I’m Ben Norton, and this is Geopolitical Economy Report. Today, I have the pleasure of being joined by Michael Hudson, the brilliant economist and author of many books. Michael is also the co-host of a program here, Geopolitical Economy Hour, which he does every two weeks with friend of the show Radhika Desai. I had Michael on in March to discuss the collapse of three U.S. banks in just one week – that was Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank, and Silvergate Bank. Yet the crisis has continued since then, and I knew I needed to bring back Michael to talk about the latest developments. In just two months, four banks in the United States have collapsed.
In early 2019 in Illinois, a farmworker, his wife and his son lived in a moldy house. Attempting to keep the winter cold at bay, he’d spray-foamed the windows shut. The toilet often malfunctioned. Unlike most farmworker housing, it hadn’t been inspected — the employer hadn’t registered it with the state. But the man had another option. He complained to a state employee whose job is to advocate for farmworkers’ rights. A crucial component of the advocate’s job is visiting fields and housing and forwarding complaints to law enforcement. Several farmworkers a week were contacted through this outreach. Between 2018 and 2020, Illinois forwarded 10 complaints — ranging from being sprayed twice by pesticides to illegally garnishing wages for medical treatment — to authorities.
The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and the 50 billion dollar injection to Credit Suisse highlights the precarious state of the banking system. While the banks claim that they are too big to fail, the reality is that the people who suffer the most when banks collapse are ordinary Americans. The rich can protect themselves by moving their money into offshore accounts or investing in other assets. But the poor and working-class Americans who have their savings in these banks will lose everything if banks collapse. On this episode of Behind the Headlines, Lee Camp interviews James Fauntleroy, a regular contributor to the Revolutionary Blackout Network (RBN) show.
East Palestine, Ohio - In the village of East Palestine, on a late Friday evening, a Norfolk Southern freight train derailed on the Ohio side of the Pennsylvania border, causing tanker cars to rupture and catch fire, releasing thousands of tons of hazardous chemical compounds into the surrounding land and atmosphere. At the time of the crash, the known chemicals aboard included the highly toxic vinyl chloride and hydrogen chloride. An EPA document dump on February 12 revealed additional carcinogenic chemicals were aboard too, as well as some highly flammable solvents and gases.
At the end of July, Microsoft and Google’s parent company, Alphabet, presented their latest and relatively disappointing economic results blaming it on the macroeconomic distress. What may have gone unnoticed is that both companies referred to their clouds as the main engines of growth. The cloud was also responsible for Amazon’s better-than-expected quarterly results. The cloud refers to computing services, including software, hardware, and platforms offered as services through the Internet instead of running locally on individual computers. By 2025, 45% of the world’s data storage will be on the cloud. We are constantly storing information and accessing online applications through the cloud. Moving operations to the cloud is also crucial for companies.
In 2017, the Trump administration sided with industry lobbyists and rescinded safety rules governing thousands of chemical plants across America. Five years later — after multiple chemical plant explosions in the Houston area — government investigators are telling lawmakers that a lack of federal regulation is heightening the risk of chemical disasters during climate change-related extreme weather events at thousands of facilities nationwide. President Joe Biden’s administration is considering issuing a new rule regulating such facilities — but not until next summer. Chemical companies and industry groups have already sicced their lobbyists on the EPA to stop the new rules, arguing that, despite all evidence to the contrary, their members are well-prepared for disasters and will only be made more vulnerable by new regulations.
When a Canadian company started drilling for oil and gas near Jim and Sue Franklin’s ranch in a small Permian Basin town called Verhalen, Texas, it didn’t bother the couple too much at first. But Sue suspects that it was the third well that started causing problems. “They put up these big signs that said, ‘H2S gas, danger, keep out, blah blah blah,’” she says. The well was being drilled in what’s called a sour-gas field, an oil field that naturally has a high concentration of a deadly gas called hydrogen sulfide (H2S). The company promised the Franklins that the gas — which can cause headaches, irritate respiratory systems, and even be fatal in high concentrations — would never get into their home, despite the fact that it was barely a mile away.
The legacy of Cesar Chavez has been getting another look in recent months. In January, President Joe Biden placed a bust of the 20th-century labor leader in the Oval Office, giving journalists the opportunity to reexamine how Chavez fought for farmworkers, while commentators on social media noted that Chavez’s treatment of undocumented immigrants, at certain points during his life, complicates his image as a tireless champion of migrant laborers. But a sinister reexamination of Chavez’s legacy is also happening. A California labor regulation that resulted from his campaigning is under threat from the Supreme Court at the urging of dark money-funded right-wing think tanks.
In an act of appalling hubris, the oil and gas industry is asking the federal government to loosen enforcement of federal regulations on public lands in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Kathleen Sgamma of the Western Energy Alliance, one of the petroleum industry’s primary lobbying groups, was quoted in EnergyWire as seeking one-year extensions for two-year drilling permits and 10-year federal mineral leases, a change that would allow them to hold onto unused leases they are stockpiling. Sgamma also referenced changes to compliance requirements and “royalty and fee waivers” for the world’s wealthiest industry. Robert McEntyre of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association is quoted in the same story as seeking “commonsense flexibilities” when it comes to complying with federal regulations.
It took three years but a leading U.S. regulator finally got tough with probably the most lawless large U.S. financial institution. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, an arm of the Treasury Department, recently took action against a former chief executive of Wells Fargo. The action was in connection with the scandal in which the bank pressured employees to create bogus accounts to extract millions in fees from unsuspecting customers.
Today, in a historic ruling, the non-profit group Equal Citizens obtained a judicial ruling that, for the first time since Citizens United, could restore limits on donations to Super PACs and independent groups. The case was brought by a cross-partisan group of three Alaska citizens—Donna Patrick and Pat Lambert of Fairbanks, and James Barnett of Anchorage—who jointly challenged Alaska’s 2012 decision to abandon enforcement of strict limits on donations to independent political groups.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Authorities seized more than $1.5 billion worth of illegally grown marijuana plants in California this year — an amount an industry expert said is roughly equal to the state’s entire legal market — as part of an annual eradication program, officials said Monday. The raids netted more than 950,000 plants from nearly 350 growing operation sites this year through the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting program, an effort known as CAMP that dates to 1983 and is considered the nation’s largest illegal marijuana eradication program.
A federal appeals court has vacated and remanded the “arbitrary and capricious” Federal Communications Commission’s decision to allow AT&T Inc., Verizon, and other wireless carriers, cell phone facilities owners and operators to bypass historic preservation and environmental reviews for 5G networks. On August 9, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously denied the FCC order that would have exempted 800,000 or more small cell construction (cell antenna facilities) from historic-preservation review under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA)...
Last Friday, October 11, a “Virtual Pipeline” truck carrying compressed natural gas crashed on a highway in Orange, Massachusetts, killing the driver, leaking the potent greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere, and leading local authorities to evacuate nearby residents. “Let me put this in perspective, if one of these trucks blew up in the right conditions, it could destroy a neighborhood,” said Bill Huston, director of a research and advocacy program called Terra Vigilate, and one of a small group of advocates raising awareness about the extreme risks of fire and explosion of Virtual Pipeline trucks.
In July 2015 workers at the Garden Creek I Gas Processing Plant, in Watford City, North Dakota, noticed a leak in a pipeline and reported a spill to the North Dakota Department of Health that remains officially listed as 10 gallons, the size of two bottled water delivery jugs. But a whistle-blower has revealed to DeSmog the incident is actually on par with the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, which released roughly 11 million gallons of thick crude.