In January 2018, a group of artists and cultural workers based in Brussels—including us, Tiziana Penna and Anna Rispoli—committed to living from the same bank account. All income we receive through wages, unemployment, and other benefits is wired into this shared account. From there, we don’t withdraw the same amount we wired in, but whatever amount each one of us feels we need to live our life, including money for mortgage payments, rent, utilities, childcare, monthly savings, groceries, and clothes, but also for holidays, hobbies, going out, and all the unnecessary consumerism one is drawn to.
For over three centuries, banks have been consolidating their power by extracting interest from people, businesses, governments and the planet. This power helps to explain why politicians and governments bend to their will. Mainstream economists treat money as a neutral medium of exchange and never consider its origin and purpose. Is it meant to serve the people, or to serve the interests of the monied elite alone? Exploring that question helps explain why there’s always plenty of money for military research and development and none for protecting pollinators…and always enough to finance luxury condos instead of affordable dwellings.
Fortunately for the United States, our national debt is in U.S. dollars. As former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan once observed, “The United States can pay any debt it has because we can always print money to do that. So there is zero probability of default.” Paying government debt by just printing the money was the innovative solution of the cash-strapped American colonial governments. The problem was that it tended to be inflationary. The paper scrip they issued was considered an advance against future taxes, but it was easier to issue the money than to tax it back, and over-issuing devalued the currency. The colony of Pennsylvania fixed that problem by forming a government-owned “land bank.”
Have you ever noticed how online capitalism cultists who condescendingly tell socialists they "just don't understand economics" are always unable to lucidly defend their own understanding of economics? If you've never pressed such a character to clearly and concisely explain what it is you "don't understand" using their own words, I highly recommend that you try it, because it's one of the funniest things in the world. If you keep interrogating them about each aspect of their belief system, demanding that they explain exactly what it is they know and how they know it, they will invariably end up getting frustrated and telling you to listen to this or that economist if they don't rage quit on you altogether first.
Frank Tortoriello was the owner of a popular deli on Main Street in Great Barrington. He turned to SHARE when he lost his lease and the bank refused him a loan to renovate his new location. But Frank didn’t need SHARE’s circle of grandmothers; he already had a circle of his own in his customers. SHARE suggested that Frank issue Deli Dollars as a self-financing technique. The notes would be purchased during a month on sale and redeemed after the Deli had made its move. A local artist, Martha Shaw, designed the note, which showed a host of people carrying Frank and his staff, all busy cooking, to their new location. The notes were issued in 1989 and were marked “redeemable for meals up to a value of ten dollars.”
Local initiatives can lead to modest gains in sustainability, but not the large-scale transformation we need. Meeting that challenge will require, among other critical factors, substantial changes in how we create and use money. As its history demonstrates, money is a social and political construct. It is the privatization of money—and not money itself—that has fueled social exploitation and environmental destruction. Money could, by contrast, help advance a Great Transition—but only if it is reclaimed for the public.
“Gone to the Dogs,” Paul Higgins’ canine-friendly café in Carlisle, may seem an unlikely place to look for inspiration in transforming the ways we think about funding for social change. But through ‘pay-it-forward’ fundraising and ‘creative up-cycling’ to re-use resources, Higgins has made the café a center for community in which money builds connection instead of division - a radical reversal of the inequalities that lie at the heart of big philanthropy, foreign aid and government contracting.
You’ve probably heard about their offshore bank accounts, shell corporations, and fancy trusts. But this wealth isn’t all sitting in the Cayman Islands or Panama. Much of it’s hiding in plain view: maybe even in your town. America’s big cities are increasingly dotted with luxury skyscrapers and mansions. These multi-million dollar condos are wealth storage lockers, with the ownership often obscured by shell companies. In Boston, where I live, there’s a luxury building boom. According to a study I just co-authored, out of 1,805 luxury units — with an average price of over $3 million — more than two-thirds are owned by people who don’t live here. One-third are owned by shell companies and trusts that mask their ownership. And of these units, 40 percent are limited liability companies (LLCs) organized in Delaware.
When financial crises and recessions hit, regional and local economies suffer devastating ripple effects. As activists look to shield their local economies from some of the harsh impacts of globalization, they’ve come across one potential solution to tackle the heart of the problem: create community currencies and change the money itself. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis a group of friends on the Italian island of Sardinia set up Sardex, an electronic business-to-business mutual credit system. Six years later, around 140 million euros worth of transactions have been made. Similar models exist across Europe, like Utrechtse Euro in the Netherlands and SoNantes in France. In addition to these trade networks, local currency schemes have been emerging around the world as technological innovations offer new ways to circumvent the usual issues of scale and sustainability.
Public Banks exist around the world. They are used to hold public dollars, such as taxes and fees, to keep the money local so it serves the public interest, instead of giving it to Wall Street banks who charge high fees and interest rates. There is only one public bank so far in the United States, the Bank of North Dakota. It has been in existence for almost 100 years. Now, thanks to the work of the Public Banking Institute, there is a vibrant movement to create more public banks in the U.S. at the city and state level. We speak with Walt McRee and John Comerford about the reasons to support public banks, how they would serve people instead of Wall Street profits and current efforts across the country.
By Staff of Public Banking Institute - Positive Money, the monetary reform group based in the UK, posts that Miguel Ángel Fernández Ordóñez, former governor of Bank of Spain, is now recommending money creation by public entity instead of by private banks. He references the advances in technology that would allow safe public issuing. He came to the Spanish Lower House on Nov 7, 2017 and said the following: “In the latest years, some analysts have emerged who are evaluating the possibility to change current money creation system by private banks and to substitute it with another one which would let every citizen deposit their money at central banks. These studies have surged, because the technological advances in the computing and data storage, have made it technically possible today for money to be issued by the State, and not by private banks which would be of course doing their businesses in the assets’ side, but without the need that their problems should be resolved by the State, as deposits would be completely safe at the issuing bank. The possibility to issue public and safe money thanks to new technologies, according to these researchers, would have positive consequences, not only for the system's stability, but also to reduce or even do without the huge prudential regulation which is today damaging financial innovation.
By Adam Gaffney for New Republic - In 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control, some 33,091 people died as a result of an opioid overdose. The final 2016 figure, there is little doubt, will be even higher. Last year, researchers at the CDC put the “societal” cost of the opioid epidemic at $78.5 billion for 2013. Some of that figure includes spending on healthcare and on criminal justice related to the trade in opioids. But much of the $78.5 billion represents something less tangible: “lost productivity.” The researchers estimated that the lost future economic output of Americans affected by the epidemic—those who were disabled by opioid dependence, who died prematurely, or were incarcerated—amounted to $41.9 billion a year. And in November, the White House made headlines by putting an even bigger price tag—$504 billion—on the opioid epidemic, by adding to this a dollar value for each life lost, the so-called “value of a statistical life.” The idea of putting a price on health—or life and death—may seem intuitive, even natural, in an age in which the human body is commonly conceived as a sort of investment. “When I’m at a country club or a party and people ask me what I do, I say I’m an asset manager,” said one concierge physician (annual fee: $40,000 and up) whose practice was recently profiled in the New York Times. “When they ask what asset, I point to their body.”
By Steve Grumbine. It has long been known that our electoral system and methods of voting are corrupt, untrustworthy, and easily manipulated by less than savvy politicians, state actors, and hackers alike. The answers to many of these issues is the same answer that we would need to push for any progressive reforms to take place in the United States: namely, we need enlightened, fiery, peaceful, and committed activists to propel a movement and ensure that the people rise, face their oppressors, and unify to demand that their needs be met. What is not as well-known, however, is how a movement, the government, and taxes work together to bring about massive changes in programs, new spending, and the always scary “National Debt” .
By Robert E. Scott for Economic Policy Institute. The first round of the Trump administration’s NAFTA renegotiations began in Washington wrapped up on Saturday. The negotiators will meet again in September in Mexico City and then again in October in Canada. The United States has not yet proposed any specific measures on important issues such as labor rights, currency manipulation, or rules of origin. By all accounts, these negotiations are more likely to hurt than help most working Americans, who would be better served by efforts to target countries with large, global trade surpluses such as China, the European Union (EU) and Japan. Rather than tinkering around the edges of NAFTA, the United States should begin a campaign to realign the U.S. dollar and rebalance global trade.
By Ellen Brown for Web Of Debt Blog - If the Federal Reserve raises the fed funds rate to 3.5% and sells its federal securities into the market, as it is proposing to do, by 2026 the projected tab will be $830 billion annually. That’s nearly $1 trillion owed by the taxpayers every year, just for interest. Personal income taxes are at record highs, ringing in at $550 billion in the first four months of fiscal year 2017, or $1.6 trillion annually. But even at those high levels, handing over $830 billion to bondholders will wipe out over half the annual personal income tax take. Yet what is the alternative? Japan seems to have found one. While the US government is busy driving up its “sovereign” debt and the interest owed on it, Japan has been canceling its debt at the rate of $720 billion (¥80tn) per year. How? By selling the debt to its own central bank, which returns the interest to the government. While most central banks have ended their quantitative easing programs and are planning to sell their federal securities, the Bank of Japan continues to aggressively buy its government’s debt. An interest-free debt owed to oneself that is rolled over from year to year is effectively void – a debt “jubilee.” As noted by fund manager Eric Lonergan in a February 2017 article: The Bank of Japan is in the process of owning most of the outstanding government debt of Japan (it currently owns around 40%).