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EXCLUSIVE: Leaked Documents from Secretive Meeting of Global Bankers at the 2013 International Monetary Conference (IMC)

EXCLUSIVE: Leaked Documents from Secretive Meeting of Global Bankers at the 2013 International Monetary Conference (IMC)

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

6 March 2014

The International Monetary Conference (IMC) is an annual gathering of roughly 200 of the world’s most influential bankers who meet in private with some of the leading finance ministers, regulators and central bankers of the industrial world. The meetings have been ongoing from 1954 until present-day, and have been influential forums for discussion, establishment of consensus, and the articulation and formation of policy related to global economic, financial and monetary issues.

The following document which I obtained is the program for the 2013 IMC meeting which took place in Shanghai, including the list of events and speakers at the annual gathering. Among the participants and speakers at the June 2013 International Monetary Conference (IMC) are some of the world’s most influential private bankers, including: Baudouin Prot (Chairman of BNP Paribas), Douglas Flint (Chairman of HSBC), Axel Weber (Chairman of UBS), Jacob A. Frenkel (Chairman of JPMorgan Chase International), Jamie Dimon (Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase), Jürgen Fitschen (Co-Chairman of Deutsche Bank), John G. Stumpf (Chairman and CEO of Wells Fargo), Francisco Gonzalez (Chairman and CEO of BBVA), and Peter Sands (Chief Executive of Standard Chatered.

Since the IMC took place in Shanghai, it also drew some notable names from the elite within China, including: Hen Zheng (Member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China – CPC – Central Committee and Secretary of the CPC Shanghai Municipal Committee), Jiang Jianqing (Chairman of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China), Shang Fulin (Chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission), Tian Guoli (Chairman of the Bank of China), and Zhou Xiaochuan (Governor of the People’s Bank of China, China’s central bank).

Zhao Xiaochuan was not the only central banker present at the meeting, however. Also present were: Mario Draghi (President of the European Central Bank), Jaime Caruana (General Manager of the Bank for International Settlements), and Janet Yellen, who was then the Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve Board, now the Chair of the Federal Reserve System.

Download the full program here: International Monetary Conference 2013 Program

 

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New matrimonial property laws a slippery slope to reserve land for sale

New matrimonial property laws a slippery slope to reserve land for sale

By Josh Grummett

Originally posted at APTN on 24 January 2014

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Laws that protect Canadian couples in the event of a breakup were extended to First Nation communities last month when the Matrimonial Real Property Act (MRPA) came into effect. But critics say it’s just another move toward dismantling First Nation communities.

In pushing this bill to become law, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt said, “It is unacceptable in this day and age that people living on reserve are not afforded the same rights and protections as those living off reserve.”

“It’s all just optics. It makes white people feel good about themselves,” said activist and Aboriginal lawyer, Joan Jack.

And she says it’s a slippery slope from the MRPA to privatizing reserve land.

“It’s not about giving people rights, it’s about money. Because there’s no money coming from the federal government for housing for infrastructure. So therefore they need to turn everything into (private) lands so people can borrow money from the bank, build a house, build a driveway and the government doesn’t have to pay for anything,” Jack said. “It’s about assimilation.”

The Harper government began the push towards the MRPA back in 2007. Taking the issue one step further (PDF) was the free-market advocacy think-tank, the Fraser Institute.

“When the Fraser institute recommends matrimonial property rights what they’re saying — and they do go steps further in advocating private property in general on reserves and other Aboriginal lands — they frame it in the sense that this is about empowering Indigenous communities, helping them come into the modern democratic market-driven society,” says Andrew Gavin Marshall, an activist/writer/researcher based in Montreal who manages The People’s Book Project examining institutions and ideas of power.

Note: To view the full APTN Investigates Video – ‘Unholy Matrimony’ – click here.

It’s no coincidence that the Conservative government and the Fraser Institute are interested in property issues on reserves, he says, nor is he surprised that the Fraser Institute’s spokeswoman on Aboriginal issues, Ravina Bains, used to be the director of policy for Aboriginal Affairs Canada under the Harper government.

Author and Simon Fraser University professor Don Gutstein has spent decades scrutinizing the interconnectivity of government, the media, think-tanks and big business. Like Marshall, he questions the motivations of both the Harper government and Fraser Institute when it comes to their property rights advocacy.

“Their mission is to turn everything into markets, and there are obstacles to markets. One obstacle is Aboriginal governance where there’s collective ownership. That has to be gotten rid of — eliminated. So that’s one of the projects they are involved with is to work gradually to undermine band structure and turning reserves into private land that can then be bought and sold by anybody,” Gutstein says.

That the mainstream media runs with the Fraser Institute’s research and doesn’t question why the think-tank is interested in on-reserve property rights, is his biggest beef.

“This is what bugs me about the media: if you’ve gone to journalism school, one of the first things you learn is to follow the money. And they’ve never done that… they report (the research) as news, as if it’s factual, and gradually those ideas become entrenched in the general public or a significant enough portion of the public that it becomes the new reality.”

If you follow the money, you find some deep pockets fund the Fraser Institute. For example, the Aurea Foundation (PDF) it’s the private foundation of Peter Munk, head of Barrick Gold. A gold mining company, one could argue, might be interested in reserve land being privatized so it can be sold. They’re a proud supporter of the Fraser institute. Adding substance to Gutstein’s assertion that media and big business and right-wing think-tanks are too cozy: well-known national affairs columnist Andrew Coyne sits on the board of the Aurea Foundation and has been criticized for citing research done by think-tanks that Aurea has funded, without disclosing his personal connection to the foundation.

Then there are the Koch brothers, of the controversial U.S.-based Koch Industries which makes billions in petroleum, chemicals, energy, and gas sectors, to name a few. U.S. tax records showthey also donate generously to the Fraser Institute.

But who else foots the bill for operations and research at Canadian think-tanks is largely a mystery because they’re not required by Revenue Canada to disclose who donates the cash, only how much is donated.

“To their great discredit, none of these think-tanks give of a list of their funders,” Gutstein says. “That should be a requirement. Transparency would be beneficial to everyone so we could understand what the agenda was.”

Fraser Institute president Niels Veldhuis told APTN Investigates the lack of disclosure is just good business.

“Our competitors who want to emulate us, if they got a hold of our supporters we’ve spent 38 years building, they’d contact every one of them and try to get money from them,” Veldhuis says.

He scoffs at the suggestion that corporations and rich individuals give to the think tank in exchange for research that benefits their business interests.

“Donors give us money because they like the work we have done in the past. They’re not involved in the questions we ask, they have no involvement in our research and in fact our donors see our research at the same time the media sees our research.”

Maybe the donors don’t, but Marshall points out the board of directors of these free-market advocacy think tanks are stacked with people who come from the same business backgrounds as the donors.

“You’re not going to be against that which your power is based,” Marshall says. “If you want to expand and protect your power you’re not going to be undermining it through everything you own.”

Regardless of whether or not big business is funding research as a way to get a foot in the door of reserves across Canada, or if the federal government is in on this private property push, Joan Jack says the Matrimonial Real Property Act won’t help vulnerable Aboriginal women and children as claimed.

“On paper it makes (the government) look really good but when a woman is getting thrown out of her house — whether she’s a band member or not — she’s getting thrown out of her house and she’s going to need RCMP protection, you’re going to need a lawyer and in most communities those services aren’t available to women, period,” she said.

“It’s insulting and it makes me sad that the Canadian government thinks all they have to do is make things look good on paper. Meanwhile they wonder why we’re still killing ourselves.”

Under the MRPA, First Nations can devise their own laws to deal with issues like who gets the house in the event of a breakup, so long as it’s within the guidelines of the MRPA. Federal rules apply as a default.

State of Europe: How the European Round Table of Industrialists Came to Wage Class War on Europe

 

State of Power 2014: The Transnational Institute

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

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Originally posted at the Transnational Institute, 21 January 2014

In its third annual ‘State of Power’ report, TNI uses vibrant infographics and penetrating essays to expose and analyse the principal power-brokers that have caused financial, economic, social and ecological crises worldwide.

In my contribution to the ‘State of Power’ report (and in cooperation with Occupy.com), “State of Europe: How the European Round Table of Industrialists Came to Wage Class War on Europe,” I examine the role of a major corporate interest group in shaping the policies of the European Union.

From the introduction:

“Founded in 1983, the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT) quickly became – and today remains – one of the most influential voices of organized corporate interests in Europe. Not quite a lobby, not quite a think tank, the ERT is an action-oriented group made up of roughly 50 CEOs or Chairmen of Europe’s top industrial corporations who collectively push specific ideologies, pressure political elites, and plan objectives and programs designed to shape the European Union and the ‘common market’. 

The past thirty years of the ERT’s existence has revealed it one of the most influential organizations in Europe, widely known to the EU’s political, technocratic, and financial elites, holding regular meetings, dinners, and social events with prime ministers and cabinet officials of EU member states, as well as the leadership of the European Commission itself. In the wake of the European debt crisis of the past several years, the ERT has again been at the forefront of shaping the changes within the EU, promoting austerity and structural reforms as the ‘solution’ to the debt crisis.

As through their three-decade history, the Round Table today continues to promote the ideologies and interests of corporate and financial power at the expense of the interests of labour and the population more widely. This paper aims to examine this highly influential group in order to shed some light on an organization very well known to those who make the important decisions within the EU, yet largely in the shadows to those who have to suffer the consequences of those decisions.”

To read the full essay on the ERT and the European Union, click here.

To review and access all of the reports which contributed to the TNI ‘State of Power’ report, click here.

 

Global Power Project: The Group of Thirty, Financial Crisis Kingpins

Global Power Project: The Group of Thirty, Financial Crisis Kingpins

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

25 February 2014

The following article was originally posted on 18 December 2013 at Occupy.com

Following parts onetwo and three of the Global Power Project’s Group of Thirty series, this fourth and final instalment focuses on a few of the G30 members who have played outsized roles both in creating and managing various financial crises, providing a window on to the ideas, institutions and individuals who help steer this powerful global group.

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The Assassin of Argentina

Prior to 2008, one of the most notable examples of a highly destructive financial crisis took place in Argentina which, heavily in debt, faced a large default and was brutally punished by financial markets and the speculative assault of global finance, otherwise known as “capital flight.” Less known in the story of Argentina’s 1998 to 2002 economic catastrophe was the significant role played by just one man: Domingo Cavallo.

A longtime member of the Group of Thirty, Cavallo formerly served both as Governor of the Central Bank and Minister of Economy in Argentina. He has been referred to  by Pulitzer Prize-winning economic researcher Daniel Yergin as “one of the most influential figures in recasting the relationship of state and marketplace in Latin America.”

Between 1976 and 1983, Argentina, ruled by a ruthless military dictatorship, was marred by excessive human rights abuses and persecution of intellectuals and dissidents during the so-called “Dirty War” in which as many as 30,000 people were killed or disappeared . The terror was reminiscent of nearby Chile, where a coup that brought dictator Augusto Pinochet to power in 1973, with the help of the CIA, provided a petri-dish experiment in the implementation of neoliberal “reforms.” It was Chile’s dictatorship that set the example, and Argentina’s soon followed.

In a 2002 interview, Domingo Cavallo noted that, “The experience of Chile during the ’80s was very instructive, I think, for most Latin American economies, and many politicians in Latin America, because Chile was successful by opening up and trying to expand their exports and in general their foreign trade and getting more integrated into the world economy… And of course we used, particularly here in Argentina, the experience of Chile to go ahead with our own reforms.”

Asked about the association between economic “reforms” in Chile and the ruthless dictatorship that implemented them, Cavallo explained, “There were discussions on the feasibility of implementing market reforms in a democracy. But in 1990… the first democratic president after Pinochet maintained the reforms and also tried to improve on them [and] it was demonstrated that itwould be possible  to implement similar reforms under a democratic regime.”

What specific reforms was Cavallo referring to? Under Argentina’s military dictatorship, Cavallo served for one year as Governor of the Central Bank in 1982, where he was responsible for implementing  a state bailout of corporations and banks. After, Cavallo returned to academic life. But all that changed with the election of Carlos Menem in 1989, who served as president until 1999. In 1991, Menem appointed Cavallo as Minister for Economy, a position he held until 1996.

Cavallo led the neoliberal restructuring of Argentina: pegging the Argentine peso to the U.S. dollar, trying to reduce inflation, undertaking massive privatizations while opening up the economy to “free trade,” and deregulating financial markets. The New York Times in 1996 heaped praise on Cavallo for his “constructive” role in leading the economy “back to vitality and international respectability,” despite the fact that his reforms “brought high unemployment  and painful reductions in social programs.”

Another NYT article credited Cavallo for the “stability” brought to Argentina through his “economic miracle,” while noting, without irony, that Cavallo’s miracle had “left million of Argentines… without a safety net” and with record-high unemployment, the emergence of urban slums, abandoned street children, over-crowded food banks, homeless shelters in churches, and even some people who were forced to eat cats in desperation. The “miracle” was so great, in fact, that despite all of the so-called stability it facilitated, President Menem ultimately dismissed Cavallo to the jubilation of tens of thousands of protesters in the streets. Though the people were pleased, financial markets expressed their disapproval .

With multiple economic and financial crises erupting around the world and in neighboring nations, Argentina, which pegged its currency to the U.S. dollar, found it could no longer compete. The touted neoliberal reforms were taking a toll as the country plunged into recession. Menem was replaced in 1999 by President Fernando De la Rua, who quickly sought support from the IMF to help repay the country’s debts owed to foreign – largely American  – banks.

But Cavallo wasn’t out. In 2001, he was re-appointed as the country’s Minister of Economy just in time to receive emergency powers enabling him handle the country’s ongoing financial crisis that he helped to create . At that point, financial markets felt Argentina could not be trusted to repay its debt and the IMF refused to provide further loans, on the basis that the country had not implemented enough neoliberal reforms to meet its demands. The economy crashed and the “much-hated” Cavallo had to resign, as did the President, who fled by helicopter from the Casa Rosada as Argentines protested en masse .

Even the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco noted in 2002 that there was “some truth” to the view that “Argentina’s debt position would have been sustainable if only market uncertainty had not triggered a crisis.” But, it added, had Argentina made the effort asked of it to reduce its debt, it could have avoided  “potentially destabilizing shifts in market sentiment.”

Domingo Cavallo

Domingo Cavallo

America’s Crisis-Causers

The role played by former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan in creating the conditions that led to the 2008 global financial meltdown is known to many. What is less known is that Greenspan, too, is a former member of the Group of Thirty. Greenspan did not work alone, of course, in his efforts to deregulate the financial system and spur the growth of the derivatives markets, which laid the groundwork for the worst financial crisis in modern times. Larry Summers, who then served as deputy secretary and later Secretary of Treasury under Bill Clinton, was also very helpful in this regard. Summers, too, is a current member of the Group of Thirty.

Currently serving as President Emeritus and as a professor at Harvard University, Summers was the former director of President Obama’s National Economic Council from 2009 to 2011. Previously, he was President of Harvard (2001 to 2009) and, prior to his positions during the Clinton administration he was Chief Economist at the World Bank (1991 to 1993). Currently, Summers is a member not only of the G30 but of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, and he was also a member of the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Group.

While Chief Economist at the World Bank, Summers signed an infamous 1991 memo in which it was suggested that rich countries should dump their toxic waste and pollutants in the poorest African nations — because by the time the toxins spurred the growth of cancer in the local population, they would already statistically be dead due to already high mortality rates. The memo noted : “I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.”

When Summers later went to work for the Clinton administration under Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, he along with Rubin and Fed Chairman Greenspan formed the “Three Marketeers,” as Time referred to them, dedicated to  “inventing a 21st century financial system” where they placed their “faith [in] financial markets.”

In the final two years of the Clinton presidency, Summers served as the Treasury Secretary alongside his deputy and protégé, Timothy Geithner, another member of the G30 who would go on to make a mark on the financial crisis — largely by convincing President Obama to bail out the Wall Street banks that crashed the economy, with zero penalty to them. Under the Obama administration, Summers served for nearly two years as Chair of the National Economic Council and was a highly influential policymaker . In 2009, he had spoken at the highly influential ultra-conservative think tank, the Peterson Institute for International Economics, where he explained the administration’s approach to the economic recovery, noting that , “Our approach sought to go as much as possible with the grain of the market” as opposed to regulating markets.

When Summers left the Obama administration in late 2010, he returned to Wall Street and made a fortune  working for the hedge fund D. E. Shaw & Co. and Citigroup. This past summer, he was considered Obama’s favorite pick  to replace Ben Bernanke as Fed Chairman, but faced such stiff opposition within the Democratic Party that he withdrew his name, leaving Janet Yellen – the Vice Chair of the Fed and herself a former member of the Group of Thirty – to step in .

What we see, in this analysis of the Group of Thirty, are the connections between those in positions of power to respond to and manage economic and financial crises, and those in positions of power who created such crises. Naturally, as well, the G30′s membership includes numerous bankers who, as fortune had it, shared handsomely in the profits of those crises. Put simply, the G30 can be thought above all as an exclusive club of financial crisis kingpins. And it is a club, no doubt, that will continue to play a significant and not altogether helpful role in global financial management for years to come — or until something is done to stop them.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is a 26-year-old researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada. He is project manager of The People’s Book Project , chair of the geopolitics division of The Hampton Institute, research director for Occupy.com’s Global Power Project and the World of Resistance (WoR) Report, and hosts a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost .

Global Power Project: The Group of Thirty, Architects of Austerity

Global Power Project: The Group of Thirty, Architects of Austerity

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Originally posted at Occupy.com

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The Group of Thirty, a preeminent think tank that brings together dozens of the world’s most influential policy makers, central bankers, financiers and academics, has been the focus of two recent reports for Occupy.com’s Global Power Project. In studying this group, I compiled CVs of the G30′s current and senior members: a total of 34 individuals. The first report looked at the origins of the G30, while the second examined some of the current projects and reports emanating from the group. In this installment, I take a look at some specific members of the G30 and their roles in justifying and implementing austerity measures.

Central Bankers, Markets and Austerity

For the current members of the Group of Thirty who are sitting or recently-sitting central bankers, their roles in the financial and economic turmoil of recent years is well-known and, most especially, their role in bailing out banks, providing long-term subsidies and support mechanisms for financial markets, and forcing governments to implement austerity and “structural reform” policies, notably in the European Union. With both the former European Central Bank (ECB) President Jean-Claude Trichet and current ECB President Mario Draghi serving as members of the G30, austerity measures have become a clearly favored policy of the G30.

In a January 2010 interview with the Wall Street Journal, Jean-Claude Trichet explained that he had been “involved personally in numerous financial crises since the beginning of the 1980s,” in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Soviet Union, having been previously the president of the Paris Club – an “informal” grouping that handles debt crisis and restructuring issues on behalf the world’s major creditor nations. In this capacity, Trichet “had to deal with around 55 countries that were in bankruptcy.”

In July of 2010, Trichet wrote in the Financial Times that “now is the time to restore fiscal sustainability,” noting that “consolidation is a must,” which is a different way of saying austerity. In each of E.U. government bailouts – of which the ECB acted as one of the three central institutions responsible for negotiating and providing the deal, alongside the European Commission and the IMF, forming the so-called Troika – austerity measures were always a required ingredient, which subsequently plunged those countries into even deeper economic, social and political crises (Spain and Greece come to mind).

The same was true under the subsequent ECB president and G30 member, Draghi, who has continued to demand austerity measures, structural reforms (notably in dismantling the protections for labor), and extended support to the banking system, even to a greater degree than his predecessor. In a February 2012 interview with the Wall Street Journal, Draghi stated that “the European social model has already gone,” noting that countries of the Eurozone would have “to make labour markets more flexible.” He meant, of course, that they must have worker protections and benefits dismantled to make them more “flexible” to the demands of corporate and financial interests who can more easily and cheaply exploit that labor.

In a 2012 interview with Der Spiegel, Draghi noted that European governments will have to “transfer part of their sovereignty to the European level” and recommended that the European Commission be given the supranational authority to have a direct say in the budgets of E.U. nations, adding that “a lot of governments have yet to realize that they lost their national sovereignty a long time ago.” He further explained, incredibly, that since those governments let their debts pile up they must now rely on “the goodwill of the financial markets.”

Another notable member of the Group of Thirty who has been a powerful figure among the world’s oligarchs of austerity is Jaime Caruana, the General Manager of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), which serves as the bank for the central banks of the world. Caruana was previously Governor of the Bank of Spain, from 2000 to 2006, during which time Spain experienced its massive housing bubble that led directly to the country’s debt crisis amid the global recession. In 2006, a team of inspectors within the Bank of Spain sent a letter to the Spanish government criticizing then-Governor Caruana for his “passive attitude” toward the massive bubble he was helping to facilitate.

As head of the BIS, Caruana delivered a speech in June of 2011 to the assembled central bankers at an annual general meeting in Basel, Switzerland, in which he gave his full endorsement of the austerity agenda across Europe, noting that “the need for fiscal consolidation [austerity] is even more urgent” than during the previous year. He added, “There is no easy way out, no shortcut, no painless solution – that is, no alternative to the rigorous implementation of comprehensive country packages including strict fiscal consolidation and structural reforms.”

At the 2013 annual general meeting of the BIS, Caruana again warned that attempts by governments “at fiscal consolidation need to be more ambitious,” and warned that if financial markets view a government’s debt as unsustainable, “bond investors can and do punish governments hard and fast.” If governments continue to delay austerity, he said, the markets will have to use “market discipline” to force governments to act, “and then the pain will be large indeed.” In further recommending “structural reforms” to labor and service markets, Caruana noted that “the reforms are critical to attaining and preserving confidence,” by which, of course, he meant the confidence of markets.

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The ‘Academic’ of Austerity: Kenneth Rogoff

Kenneth Rogoff is an influential academic economist and a member of the Group of Thirty. Rogoff currently hold a position as professor at Harvard University and as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He sits on the Economic Advisory Panel to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and previously Rogoff spent time as the chief economist of the IMF as well serving as an adviser to the executive board of the Central Bank of Sweden. Rogoff is these days most famous – or infamous – for co-authoring (with Carmen Reinhart) a study published in 2010 that made the case for austerity measures to become the favored policy of nations around the world.

The study, entitled, “Growth in a Time of Debt,” appeared in the American Economic Review in 2010 to great acclaim within high-level circles. One of the main conclusions of the paper held that when a country’s debt-to-GDP ratio hits 90%, “they reach a tipping point after which they’ll start experiencing serious growth slowdowns.” The paper was cited by the U.S. Congress as well as by Olli Rehn, the European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs and one of Europe’s stalwart defenders of austerity, who has demanded the measures be instituted on multiple countries in the E.U. in return for bailout funds.

Google Scholar search for the terms “Growth in a Time of Debt” and “Rogoff” turned up approximately 828 results. In 2013, Forbes referred to the paper as “perhaps the most quoted but least read economic publication of recent years.” The paper was also cited in dozens of media outlets around the world, multiple times, especially by influential players in the financial press.

In 2012, Gideon Rachman, writing in the Financial Times, said Rogoff was “much in demand to advise world leaders on how to counter the financial crisis,” and noted that while the economist had been attending the World Economic Forum meetings for a decade, he had become “more in demand than ever” after having “written the definitive history of financial crises over the centuries” alongside Carmen Reinhart. Rogoff was consulted by Barack Obama, “and is known to have spent many hours with George Osborne, Britain’s chancellor,” wrote Rachman, noting that Rogoff advised government’s “to get serious about cutting their deficits, [which] strongly influenced the British government’s decision to make controlling spending its priority.”

The praise became all the more noteworthy in April of 2013 when researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, published a paper accusing Rogoff and Reinhart of “sloppy statistical analysis” while documenting several key mistakes that undermined the conclusions of the original 2010 paper. The report from Amherst exploded across global media, immediately forcing Rogoff and Reinhart on the defensive. The New Yorker noted that “the attack from Amherst has done enormous damage to Reinhart and Rogoff’s credibility, and to the intellectual underpinnings of the austerity policies with which they are associated.”

As New York Times columnist and fellow G30 member Paul Krugman noted, the original 2010 paper by Reinhart and Rogoff “may have had more immediate influence on public debate than any previous paper in the history of economics.” After the Amherst paper, he added, “The revelation that the supposed 90 percent threshold was an artifact of programming mistakes, data omissions, and peculiar statistical techniques suddenly made a remarkable number of prominent people look foolish.” Krugman, who had firmly opposed austerity policies long before Rogoff’s paper, suggested that “the case for austerity was and is one that many powerful people want to believe, leading them to seize on anything that looks like a justification.”

Indeed, many of those “powerful people” happen to be members of the Group of Thirty who are, with the notable exception of Krugman, largely in favor of austerity measures. Krugman himself tends to represent the limits of acceptable dissent within the G30, criticizing policies and policy makers while accepting the fundamental concepts of the global financial and economic system. He commented that he had been a member of the G30 since 1988 and referred to it as a “talk shop” where he gets “a chance to hear what people like Trichet and Draghi have to say in an informal setting,” adding, “while I’ve heard some smart things from people with a role in real-world decisions, I’ve also heard a lot of very foolish things said by alleged wise men.”

Andrew Gavin Marshall is a 26-year old researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, chair of the Geopolitics Division of The Hampton Institute, research director for Occupy.com’s Global Power Project and World of Resistance (WOR) Report, and hosts a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.

Global Power Project: The Group of Thirty and Its Methods of Financial Governance

Global Power Project: The Group of Thirty and Its Methods of Financial Governance 

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Originally posted at Occupy.com

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In the first part of this exposé, I examined the origins and recent history of the Group of Thirty as a highly influential institution in the arena of global financial governance, bringing together top central bankers, financiers, policymakers and academics in the world of economic and monetary affairs.

More than three decades since it was founded in 1978, the Group of Thirty has maintained its reputation as a prominent institution in the financial world, continuing to produce influential reports and advocate for policies which are largely accepted and implemented across the globe.

The G30, as it is often referred to, describes itself as “a private, nonprofit, international body composed of very senior representatives of the private and public sectors and academia” which “aims to deepen understanding of international economic and financial issues, to explore the international repercussions of decisions taken in the public and private sectors, and to examine the choices available to market practitioners and policymakers.”

In her dissertation on global financial governance, Eleni Tsingou, Assistant Professor at the Department of Business and Politics at the Copenhagen Business School, focused on the role of the Group of Thirty in shaping the global financial system, noting that the G-30 “has had an important impact on financial regulatory and supervisory practices both at the national and global levels…in a way that was consistent with private sector interests.”

She noted, “the G-30 has contributed to the emergence of a mix of public and private authority in global finance and has considerably strengthened the role of private interests in the functions of regulation and supervision.”

By the late 1990s, the G30 had played a central role in the governance of the global financial system – with a very direct role in managing the clearance and settlement of securities and over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives – ultimately directing the course of the debate and the resulting policies of regulation (or lack thereof). The Group of Thirty had thus “found itself in a privileged position at the centre of the financial policy arena.”

The Group went on to have a significant influence on the type of banking regulation set forth through the Basel II process of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, run out of the Bank for International Settlements. More specifically, the G-30 was a strong promoter of “self-regulation” and “self-supervision” of the financial markets, or, in other words, granting the banks the authority to “regulate” themselves, which obviously led to disastrous consequences.

G30 Report: Long-Term Finance and Economic Growth

In 2012, the G30 published a report compiled by the Working Group on Long-term Finance, which was composed of nearly two-thirds of the membership of the G30 and which set out their concerns about “the efficient provision of a level of long-term finance sufficient to support expected sustainable economic growth in advanced and emerging economies.” The report aimed to estimate “future financing needs” and to “identify the barriers” which would get in the way of supporting “long-term growth” for the economy.

The report noted directly that it was not an “abstract exercise,” but was “operational,” complete with “practical recommendations for global and national actors and policy makers that would…help create a system of long-term finance.” In other words, for the Group of Thirty, they don’t produce mere “recommendations,” but rather “instructions” which they expect to be followed. It is of significance that many of those who produced the report and who are members of the G30 conveniently hold an official position so as to be able to dutifully implement those instructions.

The report noted some “ideal candidates” to manage long-term financing, such as pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, insurance companies, endowments and foundations. By the end of 2010, these institutions had roughly $57 trillion in assets, a number which the G30 predicted would increase by $3 trillion per year until 2020.

Noting that the world’s major economies would be continuing to undergo austerity measures – or “fiscal consolidation” programs – over the “medium-term,” the ability of governments to make investments would be heavily restrained. Thus, “the private sector will need to be mobilized to fill the gap.” In other words, so-called “public-private partnerships” become the route to go, to ensure that corporations and banks reap massive profits, subsidized by governments.

The G30 report made the claim that “open markets help support sustainable economic growth,” and then recommended that emerging market economies follow the major industrial nations down the same path that helped create the global financial crisis by suggesting that they “gradually move toward liberalization of capital accounts,” to allow money to flow in (and out) of countries with more ease and less regulation (if any).

What makes the G30, and its recommendations, so important is not only the fact that they are taken seriously by policymakers and market “participants” – but that the very individuals making the recommendations are in positions of power to directly implement or support those same recommendations. Here are a few of those individuals worth noting:

Mark Carney is a member of the Group of Thirty, while also sitting as the Governor of the Bank of England (a position he took up in 2013), prior to which he was the Governor of the Bank of Canada from 2008 to 2013. Since 2011, Carney is Chairman of the Financial Stability Board (FSB), run out of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). He is the former Chairman of the Committee on the Global Financial System at the BIS from 2010 to 2012; the first Vice Chair of the European Systemic Risk Board; a member of the board of directors for the BIS; a member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum, and a participant at Bilderberg Meetings. Previously Carney was a former Deputy Finance Minister in Canada from 2004 to 2008, and a deputy governor of the Bank of Canada from 2003 to 2004, prior to which he worked for Goldman Sachs as an executive for several years.

Jaime Caruana is also a member of the Group of Thirty while sitting as the General Manager of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) from 2009 to the present. A member of the Financial Stability Board (FSB) from 2009 to the present, Caruana is also a member of the Group of Trustees of the Principles for the international banking lobby group, the Institute of International Finance (IIF). Previously, Caurana served as the Financial Counselor to the Managing Director of the IMF and as the Governor of the Bank of Spain from 2000 to 2006, where he helped create the Spanish housing bubble that led to Spain’s current crisis. He also sat on the Governing Council of the European Central bank from 2000 to 2006 and was a member of the Financial Stability Forum (FSF) from 2003 to 2009 (at which time it was formed into the FSB), in addition to being former Chairman of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision from 2003 to 2006.

Mario Draghi is a member of the Group of Thirty while acting as current President of the European Central Bank from 2011 to the present, as well as being on the board of the BIS from 2006 to the present and serving as Chairman of the Group of Governors and Heads of Supervision (GHOS) at the BIS from 2013 to the present. Draghi was formerly the Governor of the Bank of Italy, from 2006 to 2011, where he helped put in place the conditions that led to Italy’s current economic and financial crisis. He was a former chairman of the Financial Stability Board from 2009 to 2011; former chairman of the Financial Stability Forum from 2006 to 2009; and a former member of the board of governors of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Draghi was additionally a former Honorary Trustee at the Brookings Institution from 2003 to 2013; a former Director General at the Italian Treasury from 1991 to 2001; chairman of the Italian Committee for Privatizations from 1993 to 2001; former Executive Director at the World Bank from 1984 to 1990; and he served as Vice Chairman and Managing Director for Goldman Sachs International from 2002 to 2005.

A European non-profit organization that documents – and opposes – the influence of corporations on E.U. policy, the Corporate Europe Observatory had filed a complaint with the E.U. that Mario Draghi’s membership in the Group of Thirty represented a conflict of interest as it brought him into an institutional relationship with several representatives of large banks, many of which received financial support from the ECB. In early 2013, the E.U. stated that Draghi’s membership in the G30 did not undermine his “independence” as head of the European Central Bank, since the G30 “should be characterized as a discussion forum, rather than an interest group or lobby seeking to promote private interests.”

Paul Krugman of the New York Times came to the defense of Draghi, while noting that he himself was a member of the Group of Thirty. Krugman wrote on his blog, “It’s a talk shop; I value it because I get a chance to hear what people like Trichet and Draghi have to say in an informal setting.”

These are, of course, not the only major officials who are members of the Group of Thirty within the central banking world, but three among several members. The next part in this series will examine some of the other members of the Group of Thirty and the contributions they have made in the past to creating the global economic and financial crisis, and the current roles they play as members of the G30.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is a 26-year old researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, chair of the Geopolitics Division of The Hampton Institute, research director for Occupy.com’s Global Power Project and the World of Resistance (WoR) Report, and hosts a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.

Global Power Project: The Group of Thirty and the “Good Discussion” They’re Still Having

Global Power Project: The Group of Thirty and the “Good Discussion” They’re Still Having

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Originally posted at Occupy.com

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The Group of Thirty (or G-30) describes itself as “a private, nonprofit, international body composed of very senior representatives of the private and public sectors and academia,” which “aims to deepen understanding of international economic and financial issues, to explore the international repercussions of decisions taken in the public and private sectors, and to examine the choices available to market practitioners and policymakers.”

Its membership consists of roughly thirty major figures in the global financial world, from central banks, academia, international institutions and major private financial institutions. These figures hold regular meetings, conduct research and produce highly-influential reports through various “working groups,” providing a forum for top policy makers and private sector market “actors” to meet and hold discussions, while helping shape consensus and give recommendations to policy makers on issues of finance and governance.

This institution, though not widely discussed, is enormously influential. And here’s why.

The history of the Group of Thirty goes back to the Rockefeller Foundation, which provided the organization’s initial funding. In its 1978 annual report, the Rockefeller Foundation – which represents the interests of highly centralized corporate and financial power – recalled that it was created in 1913 as a response to “the Populist assault on the massive concentration of wealth in the hands of few.” (Annual Report, 1978, Rockefeller Foundation.)

The 1978 report noted that a former managing director of the IMF, Johannes Witteveen, “agreed to assume the chairmanship of a Consultative Group on International Economic and Monetary Affairs made up of leading bankers, officials, economists, and businessmen from the developed and developing world.” The objective of this group was, the report stated, was “to help analyze, through scholarly inquiry and international consultations, some of the vexing economic and monetary problems facing the world today, and to make their findings widely known.”

The Rockefeller Foundation expressed a keen interest in structuring the global economic and monetary issues of the day, noting that: “The international economic system is not functioning well – as evidenced by slow economic growth, persistent unemployment, and high inflation in many countries, growing skepticism about the capacity of floating exchange rates to correct imbalances of payments, increasing fears of protectionism, and relatively little progress in meeting the needs of developing countries and the quarter of the world’s population that is very poor.”

Thus, the Foundation laid the groundwork for what would come next, by continuing “to concentrate on international economic policy and made plans to bring together a group of experts who will explore the functioning of the international economic system. Beginning with the subject of international monetary problems, the group intends to clarify the issues, identify policy choices for governments, and assess the consequences of alternative policies and institutional arrangements.”

What emerged was the Group of Thirty, originally named the “Consultative Group on International Economic and Monetary Affairs,” which was to function as a think tank, lobby/industry group and, ultimately, a consensus-building institution for the global elites – to ensure that they stayed that way.

The 1979 annual report of the Rockefeller Foundation noted that the Group of Thirty “began an ambitious program of research, study group analyses, and plenary meetings for the purpose of seeking ways to improve the functioning of the international monetary system.” (Annual Report, 1979, Rockefeller Foundation.)

Fast forward more than three decades and the Group of Thirty remains a highly influential organization in matters of global financial governance. Members of the G-30 have included notable figures such as Josef Ackermann, Pedro Aspe, Alan Greenspan, Andrew Crockett, and the newly-anointed Chair of the Federal Reserve System, Janet Yellen.

The Association for Financial Professionals wrote in 2005 that, “over nearly the past three decades, one thing that has remained continuous in the hurly-burly changing landscape of international economics has been the influence of the Group of Thirty,” which it described as “something of a high-powered global economic think tank.”

Gerd Hausler, an official at the IMF and former Governor of the German Bundesbank, stated: “What makes the G30 unique is that it has very senior people there… It recruits members from the central banks and private companies [to get them] sitting together and mulling ideas at a high level.”

Geoffrey L Bell, who founded the organization at the invitation – and with the money – of the Rockefeller Foundation, commented, “The idea of ‘30’ was to have a good cross-section of people from around the world… but not so many that you couldn’t have a good discussion.”

In March of 2009, the Financial Times published a list of “the 50 people likely to be the most influential in shaping the world debate” on “tackling the many problems” of the global financial and economic crisis, “and charting a course through them to a new world order.”

The article noted that, “networks and institutions will matter as much as individuals,” and in particular it referenced the Group of Thirty as “one interesting connection between these players,” with 11 of the 50 individuals selected on the list being members of the G-30. Four years after the list was published, the number of its individuals who were also members of the G-30 increased to 14.

One of those is Jean-Claude Trichet, the former President of the European Central Bank and current Chairman of the Group of Thirty. Upon assuming his role as chairman in 2011, Trichet stated: “This is a time of exceptional challenges to the global economic and financial system, and the G30 will continue to make significant contributions to the policy debate and enhance understanding of the critical paths to stability and to economic growth.”

As Chairman of the G-30, Trichet also sits as the Honorary Governor of the Banque de France (the French central bank), which he used to direct from 1993 until 2003, when he became President of the European Central Bank (ECB), a position he held through 2011. Trichet was also previously a director of the French Treasury and the former chairman of the Paris Club, from 1985 to 1993. While he was President of the ECB, he also served as a member of the board of directors of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) and as president of the Global Economy Meeting of Central Bank Governors at the BIS from 2002 to 2011.

Today, Trichet holds a number of other highly influential positions. Apart from being Chairman of the G-30, he sits on the board of directors of the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics, he is on the board of the European military contractor EADS, and he is chairman of the board for the influential European think tank BRUEGEL. Trichet is also, importantly, a member of the Group of Trustees in the global bank industry lobby known as the Institute of International Finance (IIF). He is additionally the European Chairman of the Trilateral Commission and is a member of the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Meetings.

Jacob A. Frenkel, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Group of Thirty, is also a member of the Executive Committee of JPMorgan Chase, and Chairman of JPMorgan Chase International, while also sitting as a member on the International Council of the bank. Frenkel was the Vice Chairman of American International Group (AIG) from 2004 to 2009, during which time it received its mega-bailout from the Federal Government. He is also a past Chairman of Merrill Lynch International from 2000 to 2004.

Prior, Frenkel was the Governor of the Bank of Israel from 1991 to 2000; Economic Counselor and Director of Research at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from 1987 to 1991; David Rockefeller Professor of International Economics at the University of Chicago from 1973 to 1987; former editor of the Journal of Political Economy; and previously a member of the International Advisory Board for the Council on Foreign Relations.

Currently, Frenkel is a member of the board of directors on the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), as well as a member of the Trilateral Commission and the International Advisory Council of the China Development Bank. He too sits on the board of the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics, and is a member of the Economic Advisory Panel of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, as well as the Investment Advisory Council to the Prime Minister of Turkey. Frenkel is also on the board of directors for Loews Corporation.

This is but a brief introduction to the Group of Thirty, its members, and its influence, which will be elaborated upon in future installments of the Global Power Project. Stay tuned for the second part in the series next week.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is a 26-year old researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, chair of the Geopolitics Division of The Hampton Institute, research director for Occupy.com’s Global Power Project and the World of Resistance (WoR) Report, and hosts a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.

A Teaser to ‘The Empire of Poverty’: The First Volume of The People’s Book Project

A Teaser to ‘The Empire of Poverty’: The First Volume of The People’s Book Project

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

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The following is a little teaser to some of the ideas, approach and perspective being pursued through the research and writing of the first volume of The People’s Book Project, ‘The Empire of Poverty.’ Please consider donating to the Project to help these efforts come to fruition.

It’s important to try to understand the global economic and financial system – the banks, corporations, central banks, economic policies (and effects) of governments, trade agreements, the creation and value of currencies, the function of the oft-heard ‘markets’ – as daunting as the task may seem. One might think that they need a degree in Economics in order to understand the complexities of the global economy, to comprehend the correct choices and policies which achieve the desired results. One might think that this is true, but it isn’t. The truth is that if most economists understood the global economy, and knew the ‘correct’ choices to make, we wouldn’t be where we currently are.

Economics – both theory and practice – is an illusion. There are no concrete rules on which to base economic thought; there is no ‘gravity’ to its physics. Economics is not science, it’s sophistry; the sleight of hand, the quick and slick tongue, the wave of the wand, the theatrics of the stage set for all to see, and the effects – as destructive as they may be to the real world and all life within it – are largely hidden from view; the illusion keeps the population enraptured in awe, aspiration, and fear.

This is not to say that there cannot be anything real produced or given growth by what we call ‘economics’: there are of course exchanges made, resources used, products created, lives benefitted, and entire societies and peoples changed. The effects are very real. However, they have a disproportionately destructive, oppressive, and dehumanizing effect upon the vast majority of humanity: they bestow upon a tiny fraction unparalleled power, and thus, dehumanization in another form; while creating a comparably minimal buffer of generally satiated and malleable middle classes, educated well-enough to work and survive the horror show that is the global economic order, but consumed by a culture lacking in substance and meaning, and thus, left morally, psychologically, and intellectually lobotomized, physically paralyzed, and thus, once again, dehumanized.

So our global economic order has the effect of generally dehumanizing all who are subject to its whims and whammies; which is to say, almost everyone, everywhere. Those peoples and societies that are not integrated into the global economy tend to be bombed, invaded, overthrown or droned. Those who remain are doomed to slow death: one in seven people on earth live in urban slums[1] – more than the combined populations of Canada, the United States, and the European Union – while the majority of humanity lives in deep poverty, in hunger, and malnutrition; with 18 million people being killed from poverty-related causes every year, including over 9 million children.[2] Every year.

During the Holocaust, approximately six million Jews were killed. Take that number, add 50% to make 9 million, and just think: this is how many children die every year from poverty. Every year a new Holocaust.

These deaths are preventable. Truly. It has been estimated that less than the yearly Pentagon budget would lift the poorest 3 billion people of the world out of extreme poverty. In fact, in the twenty years following the end of the Cold War in 1991, there were roughly 360 million preventable deaths caused by poverty-related issues, more than the combined deaths of all of the wars of the 20th century.[3]

But this is not our priority. Our priority is that banks and corporations make as much profits as possible, because this – by some unknown and unseen magic – will (it is said) benefit everyone else. It is propagated and believed that this system, as it exists, or even with the proper tinkering and toiling, can represent the totality of life and being on this world; to be humanizing, and to represent ‘human nature’ at its best. But if this system were ‘human nature,’ why would it be so dehumanizing? How many organisms grow by destroying that which their existence depends upon? Parasites, cancers and various diseases can kill the host before transferring to another.

We have no other host to go to. Those who sit atop the global structure know this, which is why they express such an interest in finding new planets to escape to (and presumably, plunder and destroy). The billionaires have given up pretending to care for the world’s billions of people suffering, which is why they are looking to space travel, mining asteroids, and searching for hospitable environments elsewhere.[4] Their long-term ‘exit strategy’ is to abandon ship, not to change the direction we currently traverse.

Are we – as a species – a cancer upon the earth? Looking at the big picture, it may often seem that way. But it is in the small moments, the single acts, exchanged emotions, interacting individuals, in the every day life – those moments of joy, love, wonder – in which we find our own personal meaning, in which we discover that humanity – and human nature – can be so much more than destructive, petty, and pestilent behaviour. We are told we are a society of ‘individuals’ – that we are free, democratic and equal. If that were the case: why are we so isolated? We are individuals, yes, in the physical sense: but we are disconnected from the collective, separated from the species as a whole.

We think and act individually, but do so ignorantly, and arrogantly. Our thoughts and feelings are collected and collated by our commanding culture of irrelevance. The immense gift of a human mind – with all of its possibilities and capabilities, both known and unknown – is largely squandered on pop culture, sports, celebrities, consumer items and entertainment. So long as we remain distracted by the ‘celebration of irrelevance’, we are lobotomized of our meaning.

Is this how you see yourself as an individual? As the world you live in? It’s not an appealing thought. So why, then, do we live in a world in which as individuals we may act morally, purposefully, passionately, and proudly; though as a collective species, we are petty, parasitic, power-mad, pathological, and pretty much evil?

Is it ‘human nature’ that our personal values and priorities are not reflected in the collective – institutionalized – expression of humanity? Or, is it that the way in which our society is constructed, the institutions and ideologies, the policies, programs, priorities and effects of the way in which our world is ordered and altered, is inherently counter to ‘human nature’? In other words: is human nature inherently self-destructive; or, is our constructed human ‘society’ (our global social, political and economic order) inherently destructive to human nature? Does human nature pervert the effects we have upon the world, or do the structures of world order – and power – pervert human nature?

It is this vast disconnect between our personal values and the form they take at the global – collective – level of the species, which is ultimately so dehumanizing. Because power is centralized at the top, and for such a tiny fraction of the species – so much so that there has never been a more unequal and vast ‘Empire of Poverty’ in all of human history, the ‘great inequality’ is not of wealth, but of power.

Wealth is an illusion: a manufactured means to power, a collective delusion. Power is central to human nature. Every person needs power: they need autonomy over their own lives, thoughts, feelings, and decisions. It is central to maturity, it is central to leaving adolescence and becoming an adult, and it is central to finding a sense of self-worth. Understanding oneself is to empower oneself. Power is about possibility, personal fulfillment, passion and purpose. It has individual and social representations. It can be seen – or not – in your own life, but also in the world around us.

A pre-requisite for power is freedom. The process of achieving freedom is, itself, empowering. Once (and if) achieved, it is of immense responsibility to use your new power of freedom wisely, for the effects that it may have upon others and the rest of the world are endless. Power is freedom, quite simply, because slavery is the opposite of both freedom and power: it is the most un-free and the most disempowering personal position to be in.

Freedom is power; power is freedom. If we were actually free, we would have significantly more power. But we don’t. We barely have any control over our own individual lives, let alone the world around us. We leave all that to the others, to those with the proper degrees, the ‘expertise,’ the politicians, the pundits, the ‘right’ people… because they’ve obviously done such a great job of it so far. We remain – as a species, and very often as individuals – neutered from the necessities of individual empowerment, subjected instead to the very-often-arbitrary abuses of power over others.

So if we are not free, what are we? Certainly, we are not slaves, for we have no shackles, bear the brunt of no whips, serve no visible masters. We are, perhaps, slaves of another kind. We are financially, reflexively, intellectually, emotionally and hopelessly and very often spiritually enslaved to the system, as it exists. We are slaves to money. We serve the masters of money, with our time, with our labour and efforts, with our interactions, exchanges, interests, intelligence and aspirations. We are slaves to money.

Our society is built and sustained upon it; and our species is being driven to extinction because of it. The cause and effect of money – or more aptly, debt – slavery, is the distribution of power among the species: too few have too much, and too many have too little. This imbalance of power within the species is leading to our self-destruction, our inevitable extinction if we continue along this path.

Money is both the means and very often – the reason – for continuing down this path, for maintaining this imbalance. While very few have all the money, everyone – and everywhere else – has all the debt. This is not the wondrous ‘free market’ capitalist utopia which is incessantly babbled about, but the very real global feudal dystopia, both cause and effect of the power imbalance and money-system. In feudalism, there is no freedom, only serfdom.

Welcome to our global economic order, serf!

Welcome to the Empire of Poverty.

But it’s not hopeless. The truth is both painful, but also full of possibilities. The truth is that we do have the ability to understand the world we live in, to comprehend our global economic order. We don’t need a degree; we just need honesty.

The illusion that is our economic system is built not upon technical knowledge, but rather, technical language, a highly political language, “designed to make lies sound truthful, murder respectable, and to give a feeling of solidity to pure wind,” as George Orwell defined the term. Our inability to communicate honesty, and thus effectively, about our economic – and indeed, political and social – system is an essential mechanism in maintaining that system.

To speak and ‘understand’ this language, at least at a superficial level, usually does require some ‘education’: economists must be trained, so too must political and other social scientists. The artificial separations in their knowledge – (as in, the notion that the economic world exists separate from the political and social world, and thus, must be studied separately) ensures that none who receive a ‘proper education’ achieve a profound understanding of the world. Some may, but they are few and far between, and usually weeded out or co-opted.

Such a ‘proper education’ will allow one to gain enough basic knowledge related to the sector of society in which they aim to explore and advance, and they are given just enough knowledge to do so, but not enough to honestly look at – let alone have the capacity to communicate – the reality of how our global political, social and economic order functions and evolves. They may see problems, make recommendations, propose policies, and they may even do some good, but ultimately – as we still remain on the path toward extinction – they have not, and cannot – do enough.

Few possibilities – few ‘solutions’ – or opportunities, are communicated to the populations that are effected under and by these societies, and by the decisions the few at the top make. People are generally given a small set of options from which to choose, like guessing what’s behind door number one or two, when both are ultimately terrible, and ineffectual (in a positive sense). We put ‘faith’ – however empty – into the hands of politicians, we consume the crap spewed in the media, or we lose ourselves in the vast vacancy that is the ‘substance’ of our culture; a culture of mythology, lies, fantasy, persuasion, punishment, entertainment and manipulation.

Our hope is first in honesty. We can – and must – look honestly at the world for what it is, not what we want or imagine it to be, but what it is. Then, we can – and must – communicate this message, and to do so honestly and directly. This is a human reality, and it must become a part of a collective human knowledge, a shift in understanding, and thus, a change in direction; away from the current-inevitably of extinction, and toward survival. What comes after is for future generations to determine. For now, we must aim to simply survive.

Our goal must first be to begin charting a new path toward survival; this must be the duty of our present living and younger generations, as challenging, demanding and terrifying a responsibility that may be, it is either that, or extinction. And this is not a matter of hundreds or thousands of years away; it could be as soon as decades. If you – like me – are between 18 and 45 – the coming few decades of the world in which you currently live and hope to survive will become increasingly dreadful, destructive, oppressive, and disempowering. We cannot afford to continue kicking the can down the road, delaying – and exacerbating – the inevitable.

There is always hope, not in myths and fantasy, but hidden in reality. In our actions, ideas, in us – as individuals – connecting, interacting, sharing, working and creating together, as collectives, as part of a larger human organism; beginning to act as if we don’t want to self-destruct as a species, creating a new society – a new order – to make the current one obsolete. This is our great challenge. How do we navigate through living within the present existing order, while simultaneously seeking to create a new and alternative order? Moreover, how do we achieve this if it takes nearly all our effort, time and energy to simply survive the present order? To put it as crudely (and honestly) as possible: how the fuck are we supposed to change the world?!

I don’t know the answers. But I think that the best way to get them is to ask honest questions, seek an honest understanding, and to communicate honestly – about ourselves and the world – personally, and globally. This book is my attempt to understand and speak honestly about the world, not to speak in a language that only economists and political scientists or other so-called ‘experts’ can understand, but to speak plainly and directly. This will require me to dedicate some focus in attempting to translate political language into English. I don’t have a degree, and you won’t need one to read this, or to understand it.

The hope, then, that I hold for this book – and the wider book project of which it is apart – is that it presents an accessible and usable collection of knowledge. It is not the book that asks every question, or has ever answer (no books do!), but it is an attempt at taking a different approach to asking and seeking answers to some rather important questions about our world: what is the true nature of our society? How did we get here? Where are we going? Why? And, what can we do to change it?

This is but an introduction to our world, by no means comprehensive or conclusive, simply accessible, honest, and (hopefully) useful.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is a 26-year old researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, chair of the Geopolitics Division of The Hampton Institute, research director for Occupy.com’s Global Power Project and the World of Resistance (WoR) Report, and hosts a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.

Notes

[1]       Mike Davis, Planet of Slums (Verso: London, 2007), pages 151-173.

[2]       Thomas Pogge, “Keynote Address: Poverty, Climate Change, and Overpopulation,” Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law (Vol. 38, 2010), pages 526-534.

[3]       Ibid.

[4]       Dan Vergano, “Billionaires back ambitious space projects,” USA Today, 13 May 2012:

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/tech/science/space/story/2012-04-25/space-exploration-billionaires/54866272/1

The Debtor’s War: A Modern Greek Tragedy

The Debtor’s War: A Modern Greek Tragedy

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

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Early on Thursday, 7 November 2013, Greek riot police stormed the offices of Greece’s main public broadcaster, which had been under a five-month occupation by workers who opposed the government’s decision to shutdown the broadcaster, firing thousands and destroying a major cultural institution. The broadcast seems to have come to an end.

The long and painful Greek tragedy continues, where society and culture are gutted, people impoverished, driven into a deep depression, with growing political and social conflicts, the rise of fascism, detention camps filled with immigrants from Africa and the Middle East, trying to escape the dictators we arm, or the wars we support, with suicide rates spiking, health and well-being deteriorate, services and support vanish, and all the people are left to be punished, humiliated, oppressed and destroyed… These are called “solutions” to an economic crisis, on the road to “economic recovery”… think about that for a moment.

Why is this done? Because some of the world’s largest banks demand it. The same banks that created the global financial crisis, and the European debt crisis, and the global food crisis (which drives tens of millions more people into hunger, and makes the banks richer in the process)., and which launder hundreds of billions of dollars in drug money, profit from arms sales, war and terror. Those banks want the people of Greece (and Spain, and Italy, Portugal, and Ireland, and everywhere, always, across the world) to pay the interest they feel they are owed.

Let me put this simply: a computer screen somewhere, at some big bank, says that some country owes that bank a certain amount of money, and thus, the people of that country must suffer and even die, so that the government can afford to pay back the bank. That’s what government’s are for, right? To serve banks… right?

Greece needs to pay the bank, because the bank and all the bank’s friends (what we call “financial markets”) have decided to punish the country of Greece by betting against the ability of the country to repay its debts, to crash its credit rating, making its ability to borrow and spend increasingly expensive and impossible. Now Greece is basically broke. Greece needs money, so it turns to the EU, the European Central Bank, and the IMF for “assistance.”

They demand that Greece – in return for the loan(s) – impoverish its population, cut all social services and health care, education, anything of benefit to the population – destroy it! – because it’s “too costly.” These are called “austerity measures.” Then, ensure that the newly-impoverished population has all their ‘benefits’ withdrawn, which were promised to them through the ‘social contract’ between the population and the government (essentially, a social agreement between people and the state which legitimizes the state’s ability to rule over them). These things must be destroyed. So things like pensions, social security, labour rights and regulations, protections and safety, industries, resources, services and anything that again benefits the population, must be dismantled and sold for cheap to foreign banks and corporations. All must be dismantled to ensure that the newly-impoverished population and country can be effectively and efficiently exploited by cosmopolitical corporations. These are called “structural reforms,” presumably because they ‘reform’ the very structure of society.

Then, with the combination of impoverishment and exploitation, comes the saintly glow of the all-encompassing human desire and civilizational drive – our goal and purpose as a species on this planet, what our societies are organized by and for – the highest stage of humanity: “economic growth.” Who wouldn’t want “growth”? Well, unless we’re talking about something like a wart, rash, infection, inflammation, or a tumour, everyone wants “growth”, right? Even if it’s at the expense of entire societies and populations of actual individual and living human beings, like any single one of us. Just so long as they suffer for “growth,” all will be well and happy.

So what does “growth” mean? It means that the banks and corporations – which worked with government agencies and officials in creating the global economic and financial crises in the first place – now have the ability to reap the benefits of destruction: massive profits, and growing global power. Large corporations have more money than most countries on earth. Their power is protected by the state, their influence unquestioned, their domination of the world’s resources, materials, culture and society is rapidly advancing, and they are – institutionally and ideologically – totalitarian. So what’s not to love, really?

They want it all. Profit and power. Our world is dominated and being re-shaped by a tiny global financial, corporate, political and intellectual elite. And all must suffer so that they can have what anyone in their position would want to have: more, they want it all. And they want you to just shut up and let them take it all. If you have a problem with that, well, that’s what riot police, prisons, and fascism are for.

This is why Greece must suffer. This is why we hear the unholy trinity economic mantra of: “austerity,” “structural reform,” and “economic growth.” The modern Greek Tragedy of ‘The Debtor’s War’ is driven by the tyrannical trio known as the ‘Troika’: the European Commission (of unelected, unaccountable supranational elite technocrats who serve the interests of global corporate and financial power), the European Central Bank (of unelected technocrats and economists who serve the interests of “financial markets” and the big banks), and the IMF (of unelected technocrats and economists who serve global financial and corporate interests). This institutional ‘Troika’ (the EC, ECB, and IMF) demanded the implementation of the ideological ‘Troika’: austerity, structural reform, and economic growth.

Together, institutionally and ideologically, they wreak havoc upon humanity.

Welcome to the most completely INSANE point in human history; the all-or-nothing. Welcome to reality.

Now please, kindly help change it.

Global Power Project: Central Bankers and the Institute of International Finance, Part 3

Global Power Project: Central Bankers and the Institute of International Finance, Part 3

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Originally posted at Occupy.com

Left to right: Then-Managing Director of the IIF Charles Dallara, then-President of the European Central Bank Jean-Claude Trichet, then-Governor of the Bank of Canada and Chairman of the Financial Stability Board Mark Carney, then-CEO of Deutsche Bank and Chairman of the IIF Josef Ackermann

Left to right: Then-Managing Director of the IIF Charles Dallara, then-President of the European Central Bank Jean-Claude Trichet, then-Governor of the Bank of Canada and Chairman of the Financial Stability Board Mark Carney, then-CEO of Deutsche Bank and Chairman of the IIF Josef Ackermann

In Part 1 of the Global Power Project exposé on the Institute of International Finance, I examined the origins and evolution of an organization representing the interests of global banks. In Part 2, I looked at the role played by the IIF and its leadership during the European debt crisis. In this third and final part in the series, I examine the relationship between the IIF and global central bankers.

Since the early 1990s, the IIF has been heavily involved working with central bankers, particularly through the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) in Basel, Switzerland, where private bankers have been granted a powerful position determining their own regulations in international financial markets. The IIF has been central throughout the reform of Basel I and the entire process of both Basel II and Basel III – collectively known as the Basel Accords – which were officially organized through the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS), run out of the BIS.

From 1999 to 2004, the Basel Committee organized to impose a new set of global banking regulations, called Basel II. The head of the Basel Committee at the time was William McDonough, then the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and a former Vice Chairman at the First National Bank of Chicago. He was also a founding member of the IIF at the 1982 Ditchley Conference, and remained a member on the board of the IIF from 1984 until 1990.

McDonough later explained: “Without the IIF it would have been far more difficult for regulators, such as the Basel Committee, to fully understand the critical issues that confronted the banks. The meetings with the IIF were an excellent sounding board – we trusted them (the banks) and they trusted us (the regulators).”

At the start of the Basel II process in 1999, the IIF created a special group, the Steering Committee on Regulatory Capital, which was to engage with the Basel Committee on behalf of the global banking industry. The papers put forward by the Steering Committee were ultimately accepted and implemented by the Basel Committee in the final accord, Basel II, essentially allowing the banks to regulate themselves.

The Chair of the Steering Committee, Daniel Bouton, who was also chairman and CEO of the French bank, Société Générale, later commented that, “It was of the utmost importance to try to have a coordinated view of the global banking industry in order to be able to discuss with the Basel Committee the most important questions. In fact, the IIF has been the single platform to forge a consensus between global banks about the key principles. And so it has played a very important part in discussions with the Basel Committee.”

But the relationship between the IIF and central bankers goes beyond the timid attempts at “regulation” on the part of global central banks. In fact, central bankers traverse through the revolving door of financial markets: from the mega-banks into the central banks.

At the mega-banks, the bankers’ job is to maximize profits through financial markets. At central banks, their job is to protect the banks through management of financial markets. It is a relationship of mutual interest, each side in need of the other, and together, with unprecedented power, central bankers and the “too-big-to-fail” mega-banks have become financial institutions that dominate the global economy.

Indeed, the Institute of International Finance has a number of boards which meet regularly that include several central bank chiefs. Notably, there is the IIF’s Group of Trustees of the Principles, with four co-chairs. One of the co-chairs is Agustin Guillermo Carstens, the Governor of the Bank of Mexico, who also sits on the board of directors of the Bank for International Settlements. In addition he is a member of the Steering Committee of the G20 Financial Stability Board (FSB), a group of central bank chiefs and finance ministers from the G20 nations who meet alongside leaders of the BIS, European Central Bank, European Commission, IMF, World Bank and the OECD to determine the world’s response to the recent global financial and economic crises.

The other co-chairs of the IIF’s Group of Trustees include: Christian Noyer, the Governor of the Bank of France (from 2003 to the present) and chairman of the Bank for International Settlements (from 2010 to the present); Zhour Xiaochuan, the Governor of the People’s Bank of China (2002 to the present) and a member of the board of directors of the BIS, as well as chairman of the Chinese Monetary Policy Committee and Vice Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC); and Toshihiko Fukui, former Governor of the Bank of Japan from 2003 to 2008, current president of the Canon Institute for Global Studies, and a former member of the board of the BIS.

Another notable member of the Group of Trustees is Jaime Caruana, the General Manager of the BIS (from 2009 to the present), former Governor of the Bank of Spain, former member of the Governing Council of the European Central Bank (ECB), former Chairman of the Basel Committee, and current member of the G20 Financial Stability Board (FSB). Caruana is also a member of the Group of Thirty, a major think tank bringing together finance chiefs, central bankers and private bankers.

Also on the list is Jean-Claude Trichet, the former President of the European Central Bank from 2003-2011, current chairman of the Group of Thirty, European Chairman of the Trilateral Commission, Chairman of the board of directors of the European think tank BRUEGEL, member of the board of directors of EADS, former president of the Global Economy Meeting of Central Bank Governors at the BIS, former member of the board at the BIS, and current member on the board of the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics, as well as a member of the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Group.

Left to right: IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, then-President of the European Central Bank Jean-Claude Trichet, then-CEO of Deutsche Bank and Chairman of the IIF Josef Ackermann

Left to right: IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, then-President of the European Central Bank Jean-Claude Trichet, then-CEO of Deutsche Bank and Chairman of the IIF Josef Ackermann

Other members of the Group of Trustees include current or former top officials from the Bank of Canada, the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Bank of Italy, the Spanish Ministry of Finance, the IMF, Bank of France, Bank of Brazil, Bank of Chile, Bank of Iceland, German Finance Ministry, the European Central Bank, the World Bank, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA), South African Ministry of Finance, Nigerian Ministry of Finance, and the Turkish Ministry of Finance, among many others.

The Group of Trustees doesn’t merely consist of so-called “public officials,” but also many private bankers and other prominent global power players including top officials from Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Credit Suisse, Commerzbank, Citigroup and others.

Another noteworthy member of the Group of Trustees of the IIF is Paul Volcker, the former Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from 1979 to 1987, who was previously a chief economist at Chase Manhattan Bank (then under the leadership of David Rockefeller) as well as a former Treasury official and former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Volcker has since been Chairman of President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board from 2009 to 2011, a member of the board of directors of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a member of the Executive Committee of the Trilateral Commission, Chairman Emeritus of the Group of Thirty, and a participant at Bilderberg Meetings.

Not only are central bankers, finance ministers and other “public officials” members of various boards at the IIF, but they also attend regular meetings hosted by the IIF, bringing them into consistent, close contact with the leading figures of the world’s largest financial institutions (aka: their real constituents). With the emerging financial crisis in 2007, the IIF hosted a meeting in Washington, DC, over the course of a weekend that they spent “lavishing central bankers and policymakers with praise, awards and banquets,” and as the Financial Times reported, “a genuine warmth appears to have developed between many senior bankers and policymakers.”

At the 2010 annual meeting of the IIF, in the midst of the exploding European debt crisis, notable invited guest speakers included the Greek Finance Minister as well as Olli Rehn, the European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs. In his speech, Rehn made clear that his objective, and that of the European Commission, was to enforce austerity measures and “bold structural reforms,” particularly in “labor and product markets.”

At the 2011 annual meeting of the IIF, guest speakers included the German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble alongside the Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who spoke of the “political and social cost” of the austerity measures in Greece, enforced under the pressure of financial markets, which he claimed were “an important step that will… convince the markets that the Euro Area can indeed protect itself and its member states.”

Also in attendance at the same IIF meeting was Mark Carney, then the Governor of the Bank of Canada, a board member at the BIS, Chairman of the Committee on the Global Financial System at the BIS, incoming Chairman of the Financial Stability Board (FSB), and now also Governor of the Bank of England. While Carney is often praised for being unafraid to confront bankers, he told the annual meeting that “financial institutions and markets should play critical and complimentary roles in supporting long-term economic prosperity,” even while acknowledging that the latest Basel III banking “regulations” (which he was pivotal in forming) would have little effect in making financial markets safer.

At the 2011 meeting, a special tribute was paid to the outgoing president of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, who had done so much to protect financial markets and banks at the expense of the living standards of the EU general population. Special remarks and presentations in honor of Trichet were delivered by Deutsche Bank CEO Josef Ackermann, IIF Managing Director Charles Dallara, Paul Volcker and Mark Carney. Trichet was commended for two “resolutions,” one of which was signed by the finance ministers and central bank governors of the G20 nations, as well as the leaders of the World Bank and IMF (with IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde present at the IIF meeting as well), who praised Trichet for his “steadfast leadership in encouraging the governments of Europe to strengthen economic governance and fiscal discipline in the Euro Area,” as well as for “his leading role among global central bank governors in Basel” at the Bank for International Settlements.

Another “resolution” delivered in honor of Trichet was signed by the board of directors of the IIF who praised him “for his many contributions over the past decades to the stability and soundness of the international financial system and the global economy” – which, if anything, Europe’s crisis in 2011 stood as a profound testament against – and they also thanked Trichet for his “laudable improvements to global financial markets” and for being “a tremendous force behind the development of market-based approaches to debt crisis prevention and resolution.”

It is cause for concern when the world’s biggest bankers sit on the same boards and invite the major regulators, central bank chiefs and finance ministers to their meetings, gathering up awards and praise while keeping those parties firmly entrenched within their sphere of influence. The relationship between private banks and central banks is a complex one that is mired in overlap, mutual interests and mutual benefits: a system in which more profit and power is continually bestowed on ever fewer global banking chiefs and technocrats who are unelected, unaccountable and unapproachable – except, of course, to other members of the Institute of International Finance.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is a 26-year old researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, chair of the Geopolitics Division of The Hampton Institute, research director for Occupy.com’s Global Power Project, and hosts a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.

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