Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Banks who make loans at interest are no different. They extend credit (i.e., allow people to pull forward their earning from the future into the present) that allows people to make needed or desired purchases now that they could otherwise afford. By charging interest the bank also acts to siphon its income off of the income generated by productive labor.
Now, where the loan is made such that it enhances the future value of labor, one can potentially see the value of making such an investment against future income, and gladly pay interest on the loan so long as that interest does not wipe out the gains in added value to ones productive labor (or, so long as the person who does the labor retains the value of the added labor and not the bankermen). One can even imagine a labor friendly loan contract that essentially guarantees such an outcome, forcing bankers to assume more risk of the failed investment (and incentivising more prudent lending).
But in the current economy, banks are extended credit mainly for the purpose of aiding the rentier class to set up commercial and domestic "venus-flytraps" to capture the income of productive labor through extractive rents (and, up until recently, for the purpose of allowing speculators to pull that potential for future rental income forward by developing and selling these spaces at tremendous profit -- or engaging in securitization which promises the same only in a much more abstract form). This is true both in residential real estate (a racket since the New Deal of the 1930's) and in commercial real estate (roughly the same period). A whole economic sector emerged in service of this particular economy.
The problem, of course, being that the whole inverted pyramid is based on the value of productive labor. You know, people that actually make and do stuff and exchange that stuff with other people who make and do stuff. When the value of that portion of the economy stagnates or declines (as it has since the early 1970's on an individual basis -- for men and certain core industries in particular) then the ability to realize the income that one has already "pulled forward" to purchase houses, cars, clothing or office space diminishes greatly leading to an increased inability to service the contracts with the banks, landlords, and insurance companies.
What is interesting about the current situation is that the USG has been completely captured by the rentier class. So, as the FIRE economy of the rentier begins to collapse, the federal response is to pull forward (technically pull back) future tax income (remember the government is also an extractive entity) and shovel this money into failing FIRE institutions. Of course, their efforts can only fail because such actions DO NOTHING to shore up the value of labor, either in the present or, through productive investments, in the future. In fact, it is much worse, because it adds additional, crushing debt that future productive labor must pay (with a diminishing value due to the complete absence of productive investment --- this is a recipe for government insolvency).
Monday, February 23, 2009
Here's a selection that captures the heart of the argument;
The fact that today’s neoliberals claim to be the intellectual descendants of Adam Smith make it necessary to restore a more accurate historical perspective. Their concept of “free markets” is the antithesis of Smith’s. It is the opposite of that of the classical political economists down through John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx and the Progressive Era reforms that sought to create markets free of extractive rentier claims by special interests whose institutional power can be traced back to medieval Europe and its age of military conquest.
Economic writers from the 16th through 20th centuries recognized that free markets required government oversight to prevent monopoly pricing and other charges levied by special privilege. By contrast, today’s neoliberal ideologues are public relations advocates for vested interests to depict a “free market” is one free of government regulation, “free” of anti-trust protection, and even of protection against fraud, as evidenced by the SEC’s refusal to move against Madoff, Enron, Citibank et al.). The neoliberal ideal of free markets is thus basically that of a bank robber or embezzler, wishing for a world without police so as to be sufficiently free to siphon off other peoples’ money without constraint.
Unrestrained predator capitalism is what we have. Sadly, Obama is increasingly looking like a head shark in a tank of very nasty others. There seems to be no limit to his complicity in the neoliberal project of raiding the public resources for maximum private gain. Looks like Hoover will get his replacement in the history books. Good news is, we will be rid of him in 4 years -- I just hope we don't get Pinochet as his replacement.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
The rules, created in response to growing public anger about the record bonuses the financial industry doled out last year, will apply only to top executives at companies that need “exceptional” assistance in the future. The limits aren’t retroactive, meaning firms that have already taken government money won’t be subject to the restrictions unless they have to come back for more.Well, there it is, in black and white. A cap for those who take even more of the kiddies money, only in "da future" -- bankermen love that phrase. There is a wonderful picture of Obama giving a speech with Tim Geithner leering from behind. One can almost sense the bankerman's hand behind Mr. Obama's jacket, pulling the strings as Mr. Obama speaks. I feel sorry for Barack, he is certainly a good man, who will in no way be able to handle the snakes he is in bed with.