American Samizdat

Monday, October 20, 2008. *
Michael Hudson, economist and erstwhile adviser to the Kucinich campaign, has had excellent analyses of the unfolding events pretty much daily in Counterpunch. Today he wraps up everything so far, big picture with detail, in a fashion that deserves to be widely read:

October 20, 2008
Licensed Kleptocracy for Years to Come
The ABCs of Paulson's Bailout


Treasury Secretary Paulson’s bailout speech on Monday, October 13, poses some fundamental economic questions: What is the impact on the economy at large of this autumn’s unprecedented creation and giveaway of financial wealth to the wealthiest layer of the population? How long can the Treasury’s bailout of Wall Street (but not the rest of the economy!) sustain a debt overhead that is growing exponentially? Is there any limit to the amount of U.S. Treasury debt that the government can create and turn over to its major political campaign contributors?

In times past, national debt typically was run up by borrowing money from private lenders and spent on goods and services. The tendency was to absorb loanable funds and bid up interest rates on the one hand, while spending led to inflationary price increases for goods and services. But the present giveaway is different. Instead of money being borrowed or spent, interest-yielding bonds are simply being printed and turned over to the banks and other financial institutions. The hope is that they will lend out more credit (which will become more debt on the part of their customers), lowering interest rates while the money is used to bid up asset prices – real estate, stocks and bonds. Little commodity price inflation is expected from this behavior.

The main impact will be to reinforce the concentration of wealth in the hands of creditors (the wealthiest 10 percent of the population) rather than wiping out financial assets (and debts) through the bankruptcies that were occurring as a result of “market forces.” Is it too much to say that we are seeing the end of economic democracy and the emergence of a financial oligarchy – a self-serving class whose actions threaten to polarize society and, in the process, stifle economic growth and lead to the very bankruptcy that the bailout was supposed to prevent?

Everything that I have read in economic history leads me to believe that we are entering a nightmare transition era. The business cycle is essentially a financial cycle. Upswings tend to become economy-wide Ponzi schemes as banks and other creditors, savers and investors receive interest and plow it back into new loans, accruing yet more interest as debt levels rise. This is the “magic of compound interest” in a nutshell. No “real” economy in history has grown at a rate able to keep up with this financial dynamic. Indeed, payment of this interest by households and businesses leaves less to spend on goods and services, causing markets to shrink and investment and employment to be cut back.

Banks cannot make money ad infinitum by selling more and more credit – that is, indebting the non-financial economy more and more. Government officials such as Treasury Secretary Paulson or Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke are professionally unable to acknowledge this problem, and it does not appear in most neoclassical or monetarist textbooks. But the underlying mathematics of compound interest are rediscovered in each generation, often prompted by the force majeur of financial crisis.
much more at the link..

Also see, New "TriPolar" Currency For Asia,U.S., Europe On P

October 20th, 2008

Via: Bloomberg:

European Central Bank council member Ewald Nowotny said a “tri-polar” global currency system is developing between Asia, Europe and the U.S. and that he’s skeptical the U.S. dollar’s centrality can be revived.

“What I see is a system where we have more centers of gravity” Nowotny said today in an interview with Austrian state broadcaster ORF-TV. “I see for the future a tri-polar development, and I don’t think that there will be fixed exchange rates between these poles.”

The leaders of the U.S., France and the European Commission will ask other world leaders to join in a series of summits on the global financial crisis beginning in the U.S. soon after the Nov. 4 presidential election, President George W. Bush, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and European Commission President Jose Barroso said in a joint statement yesterday.

Nowotny said he was “skeptical” when asked whether the Bretton Woods System of monetary policy, set up after World War II and revised in 1971, could be revived to aid global currency stability. The U.S. meeting should aim to strengthen financial regulation, define bank capital ratios and review the role of debt-rating agencies.

European leaders have pressed to convene an emergency meeting of the world’s richest nations, known as the Group of Eight, joined by others such as India and China, to overhaul the world’s financial regulatory systems. The meetings are to include developed economies as well as developing nations.


The Rising Body Count on Main Street
The Human Fallout from the Financial Crisis

On October 4, 2008, in the Porter Ranch section of Los Angeles, Karthik Rajaram, beset by financial troubles, shot his wife, mother-in-law, and three sons before turning the gun on himself. In one of his two suicide notes, Rajaram wrote that he was "broke," having incurred massive financial losses in the economic meltdown. "I understand he was unemployed, his dealings in the stock market had taken a disastrous turn for the worse," said Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Michel R. Moore.

The fallout from the current subprime mortgage debacle and the economic one that followed has thrown lives into turmoil across the country. In recent days, the Associated Press, ABC News, and others have begun to address the burgeoning body count, especially suicides attributed to the financial crisis. (Note that, months ago, Barbara Ehrenreich raised the issue in the Nation.)

Suicide is, however, just one type of extreme act for which the financial meltdown has seemingly been the catalyst. Since the beginning of the year, stories of resistance to eviction, armed self-defense, canicide, arson, self-inflicted injury, murder, as well as suicide, especially in response to the foreclosure crisis, have bubbled up into the local news, although most reports have gone unnoticed nationally -- as has any pattern to these events.

While it's impossible to know what factors, including deeply personal ones, contribute to such extreme acts, violent or otherwise, many do seem undeniably linked to the present crisis. This is hardly surprising. Rates of stress, depression, and suicide invariably climb in times of economic turmoil. As Kathleen Hall, founder and CEO of the Stress Institute in Atlanta, told USA Today's Stephanie Armour earlier this year, "Suicides are very much tied to the economy."

With predictions of a long and deep recession now commonplace, it's not too soon to begin looking for these patterns among the human tragedies already sprouting amid the financial ruins. Troubling trends are to be expected in the years ahead, especially as hundreds of thousands of veterans of the Iraq and Afghan Wars, their families often already under enormous stress, are coming home to scenarios of joblessness and, in some cases, homelessness. Consider this, then, an attempt to look for early anecdotal signs of the fallout from hard times, the results, in this case, of a review of local press reports from across the nation, some tiny but potentially indicative of larger American tragedies, and all suggesting a pattern that is likely to grow more pronounced.

Extreme Eviction

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, And in the darkness bind them.
posted by Uncle $cam at 11:37 AM
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