“Deficit Terrorism” and Economic Warfare
All the Perks are going to Wall Street, while Main Street slips into Debt Slavery
by Ellen Brown
June 30, 2010
Wall Street banks have been saved from bankruptcy by governments that are now going bankrupt themselves; but the banks are not returning the favor. Instead, they are engaged in a class war, insisting that the squeezed middle class be even further squeezed to balance over-stressed government budgets. All the perks are going to Wall Street, while Main Street slips into debt slavery. Wall Street needs to be made to pay its fair share, but how?
The financial reform bill agreed to on June 25 may have carved out some protections for consumers, but for Goldman Sachs and the derivatives lobby, the bill was a clear win, leaving the Wall Street gambling business intact. In a June 25 Newsweek article titled “Financial Reform Makes Biggest Banks Stronger,” Michael Hirsh wrote that the bill “effectively anoints the existing banking elite. The bill makes it likely that they will be the future giants of banking as well.”
The federal government and Federal Reserve have advanced literally trillions of dollars to save the big Wall Street players, to the point where the government’s own credit rating is in jeopardy; but Wall Street has not had to pay for the cleanup. Instead, the states and the citizens have been left to pick up the tab. On June 17, Time featured an article by David von Drehle titled “Inside the Dire Financial State of the States,” reporting that most states are now facing persistent budget shortfalls of a sort not seen since the 1930s. Unlike the Wall Street banks, which can borrow at the phenomenally low fed funds rate of .2% and plow that money back into speculation, states don’t have ready access to credit lines. They have to borrow through bond issues, and many states are so close to bankruptcy that their municipal bond ratings are collapsing. Worse, states are not legally allowed to default. Unlike the federal government, which can go into debt indefinitely, states must balance their budgets; and they cannot issue their own currencies. That puts them in the same position as Greece and other debt-strapped European Union countries, which are forbidden under EU rules either to issue their own currencies or to borrow from their own central banks.
States, of course, don’t even have their own state-owned banks, with one exception — North Dakota . North Dakota is also the only state now sporting a budget surplus, and it has the lowest unemployment and mortgage delinquency rates in the country. As von Drehle observes, “It’s a swell time to be North Dakota .”
But most states are dealing with serious, chronic defaults, putting them in the same debt trap as Greece : they are being forced to lay off workers, sell public assets, and look for ways to squeeze more taxes out of an already over-taxed populace. And their situation is slated to get worse, since the federal government’s stimulus package will soon be cut, along with assistance to the states.
The federal government is not only leaving the states high and dry but is threatening to impose even more taxes on their beleaguered citizens. Paul Volcker, former Federal Reserve Chairman and current White House economic adviser, said in April that Congress needs to consider a Value Added Tax (VAT) – a tax on various stages of production of consumer goods. A VAT of 17.5% is now imposed in Britain , and 20% is being proposed; while some EU countries already have a VAT as high as 25%. In Europe, at least the citizens get something for their money, including federally-funded health care; but that is not likely to happen in the U.S., where even a “public option” in health care is no longer on the agenda. The VAT hits the lower and middle classes particularly hard, since they spend most of their incomes on consumables. The rich, on the other hand, put much of their money into speculative trades, and those sales are not currently taxed.
Business Cycle or Class War?