Category Archives: Finance

Fed guarantees unproductive debt and perilous speculation

Now it is time for various House Committees to publicly question Chairman Powell about the costs of the Fed's callous indifference to the real economy and struggling Americans.

The Federal Reserve Board—our unaccountable Central Bank—needs more citizen and congressional supervision. Fees from financial institutions fund its operations, not congressional appropriations. It is as secret as it wants to be and that’s plenty. (See Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country by William Greider). Plus, the Fed can print money at will. In the past several years, it has “produced” trillions of dollars that juiced the stock market’s speculation. 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

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 Federal Reserve dictatorship runs amok against savers

No real explanations by the Fed; it just dictates. It is a government of its own inside our government—the epitome of corporate socialism.

If you are a saver in a money market account or in a bank, you’ve already noticed your dwindling interest income as interest rates have been at their lowest in modern American history. Well, brace yourself. Your saving account has just become little more than a lock box, thanks to the supreme dictatorship of the Federal Reserve. 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

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

Financial capitalism gone amok: Ultra-low interest rates and price bubbles

Don’t look now, but there is a new monetary craze going on in some parts of the world, and it is the new so-called ‘unconventional’ monetary policy adopted by some central banks to push interest rates to ultra-low levels, and even into negative territory. For some time now, some central banks and some governments have been pushing nominal interest rates down, so much so that a few countries have negative short-term interest rates and, when inflation is factored in, even more deeply negative real interest rates. Why suddenly such an unconventional monetary policy? Their rationale is a fear that the economy could otherwise be saddled with an overvalued currency and be faced with a too heavy debt burden, and this would hurt their economic growth. 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

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

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

Student debt slavery II: Time to level the playing field

The lending business is heavily stacked against student borrowers. Bigger players can borrow for almost nothing, and if their investments don’t work out, they can put their corporate shells through bankruptcy and walk away. Not so with students. Their loan rates are high and if they cannot pay, their debts are not normally dischargeable in bankruptcy. Rather, the debts compound and can dog them for life, compromising not only their own futures but the economy itself. Continue reading

Student debt slavery: Bankrolling financiers on the backs of the young

Higher education has been financialized, transformed from a public service into a lucrative cash cow for private investors. Continue reading

How to wipe out Puerto Rico’s debt without hurting bondholders

During his visit to hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico, President Donald Trump shocked the bond market when he told Geraldo Rivera of Fox News that he was going to wipe out the island’s bond debt. Continue reading

Saving Illinois: Getting more bang for the state’s bucks

Illinois is insolvent, unable to pay its bills. According to Moody’s, the state has $15 billion in unpaid bills and $251 billion in unfunded liabilities. Of these, $119 billion are tied to shortfalls in the state’s pension program. On July 6, 2017, for the first time in two years, the state finally passed a budget, after lawmakers overrode the governor’s veto on raising taxes. But they used massive tax hikes to do it—a 32% increase in state income taxes and 33% increase in state corporate taxes—and still Illinois’ new budget generates only $5 billion, not nearly enough to cover its $15 billion deficit. Continue reading

If China can fund infrastructure with its own credit, so can we

May 15–19 has been designated “National Infrastructure Week” by the US Chambers of Commerce, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and over 150 affiliates. Their message: “It’s time to rebuild.” Ever since ASCE began issuing its “National Infrastructure Report Card” in 1998, the nation has gotten a dismal grade of D or D+. In the meantime, the estimated cost of fixing its infrastructure has gone up from $1.3 trillion to $4.6 trillion. Continue reading

How to cut infrastructure costs in half

Americans could save $1 trillion over 10 years by financing infrastructure through publicly-owned banks like the one that has long been operating in North Dakota.

President Donald Trump has promised to rebuild America’s airports, bridges, tunnels, roads and other infrastructure, something both Democrats and Republicans agree should be done. The country needs a full $3 trillion in infrastructure over the next decade. Continue reading

‘We’ll look at everything’: More thoughts on Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan

The Trump agenda, it seems, is not set in stone. The president-elect has a range of advisors with as many ideas. Steven Mnuchin, his nominee for Treasury secretary, said in November that “we’ll take a look at everything,” even the possibility of extending the maturity of the federal debt with 50-year or 100-year bonds to take advantage of unusually low interest rates. Continue reading

Prop. 51 versus a state-owned bank: How California can save $10 billion on a $9 billion loan

School districts are notoriously short of funding—so short that some California districts have succumbed to Capital Appreciation Bonds that will cost taxpayers as much is 10 to 15 times principal by the time they are paid off. By comparison, California’s Prop. 51, the school bond proposal currently on the ballot, looks like a good deal. It would allow the state to borrow an additional $9 billion for educational purposes by selling general obligation bonds to investors at an assumed interest rate of 5%, with the bonds issued over a five-year period and repaid over 30 years. $9 billion × 5% × 35 equals $15.75 billion in interest—nearly twice principal, but not too bad compared to the Capital Appreciation Bond figures. Continue reading

Basic Income: International experience (Brazil, Namibia, Canada, India)

Founded in 1986, the Basic Income European Network (BIEN) is the international NGO that promotes BIG around the world. It held its last conference “Re-democratizing the Economy” at McGill’s Faculty of Law in 2014. A North American congress was held in Winnipeg in May 2016 and its 16th congress will be in July in Seoul, South Korea. Its credo is that some sort of economic right based upon citizenship rather than upon one’s relationship to the production process or one’s family status is called for as part of the just solution to social problems in advanced societies. Continue reading

Basic income: Helicopter money

About 10% of Canadians live in poverty. That figure is even higher in major cities, such as Toronto where the number of children living below the line is nearly 25%. In India, 22% of the people live in poverty. A “guaranteed annual income” (GAI) could wipe out this poverty at a stroke. Continue reading

The age of finance capital and the irrelevance of mainstream economics

Despite the fact that the manufacturers of ideas have elevated economics to the (contradictory) levels of both a science and a religion, a market theodicy, mainstream economics does not explain much when it comes to an understanding of real world developments. Indeed, as a neatly stylized discipline, economics has evolved into a corrupt, obfuscating and useless—nay, harmful—field of study. Harmful, because instead of explaining and clarifying it tends to mystify and justify. Continue reading

Where is Neo when we need him?

In The Matrix in which Americans live, nothing is ever their fault. For example, the current decline in the US stock market is not because years of excessive liquidity supplied by the Federal Reserve have created a bubble so overblown that a mere six stocks, some of which have no earnings commiserate with their price, accounted for more than all of the gain in market capitalization in the S&P 500 prior to the current disruption. Continue reading

Trumping the federal debt without playing the default card

In a post on “Sovereign Man” dated August 14, Simon Black argued that Donald Trump may be the right man for the presidency. Continue reading

The Greek coup: Liquidity as a weapon of coercion

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis is now being charged with treason for exploring the possibility of an alternative payment system in the event of a Greek exit from the euro. Continue reading

EU’s Greek debt austerity plan rejected by the IMF

I have maintained since the so-called Greek Debt “crisis” began back in 2010, I believe it was, that the imposition of austerity on Greece could not possibly work and that the only solution was to write down the debt to a level that Greece could service and introduce reforms that loosen the hold the oligarchs have on the Greek economy. The current Greek government has taken the same position, and now the IMF has joined us. Continue reading

$1.5 quadrillion time bomb

When investing becomes gambling, bad endings follow. The next credit crunch could make 2008-09 look mild by comparison. Bank of International Settlements(BIS) data show around $700 trillion in global derivatives. Continue reading

Greece: Breaking out of the euro prison

Slaying the euro minotaur is not easy. Greeks have been suffering for years now, having learned the hard way that prosperity with shiny euros in their hands was not miraculously just waiting around the corner. What was waiting was a hoard of German bankers, eager to buy up Greek islands for winter vacations, sleazy banks eager to syphon Greek earnings into offshore accounts, and more schemes by high financiers. Continue reading

Swimming with the sharks: Goldman Sachs, school districts, and capital appreciation bonds

Remember when Goldman Sachs—dubbed by Matt Taibbi the Vampire Squid—sold derivatives to Greece so the government could conceal its debt, then bet against that debt, driving it up? It seems that the ubiquitous investment bank has also put the squeeze on California and its school districts. Not that Goldman was alone in this; but the unscrupulous practices of the bank once called the undisputed king of the municipal bond business epitomize the culture of greed that has ensnared students and future generations in unrepayable debt. Continue reading

Russian Roulette: Taxpayers could be on the hook for trillions in oil derivatives

The sudden dramatic collapse in the price of oil appears to be an act of geopolitical warfare against Russia. The result could be trillions of dollars in oil derivative losses; and the FDIC could be liable, following repeal of key portions of the Dodd-Frank Act earlier this month. Continue reading

Financial market manipulation is the new trend: can it continue?

Financial imperialists attack Russia

A dangerous new trend is the successful manipulation of the financial markets by the Federal Reserve, other central banks, private banks, and the US Treasury. The Federal Reserve reduced real interest rates on US government debt obligations first to zero and then pushed real interest rates into negative territory. Today the government charges you for the privilege of purchasing its bonds. Continue reading