Apr 282017
 

By Michael Nevradakis99GetSmart

Originally published at MintPressNews:

According to economist Roger Bootle, the EU has grown unsustainable and due to various factors, is about to burst. (AP/Francisco Seco)

According to economist Roger Bootle, the EU has grown unsustainable and due to various factors, is about to burst. (AP/Francisco Seco)

Britain’s departure from the EU, a process that will take about two years, has formally gone into motion. MintPress News had the opportunity to speak with prize-winning economist Roger Bootle about what Brexit will ultimately mean for the country’s economy, as well as the European Union as a whole.

LONDON– The recent triggering of Article 50 of the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty by the United Kingdom has formally set into motion the process of Britain’s departure from the EU, an action that is in line with the result of last June’s referendum, where 52 percent of British voters chose to leave the union.

Europe is now faced with the prospect of a turbulent period ahead, with the upcoming French presidential elections and the possibility of a victory for populist candidate Marine Le Pen, as well as snap parliamentary elections declared in the UK, German elections in September, a rising tide of Euroscepticism across the continent and the process of Brexit now formally put into motion.

Economist Roger Bootle, chairman of Capital Economics in London and specialist adviser to the British House of Commons Treasury Committee, is the lead author of the report “Leaving the euro: a practical guide,” which was awarded the prestigious Wolfson Prize in Economics in 2012. The report presents a comprehensive proposal for how any eurozone member could depart the zone in an orderly fashion. Bootle discussed his findings extensively in a March 2015 interview with Dialogos Radio.

MintPress News recently had the opportunity to speak with Bootle, in an interview that also aired on Dialogos Radio, about the prospects of the British economy following Brexit and the future of the EU and eurozone following Britain’s upcoming departure.

MintPress News (MPN): The British government has recently gone ahead and invoked Article 50, formally triggering the process for Great Britain’s departure from the European Union. Many doom-and-gloom scenarios have been voiced, particularly by media pundits, regarding the adverse impacts of “Brexit” on Great Britain’s economy. In reality, how has the British economy performed since the referendum vote and, more recently, since Article 50 was invoked, and what are its prospects going forward?

Roger Bootle (RB): The British economy has done extremely well since the referendum. In fact, you can’t really see any adverse effects at all. It’s just bowled along much as before. In the immediate weeks and months after the referendum, there was some hesitation and some business sectors undoubtedly felt a bit of a slowdown, but that didn’t last long.

As things are at the moment, they’re looking really very strong. Surveys suggest that economic growth will continue roughly at the level we’ve seen recently. Of course, the pound has dropped quite considerably, and that’s helped British exports. They are looking very strong. Even if there’s a bit of a squeeze on consumers, which there may well be, I think all the signs are that the British economy is going to sail through this period.

MPN: From an economic point of view, what are the next steps in the Brexit process for Great Britain? For instance, do you believe that Great Britain will still maintain access to the European common market, and more so, do you believe that Great Britain should maintain access to the European common market?

RB: Now of course we are in a difficult phase, which could go on for up to two years because the Lisbon Treaty allows for a period of up to two years for negotiations for a country leaving. Of course, there’s been no country apart from Greenland, a long time before, that’s actually left the European Union, so we’re in uncharted territory really.

I think that what we’re going to see, what I hope we’re going to see, is some sort of free trade deal hammered out between Britain and the EU. Now if that doesn’t happen, it’s very important that this word “access” is nobbled, that Britain needs “access.” I think it really is very misleading, this word.

Every country in the world has got access to the single market – the United States, India, China, Japan, all these countries trade with the single market, they’ve got access to it, it’s just that not being part of the single market, not having a free trade deal with the European Union, they have to pay the

European Union common external tariff, and of course they have to meet all the standards and certificates and so on that the EU demands.

Now, if Britain doesn’t reach some sort of free trade agreement with the EU during this two-year negotiating period, then we’re effectively going to be in the same sort of situation that the United States, China, Japan and India are all in. That doesn’t sound to me to be too bad.

MPN: There have been many rumors and many press reports regarding the pound of flesh, if you will, that the European Union will demand from Great Britain as an exit bill for leaving the EU. Do you view this as a distinct possibility, or does Great Britain have bargaining chips of its own to possibly avoid this as it navigates the exit process?

RB: Various figures have suggested bills as high as 60 billion euros that the UK will have to hand over to the EU. I think the chances of the EU being able to secure anything like that are vanishingly small, next to zero. There was a report by the British House of Lords recently which obtained expert legal opinion, and the result of that expert legal opinion was that Britain was obliged to pay nothing at all. That is to say, the common sense interpretation of this would apply, that once you leave the club you’re no longer asked to carry on paying your membership dues.

Now, I suspect that there might be reasons of political and economic self-interest such that Britain might end up paying rather more than zero, but 60 billion euros, well they’ll have to whistle for that. I think there’s plenty of room for some sort of reasonable deal.

MPN: Part of the exit process, from what I understand, would have to do with Great Britain’s share of the European Central Bank’s cash reserves, which amount to 16 percent of the ECB’s total cash reserves. Can these cash reserves be returned to Great Britain as part of the Brexit process?

RB: I don’t see that as being a factor to be taken on its own. As a shareholder in the ECB, we do have a claim on the ECB’s net assets. The ECB’s got liabilities as well, so it isn’t reasonable to just look at the cash the ECB holds, you have to look at the balance sheet as a whole, and then you’ve got to put that into the context of the whole position of the EU. I can’t see the UK walking away with 16 percent of the ECB’s cash holdings. I think there’s going to be some overall totting-up of assets and liabilities and whatever the EU thinks are the UK’s continuing obligations after it’s actually left the club, and that’s something that’s going to be a major argument. These ECB cash reserves will be just one factor among very many that will affect this question of how much the UK has to hand over.

MPN: What are the possibilities that Great Britain has on the table as it prepares to depart the European Union, in terms of new trade deals or other beneficial agreements outside of the European Union?

RB: We’ve heard President [Donald] Trump say that he’s keen on a prospective U.S.-UK trade deal, and he’s made it pretty clear that he thinks that can be accomplished very quickly. There’s a whole series of other countries that are interested, including former members of the British Empire that are now members of the British Commonwealth: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India. Countries outside, such as Japan and China, I think will be able to secure some sort of agreement pretty soon.

I think it’s very important not to overplay the significance of trade deals. Britain trades all around the world with all sorts of countries with which it does not have a trade deal, the United States being one of them, Britain’s biggest single export market. The UK does not have a trade agreement with the United States, and the reason it doesn’t have one is because at the moment it can’t make its own trade policy! It’s the EU that has to do that, and the EU hasn’t been able to make a trade deal with the United States!

I think very much [that as] a result of “euro-brainwashing,” in the European Union most people seem to think that prosperity emerges at the end of the fountain pens of these wonderful official trade negotiators in Brussels and elsewhere, and that all our futures depend on these people. This is complete hogwash. It’s a fairy tale. Around the world, all sorts of countries do extremely well and trade with each other without having anything to do with these panjandrums in Brussels. Britain could be in exactly the same position.

MPN: How does the City of London and the business community in Great Britain view the prospects of the British economy following Brexit?

RB: In the run-up to the referendum, there was a majority of the leaders of big business in Britain, including in the City of London, the financial interests, in favor of Britain staying in. That hasn’t changed very much, and accordingly there’s a preponderance of voices, although it’s less strident than before, worried about exactly what sort of arrangement Britain is going to put in place.

But even before the referendum vote, this description of the state of business opinion was far from uniform. There were a lot of businesspeople who were in favor of Britain leaving. A lot of people in the City were in favor of Britain leaving. On the whole, it was the more entrepreneurial City firms that were in favor of Britain leaving, as opposed to the big established banks and brokerage houses and so forth, who on balance were in favor of Britain staying.

I think that now the debate has moved on a lot. It’s been helped by some of Mrs. [British Prime Minister Theresa] May’s speeches and by the triggering of Article 50. It’s now pretty clear that we are leaving; accordingly, business opinion has switched from trying to operate as some sort of rear-guard action to realizing that it’s going to happen. Obviously, there’s a difference of opinion.

There are still some business leaders, including some in the City, who are a bit concerned and they want to make sure that we get the softest of soft Brexits. But a lot of business leaders are more optimistic than that. I think the mood, though, has changed. It’s changed towards, as I thought it would and hoped it would, towards making the most of Brexit, getting on with it, getting on with the job, getting the job of leaving the EU done and then making sure that Britain is best placed in the world that follows.

MPN: A recent survey of reserve managers at 80 central banks around the world found that there is a recent tendency for central banks to cut their euro exposure, while viewing British currency as a safer prospect for their banks’ portfolios. Is this a trend that you have observed in the markets and is this likely to continue?

RB: I don’t find it surprising that central bank reserve managers should find the prospect of having substantial amounts of their reserves in euros alarming. I don’t find that surprising at all, because there is a mega-crisis in the European Union. For the last year or so, the media has been obsessing about the so-called “British crisis” triggered by the fact that we voted to leave the European Union.

But fundamentally, putting aside for a moment the possible question of a second Scottish referendum — that is a big worry for the UK — that aside, the UK is a pretty stable place, and I think all the signs are that although there might be a few wobbles over Brexit, it can continue to be both successful and stable in the years ahead. And of course, famously it’s got extremely liquid financial markets. So I can see why international money managers, including central bank reserve managers, would find the UK fairly attractive.

By contrast, you can paint a scenario that’s deeply alarming for the countries of the EU. It’s still, I think, more than possible that another country is going to leave the euro over the next few years. The Italians remain very weak, the Greek economy is in a very, very serious state. Either one or both of those countries can leave. You’ve got a political crisis in France, with the possibility of far-right leader Marine Le Pen becoming president.

Even if that doesn’t happen, there’s no doubt over what way France is going over the next couple of years. So there are really fundamental questions about the integrity of the EU as a political unit, and the euro currency alongside that. Why would you want to expose substantial amounts of your reserves to that?

From a British point of view, there is a danger, I think, in all of this. I happen to think that the lower pound brought on by Brexit is a great boon for the British economy. I wanted the pound to be weaker for a long time. I think we needed it, it’s improved our competitiveness, so the last thing I would want to see is international capital holders becoming really worried about the euro and the EU, moving money into the pound with the result of the pound rising a lot in the exchanges. I think that would be extremely unhelpful for Britain.

MPN: Even though Great Britain was not in the eurozone, many people forget that it had been a part of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, the ERM, before departing in 1992. This departure had, like Brexit, been accompanied by doom-and-gloom scenarios for what the impact on the British economy would be. In reality, how did exiting the ERM impact the British economy at the time?

RB: It’s very funny, this, because I remember extremely well that before Britain left — ”left” is too dignified a word, it sort of fell out of the ERM. What happened in September 1992, the UK Treasury was telling anyone who wanted to listen, and quite a few who didn’t, that we absolutely had to stay in the ERM, because otherwise inflation would soar, interest rates would soar and the economy would go down the tubes.

Various economists, myself included, said this was rubbish and that the opposite would happen, and dare I say it, after Sept. 16, 1992, the Treasury was proven wrong. That’s to say, the currency fell a long way, and exactly as a few of us had said, interest rates would not have to go up. Indeed they fell, inflation carried on falling too, and the economy recovered. After that, there were five years of very strong growth under the Conservatives before Labour won the election in 1997. So that was an earlier occasion where the Treasury forecasts of doom and gloom were proved comprehensively wrong.

MPN: Looking at economic and political developments in Europe, with an emphasis on the upcoming presidential elections in France and the candidacy of Marine Le Pen, who has delivered her own strong Eurosceptic message to French voters, do you believe we are seeing the beginning process of the breakup of the eurozone or the European Union, and how can Brexit serve as a catalyst for this process?

RB: I think we are seeing probably the beginnings of the breakup of the EU. The beginnings of the breakup of the euro were seen some time ago. Of course it hasn’t happened, but the signs are, I think, pretty clear, of the strains, very clear of course in Greece, but also I think more significantly in Italy. Less dramatic, of course, in Italy, but Italy is a much bigger economy, and I think this is more significant for the EU because Italy, of course, was a founding member of the EU. Greece didn’t join until much later.

If Greece ends up leaving the euro, then that is a hammerblow not just to the euro but, I think, to the institutions of the EU itself. Now, it may well be that one of these events, a country leaving the euro or the election of Marine Le Pen, could happen fairly soon, and that would still be early on in the Brexit process, because it will be almost two years until Britain leaves the EU.

But if Italy doesn’t leave the euro, and/or we don’t get Marine Le Pen as president of France, and both the euro and the EU hold together, then I think Brexit is going to play a major role, because then all eyes are going to be on seeing how the UK does outside the EU. Now of course, it’s going to take quite some time for this to be testable. We’ve got the up to two years of negotiations, and I suspect there will be some wobbles and difficulties and short-term problems associated with the business of exit, so it might be a year or two after exit before we can see how the UK is doing.

But if the UK is doing really pretty well after that period, we’re going to see a lot of pressure within the EU for other countries to leave, because then the UK will have gotten out of the free movement of labor, gotten out of the jurisdiction of the European courts without having to pay Brussels these huge annual subventions, and I think a lot of countries will look at this deal and think “oh gosh, I think I rather like that setup.”

MPN: A few years back, you were awarded the Wolfson Prize in Economics for your analysis that showed that any eurozone member state could safely depart the eurozone in an orderly fashion. Could you recap some of the highlights of this proposal for our listeners, and has anything changed in your analysis since then?

RB: I don’t think the essence of the situation or indeed my recommendations for what a country should do have changed at all, but there is a particular relevance to the French situation. What we said was, first of all, don’t be afraid of the fact that the exchange rate for the new currency falls, that the currency is weak immediately after the exit. That is part of the solution, not the problem. You shouldn’t try to stop it, indeed you should encourage it. It’s how you get the combination of reduced burden of debt and increased competitiveness.

We recommended that preparations for this exit should be conducted in secret. If this is not possible, then you have to impose capital controls. You might have to close the banks, which would be a serious worry. You don’t need to be able to issue new currency in order to leave. It takes quite some time for notes to be printed. You can do it without doing that in these days of electronic money. You could do without notes for a while, and indeed you could carry on using euros in the interim before your new notes are available.

You probably will need, in some sense, to default on some of your debt. The aim should be redenominate your national debt into the new currency, the one that’s depreciated, and depending on whether you can do that, it’s going to depend on the precise legal position of the debt. But insofar as you can, that’s what you should do, and the aim should be, through a combination of a reduced debt burden as a share of GDP, and the increased competitiveness, to get a period of economic growth, and from that of course, all sorts of good things will follow.

The connection with the French election is that Marine Le Pen has talked about having a referendum on ditching the euro and bringing back the franc, which is completely different from what we suggested in our Wolfson Prize-winning study. The significance of this is that Marine Le Pen’s proposal is going to cause an awful lot of financial instability. The financial markets aren’t going to wait for the result of the vote, they’re going to act with their feet straight away!

If Marine Le Pen wins, I think you’re going to see substantial capital flight from France even before she announces the referendum, and a lot of money leaving France. I could see a real banking crisis following from that, as people try to get their money out and to put it in, as it were, safer members of the eurozone, principally Germany. There might have to be some sort of capital controls imposed to stop that capital flight and to stop the French banking system from collapsing.

MPN: Looking at economic conditions in Europe today, and specifically in countries such as Greece that continue to enforce a regime of strict economic austerity as prescribed by its lenders, do you believe that exiting the eurozone is still an option for these countries?

RB: I don’t see how Greece can escape from its current situation without a much-devalued exchange rate. Spain is a country that is now recovering, and I think would probably be able to stay in the euro system, although not if Italy leaves and devalues. Italy, especially, and Greece, I don’t see any chance of emerging from their current economic torpor that doesn’t involve leaving the euro.

MPN: In Greece, there are various arguments that are heard against Grexit, ranging from claims that it’s too late and that it is something Greece should have done seven or eight years ago at the onset of the crisis, to arguments that a catastrophic devaluation of the new currency would follow, or that hyperinflation would result, or that Greece would be unable to import vital necessities. How do you respond to these arguments?

RB: There’s no doubt that it would be possible to do Grexit badly, and in the same vein, it’s possible to do Brexit badly. You could make a complete mess of it. There’s no doubt that’s possible. It’s very important, I think, not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Yes, there will be difficulties as a result of Grexit, but the most important thing is, it gives hope.

You have to ask yourself what you’re comparing your option with. A country that’s lost something like 25 percent of its GDP, that has a huge proportion of its workforce unemployed, there doesn’t seem to be much hope under the current situation. So I think it’s a bit extreme to say “oh gosh, if Greece left the euro, there would be hyperinflation.” Well, there wouldn’t be hyperinflation at all. If it’s managed properly, there wouldn’t be an uptick in inflation, and that wouldn’t necessarily be all bad, because it would help to devalue the real value of some of the debt.

You’d have to, though, keep this under control. It would have to be well-managed. You would need the effective management of the Bank of Greece and the Greek government to make sure that this was a fairly benign process. That doesn’t mean to say that you can avoid pain. You can’t avoid pain! You’ve had pain for the last how many years in Greece, and this is a country that’s lost 25 percent of its GDP!

Apr 022017
 

By Michael Nevradakis, 99GetSmart

karousos3-1-300x207The transcript of Dialogos Radio’s interview with economist and analyst Dimitris Karousos. This interview aired on our broadcasts for the week of March 22-28, 2017. Find the podcast of this interview here.

MN: Joining us today on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview Series is economist and economic analyst Dimitris Karousos, who is a member of the political directorate of Greece’s United Popular Front, and who has enjoyed a long career working for financial institutions within and outside of Greece. Mr. Karousos, thank you very much for joining us today.

DK: Thank you for your kind invitation.

MN: Let’s begin by discussing the recent deal that was reached between the Greek government and its European lenders. The Greek government has engaged in a big PR show, portraying this new agreement as one that will not deliver even one euro’s worth of new austerity measures, as a result of the so-called “equivalent measures” that will be adopted. This begs the question, if the net sum of these new measures is zero, then why enact them? And continuing along this line of thinking, what does the new agreement actually entail and mean for Greece?

DK: As we now find ourselves in Oscar season, it is clear that the Oscar for best director should go to the communications team of the Greek government, as their new dogma which claims that 1+1=0 is one of the most absurd things that the Greek people have heard yet. Indeed, “professor” Tsipras, by claiming that 1+1=0, seems to be reinventing the rules of mathematics. In other words, the government is attempting to claim that for every euro of austerity measures and cuts that will be enacted, there will be one euro in equivalent measures to offset those cuts. This, of course, is a blatant lie, because if there indeed will be no impact, these measures would not be needed.

The Greek government is lying, and this can be demonstrated in three ways. First, the troika—meaning the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund—is not discussing the possibility of cuts in the special property tax and the value added tax, and indeed is not even allowing these issues to be brought to the negotiating table.

Second, the troika, instead of tax cuts, is insisting on the enactment of the so-called Juncker growth package, named after the president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker. This package is essentially the European Union’s Partnership Agreement, known as ESPA, but this is not a true replacement because Greece already qualifies for funds from this agreement regardless. Therefore, somebody needs to explain how low wage earners who are now faced with a lower tax-free threshold and will be forced to pay taxes, or how pensioners who will face further cuts to their pensions, will benefit from the European Union’s Partnership Agreement, which in the first place has nothing to do with this group of people, since it is concerns only entrepreneurs and supposedly offsets these cuts.

Third, whatever “equivalent” measures are agreed upon will only begin to be enforced if and only when Greece has fully and successfully enacted new cuts to wages and pensions, as foreseen in the new austerity package with 3.6 billion euro worth of cuts.

MN: The deal which was recently reached foresees the achievement of a primary budget surplus of at least 3.5% of the Greek GDP in 2019, while we are also hearing that Greece’s primary surplus for the month of January surpassed targets. Is this a good thing, however? Are primary surpluses a positive thing for a country like Greece, with the economy in the state that it is in?

DK: Here, we should first make it clear that no economy which has found itself in a similar condition to that of Greece has been able to recover through the enforcement of strict austerity and the pursuit of surpluses.

The economists Barry Eichengreen and Ugo Panizza, in a study of theirs, examined 235 countries and found that there were only 36 cases of countries which were able to maintain, for a five year period on average, a primary budget surplus of at least 3 percent of GDP, representing 15 percent of the total sample. In the same study, they found that there were only 17 cases of countries which, over an average of eight years, maintained a primary budget surplus of at least 3 percent of GDP, representing just 9 percent of total cases. There were only 12 cases of countries which, over a ten year period, maintained a primary budget surplus of at least 3 percent of GDP. It should be noted that Germany, the strongest economy in Europe, was not one of these countries!

In other words, they are asking Greece to achieve something that not even an economy at the level of Germany’s has been able to ever achieve! It should also be added that Eichengreen and Panizza note that extraordinarily strict fiscal policies—austerity in other words—with the goal of achieving a high primary budget surplus, may in fact achieve the opposite results, leading to recession and to political and social turmoil. These policies, in other words, may lead to the opposite outcome from that which is intended.

MN: With this new agreement which has been reached, do you believe that the risk of a so-called Schauble-style Grexit has been averted, or does it remain a distinct possibility? And continuing on that frame of thought, what would this German-proposed Grexit, which would include the imposition of a dual or parallel currency, mean for Greece?

DK: Not only has the threat of a Schauble-style Grexit and the imposition of a dual or parallel currency not been surpassed, but I believe it remains the plan that will be put into place. I believe that the following will happen: once the Greek government completes the so-called “troika review” of its finances with an agreement for new austerity measures totaling 3.2 to 3.6 billion euros, the troika will break up the next installment of so-called “bailout” funds into sub-installments. Once the German elections have occurred, then a fake “crisis” between Greece and its creditors will be orchestrated, and that is when the Schauble plan, named of course after the German finance minister, will be imposed. This plan would entail Grexit and the imposition of a dual or parallel currency within Greece.

The circulation of a dual or parallel currency will mean an even more rapid internal devaluation and will signify the immediate impoverishment of the Greek populace. There will be one currency used for internal transactions, such as the payment of salaries and pensions, while whatever euros are still in circulation will be collected and used towards the payment of the national debt, which will continue to be denominated in euros.

This would be a terrible development for Greece, as this dual or parallel currency will face constant devaluation versus the euro, as it will not be hard currency and nobody will want it. If you go to the greengrocer or the bakery, for instance, they might accept the dual currency at an exchange rate far lower than the official peg set by the government. The black market for euros will flourish and the economic catastrophe will be total and complete. The introduction of what will essentially be an IOU, or script, will not only completely destroy the Greek economy but it will also discredit the idea of a national, domestic currency in the eyes of the populace.

MN: Something which, of course, is not frequently discussed by analysts, journalists, and by the mass media in general is the difference between a dual or parallel currency on the one hand, and a national domestic currency on the other hand. What is the distinction and why is one better than the other?

DK: The differences are as follows. By definition, a parallel or dual currency means that there is a different currency in use for domestic transactions, from that which is used for external transactions. A national or domestic currency, on the other hand, is a currency that is issued by a nationalized central bank, such as the Bank of Greece, which would be completely state-owned. With a domestic currency, Greece would not be borrowing the currency that it will put into circulation, it will instead mint the currency itself. It is a wealth instrument, not a debt instrument. Furthermore, a national or domestic currency means that the state itself, because it mints its own currency, does not borrow it from any other central bank.

MN: Explain for us the steps which Greece could follow in order to undertake an orderly departure from the Eurozone and return to a true domestic currency. How could the various dangers that we keep hearing about, such as the risk of hyperinflation or a catastrophic devaluation of the new currency or a difficulty in importing goods, be averted?

DK: The political party which I am a part of, the United Popular Front, also known as EPAM, has described, in detail, 15 necessary steps which are required in order for a smooth transition to take place to a new national, domestic currency.

Every step in this process is absolutely necessary, and no steps can be skipped, as it will impact the entire transition to a domestic currency. The most important of these steps are as follows:

First, disputing the legality of the debt and declaring an immediate stoppage of payments.

Second, declaring the immediate cancelation of all of the memorandums and associated legislation which completely altered the legal and political status of the Greek state and imposed the troika-led occupation.

Third, departure from the European Union and the Eurozone.

Fourth, the imposition of a national, domestic currency.

Fifth, the nationalization of the Bank of Greece, the country’s central bank.

Sixth, the imposition of capital controls in order to prevent money from leaving the country.

Seventh, the liquidation of Greece’s four major banks, while these banks remain in operation.

Eighth, enacting measures to ensure that transactions are able to take place smoothly during the period of transition to the new currency.

Ninth, ensuring the adequate supply of goods in the marketplace.

Tenth, protecting consumers and vigorously policing the marketplace and the prices of goods.

Eleventh, immediately restoring wages and pensions to pre-memorandum levels.

Finally, implementation of “seisachtheia,” an ancient Greek precedent which refers to the forgiveness of the debts of households, as well as small- and medium-sized businesses.

MN: Let’s tackle these issues one at a time… How has Greece’s membership in the European Union since 1981 and in the Eurozone since 2002 impacted Greece’s productive and industrial capacity? And, as a second part to this question, is there any possibility of Greece’s agricultural or productive or industrial capacity increasing within the European Union and within the Eurozone?

DK: There is absolutely no chance of recovery for the Greek productive sector and Greek industry as long as the country remains within the European Union and the Eurozone, especially when harsh austerity and the memorandums are being imposed. How can industry recover when taxes and pension fund contributions surpass 60 percent of a corporation’s revenue? How can the Greek economy recover when its biggest industry, tourism, is saddled with the highest tax rate in the Mediterranean region? How can the Greek economy recover when there is so much bureaucracy and political uncertainty?

The end result of all of this is that Greece’s competitiveness has dropped to 86th place worldwide, despite all of the austerity measures, the memorandums, the economic “growth” which repeatedly has been promised, and the constant “fiscal adjustment” policies and “reforms” that have been enacted. Despite all of this, Greece now ranks lower in competitiveness than countries such as Namibia, Tajikistan, Albania, and Guatemala.

MN: You have spoken about the balance of goods and services in Greece and about Greece’s foreign currency reserves. What do these statistics show and what would they mean for Greece in terms of a potential departure from the Eurozone and the EU and return to a domestic currency?

DK: There is no possibility that there will be shortages of imported goods, and this is the case because Greece’s balance of goods and services, after so many years of economic depression and as a result of the internal devaluation that has taken place, is close to being balanced. In very simple terms, this means that Greece, from its exports, tourism, and shipping sectors earns all of the necessary foreign currency which it needs to pay for all of its imports. Therefore, it follows that there will be no shortage of imported goods.

In addition, according to the most recent figures available from the Bank of Greece from the third quarter of 2016, the central bank has in its reserves foreign currency totaling approximately 31.5 billion euros. At the same time, Greece’s banking system has, among its assets, a long-term foreign bond portfolio totaling 55.7 billion euro. Together, this totals almost 87 billion euros, which could be used as foreign currency reserves in the immediate aftermath of the departure from the Eurozone. Therefore, it is easy to understand that there is no chance of there being any shortages in the marketplace and that Greece’s needs would be met for several years to come.

MN: There is, of course, also the Greek public debt to contend with. Is this debt sustainable, to begin with? What would you propose regarding dealing with the debt, and what does international law and international legal precedent have to say, with regards to actions Greece could implement regarding its debt?

DK: Very much on purpose, the Greek people have been led to believe that an “unsustainable” debt is one which is very difficult to repay, but which can, at some point and after the enactment of very strict measures, be repaid. This is absolutely false! We have been led to believe this because, first of all, it has been necessary to maintain the hope that Greece, by enforcing these harsh austerity measures, will be able to repay its debt and will, as a result, accept these difficult measures.

In reality, an unsustainable debt is a debt which, no matter what a country does, cannot ever be repaid or even reduced, no matter how many measures are enforced. With mathematical certainty, such a debt will simply increase over time. This is the case in Greece. When Greece received its first so-called “bailout” the public debt was 122 percent of GDP. From 122 percent it increased to 129 percent, then 148 percent, then 170 percent, it has reached 177 percent, and is projected to increase to 188 percent and later 200 percent of GDP if we continue down this path!

The first loan agreement which Greece signed in 2010 and which, it should be stressed, was not ratified by the Greek Parliament, was a product of fraud and coercion. Articles 48 through 52 of the UN’s Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties allow for the cancelation of a treaty or agreement when it is a product of deceit or threats. This would permit Greece, with a written statement delivered to the UN General Assembly via the UN’s Secretary General, to announce to the international community that it is denouncing its illegal public debt.

In addition, the official report of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) which was published on its website on the 7th of March 2014, harshly criticizes the Greek government for its methodical and repeated violations of human rights, and specifically the individual, political, economic, social, and cultural rights of Greece’s people.

MN: In our previous interview, in January 2016, we spoke about the recapitalization of the Greek banking system which had just been completed. In what condition does the Greek banking sector find itself in today? Are we headed to yet another recapitalization, and what would such a development mean?

DK: I would argue that the Greek banking system now finds itself in worse shape than in the beginning of 2016, if we take into consideration something which the mass media and most analysts typically neglect to tell us, namely, that the deferred tax accounts for 40 percent of the equity of Alpha Bank, 71 percent of the equity of the National Bank of Greece, 75 percent of the equity of Eurobank, and 58 percent of the equity of Piraeus Bank. This alone means that a new recapitalization is coming.

Moreover, another negative and indeed tragic aspect is that, from the beginning of this year, 1.5 to 1.7 billion euros’ worth of new high-risk loans have been added to the banking system. These loans include mortgages, consumer loans, and business loans, and 80 percent of these loans have been refinanced.

In addition, 2.7 million loans, totaling almost 100 billion euros, are at the risk of default, as payments towards those loans have not been made in over three months. This is a ticking time bomb for the financial system. While this is happening, the deposits of households and individual depositors in Greece have dipped below 100 billion euro for the first time since 2003!

It is therefore clear to me that we will soon see a new recapitalization of the Greek banking system, totaling 7 to 10 billion euros.

MN: How has the British economy performed ever since the referendum result in favor of Brexit this past summer, and how do you believe the British economy will perform if and when the process of exiting the European Union is completed? Do you believe the widely-held fears of adverse economic impacts will be proven to be correct, or do you believe the opposite will be true?

DK: Even though it is surely too soon to draw a definite conclusion, what we can say from now is that in contrast with the various “Cassandras” who foresaw the total collapse of the economy of Great Britain, what we are seeing is that the British economy grew by 0.6 percent in the final quarter of 2016, exceeding expectations.

In fact, the Bank of England once again revised upward its growth projections for the British economy for 2017, raising its projection from 1.4 percent of GDP, initially forecast in November 2016, to a growth rate of almost 2 percent of GDP. The higher projection is largely a result of increased consumer spending, which has occurred despite the fear mongering that the British public faced as a result of the Brexit vote.

Two additional aspects that are important and which should also be noted is the reduction of the public deficit by 400 million Pounds and the increase in average weekly wages of British workers by 2.8 percent on a year-to-year basis.

MN: The new president of the United States, Donald Trump, seems to have taken a position in favor of Brexit and against the Eurozone, displaying an evident preference for reaching bilateral trade agreements with individual countries, rather than large-scale trade deals with the Eurozone as a whole. On a domestic basis, Trump has promised the return of domestic jobs, of factories and corporations and businesses that have left the country. How do you view the economic policies and promises of the Trump administration and what would they mean for the European and global economies?

DK: The turn inward being undertaken by the United States will gradually lead to the repatriation of U.S. dollars. As a result, it is likely that countries whose national debt is in large part denominated in U.S. dollars, as is the case with Turkey, where 65 percent of its debt as a percentage of GDP is in dollars, as well as developing countries whose major public- and privately-owned industries have outstanding loans in U.S. dollars, will face increased difficulties from the upward pressures on the dollar in the international financial markets.

In addition to all of this, we need to take into consideration the ongoing trade battle between the United States and China, and the efforts of the United States to achieve energy autonomy, and in particular, the elimination of dependence on the OPEC nations. This means the replacement of approximately three million barrels of oil per day which are currently imported, replaced by domestic energy sources. It is easy to understand that this will hurt countries like Saudi Arabia and Venezuela in particular.

As for Trump’s domestic economic policy, the jury is still out. We will just have to wait and see.

MN: Well Mr. Karousos, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us today here on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview Series, and for your thoughtful analysis.

DK: Thank you very much for having me.

Mar 102017
 

By Michael Nevradakis99GetSmart

mercouris2-300x201This week on Dialogos Radio, we will be featuring, as part of the Dialogos Interview Seriestwo special interviews!

First, we will have the opportunity to speak with journalist, analyst, and longtime lawyer in the Royal Court of the United Kingdom Alexander Mercouris, co-founder of TheDuran.com. Joining us from London, Mercouris will provide his insights for us on a number of current issues, including the latest actions of the Trump administration, the path towards Brexit in Great Britain, anti-Russia hysteria and the establishment media’s agenda, developments in the Ukraine and Syria, and a view on the Greek government’s latest deal with its creditors and what continued austerity means for Greece.bellows

This interview will be followed up by a special feature with young Greek spoken word artist Dylan Wolfram, who will speak to us about his latest spoken word release, titled “Bellows.” In addition to this interview, we will hear two cuts from Wolfram’s recent spoken word project.

Two great interviews, all this week exclusively on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview Series!

May 312016
 

By Mihalis Nevradakis99GetSmart

commentaryoftheweek-300x220

Greece’s supposedly “leftist” government of so-called “hope” and “change” did it again! It saved Greece once more! Greece can continue living the European nightmare…excuse me, dream, can remain part of the vaunted “European family” and the Eurozone, and the government once again successfully completed “tough” negotiations with its so-called European “Partners,” with a capital P, as Greece’s deferential journalistic class tends to refer to them.

Let’s take a look at this new “success story” of Greece’s government of “hope” and “change.” It is a success story so big that Greece’s already insane value-added tax of 23% will be bumped up to 24% on June 1st. It is a success story so great that the unified property tax which SYRIZA, at one time, called unconstitutional and illegal and which at one time was said to be “temporary,” will now be raised and made permanent. It is a success story so tremendous that Greece’s already paltry pension and social security payments will be slashed further, despite government lies and propaganda to the contrary. Home foreclosures and auctions will resume, without anything but the flimsiest of temporary protections for the poorest homeowners. These foreclosures and auctions will take place electronically instead of in a courthouse, under cover of darkness and without warning. In the meantime, new privatizations are coming, alongside the development of a new super-fund of sorts which will manage essentially all of Greece’s publicly-owned assets and prepare them to be sold off, at bargain basement prices. And unlike most of the people of Greece, the foreign investors who will be snatching up these assets know very well how valuable a land Greece is.

Of course, all of these privatizations, foreclosures, auctions, as well as the bundling and selling of both prime and subprime loans—where have we heard that before?–will be permitted without any transfer tax or any other taxes being levied. Because when we talk about tax evasion, we are supposed to only talk about the “bad,” “lazy,” “spendthrift” Greeks, but never the “good,” “civilized” foreign saviors in suits. And of course, this was agreed to following those aforementioned “tough” negotiations between the Greek government of “hope” and “change” and the lenders. This result had also been predicted, months in advance, by economist, analyst, and member of Greece’s United Popular Front Dimitris Karousos, but was of course ignored by the international media and of course by the trashy, biased English-language editions of Greece’s media outlets.

So what if people’s homes are foreclosed and thousands of households are thrown out onto the streets? So what if heating oil and gas, already insanely taxed, are taxed some more, along with basic goods and staples through direct and indirect taxation? Who cares if the self-employed and small- and mid-sized businesses will be absolutely slaughtered as a result of these new measures that were voted into law and the avalanche of taxes that they will face? Who cares if there is now zero chance of the minimum wage to be restored to the still-low pre-crisis levels, which at one time the SYRIZA government of supposed “hope” and “change” had promised? And of course, all of this does not even take into account the automatic cuts that will be implemented if Greece does not meet the strict fiscal targets imposed by its so-called saviors. Who cares about all of this? We are talking about a success story here! Of course, though, it’s a success story for the lenders—but not for Greece or for the Greek people. But, the European dream is what everyone wanted, right? So here it is, enjoy it!

And since we are talking about what is surely such a huge, unprecedented success, that must explain why the otherwise “revolutionary” and “radical” and “non gullible” and oh so clever Greek people did not take to the streets. After all, Greece remained in Europe, remained in the Euro, people still have cheese from Holland for their sandwiches (if they can afford the 24% tax, that is), so everything is A-OK, right? That must explain why Greece’s notaries called off their strike protesting the new insurance and pension bill, as soon as that very bill was passed, allowing home foreclosures and auctions to resume. That must also explain why Greece’s lawyers, with their own protracted strike, have inconvenienced ordinary Greek people whose cases have, in some cases, been postponed for years—instead of using their legal knowledge to mobilize the population and protest austerity both old and new.

Ah, but I forgot. We had the usual round of stale, old 3 and 4 and 24 hour so-called “work stoppages,” which of course left enough time for Greece’s “labor leaders”–quotations absolutely necessary—to hit up their favorite tavernas to wine and dine. Work stoppages which have been going on for decades and decades and which not once have made the slightest bit of impact other than inconveniencing people’s lives, which might very well be their real objective, instead of any actual change. For instance, we had the workers on the Athens Metro declare a work stoppage beginning at 9 pm on the night the new measures were to be voted into law. This was enough to discourage many people from coming out to protest, not knowing if they’d have a way to return home. With a low turnout of protesters assured, the work stoppage was then lifted at the last minute, just in time for the usual mass exodus from Syntagma Square once the usual dog-and-pony show between the paid agent provocateurs and the riot police which SYRIZA was at one time going to abolish, was underway.

We of course also had the journalists’ strike as well, which of course just coincidentally happened to fall in the days of final debate before the new measures were to be voted upon by Parliament. Of course, the truth here is that even if there was no strike, there would still have been no actual journalism taking place from these so-called journalists and the media outlets they work for. But just try explaining that to grandma and grandpa in the village and to Greece’s suburban neoliberal class, who still actually think they are being informed by the newscasts that they watch.

All of this is okay though, because there is hope! There is light at the end of the tunnel! We have the “savior” Yanis Varoufakis with his stylish pink t-shirts and his so-called “guerilla interviews,” that is, when he isn’t making “spontaneous” (quotations again necessary) appearances at the protests taking place in France or signing autographs in Spain. The same “heroic” Varoufakis who said that the Greek debt would be repaid in perpetuity, who pillaged the Greek public sector’s cash reserves to pay that debt to the IMF, who imposed capital controls, and who agreed to more austerity and who voted for Greece’s corrupt pro-austerity president Prokopis Pavlopoulos. This same “heroic” Varoufakis is now touting the catastrophic idea of a parallel or dual currency system for Greece as a “solution” while millions of minions lap up his every word. He is joined by the “heroic” Zoe Konstantopoulou, who also knew how to vote “yes to everything” when she was part of the SYRIZA government last year and who continued publicly supporting the government even after it sold out the referendum result of July 5th. She, too, is touting the catastrophic parallel or dual currency solution for Greece, as are fascists such as the far-right Giorgos Karatzaferis and “Sir” (quotations necessary once more) Basil Markezinis, son of a junta prime minister, both of whom have been resurrected from the political graveyard recently.

So since Greece has been saved, has remained in Europe and the vaunted Eurozone, and since there are even more “saviors” in the pipeline who will continue to save Greece well into the future, why bother protesting? The couch is nice and comfortable, is it not? And it’s easier to let the television do the thinking for you, lest you hurt your head. The same television which includes public broadcaster ERT, which is now paying private, oligarch-owned network provider DIGEA to transmit its signal digitally. A company owned by the same oligarchs that the oh so leftist SYRIZA government claims it is going to take down. The same government which will supposedly take down these oligarchs by auctioning off a limited number of television licenses to the highest bidder and the deepest pockets, while Greece’s smaller, independent local television stations are dying off, unable to afford to pay DIGEA exorbitant amounts to carry their signal. This is the same government which, unconstitutionally and in violation of European law, has shut down Greece’s National Radio-Television Committee, leaving the broadcasting landscape entirely unregulated. This is the government which claims it is restoring order to the airwaves, and there are still people who slurp up this propaganda.

Of course, television in Greece knows all about telling people horror stories from countries like Venezuela while telling people that the so-called “leftist” Alexis Tsipras wants to turn Greece just like Venezuela. What they won’t say, of course, is that Venezuela is the victim of both international economic warfare through the sharp decline in oil prices, as well as a victim of its own domestic oligarchs and cartels, who are hoarding goods to create severe market shortages in order to undermine the country’s government. What the media in Greece are also not saying is that many of these horror stories also exist in Greece today as well, in a country that is supposedly being “bailed out” and “saved” day after day by its so-called European friends and partners. What these media outlets in Greece know how to say is that Portugal, Ireland, and Cyprus are supposed “success stories” for concluding their own memorandum agreements. What is not said is that the end of the memorandum agreements has not meant the end of harsh austerity, the end of record numbers of home foreclosures and evictions, or the end of mass migration out of these countries.

And while all of this is happening, I hear many in Greece moaning and groaning about why we can’t be more like the French, who we are told are out on the streets in massive numbers to protest their own anti-labor bills. However, few people, if any, think to ask…how were these supposedly spontaneous demonstrations actually organized, with blogs and websites and hashtags and public assemblies? We saw the savior of not just Greece but apparently the whole world Yanis Varoufakis speak to the protesters in France. Who invited him? Who assured his security? Who paid for his travel and lodging? How did this speech get organized in the first place, logistically and otherwise? And how did these supposedly spontaneous demonstrations spontaneously, as we are supposed to believe, spread to 55 cities in Greece and dozens more in Europe, all on the same day and at the same time? Are we supposed to believe that after such a long period of inactivity and hibernation that everyone suddenly decided that they had enough? And in the meantime, what people in Greece are blissfully unaware of is that while they are whining about their own inactivity, the rest of the world mistakenly believes that it the Greeks who are the ones fighting back, while they are the ones staying inactive! Doesn’t anybody have even the slightest curiosity as to how these perceptions are developed and maintained, and by who?

The answer is that no, most people do not question such things. Instead, in Greece, they run off to again vote for criminals and professional liars like those in SYRIZA, while others, through their abstention from the polls, essentially legitimize the victors in this electoral process instead of giving their votes to the dozens of smaller parties and movements which are struggling to exist. Those same people might participate in yet another lame 3 or 4 hour work stoppage, or by maybe taking a walk down to the center of Athens to “protest” by standing around and drinking beer, before running home to catch Greece’s talking heads on TV again. That’s Greece and that’s the majority of the Greek populace today.

Mar 302016
 

By Mihalis Nevradakis99GetSmart

maxresdefault

Dear listeners and friends,

UnknownThis week on Dialogos Radio, the Dialogos Interview Series will feature an interview with Despina Kreatsoulas of the Politismos Museum, an online museum of Greek history and culture. Kreatsoulas will speak to us about the idea behind creating an online museum, about the museum’s features and exhibits, and the future plans of the museum. 

Also this week, we will feature our commentary of the weeksegment, discussing issues pertaining to freedom and independence.

All this and more, this week exclusively on Dialogos Radio! For more details, the full Dialogos Radio broadcast schedule, our podcast, our on-demand archives, our articles and written work, and our online radio station Dialogos Radio 24/7, visit http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=6154.

Best,
Dialogos Radio & Media
 
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Αγαπητοί ακροατές και φίλοι,
 
Αυτή την εβδομάδα στο «Διάλογος», παρουσιάζουμε συνέντευξη με τον Θάνο Χίνη, από το διαδικτυακό μουσείο «Πολιτισμός». Θα μας μιλήσει για το μουσείο και για την ιδέα ίδρυσης ενός μουσείου στο διαδίκτυο, για τα εκθέματα που παρουσιάζονται και που ενδέχεται να παρουσιαστούν, και για τα μελλοντικά σχέδια του μουσείου. 
 
Επίσης θα παρουσιάσουμε τον καθιερωμένο μας σχολιασμό, όπου θα μιλήσουμε για θέματα που αφορούν την ελευθερία, την ανεξαρτησία, και την εθνική κυριαρχία.
 
Για περισσότερες πληροφορίες σχετικά με την μετάδοση, το πρόγραμμα μεταδόσεων, το podcast μας, το αρχείο εκπομπών μας, την αρθρογραφία μας, και το διαδικτυακό μας ραδιόφωνο Διάλογος Radio 24/7, μπείτε στο http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=6158.
 
Φιλικά,
Διάλογος Radio & Media
Mar 172016
 

By Mihalis Nevradakis, 99GetSmart

maxresdefault
Dear listeners and friends, 

antti1-1-300x170This week on Dialogos Radio, the Dialogos Interview Series will feature a highly interesting and exclusive interview with Antti Pesonen of the Independence Party of Finland. The Independence Party advocates the departure of Finland from the Eurozone and from the European Union and is against Finland joining NATO, and in this week’s interview, Pesonen will discuss the party, its history and its platform, the dire impacts of Eurozone and European Union membership for Finland, the economic crisis that is now impacting the country, the network of European political parties and movements which are against the European Union and the euro, and about other current issues facing Greece and Europe.
 
Also this week, we will feature our commentary of the weeksegment, where we will discuss Zoe Konstantopoulou and her forthcoming political movement. All this, plus some great Greek music, this week only on Dialogos Radio!
 
For more information, our full broadcast schedule, plus our podcasts, archives, articles and written work, Dialogos Radio 24/7 and more, visit http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=6102.
 
Best,
Dialogos Radio & Media
 
****************************
 
Αγαπητοί ακροατές και φίλοι,
 
Αυτή την εβδομάδα στο «Διάλογος», παρουσιάζουμε μια εξαιρετικά ενδιαφέρουσα και αποκλειστική συνέντευξη με τον Άντι Πεσονέν, πρώην επικεφαλής του Φινλανδικού Κόμματος της Ανεξαρτησίας. Το Κόμμα της Ανεξαρτησίας υποστηρίζει την έξοδο της Φινλανδίας από την Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση και την Ευρωζώνη και είναι αντίθετο στην ένταξη της χώρας στο ΝΑΤΟ, και στην συνέντευξη που θα παρουσιάσουμε, ο κ. Πεσονέν θα μας μιλήσει για το κόμμα, για το πως ιδρύθηκε και για τις θέσεις του, για τις δυσμενείς επιπτώσεις από την συμμετοχή της Φινλανδίας στην Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση και στην Ευρωζώνη, για την οικονομική κρίση που πλήττει πλέον την χώρα, για το δίκτυο Ευρωπαϊκών κινημάτων που είναι εναντίων του ευρώ και της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης, και για την τρέχουσα επικαιρότητα στην Ελλάδα και την Ευρώπη.
 
Επίσης αυτή την εβδομάδα θα παρουσιάσουμε τον καθιερωμένο μας σχολιασμό, όπου θα μιλήσουμε για την Ζωή Κωνσταντοπούλου και το επερχόμενο πολιτικό σχήμα της. Όλα αυτά και πολλά άλλα, αυτή την εβδομάδα αποκλειστικά στο «Διάλογος»!
 
Για περισσότερες πληροφορίες, το πλήρες πρόγραμμα μεταδόσεων μας, το αρχείο εκπομπών και συνεντεύξεων μας, την αρθρογραφία μας, και το διαδικτυακό μας ραδιόφωνο Διάλογος Radio 24/7, μπείτε στο http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=6097.
 
Φιλικά,
Διάλογος Radio & Media
Nov 202015
 

By Mihalis Nevradakis, 99GetSmart

Dear listeners and friends of Dialogos Radio,

mosler1-300x169This week on Dialogos Radio, the Dialogos Interview Series will feature an exclusive and highly enlightening interview with well-known economist Warren Mosler. Mosler is a leading figure in the field of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and was also the co-founder of the Center for Full Employment and Price Stability at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. 
 
In our interview this week, Mosler will speak to us about the economic crisis in Greece and why it is, in reality, much different than often described, while also discussing the role of European Union policies in perpetuating the crisis. He will share with us his proposed solutions for combating the crisis, while also explaining to us exactly what seemingly straightforward terms such as “money” and “debt” actually mean.
 
Tune in for this excellent interview, plus our commentary of the week segment and some great Greek music, this week exclusively on Dialogos Radio!
 
For our full broadcast schedule, plus further details, our podcasts, archived programs, online radio station Dialogos Radio 24/7, and much more, visit http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=5794.
 
Recent Dialogos Radio Interviews Published in 99getsmart.com and GreekTV.com!
 
Check out our recent interviews, which have been published on 99getsmart.comand on GreekTV.com
 
Our interview with Greek-American aviation expert Bill Kalivas, on his online campaign for additional nonstop flights to be added from the United States to Greece, has recently been featured on GreekTV.com, while our interview with Panagiotis Oikonomidis of Greece’s “No Middlemen Movement” has been featured in 99getsmart.com!
 
Best,
Dialogos Radio & Media
 
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Αγαπητοί φίλοι και ακροατές,
 
Ενημερώνουμε τους ακροατές μας πως αυτή την εβδομάδα θα ετοιμάσουμε μόνοΑγγλόφωνη μετάδοση της εκπομπής μας. Η Ελληνόφωνη μετάδοση μας και η πολύ ενδιαφέρουσα συνέντευξη μας με τον οικονομολόγο Warren Mosler θα ακολουθήσει σε μία εβδομάδα. Μείνετε συντονισμένοι.
 
Φιλικά,
Διάλογος Radio & Media
Dec 272011
 

 

* 2011: THE YEAR IN PICTURES

SundayReview, NYTimes

PHOTOS @ http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/12/25/sunday-review/2011-pictures-of-the-year.html?ref=sunday#/?slide=9

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* GROWING WEALTH WIDENS DISTANCE BETWEEN LAWMAKERS AND CONSTITUENTS

By Peter Whoriskey, The Washington Post

[…] Between 1984 and 2009, the median net worth of a member of the House more than doubled, according to the analysis of financial disclosures, from $280,000 to $725,000 in inflation-adjusted 2009 dollars, excluding home ­equity.

Over the same period, the wealth of an American family has declined slightly, with the comparable median figure sliding from $20,600 to $20,500, according to the Panel Study of Income Dynamics from the University of Michigan.

The comparisons exclude home equity because it is not included in congressional reporting, and 1984 was chosen because it is the earliest year for which consistent wealth statistics are available.

The growing disparity between the representatives and the represented means that there is a greater distance between the economic experience of Americans and those of lawmakers. […]

READ @ http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/growing-wealth-widens-distance-between-lawmakers-and-constituents/2011/12/05/gIQAR7D6IP_print.html

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* BREAK UP THE BANKS

It makes no sense to keep bailing out bankers while demanding austerity for everyone else.

By Simon Johnson, Slate

Santa Claus came early this year for four former executives of Washington Mutual, which failed in 2008. The executives reached a settlement with the FDIC, which sued them for taking huge financial risks while “knowing that the real estate market was in a ‘bubble.’ ” The FDIC had sought to recover $900 million, but the executives have just settled for $64 million, almost all of which will be paid by their insurers; their out-of-pockets costs are estimated at just $400,000.

To be sure, the executives lost their jobs and now must drop claims for additional compensation. But, according to the FDIC, the four still earned more than $95 million from January 2005 through September 2008. This is what happens when financial executives are compensated for “return on equity” unadjusted for risk. The executives get the upside when things go well; when the downside risks materialize, they lose nothing (or close to it).

At the same time, their actions and similar actions by other bankers are directly responsible for both the run-up in housing prices and the damaging collapse that followed. That collapse has impacted nonbankers negatively in many ways, including the loss of more than 8 million jobs.

It is also leading to austerity: Taxes are increasing and government spending is falling at the local and state level around the country. A difficult fiscal conversation still lies ahead at the federal level, but cuts and contractions of various types seem likely.

Some people argue that Americans need to tighten their belts. That’s an interesting discussion, particularly at a time with unemployment is still above 8 percent (with recent declines largely the result of many jobless workers’ decision to stop looking). Precipitate austerity is hardly likely to help the economy find its way back to higher employment levels.

But what about government support for the big banks? Is this contracting in the light of our current fiscal pressures? Unfortunately, it is not. Much government support remains, implicitly through allowing banks to be “too big to fail” and explicitly through various kinds of backing provided by the Federal Reserve.

The rationale behind supporting big banks is that they are needed for the economy to recover. But this position looks increasingly doubtful when the banks are sitting on piles of cash while creditworthy consumers and businesses are reluctant to borrow.

The same situation exists in Europe today, where the reality is even starker. Banks are receiving ever-larger bailouts, while countries that borrowed are cutting social programs and face rising social tensions and political instability as a result. Countries like Greece, Italy, and arguably Portugal overborrowed and now their citizens face severe consequences. But the bankers face no consequences whatsoever for overlending. […]

READ @ http://www.slate.com/articles/business/project_syndicate/2011/12/bank_bailouts_why_are_we_helping_banks_and_demanding_austerity_for_everyone_else_.html

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* THE GREAT ECONOMIC DIVIDE MAKES EVERYONE POORER

By Mark Thoma, The Fiscal Times

The argument that the rich should pay a larger share of our tax bill than the poor does not rest upon fairness alone. As Robert Frank explains in his book The Darwin Economy, requiring the rich to pay a larger share allows us to have more goods and services than we would have with a more equal tax structure – we can make everyone better off – and this improves economic efficiency.

To see how this works, imagine four families sharing a large, jointly owned backyard area. The families would like to install a swing set, slide, etc. for their children to share. The set costs $1,200, and they need to figure out how to pay for it. One of the households is fairly well off and would be willing to pay up to $800 for the swing set. But the other three families struggle to make ends meet, and each is only willing to pay $250. These families really want the swing set – even more than the well-to-do family – but even $250 is a squeeze on their tight budgets.

If everyone is asked to contribute equally to the swing set, $300 each, it won’t get purchased since that is more than the poorer households are willing to pay. But there are arrangements that will work. Suppose, for example, that the wealthy family offers to put up half, $600, leaving the other three families to share the remaining $600, or $200 each. The wealthy family gets a swing set for $600 even though it would have been willing to pay up to $800 for it – economists say this family enjoys $200 in consumer surplus. The less wealthy families also receive $50 in consumer surplus since each household gets the playground equipment for only $200 even though it would have paid $250.

Thus, if we insist upon equal contributions from everyone, we forego the opportunity to make all of the families better off – to give each family goods and services for a price less than their full willingness to pay. In economic terms, allowing unequal contributions increases efficiency. […]

READ @ http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Columns/2011/12/20/The-Great-Economic-Divide-Makes-Everyone-Poorer.aspx#page1

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* ON ELECTION DAY 2008, ’09, ’10, ES&S OP-SCANS BLOCKED THE (DEMOCRATIC) VOTE IN CUYAHOGA COUNTRY OHIO! ( 2 ITEMS)

By Mark Crispen Miller, News from the Underground

The scanners are “defective,” finds the US Election Assistance Commission (EAC). One in ten would “miss some votes,” freeze up “inexplicably,” etc. Although ES&S “tried to fix the problems earlier this year… the upgrade actually created more problems.”

“Defective”? Not really. Those scanners have been performing as intended by ES&S—an outfit started up and managed by right-wing Republicans, whose goods are always pooping out, or screwing up, in Democratic areas, like Cuyahoga County. That their goods thus deliver for the party means there’s really nothing wrong with them per se.

What’s “defective,” rather, is the US voting system overall—and the vision of all those (the EAC included) who refuse to see what’s happening right before their eyes.

MCM

I.

U.S. government investigation finds Cuyahoga County’s election machines are flawed
Published: Thursday, December 22, 2011, 6:28 PM Updated: Friday, December 23, 2011, 1:29 AM
Laura Johnston, The Plain Dealer By Laura Johnston, The Plain Dealer
http://blog.cleveland.com/metro/2011/12/us_government_investigation_fi.html

II.

10 percent of Cuyahoga County’s voting machines fail pre-election tests
Published: Wednesday, April 14, 2010, 4:00 AM Updated: Wednesday, April 14, 2010, 7:41 AM
Joan Mazzolini, The Plain Dealer By Joan Mazzolini, The Plain Dealer
http://blog.cleveland.com/metro/2010/04/some_cuyahoga_countys_voting_m.html

[…]

READ @ http://markcrispinmiller.com/2011/12/on-election-day-2008-09-10-ess-op-scans-blocked-the-democratic-vote-in-cuyahoga-county-ohio-2-items/

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* ON THE MANNING ART. 32, COURT SECRECY AND NATIONAL SECURITY CASES

By bmaz, Emptywheel

I somehow stumbled into an article for The Nation by Rainey Reitman entitled Access Blocked to Bradley Manning’s Hearing. To make a long story short, in a Twitter exchange today with Ms. Reitman and Kevin Gosztola of Firedoglake (who has done yeoman’s work covering the Manning hearing), I questioned some of the statements and inferences made in Ms. Reitman’s report. She challenged me to write on the subject, so here I am.

First, Ms. Reitman glibly offered to let me use her work as “foundation” to work off of. Quite frankly, not only was my point not originally to particularly go further; my point, in fact, was that her foundation was deeply and materially flawed.

Reitman starts off with this statement:

The WikiLeaks saga is centered on issues of government transparency and accountability, but the public is being strategically denied access to the Manning hearing, one of the most important court cases in our lifetime.

While the “WikiLeaks saga” is indeed centered on transparency and accountability for many of us, that simply is not the case in regard to the US Military prosecution of Pvt. Bradley Manning. The second you make that statement about the UCMJ criminal prosecution of Manning, you have stepped off the tracks of reality and credibility in court reportage and analysis. The scope of Manning’s Article 32 hearing was/is were the crimes detailed in the charging document committed and is there reason to believe Manning committed them. Additionally, in an Article 32 hearing, distinct from a civilian preliminary hearing, there is limited opportunity for personal mitigating information to be adduced in order to argue for the Investigating Officer to recommend non-judicial punishment as opposed to court martial trial. That is it. There is no concern or consideration of “transparency and accountability”, within the ambit suggested by Ms. Reitman, in the least.

Calling the Manning Article 32 hearing “one of the most important court cases in our lifetime” is far beyond hyperbole. First off, it is, for all the breathless hype, a relatively straight forward probable cause determination legally and, to the particular military court jurisdiction it is proceeding under, it is nothing more than that. The burden of proof is light, and the issues narrow and confined to that which is described above. The grand hopes, dreams and principles of the Manning and WikiLeaks acolytes simply do not fit into this equation no matter how much they may want them to. Frankly, it would be a great thing to get those issues aired in this country; but this military UCMJ proceeding is not, and will not be, the forum where that happens. […]

READ @ http://www.emptywheel.net/2011/12/24/on-the-manning-art-32-court-secrecy-and-nat-sec-cases/

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* HOW THE FED FUELED THE MILITARIZATION OF POLICE

By Justin Elliot, AlterNet

The militarization of America’s metropolitan police forces was on full display in recent months as police from Los Angeles to New York cracked down on Occupy protests, decked out in full SWAT gear and occasionally using strange pieces of military hardware.

Less well known is that police forces in small towns and far-flung cities have also been stocking up on heavy equipment in the years since Sept. 11, 2001.

In spite of strained city and state budgets in local years, the trend has continued thanks to generous federal grants. According to a new story by the Center for Investigative Reporting, $34 billion in federal grant money has financed the past decade’s shopping spree.

To learn more about the trend, I spoke with G.W. Schultz, who co-authored the story with Andrew Becker. (Also worth a look is the slide show accompanying the story.)

You start your piece with Fargo, N.D., where the police have a “$256,643 armored truck, complete with a rotating turret,” kevlar helmets and assault rifles in their squad cars. What did they say when you asked why they need this kind of heavy equipment?

Their view is that they need to be as prepared as a city like New York. We’ve been studying the grant programs for a while. You see this in city after city. Everyone has got an explanation for why they need more and not less grant money. I grew up in Tulsa; there’s still a lot of sensitivity around the Oklahoma City bombing. So the attitude is, “Look, we could have a similar attack and we need to be ready for it.” Now I live in Austin. The attitude here is, we could have an incident like the one in which a guy smashed his plane into the IRS building a few years ago, or the one in which a guy started shooting people from a tower at the Uniersity of Texas a few decades ago. Every city has an answer like that. The approach to security spending is based on speculation about what could happen, however remote. That attitude enables you to buy everything without limit because you can never attain 100 percent security.

What is the federal grant program that is handing out all this money?

What we learned over time is that it’s not just one grant program, it’s grantprograms. There is a dizzying array of grants that local communities are eligible for from the Department of Homeland Security and sometimes the Justice Department. A few grants existed prior to 9/11. After DHS was created, Congress kept creating new programs to meet perceived needs around security. For example, “We need a bulletproof vehicle to send in our SWAT unit if a Mumbai-style attack occurs.” That led to a spree of spending on bulletproof vehicles. Each round of purchases is fueled by a what-if scenario. […]

READ @ http://www.alternet.org/module/printversion/153567

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* HYPOCRITE ALERT: SOPA SUPPORTERS ENCOURAGED PEOPLE TO USE FILE-SHARING SOFTWARE FOR PIRATING COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

By Washington’s Blog

For proof of the claim that SOPA supporters promoted file-sharing software, click on the Web Archive links here.

Whether or not you believe there was conspiratorial intent, it appears like the supporters of SOPA are hypocrites. […]

READ and VIDEO @ http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2011/12/big-supporters-of-sopa-encouraged-people-to-use-file-sharing-software-for-pirating-copyrighted-material.html

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* EUROPEAN ECONOMY IN DIRE STRAITS, AND THE U.S. TOO. HOW SO, WHY SO?

By Richard Clark, OpEdNews

Central banks create the easy money & lax regulatory environments where bubbles emerge & provide limitless liquidity so that their bankster pals don’t lose money on the inflated value of their assets. That’s what the recent $640 billion boondoggle was really about: propping up toxic bonds worth a mere fraction of their original value. Financial theater & the show must go on. The truth wd. bring down the entire house of cards.

::::::::

The bad news out of Europe continues unabated, including debt and ratings downgrades, sliding economic growth, and exploding red ink.   It is becoming apparent that many of the countries of Europe have borrowed so much money from the banks of the other countries in Europe, that almost none of it can or will ever be paid back — not with the ever falling economic growth in these countries, which will worsen as austerity measures are imposed.   In other words, even though the buyers of the bonds of these countries don’t yet realize it, the fact is that most of these bonds will never be fully redeemed.   In other words they are toxic junk;   the loans will never be repaid, at least not for anything like their nominal and originally stated value.

Most alarming of all is the enormous amount of money that the US and UK have borrowed from banks in various countries around the world.   (See the beautifully illustrative graphs at the link provided both here and below, courtesy of the BBC.   Scroll down to see them.)

Why is this extreme and growing US indebtedness particularly alarming?   Because buyers for US Treasury bonds are steadily disappearing, and those who own them, like the Chinese central bank, are trying to sell what they have.

So who is now the major buyer of US Treasury bonds?   Answer:   The U.S. Federal reserve, which simply creates the money out of thin air, with computer keystrokes, and uses this “funnymoney’ to buy our nation’s bonds.   But for how long can such an Alice-in-wonderland process continue?

Much of the hope in Europe rests upon carefully crafted bailouts which in turn rest, precariously, upon assumed rates of economic recovery and growth in order for loans to be repaid, and everything related . . to work out.   However, without those assumed and anticipated rates of growth, such plans will fall apart, and more rescue funds — or outright defaults — are in store for us.

[…]

Concluding Paragraphs in this section

Theodore Pelagidis, an economics professor at the University of Piraeus, put it this way:   “This is part of the death spiral of the recession as a result of austerity measures.   People realize that contagion has come to banks and they are very afraid of losing their deposits.   On average around 4bn-5bn euros in capital flees the banking system every month.”   It’s not just the super-rich behind the flight of funds.

It’s now “game over” for Greece.   The market is “predicting’ a nearly 100% chance of default on Greek bonds even as the bankers and Eurocrats squabble over the prospect of raising the haircut on Greek debt from 20% to 50% (i.e. reducing the value of Greek bonds by up to 50%).

The ECB is interfering heavily in the bond markets of various countries in their attempts to keep things going.   But they’ve apparently tossed in the towel on Greece, as evidenced by the Greek bond yields above.

However, when we note the ways in which the Spanish, Irish, and Italian debts have come down off their highs, can we make sense of why the ECB focused their efforts there?   Sure, that’s easy, and the BBC has put together an extraordinarily helpful interactive chart to make it all crystal clear.   That interactive chart can be found here.  (Scroll down.)

To begin with, what the chart is showing by the width of the arrows is how much money each country owes to the banks of other countries — the larger the width of the arrow, the greater the amount.

Of particular interest are the charts for the UK and the US, which make clear why these two countries could never be allowed to fail, for fear of the worldwide economic catastrophe it would cause.

The main point that these charts graphically and beautifully demonstrate is that every country owes hundreds of billions to banks in every other country.    And like the leeches they are, the banksters will continue to bleed us for as long as they can, collecting interest due them, until the entire system comes down.   And when our house-of-cards economy finally collapses (assuming we let that happen), they will snatch up its pieces at bargain prices, and build a new economy, leading to a world in which their wealth and power is even greater than before, while all the rest of us in the 99% will be every so much poorer and desperate.

[…]

READ @ http://www.opednews.com/populum/printer_friendly.php?content=a&id=143272

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* ARAB MONITORS VISIT SYRIA’S HOMS

Source: Aljazeera and agencies

Observers headed to the country’s deadliest city a day after at least 33 people were reported killed there.

Arab League monitors have arrived in the besieged Syrian city of Homs, Syrian television reports, a day after activists said dozens of people were killed in the city.

“The Arab League observers’ delegation has begun its meeting with Homs governor Ghassan Abdel Al,” Dunia television reported.

Witnesses said the army pulled back tanks from Bab Amr, a flashpoint neighbourhood in the city, ahead of the observers’ arrival on Tuesday. However, some activists said tanks had just been repositioned in other areas of the city.

“Activists say they are planning to hold sit-ins to coincide with the arrival of the observers,” Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Antakya on the Turkish border, said.

The 50 observers, who arrived in Syria on Monday, will be split into five teams of 10, according to Reuters news agency.

Teams are also due to visit Damascus, Hama and Idlib on Tuesday.

The teams will use government transport, according to their head, Sudanese General Mustafa al-Dabi. But delegates insist the mission will nevertheless be able to go wherever it chooses with no notice.

“Our Syrian brothers are co-operating very well and without any restrictions so far,” al-Dabi told the Reuters news agency.

“The element of surprise will be present,” Mohamed Salem al-Kaaby, a monitor from the United Arab Emirates, said.

“We will inform the Syrian side the areas we will visit on the same day so that there will be no room to direct monitors or change realities on the ground by either side.”

Peace protocol

The observers’ mission is part of a plan seeking to put an end to the government’s crackdown, which the United Nations estimates to have killed more than 5,000 people since March.

Syrian foreign ministry spokesman Jihad al-Makdissi said the “mission has freedom of movement in line with the protocol” Syria signed with the Arab League.

Under that deal, the observers are banned from sensitive military sites

The arrival of the observers and 10 Arab League officials came as activists reported the deaths of at least 45 people around the country on Monday, 33 of them in Homs.

An advance team of monitors arrived in Damascus on Thursday to lay the groundwork for the observer mission to oversee the implementation of the peace plan.

Burhan Ghalioun, head of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC), said some of the observers were in Homs “but they are saying they cannot go where the authorities do not want them to go”.

Ghalioun also sought UN and Arab League intervention “to put an end to this tragedy”, and urged the UN Security Council to “adopt the Arab League’s plan and ensure that it is applied”.

“The plan to defuse the crisis is a good plan, but I do not believe the Arab League really has the means [to enforce it],” he told reporters in Paris.

“It is better if the UN Security Council takes this plan, adopts it and provides the means for its application.”

The Arab League plan endorsed by Syria on November 2 calls for the withdrawal of the military from towns and residential districts, a halt to violence against civilians and the release of detainees.

President Bashar al-Assad’s government has been accused of intensifying its crackdown since signing the agreement.

Homs ‘slaughter’

Residents in Homs said on Monday that army tanks fired shells, machine guns and mortars into their neighbourhoods. Amateur video filmed by anti-government activists showed carnage in the city.

“What is happening is a slaughter,” Fadi, who lives near the Bab Amr neighbourhood, told the Reuters news agency. “They hit people with mortar fire.”

Bab Amr has been one of the hardest hit areas of Homs, a focal point of the Assad government’s crackdown on nine months of anti-government demonstrations.

Some parts of Homs have also seen fierce clashes between the Syrian army and the so-called Free Syrian Army which is made up of army defectors who say they decided to side with protesters.

There have been reports that deserters have been able to inflict casualties on the army.

“The violence is definitely two-sided,” said a resident who gave his name only as Mohammed. “I’ve been seeing ambulances filled with wounded soldiers passing by my window in the past days. They’re getting shot somehow.”

The opposition SNC said on Sunday that Homs was under siege and facing an “invasion” from about 4,000 troops deployed near the city.

READ and PHOTOS @ http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2011/12/2011122675532134954.html

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* FISCAL CRISIS TAKES TOLL ON HEALTH OF GREEKS

By Suzanne Daley, NYTimes

[…] Greece used to have an extensive public health care system that pretty much ensured that everybody was covered for everything. But in the last two years, the nation’s creditors have pushed hard for dramatic cost savings to cut back the deficit. These measures are taking a brutal toll on the system and on the country’s growing numbers of poor and unemployed who cannot afford the new fees and co-payments instituted at public hospitals as part of the far-reaching austerity drive.

At public hospitals, doctors report shortages of all kinds of supplies, from toilet paper to catheters to syringes. Computerized equipment has gone unrepaired and is no longer in use. Nurses are handling four times the patients they should, and wait times for operations — even cancer surgeries — have grown longer.

Access to drugs has also been affected, as some drug manufacturers, owed tens of millions of dollars, are no longer willing to supply Greek hospitals. At the same time pharmacists, afraid that the government might not reimburse them, are asking for cash payments, even from those with insurance.

Many experts say that Greece’s public health system was bloated and corrupt and in dire need of reform. But they say also that the cuts have been so deep and have come so fast, that they have hit like a tsunami.

In just two years, the government has cut spending on health care to $17 billion from $19.5 billion — a 13 percent decrease. And under its agreement with its creditors, Greece must find even more health care savings next year — as much as $915 million, government officials said.

At the same time, public health facilities have seen a 25 to 30 percent increase in patients because so many Greeks can no longer afford to visit private clinics. […],

READ @ http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/27/world/europe/greeks-reeling-from-health-care-cutbacks.html?_r=1&hp

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* MIGRANTS FROM EUROZONE STRUGGLERS FLOCK TO GERMANY

Source: Athens News (Reuters)

Greeks and Spaniards with little or no chance of finding work at home are flocking to Germany in search of jobs, data show.

Figures from Germany’s statistics office show immigration has surged in the wake of Europe’s debt crisis, as Germany’s powerful and so-far resilient economy attracts those from crisis-hit euro states.

The number of immigrants arriving from Greece soared 84 percent in the first half of 2011, while those coming from Spain rose 49 percent. In total 67,000 more foreigners moved to Germany than in the same period a year earlier.

“It’s striking to see the strong rise in immigration from European Union countries particularly hard-hit by the financial and debt crises,” the office said.

Germany pulled out of the 2008-9 financial crisis faster than its peers, growing by around 3 percent in 2011 as a domestic consumption boom and strong demand for German exports fuelled the economy.

Unemployment in Greece is running at 17.7 percent and expected to continue climbing through next year, while in Spain more than one in five are out of work. By contrast, Germany’s joblessness rate of 6.9 percent is its lowest in two decades.

“Every day I’m inundated with calls from Greece from people looking for work. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Angelos Doulgeris, who runs Greek restaurant Kos House in Berlin.

“Many of those are highly qualified people. I have been able to offer two people some casual work, but that is it – we are not getting any more customers.” […]

READ @ http://www.athensnews.gr/portal/9/51773

Dec 052011
 

 

“When we have restored the money of the Constitution, all necessary reforms will be possible, and until that is done, there is no reform that can be accomplished.”

— Willam Jennings Bryan, from his speech, Crown of Thorns and Cross of Gold

The world economy is doomed to spiral downwards until we do 2 things:

1. outlaw government borrowing

2. outlaw fractional reserve lending

Remember: It’s not what backs the money, it’s who controls its quantity.