The financial crisis has put to rest the myths that our economic institutions are sound and markets work best when deregulated. Our economic institutions have failed, not only financially, but also socially and environmentally. This, combined with the most recent recent presidential election with a mandate for “change,” creates an opportune moment to rethink and redesign.
President Obama has promised to grow the economy from the bottom up. That would be a substantial improvement over growing the top at the expense of the bottom. The real need, however, is a bottom-up transformation of our economic values and institutions to align with the imperatives and opportunities of the 21st century. It involves a five part agenda: clean up Wall Street, play by market rules, self-finance the real economy, measure what we really want, and convert to debt-free money.
The recent market meltdown and the resulting bailout commitments of more than a trillion dollars have focused the nation’s attention on the devastating consequences of Wall Street deregulation. This is but the tip of the iceberg of a failed economy in serious need of basic redesign.
Our economy is wildly out of balance with human needs and the supposedly, “natural environment.” The result is proposed to be disaster for both. Wages are falling in the face of soaring food and energy prices. Consumer debt and housing foreclosures are setting historic records. The middle class is shrinking. The unconscionable and growing worldwide gap between rich and poor with its related social alienation is producing social collapse, which in turn produces crime, terrorism, and genocide.
At the same time, excessive consumption is said to be “pushing Earth’s ecosystem into collapse.” Scientists are in almost universal agreement that human activity bears substantial responsibility for climate change and the related increase in droughts, floods, and wildfires. All of this is a result of the push for the UN Agenda 21.
Don’t be fooled by catching phrases like “sustainability, global warming, carbon footprint, and Common Core.” “Sustainability” sounds good, right? But our governments idea for “sustainability” is NOT for our benefit!
We face a monumental economic challenge that goes far beyond anything being discussed in the U.S. Congress. The hardships imposed by temporarily frozen credit markets pale by comparison.
This would be a good time to start evaluating economic performance against indicators of what we really want—healthy children, families, communities, and natural systems.
The Wall Street bailout package that Congress passed in its moment of panic did nothing to address the structural cause of the credit freeze, let alone the structural cause of the economy’s even more serious environmental and social failures. On the positive side, the financial crisis has put to rest the myths that our economic institutions are sound and that markets work best when deregulated. It creates an opportune moment for deep change.
Here are some essential steps toward a system redesign that can put us on the path to a just and sustainable economy that works for all.
CLEAN UP WALL STREET
The first item of business is to get the immediate crisis under control. Wall Street institutions have long claimed their trading activities create wealth, provide the funds that keep business moving, increase economic efficiency, and stabilize markets. The financial meltdown pulled away the curtain to reveal a corrupt system that runs on speculation, the stripping of corporate assets, predatory lending, and asset bubbles like the real estate and dot-com “booms.”
If the people involved produce anything of value, it is purely incidental to their primary quest for speculative gains, which placed the entire global economy at risk and led to extortionate demands for taxpayer bailouts when their bets went bad. For these labors, the 50 highest-paid private investment fund managers in 2007 averaged $588 million in compensation—19,000 times as much as average worker pay. We must hold Wall Street accountable, recover some of our losses from those responsible, and preclude a repetition of the credit collapse. The recommendations of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a Washington, D.C., think tank, are a good place to start. In “A Sensible Plan for Recovery,” IPS calls on Congress to make Wall Street pay for both the bailout and a true economic stimulus package. The plan recommends a securities transactions tax, a minimum corporate income tax, recovery of bonuses paid to Wall Street CEOs responsible for the crisis, an end to corporate tax havens, and an end to tax loopholes for CEO pay. IPS also calls for extensive federal regulation to limit speculation and assert real oversight over financial markets.
Implementing these recommendations will be an excellent start on limiting speculation, restoring a progressive tax system to achieve a more equitable distribution of economic power, and putting the more predatory Wall Street firms out of business.
Additional steps will be needed to break up concentrations of corporate power, beginning with Wall Street, and to hold the remaining banks accountable to the public interest. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s decision to buy a government equity stake in troubled banks is a positive step that may open the way to a deeper restructuring of the financial system.
The federal government should immediately reinstate the provisions of the Glass–Steagall Act prohibiting the merger of commercial and investment banks, and force the breakup of financial conglomerates and any other Wall Street institutions that are too big to fail. As Senator Bernie Sanders has observed, “If a company is too big to fail, it is too big to exist.”
PLAY BY MARKET RULES
Once we extinguish the immediate fire, we can turn our attention to redesigning the potentially beneficial institutions of finance to align with the imperatives of sustainability and equity. Ironically, given the excesses committed by Wall Street in the name of market freedom, the economy we need to create looks remarkably like the market economy vision of Adam Smith, revered by many as the father of capitalism.
Smith envisioned a world of local market economies populated by small entrepreneurs, artisans, and family farmers with strong community roots engaged in producing and exchanging goods and services to meet the needs of themselves and their neighbors. His vision bears little resemblance to the Wall Street economy of footloose global capital, credit default swaps, reckless speculation, and global corporate empires.
In “The Post–Corporate World: Life After Capitalism, socially efficient market allocation depends on a number of important conditions that Wall Street and those economists devoted to the ideology of neoliberal market fundamentalism routinely ignore. These include:
- Market prices must internalize full social and environmental costs.
- Trade between nations must be in balance.
- Investment must be local.
- No player can be big enough to directly influence market price.
- Economic power must be equitably distributed.
- Every player must have complete information and there can be no trade secrets (read: no government-enforced intellectual property rights).
To avoid the distortion of unfair competitive practices, markets must be regulated to assure that these essential conditions are maintained. Think of them as basic principles for securing the healthy, just, and sustainable function of Main Street economies.
THE REAL ECONOMY
Far from serving the financial needs of Main Street, Wall Street treats Main Street like a colony to be managed for the benefit of its colonial master. In alliance with the Federal Reserve, Wall Street players have used a combination of control over the money supply, predatory lending practices, and lobbying and campaign contributions to suppress wages, dismantle social safety nets, and capture the value of productivity gains for themselves. The top 1 percent of U.S. income earners increased their share of national cash income from 9 percent to 19 percent between 1980 and 2005, according to Charles R. Morris in ‘The Trillion Dollar Meltdown. Income for 90 percent of households fell relative to inflation, household savings rates dropped to less than 1 percent, and household debt soared as Main Street workers struggled to hold their lives together.
Creating a fair distribution of wealth by restoring progressive tax rates, increasing the minimum wage, containing health care costs, and regulating mortgage and credit card interest rates is an essential element of a post-bailout economic agenda. This will help those at the bottom, restore household savings and purchasing power, and, combined with the debt-free money system proposed below, eliminate Main Street dependence on Wall Street financing. The financial services needs of Main Street economies are best served by a federally regulated network of independent, locally owned community banks that fulfill the classic textbook banking function of acting as intermediaries between local people looking for a secure place for their savings and local people who need loans to buy a home or finance a business. Evidence that people with savings are moving their accounts from the giant banks with questionable balance sheets to smaller local banks is a positive step.
Wall Street interests have also rigged the economic game to give a competitive advantage to mega-corporations over the local independent businesses that are the heart and soul of Main Street economies. The New Rules Project of the Institute for Local Self–Reliance provides a wealth of recommendations for restoring a proper balance in favor of Main Street that also merits serious consideration.
MEASURE WHAT WE REALLY WANT
The only legitimate function of an economic system is to serve life. At present, however, we assess economic performance solely against financial indicators—gross domestic product (GDP) and stock prices—while disregarding social and environmental consequences. We are now paying the price for years of managing the economy for financial performance, which translates into making money for people who have money—that is, making rich people richer. It was not a wise choice. We now bear the devastating costs of this foolishness in the form of massive social and environmental damage and financial instability.
This would be a good time to start evaluating economic performance against indicators of what we really want—healthy children, families, communities, and natural systems. This would place life values ahead of money values and dramatically reframe the public policy side of our economic decision-making. Happiness, by the way, is an important indicator of physical and psychological health.
We might well continue to track GDP, a measure of economic throughput, as a quite useful indicator of the economic cost of producing a given level of health and well-being. When we recognize that GDP represents cost, not gain, it becomes clear why making it grow is a mistake. A number of researchers have been pointing out that happiness, as well as other indicators of human, social, and environmental health, have been declining even as GDP increased, but their appeals have been largely ignored. We continue to manage our economies to maximize the cost, rather than the benefit, of economic activity. The shock of financial collapse creates an opportunity to draw attention to this substantial anomaly. We will know we have turned an important corner when business news reporters happily announce, “It has been a successful quarter. Happiness rose by two points and GDP is down by one point.”
This brings us to the most important reform of all: changing the way we create money. One key to Wall Street’s power and to the inherent instability of the financial system is the current practice of private banks creating money with a simple bookkeeping entry each time they make a loan. Because the bookkeeping entry creates only the principal, but not the interest, unless the economy grows fast enough to generate sufficient demand for loans to create the new money required to make the interest payments on the previous loans, debts go into default and the financial system and the economy collapse. The demand for repayment with interest of nearly every dollar in circulation virtually assures the economy will fail unless GDP and inequality are constantly growing.
Leading economists and political figures, including Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, have advocated replacing the system of bank-created debt-money with an alternative system in which the government creates debt-free money by spending it into existence to fund public goods like infrastructure or education. The suggestion that government create money with the stroke of a pen sets off all sorts of alarm bells about runaway inflation. The primary change, however, would simply be that the entry is made by government for a public good rather than by a private bank for private profit. Ellen Hodgson Brown’s The Web of Debt is an informative current review of issues and options.
Privately issued debt-money adds to debt and taxes and bears major responsibility for environmental destruction because it requires infinite growth, extreme inequality because it assures an upward flow of wealth from Main Street to Wall Street, and economic instability because issuing loans to fuel reckless speculation generates handsome short-term bank profits. Publicly issued debt-free money would greatly reduce debt, taxes, and environmental harm, be more equitable, and increase financial stability. In a democracy, it should be ours to choose.
When Michelle Obama visited a Walmart in Springfield, Missouri, a few weeks ago to praise the company’s efforts to sell healthier food, she did not say why she chose a store in Springfield of all cities. But, in ways that Obama surely did not intend, it was a fitting choice. This Midwestern city provides a chilling look at where Walmart wants to take our food system.
Springfield is one of nearly 40 metro areas where Walmart now captures about half or more of consumer spending on groceries, according to Metro Market Studies. Springfield area residents spend just over $1 billion on groceries each year, and one of every two of those dollars flows into a Walmart cash register. The chain has 20 stores in the area and shows no signs of slowing its growth. Its latest proposal, a store just south of the city’s downtown, has provoked widespread protest. Opponents say Walmart already has an overbearing presence in the region and argue that this new store would undermine nearby grocery stores, including a 63-year-old family-owned business which still provides delivery for its elderly customers. A few days before the First Lady’s visit, the City Council voted 5-4 to approve what will be Walmart’s 21st store in the community.
As Springfield goes, so goes the rest of the country, if Walmart has its way. Nationally, the retailer’s share of the grocery market now stands at 25 percent. That’s up from 4 percent just 16 years ago. Walmart’s tightening grip on the food system is unprecedented in U.S. history. Even A&P — often referred to as the Walmart of its day — accounted for only about 12 percent of grocery sales at its height in the 1940s. Its market share was kept in check in part by the federal government, which won an antitrust case against A&P in 1946. The contrast to today’s casual acceptance of Walmart’s market power could not be more stark.
Having gained more say over our food supply than Monsanto, Kraft, or Tyson, Walmart has been working overtime to present itself as a benevolent king. It has upped its donations to food pantries, reduced sodium and sugars in some of its store-brand products, and recast its relentless expansion as a solution to “food deserts.” In 2011, it pledged to build 275-300 stores “in or near” low-income communities lacking grocery stores. The Springfield store Obama visited is one of 86 such stores Walmart has since opened. Situated half a mile from the southwestern corner of a census tract identified as underserved by the USDA, the store qualifies as “near” a food desert. Other grocery stores are likewise perched on the edge of this tract. Although Walmart has made food deserts the vanguard of its PR strategy in urban areas, most of the stores the chain has built or proposed in cities like Chicago and Washington D.C. are in fact just blocks from established supermarkets, many unionized or locally owned. As it pushes into cities, Walmart’s primary aim is not to fill gaps but to grab market share.
The real effect of Walmart’s takeover of our food system has been to intensify the rural and urban poverty that drives unhealthy food choices. Continue reading
National Economic Security and Recovery Act (NESARA)
You can dispute these facts all you want, but this is how the US Government overstepped the rule of law and disregard for the Constitution.
These official documents were published by the now-defunct Administration of the United States.
This edition has been prepared in a spirit of public service
With all their power and money (our money!), Government officials and bankers consider themselves to be above the Law, but cracks are now appearing in their foundations, and angry Americans are beginning to fight back.
Blame it on Sequester! Here Are the Latest Unemployment Numbers
Nearly half a million Americans stopped looking for work in March as U.S. employers added only 88,000 jobs, well below the expected print of 190K, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.
The labor force participation rate fell to 63.3 percent, its lowest point since 1979, sending the unemployment rate to 7.6 percent, down from its previous rate of 7.7 percent.
And before players in the media start trying to tie today’s report to the March 1 automatic spending cuts, it’s important to note that retail declined by 24,000 jobs.
Also, and this is very interesting, despite the decline in U.S. Postal Service jobs (definitely not a new thing), the U.S. government added net 9,000 jobs, according to the post-sequestration BLS report.
“Within government, U.S. Postal Service employment fell by 12,000 in March,” the report reads. “Employment in other major industries, including mining, manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities, state government, and local government, showed little change over the month.”
Here’s are the unemployment numbers broken up by group:
- Men: 6.9 percent
- Adult women: 7.0 percent
- Teenagers: 24.2 percent
- Whites: 6.7 percent
- Blacks: 13.3 percent
- Hispanics: 9.2 percent
- Asians: 5.0 percent (not seasonally adjusted
The number of people on long-term unemployment (i.e. those who have been out of work for at least 27 weeks) in March was about 4.6 million. This accounts for roughly 39.6 percent of total unemployment.
Part time employment (i.e. “individuals … working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job”) fell by 350,000 in March to 7.6 million.
Colonies were more prosperous than the home country Before the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the war that followed, the colonized part of what is today the United States of America was a Crown possession of England. It was called New England, and was made up of 13 colonies, which became the original states of the great Republic. In 1750, this New England was very prosperous. Benjamin Franklin wrote: "There was abundance in the Colonies, and peace reigned on every border. It was difficult, even impossible, to find a happier and more prosperous nation on all the surface of the globe. Comfort prevailed in every home. The people, in general, kept the highest moral standards, and education was widely spread." When Franklin went over to England to represent the interests of the Colonies, he saw a completely different situation; the working population of the home country was gnawed by hunger and plagued by inescapable poverty. "The streets are covered with beggars and tramps," he wrote. He asked his English friends how England, with all its wealth, could have so much poverty among its working classes. His friends replied that England was prey to a terrible condition; it had too many workers! The rich said they were already overburdened with taxes, and could not pay more to relieve the needs and poverty of this great mass of workers. Several rich Englishmen of that time actually believed what economist Thomas Malthus later wrote, that wars and epidemic disease were necessary to rid the country from "manpower surpluses." People in London asked Franklin how the American Colonies managed to collect enough money to support their poorhouses, and how they could overcome this plague of unemployment and pauperism. Thanks to debt-free money issued by the colonial governments Franklin replied; "We have no poorhouses in the Colonies, and if we had some, there would be no one to put in them, since in the Colonies there is not a single unemployed person, not a beggar nor a tramp." His friends could not believe their ears, or understand how this could be. They knew when the English poorhouses and jails became too cluttered, England shipped the wretched inmates like cattle, to be dumped on the quays of the Colonies if they survived the filth and privations of the sea voyage. (In those days English debtors went to jail if they could not pay their debts, and few escaped, since in jail they could not earn money.) Franklin's acquaintences, in view of all this, asked him how he could explain the remarkable prosperity of the New England Colonies. Franklin told them: "Why, that is simple! In the Colonies, we issue our own paper money. It's called 'Colonial Scrip.' We issue it to pay the government's approved expenses and charities. We make sure it's issued in proper proportion to make the goods pass easily from the producers to the consumers. In other words, we make sure there is always adequate money in circulation for the needs of the economy.