks, with ground food for subsoil, terrestrial and avian creatures.
I get why web sites that carry leftist news and reports go for the international gut wrenching or elitist view, but we need balance. We need proof of life and hope and action at the human level. We need writers like me to take one example of humanity doing humanity right, and giving it to the world.
That is the world here, for a moment — less than 72 hours on a plot of forest land I happen to own with my sister. Nothing fancy, just 20 acres of white pine and cedar and Douglas fir. Turkeys and bears, and the amazing skies. It is near Pahto, or Mount Adams. What should be wet soil is something like I’d find in Colorado near Durango. Snow for the season, more than one fifth the average snowfall. And there has been no rain since June 17.
We are talking Oregon, in the viewshed of Pahto and Wy’east (Adams and Hood). Things on those 20 acres and my neighbors’ adjoining 75 acres are not right. Fire, as one of the brothers told me, will be — unless climate models change 180 degrees — a bigger and bigger part of the land. The landscape. The people’s trial and tribulations. Throughout the west. Throughout the globe.
As we are in a 24-7 loop of being entertained (distracted) to death with sports, Trump Beatification Syndrome/Trump Derangement Syndrome, the politics of perversity, Corona Crisis Number 999, and all the junk that occupies the brains of Homo Retailopethicus.
I’ve been coming to this property for going on 30 years. Not regularly since I have lived and worked in such places as El Paso, Spokane, Seattle, Portland, Gladstone, Beaverton, Estacada, Vancouver, and down here on the coast. It is a three and three-quarters of an hour trip from our house on the Pacific (Central Coast) to the place eight miles north of a town called White Salmon.
I met the neighbor landowners, let’s call them Rita and Ron, before they had put down the concrete footings to their house. Now, some 30 years later, they have a garden, tapped into water, have a nice modern house, lots of out buildings, a Cat for grading, and other things to make life in the woods pretty nice. Ron’s got a degree from U of Washington in geography. He is from Seattle. His brother (we’ll call him JW) put in 30 years at Boeing, and he spends time up on some acres he owns next to my property. A motor home that is nothing fancy, a SUV and he has juice, water and a septic system. There is a lot to do, and not a lot to do. He has a condo in Scottsdale, and he has kids in Spokane and Florida. He is living the good life, and it isn’t a huge ecological footprint. He’s a dyed in the wool democrat.
There are robust and real discussions with these two guys and Ron’s wife Rita. She has been married three times, has childhood trauma, had major drug addictions and she is a big time worker, gets things done, and is in recovery. Her gigs include not just taking care of rich people’s linens, scrubbing and cooking. She’s done this sort of work so long that she gets requests from really sick spouses, or individuals. She is there as caretaker, first responder, nutritional coach, travel agent, companion on some of those trips, and navigator for finances, health care concerns, family issues, and more.
Heavy things taking care of people who once were robust, skiers, surfers, outdoors folk, who are now bed-ridden and stroke paralyzed. There are plenty of issues tied to family members of the people she cares for wanting their cut of the goods, and those who want to outright steal from their moms and dads, grannies and papas.
This is a job we call “caring for people” angels. While Rita doesn’t buy into any heaven/hell theme, she jokes about being both an angel of mercy and of death. Many have died on her watch due to advanced stages of cancer, Alzheimer’s, and the like.
I worked as a union organizer in Seattle, for part-time college faculty, but my union, SEIU, was and is all about health care workers. I spent time with women and men in Seattle and surrounding communities who were the licensed caregivers — the care home owners and the care home workers. Those workers are many times employed by the state to work the low paying, hard hours jobs of assisting people, old or young, who are incapable of thriving on their own without help with any number of things. Many of the people I represented in the union did the bathing and the feeding.
What I learned in those microcosms (again, the big picture stuff was always at the forefront in the union, with them beating the drum to support Obama-2 and Insley for WA governor) was again ramifying how mixed up Capitalism is under Democrats or the Demons of Republicanism. In Seattle, post-Occupy where I got to teach a few times in those famous street teach-ins, all of the Trayvon Martin protests, and those against Amazon, the fabric of that disjointed concept of those who have and those who do not have was in plain sight.
The levels of inequity were in plain sight in that backyard of mine. And, those people from African nations, those Latinx, working as personal care support, or CNAs, and those managing houses where the old, tired, sick would end up, now that was yet another lesson, and all the world is a stage was there as the underlying theme in that Diaspora of people from poverty-stricken post (sic) colonial lands, where war and murder by despots were daily concerns. These humble people were/are the caregivers, the end-of-life shepherds for “our” people — citizens.
In so many cases, the people who come from poor countries, they were the only people in the lives of these American citizens who were languishing in their sadness as their families had abandoned them in many instances. Some woman from Somalia, Sudan, Nigeria, there she was, bathing, soothing, singing to and holding the lives of white people who were stuck in a room, slowly or rapidly dying.
Caregivers, and SEIU represented them as a unit. All the training these caregivers have to undergo, at the state and county levels. Black women and men, and those of Muslim faith, in the Seattle area, tending to the lives of the dying, or the developmentally disabled, that is the reality of capitalism as throwaway society. Capitalism of the impersonal, Capitalism of the scam after scam. Each layer of Capitalism is like a tree riddled with termites and beetles and all manner of disease eating it from the inside out.
That’s the real world stage — what a society does to assist the old, young, vulnerable, failing, too weak to move. What a society does to collectively build safety nets, to look at the “all the world as a stage” perspective from a macro lens, in order to widen the scope to the county, regional, national, global level. Rita taking care of super vulnerable people who do not worry about how they are paying for her private services. Aging in place — in these big homes overlooking the Columbia Gorge. Aging at home before all things go south.
In some cases, Rita is their only confidant, their only set of ears and eyes. Twice weekly visits are the only human touch they receive in their lives. Her job is that multiplicity of jobs in a patriarchal disaster capitalism society — nurse, PT provider, social worker, psychologist, taxi service, health navigator, nutritionist, legal consultant, errand person, cook, mover, travel consultant, companion, financial planner, and more. to end up as a symbolic friend and quasi-daughter or sister.
Rita and Ron live a good life out in the woods, with turkeys jumping into the trees, deer coming to the great garden they have, and the seasonal bear pushing over stumps to look for grubs. A riot of hummingbirds. Snakes and lizards. Butterflies we don’t see in suburban areas anymore. And those trees.
Ron works the land, tends to the canopies, looks for crowded trees, or dying ones, and has learned how to shepherd the land so the trees on the property thrive. Canopies where the crowns don’t touch. A better than park-like feel to the land. And now, with the changing precipitation, the nighttime temperatures last week in the nineties, all that desiccating climate heating, we have yet another “world is a stage” with the poor management of the land, the lack of state resources, the lack of collective will to mitigate fire suppression, and how to bring these forests into some manageable fire dampening state.
Yes, Ron is 68, still capable of logging and stacking trees, but his shoulder a few years ago was operated on, and a knee replaced this year. And, just a week ago, a reminder that the other knee will be chopped out with a titanium replacement to come.
Rita and Ron save money, use the Washington state Medicaid system, they are not consumers — Ron saves the old Ford sedan, cannibalize parts from old washers and dryers, and he knows how to tune up chainsaws, and how to build. His degree in geography and his deep regard for American history keep him sane. He likes golf, he plays dozens of types of cards, including Texas Hold’em, and he does Scrabble. He knows the native names of the two mountains in his geographic area.
This is the small fry of America, and a hidden gem. I know for a fact that old aging in place infirm people, or chronically unhoused folk, or people on the more untenable end of the Autism Spectrum, as well as people who do not fit in, who have intellectual disabilities, or those with complex or simple PTSD, would thrive here.
Again, setting up communities that are multi-generational, with residents possessing multiple avocations and occupations, people with varying skills, those who want community big time, and those who need community in their lives to do some checks and balances. Horse therapy, or dogs. Healthcare and PTSD recovery through gardening. Skills of building a tiny home from logs to end product. Designing microhomes that are in kits, packages that a couple could put together. Imagine that, housing people, and getting abandoned farms or degraded farms into the hands of intentional and healing communities.
So, that one 72 hours on the land, my land shared in title with my sister (it’s really never OUR land, now is it), the small things of just regular people spark, again, from this socialist, Marxist, communist, the deep well of experience and deep learning to a much higher ground, something worthy. But imagine, a thousand, or ten thousand farming centered healing communities, with Native American elders/wisdom, with that wounded veteran to farmer ethos, with all the markings of communitarian outposts of real healing and body-mind-spirit functioning. You know, all those yellow buses that are no longer road worthy. Think of them in the millions, taken to some of these places to be stripped, insulated, interior designed, made into HOMES, with amazing artistic touches, in a big circle, like a sunflower, with a community gathering place in the center, commercial kitchen and food processing center, healing center, and arts center. Imagine that, Bezos and Gates and all the other Financial Stormtroopers who have gutted communities from the bottom, up.
Alas, that’s what the small generates — the systems thinking approach to communities, which need food security, water security, direct health care, even living, aging and dying in place. This does work, will work, and should be scaled up to the thousandth degree. But in this scorched earth and scorched body capitalism, nothing can be moved unless there are a thousand lawyers, ten thousand contracts, and one hundred thousand overseers-code enforcers-middlemen/women in the mix, denigrating human agency, deconstructing the value of people and ideas, and destroying hope.
Bear, turkey, deer, on the deck sipping tequila, and the four of us talking about life, aging, the intricacies of lives so different yet here, on this plot of land, with a common humanity beyond just the intercourse of money and exchanges a la capitalism. The land, that is, the mountains and hills, all those animal trails, each tree a testament to these people, Rita and Ron, caring for the place for more than three decades.
Got a Few Million for this Real Solution?
So, the state of affairs is rotten, to the max, in every aspect of Capitalism. Sure, JC and Rita and Ron have a more middle of the row belief in this country’s exceptionalism. They are not versed in Howard Zinn, W.E.B. DuBois, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, and so many others who have pried open this country’s evil roots, it’s so-called founding, and the wars, the expansionism, all of that. It’s much easier to look at the past with rose tinted glasses, and to believe that something was right, with Eisenhauer or Truman, FDR, any of them. That is the limitation of Americans, even good ones like Ron, Rita and JC. Truly, but they are in their own world, so to speak, a bubble, and yes, they get the world around them is harsh, that some (sic) of USA’s policies have kinked up the world. But to have those limits, to not see how the US has always been Murder Incorporated, or that this is Rogue Nation, a nation of chaos, a nation run by CIA-DoD and the secretive cabal of banks-industrialists-AI fuckers.
And, lo and behold, another friend, we’ll call her Betty, sent to me this other chunk of land, in Oregon, near wine country, 205 acres, up for sale, with amazing infrastructure, up for sale for 6.9 million dollars. The possibility of a developer coming into 205 acres, setting the torch for 5 acre dream (sic) homes for the rich, in a planned and gated community of millionaires, well, that is the rush she had to ask me if I had ideas.
Of course, I have ideas. Look at the list above. This place is called Laurelwood — Look at it here. Link.
Here, the low down via the realtor —
205 +/- acres zoned AF-5
Includes 49 Acre Campus with 6+ Buildings totaling approx. 130,000 SF:
Expansion Hall- Administration Building with Auditorium, Classrooms and Offices
Harmony Hall- Girl’s dorm with 67 rooms, 7 offices, lounge, chapel, commercial kitchen, dining room, bath suites, etc. and attached 3-bedroom Dean’s house
Devotion Hall- Boy’s dorm with 49 rooms (19 rooms need sheetrock finished and painted), apartment with kitchen, bath suites, rec room, lounges, etc. and attached 5-bedroom Dean’s house
Gymnasium/Music Building with Stage
Science Classroom Building with Library
Industrial Arts Building with Auto Shop, Wood Shop and Welding Shop
Extensive Updates during current ownership include:
Administration Building has newer metal roof, updated windows, new insulation, remodeled auditorium and meeting rooms, new HVAC, electrical service and lighting
New windows, high efficiency hot water system, new HVAC, new kitchen appliances and walk-in refrigerator, insulation, paint, lighting and carpeting in Harmony Hall (Girl’s dorm)
New windows, insulation in 49 rooms plus new sheetrock in 30 rooms of Devotion Hall (Boy’s dorm)
New and repaired roofs and new electrical services
Domestic water system and sewage system for campus
Includes separate 4.69 acres (Tax Lot 1301) with Spring and water rights– domestic water source for campus
Adjacent 151 +/- acres well suited for low density residential development with 30 LA water co-op certificates
Vineyard soils & Beautiful Views
South Fork Hill Creek flows through property
Rural location approximately 14 miles south of Hillsboro near Gaston
Ahh, the place is now a retreat, in retreat, as the Yoga enthusiasts are old or aging, and the place was closed due to the corona insanity/lockdown, and the people are giving up, and now it’s on the market: It is Ananda of Laurelwood. I present the basic website verbiage:
What Is Ananda?
Ananda is a global movement to help you realize the joy of your own highest Self.
Living Wisdom School
Temple & Teaching Center
Education for Life
There you have it — water, a spring, land, buildings, the potential of being not just this 205 intentional-healing-farming-tiny home building community, but a model for many others to spread across the land. I know I could get dozens of groups to come to this property for workshops, test kitchen work, growers, even wine producers, horse therapy folk, music healers, and even entomologists to create insect and pollinator fields. Students from the dozens of colleges around the Pacific Northwest, doing projects on aging, on healing, the dog and horse therapy works.
Take a look at this —
So, how do I, well trained, well educated, well versed, find the money? My proposal to Betty is to send a letter to, well, that famous ex-wife, McKenzie Bezos, now McKenzie Scott Tuttle. Billionaire who has pledged to give away half of her wealth, in the billions, tens of billions. Oh, there is Nick Hanauer, and other billionaires, so, imagine, just putting 6.9 million down, owning the property, shelling out for two or three years the monthly upkeep and insurance shit that this property would need while people like me and others build this community, pulling in all those actors, business women and men, the nonprofits, the outside the envelope people who could help design this place as a place of healing.
For me, it is a quick writing prompt, and what follows it that letter to McKenzie Scott Tuttle. First draft. You can never get this to Abigail Disney or Melinda Gates, others, including the Phil Nike Knights. That is Capitalism on steroids — lies, flimflam, propaganda, marketing us to death, layer after layer of buffering, check systems, until good ideas and a good piece of land go the way of the dodo — extinct. This project I could spark into action. I have no problem talking with McKenzie or her handlers with her there, of course. Anyone. There are 2,800 billionaires in the world. Hundreds of philanthropies. A few million angel investors. Collective action and stakeholder building. But the property needs to be held in a trust, a placeholder to allow for a group of people to design its future, to get entrepreneurs involved, to get this thing going so it can be self-sufficient. A model for thousands of other places around the USA and Canada, being scarfed up by the evil ones, the developers.
Below my letter to Scott-Tuttle, see Nick Hanauer. McKenzie Scott gets wealthier even giving away billions below that. Abigail Disney below that. Below her, the author of Dream Hoarders. Better yet, Michael Parenti on Capitalism below the hoarder talk. Below that, Michael’s son, Christian, speaking about Tropic of Chaos, his book climate chaos/heating fueling violence and war.
Here, my letter to McKenzie Scott Tuttle (Warren Buffett and Bill Gates started the Giving Pledge in 2010. It encourages those billionaires to pledge to give away 50% of their earnings to charity. By 2012, over 81 billionaires joined the Giving Pledge. That number is now over 120 billionaires, as of May 2014, according to the Giving Pledge’s official website.)
Reverence is an emotion that we can nurture in our very young children, respect is an attitude that we instill in our children as they become school-agers, and responsibility is an act that we inspire in our children as they grow through the middle years and become adolescents.
— Zoe Weil, p. 42, Above All Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times
Oh, the naysayers tell me and my cohorts to not even try to break into the foundation you run, that this concept of having Mackenzie Scott Tuttle even interested in becoming a placeholder for an idea, and for this land that a group of visionaries see as an incubation collective space for dreams to become reality.
We place our hopes in your ability to read on and see the vision and plans driving this solicitation, this ask. And it is a big ask.
This is figuratively and literally putting the cart before the horse. Here we have 200 acres, and the vision is retrofitting this center that is already there, Ananda, into a truly holistic healing center, youth run, for a seven generations resiliency and look forward ethos of learning to steward the land, learning to grow the land, toward biodynamic farming, all mixed in with intergenerational wisdom growing.
We are seeing this, as stated above, as a medicine wheel. A circle of integrative thinking, education, experimentation and overlapping visions of bringing stakeholders from around the Pacific Northwest (and world) into this safe harbor. There are already facilities on this property as you can see from the real estate prospectus. There are 120 rooms in a great building. There are outbuildings, a gymnasium, barns, and spring water.
It is unfortunately up for sale, and the danger there is a developer with a keen eye to massive profits and turning a spiritual and secular place of great healing and medicine wheel potential into “dream homes” for the rich.
Good land turned into a gated community? We are asking your philanthropy to take a deep dive into helping put this property on hold from those nefarious intentions and allow our group to develop this circle of healing – education across disciplines, elder type academy mixed with youth directed programs; farming; food production; micro-home building and construction facility; trauma informed healing.
Actually, more. Think of this as a community of communities.
Young People Need Hope, a Place (many places) and Leadership and Development
So many young people are done with Industrial and Techno Capitalism. They know deep down there is more to a scoop of soil than a billion bacteria, and they want to be part of healing communities.
We are proposing the Foundation you have set up invest in this property, as a placeholder for our development plan – actually it is an anti-developer plan. This property will be scarfed up for a steal, by, land and housing developers who want McMansions out here in this incredible eco-scape. Just what we do not need in the outlying areas of Portland. Or in so many other locations across this country.
We are a small group ready to do what we can to get food growers and producers at the table to invest in intellectual and sweat and tears capital to make this 200 acres work as a living community of new farmers, people living and learning on the property, incubating ideas for, we hope, to include a micro-home building project, crops, vineyards, learning centers for farming and preserving, marketing and engaging in food healing.
We come at this with decades around food systems, learning from Via Campesina/o or Marion Nestle, Alice Waters, Winona LaDuke, Rachel Carson. We believe in biomimicry, that is, learning how nature settles scores, survives and thrives. We come at this as deeply concerned about ecological footprints, life cycle analyses, the disposable culture and the planned and marketed obsolescence.
We are also coming at this as educators – earth teachers, who know classrooms in prison like settings, with rows of desks, do not engender creative and solutionaries– young people ready to go into the world, even a small community, with engaged, creative and positive ways to deal with climate chaos and the impending shattering of safety nets, including biological and earth systems “nets” and “webs.”
This property is unique, as all of our earth is. This is firstly Kalapua land, first, and that is the Grande Ronde and Siletz, as well as the Atfalsti, too. We call it Gatson, near Hillsboro, Oregon, but the land is the essence of the spirit givers of this continent before “discovery.”
Rich, in the wine country of the new people to this region, this land is about applying our ethos and yours, Ms. Scott-Tuttle, toward a real healing, a real stewardship and real intergeneration ethos around carrying the wisdom of tribes and growers and educators to the youth. We believe women are at the center of many of the themes already listed – farming, educating, healing, human stewardship.
Think of this project as the cart before the horse because the old system, the horse, was always the money, the source of power, and with power comes strings attached. The people involved in this project are looking to have a multistoried community of farmers, learners, youth learning trades and people skills, as well as elders, both Native and new arrivals, to understand that a farm is more than that, as well as a vineyard is more than the sum of the grapes. It is about a reclaiming of the sacred – soil, air, photosynthesis in a truly sustainable fashion.
The only “green washing” we can imagine this project will carry forth is the washing of the greens, the other harvests, in tubs of clear spring water.
Some of us on this project have traveled to other parts of this continent, and spent time with coffee growers and understand that shade grown coffee and beyond fair trade are the only elements to a truly fair and equitable system. Train the people of the land, who are the true stewards, to not only grow, but to roast and market the bounty. Grow the community with water projects, irrigation, schools, and globalized sharing of people, visitors.
This project needs a placeholder, to keep the land out of the insane real estate market. We will do the rest, we solutionaires. There are so many growers and investment angels who want to be part of the Seventh Generation solution.
Clearly, the lessons for people to be in this 200 acre community, farm-soil-healing satellite, are lessons you, Ms. Scott-Tuttle, the fiction writer, know, which you capture deftly with Luther Albright. The world for young people in the Pacific Northwest is that crumbling home and crumbling dam of Albright. The healing we need is more than the structures and infrastructure. It is inside, at the heart of the soul of imagination. Some of us on this project are soliciting from your charity a placeholder purchase of the property are tied to the arts, believing STEAM is the only way forward, and that S.T.E.M. is lifeless and dangerous without the A – arts. We believe the true voice of people are those who believe in asking “what should we do” rather than what is currently on superchargers – “What Can We Do?”
We realize that for many young people, politics have failed them. Many youth I speak with and work with, believe this country is in the midst of an empire of chaos in steep decay. Alternatives to the decay is building communities that would fit the model here on 200 acres – agro-ecological farming; nutritional centered living; housing; long-term care assistance; youth directed entrepreneur projects; bringing in local and state businesses leaders to be part of a design from the grassroots up.
The catch for most of the youth we have engaged is — to paraphrase and level a composite point,” We are ruled by an elite class of individuals who are completely out of touch with the travails of the average American.” This simple statement is packed full of context and frightening reality for millions of students and adults who feel disconnected and neutered by both government agencies and corporate policies.
First, who wants to be “ruled” by anyone? That we have this class system of elite, middle managers, the elite’s high ranking servicers, and then, the rest of the citizens, the so-called 80 percent who have captured less than the overall 10 percent of “wealth” in this country. The very idea of an elite out of touch, or completely out of touch speaks to an ignorance that is dangerous to the world, to the 80 percent, and also speaks to a possible planned ignorance. That we have millions of amazing people, to include nonprofits, community-led organizations, educational institutions, journalists, and others, who can speak to what those “travails” are, and yet, the elites failing to grasp those challenges, or failing to even acknowledge them, this is what many believe is the decay of this society.
This may not sit well with you or your philanthropy, but we as a group have dozens of years experience working with K12, higher ed, farming groups, social services/mutual aid movements, and have systems thinking in our backgrounds, and we underscore youth and community-driven projects and designs. This medicine wheel/circle land trust we are asking you to consider with a follow up meeting, well, this is the only way to a model-driven set of safety nets to move into some challenging times for this Empire in a world that is no longer USA centric.
We are solutionaries, that is, we look for solutions by taking apart problems and then applying holism and deep experimentation in design, but using tried and proven systems that do work.
Healthy food, healthy relationships to culture, people, nature, healthy work, worthy work, with an eye always on the arts. Just as a farming and tiny home community, where biodynamic farming and food preserving and from nail to roof to complete tiny home design are part and parcel the key elements for this community to thrive under, well, there are no better classrooms and transferable skills.
Some of us have seen youth and adults learn the crafts needed to design, plan, buildings, and market tiny homes that would be used to seed communities that are, again, centered around farming, centered around healing, centered around Native American healing, and local community values. A young woman who finishes the hands-on learning of building a tiny home – with windows, skylights, plumbing, furnishings, electricity ready, all of that which a home entails – is a remarkable, valuable person. All those skills, again, like a medicine wheel, teach deeper lessons, and transferable skills.
This is what this property would also “house.”
All Tied Together – School, Outdoors, People, Action, Solving Food Insecurity and Housing
The should is an educational-farming-entrepreneur-solutions incubator on these 200 acres. Proving that this could be one of a thousand across the land. There are literally thousands of similar properties around the US, within their own cultural-community-ecological-historical milieus, but again, this project is one that Luther Albright would have thrived inside as a “New Engineer for Growing Communities,” as opposed to river-killing dam builder.
Our earthquake is here now, with all measure of tremors and aftershocks — that is the climate chaos, wildfires, food insecurity, and alas, the New/New Gilded age of deep inequities that are criminal, as you well know, Ms. Scott Tuttle.
Here, the cart (before the horse): this amazing collective piece of land and buildings with a multiversity of spiritual under girders . The horses are ready, but they need the cart, the home, the fabric of incubation. Those stallions and mares are engaged, ready, who are willing to take a leap of faith here and risk being outside the common paradigm of predatory and consumer-driven capitalism that has put many millions in a highly precarious position.
It’s amazing, the current system of philanthropy which forces more and more people to beg for less and less diverse money for fewer and fewer truly innovative ideas. Funding a project like this is a legacy ad-venture, the exact formula we need (scaled up to a 1,000 different locales) to break the chains of Disaster and Predatory Capitalism. We need that “capital,” the cart, to help those stallions and mares to break for the field of ideas and fresh streams of praxis.
There are any number of ideas for sustainability communities. Co-ops, growers groups, or mixed communities for young and old to exchange knowledge, capacity, growth, sweat equity — called intergenerational living. This is about a pretty inventive suite of concepts and practices:
learning spaces, inside and outside
buildings to develop micro home (unique, easily packaged and ready to put together) manufacturing and R & D
food systems – farming of sustainable food, herbs and those vines
learning food systems, from farm to plate
ceramics, painting, music, dance, theater and writing center
farmers, restaurateurs and harvesters with a stake in the community
Youth directed outdoor education and experiences
sustainability practicum’s for students
low income micro home housing
day care center, early learning center
How does this make any sense to a billionaire, who has devoted her life to “giving away” half of her wealth in her lifetime? Well, we see this project – this land-property – as a legacy for many of the avocations and interests (passions) you have articulated over the years. Your vision and commitment to education and women-centered projects are admirable. This is one of those projects.
There is that emotional and sappy Movie, Field of Dreams, and the statement – “if you build it, they will come.” We have found that over the years teaching in many places – Seattle, Spokane, Portland, El Paso, Auburn, Mexico – that young people and nontraditional students want mentoring, leadership and the tools to be mentors and leaders. They need the cart before the horse can herald in the new ideas, and the new way to a better future. If the classroom and master facilitator allows for open growth, unique student-led ideas and work, well, that person has BUILT the field of dreams from which to grow.
There are so many potentials with this project, and it starts with the land, holding it as a Scott-Tuttle placeholder. From an investment point of view, as long as you have people wrangling other people and professionals to get this satellite of sanity, the medicine wheel with many spokes radiating out and inward, the property increases in monetary value. Land is sacred, but just as sacred are the ideas and the potential that land might germinate and grow. It is the reality of our country – too few control too much. We see it in the infamous “Complex” – not just military, but, Big Pharma, Big Ag, Big Media, Big Business, Big Education, Big Medicine, as well as private prisons, for profit social services, AI , and Big Tech, so called Surveillance Capitalism. Who in the 80 percent has the funds to purchase a $7 million project?
Big ideas like this cooperative land medicine wheel (a first of many satellites) might be common, but the web of supportive and cohesive things tied to this property is unusual, to say the least. With the failing of small businesses throughout the area, with the food insecurity for women, children and families, with the housing insecurity, added to debt insecurity — with all those insecurities young and old face, this project could be the light at the end of many tunnels. We have connections to Oregon Tilth and Latinx Farmers, and large biodynamic vineyards. We have connections to women’s veteran groups, to aging in place experts. We have connections to trauma healers and growers and interested folk who know construction and design. Additionally, the Pacific Northwest, from Puget Sound to Gold Beach, OR, is full of innovators, and those include the dozens of colleges and universities just in these two states – Oregon and Washington. We intend to trawl for investors – farms, food purveyors, wineries, restaurants, schools and various college programmers – to put into this project. A soil plot to test perennial wheat, a al the Land Institute, to Amory Lovins, Novella Carpenter, and so many more, finding a place of integrated living, ag, permaculture and ever-evolving cultural understanding of the finite planet we are on.
We are hopeful, even under the current Sixth Extinction.
It is telling, this entomologist and educator’s perspective after three decades of teaching:
Diana Six, an entomologist for 30 years who teaches at the University of Montana, took her students to Glacier National Park on a field trip and reported the following:
Life doesn’t just deal with this. When I went up Glacier with my students a few weeks ago, the flowers were curling up. At some of the lower elevations, glacier lilies were shriveled, lupins didn’t even open. The flowers should extend for another three weeks and they’re already gone. Any insects or birds that depend upon them, like bees or hummingbirds, are in trouble, their food is gone. Bird populations have just baked… People seem to think of extinctions as some silent, painless statistic. It’s not. You look at birds that can no longer find fish because they’ve moved too far off shore. They’re emaciated; they’re starving to death. We are at the point that there’s nothing untouched.
How contradictory and illustrative that this student experience took place in a “protected national park.”
Referencing how climate change impacts life, Diana said:
Somewhere along the way, I had gone from being an ecologist to a coroner. I am no longer documenting life. I’m describing loss, decline, death.
We are hopeful that our youth can document life on this Medicine Wheel Land Satellite, and instead of describing “loss, decline, death,” this one satellite can help individuals to describe resurgence, restoration, holism, and growth. A model, like the one we propose, could be the incubator and inspiration for other similar projects throughout the land. So many empty buildings, so many abandoned farms, so much good land about to be grabbed up by McMansion developers, or those who have no vision toward a resilient and communitarian existence.
We are thinking of a medicine wheel since so many people can utilize the Farm, from horse therapists, to gardening as trauma healers; from alternative medicine experts, to restaurants with a connection to growers. This is Tierra Firma Robusta, for sure, with so much potential to integrate a suite of smart, worldly, localized and educational programs, permanent, long-term, and short in duration. This would be the linchpin of inspiration, an incubator for similar projects, and we’d make sure that the Philanthropy you head up would be in some form of limelight – imagine, a billionaire placing a property with a deep spiritual history into a land trust of perpetuity. I know another billionaire has purchased farmland and is now the largest farm land holder in the US, but this one here we propose would fit an entirely different model, having nothing to do with industrial farming, genetic engineering and monocultures. Like all good societies, the cornucopia of life and backgrounds and people and land is what makes them dynamic, healthy and resilient, as well as fair.
We propose a grand idea, but we need that field of dreams, that field, that farm, before we can engage a hundred people to be part of this medicine wheel of land healing and hope.
Please let our team discuss this further. Truly, we have both the passion and persistence to get this Medicine Wheel of Healing Farm Community to an unimaginably vibrant level. Will you be part of our field of dreams?
What do nations care about the cost of war, if by spending a few hundred millions in steel and gunpowder they can gain a thousand millions in diamonds and cocoa? ― W.E.B. DuBois
He died. In an assisted (sic) care (oxymoron) home (nope) facility/prison (yes). Homeless for a few years; he was a photographer; and his life went to shit in four years. He overspent on photo equipment, a studio, gave away shoots, and alas, he ended up living in his car, putting the entire inventory in an expensive storage unit, and then he tried surviving.
I met him when I was a social worker helping him as a short-term veteran (Army, 12 months, no combat) in a housing program, 24/7, where my job was to get him on his feet, get his VA benefits together, get him back on some financial track, and getting him inspired to live.
He was curious, could run in mixed company, and he was fragile. That is the way of families — estranged, bizarre old men (father) moving on with second and third wives, and just giving shit about offspring.
I worked for the Starvation Army, one bloody year, and you can read about that hell hole of a fake (maybe not) religious wacko institution (poverty pimps): Here, Here and Here, over at Dissident Voice.
The preachers and lecturers deal with men of straw, as they are men of straw themselves. Why, a free-spoken man, of sound lungs, cannot draw a long breath without causing your rotten institutions to come toppling down by the vacuum he makes. Your church is a baby-house made of blocks, and so of the state.
…The church, the state, the school, the magazine, think they are liberal and free! It is the freedom of a prison-yard.
He lost one leg to diabetes, and it was typical – small black dot on his foot, and then, living the rough life, cold weather chills in a vehicle, long walks in the cold when the car broke down. Bad diet, and stress.
They chopped it (the leg) off at the knee. He was having eye/vision issues. He was a smart guy, even did a trivia night for his fellow homeless vets and their families. His memory, though, was flagging. He never wanted to learn how to deal with a prosthetic leg. He was getting more and more confused, obsessed with CNBC-type shit, and anti-trump disease to the max.
He had to be reminded of everything, daily, and we worked on getting him housing vouchers, and, alas, he was finally getting Social Security, and then, the VA took care of some of his stuff.
He went to a couple of my fiction readings in Portland, and he was always there for my movie nights to watch some documentary that pushed to push against the military mindset, and he was there to listen to me rail and rail.
He found out his estranged father left some money to him when he died. It was a windfall, and my vet could not handle all the information and financial asides. It took two years to get that money, and he gave one leech a $10,000 loan for some scheme for a new dog food patent (right!), and alas, that leech never paid him back. The vet’s dead, and this deadbeat who pried money from him has no reason to pay back.
Before death, and after the Starvation Army, my vet got into an apartment (with my help), and they screwed him over. The one ground floor apartment with a large step and stoop, impossible for him to navigate his wheelchair, that wasn’t in the bargain. He already signed the lease and wanted out of the Starvation Army. He and I worked on getting the apartment to build a stone or cement pathway from the back slider, to the parking lot, so he could get his Uber or handicap buses trips.
It was another eye opener – largest (now #3) property management company in the USA for apartments, out of Texas, and not one of them responded to my emails or calls. Terrible, since that has never happened to me ever in my life. I have always gotten responses, even harsh ones back. From cops, senators, CEOs, IRS, more. These people are human leeches.
Pinnacle comes in at number three in the rankings for the largest property managers in the country, with 172,000 units under management. The company manages a diverse array of assets, including mixed-use properties, commercial properties, affordable developments, senior properties, and student housing. It also specializes in the turnaround of distressed assets and assisting in the management of HOAs and condo associations. Pinnacle is headquartered in Dallas, Texas, and is currently headed by President and CEO Rick L. Graf.
So think about that. He had to pay for this walkway, and it was an improvement for that unit, to say the least, so why should he have to pay? He had volunteers with a construction company and from the Rotary Club, and that Pinnacle nixed it. They had to have their vetted company. We are talking about $500 for the job using volunteers and a bonded contractor, versus the $2500 through Pinnacle’s outfit.
That apartment life did not last long. He was having major choking issues, and cognitive ones. He wasn’t eating right. No phone calls taken, or texts.
We are talking about a man, 68, no family. He had no one but a friend he met at the Rotary Club and acquaintances. And me, his former social worker. Who happened to move on the Coast, so I was 3 hours from him one way, via car.
He had to leave the apartment, to a care center (sic). That apartment would not give him a break, since he had to break the lease because of medical reasons. No big deal he was a veteran.
These are parasites.
Then, he ends up in one of the larger senior living places, and that was a living hell for him as he slipped more and more, had no decent meals, and never had a case manager for months. Then, lockdown, March 2020.
Brookdale Senior Living owns and operates over 700 senior living communities and retirement communities in the United States. Brookdale was established in 1978 and is based in Brentwood, Tennessee. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Fortress Investments became the majority owner of Brookdale, holding approximately 51% of its share. Currently, Glenview Capital Management (a hedge fund) holds the largest number of shares. Brookdale has approximately 70,000 staff members and 100,000 residents. As of 2018, it was the largest operator of senior housing in the United States. In 2021, a New York Times investigation revealed that Brookdale submitted wrong and manipulated data to the government, thus inflating ratings of the quality of care in Brookdale facilities. Shortly thereafter, the state of California filed a lawsuit against Brookdale, alleging that the company manipulated the federal government’s nursing-home ratings system.
He was paying out of his social security and this money he got from his father: $4100 a month plus another $2000 for “special services.” There were no “Special services.” This happens every minute in the USA. Imagine, a society with how many aging people? How many with chronic illness? Who the fuck has $6100 a month to pay for these scabies outfits?
Again, we can either prepare for the ultimate disaster that disaster capitalism gives us, or, put our heads back in that sand:
In 10 years, more than half of middle-income Americans age 75 or older will not be able to afford to pay for yearly assisted living rent or medical expenses, according to a study published Wednesday in Health Affairs.
The researchers used demographic and income data to project estimates of a portion of the senior population, those who will be 75 or older in 2029, with a focus on those in the middle-income range — currently $25,001 to $74,298 per year for those ages 75 to 84.
And it doesn’t look good for that group because of the rising costs of housing and health care. The researchers estimated that the number of middle-income elders in the U.S. will nearly double, growing from 7.9 million to 14.4 million by 2029. They will make up the biggest share of seniors, at 43%. — Source
This three paragraphs cited above are from a two-year-old article. You think the plandemichas assisted with this? Socialism is about planning for and building out facilities and holistic ways to help the aging, the poor, the sick. Capitalism is about planning for and setting out a million ways to fleece and fleece people. Maybe blood and plasma and bone marrow transplants are the only way to get through. Or, just donating body and soul to Big Pharma for their Mengele stuff. A 10 by 10 room, with a roommate, and mac’n’cheese six days a week, fasting on Thursdays.
This is how America runs, as a continuing criminal enterprise, an elaborate multi-layered system of bilking and outright theft, casino capitalism on steroids, and zero concern by the majority of the people with investments, banks (owners) and the elected officials to make safety nets. Who the hell can afford $6100 a month for a studio apartment? Crappy food? Surly workers (underpaid, over worked)? This is prison on a whole other level.
He had to go to the VA, via ambulance, and with taxis, a few times with this female friend.
She got him to get a will prepared, and to get some things in order, but he was failing, vacant, not there, and alas, he died August 2020 age 70, and that should never have happened. If I had a community, 100 acres, gardens, small (tiny) homes, pets, chickens, and community conversations, he would NOT have died. Life expectancy dropped because he ended up in an apartment, isolated, alone, scared, and with deeper cognitive issues. A supportive community getting him off his duff, getting him involved, would have saved him. Could save millions of Americans. Hundreds of millions of global citizens.
So who owns the land, the farms, the concepts of living and aging in place, intergenerational, cooperatives, decent air and water? Dog-eat-dog. And who thinks that a coronavirus lives and breathes in the summer? Oh, that flu season, now 365 days a year, some rain or shine.
You know, I didn’t get a chance to talk to this vet too much about his concerns around lockdown, the SARS-CoV2, and, well, like many things once a person ages, sometimes talking real stuff about real things is too much for a mind that is going south.
Not all pandemics are caused by the obvious suspects. Though the media have us whipped up into a frenzy over a select cast of superstar pathogens, the villain in the next global drama may be lurking in the unlikeliest of places; perhaps it hasn’t even been discovered yet.
“I think the chances that the next pandemic will be caused by a novel virus are quite good,” says Kevin Olival, a disease ecologist from the EcoHealth Alliance, a US-based organisation that studies the links between human and environmental health. “If you look at Sars, which was the first pandemic of the 21st Century, that was a previously unknown virus before it jumped into people and spread round the world. So there’s a precedent there – there are many, many viruses out there in the families that we’re concerned with.”
Out of millions of viruses on the planet, very few have ever caused a major outbreak Olival is not alone. Earlier this year, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates warned that the next pandemic could be something we’ve never seen before. He suggested that we prepare for its emergence as we would for a war.
Meanwhile, the WHO is so firmly convinced that they have updated their list of pathogens most likely to cause a massive, deadly outbreak to include “Disease X” – a mystery microorganism which hasn’t yet entered our radar. By Zaria Gorvett, 13th November 2018
The irony of ironies, I was talking about things like this way before that BBC (bad bad organization) put out these pabulum pieces as quoted about NOV. 2018, a year before the official Wuhan and Italian flu hit (sic).
The death of the vet, of course, create a nightmare for his friend, designated as the executor of his “estate.”
Comcast screwed the estate by keeping service going (charging $90 a month) even though he was dead. He had a storage unit that was charging $215 a month. That Brookdale ended up hitting the estate with more bills in the thousands. The apartment complex, Pinnacle, was looking for several thousand for fees and penalties. The bills came in, and the collection agencies rose to the occasion.
And this vet’s friend (sic) who had borrowed the money paid nothing back.
It is May, 2021, and those proceeds to his small estate have not yet been disbursed. Pandemic lockdown has hurt the process. Two of the beneficiaries are a free clinic that attended to this vet’s needs during his hours of need. And a food pantry out of a church who also helped him with food and electricity money.
He probably had $340,000 total, most of it in a Morgan Stanley account. Mind you, this is all from his dead old man, and the vet had not expected that. There are tax filing fees, moving expenses for his stuff to a furniture nonprofit, fees for the storage unit. Some prescription bills and other outstanding bills that should have just vanished. The creditors came out of the woodwork, and because I was not a family member, brother, say, of nephew, all those bills got paid. If I had been that family member, I would/could have wrangled many of the bills into either zeroed out bills, or some with a dime on the dollar. It takes letter writing, advocating, and pounding down these leeches.
As of May 18, 2021, the five beneficiaries – two nonprofits in need – have not seen a cent. Because the executor has had to do so much, and the fact the vet had no family, my vet’s estate is getting whittled down by that great American tick – middle men, fees, penalties, taxes, this and that amount extracted as part of the ugly middle and middle man/woman mentality of the USA.
Some people came up to the plate and did pro bono work, but because I was close to this whole thing, and talked with the executor a lot, I see how the total amount that could have been distributed five ways — $70,000 each – might now be even close to $60,000 each. What the beneficiaries don’t know won’t hurt them, right? All those leeches sucking the dead, well, they just don’t know it. It was money they were not expecting, so what’s the big deal.
That’s not the point. This is a minute-to-minute situation in USA. Millions of people and their families get screwed in the tens of billions each year by the ticks and leeches. I have had to deal with PayDay loan companies, repo men, collection agencies, courts, companies, telecoms and hospitals and others who have their hands out for more and more cuts of many of my clients who were making $730 a month in Social Security, and some way less. I contacted hospitals and businesses and others to get fees and bills reduced or zeroed out.
Young or old, many of the homeless people I worked with could NEVER work in a competitive work environment. Their health and minds are shot to shit. Much of that (PTSD and complex PTSD) was caused by the Armed Forces, and by the systems of punishment that hit these guys and gals after departing that shit hole.
Not everything in their lives is someone else’s fault and responsibility. They made bad choices. Booze and drugs, you betcha, took them down. Bad food, bad thinking smoking, and more, deteriorated them at a young age. Trying to pay rent, evictions, etc., all that adds up to the weathering.
Living in a truck or car or tent or in a garage, that also weathers these people. In the end, pre-Covid and now during it, these people are throwaways. The Stock Market is busting at the seams. Zoom school, and Zoom work for the middle class, the new normal abnormal. The rest of the workforce or citizen? Screwed blued and tattooed.
The irony is that my vet friend “made” more money in that investment account dead than when he was alive. And we know the great history of Morgan Stanley.
I’m writing this because I am delaying something bigger, and poetry, tied to the absolute hell hole that is American Zionism a la Israeli Zionism. War crimes that are ten thousand George Floyd’s “I Can’t Breathe” murder.
And I can’t wrap my head around this in a rural community. No marching here, no groups, and hell, in France and Germany and England, it is illegal to peacefully march for Palestine.
I’m thinking about Canada and USA, supporting murderous arms and murderous policies of that racist “country.” I am thinking about my vet’s account at Morgan Stanley:
The broker got him stocks in Walmart, Northrop Grumman, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Blackstone, BlackRock. This guy was a friend, and asked about investing, and I had a guy in mind, but my buddy went with a friend of the Rotary who said this broker with Morgan Stanley would take care of him. My buddy wanted social responsible investing, and that, alas, is yet another bullshit marketing tool of the masters of the casino capitalist Walled Street.
Northrop Grumman’s medium-caliber cannons boast unrivaled reliability and effectiveness. When paired with our exceptional training, services, certified accessories and warranties, the result is exceptional value and performance over the entire gun system lifecycle. The company has produced solid propulsion systems for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense interceptor, as well as for the Trident II D-5 and Minuteman III strategic missiles. Northrop Grumman has 100 percent propulsion success on strategic production motors. For nearly half a century, Northrop Grumman and its heritage companies have been designing and developing bomb fuses that have stayed on pace with the technological advancements of the time.
How many parts in a missile or Bushmaster automatic cannon? Parts equal jobs. Parts designed equal academic jobs. Think of all those people in all those companies, in factories and warehouses, and manufacturing plants, and marketing plants, paint plants, PR plants, all of them down to the web master and the photographer making money on dead Palestinian children. It comes down to that.
I have relatives whose kids (grown adults) are blonde beauties in the sense of USA beauty, and they are tall, and lean, and they are pulling down $120,000 a year as 28 year old’s, working for one of those California based military death companies.
Here are California Dreaming Death Machine (139) openings for just one hiring site —
In 2019, here are the top states, but remember, those figures are not the true amount of money made on death since so much more tied to offensive weapons and space should be factored in. Sort of the multiplier effect of all the businesses service and hard industries making bank because of those contractors and their employees and their subcontractors and their employees living and eating the California dream, or whichever state listed is the dream. Forget about the billions in Hollywood and their enormous entanglement of people making money off those Tom Clancy, et al crap movies. Death, death, death, even in the form of liberal actors spewing off on this or that thing, but in the end, they love the DoD.
California: $66.2 billion
Virginia: $60.3 billion
Texas: $54.8 billion
Florida: $29.8 billion
Maryland: $26.1 billion
Connecticut: $19.7 billion
Pennsylvania: $18.1 billion
Washington: $17.8 billion
Alabama: $16.0 billion
Massachusetts: $15.8 billion
So, I am having a difficult time focusing, with this Industrial Complex tied to killing Palestinians, and so many other people’s of the world, through the training, outfitting, arming, and educating of the despots of the world. This is a telling interview. Malak Mattar, Dan Cohen and Miko Peled join MintCast to discuss the ongoing Israeli violence in the Gaza Strip. See interview here.
I am still processing all of this, trying to listen to Zoom continuing education credited things like trauma and social service workers in a time of lockdown and Covid-19. Things like that, which are bullshit, really. Just amazing bullshit now on Zoom, most of it. But I am just cruising through these people who believe they are thinking and saying something new.
BAR’s poet in residence Raymond Nat Turner is an accomplished performing artist. You can find much more of his work at https://www.youtube.com/user/zigilow
BAR’s poet in residence Raymond Nat Turner is an accomplished performing artist. You can find much more of his work at YouTube.
The acrobats are back…(gimme a bleepin’ break!)
The acrobats are back—riding bareback and backwards on Donkeys! They’re back juggling hocus-pocus focus groups; Back, spinning Wall Street straw into fools’ gold for the war- mongering mouth of a punch drunk politician. Back hallucinating on FDR Fairytales. Back somersaulting over scarlet streets, strikes and factory seizures; back vaulting over violence/militant eviction resistance
The acrobats are back—Lilliputian left-Munchkin Marxists—juggling Classless analysis; doing back-flips erasing millions; Tumbling above herds of handcuffed communists, socialists, anarchists, trade unionists who waged pitched battles with Pinkerton-police-national guard-gun thugs. The acrobats are back turning cartwheels; Flipping history on its head— Landing squarely in the laps of generals and statesmen…
The acrobats are back—flipping LBJ minus 34 dead and smoke-filled skies over Watts/43 dead in Detroit/27 dead, 1400 arrests in Newark; LBJ minus millions marching NO to Jim Crow, war/women’s oppression; Minus martyrs—whose M’s include Mickey, Medgar, Malcolm, Martin… The acrobats are back, dancing in donkey dung down the Yellow Brick Road for the Emerald City Intersectional Empire—strangely resembling the Pentagon…
The acrobats are back—daredevils who dangled dangerously for 8 yrs. from the Drone Ranger’s dick. They’re back—Capitalist Hill cartwheels and flips—sticking stealth socialist landings as Comrade Schmo plays them like The Great Oz—ominously warning: “Pay no attention to Wall Street-War-Profiteer- Big Pharma/Fossil Fuel-Credit Card Companies behind my thin blue curtain of Promises!” Then he quietly pulls his pistol and mumbles, ”What’s in your wallet?”
And the reality is that Wall Street and those Mutual Funds and Exchange Tradeable Funds (ETF’s), all are tied to bombing, booze, tobacco, big pharma, the entire shooting match. Just can’t go to sleep at night, or can’t look myself in the mirror, when thinking about all that time and energy and research and writing, and educating, and the reality is we are what we are — war criminals. Or, read, “Try as You May to Deny, but Evil is in Our DNA“!
Israeli Forces spokesman Zilberman announced the start of the bombing of Gaza, specifying that “80 fighters are taking part in the operation, including the advanced F-35s” (The Times of Israel, May 11, 2021). It is officially the baptism of fire for the US Lockheed Martin’s fifth-generation fighter, whose production Italy also participates in as a second-level partner.
Israel has already received twenty-seven F-35s from the US, and last February decided to buy no longer fifty F-35s but seventy-five. To this end the government has decreed a further allocation of 9 billion dollars: 7 were granted by a US to Israel free military “aid” of 28 billion, 2 were granted as a loan by the US Citibank.
While Israeli F-35 pilots were being trained by the U.S. Air Force in Arizona and Israel, the US Army Engineers built in Israel special hardened hangars for the F-35s, suitable for both fighters’ maximum protection on the ground, and their rapid take-off on attack. At the same time, the Israeli military industries (Israel Aerospace and Elbit Systems) in close coordination with Lockheed Martin enhance the fighter renamed “Adir” (Powerful): above all its ability to penetrate enemy defenses and its range of action which was nearly doubled.
These capabilities are certainly not necessary to attack Gaza. Why then are the most advanced fifth-generation fighters used against Palestinians? Because it serves to test F-35s fighters and their pilots in real war action using Gaza homes as targets on a firing range. It does not matter if in the target houses there are entire families.
The F-35s, added to the hundreds of fighter-bombers already supplied by the US to Israel. are designed for nuclear attack particularly with the new B61-12 bomb. The United States will shortly deploy these nuclear bombs in Italy and other European countries, and will also provide them to Israel, the only nuclear power in the Middle East with an arsenal estimated at 100-400 nuclear weapons. If Israel doubles the range of F-35 fighters and is about to receive eight Boeing Pegasus tankers from the US for refueling the F-35s in flight, it is because it is preparing to launch an attack, even nuclear, against Iran.
The coronavirus pandemic, the deepening economic crash, dangerously divisive political responses, and exploding social tensions have thrown an already declining American capitalist system into a tailspin. The consequences of these mounting and intertwined crises will shape our future. In this unique collection of over 50 essays, “The Sickness is the System: When Capitalism Fails to Save Us from Pandemics or Itself,” Richard D. Wolff argues clearly that “returning to normal” no longer responds adequately to the accumulated problems of US capitalism. What is necessary, instead, is transition toward a new economic system that works for all of us.
“A blueprint for how we got here, and a plan for how we will rescue ourselves” – Chris Hedges
“A magnificent source of hope and insight.” – Yanis Varoufakis
“In this compelling set of essays, and with his signature clarity, intensity, accessibility and deference to historical and present perspective, Wolff has issued not just a stark warning, but concrete reasoning, as to why this time really should be different.” – Nomi Prins
“One of the most powerful and incisive voices in America. As an economist he transcends that “dismal science”, he is a tribune of Main St, a voice of the people.” – George Galloway
“Wolff clearly explains the ways that capitalism exacerbates unemployment, inequality, racism, and patriarchy; and threatens the health and safety of workers and communities – i.e., most of us.” – Jessica Gordon-Nembhard, Ph.D.
“If you care about deeper measures of social health as Americans suffer the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, you will find here a wealth of insight, statistics, and other ammunition that we all need in the fight for a more just society.” – Adam Hochschild
“The current failed system has a noose around all of our necks. Richard Wolff offers an economic vision that gets our society off the gallows.” – Jimmy Dore
Who controls the food supply controls the people; who controls the energy can control whole continents; who controls money can control the world. — Henry Kissinger, interview with the Observer, 1983, on his book, Years of Upheaval
In recent years, the ripping off of customers, deceit and even outright fraud practiced by Australian finance sector businesses has gained much attention. Four years ago it was revealed how CommInsure, the insurance arm of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), had refused to make promised life insurance payments to heart attack survivors. They “justified” this by using a definition of a heart attack that was so dodgy that even some people who had such a severe heart attack that they had to be resuscitated were denied their entitled pay outs! Such devious practices have been undertaken by finance sector enterprises big and small – from the big four banks and insurance giants to brokers and loan enablers and to retail businesses that hand out loans. As a result the banks, insurance companies and the brokers and others connected to them are widely hated by the masses. With good reason! Yet finance sector institutions have a decisive influence on society. For it is they who determine how credit is distributed and credit is absolutely critical to the running of modern economies. Especially at this desperate time when this country and much of the world face both a public health emergency and economic collapse, it is vital that credit is allocated in ways that can best respond to the COVID-19 virus threat and into areas that can best ensure that the jobs and wages of millions of working class people are guaranteed. Yet would you trust the lying, greed-driven bosses of the banks and insurance companies to do this? You would be totally nuts if you did! We need to put all the banks and insurance companies under state control! In other words, we need to nationalise the finance sector.
In late 2017, there was so much anger built up against the banks, insurance giants and brokers that former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, realising the need to “restore the credibility” of the finance sector, finally acceded to widespread demands for a royal commission into the banking and insurance industry. That Royal Commission revealed more details of what many of us already knew. Banks were giving secret commissions to brokers to entice them to get home buyers to take out home loans with their particular banks. Banks hid these payments in order to trick their customers into believing that their customers’ “own” brokers were “independent.” But, actually, the payments that these brokers received from particular banks gave them an incentive to get people to take out mortgages with these same particular banks even if that was not the best option for the broker’s customer. And the brokers did this in spades! Moreover, since the commission received by the broker got larger the bigger the loan taken out by their customers, the brokers, with a nod and a wink from the banks paying them, often pushed their customers into buying a more expensive house than they could actually afford. That is part of why household debt is so frighteningly high in Australia.
One of the aspects of the finance sector industry that was exposed is the practice of charging clients fees for no service. Banks and insurance companies and their financial planning and superannuation subsidiaries were found to be charging people “advice” and “service” fees for their investments and superannuation accounts but then providing no advice at all. Put simply, the banks and insurance companies were downright stealing from hundreds of thousands of their customers. AMP, NAB, CBA, ANZ and Westpac were found to be the worst offenders. The amount that these companies stole from their customers through fees for no service was officially estimated to be well over a billion dollars. The real figure could be even higher. Moreover, some of these institutions had even knowingly continued to charge their customers fees for no service … after they had died! The fees would then be paid out of the estate of the deceased customers – in other words, be paid largely by the close relatives of the deceased customers, most often their spouses and children. The Commonwealth Bank even knowingly charged one of their dead clients fees for “financial planning advice” for more than a decade after they died! Meanwhile, insurance giant AMP continued to charge some of their dead customers life insurance premiums.
A Slap on the Wrists for the Swindling Banks and Insurance Companies
The banking royal commission and the media coverage surrounding it tended to focus on atrocities committed against small business owners, farmers and other middle class customers – especially upper-middle class ones – or against better paid workers able to acquire substantial savings. Indeed, under the capitalist system the big capitalists – at the apex of which stand the bank owners – rip off the small-scale capitalist exploiters and all of them, while leaching the most from wage workers, skim off also from the middle class, even from the upper middle class. Yet, the people most hurt by the thieving greed of the banks and insurance companies are average income workers and especially lower-paid, casual and unemployed workers. They are the people most hurt by the banks charging large set fees as these fees often make up such a big proportion of their modest savings. It is poorly paid workers, retrenched workers and long term unemployed workers who are also the most burdened by the extortionate interest rates charged by banks in credit card accounts. It is the low income of these people which pushed them to get into debt in the first place, while the cruel interest rate they must pay off with their debts plus their meagre incomes ensures that many have little possibility of ever paying off these debts. And often desperate for credit, casual and unemployed workers, low income single mothers and people with disabilities are the most vulnerable to being ripped off by loan brokers and short term credit providers handing out loans with exorbitant interest rates.
The banking royal commission did hear about how insurance companies were using aggressive telemarketing and deceptive policies to rip off Aboriginal customers, many struggling on low incomes. It was told of how insurance companies operating in remote Aboriginal communities took advantage of language barriers and Aboriginal people’s tendency to be friendly and polite to sign up on the phone Aboriginal people to life and funeral insurance that they neither truly consented to nor even needed. One of the enterprises exposed for pushing unnecessary funeral insurance on Aboriginal people is the “Aboriginal Community Benefit Fund” (ABCF). With its name including “Aboriginal Community” and its use of a rainbow serpent image, ABCF gave the impression that it was an Aboriginal community-run organisation. But it was not! It was a private, profit-driven company that was neither owned nor managed by Aboriginal people. However, ABCF used the trust gained by the appearance of being a community-run organisation to push Aboriginal people into forking out large amounts for funeral insurance that they did not need. Thus ABCF often signed up healthy young Aboriginal woman in their twenties and early thirties for funeral insurance. They even pushed thousands of Aboriginal parents into getting funeral insurance for their babies in schemes that would cost up to $100,000 over a lifetime! ABCF owners then quietly excluded families of Aboriginal people who died from suicide from receiving payouts, thus ensuring that they would not to have to pay claims of a very large proportion of the insured children that actually did die young.
The banking royal commission did also hear snippets about the massive exploitation of low-income people by businesses handing out consumer leases and so-called payday loans – where people are lent money until their next pay check at massive interest rates. Aboriginal financial counsellor, Lynda Edwards, also told of how car dealers took advantage of the necessity for cars in remote areas to sell Aboriginal people dud cars with ultra-high interest loans. A report published a year ago by Flinders University detailed how one Aboriginal customer was made to pay $52,000 for an $18,000 car at an interest rate of 35% despite the fact that the over-priced used car stopped working long before the loan was repaid! Indeed, the royal commission was told of how some Aboriginal people had been charged even higher interest rates for car loans, rates of 48%!
Yet the nature of the Royal Commission was such that it did not compel those involved in such scams and high-interest loan pushing to defend their actions. As senior counsel assisting the commission, Rowena Orr QC, explained: “We will not be considering consumer leases, payday loans or in-store credit arrangements in these hearings because they do not fall within the terms of reference of the commission.” Put simply, the Royal Commission was not meant to truly protect the interests of low-income people from the predatory behaviour of banks, insurance firms and retail business owners. To the extent that the banking royal commission was not entirely about “restoring the credibility of the finance sector” or simply about allowing the furious masses to vent steam in a way that does not actually harm the interests of the finance industry bigwigs, the investigation was aimed at curbing the excesses of the bank owners in the interests of other sections of the capitalist class – including retail sector bigwigs, “small and medium size” enterprise bosses and big farm owners – as well as the more privileged sections of the middle class that the upper class rely on for social and political support. After all, the state in capitalist countries is an executive committee for managing the affairs of the capitalist labour-exploiting class as a whole. At times they have to slightly clip the wings of even their most powerful section – the finance sector bigwigs – in order to ensure the interests of the rich ruling class as a whole. But even here the Royal Commission’s impact was minimal. Sure, there were some stunning revelations of the depth of the banks and insurers’ greed and deceit. Several finance sector CEOs and directors also had to resign from their positions in the wake of the revelations and, mind you, then take away multi-million dollar severance pay and shareholdings, thank you very much. Yet Royal Commission head, Kenneth Hayne, did not recommend one single charge against any specific finance sector boss despite the fact that the hearings of the commission plainly showed that banks and insurance companies had stolen and swindled well over a billion dollars from hundreds of thousands of their customers. Instead, the commissioner handed over 24 recommendations to the regulators over instances of misconduct and charged them with the responsibility of considering any action. However, he refused to even name the people and institutions involved. And over a year since the final report of the commission was handed down, not a single finance sector boss has been charged let alone been put behind bars. Meanwhile, even after having promised to implement nearly all of Commissioner Hayne’s recommendations, the government has yet to even introduce legislation to turn several of the recommendations into law.
The more important point is that Commissioner Hayne’s report only recommended cosmetic changes to the finance sector. Cold calling of financial products over the phone was recommended to be banned and mortgage brokers would be required to act in the best interests of their customers (as if that is going to actually happen!). However, the economic power, profitability and overall impunity of the finance sector corporations will be largely untouched. In fact, the bank owners were so delighted with the outcome of the Royal Commission that the first stock market trading after the commissioner handed down his final report saw the share prices of the big four banks skyrocket by almost A$20 billion – their biggest one day rise ever!
The limp recommendations of the Royal Commission are, indeed, what the right-wing Australian government always intended to be the outcome. Indeed, the Liberal government was so intent on enhancing the reputation of the bank bosses that shortly before the Royal Commission was announced, they and the bank heads arranged for the bank bosses to send a letter to the government themselves calling for the Royal Commission! This enabled the government to put the bank bigwigs in good light by saying that the banks themselves wanted the inquiry. Indeed, the relationship between bank owners and the government is so cosy that the letter from the heads of the big four banks to the government calling for the Royal Commission was first sent in draft form to the then treasurer, Scott Morrison, to be vetted by him before being made an official letter the next day! Let’s not forget that the then prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who, kicking and screaming, called the Royal Commission was himself the owner of an investment banking firm and later a managing director for the Australian arm of U.S. banking giant, Goldman Sachs.
In order to appease their working class base and appeal to widespread middle class public opinion, the ALP Opposition has been more critical of the banks than the Coalition government. But let us remember that when they were in government previously from 2007 to 2013, when some of the most blatant fraud by the finance sector companies was being committed, the ALP also did nothing to stop it. Today in the wake of the Royal Commission, the ALP only called for implementing its weak recommendations. Nothing more. The ALP are certainly not calling for putting the banks under state control or even under greater regulation. After all it was the former Hawke-Keating ALP government that carried out the biggest deregulation of the finance sector in Australian history. They removed the cap on the interest rates that banks could charge for home loans and abolished other controls on bank interest rates. In short, the Hawke-Keating Labor government freed up bank owners to do whatever it takes to maximise profits regardless of the consequences to society. Most harmfully, they also privatised the formerly state-owned Commonwealth Bank.
While the ALP is a party with a working class base, its futile program of trying to improve the lot of workers while accepting the capitalist order means that it necessarily needs to collaborate with – and ultimately kowtow to – that apex of capitalist power, finance capital. Thus, the ALP’s ties to the bank bosses are not far behind those of the conservatives. The investment banking firm that Malcolm Turnbull established, referred to above, was actually set up in a partnership with none other than former NSW ALP premier, Neville Wran, and Nicholas Whitlam – the son of former prime minister and ALP icon, Gough Whitlam. The bank was actually called Whitlam Turnbull & Co Ltd. Today, the CEO of the Australian Banking Association, who has done so much to deceive the population by being the chief apologist for the bank bosses is former Queensland ALP premier, Anna Bligh. Meanwhile, during the last financial year that disclosures of political donations have been revealed, 2018-19, the ALP received more than $2.5 million from Westpac alone! They were also given $50,000 from the main body representing general insurance firms, the Insurance Council of Australia, as well as plenty of other big donations from individual insurance companies and other banks. And that does not include the large amount of political donations that are disguised or hidden.
Of course, the banks and insurance companies also made big donations to the Liberal Party too. The Insurance Council of Australia gave them $27,500 and Anna Bligh’s Australian Banking Association the same amount. For its part, CBA donated $55,000. Westpac Bank donated a hefty $82,500 to the Liberals but that pales against their $2.5 million donations to the ALP during 2018-19. Likely, the Westpac bigwigs knew that they already had the Liberals fully in their bag!
The Myth that the Big Corporations are Owned by “Everyday Australians” through Our Superannuation
The problem isn’t simply that the banks and other finance businesses sometimes engage in open theft from their customers and other deceptive conduct. It’s the normal working of these enterprises that is the main problem. Banks make their money by extracting fees from account holders and primarily by charging a higher interest rate on the loans that they give out than the rate that they pay depositors. And they leach a lot of money that way! In the 2018-19 financial year, the “big four” Australian banks and the three biggest Australian-owned insurance companies, IAG, Suncorp and QBE, together extracted nearly $29 billion from us and that’s not including the huge amounts also grabbed by smaller banks and insurers as well as by mortgage brokers, consumer lease providers and payday cash operators. And that was considered a bad year for them! All this money extracted by the finance sector businesses is like an extra tax on the masses. But it is a tax where the proceeds don’t go into the public budget but into the hands of the wealthy finance sector business owners. If we note that there are currently about 9.8 million households and then do a quick calculation we find that the biggest four Australian-owned banks and largest three Australian-owned insurers are leaching $3,000 in profit, on average, from each household every year. To put that in perspective, that is more than one in five dollars of what an unemployed single person receives in the Newstart Allowance (if one excludes the temporary increase to the Newstart Allowance granted during the Covid-19 pandemic)!
Most working class and middle class people are only too aware that “The Banks” are ripping us off. But who do we exactly mean when we talk about “The Banks” that leach from us. Most of us think of the CEOs and the directors that award themselves huge salary packages. And with good reason! Last year, Westpac’s CEO took home over $5 million, ANZ CEO Shayne Elliot even more and IAG CEO Peter Harmer topped the lot receiving a five and a half million dollars package. And that was all in a year when the bank bosses, aware that they were under the spotlight, wanted to pretend that that they were feeling contrition for their devious deeds by awarding themselves lower payments than usual!
Yet as obscene are the payments are to the bank executives, that is still only a small percentage of bank profits. Where else are banks gigantic earnings going? Certainly not to their rank and file employees! So let’s take a look at Australia’s biggest bank, CBA. Last financial year CBA had a total operating income of $24 billion. Some of it they spent on equipment, wages, occupancy and operating costs. Most of their income then, after paying tax, ends up as profit for their owners. Nearly $8.5 billion to be precise. Of that nearly a billion went to beef up the assets of the bank to help its owners make greater profits in the future and $7.6 billion was given as dividends to the banks shareholders, i.e. to the banks owners. That’s who is taking most of the wealth extracted from the masses by the banks. By contrast, the more than 48,000 employees of the CBA received $5.5 billion in salaries and superannuation, which is a lot less than the shareholders received for doing absolutely no work at all. The amount received by the bank employees is also less than a quarter of the bank’s overall operating income. And of these more than 48,000 employees, the majority of them, the rank and file employees – say at least 40,000 of the workers – would each receive small slices of the salary cake while the managers and executives each take gluttonously big slices. After all, the bank’s top executives and other directors (there are just 20 of them), alone were paid $40 million last year; and that is counted as a “staff” cost. By contrast the average salary package, including superannuation, of CBA’s other employees is $114,000 – which is 40 times less than what the CEO took home. Moreover, when you exclude the managers and others in the top 20% of highest paid staff who would bring up that average income number, one would find that the annual wage of the vast majority of CBA workers wouldn’t be much more than – and in many cases less than – $75,000 and certainly well below $100,000. Moreover, to the bank bigwigs, these bank workers are expendable. As soon as the bank bosses decide that they can make a still higher profit with fewer workers, they will throw into the dole queues the employees whose hard work has allowed bank executives and big shareholders to acquire such immense wealth. Over the last several years, the bigwigs of the big four banks have together retrenched tens of thousands of workers. In late 2017, then NAB CEO, Andrew Thorburn, infamously announced the axing of 6,600 jobs at the very same time that he gloatingly announced that the bank had made a whopping annual profit of $6.6 billion.
So, who then are the shareholders who are reaping the rewards of the banks’ ripping off of the masses’ money? The finance corporations’ bosses and their bigwigs try to sell us the line that their companies are owned mostly by superannuation funds and through the dividends distributed to these funds their profits end up going to “ordinary, everyday Australians.” Nothing could be further from the truth! But before exploring this point in more detail, it is important to here make a point about superannuation more broadly. Superannuation, as a means of distributing income to the aged, in contrast to pensions, is not fair. It is not fair not only in practice but in the very concept of it.
Under the superannuation system a proportion of people’s income (9.5% of their gross wage currently) when they are working goes into their personal accounts which gets managed by superannuation companies and is then accessible when they retire. So a worker on the minimum wage in a full-time job gets $3,467 of superannuation put into their account each year. By contrast, the Westpac CEO last year received $44,320 in superannuation payments, nearly 13 times more than a worker on the minimum wage gets. Many bosses get even more. Last year, the CEO of Australian-owned mining giant, BHP, received a staggering $425,000 in superannuation payments – that’s more than 120 times greater than what a worker on the minimum wage gets! By contrast if you are a worker unfortunate enough to be either unemployed or one of the increasing number of cash in hand workers or a domestic worker or a casual worker who gets only a few hours in a month of work you get no super whatsoever. Yet it is precisely these people who need higher payments when they are aged because they would have much less savings and assets than people who had been receiving higher superannuation contributions. Moreover, the superannuation system reinforces the discrimination in employment affecting women, Aboriginal people and migrants from African, Middle Eastern and Asian countries. For in addition to the gender pay gap that women endure, the racist discrimination that causes Aboriginal people to have a much higher rate of unemployment than the broader population and the greater propensity of migrants to only be given lower paid jobs, women and migrants are much more likely to be in non-super receiving cash in hand and domestic work jobs than their male and Australian-born counterparts.
There is one rationale for superannuation – that wealth produced today needs to be set aside for when we have an ageing population in the future – that does have validity. But this should be addressed by making the bosses pay into a single, common pension fund out of which aged pensions can be paid equally to all of the elderly. Instead of the system of low pensions supplemented by people’s individual superannuation accounts, there should be much higher pensions for all and no individual superannuation. At least when a group of people are at an age when none of them are working, they should finally get paid equally! The current system, instead, carries through all the terrible inequality when people are of working age through to when people are retired.
So given how unequal people’s superannuation balances are, even if it were true that the banks and other big corporations are owned mainly by superannuation funds this would be grossly unfair. However, the truth is even more inequitable. For it is the very rich who own most of the stocks of the banks and other big companies. Superannuation funds own just a minority. How small a minority? Let us calculate that here using publicly available data. Given how much mythology there is about superannuation funds owning corporations, we will show each stage of the calculation. According to the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, i.e. the industry body of the superannuation companies themselves, at the end of December 2019 these funds had a total of 1.9 trillion dollars in assets of which 22.0% was invested in Australian equities (https://www.superannuation.asn.au/resources/superannuation-statistics , accessed 3 April 2020). That comes to a figure of $418 billion for the total holdings in the Australian share market by the superannuation funds. Now the total market capitalisation of the Australian share market at the same time, the end of December, was $2339.71 billion (see https://www.gurufocus.com/global-market-valuation.php?country=AUS and scroll to 20 December 2019 in the graph “Australian Total Market Cap”). That gives the proportion of the shares in the Australian stock market owned by domestic superannuation funds at just 17.9%. That is a lot less than one in five shares.
To see the significance of this truth that local superannuation funds own just a minority of major Australian corporations, let us consider the following scenario. Imagine in the year 2022, after having to prune their profits slightly in 2019 following the exposure of some of their fraudulent practices and the lower profits that they could expect in the coming two years in the wake of the COVID-19 induced recession, the banks seek to raise their profits back to the extreme levels of a few years ago. Through hitting their customers with still higher fees and by charging a high interest rate on the loans they lend out relative to that which they give to depositors the banks raise their profits by, say, an extra $10 billion. Now the bank bosses and their many apologists in parliament would then spin the line that these higher profits are a good thing as they end up in the pockets of “ordinary everyday Australians” through the dividends being accumulated by superannuation funds investing in the banks. However, if all these additional profits end up being distributed as dividends to shareholders and assuming that the percentage of bank shares owned by Australian super funds is about the same as the overall proportion of Australian stocks owned by these funds, just $1.79 billion of these extra share dividends would go to these funds. Even less would make their way into actual superannuation accounts. For the superannuation companies would take a healthy portion of the dividends as commissions and fees – and as we know even as advice fees when they give no advice! And guess what, many of these superannuation companies are themselves directly owned by banks or insurance companies. So part of the bank profits supposedly going into superannuation funds end up going back to the bank and, thus, into the pockets of its big non-superannuation shareholders. The amount actually going to the superannuation accounts of the public may be closer to $1.4 billion. Yet, to get to this scenario of higher bank profits, we have paid out $10 billion in extra fees and higher interest payments. So, excluding the big shareholders of the banks, the public end up much worse off overall, worse off by about $10 billion less the approximately $1.4 billion that we reclaim in higher returns on our super; i.e. we together end up about overall $8.6 billion worse off. And it is working class people who would suffer the pain disproportionately. For a low-paid worker, while paying the higher fees and higher interest rates paid by others, gets very little back in the way of higher returns on their superannuation and many workers none at all.
While we are dealing with this subject, the same analogy would apply to the issue of wages and profits. If the bosses managed to drive down our wages throughout the economy so that they collectively make a $10 billion higher profit than they otherwise would, the apology that business leaders give, that this ends up back in workers’ pockets through increases to their superannuation, is completely false. Wage and salary earners would collectively end up about $8.6 billion worse off. And again the pain would be borne most by lower paid, cash-in-hand and unemployed workers. So, the next time a co-worker, who has been influenced by ruling class propaganda, tries to tell you that higher profits for banks and other corporations is good for us, please, please, please educate them about the reality!
Who are “the Banks”?
So now that it is clear that we are not the indirect owners of the banks through our superannuation funds, who then are the actual owners of these hated corporations? The second lie that apologists for the banks promote, other than the one about superannuation funds, is that the banks are simply owned by “ordinary, everyday Australians” – so called “mum and dad shareholders.” This is actually an even bigger lie than the first one! Why? Firstly, most working class people don’t have the significant savings that would enable them to invest in the stock market. Low paid workers, unemployed workers and casual workers struggle to replace worn out clothes, deal with high electricity costs, pay the rent and often keep up with credit card debts too, let alone save significants amounts of money. Meanwhile, more decently paid workers often spend most of their working life paying off their home mortgage. Far from the majority of the working class being able to invest in shares, the reality is that household debt in Australia is at record levels. A small layer of better paid, more skilled and often older workers do sometimes invest in shares or alternatively in wealth management schemes that in turn invest in shares. However, most of the people holding shares are members of the capitalist, business-owning upper class and the more comfortable layers of the middle class – especially high-paid, upper-middle class professionals. So the “mum and dad shareholders” who supposedly hold most of the banks should more precisely be referred to as the “affluent mum and dad shareholders.” However, even this tells only a small part of the story. For average middle class shareholders – and even the upper middle class ones – while they are large in number only hold a very small portion of bank ownership. To see this, let us have a look at the latest annual report, the one for 2019, for Australia’s largest bank, CBA. According to the bank’s own report, those owning less than a 1,000 shares, who make up nearly three quarters of shareholders, own just one in ten of all shares. Now, given that the share price of the bank at the time that those figures were quoted for (15 July 2019) was $81.06, any one shareholder who was not in this category, i.e. was a shareholder who had more than 1,000 shares in the bank, had more than $81,060 invested there. These big investors who each invested more than $81,060 in the bank own 90% of the bank. Few workers and average middle class people could afford to put that kind of money in the shares of one company. Moreover, even amongst the upper middle class and wealthy capitalists who own most of the bank shares, it is the latter who own the lion’s share. Thus, the people and institutions who own more than 5,000 shares – that is who have the spare cash to invest more than $405,000 in the shares of just one company – own over two-thirds of the CBA. Moreover, the top 20 shareholders alone own nearly half the bank!
So who then are these very rich individuals owning most of Australia’s banks? That is censored information! The wealthy own much of their stakes in the finance sector through other banks acting as nominees for them. In other words, these rich investors get other banks to hold shares on their behalf in a way that hides their own identities. Without exception, in Australia’s big four banks at least the top six shareholders in each bank are these bank nominee holders. In the case of ANZ, all the top eight shareholders, who own 57% of the bank, are these nominee holders. That about typifies the nature of “democracy” within capitalist countries. The ruling class talk a lot about “transparency” but really it is only things that don’t matter too much that are transparent whereas the really important stuff is hidden from the masses. So here we have the most powerful economic institutions in the country, the ones who decide how credit is distributed and whose combined assets of $3.4 trillion (for the big four banks alone) are almost twice the country’s entire annual GDP … and we don’t even really know who owns them!
We do, however, know a few things about the major owners of the Australian banks and insurance companies. One thing that we do know is that they are rich Australians rather than people from overseas. CBA, for instance, is nearly four-fifths Australian-owned. You can bet that among the major owners of the banks and insurance companies, hidden through bank nominee holders, are many of Australia’s richest 200 people – capitalists whose combined wealth last year was found to be a staggering $342 billion! So if you managed to break through the secrecy wall of nominee holdings you would surely find that among the major shareholders of the banks would be people of the ilk of Andrew Forrest, Gina Rinehart, James Packer, Anthony Pratt, Clive Palmer and Kerry Stokes.
Where there is greater transparency is in the holdings of the executives and directors of these finance sector corporations. And they do have big shareholdings. ANZ CEO, Shayne Elliot, held nearly $5 million of shares in that bank. IAG boss, Peter Harmer, owned an even larger stake in his corporation, owning $7.6 million of shares. However, compared to the murky holdings held in secret by nominee companies, even these huge numbers are pretty small. One big bank shareholder who is not hidden behind a nominee company is the couple, Barry and Joy Lambert, who at the time of the CBA’s last annual report owned a whopping $220 million dollar stake. Joy and Barry Lambert are indeed, by the way, a “mum” and a “dad” – and these are precisely the type of “Australian mums and dads shareholders” that own the lion’s share of this country’s banks and other major corporations!
The Big Banks, Big Insurers and the Owners of Smaller Finance Companies
What about the institutions holding major stakes in the big finance corporations – that is, other than the companies acting as nominees for others? One such institutional investor, which is among the top twenty shareholders of each of Australia’s big four banks as well as of the big insurers, Suncorp and QBE, is Netwealth Investments. If we look at the last annual reports of these big finance corporations, we find that at that time, Netwealth held a total stake of $814 million in them. Now Netwealth Investments are a wealth management firm, so they are largely investing the money of other capitalists and upper middle class individuals in the big finance corporations. But Netwealth also takes a big chunk out of the money invested through these shareholdings as commissions and management fees. And who owns Netwealth? More than half of it is owned by the joint managing directors of the firm, Michael Heine and his son Matt. The last published Australian rich list has the family holding a combined wealth of more than $1.5 billion. As we can see, a big part of this wealth comes from grabbing a share of the profits that the banking and insurance corporations leach out of all of us.
So there you have it, the big banks and insurance companies act as a big collective feeding trough for capitalist pigs. Different capitalist exploiters come to put their snouts into the mega-earnings extracted by the big banks and insurers. And when they do so, they get a huge feed. The last CBA annual report, for example, boasted that shareholders gained a total return on their investments of 21% in just one year. That means, for instance, that the Lambert family’s stake in the bank would have given them a $46 million return in just one year … and that from doing no work whatsoever! By contrast a full-time cleaner doing hard and especially crucial and dangerous work at this time of pandemic will get 1,200 times less than this and only if her boss actually pays her the minimum wage.
The Heine family who own Netwealth are one of many owners of smaller finance sector businesses that have made a fortune by engaging in a similar kind of parasitism as the big banks do. At least fifteen of the people on Australia’s list of the richest 200 people extracted much of their money by running such enterprises. You very often see these people being interviewed on ABC current affairs programs related to the economy, which is worth noting for anyone who thinks that the ABC is substantially fairer and more independent of capitalist influence than the tycoon-owned media outlets. Among the finance sector bigwigs are Hamish Douglass, the biggest shareholder of wealth management firm, Magellan Financial; Jeff Chapman, owner of Bennelong Funds Management; Graham Tuckwell, owner of investment management firm, ETF Securities; David Paradice, owner of Paradice Investment Management and Kerr Neilson, the billionaire who owns the main stake in Platinum Asset Management. Supporters of public housing may recognise the latter name. Neilson was one of the ultra-rich people who notoriously bought up former public housing and publicly-owned buildings in Sydney’s inner-city Millers Point after the right-wing NSW government drove out low-income working class tenants and sold off the housing to wealthy individuals and speculators. In 2018, Neilson bought up three historic dwellings in Millers Point, known collectively as the George Talbots Townhouses, for $5 million.
Another filthy rich owner of a finance sector corporation is the boss of buy-now-pay-later company, Flexigroup, Andrew Abercrombie. Abercrombie is also a Liberal Party powerbroker and major donor and is notorious for having stridently supported right-wing extremist, media commentator Andrew Bolt, when Aboriginal people took legal action against Bolt over vile racist slurs. Recently, Abercrombie was in the news after a high-society party that he hosted at his extravagant chalet in the US Aspen ski resort became the source of COVID-19 infection clusters after several of the super-rich guests refused to self-isolate and after returning to Australia spread the disease acquired at the party to Melbourne, Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula and Sydney.
Many of the finance sector bosses in Australia’s rich list run businesses that not only make profits from operations here but also leach profits from people overseas. That is to be expected from major components of a ruling class that is not only capitalist but imperialist. However, as well as making profits from their own operations, these owners of smaller finance sector companies stand alongside mining magnates, media moguls and industrial capitalists in grabbing hefty slices of the loot extracted by the operations of the big banks and big insurers. This is both through their own major shareholdings in the banks – like those of the Lambert family who made their initial wealth through Barry Lambert’s previously owned financial planning company, Count Financial – and through gaining a big slice of the dividends from bank shares received by the funds that they manage. In this sense, the big banking and insurance companies operate like a legal, crime syndicate. Different, loosely connected capitalists come together through these corporations to jointly loot the masses.
Nationalize the Banks! Nationalize the Entire Health System!
The banks extract money from the masses in four different ways. The first two ways are obvious: through charging interest and fees and through exploiting the mental labour of their own workers. Thirdly, by lending to those buying investment properties, banks, from the interest that they receive, gain a share of the rent extracted by greedy landlords from tenants. There is also an important additional way that banks extract their revenue. For banks, insurance companies and investment managers put some of the money under their control into the shares and bonds of other businesses. In the case of banks they also make loans to these other firms. These other business bosses, whether they be those of manufacturing firms, retailers, developers, telecommunication and IT firms, transportation companies, mining corporations or agribusiness operations in turn make a profit through exploiting their own workers. Part of the wealth extracted from these workers is then returned to the banks as interest on loans and on any bonds held by the banks and also returned to finance sector firms more broadly as dividends on the stocks that they hold in these other companies. In this way, the owners of the finance sector companies gain a share of the profits exploited from workers throughout the economy.
This role of the finance sector – and the banks in particular – in the whole economy points to perhaps the biggest problem with the capitalist-owned finance sector. It is not simply that they leach from the people, it is also the way that they allocate credit and financial resources. And like everything else they do, they allocate credit almost solely on the basis of what can bring them the highest returns. That is partly why there is so much speculation in the housing sector and so little affordable housing available, both to buy or to rent. Banks know that they can gain much higher and more secure returns by giving loans to wealthy people buying multiple holiday homes and speculative high-end investment properties than to lend for the construction of cheaper housing for working class people to buy or to rent. Similarly, banks would rather allocate loans and investments to climate change-inducing coal mines and fossil fuel power stations that have little long term future than to focus their credit allocation into renewable power projects even if the former bring only slighter higher and more secure returns to the bank. Meanwhile, the profit-driven mode of the banks mean that medical research in Australia can struggle to get funding unless the chances of an immediate profit-making breakthrough are immediate. Yet medical science cannot but advance except through the trialling of many different ideas, only a tiny proportion of which will end up being used. Similarly in Australia, important technological development and scientific research – especially in basic sciences where the monetary benefits are not immediate – struggle to get bank loans or investment. By contrast, casino operators and advertising firms – who produce no net benefit to society but instead only help one lot of business owners to get richer at the expense of their rivals (and then vice versa!) – don’t seem to have any trouble raising credit.
If the misdirection of credit causes terrible problems in “normal” times, it can be literally fatal at a time of public health emergency and economic implosion like we are experiencing right now. Although, as we go to press, the rate of new infections in Australia appears to be slowing, people continue to die from COVID-19 and, what is more, the threat of much greater virus spread will emerge once social distancing measures are eased. That is why immediately, we need financial resources directed to urgent medical research to help find vaccines and better treatments for COVID-19. We need this research not only for the few projects seemingly most likely to bring financial profits in the future but for a wide range of research. That includes work into developing any non-vaccine treatment methods for the virus. Such research into treatment methods can be hugely life-saving but its results are also likely non-patentable and would bring the researchers – and thus their bank creditors – no real financial rewards. Even more urgently we need loans directed to particular manufacturers that are able to very quickly turn their factories into making personal protective equipment, infra-red thermometers, virus testing kits and ventilators. We also need credit being allocated into areas that will help reduce the level of job losses and at the same time direct jobs into areas that would aid the virus response – for instance by making home delivery of groceries and food more widespread. Yet the only way any of this has even a chance of happening is if control of the organisations that have the power over lending – that is, the banks – are taken out of the hands of their profit-driven owners and brought under state control. This gives the potential to plan the allocation of financial resources to both respond to the virus threat and avert economic collapse. For such planning to be effective, the banks really need to be run together as a single national entity. Modern computing technology and big data make that quite simple whether or not the banks actually operate under one logo. In summary what we need is the nationalisation of the banks and their conversion into a single state-run bank. We need that right now and we need that all the time!
Putting the banks under state control is not the only thing that the working class masses need right now. To respond to the COVID-19 threat we need health resources mobilised in a planned way. The government has announced that it would requisition the resources of private hospitals to deal with the crisis. But this measure is partial and predicated on a massive bailout of private hospital owners. In contrast to the Morrison government’s half-baked hospital plan we need the immediate nationalisation of the entire health system – including not only private hospitals but smaller health facilities like pathology labs. This must remain even after this epidemic is over. Having a big part of the Medicare budget going into the bank accounts of greedy private health operators – for example, Medicare pays 75% of the schedule fee of private patients – as opposed to the actual treatment of patients not only drains the public budget but means that less resources are available for the long overdue tasks of increasing the number of available public hospital beds and public health nurses and reducing the waiting times at public hospitals. Furthermore, for the level of one’s access to health care to depend on the “logic of the market” – in other words how much money one has to fork out for health care – goes against the needs of the working class and all principles of decency. The irrationality of having health facilities being run by for profit operators has been proved during this COVID-19 crisis by the fact that private health care operators like Healthe Care in March stood down, or laid off, hundreds of nurses at a time when the virus was spreading rampantly and nurses were needed more than ever.
The section of Australia’s population most vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 is the well over hundred thousand homeless people. This includes not only those forced to sleep the streets but those “couch surfing” in the homes of friends and relatives. With so many people thrown out of work or stood down on reduced or no pay, homelessness is set to skyrocket. The government’s tentative six-month moratorium on evictions does not provide adequate security to tenants. There are so many loopholes that landlords are already evicting tenants. Moreover, current measures do not stop landlords and estate agents from pressuring tenants to pay rent even when they have little income. Therefore, there must be a six month halt to all rent payments for residential tenants from now. We also need an immediate halt to the sell-off of public housing and for homeless people to be housed in public housing dwellings slated for sale. This will help but will not in itself be enough to house all homeless people. Therefore, we also need a massive increase in public housing. Another crucial reason why we need more public housing is so that low-income women can move away from any abusive relationships and know that they will still have a roof over their heads if they do so. This is an even more urgent matter now than ever as COVID-19 restrictions are leaving women copping domestic abuse in situations where they are more socially isolated and, thus, more vulnerable to violent attack. But new public housing cannot be built fast enough right now in the midst of a pandemic. Therefore, the state must requisition the unoccupied holiday homes and investment properties of people owning more than three homes and convert them immediately into public housing.
We must also demand that the millions of casual workers in this country be immediately granted permanency with all the rights of permanent workers – including being granted guaranteed minimum work hours and sick leave. This is necessary to both protect the rights of casual workers and to ensure that such workers have no compulsion to risk their own well-being and that of others by going to work when ill. Similarly, we must ensure that all workers be granted special paid pandemic leave for self-isolation, quarantining and treatment if they may have COVID-19, or to care for ill family members. The government’s new scheme only allows for unpaid leave which for many low-paid workers will not only cause hardship but may push them to try sticking it out at work when they could be a risk to themselves and others.
At this time of economic crisis, temporary migrant workers and wage-working international students are the hardest hit section of the working class. Many have lost jobs or are casual workers who have suffered big cuts to the number of shifts that they get and, like most casual workers, the government’s much touted scheme to pay bosses of businesses that have lost significant revenue to retain workers will not help them at all. Moreover, unlike all other workers they will not get any Centrelink payments and international students are not even covered by Medicare. This is outrageous! These migrant workers face destitution and many now not only have no money to return to their home countries but cannot even do so due to travel restrictions. That is why it is absolutely urgent that we demand that all workers resident here get the same rights as people who are citizens. Full citizenship rights for everyone who is here! Moreover, in counter-position to the government’s JobKeeper scheme that will still allow hundreds of thousands of workers to lose their jobs while giving a windfall to many bosses, we must fight for jobs for all through preventing companies that have been making a profit over the years from cutting their workforce and by forcing still profitable companies to increase hiring at the expense of their profits.
Such an agenda can only be won through working class-led struggle. Although, at this moment, it may even be from the point of view of the overall interests of the capitalist class partly rational to put the banks under state control in order to avert an economic collapse, the exploiting class will resist any demands for such measures, not least because such a nationalisation would immediately pose the question that if the capitalist owners cannot be trusted to run the banks themselves then why shouldn’t the banks and the rest of the economy be taken completely out of their hands and put into public ownership. As a crucial part of any working-class fightback the workers movement must champion the cause of all other sections of the oppressed. In particular the working class must support Aboriginal people’s struggle against racist state killings of black people in custody, a movement that has been injected with renewed energy in the wake of the mass anti-racist resistance struggles in the U.S.
Mass struggle at this time of pandemic is, of course, difficult. However, let’s not forget that the working class movement has had to struggle in the past – and often in the present too in not only openly capitalist dictatorships but to some degree in the so-called “democracies” as well – in difficult conditions where protests, strikes and leftist political activity have faced repression or even been outright outlawed. This time of virus-related restrictions is, of course, very different in that we ourselves uphold – and actually actively promote – genuine social-distancing measures. However, like in times of intense of police-state repression, it is still a matter of finding ways to overcome major obstacles. We certainly don’t need to come up with all the ways that we can have an impact here. Politically active working class people will themselves come up with suitable methods – the masses are very innovative and that has been proven over decades and decades of struggle.
State-Controlled Banks and COVID-19 Response: A Case Study
If anyone wants to see why we need to put the banks under state control they should look at how the finance sector works in the world’s most populous country – and Australia’s biggest trading partner – the Peoples Republic of China (PRC). In China all the major banks are nationalised. And that was part of why the PRC was so effectively able to respond to the COVID-19 threat. Although China was the place where the virus – whose exact origin remains unknown – first spread in a really big known way, the PRC was able to respond so effectively and quickly that today in China, and even in the city of Wuhan, the former centre of the outbreak, people are again socialising, starting to resume eating out at cafes and restaurants, travelling long distances on public transport, slowly returning to tourist sites, working at factories and other works sites and gradually returning to full school operations. More importantly, the PRC’s response has been so successful that per million residents, far less people have died from the virus in China than have died in wealthier countries that have had much, much more time to prepare for the virus spread. Thus, the number of deaths per resident as of July 18 is already 45% higher in Australia than in China, 133 times higher in the U.S. than in China and in Switzerland, the country famous for its free-wheeling, scantily regulated capitalist banks, the number of deaths per resident is already 71 times higher than in China.
It is important to see why the PRC has been able to respond so effectively to the virus threat. In particular let us see how having a nationalised banking sector made a difference. Crucially, as soon as it become apparent just how contagious and deadly the then newly discovered virus was, China’s banks started supplementing PRC government outlays to firms to boost production of – or in many cases to entirely switch over the output of their operations to produce – items crucial to the epidemic response. Such products included surgical masks, goggles and full protective suits for medical workers, face masks for the public, COVID-19 testing kits, ambulances, disinfectant and ventilators. Within two weeks, PRC banks had already lent out tens of billions of dollars in very low interest rate loans to support the production of these items. By March 13, the amount that the PRC’s state-controlled banks had lent out to contain the impact of the virus had grown to $330 billion!
The production of pandemic relief goods – especially PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for medical workers – is absolutely vital in the fight against this pandemic. Unfortunately, in the very early days of the outbreak in Wuhan, before it was realised just how contagious the virus was – and even what it was – and how crucial was the need for protective gear, many medical staff in Wuhan became infected with the virus and also spread it to other colleagues, and several of the infected staff later died. In late January, with a large number of ill people pouring into Wuhan hospitals the hospital system in Wuhan was obviously overwhelmed and there was a shortage of protective gear, medicine and equipment. However, before long, with PRC manufacturers, armed with cheap credit doled out at lightning speed by her nationalised banks, rapidly switching over to producing protective gear, all nurses, hospital cleaners and doctors in China were wearing full space-suit-style head-to-toe protective gear. As a result, not a single one of the more than 42,600 health workers who travelled from other parts of China to Hubei Province to aid the virus response became infected, let alone died from the disease. By contrast, the capitalist countries with their private, profit-driven banks have not been able to equip their health workers with PPE effectively. Capitalist banks resist any loans that do not guarantee them a sizable and secure return. Moreover, they would also take considerable time approving any loans made for epidemic response as they ponder and calculate what they can get out of lending large amounts to any particular project for manufacturing epidemic prevention materials. In Australia, any switching over of production to aid the pandemic response by manufacturers is happening way too little and way too late. Therefore, even though authorities in countries like the U.S., Australia and Italy have had the big advantage of knowing for several weeks, if not months, just how infectious the virus was before it spread widely in their own countries, they have not even been able to ensure adequate protective equipment for their health workers. In the U.S., many nurses have had to resort to wearing home-made “protective gear,” like garbage bags, as poor substitutes for personal protective equipment. In Italy, as of April 17, at least 159 medical workers had died from COVID-19. Apart from the personal tragedies here, the effects of health workers becoming infected is devastating for the overall pandemic response. It means that large numbers of medical staff are not able to contribute to the response effort as they languish in quarantine, while other doctors and nurses, before they are identified as having COVID-19, end up passing on the virus to other medical staff and to patients who have come in for non-COVID-19 illnesses. In Australia, the failure to be able to outfit all health workers with the head-to-toe PPE that China’s nurses, doctors and janitors are equipped with has meant that as of July 18 over 400 nurses, doctors and health workers in Victoria alone have been infected. The failure to provide adequate PPE for health and aged care workers is also a key reason for the deadly virus spreads in North-West Tasmanian hospitals and in the Christian-run nursing home in Sydney’s Outer West that took the lives of 30 people between them.
Build toward the Future Confiscation of Banks, Industry, Mines, Communications Infrastructure and Agricultural Land and their Transfer into Public Ownership
It is not only in responding to the direct virus threat that the PRC’s nationalised banks have come into their own. To avert mass layoffs and economic shocks during this pandemic, China’s banks have sacrificed profits by rolling over and extending loans to hard-hit firms and self-employed people and by lending large amounts of money at low interest rates to assist enterprises to re-start production with the curbing of the epidemic spread. In a similar way, the PRC’s nationalised banking sector played a crucial role in allowing China to sail through the late noughties Global Recession as they lent huge amounts of money to finance high-speed rail lines, water conservation projects, environmental projects and the massive construction of low-rent public housing.
Yet it is not just during a crisis that the advantages of the PRC’s state-controlled finance sector is apparent. These Chinese banks have been directed to ensure that their lending practices are in lockstep with the PRC’s “Homes Are For Living In, Not for Speculation” policy. Thus, they have provided much credit to support public housing construction. Moreover, very different to Australia’s profit-obsessed banks, China’s banks charge any family seeking a bank loan for buying a second home a much higher interest rate than they charge those buying their first home, while they don’t lend at all to anyone trying to buy a third home. More broadly, China’s state-controlled banks are directed to lend to projects that may not be very profitable for the banks but which are important for the society and for the people’s economic development. Thus, these banks have specially lent to research and development projects in areas that are important for that country’s future economic progress like nanotechnology, advanced materials, artificial intelligence, advanced electronic hardware, aircraft research etc. Meanwhile, given that the PRC state has identified environmental protection as one of its three principal tasks, alongside poverty alleviation and curbing financial risks, the banks have directed a significant part of their lending to projects aimed at curbing water and air pollution. In particular, by supporting renewable energy projects with credit, they have helped China to become the world leader in renewable energy, with more than three times the installed solar power capacity of any other country and more than twice the wind generation capacity of the next biggest wind power producer. However, the most crucial practice of the PRC’s nationalised banking sector is its support for the country’s poverty alleviation drive. Over the last several years, as part of the PRC’s drive to lift every resident out of extreme poverty by the end of 2020, China’s state banks have lent literally hundreds of billions of dollars to poverty alleviation projects in poorer parts of the country. Many of these projects involve renovation of shantytowns and upgrading of infrastructure in impoverished and remote parts of the country as well as supporting community-based aged care facilities provided for lower income residents. Crucially, the PRC’s state-controlled banks have also provided credit for the development of job-creating industries in poorer, rural parts of the country including food processing operations, agricultural co-operatives, rural tourism and renewable energy projects. Partly as a result of such support for her poverty alleviation drive from her nationalised finance sector, China remains on track to achieve her poverty alleviation target by the end of this year despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is important to be aware that the PRC’s banks are not just state-controlled, they are overwhelmingly also state-owned. Thus, each and every one of China’s big four commercial banks are state-owned. Indeed, even if we include all the medium-sized banks in China, we find that majority state-owned banks so dominate the PRC’s finance sector that there is really only one significant sized bank – China’s tenth largest bank – that can be considered to be truly privately-owned; and even in that one case state-owned companies have recently become its largest shareholders owning around a quarter of the bank. Moreover, in addition to her commercial banks, the PRC has three massive, 100% state-owned policy banks whose lending is completed devoted to projects that are deemed in society’s overall interest. Two of these policy banks in particular, the China Development Bank and the Agricultural Development Bank of China, whose combined assets would make them China’s second largest bank, have been at the forefront of lending to support China’s poverty alleviation drive and more recently for the pandemic response effort.
There is a notable difference between banks being merely state-controlled and being actually state-owned. For one, even if banks are state-controlled, if they remain privately-owned their wealthy owners will act as a constant pressure on the state pushing for the banks to be run largely according to the profit motive as opposed to according to social needs. Secondly, if banks remain only state-controlled their massive profits would still be flowing into the hands of their largely ultra-rich owners rather than into the public budget. Remember, last year, in a “bad” year for them, Australia’s big four banks alone leached $26 billion in profits. To be sure, if they became state-controlled their profits would drop somewhat as their lending and investment becomes partially re-directed away from areas that simply bring the highest return. Nevertheless, even if their profits were halved as a result of being placed under state control, that’s still $13 billion that could go into the public budget if these corporations were only brought into state ownership. How much badly needed public housing could we get with that?! Well, actually, we can calculate that. According to the government’s own figures (see Table 18A.43 in the appendix of Excel spreadsheets under Part G, Section 18 of the Report on Government Services 2020 in the Australian Government Productivity Commission website https://www.pc.gov.au/research/ongoing/report-on-government-services/2020/housing-and-homelessness/housing), the average annual cost of a public house unit, including the capital cost, is $39,714 per dwelling. So if we had even half the current profits extracted by the biggest banks in Australia go into the public coffers we could support an extra 327,340 public housing dwellings which would easily more than double the existing stock of public housing. That could really solve the problem of homelessness and make good strides towards addressing the extreme shortage of low-rent housing in Australia.
That is why what is finally needed is to confiscate all the banks, insurance corporations, superannuation companies, wealth management firms and securities businesses from their ultra-wealthy owners and bring them all into state-ownership. This should be accomplished without giving any compensation to the big shareholders. However, to avoid unnecessarily antagonising the middle class, the stock holdings of the numerous small shareholders who together own a tiny fraction of these corporations can be bought out. Since the superannuation firms will be confiscated too, workers won’t need to worry about losing their super when the banks get taken. They will still get their retirement funds from the now publicly owned providers and with less eaten in fees by billionaire finance sector bosses to boot. However, the retirement payment system will progressively be switched from one based on individual superannuation accounts to one based on a higher and equal pension for all.
Our agitational demand to put the banks under state control, that is to nationalise the banks, that we made in the headline of this article, is not in itself a call to confiscate the banks and put them into public ownership. Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin made a similar call some six weeks prior to the working class seizure of power in the October 1917 Russian Revolution. As Lenin explained:
It is absurd to control and regulate deliveries of grain, or the production and distribution of goods generally, without controlling and regulating bank operations….
The ownership of the capital wielded by and concentrated in the banks is certified by printed and written certificates called shares, bonds, bills, receipts, etc. Not a single one of these certificates would be invalidated or altered if the banks were nationalised, i.e. if all banks were amalgamated into a single state bank…. whoever owned fifteen million rubles would continue after the nationalisation of the banks to have fifteen million rubles in the form of shares, bonds, bills, commercial certificates and so on.
— V.I. Lenin, The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It, September 1917
Lenin’s Bolsheviks made the demand for the nationalisation of the banks in this period as an urgent measure to control economic life at a time when Russia’s masses were being struck down by mass unemployment, disorganised industry and terrible shortages of food and other staple items. However, the revolutionaries also understood that by showing the masses the need to take the control of the banks out of the hands of the capitalists they were thus leading working class people to the conclusion that they ultimately need to also take the ownership of the banks from the capitalists. Indeed, in the period after the October Revolution, the new workers government of Soviet Russia confiscated the banks along with the railways, industries and agricultural land and transferred them into public ownership.
Putting the banks under state control or even confiscating the finance sector, while a vital measure, does not solve all problems – not even the most urgent ones. So while we need state banks to lend to certain manufacturers to aid them to switch their operations to produce vitally needed pandemic relief goods, if the manufacturing bosses still can’t find a way to make a big profit out of those operations, even with low-interest loans, they are very unlikely to change over their factories; and if they do many would do it too slowly or only in a token way to gain positive publicity. So we need to have a perspective of confiscating not only the finance sector but also taking the key industries, the mines that produce the raw materials, transport and distribution means, power, communications and other infrastructure as well as construction out of the hands of the profit-driven capitalists and placing them into the collective hands of the people. In China it is not just their banks that are under state-ownership but all their key sectors. As a result when there was a need for firms to switch over their production to make pandemic relief goods, the relevant state-owned enterprises not only got access to cheap credit to assist them but were basically ordered to make the conversion. That is why you have all sorts of Chinese industries, seemingly unrelated to making protective and medical gear, contributing to China’s pandemic relief effort. For example, state-owned Shanghai Three Gun group, China’s biggest producer of underwear, is now producing more than one million masks per day.
What a society where public ownership plays the backbone role can do was seen most clearly in the way that the PRC built two large brand new hospitals from the ground up in less than two weeks when the number of people getting seriously ill from COVID-19 started surging in late January. The challenge in building these hospitals in Wuhan so quickly was especially steep given that these specialist infectious disease hospitals, unlike other hospitals, needed to have negative pressure wards to ensure that the air leaving wards with the infected patients is ejected safely rather than seeping out to potentially infect hospital workers and others. The first of these hospitals put into service, the 1,000 bed Huoshenshan (“Fire God Mountain”) Hospital was built in just 10 days. The second, the 1,600 bed Leishenshan (“Thunder God Mountain”) Hospital was put into service just days later. And it was thousands of workers organised through the PRC firms under public ownership that played the key role in pulling off these amazing feats. Financing for the project was provided both from the central government and by the 100% state-owned policy bank, the China Development Bank. The design of the hospital was performed by the CITIC General Institute of Architectural Design and Research, a subsidiary of the giant PRC public-owned conglomerate, CITIC. The actual construction of the hospitals was undertaken by the Third Engineering Bureau of state-owned China State Construction Engineering, the largest construction company in the world. Meanwhile, China State Grid organised 260 workers in around the clock shifts to ensure that the power connection was ready in time. Communications within the hospital and a stable 5G internet connection was achieved within 36 hours through a collaborative effort of China’s state-owned communication giants China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom and China Tower. Meanwhile, CT scanning equipment and X-rays were provided by Shanghai United Imaging, a high-tech firm jointly held by a range of PRC state-owned firms.
Right now the mass of working class people in Australia does not yet appreciate the need for the confiscation of the banks and industry from the capitalists and their transfer into public ownership. The very most politically advanced workers and leftist activists do understand that this is what is needed. However, ruling class propaganda has been able to tentatively convince the majority of working class people that private ownership of the economy should be “respected.” Nevertheless, right now there is widespread distrust of the banking system at the very same moment that many working class people are very worried about the pandemic, about whether they will have a job and about their ability to pay rent and buy essentials. That is why we today emphasise the call for the nationalisation of the banks as a slogan around which to mobilise united front struggle that will, on the one hand, demand this immediate measure necessary for both the COVID-19 response effort and to protect the masses from unemployment and poverty and that will, on the other hand, in the course of their struggle to win this demand, point working class people towards the ultimate need for the confiscation of the banks and all key sectors and their transferal into public ownership.
We Need a Workers State
If powerful working class struggle were able to force the capitalist government to nationalise the banks, the question then becomes posed: who would be administering this now state-run finance system? Sure, a finance system under state control would face more mass pressure to run its operations according to people’s interests than privately owned banks do. However, would you trust the anti-working class Morrison government or the desperate-to-not-scare-the-capitalists-Albanese led ALP to ensure that a state bank would actually serve the masses rather than the big end of town?
The problem is not simply the government but the bureaucracy. No matter the political stripe of who sits in ministers’ chairs and who wins elections, the fact is that the same layer of high-ranking state officials who have been allowing the finance sector corporations to fleece the public will still be the ones “regulating” them. The “regulator” of the finance sector, ASIC (Australian Securities and Investments Commission) has been so deferential to the finance industry bosses that even the limp Royal Commission criticised it for its “softly, softly approach” to illegal activity by the banks. However, ASIC is not going to fundamentally change. If you see who leads it, even now after getting a slap on the wrist from the Royal Commission, you will know why. ASIC’s leadership remains people with strong ties to the finance sector bosses and other corporate bigwigs. Thus ASIC chair, James Shipton, spent ten years as the managing director of various divisions of the Asia-Pacific office of American banking giant, Goldman Sachs. Of the six other commissioners who lead ASIC, one previously had senior roles in NAB and ANZ (and does anyone expect him to now go hard on them?!!), two had been top bosses of other finance services companies and one had been most recently CEO of the Myer Family Company.
Yet, it is not only their leaders’ previous links to the corporate bosses that tie state institutions like ASIC to the capitalist class. For one, the wealth that these ASIC heads would have acquired when they were high fliers in the banking and broader corporate world – and the ensuing investing of part of this wealth that they have no doubt made into shares and/or share-investing wealth management schemes – would make them very much identify their interests with those of the big end of town and not with working class people. Moreover, since wealthy business owners control the economy and, thus, largely determine who gets hired and at what pay, they can, without even saying a word, entice senior bureaucrats at state institutions with the prospect of future lucrative jobs at their companies should they “respect” their interests; and, in effect, threaten these state officials with being locked out of future employment prospects should these bureaucrats dare step on their toes. One only has to look at who are the directors leading the big finance sector companies and other corporations and one will see how this works. Let’s take ANZ bank as a case study. ANZ’s David Gonski, prior to being appointed chairman in 2014, had been a top official of a number of Australian state bodies. He had been head of the Future Fund which directs government investments into long-term projects. From 2010 to 2011 he also headed a government commission to look into education funding which produced the well-known Gonski Report. In the year prior to becoming ANZ chairman, Gonski had also been appointed to ASIC’s External Advisory Panel and actually continued there until last year. Consider this: say Gonski had, if he hypothetically wanted to, tried to direct Future Fund investments in a way that actually benefited working class people rather than the corporate owners, had in his Gonski Report called to slash public funding for private schools rather than agree to perpetuate it and while on ASIC’s External Advisory Panel pushed for a severe crackdown on the banks, does anyone think that ANZ’s big shareholders would have then appointed him their chairman? And wouldn’t being aware of how his future career prospects in the corporate world are affected by how he acts while heading state institutions colour his conduct when being a high-ranking Australian state bureaucrat? Actually, Gonski is not the only ANZ boss who had been on ASIC’s External Advisory Panel. One of ANZ’s top executives had previously been Vice-Chair of this ASIC body and the current chairman of Suncorp is still on that panel, all of which highlights further the links between ASIC and the finance sector bosses that they supposedly “regulate.” Meanwhile, an ANZ director had previously held the top bureaucrat position, Secretary, in both the Australian Department of Finance and the Australian Department of Health. This director, Jane Halton, is currently also one of the ten council members that lead the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the state defence think tank notorious for being the most fanatical force promoting Australia’s military build up and its war-mongering hostility to socialistic China. This also highlights the fact that some capitalists hold key positions in the state machinery even while they are still directors of corporations. Thus, one of the NAB’s directors, is also a director of Infrastructure Victoria. Moreover, the chairman of the NDIS, Helen Nugent, is also a director of insurance corporation IAG. So if disabled and ill workers are wondering why they often face intrusive interrogations from the NDIS and sometimes even cop bullying threats to cut them off the Disability Support Pension just know this, the boss of the NDIS is a director of one of the leaching insurance giants who holds over $220,000 worth of shares in that corporation (according to their last annual report) and is paid by them almost a quarter of a million dollars a year for basically attending a meeting every 16 days (on average) and reading some reports. Prior to being appointed NDIS supremo in 2017, Nugent had been up until 2014 a director of Macquarie Group for 15 years. And controversially, the NDIS has awarded Macquarie a contract to build disability housing for them while Nugent actually conducts her leadership of the NDIS in an office rented from Macquarie!
The intertwining between the capitalist bosses and the upper echelons of the bureaucracy extends into state institutions crucial to shaping the ideological direction of society. Thus, much of the leadership of the universities is held by corporate bigwigs. The chancellor of UTS is, for example, none other than the chairman of CBA. Meanwhile the deputy chairman of the broadcaster SBS, George Savvides, is a director of IAG, while another member of the nine-member board that sets SBS’s direction, Peeyush Gupta, is a director of NAB. This is worth knowing in case anyone is tempted to believe that SBS is any more “independent” of the capitalists than the Murdoch media or the commercial TV and radio stations.
Through their economic power and wealth, the capitalists not only ensure that the upper ranks of the state bureaucracy are tied to them by thousands of threads – if they are not actually personally holding these positions themselves – they also subordinate to their interests all the other coercive bodies of the state. This includes the legal system. ASIC have not only been extremely timid when facing the banks because of their ties to the bank bosses. That is, of course, very true. However, part of the reason for ASIC’s prostration is that they are downright intimidated at the prospects of taking on the banks in the courts. Since the courts are biased towards the corporate bigwigs and since the bank bosses have enormous financial resources to hire the best, most expensive barristers and to fund expensive court proceedings and appeals, ASIC fears losing expensive court battles with the banks.
That is why alongside agitating for putting the finance system under state control, we need to fight for people’s supervision of the banks. We cannot trust state institutions tied to the capitalists to regulate even a state-controlled finance system. Therefore, we must demand – and indeed assert – inspection of all commercial bank transactions and big accounts by committees consisting of unionised bank employees’ representatives alongside of representatives of other unions and mass organisations. Such committees can call in financial experts as consultants to help make sense of information but the great advantage of having class-conscious finance sector employees involved in these inspections is that they themselves understand all the terminology of the finance world. These working peoples’ committees can then collate the information and highlight the key results – as well as egregious cases of fraud and manipulation by the very rich – to the public in a form easily understood by the masses. In that way the people can know to which businesses and which sectors credit is being lent and what is the proportion of housing loans going into homes for the debtors to actually live in as opposed to for the sake of housing speculation. Moreover, we will be able to finally discover who the exact owners of the finance sector corporations are. We will also be able to expose which wealthy capitalists have been hiding their true income to avoid tax and by how much. Similarly, the extent to which corporate bosses have been ripping off the public budget when acting as contractors for state projects as well as bribery of state officials by the capitalists can be exposed.
Thus, a state-controlled finance sector where working people’s committees make transparent to the masses the operations of a united state bank will enable the masses to exert enough pressure to have some control over this key pivot of a modern economy. Yet this will only be some control. For as long as the state as a whole – including its key coercive organs of the courts, the police, the prison, army, the regulators and the broader bureaucracy – remains the existing capitalist state that has been created and built up to serve the interests of the wealthy business owners then any attempt to exert workers’ control over the economy will face sabotage and obfuscation through bureaucratic means. As Leon Trotsky, leader of the Fourth International, which at the time (albeit with some mis-steps) continued the fight for the revolutionary internationalist program that guided Lenin’s Bolsheviks, emphasised in The Transitional Program, the program that the Fourth International adopted in 1938 at a time of acute capitalist crisis in the lead up to World War II:
“… the state-ization of the banks will produce these favourable results [large scale industry and transport directed by a public bank to serve the vital interests of the workers and all other toilers] only if the state power itself passes completely from the hands of the exploiters into the hands of the toilers.”
This is the goal that we must advance towards: the sweeping away of the capitalist state and the construction of a new state to serve the interests of the working class and all the other oppressed. The building of such a workers state is needed not only to ensure that any state bank truly operates for the masses but as the pre-condition necessary to enable the confiscation of all the backbone sectors of the economy and their transferral into socialist, that is public, ownership. For while the capitalist class, in a crisis, may, to save their system as a whole, nationalise some sectors and in other cases may acquiesce to some nationalisations as a concession to powerful working class struggle, they will never accept the wholesale dispossession of their ownership of the economy unless they are actually deposed from political power.
China’s Bank’s are Genuinely under Public Ownership because the PRC is a Workers State
It took the revolutionary overthrow from power of the capitalists, the agricultural landlords and the henchmen of Western imperialism in 1949 to enable China’s banks, industry, mines and agricultural land to be transferred into collective ownership by the people. The 1949 Revolution was a heroic struggle in which tens of millions of agricultural labourers, poor tenant farmers and workers directly participated. However, although this great revolution brought the toiling classes to power, because the revolutionary forces were heavily based on hard-to-unite tenant farmers (unlike the 1917 October Revolution that was based on united workers organised through elected workers-led councils) who, while suffering common exploitation by greedy landlords, nevertheless produced for themselves and competed in the markets to sell their produce, the new society had to be held together and administered from above. The ruling middle class bureaucracy, while they still had to administer the society in the interests of the victorious toilers, did so in an imperfect way and in a manner that ensured their own privileges. In the late 1970s, the bureaucratic PRC government, faced with the need to boost production and in the face of intense pressure from the surrounding capitalist world, turned to pro-market reforms. In the following years, a sizeable private sector has developed in China, far in excess of the partial concessions to a private sector that can sometimes be needed in the transition phase between capitalism and socialism. This has brought with it some of the vices of capitalist society such as inequality. Nevertheless, the socialistic public sector still thoroughly dominates the key means of production in China.
Moreover, the fact that the PRC is a socialistic state and the mostly smaller private businesses rely on state-owned giants for raw materials, transportation and energy means that even China’s private sector is sometimes constrained to partially serve broader social goals. If we compare China with capitalist countries, we find that the relationship between private bosses and the state are the very opposite of each other. In Australia, Indonesia, India, Italy or the U.S., the capitalist state and its officials suck up to the rich capitalists who are the real power. In contrast in Red China, the private business owners that do exist suck up to the workers state and are desperate to show their deference to the socialistic order. As a result, during this COVID-19 pandemic even some privately-owned businesses contributed to the relief effort. Indeed, even greedy capitalist billionaire, Jack Ma, with rumours swirling that he was forced to retire last year to try and head off being cracked down upon – as has deservedly happened to so many other high-flying capitalist exploiters in China before him – tried to win favour with authorities by making significant donations to the pandemic response.
However, the existence of a too large private sector remains a problem in China. Although the PRC was able to mobilise its state-dominated economy to very quickly and effectively build hospitals and produce urgently needed items for the pandemic response, the fact is China would have been able to respond even faster had the proportion of the economy under state ownership been even higher. And that would have saved still more lives. Moreover, the existence of a sizeable capitalist class with wealth and influence presents a mortal threat to China’s socialistic system. These capitalists are not happy that they are largely cut out of the most profitable sectors of the Chinese economy like the banks, the oil and gas companies and the other strategic sectors. They resent being pressured to sometimes sacrifice their profits for the social good. These frustrated capitalists are, thus, constantly seeking to expand their tenuous “right” to “freely” exploit labour unrestricted by any constraints. Moreover, many of these capitalists quietly harbour more ambitious aims. They are waiting for the moment, during some sort of social or economic crisis, when they can make a bid for power. They know that they will have the full backing of the capitalist powers around the world in this endeavour.
Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen the already intense hostility towards China of the U.S., Australian, British, Japanese, German and other imperialist rulers rise to still higher levels. These imperialist ruling classes have engaged in a hysterical campaign of lies to blame socialistic China for the pandemic spread. The capitalist rulers fear that their own working class masses will compare China’s effective and successful response to the virus threat with their own flawed and ineffective response and will thus draw the conclusion that the socialist system is superior and needs to be fought for in their own countries. This is, in fact, the greatest fear of the capitalist rulers. But for the very same reason that the capitalists hate the fact that the world’s most populous country is under socialistic rule – and is actually proving that socialism works – the working classes in the capitalist world should defend socialistic rule in China. For the existence of the PRC workers state – despite all its bureaucratic deformations, its concessions to capitalists and its resulting fragility – makes the struggle for working class rule in Australia and the rest of the capitalist world stronger. That is why the workers movement must oppose the Australian regime’s military build up against China and her socialistic North Korean ally, must stand against the U.S. and Australian Navy’s military’s provocations against China in the South China Sea, must oppose Australian support for anticommunist forces within China (from the far-right Falun Dafa outfit to the pro-colonial, rich kid rioters in Hong Kong) and must resist the Australian regime’s attempts to intimidate and silence pro-PRC voices within Australia – including those of pro-PRC Chinese international students. Right now we especially need to refute all the China-bashing lies being spread over the COVID-19 pandemic. We also need to explain to the masses that for all the incompleteness of China’s transition to socialism, the fact that public ownership plays the backbone role in her economy was what made the PRC so effectively able to respond to the virus threat. In doing so we will at the same time motivate the need to fight here for a system of public ownership based on working class rule, i.e. a socialist system.
However, working class people will not be won to seeing the need for socialist revolution simply through hearing explanations of its necessity. The masses learn mainly through participating in – and drawing lessons from the experience of – struggles for their immediate interests. That is why all those who understand the need for a socialist future must fight to build such campaigns. At the same time, we must work hard to ensure that these struggles for immediate gains are waged in such a manner as they teach the working class to distrust all the parties and factions of the capitalist class, convince the masses to trust only their own power, place no reliance on any institutions of the capitalist state and are based on slogans that advance the working class towards the conclusion that they will in the future need to take both the economy and state power into their own collective hands. Today that means building struggles to fight for the nationalisation of the banks and for the winning of jobs for all through forcing companies to hire (and in many cases re-hire) more workers at the expense of their profits.
The Program of Nationalization of the Banks vs the Green Party’s Agenda
If anyone thinks that urgently needed measures like the nationalisation of the banks can be won merely through the parliamentary process, one has only to look at the agenda of the current parliamentary parties to see why not. Of all the parliamentary parties the Australian Greens have been the most critical of the current banking system. So their program deserves to be given some scrutiny. The Greens call for more regulation of the banks. As a policy principle, they say that, “Publicly-owned financial institutions should form a key component of Australia’s banking sector”, without offering any program about how that would arise. But they fail, even now during this time of public health and economic emergency, to call for the nationalisation of the banks. At most their agenda amounts to a return to the system that we had before the Hawke-Keating reforms of the 1980s and 1990s – and in some ways not even that since the Greens do not call for the reimposition of state control over bank interest rates. Yet, while the banks were slightly more constrained in their operations before the Hawke-Keating reforms, they hardly operated even then in the service of the people. They were still largely driven by the imperative to maximise profits.
A major part of The Greens agenda for turning back the clock is to split up financial planning and superannuation operations from the banks. However, the banks themselves are doing this now in the wake of bad publicity. Indeed, in good part they have already completed this. Last year Westpac sold off its financial advice arm BT Financial and CBA sold off its financial planning arm, Count Financial. The Greens hope that making the banks smaller will reduce abuses by them. However, the new broken up or sold off, but still massive, corporations will still be run for profits. Moreover, the new wealth management corporations will likely be significantly owned by the very same very rich people – yes and through those “bank nominee” fronts – as the banks are. The bank owners quite happily pursued this break up option because by separating out its wealth management arms that had a particularly bad reputation, their banking operations can be shielded from the foul publicity arising from the openly fraudulent practices of the financial planning operations.
Much of the remainder of The Greens practical program for the finance sector like calling for “effective regulatory supervision to enforce prudential regulation” is very similar to what the limp Royal Commission recommended. Overall, The Greens platform will not fundamentally change the way the financial system operates. Banks will still be run largely on the profit motive and will still have freedom to decide who they lend to and at what rates. And many working class people couldn’t care less if the banks own wealth management operations or not because they have little money to put into these funds anyway! So even though The Greens say in the abstract that the “banking and finance industry should serve the broader public interest”, their actual program will not get anyway near this. The reason that The Greens’ agenda cannot come even close to advocating what is really needed to begin to make “banking and finance industry serve the broader public interest,” that is the nationalisation of the banks, is that such an agenda can only be won through working class struggle against the capitalist class. But The Greens cannot truly promote such an agenda as their party includes and appeals to all classes – including capitalists. Owning operations in areas like renewable energy, services, online business, hospitality, tourism and the arts, the full-blown capitalist exploiters that support The Greens feel that the Greens push to favour their sectors over fossil-fuel and energy guzzling sectors would dovetail with their own business interests. Sure, these capitalists accept a more far-sighted view of the threat of climate change than coal mining bosses do. But they are still capitalists who exploit workers! To even speak of nationalisation of any sector would scare these “enlightened capitalist” exploiters as it would make them fear that their own operations could face nationalisation next. Meanwhile, playing a very prominent role in The Greens are well-heeled, upper-middle class professionals. This latter chunk of Greens supporters are, to be sure, somewhat “progressive” minded. But, just like the actual capitalists in The Greens, this does not stop them from having considerable sums put into wealth management products – who in turn invest this money in shares (including bank shares) – or into their own direct shareholdings. So, they would not be too thrilled about any measures that could radically slash the profits of banks.
This same dilemma faces The Greens more broadly – an abstract wish for less inequality and a more “people-oriented society” but no program that would deliver this. Take, for instance, the signature policy of The Greens and its new leader Adam Bandt: “A Green New Deal.” They say that the aims of this “Green New Deal” are “tackling social and economic inequality,” reducing underemployment, increasing wages, having more secure jobs, giving young people more hope of buying a house and ensuring action to beat the climate crisis. OK, but The Greens say this would be achieved through “a government-led plan of investment and action.” However, any reduction of inequality requires struggle against the exploiting class by the working class masses. Government investment in social programs and “clean jobs” requires someone to pay for such measures which requires a struggle against the capitalists to make them pay. The Greens do not even mention this crucial element of class struggle without which talk of building “a caring society” is meaningless. They want to make capitalist society fairer without standing up to capitalist power. And how could they when actual capitalists play a significant role in their own party! Without challenging capitalist power, any government spending and policies will inevitably bend to the demands of this powerful class. That is why when The Greens have actually been in office they have administered society in a way barely different to the other pro-capitalist parties. As part of a coalition with the ALP, the Greens had two ministries in the Tasmanian governments from 2010 to 2014 that cut the jobs of hundreds of nurses, closed public hospital beds, reduced funding for ambulance services, slashed funding for public housing maintenance, cut public sector jobs and reduced public sector pay increases below inflation. In his portfolio as minister for Education and Corrections in these governments, then Tasmanian Greens leader, Nick McKim, oversaw a prison system with substandard conditions for prisoners and tried to close 20 public schools before angry mass opposition forced him to back down. Meanwhile, the Australian Greens counterpart in Austria proved the commitment of this brand of politics to the anti-working class status quo by earlier this year joining in a government coalition with the right-wing, anti-union and anti-immigrant Austrian People’s Party.
Therefore, while we support action to fight for certain particular policies that Bandt has also advocated – like dental into Medicare and free education – we oppose overall The Greens and Bandt’s program of refusing any challenge to the power of the capitalists, while greening capitalism, under a “Green New Deal.” Remember how The Greens’ platform, including the Green New Deal, does not even call for the nationalisation of the banks. Unfortunately, however, much of the far-left in Australia have been cheering The Greens program. The Socialist Alliance have been the most enthusiastic. The Solidarity group are not far behind, only adding that “Adam Bandt’s Green New Deal won’t be won through electoral dead end.” The Communist Party of Australia (CPA) meanwhile ran an editorial in the February 17 issue of their paper, The Guardian, that pushed for overall (albeit qualified) support for Bandt’s Green New Deal, even while very correctly acknowledging that The Greens are a bourgeois party. This despite several contributors to their newspaper insightfully and convincingly attacking the Green New Deal agenda last year. Thus, in the 19 September 2019 issue of the CPA’s newspaper, an article titled “Socialism or perish” rightly argued that “we should be openly and loudly challenging the ideas put forward by many young climate activists and NGO groups who argue for a `Green New Deal’ or other policies that amount to the greening of capitalism.” In effect, in response to such points, the February 17 CPA editorial raises the argument that supporting the Green New Deal would be a united front with The Greens. Here they confuse agreements between communists and one or more reformist tendencies within the workers movement – which may include Laborite union leaders, “democratic socialist” groups and mass social democratic parties based on our unions (of which the ALP is a very right-wing version) – to launch particular united-front actions, or a series of actions, when common demands arise (like supporting a strike for higher wages or a protest march against right-wing welfare cuts) with ongoing support, however qualified, for the program of a bourgeois party. In the former case, building workers’ united front actions, when it is advantageous for the overall struggle to do so, will result in increased class struggle of the working class against the capitalists and an opportunity for communists to explain to the masses the need for more deep-going attacks on the power of the capitalists. However, in the latter case, a “people’s front” alliance between leftist workers parties and a bourgeois party (that is, a party like The Greens that does not even see itself as a party for workers’ particular class interests and which includes – and is thus subordinate to – members of the dominant capitalist class), the effect is to retard class struggle by promoting the notion of salvation through a supposed “progressive” wing of the exploiting class. Now it must be said that those nominally Marxist groups that promote The Greens party’s signature platform do in their own right call for class struggle against the capitalists and for policies that do begin to challenge capitalist influence, like calling for the nationalisation of the banks. However, promoting the platform of a bourgeois party like The Greens and seeking an ongoing alliance with such a party undercuts the class struggle aspects of these left groups’ own agenda, because it ties the workers that they influence to a section of the capitalists and, thus, also promotes the illusion that the masses can win concessions without struggle against the exploiting class.
The Struggles of Today that Can Blaze the Path to a Socialist Future
There is another reason why genuine socialists should not be promoting The Greens party, in however a qualified form. For The Greens are just as much as the Liberal-Nationals, the ALP and the far-right One Nation Party part of the Cold War drive against the world’s biggest socialistic country. Indeed, Greens NSW upper house MP, David Shoebridge, has been just as fanatical in inciting hostility to the PRC workers state as the likes of hard-right Coalition politicians like Peter Dutton, Andrew Hastie, Tim Wilson and Eric Abetz. Although Shoebridge seems to be today rejecting the far-right conspiracy theories about the World Health Organisation and China, he has spent the last several years energetically promoting other far-right conspiracy theories against China, including the ridiculous claims that China is executing members of the extreme right-wing (and rabid Trump-supporting) Falun Dafa group to harvest their organs.
The harm done by The Greens’ support for the anti-communist drive against the PRC does not only consist of the anti-Asian racist violence that it is fuelling and the blows against the Chinese workers state that it is landing. For by attacking the world’s largest socialistic state, The Greens, no matter what else they may say, are assisting the Australian ruling class to trick the masses into believing that there is no real alternative to capitalist “democracy” and that a socialistic state dominated by public ownership would be a nightmare. In other words, The Greens’ opposition to Red China makes them an enemy of the fight for socialism in this country.
That The Greens, a party that many young leftists have hopes in, and the Labour Party, the party that retains the support of most workers, have agendas that support the ruling class drive against the world’s biggest socialistic country, that fail to call for putting the banks under state control and which accept the “right” of capitalists to sack workers whenever it is most profitable to do so proves that we need to build a new workers’ party that will truly serve the interests of the exploited and oppressed. Such a party would refuse to restrict its program to what can be tolerated by the capitalists but would, instead, lay out an agenda based on what the working class and all the downtrodden actually need. Instead of feeding into the nauseating talk, that we are hearing so much of lately, that we are “all in the same boat”, the workers party that we need would be based on a clear understanding that the interests of the working class are counterposed to those of their capitalist exploiters. Thus rejecting “national unity” with the capitalists, such a party would instead fight for the closest possible alliance between the working class in Australia and the working classes of the world. In summary, the workers party that we need must be an authentic communist party like the Bolshevik party that led the Russian Revolution. We in Trotskyist Platform work hard to contribute to the building of such a party. We understand that such a party will be built in the course of laying out a perspective based on militant class struggle in the course of joining in actions that fight for the urgent needs of the masses. Today, at this time of public health emergency, massive unemployment and growing immiseration of the masses that means agitating and mobilising to demand: Put the banks and insurance companies under state control! For the complete and permanent nationalisation of the health system! For jobs for all workers through preventing companies that have been making a profit over the years from cutting their workforce and by forcing still profitable companies to increase hiring at the expense of their profits! Permanency for all casual workers! Grant the rights of citizenship to all migrants, refugees and international students! For a six-month halt to all rent payments for residential tenants! Requisition the unoccupied dwellings of people owning more than three homes and convert this immediately into public housing!
India — gripped by the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic — has been endlessly witnessing desperate scrambles for hospital beds, the dire need for oxygen and mass cremation. Amid all this, the stock market is booming. In fact, Mumbai Sensex has signaled that bullish trends have been on the rise. Over the year ending April 1, 2021, while benchmark composite indices rose by 19% in the Philippines, 35% in Indonesia and 48% in Thailand, the rise was a staggering 77% in India, which experienced one of the sharpest real economy contractions in economic activity over that period. Moreover, India — unlike other Southeast Asian countries — has witnessed increased speculative investments at the expense of portfolio investments in bonds.
RBI’s Support for the Super-rich
Thriving stock market amid a general slowdown is a direct result of the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) over-friendly attitude. During the years, investors have been assured that if any kind of instability visits upon them, the authorities will immediately arrive to offer moratoriums, state-guaranteed loans and other liquidity-enhancing measures to make up for disappearing cash flows. Their expectations are entirely accurate. On May 5, 2021, RBI announced repayment relief, as well as $6.8 billion in three-year funding at its policy rate of 4% for banks. These liquidity infusion measures gave Indian equities a booster shot, lifting the benchmark indices 0.88% higher on the same day.
RBI’s supportive stance toward the stock market has proven to be extremely beneficial for the ruling class. When the stock market was entering a bear phase in 2020 — with crony capitalists like Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani suffering losses — the central bank instantaneously began its policy of regular credit injections and quantitative easing. Refilled coffers directly aided the concentration and centralization of capital, allowing businesses to begin a new round of speculation with less competition and higher profit margins.
When stock prices were falling in February-March 2020, powerful investors — rather than offloading their stocks — used the state’s money to buy up stocks from smaller owners who were busy panic-selling. Therefore, when stock prices increased after April, they got enormous capital gains. In spite of occasional ups-and-downs, the stock market scaled new heights in 2020, leading to an astronomic increase in wealth appropriation by the speculative super-rich class. The ranks of Indian dollar billionaires swelled from 102 to 140 in 12 months, their combined wealth doubling to $596 billion in 2020, when the oppressed masses of India were bearing the entire burden of the first wave of the pandemic. These 140 billionaires now eat up 22.7% of India’s GDP of $2.62 trillion.
The situation of India’s financial sector is a part of the wider global conditions which have evolved since the 1990s. With low profit rates in the productive sectors of the economy, endemic overproduction and weak demand, investments decreased. Corporations turned to the financial sector and the stock exchange. The vast sums of capital that could not be profitably invested in the real economy produced a growing market for high-risk, high-reward investments. In other words, the expansion of the financial system, of the whole debt and credit apparatus, has been a way of utilizing the economic surplus which is not utilized in productive investment. It is instead poured into speculation, and that creates a wealth effect that has a secondary stimulus to the underlying economy, because as people who benefit from asset price increases get wealthier, they spend more on consumption, and that stimulates the economy. Finance also provides some jobs, although not as much as other sectors of the economy.
While stock values represent future expected streams of earnings arising primarily from production, finance has become increasingly autonomous from production or the real economy, relying on financial bubbles and unsustainable explosions of credit/debt. This means that the speculative process depends for its very continuation on the piling up of greater and greater amounts of debt, and in order to do this, it needs to have constant cash infusions from the real economy to provide additional capital that can be leveraged. But as the underlying system remains stagnant, the bubble eventually bursts — typically after a speculative mania in which the rapid rise in quantity of debt leads to a marked decline in its quality.
At this point of time — when the liquidity has dried up — the monetary authorities intervene to keep the whole house of cards from collapsing. This serves to reduce the risk to speculators, thereby keeping the value of stocks and other financial assets rising on a long-term basis, along with the overall wealth/income ratio. In these circumstances, asset accumulation by speculative means has replaced actual accumulation or productive investment as a route to the increase of wealth, generating a condition which Costas Lapavistas calls “profits without production.” The recent actions of India’s central bank are structurally situated in this new global regime of profiteering which is geared toward irrational profit-making for the few.
We’re not living the American dream. We’re living a financial nightmare.
The U.S. government—and that includes the current administration—is spending money it doesn’t have on programs it can’t afford, and “we the taxpayers” are the ones who will be forced to foot the bill for the government’s fiscal insanity.
We’ve been sold a bill of goods by politicians promising to pay down the national debt, jumpstart the economy, rebuild our infrastructure, secure our borders, ensure our security, and make us all healthy, wealthy and happy.
None of that has come to pass, and yet we’ve still been loaded down with debt not of our own making.
This financial tyranny works the same whether it’s a Democrat or Republican at the helm.
Let’s talk numbers, shall we?
The national debt (the amount the federal government has borrowed over the years and must pay back) is $28 trillion and growing. That translates to roughly $224,000 per taxpayer.
The government’s answer to the COVID-19 pandemic has been to throw more money at the problem in the form of stimulus checks, small business loans, unemployment benefits, vaccine funding, and financial bailouts for corporations. All told, the federal government’s COVID-19 spending has exceeded $4 trillion.
According to the Committee for a Reasonable Federal Budget, the interest we’re paying on this borrowed money is “nearly twice what the federal government will spend on transportation infrastructure, over four times as much as it will spend on K-12 education, almost four times what it will spend on housing, and over eight times what it will spend on science, space, and technology.”
Clearly, the national debt isn’t going away anytime soon, especially not with government spending on the rise and interest payments making up such a large chunk of the budget.
Still, the government remains unrepentant, unfazed and undeterred in its wanton spending.
Indeed, the national deficit (the difference between what the government spends and the revenue it takes in) is expected to be $2.3 trillion for fiscal 2021.
If Americans managed their personal finances the way the government mismanages the nation’s finances, we’d all be in debtors’ prison by now.
Despite the government propaganda being peddled by the politicians and news media, however, the government isn’t spending our tax dollars to make our lives better.
We’re being robbed blind so the governmental elite can get richer.
This is nothing less than financial tyranny.
“We the people” have become the new, permanent underclass in America.
In the eyes of the government, “we the people, the voters, the consumers, and the taxpayers” are little more than pocketbooks waiting to be picked.
Consider: The government can seize your home and your car (which you’ve bought and paid for) over nonpayment of taxes. Government agents can freeze and seize your bank accounts and other valuables if they merely “suspect” wrongdoing. And the IRS insists on getting the first cut of your salary to pay for government programs over which you have no say.
We have no real say in how the government runs, or how our taxpayer funds are used, but we’re being forced to pay through the nose, anyhow.
We have no real say, but that doesn’t prevent the government from fleecing us at every turn and forcing us to pay for endless wars that do more to fund the military industrial complex than protect us, pork barrel projects that produce little to nothing, and a police state that serves only to imprison us within its walls.
If you have no choice, no voice, and no real options when it comes to the government’s claims on your property and your money, you’re not free.
It didn’t take long, however—a hundred years, in fact—before the American government was laying claim to the citizenry’s property by levying taxes to pay for the Civil War. As the New York Times reports, “Widespread resistance led to its repeal in 1872.”
Determined to claim some of the citizenry’s wealth for its own uses, the government reinstituted the income tax in 1894. Charles Pollock challenged the tax as unconstitutional, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor. Pollock’s victory was relatively short-lived. Members of Congress—united in their determination to tax the American people’s income—worked together to adopt a constitutional amendment to overrule the Pollock decision.
On the eve of World War I, in 1913, Congress instituted a permanent income tax by way of the 16th Amendment to the Constitution and the Revenue Act of 1913. Under the Revenue Act, individuals with income exceeding $3,000 could be taxed starting at 1% up to 7% for incomes exceeding $500,000.
It’s all gone downhill from there.
Unsurprisingly, the government has used its tax powers to advance its own imperialistic agendas and the courts have repeatedly upheld the government’s power to penalize or jail those who refused to pay their taxes.
While we’re struggling to get by, and making tough decisions about how to spend what little money actually makes it into our pockets after the federal, state and local governments take their share (this doesn’t include the stealth taxes imposed through tolls, fines and other fiscal penalties), the government continues to do whatever it likes—levy taxes, rack up debt, spend outrageously and irresponsibly—with little thought for the plight of its citizens.
To top it all off, all of those wars the U.S. is so eager to fight abroad are being waged with borrowed funds. As The Atlantic reports, “U.S. leaders are essentially bankrolling the wars with debt, in the form of purchases of U.S. Treasury bonds by U.S.-based entities like pension funds and state and local governments, and by countries like China and Japan.”
Of course, we’re the ones who will have to repay that borrowed debt.
As Dwight D. Eisenhower warned in a 1953 speech, this is how the military industrial complex will continue to get richer, while the American taxpayer will be forced to pay for programs that do little to enhance our lives, ensure our happiness and well-being, or secure our freedoms.
This is no way of life.
Yet it’s not just the government’s endless wars that are bleeding us dry.
We’re also being forced to shell out money for surveillance systems to track our movements, money to further militarize our already militarized police, money to allow the government to raid our homes and bank accounts, money to fund schools where our kids learn nothing about freedom and everything about how to comply, and on and on.
It’s tempting to say that there’s little we can do about it, except that’s not quite accurate.
There are a few things we can do (demand transparency, reject cronyism and graft, insist on fair pricing and honest accounting methods, call a halt to incentive-driven government programs that prioritize profits over people), but it will require that “we the people” stop playing politics and stand united against the politicians and corporate interests who have turned our government and economy into a pay-to-play exercise in fascism.
Unfortunately, we’ve become so invested in identity politics that pit us against one another and keep us powerless and divided that we’ve lost sight of the one label that unites us: we’re all Americans.
Trust me, we’re all in the same boat, folks, and there’s only one real life preserver: that’s the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
The Constitution starts with those three powerful words: “We the people.”
As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, there is power in our numbers. That remains our greatest strength in the face of a governmental elite that continues to ride roughshod over the populace. It remains our greatest defense against a government that has claimed for itself unlimited power over the purse (taxpayer funds) and the sword (military might).
Where we lose out is when we fall for the big-talking politicians who spend big at our expense.
Oswaldo Terreros (Ecuador), Mural para la Universidad Superior de las Artes (‘Mural for the University of the Arts’), 2012.
In 2019, 613 million Indians voted to appoint their representatives to the Indian parliament (Lok Sabha). During the election campaign, the political parties spent Rs. 60,000 crores (around US $8 billion), 45% of which was spent by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the governing party; the BJP won 37% of the vote, which translated into 303 of the 545 seats in the Lok Sabha. A year later, a massive $14 billion was spent on the US presidential and congressional elections, with the winning Democrat Party dominating the spending. These are massive amounts of money, whose grip on the democratic process is quite clear by now. Is it possible to talk about ‘democracy’ without being candid about the erosion of the democratic spirit by this avalanche of money?
Money floods the system, eats into the loyalties of politicians, corrupts the institutions of civil society, and shapes the narratives of the media. It matters that the dominant classes in our world own the main communications outlets and that these outlets shape the way people decipher the world around us. Although the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression’ (Article 19), the plain fact is that the concentration of the media in the hands of a few corporate entities circumscribes the freedom to ‘impart information and ideas through any media’. For this reason, Reporters Without Borders has an ongoing Media Ownership Monitor that traces the consolidation of the media held by corporate power, which in turn drives a political agenda within existing systems of government.
Paul Guiragossian (Lebanon), La Lutte de l’Existence (‘The Struggle of Existence’), 1988
Aijaz Ahmad, Senior Fellow at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, argues that extreme right political projects find it possible to drive their agenda through democratic institutions, since the political structures in these countries – from the United States to India – have seen a considerable erosion of their democratic content. As Ahmad explains, the extreme right in countries such as the United States and India does not challenge the constitutional, liberal democratic form, but garrottes formal institutions by transforming society ‘in all domains of culture, religion, and civilisation’.
In Latin America, the extreme right has used every weapon to delegitimise its adversaries, including using perfectly good laws against corruption in a malicious way to target leaders of the left. This is a strategy called ‘lawfare’, where the law is used – often without evidence – to oust democratically-elected leaders of the left or to prevent them from running for office. Lawfare was used to remove Honduran president José Manuel Zelaya in 2009, Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo in 2012, and Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff in 2016; these leaders were all victims of judicial coup d’états. Brazil’s former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was denied the right to run for the presidency in 2018 by a lawsuit of no merit whatsoever amidst predictions in all polls that he would win. Argentina’s former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner faced a series of cases beginning in 2016, all of which prevented her from running again in 2019 (she is now the vice president, a testament to her popularity in the country).
Emiliano di Cavalcanti (Brazil), Sonhos do carnaval (‘Dreams of Carnaval’), 1955.
In Ecuador, the oligarchy used the techniques of the guerra jurídica (‘legal war’) to delegitimise the entire left, especially former president Rafael Correa (2007-2017). Correa was accused of bribery – with the bizarre notion of ‘psychic influence’ (influjo psíquico) at the root of the case. He was handed down an eight-year sentence which prevented him from running for office in Ecuador.
Why was Correa anathema to both Ecuador’s dominant class and to the United States? The Citizens’ Revolution that Correa led passed a progressive constitution in 2008, which put the principle of ‘good living’ (buen vivir in Spanish and sumak kawsay in Quechua) at its heart. Government investment to strengthen social and economic rights came alongside a crackdown on corporate (including multinational) corruption. Oil revenue was not parked in foreign banks, but used to invest in education, health care, roads, and other basic infrastructure. From Ecuador’s population of 17 million, nearly 2 million people were lifted out of poverty in the Correa years.
Correa’s government was an aberration to the multinational firms – such as the US-based oil company Chevron – and to the Ecuadorian oligarchy. Chevron’s dangerous case for compensation against Ecuador, brought forward before Correa took office, was nonetheless fiercely resisted by Correa’s government. The Dirty Hand (Mano Negra) campaign put enormous international pressure against Chevron, which worked closely with the US embassy in Quito and the US government to undermine Correa and his campaign against the oil giant.
Legendary musician Roger Waters talks to me about Chevron’s mischief in Ecuador
Not only did they want Correa out, but they wanted all the leftists – called Correistas by shorthand – out as well. Lenín Moreno, who was once close to Correa, ascended to the presidency in 2017, switched sides, became the main instrument for fragmenting the Ecuadorian left, and delivered Ecuador back to its elites and to the United States. Moreno’s government gutted the public sector by defunding education and health care, withdrawing labour and housing rights, attempting to sell off Ecuador’s refinery, and deregulating parts of the financial system. Collapsed oil prices that led to cuts in oil subsidies, a hefty loan from the International Monetary Fund at the cost of austerity measures, and mismanagement of the pandemic battered Moreno’s legitimacy. A consequence of these policies has been Ecuador’s appalling response to the pandemic, which includes accusations of the deliberate undercounting of as many as 20,000 COVID-19 deaths.
Firoz Mahmud (Bangladesh), Ouponibeshik/Porouponibeshik (‘Colonial/Postcolonial’), 2017.
To ingratiate himself to the United States, Moreno ejected WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from Ecuador’s London embassy, arrested computer programmer and privacy activist Ola Bini on a concocted case, and launched a frontal attack against the Correistas. The political organisation of the Correistas was broken up, its leaders arrested, and any attempt to regroup for elections denied. Once such as example is the Social Compromise Force or Fuerza Compromiso Social platform, which the Correistas used to run for local elections in 2019; this platform was then banned in 2020. A February 2018 referendum was barrelled through the country, allowing the government to destroy the democratic structures of the National Electoral Council (CNE), the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, the Judiciary Council, the attorney general, the comptroller general, and others. Democracy was hollowed out.
A month before the 7 February 2021 presidential election, it appeared clear that in a fair election the candidate of the left, Andrés Arauz Galarza, would prevail. A range of pollsters suggested that Arauz would win in the first round with over the threshold of 40%. Arauz (age 35) is an attractive candidate with not a whiff of corruption or incompetence around him for his decade of service in the Central Bank and as a minister in the last two turbulent years of Correa’s government. When Correa left office, Arauz went to Mexico to pursue a PhD at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). The oligarchy has used every means to block his victory.
Gulnara Kasmalieva and Murat Djumaliev (Kyrgyzstan), Shadows, 1999.
On 14 January, the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) provided Ecuador with a loan of $2.8 billion to be used to pay off Ecuador’s debt to China and to ensure that Ecuador pledge to break commercial ties with China. Knowing that Arauz might win, the US and the oligarchy of Ecuador decided to tie the Andean country to an arrangement that could suffocate any progressive government. Formed in 2018, the DFC developed a project called América Crece or ‘Growth in the Americas’, whose entire policy framework aims to edge out Chinese business from the American hemisphere. Quito has since signed up for Washington’s ‘Clean Network’, a US State Department project to force countries to build telecommunications networks without a Chinese telecom provider involved in them. This particularly applies to the high-speed fifth generation (5G) networks. Ecuador joined the Clean Network in November 2020, which opened the door for the DFC loan.
Correa drew in $5 billion from Chinese banks to enhance Ecuador’s infrastructure (particularly for the construction of hydroelectric dams); Ecuador’s total external debt is $52 billion. Moreno and the United States have painted the Chinese funds as a ‘debt trap’, although there is no evidence that the Chinese banks have been anything but accommodating. Over the last six months of 2020, Chinese banks have been willing to put loan payments on hold until 2022 (this includes a delay on the repayment of the $474 million loan to the Export-Import Bank of China and the $417 million loan to the China Development Bank). Ecuador’s Finance Ministry says that, for now, the plan is for repayment to start in March 2022 and to end by 2029. Moreno took to Twitter to announce these two delays. There were no aggressive measures taken by these two banks nor from any other Chinese financial entity.
Essentially, the DFC loan attempts to sabotage an Arauz presidency. This US-imposed conflict against China in Latin America is part of a broader assault. On 30 January, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research held a seminar alongside Instituto Simón Bolívar, ALBA Social Movimientos, and the No Cold War platform to reflect on the Latin American battlefield of this hybrid war.
The speakers included Alicia Castro (Argentina), Eduardo Regaldo Florido (Cuba), João Pedro Stedile (Brazil), Ricardo Menéndez (Venezuela), Monica Bruckmann (Peru/Brazil), Ambassador Li Baorong (China), and Fernando Haddad (Brazil).
Despite the hollowing out of democracy, elections remain one front in the political contest, and in that contest, the left fights to summon a democratic spirit. Perhaps poetry is the best way to articulate the texture of this conflict. Out of Ecuador’s rich tradition of emancipatory thinking came the writer and communist Jorge Enrique Adoum. Here’s a part of his powerful poem, Fugaz retorno (‘Fleeting Return’):
And we ran, like two runaways,
to the hard shore where stars
came apart. Fishermen told us
of successive victories in nearby provinces.
And our feet got wet with a spray of dawn,
full of roots that were ours and the world’s.
‘When is happiness?’, the poet asks. Tomorrow. Are we not all in search of tomorrow?
A self-funding national infrastructure bank modeled on the “American System” of Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt would help solve two of the country’s biggest problems.
Millions of Americans have joined the ranks of the unemployed, and government relief checks and savings are running out; meanwhile, the country still needs trillions of dollars in infrastructure. Putting the unemployed to work on those infrastructure projects seems an obvious solution, especially given that the $600 or $700 stimulus checks Congress is planning on issuing will do little to address the growing crisis. Various plans for solving the infrastructure crisis involving public-private partnerships have been proposed, but they’ll invariably result in private investors reaping the profits while the public bears the costs and liabilities. We have relied for too long on private, often global, capital, while the Chinese run circles around us building infrastructure with credit simply created on the books of their government-owned banks.
Earlier publicly-owned U.S. national banks and U.S. Treasuries pulled off similar feats, using what Sen. Henry Clay, U.S. statesman from 1806 to 1852, named the “American System” – funding national production simply with “sovereign” money and credit. They included the First (1791-1811) and Second (1816-1836) Banks of the United States, President Lincoln’s federal treasury and banking system, and President Franklin Roosevelt’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) (1932-1957). Chester Morrill, former Secretary of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, wrote of the RFC:
[I]t became apparent almost immediately, to many Congressmen and Senators, that here was a device which would enable them to provide for activities that they favored for which government funds would be required, but without any apparent increase in appropriations. . . . [T]here need be no more appropriations and its activities could be enlarged indefinitely, as they were, almost to fantastic proportions. [emphasis added]
Even the Federal Reserve with its “quantitative easing” cannot fund infrastructure without driving up federal expenditures or debt, at least without changes to the Federal Reserve Act. The Fed is not allowed to spend money directly into the economy or to lend directly to Congress. It must go through the private banking system and its “primary dealers.” The Fed can create and pay only with “reserves” credited to the reserve accounts of banks. These reserves are a completely separate system from the deposits circulating in the real producer/consumer economy; and those deposits are chiefly created by banks when they make loans. (See the Bank of England’s 2014 quarterly report here.) New liquidity gets into the real economy when banks make loans to local businesses and individuals; and in risky environments like that today, banks are not lending adequately even with massive reserves on their books.
A publicly-owned national infrastructure bank, on the other hand, would be mandated to lend into the real economy; and if the loans were of the “self funding” sort characterizing most infrastructure projects (generating fees to pay off the loans), they would be repaid, canceling out the debt by which the money was created. That is how China built 12,000 miles of high-speed rail in a decade: credit created on the books of government-owned banks was advanced to pay for workers and materials, and the loans were repaid with profits from passenger fees.
Unlike the QE pumped into financial markets, which creates asset bubbles in stocks and housing, this sort of public credit mechanism is not inflationary. Credit money advanced for productive purposes balances the circulating money supply with new goods and services in the real economy. Supply and demand rise together, keeping prices stable. China increased its money supply by nearly 1800% over 24 years (from 1996 to 2020) without driving up price inflation, by increasing GDP in step with the money supply.
HR 6422, The National Infrastructure Bank Act of 2020
A promising new bill for a national infrastructure bank modeled on the RFC and the American System, H.R. 6422, was filed by Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., in March. The National Infrastructure Bank of 2020 (NIB) is projected to create $4 trillion or more in bank credit money to rebuild the nation’s rusting bridges, roads, and power grid; relieve traffic congestion; and provide clean air and water, new schools and affordable housing. It will do this while generating up to 25 million union jobs paying union-level wages. The bill projects a net profit to the government of $80 billion per year, which can be used to cover infrastructure needs that are not self-funding (broken pipes, aging sewers, potholes in roads, etc.). The bill also provides for substantial investment in “disadvantage communities,” those defined by persistent poverty.
The NIB is designed to be a true depository bank, giving it the perks of those institutions for leverage and liquidity, including the ability to borrow at the Fed’s discount window without penalty at 0.25% interest (almost interest-free). According to Alphecca Muttardy, a former macroeconomist for the International Monetary Fund and chief economist on the 2020 NIB team, the NIB will create the $4 trillion it lends simply as deposits on its books, as the Bank of England attests all depository banks do. For liquidity to cover withdrawals, the NIB can either borrow from the Fed at 0.25% or issue and sell bonds.
The NIB would be capitalized by purchasing up to $500 billion in existing Treasury bonds held by the private sector (e.g., in pension and other savings funds), in exchange for an equivalent in shares of preferred [non-voting] stock in the NIB. The exchange would take place via a sales contract with the NIB/Federal Government that guarantees a preferred stock dividend of 2% more than private-holders currently earn on their Treasuries. The contract would form a binding obligation to provide the incremental 2%, or about $10 billion per year, from the Budget. While temporarily appearing as mandatory spending under the Budget, the $10 billion per year would ultimately be returned as a dividend paid to government, from the NIB’s earnings stream.
Since the federal government will be paying the interest on the bonds, the NIB needs to come up with only the 2% dividend to entice investors. The proposal is to make infrastructure loans at a very modest 2%, substantially lower than the rates now available to the state and local governments that create most of the nation’s infrastructure. At a 10% capital requirement, the bonds can capitalize ten times their value in loans. The return will thus be 20% on a 2% dividend outlay from the NIB, for a net return on investment of 18% less operating costs. The U.S. Treasury will also be asked to deposit Treasury bonds with the bank as an “on-call” subscriber.
The American System: Sovereign Money and Credit
U.S. precedents for funding internal improvements with “sovereign credit” – credit issued by the national government rather than borrowed from the private banking system – go back to the American colonists’ paper scrip, colonial Pennsylvania’s “land bank”, and the First U.S. Bank of Alexander Hamilton, the first U.S. Treasury Secretary. Hamilton proposed to achieve the constitutional ideal of “promoting the general welfare” by nurturing the country’s fledgling industries with federal subsidies for roads, canals, and other internal improvements; protective measures such as tariffs; and easy credit provided through a national bank. Production and the money to ﬁnance it would all be kept “in house,” without incurring debt to foreign ﬁnanciers. The national bank would promote a single currency, making trade easier, and would issue loans in the form of “sovereign credit.” ’
Senator Henry Clay called this model the “American System” to distinguish it from the “British System” that left the market to the “invisible hand” of “free trade,” allowing big monopolies to gobble up small entrepreneurs, and foreign bankers and industrialists to exploit the country’s labor and materials. After the charter for the First US Bank expired in 1811, Congress created the Second Bank of the United States in 1816 on the American System model.
In 1836, Pres. Andrew Jackson shut down the Second U.S. Bank due to perceived corruption, leaving the country with no national currency and precipitating a recession. “Wildcat” banks issued their own banknotes – promissory notes allegedly backed by gold. But the banks often lacked the gold necessary to redeem the notes, and the era was beset with bank runs and banking crises.
Abraham Lincoln’s economic advisor was Henry Carey, the son of Matthew Carey, a well-known printer and publisher who had been tutored by Benjamin Franklin and had tutored Henry Clay. Henry Carey proposed creating an independent national currency that was non-exportable, one that would remain at home to do the country’s own work. He advocated a currency founded on “national credit,” something he deﬁned as “a national system based entirely on the credit of the government with the people, not liable to interference from abroad.” It would simply be a paper unit of account that tallied work performed and goods delivered.
On that model, in 1862 Abraham Lincoln issued U.S. Notes or Greenbacks directly from the U.S. Treasury, allowing Lincoln’s government not only to avoid an exorbitant debt to British bankers and win the Civil War, but to fund major economic development, including tying the country together with the transcontinental railroad – an investment that actually turned a profit for the government.
After Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, the Greenback program was discontinued; but Lincoln’s government also passed the National Bank Act of 1863, supplemented by the National Bank Act of 1864. Originally known as the National Currency Act, its stated purpose was to stabilize the banking system by eradicating the problem of notes issued by multiple banks circulating at the same time. A single banker-issued national currency was created through chartered national banks, which could issue notes backed by the U.S. Treasury in a quantity proportional to the bank’s level of capital (cash and federal bonds) deposited with the Comptroller of the Currency.
From Roosevelt’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation (1932-57) to HR 6422
The American president dealing with an economic situation most closely resembling that today, however, was Franklin D. Roosevelt. America’s 32nd president resolved massive unemployment and infrastructure problems by greatly expanding the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) set up by his predecessor Herbert Hoover. The RFC was a remarkable publicly-owned credit machine that allowed the government to finance the New Deal and World War II without turning to Congress or the taxpayers for appropriations. The RFC was not called an infrastructure bank and was not even a bank, but it served the same basic functions. It was continually enlarged and modified by Pres. Roosevelt to meet the crisis of the times until it became America’s largest corporation and the world’s largest financial organization. Its semi-independent status let it work quickly, allowing New Deal agencies to be financed as the need arose. According to Encyclopedia.com:
[T]he RFC—by far the most influential of New Deal agencies—was an institution designed to save capitalism from the ravages of the Great Depression. Through the RFC, Roosevelt and the New Deal handed over $10 billion to tens of thousands of private businesses, keeping them afloat when they would otherwise have gone under ….
A similar arrangement could save local economies from the ravages of the global shutdowns today.
The Banking Acts of 1932 provided the RFC with capital stock of $500 million and the authority to extend credit up to $1.5 billion (subsequently increased several times). The initial capital came from a stock sale to the U.S. Treasury. With those modest resources, from 1932 to 1957 the RFC loaned or invested more than $40 billion. A small part of this came from its initial capitalization. The rest was financed with bonds sold to the Treasury, some of which were then sold to the public. The RFC ended up borrowing a total of $51.3 billion from the Treasury and $3.1 billion from the public.
Thus the Treasury was the lender, not the borrower, in this arrangement. As the self-funding loans were repaid, so were the bonds that were sold to the Treasury, leaving the RFC with a net profit. The RFC was the lender for thousands of infrastructure and small business projects that revitalized the economy, and these loans produced a total net income of over $690 million on the RFC’s “normal” lending functions (omitting such things as extraordinary grants for wartime). The RFC financed roads, bridges, dams, post offices, universities, electrical power, mortgages, farms, and much more–all while generating income for the government.
HR 6422 proposes to mimic this feat. The National Infrastructure Bank of 2020 can rebuild crumbling infrastructure across America, pushing up long-term growth, not only without driving up taxes or the federal debt, but without hyperinflating the money supply or generating financial asset bubbles. The NIB has growing support across the country from labor leaders, elected officials, and grassroots organizations. It can generate real wealth in the form of upgraded infrastructure and increased employment as well as federal and local taxes and GDP, paying for itself several times over without additional outlays from the federal government. With official unemployment at nearly double what it was a year ago and an economic crisis unlike the U.S. has seen in nearly a century, the NIB can trigger the sort of “economic miracle” the country desperately needs.
It’s an unprecedented coalition of business networks that have come together to raise our ambition. Not just to help our individual CEOs succeed, we’ll do that for sure. But to actually bring their voices together to help shift culture. So that the pushback on the BRT [Business Roundtable] from different business publications or other people within the business community lessens. So there’s less of a headwind culturally for this type of leadership.
— Jay Coen Gilbert, co-founder of B Lab and B Corporations [Source]
[These are not good people, and if anyone thinks otherwise, then, well, War is Peace, Truth is Lies, Hate is Love!]
We Are Big Data’s Dregs
The great data dredge. Everyone’s hired through a digital head hunter, staffing firm, and the result is a continuation of atomizing society with no water cooler, so to speak, from which to complain about working conditions, to discuss the next austerity measure concocted by the boss/management/ CEO/Corporation. No after work bull session at the local Chili’s or T.G.I.F. to compare notes about those exploding gas tanks and caustic chemicals and faulty electrodes in the air bag systems.
This is what Ford would have wanted, and this is what the heads of retail and data and manufacturing want. They’ve already put most of us over a barrel with forced arbitration clauses, non-compete agreements (sic), and rule after penalty after threat after law after delimitation, that, well, in this knowledge (sic) economy and post-Industrial (sic) economy, the white collar and pink collar workers are hemmed in by management. More than the field hands picking this country’s lettuce!
The hemming in is an oppression planned and sealed, and a deep seated zombifcation of the “higher castes” and to be honest, people of the land, even those in struggle, in other countries that have been deemed shit-holes by Trump and Third World by Biden have more gumption about them, more ability to fight the systems, the oppressors, than any member of the Western Civilization.
Just drive around your town or suburb, anywhere. Take a look at what and how the systems have been set up for and about the rich, for the money changers, for the money takers, for the dream hoarders. Take a look. How many bus stations, how many covered and art-imbued public amenities? How many public toilets, public waysides, public paths, public trails, public pedestrian overpasses, public bandstands, public gazebos, public museums, public eateries, public statues, signs, art, historical markers? How many trees and shrubs and open spaces set up for the public? How many picnic tables and interpretive trails, and …? How many tiny home villages for the houseless? How many community gardens? Theaters and cinemas for and by the people?
Talk about dead and lobotomized citizens, as we have allowed the captains of industry and oppressors of finance and the legions of pushers of the realm rule: retailers, consumer crack salesmen/women, middle managers, ant hill after ant hill of processors and facilitators of the entire house of cards built upon the dopamine hits of lizard drips of the brain. “I betcha can’t eat just one Lays potato chip,” now on steroids – “I betcha you can’t just have 3 big screen TVs in your pad … “And now you fill in that blank – Just look at the so-called Black Friday ads.
Amazing, junk, junk and more junk. Families buying deep fryers and rice steamers and any number of electronic junk that they can’t or don’t know how to use. All that plastic and tin, diodes and LED screens. All of that planned obsolescence. Nary a word about the embedded energy, the packaging, the toil and slave labor, the life cycle analysis. Piles and piles of worthless junk, planned to break, parts planned to snap, wires planned and ready to melt.
Planned Human Obsolescence
This is not a difficult thing to comprehend, about socialism for the land and people versus capitalism for the elite and bankers and small group of sociopaths, who will fight tooth and nail (well, with a battalion of lawyers at $1500 an hour each, not really a fight per se) to push the poisons, hawk the faulty products, demand the welfare for the rich and corporations, and deposit all the externalities of their profit schemes onto the public and the commons’ health.
But … Man, those “buts.” I talk all the time with great white saviors, who just start spewing at the mouth of the evils of socialism, and that, well, capitalism is good, and “we let Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk and Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg” accumulate so much wealth and power, so it’s our fault, and really, is it that bad we have these Titans who give us goods and services? This is like heaven compared to countries who push that bullshit democratic socialism crap. Do you know what the 10 pillars of socialism/communism/Marxism are?”
Try putting “debunking the critics of socialism” into the Google Gulag Search, and you shall receive so much hatred and polemics around anything tied to socialism on the first 50 pages of the search, that, well, you get the picture why these big white saviors will dare come up to me and challenge me the socialist on how and why socialism is bad-bad-bad while capitalism is god’s work.
As these great white saviors are pushing a cart filled with two TV’s, a new printer, two iPads, and junk junk junk, 50 pounds of kitty liter and a hundred pounds of dog chow. While walking past the two young men I am working with who are taking in shopping carts as part of their competitive work as people who happen to be living with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. These Great White Hopes are Blind to “them.”
These great white saviors, well, it’s all about survival of the fittest. All about the colonized mind. All about – “you majored in the wrong subject matter, sucker … born into the most messed up family, sucker grew up on that side of the railroad tracks, dufus … got stuck with those bills and foreclosures, sucker.”
Oh, the invisible hand of the oppressors, and these people – Biden and Trump supporters, what have you – are criminal thinkers, really, because with one huge swath of their inhuman brain, they disregard 90 percent of the planet’s people.
“They are all sucka’s for being born where they are and from the loins of ‘those’ rotten people.”
A Sucker Borne Every Nanosecond
Oh, and I am seeing more and more quasi-leftist stuff, saying, well, the left needs to embrace the Trumpies, to work with them on labor rights, on environmental rights, on health care for all, on all those issues, and not be so hung up on their misogyny, racism, classism, white Duck Dynasty Ted Nugent shit.
Insanity, man. Leftists writing from the comfort of their offices, well, they are a dime a dozen. The reality on the ground is that this country has a cool 100 million or so hateful, resentful, ignorant of the world, pro-war, rah-rah, hate welfare of all kinds sort of people. They don’t have to be Proud Boys and KKK. These people in this USA, the white ones, mostly, have come from that evil spawn stock, back even before SCD, Smith Colony Disease.
Then, again, we have Democrats with a wilted big “D” who need their comeuppance, and who are just one half brain shy of a squid, and somehow, the other squids (sorry about the dispersion to cephalopods) with another load of brain cells missing need to be embraced, because, the GOP and Trumpies and the like want to move toward a truly socialist society?
Again, the reality is some bad-ass slow, consistent and in many cases rapid death by a 1,000 capitalist cuts.
I meet people in my new job, working with Adults with ID/DD, to get job ready and jobs in the community – real jobs, not stuck in some sheltered workshop getting one-tenth the wage of anyone else in the same job.
Sure, I am doing great work, god’s work, the work of an angel (they really say this stuff to me, a commie, a devoted atheist), and while I get the gist of that, we talk about how it is my careers have been shit for pay, highly exploitive and yet highly regarded in some sense: teaching, social services, and, well, community journalism.
“Ha-ha, you are doing these great services knowing you are not going to get rich doing it, but thank you for your service.”
Imagine that stupidity, that dense mentality. Imagine, the hard jobs that need doing in a broken capitalist society with wave after wave of damaged, chronically ill, economically strafed, mentally poisoned, generously precarious, and one paycheck away from bad ass disaster citizens on the precipice? PayDay Loans? That in and of itself defines capitalism. The Mafiosi aspect of this spiritually deserted society.
Yet, now, these great leftist warriors are saying the Trumpies and the GOP of the world – the log cutters, the mill workers, the truckers, the blue collar millionaires – that they want workplace rights, the right to strike, the right to squat, the right to refuse bad and dangerous work; that they want to be able to shut down polluting industries, and the right of the people to take over industries? That these Trumpies and GOP want universal health care, universal rights for all people. That these GOP and Trumpies want real education, more education, holistic education, writing and thinking across the curriculum, across disciplines, across industries. That the GOP-Trumpies will work so-so well with organizers and “the people” over defunding and holding to task “the police-backed” banks-warehouses-fulfillment centers. Right!@#$%
So how does anyone on both sides of the manure pile called USA politics square this fact?
Ahh, the world’s 26 richest people currently have the same amount of wealth as the poorest 3.8 billion—down from 61 people in 2016. As the rich get richer, sea levels are rising, tribalism is flourishing, and liberal democracies are regressing. Even some of the wealthiest nations are plagued by job insecurity, debt, and stagnant wages. Ordinary people across the political spectrum are increasingly concerned that the system is rigged against them. Trust in public institutions is near an all-time low.
So that Google search got one hit on the “other side” of the dividing line (not really) – “What the Right Gets Wrong About Socialism. As Scandinavia shows, it does feature plenty of public ownership—but also a thriving economy.”1
Sure, we get this from the Norwegian:
Norway’s success has not come without costs—wealth accrued through oil and other extractive industries has had harsh ecological consequences. But students there and across Scandinavia graduate without the horrifying debt burdens of their U.S. counterparts. Those who sustain injuries in traffic accidents never have to beg bystanders not to call for an ambulance, for fear of drowning in medical debt. Norwegian diabetics don’t need to crowdsource their insulin. As seniors, they don’t spend their golden years working at Walmart or living in their vehicles. Their homes were not repossessed en masse by banks during the Great Recession. Extensive public ownership shields Norwegians from the harshest aspects of unfettered capitalism.
But then he attacks North Korea and Venezuela for being failing socialist countries, and without the context of the international transnational monetary criminal system of sanctions and debt and theft of Venezuela’s treasury, and war war war with Korea still on the hot plate. Then the illegal maneuvers of governments like the USA and supported by all those others, including Norway, in its attack on Venezuela’s elected leaders and support of the dirty rich racist opposition groups, that is not mentioned.
Yep, there is a link in the Norwegian’s piece to another article – July 2018, “There is Nothing Inherently Wrong with State Ownership” by Matthew Bruenig over at Current Affairs Magazine.
Again, short anemic, and an essay in response to an attack on Norway and Sweden and “socialist” countries in the Nordic category by a New York Times “writer,” a Bret Stephens, who is sloppy and makes untrue claims in this piece, “Democratic Socialism Is Dem Doom.”
No Richard Wolf and no Michael Parenti or any thousands upon thousands of thinkers who know about societies and economies and cultures and ecologies who could put this tripe to rest. This is it?
Hemming Us In
Imagine, a 69-year-old working in a deli at a national chain. “I was once a speech therapist with a thriving private practice. And then my retirement went bust, thanks to Enron.” So, Molly works with a terrible limp, arthritis everywhere and almost no hair left. Fryers, slicers, prepping, and she runs it. Since age 55, when not only her measly retirement went bust, but the speech therapy arena turned more and more into high end certification racket, and gobbled up by, well, monopolies, agencies that scarf up the independents, or make it impossible to compete against the aggregators and services felons.
Then another guy, James, working the parking lot, bathrooms, carts, etc., making a wage when he started at this national grocery chain, of $9.75 an hour. He busts his butt, and we talked about his chronic heart failure, the meds he takes each month, all of that, including the pace maker and other aspects of his life, at age 60. He is at $12 an hour after five years with this outfit, and he tells me his supervisor likes his work, and his helping the other cart people, so much so that he is in for a wage increase to $15 an hour. He has to wait 90 days for the higher ups to approve that.
Hemming in. Working hard jobs at an old age to keep bad health insurance that is part of a for-triple-profit system of penury and theft. Oh, stories of an item being charged 18 times more during this Covid “crisis.”
A study that revealed hospitals may be charging as much as 18 times over their costs.
Nurse Jean Ross – “ Yes. Again, unconscionable, but that seems to be the way in this country. Up to 18 times. So, for example, if your true cost — it’s called the charge-to-cost ratio, or CCR — if your true cost for your service is $100, they are, in many cases, charging up to $1,800. And they do it because they can.” This from a study put out by National Nurses United.
Sit on the Ground and Try and Pull Yourself Up by Bootstraps
Those great white hopes, those big happy white males and big happy white females who voted for Trump and then those that believe Biden is better, well, that’s what we have – “Just let it take place, and that’s the way the Capitalist Cookie crumbles. What would Cuba be doing? The great invisible hand will fix things!”
Where I currently work – a small non-profit – the amount of software and tracking-time management apps and all the government agencies I have to get my mandatory trainings on and get my certifications renewed, well, it’s almost daunting. That’s the squeeze, the money train to the middle men, having nothing to do with my job, my humanity, work.
This is a non-for-profit agency working with adults with ID/DD.
Imagine all those warehouses and factories and office buildings and other places where the atomization was already on overdrive before the plan-pandemic.
Now, with the lockdowns, the on-line doom dungeons, and alas, with more and more AI and IT measures in place to keep us out of each other’s social distance arena, things are really degrading big time.
Teaching to the New Technology
I want to look at another gig I had – substitute teaching. Not just the bad working conditions of the public schools and anxious teachers and idiotic principals and the dictatorial superintendent. Let’s look at the payrate. Look at this – substitute teachers, K12, in Oregon, on the Coast, now managed by a Tennessee outfit. Note the hourly rate, and of course, coming into substitute teaching, a teaching certificate is required, and that means, well, most teachers like me, we have master’s degrees. That Oregon licensing costs another cool $400 to get the license and jump through the hoops. We get no mileage expended to get to and from very remote schools.
Job details — $14 an hour; Full-time/ Part-time; The State of Oregon requires all substitute teachers to hold an active Oregon Teaching License, Restricted Substitute Teaching License, or an Oregon Reciprocal License. As leaders in the education staffing space since 2000, ESS specializes in placing qualified staff in daily, long-term, and permanent K-12 school district positions including substitute teachers, school aides, and other school support staff. With more than 700 school district partners throughout the US, ESS supports the education of more than 2.5 million students every day.
I had been teaching as a substitute a year ago. I had been hired by the District, and my contacts were through the District. I was making $80 for four hours and $160 for seven. In many cases I could get called in late and then get ready, make the drive in the rural county, get to the school and still get the full day’s pay rate. That’s more than $18 an hour, and alas, I got to know the teachers who wanted me when they had planned absences, and the school secretaries also knew me.
There is a shortage of substitutes, and, well, if things were better all around, substitutes could be integrated more seamlessly and holistically to provide amazing outside the box perspectives and teaching.
Not so in Lincoln County, as is true of most counties, with plenty of Administrators, plenty of bullshit curriculum cops, plenty of teach-to-the- test zombies running roughshod over the entire project of working with our youth, our kids, our aspiring young adults.
This staffing “solution” is killing again teachers getting together, working with the district, getting to know people in the district, airing grievances with the district. Everything goes through this Tennessee outfit. Complaints go nowhere, and if you get a complaint leveled against you by a school, ESS will NOT go to bat. They have taken that $18 an hour and whittled it to $14 an hour. Then, they probably charge more than just that $4 per each hour taught to the DIstrict. Add to the fact they will manage who gets called, how they get called. These people are running call centers, data dredging centers, and know zilch about the schools, the roads, the weather, the culture, the teachers, the students.
I am sure they will not be allowing teachers to get a few extra hours pay if they are called in late and end up working a partial day. I am sure there are all sorts of cost-cutting (human-killing measures) this Education Staffing Solutions outfit deploys.
And, they probably pay Google for a net cast to see how many hits on the world wide web Education Staffing Solutions gets mentioned or Yelped or rated on Indeed or Linked In. You can only imagine if I was still employed as a substitute teacher, through ESS, that conversation happening, as ESS would be the outfit that would be managing me, so to speak. Finding this article criticizing them, well, sayonara subbing Mister Paul Haeder.
Management fees, man, and government (local, city, county and state, and federal) giving up oversight and decent livable wages for all the agencies and the public utilities (that we could have) and everything else, gone to middle and middle and middle men.
Again, these warped folk with ESS probably backed Trump and believe in Capitalism on Steroids, while they make bank on all the public entities across the land, AKA, public schools.
That the bus systems for schools is now outsourced from sea to shining sea, that again, defines the bottom line of pathetic capitalism. All the food cooked in cafeterias, outsourced to Sodexo. There is nothing local anymore, and these multinationals, these huge stockholder and stock board run outfits, they are making money off of us, US taxpayer, and in that formula, they are welfare recipients, and mostly welfare cheats, and with ESS, they are ripping off the very people that do the work – teachers, para-educators, more.
My comeuppance it seems was being banned from the entire District because of a few students I was in charge of at a local high school accused me of “upsetting” them when we were having a classroom discussion about homelessness, about epigenetics and families, about poverty, about the potential for many people to become substance abusers. We were talking about the books Of Mice and Men and Animal Farm.
What happened was La-La-Land level stuff, and while I think some students are crackpots, and little versions of really bad parents, I am ready to deal with crackpots and talk them off their cliff.
I did not get my day in court, so to speak, and I was not allowed to explain what could have been the students’ (three of them) hysteria, and I had no chance to query the people involved or bringing in the rest of the classroom students who were both inquisitive and enthralled to have a well-traveled, well-read, well-educated, well-experienced person like me in their classroom, albeit, temporary.
And ESS did nothing to defend me, protect me, or gain some sort of redress. That was a year ago.
Here’s a positive story — “Musings on a Monday After Teaching High School Get You Down? Nope!”
Another — “Professor Pablo and Fourth Grade Enlightenment in Lincoln City”
Education By and Because of the Corporation
The backdrop of my teaching debut … was a predicament without any possible solution, a deadly brew compounded from twelve hundred black teenagers penned inside a gloomy brick pile for six hours a day, with a white guard staff misnamed ‘faculty’ manning the light towers and machine-gun posts. This faculty was charged with dribbling out something called ‘curriculum’ to inmates, a gruel so thin [that this school] might rather have been a home for the feeble-minded than a place of education.
— John Taylor Gatto, “The Underground History of American Education,”
I did get a bird’s eye and on-the-ground look at the elementary, middle and high schools in this District. I have done substituting elsewhere, as in Vancouver, Seattle, Spokane and El Paso. Things are not looking good for youth. And I have written about that fact decades ago, and, yes, way before COronaVIrusDisease-2019, and, now, in a time of stupidity, fear, self-loathing, and complete loss of agency, the world is flipped around and, in most cases, crushed for our young people.
Did I mention fear, and while this Intercept piece below is a superficial look at the digital divide, there is so-so much more to write about this lockdown and social (pariah) distancing. It is a caste system on steroids. Calling it “remote learning” is doublespeak, oxymoronic.
In agro-industrial Watsonville, California, English-language learners struggle with remote learning. It’s much easier for students in a nearby Bay Area suburb.
I have a daughter, a step-daughter and a niece in various schooling situations. One is in med school, one is getting a chemistry degree and one is in esthetician school. Hmm, you’d expect hands-on for med school and chemistry majors. Nope. The fear factor for one of the three young women is high, and she is not wanting to leave campus, and the great reset is not in her vocabulary. There is a bombastic, “I am so glad Trump is gone. I hate him. I wish he was dead” from one of the college students. But that’s about it.
The med school woman, well, she is still having to pay out the nose for the school, yet there are less hands-on classes, again, through this doublespeak system of “remote learning.”
Now the esthetician student is hands-on, learning about the human skin dynamics, the chemistry of things in the body and outside, and working on clients, hands on. Seems very interesting that this one area – not to knock one career choice over another – has more practical hands on work than university-level chemistry majors and medical school attendees.
Now, the chemistry major’s school is introducing an “app of paranoia and tracking 101” – you put it on your smart phone, and all those who accept this app, well, as soon as someone tests (sic) positive for the virus (sic), then the entire network of users will get a notification and a detailed map of that person’s whereabouts. Oh, it’s secure, safe, no personal data shared (or mined – right!) they say, and that is a blatant lie-lie-lie. This is the Great Reset, and it’s pathetic and a gateway drug to implanted RFID’s.
The two college students, well, they are focused on their majors, but because of the siloing (atomization) of schooling, the demands on S/T/E/M do not enter the real of STEAM, science technology engineering arts math as interdisciplinary critical studies and as a praxis of seeing how the world could, should and might work outside the Corporate Thievery of Capitalism.
The net effect of holding children in confinement for twelve years without honor paid to the spirit is a compelling demonstration that the State considers the Western spiritual tradition dangerous, subversive. And of course it is. School is about creating loyalty to certain goals and habits, a vision of life, support for a class structure, an intricate system of human relationships cleverly designed to manufacture the continuous low level of discontent upon which mass production and finance rely.” —John Taylor Gatto, The Underground History of American Education
More atomization, and more dumb-downing, and more caste systems, and more social-economic-intellectual-employment-philosophical-cultural distancing. This is it for us, no?
…. the world’s 26 richest people currently have the same amount of wealth as the poorest 3.8 billion—down from 61 people in 2016. As the rich get richer, sea levels are rising, tribalism is flourishing, and liberal democracies are regressing. Even some of the wealthiest nations are plagued by job insecurity, debt, and stagnant wages. Ordinary people across the political spectrum are increasingly concerned that the system is rigged against them. Trust in public institutions is near an all-time low.” [source]
Read some of this report, and the surface stuff, well, just surface feel good stuff, but dig deep — Oxfam Report. It’s harrowing.
Nick Hanauer, entrepreneur and venture capitalist:
I am a practitioner of capitalism. I have started or funded 37 companies and was the first outside investor in Amazon. The most important lesson I have learned from these decades of experience with market capitalism is that morality and justice are the fundamental prerequisites for prosperity and economic growth. Greed is not good.
The problem is that almost every authority figure – from economists to politicians to the media – tells us otherwise. Our current crisis of inequality is the direct result of this moral failure. This exclusive, highly unequal society based on extreme wealth for the few may seem sturdy and inevitable right now, but eventually it will collapse. Eventually the pitchforks will come out, and the ensuing chaos will not benefit anyone – not wealthy people like me, and not the poorest people who have already been left behind.
Ironically, the woman going into the beauty field is much more keenly aware of the economic and social disasters befalling small businesses in her own city, her own state and her region of the country. She is super left, but is keenly aware of her democratic governor’s insipid lockdown measures.
I have many friends who now are going bankrupt, closing their businesses. Those businesses are part of a multiplier fabric. The town is or was so much better off with all these independent and mom and pop owned businesses. Not just the cool eateries and breweries, but many people I know opened up furniture stores, businesses around building and construction, all kinds of services you can’t find at the national level. Heck, used computer parts and computers, and even car rental places. Things that are not part of the monopolizing Fortune 500 set. Gone.
That means, of course, STEAM is damaged, in that, sure, the arts are hit hard, but the rest of the STEM also are hit hard on many levels. These STEM folk like their food, beer, edgy stuff, locally sourced and owned. The neutron bomb that the lockdowns and lack of financing and wages and deep-deep help for the small guys and gals, well, it is hollowing out and even more hollowed out economy. The STEM folk will follow the money, while the arts folk and those deeply tied to something richer than science for profit and engineering for war and math for building and construction and technology for the Fourth Industrial Revolution will embed and grow a city’s or town’s or area’s culture.
This all leads us back to the semi-liberal class, even the youth who hate Trump and who don’t get all the conspiracies because they go to schools (universities) which are nothing to shake a stick at, since they are tied to social constructs and hierarchies reliant on the investor class; and they pay out the nose, take out loans and go to classes that are on-line, given to them now largely by scared educators, monitored and mashed up by the Titans of Technology, who have colonized every aspect of our society, ESPECIALLY, PK12 and higher education.
The young woman working on beautifying people and supporting their self-esteem and confidence on a superficial level (skin deep beauty, so to speak), well, she is more acutely aware of the lies of the authorities on both sides of the political manure pile than these card-carrying creeps who actually think Kamala Harris is something good. Anyone-but-Trump is what got us here, this evil of two lesser, lesser of two evils. The two college-going/educated ones are more and more tied into getting out and making money, and not to knock them, because they too know the disgusting reality of poverty and more and more people who once had decent lives, who were the fabric of communities, from that baker to the speech therapist, from that teacher to the counselor, from that glass blower to that coffee shop owner, from all those service workers with lives outside just the service economy (if they are budding or bustling artists).
The creative class is not what Richard Florida yammers about. The liberal class, as Chris Hedges writes, is dead. Education has been gutted and sold down the river, as Henry Giroux states. The New Jim Crow, as Michelle Alexander states, is the new normal for not just American mindsets at the citizen level, but on the economic and investor and Capitalist level.
But conditions today favor the amateur. They favor “speed, brevity, and repetition; novelty but also recognizability.” Artists no longer have the time nor the space to “cultivate an inner stillness or focus”; no time for the “slow build.” Creators need to cater to the market’s demand for constant and immediate engagement, for “flexibility, versatility, and extroversion.” As a result, “irony, complexity, and subtlety are out; the game is won by the brief, the bright, the loud, and the easily grasped.” — “The Great Unread: On William Deresiewicz’s The Death of the Artist”
Capitalism is fascism, and it takes over entire cities and states and regions. It operates on the “buyer beware” mentality, which relies on consumers to take it up the rear, no foul called on the billionaires and CEOs and capitalist systems; and it is protected through the fascist laws of the land created by the massagers of the law from the Supreme Court down to traffic court.
More Nazis Than They Knew What to do With
Again, the great reset tied to Dashboards, a million different types of Education Staffing Solutions (ESS), universal buffoon incomes, all of that inculcated by Karl Schwab, Bill Gates, the Aspen Institute, the TED-X-ers, the World Economic Forum, all of them in the elite class, their handlers, their sycophants, all of those billionaires determining the course of cradle to grave predetermination for billions of people (Zuckerberg has encircled the African continent with his cables and lines and fiber optics), that reset was started decades ago. Debt. Foreclosures. Bailing out corporations. Drugs for guns; Crack Cocaine and the CIA; and, well, the CIA is god, into everything, right, making sure the reset has already been ensured. CIA and Nazis, and Mossad and Jihad, and, these are the merry makers of the world of Lords of War, Lords of Disruptive Economies, Lords of Predatory-Parasitic-Vulture-Usury Capitalism.
Operation Paperclip – 1,600 of Hitler’s Angels of Death. Housing, citizenship, and carte blanc living in the United States. Families welcomed. Italy’s and Germany’s intelligent agencies working closely with the National Security State, and this was in the form of so-called the rat-lines. Tens of thousands going to South America. Tens thousand other Nazi’s allowed to come to USA.
And this was the plan, from the last days right before WWII ended with an illegal double bang of Atomic Murdering Tools – all these stay-behind armies from those defeated fascists of Italy and Germany. Check out this interview on RT –Chris Hedges talks to Gabriel Rockhill about the undercurrents of fascism in America’s DNA, and the US role in internationalizing fascism after World War II through clandestine activities such Operation Paperclip and Operation Gladio.
Rockhill is a Franco-American philosopher and the founding Director of the Critical Theory Workshop and Professor of Philosophy at Villanova University. His books include Counter-History of the Present: Untimely Interrogations into Globalization, Technology, Democracy, Interventions in Contemporary Thought: History, Politics, Aesthetics, Radical History & the Politics of Art and Logique de l’histoire.
Try having conversations with liberal (illiberal) college-educated and college-loving Democrats about USA’s bioweapons program dating back to again, WWII, and Japanese scientists who were working on all sorts of bioweapons but were captured by the USA and reappropriated and brought back to the USA for, well, good paying jobs.
That is capitalism, right, reappropriating and stealing and setting up systems of mental, physical, psychological, biological, ecological, cultural repression, and eventually, disease and illness, because it pays more to treat and encourage the disease than it does to have a society living disease-free or at least living with those old time religion concepts of – precautionary principle, do no harm, preventative medicine, treat your fellow human as you would want to be treated. You know, all of that mumbo-jumbo that is not put into practice one iota in Capitalism, but certainly is mishmashed into the systems of propaganda, and, alas the “Si Se Puede” marketing of such criminals at Audacity of Hope Obama. et al makes some feel like there is change where change will NEVER be.
Until we get this liberal archetype who says Columbus was a bad guy, and that the USA was built upon the deaths and murders of Indians and Blacks, but, shoot, when ordering from the Prime Amazon account, or when scrolling up and down the iPhone, and, well, all of that which we take for granted in this First World which comes on the back of people here and now in this country and especially in other countries, then, well, the tune changes.
Because in an economic fascism, when again, old worn out people have to still hoof it to Walmart and stock shelves, and when there is no home health care for the sick and dying, young or old, unless there is always huge exchanges of money going out into the pockets of the purveyors of capitalism, you will be getting variations on a theme of a people hooked on Netflix, hooked on buying, hooked on not knowing, hooked on confusion and chaos and, well, this is what is planned.
The great reset and fourth industrial revolution are no-brainers. We’ve given up our fingerprints for a shit job, we have given up blood and urine for a shit job, we are guilty before we can attempt to prove our humanity, our innocence, and in reality, we are always guilty in the eyes of Capitalists.
Western and ruling class ideologies have played a crucial and cruel role in the violent transformation of the peoples, ecosystems and biosphere. The Fourth Industrial Revolution represents the most violent transformation of all. For as long as the ruling class is allowed to exist, social and environmental justice remain pipe dreams. [Cory Morningstar, source]
We are now taking those supposedly benign things like tracking outcomes – you know, if you have prenatal education and vitamins as a pregnant teen, and if you get the little tikes reading on a Chromebook, watching Sesame Street and if you eat this veggie over that deep friend morsel, and, all of those metrics that the data ditzes love, all of it is now being used AGAINST self-agency, AGAINST not just individuals, but all manner of classes, groupings, economic strata. You do the stuff “right” which Bill and Melinda have studied are right, then there will be s few more digital dollars in your bank account. If you fail to do them, well, no more dialing for dollars.
Because the jobs are going. The mom and pops are folding. Even chains like bowling alleys and movie theaters, all of that, they are shuttering. This revolution was already in the works before Marshall McLuhan and the medium is the message and Herman and Chomsky’s manufacturing consent. Way before deadly at any speed, a la Nader, and way before the lies of better angels of our nature Pinker.
The fix was in long-long time ago, when the food was locked up and the agricultural revolution forced us to stop being human and humane, and made us into the cogs in so many machines of oppression and suppression.
Until today, when the Catholic freaks are coming in their vestments with their exorcising tools for anyone who would dare desecrate the statue of Columbus or any Fray who pushed their stinking selves and their stinking religions onto this continent and the one south.
In response to Indigenous-led efforts that demanded land back and the toppling of statues, Catholic Church leaders in Oregon and California deemed it necessary to perform exorcisms, thereby casting Indigenous protest as demonic. [Truthout]
This is 2020, and the trillionaire Catholic Church is walking in downtown Portland with these conquistadors of nothingness, while the great reset is happening, with the green light of the Pope. “The story did not end the way it was meant to,” Pope Francis wrote recently, deftly excommunicating about a half-century’s worth of economic ideology. [source] In a striking, 43,000-word-long encyclical published last Sunday, the pope put his stamp on efforts to shape what’s been termed a Great Reset of the global economy in response to the devastation of COVID-19.”
Here it is imperative to note the consolidation of power happening in real time. World Economic Forum founder and CEO Klaus Schwab refers to this consolidation as a new global architecture; the new global governance. The following dates of are of paramount significance. On May 18, 2018, the World Bank partners with the United Nations. On June 13, 2019, the World Economic Forum partners with the United Nations. On March 11, 2020, the World Economic Forum partners with the World Health Organization (a UN body) launching the COVID Action Platform, a coalition of 200 of the world’s most powerful corporations. This number would quickly swell to over 700. On this same day, March 11, 2020, the WHO declares COVID-19 a pandemic. The UN-WEF partnership firmly positions Word Economic Forum at the helm of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, also referred to as the Global Goals), which they are frothing at the mouth to implement. This is not because they care about poverty, biodiversity, the climate, or world hunger. Marketed with holistic language, dressed with beautiful images of brown smiling children, SDGs represent the new poverty economy (impact investing/social impact bonds) and emerging markets. Children as human capital data to be commodified on blockchain linking behaviour to benefits. Coercion has been repackaged as empowerment. The human population to be controlled via digital identity systems tied to cashless benefit payments within the context of a militarized 5G, IoT, and an augmented reality environment. A world where every function of nature is monetized, to be bought, sold and traded on Wall Street. — Cory Morningstar, The Great Reset: The Final Assault on the Living Planet [It’s not a social dilemma — it’s the calculated destruction of the social — Part III]
[Pope Francis meets with members of the clergy after his weekly general audience at the San Damaso courtyard, September 30 2020. Image: REUTERS/Yara Nardi]