From the home page introduction: A Single Global Currency would likely have a new name which denotes its global use, such as “mundo”, “global”, or “eartha”, just as the “euro” is currently for Europe. (See Feedback on SGC Names.) It likely would not be the expanded form of any current currency, such as the dollar or euro or yen, unless those currencies opened up their central banks’ governing boards to worldwide participation and agreed to change the name of the currency to one with more global meaning.
The Single Global Currency would be managed by a single global central bank, with representative governing boards for the people , governments and financial institutions of the world.
The Global Central Bank would be financed by whatever benefits will come from the printing of money and seigniorage. Any surplus monetary benefits coming to the bank would be allocated to politically agreed-upon goals, such as the reduction of foreign debt or the eradication of disease or the support of family planning. see more
The world needs to move to a Single Global Currency, managed by a Global Central Bank within a Global Monetary Union. As Paul Volcker has said, “A global economy requires a global currency. The success of the euro shows that monetary union is the best way to ensure monetary stability. The primary problem with the euro and currencies of other monetary unions is the multi-currency system itself where currencies fluctuate in value against each other. If 16 countries can use the same currency, why not 192?
In addition to eliminating currency risk, the use of a Single Global Currency would eliminate the current foreign exchange trading expense of $400 billion annually, eliminate current account imbalances, eliminate the need for foreign exchange reserves (now totaling more than $3 trillion); and bring other benefits worth trillions.
The Single Global Currency Assn. promotes the implementation of a Single Global Currency by 2024, the 80th anniversary of the 1944 Bretton Woods conference.
That’s only 16 years away. The world is moving toward a Single Global Currency through the creation of monetary unions in Asia, North and South America, Africa and the Middle East (GCC) and the expansion of monetary unions in West Africa, the Caribbean and Europe.
I suppose in an ideal world, where honesty and truth prevailed, one could make a viable argument for a single global currency. Unfortunately we are not even close to that ideal.
How could we trust a single global central bank to act in the best interests of the people of the world? We cannot even trust our own central bank, The Federal Reserve, to act in the best interests of the American people. It certainly seems that they only act to protect the interests of the top 1% or less of our population and the willing participants who serve them.
The very idea of a global central bank and economic stability is the same one that ushered in the Federal Reserve in 1913. A thorough study of the unvarnished history of the Fed reveals that it came into being through fraud and the buying of the politicians that made it happen. What would ensure the same thing from happening again in a global fraud for the central bank?
Who owns the Fed? We can’t even get an official answer to this question. Who would be the owners of the global central bank and who would they answer to? Who actually would benefit?
I’m sorry Mr. Bonpasse but I don’t see enough honesty and truth in the shadow world of global banking and politics to even consider creating a global currency.
Let’s clean up our own house before we attempt to clean up the world.
From a link on the SGCA site, Catherine Austin Fitts gives her take on the recent G-20 summit.
The Editor of Expresso in Portugal wanted my take on the recent G-20 communique. Here is my “translation” of the official statement:
1. Now that the growth of debt and derivatives bubbles has stalled, we are committed to using governmental-central bank mechanisms to cover the positions of any of the large private financial institutions whose profits are at risk due to their management of these bubbles and who can use this opportunity to squeeze and acquire smaller rivals at low cost.
2. Our commitment to use derivatives and market interventions to shift investment from the real economy and commodities into a paper economy is firm. We will continue to use centralized governmental mechanisms to subsidize and manage this process.
3. All of the organizations and players who reaped a fortune engineering the debt and derivatives bubbles will be allowed to keep their winnings.
4. We will use this period of consolidation to further centralize the global financial system by enforcing greater centralization of the standards, practices and control of enforcement and regulatory bureaucracies. This increased governmental centralization will be presented as the “fix” for our “problems.”
5. We will continue the move toward one world government and one world currency.
6. We are prepared to use coordinated inflation of global money supplies and fiscal stimulus to protect our control and positions.
8. This process will continue to be managed to protect large insurance and risk positions.
9. The net result will be to continue to exercise growing control over the real economy by a handful of private families and institutions designed to protect and grow intergenerational wealth.
G-20 are silent on the military and covert action that will be required to make this stick. They are also silent on how they are going to manage this much inflation. For example, the most recent figures from the St. Louis Fed indicate that the aggregate monetary base is growing at an annualized rate of almost 800%.
Watch for a new focus on “green investing” as the trick in all of this will be how to create new productivity when the absence of real prices mean there is no market to provide the necessary signals and financial incentives. source
(Rome-Paris) In an essay especially pertinent to contemporary American society, L’Exil d’Hélene, Albert Camus noted, “Greek thought always restrained itself behind the idea of limits. It never exceeded limits, neither the sacred, nor reason, because it denied nothing, neither the sacred, nor reason. It made allowance for everything, balancing shadow and light. Instead, our Europe, launched toward the conquest of totality, is the very daughter of excess (writing in the immediate aftermath of World War II, I’m certain Camus would note here not only Europe but especially the America of our times.) …. In its folly it extends the eternal limits, and immediately obscure Erinys fall on it and tear it apart.”
Reading Camus’ essay in the midst of the bedlam of the ongoing collapse of Capitalism falling to pieces around us helped me pinpoint the idea for this concluding essay of the Definitions series: Definitions: The Proletariat; Definitions: The Intelligentsia; Definitions: The Bourgeoisie. Mammon is the God of Excess and the very personification of the capitalist god (or rather its demon), even though now a fallen god.
The natural subject for this essay is Capitalism itself, in fact, the underlying subject of the whole essay quartet. However, since Capitalism is too vast to treat here, the god-devil image of Mammon is more accessible. For the very basis of Western society is the personification of a Weltanschauung, a view of life, which is the illusion of the possibility of a life without limits. Many readers have recognized the hubris of our economic-financial world this 2008 as the direct result of our attempt to exceed universal limits. For the worship of Mammon, the Golden Calf, the love of wealth, marks our times.
In the Bible, “Mammon” is not a demon but simply the Aramaic word meaning “wealth” or “property.” Sometimes it is translated as “money.” In the Middle Ages, in religious writings, in the fiery sermons of the fanatical Dominican monk in Florence, Girolamo Savonarola, and in literature, Mammon is personified as the demon of avarice and wealth.
For modern men as for medieval men Mammon is the personification of the excessive love of money and wealth. By extension then Mammon is the god of excess. Mammon demands that its worshippers strive toward excess, that they exceed the eternal limits of the Greeks. America has obeyed the abominable god’s commandments.
Excess! Surplus. Extravagance. Intemperance. Exceptionalism. Outrageous expectations. Exaggerated presumptions. Too much. Too big. Too fast. Too much of everything. Too, too, too….
MEN INVENTED MONEY
Laws of ancient Babylonia formalized the use of money as a medium of exchange to replace barter. Money has always been an abstraction, a token, in lieu of real objects of real value. As precious metals became the symbol of money-wealth so did the worship of gold, the Golden Calf of the Babylonians. The worship of the rare soft metal, gold, whose qualities (not real value) were easily recognized, swept the civilized world.
In the long run, whatever the medium—gold and silver, coins, warehouse deposit receipts for real goods, paper currency and finally so-called fiat money (that is, money not backed by reserves of another commodity, inexorably lead to the power of emergent banks and financial institutions which lend money in excess of its reserves held for its depositors. That is, without guarantees of the bank’s ability to pay its debts. That is, the economic mayhem of today.
In the resulting atmosphere man’s natural inclinations toward avarice and greed for more and more money and the commodities money can buy has flourished—flaunted and displayed at all costs—and has exceeded all limits. For ages learned men have warned that money is the root of all evil. Our society in fact values property over life. We buy far more than we need or could ever use. We measure success in dollars and cents. We are driven by greed and selfishness. We worship money. We worship a token, a symbol, the Golden Calf. As obviously dysfunctional, unjust, and destructive as our system is, many of us who oppose the billion-dollar bailouts of financial markets still nod in agreement when capitalist economists insist that while the ‘bailout’ is excessive, ‘something has to be done to restore investor confidence and get credit flowing again.’
We all want to live without economic worries. We all want to permit ourselves something extra. The truth is we enjoy luxury. Money is a necessity. The problem is the worship, the adoration of Mammon far beyond the limits. For God’s sake, life lived just for money reduces our existence to null.
Yet, despite all, especially in the wreck of the capitalist world, money remains an abstraction, an invention of the human mind, the symbol of value, today enthroned on high in the world. We all know that money is the God of war and peace, the power of powers, the one power superior to all other powers. Thus it is the symbol of excess. The surpassing of natural limits. Man’s invention, an enthroned abstraction, controls and manipulates our lives.
Everyone knows we live in an unequal world. Half of the world’s population has nothing, a great majority struggles to make ends meet, while wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few. Strangely, few people realize how excessive the inequality has become under the reign of today’s super-Mammon. See these published statistics: The world now counts 358 billionaires, whose net worth equals the combined net worth of the world’s 2.5 billion poorest people. The capitalization of some banks exceeds the total national production of 100 countries. This inequitable result is not unavoidable. The gap is not a natural human process.
This dramatic inequality is the will of and obedience to Mammon, the God of Excess.
Mammon’s religion created neo-liberalism and the globalized free market economy and its excessive economic and social distortions so idealized by the god-demon’s worshippers. That system is now on trial. We have ready evidence that globalized free trade does not advance economic and social justice. On the contrary, in a short time it has carried mankind to the precipice of universal ruin.
That excess, that concept of a world without limits, the belief that growth can continue forever, has spawned economic injustice. That excess is responsible for its merger into an unholy alliance with socio-political oppression on a transnational scale.
Mammon up there on his throne must be roaring in laughter and rubbing his demonic hands in self-satisfaction. Mammon-Beelzebub has victory within his grasp.
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Does this idol worship really make sense? Everyone should be wondering about that. While the top 200 gigantic industrial corporations control 25% of the world’s production, they employ only 0.35 % of the world’s population. Something stinks here! Moreover, not counting the rotten financial institutions, the top 300 transnational companies own 25% of the world’s production assets. And now this: the combined assets of the world’s 50 largest commercial banks and diversified financial companies (only 50!) amount to 60% of an estimated $20 trillion global productive capital. That’s capitalism at its most excessive extension, far, far beyond the limits.
What do such statistics mean? The truth is such excesses are too much for the human mind to register and comprehend. Therefore we ignore them. Yet those figures register what happens in the real economy. They tell us that deregulation has been the final systemic flaw.
Clearly rampant savage capitalism has not only killed America but has carried our entire world beyond the limits. As others have warned repeatedly, economic growth cannot be eternal. Nor is it even desirable. There is a limit. There is a limit to everything. Growth cannot exceed those limits.
VIEWS OF MAMMON
Jesus casting out the money changers…
As the Christian bible states, jumbled, abstruse, over-simplified, it is on target in the great divide between Mammon on one hand, and Man on the other: “No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (The Gospel according to St. Matthew 6:24)
In Dante’s Divine Comedy, Mammon appears as a wolf-like demon of wealth, wolves being associated with greed in the Middle Ages. Thomas Aquinas described metaphorically the sin of avarice as “Mammon carried up from hell by a wolf, coming to inflame the human heart with greed.”
“Woe to the rich,” Savonarola preached in rich Florence until they hung and burned him. “Rethink you well, O ye rich, for affliction shall smite you.”
In Paradise Lost Milton wrote of a fallen angel who values earthly treasure over all other things:
Mammon led them on– Mammon, the least erected Spirit that fell From Heaven; for even in Heaven his looks and thoughts Were always downward bent, admiring more The riches of heaven’s pavement, trodden gold, Than aught divine or holy else enjoyed In vision beatific. By him first Men also, and by his suggestion taught, Ransacked the centre, and with impious hands Rifled the bowels of their mother Earth For treasures better hid. Soon had his crew Opened into the hill a spacious wound, And digged out ribs of gold… Paradise Lost, Book i, 678-690
In the comic book Spawn about which I read online Mammon is depicted as a handsome gentleman, suave and sophisticated at the head of an army of demons. This demon is often seen making attractive deals with humans for their souls and is thought to be quite persuasive.
EUROPE ON THE SAME MISERABLE SHIP
The news that the US Congress voted down the first bailout bill labeling it “Socialism” struck Europe as an unimaginable surprise. The impotence of the US president seemed like another stone on the tomb of America’s rock faith in the market. Some European observers interpreted the anti-bailout opposition as an atmosphere of everyman for himself: deputies worried only about their re-election if they save Wall Street sharks.
Europe was surprised at the mediocre provincialism, the egoism of the American political world face to face with the gravest of financial disasters. Cynical Europeans saw through the Republican reluctance to vote for the bailout plan. Though its rightwing supporters wanted nothing to do with “Socialism,” they let the Democratic opposition vote in the bill so they could get the benefits of the bailout but not have to pay the political price.
No wonder Europeans wonder about American democracy. Is its responsibility as the world leader not too serious a matter to be left in the hands of an America morally and politically destroyed by eight years of lies about everything, from the wars to torture to the “solid” economy? Europeans note that they, like Americans, must now pay for a failed and bankrupt US presidency.
Such is the price of excess. Of exceeding the limits.
The crisis has provoked a historic turn-around—the wave of re-nationalizations unseen in America since the Great Depression. It’s the return of the state-proprietor. Not because of an ideological change of heart but out of necessity. Some reactions to the emergency have been similar in America and Europe. But not all. Those differences between the two are great. And often not in capitalist Europe’s favor. European banks are slower and even more reticent than American banks to reveal the black holes in their balance sheets caused by trash instruments of credit.
The dimension of the crisis in Europe was masked. Europe has not been simply grazed by America’s crisis. European workers-savers are just as exposed as Americans, a fact covered up by bankers in London’s City and Paris’ La Défense and in Frankfurt’s skyscrapers. Now Europe is in the hurricane. And wage earners must pay for it. As usual. What happened in the USA should not hide the gravity of the parallel drama in Europe—stock markets crashing and banks failing, merging or nationalizing, such as the giant Belgian Fortis Bank, worth triple the GDP of Belgium, saved by the injection of capital from Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg. The same kind of life jacket was thrown out to the German Hypo Real Estate. Even rich Iceland had to nationalize a bankrupt bank and borrow money from Russia to survive.
Size! Excess! Growth at all costs! Beyond the limits!
The Deutsche Bank is worth 80% of Germany’s GDP, Barclay’s is equal to 100% of England’s. Excess and size are the reasons Europe is no less exposed and vulnerable than the US. The US crisis forced European financial authorities to recognize that some financial giants are “too big to be allowed to fail.” Europe faces something even worse: “institutions too big to be saved!” Excessive in respect to the sizes and capacities of the old nations-states. The results of the multinational European Union at work.
The Italian journalist, Federico Rampini noted the inadequacy of Europe’s political and institutional means to confront the storm. The American bailout has a price tag of one trillion, i.e. 7% of the US GDP. A murderous price for US public finances but not impossible. To equal that price the European Union had to ignore its stability pact and surrender principles of financial rigor. Compromises are necessary to confront the tremors of the capitalist economy. EU banks are of global dimensions but there is no single responsible authority. The European Central Bank does not have the Fed’s institutional powers, there is no European Treasury, and such vigilance as exists is divided among national states.
Europe however has one major advantage over America: Nationalization, i.e. Socialism, is not overly alarming to Europe. The social state still has its admirers and is an acceptable and salonfähig crutch.
In Greek tragedy the gods drive mad those they want to ruin. One recognizes elements of Greek tragedy in the negotiations between the two American “super heroes”, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson with his martial air and the President of the American Central Bank, the Fed, professorial Ben Bernanke, and the American Congress: the conflict, the rhetorical confrontation between Paulson-Bernanke and hesitant and furious senators, the supplication of super-Paulson kneeling before House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, imploring her to allocate 700 billion dollars to re-float the financial Titanic, and the indispensable recitative of the messenger—Bush, McCain or Obama—before the cameras to recount their versions of this anthological confrontation.
As such, the unlikely actors are begging for a bit less market and a bit more state.
The crunch has carried us back in time. We have seen images of multitudes of hungry people on the streets of the Western world as after the Great Depression of the 1930s. We ask why the crisis? Why low salaries of wage earners and half-billion dollar bonuses for executives? Why?
It’s the money.
It’s the excess.
It’s the ignorance of limits.
Taxpayer money is always available to save banks. To save the globalized markets for the paper economy. Blackmail of the poor taxpayers is always a bailout. The irony is that the same people who caused the meltdown are those called to resolve it. Are they saving it or profiting from it? We believe they are benefiting. For money, anything goes today as in super wealthy medieval Florence. Or, as some cynical Europeans wonder, are the presses of the Mint simply printing new money?
Does that mean that a new epoch is beginning? A non-capitalist era? Are we already in the new era? One wonders. Even retrograde Pope Benedict XVI recently stated, “Money is nothing.” Super secret Opus Dei calls for a reform of our lifestyle.
For the Catholic Church this is an ethical question. Though inequalities are related to ethics, I believe the growth of inequalities is a social question. The confirmation of the failures of un-reformable capitalism.
Epilogue: After decades of living ten kilometers from the Vatican with its popes and saints, superstitions and exorcisms and visions and epiphanies, in a world in which faith is the whole point, I still find it strange that the atmosphere in which we live is strange. Yet, strange things do happen in our lives. Like the following miraculous scene I have described so often that today I do not know if it really happened, if I dreamed it, or if I made it up.
I was once driving through Decatur, part of Atlanta, Georgia, on my way to interview the French-Russian writer Vladimir Volkov who was teaching at Agnes Scott College. I stopped at a café (at this point, I suspect, real reality ends) and I was sitting in a booth over coffee looking blankly out the window into early spring sunrays when Saint Paul walked in. I recognized him. He sat down with me. He talked about his blindness in the Okefenoke swamps and something about King David before saying apropos of nothing that the good life of Americans had convinced them that all is well between them and God. I sat up straight, immediately receptive. Such thoughts were already running through my head. They believe they’re the chosen people because their material life is so good, Saint Paul said, because they are blessed while others starve. In the meantime, he said, God is offering his blessings to others, so that Americans will wake up. A nation that has received God’s grace can’t just go on sinning as it likes. It has special rules. It can’t behave as it does, he insisted. Americans are deluded thinking they’re a special people. They preach to others while they don’t know what they’re doing themselves. They say stealing is bad and then sack entire continents, including their own. They say killing is wrong and they annihilate entire peoples and imprison their own. They say war is wrong and they have made war for a century. They’re proud because they know God’s law, yet much of the world hates them. America is rich at the expense of others.
The holy man dressed in white hesitated, looked at me closely as if to determine if I was receptive and then said that God would bless those who came to him. But God can change His mind, he said. He can bless or cut off as He pleases. He can bless America today and someone else tomorrow. Saint Paul then mentioned an old prophecy of Hosea that God would desert the chosen people and love other people who no one has loved before. No one is good, he said, no one in the world is innocent.
Based in Rome, Gaither Stewart, well known for his dispatches and essays from Europe, is Cyrano’s Journal’s Senior Editor & Special European Correspondent. Gaither is currently focused on the troubling re-emergence of fascist parties and movements in the old continent.
“It would have been quite impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subjected to the lights of publicity during those years. But, the world is more sophisticated and prepared to march towards a world government. The supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national autodetermination practiced in past centuries …”
What happens is graft and corruption on a ten-figure scale. Tax monies that should be going to public schools and police and fire departments now is being shoveled into the greedy paws of a couple of Khazar descendants to build a modern day coliseum for baseball’s New York Yankees.
Let them eat cake.
Let’s not forget who got this mess rolling in the first place, that lover of all things Israel and dedicated Zionist, Rudy GHOULiani.
Seems like the former mayor was busy in his final days, whether it was helping with the pre-9/11 planning or helping his Zionist buddies rake-off billions of dollars in public money.
P.S. This story was told on Democracy Now when Zionist gatekeeper, Amy Goodman, was away on vacation. DN was hosted by Juan Gonzalez.
A congressional committee is investigating whether New York City and the New York Yankees wildly inflated the value of the site for the team’s new stadium to float nearly $1 billion in tax-free bonds.
JUAN GONZALEZ: A congressional subcommittee has launched a probe into the use of public financing to build sports complexes like the new Yankee Stadium. The Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, will hold hearings this September on whether land for the new stadium in the Bronx was wildly inflated to justify nearly a billion dollars in tax-free bonds.
Congressman Kucinich is looking into whether city officials overvalued the stadium site by several times its actual price. The Yankees would have avoided—or the bond-holders would have avoided millions in taxes, because they would be exempt from paying taxes on interest they earn. Meanwhile, the Yankees have requested an additional $336 million in tax-free bonds to help complete the stadium.
In a letter sent earlier this month to Yankees president Randy Levine, New York Assemblyman Richard Brodsky noted that the tax-free interest earned on the stadium bonds “normally would go into the city’s coffers to pay for schools, police and health care.”
Today, we host a discussion on public subsidies for sports stadiums. Congressman Dennis Kucinich joins us from the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C. I’m also joined here in the firehouse studio by two guests: Bettina Damiani is the project director of Good Jobs New York, and Neil deMause is a writer and the author of Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit.
I’d like to begin with Congressman Kucinich. You have, as of last week, made a request to the City of New York and to the New York Yankees for a variety of documents as part of your continuing investigation into possible abuses of federal laws and IRS regulations relating to these kind of stadium projects. Could you tell us what you’re trying to do with that investigation and why you decided to focus in on New York and the Yankees?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, this is a project that’s imminent, and we have—the thing that I think, you know, caught my attention is when you have an independent appraisal of the land that the Yankees want to get for their new stadium of $45 per square foot, and yet the city had an appraisal that appraised the same land at $275 a square foot. Now, what our committee is trying to find out is, does the city’s assessment represent a deliberate inflation of the value of the land so that there would be a greater number of tax-free bonds issued, thereby raising questions of, you know, an inappropriate increased diversion of federal tax monies for this kind of private project.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Now, you have been, for now several months, actually, questioning the IRS about the original waiver, in essence, that they gave the Yankees a few years ago and the New York Mets for the building of their hugely expensive stadiums. Could you tell our viewers and listeners what is the crux of the concern that you have with how the IRS is functioning?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, in 1986, there was a change in the tax law which made it very clear that stadiums could not be using these tax-exempt bonds to construct these professional sports stadiums. The IRS had a ruling in a private letter that essentially gave the sports teams the ability to make payments in lieu of taxes, which was kind of a loophole that enabled them to get to the point of being able to participate in these tax-free financing schemes. And so, I’ve had a hearing where we talked to the IRS, asked them for an explanation. And from what I understand, as a result of our hearing, they’re reviewing their policies to see whether or not the 1986 Tax Reform Act has actually been compromised by the decision that they made.
I think that it’s important to understand that we’re not alleging, at this point, that there’s been any kind of criminal activity. We’re simply reviewing all the information that’s been presented to us, so that we can determine, first of all, the discrepancies in the appraisals, secondly, the public policy issue of using tax-exempt bonds for these stadiums, and third, if there is an inflated value of this project, the implication that it has for security laws with respect to the issuance of the tremendous amount of bond financing.
JUAN GONZALEZ: I’d like ask Bettina Damiani from Good Jobs New York, this whole issue of this thing called “PILOTs,” or payments in lieu of taxes, for use of repaying these tax-exempt bonds, is a very complicated issue that most the general public doesn’t understand. Your organization has been in the forefront of questioning these kinds of development deals by New York, but also, by extension, by many municipalities around the country. Could you break down how these PILOTs work generally?
BETTINA DAMIANI: Certainly. And it’s not just the average New Yorker, as we learned through the Yankee Stadium project. Most New York City and New York State elected officials don’t quite understand the issue of PILOTs, which is part of the crux of this issue.
Essentially, PILOTs are payments in lieu of taxes. Instead of paying taxes, the Yankees are paying back their tax-free bonds. So, there’s money that should be going into, as Assembly member Brodsky mentioned, the pot of money that would help pay for roads and schools and other services that New York City needs. Instead, it’s just going—it’s being completely diverted. And this, unfortunately, is a policy that is not done just with the Yankees but with a variety of other very large financial firms that have managed to make a special deal with New York City.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And in this particular case, it was actually in the interest of the New York Yankees to have a very high assessment of their land, because that would allow them to be able to float more bonds and pay more PILOTs, which is their main goal here, is to raise as much money as possible to build their stadium, right?
BETTINA DAMIANI: Exactly, and that’s the irony. And that’s one of the things that you mentioned in your article yesterday, is that in the South Bronx, the city was trying desperately to inflate the value of property, but not to benefit the larger community or the people that live in the neighborhood, but really for the sole benefit of the New York Yankees.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Neil deMause, you’ve been writing now for quite a while about these stadium boondoggles. Virtually every major city in America is building a new arena or a new stadium of one kind, and most of them are using some degree or other of public financing. Could you give us a sense of the overall national picture?
NEIL DEMAUSE: Sure. I mean, I think it’s absolutely correct that every major and minor city is either building a stadium or arena or being asked to estimate somewhere around $2 billion a year of public money going into these buildings, a very, very small percentage of which comes back in terms of, you know, tax benefits or actually benefits to the cities.
You know, when the Yankees and the Mets first announced their deals, Mayor Bloomberg said, “Oh, you know, we don’t make subsidies; we make investments, and we get our money back.” At the time, it was announced, well, the Yankees and Mets are going to be paying for, you know, all the construction costs of the stadium. As you look at it and break down where they’re getting tax breaks and where they’re getting sort of hidden subsidies, the taxpayers wind up paying most of the cost.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Congressman Kucinich, you originally had scheduled your hearing for this week but then decided to postpone it until September. Have you been in conversations with the City of New York and with the Yankees about them also testifying at your hearing? And what documents, specifically, are you trying to get from them now?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, I could say that my subcommittee staff—and again, I’m the chair of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over this matter—and our subcommittee staff is in contact with officials of both the City of New York and the New York Yankees to discuss their potential appearance in front of our congressional subcommittee.
I think that it’s very important to understand that we’re looking at a public policy matter here that relates not only to New York and not only to the Nets and the Atlantic Yard project, but it also relates to the whole country, as your other guests have said, because it’s quite possible that there are billions of dollars in tax benefits that should be going to municipalities for the purposes of repairing their infrastructure and for schools and other things and that are instead being diverted for these private sports complexes.
And the question is one of public policy, one of the IRS, and in the case of the New York Yankees, questions of securities law, because of the various amounts of the appraisal, $45 a square foot versus $275 a square foot, which have a bearing on the overall cost of the project. And if the cost of the project is inflated, that’s going to be of interest to the SEC, as well as the IRS.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And in terms of the—you’re not, at this point, contemplating subpoenaing any records. You’re figuring that they are going to be—they will provide you the documents and the information that you requested to avoid that potential.
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, you know, we generally assume that we’ll get cooperation. I mean, certainly, as an investigative subcommittee, if we need to enforce that request with a subpoena, we have the ability to apply for that. But we’re not at that point yet. And, you know, we’re hopeful for cooperation on the part of all the parties involved.
And I think that, again, this is a matter of serious public policy. When you have New York City, a great American city, which has all these capital infrastructure needs, and when payments get diverted, essentially—payments are not going into areas where the city expects the tax revenues will be coming from, and instead they’re diverted in these payments in lieu of taxes, they’re intensely serious matters that need to be discussed. And so, that’s why the work that Mr. Brodsky is doing and your other guests are involved in is very significant. We’re going to continue with our work on the Domestic Policy Subcommittee, and we’ll be sure to keep you posted.
JUAN GONZALEZ: OK. We’re talking with Congressman Dennis Kucinich in Washington, and here also, Bettina Damiani of Good Jobs New York and Neil deMause, the author of Field of Schemes. We’re going to return in a minute and to continue the conversation. And before Congressman Kucinich leaves, we also want to ask him about the hearings in Congress, the potential impeachment hearings. We’ll be back in a minute.
And we’re going to continue the conversation here on the stadium issues with Bettina Damiani of Good Jobs New York and Neil deMause, author of Field of Schemes. I’d like to—again, getting back to the stadium deal, this Yankee Stadium is the most expensive stadium in the history of the United States. The actual cost is very hard to get your hands around, because there are some public infrastructure subsidies. But we’re talking about a stadium that is going to be somewhere between one and two billion dollars, when you add up all of the actual costs, probably closer to two.
And, Neil, could you talk about this—how the public expenditures are being used, even though we’re being told that they’re not being—public money is not being used directly for the stadium?
NEIL DEMAUSE: Sure. I mean, it’s something I’ve been trying to track ever since this was first announced three years ago. There is, as you mentioned, this infrastructure cost, where the public is paying for building new parks to replace the ones that were torn down to make way for the new stadium, paying for moving a water main and other things like that.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And when you say parks that were torn down, because that was, itself, a big issue—
NEIL DEMAUSE: Yeah, this—
JUAN GONZALEZ: —this is public park land, about a—what was it? Twenty acres or at least—
NEIL DEMAUSE: It was like twenty-two acres that was actually demolished. It was park that had been there even longer than Yankee Stadium that was demolished to make way for the new stadium. To make up for this, the city and state had to make sure that there was an equal amount of park land that was created. So they’re knocking down the old stadium completely. Originally, the team was talking, “Oh, we’re going to save it as a museum.” It’s going to be gone starting next year, and they’re going to put some ball fields there. And they’ve found some space down by the Harlem River where they’re going to squeeze in some tennis courts, and sort of little patchwork of parks around different places.
The public is paying for all that. The public is paying for the actual demolition of Yankee Stadium, is all going to be public. The public is paying a good chunk for building new parking garages for the Yankees, including one that will be used by the players and VIPs and various folks like that. And the team is getting all sorts of different tax breaks. As Bettina mentioned, they’re not going to be paying property taxes. They’re going to be getting mortgage-recording taxes. They’re going to be getting these tax-exempt bonds that we’ve been talking about, which is actually a tremendous amount of money, if they get the new $300 million in bonds they’re looking for. They’re going to be talking about getting more than $300 million worth of tax breaks just on the bonds themselves. So when you add it all up, you get somewhere around $900 million worth of public money that’s being spent just on Yankee Stadium.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Bettina, those who advocate these stadiums say, “Why not? This is economic development. It’s creating jobs. It’s keeping a sort of a—the psychology of the city by having a professional sports team that the residents can root for.” What’s wrong with it?
BETTINA DAMIANI: All the subsidies that Neil just listed. You would like to assume that the city and the state made a clear path to making sure that there were going to be jobs, good-paying jobs for New Yorkers, on the other end. That was going to be the investment, right? We see nothing. There’s nothing that says a certain number of jobs has to be set aside for either local New York residents or local Bronx residents, or the number of jobs at all.
The city has really washed their hands of making sure there’s any accountability on jobs and clear benefits for New Yorkers on the other side of this project, which is very unfortunate. I mean, we’re grateful for Congressman Kucinich and Assembly member Brodsky to get involved in this issue. Neither represent New York City, by the way. New York City elected officials—they’re filling a void, because local elected officials in New York City have refused to get involved in this project. And we need them. We need them to make sure that the promises in the press releases actually turn out to be something that we can hold them accountable for.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And you have, generally speaking, on this issue of tax-exempt financing for economic development, raised numerous questions over the years. It’s been one of my favorite topics, how cities are siphoning off their tax bases to create special deals for developers, whether it’s sports teams or private companies, where they’re, in essence, siphoning off the existing tax base from the municipal government and using it to fund special projects. How rampant is this, not only in New York, but throughout the country?
BETTINA DAMIANI: It’s a terrible issue regarding not only the issue of financing, but making sure that there are quality jobs for Americans and, in our case, New Yorkers. There’s a thing called the economic war among the states, where it seems that so many municipalities and states are worried about fighting one another for the headquarters of a particular agency that they’re willing to set aside basic fiscal commonsense and not making sure that there are real quality jobs on the ends of these big deals.
Site consultants are prevalent throughout the country that have really manufactured this process, and they make it seem like if the Yankees didn’t get their subsidy or if the New York Stock Exchange didn’t get a subsidy, they were going to flee somewhere else, without taking into consideration or doing some real due diligence. Where were the Yankees going to go? The Yankees are famous because they’re in the Bronx. We have a large media here. We have an incredible fan base here. And it seems none of that was taken in consideration before this huge giveaway was done.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, that’s one of the things I think Assembly member Brodsky is trying to investigate, because the city agency that engineered this deal, the Industrial Development Authority, apparently said that the Yankees were threatening to leave New York, of course, the most expensive media market in the country, the most desirable media market in the country. Neil, your sense of whether that was real or not?
NEIL DEMAUSE: Yeah, I mean, and I think everyone knows that the Yankees were not going to move out of New York City, and it’s kind of been an open secret for decades now, as long as George Steinbrenner has been demanding a stadium. Where is he going to go? The Yankees are not worth the, whatever, billion dollars that they’re worth if they move to Charlotte, North Carolina. But that was the pretense. And the Yankees actually told the judge in a case trying to stop the demolition of the parks, “Well, if you try and hold up this case, the Yankees could move.” And, you know, they’ve been allowed to get away with this. And as Bettina was saying, elected officials never challenged them on this, until, you know, recently Brodsky is trying—been trying to track it down.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And, of course, the final irony of all of this is, in the new stadium, once it gets built, as with all these stadiums, the ticket prices for the average baseball fan go through the roof. The prices in Yankee Stadium for box seats now are astronomical—they’re astronomical now, but what they will cost in the new stadium is unbelievable. Could you talk about some of the prices that they’ve released so far?
NEIL DEMAUSE: Yeah. I mean, they’re talking over, you know, $1,000, $2,000 a seat for some of the really premium seats. And I think what you’re going to see is—
JUAN GONZALEZ: For one game?
NEIL DEMAUSE: For one game, yes. For one game, yes, absolutely. For a whole season, you know, all bets are off. But I think, you know, what you’re going to see the Yankees do, they’ve promised to keep bleacher tickets low. They’ve promised to keep a certain number of, you know, $25-or-less seats.
I think what you’re going to see them do is, especially with Brodsky and everyone else paying attention to the soaring costs, I think you’re going to see the Yankees keep ticket prices low for the first season or two and, you know, try to say, “OK, we’re holding the line.” And then, as everybody’s clamoring to get tickets, two, three years down the road, you’ll see those start to creep up. So, what I’m worried about isn’t, next year, is it going to be affordable, but three years from now, is anybody going to be able to get a ticket?
JUAN GONZALEZ: Right. And then, of course, the final irony with—because most of these stadiums have luxury boxes that are for corporations that go from $500,000 to $800,000, in the case of the Yankees, per year to rent these boxes, and of course, my newspaper, the Daily News, reported yesterday that in this deal, the City of New York arranged to have its own luxury box at Yankee Stadium available, presumably to city officials, as part of the deal for the financing. Bettina, your response to that?
BETTINA DAMIANI: It’s aptly coined the landlord suite. And it’s just another example of how local elected officials almost seem to be void of feeling that they have responsibility to the public, because they’re going to get nice seats, in the long run.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, I want to thank both of you for being with us, Bettina Damiani, the project director of Good Jobs New York, and Neil deMause, who’s a writer and the author of Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit.
As the economy predictably crumbles, bankruptcies and business closings will increase, and businesses and individuals will find themselves in financial straits, with little hope of economic salvation. Many families are in danger of losing their homes, and there seems little, short of a miracle, that can be done about it.
It seems to me that this isn’t necessary, presuming logic and truth play any role in our financial system–which may be debatable.
Why do we read daily of businesses failing, or on the brink of failure? Why do we see ad after ad on TV for firms offering financial assistance and guidance for individuals faced with economic disaster? Because people and companies are neck-high in debt, which they can no longer expect to repay. And to whom are they indebted? Generally, to banks, but ultimately, all debt is to banks, since banks are the sole source of our “money,” which is created for borrowers with the stroke of a pen, and requires the borrower to repay more than was borrowed. Since banks are the only source of money, the situation is analogous to returning to the only well in town more water than was taken from it, year after year. That’s obviously impossible in the case of a well, but it works–at least for a while–with banking, because money, unlike water, is intangible, and banks can create it in unlimited amounts, to enable borrowers to return more than they borrowed, with the money loaned to pay interest provided–at interest!You can see that the situation, once embarked upon, is bound to end in catastrophe.
Let’s look at bank borrowing. Do banks lend the funds they have on deposit from their customers? Heavens, no!If they did that, the money supply wouldn’t be increasing exponentially. When they lend, they simply create the funds. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York puts it succinctly:“Commercial banks create checkbook money whenever they grant a loan, simply by adding new deposit dollars to accounts on their books in exchange for a borrower’s IOU.”It’s a staggering admission that, I suspect, the bank was only willing to make because it realized that few would read it, (in its little booklet “I Bet You Thought,”) and fewer still would consider what it really meant. The bank tells us that WHENEVER (no exceptions noted) banks “grant” a loan, they simply create checkbook money—i.e., a bank deposit–to the borrower’s account. In other words, customer deposits do not create bank funds, but rather, bank funds create customer deposits! Every dime in every bank account got there because, ultimately, in the dim forgotten past, perhaps, someone borrowed it! You may never have borrowed from any bank, but, if you have a bank account, the money in that account was borrowed by somebody.
Now let’s look at those bank deposits. This time we’ll get our information from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago , in its booklet Modern Money Mechanics. Here’s what we read on page 3:“The actual process of money creation takes place in commercial banks. As noted early, demand liabilities of commercial banks are money. These liabilities are customers’ accounts. They increase when the customers deposit currency and checks and when the proceeds of loans made by the banks are credited to borrowers’ accounts.”Did you get that? The bank is telling us that your bank account consists of the bank’s liabilities. The bank’s liabilities increase when you deposit cash or checks, or “when the proceeds of loans–are credited to borrowers’ accounts.”
Let’s put it all together. You go into the bank to borrow a million dollars. The bank agrees to make the loan. As a result, the number 1,000,000.00 is added to your account. Where did the million come from? It’s just a number! Some clerk added it to your account. What is the nature of this number? It is a liability of the lending bank. In other words, the bank has created a liability on itself, in your favor. Simply put, in granting you the loan, the bank has obligated itself to you for one million dollars, as evidenced by the bank’s addition, of 1,000,000.00 to your account. It does this, as the Chicago Fed told us (I Bet You Thought, p. 19) “in exchange for a borrower’s IOU.” So: the bank loaned you its liabilities totaling 1,000,000.00. It may not be technically correct to refer to bank liabilities (i.e., checkbook money) as “IOU’s,” but close enough. You, in return, tendered your IOU for a million. You know, that looks like a pretty even swap, doesn’t it?
Of course, the bank, as well as common (non) sense, asserts that the bank’s liabilities are “money.” Your own liabilities, of course, are simply–liabilities. But by what law is bank credit money? How can the liabilities of one private firm be “money,” while those of another (Chrysler Corporation, for instance) be simply evidence of debt? Is there some definition of “money” somewhere that defines bank credit as money? Maybe, but I haven’t found it. And if bank credit is, by some permutation of law, actual money, then by what law may a private firm, such as your local bank, create a nation’s money? Questions abound, although it seems to me that they’re rarely, if ever, asked, and when they are, never answered.
If the bank actually paid off its liabilities, by tendering you a million units of whatever is defined as a dollar quantity of money, that would be another matter altogether. You would then have an obligation to repay. But that hasn’t happened, and won’t happen, because if money were to be some tangible substance, banking would be little more than warehousing, and where’s the profit in that? ( I calculated a few years ago that the interest earned on the national debt is about a billion dollars per working day).The actual transaction was, in effect and, I believe, in fact, an exchange of IOUs. So who owes whom anything? You should lose your home to such a transaction?
A final note: bank deposits constitute a bank’s liabilities. As you can see in the quote above, from the Federal Reserve of Chicago, increasing your bank deposits increases the bank’s liabilities. So if, in the example we’ve been discussing, you managed to accumulate a million dollars to deposit with the bank (of course, the interest would still be due, but you could borrow that!!) you would be increasing the bank’s liabilities. Are there many companies that will sue you if you fail to increase their liabilities?
If modern banking is an abomination, it is because modern money is an abomination. Of course, the law (i.e., the Constitution) doesn’t permit modern “money,” but who pays any attention to that old anachronism? Give up your home, your automobile, go on the dole, and quit complaining!
Paul Hein is semi-retired from the practice of medicine (ophthalmology) in St. Louis. His book All Work and No Pay should be available soon from Amazon.com.
By now it is obvious that Ponzi Paulson and Bozo Ben Bernanke are deliberately collapsing the dollar. The proof is that no one could be so stupid by accident. They are collapsing the dollar to panic the people into acceptance of the “Amero,” the currency of the North American Union, which is the regional government composed of the former United States, Canada and Mexico, on the way to total world government.
Remember that it was I who devised the best name for the new nation: Canusexico. Notice that it includes portions of the names of the three former countries, and it includes sex, without which the inmates of the new nation would not acquiesce. You can’t sell anything without sex.
A transformation of such magnitude could be imposed only in a state of emergency, in which a people formatted since early childhood in Communist government schools and then by the Communist media demand that the District of Criminals “do something.” Forget the government’s phony inflation statistics. Go to the supermarket and see for yourself. We are on the way to the Weimar Republic. Sieg Heil!
The collapse of IndyMac is instructive. Sure, you will get your money, but you may have to wait until the ink dries, which could take weeks. You may have to wait in line for hours and come back tomorrow. You may be arrested if the cops think you are unruly. There could be a delay if the bank can’t determine how much “money” is in your account. And the next bank you take your check to may be reluctant to cash it.
Remember also that IndyMac consumed at least 10% of the “funds” FDIC has for the purpose. What happens when they are exhausted? We are told that many more of the nation’s biggest banks – including WaMu and Wachovia – are in trouble. What happens if they go belly up? Word arrives from Australia that banks there are putting sixty day holds on U.S. tellers’ checks. The “almighty dollar” is now just a piece of paper.
What can you do? I certainly do not encourage a “run on the bank,” but it would be prudent to have sufficient operating cash in your hands. Why not get it now, while you can, before the government seizes your bank? Then you need to get out of the dollar and into money. You can do that if you still can find someone dumb enough to take your “dollars” in exchange for gold and silver. If you look hard enough you can find one. Remember, money does not depreciate. Get out now!
Another little thing you can do is buy travelers’ checks in foreign currencies. You can do that right now on line. American Express will sell you travelers’ checks in just about any currency, Swiss Francs, for instance. The trouble is, they let you buy only $1000 every two weeks. Thomas Cook will sell you “travel vouchers,” but you can only buy £250 at one time, which would help, but is not a solution.
Consider putting your assets offshore. This need not involve complicated, expensive financial planning. It could be as simple as opening a Swiss Franc account in a foreign bank. You can do this yourself, and you probably don’t even need to go there. There is some paperwork, as there is in any bank.
Europeans are used to doing such things because every few hundred miles on that continent, often much less, you are in a different country with a different language. Because our country is so vast and we all speak the same language, except in Boston and some other areas, Americans are not used to banking elsewhere.
Yes, having a bank account in another country is perfectly legal. If you are one of the few people the law requires to file a tax return, it asks you to enter the name of the foreign bank where you have an account. But, again, such an account is perfectly legal. Be assured that many, if not most, of the political and entertainment celebrities who titillate you daily, and who can afford expensive financial advisers, have offshore bank accounts. Because of U.S. pressure, some foreign banks now refuse accounts from Americans, but some still do.
When you visit your deposit, you will be pleasantly surprised. The foreign bank will probably be as solid as ours used to be and it will treat you like a customer, not a drug trafficker. Of course, if you sniffed some white powder while in the bank, they could get suspicious, but, if you didn’t do that, they wouldn’t. Remember, however good this sounds, you need to have some actual money in your possession.
It is reasonable to speculate that if you let Bozo Ben and Ponzi Paulson impose the North American Union and replace the “dollar” with the Amero, their policy will change. Now they will be prudent, boasting about the virtues of the new currency. The Amero could even have a tad of gold behind it, to demonstrate its value. The present financial disaster would clear up.
Speculate with me. What happens to the “dollars” you have left when the change comes? (By the way, I keep putting quotes on the word because of course they are not dollars. They are pieces of paper with printing on them. The dollar is defined in federal law.) Again, what happens to the cash you have left? Presumably, you would trade it in for Ameros at a rate the conspirators would ordain. And you can bank on the fact that you would get shafted.
The principle at work here is that crime does pay. The preposterous idea that it doesn’t was obviously concocted by a criminal. Crime does pay, handsomely, if it is committed on a big enough scale. Witness that by far the most profitable activities in this country are the twin criminal enterprises of politics and banking. Nothing else comes close. People love being swindled by bankers and politicians.
As I for one was warning long ago, when I was a “conspiracy theorist,” there is no money behind our cash. The government is bouncing checks, which the District of Criminals calls “Federal Reserve Notes”; there is no money to cover those checks in its account. What happens when you do that? Because you have such a good reputation, people take your checks in payment – at first.
Remember when someone could endorse a check he received and give it in payment to someone else, before the fraudulent “War on Drugs?” It could have been quite a while before your check made its way back to your bank and everybody discovered you were a deadbeat. The same thing applies to the government. The only difference is that government check kiting takes longer to expose.
You still say crime doesn’t pay? There are people who have already been in federal prison for years because they lied to banks on their paperwork, a felony. Now we learn that their mistake wasn’t lying; it was lying at the wrong time. The government is going to bail our Freddie and Fannie. The government is also going to bail out the people who lied to get loans they didn’t qualify for, and the loan officers who lied along with them. So, these people are to be rewarded for committing serious crimes.
The lesson is not that you are right if you obey the law. In the new dispensation there is no more law. Something is right if you can get away with it. That’s how you know. If you can’t get away with it, it’s wrong. That lesson is at work everywhere. Recently, the Nevada Republican Party appointed delegates to the national convention over the telephone to prevent the Ron Paul people from winning.
Remember that Dr. Paul got more votes in the Nevada primary than McCain. The trouble is that what Nevada Republicans are doing is a violation of law, which says the delegates must be chosen at the convention. This is not an aberration. Something similar happened in Texas and around the country. The Republican Party, like the Democrats, is a criminal enterprise.
One is reminded of what David Rockefeller of the Chase Manhattan Bank, Standard Oil and the Marxist Council on Foreign Relations says in his Memoirs (New York, Random House, 2002, p. 405):
“For more than a century ideological extremists at either end of the political spectrum have seized upon well-publicized incidents such as my encounter with Castro to attack the Rockefeller family for the inordinate influence they claim we wield over American political and economic institutions. Some even believe we are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterizing my family and me as ‘internationalists’ and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure – one world, if you will. If that’s the charge, I stand guilty, and I am proud of it.”
So David Rockefeller boasts that he wields inordinate influence in a secret cabal, working against the best interests of the United States, conspiring with others to impose a world government. In other words, he is a traitor. Remember that world government – however respectable Rockefeller and his CFR have worked to make it – would mean the abolition of our own government. Big crime pays big.
Last week we looked at trends for the economy and for government action, and found the situation less than optimal, in much the same way that an outbreak of Ebola in your neighborhood would be less than optimal.
This week we consider the situation for commodities (and in particular oil and metals), food supplies, and the environment.
3) Oil, metals, and other natural resources
The dramatic trend for higher commodity prices which began several years ago is not an artificially inflated bubble about to pop, but instead a very real expression of powerful, fundamental change in the world (which I’ll describe shortly). Downticks are inevitable in any bull market, but the commodity uptrend itself isn’t going away anytime soon. Unlike in a bubble (e.g., the recent bubble in housing) buyers are snapping up the available supply for current use as it comes to market, not buying and holding actual inventory for expected future gain.
To see how broad and strong this uptrend has been already, click here for a page with charts for many commodities over various periods of time; the example below is for heating oil over the last ten years. Most other natural resource-based commodities, including gasoline and metals, show a similar pattern.
As for my prediction that dollar prices for commodities will continue rising for years to come: there are several reasons for such a view, and together, these reasons make Neils Bohr’s famous comment “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future” look like sissy-boy waffling. Bohr was a pretty bright guy, but there are clearly some times when prediction isn’t difficult at all. I, personally, have a 100% accuracy rate in predicting certain types of events. For instance, when I drop a raw egg on my kitchen floor, I predict (as I helplessly watch the egg accelerate at 32′ per second toward the hardwood) that the eggshell will break and gooey raw egg will splurt out on the floor. I have never been wrong about this, and there are dozens of other things I have been 100% right about, too. So you can take what I have to say here as gospel, at least when I’m talking about eggs.
Returning to the topic at hand (and to a tone more appropriate to the situation):
The first and (for now) most important reason that commodity prices will continue rising: We live in a dying, world-wide empire of fiat currency. This empire is owned by private banks with monopoly charters that are granted by, and operated in league with, coercive governments. The empire itself is sociopathic to the core; it is gimlet-eyed, cunning, and controls most of the major outlets for news and entertainment; it also controls respected universities and influential think tanks and the most powerful organizations among the power elite.
For a century and more, this empire has controlled the money supply of nations and has financed wars and other destructive government make-work projects, growing fat on the profits while millions suffered and died. The empire is highly skilled at promoting such disasters, which are said to be “compassionate” or “necessary” (often to Save Us From an Enemy or some other danger). Regarding war in particular, highly-decorated General Smedley Butler (two Congressional Medals of Honor) put it plainly in the title of his 1935 book: War Is A Racket. Banks and their friends in other industries (including government, the one industry that imposes itself on customers at gunpoint) make the profits; soldiers, their families and friends, and ordinary civilians everywhere pay the price, both financially and in terms of death, maiming, and other horror.
Despite its power, the fiat-currency empire is based on a self-serving lie, and thus the truth has been undermining the empire’s foundations since inception. That truth is now poised to bring the whole, rotting, corrupt edifice down in a collapse of epic proportions that will devastate entire societies and echo through time, eventually becoming myth and legend.
The character of the future that emerges from this event will depend on how we respond to the disaster now in progress. In particular, our responses will determine whether our children and their descendents live in a civil society of love and freedom, or in a technologically-enabled police state powerful enough to resist any attempt at overthrow or reform.
Love and freedom, then – or cruelty and tyranny. Make no mistake: that is the choice we face, and not only for ourselves but for many, many millions yet unborn.
– – – – –
The lie at the heart of the fiat currency empire is that a central bank can and should be the sole provider of a nation’s money supply, and that said supply should consist of worthless pieces of paper (and now, electronic entries in computers) that can be almost-instantly created in any quantity by the central bank at essentially zero cost. These currency units are tied to, and redeemable in, nothing whatsoever.
In other words, the fiat currency empire is based entirely on what might be called counterfeiting, and on coercively enforcing monopoly privileges for the counterfeiters. Not only do the central banks have a monopoly on the “right” to counterfeit, but competitors offering honest money (gold or silver, which cannot be inflated into nothingness) are attacked as criminals (video, 1 min 10 sec; mostly scrolling text describing the victim’s point of view; see also this Washington Post story on the event).
Actually, central banks are doing something worse than counterfeiting. A true counterfeiter creates a phony copy of something real (for instance, when a twenty-dollar bill was redeemable by law for roughly an ounce of gold, the counterfeiter who created a fake $20 bill was essentially making a phony copy of one ounce of gold), but the Federal Reserve and other central banks have, in collusion with the governments that charter them, eliminated the “real thing” entirely: even “real” dollars now have no intrinsic value at all. This is a scam of far grander dimensions than the mere counterfeiting of genuine currency.
This corrupt and parasitic system has infected nearly every nation around the world (the U.S. succumbed in 1913, with creation of the Federal Reserve), and now, after decades of hidden wealth transfer from the masses to central banks, governments, and the power elite (including corporations feeding at the government trough), the resulting economic damage is nearing a tipping point (see last week’s column). Artificially-created boom/bust episodes are coming more frequently and (because the fundamentals grow ever-weaker) are becoming more severe. Central banks thwart the necessary corrections with the only tool they have: more inflation. Creation of ever-more fiat money (much of it in the form of debt) is the only thing keeping the game going, and the result is an entire planet headed toward economic collapse; see Zimbabwe for a preview. Money supply growth, worldwide, is heading into the vertical part of the parabolic curve. The egg, as it were, is about to hit the floor:
As rivers of new dollars (and pesos and yuan and pounds and euros and other currency units) join the ocean of pseudo-money already drowning every nation, an ever-increasing number of those currency units will be required to pay for real goods that cannot be counterfeited (and which have not already been bid-up into speculative bubbles, such as housing). This is Reason Number One that you will be paying more for nearly every consumable item in the future, from gasoline to milk: the amount of fiat money in the system keeps increasing.
The system and its apologists are desperate to keep this obvious truth hidden from the public, or at least to keep the public confused about it. For example, last week, U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said that “a weaker dollar cannot be blamed for soaring oil prices.” This is on par with saying that “heavy rain cannot be blamed for flooding in the Midwest.”
Proof – and this is where that pesky “reality” thing really gets in the way of a good lie – is that gasoline prices have hardly changed in terms of real money. A gallon of gasoline today costs about $4.10 in American fiat money, but can still be had for less than a quarter-ounce of silver (silver is $18.12 per ounce as I write; check the Kitco graphic at the top of 321gold.com for the current price). A silver quarter from 1964 or earlier contains nearly a quarter-ounce of silver, and, despite fluctuations in the price of the two commodities, will usually buy roughly a gallon of gas. This situation has changed little in decades. In Texas during the late 1960s (yes, even a few years after the removal of silver from new coinage), a gallon of gasoline sold for between 20.9 cents and 24.9 cents – I know because I was there, filling the tank of my rattle-trap 1960 Ford Falcon for about $2.00 total. For a short video pointing out that 23 cents would buy a gallon of gas in 1947, click here. The video ignores that a silver quarter is only 90% silver and also pooh-poohs the increasing supply/demand mismatch (i.e., peak oil versus higher global demand, which is starting to impact prices), but it nonetheless makes an easily-understood case for the basic reality that erosion of dollar value is by far the biggest reason for higher gas prices today.
At some point, after the system has largely collapsed and much of the pseudo-money has vanished (in bankruptcies, stock market crashes and other asset deflation, and in a hundred other ways) you will STILL be paying more for consumables and for most other goods – if not as measured in currency units, then as measured in hours worked or as a percentage of your monthly income. (Here’s an argument for deflation coming sooner rather than later, for those interested). Why? Reason Number Two for higher prices is supply versus demand, that most basic of economic realities. Supply of most commodities is either diminishing or growing more slowly than demand, and the cost of bringing that supply to market is increasing dramatically; the high-quality and easy-to-harvest deposits of oil and metals and coal, for example, have for the most part already been harvested. Yet world population continues growing and billions of people who now live in abject poverty are clawing their way into the middle class, or at least in that direction. The result is ever-more people wanting (and buying) air-conditioners and automobiles and every other material good you can name, bidding up prices on the diminishing supply of commodities required to make and transport those material goods.
In short, Peak Oil and Peak Metal will increasingly drive oil and metal prices higher, independent of and in addition to monetary inflation.
As an example, here is a look at the United Kingdom‘s oil production, including the huge North Sea oil fields (which, like most large oil fields around the world, have already peaked):
EnergyFiles.com provides such charts for pretty much every oil-producing nation on Earth, and nearly all look similar to the chart above. Don’t take my word for it: start clicking that mouse and see for yourself. Many observers report that world oil output has already peaked; for example, the German-based Energy Watch Group says the world peak occurred in 2006. Furthermore, the oil that IS being harvested today is increasingly difficult to obtain and is expensive (in terms of energy as well as money) to refine, making the situation far worse than the raw numbers suggest.
Once again, this same basic problem is being experienced in the mining industry. Current data suggest that the supply of several metals (including indium, needed in LCD panels) will be exhausted in only a few decades – for indium, perhaps in 13 years. Naturally, this has an effect in the market: “In January 2003 [indium] sold for around $60 per kilogram, by August 2006, the price had shot up to over $1,000 per kilogram” says Brian Durrant in Commodity Predictions: The Future Is Uncertain. Durrant includes a chart with “Years to exhaustion” for over a dozen metals.
If all that sounds like a recipe for lower prices to you, then congratulations! You may have what it takes to become U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.
You might think things couldn’t get any worse for energy and other commodity prices, but in fact several other, short-term problems (including a possible attack on Iran and predictions for above-average hurricane activity this year in the oil-producing Gulf of Mexico region; see also here) could spike the price of oil and natural gas dramatically, all on their own, which would naturally raise the market price of metals and anything else that must be transported to market. Some believe an attack on Iran could double or triple oil prices; imagine $450/barrel! For the mining industry, problems include political instability, electricity shortages, and the threat of nationalization.
A note on conservation and other voluntary reductions of usage: yes, higher prices – even for crude oil and gasoline – tend to reduce demand, as consumers change their habits in response. It may happen that the economic downturn now in progress will reduce demand enough to lower prices temporarily. But take a good look at the down-slope of the graph above before telling yourself that voluntarily lower usage will lead to an ongoing match with available supply anytime soon. Once again, other nations, and almost certainly the world as a whole, have or will have very similar down-slopes for crude oil supply. Unlike the OPEC oil embargo of the 1970s, the escalating oil shock of today and tomorrow will increasingly be based on actual, systemic, unfixable (at least in the near term) shortages – as well as on Reasons Number One and Three.
It is worth noting that one “government solution” is for a government to either nationalize a resource or to increase the government’s percentage of the profits. This is happening around the world – and is being suggested by some in the United States, including a few in Congress.
In sum, none of these three reasons for expecting higher commodity prices has moderated since the first of the year; all three continue to worsen – more inflation in America and around the world, more evidence that we are near (or even slightly past) the Peak Oil point and the Peak extraction point for several metals as well, and more government intrusion.
Take everything we just talked about above, and add “extensive drought and flooding.” That’s the food picture: a long-term uptrend for prices (due to monetary inflation, looming oil and other energy shortages, population growth, farmland erosion, water shortages, and the government-enforced “let’s use a bunch of our corn for fuel instead of food!” idea, among other things) combined with near-term additional pressure on price and supply from poor harvests this year – actually, from poor harvests and higher demand the last several years, which have already reduced food stocks to their lowest levels in decades.
The mega-famines of the 1970s and 1980s predicted by Paul Ehrlich and others were averted by the Green Revolution, which improved farming productivity around the world via the application of technology. The question today is: Will technology, or anything else, prevent mega-famine in the future as world population soars to a projected 9 billion in the next 34 years? That would be today’s 6.7 billion plus 2.3 billion more – the current population of China and India combined. (As recently as 1950, world population was about 2.5 billion total). These are staggering numbers, and the growing freshwater shortage alone makes it difficult for me to believe that world food output will grow dramatically enough to feed them all. Add the other problems already apparent in the food supply chain, and I expect Ehrlich’s predictions will be off by a few decades but otherwise all-too-accurate. Yes, I understand that technology might save us again; no, I don’t think it will do so.
In any case, we don’t have to wait decades for a budding food crisis: one is already here. In The World Food Crisis(The Nation, May 12, 2008), John Nichols points out that this crisis (as with so many others) has its roots in government “help” and in corporatism:
“The current global food system, which was designed by US-based agribusiness conglomerates like Cargill, Monsanto and ADM and forced into place by the US government and its allies at the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization, has planted the seeds of disaster by pressuring farmers here and abroad to produce cash crops for export and alternative fuels rather than grow healthy food for local consumption and regional stability.”
The word “crisis” keeps popping up in stories on the global food situation, and for millions of people in poor nations, food shortages and higher prices are indeed becoming a life-and-death problem. Even in wealthy nations, the poor and increasingly the middle class are feeling the pinch as well, and there is little to suggest things will improve in the near- or even medium-term. Worse yet, a major financial collapse, as many believe imminent (see last week’s column), has the potential to disrupt food distribution in a rapid and dramatic fashion and to reduce farmers’ ability to grow the next season’s crops as well. I believe such a collapse is inevitable at some point and quite possible in 2008, although timing and velocity of such events can never be predicted with certainty.
In addition to drought and flood and other factors, remember, the dollar itself is worth less every year, putting price pressure on real goods. I can’t think of a more vivid example of how badly the Federal Reserve has wrecked the American dollar than the fact that before the Fed was created, bread was typically five cents a loaf. (See U.S. Supreme Court, SCHMIDINGER v. CITY OF CHICAGO, 226 U.S. 578, 1913).
Bought a loaf of bread for a nickel lately? Probably not, and the price of bread in the U.S. is now rising dramatically, up 16.3% in the last year, per the Department of Labor. The linked article details the price increases bakers face for nearly everything: labor, flour, eggs, fuel for delivery vans, you name it. Flooding and drought may end this year or not, but monetary inflation by the Federal Reserve rolls on.
Bottom line: the food situation looks even worse than it did at the start of the year.
The oceans remain my biggest concern with the environment; they are becoming more acidic, are heavily polluted with chemicals and trash (some areas have more than six times as much plastic as plankton by weight [video, 7 min 9 sec] – and that was in 2001), and have been over-fished to an extent that “Peak Fish” is now, already, joining Peak Oil and other peak phenomena as a human problem. This is yet another reason for concern about the food situation: seafood is heading towards extinction. There seems far too little awareness of this looming disaster.
None of this is new, and I haven’t seen any dramatic new environmental problem that wasn’t already on the radar screen six months ago. My sense is that the trend continues in the wrong direction, but contradictory stories are commonplace, and unlike with food or oil prices which we all experience first-hand, evaluating the truth behind environmental news reports and commentary is difficult.
One possible bright spot is that an economic downturn combined with less fossil fuel being available might, just possibly, ease some of the pressure we are putting on our home planet. It also might do the opposite, as desperate people respond in desperate ways that end up creating even more damage.
So perhaps I own Bohr an apology; sometimes, “prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.”
You could be forgiven for thinking I am a pessimist, because this two-part column is a litany of dire problems. But if the problems are real – and they are – then writing honestly about them is realism, not pessimism.
People are accustomed to believing things that comfort them, but the benefit of seeing things as they are is that acknowledging a problem is the first step in solving it. Right now, the tendency is to see the converging downtrends discussed in this column as temporary, as part of the “normal” business cycle, as something that will soon reverse and return us to the more stable and prosperous world we knew.
But that is not the case – not this time, or so I believe. Certainly, a tipping point will be reached at some point that will prevent a quick or easy return to prosperous “normality.” Too many fundamentals are being eroded at the same time, and this erosion has continued for many decades. I believe the tipping point is now behind us, but if not, it is coming soon. I am hardly alone in this view; see Destruction by Paradigm from March 2007 for a long collection of data and comments by others on the gathering financial storm.
Don’t let occasional short reversals of the downtrend confuse you. The downtrend now underway will outlast and eventually overshadow the Great Depression of the 1930s. Why? Because compared to the situation in late 1929, today’s situation is dramatically worse. Today, we have:
Vastly more debt, at every level (federal, state, local, business, personal):
A nearly dismantled manufacturing sector; much of our wealth-producing machinery is idled and rusting; in 1929 it was the envy of the world
An auto industry on the verge of bankruptcy and with ever-smaller market share; in 1929 our auto industry was the world leader
Other industries also near bankruptcy (banking, homebuilding, airlines, etc).
An ever-worsening trade deficit; Americans buy more and more goods from the rest of the world while creating less and less to sell. (Yes, this makes the nation poorer). In 1929, and actually until the 1970s,America had a positive trade balance. Now, our cumulative trade deficit is the largest in history:
Diminishing real wages as well as fewer job opportunities for blue-collar workers and for the middle class generally. 438,000 jobs have been lost just in the first six months of this year alone in the United States – and that’s using the rather suspect official government figures. 438,000 people would make a good-sized city; the population of Miami is 404,000, for example.
A fiat currency rapidly dropping in value and tied to nothing, as opposed to a dollar tied to gold by law; this has become obvious and is changing behavior in relation to the dollar world-wide. Those still willing to take dollars want more of them, and expect to need even more tomorrow just to keep pace with the dollar’s loss of value. Price pressure on nearly everything is compounding throughout the market; higher oil prices, for instance, add price pressure to nearly everything that is manufactured, grown, or transported.
In addition, we have depleted much of our oil and other resources (U.S. oil output peaked decades ago). Oil, iron ore, and other natural commodities were plentiful in 1929 and the U.S. was the world’s largest producer of many commodities, including oil.
The infrastructure for harvesting and refining these resources was relatively new and in good repair in 1929; that is no longer the case – many trillions of dollars are needed to repair and upgrade not only oil field and related equipment (pipelines, for instance) but also electric, gasoline, natural gas, water, and sewer infrastructure in the U.S. – in addition to repairing our neglected roads, bridges, railways, and nearly everything else needed for a functioning economy. This is in addition to trillions of dollars needed for new technologies and infrastructures (solar and wind farms, for example) required by the oncoming shortfall of oil and natural gas. But we are already deeper in debt than any other nation in history has ever been, and our productive capacity has been deeply eroded, so where will the money come from?
The environment has degraded to such an extent that even the oceans are dying. Add other environmental problems, which are legion, and the situation is not only impacting the world economy and food supply – the environment may be perilously close to a collapse like none ever seen in human history. We really don’t know what to expect; we have never killed the oceans before, for instance. What effects (direct and indirect) will that have? Whatever the effects are, I don’t expect them to be positive.
The cancer-like growth of government in the United States, necessarily at the expense of the productive private sector, has reduced the ability of market forces to respond to new situations and to create the wealth needed for responding to today’s growing crisis. Note that our problems have grown in nearly direct proportion to the growth in government:
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How to respond to all this?
Is there a simple set of instructions you could follow to protect yourself and your family from what is coming?
Not if you are planning to remain on planet Earth, there isn’t (although I’ll discuss some possibly-helpful actions in a moment). Certainly, the United States is significantly less prosperous and less free than it was only recently, and the trend continues. Uber-investor Jim Rogers recently sold his Manhattan townhouse (for $15.75 million) and moved his family to Singapore; Rogers, with an excellent track-record for predicting trends, is convinced that the current financial meltdown will become “much worse” and that Asia will be a better place to live.
He may be right in the near term; Asia is certainly in better shape than America or Europe at this point, but Asia absolutely will be pulled into the vortex along with everyone else, and how things will go on the ground as the collapse gains speed is anyone’s guess. The food crisis is already causing riots in Asia and fuel shortages are creating long lines at fuel stations in China and elsewhere. Pollution in China is at epic levels, hurting human health and the economy while sparking riots and other civil unrest. As the oceans themselves grow more polluted and barren, as oil and metals become more scarce and expensive, as fresh water for irrigation, drinking, and other uses disappears from water tables and rivers, as the trillions of dollars in Asian monetary reserves evaporate into nothingness (and as local currencies follow suit), as factory orders from overseas dry up and costs escalate, and as Asian governments clamp down on the inevitable unrest and otherwise meddle in a desperate effort to “help,” what will this fast-growing and most densely-populated region of the world become? An oasis in a world gone mad, or just another hot zone in the madness?
Get clear on this: your children’s lives will not be like your own. A new era is beginning, and it will take your complete attention and a great deal of effort to survive comfortably – or perhaps at all – much less to prosper in the years ahead.
At the individual and family level:
Food: Do you have any stored or are you currently growing a significant amount of food (in a large garden, perhaps)? If food distribution were severely disrupted for a weeks or months, what would you do? Your local grocery chain is about three days away from empty shelves, at least for perishables. If food becomes scarce or more expensive than you could afford, would you have any alternatives other than showing up (with thousands of others) at your local food bank?
Water: Several areas in the United States are at the edge of severe and prolonged, possibly permanent, water shortages. Have you looked into the issue for your area and made appropriate plans, if necessary? For millions of people in America and elsewhere, this will become a huge and sudden problem in the next few years. The water crisis will also impact the availability and pricing of food and of other things; getting usable oil from the Canadian tar sands or from American oil shale requires vast amounts of water as well as huge amounts of energy, for instance.
Jobs, money, and investments: A financial collapse is coming; this is no longer in doubt, and in fact early stages of the collapse have already begun (see Part 1 of this column for more detail). Is your job one that will remain in demand when most other people have lost theirs? Are your pension and other investments likely to survive bank failures, hyperinflation, the bankruptcy of your corporate employer, and other problems? If you were to find yourself without income for a week (or month, or a year or longer), do you have anything set aside to take care of necessities?
Security: The turmoil ahead will almost certainly include an increase in crime as large numbers of people grow desperate.
Family and friends: In the Great Depression of the 1930s, millions of Americans got by with the help of family and close friends. Today, families are smaller, physically scattered, and family ties are typically weaker; we move more often and thus have more shallow ties in the community. Fewer of us go to churches today, which were another safety net and source of strength in the 1930s. Building relationships today could well pay off tomorrow.
Transportation: If gasoline were to double or triple in price from current levels, how would you cope? Better to answer the question now than to find out later the hard way.
Careful consideration of the questions raised above will lead you to answers – to your own answers, because not every person or situation is the same, and because chaos (a good description of what we are heading into) is inherently murky; we can see the tornado coming but cannot predict where that lawn chair will end up after the tornado passes.
I wish I could be more precise, and more positive for that matter, but I am interested in reality, not fantasy. You can find plenty of that on the web, if you desire.
At the national and global level:
You will have noticed that the problems facing us are of two distinctly different types:
1)Natural-world problems created by the rapid and breathtaking increase in human population and human wealth; environmental issues, depletion of finite resources, and difficulty of continually ramping up the food supply to keep up with population growth are examples. These problems were created by the solving of earlier problems by technology and the market, including the problem of how to feed billions more people as the population grew. Now that these new problems are on the radar screen of almost everyone and are known to be serious, technology and market forces will eventually solve them (and quicker than most would expect) – if they are allowed to do so – i.e., without government interference.
2)Problems caused directly or indirectly by government action. Coercive power and central planning simply do not work well, and if we continue to expect such methods to solve today’s problems, we are doomed. As noted philosopher Ringo Starr has said, “Everything government touches turns to crap.” Henry David Thoreau made the point more eloquently in Civil Disobedience:
“Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient. The objections which have been brought against a standing army, and they are many and weighty, and deserve to prevail, may also at last be brought against a standing government.”
Thoreau was putting it mildly. To say it plainly, the human race can no longer survive the inefficiency, destruction, and carnage caused by governments. If we are to surmount the problems now facing us, the irrational belief in coercive government as necessary, as positive, as even long-term survivable must, absolutely must, be widely examined, seen for the delusion that it is, and discarded.
Any system that creates war and genocide and which simply murders people by the thousands and even by the millions deserves to join the system of human sacrifice in the dustbin of history. Few people are aware of the horrific level of violence and murder that governments inflict; see Dr. R. J. Rummel’s Death by Government for a look at the reality. Rummel’s current (revised) figures for 20th Century government murder come to 262,000,000 – more than two and a half million murders per year, on average, for an entire century. That is in addition to war, in addition to torture, in addition to maiming and other injury, in addition to millions who were displaced from their homes or otherwise harmed by governments. Why on Earth do we put up with this?
Government action has directly and indirectly caused much of the disaster now coming and has exacerbated the rest. We either put an end to the coercive, ham-fisted, destructive meddling of our politicians and their central-bank masters and corporatist parasites, or that entire system will put an end to us.
Solving both our natural-world problems and our systemic problems of tyranny and economic corruption can only happen to the extent we free ourselves from the web of systematic coercion that now ensnares us. Free human beings solve problems with shocking speed and can change focus and direction quickly as needed; government action creates entrenched and coercively-funded special interests that make necessary change difficult or impossible.
The other element needed is more love (or less neurosis, if you prefer) in the world, especially for the young. Freedom without compassion is no less a disaster than compassion without freedom. Systematic coercion and widespread neurosis are the Two Great Evils of this world and I am ever-more certain that nothing less than bold moves towards more love and freedom will save us.
Love and freedom, then, or cruelty and tyranny; it shouldn’t be a difficult choice.