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Will the Global South break free from dollarized debt?

Will the Global South break free from dollarized debt?

In his latest book, economist Michael Hudson pits socialism against finance capitalism and tears apart the ‘dream civilization’ imposed by the 1 percent.
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Michael Hudson’s new book on the world’s urgent global economic re-set is sure to ruffle some Atlanticist feathers.

Photo Credit: The Cradle

With The Destiny of Civilization: Finance Capitalism, Industrial Capitalism or Socialism, Michael Hudson, one of the world’s leading independent economists, has given us arguably the ultimate handbook on where we’re at, who’s in charge, and whether we can bypass them.

Let’s jump straight into the fray. Hudson begins with an analysis of the “take the money and run” ethos, complete with de-industrialization, as 90 percent of US corporate revenue is “used to share buybacks and dividend payouts to support company stock prices.”

That represents the apex of “Finance Capitalism’s” political strategy: to “capture the public sector and shift monetary and banking power” to Wall Street, the City of London and other western financial centers.

The whole Global South will easily recognize the imperial modus operandi: “The strategy of US military and financial imperialism is to install client oligarchies and dictatorships, and arm-twist allies to join the fight against designated adversaries by subsidizing not only the empire’s costs of war-making (“defense”) but even the imperial nation’s domestic spending programs.” This is the antithesis of the multipolar world advocated by Russia and China.

In short, our current Cold War 2.0 “is basically being waged by US-centered finance capitalism backing rentier oligarchies against nations seeking to build up more widespread self-reliance and domestic prosperity.”

Hudson presciently reminds us of Aristotle, who would say that it is in the interest of financiers to wield their power against society at large: “The financial class historically has been the major beneficiary of empires by acting as collection agents.”

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The American Empire Self-Destructs, But Nobody Thought That It Would Happen This Fast

The American Empire Self-Destructs, But Nobody Thought That It Would Happen This Fast

Photograph Source: Phil Dolby – CC BY 2.0

Empires often follow the course of a Greek tragedy, bringing about precisely the fate that they sought to avoid. That certainly is the case with the American Empire as it dismantles itself in not-so-slow motion.

The basic assumption of economic and diplomatic forecasting is that every country will act in its own self-interest. Such reasoning is of no help in today’s world. Observers across the political spectrum are using phrases like “shooting themselves in their own foot” to describe U.S. diplomatic confrontation with Russia and allies alike. But nobody thought that The American Empire would self-destruct this fast.

For more than a generation the most prominent U.S. diplomats have warned about what they thought would represent the ultimate external threat: an alliance of Russia and China dominating Eurasia. America’s economic sanctions and military confrontation have driven these two countries  together, and are driving other countries into their emerging Eurasian orbit.

American economic and financial power was expected to avert this fate. During the half-century since the United States went off gold in 1971, the world’s central banks have operated on the Dollar Standard, holding their international monetary reserves in the form of U.S. Treasury securities, U.S. bank deposits and U.S. stocks and bonds. The resulting Treasury-bill Standard has enabled America to finance its foreign military spending and investment takeover of other countries simply by creating dollar IOUs. U.S. balance-of-payments deficits end up in the central banks of payments-surplus countries as their reserves, while Global South debtors need dollars to pay their bondholders and conduct their foreign trade.

This monetary privilege – dollar seignorage – has enabled U.S. diplomacy to impose neoliberal policies on the rest of the world, without having to use much military force of its own except to grab Near Eastern oil.

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Economist Michael Hudson Explain Bankers Are Parasites and Not Part of the Real Economy

Economist Michael Hudson Explain Bankers Are Parasites and Not Part of the Real Economy

How the US Wages War to Prop up the Dollar

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How the US Wages War to Prop up the Dollar

At Counterpunch, Michael Hudson has penned an important article that outlines the important connections between US foreign policy, oil, and the US dollar.

In short, US foreign policy is geared very much toward controlling oil resources as part of a larger strategy to prop up the US dollar. Hudson writes:

The assassination was intended to escalate America’s presence in Iraq to keep control of the region’s oil reserves, and to back Saudi Arabia’s Wahabi troops (Isis, Al Quaeda in Iraq, Al Nusra and other divisions of what are actually America’s foreign legion) to support U.S. control of Near Eastern oil as a buttress of the U.S. dollar. That remains the key to understanding this policy, and why it is in the process of escalating, not dying down.

The actual context for the neocon’s action was the balance of payments, and the role of oil and energy as a long-term lever of American diplomacy.

Basically, the US’s propensity for driving up massive budget deficits has created a need for immense amounts of deficit spending. This can be handled through selling lots of government debt, or through monetizing the debt. But what if there isn’t enough global demand for US debt? That would mean the US would have to pay more interest on its debt. Or, the US could monetize the debt through the central bank. But that might cause the value of the dollar to crash. So, the US regime realized that it must find ways to prevent the glut of dollars and debt from actually destroying the value of the dollar. Fortunately for the regime, this can be partly managed, it turns out, through foreign policy. Hudson continues:

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Global Warming and U.S. National Security Diplomacy

Global Warming and U.S. National Security Diplomacy

Old power station, West Linn, Oregon. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Control of oil has long been a key aim of U.S. foreign policy. The Paris climate agreements and any other Green programs to reduce the pace of global warming are viewed as threatening the aim of dominating world energy markets by keeping economies dependent on oil under U.S. control. Also blocking U.S. willingness to help stem global warming is the oil industry’s economic and hence political power. Its product is not only energy but also global warming, along with plastic pollution.

This fatal combination of the national security state’s mentality and oil industry lobbying threatens to destroy the planet’s climate. The prospect of raising temperatures and sea levels along the coasts while inland regions suffer drought is viewed simply as collateral damage to the geopolitics of oil. The State Department is reported to have driven out individuals warning about global warming’s negative impact.[1]

The only attempts to restrict oil imports are the new Cold War trade sanctions to isolate Russia, Iran and Venezuela. The aim is to increase foreign dependence on U.S., British and French oil, giving American strategists the power to make other countries “freeze in the dark” if they follow a path diverging from U.S. diplomatic aims.

It was the drive to control the world’s oil trade – and to keep it dollarized – that led the United States to overthrow the Iranian government in 1953, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to invade Iraq in 2013, and most recently for Donald Trump to isolate Iran while backing Saudi Arabia and its Wahabi foreign legion in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Sixty years earlier, in 1953, the CIA and Britain joined to overthrow Iran’s elected President Mohammad Mosaddegh to prevent him from nationalizing the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. A similar strategy explains U.S. attempts at regime change in Venezuela and Russia.

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U.S. Economic Warfare and Likely Foreign Defenses

U.S. Economic Warfare and Likely Foreign Defenses

Photograph Source: Trending Topics 2019 – CC BY 2.0

Today’s world is at war on many fronts. The rules of international law and order put in place toward the end of World War II are being broken by U.S. foreign policy escalating its confrontation with countries that refrain from giving its companies control of their economic surpluses. Countries that do not give the United States control of their oil and financial sectors or privatize their key sectors are being isolated by the United States imposing trade sanctions and unilateral tariffs giving special advantages to U.S. producers in violation of free trade agreements with European, Asian and other countries.

This global fracture has an increasingly military cast. U.S. officials justify tariffs and import quotas illegal under WTO rules on “national security” grounds, claiming that the United States can do whatever it wants as the world’s “exceptional” nation. U.S. officials explain that this means that their nation is not obliged to adhere to international agreements or even to its own treaties and promises. This allegedly sovereign right to ignore on its international agreements was made explicit after Bill Clinton and his Secretary of State Madeline Albright broke the promise by President George Bush and Secretary of State James Baker that NATO would not expand eastward after 1991. (“You didn’t get it in writing,” was the U.S. response to the verbal agreements that were made.)

Likewise, the Trump administration repudiated the multilateral Iranian nuclear agreement signed by the Obama administration, and is escalating warfare with its proxy armies in the Near East. U.S. politicians are waging a New Cold War against Russia, China, Iran, and oil-exporting countries that the United States is seeking to isolate if cannot control their governments, central bank and foreign diplomacy.

* Keynote Paper delivered at the 14th Forum of the World Association for Political Economy, July 21, 2019.

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De-Dollarizing the American Financial Empire

De-Dollarizing the American Financial Empire

Guest: Michael Hudson

Economist Michael Hudson continues his discussion of Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire with a focus on US monetary imperialism; President Trump’s demand for lower interest rates undercuts America’s requirement for foreign investment to fund its domestic and balance of payments deficit, increases the carry trade and turns IMF and World Bank policies on the US; analysis of US economic domination of the world from its position as the world’s largest creditor post-WWI; analysis of US economic domination of the world from its position as the world’s largest debtor after the 1971 close of America’s gold window; emergence of the dollar-debt standard; how war has bankrupted the US; the difference between imperialism and super imperialism; US bribes foreign governments; China’s banking system; China and Russia stockpile gold as the world breaks out of dollar domination.

Trump’s Brilliant Strategy to Dismember U.S. Dollar Hegemony

Trump’s Brilliant Strategy to Dismember U.S. Dollar Hegemony

The end of America’s unchallenged global economic dominance has arrived sooner than expected, thanks to the very same Neocons who gave the world the Iraq, Syria and the dirty wars in Latin America. Just as the Vietnam War drove the United States off gold by 1971, its violent regime change warfare against Venezuela and Syria – and threatening other countries with sanctions if they do not join this crusade – is driving European and other nations to create their alternative financial institutions.

This break has been building for quite some time, and was bound to occur. But who would have thought that Donald Trump would become the catalytic agent? No left-wing party, no socialist, anarchist or foreign nationalist leader anywhere in the world could have achieved what he is doing to break up the American Empire.

The Deep State is reacting with shock at how this right-wing real estate grifter has been able to drive other countries to defend themselves by dismantling the U.S.-centered world order. To rub it in, he is using Bush and Reagan-era Neocon arsonists, John Bolton and now Elliott Abrams, to fan the flames in Venezuela. It is almost like a black political comedy. The world of international diplomacy is being turned inside-out. A world where there is no longer even a pretense that we might adhere to international norms, let alone laws or treaties.

The Neocons who Trump has appointed are accomplishing what seemed unthinkable not long ago: Driving China and Russia together – the great nightmare of Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski. They also are driving Germany and other European countries into the Eurasian orbit, the “Heartland” nightmare of Halford Mackinder a century ago.

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Breaking the Chains of Debt: Lessons from Babylonia for Today’s Student Crisis

Rescuing the Banks Instead of the Economy

Rescuing the Banks Instead of the Economy

Photo Source Mark Dixon | CC BY 2.0

You can’t bail out the banks, leave the debts in place, and rescue the economy. It’s a zero-sum game. Somebody has to lose. That’s what happened in 2009 when President Obama came in. He invited the bankers to the White House and he said, “I’m the only guy standing between you and the mob with pitchforks,” by which he meant the voters that he was bamboozling. He reassured the bankers. He said, “Look, my loyalty is to my campaign donors not to the voters. Don’t worry; my loyalty is with you.”

I’m Bonnie Faulkner. Today on Guns and Butter, Dr. Michael Hudson. Today’s show: Rescuing the Banks Instead of the Economy. Dr. Hudson is a financial economist and historian. He is president of the Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trend, a Wall Street financial analyst and Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. His 1972 book Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire is a critique of how the United States exploited foreign economies through the IMF and World Bank. His latest books are  Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage to Ensure the Global Economy and J is for Junk Economics.. Today we discuss how the bank bailouts, not the crash, are killing the economy. Also, the concept of debt deflation, the magic of compound interest, the growth of the financial extraction FIRE sector, quantitative easing, tariffs, economic sanctions and isolationism.

BONNIE FAULKNER: Dr. Michael Hudson, welcome.

MICHAEL HUDSON: It’s good to be back after a few years.

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Wasting the Lehman Crisis: What Was Not Saved Was the Economy

Wasting the Lehman Crisis: What Was Not Saved Was the Economy

Photo Source futureatlas.com | CC BY 2.0

Today’s financial malaise for pension funds, state and local budgets and underemployment is largely a result of the 2008 bailout, not the crash. What was saved was not only the banks – or more to the point, as Sheila Bair pointed out, their bondholders – but the financial overhead that continues to burden today’s economy.

Also saved was the idea that the economy needs to keep the financial sector solvent by an exponential growth of new debt – and, when that does not suffice, by government purchase of stocks and bonds to support the balance sheets of the wealthiest layer of society. The internal contradiction in this policy is that debt deflation has become so overbearing and dysfunctional that it prevents the economy from growing and carrying its debt burden.

Trying to save the financial overgrowth of debt service by borrowing one’s way out of debt, or by monetary Quantitative Easing re-inflating real estate, stock and bond prices, enables the creditor One Percent to gain, not the indebted 99 Percent in the economy at large. Therefore, from the economy’s vantage point, instead of asking how the banks are to be saved “next time,” the question should be, how should we best let them go under – along with their stockholders, bondholders and uninsured depositors whose hubris imagined that their loans (other peoples’ debts) could go on rising without impoverishing society and preventing creditors from collecting in any event – except from government by gaining control over it.

A basic principle should be the starting point of any macro analysis: The volume of interest-bearing debt tends to outstrip the economy’s ability to pay. This tendency is inherent in the “magic of compound interest.” The exponential growth of debt expands by its own purely mathematical momentum, independently of the economy’s ability to pay – and faster than the non-financial economy grows.

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The “Next” Financial Crisis

The “Next” Financial Crisis

Photo source Financial Crisis | CC BY 2.0

In this episode of The Hudson Report, we speak with Michael Hudson about the implications of the flattening yield curve, the possibility of another global financial crisis, and public banking as an alternative to the current system.

‘The Hudson Report’ is a Left Out weekly series with the legendary economist Michael Hudson. Every week, we look at an economic issue that is either being ignored—or hotly debated—in the press that week.

Paul Sliker: Michael Hudson welcome back to another episode of The Hudson Report.

Michael Hudson:It’s good to be here again.

Paul Sliker: So, Michael, over the past few months the IMF has been sending warning signals about the state of the global economy. There are a bunch of different macroeconomic developments that signal we could be entering into another crisis or recession in the near future. One of those elements is the yield curve, which shows the difference between short-term and long-term borrowing rates. Investors and financial pundits of all sorts are concerned about this, because since 1950 every time the yield curve has flattened, the economy has tanked shortly thereafter.

Can you explain what the yield curve signifies, and if all these signals I just mentioned are forecasting another economic crisis?

Michael Hudson: Normally, borrowers have to pay only a low rate of interest for a short-term loan. If you take a longer-term loan, you have to pay a higher rate. The longest term loans are for mortgages, which have the highest rate. Even for large corporations, the longer you borrow – that is, the later you repay – the pretense is that the risk is much higher. Therefore, you have to pay a higher rate on the pretense that the interest-rate premium is compensation for risk. Banks and the wealthy get to borrow at lower rates.

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For Economic Truth Turn To Michael Hudson

For Economic Truth Turn To Michael Hudson

Readers ask me how they can learn economics, what books to read, what university economics departments to trust. I receive so many requests that it is impossible to reply individually. Here is my answer.

There is only one way to learn economics, and that is to read Michael Hudson’s books. It is not an easy task. You will need a glossary of terms. In some of Hudson’s books, if memory serves, he provides a glossary, and his recent book “J Is for Junk Economics” defines the classical economic terms that he uses. You will also need patience, because Hudson sometimes forgets in his explanations that the rest of us don’t know what he knows.

The economics taught today is known as neoliberal. This economics differs fundamentally from classical economics that Hudson represents. For example, classical economics stresses taxing economic rent instead of labor and real investment, while neo-liberal economics does the opposite.

An economic rent is unearned income that accrues to an owner from an increase in value that he did nothing to produce. For example, a new road is built at public expense that opens land to development and raises its value, or a transportation system is constructed in a city that raises the value of nearby properties. These increases in values are economic rents. Classical economists would tax away the increase in values in order to pay for the road or transportation system.

Neoliberal economists redefined all income as earned. This enables the financial system to capitalize economic rents into mortgages that pay interest. The higher property values created by the road or transportation system boost the mortgage value of the properties. The financialization of the economy is the process of drawing income away from the purchases of goods and services into interest and fees to financial entities such as banks. Indebtedness and debt accumulate, drawing more income into their service until there is no purchasing power left to drive the economy.

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“Creating Wealth” Through Debt: the West’s Finance-Capitalist Road 

“Creating Wealth” Through Debt: the West’s Finance-Capitalist Road 

Photo source David Shankbone | CC BY 2.0

Volumes II and III of Marx’s Capital describe how debt grows exponentially, burdening the economy with carrying charges. This overhead is subjecting today’s Western finance-capitalist economies to austerity, shrinking living standards and capital investment while increasing their cost of living and doing business. That is the main reason why they are losing their export markets and becoming de-industrialized.

What policies are best suited for China to avoid this neo-rentier disease while raising living standards in a fair and efficient low-cost economy? The most pressing policy challenge is to keep down the cost of housing. Rising housing prices mean larger and larger debts extracting interest out of the economy. The strongest way to prevent this is to tax away the rise in land prices, collecting the rental value for the government instead of letting it be pledged to the banks as mortgage interest.

The same logic applies to public collection of natural resource and monopoly rents. Failure to tax them away will enable banks to create debt against these rents, building financial and other rentier charges into the pricing of basic needs.

U.S. and European business schools are part of the problem, not part of the solution. They teach the tactics of asset stripping and how to replace industrial engineering with financial engineering, as if financialization creates wealth faster than the debt burden. Having rapidly pulled ahead over the past three decades, China must remain free of rentier ideology that imagines wealth to be created by debt-leveraged inflation of real-estate and financial asset prices.

Western capitalism has not turned out the way that Marx expected. He was optimistic in forecasting that industrial capitalists would gain control of government to free economies from unnecessary costs of production in the form of rent and interest that increase the cost of living (and hence, the break-even wage level).

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Bronze Age Redux: On Debt, Clean Slates and What the Ancients Have to Teach U

Bronze Age Redux: On Debt, Clean Slates and What the Ancients Have to Teach U

Photo by Zak Greant | CC BY 2.0

One of the most compelling sequences in the Oscar-winning Inside Job, Charles Ferguson’s indictment of Wall Street’s role in the 2008 global financial meltdown, involved not the banker culprits but their supporting cast. These were the Ivy League accomplices. Ferguson mightily skewered these economists for the cover they gave the sub-prime Hamptons dwelling wise guys whose rescue turned out to be a pretext for one of the largest reverse-Robin Hood wealth transfers in history. Though for the foreseeable future they enjoy their tenured posts, control prestigious academic journals and continue to prey on the unformed minds of students, the speculative financial implosion has shaken confidence in the economics academy. And through those cracks (to borrow from Leonard Cohen) shards of light are getting in. Economists once on the academic fringes – in university outposts like the University of Missouri Kansas City and Bard’s Levy Institute – are being looked to not only for understanding how to prevent bankers from setting the economy on fire again, but on how to build a social system that works for the majority.

Among the most brilliant of these heterodox economists is Michael Hudson. Coming to New York City in the 60s to study under a renowned classical music conductor, Michael switched to economics when he became beguiled by an accidental acquaintance with what he saw as the aesthetical flows inter-connecting natural and financial cycles and public debt. His biography contains elements of an epic novel: growing up the son of a jailed Trotskyist labor leader in whose Chicago home he met Rosa Luxembourg’s and Karl Liebknecht’s colleagues; serving as a young balance of payments analyst for David Rockefeller whose Chase Manhattan Bank was calculating how much interest the bank could extract on loans to South American countries…

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