Hammurabi Knew BetterDebt Slavery – Why It Destroyed Rome, Why It Will Destroy Us Unless It’s Stoppedby MICHAEL HUDSON DECEMBER 4, 2011
Book V of Aristotle’s Politics describes the eternal transition of oligarchies making themselves into hereditary aristocracies – which end up being overthrown by tyrants or develop internal rivalries as some families decide to “take the multitude into their camp” and usher in democracy, within which an oligarchy emerges once again, followed by aristocracy, democracy, and so on throughout history.
Debt has been the main dynamic driving these shifts – always with new twists and turns. It polarizes wealth to create a creditor class, whose oligarchic rule is ended as new leaders (“tyrants” to Aristotle) win popular support by cancelling the debts and redistributing property or taking its usufruct for the state.
Since the Renaissance, however, bankers have shifted their political support to democracies. This did not reflect egalitarian or liberal political convictions as such, but rather a desire for better security for their loans. As James Steuart explained in 1767, royal borrowings remained private affairs rather than truly public debts. For a sovereign’s debts to become binding upon the entire nation, elected representatives had to enact the taxes to pay their interest charges.
By giving taxpayers this voice in government, the Dutch and British democracies provided creditors with much safer claims for payment than did kings and princes whose debts died with them. But the recent debt protests from Iceland to Greece and Spain suggest that creditors are shifting their support away from democracies. They are demanding fiscal austerity and even privatization sell-offs.
This is turning international finance into a new mode of warfare. Its objective is the same as military conquest in times past: to appropriate land and mineral resources, also communal infrastructure and extract tribute. In response, democracies are demanding referendums over whether to pay creditors by selling off the public domain and raising taxes to impose unemployment, falling wages and economic depression. The alternative is to write down debts or even annul them, and to re-assert regulatory control over the financial sector.
Near Eastern rulers proclaimed clean slates for debtors to preserve economic balance
Charging interest on advances of goods or money was not originally intended to polarize economies. First administered early in the third millennium BC as a contractual arrangement by Sumer’s temples and palaces with merchants and entrepreneurs who typically worked in the royal bureaucracy, interest at 20 per cent (doubling the principal in five years) was supposed to approximate a fair share of the returns from long-distance trade or leasing land and other public assets such as workshops, boats and ale houses.
As the practice was privatized by royal collectors of user fees and rents, “divine kingship” protected agrarian debtors. Hammurabi’s laws (c. 1750 BC) cancelled their debts in times of flood or drought. All the rulers of his Babylonian dynasty began their first full year on the throne by cancelling agrarian debts so as to clear out payment arrears by proclaiming a clean slate. Bondservants, land or crop rights and other pledges were returned to the debtors to “restore order” in an idealized “original” condition of balance. This practice survived in the Jubilee Year of Mosaic Law in Leviticus 25. more
It is possible that the banksters are more corrupt now than ever before in history.The American Liberty League vs. Gen. Smedley ButlerWall Street’s Failed 1934 Coupby MICHAEL DONNELLY DECEMBER 4, 2011
“In the last few weeks of the committee’s official life it received evidence showing that certain persons had made an attempt to establish a fascist organization in this country…There is no question that these attempts were discussed, were planned, and might have been placed in execution when and if the financial backers deemed it expedient.”
– Report of the McCormack-Dickstein Committee
A Patriot, not the Traitor they wanted
You know the coup plot they teach all young Americans about in 10th Grade History class? Oh yeah…
In November 1934, famed double Medal of Honor winner Marine Gen. Smedley Butler gave secret testimony before the McCormack-Dickstein committee – a precursor to the House Committee on Un-American Activities. In it, Butler told of a plot headed by a group of wealthy businessmen (The American Liberty League) to establish a fascist dictatorship in the United States, complete with concentration camps for “Jews and other undesirables.”
Show Me the Money
Butler had been approached by Gerald P. MacGuire of Wall Street’s Grayson M-P Murphy & Co. MacGuire claimed they would assemble an army of 500,000 mostly unemployed WWI veterans and march on DC. The plutocrats wanted Butler to lead the coup, thinking that, like the Bolsheviks, taking one major city (DC as Petrograd) would lead to the fall of the government. They promised to put up $3 million as starters and dangled a future $300 million as bait. Butler went along with the plot until he could learn the identities of all the schemers. Not a one of them was ever called to testify or was charged with Treason. Virtually all of them were founding members of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
The League was headed by the DuPont and J.P Morgan cartels and had major support from Andrew Mellon Associates, Pew (Sun Oil), Rockefeller Associates, E.F. Hutton Associates, U.S. Steel, General Motors, Chase, Standard Oil and Goodyear Tires.
Money was funneled thru the Sen. Prescott Bush-led Union Banking Corporation (yes, those Bushes) and the Prescott Bush-led Brown Brothers Harriman (yes, that Harriman) to the League (and to Hitler, but that’s another story). The plotters bragged about Bush’s Hitler connections and even claimed that Germany had promised Bush that it would provide materiel for the coup. This claim was entirely believable: a year earlier, Chevrolet president William S. Knudsen (who himself had donated $10,000 to the League) went to Germany and met with Nazi leaders and declared upon his return that Hitler’s Germany was “the miracle of the twentieth century.” At the time, GM’s wholly-owned Adam-Opal Co. had already begun producing the Nazi’s tanks, trucks and bomber engines. James D. Mooney, GM’s vice-president for foreign operations was joined by Henry Ford and IBM chief Tom Watson in receiving the Grand Cross of the German Eagle from Hitler for their considerable efforts on behalf of the Third Reich.
While the Committee found that Gen. Butler was telling the truth, discrediting such a stalwart was problematic for the plotters. Quickly, the corporate press weighed in and sought to raise doubts about the war hero, settling on branding him naive. The discredit Knudsen meme was: “it was all idle cocktail party chatter.” This red herring was trumpeted under the Associated Press headline “The Cocktail Putsch.” New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia dismissed the plot as “someone at the party had suggested the idea to the ex-Marine as a joke.”
From 1934 through 1936, the League got thirty-five pro-League front page stories in the New York Times. TIME ridiculed Butler in a Dec. 3, 1934 cover story, even though Butler’s story was corroborated by VFW head James E. Van Zandt, who also said he was approached to lead the coup. Though, TIME did put a footnote on an early 1935 article stating; “Also last week the House Committee on Un-American Activities purported to report that a two-month investigation had convinced it that General Butler’s story of a fascist march on Washington was alarmingly true.”
Solely, the Scripps-Howard papers backed FDR and presented the truth.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt labeled the plotters “economic royalists” and survived their, thankfully, ham-handed efforts. Jan. 3, 1936, FDR blasted the American Liberty League before a joint session of Congress where he announced the ban on military exports to Italy. more
Banking System Rotten to the Core
BY WILLIAM K BLACK PHD 11/25/2011
In the Savings and Loans crisis, which was 1/70th the size of this crisis, our agency made over 10,000 criminal referrals that resulted in the conviction on felony grounds of over 1,000 elites in what were designated as major cases. And to pick up on what’s just been said, this is not just some sidelight to economics, this is why we have recurrent intensifying crises, is these epidemics of fraud from the C-Street—from the CEOs and CFOs.
In the Savings and Loans crisis, the inevitable National Commission said that fraud was invariably present at the typical large failure. In the Enron era, always frauds from the very top of the organization, and in this crisis the frauds came from the very top of the organization again. But what’s different in this crisis? In this crisis, the same agency that I worked with that made over 10,000 criminal referrals in a tinier crisis made zero criminal referrals. They got rid of the entire function. And so there are zero convictions of anybody in the elite ranks of Wall Street. And if they can defraud us with impunity they will cause crisis after crisis and they will produce maximum inequality.
The group that has the audacity to refer to itself as the productive class is the largest destroyer of lives, jobs, and of wealth of any group ever produced in this world. They wiped out six million existing jobs and five to six million jobs that would’ve been created. As you’ve heard, they’ve left 26 million Americans wanting full-time work with no ability to find that work. If you look at just losses in the household sector, it is $11 trillion. A trillion is a thousand billion. And then they have the nerve to say they are the productive class; and, not this journalist, but what we get as faux journalism today, repeats this endlessly as if it were a fact—that they create jobs. They destroy jobs. They are mass destroyers of jobs. more
There is nothing quite like having members of the criminal classes lecture the rest of us about what we must do to retain our virtue. (sheesh)
First Year Analyst To The 99%: 'The Finance Industry Is A Complete Scam'
Linette Lopez and Robert Johnson | Nov. 30, 2011
In an open letter posted on Reddit, a first year Wall Street analyst is doing his part to help Occupy Wall Street — by explaining how some of the things they're most upset about actually work.
"I'm writing this in hopes that the OWS movement can have a better understanding of the hedge fund industry and the financial markets. With OWS being the zeitgeist of current politics, I think it's important to know how exactly the hedge funds, along with the financial markets are destroying the 99%."
He goes on to explain what a lot of people know about hedge funds and financial markets. They, the hedge funds, are titans, and you, the people, can't compete. Only the super-wealthy (the 0.1%) can play the hedge funds' game, and that means they're the only ones who can win in financial markets.
"Hedge funds. These guys are basically the vehicles of choice for ultra-rich people to get into the financial markets, besides family offices and private wealth managers. What are hedge funds? They are funds that have a 1-5 million deposit minimum, cater to the mega-rich, and can invest in anything without regulatory restrictions, use leverage to pump up their exposure by 15x, and pretty much eat up a vast majority of the industry's profits." more
ECB CHIEF: Here's What Europe Must Do To Save ItselfBut hey, extortion works! Not even the military-industrial complex has made off with this much loot.
Joe Weisenthal | Dec. 1, 2011,
New ECB chief Mario Draghi spoke to the European parliament about what it will take to restore order in the Europe.
Here's the nut of it:
What I believe our economic and monetary union needs is a new fiscal compact – a fundamental restatement of the fiscal rules together with the mutual fiscal commitments that euro area governments have made.
Just as we effectively have a compact that describes the essence of monetary policy – an independent central bank with a single objective of maintaining price stability – so a fiscal compact would enshrine the essence of fiscal rules and the government commitments taken so far, and ensure that the latter become fully credible, individually and collectively.
We might be asked whether a new fiscal compact would be enough to stabilise markets and how a credible longer-term vision can be helpful in the short term. Our answer is that it is definitely the most important element to start restoring credibility.
Other elements might follow, but the sequencing matters. And it is first and foremost important to get a commonly shared fiscal compact right. Confidence works backwards: if there is an anchor in the long term, it is easier to maintain trust in the short term. After all, investors are themselves often taking decisions with a long time horizon, especially with regard to government bonds.
A new fiscal compact would be the most important signal from euro area governments for embarking on a path of comprehensive deepening of economic integration. It would also present a clear trajectory for the future evolution of the euro area, thus framing expectations.
On the precise legal process that brings about a move towards a genuine economic union, we should keep our options open. Far-reaching Treaty changes should not be discarded, but faster processes are also conceivable. more
$7.7 Trillion to Wall Street - Anything to Keep the Banksters Happy!by Thom Hartmann | December 3, 2011
Do you know who Elizabeth Duke is? How about Donald Kohn or Kevin Warsh? No? Well - you should. Because while Congress was debating back in 2008 whether or not to bailout banksters with a $700 billion blank check - these guys and girls were just doing it. They were funneling $7.7 trillion to Wall Street under the table - without one constituent phone call - without worrying about one election - without having to give one explanation.
They were able to do that because they're members of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors - a group of people who are not voted into office, but have the power to completely dictate monetary policy in America. They are not politicians - they're technocrats - they're bankers and financial experts. Technocrats aren't interested in democracy - it takes too long, and often the interests of the majority of voters don't quite line up with the interests of the minority of bankers and foreign investors. Or - to put it in today's terms - the interests of the 99 percent rarely line up with the interests of the 1 percent. That's why - back in 2008 - the technocrats at the Fed weren't interested in waiting for Congress - with all of its open debate and constituent services - to bail out the banks - they just went ahead and did it themselves. According to documents obtained by Bloomberg News - in 2009 - the Fed dished out $7.7 trillion in no-strings-attached, super-low interest loans to Wall Street's biggest players.
That's $7.7 trillion!
That's more than half of the total value of EVERYTHING - every single thing produced in America - that same year. $7.7 TRILLION out the door - with no one bothering to inform the electorate about it until now. And since they were super-low interest loans - banks made enormous profits off of them. Six of the nation's biggest banks - like Morgan Stanley and Bank of America - pocketed a not-too-shabby $13 billion in undisclosed profits, thanks to the deal with the technocrats at the Fed. So today - thanks to a decision made by technocrats, and not politicians - the too-big-to-fail banks are even bigger, and Wall Street has raked in more profits in just the last 30 months then they did in the entire eight years leading up to the 2008 financial crisis.
I guess the economic crisis that brought banksters to the ledge ended up being pretty lucrative for them in the long run. But the bigger picture is this: can our democracy survive future financial crises? As the world descends into financial turmoil on fears that the Euro zone may collapse, it's the technocrats who are taking power - replacing elected officials. more