Why it lacks resilience, and What will take its place
Paper presented on July 11, 2022 to The Ninth South-South Forum on Sustainability.
The U.S. is Saving the Financial Sector, not the Economy
Before juxtaposing the U.S. and alternative responses to the coronavirus’ economic effects, I would like to step back in time to show how the pandemic has revealed a deep underlying problem. We are seeing the consequences of Western societies painting themselves into a debt corner by their creditor-oriented philosophy of law. Neoliberal anti-government (or more accurately, anti-democratic) ideology has centralized social planning and state power in “the market,” meaning specifically the financial market on Wall Street and in other financial centers.
In the vast literature dealing with the rise of Christianity, we find many different accounts of how this small sect of Jewish messianists arose, spread, and eventually took over the Roman Empire. However, most of these histories focus on Christianity as a group defined by a set of beliefs, or a group dedicated to the adoration of the person of Jesus Christ. While it is true that Christianity, as it arose, was certainly those things, it was also a group with its own socio-economic ideology and set of practices.
We are again reaching the point in the business cycle known as “peak debt,” when debts have compounded to the point that their cumulative total cannot be paid. Student debt, credit card debt, auto loans, business debt and sovereign debt are all higher than they have ever been. As economist Michael Hudson writes in his provocative 2018 book, “…and forgive them their debts,” debts that can’t be paid won’t be paid. The question, he says, is how they won’t be paid.
“Quantitative easing” was supposed to be an emergency measure. The Federal Reserve “eased” shrinkage in the money supply due to the 2008-09 credit crisis by pumping out trillions of dollars in new bank reserves. After the crisis, the presumption was that the Fed would “normalize” conditions by sopping up the excess reserves through “quantitative tightening” (QT) – raising interest rates and selling the securities it had bought with new reserves back into the market.
Calls for a Universal Basic Income have been increasing, most recently as part of the Green New Deal introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and supported in the last month by at least 40 members of Congress. A Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a monthly payment to all adults with no strings attached, similar to Social Security. Critics say the Green New Deal asks too much of the rich and upper-middle-class taxpayers who will have to pay for it, but taxing the rich is not what the resolution proposes. It says funding would primarily come from the federal government, “using a combination of the Federal Reserve, a new public bank or system of regional and specialized public banks,” and other vehicles.
Originally on RT America on Dec 15, 2018
The Chris Hedges YouTube Channel on Jul 6, 2022
Economist and author, Michael Hudson, in his new book “…And Forgive Them Their Debts: Lending, Foreclosure and Redemption From Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee Year,” shares with journalist Chris Hedges how Ancient cultures forgave debt cyclically to prevent debt peonage and the rise of an oligarch elite.
TheRealNews on Oct 31, 2018
The student debt problem is exploding, growing three times as fast as any other kind of debt, yet the Trump administration is making it more difficult for students to seek debt relief. Ellen Brown of the Public Banking Institute outlines the implications.
Reach Out on Sep 18, 2018
On last Thursday’s (9.13.18) special edition of Reach Out, we asked, “What is socialism?” In a discussion ranging from the juxtaposition of socialism and religion, cooperation vs. competition in humanity’s origins, and how class is what primarily divides people, Bill and I, along with special guest Matt Reedy, barely scratched the surface of answering that question but realized its enormity and complexity.
Updated: Sept. 19, 2018
Wall Street did not let the Lehman Brothers crisis go to waste. The banks that have paid the largest fines for financial fraud are now much bigger and more profitable. The victims of their junk mortgage loans are poorer, and the economy is facing debt deflation.
Updated: Feb. 23, 2018
I recently did an interview with Stephen Bedard on the History of Christianity podcast, also on youtube about my book All Things in Common: The Economic Practices of the Early Christians. I hope you enjoy it.