Author Archives: Ellen Brown

The Fed protects gamblers at the expense of the economy

Although the repo market is little known to most people, it is a $1-trillion-a-day credit machine, in which not just banks but hedge funds and other “shadow banks” borrow to finance their trades. Under the Federal Reserve Act, the central bank’s lending window is open only to licensed depository banks; but the Fed is now pouring billions of dollars into the repo (repurchase agreements) market, in effect making risk-free loans to speculators at less than 2%. Continue reading

The key to the environmental crisis is beneath our feet

The Green New Deal resolution that was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives in February hit a wall in the Senate, where it was called unrealistic and unaffordable. Continue reading

Paul Volcker’s long shadow

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan called Paul Volcker “the most effective chairman in the history of the Federal Reserve.” But while Volcker, who passed away Dec. 8 at age 92, probably did have the greatest historical impact of any Fed chairman, his legacy is, at best, controversial. Continue reading

Is the run on the dollar due to panic or greed?

What’s going on in the repo market? Rates on repurchase agreements (“repo”) should be around 2%, in line with the fed funds rate. But they shot up to over 5% on September 16 and got as high as 10% on September 17. Yet banks were refusing to lend to each other, evidently passing up big profits to hold onto their cash—just as they did in the housing market crash and Great Recession of 2008-09. Continue reading

The disaster of negative interest rates

President Trump wants negative interest rates, but they would be disastrous for the U.S. economy, and his objectives can be better achieved by other means. Continue reading

Desperate central bankers grab for more power

Conceding that their grip on the economy is slipping, central bankers are proposing a radical economic reset that would shift yet more power from government to themselves. Continue reading

The key to a sustainable economy is 5,000 years old

We are again reaching the point in the business cycle known as “peak debt,” when debts have compounded to the point that their cumulative total cannot be paid. Student debt, credit card debt, auto loans, business debt and sovereign debt are all higher than they have ever been. As economist Michael Hudson writes in his provocative 2018 book, “…and forgive them their debts,” debts that can’t be paid won’t be paid. The question, he says, is how they won’t be paid. Continue reading

Neoliberalism has met its match in China

When the Federal Reserve cut interest rates on July 31 for the first time in more than a decade, commentators were asking why. According to official data, the economy was rebounding, unemployment was below 4%, and GDP growth was above 3%. If anything, by the Fed’s own reasoning, it should have been raising rates. Continue reading

The cheapest way to save the planet grows like a weed

Planting billions of trees across the world is by far the cheapest and most efficient way to tackle the climate crisis. So states a July 4 article in The Guardian, citing a new analysis published in the journal Science. Continue reading

How to pay for it all: An option the candidates missed

The Democratic Party has clearly swung to the progressive left, with candidates in the first round of presidential debates coming up with one program after another to help the poor, the disadvantaged and the struggling middle class. Proposals ranged from a Universal Basic Income to Medicare for All to a Green New Deal to student debt forgiveness and free college tuition. The problem, as Stuart Varney observed on FOX Business, was that no one had a viable way to pay for it all without raising taxes or taking from other programs, a hard sell to voters. If robbing Peter to pay Paul is the only alternative, the proposals will go the way of Trump’s trillion dollar infrastructure bill for lack of funding. Continue reading

Libra: Facebook’s audacious bid for global monetary control

Payments can happen cheaply and easily without banks or credit card companies. This has now been demonstrated—not in the United States but in China. Unlike in the US, where numerous firms feast on fees from handling and processing payments, in China most money flows through mobile phones nearly for free. In 2018, these cashless payments totaled a whopping $41.5 trillion; and 90% were through Alipay and WeChat Pay, a pair of digital ecosystems that blend social media, commerce and banking. Continue reading

The American Dream is alive and well—in China

Home ownership has been called “the quintessential American dream.” Yet today fewer than 65% of American homes are owner occupied, and more than 50% of the equity in those homes is owned by the banks. Compare China, where, despite facing one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world, a whopping 90% of families can afford to own their homes. Continue reading

The bankers’ ‘power revolution’: How the government got shackled by debt

The U.S. federal debt has more than doubled since the 2008 financial crisis, shooting up from $9.4 trillion in mid-2008 to over $22 trillion in April 2019. The debt is never paid off. The government just keeps paying the interest on it, and interest rates are rising. Continue reading

The next state-owned bank—California or Washington?

As public banking gains momentum across the country, policymakers in California and Washington state are vying to form the nation’s second state-owned bank, following in the footsteps of the highly successful Bank of North Dakota, founded in 1919. The race is close, with state bank bills now passing their first round of hearings in both states’ senates. Continue reading

Why is the Fed paying so much interest to banks?

When Mary Poppins was made into a movie in 1964, Mr. Banks’ advice to his son was sound. Banks were then paying more than 5% interest on deposits, enough to double young Michael’s investment every 14 years. Continue reading

Monetary policy takes center stage: MMT, QE or public banks?

As alarm bells sound over the advancing destruction of the environment, a variety of Green New Deal proposals have appeared in the US and Europe, along with some interesting academic debates about how to fund them. Monetary policy, normally relegated to obscure academic tomes and bureaucratic meetings behind closed doors, has suddenly taken center stage. Continue reading

QE forever: The Fed’s dramatic about-face

“Quantitative easing” was supposed to be an emergency measure. The Federal Reserve “eased” shrinkage in the money supply due to the 2008-09 credit crisis by pumping out trillions of dollars in new bank reserves. After the crisis, the presumption was that the Fed would “normalize” conditions by sopping up the excess reserves through “quantitative tightening” (QT)—raising interest rates and selling the securities it had bought with new reserves back into the market. Continue reading

The Venezuela myth keeping us from transforming our economy

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is getting significant media attention these days, after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview that it should “be a larger part of our conversation” when it comes to funding the Green New Deal. According to MMT, the government can spend what it needs without worrying about deficits. MMT expert and Bernie Sanders advisor Prof. Stephanie Kelton says the government actually creates money when it spends. The real limit on spending is not an artificially imposed debt ceiling but a lack of labor and materials to do the work, leading to generalized price inflation. Only when that real ceiling is hit does the money need to be taxed back, and then not to fund government spending but to shrink the money supply in an economy that has run out of resources to put the extra money to work. Continue reading

The financial secret behind Germany’s green energy revolution

The most profitable and efficient way for national and local governments to finance public infrastructure and development is with their own banks

The “Green New Deal” endorsed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D.-N.Y., and more than 40 other House members has been criticized as imposing a too-heavy burden on the rich and upper-middle-class taxpayers who will have to pay for it. However, taxing the rich is not what the Green New Deal resolution proposes. It says funding would come primarily from certain public agencies, including the U.S. Federal Reserve and “a new public bank or system of regional and specialized public banks.” Continue reading

Universal Basic Income is easier than it looks

Calls for a Universal Basic Income have been increasing, most recently as part of the Green New Deal introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and supported in the last month by at least 40 members of Congress. A Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a monthly payment to all adults with no strings attached, similar to Social Security. Critics say the Green New Deal asks too much of the rich and upper-middle-class taxpayers who will have to pay for it, but taxing the rich is not what the resolution proposes. It says funding would primarily come from the federal government, “using a combination of the Federal Reserve, a new public bank or system of regional and specialized public banks,” and other vehicles. Continue reading

This radical plan to fund the ‘Green New Deal’ just might work

With what Naomi Klein calls “galloping momentum,” the “Green New Deal” promoted by newly-elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) appears to be forging a political pathway for solving all of the ills of society and the planet in one fell swoop. It would give a House Select Committee “a mandate that connects the dots between energy, transportation, housing, as well as healthcare, living wages, a jobs guarantee” and more. But to critics even on the left it is just political theater, since “everyone knows” a program of that scope cannot be funded without a massive redistribution of wealth and slashing of other programs (notably the military), which is not politically feasible. Continue reading

Trump’s war on the Fed

October was a brutal month for the stock market. After the Fed’s eighth interest rate hike on September 26, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped more than 2,000 points and the NASDAQ had its worst month in nearly 10 years. Continue reading

Breaking with Wall Street: L.A. takes it to the voters

“Wall Street owns the country.” That was the opening line of a fiery speech by populist leader Mary Ellen Lease in 1890. Franklin Roosevelt said it again in a letter to Colonel House in 1933, and Sen. Dick Durbin was still saying it in 2009. “The banks—hard to believe in a time when we’re facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created—are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill,” Durbin said in an interview. “And they frankly own the place.” Continue reading

Central banks have gone rogue, putting us all at risk

Central bankers are now aggressively playing the stock market. To say they are buying up the planet may be an exaggeration, but they could. They can create money at will, and they have declared their “independence” from government. They have become rogue players in a game of their own. Continue reading

How China’s mobile ecosystems are making banks obsolete

Giant Chinese tech companies have bypassed credit cards and banks to create their own low-cost digital payment systems.

The US credit card system siphons off excessive amounts of money from merchants, who must raise their prices to cover this charge. In a typical $100 credit card purchase, only $97.25 goes to the seller. The rest goes to banks and processors. But who can compete with Visa and MasterCard? Continue reading

Trump takes on the Fed

The president has criticized Federal Reserve policy for undermining his attempts to build the economy. To make the central bank serve the needs of the economy, it needs to be transformed into a public utility. Continue reading

A public bank for Los Angeles?

City council puts it to the voters

California legislators exploring the public bank option may be breaking not just from Wall Street but from the Federal Reserve. Continue reading

Blackstone, BlackRock or a public bank?

California needs over $700 billion in infrastructure during the next decade. Where will this money come from? The $1.5 trillion infrastructure initiative unveiled by President Trump in February 2018 includes only $200 billion in federal funding, and less than that after factoring in the billions in tax cuts in infrastructure-related projects. The rest is to come from cities, states, private investors and public-private partnerships (PPPs) one. And since city and state coffers are depleted, that chiefly means private investors and PPPs, which have a shady history at best. Continue reading

Fox in the hen house: Why interest rates are rising

On March 31, the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate for the sixth time in 3 years and signaled its intention to raise rates twice more in 2018, aiming for a fed funds target of 3.5% by 2020. LIBOR (the London Interbank Offered Rate) has risen even faster than the fed funds rate, up to 2.3% from just 0.3% 2–1/2 years ago. LIBOR is set in London by private agreement of the biggest banks, and the interest on $3.5 trillion globally is linked to it, including $1.2 trillion in consumer mortgages. Continue reading

The Bayer-Monsanto merger is bad news for the planet

Two new studies from Europe have found that the number of farm birds in France has crashed by a third in just 15 years, with some species being almost eradicated. The collapse in the bird population mirrors the discovery last October that over three quarters of all flying insects in Germany have vanished in just three decades. Insects are the staple food source of birds, the pollinators of fruits, and the aerators of the soil. Continue reading

The war on the post office

The US Postal Service, under attack from a manufactured crisis designed to force its privatization, needs a new source of funding to survive. Postal banking could fill that need. Continue reading

Funding infrastructure: Why China Is running circles around America

“One Belt, One Road,” China’s $1 trillion infrastructure initiative, is a massive undertaking of highways, pipelines, transmission lines, ports, power stations, fiber optics, and railroads connecting China to Central Asia, Europe and Africa. According to Dan Slane, a former advisor in President Trump’s transition team, “It is the largest infrastructure project initiated by one nation in the history of the world and is designed to enable China to become the dominant economic power in the world.” In a January 29 article, titled “Trump’s Plan a Recipe for Failure, Former Infrastructure Advisor Says,” he added, “If we don’t get our act together very soon, we should all be brushing up on our Mandarin.” Continue reading