Saturday, February 7, 2009

Michael Hudson explains the necessity of Jubilee

Thinking the Unthinkable: A Debt Write Down, and Jubilee Year Clean Slate

The power to indebt others to oneself can be achieved by free credit creation. However, the resulting mushrooming exponential growth in indebtedness must collapse at the point where its interest and other carrying charges (now augmented by exorbitant late fees, bounced-check fees, credit-card costs and other penalties) absorb the entire economic surplus.

This is the point that has been reached – and passed – today. It has been developing for many decades. But there is a great reluctance to accept the fact that debts cannot be paid. “The poor are honest,” as one banker explained to me, and believe that “a debt is a debt” and must be paid. (This is not what Donald Trump, Bear Stearns or A.I.G. believe, but they are at the top of the economic pyramid, not its base.)

No economy can grow at steady exponential rates; only debts can multiply in this way. That is why Mr. Paulson’s $700 billion giveaway to his Wall Street colleagues cannot work.

What it can do is provide a one-time transfer of wealth to insiders who already have been playing the debt-credit system and siphoning off its predatory financial proceeds to themselves. The Wall Street bankers, brokers and fund managers to whom I’ve been speaking for many decades all know this. That is why they pay themselves such large annual bonuses and large salaries each year. The idea is to take as much as you can. As the saying goes: “You only have to make a fortune once in a lifetime.” They have been salting away their fortunes year after year, mainly in hard assets: real estate (free of mortgages), fine furniture, boats and trophy art.

Their plan now is for icing on the cake – to take Mr. Paulson’s $700 billion and run. It’s not a “bailout of the financial system.” It’s as giveaway – to insiders, to sell out all their bad bets. Companies across the board will get rid of their bad mortgages, and also their bad car loans, furniture time payments, credit-card loans, student loans – all the debts that any competent actuary could have told them never could have been paid in the first place.

It is necessary, even inevitable, for the volume of debt to come down – not up – to restore equilibrium.

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