QE For the People: What Else Could We Buy With $29 Trillion? (September 24, 2012)
Central banks could be helping communities instead of enriching predatory, parasitic “too big to fail” banks and financial feudalism.
In a system that depends on lies and the credulity of the citizenry, the greatest lie is that the Federal Reserve’s “quantitative easing” bailouts of the banks somehow help our citizens and communities.
To clarify this, ask yourself this question: what else could we have bought with the $29 trillion the Fed loaned or backstopped to the banks?
If you enjoy quibbling about the total sum of Fed support, be my guest; the Levy Institute came up with $29 trillion after poring over all the data, while the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) tally topped $16 trillion. That’s 100% of the nation’s GDP and roughly 100% of the $16 trillion national debt.
While we’re asking about opportunity costs, let’s ask what else we could have bought with the $10 trillion that the Federal government has borrowed and blown in the past 11.7 years. The national debt was $5.727 trillion when G.W. Bush was sworn into office on January 20, 2001. It had risen to $10.626 trillion when President Obama was sworn into office in January, 2009. It is now $16.016 trillion, an increase of $5 trillion in less than four years in “debt held by the public” (i.e. the Chinese central bank, the Japanese central bank, the Federal Reserve, etc.)
You can check the totals for any recent date on treasurydirect.gov.
From time to time I have suggested alternatives to “wars of choice” and bailing out the financial Plutocracy, for example Cost of Iraq War: $3 Trillion; Cost of Solar Plants to Power all 105 million U.S Households: $500 Billion (April 10, 2008) and We’re Dropping the Ball on Renewable Energy (June 25, 2011).
$500 billion is roughly 3% of $16 trillion. That is rather astounding, isn’t it? We could have switched to a (largely) solar-powered electrical grid for a mere 3% of what the Fed squandered to save the “too big to fail” banks. Yes, yes, I know we need a massive energy storage system for any solar-powered grid; shall we throw $1.1 trillion at the problem? That would total a mere 10% of what the Fed has provided to “save” crony-capitalist financial feudalism.
Correspondent S.H. (U.K.) has provided a community-centric, forward-looking alternative use of central-bank QE. Here are some excerpts from his essay Making Quantitative Easing Useful. I encourage you to read the entire essay, as it speaks to much more than what we could buy with the QE squandered on protecting financial feudalism. Though S.H. references QE in Britain (U.K.), the dynamics and opportunity costs are identical in the U.S. and every other nation burdened with the malinvestment of preserving a corrupt, exploitive, predatory neofeudalist financial system.
Looking at the state of the country and the economy, then one has to say that we seemed to have gotten precious little out of such a massive mal-investment. In fact, the majority are actually worse off on account of the inflationary effects of QE and its negative impact on pensions, savers and working salaries.So now we have institutions that talk about investment, that talk about growth, that talk about rebalancing economies, that talk about big societies, but then do absolutely nothing in order to engineer or bring the changes they propose about – as frankly – it-s just too difficult for their limited understandings.
Let us be optimistic and not turn a drama into a crisis, but rather turn a dramatic crisis into a rather amazing transformational opportunity. Instead of being fearful and not engaging with the problems we face, we need to confront them and start thinking in new ways and generate some form of political, social and economic excitement.
This is not socialism. Socialism is the mis-guided concept of a government centrally determining and engineering its population in their most narrowly conceived ‘productive’ form. Socialism sees humanity as something to engineer as a human resource or raw material for the dominating demands of industrial mass ‘productivity’.
Socialism tries to mass-produce its people on an industrial scale as just so many productive clones. I would reject this notion on the grounds that it is totalitarian and too restrictive. Instead of socialism I would rather pursue a politics that engenders and fosters sociability, co-operation and affability and a ‘productivity’ or even non-productivity conceived in all sorts of new ways.
A big society needs big communities with great amenities. Instead of massive dubious crony capitalist infrastructure projects determined by national governments for the limited benefits of those few corporations large enough to take them on, each community could study their communities and democratically decide what amenities needed building and how they could be generally improved.
If we decide we are interested in becoming fit and healthy then every community obviously needs excellent sporting facilities, so should have a gymnasium, all weather soccer pitches, basketball, tennis and squash courts, running tracks, cricket pitches etc. We need many more swimming pools.
Each community also needs an infrastructure of useful buildings. An auditorium that can be used for community decision making, for theatre and for local musicians to perform in. Such buildings could also be used to hold wedding receptions and host other social occasions. They should be freely made available as temporary market places, or for martial arts instruction, music tuition, dance instruction, keep-fit and a host of other uses. Public recording studios, video studios, woodworking centres, and art facilities could all be put in place.
We all have different skills and knowledge, yet we lack the sufficient community infrastructure to share our skills and teach one and other how to do things. How to grow your own fruit and vegetables and how to cook healthy and well balanced meals, how to draw and paint or make pottery, how to make films and documentaries, how to design electrical circuits or program chips, how to design, program, maintain and host web sites. The greater parts of our educations and knowledge is acquired outside of education systems and stem from researching and following our own particular interests.
To be sure there a great many excellent videos published on the internet that can show you a lot, but its not the same as being shown in person when in addition to a social aspect of meeting people with similar interests, it is also possible to have points of difficulty clarified or allow for skills feedback where applicable.
If we’re going to print money then local authorities or even communities themselves can issue 30 year bonds which the central bank purchases, eventually to retire. Communities then start building their improved amenities using exclusively local companies labour and local firms buying all supplies locally. We have an opportunity to build ourselves a prettier, healthier, more co-operative and socially cohesive world and create many construction jobs that will make a real difference in the economics and quality of life within each community directly.
Such an approach will also help recapitalize the banking system as all the money will eventually end up on deposit with banks as assets.
In economic terms we need at least 100 public state of the art CAM (computer aided manufacturing) centres. As we all have computers and CAD (computer aided design) software is readily available, so in principle there is nothing to stop us from designing chairs, guitars, hose fittings, tables….the list is endless. With laser cutting machines, CNC routers, Object or 3D printers the technology is available for everyone to design and produce prototypes, objects for sale or for themselves. It’s easy to design something, what is incredibly difficult in getting it into production.
The potential for self-design and the realization of creative potentials is stunning. The technologies are all currently available to put this in place, we merely have to establish the infrastructure and means of transmission between systems.
With 100 or more CAM centres to which the public could simply upload their CAD design s for one off or limited productions runs, we could release the amazing amount of national talent the we have always had by making it impossible for anyone not to be able to produce something.
Whether their productions be commercial or for personal consumption or produced as gifts would not matter because a lot a great products will be designed and realized for larger scale production, based simply upon the law of averages. Such centres would also be available for schools where serious educational investments need to be made in the areas of engineering and design and technology. The more one is allowed to design the objects of one’s own consumption, the more one is inclined to build more quality into the object and take much more pride and care of ownership of it as it is such a personal process that involves deep personal investments.
At the same time, by making such investments then there are great rewards to be made in terms of the acquisition of new skills and knowledge and also in terms of creative self-achievements. This is productivity as a form of the consumption of the objects one produces and the self achievement and self determination that arises from being part of the whole productive process. We are all prototypes, waiting to construct ourselves and our worlds according to our own best desires, interests and wishes.
In our current societies, as much as the objects that surround us also define us, then they are not of our own designs and making. Inevitably we live as kind of mass-produced consumer clones. As new technologies continue to develop and emerge that suggest that there is no reason for this to remain to be the case.
With this new model, governments could set up centres for manufacturing and the people own the means of production, but one would be engaged within it freely on a democratic and completely ad hoc basis where one always becomes engaged and involved precisely around one’s own particular aims and interests. This is to maximize satisfaction from the entire process of production from design and inception to its physical realization.
Communities need facilities in order to grow and develop the kind of cohesive social bonds needed to move forward together. It is the task of governments at local and national levels to be the facilitators of such movements.
Thank you, S.H., for a thoughtful and thought-provoking exploration of central bank-supported loans for actual community development. Yes, it can be argued that some of these projects may be a “waste of money.” Once again I ask: what did we get for $16 trillion? Did we get anything that actually aided citizens and communities? That the “too big to fail” banks have maintained their chokehold on the nation–how did that aid citizens and communities?
If the TBTF banks had been liquidated instead of “saved,” the nation could have 500 regional banks that were liquid and well-regulated instead of a feudal “blob” that sets the agenda for the Fed and the machinery of governance.
The parasitic financial sector has looted the nation, and the Federal Reserve is the enabler of this predation. There are alternatives to crony-capitalist neofeudalism, if only we’re brave enough and thoughtful enough to stop supporting our financial and political Aristocracies.
We are like passengers on the Titanic ten minutes after its fatal encounter with the iceberg: though our financial system seems unsinkable, its reliance on debt and financialization has already doomed it.
We cannot know when the Central State and financial system will destabilize, we only know they will destabilize. We cannot know which of the State’s fast-rising debts and obligations will be renounced; we only know they will be renounced in one fashion or another.
The process of the unsustainable collapsing and a new, more sustainable model emerging is called revolution.
Rather than being powerless, we hold the fundamental building blocks of power. We need neither permission nor political change to liberate ourselves. A powerless individual becomes powerful when he renounces the lies and complicity that enable the doomed Status Quo’s dominance.