Saving Illinois: Getting More Bang for the State’s Bucks

Illinois is teetering on bankruptcy and other states are not far behind, largely due to unfunded pension liabilities; but there are solutions. The Federal Reserve could do a round of “QE for Munis.” Or the state could turn its sizable pension fund into a self-sustaining public bank.

 Illinois is insolvent, unable to pay its bills. According to Moody’s, the state has $15 billion in unpaid bills and $251 billion in unfunded liabilities. Of these, $119 billion are tied to shortfalls in the state’s pension program. On July 6, 2017, for the first time in two years, the state finally passed a budget, after lawmakers overrode the governor’s veto on raising taxes. But they used massive tax hikes to do it – a 32% increase in state income taxes and 33% increase in state corporate taxes – and still Illinois’ new budget generates only $5 billion, not nearly enough to cover its $15 billion deficit. Continue reading

Sovereign Debt Jubilee, Japanese-Style

Japan has found a way to write off nearly half its national debt without creating inflation. We could do that too.

Let’s face it. There is no way the US government is ever going to pay back a $20 trillion federal debt. The taxpayers will just continue to pay interest on it, year after year.

A lot of interest.

If the Federal Reserve raises the fed funds rate to 3.5% and sells its federal securities into the market, as it is proposing to do, by 2026 the projected tab will be $830 billion annually. That’s nearly $1 trillion owed by the taxpayers every year, just for interest. Continue reading

Dear Mr. President, Be Careful What You Wish for: Higher Interest Rates Will Kill the Recovery

Higher interest rates will triple the interest on the federal debt to $830 billion annually by 2026, will hurt workers and young voters, and could bankrupt over 20% of US corporations, according to the IMF. The move is not necessary to counteract inflation and shows that the Fed is operating from the wrong model.

Responding to earlier presidential pressure, the Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates this week for the third time since November, from a fed funds target of 1% to 1.25%.  But as noted in The Guardian in a March 2017 article titled “Trump Is Set to Win the Battle on Interest Rates, but US Economy Will Pay the Price”:

An increase in the base rate, however small, will tighten the screw on younger voters and some of the poorest communities who voted for him and rely on credit to get by.

More importantly for his economic programme, higher interest rates in the US will act like a honeypot for foreign investors . . . . [S]ucking in foreign cash has a price and that is an expensive dollar and worsening trade balance. . . . It might undermine his call for the repatriation of factories to the rust-belt states if goods cost 10% or 20% more to export.

In its Global Financial Stability report in April, the International Monetary Fund issued another dire warning: projected interest rises could throw 22% of US corporations into default. As noted on Zero Hedge the same month, “perhaps it was this that Gary Cohn explained to Donald Trump ahead of the president’s recent interview with the WSJ in which he admitted that he suddenly prefers lower interest costs.”

But the Fed was undeterred and is going full steam ahead. Continue reading

California Public Bank People’s Forum, L.A., sponsored by the Bernie Sanders Brigade

The cavalry has arrived! Great to see so many young people getting behind public banking. We had a rousing forum on Saturday, May 13th, at the Puente Learning Center in Los Angeles. The links to the Facebook live videos and photo album are here:


Part 2: https://www.facebook.com/BernieSandersBrigade/videos/1737555312927578/
Part 3: https://www.facebook.com/BernieSandersBrigade/videos/1737601809589595/
Part 4: https://www.facebook.com/BernieSandersBrigade/videos/1737631266253316/

https://www.facebook.com/pg/BernieSandersBrigade/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1739237269426049

The Bernie Sanders Brigade also made this clever promo video —

 

What a State-Owned Bank Can Do for New Jersey

Phil Murphy, the leading Democratic candidate for governor of New Jersey, has made a state-owned bank a centerpiece of his campaign. He says the New Jersey bank would “take money out of Wall Street and put it to work for New Jersey – creating jobs and growing the economy [by] using state deposits to finance local investments … and … support billions of dollars of critical investments in infrastructure, small businesses, and student loans – saving our residents money and returning all profits to the taxpayers.”

A former Wall Street banker himself, Murphy knows how banking works. But in an April 7 op-ed in The New Jersey Spotlight, former New Jersey state treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff questioned the need for a state-owned bank and raised the issue of risk. This post is in response to those arguments, including a short refresher on the stellar model of the Bank of North Dakota (BND), currently the nation’s only state-owned depository bank. Continue reading

Joyce Nelson, Mark Anielski on “It’s Our Money”

A handful of Canadians are waging a noble fight to return their central bank, the Bank of Canada, to its chartered role as a low and no-interest financier of government projects and the public interest. That case is at the center of a new book called Beyond Banksters: Resisting the New Feudalism.  We speak with author Joyce Nelson about how the global debt cartel of international finance is creating a permanent trap for citizens the world over.  And we visit with economic strategist Mark Anielski about his book The Economics of Happiness – a different way of measuring wealth.

Listen here.

How to Cut Infrastructure Costs in Half

Americans could save $1 trillion over 10 years by financing infrastructure through publicly-owned banks like the one that has long been operating in North Dakota.

President Donald Trump has promised to rebuild America’s airports, bridges, tunnels, roads and other infrastructure, something both Democrats and Republicans agree should be done. The country needs a full $3 trillion in infrastructure over the next decade. The $1 trillion plan revealed by Trump’s economic advisers relies heavily on public-private partnerships, and private equity firms are lining up for these plumbing investments. In the typical private equity water deal, for example, higher user rates help the firms earn annual returns of anywhere from 8 to 18 percent – more even than a regular for-profit water company might expect. But the price tag can come as a rude surprise for local ratepayers. Continue reading

The Italian Banking Crisis: No Free Lunch – Or Is There?

It has been called “a bigger risk than Brexit”– the Italian banking crisis that could take down the eurozone. Handwringing officials say “there is no free lunch” and “no magic bullet.” But UK Prof. Richard Werner says the magic bullet is just being ignored. 

On December 4, 2016, Italian voters rejected a referendum to amend their constitution to give the government more power, and the Italian prime minister resigned. The resulting chaos has pushed Italy’s already-troubled banks into bankruptcy. First on the chopping block is the 500 year old Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA (BMP), the oldest surviving bank in the world and the third largest bank in Italy. The concern is that its loss could trigger the collapse of other banks and even of the eurozone itself.

There seems little doubt that BMP and other insolvent banks will be rescued. The biggest banks are always rescued, no matter how negligent or corrupt, because in our existing system, banks create the money we use in trade. Virtually the entire money supply is now created by banks when they make loans, as the Bank of England has acknowledged. When the banks collapse, economies collapse, because bank-created money is the grease that oils the wheels of production.

So the Italian banks will no doubt be rescued. The question is, how? Continue reading

“We’ll Look at Everything”: More Thoughts on Trump’s $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan

To stimulate the economy, create new jobs and generate new GDP requires an injection of new money. Borrowing from the bond markets or off-balance-sheet in public/private partnerships won’t do it. If Congress won’t issue money directly, it should borrow from banks, which create money on their books when they make loans.

The Trump agenda, it seems, is not set in stone. The president-elect has a range of advisors with as many ideas. Steven Mnuchin, his nominee for Treasury Secretary, said in November that “we’ll take a look at everything,”even the possibility of extending the maturity of the federal debt with 50-year or 100-year bonds to take advantage of unusually low interest rates.

Steve Bannon, appointed chief White House strategist, seems to be envisioning Roosevelt-style experimentation with whatever works. Continue reading

Two Recent Power Points on Public Banking, in Englewood, CO, and Santa Rosa, CA

Here are my latest efforts at presenting the public banking model by power point. The longer version was at an event in Englewood, CO, on October 30, called “Taking Back the Money Power: The Public Option in Banking.” The shorter version was at an event in Santa Rosa, CA, on November 9 called “Cannabis Cash and Public Banking.” My part was on public banking in general, followed by Marc Armstrong who spoke on how a public bank could serve the newly legalized recreational cannabis business. Many thanks to Earl Staelin for the Colorado event and Shelly Browning for the Santa Rosa event. Great fun!

Prop. 51 Versus a State-Owned Bank: How California Can Save $10 Billion on a $9 Billion Loan

School districts are notoriously short of funding – so short that some California districts have succumbed to Capital Appreciation Bonds that will cost taxpayers as much is 10 to 15 times principal by the time they are paid off. By comparison, California’s Prop. 51, the school bond proposal currently on the ballot, looks like a good deal. It would allow the state to borrow an additional $9 billion for educational purposes by selling general obligation bonds to investors at an assumed interest rate of 5%, with the bonds issued over a five-year period and repaid over 30 years. $9 billion × 5% × 35 equals $15.75 billion in interest – nearly twice principal, but not too bad compared to the Capital Appreciation Bond figures.

However, there is a much cheaper way to fund this $9 billion school debt. By borrowing from its own state-chartered, state-owned bank, the state could save over $10 billion – on a $9 billion loan. Here is how. Continue reading

Bill Black on “It’s Our Money”

bill-black“Fish Rot from the Head”

So says this week’s guest Bill Black about the recent Wells Fargo scandal in which millions of customers were beset with unrequested accounts that cost them fees and affected their credit scores – another in the long line of Big-Bank violations.  Black, author of “The Best Way To Rob A Bank Is To Own One” is renowned for obtaining convictions of almost a thousand bankers and sending several hundred of them to prison when he was a Federal regulator back in 1990 during the savings and loan scandal. He talks with Ellen about why that sort of regulatory punch no longer exists.  Selling-off public assets and services is discussed by co-host Walt McRee with the Executive Director of In The Public Interest, Donald Cohen, who issued a recent report on how privatization is helping perpetuate economic inequality.  Matt Stannard returns on the Public Banking Report to reflect on how Wells Fargo’s scandal hurts everyone at the bank, not just their customers.

Archived here.

Ralph Nader’s “Breaking Through Power” Conference, Washington DC

I was very pleased to be able to talk to Ralph Nader about public banking on his radio show and to be a presenter at his “Breaking through Power” conference last week. The radio show is here —

https://ralphnaderradiohour.com/breaking-through-power-2/

and the video is here–

Central Bank Digital Currencies: A Revolution in Banking?

Several central banks, including the Bank of England, the People’s Bank of China, the Bank of Canada and the Federal Reserve, are exploring the concept of issuing their own digital currencies, using the blockchain technology developed for Bitcoin. Skeptical commentators suspect that their primary goal is to eliminate cash, setting us up for negative interest rates (we pay the bank to hold our deposits rather than the reverse).

But Ben Broadbent, Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, puts a more positive spin on it. He says Central Bank Digital Currencies could supplant the money now created by private banks through “fractional reserve” lending – and that means 97% of the circulating money supply. Rather than outlawing bank-created money, as money reformers have long urged, fractional reserve banking could be made obsolete simply by attrition, preempted by a better mousetrap.  The need for negative interest rates could also be eliminated, by giving the central bank more direct tools for stimulating the economy. Continue reading

On “It’s Our Money with Ellen Brown”: Viking Economics – Sharing Prosperity

How did Scandinavia become the world leader in successful, equitable economies?  People.  Like the farmers of North Dakota a hundred years ago, the people pushed back against the failures of the controlling economic elite. Author and professor George Lakey talks with co-host Walt McRee about his book “Viking Economics” and discovers many parallels to today’s America. And there’s big news for the public banking movement out of New Jersey with one of the major mainstream candidates for Governor announcing his intention to form a state-owned public bank to address chronic state fiscal issues. Later on the Public Banking Report, Mike Krauss talks about how imperiled pension funds can save themselves by investing in their own public bank.

Listen to the archive here.

 

On “It’s Our Money”: David Morris on the BND; Alanna Hartzok on the Land Value Tax

On the latest episode of “It’s Our Money,” David Morris, co-founder of the Institute for Local Self Reliance, talks with PBI Chair Walt McRee about how to reclaim the narrative that government can and should work well on our behalf. And Ellen Brown talks with “The Earth Belongs to Everyone” author Alanna Hartzok about how our current method of taxation overlooks a more obvious and fair approach based on land and the Earth itself. Listen here.

Can Jill Carry Bernie’s Baton? A Look at the Green Candidate’s Radical Funding Solution

Bernie Sanders supporters are flocking to Jill Stein, the presumptive Green Party presidential candidate, with donations to her campaign exploding nearly 1000% after he endorsed Hillary Clinton. Stein salutes Sanders for the progressive populist movement he began and says it is up to her to carry the baton. Can she do it? Critics say her radical policies will not hold up to scrutiny. But supporters say they are just the medicine the economy needs.

Stein goes even further than Sanders on several key issues, and one of them is her economic platform. She has proposed a “Power to the People Plan” that guarantees basic economic human rights, including access to food, water, housing, and utilities; living-wage jobs for every American who needs to work; an improved “Medicare for All” single-payer public health insurance program; tuition-free public education through university level; and the abolition of student debt. She also supports the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall,  separating depository banking from speculative investment banking; the breakup of megabanks into smaller banks; federal postal banks to service the unbanked and under-banked; and the formation of publicly-owned banks at the state and local level. Continue reading

Stephen Lendman on Brexit on “It’s Our Money”

BREXIT, FREXIT, GREXIT – where’s everybody going? The recent vote in the United Kingdom to get out of the European Union is a telling example of how ill-served citizens in the political/financial union are feeling about their status. Such feeling suggests the potential for contagion with other European nations souring on the control of the unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. Ellen talks with a noted international observer Stephen Lendman about this vote and the politics that led up to it and are now playing out.

Matt Stannard reports on another political stage, in NC, where money for local infrastructure depends on compliance with onerous immigration policies.  And our What Wall Street Costs America report focuses on the tragic human costs inflicted on Puerto Rico by American hedge funds. Archived here.

Brexit and the Derivatives Time Bomb

Brexit could trigger a $500 trillion derivatives meltdown, by forcing the EU to allow insolvent member governments and banks to write down debt. Italy is in financial crisis and is already petitioning for that concession. How to avoid collapse of the massive derivatives house of cards? Alternatives are considered.

Sovereign debt – the debt of national governments – has ballooned from $80 trillion to $100 trillion just since 2008. Squeezed governments have been driven to radical austerity measures, privatizing public assets, slashing public services, and downsizing work forces in a futile attempt to balance national budgets. But the debt overhang just continues to grow.

Austerity has been pushed to the limit and hasn’t worked. But default or renegotiating the debt seems to be off the table. Why? Continue reading

Hon. Paul Hellyer on “It’s Our Money”

Mayer Rothschild is famously quoted as saying “Permit me to issue and control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws!” – and so it is. When we look at the distribution of capital, we see that those who control the franchise of creating money through loans and debt rule our world. Ellen speaks with one of the planet’s oldest serving statesmen, Canada’s Paul Hellyer, about the nature of this controlling franchise and about the alternatives still available. Walt McRee speaks with Lisa Cody, a researcher for the Service Employees International Union, who did a landmark study of the outrageous costs Los Angeles has paid private financiers as part of our ongoing series What Wall Street Costs America, and Matt Stannard comments on the increasingly popular idea of providing a basic income to people as one way of balancing the scales against the controlling interests. Archived here.