Economy Rigging 1

Kerrigan Surmise on Crisis Elitism December 31, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — bashstreetkidjailbreak @ 5:28 pm

It was a hellish year. Very little to remember fondly. Not a year we need to dwell upon. Yet, with the new year promising to be even more grim, are there lessons we might usefully remember from 2011? And what might those lessons be?

We learned, for instance, that things will be fine if we stay the course. As 2011 began, President McAleese told us she was keeping an eye out for those “green shoots of new beginnings”. Later in the year, a young and rested 60, Mary headed off into the sunset, with a pension three times the salary of the average software developer.

The departing Cowen regime whooped that we were “on the road to economic recovery”. Ministers of that government then retired in droves, while still relatively young, to spend more time with their vast pensions.

We learned, in short, that those who are loudest in their optimism about the current course of austerity are usually those with well-feathered nests.

We learned conclusively that the Cowen/Lenihan austerity strategy, now being implemented by Kenny/Noonan, doesn’t work. This ordains that we have to destroy the country in order to save the banks, so that the banks can save the country. So, under ECB instructions, we’ve been feeding the bankers tens of billions; and seeking vainly to balance the books by cutting services and asset-stripping the citizens. The insane strategy of deflating an already damaged economy smothered any chance of growth. The economy contracted. Unemployment rose relentlessly.

The argument between austerity (focused on reducing deficits) and stimulus (focused on protecting jobs) has been settled. Over the past four years, austerity has turned a crisis into a catastrophe.

One of the most important lessons we learned in 2011 was this: it doesn’t matter that the austerity strategy doesn’t work. The Economic War Against Ourselves has the approval of the EU, the ECB, the IMF, Fine Gael, Labour, Fianna Fail and The Irish Times. This makes the strategy unimpeachably respectable and perpetually untouchable, despite its blatant failure.

You may notice that Fine Gael, Labour, Fianna Fail and The Irish Times are precisely those who cheered on the property bubble. You may notice that the EU, the ECB and the IMF benignly observed the insane gambles by German, French, UK and Irish bankers that fuelled that bubble. Among the people who matter, being repeatedly, disastrously wrong has no bad consequences.

People who oppose austerity policies are “politically motivated”. The incompetent, overpaid elites who blunder onward are, on the other hand, “realists”. With no political thought but peace and goodwill to all.

We learned, from the lips of ministers, that Kenny and Noonan “renegotiated” downward the profiteering interest rate we were charged for EU/IMF loans. This is simply untrue. But they continue to say it, every time they need a morale boost. Which is often.

We learned that Tim Geithner, Barack Obama’s top economics guy, vetoed any suggestion that the Irish Government might demand that bank bondholders pay some of their own gambling debts.

Some weeks later, face to face with Obama, Enda Kenny chickened out of raising that matter. Face to face with Geithner, Michael Noonan also chickened out. We learned, in short, that Irish politicians are tough when they’re taking money away from blind people.

We learned that politicians can be courageous and move swiftly when something matters to them. When the rules said that Richard Bruton’s adviser, Ciaran Conlon, couldn’t be paid more than €92,000, Bruton’s boss Enda Kenny used his authority to set aside the rules and give his old mate a €35,000 rise. And then Kevin Cardiff, top lad in Finance, was rejected for a job by an EU committee. Kevin is remembered for his role in the bank guarantee, and was in charge of Finance during the €3.6bn accounting error. Politicians swarmed to his aid. Kevin was lifted into his EU job. He will get €260,000 for a job he has described as a “doddle”.

We learned that democracy is dispensable. At election time, we’re told to be grateful for the sacrifices that gave us the ballot. People living under dictators put their lives on the line to achieve the right to vote — and we rightly honour them.

We learned after last February’s General Election that a mandate for change is without value, when the elite collude. Promises of change are without meaning. The right to vote becomes a child’s game, a trivialising simulation of democracy.

When democratically elected politicians in Italy and Greece balked at taking instructions from the ECB they were replaced by people who never received a single vote. Their successors (bankers) were chosen by unelected but extremely powerful functionaries within the ECB (bankers).

We learned that a strike of capital is not worthy of comment by politicians, academics and the austerity pundits. If bin-men withheld their labour because of an insufficient return there would be screams of “holding the country to ransom at a time of national crisis”. When capital conducts an investment strike, in demand for higher returns, the otherwise garrulous have nothing to say. They instead obsess (“Crokeparkdeal!Crokeparkdeal!Crokeparkdeal!”) about a minor impediment to the asset stripping.

We learned that some people can state something and then state the opposite, and retain credibility with the media. For instance, a year ago Michael Noonan fiercely condemned the FF/Green regime for throwing away tens of billions by generously paying the gambling debts of Irish, German and French bankers.

When he became minister, less than three months later, he seamlessly continued the FF/Green strategy he had denounced. This was not hypocrisy. When Noonan condemned the squandering of billions he was playing the role of a tough, angry opposition politician.

Today, Noonan has another role. He plays a shrewd, worldly-wise Minister for Finance. It’s all pose, by a superb actor, but he convinces many now as he convinced many a year ago.

We learned over the past couple of weeks that it is imperative that we put the EU’s “fiscal responsibility” measures into our Constitution. Noonan says we must pass such a referendum whatever the wording, or we’ll be voting ourselves out of the euro. We will be no longer “at the heart of Europe” (you’ll remember how voting Yes to Lisbon 2 ensured our presence within the cockles of Frau Merkel’s heart?).

Some people fear that Germany wants to take control of our budgets, perhaps our economy. I don’t think that’s true. Something far bigger is happening.

For 30 years, a brash form of casino capitalism reigned. The old conservative capitalism (welfare state, effective regulation) had lost the argument (and anything to the left of that was old hat). Casino capitalism (markets rule, deregulate, privatise) consequently ran up trillions in debt and ruined whole countries.

Even after the failures of the past four years, with the euro collapsing, the fiscal hawks remain immovable (deficits matter, not jobs — banks matter, not people). They want to make any further argument unconstitutional. It’s a more sophisticated form of the Tea Party movement in the US, that’s smothering economic recovery with “debt ceiling” laws.

Amid the ruins they have made, they hold up constitutional handcuffs and they say, “trust us”.

And a happy Christmas to you, too.

 

Folly of Elastic Money December 13, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — bashstreetkidjailbreak @ 8:21 pm

It appears that WordPress have disengaged all videos transported over from Youtube.

Keiser Report: World Currency War I (E222) – YouTube This is the link for ‘Folly of Money’.

 

Ponzi Economic Superstructure

Filed under: Uncategorized — bashstreetkidjailbreak @ 5:14 pm

Why The UK Trail Of The MF Global Collapse May Have “Apocalyptic” Consequences For The Eurozone, Canadian Banks, Jefferies And Everyone Else | ZeroHedge

Reposting by popular demand, and because everyone has to understand the embedded risks in this market, courtesy of the shadow banking system.

In an oddly prescient turn of events, yesterday we penned a post titled “Has The Imploding European Shadow Banking System Forced The Bundesbank To Prepare For Plan B?” in which we explained how it was not only the repo market, but the far broader and massively unregulated shadow banking system in Europe that was becoming thoroughly unhinged, and was manifesting itself in a complete “lock up in interbank liquidity” and which, we speculated, is pressuring the Bundesbank, which is well aware of what is going on behind the scenes, to slowly back away from what will soon be an “apocalyptic” event (not our words… read on). Why was this prescient? Because today, Reuters’ Christopher Elias has written the logical follow up analysis to our post, in which he explains in layman’s terms not only how but why the lock up has occurred and will get far more acute, but also why the MF Global bankruptcy, much more than merely a one-off instance of “repo-to-maturity” of sovereign bonds gone horribly wrong is a symptom of two things: i) the lax London-based unregulated and unsupervised system which has allowed such unprecedented, leveraged monsters as AIG, Lehman and now as it turns out MF Global, to flourish until they end up imploding and threatening the world’s entire financial system, and ii) an implicit construct embedded within the shadow banking model which permitted the heaping of leverage upon leverage upon leverage, probably more so than any structured finance product in the past (up to and including synthetic CDO cubeds), and certainly on par with the AIG cataclysm which saw $2.7 trillion of CDS notional sold with virtually zero margin. Simply said: when one truly digs in, MF Global exposes the 2011 equivalent of the 2008 AIG: virtually unlimited leverage via the shadow banking system, in which there are practically no hard assets backing the infinite layers of debt created above, and which when finally unwound, will create a cataclysmic collapse of all financial institutions, where every bank is daisy-chained to each other courtesy of multiple layers of “hypothecation, and re-hypothecation.” In fact, it is a link so sinister it touches every corner of modern finance up to and including such supposedly “stable” institutions as Jefferies, which as it turns out has spent weeks defending itself, however against all the wrong things,  and Canadian banks, which as it also turns out, defended themselves against Zero Hedge allegations they may well be the next shoes to drop, as being strong and vibrant (and in fact just announced soaring profits and bonuses), yet which have all the same if not far greater risk factors as MF Global. Yet nobody has called them out on it. Until now.

But first, a detour to London…

As readers will recall, the actual office that blew up the world the first time around, was not even based in the US. It was a small office located on the top floor of 1 Curzon Street in London’s Mayfair district, run by one Joe Cassano: the head of AIG Financial Products. The reason why this office of US-based AIG was in London, is so that Cassano could sell CDS as far away from the eye of Federal regulators as possible. Which he did. In fact he sold an unprecedented $2.7 trillion worth of CDS just before the firm collapsed due to one small glitch in the system – the assumption that home prices could go down as well as up. Yet the real question is why he sold so much CDS? The answer is simple – in a world of limited real assets, the only way to generate a practically limitless cash flow annuity would be to sell synthetic insurance on a virtually infinite amount of synthetic underlying. Which he did. Only when it came time to pay the claims, AIG blew up, forcing the government to bail it out, and set off the chain of events where we find ourselves now, where every day could be the developed world’s last if not for the ongoing backstops, guarantees and bailouts of the central banking regime.

What is greatly ironic is that in the aftermath of the AIG collapse, the UK was shamed into admitting that it was its own loose, lax and unregulated system that allowed such unsupervised insanity to continue for as long as it did. As the Telegraph reminds us, “Conservative Party Treasury spokesman Philip Hammond called for a public inquiry into the FSA’s oversight of AIG Financial Products in Mayfair. “We must not allow London to become a bolthole for companies looking for a place to conduct questionable activities,” he said. “This sounds like a monumental cock-up by the FSA,” said Lib Dem shadow chancellor Vince Cable. “It is deeply ironic,” he added, that Brown was in Brussels last week calling for tougher global financial regulation just as the scandal over the FSA’s role in one of the key regulatory failures at the root of the global panic emerged as an international issue.” It is ironic because the trail in the MF Global collapse, where it is yet another infinitely leveragable product that once again comes to the fore, once again goes straight to that hub for “questionable activities” – London.

But before we explain why London is once again to blame for what was not only the immediate reason of the MF Global collapse, but could well precipitate the next global collapse, a quick look at rehypothecation.

As Reuters points out, it was not so much the act of creating “repos-to-maturity” that imperiled MF Global, but what is a secret gold mine for those privy to it – the process of re-hypothecation of collateral.

 [h]ypothecation is when a borrower pledges collateral to secure a debt. The borrower retains ownership of the collateral but is “hypothetically” controlled by the creditor, who has a right to seize possession if the borrower defaults.

In the U.S., this legal right takes the form of a lien and in the UK generally in the form of a legal charge. A simple example of a hypothecation is a mortgage, in which a borrower legally owns the home, but the bank holds a right to take possession of the property if the borrower should default.

In investment banking, assets deposited with a broker will be hypothecated such that a broker may sell securities if an investor fails to keep up credit payments or if the securities drop in value and the investor fails to respond to a margin call (a request for more capital).

Re-hypothecation occurs when a bank or broker re-uses collateral posted by clients, such as hedge funds, to back the broker’s own trades and borrowings. The practice of re-hypothecation runs into the trillions of dollars and is perfectly legal. It is justified by brokers on the basis that it is a capital efficient way of financing their operations much to the chagrin of hedge funds.

So far so good, assuming there was regulation, and assuming if regulation failed, that the firms that blew up as a result of their greed would truly blow up, instead of being resurrected as TBTF zombies by a government in dire need of rent collection and lobby cash (because with or without regulation, if those who fail are not allowed to fail, then the whole point of capitalism is moot). But… there is always a snag.

 Under the U.S. Federal Reserve Board’s Regulation T and SEC Rule 15c3-3, a prime broker may re-hypothecate assets to the value of 140% of the client’s liability to the prime broker. For example, assume a customer has deposited $500 in securities and has a debt deficit of $200, resulting in net equity of $300. The broker-dealer can re-hypothecate up to $280 (140 per cent. x $200) of these assets.

But in the UK, there is absolutely no statutory limit on the amount that can be re-hypothecated. In fact, brokers are free to re-hypothecate all and even more than the assets deposited by clients. Instead it is up to clients to negotiate a limit or prohibition on re-hypothecation. On the above example a UK broker could, and frequently would, re-hypothecate 100% of the pledged securities ($500).

This asymmetry of rules makes exploiting the more lax UK regime incredibly attractive to international brokerage firms such as MF Global or Lehman Brothers which can use European subsidiaries to create pools of funding for their U.S. operations, without the bother of complying with U.S. restrictions.

In fact, by 2007, re-hypothecation had grown so large that it accounted for half of the activity of the shadow banking system. Prior to Lehman Brothers collapse, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) calculated that U.S. banks were receiving $4 trillion worth of funding by re-hypothecation, much of which was sourced from the UKWith assets being re-hypothecated many times over (known as “churn”), the original collateral being used may have been as little as $1 trillion – a quarter of the financial footprint created through re-hypothecation.

So let’s see: a Prime Broker taking posted collateral, then using the same collateral as an instrument for hypothecation with a net haircut, then repeating the process again, and again… Ring a bell? If you said “fractional reserve lending” – ding ding ding. In essence what re-hypothecation, and subsequent levels thereof, especially once in the shadow banking realm, allows Prime Brokers is to become de facto banks only completely unregulated and using synthetic assets as collateral. Curiously enough it was earlier today that we also penned “ECB Confirms Shadow Banking System In Europe In Tatters” in which we explained that since ECB has to expand the eligible collateral it will accept, there is no real collateral left, meaning the re-hypothecation process in Europe has experienced terminal failure.  Yet the kicker is that the “safety haircut” only occurs in the US. Not in the UK. And therein lies the rub. In the UK, the epic failure of supervision has allowed banks to become de facto monsters of infinite shadow banking fractional reserve leverage – every bank’s wet dream! Naturally, Prime Brokers have known all about this which explains the quiet desire to conduct re-hypothecation out of London-based offices for every US-based (and Canadian) bank. Reuters explains:

 Keen to get in on the action, U.S. prime brokers have been making judicious use of European subsidiaries. Because re-hypothecation is so profitable for prime brokers, many prime brokerage agreements provide for a U.S. client’s assets to be transferred to the prime broker’s UK subsidiary to circumvent U.S. rehypothecation rules.

Under subtle brokerage contractual provisions, U.S. investors can find that their assets vanish from the U.S. and appear instead in the UK, despite contact with an ostensibly American organisation.

Potentially as simple as having MF Global UK Limited, an English subsidiary, enter into a prime brokerage agreement with a customer, a U.S. based prime broker can immediately take advantage of the UK’s unrestricted re-hypothecation rules.

While we already mentioned AIG as an example of the lax UK-based regulatory regime, it is another failed bank that is perhaps the best example of levered failure but in the specific re-hypothecation context: Lehman Brothers itself.

 This is exactly what Lehman Brothers did through Lehman Brothers International (Europe) (LBIE), an English subsidiary to which most U.S. hedge fund assets were transferred. Once transferred to the UK based company, assets were re-hypothecated many times over, meaning that when the debt carousel stopped, and Lehman Brothers collapsed, many U.S. funds found that their assets had simply vanished.

A prime broker need not even require that an investor (eg hedge fund) sign all agreements with a European subsidiary to take advantage of the loophole. In fact, in Lehman’s case many funds signed a prime brokerage agreement with Lehman Brothers Inc (a U.S. company) but margin-lending agreements and securities-lending agreements with LBIE in the UK (normally conducted under a Global Master Securities Lending Agreement).

These agreements permitted Lehman to transfer client assets between various affiliates without the fund’s express consent, despite the fact that the main agreement had been under U.S. law. As a result of these peripheral agreements, all or most of its clients’ assets found their way down to LBIE.

And now we get back to the topic at hand: MF Global, why and how it did precisely what Lehman did back then, why it did this in London, and why its failure is a symptom of something far more terrifying than merely investing money in collapsing PIIGS bonds.

 MF Global’s Customer Agreement for trading in cash commodities, commodity futures, security futures, options, and forward contracts, securities, foreign futures and options and currencies includes the following clause:

“7. Consent To Loan Or Pledge  You hereby grant us the right, in accordance with Applicable Law, to borrow, pledge, repledge, transfer, hypothecate, rehypothecate, loan, or invest any of the Collateral, including, without limitation, utilizing the Collateral to purchase or sell securities pursuant to repurchase agreements [repos] or reverse repurchase agreements with any party, in each case without notice to you, and we shall have no obligation to retain a like amount of similar Collateral in our possession and control.”

In its quarterly report, MF Global disclosed that by June 2011 it had repledged (re-hypothecated) $70 million, including securities received under resale agreements. With these transactions taking place off-balance sheet it is difficult to pin down the exact entity which was used to re-hypothecate such large sums of money but regulatory filings and letters from MF Global’s administrators contain some clues.

According to a letter from KPMG to MF Global clients, when MF Global collapsed, its UK subsidiary MF Global UK Limited had over 10,000 accounts. MF Global disclosed in March 2011 that it had significant credit risk from its European subsidiary from “counterparties with whom we place both our own funds or securities and those of our clients”.

It gets even worse when one considers that over the years the actual quality of good collateral declined, meaning worse and worse collateral was to be pledged in these potentially infinite recursive loops of shadow banking fractional reserve lending:

Despite the fact that there may only be a quarter of the collateral in the world to back these transactions, successive U.S. governments have softened the requirements for what can back a re-hypothecation transaction.

Beginning with Clinton-era liberalisation, rules were eased that had until 2000 limited the use of re-hypothecated funds to U.S. Treasury, state and municipal obligations. These rules were slowly cut away (from 2000-2005) so that customer money could be used to enter into repurchase agreements (repos), buy foreign bonds, money market funds and other assorted securities.

Hence, when MF Global conceived of its Eurozone repo ruse, client funds were waiting to be plundered for investment in AA rated European sovereign debt, despite the fact that many of its hedge fund clients may have been betting against the performance of those very same bonds.

At this point flashing red lights should be going though the head of anyone who lived through the AIG cataclysm: in effect the rehypothecation scenario affords the same amount of leverage, and potentially even less supervision that the CDS market. Said otherwise, the counteparty risk of daisy chaining defaults is on par with that in the case of AIG.

 As well as collateral risk, re-hypothecation creates significant counterparty risk and its off-balance sheet treatment contains many hidden nasties. Even without circumventing U.S. limits on re-hypothecation, the off-balance sheet treatment means that the amount of leverage (gearing) and systemic risk created in the system by re-hypothecation is staggering.

Re-hypothecation transactions are off-balance sheet and are therefore unrestricted by balance sheet controls. Whereas on balance sheet transactions necessitate only appearing as an asset/liability on one bank’s balance sheet and not another, off-balance sheet transactions can, and frequently do, appear on multiple banks’ financial statements. What this creates is chains of counterparty risk, where multiple re-hypothecation borrowers use the same collateral over and over again. Essentially, it is a chain of debt obligations that is only as strong as its weakest link.

And the kicker:

 With collateral being re-hypothecated to a factor of four (according to IMF estimates), the actual capital backing banks re-hypothecation transactions may be as little as 25%. This churning of collateral means that re-hypothecation transactions have been creating enormous amounts of liquidity, much of which has no real asset backing.

It turns out the next AIG was among us all along, only because it was hidden deep in the bowels of the unmentionable shadow banking system, out of sight (by definition) meant out of mind. Only it was not: and at last check there was $15 trillion in the shadow banking system in the US alone, where the daisy chaining of counteparty risk meant that any liquidity risk flare up would mean the AIG bankruptcy was not even a dress rehearsal for the grand finale.

But where does one look for the next AIG? Who would be stupid enough to disclose the fact that they have essentially the same risk on their off-balance sheet books as AIG had on its normal books? Once again, we turn to Reuters:

 The lack of balance sheet recognition of re-hypothecation was noted in Jefferies’ recent 10Q (emphasis added):

“Note 7. Collateralized Transactions

We pledge securities in connection with repurchase agreements, securities lending agreements and other secured arrangements, including clearing arrangements. The pledge of our securities is in connection with our mortgage?backed securities, corporate bond, government and agency securities and equities businesses. Counterparties generally have the right to sell or repledge the collateral.Pledged securities that can be sold or repledged by the counterparty are included within Financial instruments owned and noted as Securities pledged on our Consolidated Statements of Financial Condition. We receive securities as collateral in connection with resale agreements, securities borrowings and customer margin loans. In many instances, we are permitted by contract or custom to rehypothecate securities received as collateral. These securities maybe used to secure repurchase agreements, enter into security lending or derivative transactions or cover short positions. At August 31, 2011 and November 30, 2010, the approximate fair value of securities received as collateral by us that may be sold or repledged was approximately $25.9 billion and $22.3 billion, respectively. At August 31, 2011 and November 30, 2010, a substantial portion of the securities received by us had been sold or repledged.

We engage in securities for securities transactions in which we are the borrower of securities and provide other securities as collateral rather than cash. As no cash is provided under these types of transactions, we, as borrower, treat these as noncash transactions and do not recognize assets or liabilities on the Consolidated Statements of Financial Condition. The securities pledged as collateral under these transactions are included within the total amount of Financial instruments owned and noted as Securities pledged on our Consolidated Statements of Financial Condition.

According to Jefferies’ most recent Annual Report it had re-hypothecated $22.3 billion (in fair value) of assets in 2011 including government debt, asset backed securities, derivatives and corporate equity- that’s just $15 billion shy of Jefferies total on balance sheet assets of $37 billion.

Oh Jefferies, Jefferies, Jefferies. Barely did you manage to escape the gauntlet of accusation of untenable gross (if not net) sovereign exposure, that you will soon, potentially as early as tomorrow, have to defend your zany rehypothecation practices. One wonders: will Sean Egan downgrade you for this latest transgression as well? All the better for Leucadia though: one more million shares that Dick Handler can sell to Ian Cumming.

Yet Jefferies is just the beginning. It gets much, much worse.

 With weak collateral rules and a level of leverage that would make Archimedes tremble, firms have been piling into re-hypothecation activity with startling abandon. A review of filings reveals a staggering level of activity in what may be the world’s largest ever credit bubble.

Engaging in hyper-hypothecation have been Goldman Sachs ($28.17 billion re-hypothecated in 2011), Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (re-pledged $72 billion in client assets), Royal Bank of Canada (re-pledged $53.8 billion of $126.7 billion available for re-pledging), Oppenheimer Holdings ($15.3 million), Credit Suisse (CHF 332 billion), Knight Capital Group ($1.17 billion),Interactive Brokers ($14.5 billion), Wells Fargo ($19.6 billion), JP Morgan($546.2 billion) and Morgan Stanley ($410 billion).

And people were wondering why looking through the balance sheet of Canadian banks revealed no alert signals. It is because all the exposure was off the books! Hundreds of billions of dollars worth. As for JPM and MS amounting to nearly a trillion in rehypothecation… well, we are confident the market will be delighted to start pricing that particular fat-tail risk as soon as tomorrow.

Yet it is Reuters’ conclusion that strikes home, and is identical to what we said last night about the liquidity lock up in Europe and what it means for the shadow banking system, although from the perspective of an inverted cause and effect:

 The volume and level of re-hypothecation suggests a frightening alternative hypothesis for the current liquidity crisis being experienced by banks and for why regulators around the world decided to step in to prop up the markets recently. 

That’s precisely right: the shadow banking system, so aptly named because its death rattle can never be seen out in the open, is slowly dying. As noted yesterday. But lest we be accused of hyperventilating, this time we will leave a respected, non-fringe media to bring out the big adjective guns:

 To date, reports have been focused on how Eurozone default concerns were provoking fear in the markets and causing liquidity to dry up….Most have been focused on how a Eurozone default would result in huge losses in Eurozone bonds being felt across the world’s banks. However, re-hypothecation suggests an even greater fear. Considering that re-hypothecation may have increased the financial footprint of Eurozone bonds by at least four fold then a Eurozone sovereign default could be apocalyptic.

U.S. banks direct holding of sovereign debt is hardly negligible. According to the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), U.S. banks hold $181 billion in the sovereign debt of Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain. If we factor in off-balance sheet transactions such as re-hypothecations and repos, then the picture becomes frightening.

And there you have it: in this world where distraction and diversion often times is the only name of the game, while banks were pretending to have issues with their traditional liabilities, it was really the shadow liabilities where the true terrors were accumulating. Because in what has become a veritable daisy chain of linked shadow exposure, we are now back where we started with the AIG collapse, only this time the regime is decentralized, without the need for a focal, AIG-type center. What this means is that the collapse of the weakest link in the daisy-chain sets off a house of cards that eventually will crash even the biggest entity due to exponentially soaring counterparty risk: an escalation best comparable to an avalanche – where one simple snowflake can result in a deadly tsunami of snow that wipes out everything in its path. Only this time it is not something as innocuous as snow: it is the compounded effect of trillions and trillions of insolvent banks all collapsing at the same time, and wiping out the developed world and the associated 150 years of the welfare state as we know it.

In this light, it makes far more sense why, as we suggested yesterday, the sanest central bank in Europe, the German Bundesbank, is quietly making stealthy preparations to get the hell out of Dodge, as it realizes all too well, that the snowflake has arrived: MF Global’s bankruptcy has already set off a chain of events which not even all the world’s central banks can halt. Which is ironic for the Buba – what it is doing is “too little too late.” But at least it is taking proactive steps. For all the other central banks in the Eurozone, and soon the world, unfortunately the deer in headlights image is the only applicable one. And all because of unbridled greed, bribed and corrupt regulators sleeping at their job, and governments which encourage the TBTF modus operandi as the only fall back one, which in turn gave banks a carte blanche to take essentially unlimited risk.

We are all about to suffer the consequences of all three.

 

Old Empires Scramble for Power – Day III December 11, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — bashstreetkidjailbreak @ 9:59 pm

Eurozone leaders deluded if they think this ‘sticking plaster’ treaty can solve the debt crisis – Telegraph Liam Haligan / EU angle

David Cameron’s act of crass stupidity on Europe | Will Hutton | Comment is free | The Observer UK angle

Robert Fisk: Bankers are the dictators of the West – Robert Fisk – Commentators – The Independent Empire’s Grab angle

Is The Eurozone Banking System About To Collapse? – Seeking Alpha

 

 

Germany Vs London Day I December 9, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — bashstreetkidjailbreak @ 11:13 pm

Why would German Chancellor Angela Merkel favor the Tobin tax, which is a very, very heavy tax on financial transactions? Why does London oppose it? It has to do with the different kind of bank-corporate system in Germany as contrasted with the capital markets in London and America. The German system is one in which major banks directly control corporations and open markets for corporate control, as in London and America, play a much smaller role in affecting corporate management. Merkel doesn’t mind killing off the capital markets in London and elsewhere in favor of German banks maintaining their closed-door corporate control. This would prevent takeovers of German companies and keep the German capital market a domestic affair. She no doubt is very annoyed at how the open capital markets have marked down sovereign debts in Europe and even rejected a German bond offering recently.

 
 

Oligarchy Pillage December 8, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — bashstreetkidjailbreak @ 6:02 pm

Complexity is often engineered into what are basically simple problems by people who benefit from manufactured complications and have the power to control them. When money is involved, the powerful people who benefit from ripping off untold millions of hard workers make sure that their “money machine” will just keep steaming ahead. Take the ongoing Global Financial Crisis.

Firstly, it is not a “crisis” at all: what the world is confronted with today is a full-fledged, irreversible and unsustainable Global Financial Collapse that, if not properly addressed, may bring down the whole global economy with it.

Secondly, this has pushed the Real Economy into a “crisis” from which, if proper measures are taken, it can – and must! – be saved.Because all national economies are basically intact (although many have been badly clobbered!) they can be brought back to health.

Thirdly, the real core of today’s problem is that Finance – that virtual world of banking, fractional lending, usury compound interest, fraudulent derivatives, casino-like speculative “investments” and other parasitic and anti-social activities – has illegitimately risen above the Real Economy which is the world of work, production, manufacturing, effort, toil, sweat and creativity.

In numbers, we see that today Finance has grown to be 20, perhaps 30 times larger than the Real Economy.

First Key Question: HOW AND WHY did that happen? 

Easy: all you need to grow Finance is to design a complex, perverse and fraudulent Model that will allow bankers and traders to type in irrational formulae into a Computer Spreadsheet (Spreadsheets never complain: they will compound interest and unsavory profits with no sweat!), so that it churns out “profits” for the few, making them grow and grow and grow. The Real Economy, however, uses WORK as its input, not funny virtual numbers. And work is what runs planet Earth: you need work, talent and effort to build new cars or airplanes or clothes or new homes or roads; work to bake more bread and harvest more food.That’s why the Real Economy can only grow arithmetically, whilst Virtual Finance can grow exponentially… Ah, there’s the rub!

Second Key Question: WHO made that happen? 

Global Power Elite international bankers have been doing this openly, knowing few will understand what is actually happening. I mean, was not it former US Federal Reserve Bank governor Alan Greenspan who, during a black-tie Washington DC dinner of the American Enterprise Institute on 5 December 1996, “explained” away such inexplicable growth as being due to “irrational exuberance”? What a solid technical explanation coming from the then No. 1 Central Banker!

This fraudulent but extremely (and illegitimately) strong Money Power minority controlling Finance today have made it grow like a cancerous tumor. Starting in 2008 with the collapses of Bear Stearns, AIG, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers and the bailouts of Goldman Sachs, CitiCorp, HSBC and Bank of America, Finance today seems to have “metastasized” and now threatens to kill parts of the global Real Economy. So… we had better do something about this, and quickly. And “doing something” means more than just fighting on the streets and throwing rocks at the police (although admittedly, that is often a necessary collective first step).

Finance has usurped the upper echelons which do not legitimately belong to it but rather to the Real Economy. It is the Real Economy that must always be on top because that is where True Value is created. Finance, in turn, must always be subordinated to the Real Economy, not the other way around. This means that today’s key problem is that the whole economic-financial-monetary system is upside down… We need to immediately put it right-side-up again!!

Third Key Question: WHERE to start? 

It starts with each country taking back their central bank so that it will provide the necessary amount of interest-free money to meet the needs of the Real National Economy, so that all the powerful funny-money bankers can be routed. That means freeing your central bank from global banker control.Former Argentine president Juan Domingo Perón did just that 60 years ago and the Powers That Be bombed him out of power. Muammar Gaddafi did that much more recently, and look at what happened to him….

Money is a Powerful Lord”, 17th Century Spanish poet Don Francisco de Quevedo y Villegas once said. Four centuries later, nothing new under the sun…

 

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Technocrat governments, like the ones in Italy and Greece, will not provide any solutions to the ongoing eurozone crisis, claims financial analyst Max Keiser. Instead, as Keiser told RT, they will only drag Europe into deeper recession.

“You have to understand, this is a systemic problem that requires a total re-architecting of the system and a total execution, in one way or another, of these banksters that are just predatory leeches; a cancer on the system”, said the host of RT’s Keiser Report.

He also spoke at length about the future of the Euro and how dangerous a proposal for centralized economic control really is. Keiser compared the idea to a Ponzi scheme like Groupon.

“Groupon was a known and notorious Ponzi scheme; they took it public for 18 billion, now its crashed through the IPO price, trading for many billions of dollars less”, Keiser told RT. “But for a brief shining moment, it looked good – and that is exactly what they’re trying to do in the Eurozone. They’re trying to refloat trillions of debt and say its a brand new day and look great for about 20 minutes – but then we’ll be back exactly where we started, which is massive debt deleveraging, sovereignty being lost amongst all these Eurozone countries and predatory IMF bankers on the loose. Rogue bankers looking to destabilize countries for a quick buck.”

Speaking of the Euro and its future, the outspoken financial analyst said simply that it “was supposed to restore peace and harmony in the Eurozone – but they’re breaking down, country by country, and this can’t end good”.  – MAX KEISER

 

Euroland Oligarchy

Filed under: Uncategorized — bashstreetkidjailbreak @ 2:15 pm

As first published in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

The easiest way to understand Europe’s financial crisis is to look at the solutions being proposed to resolve it. They are a banker’s dream, a grab bag of giveaways that few voters would be likely to approve in a democratic referendum. Bank strategists learned not to risk submitting their plans to democratic vote after Icelanders twice refused in 2010-11 to approve their government’s capitulation to pay Britain and the Netherlands for losses run up by badly regulated Icelandic banks operating abroad. Lacking such a referendum, mass demonstrations were the only way for Greek voters to register their opposition to the €50 billion in privatization sell-offs demanded by the European Central Bank (ECB) in autumn 2011.

The problem is that Greece lacks the ready money to redeem its debts and pay the interest charges. The ECB is demanding that it sell off public assets – land, water and sewer systems, ports and other assets in the public domain, and also cut back pensions and other payments to its population. The “bottom 99%” understandably are angry to be informed that the wealthiest layer of the population is largely responsible for the budget shortfall by stashing away a reported €45 billion of funds stashed away in Swiss banks alone. The idea of normal wage-earners being obliged to forfeit their pensions to pay for tax evaders – and for the general un-taxing of wealth since the regime of the colonels – makes most people understandably angry. For the ECB, EU and IMF “troika” to say that whatever the wealthy take, steal or evade paying must be made up by the population at large is not a politically neutral position. It comes down hard on the side of wealth that has been unfairly taken.

A democratic tax policy would reinstate progressive taxation on income and property, and would enforce its collection – with penalties for evasion. Ever since the 19th century, democratic reformers have sought to free economies from waste, corruption and “unearned income.” But the ECB “troika” is imposing a regressive tax – one that can be imposed only by turning government policy-making over to a set of unelected “technocrats.”

To call the administrators of so anti-democratic a policy “technocrats” seems to be a cynical scientific-sounding euphemism for financial lobbyists or bureaucrats deemed suitably tunnel-visioned to act as useful idiots on behalf of their sponsors. Their ideology is the same austerity philosophy that the IMF imposed on Third World debtors from the 1960s through the 1980s. Claiming to stabilize the balance of payments while introducing free markets, these officials sold off export sectors and basic infrastructure to creditor-nation buyers. The effect was to drive austerity-ridden economies even deeper into debt – to foreign bankers and their own domestic oligarchies.

This is the treadmill on which Eurozone social democracies are now being placed. Under the political umbrella of financial emergency, wages and living standards are to be scaled back and political power shifted from elected government to technocrats governing on behalf of large banks and financial institutions. Public-sector labor is to be privatized – and de-unionized, while Social Security, pension plans and health insurance are scaled back.

This is the basic playbook that corporate raiders follow when they empty out corporate pension plans to pay their financial backers in leveraged buyouts. It also is how the former Soviet Union’s economy was privatized after 1991, transferring public assets into the hands of kleptocrats, who worked with Western investment bankers to make the Russian and other stock exchanges the darlings of the global financial markets. Property taxes were scaled back while flat taxes were imposed on wages (a cumulative 59 percent in Latvia). Industry was dismantled as land and mineral rights were transferred to foreigners, economies driven into debt and skilled and unskilled labor alike was obliged to emigrate to find work.

Pretending to be committed to price stability and free markets, bankers inflated a real estate bubble on credit. Rental income was capitalized into bank loans and paid out as interest. This was enormously profitable for bankers, but it left the Baltics and much of Central Europe debt strapped and in negative equity by 2008. Neoliberals applaud their plunging wage levels and shrinking GDP as a success story, because these countries shifted the tax burden onto employment rather than property or finance. Governments bailed out banks at taxpayer expense.

It is axiomatic that the solution to any major social problem tends to create even larger problems – not always unintended! From the financial sector’s vantage point, the “solution” to the Eurozone crisis is to reverse the aims of the Progressive Era a century ago – what John Maynard Keynes gently termed “euthanasia of the rentier” in 1936. The idea was to subordinate the banking system to serve the economy rather than the other way around. Instead, finance has become the new mode of warfare – less ostensibly bloody, but with the same objectives as the Viking invasions over a thousand years ago, and Europe’s subsequent colonial conquests: appropriation of land and natural resources, infrastructure and whatever other assets can provide a revenue stream. It was to capitalize and estimate such values, for instance, that William the Conqueror compiled the Domesday Book after 1066, a model of ECB and IMF-style calculations today.

This appropriation of the economic surplus to pay bankers is turning the traditional values of most Europeans upside down. Imposition of economic austerity, dismantling social spending, sell-offs of public assets, de-unionization of labor, falling wage levels, scaled-back pension plans and health care in countries subject to democratic rules requires convincing voters that there is no alternative. It is claimed that without a profitable banking sector (no matter how predatory) the economy will break down as bank losses on bad loans and gambles pull down the payments system. No regulatory agencies can help, no better tax policy, nothing except to turn over control to lobbyists to save banks from losing the financial claims they have built up.

What banks want is for the economic surplus to be paid out as interest, not used for rising living standards, public social spending or even for new capital investment. Research and development takes too long. Finance lives in the short run. This short-termism is self-defeating, yet it is presented as science. The alternative, voters are told, is the road to serfdom: interfering with the “free market” by financial regulation and even progressive taxation.

There is an alternative, of course. It is what European civilization from the 13th-century Schoolmen through the Enlightenment and the flowering of classical political economy sought to create: an economy free of unearned income, free of vested interests using special privileges for “rent extraction.” At the hands of the neoliberals, by contrast, a free market is one free for a tax-favored rentier class to extract interest, economic rent and monopoly prices.

Rentier interests present their behavior as efficient “wealth creation.” Business schools teach privatizers how to arrange bank loans and bond financing by pledging whatever they can charge for the public infrastructure services being sold by governments. The idea is to pay this revenue to banks and bondholders as interest, and then make a capital gain by raising access fees for roads and ports, water and sewer usage and other basic services. Governments are told that economies can be run more efficiently by dismantling public programs and selling off assets.

Never has the gap between pretended aim and actual effect been more hypocritical. Making interest payments (and even capital gains) tax-exempt deprives governments of revenue from the user fees they are relinquishing, increasing their budget deficits. And instead of promoting price stability (the ECB’s ostensible priority), privatization increases prices for infrastructure, housing and other costs of living and doing business by building in interest charges and other financial overhead – and much higher salaries for management. So it is merely a knee-jerk ideological claim that this policy is more efficient simply because privatizers do the borrowing rather than government.

There is no technological or economic need for Europe’s financial managers to impose depression on much of its population. But there is a great opportunity to gain for the banks that have gained control of ECB economic policy. Since the 1960s, balance-of-payments crises have provided opportunities for bankers and liquid investors to seize control of fiscal policy – to shift the tax burden onto labor and dismantle social spending in favor of subsidizing foreign investors and the financial sector. They gain from austerity policies that lower living standards and scale back social spending. A debt crisis enables the domestic financial elite and foreign bankers to indebt the rest of society, using their privilege of credit (or savings built up as a result of less progressive tax policies) as a lever to grab assets and reduce populations to a state of debt dependency.

The kind of warfare now engulfing Europe is thus more than just economic in scope. It threatens to become a historic dividing line between the past half-century’s epoch of hope and technological potential to a new era of polarization as a financial oligarchy replaces democratic governments and reduces populations to debt peonage.

For so bold an asset and power grab to succeed, it needs a crisis to suspend the normal political and democratic legislative processes that would oppose it. Political panic and anarchy create a vacuum into which grabbers can move quickly, using the rhetoric of financial deception and a junk economics to rationalize self-serving solutions by a false view of economic history – and in the case of today’s ECB, German history in particular.

A central bank that is blocked from acing like one
Governments do not need to borrow from commercial bankers or other lenders. Ever since the Bank of England was founded in 1694, central banks have printed money to finance public spending. Bankers also create credit freely – when they make a loan and credit the customer’s account, in exchange for a promissory note bearing interest. Today, these banks can borrow reserves from the government central bank at a low annual interest rate (0.25% in the United States) and lend it out at a higher rate. So banks are glad to see the government’s central bank create credit to lend to them. But when it comes to governments creating money to finance their budget deficits for spending in the rest of the economy, banks would prefer to have this market and its interest return for themselves.

European commercial banks are especially adamant that the European Central Bank should not finance government budget deficits. But private credit creation is not necessarily less inflationary than governments monetizing their deficits (simply by printing the money needed). Most commercial bank loans are made against real estate, stocks and bonds – providing credit that is used to bid up housing prices, and prices for financial securities (as in loans for leveraged buyouts).

It is mainly government that spends credit on the “real” economy, to the extent that public budget deficits employ labor or are spent on goods and services. If governments avoid paying interest by having their central banks printing money on their own computer keyboards rather than borrowing from banks that do the same thing on their own keyboards. (Abraham Lincoln simply printed currency when he financed the U.S. Civil War with “greenbacks.”)

Banks would like to use their credit-creating privilege to obtain interest for lending to governments to finance public budget deficits. So they have a self-interest in limiting the government’s “public option” to monetize its budget deficits. To secure a monopoly on their credit-creating privilege, banks have mounted a vast character assassination on government spending, and indeed on government authority in general – which happens to be the only authority with sufficient power to control their power or provide an alternative public financial option, as Post Office savings banks do in Japan, Russia and other countries. This competition between banks and government explains the false accusations made that government credit creation is more inflationary than when commercial banks do it.

The reality is made clear by comparing the ways in which the United States, Britain and Europe handle their public financing. The U.S. Treasury is by far the world’s largest debtor, and its largest banks seem to be in negative equity, liable to their depositors and to other financial institutions for much larger sums that can be paid by their portfolio of loans, investments and assorted financial gambles. Yet as global financial turmoil escalates, institutional investors are putting their money into U.S. Treasury bonds – so much that these bonds now yield less than 1%. By contrast, a quarter of U.S. real estate is in negative equity, American states and cities are facing insolvency and must scale back spending. Large companies are going bankrupt, pension plans are falling deeper into arrears, yet the U.S. economy remains a magnet for global savings.

Britain’s economy also is staggering, yet its government is paying just 2% interest. But European governments are now paying over 7%. The reason for this disparity is that they lack a “public option” in money creation. Having a Federal Reserve Bank or Bank of England that can print the money to pay interest or roll over existing debts is what makes the United States and Britain different from Europe. Nobody expects these two nations to be forced to sell off their public lands and other assets to raise the money to pay (although they may do this as a policy choice). Given that the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve can create new money, it follows that as long as government debts are denominated in dollars, they can print enough IOUs on their computer keyboards so that the only risk that holders of Treasury bonds bear is the dollar’s exchange rate vis-à-vis other currencies.

By contrast, the Eurozone has a central bank, but Article 123 of the Lisbon treaty forbids the ECB from doing what central banks were created to do: create the money to finance government budget deficits or roll over their debt falling due. Future historians no doubt will find it remarkable that there actually is a rationale behind this policy – or at least the pretense of a cover story. It is so flimsy that any student of history can see how distorted it is. The claim is that if a central bank creates credit, this threatens price stability. Only government spending is deemed to be inflationary, not private credit!

The Clinton Administration balanced the U.S. Government budget in the late 1990s, yet the Bubble Economy was exploding. On the other hand, the Federal Reserve and Treasury flooded the economy with $13 trillion in credit to the banking system credit after September 2008, and $800 billion more last summer in the Federal Reserve’s Quantitative Easing program (QE2). Yet consumer and commodity prices are not rising. Not even real estate or stock market prices are being bid up. So the idea that more money will bid up prices (MV=PT) is not operating today.

Commercial banks create debt. That is their product. This debt leveraging was used for more than a decade to bid up prices – making housing and buying a retirement income more expensive for Americans – but today’s economy is suffering from debt deflation as personal income, business and tax revenue is diverted to pay debt service rather than to spend on goods or invest or hire labor.

Much more striking is the travesty of German history that is being repeated again and again, as if repetition somehow will stop people from remembering what actually happened in the 20th century. To hear ECB officials tell the story, it would be reckless for a central bank to lend to government, because of the danger of hyperinflation. Memories are conjured up of the Weimar inflation in Germany in the 1920s. But upon examination, this turns out to be what psychiatrists call an implanted memory – a condition in which a patient is convinced that they have suffered a trauma that seems real, but which did not exist in reality.

What happened back in 1921 was not a case of governments borrowing from central banks to finance domestic spending such as social programs, pensions or health care as today. Rather, Germany’s obligation to pay reparations led the Reichsbank to flood the foreign exchange markets with deutsche marks to obtain the currency to buy pounds sterling, French francs and other currency to pay the Allies – which used the money to pay their Inter-Ally arms debts to the United States. The nation’s hyperinflation stemmed from its obligation to pay reparations in foreign currency. No amount of domestic taxation could have raised the foreign exchange that was scheduled to be paid.

By the 1930s this was a well-understood phenomenon, explained by Keynes and others who analyzed the structural limits on the ability to pay foreign debt imposed without regard for the ability to pay out of current domestic-currency budgets. From Salomon Flink’s The Reichsbank and Economic Germany (1931) to studies of the Chilean and other Third World hyperinflations, economists have found a common causality at work, based on the balance of payments. First comes a fall in the exchange rate. This raises the price of imports, and hence the domestic price level. More money is then needed to transact purchases at the higher price level. The statistical sequence and line of causation leads from balance-of-payments deficits to currency depreciation raising import costs, and from these price increases to the money supply, not the other way around.

Today’s “free marketers” writing in the Chicago monetarist tradition (basically that of David Ricardo) leaves the foreign and domestic debt dimensions out of account. It is as if “money” and “credit” are assets to be bartered against goods. But a bank account or other form of credit means debt on the opposite side of the balance sheet. One party’s debt is another party’s saving – and most savings today are lent out at interest, absorbing money from the non-financial sectors of the economy. The discussion is stripped down to a simplistic relationship between the money supply and price level – and indeed, only consumer prices, not asset prices. In their eagerness to oppose government spending – and indeed to dismantle government and replace it with financial planners – neoliberal monetarists neglect the debt burden being imposed today from Latvia and Iceland to Ireland and Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal.

If the euro breaks up, it is because of the obligation of governments to pay bankers in money that must be borrowed rather than created through their own central bank. Unlike the United States and Britain which can create central bank credit on their own computer keyboards to keep their economy from shrinking or becoming insolvent, the German constitution and the Lisbon Treaty prevent the central bank from doing this.

The effect is to oblige governments to borrow from commercial banks at interest. This gives bankers the ability to create a crisis – threatening to drive economies out of the Eurozone if they do not submit to “conditionalities” being imposed in what quickly is becoming a new class war of finance against labor.

Disabling Europe’s central bank to deprive governments of the power to create money
One of the three defining characteristics of a nation-state is the power to create money. A second characteristic is the power to levy taxes. Both of these powers are being transferred out of the hands of democratically elected representatives to the financial sector, as a result of tying the hands of government.

The third characteristic of a nation-state is the power to declare war. What is happening today is the equivalent of warfare – but against the power of government! It is above all a financial mode of warfare – and the aims of this financial appropriation are the same as those of military conquest: first, the land and subsoil riches on which to charge rents as tribute; second, public infrastructure to extract rent as access fees; and third, any other enterprises or assets in the public domain.

In this new financialized warfare, governments are being directed to act as enforcement agents on behalf of the financial conquerors against their own domestic populations. This is not new, to be sure. We have seen the IMF and World Bank impose austerity on Latin American dictatorships, African military chiefdoms and other client oligarchies from the 1960s through the 1980s. Ireland and Greece, Spain and Portugal are now to be subjected to similar asset stripping as public policy making is shifted into the hands of supra-governmental financial agencies acting on behalf of bankers – and thereby for the top 1% of the population.

When debts cannot be paid or rolled over, foreclosure time arrives. For governments, this means privatization selloffs to pay creditors. In addition to being a property grab, privatization aims at replacing public sector labor with a non-union work force having fewer pension rights, health care or voice in working conditions. The old class war is thus back in business – with a financial twist. By shrinking the economy, debt deflation helps break the power of labor to resist.

It also gives creditors control of fiscal policy. In the absence of a pan-European Parliament empowered to set tax rules, fiscal policy passes to the ECB. Acting on behalf of banks, the ECB seems to favor reversing the 20th century’s drive for progressive taxation. And as U.S. financial lobbyists have made clear, the creditor demand is for governments to re-classify public social obligations as “user fees,” to be financed by wage withholding turned over to banks to manage (or mismanage, as the case may be). Shifting the tax burden off real estate and finance onto labor and the “real” economy thus threatens to become a fiscal grab coming on top of the privatization grab.

This is self-destructive short-termism. The irony is that the PIIGS budget deficits stem largely from un-taxing property, and a further tax shift will worsen rather than help stabilize government budgets. But bankers are looking only at what they can take in the short run. They know that whatever revenue the tax collector relinquishes from real estate and business is “free” for buyers to pledge to the banks as interest. So Greece and other oligarchic economies are told to “pay their way” by slashing government social spending (but not military spending for the purchase of German and French arms) and shifting taxes onto labor and industry, and onto consumers in the form of higher user fees for public services not yet privatized.

In Britain, Prime Minister Cameron claims that scaling back government even more along Thatcherite-Blairite lines will leave more labor and resources available for private business to hire. Fiscal cutbacks will indeed throw labor out of work, or at least oblige it to find lower-paid jobs with fewer rights. But cutting back public spending will shrink the business sector as well, worsening the fiscal and debt problems by pushing economies deeper into recession.

If governments cut back their spending to reduce the size of their budget deficits – or if they raise taxes on the economy at large, to run a surplus – then these surpluses will suck money out of the economy, leaving less to be spent on goods and services. The result can only be unemployment, further debt defaults and bankruptcies. We may look to Iceland and Latvia as canaries in this financial coalmine. Their recent experience shows that debt deflation leads to emigration, shortening life spans, lower birth rates, marriages and family formation – but provides great opportunities for vulture funds to suck wealth upward to the top of the financial pyramid.

Today’s economic crisis is a matter of policy choice, not necessity. As President Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel quipped: “A crisis is too good an opportunity to let go to waste.” In such cases the most logical explanation is that some special interest must be benefiting. Depressions increase unemployment, helping to break the power of unionized as well as non-union labor. The United States is seeing a state and local budget squeeze (as bankruptcies begin to be announced), with the first cutbacks coming in the sphere of pension defaults. High finance is being paid – by not paying the working population for savings and promises made as part of labor contracts and employee retirement plans.

Big fish are eating little fish.

This seems to be the financial sector’s idea of good economic planning. But it is worse than a zero-sum plan, in which one party’s gain is another’s loss. Economies as a whole will shrink – and change their shape, polarizing between creditors and debtors. Economic democracy will give way to financial oligarchy, reversing the trend of the past few centuries.

Is Europe really ready to take this step? Do its voters recognize that stripping the government of the public option of money creation will hand the privilege over to banks as a monopoly? How many observers have traced the almost inevitable result: shifting economic planning and credit allocation to the banks?

Even if governments provide a “public option,” creating their own money to finance their budget deficits and supplying the economy with productive credit to rebuild infrastructure, a serious problem remains: how to dispose of the existing debt overhead now acts as a deadweight on the economy. Bankers and the politicians they back are refusing to write down debts to reflect the ability to pay. Lawmakers have not prepared society with a legal procedure for debt write-downs – except for New York State’s Fraudulent Conveyance Law, calling for debts to be annulled if lenders made loans without first assuring themselves of the debtor’s ability to pay.

Bankers do not want to take responsibility for bad loans. This poses the financial problem of just what policy-makers should do when banks have been so irresponsible in allocating credit. But somebody has to take a loss. Should it be society at large, or the bankers?

It is not a problem that bankers are prepared to solve. They want to turn the problem over to governments – and define the problem as how governments can “make them whole.” What they call a “solution” to the bad-debt problem is for the government to give them good bonds for bad loans (“cash for trash”) – to be paid in full by taxpayers. Having engineered an enormous increase in wealth for themselves, bankers now want to take the money and run – leaving economies debt ridden. The revenue that debtors cannot pay will now be spread over the entire economy to pay – vastly increasing everyone’s cost of living and doing business.

Why should they be “made whole,” at the cost of shrinking the rest of the economy? The bankers’ answer is that debts are owed to labor’s pension funds, to consumers with bank deposits, and the whole system will come crashing down if governments miss a bond payment. When pressed, bankers admit that they have taken out risk insurance – collateralized debt obligations and other risk swaps. But the insurers are largely U.S. banks, and the American Government is pressuring Europe not to default and thereby hurt the U.S. banking system. So the debt tangle has become politicized internationally.

So for bankers, the line of least resistance is to foster an illusion that there is no need for them to accept defaults on the unpayably high debts they have encouraged. Creditors always insist that the debt overhead can be maintained – if governments simply will reduce other expenditures, while raising taxes on individuals and non-financial business.

The reason why this won’t work is that trying to collect today’s magnitude of debt will injure the underlying “real” economy, making it even less able to pay its debts. What started as a financial problem (bad debts) will now be turned into a fiscal problem (bad taxes). Taxes are a cost of doing business just as paying debt service is a cost. Both costs must be reflected in product prices. When taxpayers are saddled with taxes and debts, they have less revenue free to spend on consumption. So markets shrink, putting further pressure on the profitability of domestic enterprises. The combination makes any country following such policy a high-cost producer and hence less competitive in global markets.

This kind of financial planning – and its parallel fiscal tax shift – leads toward de-industrialization. Creating ECB or IMF inter-government fiat money leaves the debts in place, while preserving wealth and economic control in the hands of the financial sector. Banks can receive debt payments on overly mortgaged properties only if debtors are relieved of some real estate taxes. Debt-strapped industrial companies can pay their debts only by scaling back pension obligations, health care and wages to their employees – or tax payments to the government. In practice, “honoring debts” turns out to mean debt deflation and general economic shrinkage.

This is the financiers’ business plan. But to leave tax policy and centralized planning in the hands of bankers turns out to be the opposite of what the past few centuries of free market economics have been all about. The classical objective was to minimize the debt overhead, to tax land and natural resource rents, and to keep monopoly prices in line with actual costs of production (“value”). Bankers have lent increasingly against the same revenues that free market economists believed should be the natural tax base.

So something has to give. Will it be the past few centuries of liberal free-market economic philosophy, relinquishing planning the economic surplus to bankers? Or will society re-assert classical economic philosophy and Progressive Era principles, and re-assert social shaping of financial markets to promote long-term growth with minimum costs of living and doing business?

At least in the most badly indebted countries, European voters are waking up to an oligarchic coup in which taxation and government budgetary planning and control is passing into the hands of executives nominated by the international bankers’ cartel. This result is the opposite of what the past few centuries of free market economics has been all about.