Time for an Economic Bill of Rights

Henry Ford said, “It is well enough that the people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.”

We are beginning to understand, and Occupy Wall Street looks like the beginning of the revolution.

We are beginning to understand that our money is created, not by the government, but by banks.  Many authorities have confirmed this, including the Federal Reserve itself.  The only money the government creates today are coins, which compose less than one ten-thousandth of the money supply.  Federal Reserve Notes, or dollar bills, are issued by Federal Reserve Banks, all twelve of which are owned by the private banks in their district.  Most of our money comes into circulation as bank loans, and it comes with an interest charge attached.

According to Margrit Kennedy, a German researcher who has studied this issue extensively, interest now composes 40% of the cost of everything we buy.  We don’t see it on the sales slips, but interest is exacted at every stage of production.  Suppliers need to take out loans to pay for labor and materials, before they have a product to sell.

For government projects, Kennedy found that the average cost of interest is 50%.  If the government owned the banks, it could keep the interest and get these projects at half price.  That means governments—state and federal—could double the number of projects they could afford, without costing the taxpayers a single penny more than we are paying now.

This opens up exciting possibilities.  Federal and state governments could fund all sorts of things we think we can’t afford now, simply by owning their own banks.  They could fund something Franklin D. Roosevelt and Martin Luther King dreamt of—an Economic Bill of Rights.

A Vision for Tomorrow

In his first inaugural address in 1933, Roosevelt criticized the sort of near-sighted Wall Street greed that precipitated the Great Depression.  He said, “They only know the rules of a generation of self-seekers.  They have no vision, and where there is no vision the people perish.”

Roosevelt’s own vision reached its sharpest focus in 1944, when he called for a Second Bill of Rights.  He said:

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights . . . . They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

He then enumerated the economic rights he thought needed to be added to the Bill of Rights.  They included:

The right to a job;

The right to earn enough to pay for food and clothing;

The right of businessmen to be free of unfair competition and domination by monopolies;

The right to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

Times have changed since the first Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution in 1791.  When the country was founded, people could stake out some land, build a house on it, farm it, and be self-sufficient.  The Great Depression saw people turned out of their homes and living in the streets—a phenomenon we are seeing again today.  Few people now own their own homes.  Even if you have signed a mortgage, you will be in debt peonage to the bank for 30 years or so before you can claim the home as your own.

Health needs have changed too.  In 1791, foods were natural and nutrient-rich, and outdoor exercise was built into the lifestyle.  Degenerative diseases such as cancer and heart disease were rare.  Today, health insurance for some people can cost as much as rent.

Then there are college loans, which collectively now exceed a trillion dollars, more even than credit card debt.  Students are coming out of universities not just without jobs but carrying a debt of $20,000 or so on their backs.  For medical students and other post-graduate students, it can be $100,000 or more.  Again, that’s as much as a mortgage, with no house to show for it.  The justification for incurring these debts was supposed to be that the students would get better jobs when they graduated, but now jobs are scarce.

After World War II, the G.I. Bill provided returning servicemen with free college tuition, as well as cheap home loans and business loans.  It was called “the G.I. Bill of Rights.”  Studies have shown that the G.I. Bill paid for itself seven times over and is one of the most lucrative investments the government ever made.

The government could do that again—without increasing taxes or the federal debt.  It could do it by recovering the power to create money from Wall Street and the financial services industry, which now claim a whopping 40% of everything we buy.

An Updated Constitution for a New Millennium

Banks acquired the power to create money by default, when Congress declined to claim it at the Constitutional Convention in 1787.  The Constitution says only that “Congress shall have the power to coin money [and] regulate the power thereof.”  The Founders left out not just paper money but checkbook money, credit card money, money market funds, and other forms of exchange that make up the money supply today.  All of them are created by private financial institutions, and they all come into the economy as loans with interest attached.

Governments—state and federal—could bypass the interest tab by setting up their own publicly-owned banks.  Banking would become a public utility, a tool for promoting productivity and trade rather than for extracting wealth from the debtor class.

Congress could go further: it could reclaim the power to issue money from the banks and fund its budget directly.  It could do this, in fact, without changing any laws.  Congress is empowered to “coin money,” and the Constitution sets no limit on the face amount of the coins.  Congress could issue a few one-trillion dollar coins, deposit them in an account, and start writing checks.

The Fed’s own figures show that the money supply has shrunk by $3 trillion since 2008.  That sum could be spent into the economy without inflating prices.  Three trillion dollars could go a long way toward providing the jobs and social services necessary to fulfill an Economic Bill of Rights.  Guaranteeing employment to anyone willing and able to work would increase GDP, allowing the money supply to expand even further without inflating prices, since supply and demand would increase together.

Modernizing the Bill of Rights

As Bob Dylan said, “The times they are a’changin’.”  Revolutionary times call for revolutionary solutions and an updated social contract.  Apple and Microsoft update their programs every year.  We are trying to fit a highly complex modern monetary scheme into a constitutional framework that is 200 years old.

After President Roosevelt died in 1945, his vision for an Economic Bill of Rights was kept alive by Martin Luther King.  “True compassion,” King declared, “is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

MLK too has now passed away, but his vision has been carried on by a variety of money reform groups.  The government as “employer of last resort,” guaranteeing a living wage to anyone who wants to work, is a basic platform of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT).  A student of MMT declares on his website that by “[e]nding the enormous unearned profits acquired by the means of the privatization of our sovereign currency. . . [i]t is possible to have truly full employment without causing inflation.”

What was sufficient for a simple agrarian economy does not provide an adequate framework for freedom and democracy today.  We need an Economic Bill of Rights, and we need to end the privatization of the national currency.  Only when the privilege of creating the national money supply is returned to the people can we have a government that is truly of the people, by the people and for the people.

——————

Ellen Brown is an attorney and president of the Public Banking Institute, http://PublicBankingInstitute.org.  In Web of Debt, her latest of eleven books, she shows how a private cartel has usurped the power to create money from the people themselves, and how we the people can get it back.  Her websites are http://WebofDebt.com and http://EllenBrown.com.

14 Responses

  1. […] Time for an Economic Bill of Rights […]

  2. […] Brown Web of Debt  Share this:FacebookStumbleUponRedditPrint About Ellen BrownEllen Brown is an attorney, […]

  3. We are in agreement with your “Economic Bill of Rights” and favor the idea of a public bank in any state that will do it. What was the feedback from your talk at the Occupy group about it?

  4. Occupy National Bank: Occupy has enough talent to understand Ellen Brown, who will help setting up the Occupy National Bank.
    http://tinyurl.com/cbh6h7a

    • Not sure I can set up a bank, but I could give a few pointers!

  5. Assuming that banking becomes a public utility, every unit of currency could have identity. Modern technology has made this possible, at least since Google’s 2004 Map-Reduce revelation. The current owner of every given currency unit could then know its entire history.

    What about privacy? Well, privacy is dead anyway, unless you’re rich and well-connected enough to be on the dark side of the one-way mirror through which everyone else’s financial life is visible. First, currency-unit-identity would turn on the lights on both sides of the existing one-way mirror. Then the mirror it would have no purpose, and liberty would flourish. Fewer things would be crimes, and the remaining crimes would be much easier to detect and their perpetrators more easily held accountable. More efficient adaptation to reality, economic stability, and, widespread prosperity would result. (Well, widespread prosperity might still be reduced by various kinds of calamities, but we would certainly recover from all kinds of calamities faster and more cleverly. When we design the new economy, we should bear in mind that its highest purpose is to be humanity’s organ of adaptation to reality. “Adapt or die,” and all that.)

  6. Most Americans understand the reasoning behind the Constitutional firewall between Church and State but how many can explain the revolving door between State and Banking? If you answered “Because the Constitution doesn’t contain such a firewall.” you would be correct. This is what a Constitutional firewall looks like:

    “Corporations are not persons in any sense of the word and shall be granted only those rights and priveleges that Congress deems necessary for the well-being of the People. Congress shall provide legislation defining the terms and conditions of corporate charters according to their purpose; which shall include, but are not limited to; 1 prohibitions against any corporation becoming so large its failure would pose a threat to national security or harm the general economy, 2 prohibitions against any form of interference in the affairs of government, education, and news media, and 3 provisions for civil and criminal penalties to be paid by corporate executives for violation of the terms of a corporate charter.”

  7. Another alternative is to treat corporations *exactly* like people, including the death penalty, in which all their assets are forfeit to the state. The immunity of stockholders from prosecution or other accountability is the real reason for the abuses of the public by these private entities. Stockholders who don’t want to lose their investments might be more interested in the probity and thoughtfulness of directors and executives if their investments were on the line.

  8. How The Fed can Stop Spending, Raise Revenue, Lower Taxes, Increase Employment, and lead US to prosperity !!

    Justaluckyfool commented on a must read article:

    A Piece Of My Mind, by Jim Grant
    http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2012/04/a-gold-standard/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheBigPicture+%28The+Big+Picture%29

    In the not quite 100 years since the founding of your institution(The Federal Reserve), America has exchanged central banking for a kind of central planning and the gold standard for what I will call the Ph.D. standard. I regret the changes and will propose reforms, or, I suppose, re-reforms, as my program is very much in accord with that of the founders of this institution. Have you ever read the Federal Reserve Act? The authorizing legislation projected a body “to provide for the establishment of the Federal Reserve banks…

    Where they went wrong-they established Federal Reserve Banks owned by private banks, domestic and foreign.
    How we can fix it-establish Federal Reserve Banks owned “by the people,of the people,for the people

    … to furnish an elastic currency…

    Where we went wrong-the elastic currency’s quality and quantity can be controlled by private banks using a legalize counterfeit system called Fractional -Reserve Banking.
    How we can fix it- end Fractional Reserve Banking making the correctly established Federal Reserve Bank the ONLY supplier of new currency.

    … to afford means of rediscounting commercial paper and to establish a more effective supervision of banking in the United States..
    .
    Where we went wrong-allowing private banks to charge compound interest on the paper they create “out of thin air”.
    How we can fix it-private banks will only be allowed to invest, or purchase assets with 100% margin.They will be responsible for all
    losses and entitled to all gains.

    … and for other purposes…”
    Where we went wrong- By now can we identify the operative phrase? Of course: “for other purposes.”

    How we can fix it-TO FUND, ““We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,…””
    *******The Bill Of Rights******MUST AMEND THE FED*****
    *******
    READ……”Great News !! Zero Income Taxes Solves Worldwide Economic Crises” by justaluckyfool

    Challenge It or,
    ***** “Believe nothing merely because you have been told it…But whatsoever, after due examination and analysis,you find to be kind, conducive to the good, the benefit,the welfare of all beings – that doctrine believe and cling to,and take it as your guide.”- Buddha[Gautama Siddharta] (563 – 483 BC), Hindu Prince, founder of Buddhism

  9. For the most part I agree with most of the tenants of this article. I do however find a problem with the language used when referencing Dr. King’s death. Let’s put the record straight that Dr. King was assinnated for his views on not only civil rights, but human rights. Dr. King understood the importance and correlation between human rights and economic rights. Let us not forget another great man who spoke out against the federal reserve and agreed with Dr. King; JFK is the man I am referring too. He also was assinnated not to long after giving a speech about the federal reserve. Please let us not forget these men and the sacrifice they made for freedom and human rights.

  10. We do not need an economic bill of rights. We suffer under the current monetary system because we are forced to use that system. If we were not individually taxed, we could find the best mediums of exchange through voluntary use of those mediums. Any system that is forced on people using violence or the threat of violence will ultimately attract the kind of corruption we see today.

  11. Father Charles Coughlin proposed monetary reform in the context of the church’s doctrine of social justice, which opposes usury and supports just prices and wages. Perhaps presenting the idea of monetary reform in this context could gain the necessary support (at least 10% of the population). Coughlin reached an audience of over 40 million through national radio. While monetary reform and avoidance of war were his top priorities, at least the common man could relate to the injustice of unfair wages. Coughlin supported the New Deal philosophy, but opposed FDRs idea to fund it by borrowing from banks at usury. Also, WPA laborers were paid less than minimum wage and the New Deal failed to achieve full employment–millions remained unemployed or on the dole. Highly recommend his book, “A Series of Lectures on Social Justice” (April, 1936, 178 pages).

  12. This Economic BIll of Rights is all well and good as exponential human population and enterprise growth can continue. But it all comes crashing down as the 10th or even the 20th BILLION person is added to the planet! Are you saying that if we reach 25 BILLION people on Earth that each of them deserves a decent home? NOT! At 25 BILLION, humans become like a cockroach cancer on the Planet and deserve extermination! So how is it in the interim? Well, I say that we are past the point where 7 BILLION people are entitled to a decent home. “Decent homes” for 7 BILLION wrecks the planet! If we get back to say 2 or 3 BILLION people on Earth, then I will agree to the Economic Bill of Rights. Not Before!
    A. Gray

  13. Hi Ellen, very great post !!! when did you post it? (we met in Deep Dive Berlin) I wish to translate it in French, do you allow me to ?

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