Tuesday, October 30, 2018
Monday, September 24, 2018
|Above Photo: From Nationofchange.org|
THE CAPITALIST MANIFESTO: LET POOR PEOPLE DIE
By Paul Buchheit, Nationofchange.org
Bankruptcies Are Surging, And So Are Suicides
The True Meaning Of Socialism
Sunday, September 23, 2018
Fourth Canada – United States – Mexico
Trilateral Peace Conference
September 13, 2018 – Moca, Dominican Republic
Trilateral Peace Conference
September 13, 2018 – Moca, Dominican Republic
The Canadian Peace Congress (CPCon), the U.S. Peace Council (USPC) and the Mexican Movement for Peace and Development (MOMPADE) held their fourth Trilateral Meeting on September 13, 2018 in Moca, Dominican Republic in conjunction with the Hemispheric Peace Conference of the World Peace Council and its affiliates on this continent. Upon the conclusion of their meeting, the delegations of the three organizations issued the following statement:
Our Trilateral Meeting takes place at a time of a serious deterioration of the international situation, marked by the increasingly aggressive actions of U.S. imperialism, with the active support of Canada and its other NATO allies, to interfere in the domestic affairs of other states, to use economic blackmail and threats of aggression, to conspire with regional actors and local oligarchies to carry out ‘regime change’ operations against governments unwilling to submit to imperialist demands, and in some cases to resort to direct military intervention. This aggressive behavior comes together with, and is closely related to, the deepening systemic crisis of capitalism and the ever-worsening effects of climate change and the general degradation of the global environment.
The participants express grave concern that the accelerated drive to militarization, aggression and war threatens the very future of humanity, and call for urgent measures to stop and reverse the arms race, to sharply reduce bloated military budgets and to redirect these funds to peaceful and socially useful purposes to raise wages and living standards, improve social programs and protect our environment. Urgent efforts are required to prevent the modernization of nuclear arsenals, to ban the militarization of outer space, and to move in the direction of general and comprehensive disarmament, including the ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Our organizations condemn the further expansion of NATO, including the recent addition of Colombia as a “global partner” and its intention to recruit other states in our hemisphere to the NATO camp, which is totally controlled by U.S. imperialism and serves its economic and political interests. The cause of peace can only be advanced through the dissolution of this aggressive military alliance, not through its expansion.
The Trilateral Meeting agrees that the firm foundations of peace must be based on the principles of non-intervention and full respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, self-determination and independence of all states, as stipulated in the UN Charter and covenants of international law enacted since the end the World War II.
The participants note that the web of U.S. foreign military bases around the world – including an archipelago of almost 80 foreign bases throughout the Americas – is a direct threat to world peace and undermines the sovereignty of individual states, and we call for the closure of these bases. Our three organizations commit to helping build the Global Campaign Against US/NATO Military Bases, and pledge to help mobilize the largest possible contingents of peace forces from our countries to participate in the International Conference Against US/NATO Military Bases to be held in Dublin, Ireland on November 16-18, 2018.
Our organizations pledge to strengthen our solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela and the Sandinista government in Nicaragua, both of which are under sharp attack by U.S. imperialism, and with Socialist Cuba which continues to endure and advance despite a revitalized blockade by the United States. These are not isolated issues or events, but rather part of a coordinated campaign to undermine progressive governments and movements throughout Latin America, particularly those striving to resist imperialist hegemony, and to defend their national sovereignty and independent path of development. This subversive campaign increasingly relies on judicial and parliamentary maneuvers to remove elected leaders and oust progressive governments from power.
In this regard, our Meeting welcomes the progressive changes in Mexico arising from the recent election results, but warns that the new government could well become the next target of such anti-democratic attacks by imperialism and domestic reactionary forces.
The participants note that the re-negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between our three countries has reached a critical stage as the Trump Administration, acting in the interests of U.S. finance capital, seeks to extract concessions from both its northern and southern neighbors. Our organizations consider that the economic relations between our neighboring countries – and related treaties and agreements – must be mutually beneficial for the peoples and economies of our three countries, must serve to improve the wages, working conditions and overall living standards of our peoples, and must protect and enhance our shared natural environment.
Our organizations also express alarm at the rapid growth of racist, anti-immigration tendencies and state policies in our countries, especially marked by the plans of the Trump Administration to step up the deportation of undocumented workers and the completion of a wall along the entire US/Mexican frontier. In our view such positions and policies pander to and help to promote the further rise of xenophobia, national chauvinism, racism and fascism in our societies, backward and dangerous trends which are antithetical and hostile to the cause of peace. We should be building bridges to unite us, not walls to divide us.
While working on all of these related issues over the coming period, our Meeting proposes that our organizations consider three specific campaign initiatives flowing out of this trilateral session:
1. Against Arms Production, the Arms Trade and the Militarization of our Societies – this to include opposition to the military-industrial complexes in our three countries, the export of weapons and military-related goods internationally (including the illicit cross-border traffic of weapons), and the hypocritical “War on Drugs” and militarization of police forces domestically, all of which serve to breed a poisonous ‘cult of militarism’ in our societies. No to Wars at Home or Abroad!
2. Against the Reactionary Wave of Intolerance, Xenophobia and Anti-Immigrant Ideas and State Policies which criminalizes migrant workers, national minorities and racialized communities, and promotes the spread of racism and fascism in our societies. Instead, we must build unity and solidarity among all those who stand for the protection and enhancement of the economic, social and political rights of the people, including the fundamental and inherent rights of the indigenous peoples of our countries.
3. Against Imperialist Interventionism and ‘Regime Change’ and in solidarity with all those peoples and States which are victimized by, or targeted for such imperialist interference and aggression within our hemisphere and around the world.
Finally, the Trilateral Meeting agrees to establish a permanent “continuation” committee, composed of one representative from each of our three organizations, to develop concrete proposals with regard to the three campaign initiatives (outlined above), and to maintain ongoing lines of communication and dialogue among our organizations on all matters of mutual concern and interest.
ALL WARS ARE ILLEGAL, SO WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT IT?
|BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES|
By Zach Carter
Ten Years After The Financial Crisis, The Contagion Has Spread To Democracy Itself
Tim Geithner, Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson dealt a catastrophic blow to public faith in American institutions.
By the time Lehman Brothers filed for the largest bankruptcy in American history on Sept. 15, 2008, the country had been navigating stormy global financial waters for more than a year. Bear Stearns had been rescued in a bailout-facilitated merger with JPMorgan Chase, and the government had nationalized housing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. For anyone paying attention to the financial system, the situation had been quite dire for a long time.
And yet throughout the mess, the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury had been permitting the largest banks in the country to funnel as much cash as they wanted to their shareholders ― even as it became clear those same banks could not pay their debts. Lehman itself had increased its dividend and announced a $100 million stock buyback at the beginning of 2008. Insurance giant AIG paid its highest dividend in company history on Sept. 19, 2008 ― three days after the Federal Reserve handed the insurance giant $85 billion in emergency funds. According to Stanford University Business School Professor Anat Admati, the 19 biggest American banks passed out $80 billion in dividends between the summer of 2007 and the close of 2008. They drew $160 billion in bailout funds from the U.S. Treasury, and untold billions from the Fed’s $7.7 trillion in emergency lending.
When poor people engage in such activity, we call it looting. But for the princes of American capital and their lieutenants at the Fed and the Treasury, this was pure crisis management.
Today, Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson and Timothy Geithner insist they did what they had to under conditions of extreme duress. Mistakes were made, the government’s former top financial overseers acknowledge in a recent piece for The New York Times, but they did ultimately “prevent the collapse of the financial system and avoid another Great Depression.”
Except they didn’t really rescue the banking system. They transformed it into an unaccountable criminal syndicate. In the years since the crash, the biggest Wall Street banks have been caught laundering drug money, violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and Cuba, bribing foreign government officials, making illegal campaign contributions to a state regulator and manipulating the market for U.S. government debt. Citibank, JPMorgan, Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays and UBS even pleaded guilty to felonies for manipulating currency markets.
Not a single human being has served a day in jail for any of it.
The financial crisis that reached its climax on that Monday morning 10 years ago was not fundamentally a problem of capital, liquidity or regulation. It was a crisis of democracy that taught middle-class families a grim lesson about who really mattered in American society ― and who didn’t count.
The failures of the crash and the bailout were not technocratic failures. They were about power.
University of Georgia law professor Mehrsa Baradaran
For most of American history, financial policy was a central political battleground. There was the feud between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton over Revolutionary War debt; the Whiskey Rebellion; Andrew Jackson’s assault on the Second Bank of The United States; the greenbacks Abraham Lincoln issued to help finance the Civil War; William Jennings Bryan and the cross of gold; the creation of the Federal Reserve; FDR’s New Deal. These were among the most heated political issues of their day. And they were all understood to be questions of power and democratic accountability, not merely matters of growth or efficiency.
But beginning in the 1950s, the United States increasingly came to understand finance as apolitical ― something best handled by technocratic experts insulated from the passions of a democratic electorate. This idea went by different slogans ― “the liberal consensus,” “the great moderation,” “central bank independence” ― but they all amounted to the same thing: The economy was nonideological. The decisions made by experts tending to the financial machine were were strictly tactical. Any mistakes were a matter of pulling the wrong lever or setting a dial too high.
The financial crisis exploded this myth. “The failures of the crash and the bailout were not technocratic failures,” says University of Georgia law professor Mehrsa Baradaran. “They were about power.”
Lehman would be the only major American financial institution to out-and-out fail in the crisis. Everyone else was bailed out on generous terms that not only protected their creditors, but their shareholders and ― with the exception of AIG ― the jobs of their top executives. Criminals who broke the law were shielded from prosecution.
Here’s what happened to everyone who didn’t work for a bank: As a percentage of each family’s overall wealth, the poorer you were, the more you lost in the crash. The top 1 percent of U.S. households ultimately captured more than half of the economic gains over the course of the Obama years, while the bottom 99 percent never recovered their losses from the crash.
These were policy choices, not economic inevitabilities. Under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the government saved the financial sector by pumping it full of cash, and then taking unprecedented steps to elevate the value of financial assets. For anyone who owned stocks and bonds (otherwise known as rich people), this was great news.
But there was no similar commitment to housing ― where middle-class people held their wealth. Instead, over 7.7 million homes were lost to foreclosure between 2007 and 2016, while millions more found the source of their savings ― home equity ― wiped out.
It could have been different. When Obama took office, he promised to spend up to
$100 billion from the bank bailout to prevent foreclosures. He ultimately spent just
$21 billion. But the dollar amount was only a fraction of the failure. The bailout gave
the government unprecedented authority over the foreclosure process ― it could
have required banks to adjust monthly payments or reduce debt burdens for
homeowners in distress. Instead, as Geithner put it, the foreclosure relief plan was
designed to “foam the runway” for banks coming in for a hard landing. It allowed
banks to slow down the pace of foreclosures, but did not actually help families keep their homes.
Geithner hadn’t set the dials wrong. He had made a choice about who deserved the government’s full attention and how aid would be distributed. And he had done it
without any meaningful input from Congress, or even a public debate.
“It led to a breakdown and a lack of trust in institutions,” says Admati. “What we
witnessed here … is kind of ominous. It raised a lot of questions about who controls
society ― corporations or the elected government.”
|ERIC VIDAL / REUTERS|
Financial crises foment authoritarianism. In 2015, a trio of German economists studied financial panics in 20 advanced economies dating back to 1870, and concluded that
they almost always result in major gains for “far right” political parties after a lag of a
few years. The most pressing question for policymakers facing a banking meltdown
is not, “How do we restore our banks to profitability?” but, “How can we prevent