Thursday, December 31, 2009

Why are We Facing a Jobless Recovery?

Most people view the economy in a primitive fashion, like a force of nature out of their control, as our ancestors viewed the fertility of the land. Unfortunately, this primitive conception of the economy is false in today's world. The industrial economy is a product of policy. Economic problems today require an informed political response, not just a "gee, sure hope it get's better next year" attitude.

For example, today we are being told that we face a jobless recovery, and we should expect to wait 5-10 years for unemployment to drop down to natural levels. But we are never told WHY this is so, why this recovery is so much worse than others.

Such obfuscation is not surprising, as the reason involves a deliberate exploitation of the masses by the parasitic financial elite. In plain terms, our governmental policy is to sacrifice the interests of the workers of America, for the sake of the interests of the bankers of America. Here's how:

It all starts with the price of land, residential and commercial property. In order for a general economic recovery to occur, those prices must fall. For job creation, quite simply, we need lower rents, which allows business formation, cost cutting, and economic expansion.

The big problem here is that if property values were allowed to fall, banks would be wiped out. Supporting property values props up banks, but keeps rents and costs high, preventing economic recovery.

But it is current economic policy to prevent banks from realizing their losses. Free market price discovery has been eliminated. Now, instead of mark-to-market, we have mark-to-fantasy, and instead of realizing losses on loans, we have extend-and-pretend. Debt is to be modified outward by rate reductions, deferral of reserves, deferral of amortization, or any method conceivable EXCEPT principal reduction.

This is a textbook example of how the parasitical banking class destroys the health of the larger economic body, as parasite bankers maintain their wealth while impoverishing the masses.

The solution is plain. Wipe out the debt, liquidate the banks, flush the parasites, and enable the real economy to get going again -- Jubilee! It is only a matter of political awareness and will.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Unavoidable Debt Trap Looms, According to Forbes

Clearly, the general awareness of the problem of debt is growing. Even Forbes is now proclaiming the inevitability of default. Forbes is only 1 or 2 layers away from the mainstream, so the idea has almost reached critical mass. More and more people are slowly realizing, the debt simply cannot be paid off, even if we wanted to.

Of course, to our banking class parasites, the point of the debt is not to pay it off, but to keep it floating, a perpetual yoke of slavery on the neck of the people. However, they have overplayed their hand, like all parasites, they cannot self-govern their own growth and now endanger the health of their host.

We are trapped between crushing debt payments that will literally devour the whole budget, crippling budget cuts that will destroy our governments, or onerous tax hikes that could destroy the economy.

Or..... Cancel the debt, destroy the parasites, and let the economy recover! It really is that simple. Repudiate the debt load, which will save our economy and way of life. In a word, JUBILEE!!!!

At all levels, federal, state, local and GSEs, the total public debt is now at 141% of GDP. That puts the United States in some elite company--only Japan, Lebanon and Zimbabwe are higher. That's only the start. Add household debt (highest in the world at 99% of GDP) and corporate debt (highest in the world at 317% of GDP, not even counting off-balance-sheet swaps and derivatives) and our total debt is 557% of GDP. Less than three years ago our total indebtedness crossed 500% of GDP for the first time."

Add the unfunded portion of entitlement programs and we're at 840% of GDP.

The world has not seen such debt levels in modern history. This debt is not serviceable. Imagine that total debt is 557% of GDP, without considering entitlements. The interest on the debt will consume all the tax revenues of the country in the not-too-distant future. Then there will be no way out but to create more debt in order to finance the old debt.
It assures a period of economic devastation. In a last, desperate attempt, politicians at the federal and local levels will raise taxes to astronomical heights to raise revenues. And that only assures destruction of the economy. Forget the fable of economic recovery. Unless there is a change in Washington by next year's election, there will be no way to turn back.

Worker Co-Ops Gaining Traction in Cleveland

As I have written before (here), worker-owned businesses are the wave of the future, because they are a superior economic organization. This has been noted in a recent CNN article (here) discussing the application of the Spanish model in Cleveland. The advantages noted in this article include: educated and supported workers, reinvestment of profits into capital and human development, limitation of executive salaries, supply chain integration, and avoidance of external debt leverage.

Some Rust Belt planners and union leaders are feeling optimistic: they're taking inspiration from the Basque region of Spain, where a network of worker-owned cooperatives launched amid the rubble of the Spanish Civil War has grown to become the country's seventh-largest corporation, and among its most profitable.

The Mondragon Corp. (MCC), based in northern Spain, is a multilayered business group with 256 independent companies (more than 100 of which are worker-owned cooperatives) that employs more than 100,000 people. It has long been legendary among scholars and activists seeking to bolster workers' rights.

The Mondragon story began in 1941, when a Catholic priest, Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta (often shortened to Arizmendi), found in the Basque town war-torn devastation where there had been a thriving manufacturing base. He opened a polytechnic school, which in 1956 spawned its first cooperative, a stove factory. Half a century later, the Mondragon enterprise encompasses firms making everything from machine tools to electronics to bicycles, along with a retail division, a university and a significant financial sector, with the large cooperative bank Caja Laboral at its core.

While many think of cooperatives as a small-scale hippie mainstay, the Mondragon Corp. is huge, hard-nosed business-wise and successful; in 2008, with Spain's economy in the doldrums, MCC's income rose 6%, to 16.8 billion euros. The Mondragon Corp. maintains its commitment to one-worker, one-vote democratic governance through a complex, carefully honed organizational structure in which the corporation serves as a kind of metacooperative for the individual companies. Through representatives and resources drawn from the larger network, it provides support for planning, research and generation funding for new businesses.

Several nonprofit and medical institutions in Cleveland have turned to the Mondragon model for a consortium of businesses that will provide needed services and bolster an impoverished community.

"There's a value in dealing with an informed workplace," says Kiel. In terms of problems that can arise, including safety, production and theft concerns, "if people feel a part of it, that makes solving the problem a lot easier."

He adds that the spread between the high and low salaries is limited so that the CEO earns no more than five times the lowest-earning entry-level employee. This follows the Mondragon template, which keeps the ratio down to 1 to 4 or 5

One hallmark of the Mondragon model is its use of capital. Rather than flowing into the pockets of executives and outside investors, a company's profits are distributed in a precise, democratic way; set aside as seed money for new cooperatives; distributed to regional nonprofits; or pooled into shared institutions like the university and research center. In other words, each individual cooperative gains long-term benefits from the financial assets of the whole.

The companies plan to develop more businesses and are researching possibilities "along the supply chain": trucking, retail, health and wellness, as well as a funding vehicle like Caja Laboral.

Arizmendi now employs 125 workers and annually generates $12 million in sales. Despite the economic downturn, the businesses remain strong and poised for growth. This in part owes to the collective decision-making model, says Hoover. "Worker-owned cooperatives are an innately conservative form. We didn't overleverage ourselves."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ellen Brown Calls for National Debt Cancellation

Excellent article published yesterday by Ellen Brown, detailing the positive side of national debt cancellation. The banking class everywhere at all times attempts to load the commoners with heavy debt burdens. The commoners are starting to wake up.

Jubilee means freedom from exploitation!

Europe's small, debt-strapped countries could follow the lead of Argentina and simply walk away from their debts. That would shift the burden to the creditor countries, which could solve the problem merely by a change in accounting rules.

Local Currency for Local Development

Issuing and lending currency is the sovereign right of governments, and it is a right that Iceland and Latvia will lose if they join the EU, which forbids member nations to borrow from their own central banks. Latvia and Iceland both have natural resources that could be developed if they had the credit to do it; and with sovereign control over their local currencies, they could get that credit simply by creating it on the books of their own publicly-owned banks.

In fact, there is nothing extraordinary in that proposal. All private banks get the credit they lend simply by creating it on their books. Contrary to popular belief, banks do not lend their own money or their depositors' money. As the US Federal Reserve attests, banks lend new money, created by double-entry bookkeeping as a deposit of the borrower on one side of the bank's books and as an asset of the bank on the other.

Besides thawing frozen credit pipes, credit created by governments has the advantage that it can be issued interest-free. Eliminating the cost of interest can cut production costs dramatically.

According to a German study, interest composes 30 percent to 50 percent of everything we buy. Slashing interest costs can make projects such as low-cost housing, alternative energy development, and infrastructure construction not only sustainable but profitable for the government, while at the same time creating much-needed jobs.

Government-issued money to fund public projects has a long and successful history, going back at least to the early 18th century, when the American colony of Pennsylvania issued money that was both lent and spent by the local government into the economy. The result was an unprecedented period of prosperity, achieved without producing price inflation and without taxing the people.

The key is to use the newly-created money or credit for productive projects that increase goods and services, rather than for speculation or to pay off national debt in foreign currencies (the trap that Zimbabwe fell into). The national currency can be protected from speculators by imposing exchange controls, as Malaysia did in 1998; imposing capital controls, as Brazil and Taiwan are doing now; banning derivatives; and imposing a "Tobin tax," a small tax on trade in financial products.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Would U.S. Debt Default bring Armageddon?

Frankly, overblown rhetoric about the economy is perhaps the greatest obstacle facing economic and currency reformers. When a U.S. debt default is publicly declared by an Australian lawmaker to lead to Armageddon and the collapse of the world, it is hard to imagine a steeper wall to climb for Jubilee advocates.

To speak plainly, after a debt default, the main victims of economic collapse would be the banking classes, who profit obscenely from the current system of mass usury and financial manipulation, keeping massive debt loads piled on the backs of the common workers.

THE OPPOSITION finance spokesman, Barnaby Joyce, believes the United States government could default on its debt, triggering an ''economic Armageddon'' which will make the recent global financial crisis pale into insignificance. Senator Joyce said yesterday he did not mean to alarm the public but there needed to be a debate about Australia's ''contingency plan'' for a sovereign debt default by the US or even by a local state government. ''A default by the US means complete economic collapse around the world and the question we have got to ask ourselves is where are we in that,'' Senator Joyce said.

Senator Joyce said that if the US recovered, global funds would flow back into North America. ''There will be only one way Australia will be able to keep funds here and that is by putting up interest rates, which will therefore bring real costs back to households,'' he said. ''That is the first scenario, which is extremely bad for Australia. The worse scenario is where the US doesn't repay its debt - the $2 trillion in debt it owes to the Chinese, the $1 trillion in debt it has to the Japanese and the $US1 trillion in debt to others - and then we are really nailed.

''The outcome is a shift away from the US dollar as the international trading currency and a shift to the Chinese yuan, and China becomes an immensely powerful player overnight. It's the real financial crisis, and the real financial crisis will mean this preamble we have just had pales into insignificance.''

Asked what sort of contingency plan he would advocate, Senator Joyce said it was like trying to prepare for a tidal wave but the local economy should have more self-reliance.