Americans, even well-informed ones, don’t know all of the mistakes made by neoconized and corrupted Washington in the past two decades. However, enough is known to see that the US has lost economic and political power, and that the loss is irreversible.
The economic cost of this loss will be born by what remains of the middle class and the increasingly poverty-stricken lower class. The one percent will have offshore gold holdings and large sums of money in foreign currencies and other foreign assets to see them through.
In the political arena, the collapse of the Soviet Union presented Washington with the grand opportunity to reallocate the Pentagon budget to other uses. Part of the reduction could have been returned to taxpayers for their own use. Another part could have been used to improve worn out infrastructure. And another part could have been used to repair and improve the social safety net, thus insuring domestic tranquility. A final, but perhaps most important part, could have been used to begin repaying the Treasury IOUs in the Social Security Trust Fund from which Washington has borrowed and spent $2 trillion, leaving non-marketable IOUs in the place of the Social Security payroll tax revenues that Washington raided in order to fund its wars and current operations.
Instead, influenced by neoconservative warmongers who advocated America using its “sole superpower” status to establish hegemony over the world, Washington let hubris and arrogance run away with it. The consequence was that Washington destroyed its soft power with lies and war crimes, only to find that its military power was insufficient to support its occupation of Iraq, its conquest of Afghanistan, and its financial imperialism.
Now seen universally as a lawless warmonger and a nuisance, Washington’s soft power has been squandered. With its influence on the wane, Washington has become more of a bully. In response, the rest of the world is isolating Washington.
The prime minister of India, Manmohan Singh, recently declared China and Russia to be India’s “most important partners” with whom India shares “common strategic interests.” Prime Minister Singh said: “ India and Russia have always had a convergence of views on global and regional issues, and we value Russia’s perspective on international developments of mutual interest.”
India joined China in expressing concerns about the Federal Reserve’s practice of printing money in order to cover Washington’s vast red ink. The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) are taking steps to create their own method of settling trade accounts in order to protect themselves from the looming dollar implosion,
China has forcefully called for a “de-Americanized world.” After watching the “superpower” offshore a large part of its GDP to China and then add to the diminished tax base the burden of $6 trillion in wars that brought no booty and served no US interest, China has concluded that American power is spent. The London Telegraph thinks “it is only a matter of time before the renminbi replaces the dollar as the primary currency for trading commodities and resources.”
The Obama regime attempted to attack Syria based on the sort of lies that the Bush regime used to invade Iraq, only to be slapped down by the British Parliament and Russian government. This rebuke was followed by the childishness of the government shutdown and threat of default. Consequently, the Washington morons have lost their monopoly on economic and political leadership. A few days ago the British government announced a historic agreement that permits British investors direct access to China’s markets and allows Chinese banks to expand their operations in Great Britain.
In Australia, the US dollar will no longer be used as the currency in which to settle the Australian trade accounts with China. Instead of dollars, trade will be settled in the Chinese currency.
Washington served as cheerleader, as did most economists and libertarians, while US corporations, greedy for short-term profits and executive bonuses, offshored US industry and manufacturing, calling it free trade. The obvious and predicted result is that China’s demand for resources needed to fuel its industrial and manufacturing power now dominates markets. This means that the US dollar is being displaced as world currency. The only market that America dominates is the market for financial fraud.
When industrial, manufacturing, and tradeable professional service jobs are offshored, they take US GDP and tax base with them. The foreign country gets the benefit of the relocated economic activity. Due to the revenues lost from jobs offshoring, there is a large gap between federal revenues and federal expenditures. As Washington’s irresponsible behavior has raised so many doubts about the dollar’s value and the government’s commitment to stand behind its massive debt, foreign countries with trade surpluses with the US are less and less willing to recycle those surpluses into the purchase of US Treasury debt.
Today the two largest holders of US Treasury debt are not investors or even foreign central banks. The two largest holders are the Federal Reserve and the Social Security Trust Fund.
As for those $6 trillion wars, that’s to pay for national defense to protect us from women, children, and village elders in far away countries devoid of air forces and navies, and to provide those recycled taxpayer monies from the military/security complex that find their way into political contributions.
The Wall Street gangsters sighed for relief over the last minute debt ceiling agreement. This shows how short-term Wall Street’s outlook is. All the October agreement did was to push off the crisis to January and February. The “debt ceiling agreement” did not produce a new debt ceiling that would last beyond February, and it did not resolve the large difference between federal revenues and expenditures. In other words, the can was again kicked down the road. A repeat of the October fiasco won’t play well.
Obamacare is causing the premiums on private insurance polices to rise substantially, almost doubling in some situations unless people move to the uncertain exchanges, and Obamacare’s raid on Medicare payroll tax revenues has resulted in a cut in Medicare payments to health care providers. The result is a further reduction in consumer discretionary income and a further drop in the economy.
This in turn means a larger federal budget deficit and the need for the Federal Reserve to purchase more debt.
Another reason the Federal Reserve is faced with increasing, not tapering, quantitative easing (money printing) is the decline in foreign purchases of US Treasury bills, notes, and bonds. As the instruments pay interest that is less than the rate of inflation, holding Treasury debt makes no sense when the dollar’s value and the potential of default are open questions.
According to reports, not only are foreign governments, such as China, ceasing to buy US Treasury debt, China has started to sell off its holdings, substituting gold in the place of US Treasury debt.
This means that the bonds must be purchased by the Fed or interest rates will rise as the increased supply of bonds on the market drives down bond prices. The only way the Fed can purchase a larger supply of bonds is by printing more money, that is, by more quantitative easing.
With the world moving away from using the dollar to settle international accounts, as the Fed prints more dollars the rate at which foreign holders of dollar assets sell off their holdings will rise.
To get out of dollars requires that the dollar proceeds from selling Treasuries, US stocks and US real estate be sold in the currency markets. The selling of dollars drives down the exchange value of the US dollar and results in rising US inflation. The Fed can print money with which to purchase Treasury debt, but it cannot print foreign currencies with which to purchase dollars.
The decline in the dollar’s exchange value and the domestic inflation that results will force the Fed to stop printing. What then covers the gap between revenues and expenditures? The likely answer is private pensions and any other asset that Washington can get its hands on.
Initially, private pensions will be taxed at a rate to recover the tax-free accumulation in the pensions. The second year a national emergency will be used to confiscate some share of pensions. Those relying on the pensions will find themselves with less income. Consumer spending will decline. The economy will worsen. The deficit will widen.
You can see where this is going, and there seems to be no way out. Policymakers, economists, and corporation executives are in denial about the adverse effects of offshoring, which they still, despite all the evidence, maintain is good for the economy. So nothing will be done about offshoring. Republicans will blame the budget deficit on welfare and entitlements, and if those are cut consumer spending will decline further, widening the budget deficit. Inflation will rise as incomes fall, and social cohesion will break down.
Now you know why Homeland Security purchased 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition, enough ammunition to fight the Iraq war for 12 years, has its own para-military force and 2,700 tanks. If you think the “terrorist threat” in America warrants a domestic armed force of this size, you are out of your mind. This force has been assembled to deal with starving and homeless people in the streets of America.
September employment report: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), September brought 148,000 new jobs, enough to keep up with population growth but not reduce the unemployment rate. Moreover, John Williams (shadowstats.com) says that one-third of these jobs, or 50,000 per month on average, are phantom jobs produced by the birth-death model that during difficult economic times overestimates the number of new jobs from business startups and underestimates job losses from business failures.
The BLS reports that 22,000 of September’s jobs were new hires by state governments, which seems odd in view of the ongoing state budgetary difficulties.
In the private sector, wholesale and retail trade produced 36,900 new jobs, which seems odd in light of the absence of growth in real median family income and real retail sales.
Transportation and warehousing produced 23,400 new jobs, concentrated in transit and ground passenger transportation. This also seems odd unless the price of gasoline and pinched budgets are forcing people onto public transportation.
Professional and business services accounted for 32,000 jobs of which 63% are temporary help jobs.
So here you have the job picture that the presstitutes, hyping “the jobs gain,” don’t tell you. The scary part of the September job report is that the usual standby, the category of waitresses and bartenders, which has accounted for a large part of every reported jobs gain since I began reporting the monthly statistics, shows job loss. Seven thousand one hundred waitresses and bartenders lost their jobs in September. If this figure is not a fluke, it is bad news. It signals that fewer Americans can afford to eat and drink out.
The unemployment rate that is reported is the rate that does not count as unemployed discouraged workers who are unable to find jobs and cease to look. This favored rate, the darling of the regime in power, the presstitutes, and Wall Street, also is not adjusted for the category of “involuntary part-time workers,” those whose hours have been cut back or because they are unable to find a full-time job. Obamacare, as is widely reported, is causing employers to shift their work forces from full time to part time in order to avoid costs associated with Obamacare. The BLS places the number of involuntary part-time workers at 7,900,000.
The announced 7.2% unemployment rate is a meaningless number. The rate can decline for no other reason than people unable to find jobs drop out of the work force. You are not counted in the work force if you are discouraged about finding a job and no longer look for a job.
The phenomena of discouraged workers shows up in the measure of the labor force participation rate, which has declined in the 21st century. The opportunities for American labor are so restricted that a rising percentage of the working age population have given up looking for jobs.
Yet, the Obama regime, the Wall Street gangsters, and the pressitute media tell us how much better the economic situation is becoming as more small businesses close, as memberships decline in golf clubs, as more university graduates return home to live with their parents, who are drawing down their savings to live, as Fed Chairman Bernanke has made it impossible for them to live on interest payments on their savings.
According to the US census bureau, real median household income in 2012 was $51,017, down 9% from $56,080 in 1999, 13 years ago. In contrast, annual compensation in 2012 for US CEOs broke all records. Two CEOs were paid more than $1 billion, and the worst paid among the top ten took home $100 million. When the presstitutes speak of economic recovery, they mean recovery for the one percent.
America is in the toilet, and the rest of the world knows it. But the neocons who rule in Washington and their Israeli ally are determined that Washington start yet more wars to create lebensraum for Israel.
Early in the 21st century the liberal Democrat Senator from New York, Chuck Schumer, and I coauthored an article in the New York Times about the adverse effects on the US economy of jobs offshoring. The article caused a sensation. The Brookings Institution in Washington quickly convened a conference which was covered by C-SPAN. C-SPAN rebroadcast the conference several times. During the conference I said that if jobs offshoring continued, the US would be a third world economy in 20 years.
Wall Street quickly shut up Senator Schumer, but I am sticking by my forecast. Indeed, I think we are already there.
President Obama and his Republican partners in austerity have choreographed a kind of bi-partisan ballet, in which the dancers reach out to each other in slow motion, their fingers almost touching, teasing the audience. These cheap and transparent theatrics are designed to transmit a soap opera-like sense of drama: “Can the two parties come to a compromise for the sake of the country?” But, the fact is, Obama and the Republicans reached most of their grand bargain more than a year ago, when they slashed $1.7 trillion out of domestic spending over a decade. As liberal Obamite Robert Kuttner, of Demos, points out, there’s very little left to cut except Medicare and Social Security.
Social Security has always been Obama’s Great White Whale; he’s conspired with Republicans and right-wing Democrats to harpoon the mother of all New Deal programs since the very start of his presidency. But Social Security is not an easy mark. George Bush found that out in his second term, when he suffered his worst domestic defeat in attempting to privatize the program.
It would take a Black Democrat, fresh from a near-landslide election, to put Social Security on the chopping block, as Obama did in January of 2009. But before he could move in for the kill, Obama and his allies had to convince the public that Social Security is a major contributor to the federal budget deficit – which is a lie. Social Security runs on its own stream of revenues that go into the Social Security Trust Fund, totally separate from general taxation and debt. However, by endless repetition of the Big Lie – that Social Security adds to the federal deficit – Obama and other corporate Democrats and Republicans succeeded in maneuvering the program into the austerity debate, where it does not belong.
At this point it must be said that Obama’s insistence on making Social Security a budget deficit issue shows that he has always intended to make drastic cuts to the program. One of the reasons Social Security has long been thought of as “untouchable” is because President Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal Democrats purposely insulated it from the conventional budget process. However, President Obama has largely neutered Social Security’s traditional congressional defenders, who know perfectly well what their president is up to, but will not directly oppose him. That’s why we at Black Agenda Report call Obama “the more effective evil”; he can accomplish what Republicans only dream about.
Obama’s scheme to cripple Social Security is to change the way inflation is measured, resulting in a drastic scale-back in cost-of-living increases in recipients. According to Dean Baker, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the cuts would amount to 3 percent over 10 years, 6 percent over 20 years, and 9 percent over 30 years. In dollar terms, Black Minneapolis Congressman Keith Ellison says retirees would lose $6,000 in the first 15 years of cuts and $16,000 over 25 years.
And that’s just the beginning. Once the untouchability of Social Security has been breached, it becomes just another social program to be carved up on austerity chopping blocks. President Obama’s true legacy will be to have begun the destruction of the crown jewel of what’s left of the nation’s social safety net.
Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
- Obama and GOP Play Tag Team on Entitlements (alethonews.wordpress.com)
I gave my daughter a tip on being a media critic: “If you see a newspaper article with the words ‘Social Security’ in the title,” I told her, “it’s probably bad.”
Sure enough, the article we were looking at–”Fixing Social Security,” by Washington Post columnist Allan Sloan (4/29/12)–was pretty terrible.
Sloan’s argument is that cuts in Social Security benefits are “inevitable” because of “projections that Social Security’s cash expenses will exceed its cash income as far as the eye can see.” Note the important qualifier: “cash income.” That means excluding Social Security’s investment income. Including that income, Social Security is in the black for the next 21 years, according to the Social Security Trustees’ projections.
Why exclude that investment income? Sloan explains:
We will skip all that stuff about the Social Security trust fund (which has accounting and political significance but no economic significance) and go straight to the number that matters.
To wit: Last year, the Treasury had to borrow $160 billion to give to Social Security so that its checks (okay, its electronic deposits) wouldn’t bounce.
Let’s not skip the part about the Social Security trust fund–it’s important. It’s got $2.5 trillion in U.S. Treasury bonds in it–I’d say that’s rather significant, economically speaking.
Why does the Social Security trust fund have so many Treasury bonds? Because back in the 1980s, the federal government decided to “save” Social Security by raising the payroll tax (and cutting benefits as well). The idea was that Social Security would take in more than it needed in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, loan that money to the Treasury, and then in the mid-21st century, the Treasury would pay it back, thus helping to pay for the Baby Boomers’ retirement.
The loaning money to Treasury part worked as planned. Now that it’s time for the paying back part–suddenly the trust fund has “no economic significance.”
Look at the word game Sloan’s playing: “The Treasury had to borrow $160 billion to give to Social Security….” Paying one’s debts isn’t a gift–it’s a legal requirement.
It’s true that Congress could rewrite the laws so that Social Security would forgive those debts–but why should it do that? It would implicate Congress in the grandest of all larcenies–diverting money from the paychecks of working Americans with a promise that it will be used to help pay for their retirements, and then refusing to make good on that promise on the grounds that it has “no economic significance.”
- More Falsehoods About Social Security And Medicare (duanegraham.wordpress.com)
April 30, 2012 Posted by aletho | Deception, Economics, Timeless or most popular | Allan Sloan, Jim Naureckas, Social Security, Social Security Trust Fund, Trust law, United States Treasury security, Washington Post | Leave a comment
By Paul Craig Roberts | February 18, 2010
Hank Paulson, the Gold Sacks bankster/US Treasury Secretary, who deregulated the financial system, caused a world crisis that wrecked the prospects of foreign banks and governments, caused millions of Americans to lose retirement savings, homes, and jobs, and left taxpayers burdened with multi-trillions of dollars of new US debt, is still not in jail. He is writing in the New York Times urging that the mess he caused be fixed by taking away from working Americans the Social Security and Medicare for which they have paid in earmarked taxes all their working lives.
Wall Street’s approach to the poor has always been to drive them deeper into the ground.
As there is no money to be made from the poor, Wall Street fleeces them by yanking away their entitlements. It has always been thus. During the Reagan administration, Wall Street decided to boost the values of its bond and stock portfolios by using Social Security revenues to lower budget deficits. Wall Street figured that lower deficits would mean lower interest rates and higher bond and stock prices.
Two Wall Street henchmen, Alan Greenspan and David Stockman, set up the Social Security raid in this way: The Carter administration had put Social Security in the black for the foreseeable future by establishing a schedule for future Social Security payroll tax increases. Greenspan and Stockman conspired to phase in the payroll tax increases earlier than was needed in order to gain surplus Social Security revenues that could be used to finance other government spending, thus reducing the budget deficit. They sold it to President Reagan as “putting Social Security on a sound basis.”
Along the way Americans were told that the surplus revenues were going into a special Social Security trust fund at the U.S. Treasury. But what is in the fund is Treasury IOUs for the spent revenues. When the “trust funds” are needed to pay Social Security benefits, the Treasury will have to sell more debt in order to redeem the IOUs.
Social Security was mugged again during the Clinton administration when the Boskin Commission jimmied the Consumer Price Index in order to reduce the inflation adjustments that Social Security recipients receive, thus diverting money from Social Security retirees to other uses.
We constantly hear from Wall Street gangsters and from Republicans and an occasional Democrat that Social Security and Medicare are a form of welfare that we can’t afford; an “unfunded liability.” This is a lie. Social Security is funded with an earmarked tax. People pay for Social Security and Medicare all their working lives. It is a pay-as-you-go system in which the taxes paid by those working fund those who are retired.
Currently these systems are not in deficit. The problem is that government is using earmarked revenues for other purposes. Indeed, since the 1980s Social Security revenues have been used to fund general government. Today Social Security revenues are being used to fund trillion dollar bailouts for Wall Street and to fund the Bush/Obama wars of aggression against Muslims.
Having diverted Social Security revenues to war and Wall Street, Paulson says there is no alternative but to take the promised benefits away from those who have paid for them.
Republicans have extraordinary animosity toward the poor. In an effort to talk retirees out of their support systems, Republicans frequently describe Social Security as a Ponzi scheme and “unsustainable.” They ought to know. The phony trust fund, which they set up to hide the fact that Wall Street and the Pentagon are running off with Social Security revenues, is a Ponzi scheme. Social Security itself has been with us since the 1930s and has yet to wreck our lives and budget. But it only took Hank Paulson’s derivative Ponzi scheme and its bailout a few years to inflict irreparable damage on our lives and budget.
Years ago with stagflation defeated and a rising stock market, I favored privatizing Social Security as a way of creating a funded retirement system and producing greater savings and larger incomes for retirees. At that time Wall Street was interested, not for my reasons, but in order to collect the fees from managing the funds.
Had Social Security been privatized, I doubt that Wall Street would have been permitted to deregulate the financial system. Too much would have been at stake.
After the latest crisis brought on by Wall Street’s dishonesty and greed, trusting Wall Street to manage anyone’s old age pension requires a leap of faith that no intelligent person can make.
Wall Street has got away with its raid on the public treasury. Now, pockets full, it wants to pay for the heist by curtailing Social Security and Medicare. Having deprived the working population of homes, jobs, and health care, Wall Street is now after the elderly’s old age security.
Social Security, formerly an untouchable “third rail of politics,” is now “unsustainable,” while the real unsustainables–a pre-1929 unregulated financial system and open-ended multi-trillion dollar Global War Against Terror–are the new untouchables. This transformation signals the complete capture of American democracy by an oligarchy of special interests.
- Austerity, Obama-Style (alethonews.wordpress.com)
February 19, 2010 Posted by aletho | Deception, Economics, Supremacism, Social Darwinism | Alan Greenspan, David Stockman, Medicare, New York Times, PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS, Social Security, Social Security Trust Fund, United States, Wall Street | Leave a comment
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By Ron Forthofer | Palestine Chronicle | February 18, 2012
Madeleine Albright, former U.S. ambassador to the UN and former Secretary of State in the Clinton administration, once asked General Colin Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”
Albright’s statement nicely captures the U.S. approach to dealing with troublesome leaders. By troublesome, I mean those who have the temerity to oppose U.S. positions and who, at the same time, are far too weak to pose a real military threat to the U.S. Examples of nations that had such troublesome leaders include Panama, Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. The leaders of Syria and Iran are also currently in the crosshairs.
Note the contrast between Albright’s words and those of President Eisenhower in his “Cross of Iron” speech in 1953. Eisenhower addressed the idea of regime change when he said: “Any nation’s right to a form of government and an economic system of its own choosing is inalienable.” He added: “Any nation’s attempt to dictate to other nations their form of government is indefensible.” Unfortunately the U.S., even under Eisenhower, did not base its actions on these words. … continue
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