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>The Slope of Dysfunction

2009/06/30 1 comment

>by Dmitry Orlov

ClubOrlov (June 25 2009)

Perhaps you have heard of the Peak Oil theory? Most people have by now, even the people whose job used to involve denying the possibility that global crude oil production would peak any time soon. Now that everybody seems a bit more comfortable with the idea, perhaps it is time to reexamine it. Is the scenario Peak Oil theoreticians paint indeed realistic, or is it firmly grounded in wishful thinking?

Here is a typical, slightly outdated Peak Oil chart: https://billtotten.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/peakoil2.gif

I chose it because it looks pretty and conveys the typical Peak Oil message, which is that global crude oil (and natural gas condensate) production will rise to a lofty peak sometime soon, and then drift down gently, over several decades, until, by the year 2050 or some other distant date, less than half as much oil will be produced globally. Since this would still be a very impressive number, and since we have decades to adjust to living with half as much oil, this would not necessarily pose a major problem. Some combination of new energy from wind, solar, biomass and nuclear sources, coupled with efficiency improvements such as light rail and electric cars, better-insulated buildings and so on, would allow us to plug up the gap.

Peak Oil theorists base their calculations on data from the many oil-producing provinces that have already peaked, such as the United States, which peaked in 1970. The majority of oil-producing provinces and countries are past peak now, providing the theorists with a wealth of precise data. But they seem to have overlooked one little detail, which, I believe, is rather important. What do countries do when they reach their peak and can no longer supply themselves with sufficient quantities of oil from their depleting domestic sources? They turn to imports, of course. They can do so if their local peak comes before the global peak; they cannot do so if it comes after. This makes local peaks poor analogies for the global peak.

And what happens if a country cannot import oil to make up for the production deficit? It just so happens that we have a convenient example of just such a scenario unfolding: post-Soviet oil production after the collapse of the USSR. There, production declined 43% between 1987 and 1996. The decline was arrested and reversed by the introduction of foreign investment and technology (Source: Marek Kolodziej and Doug Reynolds, ASPO Workshop, Lisbon, Portugal, May 19 2005).

Note how just around the time of the collapse oil production goes into free-fall, which is only arrested in mid-1990s. Had the Former Soviet Union remained economically isolated, the free-fall would have continued. Kolodziej and Reynolds drew some interesting conclusions based on these data. Firstly, the crash in oil production preceded collapse in USSR’s Gross Domestic Product. The lag time between the two, and the severity of the collapse are clear enough to ascribe causality: to say that the oil crash caused the economic collapse. On the other hand, coal and natural gas production, which also crashed, did so after the GDP collapsed, again, with a significant enough lag time to say with confidence that it was economic collapse that caused coal and gas production to crash.

What actually happens to an economy and a society under such circumstances? With oil in short supply, industrial production plummets, the economy stalls, there is a financial crisis because of debts going bad, followed by a commercial crisis because of falling demand and lack of credit, followed by political collapse caused by dwindling government revenues, followed by social collapse as unemployment rises and crime becomes rampant. After a while of this, the idea of you and your friends going out to the oil field and pumping some more oil starts to seem rather odd, and so oil production heads to zero.

The global oil peak is different from all the little localized peaks in that the planet as a whole cannot import its way out of an oil shortage, resulting in a global economic collapse. The economic collapse will, in turn, cause global oil production to crash even faster, extinguishing the industrial economy.

It seems possible that certain countries which are currently oil exporters might be able to keep the oil flowing, provided they have nationalized their oil production and are sufficiently authoritarian and militarized to quell any unrest. But modern oil production is a technically complicated business (the easy-to-get-at oil is all gone) while the field service equipment and parts delivery system is fully globalized and exceedingly complex. Shocks to any part of the global economy are very likely to disrupt the whole before too long. Nevertheless, it seems likely that some countries will be able to keep their military supplied with fuel, until enough of their equipment wears out.

What, then, of our canonical Peak Oil scenario, which is that global crude oil (and natural gas condensate) production will rise to a lofty peak sometime soon, and then gently waft down, over several decades, until, by the year 2050 or some other distant date, less than half as much oil will be produced globally? Ever eager to present a hopeful vision, I will say here and now that I believe this scenario to be entirely plausible … but it requires alien intervention. As Russian oil production was saved by foreigners, so Earthling oil production must be be saved by aliens from outer space. Here’s an updated Peak Oil slide: https://billtotten.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/russia_production2.jpg

Although we have absolutely zero data on which to base this assumption, we must assume that oil production throughout the rest of the universe has not peaked yet. Further, we must assume that interstellar vessels will deliver this oil to Earth in a timely manner, making up for any planetary production shortfall before Earth’s economy collapses. Further, since Earth has few resources to trade for this oil, let us assume that the aliens will be happy to give us their oil in exchange for a truly excellent recipe for brioche a tete which (for reasons we should find intuitively obvious) no-one in the rest of the universe has been able to perfect.

Update: Click here for a special version for the Nihonjin care of Masayuki:
http://www.kanazawa-bidai.ac.jp/%7Emomo/orlov/The_slope_of_dysfunction_by_Orlov.htm

If you want to contact me directly, my address is my first name – dot – my last name, at gmail.com. No spam, please.

http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2009/06/slope-of-dysfunction.html

Bill Totten http://www.ashisuto.co.jp/english/index.html

Categories: Uncategorized

>Bilderberg Group orders destruction of US Dollar?

2009/06/30 2 comments

>by Sorcha Faal

whatdoesitmean.com (May 21 2009)

A new Kremlin report on the shadowy Bilderberg Group {1}, who this past week held their annual meeting {2} in Greece, states that the West’s financial, political and corporate elite emerged from their conclave after coming to an agreement that in order to continue their drive towards a New World Order {3} dominated by the Western Powers, the US Dollar has to be “totally” destroyed.

Even worse, a new US report on these secret Bilderberg meetings states: “Investigative journalist Daniel Estulin, whose information from inside Bilderberg has routinely proven accurate, states that the global elite’s plan to completely destroy the economy and ultimately lower global population by two thirds has stoked fears even within Bilderberg itself that the fallout from such chaos could ultimately result in the globalists losing their control over the world”. {4}

Prior to the Bilderberg Meeting, the Kremlin report continues, most of the West’s wealthiest elite convened at an unprecedented {5} secret meeting in New York called for and led by the staunch New World Orderist David Rockefeller to plot the demise of the US Dollar and which, strangely, was reported in the US mainstream propaganda media, but to which the dissident American website PrisonPlanet.Com questioned by stating:

“ABC News today devoted a prominently featured three page story to a ‘secret meeting’ of rich philanthropists which took place earlier this month in New York, and yet one of the biggest news corporations in America was completely silent during a far more important meeting of around 150 of the world’s powerbrokers at the Bilderberg conference last week”. {6}

To the ‘ultimate’ outcome of the plans of the West’s elite classes, connived under the auspicious of the Nazi backed {7} Bilderberg Group, Russian Intelligence Analysts predict that their fears of “losing control” due to the catastrophic chaos they are embroiling our World in are, indeed, valid, especially since the unleashing upon our Earth’s population the bioengineered {8} H1N1 Swine Flu variant that is continuing its unrelenting march of death and illness across our entire Earth, and when coupled with the total collapse of the Global economic system can only lead to Total War.

Russian President Medvedev has joined calls by China, Brazil {9}, and other Nations, to prepare for the collapse of the US Dollar and has put forth {10} the Russian Ruble as one of a number of International Reserve Currencies to replace the soon to collapse American currency, and as warned about by the Saint Petersburg Times News Service:

“Last week, despite the apparent appeal of the dollar in the midst of this global crisis, the US bond market – often a harbinger of future trends – suddenly panicked, and the prices of US Treasury bonds plummeted with ten-year yields jumping to over 3.3 percent. This could be ominous for the future of the dollar”. {11}

Even worse for these American people is how horrific their immediate economic future is going to be, and as best articulated by Gary Dorsch, the editor of Global Money Trends, who writes: “No one is asking who will purchase the $1-trillion of US Treasuries to be offered to the market by September. Once that colossal amount of paper is bought, who will purchase another $5-trillion of Treasury paper over the next four-years, as the US-government plunges deeper into insolvency. The Federal Reserve would be forced to print (monetize) vast quantities of US-dollars to pay the principal and interest on the national debt that is not covered by tax revenue.” {12}

Bloomberg News Service is further reporting today that the concerns of the US Federal Reserve Bank are also growing, and as we can read, “Policy makers, meeting April 28-29 in Washington, saw “significant downside risks” to the outlook for the economy, with the global financial system still ‘vulnerable to further shocks’, minutes of the session released yesterday said”. {13}

With the US now reporting another record being {14} set in the number of their citizens out of work and claiming unemployment benefits, the true number of American jobless has reached a staggering 15.8% {15} of their workforce with no relief in sight and many Russian analysts predicting a summer of violence due to massive discord among these beleaguered people as once their relief payments run out there exists no more money to pay them.

It is important to note that Great Britain is preceding the US into bankruptcy and is reported close to losing {16} its AAA Credit Rating as it suffers its worst economic crisis since World War Two, with the Financial Post issuing a further warning to the Americans, and as we can read:

“The US dollar’s day of reckoning may be inching closer as its status as a safe-haven currency fades with every uptick in stocks and commodities and its potential risks – debt and inflation – are brought under a harsher spotlight. Ashraf Laidi, chief market strategist at CMC Markets, said Wednesday a ‘serious case of dollar damage’ was underway. ‘We long warned about the day of reckoning for the dollar emerging at the next economic recovery’, Mr Laidi said in a note.” {17}

After the deliberate collapsing of the US Dollar, these reports continue, the Bilderberg ‘plan’ for the Global economy rests on what are called Special Drawing Rights {18} issued by the Western controlled International Monetary Fund, and which the Telegraph News Service succinctly warns:

“The International Monetary Fund is poised to embark on what analysts have described as “global quantitative easing” by printing billions of dollars worth of a global “super-currency” in an unprecedented new effort to address the economic crisis”. {19}

Russian economists warn that this IMF attempt to destroy the value of Eastern European, Asian and Middle Eastern economies is ‘doomed to failure’, and now being reported that oil rich Saudi Arabia has now joined Russia, China and Brazil by refusing {20} to lend to this travesty of a bank backed by the West and intent upon massive destruction to obtain their goals.

The American people continue to remain, for the most part, blissfully unaware of catastrophe looming before them and continue to believe the litany of Orwellian lies {21} being poured upon them by their propaganda media organs, never once raising any objection to trillions of dollars that have been stolen from them and which continues to flow the pockets of their political and corporate overlords intent upon destroying, forever, their once great Nation and which the US Federal Reserve Inspector General Elizabeth Coleman stated brazenly before the US Congress that she has “no idea” {22} where $9 Trillion of US taxpayer has gone, or who got it.

But, to the worst actions being done by these witless Americans is their continuing to pay into their bankrupt banks their hard-earned monies which within the next year will cease to have any value whatsoever instead of using what little time they have left to prepare for the many catastrophes to come. And, what makes this especially appalling is that these Americans are continuing to pay their debts so that they can remain good credit risks, while at the same time their banks are bankrupt, their government broke and their way of life changed forever.

One wonders if these people have truly lost the instinct to survive or, before all is said and done, they will explode with righteous anger over the destruction of their homes, families and Nation as a whole.

The historical framework of these events shows but two possibilities, the Nazi Germans who continued following their doomed leaders to the utter destruction of their homeland, or the Russian people who rose in mass to throw off the manacle’s of communism after decades of slavery … one can only hope these people choose wisely, and fast, before all is lost.
_____

Editor’s Note: Western governments and their intelligence services actively campaign against the information found in these reports so as not to alarm their citizens about the many catastrophic Earth changes and events to come, a stance that the Sisters of Sorcha Faal {23} strongly disagrees with in believing that it is every human being’s right to know the truth. Due to our mission’s conflicts with that of those governments, the responses of their ‘agents’ against us has been a longstanding misinformation/misdirection campaign designed to discredit and which is addressed in the report “Who Is Sorcha Faal?” {24}

Links:

1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bilderberg_Group

2 http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article6283373.ece

3 http://www.svpvril.com/nwo.html

4 http://www.prisonplanet.com/bilderberg-fears-losing-control-in-chaos-plagued-world.html

5 http://abcnews.go.com/Business/story?id=7628545&page=1

6 http://www.prisonplanet.com/abc-news-reports-on-secret-meeting-of-the-rich-yet-ignores-bilderberg-completely.html

7 http://www.bilderberg.org/

8 http://www.whatdoesitmean.com/index1229.htm

9 http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gVsZ2hQbsi54mvvwNIlrHTcPJc6Q

10 http://www.times.spb.ru/index.php?action_id=2&story_id=29048

11 http://www.times.spb.ru/index.php?action_id=2&story_id=29048

12 http://news.goldseek.com/GoldSeek/1242850285.php

13 http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=amIq7x9qsHUU&refer=home

14 http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=a56LXUHX28Ig&refer=home

15 http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2009/05/08

16 http://www.financialpost.com/news-sectors/story.html?id=1612964

17 http://www.imf.org/external/np/exr/facts/sdr.HTM

18 http://www.financialpost.com/news-sectors/story.html?id=1612964

19 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financetopics/recession/4986287/IMF-poised-to-print-billions-of-dollars-in-global-quantitative-easing.html

20 http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103769799

21 http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/09/opinion/09herbert.html?_r=2&ref=opinion

22 http://www.dailymarkets.com/videos/2009/05/14/federal-reserve-cannot-account-for-9-trillion/

23 http://www.whatdoesitmean.com/index738.htm

24 http://www.whatdoesitmean.com/whoissorcha.htm

(c) May 21, 2009 EU and US all rights reserved

http://www.whatdoesitmean.com/index1234.htm

Bill Totten http://www.ashisuto.co.jp/english/index.html

Categories: Uncategorized

>Daniel Estulin’s "True Story of the Bilderberg Group"

>and What They May Be Planning Now

by Stephen Lendman

sjlendman.blogspot.com (June 01 2009)

For over fourteen years, Daniel Estulin has investigated and researched the Bilderberg Group’s far-reaching influence on business and finance, global politics, war and peace, and control of the world’s resources and its money.

His book, The True Story of the Bilderberg Group, was published in 2005 and is now updated in a new 2009 edition. He states that in 1954, “the most powerful men in the world met for the first time” in Oosterbeek, Netherlands, “debated the future of the world”, and decided to meet annually in secret. They called themselves the Bilderberg Group with a membership representing a who’s who of world power elites, mostly from America, Canada, and Western Europe with familiar names like David Rockefeller, Henry Kissinger, Bill Clinton, Gordon Brown, Angela Merkel, Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke, Larry Summers, Tim Geithner, Lloyd Blankfein, George Soros, Donald Rumsfeld, Rupert Murdoch, other heads of state, influential senators, congressmen and parliamentarians, Pentagon and NATO brass, members of European royalty, selected media figures, and invited others – some quietly by some accounts like Barack Obama and many of his top officials.

Always well represented are top figures from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), IMF, World Bank, Trilateral Commission, EU, and powerful central bankers from the Federal Reserve, the ECB’s Jean-Claude Trichet, and Bank of England’s Mervyn King.

For over half a century, no agenda or discussion topics became public nor is any press coverage allowed. The few invited fourth estate attendees and their bosses are sworn to secrecy. Nonetheless, Estulin undertook “an investigative journey” that became his life’s work. He states:

“Slowly, one by one, I have penetrated the layers of secrecy surrounding the Bilderberg Group, but I could not have done this without help of ‘conscientious objectors’ from inside, as well as outside, the Group’s membership”. As a result, he keeps their names confidential.

Whatever its early mission, the Group is now “a shadow world government … threaten(ing) to take away our right to direct our own destinies (by creating) a disturbing reality” very much harming the public’s welfare. In short, Bilderbergers want to supplant individual nation-state sovereignty with an all-powerful global government, corporate controlled, and check-mated by militarized enforcement.

“Imagine a private club where presidents, prime ministers, international bankers and generals rub shoulders, where gracious royal chaperones ensure everyone gets along, and where the people running the wars, markets, and Europe (and America) say what they never dare say in public”.

Early in its history, Bilderbergers decided “to create an ‘Aristocracy of purpose’ between Europe and the United States (to reach consensus to rule the world on matters of) policy, economics, and (overall) strategy”. NATO was essential for their plans – to ensure “perpetual war (and) nuclear blackmail” to be used as necessary. Then proceed to loot the planet, achieve fabulous wealth and power, and crush all challengers to keep it.

Along with military dominance, controlling the world’s money is crucial for with it comes absolute control as the powerful 19th century Rothschild family understood. As the patriarch Amschel Rothschild once said: “Give me control of a nation’s money and I care not who makes its laws”.

Bilderbergers comprise the world’s most exclusive club. No one buys their way in. Only the Group’s Steering Committee decides whom to invite, and in all cases participants are adherents to One World Order governance run by top power elites.

According to Steering Committee rules:

“the invited guests must come alone; no wives, girlfriends, husbands or boyfriends. Personal assistants (meaning security, bodyguards, CIA or other secret service protectors) cannot attend the conference and must eat in a separate hall. (Also) The guests are explicitly forbidden from giving interviews to journalists” or divulge anything that goes on in meetings.

Host governments provide overall security to keep away outsiders. One-third of attendees are political figures. The others are from industry, finance, academia, labor and communications.

Meeting procedure is by Chatham House Rules letting attendees freely express their views in a relaxed atmosphere knowing nothing said will be quoted or revealed to the public. Meetings “are always frank, but do not always conclude with consensus”.

Membership consists of annual attendees (around eighty of the world’s most powerful) and others only invited occasionally because of their knowledge or involvement in relevant topics. Those most valued are asked back, and some first-timers are chosen for their possible later usefulness.

Arkansas governor Bill Clinton, for example, who attended in 1991. “There, David Rockefeller told (him) why the North American Free Trade Agreement … was a Bilderberg priority and that the group needed him to support it. The next year, Clinton was elected president”, and on January 01 1994 NAFTA took effect. Numerous other examples are similar, including who gets chosen for powerful government, military and other key positions.

Bilderberg Objectives

The Group’s grand design is for “a One World Government (World Company) with a single, global marketplace, policed by one world army, and financially regulated by one ‘World (Central) Bank’ using one global currency”. Their “wish list” includes:

– “one international identify (observing) one set of universal values”;

– centralized control of world populations by “mind control”; in other words, controlling world public opinion;

– a New World Order with no middle class, only “rulers and servants (serfs)”, and, of course, no democracy;

– “a zero-growth society” without prosperity or progress, only greater wealth and power for the rulers;

– manufactured crises and perpetual wars;

– absolute control of education to program the public mind and train those chosen for various roles;

– “centralized control of all foreign and domestic policies”; one size fits all globally;

– using the UN as a de facto world government imposing a UN tax on “world citizens”;

– expanding NAFTA and WTO globally;

– making NATO a world military;

– imposing a universal legal system; and

– a global “welfare state where obedient slaves will be rewarded and non-conformists targeted for extermination”.

Secret Bilderberg Partners

In the US, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is dominant. One of its 1921 founders, Edward Mandell House, was Woodrow Wilson’s chief advisor and rumored at the time to be the nation’s real power from 1913 to 1921. On his watch, the Federal Reserve Act passed in December 1913 giving money creation power to bankers, and the 16th Amendment was ratified in February creating the federal income tax to provide a revenue stream to pay for government debt service.

From its beginnings, CFR was committed to “a one-world government based on a centralized global financing system” … Today, CFR has thousands of influential members (including important ones in the corporate media) but keeps a low public profile, especially regarding its real agenda.

Historian Arthur Schlesinger, Junior called it a “front organization (for) the heart of the American Establishment”. It meets privately and only publishes what it wishes the public to know. Its members are only Americans.

The Trilateral Commission (discussed below) is a similar group that “brings together global power brokers”. Founded by David Rockefeller, he’s also a leading Bilderberger and CFR Chairman Emeritus, organizations he continues to finance and support.

Their past and current members reflect their power:

– nearly all presidential candidates of both parties;

– leading senators and congressmen;

– key members of the fourth estate and their bosses; and

– top officials of the FBI, CIA, NSA, defense establishment, and other leading government agencies, including state, commerce, the judiciary and treasury.

For its part, “CFR has served as a virtual employment agency for the federal government under both Democrats and Republicans”. Whoever occupies the White House, “CFR’s power and agenda” have been unchanged since its 1921 founding.

It advocates a global superstate with America and other nations sacrificing their sovereignty to a central power. CFR founder Paul Warburg was a member of Roosevelt’s “brain trust”. In 1950, his son, James, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “We shall have world government whether or not you like it – by conquest or consent”.

Later at the 1992 Bilderberg Group meeting, Henry Kissinger said:

“Today, Americans would be outraged if UN troops entered Los Angeles to restore order; tomorrow, they will be grateful. This is especially true if they were told there was an outside threat from beyond, whether real or promulgated, that threatened our very existence. It is then that all people of the world will plead with world leaders to deliver them from this evil … individual rights will be willingly relinquished for the guarantee of their well-being granted to them by their world government.”

CFR planned a New World Order before 1942, and the “UN began with a group of CFR members called the Informal Agenda Group”. They drafted the original UN proposal, presented it to Franklin Roosevelt who announced it publicly the next day. At its 1945 founding, CFR members comprised over forty of the US delegates.

According to Professor G William Domhoff, author of Who Rules America (3rd edition, 1998), the CFR operates in “small groups of about twenty-five, who bring together leaders from the six conspirator categories (industrialists, financiers, ideologues, military, professional specialists – lawyers, medical doctors, et cetera – and organized labor) for detailed discussions of specific topics in the area of foreign affairs”. Domhoff added:

“The Council on Foreign Relations, while not financed by government, works so closely with it that it is difficult to distinguish Council action stimulated by government from autonomous actions. (Its) most important sources of income are leading corporations and major foundations.” The Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Ford Foundations to name three, and they’re directed by key corporate officials.

Dominant Media Partners

Former CBS News president Richard Salant (1961 to 1964 and 1966 to 1979) explained the major media’s role: “Our job is to give people not what they want, but what we decide they ought to have”.

CBS and other media giants control everything we see, hear and read – through television, radio, newspapers, magazines, books, films, and large portions of the Internet. Their top officials and some journalists attend Bilderberg meetings – on condition they report nothing.

The Rockefeller family wields enormous power, even though its reigning patriarch, David, will be 94 on June 12 and surely near the end of his dominance. However, for years “the Rockefellers (led by David) gained great influence over the media. (With it) the family gained sway over public opinion. With the pulse of public opinion, they gained deep influence in politics. And with this politics of subtle corruption, they are taking control of the nation” and now aim for total world domination.

The Bilderberger-Rockefeller scheme is to make their views “so appealing (by camouflaging them) that they become public policy (and can) pressure world leaders into submitting to the ‘needs of the Masters of the Universe'”. The “free world press” is their instrument to disseminate “agreed-upon propaganda”.

CFR Cabinet Control

“The National Security Act of 1947 established the office of Secretary of Defense”. Since then, 14 DOD secretaries have been CFR members.

Since 1940, every Secretary of State, except James Byrnes, has been a CFR member and/or Trilateral Commission (TC) one.

For the past eighty years, “Virtually every key US National Security and Foreign Policy Advisor has been a CFR member.

Nearly all top generals and admirals have been CFR members.

Many presidential candidates were/are CFR members, including Herbert Hoover, Adlai Stevenson, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter (also a charter TC member), George H W Bush, Bill Clinton, John Kerry, and John McCain.

Numerous CIA directors were/are CFR members, including Richard Helmes, James Schlesinger, William Casey, William Webster, Robert Gates, James Woolsey, John Deutsch, George Tenet, Porter Goss, Michael Hayden, and Leon Panetta.

Many Treasury Secretaries were/are CFR members, including Douglas Dillon, George Schultz, William Simon, James Baker, Nicholas Brady, Lloyd Bentsen, Robert Rubin, Henry Paulson, and Tim Geithner.

When presidents nominate Supreme Court candidates, the CFR’s “Special Group, Secret Team” or advisors vet them for acceptability. Presidents, in fact, are told who to appoint, including designees to the High Court and most lower ones.

Programming the Public Mind

According to sociologist Hadley Cantril in his 1967 book, The Human Dimension – Experiences in Policy Research:

Government “Psycho-political operations are propaganda campaigns designed to create perpetual tension and to manipulate different groups of people to accept the particular climate of opinion the CFR seeks to achieve in the world”.

Canadian writer Ken Adachi (1929 – 1989) added:

“What most Americans believe to be ‘Public Opinion’ is in reality carefully crafted and scripted propaganda designed to elicit a desired behavioral response from the public”.

And noted Australian academic and activist Alex Carey (1922 – 1988) explained the three most important 20th century developments – “The growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy”.

Web of Control

Numerous think tanks, foundations, the major media, and other key organizations are staffed with CFR members. Most of its life-members also belong to the TC and Bilderberg Group, operate secretly, and wield enormous power over US and world affairs.

The Rockefeller-Founded Trilateral Commission (TC)

On page 405 of his Memoirs (2002), David Rockfeller wrote:

“Some even believe we are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States characterizing my family and me as ‘internationalists’ and conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure – one world, if you will. If that’s the charge, I stand guilty, and I am proud of it.”

In alliance with Bilderbergers, the TC also “plays a vital role in the New World Order’s scheme to use wealth, concentrated in the hands of the few, to exert world control”. TC members share common views and all relate to total unchallengeable global dominance.

Founded in 1973 and headquartered in Washington, its powerful US, EU and East Asian members seek its operative founding goal – a “New International Economic Order”, now simply a “New World Order” run by global elites from these three parts of the world with lesser members admitted from other countries.

According to TC’s web site, “each regional group has a chairman and deputy chairman, who all together constitute the leadership of the Committee. The Executive Committee draws together a further 36 individuals from the wider membership”, proportionately representing the US, EU, and East Asia in its early years, now enlarged to be broadly global.

Committee members meet several times annually to discuss and coordinate their work. The Executive Committee chooses members, and at any time around 350 belong for a three-year renewable period. Everyone is a consummate insider with expertise in business, finance, politics, the military, or the media, including past presidents, secretaries of state, international bankers, think tank and foundation executives, university presidents and selected academics, and former senators and congressmen, among others.

Although its annual reports are available for purchase, its inner workings, current goals, and operations are secret – with good reason. Its objectives harm the public so mustn’t be revealed. Trilaterals over Washington (1978) author Antony Sutton wrote:

“this group of private citizens is precisely organized in a manner that ensures its collective views have significant impact on public policy”.

In her book, Trilateralism: The Trilateral Commission and Elite Planning for World Management (1999), Holly Sklar wrote:

Powerful figures in America, Europe, and East Asia let “the rich … safeguard the interests of Western capitalism in an explosive world – probably by discouraging protectionism, nationalism, or any response that would pit the elites of one against the elites of another”, in their common quest for global dominance.

Trilateralist Zbigniew Brzezinski (TC’s co-founder) wrote in his Between Two Ages – America’s Role in the Technotronic Era (1976):

“people, governments and economies of all nations must serve the needs of multinational banks and corporations. (The Constitution is) inadequate … the old framework of international politics, with their sphere of influence … the fiction of sovereignty … is clearly no longer compatible with reality” …

TC today is now global with members from countries as diverse as Argentina, Ukraine, Israel, Jordan, Brazil, Turkey, China and Russia. In his Trilaterals Over America, Antony Sutton believes that TC’s aim is to collaborate with Bilderbergers and CFR in “establishing public policy objectives to be implemented by governments worldwide”. He added that “Trilateralists have rejected the US Constitution and the democratic political process”. In fact, TC was established to counter a “crisis in democracy” – too much of it that had to be contained.

An official TC report was fearful about “the increased popular participation in and control over established social, political, and economic institutions and especially a reaction against the concentration of power of Congress and of state and local government”.

To address this, media control was essential to exert “restraint on what newspapers may publish (and TV and radio broadcast)”. Then according to Richard Gardner in the July 1974 issue of Foreign Affairs (a CFR publication):

CFR’s leadership must make “an end run around national sovereignty, eroding it piece by piece”, until the very notion disappears from public discourse.

Bilderberg/CFR/Trilateralist success depends on finding “a way to get us to surrender our liberties in the name of some common threat or crisis. The foundations, educational institutions, and research think tanks supported by (these organizations) oblige by financing so-called ‘studies’ which are then used to justify their every excess. The excuses vary, but the target is always individual liberty. Our liberty” and much more.

Bilderbergers, Trilateralists and CFR members want “an all-encompassing monopoly” – over government, money, industry, and property that’s “self-perpetuating and eternal”. In Confessions of a Monopolist (1906), Frederick C Howe explained its workings in practice:

“The rules of big business: Get a monopoly; let Society work for you. So long as we see all international revolutionaries and all international capitalists as implacable enemies of one another, then we miss a crucial point … a partnership between international monopoly capitalism and international revolutionary socialism is for their mutual benefit.”

In the Rockefeller File (1976), Gary Allen wrote:

“By the late nineteenth century, the inner sanctums of Wall Street understood that the most efficient way to gain a monopoly was to say it was for the ‘public good’ and ‘public interest’ “.

David Rockefeller learned the same thing from his father, John D Junior who learned it from his father, John D Senior. They hated competition and relentlessly strove to eliminate it – for David on a global scale through a New World Order.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Trilateralists and CFR members collaborated on the latter’s “1980 Project”, the largest ever CFR initiative to steer world events “toward a particular desirable future outcome (involving) the utter disintegration of the economy”. Why so is the question?

Because by the 1950s and 1960s, worldwide industrial growth meant more competition. It was also a model to be followed, and “had to be strangled in the cradle” or at least greatly contained. In America as well beginning in the 1980s. The result has been a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich, shrinkage of the middle class, and plan for its eventual demise.

The North American Union (NAU)

The idea emerged during the Reagan administration in the early 1980s. David Rockefeller, George Schultz and Paul Volker told the president that Canada and America could be politically and economically merged over the next fifteen years except for one problem – French-speaking Quebec. Their solution – elect a Bilderberg-friendly prime minister, separate Quebec from the other provinces, then make Canada America’s 51st state. It almost worked, but not quite when a 1995 secession referendum was defeated – 50.56% to 49.44%, but not the idea of merger.

At a March 23 2005 Waco, Texas meeting, attended by George Bush, Mexico’s Vincente Fox, and Canada’s Paul Martin, the Security and and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) was launched, also known as the North American Union (NAU). It was a secretive Independent Task Force of North America agreement – a group organized by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations, and CFR with the following aims:

– circumventing the legislatures of three countries and their constitutions;

– suppressing public knowledge or consideration; and

– proposing greater US, Canadian and Mexican economic, political, social, and security integration with secretive working groups formed to devise non-debatable, not voted on agreements to be binding and unchangeable.

In short – a corporate coup d’etat against the sovereignty of three nations enforced by hard line militarization to suppress opposition.

If enacted, it will create a borderless North America, corporate controlled, without barriers to trade or capital flows for business giants, mainly US ones and much more – America’s access to vital resources, especially oil and Canada’s fresh water.

Secretly, over 300 SPP initiatives were crafted to harmonize the continent’s policies on energy, food, drugs, security, immigration, manufacturing, the environment, and public health along with militarizing three nations for enforcement.

SPP represents another step toward the Bilderberg/Trilateralist/CFR goal for World Government, taking it one step at a time. A “United Europe” was another, the result of various treaties and economic agreements:

– the December 1951 six-nation European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC);

– the March 1957 six-nation Treaty of Rome establishing the European Economic Community (EEC); also the European Atomic Energy Commission (EAEC) by a second Treaty of Rome;

– the October 1957 European Court of Justice to settle regional trade disputes;

– the May 1960 seven-nation European Free Trade Association (EFTA);

– the July 1967 European Economic Community (EEC) merging the ECSC, EAEC and EEC together in one organization;

– the 1968 European Customs Union to abolish duties and establish uniform imports taxing among EEC nations;

– the 1978 European Currency Unit (ECU);

– the February 1986 Single European Act revision of the 1957 Treaty of Rome; it established the objective of forming a Common Market by December 31 1992;

– the February 1992 Maastricht Treaty creating the EU on November 01 1993; and

– the name euro was adopted in December 1995; it was introduced in January 1999 replacing the European Currency Unit (ECU); euros began circulating on January 2002; they’re now the official currency of sixteen of the 27 EU states.

Over half a century, the above steps cost EU members their sovereignty “as some seventy to eighty per cent of the laws passed in Europe involve just rubber stamping of regulations already written by nameless bureaucrats in ‘working groups’ in Brussels or Luxembourg”.

The EU and NAU share common features:

– advocacy from a influential spokesperson;

– an economic and later political union;

– hard line security, and for Europe, ending wars on the continent between EU member states;

– establishment of a collective consciousness in place of nationalism;

– the blurring of borders and creation of a “supra-government”, a superstate;

– secretive arrangements to mask real objectives; and

– the creation of a common currency and eventual global one.

Steps Toward a North American Union

– the October 04 1988 Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the US and Canada, finalized the previous year;

– at the 1991 Bilderberg meeting, David Rockefeller got governor Bill Clinton’s support for NAFTA if he became president;

– on January 01 1994, with no debate under “fast-track” rules, Congress approved WTO legislation;

– in December 1994 at the first Summit of the Americas, 34 Hemispheric leaders committed their nations to a Free Trade of the Americas agreement (FTAA) by 2005 – so far unachieved;

– on July 04 2000, Mexican president Vincente Fox called for a North American common market in twenty years;

– on February 2001, the White House published a joint statement from George Bush and Vincente Fox called the “Guanajuato Proposal”; it was for a US-Canada-Mexico prosperity partnership (aka North American Union);

– in September 2001, Bush and Fox agreed to a “Partnership for Prosperity Initiative”;

– the September 11 2001 attack gave cover to including “security” as part of a future partnership;

– on October 07 2001, a CFA meeting highlighted “The Future of North American Integration in the Wake of Terrorist Attacks”; for the first time, “security” became part of a future “partnership for prosperity”; also, Canada was to be included in a “North American” agreement;

– in 2002, the North American Forum on Integration (NAFI) was established in Montreal “to address the issues raised by North American integration as well as identify new ideas and strategies to reinforce the North American region”;

– in January 2003, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE – composed of 150 top CEOs) launched the “North American Security and Prosperity Initiative” calling for continental integration;

– in April 2004, Canadian prime minister Paul Martin announced the nation’s first ever national security policy called Securing an Open Society;

– on October 15 2004, CFR established an Independent Task Force on the Future of North America – for a future continental union;

– in March 2005, a CFR report titled Creating a North American Community called for continental integration by 2010 “to enhance, prosperity, and opportunity for all North Americans”; and

– on March 23 2005 in Waco, Texas, America, Canada and Mexico leaders launched the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) – aka North American Union (NAU).

Secretive negotiations continue. Legislative debate is excluded, and public inclusion and debate are off the table. In May 2005, the CFR Independent Task Force on the Future of North America published a follow-up report titled Building a North American Community – proposing a borderless three-nation union by 2010.

In June and July 2005, the Dominican Republic – Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) passed the Senate and House establishing corporate-approved trade rules to further impoverish the region and move a step closer to continental integration.

In March 2006, the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC) was created at the second SPP summit in Cancun, Mexico. Composed of thirty top North American CEOs, it serves as an official trilateral SPP working group.

Secret business and government meetings continue so there’s no way to confirm SPP’s current status or if Barack Obama is seamlessly continuing George Bush’s agenda. In an earlier article, this writer said:

SPP efforts paused during the Bush to Obama transition, but “deep integration” plans remain. Canada’s Fraser Institute proposed renaming the initiative the North American Standards and Regulatory Area (NASRA) to disguise its real purpose. It said the “SPP brand” is tarnished so re-branding is essential – to fool the public until it’s too late to matter.

Bilderbergers, Trilaterists, and CFR leaders back it as another step toward global integration and won’t “stop until the entire world is unified under the auspices and the political umbrella of a One World Company, a nightmarish borderless world run by the world’s most powerful clique” – comprised of key elitist members of these dominant organizations.

In April 2007, the Transatlantic Economic Council was established between America and the EU to:

– create an “official international governmental body – by executive fiat;

– harmonize economic and regulatory objectives;

– move toward a Transatlantic Common Market; and

– a step closer to One World Government run by the world’s most powerful corporate interests.

Insights into the 2009 Bilderberg Group Meeting

From May 14 to 17, Bilderbergers held their annual meeting in Vouliagmeni, Greece, and according to Daniel Estulin have dire plans for global economies.

According to his pre-meeting sources, they’re divided on two alternatives:

“Either a prolonged, agonizing depression that dooms the world to decades of stagnation, decline and poverty (or) an intense but shorter depression that paves the way for a new sustainable world order, with less sovereignty but more efficiency”.

Other agenda items included:

– “the future of the US dollar and US economy”;

– continued deception about green shoots signaling an end to recession and improving economy later in the year;

– suppressing the fact that bank stress tests were a sham and were designed for deception, not an accurate assessment of major banks’ health;

– projecting headlined US unemployment to hit fourteen per cent by year end – way above current forecasts and meaning the true number will be double, at minimum, with all uncounted categories included; and

– a final push to get the Lisbon Treaty passed for pan-European (EU) adoption of neoliberal rules, including greater privatizations, fewer worker rights and social benefits, open border trade favoring developed over emerging states, and greater militarization to suppress civil liberties and human rights.

After the meeting, Estulin got a 73-page report on what was discussed. He noted that “One of Bilderberg’s primary concerns … is the danger that their zeal to reshape the world by engineering chaos (toward) their long term agenda could cause the situation to spiral out of control and eventually lead to a scenario where Bilderberg and the global elite in general are overwhelmed by events and end up losing their control over the planet”.

Estulin also noted some considerable disagreement between “hardliners” wanting a “dramatic decline and a severe, short-term depression (versus others) who think that things have gone too far” so that “the fallout from the global economic cataclysm” can’t be known, may be greater than anticipated, and may harm Bilderberger interests. Also, “some European bankers (expressed great alarm over their own fate and called the current) high wire act ‘unsustainable’ “.

There was a combination of agreement and fear that the situation remains dire and the worst of the crisis lies ahead, mainly because of America’s extreme debt level that must be resolved to produce a healthy, sustainable recovery.

Topics also included:

– establishing a Global Treasury Department and Global Central Bank, possibly partnered with or as part of the IMF;

– a global currency;

destruction of the dollar through what longtime market analyst Bob Chapman calls “a stealth default on (US) debt by continuing to issue massive amounts of money and credit and in the process devaluing the dollar”, a process he calls “fraud”;

– a global legal system;

– exploiting the Swine Flu scare to create a WHO global department of health; and

– the overall goal of a global government and the end of national sovereignty.

In the past, Estulin’s sources proved accurate. Earlier, he predicted the housing crash and 2007 to 2008 financial market decline, preceded by the kind of financial crisis triggered by the Lehman Brothers collapse. Watch for further updates from him as new information leaks out on what the world’s power elites have planned going forward.

Estulin will be the featured guest on The Global Research News Hour Tuesday, June 2. He can be heard live or afterwards through the program archive.

_____

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre of Research for Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday – Friday at 10 am US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=13720

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2009/06/daniel-estulins-true-story-of.html

Bill Totten http://www.ashisuto.co.jp/english/index.html

Categories: Uncategorized

>The Bilderberg Plan for 2009

2009/06/27 1 comment

>Remaking the Global Political Economy

by Andrew G Marshall

Global Research (May 26 2009)

From May 14 to 17, the global elite met in secret in Greece for the yearly Bilderberg conference, amid scattered and limited global media attention. Roughly 130 of the world’s most powerful individuals came together to discuss the pressing issues of today, and to chart a course for the next year. The main topic of discussion at this years meeting was the global financial crisis, which is no surprise, considering the list of conference attendees includes many of the primary architects of the crisis, as well as those poised to “solve” it.

The Agenda: The Restructuring of the Global Political Economy

Before the meeting began, Bilderberg investigative journalist Daniel Estulin reported on the main item of the agenda, which was leaked to him by his sources inside. Though such reports cannot be verified, his sources, along with those of veteran Bilderberg tracker, Jim Tucker, have proven to be shockingly accurate in the past. Apparently, the main topic of discussion at this year’s meeting was to address the economic crisis, in terms of undertaking, “Either a prolonged, agonizing depression that dooms the world to decades of stagnation, decline and poverty … or an intense-but-shorter depression that paves the way for a new sustainable economic world order, with less sovereignty but more efficiency”. Other items on the agenda included a plan to “continue to deceive millions of savers and investors who believe the hype about the supposed up-turn in the economy. They are about to be set up for massive losses and searing financial pain in the months ahead”, and “There will be a final push for the enactment of Lisbon Treaty, pending on Irish voting YES on the treaty in September or October” {1}, which would give the European Union massive powers over its member nations, essentially making it a supranational regional government, with each country relegated to more of a provincial status.

Shortly after the meetings began, Bilderberg tracker Jim Tucker reported that his inside sources revealed that the group has on its agenda, “the plan for a global department of health, a global treasury and a shortened depression rather than a longer economic downturn”. Tucker reported that Swedish Foreign Minister and former Prime Minister, Carl Bildt, “Made a speech advocating turning the World Health Organization into a world department of health, advocating turning the IMF into a world department of treasury, both of course under the auspices of the United Nations”. Further, Tucker reported that, “Treasury Secretary Geithner and Carl Bildt touted a shorter recession not a ten-year recession … partly because a ten year recession would damage Bilderberg industrialists themselves, as much as they want to have a global department of labor and a global department of treasury, they still like making money and such a long recession would cost them big bucks industrially because nobody is buying their toys … the tilt is towards keeping it short”. {2}

After the meetings finished, Daniel Estulin reported that, “One of Bilderberg’s primary concerns according to Estulin is the danger that their zeal to reshape the world by engineering chaos in order to implement their long term agenda could cause the situation to spiral out of control and eventually lead to a scenario where Bilderberg and the global elite in general are overwhelmed by events and end up losing their control over the planet”. {3}

On May 21, the Macedonian International News Agency reported that, “A new Kremlin report on the shadowy Bilderberg Group, who this past week held their annual meeting in Greece, states that the West’s financial, political and corporate elite emerged from their conclave after coming to an agreement that in order to continue their drive towards a New World Order dominated by the Western Powers, the US Dollar has to be ‘totally’ destroyed”. Further, the same Kremlin report apparently stated that, “most of the West’s wealthiest elite convened at an unprecedented secret meeting in New York called for and led by” David Rockefeller, “to plot the demise of the US Dollar”. {4}

The Secret Meeting of Billionaires

The meeting being referred to was a secret meeting where, “A dozen of the richest people in the world met for an unprecedented private gathering at the invitation of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to talk about giving away money”, held at Rockefeller University, and included notable philanthropists such as Gates, Buffett, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, George Soros, Eli Broad, Oprah Winfrey, David Rockefeller Senior and Ted Turner. One attendee stated that, “It wasn’t secret”, but that, “It was meant to be a gathering among friends and colleagues. It was something folks have been discussing for a long time. Bill and Warren hoped to do this occasionally. They sent out an invite and people came.” Chronicle of Philanthropy editor Stacy Palmer said, “Given how serious these economic times are, I don’t think it’s surprising these philanthropists came together”, and that, “They don’t typically get together and ask each other for advice”. The three hosts of the meeting were Buffet, Gates and David Rockefeller. {5} [See: Appendix 2: Bilderberg Connections to the Billionaire’s Meeting.]

At the meeting, “participants steadfastly refused to reveal the content of the discussion. Some cited an agreement to keep the meeting confidential. Spokesmen for Mr Buffett, Mr Bloomberg, Mr Gates, Mr Rockefeller, Mr Soros and Ms Winfrey and others dutifully declined comment, though some confirmed attendance”. {6} Reports indicate that, “They discussed how to address the global slump and expand their charitable activities in the downturn”. {7}

The UK newspaper The Times reported that these “leading billionaires have met secretly to consider how their wealth could be used to slow the growth of the world’s population”, and that they “discussed joining forces to overcome political and religious obstacles to change”. Interestingly, “The informal afternoon session was so discreet that some of the billionaires’ aides were told they were at ‘security briefings'”. Further, “The billionaires were each given fifteen minutes to present their favourite cause. Over dinner they discussed how they might settle on an ‘umbrella cause’ that could harness their interests”, and what was decided upon was that, “they agreed that overpopulation was a priority”. Ultimately, “a consensus emerged that they would back a strategy in which population growth would be tackled as a potentially disastrous environmental, social and industrial threat”, and that, “They need to be independent of government agencies, which are unable to head off the disaster we all see looming”. One guest at the meeting said that, “They wanted to speak rich to rich without worrying anything they said would end up in the newspapers, painting them as an alternative world government”. {8}

The Leaked Report

Bilderberg investigative reporter Daniel Estulin reportedly received from his inside sources a 73-page Bilderberg Group meeting wrap-up for participants, which revealed that there were some serious disagreements among the participants. “The hardliners are for dramatic decline and a severe, short-term depression, but there are those who think that things have gone too far and that the fallout from the global economic cataclysm cannot be accurately calculated if Henry Kissinger’s model is chosen. Among them is Richard Holbrooke. What is unknown at this point: if Holbrooke’s point of view is, in fact, Obama’s.” The consensus view was that the recession would get worse, and that recovery would be “relatively slow and protracted”, and to look for these terms in the press over the next weeks and months.

Estulin reported, “that some leading European bankers faced with the specter of their own financial mortality are extremely concerned, calling this high wire act ‘unsustainable’, and saying that US budget and trade deficits could result in the demise of the dollar”. One Bilderberger said that, “the banks themselves don’t know the answer to when (the bottom will be hit)”. Everyone appeared to agree, “that the level of capital needed for the American banks may be considerably higher than the US government suggested through their recent stress tests”. Further, “someone from the IMF pointed out that its own study on historical recessions suggests that the US is only a third of the way through this current one; therefore economies expecting to recover with resurgence in demand from the US will have a long wait”. One attendee stated that, “Equity losses in 2008 were worse than those of 1929”, and that, “The next phase of the economic decline will also be worse than the 1930s, mostly because the US economy carries about $20 trillion of excess debt. Until that debt is eliminated, the idea of a healthy boom is a mirage.” {9}

According to Jim Tucker, Bilderberg is working on setting up a summit in Israel from June 8 to 11, where “the world’s leading regulatory experts” can “address the current economic situation in one forum”. In regards to the proposals put forward by Carl Bildt to create a world treasury department and world department of health under the United Nations, the IMF is said to become the World Treasury, while the World Health Organization is to become the world department of health. Bildt also reaffirmed using “climate change” as a key challenge to pursue Bilderberg goals, referring to the economic crisis as a “once-in-a-generation crisis while global warming is a once-in-a-millennium challenge”. Bildt also advocated expanding NAFTA through the Western hemisphere to create an American Union, using the EU as a “model of integration”.

The IMF reportedly sent a report to Bilderberg advocating its rise to becoming the World Treasury Department, and “US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner enthusiastically endorsed the plan for a World Treasury Department, although he received no assurance that he would become its leader”. Geithner further said, “Our hope is that we can work with Europe on a global framework, a global infrastructure which has appropriate global oversight”. {10}

Bilderberg’s Plan in Action?

Reorganizing the Federal Reserve

Following the Bilderberg meeting, there were several interesting announcements made by key participants, specifically in regards to reorganizing the Federal Reserve. On May 21, it was reported that US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner “is believed to be leaning heavily towards giving the Federal Reserve a central role in future regulation”, and “it is understood that the Fed would take on some of the work currently undertaken by the US Securities and Exchange Commission”. {11}

On Wednesday, May 20, Geithner spoke before the Senate Banking Committee, at which he stated that, “there are important indications that our financial system is starting to heal”. In regards to regulating the financial system, Geithner stated that, “we must ensure that international rules for financial regulation are consistent with the high standards we will be implementing in the United States”. {12}

Bloomberg reported that, “The Obama administration may call for stripping the Securities and Exchange Commission of some of its powers under a regulatory reorganization”, and that, “The proposal, still being drafted, is likely to give the Federal Reserve more authority to supervise financial firms deemed too big to fail. The Fed may inherit some SEC functions, with others going to other agencies”. Interestingly, “SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro’s agency has been mostly absent from negotiations within the administration on the regulatory overhaul, and she has expressed frustration about not being consulted”.

It was reported that “Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was set to discuss proposals to change financial regulations last night at a dinner with National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers [who was also present at Bilderberg], former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker [also at Bilderberg], ex-SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt and Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard University law professor who heads the congressional watchdog group for the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program”. {13} The Federal Reserve is a privately owned central bank, owned by its shareholders, consisting of the major banks the make up each regional Fed bank (the largest of which is JP Morgan Chase and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York). This plan would essentially give a privately owned bank, which has governmental authority, the ability to regulate the banks that own it. It’s the equivalent of getting a Colonel to guard a General to whom he is directly answerable. Talk about the fox guarding the hen house. It is literally granting ownership over the financial regulator to the banks being regulated.

As Market Watch, an online publication of the Wall Street Journal, reported, “The Federal Reserve, created nearly 100 years ago in the aftermath of a financial panic, could be transformed into a different agency as the Obama administration reinvents the way government interacts with the financial system”. Referring to Geithner’s Senate appearance, it was reported that, “Geithner was also grilled on the cozy relationships that exist between the big banks and the regional Federal Reserve banks. Before Geithner joined the administration, he was president of the New York Fed, which is a strange public-private hybrid institution that is actually owned and run by the banks”. In response, “Geithner insisted that the private banks have no say over the policies of the New York Fed, but he acknowledged that the banks do have a say in hiring the president, who does make policy. The chairman of the New York Fed, Stephen Friedman, was forced to resign earlier this month because of perceived conflicts of interest due to his large holdings in Goldman Sachs.” {14}

The IMF as a Global Treasury

The Bilderberg agenda of creating a global treasury has already been started prior to the Bilderberg meeting, with decisions made during the G20 financial summit in April. Although the G20 seemed to frame it more in context of being formed into a global central bank, although it is likely the IMF could fill both roles.

Following the G20 meeting at the beginning of April, 2009, it was reported that, “The world is a step closer to a global currency, backed by a global central bank, running monetary policy for all humanity”, as the Communique released by the G20 leaders stated that, “We have agreed to support a general SDR allocation which will inject $250bn (GBP 170 billion) into the world economy and increase global liquidity”, and that, “SDRs are Special Drawing Rights, a synthetic paper currency issued by the International Monetary Fund that has lain dormant for half a century”. Essentially, “they are putting a de facto world currency into play. It is outside the control of any sovereign body.” {15} [See Appendix 2: Creating a Central Bank of the World]

Following the Bilderberg meeting, “President Obama has asked Congress to authorize $100 billion in loans to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help create a $500 billion global bailout fund”, which would give the IMF the essential prerogative of a global treasury, providing bailouts for countries in need around the world. Further, “the bill would allow the IMF to borrow up to $100 billion from the US and increase the US fiscal contribution to the IMF by $8 billion”. Elaborating on the program, it was reported that, “World leaders began on the global bailout initiative, called the New Arrangement for Borrowing (NAB), at the G-20 summit in early April. The president agreed at that time to make the additional funds available.” Obama wrote that, “Treasury Secretary Geithner concluded that the size of the NAB is woefully inadequate to deal with the type of severe economic and financial crisis we are experiencing, and I agree with him”. {16}

With the G20 decision to increase the usage of IMF Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), forming a de facto world currency, it was recently reported that, “Sub-Saharan Africa will receive around $10 billion from the IMF in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) to help its economies weather the global financial crisis”, and that, “As part of a $1.1 trillion deal to combat the world economic downturn agreed at April’s G20 summit, the IMF will issue $250 billion worth of SDRs, which can be used to boost foreign currency reserves”. {17}

Recent reports have also indicated that the IMF’s role in issuing SDRs goes hand in hand with the Bilderberg discussion on the potential collapse of the US dollar, and, “Transforming the dollar standard into an SDR-based system would be a major break with a policy that has lasted more than sixty years”. It was reported that, “There are two ways in which the dollar’s role in the international monetary system can be reduced. One possibility is a gradual, market-determined erosion of the dollar as a reserve currency in favor of the euro. But, while the euro’s international role – especially its use in financial markets – has increased since its inception, it is hard to envisage it overtaking the dollar as the dominant reserve currency in the foreseeable future.” However, “With the dollar’s hegemony unlikely to be seriously undermined by market forces, at least in the short and medium-term, the only way to bring about a major reduction in its role as a reserve currency is by international agreement”. This is where the SDRs come into play, as “One way to make the SDR the major reserve currency relatively soon would be to create and allocate a massive amount of new SDRs to the IMF’s members”. {18} This is, interestingly, exactly what is happening with Africa and the IMF now.

Former IMF Managing Director Jacques de Larosiere recently stated that the current financial crisis, “given its scope, presents a unique opening to improve institutions, and there is already a danger that the chance might be missed if the different actors cannot agree to changes by the time economic growth resumes”. He is now an adviser with BNP Paribas, a corporation highly represented at Bilderberg meetings, and he was head of the Treasury of France when Valery Giscard d’Estaing was President of France, who is a regular of the Bilderberg Group. {19}

The Guardian Covers Bilderberg

The British paper, the Guardian, was the only major mainstream news publication to provide ongoing coverage of the Bilderberg meeting over the weekend. His first columns were satirical and slightly mocking, referring to it as, “A long weekend at a luxury hotel, where the world’s elite get to shake hands, clink glasses, fine-tune their global agenda and squabble over who gets the best sun loungers. I’m guessing that Henry Kissinger brings his own, has it helicoptered in and guarded 24/7 by a CIA special ops team”. {20} However, as the weekend dragged on, his reporting took a change of tone. He reported on the Saturday that, “I know that I’m being followed. I know because I’ve just been chatting to the plainclothes policemen I caught following me”, and he was arrested twice in the first day of the meetings for attempting to take photographs as the limousines entered the hotel. {21}

He later reported that he wasn’t sure what they were discussing inside the hotel, but that he has “a sense of something rotten in the state of Greece”, and he further stated, “Three days and I’ve been turned into a suspect, a troublemaker, unwanted, ill at ease, tired and a bit afraid”. He then went on to write that, “Bilderberg is all about control. It’s about “what shall we do next?” We run lots of stuff already, how about we run some more? How about we make it easier to run stuff? More efficient. Efficiency is good. It would be so much easier with a single bank, a single currency, a single market, a single government. How about a single army? That would be pretty cool. We wouldn’t have any wars then. This prawn cocktail is GOOD. How about a single way of thinking? How about a controlled internet?”, and then, “How about not”.

He makes a very astute point, countering the often postulated argument that Bilderberg is simply a forum where people can speak freely, writing: “I am so unbelievably backteeth sick of power being flexed by the few. I’ve had it flexed in my face for three days, and it’s up my nose like a wasp. I don’t care whether the Bilderberg Group is planning to save the world or shove it in a blender and drink the juice, I don’t think politics should be done like this”, and the author, Charlie Skelton, eloquently stated, “If they were trying to cure cancer they could do it with the lights on”. He further explained that, “Bilderberg is about positions of control. I get within half a mile of it, and suddenly I’m one of the controlled. I’m followed, watched, logged, detained, detained again. I’d been put in that position by the ‘power’ that was up the road”. {22}

On Sunday, May 17, Skelton reported that when he asked the police chief why he was being followed, the chief responded asking, “Why you here?” to which Skelton said he was there to cover the Bilderberg conference, after which the chief stated, “Well, that is the reason! That is why! We are finished!” {23} Do reporters get followed around and stalked by police officers when they cover the World Economic Forum? No. So why does it happen with Bilderberg if all it is, is a conference to discuss ideas freely?

On the Monday following the conference, Skelton wrote that, “It isn’t just me who’s been hauled into police custody for daring to hang around half a mile from the hotel gates. The few journalists who’ve made the trip to Vouliagmeni this year have all been harassed and harried and felt the business end of a Greek walkie-talkie. Many have been arrested. Bernie, from the American Free Press, and Gerhard the documentarian (sounds like a Dungeons and Dragons character) chartered a boat from a nearby marina to try to get photos from the sea. They were stopped three miles from the resort. By the Greek navy.” As Skelton said himself, “My dispatches on the 2009 conference, if they mean anything at all, represent nothing more acutely than the absence of thorough mainstream reporting”. {24}

Skelton’s final report on Bilderberg from May 19, showed how far he had gone in his several days of reporting on the meeting. From writing jokingly about the meeting, to discovering that he was followed by the Greek State Security force. Skelton mused, “So who is the paranoid one? Me, hiding in stairwells, watching the pavement behind me in shop windows, staying in the open for safety? Or Bilderberg, with its two F-16s, circling helicopters, machine guns, navy commandos and policy of repeatedly detaining and harassing a handful of journalists? Who’s the nutter? Me or Baron Mandelson? Me or Paul Volker, the head of Obama’s economic advisory board? Me or the president of Coca-Cola?”

Skelton stated that, “Publicity is pure salt to the giant slug of Bilderberg. So I suggest next year we turn up with a few more tubs. If the mainstream press refuses to give proper coverage to this massive annual event, then interested citizens will have to: a people’s media.”

Amazingly, Skelton made the pronouncement that what he learned after the Bilderberg conference, was that, “we must fight, fight, fight, now – right now, this second, with every cubic inch of our souls – to stop identity cards”, as, “It’s all about the power to ask, the obligation to show, the justification of one’s existence, the power of the asker over the subservience of the asked”. He stated that he “learned this from the random searches, detentions, angry security goon proddings and thumped police desks without number that I’ve had to suffer on account of Bilderberg: I have spent the week living in a nightmare possible future and many different terrible pasts. I have had the very tiniest glimpse into a world of spot checks and unchecked security powers. And it has left me shaken. It has left me, literally, bruised.” Pointedly, he explains that, “The identity card turns you from a free citizen into a suspect”. {25}

Who was there?

Royalty

Among the members of the Bilderberg Group are various European monarchs. At this years meeting, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands was present, who happens to be the largest single shareholder in Royal Dutch Shell, one of the world’s largest corporations. She was joined by one of her three sons, Prince Constantijn, who also attended the meeting. Prince Constantijn has worked with the Dutch European Commissioner for the EU, as well as having been a strategic policy consultant with Booz Allen & Hamilton in London, a major strategy and technology consulting firm with expertise in Economic and Business Analysis, Intelligence and Operations Analysis and Information Technology, among many others. Prince Constantijn has also been a policy researcher for RAND Corporation in Europe. RAND was initially founded as a global policy think tank that was formed to offer research and analysis to the US Armed Forces, however, it now works with governments, foundations, international organizations and commercial organizations. {26} Also present among European Royalty was Prince Philippe of Belgium, and Queen Sofia of Spain.

Private Bankers

As usual, the list of attendees was also replete with names representing the largest banks in the world. Among them, David Rockefeller, former CEO and Chairman of Chase Manhattan, now JP Morgan Chase, of which he was, until recently, Chairman of the International Advisory Board; and still sits as Honourary Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, Chairman of the Board of the Americas Society and Council of the Americas, Honourary Chairman of the Trilateral Commission, which he founded alongside Zbigniew Brzezinski; also a founding member of the Bilderberg Group, prominent philanthropist and is the current patriarch of one of the world’s richest and most powerful banking dynasties.

Also present was Josef Ackermann, a Swiss banker who is CEO of Deutsche Bank, also a non-executive director of Royal Dutch Shell; Deputy Chairman of Siemens AG, Europe’s largest engineering corporation; he is also a member of the International Advisory Council of Zurich Financial Services Group; Chairman of the Board of the Institute International of Finance, the world’s only global association of financial institutions; and Vice Chairman of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum. {27}

Roger Altman was also present at the Bilderberg meeting, an investment banker, private equity investor and former Deputy Treasury Secretary in the Clinton Administration. Other bankers at this years meeting include Ana Patricia Botin, Chairman of the Spanish bank, Banco Espanol de Credito, formerly having worked with JP Morgan; Frederic Oudea, CEO and newly appointed Chairman of the Board of French bank Societe Generale; Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa, an Italian banker and economist, formerly Italy’s Minister of Economy and Finance; Jacob Wallenberg, Chairman of Investor AB; Marcus Wallenberg, CEO of Investor AB; and George David, CEO of United Technologies Corporation, who also sits on the board of Citigroup, member of the Business Council, the Business Roundtable, and is Vice Chairman of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. [For more on the Peterson Institute, see: Appendix 1]

Canadian bankers include W Edmund Clark, President and CEO of TD Bank Financial Group, also a member of the board of directors of the C D Howe Institute, a prominent Canadian think tank; Frank McKenna, Deputy Chairman of TD Bank Financial Group, former Canadian Ambassador to the United States, former Premier of New Brunswick; and Indira Samarasekera, President of the University of Alberta, who is also on the board of Scotiabank, one of Canada’s largest banks.

Central Bankers

Of course, among the notable members of the Bilderberg Group, are the world’s major central bankers. Among this years members are the Governor of the National Bank of Greece, Governor of the Bank of Italy, President of the European Investment Bank, James Wolfensohn, former President of the World Bank, and Nout Wellink, on the board of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). {28} Jean-Claude Trichet, the President of the European Central Bank was also present. {29} There is no indication that the Governor of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke was present, which would be an odd turn of events, considering that the Federal Reserve Governor is always present at Bilderberg meetings, alongside the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, William C Dudley. I have contacted the New York Fed inquiring if Dudley visited Greece or went to any meetings in Greece between May 14 and 17, or if another senior representative from the New York Fed went in his stead. I have yet to get a response.

The Obama Administration at Bilderberg

The Obama administration was heavily represented at this years Bilderberg meeting. Among the attendees were Keith B Alexander, a Lieutenant General of US Army and Director of the National Security Agency, the massive spying agency of the United States; Timothy Geithner, US Treasury Secretary and former President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York; Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan; General James Jones, United States National Security Advisor; Henry Kissinger, Obama’s special envoy to Russia, longtime Bilderberg member and former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor; Dennis Ross, special advisor for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; David Patraeus, Commander of CENTCOM, (US Central Command, in the Middle East), Lawrence Summers, Director of the White House’s National Economic Council, former Treasury Secretary in the Clinton administration, former President of Harvard University, former Chief Economist of the World Bank; Paul Volcker, former Governor of the Federal Reserve System and Chair of Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board; Robert Zoellick, former Chairman of Goldman Sachs and current President of the World Bank [30]; and Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg. {31}

Other Notable Names

Among many others present at the meeting are Viscount Etienne Davignon, former Vice President of the European Commission, and Honourary Chairman of the Bilderberg Group; Francisco Pinto Balsemao, former Prime Minister of Portugal; Franco Bernabe, CEO of Telecom Italia and Vice Chairman of Rothschild Europe; Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister of Sweden; Kenneth Clarke, Shadow Business Secretary in the UK; Richard Dearlove, former head of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Services (MI6); Donald Graham, CEO of the Washington Post Company; Jaap De Hoop Scheffer, Secretary-General of NATO; John Kerr, member of the British House of Lords and Deputy Chairman of Royal Dutch Shell; Jessica Matthews, President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Richard Perle of the American Enterprise Institute; Romano Prodi, former Italian Prime Minister; J Robert S Prichard, CEO of Torstar Corporation and President Emeritus of the University of Toronto; Peter Sutherland, former Director General of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), first Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and is currently Chairman of British Petroleum (BP) and Goldman Sachs International as well as being a board member of the Royal Bank of Scotland, Chairman of the Trilateral Commission, Vice Chairman of the European Roundtable of Industrialists, and longtime Bilderberg member; Peter Thiel, on the board of directors of Facebook; Jeroen van der Veer, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell; Martin Wolf, Associate Editor and Chief Economics Commentator of the Financial Times newspaper; and Fareed Zakaria, US journalist and board member of the Council on Foreign Relations. {32} There were also some reports that this year’s meeting would include Google CEO Eric Schmidt, as well as Wall Street Journal Editor Paul Gigot {33}, both of whom attended last years meeting. {34}

Conclusion

Clearly, it was the prerogative of this year’s Bilderberg meeting to exploit the global financial crisis as much as possible to reach goals they have been striving toward for many years. These include the creation of a Global Treasury Department, likely in conjunction with or embodied in the same institution as a Global Central Bank, both of which seem to be in the process of being incorporated into the IMF.

Naturally, Bilderberg meetings serve the interests of the people and organizations that are represented there. Due to the large amount of representatives from the Obama administration that were present, US policies revolving around the financial crisis are likely to have emerged from and serve the interests of the Bilderberg Group. Given the heavy representation of Obama’s foreign policy establishment at the Bilderberg meeting, it seemed surprising to not have received any more information regarding US foreign policy from this year’s meeting, perhaps having to do with Pakistan and Afghanistan.

However, the US recently decided to fire the general who oversaw the Afghan war, being replaced with “Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal, a former Green Beret who recently commanded the military’s secretive special operations forces in Iraq”. {35} From 2003 to 2008, McChrystal “led the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which oversees the military’s most sensitive forces, including the Army’s Delta Force”, and who Pulitzer-Prize winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh singled out as the head of Vice President Cheney’s “executive assassination wing”. {36}

So, given these recent changes, as well as the high degree of representation Obama’s foreign policy establishment held at Bildebrerg this year, there were likely to have been some decisions or at least discussion of the escalation of the Afghan war and expansion into Pakistan. However, it is not surprising that the main item on the agenda was the global financial crisis. Without a doubt, the next year will be an interesting one, and the elite are surely hoping to make it a productive one.

Appendix 1: Bilderberg Connections to the Billionaire’s Meeting

Peter G Peterson, one of the guests in attendance at the secret billionaires meeting, was the former United States Secretary of Commerce in the Nixon administration, Chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers, Kuhn, Loeb Inc, from 1977 to 1984, he co-founded the prominent private equity and investment management firm, the Blackstone Group, of which he is currently Senior Chairman, and in 1985, he became Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, taking over when David Rockefeller stepped down from that position. He founded the Peterson Institute for International Economics and was Chairman of the New York Federal Reserve Bank from 2000 to 2004. The Peterson Institute for International Economics is a major world economic think tank, which seeks to “inform and shape public debate”, from which, “Institute studies have helped provide the intellectual foundation for many of the major international financial initiatives of the past two decades: reform of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), adoption of international banking standards, exchange rate systems in the G-7 and emerging-market economies, policies toward the dollar, the euro, and other important currencies, and responses to debt and currency crises (including the current crisis of 2008 and 2009)”. It has also “made important contributions to key trade policy decisions” such as the development of the World Trade Organization, NAFTA, APEC, and East Asian regionalism. {37}

It has a prominent list of names on its board of directors. Peter G Peterson is Chairman of the board; George David, Chairman of United Technologies is Vice Chairman, as well as being a board member of Citigroup, and was a guest at this year’s Bilderberg meeting; Chen Yuan, Governor of the China Development Bank and former Deputy Governor of the People’s Bank of China (China’s central bank); Jessica Einhorn, Dean of Washington’s Paul H Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of the Johns Hopkins University, former Visiting Fellow of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), former Managing Director of the World Bank, and currently on the board of Time Warner and the Council on Foreign Relations; Stanley Fischer, Governor of the Central Bank of Israel, former Vice President at the World Bank, former Managing Director at the IMF, former Vice Chairman of Citigroup, and has also been a regular participant in Bilderberg meetings; Carla A Hills, former US Trade Representative, and was the prime negotiator of NAFTA, she sits on the International Advisory Boards of American International Group, the Coca-Cola Company, Gilead Sciences, JP Morgan Chase, member of the Executive Committee of the Trilateral Commission, Co-Chair of the Council on Foreign Relations, and played a key part in the CFR document, “Building a North American Community”, which seeks to remodel North America following along the lines of the European Union, and she has also been a prominent Bilderberg member; David Rockefeller also sits on the Peterson Institute’s board, as well as Lynn Forester de Rothschild; Jean-Claude Trichet, President of the European Central Bank, who is at every Bilderberg meeting; Paul A Volcker, former Governor of the Federal Reserve System, regular participant of Bilderberg meetings, and current Chair of Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board.

Honourary Directors of the Peterson Institute include Bilderbergers Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, a prime architect of the current crisis; Frank E Loy, former Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs, and is on the boards of Environmental Defense, the Pew Center for Global Climate Change, Resources for the Future, and Population Services International; George P Shultz, former US Secretary of State in the Reagan administration, President and Director of Bechtel Group and former Secretary of the Treasury. {38}

Appendix 2: Creating a Central Bank of the World

Jeffrey Garten, Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade in the Clinton administration, former Dean of the Yale School of Management, previously served on the White House Council on International Economic Policy under the Nixon administration and on the policy planning staffs of Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and Cyrus Vance of the Ford and Carter administrations. He also was a managing director of Lehman Brothers and the Blackstone Group, is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. As early as 1998, Garten wrote an article for the New York Times in which he advocated the creation of a global central bank. {39}

Amid the current financial crisis, Garten wrote an article for the Financial Times in which he advocated for “the establishment of a Global Monetary Authority to oversee markets that have become borderless”, acting as a global central bank. {40} In late October, Garten wrote an article for Newsweek in which he said that world “leaders should begin laying the groundwork for establishing a global central bank”. {41}

Three days after the publication of Garten’s Newsweek article, it was reported that, “The International Monetary Fund may soon lack the money to bail out an ever growing list of countries crumbling across Eastern Europe, Latin America, Africa, and parts of Asia, raising concerns that it will have to tap taxpayers in Western countries for a capital infusion or resort to the nuclear option of printing its own money”. Further, “The nuclear option is to print money by issuing Special Drawing Rights, in effect acting as if it were the world’s central bank”. {42}

[For a detailed look at the moves to create a global central bank, regional currencies, a global reserve currency and a world governing body, see: Andrew G Marshall, The Financial New World Order: Towards a Global Currency and World Government: Global Research, April 06 2009.]

Endnotes

{1} CFP, Annual Elite Conclave, 58th Bilderberg Meeting to be held in Greece, May 14-17. Canadian Free Press (May 05 2009): http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/10854

{2} Paul Joseph Watson, Bilderberg Wants Global Department Of Health, Global Treasury. Prison Planet (May 16 2009): http://www.infowars.com/bilderberg-wa%20nts-global-department-of-health-global-treasury/

{3} Paul Joseph Watson, Bilderberg Fears Losing Control In Chaos-Plagued World. Prison Planet (May 18 2009): http://www.prisonplanet.com/bilderberg-fears-losing-control-in-chaos-plagued-world.html

{4} Sorcha Faal, Bilderberg Group orders destruction of US Dollar? MINA (May 21 2009): http://macedoniaonline.eu/content/view/6807/53/

{5} Kristi Heim, What really happened at the billionaires’ private confab. The Seattle Times (May 20 2009):
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/thebusinessofgiving/2009244202_what_really_happened_at_the_bi.html

{6} A G Sulzberger, The Rich Get … Together (Shhh, It Was a Secret). The New York Times (May 20 2009): http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/20/the-rich-get-together-shhh-it-was-a-secret/

{7} Chosun, American Billionaires Gather to Discuss Slump. The Chosun Ilbo (May 22 2009): http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2009/05/22/2009052200772.html

{8} John Harlow, Billionaire club in bid to curb overpopulation. The Sunday Times (May 24 2009): http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article6350303.ece

{9} Press Release, Investigative Author, Daniel Estulin Exposes Bilderberg Group Plans. PRWeb (May 22 2009): http://www.prweb.com/releases/Bilderberg_Group_Meeting/Daniel_Estulin/prweb2453144.htm

{10} James P Tucker Jr, Bilderberg Agenda Exposed. American Free Press (June 01 2009): http://www.americanfreepress.net/html/bilderberg_2009_179.html

{11} James Quinn, Tim Geithner to reform US financial regulation. The Telegraph (May 21 2009): http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/5359527/Tim-Geithner-to-reform-US-financial-regulation.html

{12} Greg Menges, US Secretary of the Treasury Timothy F Geithner speech before the Senate Banking Committee. Examiner (May 20 2009): http://www.examiner.com/x-8184-Boston-Investing-Examiner~y2009m5d20-U-S-Secretary-of-the-Treasury-Timothy-F-Geithner-speech-before-the-Senate-Banking-Committee

{13} Robert Schmidt and Jesse Westbrook, US May Strip SEC of Powers in Regulatory Overhaul. Bloomberg (May 20 2009): http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=a18ctNv3FDcw

{14} Rex Nutting, Fed could be completely retooled, Geithner says. Market Watch (May 20 2009): http://www.marketwatch.com/story/fed-could-be–retooled-geithner-says

{15} Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, The G20 moves the world a step closer to a global currency. The Telegraph (April 03 2009): http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/5096524/The-G20-moves-the-world-a-step-closer-to-a-global-currency.html

{16} Marie Magleby, Obama Wants US to Loan $100 Billion to Global Bailout Fund. CNS News (May 20 2009): http://www.cnsnews.com/public/content/article.aspx?RsrcID=48329

{17} Joe Bavier, Sub-Saharan Africa to receive $10 billion in SDRs-IMF. Reuters: (May 25 2009): http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSLP336909

{18} Onno Wijnholds, The Dollar’s Last Days? International Business Times (May 18 2009): http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/20090518/dollar-rsquolast-days.htm

{19} Matthew Saltmarsh, Former IMF Chief Sees Opportunity in Crisis. The New York Times (May 22 2009): http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/23/business/global/23spot.html?ref=global

{20} Charlie Skelton, Our man at Bilderberg: in pursuit of the world’s most powerful cabal. The Guardian (May 13 2009): http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/may/13/in-search-of-bilderberg

{21} Charlie Skelton, Our man at Bilderberg: They’re watching and following me, I tell you. The Guardian (May 15 2009): http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/may/15/bilderberg-charlie-skelton-dispatch

{22} Charlie Skelton, Our man at Bilderberg: I’m ready to lose control, but they’re not. The Guardian (May 15 2009): http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/may/15/bilderberg-charlie-skelton-dispatch1

{23} Charlie Skelton, Our man at Bilderberg: ‘You are not allowed to take pictures of policemen!’ The Guardian (May 17 2009): http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/may/17/charlie-skelton-bilderberg

{24} Charlie Skelton, Our man at Bilderberg: Fear my pen. The Guardian (May 18 2009): http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/may/18/bilderberg-charlie-skelton-dispatch

{25} Charlie Skelton, Our man at Bilderberg: Let’s salt the slug in 2010. The Guardian (May 19 2009): http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2009/may/19/bilderberg-skelton-greece

{26} Dutch Royal House, Work and official duties. Prince Constantijn: http://www.koninklijkhuis.nl/english/content.jsp?objectid=18215

{27} Deutsche Bank, Management Board. Our Company: http://www.db.com/en/content/company/management_board.htm

{28} Bilderberg 2009 Attendee List (revised). InfoWars (May 18 2009): http://www.infowars.com/bilderberg-2009-attendee-list/

{29} Demetris Nellas, Greek nationalists protest Bilderberg Club meeting. AP (May 14 2009): http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jep_nbEq1srzJHFQ8fRGNQO3P38QD987H3200

{30} Bilderberg 2009 Attendee List (revised). InfoWars (May 18 2009): http://www.infowars.com/bilderberg-2009-attendee-list/

{31} Top US official arrives in Greece. MRT, Macedonian Radio and Television (May 15 2009): http://www.mrt.com.mk/en/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=6112&Itemid=28

{32} Bilderberg 2009 Attendee List (revised). InfoWars (May 18 2009): http://www.infowars.com/bilderberg-2009-attendee-list/

{33} Google joins Bilderberg cabal. WND, World Net Daily (May 17 2009):
http://worldnetdaily.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=98469

{34} Adam Abrams, Are the people who ‘really run the world’ meeting this weekend? Haaretz (May 14 2009): http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1085589.html

{35} Yochi J Dreazen and Peter Spiegel, US Fires Afghan War Chief. The Wall Street Journal (May 12 2009): http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124206036635107351.html

{36} M J Stephey, Stan McChrystal: The New US Commander in Afghanistan. Time Magazine (May 12 2009): http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1897542,00.html

{37} PIIE, About the Institute. Peterson Institute for International Economics: http://www.petersoninstitute.org/institute/aboutiie.cfm

{38} PIIE, Board of Directors. Peterson Institute for International Economics: http://www.petersoninstitute.org/institute/board.cfm#52

{39} Jeffrey E Garten, Needed: A Fed for the World. The New York Times (September 23 1998): http://www.nytimes.com/1998/09/23/opinion/needed-a-fed-for-the-world.html

{40} Jeffrey Garten, Global authority can fill financial vacuum. The Financial Times (September 25 2008): http://www.ft.com/cms/s/7caf543e-8b13-11dd-b634-0000779fd18c,Authorised=false.html?_i_location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ft.com%2Fcms%2Fs%2F0%2F7caf543e-8b13-11dd-b634-0000779fd18c.html&_i_referer=http%3A%2F%2Fwilliamnotes.wordpress.com%2F2008%2F09%2F30%2Fgarten-on-a-global-monetary-authority%2F

{41} Jeffrey Garten, We Need a Bank Of the World. Newsweek (October 25 2009): http://www.newsweek.com/id/165772

{42} Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, IMF may need to “print money” as crisis spreads. The Telegraph (October 28 2009): http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/3269669/IMF-may-need-to-print-money-as-crisis-spreads.html

_____

Andrew G Marshall is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG). He is currently studying Political Economy and History at Simon Fraser University.

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Categories: Uncategorized

>All Those Arrows

>by Donald MacKenzie

London Review of Books (June 25 2009)

Fool’s Gold: How Unrestrained Greed Corrupted a Dream, Shattered Global Markets and Unleashed a Catastrophe by Gillian Tett (2009)

Few people’s reputations have been improved by the credit crisis. One is the BBC’s Robert Peston; another is Vince Cable. A third is Gillian Tett, capital markets editor of the Financial Times. Prior to the crisis, she and her team were the only mainstream journalists who covered in any detail the arcane world of ‘credit derivatives’. Tett saw – however imperfectly – the huge risks that were accumulating unnoticed within that world, and spoke out about them.

Fool’s Gold begins in a conference room in Nice in spring 2005. Tett admits that at that point she was baffled by the technical language – ‘Gaussian copula’, ‘attachment point’, ‘delta hedging’ – used by the participants. However, before joining the FT she had conducted fieldwork in Soviet Tajikistan for a PhD in social anthropology, and the ethnographer in her was now reawakened. The conference reminded her of a Tajik wedding. Those attending it were forging social links and celebrating a tacit world-view – in this case, one in which ‘it was perfectly valid to discuss money in abstract, mathematical, ultra-complex terms, without any reference to tangible human beings’.

She whispered to the man sitting beside her, asking who the key actors in the ceremony were – those up on the conference hall’s stage. ‘They used to all work at J P Morgan’, he answered. ‘It’s like this Morgan mafia thing. They sort of created the credit derivatives market’. The answer surprised her. J P Morgan was not Goldman Sachs; it wasn’t an exciting bank. It bore the name of America’s most celebrated financier, but it was ‘dull’: safe, boring, perhaps a little snobbish. (When its current chief executive, the now well-respected Jamie Dimon, joined the bank from Bank One, whose headquarters were in Chicago, Tett reports that one Morgan banker muttered: ‘Not another retail banker from Hicksville, USA!’)

The core of Tett’s book, which is by far the most insightful of the first wave of books on the crisis, is the story of J P Morgan’s credit derivatives team. For all the bank’s traditionalism – the door staff at its London offices wouldn’t look out of place outside the Ritz – it was quietly innovative. One of the team’s driving forces was a young Englishwoman, Blythe Masters; another, Terri Duhon, makes no secret of her upbringing in a trailer in Louisiana; central to its technical work was an Indian mathematician, Krishna Varikooty. Boisterousness that would have horrified John Pierpont Morgan was tolerated. At one gathering in Florida, one of the team’s managers broke his nose when drunken colleagues were pushing him into a hotel swimming-pool.

The team’s pivotal innovation, introduced in December 1997, was a deal they called ‘Bistro’ (Broad Index Secured Trust Offering). For a decade, banks had been experimenting with credit derivatives, which are ways of separating out the ‘credit risk’ involved in lending (the risk that borrowers will default on their obligations, failing to make the required interest payments or not repaying their loans) and turning that risk into a product that can be bought and sold. Bistro helped make this tentative activity big business: it transferred to outside parties the credit risk of loans totalling $9.7 billion that J P Morgan had made to 307 companies. The scheme was an influential version of a CDO (collateralised debt obligation), and like other CDOs, Bistro was divided into ‘tranches’, of which originally there were two. Investors in the lower or ‘junior’ tranche received a healthy rate of return, 375 basis points over Libor (London Interbank Offered Rate), which is the average rate at which a panel of leading banks report they can borrow from other banks.{1} (A basis point is a hundredth of a percentage point.) This compensated the junior investors for the fact that their investments would bear the initial losses, beyond a small reserve built up during the deal’s first five years, should any of the 307 borrowers default.

Only if those losses were to exceed the entirety of the investments in the junior tranche would the holders of Bistro’s senior tranche – which paid only sixty basis points over Libor – suffer. The loans that made up Bistro were well diversified across industries, and were made predominantly to blue-chip companies, so losses to Bistro’s senior tranche seemed unlikely enough for Moody’s – one of the three leading credit rating agencies, along with Standard & Poor’s and Fitch – to award the tranche its highest rating, Aaa.

Aaa was a rare distinction. Only a dozen corporations and fewer than two dozen governments were judged worthy of it: neither Italy nor Japan has an Aaa rating. (Standard & Poor’s recently indicated that the UK is now in some danger of losing its top rating.) Blythe Masters had formidable powers of persuasion, which helped when selling a deal that looked ‘like a science experiment, with all those arrows’, as one investor quoted by Tett described Bistro’s documentation. Yet sixty basis points over Libor, for an investment judged safer than the sovereign bonds of some of the world’s leading economies, was the most powerful argument of all: an investor would normally struggle to find an Aaa investment that yielded as much as Libor.

For J P Morgan, Bistro solved one problem and potentially addressed a second. First, while the 307 corporations were generally low risks, even the most creditworthy borrowers can default. So $9.7 billion in loans was a significant constraint on the bank’s future lending. Bistro removed that constraint. Second, the Basel Capital Accord, signed by the world’s leading banking regulators in 1988 and implemented by them in 1992, forced banks to carry reserves equal to eight per cent of their risk-weighted lending. While certain categories of lending – to other OECD banks, for example – qualified for a reduced reserve requirement, loans to even the safest industrial corporation incurred the full eight per cent, a figure that bankers felt was far larger than justified by the risks involved. J P Morgan hoped that the transfer of credit risk achieved by Bistro would persuade regulators to reduce that requirement considerably, and Tett reports that Masters and her colleague Bill Demchak pushed the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to clarify what exactly would be needed to achieve that.

Bistro differed from earlier CDOs in that it did not, in fact, transfer to external investors all the credit risk of the $9.7 billion of loans. The junior and senior tranches amounted in total to only $700 million; the bank believed that the chances of losses ever exceeding that figure were too tiny for it to be worth paying investors to shoulder them. The regulators, however, demanded that the bank do something to remove that residual ‘unfunded risk’ before they would relax the eight per cent capital requirement.

The residual risk was like a topmost tranche, sitting above the senior tranche; it would come into play only if losses entirely wiped out the latter. The senior tranche was Aaa, as safe as it gets; the residual ‘super-senior’ tranche (as the J P Morgan team christened it) was safer than safe. To satisfy the regulators, however, the team turned to the Financial Products division of the leading US insurer, AIG. Sharing J P Morgan’s analysis that the super-senior tranche was ultrasafe, AIG agreed to insure it against all remaining losses, charging an annual premium of only a fiftieth of one per cent of the sum insured. From the viewpoint of AIG, it was small-scale business, but apparently highly profitable: by covering an effectively non-existent risk, the firm earned $1.8 million a year.

In that little afterthought to Bistro – what to do with the super-senior tranche – lay the germ of much of the credit crisis, especially its disastrous effects on many of the world’s leading banks. Bistro-like deals started in the world of corporate borrowing, but from 1999 began also to be implemented in the world of consumer debt, especially mortgages. Lenders actually had a longer experience of packaging mortgages into securities than of packaging corporate debt into CDOs, and mortgage-backed securities had acquired an admirable reputation for safety. They have a structure like that of CDOs, with different tranches carrying various levels of exposure to risk. The safest, Aaa tranches had impeccably default-free records, and even the riskier tranches had performed well: indeed, on average better than corporate bonds with the same ratings. It wasn’t that people never defaulted on their mortgages – they did – but the securities were designed to take this into account, for example by building up reserve funds (analogous to but usually proportionally larger than Bistro’s small reserve) that would absorb the anticipated losses. For many years, such provisions proved in general fully adequate.

What happened from 1999 onwards was that mortgage-backed securities, which already represented one layer of packaging of debt, started to be repackaged into CDOs, thus creating a Russian doll product: a tranched, packaged product each component of which was itself a tranche of a packaged product. Given their excellent reputation, putting mortgage-backed securities rather than corporate bonds or loans inside CDOs might seem a small step. Yet when in 1999 Bayerische Landesbank, which had become involved in the US mortgage market, approached J P Morgan to package $14 billion of bundles of mortgages and other forms of predominantly consumer debt into a Bistro structure, there were initially serious doubts within the Morgan team.

The problematic issue was correlation, which is at the core of evaluating a CDO. Low correlation means that defaults are essentially idiosyncratic events, with the consequence that only the bottommost tranche of a typical CDO is at significant risk. High correlation means that if defaults happen they tend to cluster, and the clustering of defaults puts investors in the higher, apparently safer, tranches at risk of loss. Participants in the emerging credit-derivatives market tended to be confident that they had a fair grasp of the correlation of corporate defaults. The rating agencies had large databases of such defaults from which the extent of clustering could be inferred at least roughly, and other market participants often took the easily measured level of correlation between the moves of different corporations’ stock prices as a guide to the correlation of their net asset values. (The link between the latter and default is that the most important cause of corporate default is bankruptcy, which can be thought of as happening when a corporation’s net asset value falls below zero: that is, when its liabilities exceed its assets.) Clearly, the correlation of the asset values of two different corporations was unlikely to be zero, since general economic conditions will affect both; it wasn’t likely to be 1.0 either, since that would indicate perfect correlation. A commonly used figure was 0.3: it was, for example, the standard level of correlation between the asset values of firms in the same industry that Standard & Poor’s initially assumed in CDO Evaluator, the software system it began using in 2001 to rate CDOs.

The credit crisis has inured us to gigantic numbers – losses measured in billions or trillions of dollars – but we need to pay attention to its small numbers as well if we’re going to understand it properly. A correlation of 0.3 was modest. If it was correct it was highly unlikely that the senior tranche of a CDO such as Bistro would suffer a loss – unlikely enough to warrant an Aaa rating – and effectively inconceivable that the super-senior tranche would be hit.

However, the figure of 0.3 was produced by analysis of corporate debt. How could one estimate the equivalent correlation for mortgage-backed securities? Paradoxically, their safety was a disadvantage in this respect: there was effectively no record of default that could be scrutinised for traces of clustering. Nor did such securities trade often enough for the correlation of their prices to be measured: most investors simply held them until they matured. Intuitively, though, it seemed conceivable that defaults in bundles of mortgages or other forms of consumer debt could be quite highly correlated, because of the likely influence of factors such as the overall unemployment level, and that could make a CDO based on mortgage-backed securities an unduly risky product.

Terri Duhon, who led the Bayerische Landesbank mortgage-backed CDO, told me in an interview that some of her J P Morgan colleagues doubted at first that the deal should go ahead: they argued that ‘there is no way we should be doing this because it’s way too correlated’. Tett reports that Krishna Varikooty, for example, was concerned by a correlation risk that seemed to him to be unquantifiable. After intensive discussion and analysis, and very conservative structuring of the deal, the team eventually agreed that it was safe to go ahead (it helped that, unlike in many more recent deals, the ratings of the underlying assets were high – around 95 per cent had Aaa ratings – and none of the securities was based on sub-prime mortgages). Yet the reservations remained, and from this point onwards, J P Morgan constructed only one further large CDO, and a limited number of smaller ones, in which the underlying assets were bundles of mortgages.

Consequently, the bank remained on the sidelines as the once largely distinct worlds of CDOs and mortgage-backed securities became more closely linked from 2002 onwards. It was an encounter of two subtly different cultures, with, for example, quite different mathematical approaches. The CDO world developed explicit and increasingly elaborate models of correlation – the ‘Gaussian copula’ that initially puzzled Tett is one of them – while the mortgage world handled the phenomenon entirely implicitly. In most investment banks, and also – as far as I have been able to discover – in the New York head offices of the rating agencies, separate groups or departments handled mortgage-backed securities and CDOs based on corporate debt. In investment banks, for instance, those different departments seem to have had surprisingly little to do with each other. The two cultures never really merged; instead, the CDO, a structure invented by the corporate-debt world, was applied to the products of the mortgage world.

Members of both cultures now see the encounter as corrupting. ‘They’ – constructors of CDOs based on mortgage-backed securities – ‘took our tools’ and misused them, one specialist in corporate credit derivatives told me a few weeks ago. Those with a background in mortgage-backed securities blame CDOs (with some justice) for being indiscriminate buyers of those securities, concerned only with their ratings and the spreads (increments over Libor) they offered. Two experienced industry observers, Mark Adelson and David Jacob, suggest that a fatal point was reached when CDOs became almost the only purchasers of the riskier tranches of mortgage-backed securities. Previously, those tranches had either been guaranteed against default by specialist insurers, or bought by canny investors, who would carefully assess the risks involved. These insurers and investors acted as a brake on the riskiness of the lower tranches, and thus on the overall riskiness of mortgage-backed securities, and they demanded a healthy rate of return for taking on the risks. They were displaced by those buying tranches in order to package them into CDOs, who were prepared to buy them at lower rates of return, and who cared a lot less about their riskiness, because those risks were going to be passed on to investors in the CDOs.

With the brake removed, the construction of CDOs based on mortgage-backed securities became a fast-moving assembly line (participants frequently turn to machine metaphors when describing the process). Brokers sold mortgages knowing that they could readily be sold on in the form of mortgage-backed securities. Instead of having to worry whether the couple sitting on the other side of their desk really had the wherewithal to keep up their payments, all that mattered were the dozen or so quantitative characteristics – such as borrowers’ FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) creditworthiness scores – that influenced rating agencies’ mortgage models. The constructors of mortgage-backed securities no longer had to satisfy specialist insurers or experienced investors: CDOs had an apparently insatiable demand for those securities.

If the assembly line was to keep moving, it was essential that the higher tranches of its final products – CDOs in which the underlying assets were mortgage-backed securities – gained Aaa ratings. A critical issue was the likely correlation of mortgage-backed securities. Standard & Poor’s, for example, used the same system, CDO Evaluator, that it employed for CDOs based on corporate debt, and it used the same modest baseline correlation assumption, 0.3, for mortgage-backed securities that it initially used for corporations within the same industry. (S&P would later reduce this last figure, while increasing its assumption about cross-industry correlation.) These baseline correlation figures could be increased by the analysts rating a specific CDO if it was highly concentrated in a particular industry or consumer debt sector. I haven’t been able to ascertain the equivalent figures used by the other agencies, whose methods differed somewhat from Standard & Poor’s, but the similarity of their ratings to S&P’s suggest similar judgments. I am focusing on S&P simply because – commendably – it seems to have been more explicit than the other agencies, in the publicly available documentation for CDO Evaluator, about the crucial assumptions underpinning the system.

The choice of 0.3, or a number close to it, as the baseline was critical: one specialist told me that even a moderate increase in the baseline correlation assumption, to 0.5 for example, would have made many CDOs based on mortgage-backed securities much less attractive, perhaps even not economically viable. However, as far as I can discover, analysing CDOs built out of mortgage-backed securities using only modest correlation levels seems in general to have been uncontroversial. Certainly, the performance of mortgage-backed securities offered little reason to be more stringent when rating CDOs based on them. For example, S&P’s statistical analyses suggested a correlation of mortgage-backed securities lower than 0.3; this figure was retained as a baseline because it was understood that the correlation would rise when economic conditions became less benign.

Had the world remained as it was in 2002, the agencies’ assumptions and ratings might well have turned out to be perfectly appropriate. The trouble with an assembly line, though, is that it produces identical products. The only person outside J P Morgan I’ve found so far who thought at the time that the correlation estimates being used to analyse CDOs of mortgage-backed securities were much too low had made the discovery by accident. In a previous job as an auditor, he had checked the statistical tables that the sellers of mortgage-backed securities provide to prospective buyers. These tables show the breakdown of the underlying loans by state, FICO score, loan-to-value ratio and so on. When checking the tables for one security, he inadvertently used the loan tape (the underlying mortgage data) for another, and found that they were in almost complete agreement. ‘These deals’ – apparently different mortgage-backed securities – ‘were the same deal’, he told me. Even geographical dispersion of the underlying mortgages across the US (a desirable feature when an individual mortgage-backed security was considered in isolation, because it reduced exposure to the vagaries of a particular local housing market) had the paradoxical effect of increasing the homogeneity of different mortgage-backed securities. In a situation of severe economic stress – falling house prices, rising unemployment – it wasn’t just that some of those securities would perform badly; they all would. Instead of correlation remaining modest, my interviewee came to fear that it would be close to perfect.

Specialists in mortgage-backed securities in the US have not been entirely surprised at the fraud and malpractice that has come to light: it was always present, and has changed only in scale. (There was a US sub-prime crisis in the late 1990s, which only specialists seem to remember. {2} It was much more limited in scale, but it revealed extensive over-optimistic accounting by lenders.) That mortgage defaults have risen, and the value of repossessed homes fallen, is not in itself surprising to specialists, although the size of the changes certainly is. At least some of them began to suspect that long-standing statistical relationships – for example between individuals’ credit scores and the risk that they would default on their mortgages – had ceased to be valid, but as far as I can tell this didn’t happen until as late as 2006, by which time the processes that led to the credit crisis were well underway. One problem, for instance, seems to have been that as individuals’ scores increasingly determined their access to credit and the rates of interest they had to pay, they found ways to manipulate those scores. A modest web-based industry developed which arranged (in return for a fee of one or two thousand dollars per person) for people – in some cases, apparently, dozens of people – with low credit scores to be added as ‘authorised users’ to the credit card account of someone with a high score and an impeccable payment record. It took just a month or two for the benefits of the primary cardholder’s regular payments to feed through into improvements in the credit scores of the card’s ‘renters’.

If CDOs backed by mortgages had worked as the J P Morgan team had envisaged when designing Bistro, the losses to investors in those CDOs that the US housing bubble and its collapse have caused, though very large, would have been spread widely across the many institutions that bought tranches of such CDOs. As Tett notes, what has shocked the members of that team – many of whom now work for other banks and hedge funds, but still stay in touch – is the concentration of such losses, especially at apparently sophisticated global banks such as Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, UBS, Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The primary vehicle by which risk was concentrated was Bistro’s afterthought, the super-senior tranches of CDOs. Even the riskiest mortgage-backed CDOs – those that predominantly bought ‘mezzanine’ (next-to-lowest) tranches of mortgage-backed securities – have super-senior tranches that are bigger than all the other tranches put together. These super-senior tranches were hard to sell to most outside investors, because the need for attractive returns on lower tranches means a super-senior tranche can offer only a slender increment over Libor. By 2005, Tett reports, that spread was as low as fifteen basis points.

Thus many banks did as J P Morgan did with Bistro: they kept the super-senior tranches, sometimes insuring them via AIG or specialist bond insurers. (Adelson and Jacob point out the irony: risks that mortgage experts in the insurers would have charged heavily for or perhaps even declined were insured in packaged form in huge amounts – and quite cheaply – by different departments of the same firms.) If only a handful of deals had been insured in this way, it would have made perfect sense. As Tett observes, however, AIG insured super-senior tranches amounting to $560 billion. Its bail-out by the US taxpayer dwarfs that of any bank, and it keeps rising (the current total is $173 billion). But AIG cannot be allowed to fail, because the loss of these crucial super-senior insurance contracts could bring much of the banking system down with it.

Perhaps most surprising of all, top banks also bought super-senior tranches originated by other banks. If you are a top bank, you can borrow at around Libor (that is, after all, what Libor means); if you are particularly well regarded, it may be possible to borrow at a rate a tiny bit lower than Libor. So you could borrow at Libor or below, buy a tranche that seemed safer than safe, and from it earn a slender spread over Libor. It looked like free money. It was especially tempting to traders whose banks ‘charged’ them for their use of capital, in the systems by which traders’ profit is measured, at around Libor, and credited them with the small additional spread that super-senior tranches offered. The slenderness of the spread meant that you had to do the trade on a very large scale to earn a really big bonus, so traders did just that.

As I’ve already indicated, the vulnerability of super-senior tranches is correlation. Losses on uncorrelated assets are unlikely ever to impact on super-senior tranches. When correlation approaches 1.0, however, a CDO’s asset pool starts to behave like a single investment. It may suffer no defaults, or it may default effectively in its entirety. If the latter happens, even the super-senior tranche, safer than safe, is doomed.

As the historian of economics Perry Mehrling has pointed out, events in financial markets cast shadows ahead, not behind. What has loomed over the banking system for the last two years is the shadow of the gigantic, system-wide default of the super-senior tranches of all the CDOs based on the US mortgage-backed securities issued towards the end of the bubble. (Residential mortgages have been the focus of most of the attention, but there are also lots of problems with commercial mortgages.) Although, alas, the losses will not stop there, most immediately at risk have been CDOs made up primarily of the mezzanine tranches of sub-prime mortgage-backed securities issued from late 2005 on. Defaults have risen enough, the value of repossessed homes has fallen enough, and the structure and composition of these securities has been similar enough, that as far as I can tell almost all such tranches have been or will be completely wiped out. If a CDO contains little but such tranches, even its super-senior portion faces close to total losses. So far, only a limited portion of those losses have actually been realised. The banking system is braced for the rest of them but, with the massive aid of taxpayers, it is, one hopes, now well enough capitalised to survive these and the other losses that sharp recession will bring.

Unfortunately, this analysis – that the crux of the problem has been not in CDOs per se but in the uncomfortable encounter between the world of CDOs and that of mortgage-backed securities – remains only a hypothesis. The world of corporate CDOs has itself manifested some of the phenomena of the mortgage CDO assembly line: increasingly risky loans were made to private equity firms and to other highly indebted corporate borrowers because it was possible to package and sell on those loans in the form of CDOs. I’ve just come back from New York, where I asked some of those I spoke to about the magnitude of the problems that may lurk beneath the still comparatively quiet surface of this sector of the CDO market, which, although not as large as the mortgage sector, is still huge. My interviewees seem convinced that while the problems are real, they are on nothing like the same scale: the amount of truly irresponsible lending to corporations was much smaller. I hope they are right.

At its heart, Tett’s tale is a moral one. She believes that the history of the J P Morgan credit derivatives team shows that banking can be technically innovative while remaining responsible. Her readers may fear that the anthropologist has gone native, but I don’t think so. I have met a good number of the people she is writing about, and have studied many of the same events, and I largely share her judgment. In particular, J P Morgan’s decision not to set up a mortgage CDO assembly line has saved the bank from the catastrophic losses so many of its peers have suffered; unlike theirs, its solvency has never been in doubt. It is too easy just now to condemn all of those who work at the heart of the financial system as either rogues or fools. Tett is right to emphasise that despite all the pressures and all the temptations, prudent banking was still practised – sometimes – even at the centre of history’s largest ever credit bubble.

Notes:

{1} Donald MacKenzie wrote about CDOs in the LRB of 8 May 2008 and about Libor in the issue of 25 September 2008.

{2} It is discussed in the final chapter of an excellent book that, while more limited in scope and more technical than Tett’s, deserves to be better known: Subprime Mortgage Credit Derivatives by Laurie Goodman et al (Wiley, 344 pages, £55, July 2008, 978 0 470 24366 4).

_____

Donald MacKenzie teaches sociology at the University of Edinburgh. His research on credit derivatives is being supported by the UK Economic and Social Research Council.

Other articles by this contributor:

Fear in the Markets · Donald MacKenzie writes about the ways in which ‘finance theory’ becomes part of what it examines

End-of-the-World Trade · the credit crisis

An Address in Mayfair · How to Start a Hedge Fund

What’s in a Number? · The $300 Trillion Question

The Political Economy of Carbon Trading · A Ratchet

ISSN 0260-9592 Copyright (c) LRB Ltd, 1997-2009

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n12/mack01_.html

Bill Totten http://www.ashisuto.co.jp/english/index.html

Categories: Uncategorized

>Too Big To Fail, Politically

>by Simon Johnson

The Baseline Scenario (June 18 2009)

What happened to the global economy and what we can do about it

What is the essence of the problem with our financial system – what brought us into deep crisis, what scared us most in September/October of last year, and what was the toughest problem in the early days of the Obama administration?

The issue was definitely not that banks and nonbanks could fail in general. We’re good at handling some kinds of financial failure. The problem was: a relatively small number of troubled banks were so large that their failure could imperil both our financial system and the world economy. And – at least in the view of Treasury – these banks were so large that they couldn’t be taken over in a normal FDIC-type receivership. (The notion that the government lacked legal authority to act is smokescreen; please tell me which statute authorized the removal of Rick Waggoner from GM.)

But instead of defining this core problem, explaining its origins, emphasizing the dangers, and addressing it directly, what do we get in yesterday’s 101 pages of regulatory reform proposals?

1. A passive voice throughout the explanation of what happened (for example, this preamble). No one did anything wrong and banks, in particular, are absolved from all responsibility for what has transpired.

2. A Financial Services Oversight Council, which sounds like a recipe for interagency feuding, with the Treasury as the referee and – most important – provider of the staff. The bureaucratic principle is: if you hold the pen, you have the power.

3. Some of the largest banks (“Tier 1 Financial Holding Companies”, or Tier 1 FHCs) will now be subject to supervision by the Federal Reserve Board – although under the confusing jurisdiction also of the Financial Services Oversight Council in many regards (for example, in the key setting of material prudential standards) and subsidiaries can have other regulators.

4. Tier 1 FHC should have higher prudential standards (capital, liquidity and risk management), but “given the important role of Tier 1 FHCs in the financial system and the economy, setting their prudential standards too high could constrain long-term financial and economic development”. Sounds like a banker drafted that sentence. None of the important details/numbers are specified, although the Fed should use “severe stress scenarios” to assess capital adequacy. Is that the same kind of actually-quite-mild stress scenario they used earlier this year?

5. In terms of risk management, “Tier 1 FHCs must be able to identify aggregate exposures quickly on a firm-wide basis”. There is no notion here that risk management at these big banks has failed completely and repeatedly over the past two years. How exactly will FHCs be able to identify such risks and how will the Fed (or anyone else) assess such identification?

6. In case you weren’t sufficiently confused by the overlapping regulatory authorities in this plan, we’ll also get a National Bank Supervisor (NBS) within Treasury. Regulatory arbitrage is not gone, just relabeled (slightly).

7. There is no greater transparency or public accountability in the regulatory process. We still will not know exactly what regulators decided and on what basis. Such secrecy, at this stage in our financial history, clearly prevents proper governance of our supervisory system.

8. There appears to be no mention that corporate governance within these large banks failed totally. How on earth can you expect these banks to operate in a responsible manner unless and until you address the reckless manner in which they (a) compensate themselves, (b) destroy shareholder value, (c) treat boards of directors as toothless wonders? The profound silence on this point from the administration – including some of our finest economic, financial, and legal thinkers – is breathtaking.

There’s of course more in these proposals, which I review elsewhere and Secretary Geithner’s appearances on Capitol Hill today may be informative – although only if his definition of the underlying “too big to fail” issue uses much stronger language than yesterday’s written proposals.

But based on what we see so far, there is little reason to be encouraged. The reform process appears to be have been captured at an early stage – by design the lobbyists were let into the executive branch’s working, so we don’t even get to have a transparent debate or to hear specious arguments about why we really need big banks.

Writing in the New York Times today, Joe Nocera sums up, “If Mr. Obama hopes to create a regulatory environment that stands for another six decades, he is going to have to do what Roosevelt did once upon a time. He is going to have make some bankers mad.”

Good point – but Nocera is thinking about the wrong Roosevelt (FDR). In order to get to the point where you can reform like FDR, you first have to break the political power of the big banks, and that requires substantially reducing their economic power – the moment calls more for Teddy Roosevelt-type trustbusting, and it appears that is exactly what we will not get.

http://baselinescenario.com/2009/06/18/too-big-to-fail-politically/#more-4109

Bill Totten http://www.ashisuto.co.jp/english/index.html

Categories: Uncategorized

>Obama’s (Latest) Surrender to Wall Street

>How the Financial Reform Plan Protects the Status Quo

by Michael Hudson

CounterPunch (June 22 2009)

In reaching across the aisle for Republican support – and no doubt future campaign contributions from the financial sector President Obama is morphing into Joe Lieberman. There also is a touch of Boris Yeltsin in his sponsorship of a financial “reform” ominously similar to what advisor Larry Summers backed in Russia – relinquishing government power to a banking elite. The Financial Regulatory Reform proposal promotes Wall Street’s “product”, debt creation, at the expense of the economy at large, and lets financial chieftains continue to self-regulate the debt industry – and to keep scot-free all their gains from the past decade’s worth of fraudulent lending.

Confronting the wreckage of a debt crisis worse than any since the Great Depression, Mr Obama has achieved what no Republican could have: rescuing the Bush Administration’s pro-creditor policies that fostered the Bubble Economy in the first place. “Most of the financial sector lobby community is happy with what has emerged”, the Financial Times summarized. A spokesman for the Financial Services Forum, a major Wall Street lobbying organization, called the proposals “careful and balanced”. {1} With such endorsements, victims of predatory lending have good reason to worry. The Obama plan is just the opposite from reforming the financial system along lines that progressive Democrats and other critics have urged.

The plan’s six most fatal flaws are apparent in its preamble, which lays out a false diagnosis of the financial problem in a way that whitewashes Wall Street (in contrast to Mr Obama’s nice televised populist speech giving verbal criticism to “culture of irresponsibility”). A false diagnosis must lead to wrong-headed cures – rarely by accident. There invariably is a financial beneficiary who gains from blind spots in a legal “reform” package.

1. Regulatory capture. Preparing the ground for future Alan Greenspan “free market” ideologues

The most serious problem is “regulatory capture”: control of the public regulatory process by the special interests being regulated. Mr Obama’s speech introducing his reform was forthright in acknowledging that “some companies shop for the regulator of their choice … That is why, as part of these reforms, we will dismantle the Office of Thrift Supervision [OTS] and close loopholes that have allowed important institutions to cherry-pick among banking rules. We will offer only one federal banking charter, regulated by a strengthened federal supervisor.” It was the OTS, after all, that AIG and Washington Mutual chose as their regulator, as did GE Capital. The most incompetent, most ideologically opposed to serious regulation, its idea of a “free market” in practice was one free for fraud-ridden subprime lenders to do whatever they wanted.

One could go down the list of non-enforcement agencies – the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) not responding to warnings about Bernie Madoff, and the most deregulatory agency of them all: the Federal Reserve under Bubblemeister Alan Greenspan. Traditionally, the Fed has acted as lobby for the commercial banking system and indeed for Wall Street as a whole. (Its shares are owned by the commercial bank members of its system.) The Fed’s refusal to intervene to stop the subprime mortgage bubble, fraudulent lending and other elements of the Greenspan Chairmanship does not give much faith that it will take actions that will interfere with Wall Street’s money-making at the expense of the rest of the economy. Even today, the Fed is stonewalling Congress by refusing to release details on its $2 trillion “cash for trash” giveaway to favored Wall Street institutions.

It is supposed to be the Treasury’s role to represent the public interest. Unfortunately, appointing Treasury Secretaries from the ranks of Wall Street management – or giving Wall Street veto power over the nominee – undermines this mission. Elsewhere in what is supposed to be the regulatory system of public-private checks and balances, the simple tactic of underfunding the criminal justice system, the FBI, state and local prosecutors – or actively blocking them, as George Bush did – leaves the economy without adequate protection against financial fraud and predatory credit. Putting the Congressional financial committee heads up for sale to the highest campaign contributors caps the process of transforming economic democracy into oligarchy.

Meaningful regulation should start with the premise that the right of banks to create credit out of thin air (actually, out of strokes on a computer keyboard, as long as bankers can find borrowers to sign IOUs) is a public utility. Mr Obama and his Treasury do not agree. They treat credit creation as a private Wall Street monopoly, to be regulated more in name than in practice. The result is a Thatcherite giveaway to the banking sector – and as Tim Geithner noted, Wall Street institutions of all stripes, from brokerage houses to automobile lenders and retail stores are now declaring themselves “banks” in order to get government handouts to anyone who is a creditor (but nothing for their debtors). This is part of the New Class War that the Bush-Obama administration has sponsored to polarize the economy between creditors and debtors.

The politically astute way to deregulate a public utility – especially in the wake of a financial crisis that has much of the population up in arms – is to shed crocodile tears over Wall Street’s “culture of irresponsibility”, as Mr Obama did on Wednesday, and then claim that you are “centralizing” regulation to make it stronger rather than weaker. If you are going to block future bank regulation, of course you promise that your act will provide greater public oversight. Mr Obama has tapped the Federal Reserve for this role. But this is precisely what exacerbated the Greenspan Bubble.

The deregulation-by-centralization ploy peaked when President George W Bush used it to nullify attempts by state attorney generals to prosecute Countrywide Financial, Washington Mutual, Citibank and other financial crooks as criminal enterprises for making fraudulent subprime mortgage loans. The ruse Mr Bush used to block their lawsuits was an obscure small-print rule from the 1864 National Bank Act giving Washington the power to overrule local states in bringing criminal charges. The motivation for this Civil War law was clear enough: Local governments and their courts tended to be venal and corrupt. Washington asserted its oversight so as to prosecute “wildcat banking” in an era when bankers issued their own bank notes, many of which were worth much less than their face value when their holders tried to spend them.

President Bush turned this law on its head, blocking eleven state AGs from prosecuting financial fraud. Taking matters out of their hands, he assigned the complaints to the Washington national bank regulator – who refused to prosecute, claiming that fraud was all part of America’s wonderful free market. This has cost the US economy over a trillion dollars so far. Washington has preferred to let the banks make their fraudulent loans, and then pay them in full (along with the financial companies they’ve victimized, but not the personal debtors of course) for their bad loans that defaulted, so as to “save the system”.

Mr Obama’s reform does not propose repealing or qualifying this clause of the National Bank Act so as to permit any prosecutor to prosecute (but not to allow prosecutions of financial fraud to be blocked). Placing regulatory power in the Fed has the potential to annul any serious fraud prosecution. This is the Robert Rubin and Larry Summers-style free market – free for criminalized finance to proceed unchecked. And if Mr Summers is to become the next Fed Chairman … well, you can guess where this will lead on the regulation/deregulatory spectrum between creditors and debtors!

2. Failure to give meaningful teeth to fraud reduction

Sound regulations against fraud are on the books, many of them from the New Deal. But as the Bubble Economy saw levels of financial fraud unprecedented since the 1920s, officials who wanted to prevent abuses found their departments un-funded. Mr Obama’s proposal fails to address this problem. “There are … millions of Americans who signed contracts they did not always understand offered by lenders who did not always tell the truth”, he acknowledged in introducing his plan on June 17. Mr Obama promised “enforcement will be the rule, not the exception”. But where is the funding for the FBI’s criminal fraud division? Where is effective consumer protection from insurance companies that don’t pay, from crooked contractors and mortgage companies using property appraisers, lawyers and collection agencies, or from stockbrokers packaging junk mortgages into junk securities? They’ve been given a fortune in recent years – and can keep it to set themselves up to make yet a new killing. It looks as if as little will be done to financial fraud as will be done to the Guantanamo torturers and the high-ups who condoned their actions.

Much attention has been given to the Consumer Financial Products Agency, whose role has been defined largely by Elizabeth Warren of the Harvard Law School. Its main aim is to enforce truth-in-lending laws on credit-card companies and mortgage lenders. (Weren’t these laws already on the books?) This is progress, but surely much more is needed. One way to make credit-card rates more economic would be for the government to provide its own rival service. After all, credit cards have become a major form of payment today. Isn’t electronic payment really a public utility? The difference is that unlike electric and gas utilities or railroads, there is no regulation to keep fees in line with economically necessary basic costs to the card issuer. It is fine to hear that one finally will be able to read clearly how much one is being exploited. But why not stop the exploitation in the first place?

Republicans may simply try to make the Consumer Financial Products Agency only “advisory”, without real regulatory power. So even if Congress doesn’t kill the proposal, Mr Obama doesn’t have to worry too much about offending his number-one donor constituency. Serious regulation over Wall Street will have about as much effect as the corporate “social responsibility” desk to which companies assign employees on their way out. At the Senate hearings on June 18, Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey asked Mr Geithner “whether the council that would watch over the financial regulators has any power to do anything other than make recommendations. Mr Geithner [said] they may not have gotten the balance exactly right, but he didn’t want the council to have the authority to unilaterally force changes on the regulators it oversees.”

To really protect consumers, why not counter extortionate credit-card practices by re-introducing anti-usury laws? They were evaded initially by companies incorporating themselves in states with “race to the bottom” laws. If Washington can override state prosecutors to prevent punishment of financial fraud, why can’t it override such ploys by the usury industry? Here’s where centralized federal law really should count for something.

3. Failure to reverse the shift to pro-creditor bankruptcy laws

The Obama plan allows Wall Street to keep on selling its product – debt, growing at exponential rates – as if finance were an “industry” like manufacturing. (In this spirit the Dow Jones Industrial Average now contains the leading financial-sector firms, although it dropped Citicorp when its shares dropped below the $1 cutoff point.) The reality is that tax favoritism for finance and debt leveraging is largely responsible for de-industrializing the economy. More and more income is being diverted away from buying goods and services in order to pay lenders on debts run up in the past. What is needed to free economies from such debt is repeal of the pro-creditor reversal that Congress passed in 2005 in response to lobbying by the credit card and banking industry. Making it harder for personal debtors to go bankrupt, this law blocked courts from rolling back debt to the population’s ability to pay.

Obama’s plan fails to rectify matters. It treats the financial “services” issue in isolation from the economy’s debt problem and general economic welfare. FDIC head Sheila Bair has proposed limiting mortgage interest to 32 per cent of the debtor’s family income. The alternative is for home foreclosures to continue, expropriating many recent buyers and also owners who have borrowed against their homes to pay off their higher-interest credit-card debt or simply to maintain living standards that their paychecks no longer cover.

Ever since colonial times, New York State has had the Fraudulent Conveyance Law on its books. This wise legislation states that if a bank makes a loan to a borrower without knowing how the debtor can reasonably meet the terms of the loans out of normal income, the loan is deemed fraudulent and therefore null and void.

4. Failure to re-introduce Glass Steagall or otherwise limit lenders “too big to fail”

In presenting his program, Mr Obama misrepresented a major cause of the Bubble Economy. It all seemed to be caused by the impersonal force of technology “A regulatory regime”, he claimed, “basically crafted in the wake of a 20th century economic crisis – the Great Depression – was overwhelmed by the speed, scope, and sophistication of a 21st century global economy”. Not exactly. The capstone of FDR’s New Deal was the Glass-Steagall Act separating commercial banking from investment banking. This blocked the financial conflict of interest between serving retail bank customers and investment-bank profiteering.

One consequence of Glass-Steagall was to make the merger between Citibank and Travelers Insurance illegal. To save Citibank officials from suffering the consequences of breaking the law – and in the process, to open the doors to the conglomerate movement that brought down the economy – President Clinton took the advice of Messrs Summers and Greenspan and signed into law the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999. Banks were permitted to buy insurance companies’ real estate and stock brokers and law firms to package junk mortgages into junked collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), cover them with junk-insurance policies written by AIG and other companies taking fees for promising to pay money they did not have, and get bailed out with trillions of dollars of “taxpayer” money in the form of the Federal Reserve and Treasury’s “cash for trash” swaps.

5. Failure to deter credit default swaps and other “casino capitalist” gambles

On Mr Summers’ watch under the Clintons, the word “reform” came to mean what it meant in Russia, where he had a free hand in the 1990s: a giveaway of public assets to financial insiders. In the United States this involved stripping away the true reforms put in place from the Progressive Era to the New Deal. Among the excuses being cited is the need to free “innovation”. But financial innovation is not like that of manufacturing. Instead of raising productivity to produce more with less labor (and hence at falling prices), financial innovation aims at extracting more from debtors and from money-management clients and funds. Under free competition, for example, modern electronic technology enables banks to clear checks in a single day. But “financial engineering” has gone hand in hand with political engineering, permitting the banking monopoly to adhere to old pony express schedules – and keeping depositors’ money as “float”, that is, as an interest-free loan.

The main achievement of financial engineering has been to create mathematically opaque derivatives. As no less a speculator than George Soros has noted: “Financial engineers claimed they were reducing risks through geographic diversification: in fact they were increasing them by creating an agency problem. The agents were more interested in maximizing fee income than in protecting the interests of bondholders … Custom-made derivatives only serve to improve the profit margin of the financial engineers designing them”. The only cure is to ban credit default swaps outright. But they have become Wall Street’s leading profit center. Mr Obama’s reform does not interfere with that cash cow.

As for the “technology” of credit evaluation, modern web searching should enable any creditor or hapless buyer of packaged bank mortgages to check the estimated price of any home or building on-line – or any credit reporting score on individuals, for that matter. Banks have no interest in doing this when it interferes with their rip-offs. “We’ve seen a system that allowed lenders to profit by providing loans to borrowers who would never repay”, Mr Obama explained, “because the lender offloaded the loan, and the consequences, to someone else”. Much of today’s institutionalized financial irresponsibility indeed stems from the fact that banks today no longer hold the mortgages they originated. Instead, they “offload” their loans and give bonuses to officers based on their loan volume without any consideration for loan quality or reality. It used to be called fraud, and be prosecuted.

Mr Obama proposes that originators of loans keep a token five per cent on their own books. Critics point out that this hardly will deter junk-mortgage practices, and suggest that the required proportion at least be doubled, along with blocking off-balance-sheet vehicles, especially in tax-avoidance zero-oversight offshore banking centers. In view of the almost universal condemnation of this practice, Mr Obama’s delicate steps suggest that the plan was formulated with a view of “How little do we have to yield to popular and Congressional anger at the trillions of bailout dollars we have given to financial crooks?”

6. Failure to reform the tax system that has distorted the financial system to promote predatory extractive debt, not productive industrial credit

The “product” that the banking “industry” sells is debt – loans which, under today’s financial circumstances and tax favoritism for Wall Street, are extended in a way whose main effect is to inflate asset prices, not fund tangible capital formation. Rising prices for housing and commercial property, stocks and bonds, are taken as justification for yet more lending, backed by collateral being bid up in price. By loading the economy down with debt, this seeming “wealth creation” becomes a vicious circle, increasing the economy’s financial carrying charge.

Mr Obama’s “reform” plan seeks to sustain this dynamic, not reverse it. The plan does not acknowledge the symbiotic relationship between fiscal and financial policy. Cutting property taxes leaves more real estate rent, monopoly rent and asset-price gains “free” to be pledged to the banks for yet larger loans – pledged to pay more interest on the rising debt taken on to buy assets being inflated by the credit bubble.

The resulting financial “enterprise” is different from industrial innovation. It consists largely of capturing congressional tax legislators so as to write small-print tax “loopholes” and more glaring tax breaks that shift the fiscal burden onto productive labor and industry. That is the essence of today’s “pay to play” democracy. Financializing the economy in this way has gone hand in hand with de-industrialization.

The most regressive tax is FICA wage withholding for Social Security and Medicare. Only wages below about $102,000 are subject to this tax, not higher incomes. And Wall Street speculators only pay a low “capital gains” rate on their trading. By shifting the tax burden onto the “real” economy, this tax shift polarizes income and wealth at the top of the economic pyramid while increasing the cost of living (taxes are a cost, after all). This squeezes family budgets and shrinks spending on goods and services. And as a result of tax subsidy for debt leveraging, industrial cash flow is diverted to pay interest and dividends rather than being reinvested in new means of production and being liable for income taxes.

More bank lending – that is, more debt – is the heart of today’s economic problem, not the solution. Finance capitalism is undercutting industrial capitalism, replacing the production of goods and services with predatory extraction of rent and interest via economic “tollbooths”, from parking meters in Chicago to roads in New Jersey. States and localities are facing fiscal shortfalls obliging them to sell off their roads, parking meters and public enterprises to buyers who erect expensive tollbooths and extract yet more income from the shrinking “real” economy. The economy is heading toward debt peonage as it polarizes between wealthy patrons and a work force reduced to patron-client dependency relationships.

Do we need a new beginning for meaningful financial restructuring?

America’s financial problem thus requires deeper solutions than have been discussed to date. Paul Krugman has complained in his New York Times column about two obvious gaps in the Obama plan. “To live up to its own analysis, the Obama administration needs to come down harder on the rating agencies and, even more important, get much more specific about reforming the way bankers are paid”. The securities ratings agencies certainly have an inherent conflict of interest in being paid by their clients to give reviews – usually a rave AAA rating – for junk securities. But beneath this problem lie much deeper ones, so it is understandable that when Mr Geithner was asked about better regulation of the ratings agencies in his Senate testimony on Thursday, he said that this would have to wait for another day. As Mr Obama explained: “we are proposing a set of reforms to require regulators to look not only at the safety and soundness of individual institutions, but also – for the first time – at the stability of the system as a whole”.

But this is just what is not being done. The plan is silent when it comes to the reported 25 per cent of US real estate sunk into a state of negative equity and 1/8th already in arrears heading for foreclosure as the mortgage debt attached to it exceeds its (falling) market price. Commercial real estate looks like the next big sector to topple. Debt service meanwhile is crowding out consumer spending on goods and services, shrinking the domestic market and aggravating unemployment.

The economy needs an FDR but has got the opposite. Mr Obama promised change, but is defending the status quo. Will his historical role be to have made a doomed attempt to sustain growth in America’s debt overhead? Eroding Progressive Era checks on financial dynamics has been the political and economic trend for the past thirty years. It is advisor Summers’ idea of “reform” which he and his neoliberal cohorts imposed on Russia in the mid-1990s, endowing a kleptocracy and imposing poverty on the population at large, stripping away industrial capital.

Mr Obama’s financial “reform” aims at sustaining casino capitalism by rolling back a century’s worth of progressive tax and financial legislation. After his speech the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose on Thursday, mainly because most “industrials” are now financial companies, reflecting the degree to which financial engineering has replaced industrial engineering.

The banks will complain about the Obama plan (really the Paulson Plan) to centralize financial regulation in a strengthened Federal Reserve. But of course that’s just where they want to end up, under a compliant Chairman (Mr Summers himself?) appointed with Wall Street’s advice and consent. “Born and bred in the briar patch”, crowed B’rer Rabbit triumphantly after being thrown there. Saved from future Eliot Spitzers!

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Michael Hudson is a former Wall Street economist. A Distinguished Research Professor at University of Missouri, Kansas City (UMKC), he is the author of many books, including Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire (new edition, Pluto Press, 2002) He can be reached via his website, mh@michael-hudson.com

Note {1} Edward Luce, “White paper sets out skilful compromises”, Financial Times (June 18 2009).

http://counterpunch.org/hudson06222009.html

Bill Totten http://www.ashisuto.co.jp/english/index.html

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