from the transcript:
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington.
Most central banks around the world preach fiscal discipline. Inflation is their biggest concern. And even when they do enter into some stimulus policies, the final objective is still the issue of lowering debt. Well, one central bank in the world apparently has a growth agenda, and that’s in Argentina.
Now joining us to talk about this is John Weeks. John just was in Argentina not very long ago. He’s a professor emeritus at the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies. He’s the author of the book Capital, Exploitation and Economic Crisis. He runs JWeeks.org. And he now joins us again from London. Thanks, John.
JOHN WEEKS, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, UNIV. OF LONDON: Thank you.
JAY: So what did you make of what the central bank’s doing in Argentina?
WEEKS: It’s tremendously important, because in the 1990s Argentina was the epitome of a neoliberal monetary policy. It had something called a currency board, and that currency board involves taking the foreign exchange you hold, which is, in the case of Argentina, dollars, and that your domestic money supply is rigidly tied to the amount of dollars you hold. Of course, the amount of dollars you hold is a result of your imports and exports, the balance between the two, and so in effect you have no independent monetary policy. And it tended to be quite deflationary, that is, it tended to cause not only very low inflation, but actually negative rates, and also very slow growth.
At the end of the 1990s, the disaster that that policy had inherent in it was realized, and in 2001 and 2002 Argentina could no longer maintain that policy, because what it meant, basically, is that if you began to lose dollars because you were—Argentina was running a trade deficit, it meant you had to contract the economy, because you had to take your domestic currency out of circulation, more and more of your domestic currency out of circulation. And that led initially to a severe recession in the economy. When that could no longer be maintained and they temporarily went off the currency board, you had hyperinflation for a year.
Okay. The current government of Cristina Fernández has repudiated that policy. They have introduced a new central bank law (they had actually been practicing it, but they formalized it in this last March, just two months ago) which completely ends the currency board regime and replaces it with a central bank that facilitates a growth-oriented policy of the government. And it also is concerned about inflation, but inflation no longer becomes a constraint, the tail that wags the whole dog.
Banking on GreedJuly 13, 2012
Just when you think the reputation of banks couldn’t get any worse, comes word that we’ve seen nothing yet. As many as 20 banking institutions, including Barclays Bank, Deutsche Bank, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, UBS and HSBC, are reportedly under investigation for illegal and unethical practices toward protecting their profits at all costs and letting others pay for their mistakes. In this episode, financial expert Sheila Bair talks with Bill about the lawlessness of our banking system and the prognosis for meaningful reform. Bair was appointed in 2006 by President George W. Bush to chair the FDIC. During the 2008 meltdown, she argued that in some cases banks were NOT too big to fail — that instead of bailouts, they should be sold off to healthier competitors. Now a senior adviser to the Pew Charitable Trusts, Bair has organized a private group of financial experts including former Fed chairman Paul Volcker, former Senators Bill Bradley and Alan Simpson, and John Reed, once the chairman of Citicorp, to explore ways to prevent the banking industry from scuttling reforms created by the Dodd-Frank Act.
Also on the show, Bill talks to scientist and philosopher Vandana Shiva, who’s become a rock star in the global battle over genetically modified seeds. These seeds — considered “intellectual property” by the big companies who own the patents — are globally marketed to monopolize food production and profits. Opponents challenge the safety of genetically modified seeds, claiming they also harm the environment, are more costly, and leave local farmers deep in debt as well as dependent on suppliers. Shiva, who founded a movement in India to promote native seeds, links genetic tinkering to problems in our ecology, economy, and humanity, and sees this as the latest battleground in the war on Planet Earth.
Footage from Bitter Seeds courtesy of Teddy Bear Films
As you may or may not be aware, I am a proud citizen of the teetering-on-the-precipice-of-disaster burg of Baltimore, Maryland. Home of Earl Weaver, William Donald Schaefer, Brooks Robinson and numerous other dead or dying Caucasian nonagenarains who were last nationally relevant in the 1980′s. As part of our tireless quirky charm (hence the name “Tireless Quirky Charm City”), our election cycle for mayor falls on odd-numbered years. I’m sure there’s a boring explanation somewhere, but basically I’m saying (by way of padding) that our mayoral election is this year.
So far, the present Mayor, whose predecessor resigned following a conviction for stealing Target Gift Cards from needy children, has been a stalwart champion of the little man. And of course, by “little man” I mean WalMart and European-style open wheel rally races (the sport of the working man- of Monaco). And lest I forget, there are the least fortunate in our nation, development firms with sufficient capital to buy “bundles” of vacant housing. Ya know, Joe Lunchpail and Johnny BuyALargeChunkOfRealEstateWithCash.
Meanwhile, a few prominent challengers (Otis Rolley and Jody Landers) have emerged, both with visions. Blurry, baffling visions in which a city that constantly kvetches about being flat broke can solve its problems buy making massive cuts to the revenue stream of the same. Rolley has been quoted as wanting to cut the property taxes by fifty percent over eight years. Of course, anti-tax horseshit aside, this raises a more nagging question- how would this benefit the nearly 50% of the citizenry who don’t own their homes?
Look, I understand that for people who owned black and white TVs and phones with dials, owning a home is the end-all-be-all of human existence. But for most young working people, the idea of coming up with ten to twenty grand for a down payment is as laughable as the idea of running a European-styled motor race through the downtown of a majority-black city. As such, it is completely tone deaf in an era when ALL city residents are receiving reduced services due to allegedly slumping revenues to parade around promising tax cuts that will in no way benefit a large segment of the city’s population.
You know who WILL benefit from a big cut in property taxes? Tom Clancy. And of course, all of his millionaire buddies who own waterfront condos. Condos that, I’m sure, have private security and ADT to compensate for the fact that there won’t be any cops around if there’s an issue. And who needs public schools when you have private tutors? Tutors who, hopefully, don’t mind that the welfare of their city is being flushed down the drain because every single one of our city’s politicians is still in the thrall of Reagan’s siren song of trickle down drivel. I really dearly wish that I lived in a world where HALF of the voting population would merit at least a passing mention from one so-called “serious” contender for the top job in Baltimore.
Oh, by the way, did I mention that ALL of these guys are Democrats? Of course they are.
Austerity-Mania has gripped the entirety of the nation’s political class (read: “rich white people”), and sadly allegedly liberal Maryland is no exception. Despite resisting the Republican Wave of 2010 and handly re-electing a (supposedly) liberal Democrat Governor, Maryland’s proposed 2011 budget is long on cuts in both education and public works, and extremely short of tax increases for the wealthy and corporations.
Fortunately, the resurgence in the labor movement sparked by the action in Wisconsin has also caught on here in Maryland- as many as 15,000 rank and file, leadership and progressive activists took to the streets of Annapolis and demanded that Democrats who ran on their reputation as the party of labor “Keep the Promise” and balance the budget in a way that doesn’t decimate their ranks and the collective future of the state.
Governor O’Malley, always the opportunist, appeared and quickly reminded the collected crowd (some of whom greeted him with jeers) that the Democrats value labor not for their contributions, but for their campaign money and their votes:
“Look we have tough decisions ahead of us,” O’Malley said. “But we are committed to staying at the table, and figuring this out together” with the unions, he said.
Note there were no promises to preserve pensions or find a way to balance the budget without vicious slashing of education funding and public works. While the above link claims that the crowd was disarmed, I was there and I can report that the majority in attendance were not sold. In fact, it was widely reported that union leadership had resolved not to allow politicians to participate and that the Governor’s staff simply “insisted” that O’Malley be allowed to address the crowd.
Regardless, to see a crowd in Annapolis of this size should give progressives hope that despite the platitudes of centrist hucksters like O’Malley and OFA, there is a legitimate and robust progressive movement being born in this nation- one that is not dependent on the Democrats and their agenda of surrender- one that will hopefully turn back the insane tide of austerity and redistribution of wealth to the richest Americans.
Chris has the details at his new digs, whatever that place is called. There are various actions associated with this as well, particularly if you live in Wisconsin, where signatures will be required.
We arrived about 45 minutes before the scheduled start of the rally and sought warmth in a local coffee shop down the street from the capitol building. I noticed two women I’d seen driving up to Lansing and asked if they were going to the rally. They both worked at one of the UoM medical centers in Ann Arbor. One of them said she was there because as a former member of SDS she felt like her youthful ambitions to achieve social justice were as yet unrealized and she hoped to help carry the struggle forward. She was motivated in part by political goals and in part (I felt) to renew her enthusiasm from an earlier phase in her life. Her friend was there because she feared Gov. Snyder’s plan would undermine her family’s economic security. Their motivations struck me as emblematic of the event with so many coming with differing motivations but responding to the same spark and hoping to move together in a similar direction.
We arrived on site about 15 minutes early and there were already a couple of hundred people on site. Their numbers kept growing for the next two hours while we were there. As some people started to drift away after about an hour more arrived to take their places. Chants of “fed up, fired up” and “tax the rich” and “stand up” filled the air.
About 15 minutes before the rally officially began. It was cold, maybe low 20s.
People were streaming in from all direction and the overflow spilled onto the side paths.
About an 1 hour into the rally, nearing peak numbers, at least for the 2 hours I was there.
A shot giving some sense of the scale. This is just after we left at about 2:15 for a rally that began at 12. You can see the crowd pretty much dominates the approach to the building.
This sign was the clear winner of my much-coveted award for sign creativity. Most signs were hand made.
A couple of thoughts I hope you will take as reflective and constructive where I choose to offer a critique. Events are hard to organize, especially on relatively short notice, in the middle of a harsh winter. Because leftists lack the “submit to power” gene that divides us from the GOPers and right wingers, there were the usual displays and range of personalities. We are people not machines, after all.
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Just a quickie, but it was nice to see a decent crowd in San Diego to support the folks in Wisconsin. Over a thousand people, which given the rain, was pretty good for SD. I hope the next one is much bigger. Very little media there. Just a couple stations and a couple web based operations. No righties. No police presence at all, which is unusual to say the least. Here’s a few pictures:
I tell ya, these folks really know how to cheer a person up.
I could do this every week!
I stole the idea for this post, but I don’t think John will mind. Below are a few shots I grabbed at the action on Wednesday at the capital. In Annapolis. So if nothing else you can tell your friends that today you learned that the capital of Maryland is Annapolis.
As I mentioned in a previous post, Maryland is possibly the bluest state in the union. Despite no immediate threat to collective bargaining (save for some attempts by municipalities to cover their fiscal mistakes with union wages), over 100 souls braved the winter weather (a flash snow storm that rolled in the night before) to show their support for their brethren in the midwest.
And my favorite shot, in reference to the aforementioned weather…
Perhaps, for once, when people say that “the time is now”…well, maybe the time really IS now.