How to Green Our Parched Farmlands and Finance Critical Infrastructure 

There are work-arounds the U.S. can use to fund affordable housing, drought responses, and other urgently-needed infrastructure that was left out of the two recent spending bills.

Congress has passed two major infrastructure bills in the last year, but imminent needs remain. The 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law chiefly focused on conventional highway programs, and the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) mainly centered on energy security and combating climate change. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), over $2 trillion in much-needed infrastructure is still unfunded, including projects to address drought, affordable housing, high-speed rail, and power transmission lines. By 2039, per the ASCE, continued underinvestment at current rates will cost $10 trillion in cumulative lost GDP, more than 3 million jobs in that year, and $2.24 trillion in exports over the next 20 years.

Particularly urgent today is infrastructure to counteract the record-breaking drought in the U.S. Southwest, where 50% of the nation’s food supply is grown. Subsidies for such things as the purchase of electric vehicles, featured in the IRA, will pad the coffers of the industries lobbying for them but will not get water to our parched farmlands any time soon. More direct action is needed. But as noted by Todd Tucker in a Roosevelt Institute article, “Today, a gridlocked and austerity-minded Congress balks at appropriating sufficient money to ensure emergency readiness. … [T]he US system of government’s numerous veto points make emergency response harder than under parliamentary or authoritarian systems.”

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Interest Rate Hikes Will Not Save Us from Inflation

Rather than making money harder to get, the U.S. government needs to focus on the other side of the demand vs. supply equation.

In prescribing cures for inflation, economists rely on the diagnosis of Nobel laureate Milton Friedman: inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon—too much money chasing too few goods. But that equation has three variables: too much money (“demand”) chasing (the “velocity” of spending) too few goods (“supply”). And “orthodox” economists, from Lawrence Summers to the Federal Reserve, seem to be focusing only on the “demand” variable. 

The Fed’s prescription is to suppress demand (borrowing and spending) by raising interest rates. Summers, a  former U.S. Treasury Secretary who presided over the massive post-2008 bank bailouts, is proposing to reduce demand by raising taxes or raising unemployment rates, reducing disposable income and thus people’s ability to spend. But those rather brutal solutions miss the real problem, just as Summers missed the crisis leading up to the 2008-09 crash. As explained in a November 2021 editorial titled “Too Few Goods – The Simple Explanation for October’s Elevated Inflation Rates,” we don’t actually have too much consumer money chasing available goods: 

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Achieving Self-Funding Local Sovereignty as Global Food Systems Collapse

The solution to the current food crisis is small and local, including growing food locally. But how to fund local food co-ops without pricey loans from big banks?

“Deglobalizing” and “dedollarizing” have been much in the news. Reducing dependence on the global supply chain and the U.S. dollar are trends that are happening not just internationally but locally. In the United States, we have seen movements both for local food independence and to divest from Wall Street banks. The burgeoning cryptocurrency movement is another push to “dedollarize” and escape the international bankers’ control grid. 

This article is a sequel to one discussing home gardens and community food co-ops as local counter-measures to an impending food crisis. The question to be addressed here is how to fund them. What sort of local currency could fund food co-ops independently of the credit dollars we get from banks?

But first, some framing of the problem. It’s not just about temporary food shortages. It’s about sovereignty from the sort of global control foreshadowed in Henry Kissinger’s notorious statement, “Control food and you control the people.” 

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The Food Shortage Solution in Your Own Backyard

While the global food systems we depend on come under increasing strain, there’s a solution to the growing crisis that most Americans can find in their own backyards–or front lawns.

A confluence of crises—lockdowns and business closures, mandates and worker shortages, supply chain disruptions and inflation, sanctions and war—have compounded to trigger food shortages; and we have been warned that they may last longer than the food stored in our pantries. What to do? 

Jim Gale, founder of Food Forest Abundance, pointed out in a recent interview with Del Bigtree that in the United States there are 40 million acres of lawn. Lawns are the most destructive monoculture on the planet, absorbing more resources and pesticides than any other crop, without providing any yield. If we were to turn 30% of that lawn into permaculture-based food gardens, says Gale, we could be food self-sufficient without relying on imports or chemicals. 

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A Reset that Serves the People

Instead of buying into the World Economic Forum’s dystopian “Great Reset,” we can build an alternative system with a mandate to serve the people.

This is part two to a May 4, 2022 article called “A Monetary Reset Where the Rich Don’t Own Everything,” the gist of which was that national and global debt levels are unsustainably high. We need a “reset,” but of what sort? The “Great Reset” of the World Economic Forum (WEF) would leave the people as non-owner tenants in a feudalistic technocracy. The reset of the Eurasian Economic Union would allow participating nations to opt out of the Western capitalist system altogether, but what of the Western countries that are left? That is the question addressed here.

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A Monetary Reset Where the Rich Don’t Own Everything

We have a serious debt problem, but solutions such as the World Economic Forum’s “Great Reset” are not the future we want. It’s time to think outside the box for some new solutions.

In ancient Mesopotamia, it was called a Jubilee. When debts at interest grew too high to be repaid, the slate was wiped clean. Debts were forgiven, the debtors’ prisons were opened, and the serfs returned to work their plots of land. This could be done because the king was the representative of the gods who were said to own the land, and thus was the creditor to whom the debts were owed. The same policy was advocated in the Book of Leviticus, though it is unclear to what extent this biblical Jubilee was implemented. 

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The Coming Global Financial Revolution: Russia Is Following the American Playbook

No country has successfully challenged the U.S. dollar’s global hegemony—until now. How did this happen and what will it mean?

Foreign critics have long chafed at the “exorbitant privilege” of the U.S. dollar as global reserve currency. The U.S. can issue this currency backed by nothing but the “full faith and credit of the United States.” Foreign governments, needing dollars, not only accept them in trade but buy U.S. securities with them, effectively funding the U.S. government and its foreign wars. But no government has been powerful enough to break that arrangement – until now. How did that happen and what will it mean for the U.S. and global economies?

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Rather Than Sink Main Street by Raising Interest Rates, the Fed Could Save It. Here’s How. 

Inflation is plaguing consumer markets, putting pressure on the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates to tighten the money supply. But as Rex Nutting writes in a MarketWatch column titled “Why Interest Rates Aren’t Really the Right Tool to Control Inflation”:

It may be heresy to those who think the Fed is all-powerful, but the honest answer is that raising interest rates wouldn’t put out the fire. Short of throwing millions of people out of work in a recession, higher rates wouldn’t bring supply and demand back into balance, a necessary condition for price stability.

The Fed (and those who are clamoring for the Fed to raise rates immediately) have misdiagnosed the problem with the economy and are demanding the wrong kind of medicine. …

Prices are going up because crucial inputs—labor, electronics, energy, housing, transportation—are in short supply. Normally, the way to solve this imbalance would be to give workers and businesses incentives to increase their supply. …

The Fed has been assigned the job of fixing this. Unfortunately, the Fed doesn’t have the tools to do it. Monetary policy works (in theory) by tweaking demand, but it has no direct impact on supply.

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The Real Antidote to Inflation: Stoking the Fire Without Burning Down the Barn

The Fed has options for countering the record inflation the U.S. is facing that are more productive and less risky than raising interest rates.

The Federal Reserve is caught between a rock and a hard place. Inflation grew by 6.8% in November, the fastest in 40 years, a trend the Fed has now acknowledged is not “transitory.” The conventional theory is that inflation is due to too much money chasing too few goods, so the Fed is under heavy pressure to “tighten” or shrink the money supply. Its conventional tools for this purpose are to reduce asset purchases and raise interest rates. But corporate debt has risen by $1.3 trillion just since early 2020; so if the Fed raises rates, a massive wave of defaults is likely to result. According to financial advisor Graham Summers in an article titled “The Fed Is About to Start Playing with Matches Next to a $30 Trillion Debt Bomb,” the stock market could collapse by as much as 50%. 

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The Case for a Central Bank Digital Currency

Whether the U.S. should have its own central bank digital currency (CBDC) is hotly debated. Several countries, including China, already have CBDCs in operation; but the U.S. Federal Reserve is proceeding with caution. Prof. Saule Omarova, President Biden’s nominee for Comptroller of the Currency, is in favor of a CBDC and has made a strong case for it; but many conservative commentators are opposed, and her nomination remains in doubt.

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Conservation or Land Grab? The Financialization of Nature

Just in time for the UN’s policy push for “30 x 30” – 30% of the earth to be “conserved” by 2030 – a new Wall Street asset class puts up for sale the processes underpinning all life.

A month before the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (known as COP26) kicked off in Scotland, a new asset class was launched by the New York Stock Exchange that will “open up a new feeding ground for predatory Wall Street banks and financial institutions that will allow them to dominate not just the human economy, but the entire natural world.” So writes Whitney Webb in an article titled “Wall Street’s Takeover of Nature Advances with Launch of New Asset Class”:

Called a natural asset company, or NAC, the vehicle will allow for the formation of specialized corporations “that hold the rights to the ecosystem services produced on a given chunk of land, services like carbon sequestration or clean water.” These NACs will then maintain, manage and grow the natural assets they commodify, with the end goal of maximizing the aspects of that natural asset that are deemed by the company to be profitable.

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A New Water Source That Could Make Drought a Thing of the Past

Oceans of water are beneath our feet, and new technologies are extracting it economically without ecological damage.

Lack of fresh water is now a global crisis. Water shortages mean food shortages, with hunger creating death tolls substantially exceeding those of the current Covid-19 crisis. According to the United Nations, some 800 million people are without clean water, and 40% of the world’s population is impacted by drought. By one measure, almost 100 percent of the Western United States is currently in drought, setting an all-time 122-year record. Meanwhile, local “water wars” rage, with states, cities and whole countries battling each other for scarce water resources. 

The ideal solution would be new water flows to add to the hydrologic cycle, and promising new scientific discoveries and technologies are holding out that possibility.

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Nature’s Own Fuel Could Save Us From the Greenhouse Effect and Electric Grid Failure

Hemp fuel and other biofuels could reduce carbon emissions while saving the electric grid, but they’re often overlooked for more expensive, high-tech climate solutions.

On July 14, the European Union unveiled sweeping climate change and emissions targets that would, according to Gulf News, mean “the end of the internal combustion engine”:

The commission’s draft would reduce permitted emissions from new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles to zero from 2035 – effectively obliging the industry to move on to battery-electric models.

While biofuels are a less high-tech, cheaper and in many ways more effective solution to our dependence on petroleum, the United States and other countries are discussing similar plans to the EU’s and California is already on board. But in a recent article in the Los Angeles Times and related video, Evan Halper argues that we may be trading one environmental crisis for another:

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How America Went From Mom-and-Pop Capitalism to Techno-Feudalism

The crisis of 2020 has created the greatest wealth gap in history. The middle class, capitalism and democracy are all under threat. What went wrong and what can be done?

In a matter of decades, the United States has gone from a largely benign form of capitalism to a neo-feudal form that has created an ever-widening gap in wealth and power. In his 2013 bestseller Capital in the 21st Century, French economist Thomas Piketty declared that “the level of inequality in the US is probably higher than in any other society at any time in the past anywhere in the world.” In a 2014 podcast about the book, Bill Moyers commented:

Here’s one of its extraordinary insights: We are now really all headed into a future dominated by inherited wealth, as capital is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, giving the very rich ever greater power over politics, government and society. Patrimonial capitalism is the name for it, and it has potentially terrifying consequences for democracy. 

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Will 2021 Be Public Banking’s Watershed Moment?

Just over two months into the new year, 2021 has already seen a flurry of public banking activity. Sixteen new bills to form publicly-owned banks or facilitate their formation were introduced in eight U.S. states in January and February. Two bills for a state-owned bank were introduced in New Mexico, two in Massachusetts, two in New York, one each in Oregon and Hawaii, and Washington State’s Public Bank Bill was re-introduced as a “Substitution.” Bills for city-owned banks were introduced in Philadelphia and San Francisco, and bills facilitating the formation of public banks or for a feasibility study were introduced in New York, Oregon (three bills), and Hawaii. 

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The Gamers’ Uprising Against Wall Street Has Deep Populist Roots

Wall Street may own the country, as Kansas populist leader Mary Elizabeth Lease once declared, but a new generation of “retail” stock market traders is fighting back.

A short squeeze frenzy driven by a new generation of gamers captured financial headlines in recent weeks, centered on a struggling strip mall video game store called GameStop. The Internet and a year off in this shut down to study up have given a younger generation of investors the tools to compete in the market. Gerald Celente calls it the “Youth Revolution.” A group of New York Young Republicans who protested in the snow on January 31 called it “Re-occupy Wall Street.” Others have called it  Occupy Wall Street 2.0

The populist uprising against Wall Street goes back farther, however, than to the 2010 Occupy movement. In the late 19th century, the country was suffering from a depression nearly as severe as the Great Depression of the 1930s. Kansas populist leader Mary Elizabeth Lease declared in a fiery speech in 1890:

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Tackling the Infrastructure and Unemployment Crises: The “American System” Solution

A self-funding national infrastructure bank modeled on the “American System” of Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt would help solve not one but two of the country’s biggest problems.

Millions of Americans have joined the ranks of the unemployed, and government relief checks and savings are running out; meanwhile, the country still needs trillions of dollars in infrastructure. Putting the unemployed to work on those infrastructure projects seems an obvious solution, especially given that the $600 or $700 stimulus checks Congress is planning on issuing will do little to address the growing crisis. Various plans for solving the infrastructure crisis involving public-private partnerships have been proposed, but they’ll invariably result in private investors reaping the profits while the public bears the costs and liabilities. We have relied for too long on private, often global, capital, while the Chinese run circles around us building infrastructure with credit simply created on the books of their government-owned banks. Continue reading

Why the Fed Needs Public Banks

The Fed’s policy tools – interest rate manipulation, quantitative easing, and “Special Purpose Vehicles” – have all failed to revive local economies suffering from government-mandated shutdowns. The Fed must rely on private banks to inject credit into Main Street, and private banks are currently unable or unwilling to do it. The tools the Fed actually needs are public banks, which could and would do the job.

On November 20, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin informed Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell that he would not extend five of the Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) set up last spring to bail out bondholders, and that he wanted the $455 billion in taxpayer money back that the Treasury had sent to the Fed to capitalize these SPVs. The next day     , Powell replied that he thought it was too soon – the SPVs still served a purpose – but he agreed to return the funds. Both had good grounds for their moves, but as Wolf Richter wrote on WolfStreet.com, “You’d think something earth-​shattering happened based on the media hullabaloo that ensued.” Continue reading

From Lockdown to Police State: The “Great Reset” Rolls Out

Mayhem in Melbourne

On August 2, lockdown measures were implemented in Melbourne, Australia, that were so draconian that Australian news commentator Alan Jones said on Sky News: “People are entitled to think there is an ‘agenda to destroy western society.’”

The gist of an August 13th article on the Melbourne lockdown is captured in the title: “Australian Police Go FULL NAZI, Smashing in Windows of Civilian Cars Just Because Passengers Wouldn’t Give Details About Where They Were Going.”

Another article with an arresting title was by Guy Burchell in the August 7th Australian National Review: “Melbourne Cops May Now Enter Homes Without a Warrant, After 11 People Die of COVID — Australia, This Is Madness, Not Democracy.” Continue reading

Webinar, Center for Global Justice, “Why Banking Needs to Be Run as a Public Utility”