Reporting from Lebanon

This blog contains Dan Winter's live reports from Beirut Lebanon. Dan is a long time peace activist from Boulder Colorado.  He has been to Iraq 3 times and Palestine once.  He is  opening a non-profit office in Beirut to provide services for volunteers and the media.  Contact him for assistance.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Fw: Global War Between Finance & Democracy



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You can bomb the world to pieces but you can not bomb it to PEACE.


--- On Sun, 6/13/10, Dan Winters <dancwinters@yahoo.com> wrote:

From: Dan Winters <dancwinters@yahoo.com>
Subject: Global War Between Finance & Democracy
To:
Date: Sunday, June 13, 2010, 7:03 PM

Hi folks.  Periodically I send out items of interest to my entire email list.  I realize that some of you may not be interested.  Please excuse and feel free to hit the delete button
Dan Winters,  Boulder, Colorado
 
Published on Sunday, June 13, 2010 by Huffington Post

Is there a Global War Between Financial Theocracy and Democracy?

by Les Leopold
Senate and House conferees are about to reconcile a financial reform bill that is virtually designed to institutionalize "too big to fail." And when they do we'll lose another battle in the ongoing war between global financial markets and democratic nation-states.
This war has been going on for decades -- but democracy hasn't always been in full retreat.
The New Deal Conquest: During the Great Depression democratic forces gained the upper hand in the war. We realized that financial markets, which are driven by the largest banks and financiers, had to be tightly controlled. We knew that global speculation on currencies only deepened the Depression and had to be strictly limited. We knew that an iron curtain was needed between commercial and investment banking to protect Main Street depositors from market madness (that was the Glass-Steagall Act). And most importantly we knew that the key to preventing economic upheaval was to limit the wealth of the super-rich and to increase the wealth of working people through progressive taxes, Social Security, wage and hour laws, and the promotion of unionization. The Bretton Woods agreements forged by the Allies during WWII set up strict rules for global finance, rules that kept financiers in check for more than a quarter century.
And it worked pretty damn well. As economist Joseph Stiglitz points out, this era saw only one financial crisis (Brazil, 1964), and working people in western democracies made huge gains. Since the era of deregulation took hold in the late 1970s, the world has suffered over a hundred financial crises and middle-class incomes have stagnated.
The Deregulatory Counter-Offensive: By the late 1970s, bankers regained the advantage through the spread of a new faith in self-regulated markets. The economic apostles of unfettered markets lobbied against progressive taxes, unions, and social welfare programs. The new orthodoxy was: Let the elites collect the money--they'll invest wisely (instead of consuming), and all boats will rise. This near-religious revolution rapidly spread through the economic and policy establishment. Regulations were dismantled right and left, and the revolving door between government and Wall Street started spinning. The American financial catechism ruled the world. And on Wall Street, the money tap was open. It did not trickle down.
Then, suddenly, in 2008, the market gods destroyed themselves as the unregulated financial casinos crashed and burned, just like they did in 1929. For a few months, it seemed like the deregulatory theology become a global heresy. It was obvious that Wall Street's reckless speculation and its bold new wave of financial engineering had caused the Great Recession. (See The Looting of America for an accessible account.). It was also clear that if government didn't come to the rescue, Wall Street would lay in ruins, along with the rest of the economy. This was the perfect moment for democracy reassert democratic control on financial markets, just as we did during the New Deal. We blew it.
The Victory at Too Big to Fail: At the moment when Wall Street was on its knees, we decided to bypass serious reform. Instead, we rebuilt Wall Street, using taxpayer money and guarantees - more than $10 trillion worth. We let bankers use our bailout money to pay themselves $150 billion in bonuses -- at a moment when over 29 million Americans were jobless or forced into part-time jobs. We allowed the top hedge fund managers to walk off with over $900,000 an hour (not a typo) in 2009. Windfall profits taxes? No. In fact we let hedge fund honchos pay an extra-low tax rate by calling their income "capital gains." We didn't restore Glass-Steagall, we didn't break up "too big to fail" financial institutions. In fact the biggest banks became even bigger, courtesy of the U.S. government.
The Invasion against Democracy: The war is escalating. Right now, financial elites aren't just fighting a defensive battle against new regulations. They're playing offense: They're whipping up deficit hysteria around the globe and calling for drastic cuts in middle class programs. Why? They want to ensure that their loans to governments aren't threatened by rising public debt. Ironically, the public debt they're so worried about was created in large part by them -- the result of huge bailouts and other expenses stemming from the crash they caused. Although the bankers want us to dismantle what remains of our worker-oriented policies, welfare for the financial elites is still fine and dandy.
This is the most dangerous counter attack in the history of finance. We had better know a great deal more about the attackers. Who makes up this shadowy force called "global markets"? Who fights their battles? Do they have a high command?
Not really. There is no executive committee of financial elites. There's no international conspiracy, no Elders of Zion. Instead these markets are pulled and pushed by about 50 very large banks and financial institutions. This is where much of the nation's $2 trillion in hedge fund money roams. This is where the top six US banks frolic. They don't have to sit around a table strategizing. They instantly sense threats to their power. They instantly smell profitable openings and they're poised to grab what they can, whenever they can. They thrive on turmoil, which gives them new "proprietary" trading opportunities to exploit. Volatility means big bucks, especially now that the largest players know that the government will back up even their wildest gambles. History has just proven that they are way too big to fail.
Of course they still have to lobby government officials--many of whom either were bankers, or will be once they leave office. But their most powerful lever on government is through the market itself: Here, by moving vast quantities of money around, they can instantly veto policies they don't like. If the EU talks seriously about financial transaction taxes, the markets go down the Euro grows weaker, and interest rates rise--making it more expensive for governments to borrow the money they need to operate. Politicians have learned to "listen" to the markets and are conditioned to placate them.
Should a nation state get out of line (Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, etc), the markets slap them silly. Politicians rush to the scene and start slicing social spending. If instead they demand new taxes on financial elites to reduce public debt, the markets respond with even more fury. Money flees.
All the external machinery of democracy still clanks along. We still pull the levers in the voting booth. But the decisions that affect us the most are made in a profoundly undemocratic way. Faceless financial markets exercise far more control over politicians than the voters who elected them.
So the problem isn't just the corporate campaign contributions, or corporate media control or the academic consensus supporting our financial theocracy. It's the raw power of the markets. They've been roaming free and virtually unregulated for more than a generation, and now their power is unparalleled. Just months after they brought our economy crashing down, they're right back to their old tricks, setting the stage for the next crash and the next bailout while getting filthy rich along the way.
Bill Clinton nailed it on the head when he reportedly said:
"You mean to tell me that the success of the economic program and my reelection hinges on the Federal Reserve and a bunch of fxxxing bond traders?" (See Agenda by Bob Woodward)
No Retreat, No Surrender? There's no room for pacifists in this war. Clearly, Wall Street and its global minions are not seeking a truce. Instead, they're coming after our Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs. They want us to work longer before we retire and get less when we do. They want us to pay more for health care and get less of it. They want less public money to go to schools, teachers and public infrastructures. And they want us to get used to a jobless recovery with double digit unemployment rates. (And when millions and millions of people are unemployed, we can't maintain high labor standards, and our wages and benefits erode.) In short, they want to undermine all the policies and programs that have built and sustained middle class life.
Already government officials in the UK, Germany and here are telling us we must endure austerity for "decades to come." As Fed Chair Ben Bernanke candidly put it:
"We can see what problems can arise in a country if investors lose confidence in the fiscal position of that country, so it is very important that we address this problem."
Of course, he's not going to point out that this austerity is only for the masses, definitely not for the financial elites. Or that the underlying cause of the debt investors are so worried about is the giant economic crater caused by the very same financial elites who now might "lose confidence" in financing a middle class society.
We shouldn't kid ourselves about the pitched battles ahead. Fighting back won't be easy, and winning will be even harder. People in country after country will have to mobilize themselves in defense of real democracy, in defense of each nation's right to provide its people with a decent quality of life. In my opinion, that includes sustainable jobs with decent benefits and a solid public infrastructure that promotes equity, protects the vulnerable and enriches the environment.
Unfortunately, no one can guarantee that democracy will prevail in the war against financial theocracy -- just recall the totalitarian chaos in Europe during the Great Depression. But don't count it out, either. It's true that many of us regular folks have been diverted by the media, distracted by the Internet or lulled into a stupor by pharmaceuticals. But when we realize that we've been shoved into a corner with no way out, we'll act. A popular struggle will begin. And when it does, we'll at least have a fighting chance to recapture our democratic souls.
© 2010 Huffington Post
Posted in financial reform

15 Comments so far

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redwriteman June 13th, 2010 6:13 pm
There is a time coming that will define which way we will go.
Right now, the media elites primary mission is to keep us diverted from going after the corporate scum that infests society and government at all levels.
Led by Fox News, they are using the divide and conquer stategy (as if those at CD don't know). They have us fighting each other over immigration, abortion, evolution vs creationism, etc. They need any "populist" movement to be the tea partiers and their ilk.
They need to keep us divided and distracted by race, religion, economic tribalism, and false outrage.
Concurrently they have to tighten the economic screws ever tighter so we have to spend all our time scratching out a subsistance living, leaving us little time for political organization.
Its also no coincidence that governments at all levels are aquiring greater and greater police powers in order to nip any real threat to the status quo in the bud.
The question is, when the day of real reckoning comes, will we take a path out of the wilderness like we did with Franklin Roosevelt, or will we follow latter day versions of "populist" corporate fascists like Hitler and Mussolini (inspired by the talking heads on FOX)?
One has to wonder if its already too late and that the government RIGHT NOW has an "emergency" plan ready to activate at any time that would impose martial law "for the protection of the people".
I would like feedback on these observations from the CD community. Thanks.
jj apple June 13th, 2010 5:54 pm
There is certainly a sustained global attack against Democracy by Financial Theocracy -- but I wouldn't call it a war in the US theatre of operations.
War, by standard definition, is suposed to mean two or more organized, actively opposing forces, each fighting the other for supremacy and victory.
In the US, Financial Theocracy is obviously organized, active, and making immense headway -- but it's doing so without any organized opposition.
So here, in the alleged Land of the Free/Home of the Brave, where this Theology has already -- long ago, really -- intellectually/politically/spiritually disarmed its opponents, you'd have to call what's happening a Juggernaught, not a war.
Maybe in Venezuela it could still be called a War.
But definitely not Here.
ardent1 June 13th, 2010 5:43 pm
'No Retreat, No Surrender? There's no room for pacifists in this war. Clearly, Wall Street and its global minions are not seeking a truce. Instead, they're coming after our Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs.'
It's off the topic some, but really there's really no room for pacifists in the antiwar movement either, if I may say so? Unfortunately we all sat back and let them have the reins on that issue and the result has become continuous Pentagon war. And the National Security State is coming after our SS, Medicare, and Medicaid programs because of that.
gregsdiary June 13th, 2010 5:52 pm
When it comes right down to it--and in light of recent world events--it's really not about "negotiation" and "compromise"--that yeah, you really do have to fight.
gregsdiary June 13th, 2010 5:53 pm
I agree that at heart it's a "war" between those in power (Financial Theocracy) and justice for people (democracy).
But I would add that the greatest obstacle or Achilles' heel--in relation to people mobilizing to challenge those in power--is internal.
It's the so far unquestioned, undisturbed, unrefuted acceptance of injustice by most people--but especially including liberals and progressives.
In fact, when it comes to learning not to challenge those in power, liberals and progressives have not only been excellent students--but expert instructors as well.
In other words, everything this author writes here--each and every convincing argument and insightful point--can all be easily circumscribed or short-circuited by the all pervasive notion--a cult at this point--that people need to be "realistic," "negotiate" and "compromise" when it comes to the prerogatives of power.
bgcd June 13th, 2010 4:36 pm
"This was the perfect moment for democracy reassert democratic control on financial markets, just as we did during the New Deal. We blew it."
What do you mean 'we'? Our elected "leader" did it intentionally.
JenniferBedingfield June 13th, 2010 3:34 pm
"By the late 1970s, bankers regained the advantage through the spread of a new faith in self-regulated markets. "
Actually, there was never such a thing as "self-regulation". It was a matter of changing the wires on who to over-regulate vs who to under-regulate. The change was from regulated capitalism to disaster capitalism. Government has since then oversubsidized their businesses with our taxpayer money and crushed the small banks policy after policy.
Unlike Europe, the USA refuses to do away with "too big to fail" and those of us who are fighting to go small and local are forever facing confrontations and persecutions from our very own brothers and sisters on Main Street who should be fighting with us against Wall $treet. Getting people to think like Europeans is a difficult task especially when our society is so individualist by nature that it would be vulnerable to allowing the "too big to fail" ideology to ruin our society and invade other nations just as it is continuing to do. People can talk crap about Europe failing but looking up closer, one would find that they have the collective efforts and thinking to prevent "too big to fail" from completely taking over even though it will be a bloody battle kicking that ideology off completely. I am optimistic that in the end, Europe will prevail while the USA will be further set back until it changes its attitudes from individualism to collective thinking and actions in conjunction with individual ideas and actions.
Earthian June 13th, 2010 3:27 pm
This is a superb article.
I think to bring about a democracy, it is important to understand the forces and groups who have made our federal government a corporate, militarist, totalitarian plutocracy.
Only then can we oppose those forces with our rights as a sovereign people to govern our nation according to our wishes.
When public policies—domestic, foreign and electoral—come to match public opinion, we'll know that we have created a democratic republic. Until then, we have work to do as citizens.
ubrew12 June 13th, 2010 3:18 pm
Benito Mussolini: "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power."
This is a useful quote the next time someone from GlennBeckistan makes the argument that liberals are fascists. Nothing like getting it from the source.
FastEddie75 June 13th, 2010 2:42 pm
"Is there a Global War Between Financial Theocracy and Democracy?"
There was... Democracy lost...
Mordechai Shiblikov June 13th, 2010 2:33 pm
The banks are too big to fail and Obama is too small to succeed.
adnoseum June 13th, 2010 2:32 pm
"Is There a Global War Between Financial Theocracy and Democracy?
DUH! Absolutely. This article is spot on.
But do enough Americans have the audacity to ever come together and unite in countering the massive and intricate offensive being waged against them in a culture so highly divided, individualized, militarized and policed? The social cohesiveness of American society has been ripped to shreds and it will take a multi-generational effort over a protracted long haul to help repair the damage inflicted to it by the global corporatocracy and its economic weapons of mass destruction.
Mordechai Shiblikov June 13th, 2010 2:36 pm
" . . . do enough Americans have the audacity to ever come together and unite in countering the massive and intricate offensive being waged against them . . . "
At this moment, the answer is no. What it will take to make the answer "yes" is beyond me.
wantrealdemocracy June 13th, 2010 3:47 pm
The only way we the people can have the audacity (I would say guts) to come together in fighting back to regain what democracy we had and restore our Constitution is to stop voting for the paid lackeys of the corporations who now hold elected seats in Congress.
If we had representatives who heed the voice of the people,instead of obeying their paymasters, we could take control of our economy from the banksters and put it back with the Treasury Dept as is stated in our Constitution. We must repeal the Federal Reserve Act and establish state banks in each of our united states.
These public banks could lend to busineses that will improve the lives of the people of that state. We, the people, would loan our future tax funds to people living in our state to finance a plan approved by the state as being of use to the people of the state. Borrowing from ourselves could be at very low interest.
Most of our tax funds now go to the banksters to cover the money they create out of smoky hot air in the back rooms at the Federal Reserve. The banksters gamble and if
they lose, we pick up the tab. If they win, they happily continue to screw us.
When one percent of the people have nearly 98% of the money; democracy can not exist. What we have now is a plutocracy. Want democracy? Kick the corrupt out of Congress. Vote out the incumbents and let a fresh breeze blow through those chambers. Get rid of both corporate parties. A 'D' and/or an 'R' is the same carnivorous beast. (and it is your flesh they are eating)
lord_buckley June 13th, 2010 2:27 pm
In the May issue of the International Socialist Revue, there is an article by Arundhati Roy describing her time with the Maoists of the Dandakaranya in central India. These are people who have so far staved off plans by the government of India to commit what can only be called genocide against them on behalf of globalist mining corporations. The Maoists are tribal people that have lived on the land for countless generations - and their resistance has not been peaceful. But is has been successful enough so far to be notable.

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You can bomb the world to pieces but you can not bomb it to PEACE.

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