Category Archives: Financial Crisis

How Reaganomics Changed Corporations

Thom Hartmann comments on a Roosevelt Institute report that corporations today don’t stimulate investment, growth, and wages because, additional funds are funneled to shareholders through buybacks and dividends.’ (The Thom Hartmann Program)

Death, Drugs, and HSBC: How fraudulent blood money makes the world go round

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Medium:

‘Recent reporting on illegal tax evasion by the world’s second largest bank, HSBC, opens a window onto the pivotal role of Western banks in facilitating organised crime, drug-trafficking and Islamist terrorism. Governments know this, but they are powerless to act, not just because they’ve been bought by the banks: but because criminal and terror financing is integral to global capitalism. Now one whistleblower who uncovered an estimated billion pounds worth of HSBC fraud in Britain, suppressed by the British media, is preparing a prosecution that could blow wide open the true scale of criminal corruption in the world’s finance capital.’

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The Bleak Science Bankrolled by the Pentagon

Nafeez Ahmed writes for VICE Motherboard:

Minerva Research InitiativeThe ​US military is increasingly concerned about the risk of social, political, and economic collapse due to resource stress and climate change. The Pentagon’s ​latest call for research throws light on where and how the military suspects that resource stress could fuel political grievances on a mass scale.

The call, whose deadline to receive proposals is today [Feb 19th], comes on behalf of the US Department of Defense (DoD) ‘Minerva Research Initiative,’ a multimillion dollar social science program. Minerva is designed so the Pentagon can draw on leading-edge academic expertise outside the military, on issues where it lacks sufficient internal knowledge on specific subjects or regions. By examining its areas of focus, we’re offered a rare glimpse into where and how the Pentagon fears conflict will grip the world in the future.’

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Global Challenges: 12 Risks That Threaten Human Civilisation

The Global Challenges Foundation just issued a report on ’12 risks that threaten human civilisation':

12riskThis report has, to the best of the authors’ knowledge, created the first list of global risks with impacts that for all practical purposes can be called infinite. It is also the first structured overview of key events related to such risks and has tried to provide initial rough quantifications for the probabilities of these impacts.

With such a focus it may surprise some readers to find that the report’s essential aim is to inspire action and dialogue as well as an increased use of the methodologies used for risk assessment.

The real focus is not on the almost unimaginable impacts of the risks the report outlines. Its fundamental purpose is to encourage global collaboration and to use this new category of risk as a driver for innovation.

The idea that we face a number of global risks threatening the very basis of our civilisation at the beginning of the 21st century is well accepted in the scientific community, and is studied at a number of leading universities. But there is still no coordinated approach to address this group of risks and turn them into opportunities.’

READ THE FULL REPORT…

West Coast Port Dispute Threatens U.S. Economy

Greece: The True Face of Golden Dawn

Editor’s Note: This report by Channel 4 News was first published in March 2013. 

Global debt has grown by $57 trillion in seven years following the financial crisis

Ami Sedghi reports for The Guardian:

Global stockGlobal debt has grown by $57 trillion to reach $199 trillion in the seven years following the financial crisis – a 40.1% rise, according to a new report. All major economies are now recording higher levels of borrowing relative to gross domestic product (GDP) than they did in 2007.

Total debt as a share of GDP stood at 286% in the second quarter of 2014 compared with 269% in the fourth quarter of 2007.

The McKinsey and Global Institute study which analyses the evolution of debt in 47 countries, found that government debt is “unsustainably high” in some of those, with government debt growing by $25 trillion since 2007. The study found that in 10 of the countries studied, it exceeds 100% of GDP.’

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Spanish Anti-Austerity Party Rally Draws Tens Of Thousands

Greece shows what can happen when the young revolt against corrupt elites

Paul Mason writes for The Guardian:

‘[…] The fact that a party with a “central committee” even got close to power has nothing to do with a sudden swing to Marxism in the Greek psyche. It is, instead, testimony to three things: the strategic crisis of the eurozone, the determination of the Greek elite to cling to systemic corruption, and a new way of thinking among the young.

Of these, the eurozone’s crisis is easiest to understand – because its consequences can be read so easily in the macroeconomic figures. The IMF predicted Greece would grow as the result of its aid package in 2010. Instead, the economy has shrunk by 25%. Wages are down by the same amount. Youth unemployment stands at 60% – and that is among those who are still in the country.’

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Greece’s New Finance Minister: “We Are Going To Destroy The Greek Oligarchy System”

Zero Hedge reports:

Over two years ago, we first highlighted Yanis Varoufakis’ perspectives on the destruction of Greece and Europe’s bogus growth pacts. Since then he has grown in both reason and popularity as his no-nonsense discussons of the mis-design of the euro (and potential solutions) have made him the front-runner to be Syriza’s new finance minister. Never one to  mince words or play politics, Varoufakis tells Channel 4’s Paul Mason in this brief (but chilling for Brussels) interview, what his party would do if it gets into government in Greece, and admits the prospect of power in Europe is “scary”. As he sums up, “we are going to destroy the Greek oligarchy system,” and with it, we suspect, much of the narrative that holds the fragile European Union together…’

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The SYRIZA Challenge in Greece: Interview with Leo Panitch

Editor’s Note: Professor Leo Panitch is a distinguished research professor of Political Science at York University in Toronto, Canada and editor of the Socialist Register. He is also co-author of ‘The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of American Empire‘. The interview was recorded earlier last week, before the elections in Greece.

As inequality soars, the nervous super rich are already planning their escapes

Alec Hogg reports for The Guardian:

Private jet landing in the AlpsWith growing inequality and the civil unrest from Ferguson and the Occupy protests fresh in people’s mind, the world’s super rich are already preparing for the consequences. At a packed session in Davos, former hedge fund director Robert Johnson revealed that worried hedge fund managers were already planning their escapes. “I know hedge fund managers all over the world who are buying airstrips and farms in places like New Zealand because they think they need a getaway,” he said.

Johnson, who heads the Institute of New Economic Thinking and was previously managing director at Soros, said societies can tolerate income inequality if the income floor is high enough. But with an existing system encouraging chief executives to take decisions solely on their profitability, even in the richest countries inequality is increasing.”‘

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Our ‘impartial’ broadcasters have become mouthpieces of the elite

George Monbiot writes for The Guardian:

‘When people say they have no politics, it means that their politics aligns with the status quo. None of us are unbiased, none removed from the question of power. We are social creatures who absorb the outlook and opinions of those with whom we associate, and unconciously echo them. Objectivity is impossible.

The illusion of neutrality is one of the reasons for the rotten state of journalism, as those who might have been expected to hold power to account drift thoughtlessly into its arms. But until I came across the scandal currently erupting in Canada, I hadn’t understood just how quickly standards are falling.’

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Bilderberg and the Cult of Austerity

Andrew Gavin Marshall writes in the sixth part in his series on Bilderberg:

AusterityLeedsTxistockphotoE3x4-1‘It could almost be a slogan: Bilderberg brings people together. Specifically, every year, the Bilderberg Group holds secret, “private” meetings at four star hotels around the world, bringing together nearly 150 of the world’s most influential bankers, corporate executives, dynasties, heads-of-state, foreign policy strategists, central bankers and finance ministers. It also invites the heads of international organizations, think tanks, foundations, universities, military and intelligence officials, media barons, journalists and academics.

Participants at Bilderberg appreciate having a closed-door forum where they can speak openly and directly to one other – and of course, not to us. But perhaps we, the people, would also like to hear what they have to say. For the past four years, Bilderbergers have been running around the world preaching the gospel of “austerity” and “structural reform” – very important terms. If you don’t know what they mean, Bilderbergers are working their day jobs to make sure you will learn.’

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Trojan Hearse: Greek Elections and the Euro Leper Colony

Greg Palast writes:

‘Europe is stunned, and bankers aghast, that polls show the new party of the Left, Syriza, will win Greece’s parliamentary elections to be held this coming Sunday, January 25.

Syriza promises that, if elected, it will cure Greece of leprosy.

Oddly, Syriza also promises that it will remain in the leper colony.  That is, Syriza wants to rid Greece of the cruelty of austerity imposed by the European Central Bank but insists on staying in the euro zone.

The problem is, austerity run wild is merely a symptom of an illness.  The underlying disease is the euro itself.’

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Detroit Renaissance? Mike Papantonio Interviews Abby Martin

‘Abby Martin, Breaking the Set, joins Mike Papantonio to discuss her visit to Detroit, the city’s “tent city,” the water shut offs, bankruptcy and how the city is still feeling the effects of the foreclosure crisis.’ (The Big Picture)

Greece: The Rubber Glove Rebellion

Maria Margaronis reports for BBC Magazine:

Cleaner, protestingYou wouldn’t know to look at it that the messy makeshift camp is the epicentre of a protest that’s touched a nerve in Greece – and given the government more than a mild headache.

There’s a pop-up tent with an inflatable mattress, some plastic chairs, a table, a fridge and a microwave. Posters of red rubber gloves making fists or victory signs adorn the concrete pillars. A banner made from a sheet is splashed with big red letters: “Sit-in protest by the cleaners of the finance ministry.”

Nearly 600 women who cleaned the ministry’s offices around the country were laid off 16 months ago in public-sector cuts demanded by Greece’s creditors. They are middle-aged mothers and grandmothers with no previous experience of activism, but their dogged persistence has caught the imagination of many thousands here whose lives have been derailed by the economic crisis.’

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USA Watchdog Interview with Nomi Prins on Volatility, Gold, the Dollar, QE

Editor’s Note: Nomi Prins is a former managing director at Goldman Sachs and a former senior managing director at Bear Stearns. I would HIGHLY recommend reading her latest book “All The Presidents’ Bankers“. It is quite possibly the best work on the history of America’s financial elite that has ever been written. She is also author of “It Takes A Pillage” and a novel “Black Tuesday“. You can check out more of her work/interviews at her website.

What Is Causing Market Volatility? Interview with Leo Panitch

Editor’s Note: Professor Leo Panitch is a distinguished research professor of Political Science at York University in Toronto, Canada and editor of the Socialist Register. He is also co-author of ‘The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of American Empire‘.

New Oxfam report says half of global wealth held by the top 1%

Larry Elliott and Ed Pilkington report for The Guardian:

‘Billionaires and politicians gathering in Switzerland this week will come under pressure to tackle rising inequality after a study found that – on current trends – by next year, 1% of the world’s population will own more wealth than the other 99%.

Ahead of this week’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in the ski resort of Davos, the anti-poverty charity Oxfam said it would use its high-profile role at the gathering to demand urgent action to narrow the gap between rich and poor.

The charity’s research, published today, shows that the share of the world’s wealth owned by the best-off 1% has increased from 44% in 2009 to 48% in 2014, while the least well-off 80% currently own just 5.5%.

Oxfam added that on current trends the richest 1% would own more than 50% of the world’s wealth by 2016.’

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40% of British families ‘too poor to play a part in society’

Patrick Wintour reports for The Guardian:

Five- and ten-pound notesNearly four out of 10 households with children, or 8.1 million people, live below an income level regarded by the public as the minimum needed to participate in society, according to new research commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The number of those on less than the so-called minimum income threshold in 2012/13 was up by more than a third from 5.9 million in 2008/09, the charity says.

The research finds families headed by lone parents are under the greatest pressure, with 71% (2.3 million individuals) living below the required level, up from 65% (2.2 million).’

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Majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty

Lyndsey Layton reports for The Washington Post:

‘For the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income families, according to a new analysis of 2013 federal data, a statistic that has profound implications for the nation.

The Southern Education Foundation reports that 51 percent of students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in the 2012-2013 school year were eligible for the federal program that provides free and reduced-price lunches. The lunch program is a rough proxy for poverty, but the explosion in the number of needy children in the nation’s public classrooms is a recent phenomenon that has been gaining attention among educators, public officials and researchers.’

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Suicides highlight the grim toll of benefits sanctions in austerity Britain

Ashley Cowburn reports for The Guardian:

[…] This week the work and pensions select committee will hold its first oral evidence session for its inquiry into benefits sanctions policy following last year’s limited Oakley review.

Many of those visiting Salford Central food bank, run by the Trussell Trust, have experienced benefits sanctions. The refuge provides half a tonne of food each week to Salford’s residents and was expected to have fed more than 3,500 individuals by the end of 2014. More than 60% of those who come there have had their benefits sanctioned, according to an internal report by Salford city council. The report concluded that sanctioning could lead to extreme hardship, reliance on loan sharks, shoplifting and depression.’

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Nonlinear Warfare – A New System of Political Control

‘A short film by Adam Curtis screened during Charlie Brooker’s review of 2014 on the BBC; shows the how deliberate undermining of peoples perception of the world, by manipulating the media and civil society, creates confusion and contradiction, undermining any opposition to existing power structures. This strategy has allowed quantitative easing to go almost unnoticed and unchallenged, even though it is the biggest transfer of wealth to the rich in recent documented history.’ (Films for Action)

New TISA leak: Secret trade deal threatens privacy rights

Santiago Carrion reports for ROAR Magazine:

‘On Wednesday, the Associated Whistleblowing Press published a new leak revealing US attempts to undermine privacy rights, net neutrality and internet freedoms through top-secret negotiations over the little-known Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). Even a quick glance at the leaked document is already extremely revealing. At the top of its front page, in capital letters, the word CONFIDENTIAL is highlighted — and further down the full extent of the treaty’s secret nature is revealed: “Declassify on five years from entry into force of the TISA agreement.”

A full reading and understanding of the text, however, not only explains these harsh terms, but makes them necessary. Because what government would tell its citizens, explicitly, that they are opening the door for mega-corporations to take control of their public services? What company would clearly inform its customers that their private data will be handed over to foreign entities without any restrictions? In the case of TISA, when the players involved include the US, the EU and more than twenty other countries — together making up almost 70% of the world services market — the answers are painfully obvious.’

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Bilderberg and the Global Financial Mafia

Andrew Gavin Marshall writes in part four of his series examining the Bilderberg Group:

‘In the previous Bilderberg article, I wrote that financial markets were “a type of global parasite with unprecedented power capable of determining the fate of nations and peoples.” In truth, the “super-entity” known as financial market power functions like a cartel, or an organized criminal network: a Mafia. This installment examines some of the members of the global financial mafia who are present at Bilderberg meetings and thus are given unparalleled access to political leaders behind closed doors.

At Bilderberg meetings, participants frequently include leading officials and advisers to banks like JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Barclays, Deutsche Bank, HSBC and AXA, among others. The participation of leaders and advisers to these and other large financial institutions provides world leaders with direct, “private” access to some of the leading voices at the core of global financial markets. The interests and actions of financial markets can thus be articulated to the leaders of powerful political, media, military, intelligence and technocratic institutions. The “invisible hand” may voice where and when it might smack.

Through Bilderberg, leaders in financial markets are given an inside look at, and access to, those who shape and wield foreign and economic policy in the world’s most powerful nations. Their interests become a part of that process, just as geopolitical interests are integrated into the actions of financial markets. While financial markets command no armies, they determine the flow and functions of money upon which all armies are dependent, and to which nations are obedient. Bilderberg brings these institutions and individuals together for an off-the-record, private chat about global affairs and policy.’

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White House Brags Sanctions Put Russia On ‘Brink of Collapse’

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Confirming that they intend to impose a new round of sanctions on Russia, White House officials are seeking to claim “credit” for Russia’s recent economic woes, bragging that they have put Russia on the brink of an economic collapse.

Russia’s current economic problems center around weakness in the ruble. Russia’s central bank raised interest rates yesterday to try to stave off further inflation, but the weakness continued in today’s trading.

Wilson Center scholar Matthew Rojansky defended the sanctions, saying the logic behind them is to damage the Russian economy so much that it “starts hurting the Russian public’s ability to buy food or heat homes,” forcing Putin to act in the face of the crisis.

Russia’s economy is far from pushing the average citizen to the brink of starvation, however, though a new round of sanctions at this point makes it clear that is indeed the US goal.’

The Bilderberg Group and Its Link to World Financial Markets

Andrew Gavin Marshall writes:

This article looks at the published lists of participants attending recent Bilderberg meetings, specifically ones that took place between 2008 and 2014. From these lists, we’re better able to understand the relevance of Bilderberg meetings to specific institutions, ideologies and powerful sectors of society connected with global economic governance. As such, the following articles in this series examine financial markets, banks, technocracy, finance ministries, central banks, the IMF and the European Union.

When discussing the Bilderberg group, its meetings and their impacts, there is one major problem: the meetings are held in secret. When 130 of the world’s most influential individuals and institutions get together behind closed doors for a “private chat,” the public is left unaware of what was said, debated, agreed or decided. The official website for Bilderberg publishes recent lists of attendees as well as a press release of the “topics” due to be discussed.

With no details added, the list for the 2014 meeting’s topics included, “Is the economic recovery sustainable?”, “What next for Europe?”, “China’s political and economic outlook,” and “Current Events.” This is essentially all we have to go on in our efforts to discern what was debated and discussed behind the scenes.

So, instead of engaging in speculation about what was or was not discussed at Bilderberg meetings, let’s instead look at the individuals and institutions that are frequently represented there. What role do those groups play in society? What is their history and evolution as institutions and individuals? What ideologies do they embrace and propagate? Seeking the answers to these questions raises further inquiries: what do these individuals, institutions and ideologies tell us about our society? What do they tell us about power and how it is organized, exercised and expanded?’

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Dodd-Frank Budget Fight Proves Democrats Are a Bunch of Stuffed Suits

Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone:

‘[…] Conservatives for welfare, and liberals for big business. It doesn’t make sense unless we’re not really dealing with any divided collection of conservatives or liberals, and are instead talking about one nebulous mass of influence, money and interests. I think of it as a single furiously-money-collecting/favor-churning oligarchical Beltway party, a thing that former Senate staffer and author Jeff Connaughton calls “The Blob.”

What’s happening here is that The Blob, which includes supposed enemies like Reid and Graham, wants to give donation-factory banks like Citi and Chase a handout. But a coalition of heretics, including the liberal Warren, the genuinely conservative Vitter and (surprisingly to me) the usually party-orthodox Nancy Pelosi is saying no to the naked giveaway.

Is killing the Citigroup provision really worth the trouble? Is it a “Hill to die on”? Maybe not in itself. But the key here is that a victory on the swaps issue will provide the Beltway hacks with a playbook for killing the rest of the few meaningful things in Dodd-Frank, probably beginning with the similar Volcker Rule, designed to prevent other types of gambling by federally-insured banks. Once they cave on the swaps issue, it won’t be long before the whole bill vanishes, and we can go all the way back to our pre-2008 regulatory Nirvana.’

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Thom Hartmann: “Somebody’s messing with the price of oil and it could lead to depression or war”