Michael Hudson on the making of the crisis
from Merijn Knibbe
I stumbled upon what for me is the best analysis of the crisis I’ve read up to know: an article from Michael Hudson. An excerpt:
In this new financialized warfare, governments are being directed to act as enforcement agents on behalf of the financial conquerors against their own domestic populations. This is not new, to be sure. We have seen the IMF and World Bank impose austerity on Latin American dictatorships, African military chiefdoms and other client oligarchies from the 1960s through the 1980s. Ireland and Greece, Spain and Portugal are now to be subjected to similar asset stripping as public policy making is shifted into the hands of supra-governmental financial agencies acting on behalf of bankers – and thereby for the top 1% of the population.
When debts cannot be paid or rolled over, foreclosure time arrives. For governments, this means privatization selloffs to pay creditors. In addition to being a property grab, privatization aims at replacing public sector labor with a non-union work force having fewer pension rights, health care or voice in working conditions. The old class war is thus back in business – with a financial twist. By shrinking the economy, debt deflation helps break the power of labor to resist.
It also gives creditors control of fiscal policy. In the absence of a pan-European Parliament empowered to set tax rules, fiscal policy passes to the ECB. Acting on behalf of banks, the ECB seems to favor reversing the 20th century’s drive for progressive taxation. And as U.S. financial lobbyists have made clear, the creditor demand is for governments to re-classify public social obligations as “user fees,” to be financed by wage withholding turned over to banks to manage (or mismanage, as the case may be). Shifting the tax burden off real estate and finance onto labor and the “real” economy thus threatens to become a fiscal grab coming on top of the privatization grab.
This is self-destructive short-termism. The irony is that the PIIGS budget deficits stem largely from un-taxing property, and a further tax shift will worsen rather than help stabilize government budgets. But bankers are looking only at what they can take in the short run. They know that whatever revenue the tax collector relinquishes from real estate and business is “free” for buyers to pledge to the banks as interest. So Greece and other oligarchic economies are told to “pay their way” by slashing government social spending (but not military spending for the purchase of German and French arms) and shifting taxes onto labor and industry, and onto consumers in the form of higher user fees for public services not yet privatized.
In Britain, Prime Minister Cameron claims that scaling back government even more along Thatcherite-Blairite lines will leave more labor and resources available for private business to hire. Fiscal cutbacks will indeed throw labor out of work, or at least oblige it to find lower-paid jobs with fewer rights. But cutting back public spending will shrink the business sector as well, worsening the fiscal and debt problems by pushing economies deeper into recession.
If governments cut back their spending to reduce the size of their budget deficits – or if they raise taxes on the economy at large, to run a surplus – then these surpluses will suck money out of the economy, leaving less to be spent on goods and services. The result can only be unemployment, further debt defaults and bankruptcies. We may look to Iceland and Latvia as canaries in this financial coalmine. Their recent experience shows that debt deflation leads to emigration, shortening life spans, lower birth rates, marriages and family formation – but provides great opportunities for vulture funds to suck wealth upward to the top of the financial pyramid.
Today’s economic crisis is a matter of policy choice, not necessity.
Read the whole thing.