Monthly Archives: January 2011

Inflation Will Destroy the Dollar

Porter Stansberry is a noted financial advisor with a very good track record and a substantial worldwide following. The final part of this video is a pitch to subscribe to his advisory service, but the first part comprises an excellent analysis of the current situation and what I think is the most plausible prognosis. His argument is well developed and based on solid facts. I urge you to watch it: http://www.stansberryresearch.com/pro/1011PSIENDVD/WPSIM104/PR

If you close the browser window or tab while it is playing, you’ll have the option to go to the written transcript. In either case, pay close attention to the startling charts that make a strong case that hyper-inflation is looming on the horizon.

Some writers have been arguing that deflation, rather than inflation, is the more likely prospect, but that case us built upon a misapplication of term “deflation” and an incomplete consideration of the pertinent factors. In reality, it is not an either-or situation.

Strictly speaking, both inflation and deflation are monetary phenomena. As I’ve said before, when speaking about inflation, one must distinguish between currency inflation and price inflation. Price inflation or the cost of living can be affected by a number of causes, but the usual and primary cause is currency inflation, that is the debasement of a currency by the monetary authorities by creating money on an unsound basis, notably, the monetization of government debt. Deflation is the opposite of inflation; it is the contraction of the overall money supply by the banking system.

That’s not what we’ve been seeing. The overall money supply has been increasing—inflation. However, the money has not been going to the private productive sector but to the public sector (government) to use for bank bailouts, weapons and wars, expansion of the national security state, and extension of imperial dominance around the world, all of which are wasteful and useless. The bad debts that were created during the latest (real estate) bubble have not been written off, they have for the most part simply been taken over by the government. People who serve within those realms benefit from the inflation, they have plenty of money to spend, but the productive sector is being starved for money and credit.

Businesses often depend upon bank financing for working capital. When banks are unwilling to provide it, they are bankrupted and workers lose their jobs. Hence we have both currency inflation and depression at the same time. It’s as if there were a huge counterfeiting ring using bogus money to gobble up a large proportion of the available goods and services from the market. Counterfeiters only take; they do not put anything of value into the market. Hence, as real value is drained from the economy, sellers raise prices in order to compensate for the increased supply of money. Meanwhile, those who find themselves among the army of the unemployed are willing to take less pay for whatever work they can find in order to acquire basic necessities of life.

As the government and monetary authorities continue with their wrong-headed “stimulus” measures, they simply make matters worse, assuring the eventual destruction of the dollar as a reliable measure of value and US government bonds as a safe store of value.

None of the proposals now on the table in Congress or the financial press will solve the dilemma. As I argued in my recent article, The World’s Ominous Reckoning, that appeared in Reality Sandwich, The problem is structural and systemic. The system is designed to create debt, and ever more of it. Like a pernicious cancer, debt is a parasite that is killing us, and in the end a parasite will die along with its host…. interest must be eliminated from the money system to put an end to the growth imperative.

[For more evidence of inflation and its effects in today’s economy, see also my previous blog post about inflation, Chris Martenson: Inflation Is So Much Worse Than We’re Told].

Chris Martenson: Inflation Is So Much Worse Than We’re Told

Chris Martenson, author of Crash Course, in this recent article, provides an update on his analysis of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and argues that the world is in for big trouble. He says, “…fiscal and inflationary train-wrecks are the most probable outcome for the US — and, by extension, the globe.” I agree.

One point needs to be clarified. When speaking about inflation, one must distinguish between currency inflation and price inflation. Price inflation or cost of living can be affected by a number of causes, but the usual and primary cause is currency inflation, that is the debasement of a currency by the monetary authorities by creating money on an unsound basis, notably, the monetization of government debt.

The recent policies of “quantitative easing” followed by the Federal Reserve amount to counterfeiting U.S. dollars under color of law. The ultimate effects will be to steal the value of your savings, and the destruction of the middle class.

The World’s Ominous Reckoning

My latest article, The World’s Ominous Reckoning, is featured on Reality Sandwich. It was also excerpted and posted on the P2P Foundation blog.

For your convenience, I also post it here.

The World’s Ominous Reckoning

By Thomas H. Greco

In a recent Washington Post article titled Europe’s ominous reckoning [1], economist Robert Samuelson correctly argued that “Ireland’s economic crisis is … not about Ireland.” What he seems to not recognize is that “Europe’s ominous reckoning” is not about Europe.

The reckoning will be global because the money and banking regime is global — and deeply flawed.

Discussions about possible solutions to the debt crisis tend to degenerate into ideological bickering because ideologies provides an inadequate framework in which to understand the nature of the problem and discover real effective solutions. Fiscal conservatives want to cut social spending so as to avoid raising taxes on the rich and privileged class. Political liberals have largely caved in to the same interests because they think that supporting the privileged class’s agenda is their only hope of gaining power. They will pay lip service to a social agenda and throw a few crumbs to the masses in an attempt to get elected, but they will ultimately advance the same elitist agenda, as have Presidents Clinton and Obama. Progressives argue that budgets can be balanced by cutting the military budget and raising taxes on the rich, but they remain impotent because political power has been so thoroughly centralized that popular progressive agendas have not a prayer of being implemented. Even if they were, they would simply make matters worse because under the present money and banking regime, a balanced government budget is not possible. How can the debate move beyond ideologies, and common ground be found?

Samuelson, like almost all conventionally trained economists, blames the woes of Ireland, and every other country, on failures in policy. He says, “Most European economies suffer from the ill effects of some combination of easy money, unsustainable social spending and big budget deficits,” but he fails to address the deeper questions of why? Why has money been easy? Why is social spending unsustainable? Why have budget deficits been too big?

It is not only a problem of European economies, it is a problem for virtually all national economies. As Samuelson points out, even the most prosperous countries have accumulated enormous debts. The governments of Germany and France, for example, have, respectively, gross debts of 76 percent and 86 percent of GDP (GDP is a measure of total economic output). The debt of the United States government is projected to exceed 100% of GDP within the next couple of years. And this picture does not even include the debts of lower levels of government — states, counties, and municipalities — or all of the private sector debt that burdens companies and individuals.

If the world has become so prosperous and productive, why all this debt, and why does it continue to grow ever more rapidly?

It is not a matter of policy, i.e., how we operate a flawed system. The problem is structural and systemic. The system is designed to create debt, and ever more of it. Like a pernicious cancer, debt is a parasite that is killing us, and in the end a parasite will die along with its host. How much of our well-being shall we sacrifice to keep feeding this cancer? Are we willing to starve ourselves and our children, to endure cuts in spending for education and public services, to sacrifice our hard-won freedoms, in order to sustain a system that despoils the earth, destroys the social fabric,  and creates ever greater economic inequities?

A few have been calling for “debt forgiveness,” a remedy analogous to cancer surgery. That may be a good start, but even that does no go far enough. We can excise the cancer, but if we do not recognize and eliminate its fundamental cause it will simply grow back. We can restart the game of Monopoly, but the outcome of the next round will be very much like that of the previous round unless we change the rules — or choose to play a different game.

The fact is, there is a debt imperative that is built into the global system of money and banking, and debt is eating us alive. As I wrote in my first book more than 20 years ago, our money system, based as it is on banks’ lending money into circulation at compound interest, requires debt to grow with the passage of time. Virtually all of the money today is created when banks make “loans.” The compounding of interest on these loans means that debt must grow as time goes on, not slowly, but at an accelerating rate. Ever greater amounts of money must be borrowed into circulation for this system to continue. When the private sector debt can no longer be expanded, government assumes the role of “borrower of last resort.” That is why government budget deficits have become chronic and continue to grow. In the latest cycle of Bubble and Bust, governments are rescuing the banks by taking “toxic” debt off their hands and giving them government bonds in return. In this way, the system can be sustained a little bit longer, but at costs that have yet to be tallied.

The current global predicament is the late-stage symptom of this fundamental flaw. Every political currency collectivizes credit. It is our credit that supports each national currency. We have allowed the banks to control our credit and we pay them interest for the “privilege” of accessing some of it as bank “loans.”

What must be done? The answer is simple, but few have been willing to hear it: interest must be eliminated from the money system to put an end to the growth imperative. To modern economists, such a proposition is heresy, foolish even, unthinkable! Interest to them is an essential inducement to save and invest and a necessary means of regulating credit and the economy. Nonsense, I say, a gross error and delusion fostered by incessant propaganda, media hype, and financial mumbo-jumbo. In an economy that is free from inflation, preservation of one’s capital is sufficient motivation for saving, and return on productive investments can be had in the form of ownership shares (so-called equity investment) instead of interest on debt. Such equity investments share both the rewards and the risks inherent in a productive enterprise, making the relationship between the user of funds and the provider of funds more harmonious and fair. As for regulating credit, we don’t need interest to do that; we can merely decide to withhold or offer credit, to whom, for what purpose, and in what amounts.

We need to learn to play a different game. We need to organize an entirely new structure of money, banking, and finance, one that is interest-free, decentralized, and controlled, not by banks or central governments, but by businesses and individuals that associate and organize themselves into cashless trading networks. This is a way to reclaim “the credit commons” from monopoly control and create healthy community economies.

In brief, any group of traders can organize to allocate their own collective credit amongst themselves, interest-free. This is merely an extension of the common business practice of selling on open account — “I’ll ship you the goods now and you can pay me later,” except it is organized, not on a bilateral basis, but within a community of many buyers and sellers. Done on a large enough scale that includes a sufficiently broad range of goods and services spanning all levels of the supply chain from retail, to wholesale, to manufacturing, to basic commodities, such systems can avoid the dysfunctions inherent in conventional money and banking and open the way to more harmonious and mutually beneficial trading relationships that enable the emergence of sustainable economies and promote the common good.

This approach is no pie-in-the-sky pipe dream, it is proven and well established. Known as mutual credit clearing, it is a process that is used by scores of commercial “barter” companies around the world to provide cashless trading for their business members. In this process, the things you sell pay for the things you buy without using money as an intermediate exchange medium. It’s as simple as that. According to the International Reciprocal Trade Association (IRTA), a major trade association for the industry, “IRTA Member companies using the “Modern Trade and Barter” process, made it possible for over 400,000 companies World Wide to utilize their excess business capacities and underperforming assets, to earn an estimated $12 billion dollars in previously lost and wasted revenues.”

Perhaps the best example of a credit clearing exchange that has been successful over a long period of time is the WIR Economic Circle Cooperative. Founded in Switzerland as a self-help organization in 1934 in the midst of the Great Depression, WIR provided a means for its business members to trade with one another despite the shortage of official money in circulation. Over three-quarters of a century, in good time and bad, WIR has continued to thrive. Its more than 60,000 members throughout Switzerland trade about $2 billion worth of goods and services annually.

Yes, it is possible to transcend the dysfunctional money and banking system and to take back our power from bankers and politicians who use it to abuse and exploit us. We do it, not by petitioning politicians who are already bought and paid for by an ever more powerful elite group, but by using the power that is already ours to use the resources we have to support each other’s productivity and to give credit where credit is due.

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America’s shrinking democracy

Prof. Peter Dale Scott is an astute observer of social and political phenomena. In his recent article, The Doomsday Project, Deep Events, and the Shrinking of American Democracy, he provides what I think is a very useful analysis of the present crisis in American government, which has serious implications for money, banking, and the shift toward a sustainable economy.

Here is an excerpt:

I would like in this essay to go further and propose a framework to analyze the on-going forces underlying all of the most important deep events, and how they have contributed to the political ascendance of what used to be called the military-industrial complex.  I hope to describe certain impersonal governing laws that determine the socio-dynamics of all large-scale societies (often called empires) that deploy their surplus of power to expand beyond their own borders and force their will on other peoples. This process of expansion generates predictable trends of behavior in the institutions of all such societies, and also in the individuals competing for advancement in those institutions. In America it has converted the military-industrial complex from a threat at the margins of the established civil order, to a pervasive force dominating that order.

With this framework I hope to persuade readers that in some respects our recent history is simpler than it appears on the surface and in the media. Our society, by its very economic successes and consequent expansion, has been breeding impersonal forces both outside and within itself that are changing it from a bottom-up elective democracy into a top-down empire. And among these forces are those that produce deep events.

I am far from alone in seeing this degradation of America’s policies and political processes. A similar pattern, reflecting the degradation of earlier empires, was described at length by the late Chalmers Johnson:

The evidence is building up that in the decade following the end of the Cold War, the United States largely abandoned a reliance on diplomacy, economic aid, international law, and multilateral institutions in carrying out its foreign policies and resorted much of the time to bluster, military force, and financial manipulation.

But my analysis goes beyond that of Johnson, Kevin Phillips, Andrew Bacevich, and other analysts, in proposing that three major deep events – Dallas, Watergate, and 9/11 – were not just part of this degradation of American democracy, but played a significant role in shaping it.

As author Michael Lind has observed, there have for a long time been two prevailing and different political cultures in America, underlying political differences in the American public, and even dividing different sectors of the American government.  One culture is predominantly egalitarian and democratic, working for the legal consolidation of human rights both at home and abroad. The other, less recognized but with deep historical roots, prioritizes and teaches the use of repressive violence against both domestic and Third World populations to maintain “order.”

To some extent these two mindsets are found in all societies. They correspond to two opposing modes of power and governance that were defined by Hannah Arendt as “persuasion through arguments” versus “coercion by force.” Arendt, following Thucydides, traced these to the common Greek way of handling domestic affairs, which was persuasion (πείθειν) as well as the common way of handling foreign affairs, which was force and violence (βία).”

Writing amid the protests and riots of the 1960s, Arendt feared that traditional authority was at risk, threatened (in her eyes) by the contemporary “loss of tradition and of religion.” A half century later, I would argue that a far greater danger to social equilibrium comes now from those on the right who invoke authority in the name of tradition and religion. With America’s huge expansion into the enterprise of covertly dominating and exploiting the rest of the world, the open processes of persuasion, which have been America’s traditional ideal for handling domestic affairs, have increasingly tilted towards top-down violence.

This tilt towards violent or repressive power is defended rhetorically as a means to preserve social stability, but in fact it threatens it. As Kevin Phillips and others have demonstrated, empires built on violent or repressive power tend to rise and then fall, often with surprising rapidity.  Underlying the discussion in this essay is the thesis that repressive power is unstable, creating dialectical forces both within and outside its system. Externally, repressive power helps create its own enemies, as happened with Britain (in India), France (in Indochina) and the Netherlands (in Indonesia).

Read the full essay here.

Republicans will likely propose that states declare bankruptcy

According to a Reuters article, former House speaker Newt Gingrich is saying that legislation to allow states to declare bankruptcy will soon be introduced in Congress. The evident purpose is, not to stiff the banks, but to allow state governments to renege on their obligations to pension funds. Some excerpts below.–t.h.g.

But the legislation will likely face an uphill battle with Democrats still in control of the Senate and the White House.

Because states are sovereign, they cannot declare bankruptcy as cities can, and most have provisions in their constitutions that make defaulting on debt next to impossible.

And California — a state which Gingrich said would likely turn to Congress for financial help along with New York and Illinois — said on Friday it has no interest in using bankruptcy to solve its fiscal problems.

Read more here.

Let the sun shine in: Wikileaks to reveal banking secrets of the rich

There is a big difference between legitimate privacy concerns and secrets that enable fraud, malfeasance, and criminal activity. According to this article in The New Zealand Herald, Wikileaks will shortly publish information that promises to expose some of the latter.–t.h.g.

WikiLeaks: Banking secrets of rich leaked

5:30 AM Monday Jan 17, 2011

The overseas bank account details of 2000 “high-net worth” individuals and corporations – detailing widespread possible tax evasion – will be handed to WikiLeaks tomorrow.

The organisation is receiving the details from the most important and boldest whistleblower in Swiss banking history, Rudolf Elmer, two days before he goes on trial in his native Switzerland.

British and American individuals and companies are among those whose details are on CDs to be presented to WikiLeaks in London.

They include about 40 politicians, Elmer says.

Elmer, who after his press conference will return to Switzerland from exile in Mauritius to face trial, is a former chief operating officer in the Cayman Islands for the Julius Baer bank, which accuses him of stealing the information.

He is also – at a time when the activities of banks are a matter of public concern – one of a small band of employees and executives seeking to blow the whistle on what they see as unprofessional, immoral and even potentially criminal activity by powerful international financial institutions.

Switzerland is a fortress of banking and financial services, but is famously secretive and expert in concealing wealth from all over the world for tax evasion and other extra-legal purposes.

Elmer says he is revealing the information ” to educate society”.

He says his list includes “high-net worth individuals, multinational conglomerates and financial institutions – hedge funds”.

They are said to be “using secrecy as a screen to hide behind in order to avoid paying tax”.

They come from the US, Britain, Germany, Austria and Asia.

Clients include “business people, politicians, people who have made their living in the arts and multinational conglomerates – from both sides of the Atlantic”.

Elmer says: “Well-known pillars of society will hold investment portfolios and may include houses, trading companies, artwork, yachts, jewellery, horses, and so on.

“What I am objecting to is not one particular bank, but a system of structures,” he said.

“I have worked for major banks other than Julius Baer, and the one thing on which I am absolutely clear is that the banks know, and the big boys know, that money is being secreted away for tax-evasion purposes, and other things such as money-laundering.”

Elmer was held in custody for 30 days in 2005, and is charged with breaking Swiss bank secrecy laws, forging documents and sending threatening messages to two Baer officials.

Elmer says: “I agree with privacy in banking for the person in the street, and legitimate activity, but in these instances privacy is being abused so that big people can get big banking organisations to service them. The normal, hard-working taxpayer is being abused also.”

The names on the CDs will not be made public, just as a list of 15 clients that Elmer gave WikiLeaks in 2008 has remained undisclosed.

- OBSERVER

 

States beginning to assert their money power

Bills have recently been introduced in several states to try to address the money problem. In an article that appeared in Financialsense.com, Robert Kientz describes actions that are occurring in several states. It is unclear how much support the various bills might have, or what their chances of passage might be, but Kientz implies that the state of Virginia has already taken official action to at least study the matter of using alternative payment media other than Federal Reserve currency. He says:

Virginia announced yesterday that the state would commission a study of alternative currencies including gold and silver in House Joint Resolution No. 557. A selected quote from Resolution 557:

WHEREAS, the Supreme Court of the United States in Lane County v. Oregon, 74 U.S. (7 Wallace) 71, 76-78 (1869), and Hagar v. Reclamation District No. 108, 111 U.S. 701, 706 (1884), has ruled that the States may adopt whatever currency they desire for the purposes of performing their sovereign governmental functions, even to the extent of adopting gold and silver coin for those purposes while refusing to employ a currency not redeemable in gold or silver coin that Congress has designated “legal tender”;

Such actions are a hopeful sign that the money power, and the political power that goes along with it, are devolving away from Wall Street and Washington and back to our states and communities. The states have a powerful weapon in the form of the United States Constitution, which declares that, no state shall make any thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts.

Of the two metals, I much prefer silver as the value standard, for several reasons. My main objection to gold is that it is closely held by a few banks and governments that are able to manipulate its market price, and thus manipulate the economy if gold were to play a major monetary role. Silver is much more abundant and widely held, and while present market mechanisms enable a few entities to manipulate its market price, I think parallel  mechanisms can be put into place that would assure a freer market giving silver a more stable value. Ideally, however, trading entities will ultimately adopt an objective value measure using a composite commodity standard composed of a “market basket” of basic commodities.

Keynes was not wrong in calling gold “a barbarous relic,” but that’s not the whole story. We must also recognize that central banks, legal tender laws, and credit monopolies are relics even more barbarous than gold. The separation of money and state must ultimately be gained in order to have a truly free and harmonious society.