Author Archives: Ellen Brown

A new water source that could make drought a thing of the past

Lack of fresh water is now a global crisis. Water shortages mean food shortages, with hunger creating death tolls substantially exceeding those of the current Covid-19 crisis. According to the United Nations, some 800 million people are without clean water, and 40% of the world’s population is impacted by drought. By one measure, almost 100 percent of the Western United States is currently in drought, setting an all-time 122-year record. Meanwhile, local “water wars” rage, with states, cities and whole countries battling each other for scarce water resources. Continue reading

Nature’s own fuel could save us from the greenhouse effect and electric grid failure

Hemp fuel and other biofuels could reduce carbon emissions while saving the electric grid, but they’re often overlooked for more expensive, high-tech climate solutions.

On July 14, the European Union unveiled sweeping climate change and emissions targets that would, according to Gulf News, mean “the end of the internal combustion engine.” Continue reading

How America went from mom-and-pop capitalism to techno-feudalism

The crisis of 2020 has created the greatest wealth gap in history. The middle class, capitalism and democracy are all under threat. What went wrong and what can be done? Continue reading

Will 2021 be public banking’s watershed moment?

Faced with the dire Covid-19 crisis, some lawmakers are starting to see publicly-owned banks as the key to ensuring an equitable economic recovery. Continue reading

The gamers’ uprising against Wall Street has deep populist roots

Wall Street may own the country, as Kansas populist leader Mary Elizabeth Lease once declared, but a new generation of “retail” stock market traders is fighting back.

A short squeeze frenzy driven by a new generation of gamers captured financial headlines in recent weeks, centered on a struggling strip mall video game store called GameStop. The Internet and a year off in this shut down to study up have given a younger generation of investors the tools to compete in the market. Gerald Celente calls it the “Youth Revolution.” A group of New York Young Republicans who protested in the snow on January 31 called it “Re-occupy Wall Street.” Others have called it Occupy Wall Street 2.0. Continue reading

Tackling the infrastructure and unemployment crises: The “American System” solution

A self-funding national infrastructure bank modeled on the “American System” of Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt would help solve not one but two of the country’s biggest problems.

Millions of Americans have joined the ranks of the unemployed, and government relief checks and savings are running out; meanwhile, the country still needs trillions of dollars in infrastructure. Putting the unemployed to work on those infrastructure projects seems an obvious solution, especially given that the $600 or $700 stimulus checks Congress is planning on issuing will do little to address the growing crisis. Various plans for solving the infrastructure crisis involving public-private partnerships have been proposed, but they’ll invariably result in private investors reaping the profits while the public bears the costs and liabilities. We have relied for too long on private, often global, capital, while the Chinese run circles around us building infrastructure with credit simply created on the books of their government-owned banks. Continue reading

Why the Fed needs public banks

The Fed’s policy tools—interest rate manipulation, quantitative easing, and “Special Purpose Vehicles”—have all failed to revive local economies suffering from government-mandated shutdowns. The Fed must rely on private banks to inject credit into Main Street, and private banks are currently unable or unwilling to do it. The tools the Fed actually needs are public banks, which could and would do the job.

On November 20, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin informed Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell that he would not extend five of the Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) set up last spring to bail out bondholders, and that he wanted the $455 billion in taxpayer money back that the Treasury had sent to the Fed to capitalize these SPVs. The next day, Powell replied that he thought it was too soon—the SPVs still served a purpose—but he agreed to return the funds. Both had good grounds for their moves, but as Wolf Richter wrote on WolfStreet.com, “You’d think something earth-shattering happened based on the media hullabaloo that ensued.” Continue reading

Meet BlackRock, the new great vampire squid

To most people, if they are familiar with it at all, BlackRock is an asset manager that helps pension funds and retirees manage their savings through “passive” investments that track the stock market. But working behind the scenes, it is much more than that. BlackRock has been called “the most powerful institution in the financial system,” “the most powerful company in the world” and the “secret power.” It is the world’s largest asset manager and “shadow bank,” larger than the world’s largest bank (which is in China), with over $7 trillion in assets under direct management and another $20 trillion managed through its Aladdin risk-monitoring software. BlackRock has also been called “the fourth branch of government” and “almost a shadow government”, but no part of it actually belongs to the government. Despite its size and global power, BlackRock is not even regulated as a “Systemically Important Financial Institution” under the Dodd-Frank Act, thanks to pressure from its CEO, Larry Fink, who has long had “cozy” relationships with government officials. Continue reading

When profits and politics drive science: Rushing a vaccine to market for a vanishing virus

More than 100 companies are competing to be first in the race to get a COVID-19 vaccine to market. It’s a race against time, not because the death rate is climbing but because it is falling—to the point where there will soon be too few subjects to prove the effectiveness of the drug. Continue reading

Another bank bailout under cover of a virus

Insolvent Wall Street banks have been quietly bailed out again. Banks made risk-free by the government should be public utilities.

When the Dodd Frank Act was passed in 2010, President Obama triumphantly declared, “No more bailouts!” But what the act actually said was that the next time the banks failed, they would be subject to “bail ins”—the funds of their creditors, including their large depositors, would be tapped to cover their bad loans. Continue reading

Crushing the states, saving the banks: The fed’s generous new rules

Congress seems to be at war with the states. Only $150 billion of its nearly $3 trillion coronavirus relief package—a mere 5%—has been allocated to the 50 states; and they are not allowed to use it where they need it most, to plug the holes in their budgets caused by the mandatory shutdown. On April 22, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was opposed to additional federal aid to the states, and that his preference was to allow states to go bankrupt. Continue reading

A universal basic income is essential and will work

A central bank-financed UBI can fill the debt gap, providing a vital safety net while preventing cyclical recessions.

According to an April 6 article on CNBC.com, Spain is slated to become the first country in Europe to introduce a universal basic income (UBI) on a long-term basis. Spain’s minister for economic affairs has announced plans to roll out a UBI “as soon as possible,” with the goal of providing a nationwide basic wage that supports citizens “forever.” Guy Standing, a research professor at the University of London, told CNBC that there was no prospect of a global economic revival without a universal basic income. “It’s almost a no-brainer,” he said. “We are going to have some sort of basic income system sooner or later ….” Continue reading

Was the Fed just nationalized?

Did Congress just nationalize the Fed? No. But the door has been cracked open for that possibility.

Mainstream politicians have long insisted that Medicare for All, a universal basic income, student debt relief and a slew of other much-needed public programs are off the table because the federal government cannot afford them. But that was before Wall Street and the stock market were driven onto life-support by a virus. Congress has now suddenly discovered the magic money tree. It took only a few days for Congress to unanimously pass the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which will be doling out $2.2 trillion in crisis relief, most of it going to Corporate America with few strings attached. Beyond that, the Federal Reserve is making over $4 trillion available to banks, hedge funds and other financial entities of all stripes; it has dropped the fed funds rate (the rate at which banks borrow from each other) effectively to zero; and it has made $1.5 trillion available to the repo market. Continue reading

Socialism to the rescue after Fed’s bazooka fails

In what is being called the worst financial crisis since 1929, the US stock market has lost a third of its value in the space of a month, wiping out all of its gains of the last three years. When the Federal Reserve tried to ride to the rescue, it only succeeded in making matters worse. The government then pulled out all the stops. To our staunchly capitalist leaders, socialism is suddenly looking good. Continue reading

The Fed’s baffling response to the coronavirus explained

When the World Health Organization announced on February 24 that it was time to prepare for a global pandemic, the stock market plummeted. Over the following week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped by more than 3,500 points or over 10%. In an attempt to contain the damage, on March 3 the Federal Reserve slashed the fed funds rate from 1.5% to 1.0%, in their first emergency rate move and biggest one-time cut since the 2008 financial crisis. But rather than reassuring investors, the move fueled another panic sell-off. Continue reading

Mexico’s President AMLO shows how it’s done

While U.S. advocates and local politicians struggle to get their first public banks chartered, Mexico’s new president has begun construction on 2,700 branches of a government-owned bank to be completed in 2021, when it will be the largest bank in the country. At a press conference on Jan. 6, he said the neoliberal model had failed; private banks were not serving the poor and people outside the cities, so the government had to step in. Continue reading

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