A couple early endorsements for my just published book, ‘Central Bankers at the End of Their Ropes’, Clarity Press, August 2017, now available on Amazon, in bookstores, from the publisher, and via paypal from this website plus a Special Notice.

SPECIAL NOTICE: The European Financial Review (London) and the World Financial Review (London) journals are seeking reviewers of the ‘Central Bankers at the End of Their Ropes’ book for their next issues. If any reader is interested, see Dr. Jack Rasmus at drjackrasmus@gmail.com who will arrange a complimentary copy of the book from Clarity Press and put them in touch with the journals)


1. “The financialization of the US economy has been well documented
with finance capital now far surpassing manufacturing as a percentage
of GDP. Rasmus documents the ties of the Federal Reserve to Wall
Street and demands democratization of central banking with a series of
common sense solutions. A great book. I learned a lot from it.”

—Larry Cohen, Board chair, Our Revolution
Past President, Communications Workers of America

(This endorsement is posted on the Clarity Press website at Claritypress.com/RasmusIII.html)

2. “Central Banks On the Ropes? By Jack Rasmus is a tour de force of both the history of central banks and how they have degraded into weapons of mass financial destruction in the service of the 1%. Historically central banks have always been in the service of elites; first, to provide loans to Princes, Kings, and Emperors for their endless wars; more recently as the lender of last resort to financial institutions who are too big to fail and too big to jail. It is the latter function which has brought us to the financial abyss, an ocean of debt of over $20 trillion, broadcast world wide to the 1% who have used the electronically printed money as fast as they receive it for gambling in financial assets, off shoring jobs, buying stocks and bonds, and generated rivers of dividends to themselves. It is part of Jack Rasmus’s major achievement that he unravels the layers and layers of deceit by the central banks and the all too trusting media to show that the publicly announced goals of lender of last resort, maintaining inflation and money supply goals, are empty ideology. Which is why central banks are “on the ropes” and we face the financial abyss: the central banks cannot stop the flow of billions of electronically printed cash or raise interest rates significantly without plunging the markets into financial crisis. But it is the rivers of cash distributed world wide that has prompted bubble after financial bubble and will lead inevitably to the next crash.”

-David Baker, Amazon reviewer

(This endorsement is posted on the Amazon.com bookpage for the book, located at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=jack+rasmus+in+books)


How Economic Ideology often parades as economic fact and science is the topic of my last friday, Sept. 15, 2017 ‘Alternative Visions’ radio show. How mainstream economist, Holtz-Eakin, continues the false argument that business tax cuts create jobs; how NY Times columnist, David Brooks, repeats the 19th century mainstream economics notion that one’s income is the result of one’s productivity contribution (or lack thereof) and thus Income Inequality trends are the fault of the victims, not the wealthy investors, their corporations, and 1% households that have been accruing 95% of all income gains since 2008 for themselves. As manipulated data in support of the latter, the US Commerce Dept’s Census Bureau last week reports median family incomes have been rising 2015-16, reversing prior trends. Why this is based on select data and ignores mountains of contradictory facts, listen to the radio show below.

To Listen to the show, GO TO:


Or GO TO: http://www.alternativevisions.podbean.com


Dr. Jack Rasmus explains the notion of ideology in mainstream economics and how it works to create false arguments like ‘business tax cuts create jobs’, ‘free trade lifts all boats’, ‘markets are efficient’, ‘inflation is always caused by too much money chasing too few goods’, recessions are caused by external shocks to a stable (equilibrium) economic system, interest rates determine investment, a global savings glut caused the housing bust and crisis of 2008, ‘central banks are independent of the banks’, and one’s ‘income is determined by one’s productivity’. Rasmus defines ideology as ‘purposeful falsification of original ideas’ on behalf of the interests of those who benefit from the falsification, and describes language manipulation techniques of how this is done, like inversion of propositions, reversal of cause-effect, converting correlations to causation, inserting contradictory elements, deleting original elements of the idea, etc. The latest version of tax cuts create jobs, by economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin is explain, as is the US Dept. of Commerce’s recent report on incomes and poverty results and its interpretation by NY Times columnist, David Brooks.

(Check out Dr. Rasmus’s website, http://www.kyklosproductions.com, later today for re-posting of his prior essay, ‘Applications of Ideology in Economic Policy’, for a print publication of how the ideology of ‘tax cuts create jobs’ that has emerged under US Neoliberalism since the 1980s functions in terms of the various language manipulation techniques Rasmus discusses on the radio show above).

This past August marked the second anniversary of the Greek debt crisis and the third major piling on of debt on Greece in August 2015 by the Eurozone ‘Troika’ of European Commission, European Central Bank, and the IMF. That 2015 third debt deal added $86 billion to the previous $230 billion imposed on Greece—all to be paid by various austerity measures squeezing Greek workers, taxpayers, retirees, and small businesses demanded by the Troika and their northern Euro bankers sitting behind it.

Studies by German academic institutions showed that more than 95% of the debt repayments by Greece to the Troika have ended up in Euro bankers’ hands.

But the third debt deal of August 2015, which extends another year to August 2018, was not the end. Every time a major multi-billion dollar interest payment from Greece was due to the Troika and their bankers, still more austerity was piled on the $83 billion August 2015 deal. The Troika forced Greece to introduce even more austerity in the summer of 2016, and again still more this past summer 2017, to pay for the deal.

Last month, August 2017, Syriza and its ‘rump’ leadership—-most of its militant elements were purged by Syriza’s leader, Alex Tsipras, following the August 2015 debt deal—-hailed as some kind of significant achievement that the private banks and markets were now willing to directly lend money to Greece once again. Instead of borrowing still more from the Troika—-i.e. the bankers representatives—-Greece now was able once again to borrow and owe still more to the private bankers instead. In other words, to pile on more private debt instead of Troika debt. To impose even more austerity in order to directly pay bankers, instead of indirectly pay their Troika friends. What an achievement!

Greece’s 2012 second debt deal borrowed $154 billion from the Troika, which Greece then had to pay, according to the debt terms, to the private bankers, hedge funds and speculators’ which had accumulated over preceding years and the first debt crisis of 2010. So the Troika simply fronted for the bankers and speculators in the 2nd and 3rd debt deals. Greece paid the Troika and it paid the bankers. But now, as of 2017, Syriza and Greece can indebt themselves once again directly to the bankers by borrowing from them in public markets. As the French say, everything changes but nothing changes!

What the Greek debt deals of 2010-2015, and the never-ending austerity, show is that supra-state institutions like the Troika function as debt collectors for the bankers and shadow bankers when the latter cannot successfully collect their debt payments on their own. This is the essence of the new, 21st century form of financial imperialism. New, emerging Supra-State institutions prefer weaker national governments to indebt themselves directly to the banks and squeeze their own populace with Austerity whenever they can to make the payments. The Supra-State may not be involved. But it will step in if necessary to play debt collector if and when popular governments get control of their governments and balk at onerous debt repayments. And in free trade currency zones and banking unions, like the Eurozone, that Supra-State role is becoming increasingly institutionalized and regularized. And as it does, forms of democracy in the associated weaker nation states become increasingly atrophied and eventually disappear.

Syriza came to power in January 2015 as one of those popularly elected governments intent on adjusting the terms of debt repayment. But after a tragic, comedy of errors negotiation effort, capitulated totally to the Troika’s negotiators after only seven months.

The capitulation by Syriza’s leader, Alex Tsipras, in July 2015 was doubly tragic in that he had just put to a vote to the Greek people a week beforehand whether to reject the Troika’s deal and its deeper austerity demands. And the Greek popular vote called for a rejection of the Troika’s terms and demands. But Tsipras and Syriza rejected their own supporters, not the Troika, and capitulated totally to the Troika’s terms.

The August 2015 3rd debt deal quickly thereafter signed by Syriza-Tsipras was so onerous—-and the Tsipras-Syriza treachery so odious—-that it left opposition and popular resistance temporarily immobilized. That of course was the Troika’s strategic objective. Together with Tsipras they then pushed through their $83 billion deal, while Tsipras simultaneously purged his own Syriza party to rid it of elements refusing to accept the deal. Polls showed at that time, in August-September 2015, that 70% of the Greek people opposed the deal and considered it even worse than the former two debt agreements of 2010 and 2012. Other polls showed 79% rejected Tsipras himself.

To remain in power, Tsipras immediately called new Parliamentary elections, blocking with the pro-Troika parties and against former Syriza dissidents, in order to push through the Troika’s $83 billion deal. This week, September 20, 2017 also marks the two year anniversary of that purge and election that solidified Troika and Euro banker control over the Syriza party—-a party that once dared to challenge it and the Eurozone’s neoliberal Supra-State regime.

The meteoric rise, capitulation, collapse, and aftermath ‘right-shift’ of Syriza raises fundamental questions and lessons still today. It raises questions about strategies of governments that make a social-democratic turn in response to popular uprisings, and then attempt to confront more powerful neoliberal capitalist regimes that retain control of their currencies, their banking systems, and their budgets–such as in the case of Greece. Even in the advanced capitalist economies, the message is smaller states beware of the integration within the larger capitalist states and economies–whether by free trade, central banking integration, budget consolidations, or common currencies. Democracy will soon become the victim in turn.

The following is an excerpt from the concluding chapter of this writer’s October 2016 book, ‘Looting Greece: A New Financial Imperialism Emerges’, Clarity Press, which questioned strategies that attempted to resurrect 20th century forms of social-democracy in the 21st century world of supra-State neoliberal regimes. It summarizes Syriza’s ‘fundamental error’—a naïve belief that elements of European social democracy would rally around it and together they—i.e. resurgent social democracy and Syriza Greece—would successfully outmaneuver the German-banker-Troika dominated Euro neoliberal regime that solidified its power with the 1999 Euro currency reforms.

Syriza and Tsipras continue to employ the same error, it appears, hoping to be rescued by other Euro regime leaders instead of relying on the Greek people. Tsipras-Syriza recently invited the new banker-president of France, Emmanuel Macron, who this past month visited Athens. Their meeting suggests Tsipras and the rump Syriza still don’t understand why they were so thoroughly defeated by the Troika in 2015, and have been consistently pushed even further into austerity and retreat over the past two years.

But perhaps it no longer matters. Polls show Tsipras and the rump Syriza trailing their political opponents by more than two to one in elections set to occur in 2018.

EXCERPT from ‘Looting Greece’, Chapter 10, ‘Why the Troika Prevailed’.

Syriza’s Fundamental Error

To have succeeded in negotiations with the Troika, Syriza would have had to achieve one or more of the following— expand the space for fiscal spending on its domestic economy, end the dominance and control of the ECB by the German coalition, restore Greece’s central bank independence from the ECB, or end the control of its own Greek private banking system from northern Europe core banks. None of these objectives could have been achieved by Syriza alone. Syriza’s grand error, however, was to think that it could rally the remnants of European social democracy to its side and support and together have achieved these goals—especially the expanding of space for domestic fiscal investment. It was Syriza’s fundamental strategic miscalculation to think it could rally this support and thereby create an effective counter to the German coalition’s dominant influence within the Troika.

Syriza went into the fight with the Troika with a Greek central bank that was the appendage, even agent, of the ECB in Greece, and with a private banking system in Greece that was primarily an extension of Euro banks outside Greece. Syriza struggled to create some space for fiscal stimulus within the Troika imposed debt deal, but it was thoroughly rebuffed by the Troika in that effort. It sought to launch a new policy throughout the Eurozone targeting fiscal investment, from which it might benefit as well. But just as the ECB was thwarted by German-core northern Euro alliance countries, the German coalition also successfully prevented efforts to promote fiscal stimulus by the EC as well. The Troika-German coalition had been, and continues to be, successful in preventing even much stronger members states in France and Italy from exceeding Eurozone fiscal stimulus rules. The dominant Troika German faction was not about to let Greece prevail and restore fiscal stimulus, therefore, when France and Italy were not. Greece was not only blocked from launching a Euro-wide fiscal investment spending policy; it was forced to introduce ‘reverse fiscal spending’ in the form of austerity.

Syriza’s insistence on remaining in the Euro system meant Grexit was never an option. That in turn meant Greece would not have an independent central bank providing liquidity when needed to its banking system. With ECB control over the currency and therefore liquidity, the ECB could reduce or turn on or off the money flow to Greece’s central bank and thus its entire private banking system at will—which it did repeatedly at key moments during the 2015 debt crisis to influence negotiations.

As one member of the Syriza party’s central committee reflected on the weeks leading up to the July 5 capitulation, “The European Central Bank had already begun to carry out its threats, closing down the country’s banking system”.

The ECB had actually begun turning the economic screws on Syriza well before the final weeks preceding the referendum: It refused to release interest on Greek bonds it owed under the old debt agreement to Greece from the outset of negotiations. It refused to accept Greek government bonds as collateral necessary for Greek central bank support of Greece’s private banks. It doled out Emergency Lending Assistance, ELA, funds in amounts just enough to keep Greek banks from imploding from March to June and constantly threatened to withhold those same ELA funds when Troika negotiators periodically demanded more austerity concessions from Greece. And it pressured Greece not to impose meaningful controls on bank withdrawals and capital flight during negotiations, even as those withdrawals and money flowing out of the country was creating a slow motion train wreck of the banking system itself. The ECB, in other words, was engineering a staged collapse of Greece’s banking system, and yet Syriza refused to implement any possible policy or strategy for preventing or impeding it.

For a more detailed analysis of the respective strategies and tactics of Syriza and the Troika in 2015 and after, and the role played by individual leaders and organizations, see the concluding chapter of Jack Rasmus, ‘Looting Greece: A New Financial Imperialism Emerges’, Clarity Press, October 2016, pp. 231-57. Dr. Rasmus is also author of the recently published, ‘Central Bankers at the End of Their Ropes?: Monetary Policy and the Coming Depression’, Clarity Press, August 2017.

The following is a review of Dr. Jack Rasmus, ‘Central Bankers at the End of Their Ropes?: Monetary Policy and the Coming Depression’, Clarity Press, August 2017, by David Baker, which will appear in the October 1, issue of Z Magazine.

“Jack Rasmus has written a series of important books about the global economy; the critical question is, important or not, why would the general reader make the effort required to read any of them? The best answer comes from Noam Chomsky who tells us that we face two existential threats, nuclear holocaust and the environmental collapse called climate change. Those threats to tens of millions of people worldwide can only be mitigated by bringing back real democracy from the shadow of the empty political theater which we currently endure; but to bring back real democracy, we need to understand what destroyed it and what destroyed it is the collection of economic engines called neoliberalism. The most reliable guide to understanding neoliberalism is Jack Rasmus; his book, Central Bankers on the Ropes, examines the fundamental role of central banks in our new, savage global economy.

The word savage would puzzle Volker, Greenspan, Bernake, Yellen et al but it accurately describes neoliberalism’s impact on the world; the lower 90% are collateral damage in the service of the 1%. But the central banks have always served rulings elites; kings and princes historically have financed their endless wars with the help of the institutional ancestors of central banks; in more modern times, central banks provide trillions of dollars in cash, in various forms, to the financial industry which in turn have been used to prop up the stock and bond markets world wide; offshore jobs, gamble in financial instruments, and pour out dividends. The central banks are in effect a conduit straight to the one percent; as fast as legal tender is electronically printed, it ends up hoarded in their accounts, where it stays.

Jack Rasmus is excellent at peeling away the layers of economic deceit to demonstrate that the rivers of cash pouring out of the central banks does not bring prosperity to the lower 90%; the idea that prosperity is even trickling down is empty ideology. The way in which he peels away the layers of deceit is by examining each of the central banks, in turn, The Fed, The Bank of Japan, the EU Central Bank, and the Central Bank of China, and determines which if any is actually achieving their publicly announced goals. These goals include inflation at 2%; interest rate stabilization; money supply stabilization; bailing out major financial institutions during economic downturns, and increasing GDP.

With the exception of China, each central bank has failed in all of their stated goals. Since their publicly stated goals are not being achieved, we have to examine their actual outcomes to determine what their real goals are and ultimately after peeling away all the layers of deception, their real goal to help the one per cent, by propping up stocks and bonds, providing capital to offshore jobs as well as gamble in financial assets.

The case of China is of particular importance because prior to the 2008 collapse, China pulled out of economic downturns relatively quickly and easily and did achieve its announced goal of significant increases in GDP. What happened after 2008, is that China changed its mix of monetary and fiscal policy, conventional banking, and strict restrictions on capital flows. But because China wanted its currency used as a major trading currency, it was pushed by the rest of the world banking community to open up its economy to capital flows and allow non conventional banking, i.e. shadow banking to operate within in its borders. This was a huge mistake; once China made this shift in policy, it could no longer pull itself out of downturns easily and it is finding it harder and harder to maintain its GDP goals. It has fallen into the chronic subsidization trap of financial institutions.

It is this paradigm shift, the chronic subsidization of financial institutions by central banks world wide that is the key finding; it is why central bankers are “on the ropes.” Historically, one of the major roles of central banks has been to bail out large financial institutions when they fail. Which is exactly what the Fed and others did during the 2008-2009 collapse. But by 2010, the financial institutions were stabilized but the trillions of liquidity injections, quantitative easing and low or no interest loans, continued. Why? Because the banking industry and the one per cent were making so much money from what became chronic subsidization, a subsidization that continues to this day. And here is the problem. The central banks know that a serious downturn is coming; if they continue to generate trillions of dollars in world wide debt through the extension of credit then the inevitable collapse becomes greater; but if they stop, they also risk a huge collapse since the rise in financial assets worldwide has nothing to do with the real economy but is propped up by the central banks.

Rasmus also documents another element of the central banks dilemma; they can’t raise interest rates. The central banks want to raise interest rates, for many reasons but one important reason is because it allows them to lower rates when the inevitable financial bust comes. If they can’t raise rates now, they can’t lower them when the bust comes; likewise, if they can’t stop the cash distributions now, they have nothing left in their monetary weapons to use when the crash comes. Over and over again, throughout history, it was the raising of interest rates by central banks that plunged the world into either recession or depression. So we are truly looking at the abyss since the coming collapse will be more violent, due to the rising oceans of debt [over $20 trillion] and the central banks have no monetary weapons left, either cash or lowering interest rates.

Which brings me to the heart of the debate, what in the austere language of economics is called Fiscal Policy versus Monetary Policy. Progressive fiscal policy is what finally dragged the US out of the Great Depression; it is what Ronald Regan sneered at as “Tax and Spend”. For a progressive, you tax based upon ability and spend based upon need; and, during the 1950’s and 1960’s, the progressive tax and spend policies produced prosperity for all. If you think about it, taxes are the only way to generate capital without falling into the credit/debt trap. Not so with monetary policy.

Monetary policy is economic policy driven by the central banks who in turn serve the one percent. There are many tools that can be used in Monetary Policy, the most well known of which are electronically printing low or interest free loans as well as direct buys of stocks and bonds and raising and lowering interest rates. What Jack Rasmus provides is the insight that the one percent are not willing to wait for prosperity to “trickle up” from the lower 90%; they want instant cash now, as fast as the Fed can electronically print it. Even if it brings down the entire world economy. The lower 90% can wait, apparently forever.

Once again, China did provide an interesting contrast prior to 2008; it had a true fiscal policy, not the fiscal austerity that monetary policy demands. China made and continues to make enormous expenditures on infrastructure, on a scale close to the fiscal policies of the US during WWII. In sharp contrast, none of the other central banks or economies examined engage in this kind of fiscal policy; the case of the EU is quite extreme; they are prohibited by their enabling legislation from engaging in any fiscal policy other than fiscal austerity.

Extraordinary dangers require extraordinary measures. Jack Rasmus concludes with a proposed US constitutional amendment that would place The Fed under strict democratic controls such as nationalizing all banking, prohibiting shadow banking and casino capitalism, placing strict controls on capital flows, and making the explicit goal of The Fed the raising of household disposable incomes. There is a body of scholarly work that demonstrates that the US Constitution was designed to protect investor rights [see e.g. An Economic Interpretation of the US Constitution] so why not amend it and finally give the people control over their economy? One criticism of this proposal is that it really doesn’t go far enough; doesn’t global capitalism require global controls? Thomas Piketty in his groundbreaking work, Capital, proposes just that.

David Baker

The Gayle McLaughlin Campaign for Lt. Governor of California—Progressive Local Politics In Action – 09.08.17

To Listen to the podcast of the show go to:


Or go to: http://www.alternativevisions.podbean.com


Jack Rasmus interviews Gayle McLaughlin, founding organizer of the successful grass roots independent political action movement in Richmond, California, former mayor of Richmond and current city council member. McLaughlin explains how the Richmond Political Alliance, RPA, has been able to take over city government despite intense opposition from oil giant, Chevron Corp., that previously ran the city. How the RPA’s strategy and tactics enabled real political action, outside the two wings of the corporate party of America (aka Democrats and Republicans), to become successful. Gayle describes the progressive improvements the RPA has achieved, how it started, its organizational innovations and direct community ties and how electoral action and direct action tactics were melded successfully. McLaughlin and the RPA are now undertaking efforts to extend progressive politics to the state level with her candidacy for Lt. Governor of California. For more information about her Lt. Governor campaign, go to her website http://www.GayleforCalifornia.org . For how the RPA became a successful grass roots movement, its strategy, organization structure and tactics, see http://www.RichmondProgressiveAlliance.net. And for local San Francisco bay area residents, check out her campaign’s next meeting at 747 Lobos St., Richmond, Calif., this Sunday, September 10 at 2-5pm.

(For a full history of the RPA from origin to present, Dr. Rasmus also recommends reading RPA member, Steve Early’s book, Refinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money, and the Remaking of An American City, Beacon Press, 2017. )

To listen to my assessment of the status and condition of the US working class this labor day, September 4, 2017, go to my Alternative Visions radio show on the progressive radio network…






Dr. Rasmus takes stock of the condition of the US working class today. Discussed are the true condition of jobs and employment and how official government statistics underestimate contingent jobs, discouraged and missing labor force jobs, how labor force participation fails to account for millions, how government surveys of jobs underestimates, and how ‘hidden unemployment’ means jobless today is still 15-20 million. Working class wage stagnation the past decade, 2007 to 2017, is estimated with effects of contingent labor, gig labor, free trade, capital substitution, de-unionization, and privatization of healthcare and pension benefits; how workers real wages are less than reported due to housing-medical-education cost inflation, shifting tax burdens, and rising debt interest payments. The show concludes with discussion of new employer offensives against unions, focusing on open shop (right to work) Koch brothers offensives and new initiatives to outlaw agency shop and dues check off provisions in union contracts. Acknowledging the dismal scenario, Rasmus concludes that instead of stepping up defense of unions and workers’ interests, the Democratic party continues to retreat further into the morass of identity politics.

My just published book, ‘Central Bankers at the End of Their Rope?: Monetary Policy and the Coming Depression’, Clarity Press, July 2017, is now available for immediate purchase on Amazon.com, as well as from this blog. (see book icon)

The following article, ‘Central Banks As Engines of Income Inequality and Financial Crisis’, summarizing some of the book’s themes, appeared in Z Magazine, September 1, 2017:

“This September 2017 marks the ninth year since the last major financial crisis erupted in 2008. In that crisis, investment banks Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers collapsed. So did Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the quasi-government mortgage agencies that were then bailed out at the last minute by a $300 billion U.S. Treasury money injection. Washington Mutual and Indymac banks, the brokerage Merrill Lynch, and scores of other banks and shadow banks went under, were forced-merged by the government, or were consolidated or restructured. The finance arms of General Motors and General Electric were also bailed out, as were the auto companies themselves, to the tune of more than $100 billion. Then there was the insurance giant, AIG, that speculated in derivatives and ultimately required more than $200 billion in bailout funds. The “too big too fail” mega banks—Citigroup and Bank of America—were technically bankrupt in 2008 but were bailed out at a cost of more than $300 billion. And all that was only in the U.S. Banks in Europe and elsewhere also imploded or recorded huge losses. The U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve, helped bail them out as well by providing more than a trillion U.S. dollars in loans and swaps to Europe’s banking system.

Although the crisis at the time was deeply influenced by the crash of residential housing in the U.S., few U.S. homeowners were bailed out. A mere $25 billion was provided to rescue homeowners, and most of that went to bank mortgage servicing companies who were supposed to refinance their mortgages but didn’t. More than $10 trillion, conservatively was provided to financial institutions, banks and shadow banks, and big corporations, and foreign banks by U.S. policy makers in the government and at the U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve.
The Federal Reserve Bank as Bailout Manager

A common misunderstanding is that the banking system bailouts were managed by Congress passing what was called the Trouble Asset Relief Program, TARP. Introduced in October 2008, TARP provided the U.S. Treasury a $750 billion blank check with which to bail out the banks. But less than half of the $750 billion was actually spent. By early 2009 the remainder was returned to the U.S. Treasury. So Congress didn’t actually bail out the big banks. The bailout was engineered by the U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve, in coordination with the main European central banks—the Bank of England, European Central Bank, and the Bank of Japan.

The central banks bailed out the big banks. That has always been the primary function of central banks. That’s why they were created in the first place. It’s called the lender of last resort function. Whenever there’s a general banking crisis, which occurs periodically in all capitalist economies, the central bank simply prints the money (electronically today) and injects it free of charge into the failing private banks, to fill up and restore the private banks’ massive losses that occur in the case of banking crashes. Having a central bank, with operations little understood by the general public, is a convenient way for capitalism to rescue its banks without having to have capitalist politicians—i.e. in Congress and the Executive—do so more directly and more publicly.

From Bailouts to Perpetual Bank Subsidization

But central banks since 2008 have evolved toward a new primary function, no longer just bailing out the banks when they get in trouble, but providing a permanent regime of subsidization of the banks even when they’re not in trouble. The latter function has become a permanent feature of capitalist global banking.

With the Fed in the lead, in 2008-09 the central banks of the advanced capitalist economies simply created money—i.e. dollars, pounds, euros and yen—and allowed banks and investors to borrow it virtually free. But free money, in the form of near zero interest, was still not the full picture. The Fed and other central banks as well as other institutional and even private investors, said: “We will also buy up your bad assets that virtually collapsed in price as a result of the 2008-09 crash.” This direct buying of bad mortgage and government bonds—and in Europe and Japan also buying of corporate bonds and even company stocks—was called “quantitative easing,” or QE for short. And what did the central banks pay for the assets they bought from banks and investors, many of which were worth as low as 15 cents on the dollar? No one knows, because the Fed to this day has kept secret how much they overpaid for the bad assets. But the QE and the near zero interest rates have continued for nine years in the U.S. and the UK; and, in 2015 QE was accelerated even faster in Europe; and since 2014 faster still in Japan. And even in China after 2015, when its stock market bubble burst, its central bank began providing trillions to prop up financial markets.

In the course of the past nine years, the private capitalist banking system globally has become addicted to the free money provided by central banks.

Private banks cannot earn profits on their own any longer, it appears. They are increasingly dependent on the virtually free money from their central bankers. This is a fundamental change in the global capitalist economic system in the past decade—a change which is having historic implications for growing income inequality worldwide in the advanced economies as well as for another inevitable global financial crisis that will almost certainly erupt within the next decade.

The $25 Trillion Banking System Bailout

In the U.S., the Fed’s QE officially purchased $4.5 trillion in bad assets between 2009 and 2014. But it was actually more, perhaps as much as $7 trillion, because, as some of the Fed-purchased bonds matured and were paid off, the Fed reinvested the money once again to maintain the $4.5 trillion. The 2008-09 crash was global, so the Fed was not the only central bank player doing this. The European Central Bank, as of 2017, has bailed out European banks to the tune of $4.9 trillion so far. The Bank of England, another $.7 trillion. And the Bank of Japan, as of mid-2017, more than $5 trillion. The People’s Bank of China, PBOC, did not institute formal QE programs, but after 2011 it too started injecting trillions of dollar in equivalent yuan, to prevent its private sector from defaulting on bank loans, to bail out its local governments that over invested in real estate, and to stop the collapse of its stock markets in 2015-16. PBOC bailouts to date amount to around $6 trillion. And the totals today continue to rise for all, as the UK, Europe, Japan, and China continue their central bank engineered bailout binge, with Europe and Japan actually accelerating their QE programs.

Contrary to many critiques of rising debt levels since 2009, it is not the level of debt itself that is the problem and the harbinger of the next financial crash. It is the inability to pay for the debt, the principal and interest on it, when the next recession occurs. As long as economies are growing, businesses and households and even government can finance the debt, i.e. continue to pay the principal and interest some way. But when recessions occur, which they always do under capitalism, that ability to keep paying the debt collapses. Business revenues and profits fall, employment rises and wages decline, and government tax collections slow. So the income with which to pay the principal and interest collapses. Unable to make payments on principal and or interest, defaults on past-incurred debt occur. Prices for financial assets—stocks, bonds, etc.—then collapse even faster and further. Businesses and banks go bankrupt, and the crisis deepens, accelerating on itself in a vicious downward spiral as the financial system collapses and drags the non-financial economy down with it—and as the latter in turn exacerbates the financial crisis even further.

In other words, the private corporate debt at the heart of the last crisis in 2007-08 has not been removed from the global economy. It has only been shifted—from the business sector to the central banks. And this central bank debt has nothing to do with national governments’ total debt. That’s a completely additional amount of government debt. So too is consumer household debt additional, which, in the U.S, is more than $1 trillion each for student loans, auto loans, credit cards, and multi-trillions more for mortgage loans. Moreover, in recent months defaults on student, auto and credit card debt have begun to rise again, already the highest in the last four years in the U.S.

It’s also not quite correct to say that the $25 trillion central banks’ injection of money into the banking system since 2008 has successfully bailed out the private banks globally. Despite the total, there are still more than $10-$15 trillion in what are called non-performing bank loans worldwide. Most is concentrated in Europe and Asia—both of which are likely the locus of the next global financial crisis. And that next crisis is coming.

In the interim, the central banks’ free money and bank subsidization machine is generating a fundamental dual problem within the global economy. It is feeding the trend toward income inequality and it is helping fuel financial asset bubbles worldwide that will eventually converge and then burst, precipitating the next global financial crash.

The Fed as Engine of Income Inequality

In the U.S., the central bank’s $4.5 trillion (really $7 trillion) balance sheet—and the 9 years of free money at 0.1% to 0.25% rates provided to banks by the Fed— have been at the heart of a massive income shift to U.S. investors, businesses, and the wealthiest 1% households.

Where did all this money go? The lie fed to the public by politicians, businesses, and the media was that this massive free money injection was necessary to get the economy going again. The trillions would jump-start real investment that would create jobs, incomes consumption, and consequently, economic growth or GDP. But that’s not where it went, and the U.S. economy experienced the weakest nine-year post-recession recovery on record. Little of the money injection financed real investment—i.e. in equipment, buildings, structures, machinery, inventories, etc. that creates jobs and wage incomes. Instead, investors got QE bailouts and banks borrowed the free money from the Fed and then loaned it out at higher interest rates to U.S. multinational companies who invested it abroad in emerging markets; or they loaned it to shadow bankers and foreign bankers who speculated in financial asset markets like stocks, junk bonds, derivatives, foreign exchange, etc.; or the banks borrowed and invested it themselves in financial securities markets; or they just hoarded the cash on their own bank balance sheets; or the banks borrowed the money at 0.1 and then redeposited it at the central bank, which paid them 0.25%, for a 0.15% profit for doing nothing.

This massive money injection, in other words, was then put to work in financial markets. Behind the 9- year bubbles in stock and bond markets (and derivatives and currency exchange markets as well) is the massive $7 to $10 trillion Federal Reserve bank money injections. And how high have the stock-bond bubbles grown? The Dow Jones U.S. stock market has risen from a low in 2009 of 6,500 to almost 22,000 today. The U.S. Nasdaq tech-heavy market has surpassed the 2001 peak 5,000 before the tech bust, now more than 6,000. The S&P 500 has also more than tripled. Business profits have also tripled, Bond market prices have similarly accelerated. Free money in the trillions $ from the central bank and trillions more in profits from financial speculation. But that’s not all. The 9- year near-zero rates from the Fed have also enabled corporations to issue corporate bonds by more than $5 trillion in just the last 5 years.

So how do these financial asset market bubbles translate into historic levels of income inequality, one might ask? The wealthiest 1%—i.e. the investor class—cash in their stocks and bonds when the bubbles escalate. The corporations that have raised $5 trillion in new bonds and seen their profits triple in value then take that massive $6 to $9 trillion cash hoard to buy back their stocks and to issue record level of dividends to their shareholders. Nearly $6 trillion of the profits-bond raised cash was redistributed in the U.S. alone since 2010 to shareholders in the form of stock buybacks and dividends payouts. The 1% get $6 trillion or more distributed to them and the corporations and banks sit on the rest in the form of retained cash. Or send it offshore into their foreign subsidiaries in order to avoid paying taxes in the US.

Congress and Presidents play a role in the process, as well. Shareholders get to keep more of the $6 trillion plus distributed to them by passing tax cut legislation that sharply cuts capital gains and dividend income. Corporations also gain by keeping more profits after-tax, as a result of corporate tax cuts—which they then distribute to their shareholders via the buybacks and dividends.

The Congress and President sit near the end of the distribution chain, enabling through tax cuts the 1% and shareholders to keep more of their distributed income. But it is the central bank, the Fed, which sits at the beginning of the process. It provides the initial free money that, when borrowed and reinvested in stock markets, becomes the major driver of the stock price bubble. The Fed’s free money also drives down interest rates to near zero, allowing corporations to raise the $5 trillion more from issuing new corporate bonds. Without the Fed and the near zero rates, there would be nowhere near $5 trillion raised from new corporate bonds, to distribute to shareholders as a consequence of buybacks and dividends. Furthermore, without the Fed and QE programs, investors would not have the excess money to invest in stocks and bonds (and derivatives and currencies) that drive up stock and bond prices to bubble levels before investors cash in on those bubble level prices.

The Fed, as well as other central banks, are therefore the originating source of the runaway income inequality that has plagued the U.S. since late 1970s.

Income inequality is a function of two things. On the one hand, accelerating capital incomes of the wealthiest 1% households are largely a result of buybacks and dividend payouts. Such capital gains incomes constitute nearly 100 percent of the wealthiest 1%’s total income. On the other, income inequality is also a consequence of stagnating or declining wage incomes of non-investor households. Inequality may therefore rise if capital gains drive capital incomes higher; or may rise if wage incomes stagnate or decline; or may rise doubly fast if capital incomes rise while wage incomes stagnate or decline. Since 2000 both forces have been in effect: capital incomes of the 1% have escalated while wage incomes for 80 % of households have stagnated or declined.
Mainstream economists tend to focus on the stagnation of wage incomes, which are due to multiple causes like de-unionization, the rise of temp-part-time-contract employment, free trade treaties’ wage depressing effects, failure to adjust minimum wages, high wage manufacturing and tech industries offshoring of investment and jobs, cost shifting of healthcare from employers to workers, reduction in retirement benefits, shifting tax burdens to working and middle classes, etc. But economists don’t adequately explain why capital incomes have been accelerating so fast. Perhaps it is because mainstream economists simply don’t understand financial markets and investment very well; or perhaps some do, and just don’t want to go there and criticize runaway capital incomes.

Central Banks as Source of Financial Instability

As a result of Fed and other central banks’ money injections, underway now for decades, and especially since 2008, there is a mountain of cash—virtually trillions of dollars—sitting on the sidelines globally in the hands of professional investors and their shadow bank institutions. That money is looking for quick, speculative capital gains profit opportunities. That means seeking reinvestment short term in financial asset markets worldwide. The mountain of cash moves in and out of these global financial markets, creating and bursting bubbles as its shifts and moves. Periodically a major bubble bursts—like China’s stock market in 2015. Or a housing speculation bubble here or there. Or junk bonds or consumer debt in the U.S. Or the bubble in U.S. stocks which is nearing its limit.

A new global finance capital elite has arisen in recent decades, having directly benefited from and controlling this mountain of cash. There are about 200,000 of them worldwide, mostly concentrated in the U.S. and UK, some in Europe, but with numbers rising rapidly in Asia as well. They now control more investible assets than all the traditional commercial banks combined. Their preferred institutional investment vehicles are the global shadow banking system and their preferred investment targets are the global system of highly liquid financial asset markets. This system of new finance capitalists, their institutions, and their preferred markets is the real definition of what is meant by the financialization of the global economy. That financialization is generating ever more instability in the global capitalist system as it increasingly diverts trillions of dollars, euros, etc., from investing in job creating real things to investing in financial assets worldwide. That’s why global productivity and growth are progressively slowing, putting even more downward pressure on wage incomes. And central bank policies are a major contributor to this new trend in global capitalism in the 21st century.

Will the Central Banks Retreat?

In 2017, a minority of policymakers in the Fed and other central banks have begun to recognize the fundamental danger to their capitalist system itself from their providing free money and QE bond and stock buying money injections. So, led by the Fed, the central banks of the major economies are together now considering raising interest rates from the zero floor and trying to reverse their QE buying. Western central bankers met in late August 2017 at their annual Jackson Hole, Wyoming gathering, with the main topic of discussion being raising rates and reducing their QE bloated, $15 trillion official balance sheets. (China’s PBOC was absent or the total balance sheets would have amounted to more than $21 trillion.)

As I have argued, however, the Fed and other central banks will fail in both raising rates and selling off their balance sheets in 2017-18 and beyond—just as they failed in generating normal levels of real economic recovery since 2009. For the global capitalist banking system has become addicted and dependent on their central banks’ free money injections and their firehose of central bank bond-stock buying QE programs. Should the central banks attempt to retreat and raise rates or sell off their balance sheets to any meaningful extent, they will precipitate a serious credit contraction and provoke yet another financial and economic crisis. In other words, the global capitalist system has become dependent on the permanent subsidization of the banking system by their central banks after 2008. That is its new fundamental contradiction.

Jack Rasmus is the author of the just published book, Central Bankers at the End of Their Ropes?: Monetary Policy and the Coming Depressions, Clarity Press, August 2017. For information, see http://claritypress.com/RasmusIII.html. To purchase, go to Amazon.com or to author’s website: http://kyklosproductions.com which is accessible from this blog (see the blogroll to get to the website)