RWER issue 55: Michael Hudson
U.S.“quantitative easing” is fracturing the Global Economy
Michael Hudson [Levy Economics Institute and Uni. of Missouri, K.C, USA]
Great structural changes in world trade and finance occur quickly – by quantum leaps, not by slow marginal accretions. The 1945-2010 era of relatively open trade, capital movements and foreign exchange markets is being destroyed by a predatory financial opportunism that is breaking the world economy into two spheres: a dollar sphere in which central banks in Europe, Japan and many OPEC and Third World countries hold their reserves the form of U.S. Treasury debt of declining foreign-exchange value; and a BRIC-centered sphere, led by China, India, Brazil and Russia, reaching out to include Turkey and Iran, most of Asia, and major raw materials exporters that are running trade surpluses.
What is reversing trends that seemed irreversible for the past 65 years is the manner in which the United States has dealt with its bad-debt crisis. The Federal Reserve and Treasury are seeking to inflate the economy out of debt with an explosion of bank liquidity and credit – which means yet more debt. This is occurring largely at other countries’ expense, in a way that is flooding the global economy with electronic “keyboard” bank credit while the U.S. balance-of-payments deficit widens and U.S. official debt soars beyond any foreseeable means to pay. The dollar’s exchange rate is plunging, and U.S. money managers themselves are leading a capital flight out of the domestic economy to buy up foreign currencies and bonds, gold and other raw materials, stocks and entire companies with cheap dollar credit.
This outflow from the dollar is not the kind of capital that takes the form of tangible investment in plant and equipment, buildings, research and development. It is not a creation of assets as much as the creation of debt, and its multiplication by mirroring, credit insurance, default swaps and an array of computerized forward trades. The global financial system has decoupled from trade and investment, taking on a life of its own.
In fact, financial conquest is seeking today what military conquest did in times past: control of land and basic infrastructure, industry and mining, banking systems and even government finances to extract the economic surplus as interest and tollbooth-type economic rent charges. U.S. officials euphemize this policy as “quantitative easing.” The Federal Reserve is flooding the banking system with so much liquidity that Treasury bills now yield less than 1%, and banks can draw freely on Fed credit. Japanese banks have seen yen borrowing rates fall to 0.25%.
This policy is based on a the wrong-headed idea that if the Fed provides liquidity, banks will take the opportunity to lend out credit at a markup, “earning their way out of debt” – inflating the economy in the process.
The whole paper may be read at: http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue55/Hudson55.pdf