Jack Rasmus and guest, Eric Laursen, discuss the current condition of social security programs in the US today, on this month’s 80th anniversary of the passage of the social security law. A program which has immense popular support by Americans of all political persuasions is nonetheless still under attack, with plans by business and conservative forces to somehow privatize it and let Wall St. get their hands on the money to charge fees and interest. Jack explains how the privatization of defined benefit pension plans in the US since the 1980s and the ongoing privatization of health insurance have led to dual crises that will eventually explode in costs, loss of income, and great hardships. Social Security privatization would lead to the same. Jack and Eric discuss the different conditions of the various funds within social security—the retirement and disability funds, Medicare hospital and doctor coverage, and the prescription drug plan. Both explain how minor changes can ensure funding for all funds to the end of the century. Initiatives to expand social security to provide more benefits are also discussed.
Jack Rasmus follows up the previous show on the global economy with an assessment of financial instability that appears to be growing globally as well. Jack briefly discusses how excess debt and income decline and stagnation basically cause financial instability, and explains how the new 200,000 or so global finance capital elite continue to create financial asset bubbles worldwide and how those bubbles appear to be converging. Financial bubbles that appear most unstable include China’s stock markets (Shanghai and Schenzhen), but also global oil and commodity futures, emerging market equity and bond markets, US and global bond ETFs sold by mutual funds, the US and Euro corporate junk bond markets, tech stocks, Eurozone banks, and currency exchange markets that are becoming much more volatile. Also noted are potential serious secondary effects of a lack of liquidity in bond markets in general and effects on US repo markets in turn. The show concludes with a in-depth look at causes behind the current China stock market collapse which, Jack argues, has yet to run its full course and could destabilize financial markets worldwide in the near future. The role of China government policies in causing a runup of 120% in China stocks in just one year is explained, as well as government measures introduced since June 12 of this year to stop the stock slide.
To read the public and business press, it appears the US economy is about to accelerate, the Federal Reserve will soon raise interest rates, unemployment is at pre-recession lows, wages are about to rise, housing is recovering. Meanwhile, Europe is growing again now that the Greek crisis is resolved; China has stabilized its stock marke;, and the rest of the world is on a recovery path. But this public spin to the current US and global economic scene does not conform to reality. Jack Rasmus takes listeners on an ‘economic tour’ of the realities in the US and global real economy, where the US continues on a sub-par ‘stop go’ recovery, where China is really growing at 4-5% GDP, not the announced 7%, where China’s stock market collapse, begun in June, has only paused before another turn lower, where Europe QE is failing to generate a sustainable recovery and the ‘Greek Crisis’ is far from over, where Japan’s real economy has stalled (again for the fifth time since 2008), and where emerging markets from Indonesia to Brazil to Turkey are slowing and slipping into recessions. The global oil deflation is entering another decline, global commodities prices and sales are falling further, currency instability is rising, and money capital is flowing back to the US from everywhere, raising rates in the US and slowing economies elsewhere as the US dollar rises. (Next week: ‘Is the Global Economy Heading for Another Financial Crisis?
China’s two main stock markets, the Shanghai and the Shenzhen Exchanges, plunged more than 30% in recent weeks from their previous record highs of June 12. The Shanghai dropped 30%, and the tech-stock heavy Shenzhen by 37%. That’s the steepest stock decline in China since 1992. The markets briefly stabilized on July 9. But the question remains, will they continue …
On opposite ends of the world, two major financial instability events continue to emerge: China’s stock markets collapsing and Greece’s possible exit from the Eurozone. Both promise to produce significant contagion effects in the global economy, now already slowing. In the first half of the show, Jack reviews the latest Greek offer to the Troika delivered this past Thursday and compares it to prior Troika and Greek positions. The conclusion is Greece appears to have caved in to Troika concession demands in exchange for a ‘smoke and mirror’ restructuring of the Greek debt. If accepted, Jack argues, it will mean the Syriza government will eventually self-destruct—which has been the objective of the Troika from the very beginning. Traditional Euro social democracy (Greece’s proposals) is no longer acceptable to banker-investor governed Neoliberal Europe. Jack then takes a detailed look at the causes of the current freefall in China’s main stock markets and the possible consequences for China and the global economy. What’s behind the 150% rise in one year and now the collapse. Jack describes China’s latest emergency extreme measures being introduced to stem the fall, by injecting more de facto ‘QE’ money into the markets to stimulate stock buying again and introducing other extreme measures to stop stock selling. Likely potential contagion effects on China’s other markets (housing, local government debt, industrial debt) and its real economy are considered. Will China growth now slow further? What are consequences for the global financial system as contagion continues to spill over to other financial asset markets globally—stocks, bonds, commodities, currencies? Even more than Greece and the Eurozone, China’s markets collapse signal the global economy has moved one step further to another financial crisis event.
Jack Rasmus explains the northern Europe Neoliberal origins of the current Greek Debt crisis, and why the Troika cannot and will not accept Greece’s proposals which would upset the Euro-wide Neoliberal consensus. Greece’s proposals represent a return to traditional, pre-Neoliberal, European social democracy—which has been replaced with a new Neoliberal regime Europe-wide since 2000 with the creation of the Euro …
The weekend of June 27-28 marks the likely last comprehensive negotiating session between the Troika and the Greek government before the current extension of the debt agreement between Greece and the Troika formally expires on June 30, 2015. As final negotiations come down to the wire, the class nature of the bargaining positions of the two parties is becoming …
Jack Rasmus reports on the final positions of the Greek government and the Troika (IMF, ECB, EC) as they enter negotiations this weekend, June 27-28, before the expiration of the current debt payments on June 30 and a possible default on the debt. Jack reviews the most recent positions of the Greeks, provided last week in a comprehensive 11page document, which was rejected by the Troika on June 24 in toto, the failed negotiations at the highest levels on June 25-26, and the two sides’ demands as last minute negotiations occur June 27-28. The highly class nature of the negotiations are noted—with pensions (deferred wages), sales taxation (impacting workers more), Troika opposition to tax the rich, and Troika demand for full privatizations. The Troika’s emerging ‘Plan B’ is described (i.e. push Greece to default and maneuver a regime change) vs. the missing Greek ‘Plan B’ (establish a parallel currency to the Euro) are contrasted. The five major negotiating errors that the Greek government has committed since March are described. The most likely scenario to the final deal on June 30 is outlined—based on extending the negotiations for months more, Troika paying itself for debt with funds it has been denying Greece, in exchange for more concessions still from Greece.’ (Listeners are encouraged to listen to the Alternative Visions shows of the two preceding weeks as background to the current show.
Dr. Jack Rasmus provides an update on Greek debt negotiations since last week’s Alternative Visions show and discussion on the origins of the Greek debt. Updates include Troika scenarios outlined at its June 12 meeting in Bratislava, the IMF walkout after, the failed meetings that occurred in Brussels over the weekend of June 13-14, and Greece’s proposals of June 15 rejected again by the Troika. Also discussed are the sabotage of the Greek government negotiators by their own Greek Central Bank, which on June 17 publicly declared Greece should sign the Troika’s latest package; Greek prime minister, Tsipras’, warmly welcomed visit to Russia on the same day; and the failed meeting of June 18 of Euro finance ministers in Luxemburg at which it was expected Greece would concede to the Troika’s position but didn’t. Jack notes the growing statements by German and IMF representatives that a managed default and Greek exit is preferable to continuing Greece’s unresolvable debt crisis. Were Greece to agree to the Troika’s position, and generate a $2-$3 billion a year surplus (by cutting spending and raising sales taxes) that it would take Greece 150 years to pay off the Troika debt. Greece cannot pay and cannot ‘grow out of’ the crisis, Rasmus argues. Rumors continue to grow that Greece may rearrange its cabinet, replacing hardliners with more amenable cabinet members should it agree to more Troika cuts in exchange for some debt restructuring. The political and economic risks for both sides of continuing negotiations and of default are noted. Default is quite possible, Rasmus notes, but the most likely 60-40 scenario is some kind of more concessions by Greece for some kind of debt restructuring over the next 90 days, as the current extension is extended yet again.
Jack Rasmus discusses the latest events of the past week in the Greek debt negotiations, with the IMF ‘walking out’ of negotiations and both sides, the Troika and Greece appearing to issue ultimatums as to what is unacceptable. Three choices remain as negotiations come down to a June 30 deadline: either Greece defaults (fails to make payments due on June 30 to the IMF when the current extension of the debt agreement expires; the Troika (IMF, ECB, European Commission (finance ministers) continue to insist on a ‘take it or leave it’ position, or both parties—Greece and Troika—agree to extend both the agreement and debt payments due for another 30-60 days and continue negotiating. Jack explains how the latter is most likely, but may not happen nonetheless. Consequences of a default for Greece, the Eurozone markets, and the global economy and banking system are considered. In the second half of the show, Jack explains in detail how Greek debt rose to its current $300 billion, unsustainable levels. The explanation is to be found in the US ‘twin deficits’ (trade and budget) policies introduced successfully by US capitalists and government in the early 1980s to resurrect the US economy and solidify its global hegemony once again after the crises of the 1970s. Twin deficits were a key element of US neoliberal policies that have worked since 1980 to ensure US dominance. With the creation of the Euro in 1999, northern European bankers and governments attempted to create a similar arrangement within the Eurozone. It worked until the 2008-09 crash, the second European recession of 2012, and the chronic slow growth ever since in Europe. Greek (and Euro periphery) debt rose ever higher with each event, to its unsustainable levels today. Why the Euro ‘twin deficits’ neoliberal strategy failed.