Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Expiring Economy & "Six Reasons Why Granting the Fed Even More Power is a Really Bad Idea"

Paul Craig Roberts believes our economy is expiring. Really. Read on. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

Tent cities springing up all over America are filling with the homeless unemployed from the worst economy since the 1930s. While Americans live in tents, the Obama government has embarked on a $1 billion crash program to build a mega-embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, to rival the one the Bush government build in Baghdad, Iraq.

Hard times have now afflicted Americans for so long that even the extension of unemployment benefits from 6 months to 18 months for 24 high unemployment states, and to 46 - 72 weeks in other states, is beginning to run out. By Christmas 1.5 million Americans will have exhausted unemployment benefits while unemployment rolls continue to rise.

Amidst this worsening economic crisis, the House of Representatives just passed a $636 billion “defense” bill.

Who is the United States defending against? Americans have no enemies except those that the US government goes out of its way to create by bombing and invading countries that comprise no threat whatsoever to the US and by encircling others - Russia for example - with threatening military bases.

America’s wars are contrived affairs to serve the money laundering machine: from the taxpayers and money borrowed from foreign creditors to the armaments industry to the political contributions that ensure $636 billion “defense” bills.

President George W. Bush gave us wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that are entirely based on lies and misrepresentations. But Obama has done Bush one better. Obama has started a war in Pakistan with no explanation whatsoever.

If the armaments industry and the neoconservative brownshirts have their way, the US will also be at war with Iran, Russia, Sudan and North Korea.

Meanwhile, America continues to be overrun, as it has been for decades, not by armed foreign enemies but by illegal immigrants across America’s porous and undefended borders.

It is more proof of the Orwellian time in which we live that $636 billion appropriated for wars of aggression is called a “defense bill.”

Who is going to pay for all of this? When foreign countries have spent their trade surpluses and have no more dollars to recycle into the purchase of Treasury bonds, when US banks have used up their “bailout” money by purchasing Treasury bonds, and when the Federal Reserve cannot print any more money to keep the government going without pushing up inflation and interest rates, the taxpayer will be all that is left. Already Obama’s two top economic advisors, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and director of the National Economic Council Larry Summers, are floating the prospect of a middle class tax increase. Will Obama be maneuvered away from his promise just as Bush Sr. was?

Will Americans see the disconnect between their interests and the interests of “their” government? In the small town of Vassalboro, Maine, a few topless waitress jobs in a coffee house drew 150 applicants. Women in this small town are so desperate for jobs that they are reduced to undressing for their neighbors’ amusement.

Meanwhile, the Obama government is going to straighten out Afghanistan and Pakistan and build marble palaces to awe the locals half way around the world.

The US government keeps hyping “recovery” the way Bush hyped “terrorist threat” and “weapons of mass destruction.” The recovery is no more real than the threats. Indeed, it is possible that the economic collapse has hardly begun. Let’s look at what might await us here at home while the US government pursues hegemony abroad.

The real estate crisis is not over. More home foreclosures await as unemployment rises and unemployment benefits are exhausted. The commercial real estate crisis is yet to hit. More bailouts are coming, and they will have to be financed by more debt or money creation. If there are not sufficient purchasers for the Treasury bonds, the Federal Reserve will have to purchase them by creating checking accounts for the Treasury, that is, by debt monetization or the printing of money.

More debt and money creation will put more pressure on the US dollar’s exchange value. At some point import prices, which include offshored goods and services of US corporations, will rise, adding to the inflation fueled by domestic money creation. The Federal Reserve will be unable to hold down interest rates by buying bonds.

No part of US economic policy addresses the systemic crisis in American incomes. For most Americans real income ceased to grow some years ago. Americans have substituted second jobs and debt accumulation for the missing growth in real wages. With most households maxed out on debt and jobs disappearing, these substitutes for real income growth no longer exist.

The Bush-Obama economic policy actually worsens the systemic crisis that the US dollar faces as reserve currency. The fact that there might be no alternative to the dollar as reserve currency does not guarantee that the dollar will continue in this role. Countries might find it less risky to settle trade transactions in their own currencies.

How does an economy based heavily on consumer spending recover when so many high-value-added jobs, and the GDP and payroll tax revenues associated with them, have been moved offshore and when consumers have no more assets to leverage in order to increase their spending?

How does the US pay for its imports if the dollar is no longer used as reserve currency? These are the unanswered questions.

Our brilliant economist friend, Bill Greider has written a must-read essay on Dismantling the Temple and "Six Reasons Why Granting the Fed Even More Power is a Really Bad Idea." (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

1. It would reward failure. Like the largest banks that have been bailed out, the Fed was a co-author of the destruction. During the past twenty-five years, it failed to protect the country against reckless banking and finance adventures. It also failed in its most basic function - moderating the expansion of credit to keep it in balance with economic growth. The Fed instead allowed, even encouraged, the explosion of debt and inflation of financial assets that have now collapsed. The central bank was derelict in enforcing regulations and led cheers for dismantling them. Above all, the Fed did not see this disaster coming, or so it claims. It certainly did nothing to warn people.

2. Cumulatively, Fed policy was a central force in destabilizing the US economy. Its extreme swings in monetary policy, combined with utter disregard for timely regulatory enforcement, steadily shifted economic rewards away from the real economy of production, work and wages and toward the financial realm, where profits and incomes were wildly inflated by false valuations. Abandoning its role as neutral arbitrator, the Fed tilted in favor of capital over labor. The institution was remolded to conform with the right-wing market doctrine of chairman Alan Greenspan, and it was blinded to reality by his ideology (see my Nation article "The One-Eyed Chairman," September 19, 2005).

3. The Fed cannot possibly examine "systemic risk" objectively because it helped to create the very structural flaws that led to breakdown. The Fed served as midwife to Citigroup, the failed conglomerate now on government life support. Greenspan unilaterally authorized this new financial/banking combine in the 1990s - even before Congress had repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, which prohibited such mergers. Now the Fed keeps Citigroup alive with a $300 billion loan guarantee. The central bank, in other words, is deeply invested in protecting the banking behemoths that it promoted, if only to cover its own mistakes.

4. The Fed can't be trusted to defend the public in its private deal-making with bank executives. The numerous revelations of collusion have shocked the public, and more scandals are certain if Congress conducts a thorough investigation. When Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was president of the New York Fed, he supervised the demise of Bear Stearns with a sweet deal for JPMorgan Chase, which took over the failed brokerage - $30 billion to cover any losses. Geithner was negotiating with Morgan Chase CEO and New York Fed board member Jamie Dimon. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein got similar solicitude when the Fed bailed out insurance giant AIG, a Goldman counterparty: a side-door payout of $13 billion. The new president at the New York Fed, William Dudley, is another Goldman man.

5. Instead of disowning the notorious policy of "too big to fail," the Fed will be bound to embrace the doctrine more explicitly as "systemic risk" regulator. A new superclass of forty or fifty financial giants will emerge as the born-again "money trust" that citizens railed against 100 years ago. But this time, it will be armed with a permanent line of credit from Washington. The Fed, having restored and consolidated the battered Wall Street club, will doubtless also shield a few of the largest industrial-financial corporations, like General Electric (whose CEO also sits on the New York Fed board). Whatever officials may claim, financial-market investors will understand that these mammoth institutions are insured against failure. Everyone else gets to experience capitalism in the raw.

6. This road leads to the corporate state - a fusion of private and public power, a privileged club that dominates everything else from the top down. This will likely foster even greater concentration of financial power, since any large company left out of the protected class will want to join by growing larger and acquiring the banking elements needed to qualify. Most enterprises in banking and commerce will compete with the big boys at greater disadvantage, vulnerable to predatory power plays the Fed has implicitly blessed. Whatever good intentions the central bank enunciates, it will be deeply conflicted in its actions, always pulled in opposite directions. If the Fed tries to curb the growth of the megabanks or prohibit their reckless practices, it will be accused of damaging profitability and thus threatening the stability of the system. If it allows overconfident bankers to wander again into dangerous territory, it will be blamed for creating the mess and stuck with cleaning it up. Obama's reform might prevail in the short run. The biggest banks, after all, will be lobbying alongside him in favor of the Fed, and Congress may not have the backbone to resist. The Fed, however, is sure to remain in the cross hairs. Too many different interests will be damaged - thousands of smaller banks, all the companies left out of the club, organized labor, consumers and other sectors, not to mention libertarian conservatives like Texas Representative Ron Paul. They will recognize that the "money trust" once again has its boot on their neck, and that this time the government arranged it.

Suzan ___________________________

3 comments:

Distributorcap said...

i cannot believe i didnt have you on my follow list - well that is corrected now!

the best hope we have is to let people like RIck Perry secede and let the normal people put humpty dumpty back together

i know ist sounds radical, but those folks are determined to take us all down

Beach Bum said...

Speaking from far off in the nether regions of idle speculation even if the Blue and Red stated parted like the defunct Czechoslovakia I don't think the Perry, Palin, Romney, Newt types would let the Blue states off.

The bubbling proto-fascism that they are swimming in would almost force them into a Iraqi Freedom-like liberation of the Blue states. Hell, I could see the propaganda. They would fly in to save unborn embryos, stop the spread of godless homosexuality, and bring the true light of democracy.

Suzan said...

I agree - with you both!

i know ist sounds radical, but those folks are determined to take us all down

The bubbling proto-fascism that they are swimming in would almost force them into a Iraqi Freedom-like liberation of the Blue states.


"And for land's sake, honey, let's save those unborn (soon to be discarded) embryos! And let's give them personhood and the vote. Then we definitely will be able to swing the next election."

And I'm sure they're already planning for it.

Thanks so much for the comments!

I love both of your sites.

S