MR Translation – Green Book Pt. 1

MEDIA ROOTS DISCLAIMER The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, Muammar Qaddafi, and do not necessarily reflect the position of Media Roots. The translation was undertaken with the intent of providing global youth with alternative opinions about so-called Western democracy. Youth may take bits and pieces from Qaddafi’s words and use them to form ideas regarding possible future forms of government.

Introduction

The people of the world now confront this persistent problem. Many communities across the world suffer from its associated dangers and profound effects. The world’s communities have not yet succeeded in solving this problem democratically, once and for all. The Green Book offers a conclusive solution to the problem of how to govern.

All political arrangements in today’s world are the result of a power struggle among different instruments of government. The struggle may be armed or peaceful, among or across classes, factions, tribes, parties, or individuals. And it always results in a victory for a particular governing structure – an individual, group, party, or class – and the defeat of the people. In order words, the defeat of true democracy.

The political struggle that results in victory of some candidate by 51 percent of the electorate’s votes leads to a dictatorial governing body cloaked in pseudo-democracy. Keep in mind that over 40 percent of the electorate is then ruled by an instrument of government for which they did not vote, but which is imposed upon them. That, my friends, is dictatorship.

This political struggle might even result in a governing body that represents the minority. Take, for example, when an electorate’s votes are distributed among a group of candidates. One of the candidates obtains a relatively larger number of votes with respect to each of the other candidates. The combined vote of each of these minority candidates constitutes an overwhelming majority. And with one fell swoop, those who cast the minority vote succeed. One considers this a legal and democratic success?! In reality, it’s dictatorship cloaked in false democracy.

This is the reality of the prevailing political arrangements in today’s world; they’re dictatorial regimes and a fabrication of true democracy.

 

Parliaments

Translator’s note: Qaddafi’s words about parliaments certainly apply to the U.S. Congress.

Parliaments are the backbone of the modern, traditional democracy that prevails in the world today. The parliament is a deceptive representation of the people, a fabricated solution to the issue of democratic representation. Parliaments essentially replace the people, an undemocratic move because democracy means people power not proxy power. The mere presence of a parliament means absence of the people. True democracy is only based upon the active presence of the people themselves, not the presence of their delegates.

The parliamentary system became a legal obstacle between the people and the practice of power, as the general public was isolated from practicing politics while delegates monopolized rule for themselves. All that remained for the people was the false appearance of representative democracy, like when people stand in long lines to place a voting card in a ballot box.

In order to expose the parliamentary system for what it is, we must find out where this form of assembly came from. It is either elected through an electoral framework, a party, a coalition of parties, or it is appointed. All of these methods are undemocratic in light of the fact that the population is divided into electoral districts, which means that one MP takes the place of thousands or even millions of people depending on the size of the population.

This means that the delegate doesn’t have any popular organizational link to the electorate, since he is considered a representative for all the people, just like the rest of the delegates. This is what the prevailing, traditional form of democracy demands. The people are cut off completely from the representative, and vice versa. By merely obtaining the people’s votes, the representative monopolizes their dominion and becomes the proxy for managing their affairs. In this manner we see the traditional form of democracy bestow sanctity and immunity upon parliamentary membership while not affording the people similar privilege.  This means that parliaments have become a device through which to plunder the popular authority and to monopolize it for elite use. Today, it is the right of the people to fight this arrangement – through a people’s revolution for the sake of shattering the instrument through which delegates are able to monopolize democracy and negate sovereignty – in order for the will of the people to shine through and cry out their new principle: no more replacing the people with bogus “representatives.”

If a parliament arises from a given party’s electoral victory, it still is a parliament featuring parties and not the people; it represents the party and not the people. The Executive power, which the parliamentary system is supposed to check, is the power of a winning party and not the power of the people. Thus, with regard to the parliament in which each party obtains a number of seats, the owners of these seats are the party representatives and not representatives of the people. And the authority upon which this coalition is based is the authority of the comprised parties and not the peoples’ authority.

The people who suffer under such arrangements are merely prey over which the party vultures wrestle. The competing factions, which struggle over power, exploit the people and make a fool of them in order to wrest votes from them, while the people stand silently in orderly lines, moving along like beads in a rosary, read to toss their votes in the ballot box. This is done much in the same way they toss paper in the recycling bin. This is the prevailing democracy, practiced throughout the world, whether you live under a system of one, two, multiple, or no parties. In this manner, it is clear that this representation is nothing but total scam.

(Side note: The assemblies that result from political appointments or inheritance don’t fall under any appearance of democracy).

The parliamentary electoral process is based upon propaganda in order to attract votes (in true demagoguery fashion); one can buy votes and bribe people for them. The poor are unable to enter this electoral arena in which the rich exclusively and always succeed.

For sure, philosophers, thinkers, and authors called for the theory of parliamentary representation when kings, sultans, and conquerors were herding an unaware people like cattle. The most these people aspired to was to have at least someone represent them in the presence of those rulers who traditionally refused such a measure. So the people fought long and hard to achieve that ambition. It’s baffling to think that today – after many people’s victories, which led to the age of republics – democracy would have only gotten us a little group of delegates to represent so many people. Democracy, in this form, is an obsolete theory and a worn out experiment. Power should be completely in the hands of the people. Indeed, the most insolent dictators of the world have come to power under the auspices of parliaments.

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Translated by Christian Sorensen for MediaRoots

Photo by Flickr user WorkByKnight

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Reply

Obama’s Austerity Agenda And Sequestration

jobless menMEDIA ROOTS — “Both parties have conspired to bring us disaster,” says Professor William K. Black, a leading white collar criminologist, who also teaches economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. “This has strangled the recovery and may even put the economy back into recession.”  Professor Black gives a crucial recap of Obama’s (and both Democrats’ and Republicans’) recent history of assaults against the working-class, also known as austerity.

This “act of austerity is insane, self-destructive, [and] might well cause another recession,” says Prof. Black. “Neither party is getting behind a clean bill. It would be, literally, one sentence: The sequestration provisions are repealed.

With the fast-paced 24-hour soundbite news cycle dominating attention spans, it’s beneficial to take a step back and scope the bigger picture.  Professor Black masterfully articulates the truth behind the two-party budget cuts at home coupled with war spending abroad.

Messina

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Prof. Bill Black: Both parties have conspired to bring us a disaster; Obama’s sequestration plan gives cuts without blame

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REAL NEWS NETWORK — “Welcome back to the Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore. And welcome to this week’s edition of The Bill Black Financial and Fraud Report. [Professor] Black now joins us from Kansas City, Missouri. Bill’s an Associate Professor of Economics & Law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He’s a white-collar criminologist, a former financial regulator. He is the author of the book, The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One. Thanks for joining us, Bill.”

Professor Bill Black:  “Thank you.”

Paul Jay (c. 0:33):  “So, the sequestration cuts and drama, what do you make of it?”

Professor Bill Black:  “So, both parties have conspired to bring us disaster. In this case, sequester is the fourth shoe to drop in austerity. And, collectively, this has strangled the recovery and may even put the U.S. economy back into recession.

“So, the first major act was in mid-2011 when they reached this budget deal, that created the sequestration. And the budget deal, in itself, caused over a billion dollars in spending cuts at the worst possible time.”

Paul Jay (c. 1:15):  “So, just to remind everybody, the sequestration formula deal was a proposal by President Obama.”

Professor Black:  “Well indeed, it was created by President Obama, now, under, of course, Republican pressure, where they’re threatening to not raise the debt ceiling. But it was an Obama idea. And the principal framer of it was Jacob Lew, the President’s selection to be Geithner’s replacement as disastrous Treasury Secretary.

“And then the President blocked a Republican effort to get rid of sequestration. And then the President went so far as to threaten a veto any bill, that got rid of sequestration when the Republicans tried to get rid of it again.

“Now, you shouldn’t think too well of the Republicans in all of this. What they were worried about, pretty much solely, was defence spending. And making sure there’d never be a drop in defence spending.

“In any event, what you see is neither party, even at this time of crisis, where all the supposedly serious people finally agree that this act of austerity is insane, self-destructive, might well cause a recession. Neither party is getting behind a clean bill. It would be, literally, one sentence: The sequestration provisions are repealed. Right? And we could be free of, at least, that aspect of the insanity. We’d still have the debt ceiling insanity. But the sequestration, we would no longer be shooting ourselves, not in the foot, but substantially farther up our anatomy.

“So, as I said, the sequestration is large, but it’s not the sequestration all by itself. It’s the fact that it is this fourth act austerity. I began to mention the mid-2011 pact knocked off a billion dollars in spending at the worst possible time.

“Then we raised taxes on the wealthy, which you may well support, but it is an act, that pushes you towards austerity.

“And then the far larger and vastly more destructive resuming the entire payroll tax on Social Security, which economists think—all by itself—knocked a half percentage point off of growth. And growth is really small, so that’s a massively important thing, that is gonna cost hundreds of thousands of people their jobs.

“And, now, the fourth shoe to drop of austerity, of course, is going to be the sequestration.

“And, meanwhile, this is happening while we see Europe forced back into a completely gratuitous recession. The entire Eurozone, on average, is back in recession. And the European Commissions have just come out with dreadful projections, saying things are going to get worse.

“Spain just announced today that a single bank that they were bailing out—which is really seven failed thrift-type entities—is going to cost them roughly $25 Billion dollars just this year. And Spain’s a large economy, but nowhere close to the United States.

“So, this is bigger, by far, than the most expensive US banking failure in history, all occurring in Spain, all being driven by the bubble and fraud and then this self-inflicted wound of austerity.

“And we can’t even get the President, who, you know, on day one will say, the sequestration disaster [is] insane.

“And on day two refuses to put forward a clean bill to stop it.

“And, on day three, says, hey, that Jake Lew, the guy, that created this disastrous scenario, that is going to, potentially, hurl us back into a recession. He should be our Treasury Secretary and create our financial policies.”

Paul Jay:  “So, when you read the business press, some of the stories are about how blasé Wall Street is and corporate America is. And they’re not very concerned with $85 Billion dollars of cuts. And the stock market’s doing fine. It does not seem to be affected by it. Why is that, if the threat of recession is looming?”

Professor Black (c. 5:53):  “Well, recession isn’t necessarily bad for the stock market. We’ve had a record recovery in stock market prices with extremely weak recovery from the Great Recession because it’s been strangled.

“So, they love the current system, in which wages have not simply plateaud, household wealth for the middle class is down to where it was 18 years ago. There’s over a 15% of loss of wealth of the middle class and working-class and a massive increase in corporate profitability where we get all these productivity gains, which is what allows you to pay workers higher wages without any inflationary risk. And virtually all of those productivity gains during the Great Recession have gone to the richest—not 1%—but the richest one-thousandth of 1%.”

Paul Jay (c. 6:54):  “Thanks very much for joining us, Bill. And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.”

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Transcript by Felipe Messina for Media Roots, New Economic Perspectives, and Real News Network.

fm: Updated 23 MAR 2013 20:39 CST

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Can The USA Really Run Out Of Dollars?

GrandBargainFlickrDonkeyHoteyMEDIA ROOTS — Obama’s attacks on the social safety net continue, fueled by the claim the USA is running out of dollars. During the recent Steinhardt Lecture at Lewis & Clark College in Oregon, UMKC Professor L. Randall Wray debunked various economic myths marketed in today’s headlines, which are enforced in universities and echoed by the Obama Administration. These same myths provide pretexts for “fiscal austerity” and “sequestrations,” against the backdrop of giveaways for the ruling-class.

Yet, we come to find, government spending during a recession doesn’t hurt the economy and the US doesn’t ‘borrow dollars from China.’ In the midst of the currently raging debate on “sequestration,” Dr. Wray presents very important economic perspectives the nation needs to understand in order to read between the lines of Washington, D.C. doublespeak.

Messina

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NEW ECONOMIC PERSPECTIVES — L. Randall Wray recently presented at the Steinhardt Lecture at Lewis & Clark College in Oregon. The title of his presentation was: “Fiscal Cliffs, Debt Limits, and Unsustainable Deficits: Can the US Really Run Out of Dollars?”

Dr. Wray’s Lecture’s accompanying slideshow

***

2013 Steinhardt Lecture, Lewis & Clark College, Oregon:

Eric Tymoigne: “Alright. Good evening, everyone. My name is Eric Tymoigne. I am an Assistant Professor at the Department of Economics. And, on behalf of the Department, I am pleased to welcome you to the Steinhardt Lecture. It is the 42nd Steinhardt Lecture; and it is named in honour of Herman Steinhardt, the first Chair of the Economics Department at Lewis and Clark College. 

“Herman Steinhardt was a businessman working in textiles in Austria during the 1930s. He and his wife, who [were] Jewish, were forced to leave the country because of the growing Nazi threat. Unable to find a job in textiles, in the United States, he decided to pursue an academic career. After receiving a degree in economics, he was hired as a professor and a chair at the college. He retired in 1964.

“To honour his many years of service, friends of the economics department established a lecture series in his name in the 1970s. The Steinhardt Lecture is given every February by a distinguished scholar, chosen by the economics department and faculty. And the purpose of the Lecture is to engage in public policy issues. 

“The 2013 Lecturer is Dr. L. Randall Wray. He is a Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Dr. Wray is also a Senior Scholar at the Levy Economics Institute and the Research Director of the Center for Full Employment and Price Stability [C-FEPS].

“He has published numerous articles and books on a variety of topics, including such [things] as Social Security, banking, the history of money, full employment policies, and financial crises. His two most recent books are Understanding Modern Money: The Key to Full Employment and Price Stability and Modern Monetary Theory: A Primer on Macroeconomics for Sovereign Monetary Systems

“Tonight’s Lecture will address issues surrounding the public debt and budget deficits, which, are currently subject to heated debates in Washington. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Wray. [Applause]”

Dr. L. Randall Wray:  “Well, thank you for coming out. And thank you for inviting me here to give this talk. I’m sure that you’re all reading in the newspapers and watching on TV the debates about the US government budget. So, I’m going to try to answer the question: Can the the US really run out of money? Is this much ado about nothing? Or maybe something to do about a little?

(c. 3:09)  “So, President Obama, for a long time, actually, even before the current debate, argued, that ‘our government is running out of money.’ He would like to do more to help the economy, to help the unemployed, but Uncle Sam has run out of money. Economists argue that we’re on an unsustainable debt path. And most Americans seem to have come to some kind of an agreement with these two positions. I just saw, in the hotel this morning, a USA Today poll says 70% of Americans say progress on the deficit is needed this year. And it was by far and away the topic, that had the greatest percent of Americans agreeing this was an issue, a critical issue, that needs to be resolved very quickly. Nothing else was even 50%. 

“There’s this fear we hear all the time that we’ve been borrowing from the Chinese and someday they might stop lending to us and we would be in trouble. We have a lot of people arguing that the big budget deficits today, and in the future, are threatening us with hyperinflation. So, we might suffer the fate of Zimbabwe or the Weimar Republic.

“Many people argue that that debt is a burden on our grandkids. 

“And, finally, people point their fingers to Europe and say, that could happen to us. We might have a sovereign debt crisis, like the Irish, the Greeks, the Italians, the Spanish. There is rising default risk on these nations’ debt.

“And the bond vigilantes are attacking them, boosting interest rates, increasing interest payments on the debt, and imposing conditions on these countries, forcing Greece to sell off its national heritage in order to try to cover interest payments, that the vigilantes are demanding.

Is any of this true?

“Mark Twain said, ‘It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just aint so.’

“So, I’m going to be arguing, it just ain’t so. What we think we know is not true. 

“First, I’m going to show you some pieces of data. And then we’ll get into the more theoretical arguments. I’m gonna try to not make it any more wonky than we have to make it.

(c. 5:58)  “We’ve had a debt limit in the United States for about a hundred years, that was imposed by Congress on itself. If you think about it, it’s sort of a strange thing. Every year Congress proposes a budget and they get the President to sign off on it. And that tells them what programmes are gonna be funded, up to what limit. And then we have some spending, such as on Social Security, that depends on people meeting the requirements of the programme and then they get their checks.

“But, in its wisdom, Congress decided that wasn’t enough, the budgeting process isn’t enough to constrain government. So, they also imposed a debt limit, so that, as the federal government debt rises towards that limit, then Congress has to get together and agree to raise the limit, so that Congress could spend the money—sorry—the Administration can spend the money, that Congress already told it to spend. It’s a strange thing. Other countries don’t do this. 

“Normally, it didn’t matter because the Democrats and Republicans would get together and raise the debt limit and life would go on. And the Administration would spend the money already budgeted.

But the Republicans, together with some Democrats, decided to make it an issue. And, so, we had, a couple years ago a, big debate about raising the debt limit. And a compromise was created to create a fiscal cliff. And the thinking—you’ve heard all of this so much I don’t need to go into it in detail—the thinking was we’ll make it so terrible that come January 1st, 2013, they’ll get their act together and agree to impose budget cuts as a compromise to increasing the debt limit. Well, January 1st came and went and they didn’t do it. So, instead what they [said] was, lets give a two-month extension to March. And we’re going to immediately go ahead and raise the payroll tax, so that up to $2,000 per year will be taken out of paychecks.

“Essentially, what they were doing was just taking back the payroll tax holiday, that they had given to try to stimulate the economy.

“So, anyway, now we’re waiting to see what happens in a few days. If they don’t come to an agreement, we’re gonna have $1.2 Trillion dollars in budget cuts imposed. Half of that is on domestic spending and the other half is on military spending. If you listen to NPR, this morning they were talking about laying off air traffic controllers. And I fly a lot. And this is pretty scary. But just across the board cuts. And that was on purpose. It was to make this extremely painful, so that we would never get to the point that we’re at—and already missed one deadline.

“Anyway, it’s gonna reduce GDP by about 1% directly. And, in spite, of what we were told by some economists, even the IMF has come out and said, you know, wow, there really is a government spending multiplier. If you cut government spending, GDP goes down by a lot more than the cut of government spending. There is a spending multiplier. And, so, that’s going to hit us, too, so, that the effect on GDP is gonna be greater than 1%. 

(c. 9:30) “Okay, so, the question is:

Is there really something we should be worried about?

“Is there any evidence that our government has been taken over by hyperinflationaries?

“Are we on a path to Weimar or Zimbabweland?

“Is debt at a historic high? 

“Is government spending out of control?

Have we really hocked ourselves to China? 

Does the debt burden really burden our grandchildren?

Will entitlements bankrupt our grandkids? 

(c. 10:06) “So, let’s look at data first, as I said. [See accompanying Slide Show] 

“Here’s a picture of US federal government debt from 1950 to approximately the present. The red line shows the total amount of debt. But the government owes itself a lot of that debt. Okay? And this is Social Security and, increasingly, the Fed. There are pretty good reasons not to include debt, that the government owes to itself in the calculation. But, if you want to, you’ve got both of them here. And you can take a look.

“You can see that the gap between the two is growing because the goverment owes itself even more and more and more, like you owing yourself. You can decide whether that matters much or not. In any case, no, we’re not at a historic high. Okay? We were much higher in 1950. And you can see how rapidly the debt ratio went down after 1950. You might think that it’s because we paid off World War II debt. And the answer is, no we did not.

“It came down because GDP grew. We reduced the debt ratio by growing the economy. The debt, that we ran up in World War II is still out there, almost all of it. In fact, if you go back to the founding of the country, there’s only been one time, in wich we actually did pay down the debt. That was in 1837. We never did it again. All the debt, that we’ve issued since then, still pretty much exists. Okay? 

“But we’ve lowered the debt ratio by increasing economic growth. You could see that the debt ratio really spiked up when the crisis hit. And I’ll talk more about that in a second.

“Many people think that we had such big fiscal stimulus packages and that when Obama came in—of course, he’s a Democrat, which means he must be a big government spender—and, so, the rise of the deficit up to 10% of GDP and the resulting rise of government debt is because of all the discretionary spending, that Obama has put into place. The reality is quite different from that. 

What actually happened is that tax revenue fell off a cliff. The tax revenue fell off a cliff when we went into the very deep recession, the worst since the 1930s. Tax revenue, if you go back, if you can read the numbers back to 2005, tax revenue was growing above 20% per year, phenomenal growth of tax revenue. And, actually, at the time, I wrote that this is going to kill the economy. And in two years it did.

“So, the tax revenue is growing very fast. And then we hit the cliff. We went into a deep recession. The tax revenue disappeared. That is why the budget deficit blew up. There is a bit of a fiscal stimulus. But it’s very, very small compared to the decline in tax revenue. And the automatic stabilisers, transfer payments, like unemployment compensation kicked in because of the recession. So, that’s the top blue line, that goes up, the transfers payments, and unemployment compensation, and food stamps when people lost their jobs and their incomes. 

“So, actually, the deficit increase and much of the growth of debt is because the economy has been rotten. If the economy recovered we would expect that tax revenue would go up. And, actually, you notice that tax revenue growth did go up in the last couple of years, as the economy recovered a little bit and as the unemployment rate declined a little bit.

(c. 14:03) “The story about Obama, big deficit spender, fiscal stimulus leading to the big deficit, also doesn’t fit the facts of this one. This is a very unusual recession and attempt at a recovery, in that it’s only in the very beginning when we had a fiscal stimulus, the lighter blue line. Since then, the government, actually, has been a drag on the economy, very unusual, we haven’t had recoveries, since the Ronald Reagan years, in which the government, actually, was a drag on the economy, trying to come out of a recession.

“Here’s another one [slide], the growth in real per capita government spending. Precisely, the opposite of what is commonly said, Obama is not the big government spender. He, actually, has reduced government spending in real terms per capita, while no other previous president going back to Nixon and Ford had done that.

“So, the deficit was not due to government spending. The government, actually, continues to take demand out of the economy, as it now is pulling jobs out of the economy. So, job growth, government job growth, is actually negative.

“Okay, let’s look at the story about we’re at hock to the Chinese. Some of the older people here can remember back in the ‘80s, ’90s, and through the early 2000s, when the same stories were told about the Japanese when the Japanese were accumulating US Treasuries. And there was a great fear that the Japanese would start being the owners of the United States and that we would be controlled by our creditors, who are the Japanese.

“Now, the same story is told about the Chinese. And you can see, earlier on, the Japanese were the big holders and they have declined, as China has become the big holder.

“First, the stories about the Japanese controlling us because they were our creditors never came true. It never happened.

“Second, why is it that, first, the Japanese and then the Chinese become big holders of US government debt? You know? There must be some similarity, some explanation for why that happened. And this picture [PowerPoint slide #12/39] is a little complicated. You might want to look at it in more detail later when it’s posted up on the website.

“I only want to draw your attention to the two top curves over here [pointing to screen with laser pointer]. So, this is showing US Treasury debt held by the rest of the world. Okay? The blue. The other one, you could see, [which] tracks it fairly well, is our current account balance, like our trade deficit?  

“So, our trade deficit is very highly correlated with foreigners holding US Treasuries. When we import more than we export, the foreigners, the big, exporting foreigners, who export stuff to us, end up holding a lot of US Treasuries. Okay? Why is that? It’s because they want to sell stuff to us in order to get very safe, dollar-denominated, financial assets. Okay?

“In the first instance, for reasons I’ll explain in a bit, they initially get reserves, which are deposits at the Fed. And those reserves at the Fed don’t earn any interest. The next-best thing they can get are US Treasury bonds. And those do earn interest.

“So, what they do is they trade the reserves at the Fed for US Treasury bonds. And it’s not a surprise at all that the Chinese will end up with US Treasuries when they are exporting Chinese goods to the United States. Okay?

“So, we can explain it perfectly. As long as China wants to run a trade surplus—export to the US more than they import—they will be accumulating US Treasuries. When they change their minds and decide they would rather be consuming the goods themselves than sell it to us, they will stop exporting to the US and they will stop accumulating US Treasuries.

“There’s no imbalance here. It is a balance. They’re doing it because they want to do it, whether it’s in their interest or not is not for us to decide. But, as long as they’re wiling to send us their output, they will accumulate Treasuries.

(c. 19:24) “Now, earlier, I was saying that you do expect the budget deficit to go up when times are bad. And that as we recover tax revenues will go up. That’s already happening. The budget deficit will decline. It’s already happening. The budget deficit declined from about 10% of GDP to about 6.7% of GDP. So, it’s already happening. If we continue to recover the budget deficit will go down. It always has in recoveries. It always will.

“But people say, that’s not our real problem. The problem is not the deficit today. The problem is the long-run deficit, the chronic deficit, that we are stuck with. And that is mostly because of entitlements. It’s because of Social Security and Medicare.

“I’d love to spend the whole 90 minutes talking about those two programmes because there’s so much misconception out there. And it goes beyond misconception—purposely misleading people about those programmes. But I don’t have time to do that. I gotta stick to the fiscal cliff.

“But, anyway, the argument is the budget deficits and rising debt is a problem for the long run. They will continue to go up as baby boomers retire and even beyond that. Some economists carry this all the way to—they do what is called am infinite horizon forecast. It’s not enough to look 70 years into the future, they say. We have to look to an infinite future. So, we project Social Security revenues and spending and Medicare revenues and spending, not for 20 years, not for 70 years, not for a thousand years, forever. They project them forever.

“And then they discount that back to the present. And then they tell you, the programme is $70 Trillilon dollars short.

“This sounds scary. This sounds really scary. That’s forever. It’s forever. $70 Trillion dollars.

“Anyway, whether we should worry about that or not, you know, is a completely different matter. What I’m gonna—the forecasting, your ability to do that, and whether the United States will survive forever, I don’t know.

“But, as a way of introduction to the topic about whether its true that budget deficits are unsustainable, whether the federal government could continue to run deficits and accumulate debt outstanding, let’s go back to the fairly recent past—President Clinton—because we’re almost in the opposite situation today, as we were in the late ‘90s. In 1996, the US federal government started to run a surplus and continued for two and a half years, a significant surplus. And I know a few of you will know the answer to this. When was the last time the US federal government ran a significant surplus for more than one quarter? [Inaudible audience member]

“There we go! Right before the Great Depression. Right before the Great Depression. Well, we ran this one right before the Great Crash or sometimes it’s called the Great Recession.

“Anyway, so we ran a budget surplus and Clinton thought this was a great thing and some of you will remember him going on TV projecting we’re gonna run a budget surplus for the next 15 years. And it’s gonna be so large, we’re gonna retire all the government debt, so that we will be completely free of federal government debt for the first time since? 1837, which was followed by our first Great Depression, which most people forget about because it was a long time ago.

“Anyway, all the government debt will be retired. But, you know, it wasn’t all quite rosy because private debt exploded while the government was running a budget surplus. And then, of course, we crashed into the recession after the NASDAQ collapsed and the budget deficit was restored. And everyone had sort of forgotten about this. You know; could you imagine a worse projection? Because right now, today, we should have no government debt, or we should be very close ‘cos we’re about 15 years out. We should be free of government debt. How good was that forecast? Pretty far off. Okay? Pretty far off. And, in fact, we started running a budget deficit soon after he made the statement. He made the statement in 1999. And, by 2000, we were running a budget deficit.

“Okay, why? Why this link between a budget surplus and a private sector deficit? It’s because balances balance.

(c. 24:27) “In 1999, I saw, in The Wall Street Journal, a fantastic article, or fantastic pair of articles. On the left-hand side [of slideshare slide #15/39], I know this is going to be hard for you to read. But it says:

Budget surpluses may wipe out the government debt, says President Clinton. Okay? Left-hand side.

“And then the article goes on to say:

Isn’t it fantastic that the government finally is adding to the national savings by spending less than its income? For the first time. (They didn’t say since 1929.)

“On the right-hand side, it says:

The savings rate declines, again.

“They say, isn’t it terrible that the private sector households are spending more than their income? Isn’t it terrible? And then they give you a nice little picture right in the middle, between the two, that shows you government going from negative saving to positive saving and the private sector going from positive saving down to negative saving. And neither of the articles mentions the obvious question. Could these two things be linked? Well, yes, they are, by identity.

If the government sector runs a surplus, the non-government sector has to run a deficit. It’s by identity.  And here’s the identity. Again, we don’t want to get too wonky, but when we think about the domestic sector, its overall balance has to equal the foreign sector’s overall balance. I know a lot of people don’t like algebra, but pictures are nice. Okay. Here’s the picture [slideshare slide #17/39].

“And what’s the first thing you notice about the picture? It’s a mirror image. Hey, balances balance. Isn’t it nice when the real world cooperates with the theory, or the identity? It has to be true. For everything above zero, there is something below zero, exactly, dollar for dollar. Okay?

(c. 26:40) “The second thing you notice is, boy, there’s a lot of red below the line. That is the US federal government deficit. Whenever the red is below the line, the government is running a deficit. Whenever the red is above the line, the government is running a surplus. And what do you know? The government, well, almost always runs a deficit, almost always—and that’s always been true for the US federal government. There is a period there, that stands out, where the red is above the line, above zero, which means there’s a budget surplus; that’s Clinton. That’s when he’s announcing, we’re gonna do this for the next 15 years. Imagine how much, how big those surpluses would have to have been to offset all of the reds on the other side. Okay? But that’s what he thought he was gonna do.

“Okay, so, a very brief period. And it’s the only one you could see. Okay?

“The blue is the private sector. That’s households and firms, taken together. If the US was a closed economy, there was no foreign sector, the reds would have to, exactly, be balanced by the blues. Anytime the red is below the line, the blue must be above the line, if there’s no foreign sector. So, set aside the foreign sector—that’s the green—just for a minute.

“You could see that before President Reagan there’s almost no green. And the green, actually, is below the line, which means we ran trade surpluses. But they were small, small enough to ignore for the part of the story up until a much later period, okay, beginning with Reagan

(c. 28:22) “And, so, what our normal situation was the government ran a deficit and the private sector ran a surplus, which meant the private sector was saving, which is what you would normally expect. It’s sort of a good thing when households spend less than their income. They’re accumulating financial wealth. It helps to get the kids in college and to go into retirement. So, you expect that to be [the case,] normally.

“You could see it as very cyclical. When people get scared, they, actually, save more. When they get really enthusiastic and confident, they spend more. Okay? The two, by identity, had to be equal. The causation is hard to explain. But it largely goes from the private decisions to spend or to save to the budget because if the private sector is scared and not spending, and trying to save, the government had to make up the difference with unemployment compensation and food stamps and reduction of tax revenue to keep the economy going. So, that was the normal case.

(c. 29:30) “The Clinton years, again, are very unusual because the private sector started deficit spending. It’s the other side of the coin. For the government to run a surplus, the private sector needed to run a deficit. Okay?

“And I was at the Levy Institute with Wynne Godley, who was the guy who developed this framework; and the private sector had gone into deficit in 1996. By 1998, we were predicting collapse because the private sector had never done anything like this before. If you look at the blue, the deficit spending by the private sector is really big. For every dollar of income, they were spending $1.06.

(c. 30:08) “In 1998, so, they’d been doing this for two years. They had never done this before. Okay? As far as we know, no country has ever done this before. They’re gonna build up too much debt. They’re gonna get scared and realise, Uh-oh, we can’t service our debt anymore. Some would start going bankrupt. And the others would all cut back spending.

“Well, it went on longer than we thought. But it did happen in 2000. So, in 2000, they stopped spending. Budget went back into deficit, as the economy slowed down. Households retrenched. And you could see there’s a very brief period where they stopped deficit spending. And then the really shocking thing is they started deficit spending again, well, after President Bush came in. They started deficit spending. And that went on for another five years.

“So, for a period of almost ten years, with a brief recession, almost ten years, the private sector spent more than its income, every year. It had never done anything like that before. And, all along, we kept saying: This can’t continue. This is unsustainable. This is going to crash. 

It finally crashed in 2007. We lived through the biggest bubble in human history, not the biggest bubble in United States history, the biggest bubble in human history occurred between 2000 and 2006. It wasn’t just housing. It was also commodities.

So, anyway, finally—I’m spending too much time talking about this picture.

“The foreign sector is the balancing item. So, that when the budget deficit doesn’t equal the private sector surplus, it’s because we are running, either, a trade surplus or a trade deficit. 

(c. 32:00) “And, since the years of Ronald Reagan, we have run chronic trade deficits. And, so, that is the green above the line because this shows the capital account surplus for the economy. So, that’s why it’s positive. When we run a current account deficit, we have a capital account surplus. So, that’s the balancing item.

“And the US is in this situation where you have—since we have a current account deficit, even if the private sector balances its budget, we will have a government budget deficit equal to the current account deficit. Okay? It’s the structure of—not just the US economy, but—the global economy, in which, many countries of the world want to sell their stuff to us. We can’t decide, by ourselves, to reduce our current account deficit. It takes two to tango. They have to reduce their desire to export to us in order for us to balance the current account.

“But, anyway, balances balance. It’s a mirror image. If you are saying we want the federal government to balance its budget, in the United States, that has to mean, you want the private sector to deficit spend and run up private debt. You want another boom. That’s what it must mean. Anyone who says we’re going to reduce the government budget deficit down to zero, they’re telling you, we want the private sector to spend again, like it’s 2005—Okay?—and crash again. There’s no other alternative to that, given that—for the foreseeable future, we’re not going to get to a current account surplus. We’re not gonna export more than we import for the foreseeable future. It could change. I don’t know when. I don’t see it happening. I don’t know any economist who is predicting that that’ll happen in the next decade or two.

(c. 34:02) “Okay. It’s claimed that this is unsustainable, even though we’ve been doing it since about 1789. It’s unsustainable. Someday it’s gonna come back and get us—Okay?—these government budget deficits. Someday it’s going to get us. There’s supposed to be this relationship—and this stuff gets wonky—but the basic idea is if the government pays a higher interest rate on its debt, then the growth rate of the economy—mathematically—what happens is the debt ratio tends to grow over time. So, we go from, say, a debt ratio of 40% to GDP to 60% to 100%. Okay? And, as the debt ratio goes up, it means the government has to spend ever more on interest, which makes the debt ratio go up even more.

“And then the bond vigilantes will say, Uh-oh, your government debt ratio is above 60%, or uh-oh, it’s above 100%, or—in the case of Japan—uh-oh, your debt ratio is 200% of GDP—by the way, they still pay 0% interest—200% of GDP—they’re gonna attack you and push your interest rates up, like they did to Greece. So, that’s the basic argument.

(c. 35:17) “So, what we need to show is, first, why a government doesn’t face insolvency, and, so, why there, actually, is no reason to worry about a government default—even if the debt ratio does continue to grow, even if it did.

“And, second, why deficits actually don’t raise interest rates—so, now, unfortunately, we get into the theory part. But just to show you that what I’m going to be arguing is not so far out there, here’s the St. Louis Fed. This is a recent research paper by the St. Louis Fed. The economists here know the St. Louis Fed is a monetarist Fed. It’s a Milton Friedman Fed. Okay? It’s not some crazy bunch of Keynesian type economists. These are monetarist, conservative economists:

As the sole manufacturer of dollars, whose debt is denominated in dollars, the US government can never become insolvent

“This is the Fed. Okay.

—unable to pay its bills. In this sense, the government is not dependent on credit markets to remain operational. Moreover, there will always be a market for US government debt at home because the US government has the only means of creating risk-free dollar-denominated assets.’

Now, let me translate to plain English:

The government can never run out of dollars.

It can never be forced to default.

It can never be forced to miss a payment.

It is never subject to the whims of bond vigilantes.

“This is what the St. Louis Fed tells us. You can find identical statements from Alan Greenspan, from Ben Bernanke. Okay? Again, both monetarists.

“Here, let’s go abroad, Lord Adair Turner, the Chairman of the FSA, he was in line to become the head of the Bank of England. He didn’t get it. But very well respected. He says:

’Within limits, financing government spending by printing money absolutely, definitively does not lead to inflation. 

“He said:

‘I accept entirely that this is a very dangerous thing to let out the bag—’ 

“We don’t wanna tell people this stuff. So, don’t let it get out of this room, right?

‘—that this is a medicine in small quantities, but a poison in large quantities, but that there exist some circumstances, in which it is appropriate to take that risk.’ 

“And he’s arguing, this is the time to do it.

“Go back to Paul Samuelson. Maybe some of the older people, that are here, used his textbook, okay, in the 1960s and beyond. He says, ‘I think there’s an’—this is an interview, by the way, with Mark Bowden. [Samuelson] says: 

‘I think there is an element of truth in the superstition that the budget must be balanced at all times.’

“But he goes on later to relax that and say, not even at all times, but over the course of a cycle

Once it is debunked [that takes away one of the bulwarks that every society must have against expenditure out of control. There must be discipline in the allocation of resources or you will have anarchist chaos and inefficiency.’]

“And then [Samuelson] says: 

‘And one of the functions of old-fashioned religion was to scare people by sometimes what might be regarded as myths into behaving in a way that the long-run civilised life requires.’

So, the necessity of balancing the budget is a myth. It’s a superstition, the equivalent of that old-time religion. So, what is the truth?

(c. 38:31) “If economics is to rise above superstition, you know, I’m a professor, there are professors here—I’m not happy teaching students myths and superstitions. Maybe if you’re selling or marketing something, that’s understandable. But I don’t think it is when you’re an economist.

“So, we have to look at, how does the government actually spend? Ben Bernanke was asked when he was before Congress:

“‘Where did you get all that money you used to bail out Wall Street? Was that tax money?

“He said:

No, no, no, no, no.’

“He said:

‘It was keystrokes. We keystroked that money into existence.’

“And that’s absolutely right. That is the way government spends. Spending leads to credits to bank accounts. When the government buys something or makes a Social Security payment, what they do is they keystroke reserves into the account of the bank. And the bank keystrokes into your deposit account. That’s what money is now. It’s keystrokes. Most of it is electronic.

(c. 39:41)  “So, the government just credits the bank reserves. And the bank credits the account of the recipients.

Tax payments are exactly the opposite. They are reverse keystrokes. They lead to debits of accounts. The government debits the bank’s reserves. And the bank debits the account of the taxpayer.

(c. 40:00)  “So, if the government keystrokes more credits into existence than it debits, we call that a budget deficit. Okay? It leads to a net credit to banking system reserves and to the accounts of the recipients.

“You can think of money as scorekeeping. Since I’m in America, you all know what this is. [Gesticulating to slide of Fenway Park scoreboard] I was just in Mexico and, fortunately, they all love baseball, too. So, the all immediately recognised. Oh, yes, there we go. Boy, Tampa Bay is beating the socks off of Boston, right?

“You can see the scorekeeper down here in the corner. What if Tampa Bay has another big inning and gets a bunch more runs. Is the scorekeeper ever going to run out of runs to award Tampa Bay? No, he’s not gonna run out. Okay? He’ll just credit it; it’s keystrokes. In the old days, they actually had to physically put the numbers up. Maybe they could’ve run out of ’em. But they can’t anymore. It’s all electronic. They cannot run out of keystrokes.

“If they find out that there was a mistake. The umpire made a bad call or something and he realised he put a run up and they didn’t deserve it. What does he do? It’s a reverse keystroke. Right? He takes it away. Where does it go? It doesn’t go anywhere. He just takes it away.

(c. 41:25)  “If what I’m saying is true, if the government keystrokes its spending into existence, why does the government sell bonds? I mean, you can understand why a private firm would sell bonds. They need to borrow. They can’t just keystroke their spending. The federal government keystrokes.

“Okay. Here’s the answer. Deficit spending leads to net credits to banking system reserves. When banks have more reserves than they want, they offer them in the overnight market. In the United States that’s called the Fed Funds Market. If banks, in the aggregate, have more reserves than they want, you have more of them offering reserves in the overnight market than want to borrow them in the overnight market. That pushes the overnight interest rate down.

(c. 42:13) “So—let me repeat this for the people who’ve had some economics because you’re usually taught exactly the opposite, which is wrong.  Budget deficits push the interest rate down because it leads to excess reserves in the banking system. So, the interest rate is bid down in the overnight market. Budget deficits push the interest rate down.

“The central banks, today, all, even openly, admit that they use interest rate targets. Nobody pretends anymore that they control bank reserves or that they control the money supply. They target the overnight interest rate in the US Fed Funds Rate.  

“So, when the Fed sees the excess reserves in the banking system driving the interest rate down, they offer bonds called an open market sale. They sell bonds.  

“Banks, that have excess reserves, say, ‘Oh, good. We would rather hold the Treasuries, that pay higher interest.’ Until two years ago, reserves earned zero. So, any interest rate paid on government bonds was better than zero. Bankers aren’t that stupid. Okay?

“So, they would always use the reserves to buy the bonds. So, you can think of bond sales, as being a reserve drain. That’s what they do. They drain reserves banks don’t want out of the banking system. So, bond sales are actually part of the monetary policy.

“The problem is that the Fed, in normal times, has a limited quantity of bonds to sell. They very quickly sell off all the bonds they have in their portfolio. Now, that’s not gonna happen now because, thanks to Uncle Ben, we have quantitative easing, which means the Fed has gone out and bought $2 Trillion dollars worth of bonds. So, they got plenty of ‘em now, but in normal times they didn’t have enough.

(c. 44:07)  “So, they call up the Treasury and say, We’re gonna run out of our bonds, if you don’t sell some bonds. So, the Treasury sells bonds, too. Both, the Fed and the Treasury sell bonds. And the functional impact of that is to drain excess reserves out of the system, so the Fed can hit the overnight interest rate target. That’s what it’s all about—interest rate targeting.

“So, you can think of bonds as just an alternative to, either, zero- or low-earning bank reserves. Another way for the markets people is that it increases the duration. What quantitative easing did was decrease the duration of financial assets out in the market.

(c. 44:51) “Now, we do have self-imposed constraints. One of those is the budgeting process, itself. The budgeting process limits the ability of the administration to spend like it’s Weimar all over again. They can only spend what’s been budgeted. So, that is one constraint on government spending.

Affordability is not a constraint. The government can always afford to spend more, but you don’t want them to. You don’t want ‘em to spend too much for two reasons. They can cause inflation. And, second, if the government is taking resources, it leaves less for the private sector. If the government takes more for the public purpose, there’s less left for the private purpose. So, you wanna constrain the government.

“So, the budgeting process is the way that, you know, all governments do—or, at least, should—constrain themselves. You have to go through budgeting. It’s gotta be approved.

(c. 45:53) “But, in addition to that, the US, Congress, in its infinite wisdom, put on debt limits. Other countries don’t do this. Okay? They say [in the US], Well, we don’t really trust ourselves. We had a budgeting process. But we don’t trust ourselves. So, if we run up against a debt limit, we gotta get together and agree to do it.

“And, as I said, normally that’s not a problem. But today it’s become a political problem.

In addition, we put on operational constraints. Okay? These didn’t come from nature. And they didn’t—they were not imposed on us by the markets. We decided to do this to ourselves. Okay?

One [operational constraint] is that we decided, when we created the Fed, that the Treasury would use the Fed as its banker. This was in 1913. Other countries had created central banks, even before 1700. We were really late getting into the game of creating a central bank. Before that the Treasury, either, used private banks or it just spent, itself. It didn’t go through its own government bank. But in 1913, we decided—for a variety of reasons—to create a central bank. And they said, ‘Okay, Treasury, you can only spend if you have your money in the account at the Fed.’ Okay? Alright.

Then they decided; let’s add one more constraint. ‘And, Treasury, you cannot sell debt to your bank. You can sell it to anybody else. You can’t sell it to your own bank.’

“This would be like you’ve got a bank. Okay? I don’t know, Bank of Portland. That’s where you do your business. Your bank is prohibited from taking your IOU. Any other bank can take it. But your own bank can’t. It’s a very strange limit to put on yourself. But that’s what we decided to do. And a lot of other countries followed us. So, there are countries around the world that do do it this way. They don’t do the debt limit thing, but they do do this. Okay?

(c. 48:02)  “And the belief was this would prevent us from becoming Weimar because the Treasury doesn’t have the option of just selling its debt—or we could just simplify this by calling it borrowing—it can’t just borrow from the Fed. The Fed is prohibited from buying Treasuries directly from the Treasury. There are some exceptions to this. It’s not a 100% rule, but it’s pretty close. The Fed can buy bonds, US Treasury bonds, from anybody, except the issuer of US Treasury bonds. The Treasury—another strange thing, if you think about it.

“Okay, so it was believed this would constrain spending because the Treasury could only sell bonds in the private markets, not to the central bank. Now, in fact, it has no impact whatsoever. And the reason is because we set up special banks, called special depositories, that have special kinds of accounts called Tax and Loan Accounts. And these allow the Treasury to completely subvert this operational limit because they can sell the bonds directly to these private banks. And then the private banks sell them on to the Fed. The bonds go right to the Fed, anyway. Okay? And then the Treasury gets its account at the Fed and it can write checks. And, so, it, actually, does not impair the Treasury’s ability to conduct normal business.

(c. 49:33)  “Central bank policy—the consensus now is central banks always operate on an overnight interest rate target. That means they always accommodate demand for reserves. And that means they are able to set the overnight interest rate. Now, the Fed does not set all the interest rates. Okay? The Fed sets—directly—the overnight interest rate. They could, if they wanted to, set and hit a target for the interest rate on any maturity of Treasury debt. If they wanted to do it, they can do it directly by buying and selling Treasuries of that maturity in a significant quantity standing ready to always buy or sell at the price consistent with the interest rate that they want to hit. So, they could do that, but they don’t. They set the overnight interest rate. And then the others are set, relative to that one. Okay?

(c. 50:32) “There’s a difference between a country, that has a convertible, versus a non-convertible, currency.  You see, a convertible one is where the government says we will convert our currency to a foreign currency on demand at a fixed exchange rate. That’s a convertible currency. Nonconvertible means that they offer you no promise. Now, the United States, we don’t offer any promise. Can you convert the currency? Sure; you can. But you have to do it at whatever exchange rate exists at the time. Okay.

(c. 51:06)  “Unlike Greece. Okay? Greece has the most strict kind of convertible currency you possibly can have. They adopted the Euro, which isn’t even their own currency. Okay? So, they are on a very strict convertible standard by adopting, essentially, a foreign currency. It’s a lot like when Argentina adopted the US dollar.

They can’t control their interest rate. They are subject to the market. A country with a non-convertible currency, like the US and Japan and the UK, we do set our overnight interest rate. It’s not determined in markets.

[slide #27/39] “So, let me summarise. Sovereign currency: Here I mean a country with a government, that issues its own currency. Okay? Now, it can, either, float, manage, or peg its exchange rate—it’s still a sovereign currency, but you give up policy space if you don’t float.

(c. 52:11)  “So, I’m going to focus on the ones with more policy space, like the US, Japan, and the UK, where we do float our currencies. In those, then, deficit spending creates private financial wealth. Well, this is true in any of them. It comes from the identities. Note that central bank operations do not—I’ll come back to this in a second—central banks don’t create net wealth. So, the way that I always explain this to my students is, I say: The central bank lends dollars into existence; the Treasury spends dollars into existence. The first one doesn’t create any net financial wealth. The second one does. Budget deficits create private sector surpluses.

(c. 52:56)  “It doesn’t matter whether the bonds have to be sold first into the private market first, rather than the Fed, so long as the central bank accommodates reserve demand. 

“It doesn’t matter whether the central bank is prohibited from buying new issues because they do it roundabout through the banks. And it doesn’t matter whether Treasury has to have ‘money’ in its account at the central bank to spend because the central bank and banks cooperate to make sure the Treasury always has that.

“All of this has been describing the system we have. It’s not a recommendation. Okay? We can add on to this understanding what Abba Lerner—a famous economist, who, actually, spent some time teaching at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where I’m from—said: 

‘A government should spend more, if there is unemployment.’

“How can you tell if the government is spending enough? Or not enough? Or too much? Look at employment. You don’t look at the size of the budget deficit. He said: 

‘You look at whether you have unemployment. If you have unemployment, you’re not spending enough. If you’re at full employment, you shouldn’t increase spending anymore.’ Okay? That’s when you know when you’ve spent enough. You’ve got full employment.

(c. 54:07)  “The second principle of functional finance is the government should supply more money—he meant bank reserves—if the interest rate is too high. Again, you can’t tell by the quantity of reserves out there. You [can] tell by looking at the interest rate. 

“So, in other words, what he’s saying is you don’t worry about the budgetary outcome. The debt outcome should never be a primary consideration of spending.

[Slide #29/39] “Continuing on with policy. These are long quotes. I’ll read ‘em very quickly. The first one is by Milton Friedman. He said: 

‘Let’s suppose that one day a helicopter flies over this community and drops an additional $1000 in bills from the sky, which is, [of course, hastily] collected [by members of the community]’ and then spent.

“This is, of course, Milton Friedman’s famous quote, which everyone interprets as saying; monetary policy is like helicopters flying around dropping money. And that’s inflationary. Okay? That was his argument.

(c. 55:00)  “Here is Keynes. Keynes says, and many of you will recognise this quote, too:

‘If the Treasury were to—he’s talking about in conditions of a depression or deep recession, like we’re in now.

‘If the Treasury were to fill old bottles with bank notes, bury them at suitable depths in disused coal mines…and leave it to private enterprise [on tried principles of laissez faire]’ to hire workers ‘to dig [the notes up again…’], we’d solve the unemployment problem.

“Now, it wasn’t that he was recommending that this is the best policy. This was supposed to be ironic. He was saying, look, if policy makers are too stupid to think of better uses for the labour, at least you could dig holes and bury money. Okay? Obviously, there are better solutions, but he was saying that if you did this, then ‘the real income of the country will be a good deal greater than it actually is.’ And you could get yourself out of a depression by doing something like this.

[Slide #30/39] (c. 55:55)  “Here is Martin Wolf today, probably, you read him in the Financial Times. He’s one of the great journalists today. He said:

“‘In the present exceptional circumstances, when expanding private credit and spending is so hard, if not downright dangerous—’

“You know, the idea that we should get banks lending again to the private sector, so that they could deficit spend again is fairly crazy.  

“‘The case for using the state’s power to create credit and money in support of public spending is strong.’

“Or Adair Turner, again:

‘Japan should have done some outright monetary financing—’

“He means deficit spending.

“‘—over the last 20 years, and if it had done so, would now have a higher nominal [gross domestic product], some combination of a higher price level—’

“That might sound scary, but Japan would love to have inflation. They’ve got deflation. Okay?

“‘—[and a higher real output level], and a lower debt to [gross domestic product] ratio.’

“If they had deficit spent more in the past, their debt ratio today would, actually, be lower. Their debt ration now is 200% of GDP because their economy is still in the tank. If they had been able to get growth going the debt ratio would be lower than it is now.

[Slide #31/39] (c. 57:09) “Is Japan a scary precedent?  Possibly. Japan, in the 1980s, like us in the 2000s, was growing rapidly. And, at the time, everyone in America pointed to Japan as the path we should be following, not recognising that the government deficit was helping them to grow. But the problem was that they had a tremendous real estate bubble in commercial real estate, mostly, not like in the US, where it, largely, in the 2000s, was residential real estate.

“Anyway, then the government budget moved to a surplus and it started sucking income out of the economy. And the economy collapsed. And they’ve had 20 years of recession, deflation, and falling real estate prices. And how did they respond to that? With quantitative easing, just like we’ve done, very low interest rate policy.

[Slide #32/39]  “So, just mapping US data so far onto Japanese data over the past 20 years, it does look scarily similar. Here’s inflation data, CPI data for Japan. And you could see Japan has been, actually, below zero for years now. That is deflation.

[Slide #33/39]  “Here is the budget deficit, as a percent of GDP. Their budget deficit went to 10% of GDP and then started declining, just as ours is doing.

[Slide #34/39]  “And here is their interest rate policy. They took a little longer to get to zero than we did. We went to zero quicker. And they’ve been at zero forever. And they’re still stuck. Okay? We’re trying the same thing that they tried to get out of their doldrums and with pretty much the same results, so far. They tried some very small fiscal stimulus packages, but, then, they always worried about the budget deficit. And they tightened again, usually, with a tax increase. And, so, they’ve been stuck in this recession for a very long time.

(c. 59:20)  “Let me just finish up now. I just wanna point out, because people say we could be like Greece, the Euro nations are very different from us. The member states all gave up their own currencies when they joined the euro. So, Italy gave up the lira. They adopted what is, essentially, a foreign currency—called the euro. And they became very much like a USA state. They became a user of the currency. Okay? Oregon is a user of the dollar. The state of Oregon is not the issuer of the dollar. In fact, if they tried printing it up, I think Uncle Sam will be here pretty quick and tell you that you cannot do that.

“So, they became much like the US states.  They’re constrained in their spending by their tax revenue, their bond sales in the markets, and the willingness of the ECB to lend. Their problem, unlike Oregon, is they have no Uncle Sam. They do have a central bank, which says every federal reserve district, which (very brilliantly) is not identical to state boundaries—that, actually, was a good set up—there still is the possibility that the reserve bank of San Francisco can go to the Fed, just as their reserve bank can go to the ECB. But they don’t have an Uncle Sam to look out for them.

(c. 1:00:00) “When the Euro was first set up, we did the analysis this way. We said, ‘Ah, okay. Italy has become the new New Jersey. Or France has become the new New York. Hey, you know what? US states go bankrupt, now and then. That can happen to them, too.’ We thought, the first time there was a crisis, a financial crisis in Euroland, the euro governments would immediately get into trouble. And that’s exactly what happened.

“By adopting the euro, the sovereign nations turned into something like US states. Unlike US states, the euro governments have to fund their pensions, their health care, and they have to bail out their banking systems. And that last one is what killed them.

“If you looked at US states before the crisis hit, they had debt ratios you could see in the teens. Okay? Does anyone remember—how big of a debt ratio was permitted under Maastricht? 60%. Okay. So, Maastricht criteria said, Greece, Italy, and so on, go ahead, you can run up debt ratios to 60%. When we found the data on US states, we said, No, you can’t. You run a debt ratio bigger than 15% and the market’s gonna shut you down.‘ Okay?

And, so, it was very obvious that the 60% was way too high for a non-sovereign government. So, a crisis was going to kill them.

“Okay, conclusions: 

Currency-issuing government spends by crediting bank accounts.

Taxing by debiting can always afford to spend more.

“There are issues. Inflation is an issue. You have to worry about inflation.

“Exchange rate effects: the dollar could go down, if we spend more. That could happen.

“And there could possibly be interest rate effects, not on the overnight, on the other longer maturity rates.

A sovereign currency gives more policy space.

There’s no default risk.

“You can control your interest rates.

You can use policy to achieve full employment.

“Now, I wanna close by telling you what I did’t say because a lot of times people hear things I didn’t say. So, let’s make it clear what I didn’t say:

I did say a sovereign government faces no financial constraints. It cannot become insolvent in its own non-convertible currency. But it can only buy what’s for sale in its own currency. Not a problem in the US. Anything, for sale for dollars, anything for sale in the United States is for sale in dollars and the US government can buy it. You go to some developing countries, there are things, that are not for sale in the local currency. Then, the government cannot buy them in its local currency. Okay? But not an issue for developed countries.

I did not say the government ought to buy everything for sale. Okay? The size of the government is a political decision with economic effects—mostly it’s a political decision. Capitalist economies seem to work okay with governments, that are about 20% of GDP—the US, Japan isn’t much bigger. And some capitalist countries work very well with governments, that are 50% of GDP—France.

“So, somewhere in that range is probably where you need to be—20 to 50%. What do you choose? Politics. It depends on what you want, what you want your government to provide.

I did not say deficits can’t be inflationary.

“Deficits, that are too big can be inflationary.

And I did not say that deficits cannot affect exchange rates. That’s why you need a floating currency, so that you don’t have to worry about the pressure of holding an exchange rate when you are stimulating your own economy. That’s it. 

“Thanks. [Applause]”

Question and Answer

Host: “We have about 25 minutes for questions.”

Questioner #1:  “Is there any reason to believe that there is—”

***

Transcript by Felipe Messina for Media Roots, Breaking the Set, and New Economic Perspectives

fm: Updated 12 APR 2013 14:13 CST

***

MR Poetry – ‘Cut the Apron Strings’ & ‘Island’


MEDIA ROOTS – Amateur writer Rutger B. Devon offers these two original, uplifting, lyrical and political poems for activists and lovers of freedom and independence from his forthcoming, debut book of both verse and prose.

***

Cut the Apron Strings is a strong, no-holds-barred manifesto. It is a call-to-arms for people to do just what the title implies, to remove one’s self from the welfare and control of “the establishment” and become one’s own keeper. It opens up with a list of a handful of the financial, political, psychological and technological caretakers of modern society–all of which have had a hand in the degeneration of Western civilization, and some of which have committed explicit crimes against humanity and the environment.

The poem serves as a boycott short-list in this regard, but it moves beyond to suggest other actions that are necessary for the restoration of human civilization, such as the much needed reconstruction of our cities. The door to achieving a better society is momentarily flown open for the reader; and in the hope that they will go in the direction introduced to them, they are presented with a synopsis of humanity’s most pertinent objective, to produce a sustainable culture which cultivates the growth of the individual and collective while justly mediating ideological conflicts and disputes of law with respect to everyone’s liberty. Enjoy.

***

Cut the Apron Strings


Cut the apron strings.

Stand on your own two feet.

Bite the hand that feeds.

Start to fend for yourself.

Begin to fight for yourself.

Stand on your own two feet.

Bite the hands that feed you and me.

Get ready to start to defend yourself

From the UN, World Bank and IMF.

Monsanto, MSNBC, BP, JP Morgan Chase,

HP, Wells Fargo, Citibank, Bank of America,

Lockheed & Martin, Google, Halliburton, Toyota,

Boeing, Associated Press, CNN, BBC, News Corp.,

Valero, Time Warner, Walmart, Target, Verizon,

AT&T, IBM, Microsoft, Apple, CVS, Exxon,

Chevron, Ford, GM, Shell, GE, Merck, Honda,

Bayer, Berkshire Hathaway, Johnson & Johnson

Hyundai, McAfee, Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac,

And the Federal Reserve don’t deserve

Someone as marvelous as you

To be their willing slave,

My dearest love.

 

Dismiss any legislation passed without a vote.

Refuse taxation without direct representation.

Nullify appointed juries and kangaroo courts.

If you don’t take an interest in politics,

Politics is still very much infatuated with you.

It has you under a constant surveillance

Like an obsessed, neurotic stalker.

Everyone must practice activism.

You can’t compromise with evil

And expect something greater.

Don’t accept the federal fraud

Or the demented status quo.

Do not heed The King’s decrees

And his executive orders.

Shrug off the monarchy

And oppressive hierarchy.

Fragment the plutocracies.

End the corporate collusion

And the military-industrial complex.

Eliminate government bureaucracy,

And truly know what it means to be free.

 

Cut the apron strings.

Stand on your own two feet.

Bite the hand that feeds.

Begin to fend for yourself,

And start to defend yourself

From the UN, World Bank and IMF.

Monsanto, MSNBC, BP, JP Morgan Chase,

HP, Wells Fargo, Citibank, Bank of America,

Lockheed & Martin, Google, Halliburton, Toyota,

Boeing, Associated Press, CNN, BBC, News Corp.,

Valero, Time Warner, Walmart, Target, Verizon,

AT&T, IBM, Microsoft, Apple, CVS, Exxon,

Chevron, Ford, GM, Shell, GE, Merck, Honda,

Bayer, Berkshire Hathaway, Johnson & Johnson

Hyundai, McAfee, Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac,

And the Federal Reserve don’t deserve

Someone as marvelous as you

To be their willing slave,

My dearest love.

 

Dam the source of your strife.

Denounce white-collar criminals

And mooching investment firms.

Free yourself from the leash

Of dependent subsidy leeches

And usury loans twisted by greed.

There are sharks in these waters

That’ll kill for an arm or a leg,

And the sunbathers along the shore

Are sleeping with their heads buried.

Society’s undertow is drowning you,

But the lifeguards are taking bribes

And have their camera phones aimed.

The coastguard is turning a blind eye,

‘Cause they’re getting favors from D.C.

To let the predators occasionally feed.

They need to fill the private prisons

And maintain good public relations

With their indispensable cronies.

 

It is disgusting.

We must eliminate these silly

Shallow superficial divisions

And prejudices and stereotypes

Of race, class, creed and gender,

Sexuality, nationality and temperament

Exploited by the Fascist establishment

And enforced by the likes of you and me.

We must not teach our children to hate.

We must not let dictators defeat us.

We must unite as one universe

Together in common defense

As an immovable monument

Of eternal vigilance against

A malevolent, unstoppable force.

 

Act locally; think globally.

Live to achieve your dreams.

Keep a well-trained militia

And keep yourself physically fit.

Connect with your community.

Control your means of survival.

Grow crops not lawns, and

Never purchase on credit.

Never allow the politicians

To disarm the innocent

Or subject us to duress.

Promote the organic scene

And animal liberation.

Keep the money circulating

Within your own town.

Be kind, polite and courteous.

Isn’t that what you want in return?

You must learn your inherent rights

And understand our natural liberty.

We need to inflate the food supply

And become self-sufficient

And live within our means.

But most of all,

Try your best.

 

It is our duty

To reconstruct

These crumbling cities

Which are degenerating

Into slums and ghettos

And sores on Earth’s arse

All around all of us.

These massive towers

And winding highways,

Once proud displays

Of human ingenuity

And determination,

Are now stifling cages

Of concrete and steel.

They’re sickly landfills

In dire need of repair.

No longer flourishing cradles

Of Human Civilization

Bright with opportunity

And limitless potential,

They must be rebuilt

In synergy with nature

Like they should have been

To begin with.

 

It is up to the few of us

 To expand the use of clean energy

With wind, solar, water and biofuel,

To construct a sustainable society,

And produce a profitable future

For our grandchildren’s children.

Don’t leave them with our garbage.

Rediscover principled morality.

Propagate a functional culture.

End war, violence and torture.

Let there be Justice, friends.

Let it not be just us or them.

Help everyone meet their needs

When you can afford to spare a meal,

But don’t be reduced to a doormat.

Refuse to accept double standards.

We must practice civil disobedience

And constantly test our intelligence.

Push the borders of your comfort zone.

Act with a measured reluctance.

Defend our inalienable rights.

Impeach tyranny’s advocates

And evict draconian delegates

To find Peace and Liberty

No longer shy outcasts.

 

Respect the freedom of the living.

Exercise the privilege of humanity.

Be the change you wish to see.

Dissect the beliefs of your time.

Be critical of traditions and trends.

Hold individuality above conformity;

Never trade liberty for security.

Inspire greatness and achievement.

Guard our precious environment.

Love and protect your neighbors,

And help to raise up the inferior.

But it’s not necessary to carry

Their burden on your shoulders.

Your conduct is the whole of the law.

Inform everyone with what you know,

And make the effort to educate yourself.

You don’t ever have to be afraid of the truth.

For in truth, there is might and strength.

Every day is a mission of volition

To achieve your soul’s goals

And motivation.

 

You are only inches away

From reaching self-actualization,

But you have lost your identity

Under the weight of this nation.

And the repeated indoctrination

Has left you demoralized.

And your plasma television

Has frozen your imagination.

There is always time to repent

And to alter your course.

Open your eyes and see the light.

You don’t have to march with the crowd

Into hell to the rhythm of mob rule.

You never have to be a sacrifice –

A lamb to appease the “Greater Good”.

Don’t give them permission to rob you

Of your will, rights and property.

You don’t have to accept slavery

Or living in substandard conditions

In a substandard existence.

You can cast off the tyranny

Of a trained and accepted hypocrisy.

You can cast off the lead chains

Of cognitive dissonance,

And you can put in alignment

Your thoughts, speech and actions

And be sovereign like the rest of us

And help us craft a new civil model

Of benevolence and happiness.

But no one is forcing you to.

 

You just have to

Cut the apron strings,

Stand on your own two feet,

Bite the hand that feeds,

Begin fending for yourself,

And start defending yourself

From the UN, World Bank and IMF,

Monsanto, MSNBC, BP, JP Morgan Chase,

HP, Wells Fargo, Citibank, Bank of America,

Lockheed & Martin, Google, Halliburton, Toyota,

Boeing, Associated Press, CNN, BBC, News Corp.,

Valero, Time Warner, Walmart, Target, Verizon,

AT&T, IBM, Microsoft, Apple, CVS, Exxon,

Chevron, Ford, GM, Shell, GE, Merck, Honda,

Bayer, Berkshire Hathaway, Johnson & Johnson

Hyundai, McAfee, Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac,

And the Federal Reserve’s mercenaries.

These senseless tyrants don’t deserve

Someone as marvelous as you

To be their willing slave,

My dearest love.

 

***

Island is more of a sensational poem meant to be enjoyed by those who are already trying to “cut the apron strings”. It is intended to offer a moment of relief and affirm the goals of those trying to escape the chains of this culture of dependency. It glorifies self-sufficiency and the homestead lifestyle, focusing not so much on the toil and labor as more the feeling of freedom, real security, and self-worth that is granted by relying on one’s own competence. The title is a reference to the novel of the same name by Aldous Huxley, but it is not much more than an emotive backdrop for my poem, not alluded to outside of a mention of the Mynah birds from the novel. In the end, this poem is more a celebration of a new beginning than the accomplishment of an end. Thank you for reading.

***

Island

 

The sun rises

Over wide horizons,

Kissing our rested eyes

With soft, tranquil lips

Through the windowpane

Shrouded in a vine’s shade,

And the shadows cast by

Droplets on the stained glass

Do a shimmy, shake and dance

Across the plain, open face

Of our complex countenance.

It is our time to shine at last

With all of the angels and stars.

It is our time to take a stand

With our heads raised up high

And our feet firmly planted.

The primroses are blooming.

The air is warm and welcoming,

And the trees’ hips are swaying.

It’s a new day for you and me.

It may seem surreal,

But it is so real.

Can you believe it?

 

The gentle gesture

Of a silver zephyr

Stirs in the Spring leaves

Like fingers through your hair,

And it whispers in your ears.

It tells you: “You need not fear,

For Danger is nowhere near

When heaven is here.”

And heaven is here.

Though we are only

Just now beginning,

This is our Eden.

Where we’re at,

Peace is here to last.

We have all that we will ever need.

 

The gentle gesture

Of a silver zephyr

Stirs in the Spring leaves

Like fingers through your hair,

And it whispers in your ears.

It tells you: “You need not fear,

For Danger is nowhere near

When heaven is here.”

And heaven is here.

Though we are only

Just now beginning,

This is our Eden.

Where we’re at,

Peace is here to last.

We have all that we will ever need.

 

The aroma of a hot meal

Lingers thick in our home,

And the hens greet the morning

With the starlings’ singing

Their favorite symphony.

A party of butterflies

Flutter above the corn stalks,

And a lone calico cat stalks

Beneath the blueberry bushes,

Catching thieving mice and rats

Near the rice and cabbage patches.

Every exhilarating breath we take

Fans the flames in the engines of our hearts.

To think it all stems from a simple seed

And grows into this forest of orchards and reeds

To feed us and more is a mesmerizing thing.

Everywhere is a groovy sight to see,

And clouds hover above the apple trees.

Frogs hop from their pads into the pond.

Deer trot from here to there every now and then freely,

And the whole wide world is impassioned with sound.

Can you imagine all of the sublime joy we’ve found,

Encapsulating us in this little paradise

Constructed through our competence?

 

The gentle gesture

Of a silver zephyr

Stirs in the Spring leaves

Like fingers through your hair,

And it whispers in your ears.

It tells you: “You need not fear,

For Danger is nowhere near

When heaven is here.”

And heaven is here.

Though we’re only

Just now beginning,

This is our Eden.

Where we are at,

Peace is here to last.

We have all that we will ever need,

And today will always be our day.

 

A black cloud may come our way.

A heavy rain may fall on our parade.

An icy frost may settle in the valley.

An odd occasion may bear its ugly face,

But don’t let these things lay waste

To your spry hopes and dreams.

We’re prepared for the worst.

There’s no need to worry.

Just always remember

That sometimes

The sky needs to cry

To let the flowers grow.

Sometimes,

We all need to cry

And let our minds go

If only for a moment

To allow all of the snow

To melt away real soon,

Helping the rivers flow.

With the passage of time

And the warmth of hearts,

All of these prison walls

We built to fence us in

Will come crumbling down,

And all of our tender wounds

Eventually scab over

And heal.

 

I

Want to see you

Be happy.

I’ll

Build us

An oasis

On this

Galactic isle

With these weathered hands

And these fertile, cultivated lands.

With an open, educated mind

And honest, virtuous conduct,

We are incredible and invincible.

The unity of our character

Is our shield and armor.

Resonating in harmony

With goodwill protects us

From today’s many vampyres,

And all of our reformations make us

Impervious to yesterday’s skeletons.

With solidarity, justice and trust,

We are safe from tomorrow’s ghosts.

This freedom is our victory.

Our sorrow is empathy.

There is no shame.

There is no shame.

There is no shame.

We can all stand tall.

Stand tall! Stand tall!

Stand tall and proud!

Let it be heard loud

How you dare to be

A Human Being.

 

For now,

Let us enjoy

These beautiful moments,

Woven into a tapestry

From a raw reality,

While they last.

Let us be grateful

For our many blessings.

It is all so enchanting

And worth savoring.

The grape ripe on the vine

And the crop ready for harvest

Shimmers with success,

And all down the lines and rows

Of soy, tomatoes and potatoes

Is hard-pressed ingenuity

Bearing the fruits of our labor

And nature’s many favors.

This is what we are made for:

Strawberry fields forever

And bountiful Novembers.

Happiness is the glamour

Of autonomy and good fortune –

Our well-earned reward.

Satisfaction is the declaration

Of a self-fulfilling, honest living,

And there is no need to mourn.

For we have done all we can

To help everything survive.

In freedom, we are thriving,

And we are always striving

To do better – to do better.

To do better next time.

Next time.

Next time,

It’s our time

Now.

 

The gentle gesture

Of a silver zephyr

Stirs in the Spring leaves

Like fingers through your hair,

And it whispers in your ears.

It tells you: “You need not fear,

For Danger is nowhere near

When heaven is here.”

And heaven is here.

Though we are only

Just now beginning,

This is our Eden.

Where we’re at,

Peace is here to last.

We have all that we will ever need,

And today will always be our day.

Tomorrow will always be brighter

In every single possible way.

 

As morning turns to dusk

And the sun begins to set,

We’ll lounge in leisure,

Relaxing next to the fire.

We’ll reflect with pleasure

On this wild adventure

We are all experiencing.

There’s an entire world

For us to explore.

How can it be ignored?

Basking in the glory

Of pleasant memories,

We’ll laugh and smile

Free of anxiety,

And we’ll talk of the future

With imaginative caprice

For the present is conquered.

We have a solution to every problem.

We are limited only by our own wills,

And we are only just now beginning

To awaken to our full potential.

Listening to the Mynahs sing

Of the liberated and immortal,

We have cut the apron strings

And escaped the immoral coils.

We’re encapsulated in love forever,

Like two fireflies saved in amber.

***

‘Cut the Apron String’ & ‘Island’ Original Poetry & Photography by Rutger B. Devon

http://rutgerbdevon.wordpress.com/

 

MR Original – Obama’s War on Whistleblowers

Obama’s Normalization of Neo-Conservatism Part 4 of 4: Obama’s War on Whistleblowers. Read Part 1 of Obama’s Normalization of Neo-conservatism: Drones. Read Part 2 of Obama’s Normalization of Neo-conservatism: Continuing Coverup of Torture  Read Part 3 of Obama’s Normalization of Neo-conservatism: Obama Evokes State Secrets

MEDIA ROOTS – “Protect Whistle blowers: …Such acts of courage and patriotism….should be encouraged rather than stifled.  Barack Obama will strengthen whistle blower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud and abuse of authority in government.  Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistle blower claims and whistle blowers have full access to courts and due process.” – from the official Obama / Biden campaign website posted in 2008.

In 1917, during World War I, the Espionage Act was passed in the United States.  Since the inception of the Espionage Act up until 2012, this law has been used on 9 people, 6 of whom were charged between 2008-2012, all under the direction and oversight of President Obama.

How has something so seemingly draconian and Bush-like been used so excessively by an administration that promised change and an end to “Scooter Libby justice”?  Is the Obama administration simply trying to ‘plug all the leaks’?  After all the research for Media Roots’ series of ‘Obama’s normalization of neoconservatism,’ it is clearer than ever that Obama has gone above and beyond any other president in US history to protect a prior administration from investigations, repercussions and criminal punishment.

Amidst the Watergate scandal, Nixon resigned after being faced with criminal charges and impeachment.  He was later pardoned by Gerald Ford, who ascended unelected to the presidency in the wake of Nixon’s resignation before he went to trial.  A president, even an unelected one, always has the legal right to pardon someone for any reason he deems necessary. In the case of Obama, he would not and could not allow the justice system to function organically as he put up road blocks at every opportunity so that no one from the Bush administrations could face prosecution or charges.  Worse and even more insulting to the law than even a pre-emptive pardon was blanket retroactive immunity for any and all blatant crimes committed by Bush and his administration

In a few of the cases against whistle blowers, the government has dropped most of the charges long after making a public spectacle of the event.  One might think that the government was simply trying to get to the bottom of the the matter and dropped charges in certain instances once no evidence of guilt was found.  Studying each whistle blowing investigation individually, it becomes clear that intimidation was the primary goal regardless if the charges stuck or not.  Sucking mainstream journalists into a vortex of potential litigation and prosecution, the government sends a message to all interested in true investigative journalism in the United States. 

The writer of the infamous NSA wiretapping story in the NY times was subpoenaed over three times in an effort to reveal his sources. The delay in the NY times releasing the article (almost a year after they got the scoop) could possibly be explained by their fear of disrupting the 2004 election results with negative press. Perhaps if they caused too much of a ruckus, the governments’ intimidation would have been much worse, possibly resulting in the journalist’s arrest.  Interestingly, this scandal was leaked four years before Obama came into office.  When Obama took office and the investigation went into full force, his Justice Department went after the journalists and government employees involved in the leak.

The US government claimed that former Justice Department lawyer, Thomas Tann, was the source of the leak, and was under investigation for over five years until the charges were eventually dropped.  One may say ‘no harm no foul’ without taking into account that during this investigation the US government made a point to drag his name through the mud in the form of a public smear campaign.

Thomas Drake is another NSA employee who found out about an NSA no bid contract of 1.2 billion dollars when the same services could be provided in house for merely 2 million.  When he leaked this information, he was fired and investigated then subsequently charged with espionage.  “It is now apparently a federal crime to report illegalities, malfeasance, broad waste and abuse perpetrated by our own government, but now government is making whistle-blowing a crime. They are making dissent a crime, especially when it embarrasses the government and calls the government to account.”…”speaking truth to power makes one the enemy of the state” – Thomas Drake.  Under Obama’s new law, reporting extreme government waste is seen as one of the highest threats against national security, espionage.  Eventually all charges were dropped except “exceeding authorized use of a computer” for which he pleaded guilty and received a misdemeanor.

Jeffery Sterling is a former CIA agent who is alleged to have told the New York times about the identity of an ‘asset’ who was involved in an embarrassing botched covert attempt to thwart Iran’s nuclear program.  The reporter who wrote the article, James Risen, was subpoenaed to reveal his source.  Risen refused to give up his sources and later revealed in court via his lawyers that the US government under the authority of Eric Holder and Michael Mukassey (effective continuity between Bush’s and Obama’s Justice Department) spied on him and gained personal information such as bank records and airline travel schedules. For what purpose? The government will not say. Acts like this, regardless of the official reasoning, can again be seen as acts of intimidation.  If a journalist knows a whistle blower wanting to reveal a juicy story about government negligence, crimes, waste or just outright ineptness, they should be very careful because the government might start spying on them if they even consider publishing the information.  The Espionage Act was also used against dual US-Israeli citizen and FBI translator, Shamai Leibowitz, who was sentenced to twenty months in prison for leaking information to a blogger about a proposed disastrous Israeli strike on Iran.  The blogger in response to the charges told the New York Times that Leibowitz was an “American Patriot”.

John Kiriakou is the CIA’s former director of counter terrorism operations in Pakistan who was charged under the Act for allegedly leaking to reporters the names of two agency operatives involved in the interrogation of terrorism detainees under the George W. Bush Administration.  Besides evoking state secrets and squelching potential investigations into one of the most egregious Bush war-crimes, torture, Obama’s Justice Department was willing to use the Espionage Act to stop one of it’s own from going public with even more incriminating information about Bush law breaking.  Eventually a reporter or a blogger might need to proxy to escape criminal prosecution, just like the whistle blower in which he is basing his story.  Twenty-four year old US soldier  Private First Class Bradley Manning thought he had a proxy in the form of Wikileaks when he allegedly smuggled out of military intelligence thousands of diplomatic cables and classified videos, one in particular showing the US military killing two unarmed journalists and injuring a small girl from an Apache helicopter.  The video later named Collateral Murder’ by Wikileaks is chilling.  As the soldiers in the helicopter realize they’ve shot a young child, they callously scoff “shouldn’t of brought your kids to battlefield.” 

Of all the whistle blowers under the Obama administration, Manning was the subject of the loudest public smear campaign initiated by none other than hip technology magazine Wired after an FBI informant, Adrian Lammo, turned him into the authorities for his supposed role in leaking the famous “Collateral Murder” video.  Before Manning was even charged with a crime (which would later officially be the Espionage Act), President Obama proclaimed Manning’s guilt on national television.  Regardless if he were guilty of the leak or not, the message was clear.  A person will be thrown in jail and never heard from again if they leak something of this magnitude and the most powerful man in the country will deem you guilty to hundreds of millions of Americans.   Private Manning has been kept in solitary confinement on ‘suicide watch’, forced to strip naked daily with no bed sheets for the first 200 days of his detention.  To date, he has spent over 850 days in a tiny jail cell, at least 730 days longer than legally allowed in the united states.  The normal legal limit is four months or 120 days until you are required to face a judge and go to trial. 

Bradley Manning was inspired by the International organization Wikileaks to do what he was alleged to have done.  Wikileaks is headed by an Australian citizen, Julian Assange, who up until recently has managed to continue the organization’s work unscathed.   Assange argues, as does Wikileaks supporters, that to punish Wikileaks itself would be the equivalent to punishing actual mainstream journalistic outlets like the NY times or Washington Post.  The reason being that once wikileaks publishes information handed over to them from insider whistle blowers, the information becomes public domain over the internet. What is technically the difference between Wikileaks publishing information given to them by whistle blowers and the NY Times for instance publishing the same information?  The answer is none, that the distinction between the two acts does not exist.  The real difference is that an outlet like the NY times would be far more careful in upsetting the status quo in order to be equally as unfiltered of an outlet like Wikileaks.

In a government CIA document titled “Wikileaks.org – an online reference to foreign intelligence services, insurgents or terrorist groups” (which was ironically leaked by Wikileaks itself) it states, “Web sites such as Wikileaks.org use trust as a center of gravity by protecting the anonymity and identity of the insiders, leakers, or whistle blowers. The identification, exposure, termination of employment, criminal prosecution, legal action against current or former insiders, leakers, or whistle blowers could potentially damage or destroy this center of gravity and deter others considering similar actions from using the Wikileaks.org Web site.”  “The possibility that a current employee or mole within DOD or elsewhere in the US government is providing sensitive information or classified information to Wikileaks.org cannot be ruled out.  Wikileaks.org claims that the leakers or whistle blowers of sensitive or classified DOD documents are former US government employees.  These claims are highly suspect, however, since Wikileaks.org states that the anonymity and protection of the leakers or whistle blowers is one of its primary goals.”

The heat against Wikileaks peaked in late 2010 when the ‘Collateral Murder’ video made them a household name in the United States.  Many independent civil liberties focused media outlets and reporters such as Glenn Greenwald (one of wikileaks earliest and most high profile supporters) encouraged people who strongly believed in freedom of the press and the 1st amendment to donate money to Wikileaks using Paypal or credit card.  The next noteworthy leaks by Wikileaks included thousands of internal diplomatic cables from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Again Wikileaks was dominating the news and Julian Assange had become so well known at this point that they parodied him on Saturday Night Live.  Then the government unexpectedly announced that they have a suspect who they knew provided the classified snuff film about the Iraq murders to Wikileaks, namely Bradley Manning.  At this point, the reality of the situation was undeniable, that Wikileaks was generating a serious threat against the PR apparatus of the United States.  As clearly stated in US government documented about Wikileaks, “The disclosure of sensitive or classified information involving a foreign government or corporation will eventually result in the increased accountability of a democratic, oppressive, or corrupt the government to its citizen.”  Shortly after Bradley Manning was arrested, Wikileaks’ web host suddenly discontinued service.  Amazon.com, their web provider,  pulled the site within 24 of hours of an apparent phone call from the chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, Joe Lieberman.  The day after Amazon pulled the plug, its domain-name service provider, EveryDNS, stopped resolving WikiLeaks.org, after the DNS provider was battered by the DOS attacks.

On December 7th, 2010, Forbes Magazine wrote that Visa suspended payments to WikiLeaks… MasterCard told Cnet that it would also attempt to block payments to WikiLeaks, arguing that its “rules prohibit customers from directly or indirectly engaging in or facilitating any action that is illegal.”  And only one day later Readwrite.com writes, “In the latest in a series of blows to Wikileaks, PayPal says it will no longer support money transfers to the whistle blower site.”  Although these companies have said that their terms of service forbid the support or facilitation of illegal activity, such pronouncements about Wikileaks are debatable. While it is a crime to leak classified information, receiving and publishing it is not.

Whether it was actually a crime or not was of no consequence to the State Department and apparently not to the corporations who strategically blocked Wikileaks’ efforts.  Over 95% of all online payments are in the form of Visa, Mastercard or Paypal. This was a genuine conspiracy of government and corporations to squelch Wikileaks from receiving funding from a now exponentially growing supportive group of donors. The US government effectively intimidated journalists, whistle blowers and now private corporations into submission.   Julian Assange found ways around these problems, switching web hosts and encouraging people to donate with American Express and Bitcoin. These companies, luckily did not cave to US pressure.

If there was any doubt left that corporations and government work together to suppress the free flow of information, there is no longer.  It was now right out in the open that once the US government felt threatened by a force who are technically breaking no laws, they will do anything and everything to lessen and suppress that threat.  This all came to a head when Julian Assange was wanted for questioning in Sweden on suspicion of rape charges.  At this point in time, it became clear to Julian that the US was going to try and find a way to take him back to the US and detain him.  Mainstream media outlets were suspicious about the rape accusations and Julian Assange agreed to go in for questioning if Swedish authorities promised they would not extradite him to the US.   They could not make such a promise, so he refused to go in for questioning.  He now stays indefinitely inside the Ecuadorian embassy inside the UK and has been there for over 4 months.  If he leaves the UK, authorities will immediately arrest him, and after that the US will do everything in their power to take him into custody.  Legally speaking they would use the Espionage Act and he would suffer the same fate as Private Manning most likely never seeing the light of day in his lifetime.  Most legal experts warn that if Assange can be charged under the act, that any US journalist who also shared Wikileaks information could be charged as well.  This is a legal slippery slope that sends an immense chilling effect to working journalists.  It sends the message if sensitive information is published, even information available publicly on the internet, criminal charges could proceed.

Most average citizens might feel totally unaffected by the US government’s battle to stop whistle blowers and journalists from revealing embarrassing information, just as most Americans feel unaffected by the marginalization of Muslims and Arabs in this country in the wake of 9/11 but there is a dangerous trickle down effect as a result of these intimidation tactics.  When the US government goes after suspicious Muslims, whistle blowers, journalists, activists or political radicals, it affects us all whether we realize it or not.  The next time a journalist receives private information that might be in the public interest, they may not want to act on it out of fear of aiding a criminal.  The next time someone wants to say something controversial on the internet about the US government, they might think twice out of fear.  If someone feels compelled to donate to Wikileaks or another outspoken human rights organization like the ACLU, they might think twice out of concern of ‘showing up on some government list’.  This is the chilling effect which insidiously sneaks up on all Americans.  Unfortunately, this has been historically the best deterrent for keeping a populace in check, stopping citizens from even thinking about challenging the power structure.  The strategy is to eliminate potential challenges to the power structure through the power of fear and intimidation.  Since the war on terror has already been waged for over a decade, and the recently revealed ‘disposition matrix’ reveals it will go on for at least another two decades, is there a chance that American journalists, activists and average citizens will stand up and seize whatever power the 1st amendment still grants them?  Let us all hope so. 

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Written by Robbie Martin for Media Roots

Photos provided by Dick Swanson, White House photographer used under public domain based on works by the US government