Review: Come Home America: The Rise and Fall (and Redeeming Promise) of Our Country

5 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Banks, Fed, Money, & Concentrated Wealth, Civil Society, Congress (Failure, Reform), Consciousness & Social IQ, Corruption, Culture, Research, Democracy, Economics, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Future, History, Intelligence (Collective & Quantum), Intelligence (Public), Justice (Failure, Reform), Misinformation & Propaganda, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Philosophy, Politics, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Priorities, Public Administration, Survival & Sustainment, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Read Fire Side Chat Review–This is Supplemental

February 20, 2010

William Greider

Very rarely do I find reviews as lengthy as my own. Please read and appreciate the Fireside Chat review that is deservedly popular with readers. I first encountered William Greider while managing the international conference on “National Security and National Competitiveness: Open Source Solutions,” and I realized that the way the US Government was mis-managing our democracy and our public commons was central to the demise of America. The two books I have most appreciated by him are Who Will Tell The People? : The Betrayal Of American Democracy and The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy but I have to remind myself that before I knew him personally I had also read and appreciated Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country as well as One World Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism (Hardcover).

I like the “fireside chat” description of this book and am providing my own summary primarily for my own benefit and the benefit of those that follow all of my non-fiction reviews at Phi Beta Iota, the Public Intelligence Blog where all of my reviews, in 98 non-fiction categories, are more easily exploited than here at Amazon (but they all lead back to Amazon.

QUOTE (1): We live in a country where telling the hard truth with clarity has become taboo.

QUOTE (7): From the birth of our nation, it was always ordinary people, pushing from the bottom against an entrenched status quo, that led to the most momentous changes in American life.
Continue reading “Review: Come Home America: The Rise and Fall (and Redeeming Promise) of Our Country”

Journal: Chuck Spinney Highlights: Dark Hole of Democracy: How the Fed Prints Money Out of Thin AirGreider

Banks, Fed, Money, & Concentrated Wealth, Commercial Intelligence, Democracy, Government
Full Article Online
Full Article Online

The full article [click on AltNet]  should be must reading to any one interested in understanding the Federal Reserve Board's sinister relationship with the Banksters who, after having done such great damage to the economy, are now laying the long-term foundation for a corporatist — purists might say neo-fascist — state which, if left unchecked, might even evolve into an American variant of the zaibatsu that controlled the economic and foreign policy of the Empire of Japan.   CS

By William Greider, The Nation
Posted on July 17, 2009, Printed on July 18, 2009
The financial crisis has propelled the Federal Reserve into an excruciating political dilemma. The Fed is at the zenith of its influence, using its extraordinary powers to rescue the economy. Yet the extreme irregularity of its behavior is producing a legitimacy crisis for the central bank. The remote technocrats at the Fed who decide money and credit policy for the nation are deliberately opaque and little understood by most Americans. For the first time in generations, they are now threatened with popular rebellion.
During the past year, the Fed has flooded the streets with money — distributing trillions of dollars to banks, financial markets and commercial interests — in an attempt to revive the credit system and get the economy growing again. As a result, the awesome authority of this cloistered institution is visible to many ordinary Americans for the first time. People and politicians are shocked and confused, and also angered, by what they see. They are beginning to ask some hard questions for which Federal Reserve governors do not have satisfactory answers.
Where did the central bank get all the money it is handing out? Basically, the Fed printed it, out of thin air. That is what central banks do. Who told the Fed governors they could do this? Nobody, really — not Congress or the president. The Federal Reserve Board, alone among government agencies, does not submit its budgets to Congress for authorization and appropriation. It raises its own money, sets its own priorities.
Representative Wright Patman, the Texas populist who was a scourge of central bankers, once described the Federal Reserve as “a pretty queer duck.” Congress created the Fed in 1913 with the presumption that it would be “independent” from the rest of government, aloof from regular politics and deliberately shielded from the hot breath of voters or the grasping appetites of private interests — with one powerful exception: the bankers.
The Fed was designed as a unique hybrid in which government would share its powers with the private banking industry. Bankers collaborate closely on Fed policy. Banks are the “shareholders” who ostensibly own the twelve regional Federal Reserve banks. Bankers sit on the boards of directors, proposing interest-rate changes for Fed governors in Washington to decide. Bankers also have a special advisory council that meets privately with governors to critique monetary policy and management of the economy. Sometimes, the Fed pretends to be a private organization. Other times, it admits to being part of the government.
The antiquated quality of this institution is reflected in the map of the Fed's twelve regional banks.
  • Five of them are located in the Midwest (better known today as the industrial Rust Belt).
  • Missouri has two Federal Reserve banks (St. Louis and Kansas City), while
  • the entire West Coast has only one (located in San Francisco, not Los Angeles or Seattle).
  • Virginia has one; Florida does not.
Among its functions, the Federal Reserve directly regulates the largest banks, but it also looks out for their well-being — providing regular liquidity loans for those caught short and bailing out endangered banks it deems “too big to fail.” Critics look askance at these peculiar arrangements and see “conspiracy.” But it's not really secret. This duck was created by an act of Congress. The Fed's favoritism toward bankers is embedded in its DNA.
This awkward reality explains the dilemma facing the Fed. It cannot stand too much visibility, nor can it easily explain or justify its peculiar status.
Fed chair Ben Bernanke responded with the usual aloofness. An audit, he insisted, would amount to “a takeover of monetary policy by the Congress.” He did not appear to recognize how arrogant that sounded. Congress created the Fed, but it must not look too deeply into the Fed's private business. The mystique intimidates many politicians. The Fed's power depends crucially upon the people not knowing exactly what it does.
President Obama inadvertently made the political problem worse for the Fed in June, when he proposed to make the central bank the supercop to guard against “systemic risk” and decide the terms for regulating the largest commercial banks and some heavyweight industrial corporations engaged in finance. The House Financial Services Committee intends to draft the legislation quickly, but many members want to learn more first. Obama's proposal gives the central bank even greater power, including broad power to pick winners and losers in the private economy and behind closed doors. Yet Obama did not propose any changes in the Fed's privileged status. Instead, he asked Fed governors to consider the matter. But perhaps it is the Federal Reserve that needs to be reformed.
Six reasons why granting the Fed even more power is a really bad idea:
1. It would reward failure. Like the largest banks that have been bailed out, the Fed was a co-author of the destruction.
2. Cumulatively, Fed policy was a central force in destabilizing the US economy.
3. The Fed cannot possibly examine “systemic risk” objectively because it helped to create the very structural flaws that led to breakdown.
4. The Fed can't be trusted to defend the public in its private deal-making with bank executives. The numerous revelations of collusion have shocked the public, and more scandals are certain if Congress conducts a thorough investigation.
5. Instead of disowning the notorious policy of “too big to fail,” the Fed will be bound to embrace the doctrine more explicitly as “systemic risk” regulator.
6. This road leads to the corporate state — a fusion of private and public power, a privileged club that dominates everything else from the top down.
Whatever good intentions the central bank enunciates, it will be deeply conflicted in its actions, always pulled in opposite directions.
Obama's reform might prevail in the short run. The biggest banks, after all, will be lobbying alongside him in favor of the Fed, and Congress may not have the backbone to resist. The Fed, however, is sure to remain in the cross hairs. Too many different interests will be damaged
  • thousands of smaller banks,
  • all the companies left out of the club,
  • organized labor,
  • consumers and
  • other sectors,
  • not to mention libertarian conservatives like Texas Representative Ron Paul.
The obstacles to democratizing the Fed are obviously formidable. Tampering with the temple is politically taboo. But this crisis has demonstrated that the present arrangement no longer works for the public interest. The society of 1913 no longer exists, nor does the New Deal economic order that carried us to twentieth-century prosperity. The country thus has a rare opportunity to reconstitute the Federal Reserve as a normal government agency, shorn of the bankers' preferential trappings and the fallacious claim to “independent” status as well as the claustrophobic demand for secrecy.
Progressives in the early twentieth century, drawn from the growing ranks of managerial professionals, believed “good government” required technocratic experts who would be shielded from the unruly populace and especially from radical voices of organized labor, populism, socialism and other upstart movements. The pretensions of “scientific” decision-making by remote governing elites — both the mysterious wisdom of central bankers and the inventive wizardry of financial titans — failed spectacularly in our current catastrophe. The Fed was never independent in any real sense. Its power depended on taking care of its one true constituency in banking and finance.
The reform of monetary policy, in other words, has promising possibilities for revitalizing democracy. Congress is a human institution and therefore fallible. Mistakes will be made, for sure. But we might ask ourselves, If Congress were empowered to manage monetary policy, could it do any worse than those experts who brought us to ruin?
William Greider is the author of, most recently, “Come Home, America: The Rise and Fall (and Redeeming Promise) of Our Country (Rodale Books, 2009).”
© 2009 The Nation All rights reserved.
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Review: The Soul of Capitalism–Opening Paths to a Moral Economy

5 Star, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Consciousness & Social IQ, Corruption, Economics, Philosophy

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Parts the Seas, Restores Hope & Morality to the American Way,

September 13, 2003
William Greider
Edit of 21 Dec 07 to add links.

The author has written a book that outlines an implementable vision worthy of the Nobel Prize.

If you buy just one book this year, if you read just one book prior to voting in the primary and general elections of any country, this is the book. It combines common sense, a deep understanding of the flaws of a capitalist system that has been hijacked by unethical elites, and an extraordinary diversity of interviews and sources that I found compellingly sensible and straight-forward.

Politically and economically, this book offers the citizen-voter-consumer-stockholder an objective and balanced account of exactly what is wrong with the existing American way of capitalism (both at home and abroad), and how we might, over time, fix it.

Most importantly, the author destroys all of the myths and lies about the rising American standard of living, and demonstates that when one revises the Gross Domestic Product calculations to substract rather than add the negative products such as prisons and health care stemming from unsafe products and practices, the over-all national economic indicators have been steadily declining for over thirty years.

The author is brilliant–truly brilliant–in studying the work of others and putting together a case for redefining capitalism and the financial accounting for capitalism to include social costs and benefits as part of the evaluative calculus. He excells at understanding and explaining the benefits to be had by introducing long-term sustainability, worker-friendly labor and management cultures, and balanced work force composition (save the middle class) and compensation (end the looting of America and its pension funds by an out of control corporate elite).

In discussing the soul of capitalism, the author is in fact discussing America's soul. His book is not only a handbook for grassroots and collective bargaining actions by all communities and assocations, it is a reference point by which Americans specifically, but all national in all nations, should be judging their political and economic and social leaders. People *can* take back the power, but first they must understand that the existing economic situation is so unstable and unhealthy that it virtually guarantees life on Earth will end within the next 100 years.

Although the book clearly mandates a reordering of both the American economic and the American political systems, and the author addresses those, he placed the bulk of his emphasis at the grass-roots level, and discusses how specific organizations and communities across America are “by-passing Washington” and establishing revolutionary new covenants for community-based, labor-friendly, sustainable economics.

The book as a whole draws a clear distinction between what one might call Bush Economics (loot the commonwealth, enrich a very tiny elite that already has most of the wealth) and Dean Economics (recover the $500 billion a year in unwarranted corporate subsidies and financial fraud, restore the social side of the capitalist value system, share the wealth, sustain the environment).

The author is a man of faith. Throughout the book, but especially when discussing the Social Gospel movement and reform theologians with close ties to extreme suffering in communities that have lost everything, he can inspire tears of both sadness at what we have done to ourselves, and joy at the possibilities for the future if we the people take back the power.

At every turn in the book one reads about the connection between capitalism and democracy–between corrupt capitalism and the falseness and injustice of American democracy and foreign policy (see our reviews of Paul Krugman's “The Great Unraveling”, Jonathan Schell, “The Unconquerable World”, and Mark Hertsgaard, “The Eagle's Shadow”)–and between moral capitalism and democracy restored.

Drawing on the work of David Ellerman, William Greider discusses the master-servant relationship between corporate employers and human employees, and concludes, as does Ellerman, that all of the injustices of capitalism are based on a legalized fraud. “The ‘fraud' is the economic pretense that people can be treated as things, as commodities or mahcines, as lifeless property that lacks the qualities inseparable from the human self, the person's active deliberation and choices, the personal accountability for one's actions.”

Three additional notes (this review barely scratches the surface and cannot do justice to the wealth of knowledge the author is communicating in a very effective manner):

1) If the labor unions come together to use their pension funds as sledge hammers, they can do a great deal of good in both reforming Wall Street and nurturing labor-friendly and environmental-friendly corporate behavior.

2) The retired population in America represents an untapped national asset–a wise President would find ways to use this virtually unlimited pool of social and functional talent to revitalize communities, schools, families, businesses, and non-profit endeavors.

3) Both the corporate governance model and the enforcement model are so severely flawed that they must be over-turned. Corporations should not have legal personalities that eliminate accountability for the individuals managing them, and the enforcement process needs to be turned on its head, focusing on incentives for higher social performance rather than punishments for the occasionally prosecuted rogue corporation.

In relation to foreign economic relations, the author provides a superb complementary reading to Clyde Prestowitz's book, “Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions.” As he puts it so nicely, in today's world walls do not work and there is no place for corporations to hide once the anger of the people is aroused. America must not only clean its own house, but in so doing, in restoring the morality of capitalism and the realiy of democracy, America will again be a land of ideals instead of hypocrisy, a land of liberty instead of looting, a land that inspires the world instead of corrupting it.

America, and the world, are at a turning point. I pray that no fewer than 50 million Americans will read this book, and I urge every faithful Amazon customer to buy 5 copies of this book and give them out as part of re-engaging every adult in the vital process of restoring democracy and restoring morality to capitalism.

High recommended books, with reviews:
The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism: How the Financial System Underminded Social Ideals, Damaged Trust in the Markets, Robbed Investors of Trillions – and What to Do About It
Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming
The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World That Works for All
Society's Breakthrough!: Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom
One from Many: VISA and the Rise of Chaordic Organization
A Power Governments Cannot Suppress

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