Thursday, January 7, 2010

MSM vs. The Blogosphere

Greetings good citizen,

I have speculated rather extensively on the subject of whether or not ‘elected officialdom’ would feel obliged to tell us if the mooring for ‘life as we have come to know it’ were about to shatter into a jillion pieces…

I also believe that I have made it quite clear it is my opinion that our ‘public spirited’ representatives would, er, ‘decline’ to share (much less admit) that things were less than absolutely wonderful, a ‘phenomenon’ we are provided with ample evidence of whenever we are subjected to ‘government statistics’.

Um, naturally, the operative word here is ‘opinion’…although it does dovetail nicely with the huge and growing gap in what passes for reporting between the MSM and the Blogosphere.

One would seriously question if the reports are being submitted from the same planet, so widely do the two diverge from one another…

Tonight’s first offering is an example of reportage from the blogosphere, where it is easy to observe the level of detail and intellectual totally absent form most MSM reporting…

The topic (also rarely covered in the MSM) is our own monetary system… [Purloined from today’s Asia Times]

China in Treasuries cul-de-sac
By Henry CK Liu

[We join this offering ‘mid-stream’, please click the link for the entire article.]

Monetary economists view government-issued money as a sovereign debt instrument with zero maturity, historically derived from the bill of exchange in free banking. This view is valid only for specie money, which is a debt certificate that can claim on demand a prescribed amount of gold or other specie of intrinsic value. But fiat money issued by a sovereign government is not a sovereign debt but a sovereign credit instrument.

Sovereign government bonds are sovereign debt while local government bonds are agency debt but not sovereign debt, because local governments, while they possess limited power to tax, cannot print money, which is the exclusive authority of the Federal government or a central government. When money buys bonds, the transaction represents sovereign credit canceling public or corporate debt. This relationship is rather straightforward but is of fundamental importance.

Money issued by government fiat is now exclusive legal tender in all modern national economies. The State Theory of Money (Chartalism) holds that the general acceptance of government-issued fiat currency rests fundamentally on government's authority to tax. Government's willingness to accept the fiat currency it issues for payment of taxes gives such issuance currency within a national economy. That currency is sovereign credit for tax liabilities, which are dischargeable by credit instruments issued by government in the form of fiat money.

When issuing fiat money, the government owes no one anything except to make good a promise to accept its money for tax payment. A central banking regime operates on the notion of government-issued fiat money as sovereign credit. A central bank operates essentially as a lender of last resort to a nation's banking system, drawing on sovereign credit. A lender's position is a creditor position.

Thomas Jefferson famously prophesied: "If the American people allow the banks to control the issuance of their currency, first by inflation, and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive people of all property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers occupied ... The issuing power of money should be taken from the banks and restored to Congress and the people to whom it belongs." This warning applies to all other peoples in the world as well.

Government levies taxes not to finance its operations, but to give value to its fiat money as sovereign credit instruments. If it chooses to, government can finance its operation entirely through user fees, as some fiscal conservatives suggest. A government does not need to be indebted to the public. It creates a government debt component to provide a benchmark interest rate to anchor the private debt market, not because it needs money. Technically, a sovereign government need never borrow. It can issue tax credit in the form of fiat money to meet all its liabilities. And only a sovereign government can issue fiat money as sovereign credit.

If fiat money is not sovereign debt, then the entire conceptual structure of finance capitalism is subject to reordering, just as physics was subject to reordering when man's worldview changed with the realization that the earth is not stationary nor is it the center of the universe. The need for capital formation to finance socially useful development will be exposed as a cruel hoax, as sovereign credit can finance all socially useful development without problem. Private savings are not necessary to finance public socio-economic development, since private savings are not required for the supply of sovereign credit. Thus the relationship between the national private savings rate and public finance is at best indirect.

Sovereign credit can finance an economy in which unemployment is unknown, with wages constantly rising to provide consumer buying power to prevent production overcapacity. A vibrant economy is one in which there is persistent labor shortages that push up wages to reduce overcapacity. Private savings are needed only for private investment that has no intrinsic social purpose or value. Savings without full employment are deflationary, as savings reduces current consumption to provide investment to increase future supply, which is not needed in an economy with overcapacity created by lack of demand, which in turn has been created by low wages and unemployment.

Um, ‘fair warning’, the rest of the article is just as ‘dense’ and assumes that you already have a firm grasp of basic monetary principles…which only makes it that much more mysterious as to why ‘economists’, supposed ‘experts’ in money and it’s management, get it so wrong, so frequently?

As further proof, we arrive at tonight’s second offering with the foreword of caution being that I howled when I first read this. Not because the situation is humorous in itself, but because it struck me as, er, ‘ludicrous’ the way it is so accurately presented.

[Purloined from: The Automatic Earth]

January 6 2010: Iceland, or Size matters

Ilargi: The case of Iceland and its financial shenanigans is, if nothing else, intriguing and amusing. Not for some of the people involved, I know, and I mean no disrespect. But it is in the way the situation is dealt with and in how various parties try to come out on top.

A short background: Iceland had 3 main banks who all, albeit to various degrees, made unrealistic profits for investors and depositors in early 21st century times, and then went bust. One bank, Icesave, which had many clients in England and Holland, owes these clients some $6 billion, a sum the Iceland government is held responsible for and initially seems to have agreed to pay. The people of Iceland, all 320,000 of them as it were, have started questioning why they should pay for foreign investors' losses with banks with whom they have no connection other than that they happen to be located in their country.

Britain's decision to put Iceland on some terror alert list because of the banking affair is likely a big factor in this, as well as in the decision by the president to let the people decide in a referendum on February 20 whether they want to pay back the losses of foreign investors who had accounts with Icesave only so they could get a few basis points more interest on their funds. It doesn't look like they will.

Which may put Iceland on some black list, with the IMF threatening to withdraw emergency funds and Scandinavian loans in peril. The Dutch threat to block Iceland's entry into the EU is seen in Reykjavik as similar to Britain's terror list boondoggle. The prevailing sentiment these days among the geysers can best be summarized like this: "We may be small, but we ain't your bitch". And that is a sentiment that may provoke a lot of sympathy, provided the Icelanders play their cards right.

In the next 6 weeks they will come under huge international pressure to pay up or else, for there's nothing the international community fears more than members who don’t play by the rules, no matter how inane and insane they are. Plus, of course, Iceland is not some small African nation full of poor black people, it’s a small European nation full of the kind of people that wealthy US and EU citizens can identify with: white and relatively affluent. They could be your neighbors. They could be your family. They could be you.

So how reasonable is it for Britain and the Netherlands to demand restitution of losses suffered? Interesting question. The answer is not that easy, since it begs the next question. Who is to blame for the losses? There's the bankers, who went megalomaniacal, and got much bigger than banks based in what is population-wise not more than a mid-size town ought to be. But Iceland is a member of the EEA, the European Economic Area, which gives its banks the right to expand to the rest of the EU.

So alright, let's see. First to blame: the bankers. Second: The Icelandic government, who should have regulated its banks much closer. Third, the governments of Holland and England, who should have done due diligence and demanded far more strict guarantees from the banks. Fourth, the Dutch and British investors, individuals, local governments and companies, who all should have read the fine print. Fifth, the people of Iceland, who were living it up with the cash floating in freely. [Um, naturally, not ALL Icelanders. It really pisses me off when people make blanket assertions like that…]

But we all know how blame moves. The investors point to their own governments, who didn't warn them. These governments point to the government of Iceland, which didn’t warn them. That government points to the bankers, who went nuts, but who they still have to cover for. And last, the people of Iceland point to all of the above and say they should all have been wiser, and the fact that they were not doesn’t mean Icelanders now have to fork over, no matter how certain parties like to interpret laws and regulations. Some things just don't feel right.

And what do we feel about this, who are not directly affected by any of it? Well, try this one on for size. If you allow me to numb and dumb down the numbers a bit, the US at 308 million citizens is about 1000 times bigger than Iceland (320,000). Which means that the US equivalent of what the British and Dutch are demanding from Icelanders would be, loosely, $6 trillion. Now what would you say the odds are that the American people would agree to pay that kind of money, if it were payment for what their banks have (mis-)done in the past, to a group of foreign investors? Let's say Chinese and Japanese? [Which, without putting too fine a point on things, is indeed the case…]

I may be wrong, of course, but I have the feeling that I know what Americans would think of that. They'd be marching in the streets, on their way to embassies and consulates, if not private businesses. They'd say: we have a hard enough time ourselves as it is, and we ain't paying no foreigners who weren't making sure they knew what they were doing.

The same reaction would come in London and Amsterdam as well, naturally. Funny thing is that the governments there were very quick to guarantee their citizens' losses, and only after that claimed them back from Reykjavik. There doesn't seem to be any legal obligation for them to do so, it looks more like an election-related issue. There are all sorts of depositor protection schemes in place, that's true enough, but everyone could have known that the established $30,000 guarantee from Iceland for every depositor account wasn't worth much, given that it’s backed only by the full faith and credit of 320,000 people. Britain is what, 200 times bigger than that?

But in the end, as I'm pondering all this, what is probably the most interesting part of it is that the American people ARE in fact in the same boat as the Icelanders. The main difference between them may well be that the latter stand up for themselves, where the former don’t understand what's going on. The US government has indeed already pledged $14 trillion in public funds (with a total risk of up to $24 trillion) for US bank losses. It's just that American banks are covered by the ability of the US to borrow enough money in international markets to cover their losses, something for which Iceland is simply too small. And also, the US gets to bleep around with accounting rules, so bank losses can remain hidden for a long time (though not forever).

So while it may look like the situations are entirely different, they’re not really. On the ground level, it's the citizens who are being forced to pay for institutional gambling debts, the old adage of keep profits private and make losses public. China doesn't go to Obama to demand payment guarantees tomorrow morning, but it's all just a matter of size. That size determines that the Icelandic situation is far more transparent, since smaller make simpler. But down the line, the Iceland banks weren't the greatest gamblers, it was Wall Street and the City of London. And the $20,000 that Icelanders "owe" per capita (in the eyes of others) isn't really the issue, it won’t kill them. They just take a stand against what they see as bullies.

The amount Americans "owe", though, is already more than twice as much per capita at $14 trillion. And there's no end in sight, since none of that money has been used to actively solve problems, it's all merely hiding them for a while longer.

In other words, here's waiting for the moment Americans become more like Icelanders, and stand up against bullies (I'm sure Oprah has advice to provide on the topic). But also, here's not holding any breath, and here's expecting that by the time any sizeable group stands up, the amounts owed will be a multiple of $20,000 and enough to generate debt and poverty for years, if not decades, to come.

And you know what the funniest thing about it all is? In America it wouldn't even take 320,000 people standing up, for real, to change policies and history in a heartbeat.

But they're not there. They’re in Iceland.

Size matters. But so does courage.

Um, Alternet ran a piece today mourning the ‘reluctance’ of the citizens of the US to ‘protest’ the crimes committed in their name by their alleged ‘elected officials’.

Um, we might even wonder ‘why’ the populace of ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’ doesn’t stand up to the brazen criminals who have usurped our nation.

Why won’t we fight is exactly the wrong question, and the fact that it is being asked, both loudly and repeatedly says something else, it tells us that the perps are afraid. Afraid that they’ve pushed us too far…that when all hell finally does break loose, there won’t be any mercy…no mercy and no quarter.

The time for ‘gentile protest’ and political solutions has passed, it’s too late for that now. The giant has been awoken and it won’t slumber again until it is sure that it is safe to go back to sleep.

Understand that the giant isn’t a rational creature, it can’t be reasoned with. It’s head is filled with nonsense, it is unable to recognize right from wrong, the only thing it knows is what threatens it…and right now a very large and very poor giant sees a very small but very wealthy threat, that ‘class war’ thing I was babbling about yesterday…

Strange when push comes to shove, how money don’t count for a whole lot.

Thanks for letting me inside your head,


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