Sunday, August 11, 2019

Today's Links

 "The ruling elite in the South, the remnants of the old southern slaveholding oligarchy, formed a critical base of the Democratic Party. This Party had defended slavery and secession and had led the struggle against post-Civil War Reconstruction. It had opposed granting suffrage to freed slaves and generally opposed all progressive reforms aimed at alleviating the oppression of blacks and poor whites. No politician could hope for national leadership in the Democratic Party, let alone expect to win the presidency, by attacking the system of racial oppression in the South." WSWS




"Mortal danger for the EU lies in the emergence of a rational, non-ideological case against European integration. And the EU itself must share the blame for creating the conditions for it" Wolfgang Munchau, Financial Times

 

 

1--US Credit Card Interest Rates Hit Highest Level In 25 Years As Economy Slows, Fed Eases

 

The gap between what banks are being charged to borrow money, and what their charging consumers, is widening once again. According to the FT, US consumers are paying higher interest rates on credit-card balances than they have in 25 years.
The average rate on interest-bearing card accounts topped 17 per cent in May, according to Fed data, the highest in the 25 years that the central bank has been making the calculation. Weekly data based on a Creditcards.com survey of 100 national card issuers found an average rate of 17.8 per cent at the end of July, another multi-decade high.

 

Card companies have also found other ways to increase what card customers pay, for example by using annual fees, foreign transaction fees, and fees on balance transfers, according to Ted Rossman of Creditcards.com.
"I don’t think this [Fed] rate cut is a big gain to consumers with credit card debt - [their] rate is already high and even if it goes down slightly...[they] very well might end up paying higher fees in other areas," said Mr Rossman.
There is a record $850 billion in US credit card debt outstanding, according to the Fed. That's a record amount in dollar terms

2--Putin explains US broken promises, threats and aggression

 

Megyn Kelly interview (unedited)  Putin is meeting with the heads of international news agencies during the annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF)

 

 

3--Jeffrey Epstein RIP

 

As a former intelligence officer myself, there is little doubt in my mind that what Epstein did and how he did it was an intelligence operation. There is no other viable explanation for his filming of prominent politicians and celebrities having sex with young girls. And as for the question of whom Epstein might have been working for, the most likely answer is Mossad. The CIA would have had no interest in compiling dossiers on prominent Americans, but American movers and shakers like Bill Clinton, with his 26 trips on the Lolita Express, former Governor Bill Richardson, or former Senator George Mitchell are precisely the types of “agents of influence” that the Mossad would seek to coerce or even blackmail into cooperation.

 

Other compelling evidence for a Mossad connection came from Epstein’s relationship with Ghislaine Maxwell, who reportedly served as his key procurer of young girls. Ghislaine is the daughter of Robert Maxwell, who died or possibly was assassinated in mysterious circumstances in 1991. Maxwell was an Anglo-Jewish businessman, very cosmopolitan in profile, like Epstein, a multi-millionaire who was very controversial with what were regarded as ongoing ties to Mossad. After his death, he was given a state funeral by Israel in which six serving and former heads of Israeli intelligence listened while Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir eulogized: “He has done more for Israel than can today be said.”
Israel and high-profile Jewish players also have continued to turn up like bad pennies in the Epstein case, but no one seems to be interested in pursuing that angle. Epstein clearly had contact with former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak and Wexner also had close ties to the Jewish state and its government

4-- William Jennings Bryan and the rise and decline of the Progressive Era

Eugene V. Debs  
Tom Watson

Beginning with the Carter administration and accelerating in the 1980s, the Democratic Party separated itself from the legacy of Progressivism and New Deal liberalism. Under the Democratic Clinton administration, social inequality increased to the greatest level in more than 50 years. The Democratic Party was never a “party of the people.” By Bryan’s time, it had long since established itself as one of the parties of the capitalist ruling class. It combined the defense of some of the most reactionary aspects of American capitalism—most notably, the brutal oppression of blacks in the South—with certain reformist policies that appealed to oppressed sections of the middle class as well as urban workers. Its particular function, well established by the latter part of the nineteenth century, was to capture mass discontent and channel it along non-revolutionary lines, so as to uphold the essential class interests of American big business. This is the role that it played in corralling and emasculating the populist movement, and Bryan personally played a major role in this fundamentally reactionary process...

At its core, Bryan’s embrace of fundamentalist religious views reflected his belief that Christianity represented an indispensable anchor for the capitalist social order. He came to fear that scientific insights, in particular, the theory of evolution, would erode religious faith, threatening chaos. At the end of his life, this became his main preoccupation....

The period between around1890 and 1920, the era of Progressivism, saw the enactment of many democratic reforms—the income tax, direct election of senators, anti-trust legislation, women’s suffrage, to name a few.

With Bryan, the Democratic Party adapted itself to the changing mood of the masses and positioned itself to deflect social discontent in a direction that posed no challenge to the capitalist system. The party claimed to be the party of the common man and sought to blunt the appeal of socialist opponents of the capitalist system by proposing limited reforms. At the same time, Democrats and Republicans reacted violently to any manifestation of independent struggle by the working class. Strikes were crushed under the blows of court injunctions, arrests, and state and federal troops...

The Populist Party made an appeal for a united front between black and white farmers and sharecroppers, calling on them to put aside racial animosity and join in a common struggle against the plutocracy. It opposed the Democratic Party policy of white supremacy and sought to foster unity and cooperation between the exploited members of both races. Blacks were included in the ranks of Populist agitators. Often, speaking before mixed audiences, they recorded considerable success...

Writing of Bryan’s role in the 1896 election, Kazin declares, “His campaign endeared him to countless Americans who came to regard him as a godly hero. And in his advocacy of a stronger, more interventionist state, Bryan calmed his party’s ancestral dread of federal power. Every Democratic president from Woodrow Wilson to Lyndon Johnson would reap the benefits of his apostasy” (p. 45).

Kazin is correct to attach importance to the role of Bryan in refashioning the Democratic Party. But to suggest that the nomination of Bryan transformed the Democratic Party in some fundamental way is deceitful. Leaders of the Democratic Party may have been willing to accept Bryan’s nomination as a necessary evil to head off Populism, but that was as far as his services were needed. The Democratic Party establishment actively sabotaged his campaign in order to ensure the election of the pro-imperialist William McKinley. 

  Missing from Bryan’s platform were demands that challenged, in any significant way, the conditions of class exploitation itself. For example, in place of the call of the Populist Party for public ownership of the railroads, the Democratic platform merely called for “regulation.”

 The collapse of the Populist Party in the wake of the debacle of 1896 struck hardest in the South. Black tenant farmers were left totally at the mercy of a Democratic Party that terrorized and disenfranchised them. Beginning in the 1890s, laws mandating racial segregation and imposing poll taxes and literacy tests designed to exclude blacks from voting were imposed by Democratic-controlled state legislatures across the South.


These measures were instituted largely as a response to the Populists’ attempt to form an alliance between poor blacks and whites against the southern oligarchy. By driving a wedge between poor blacks and whites and between oppressed workers and small farmers, the Democratic Party sought to institutionalize a divide-and-rule strategy to maintain the system of class oppression. The reign of terror against blacks intensified. Lynchings, tolerated and even encouraged by state authorities, were common occurrences...

How one could be “progressive” and a white supremacist at the same time Kazin doesn’t explain. Rather than expose the fundamental contradiction between the Democratic Party’s claim to represent the people and its support for terror against blacks and their disenfranchisement in the South, Kazin offers a facile apology

 Kazin writes, “Never before had he made a religious question a political priority. But World War I shredded the ideal of peaceful progress and brotherhood, giving materialist doctrines such as Marxism and Darwinism the benefit of the doubt when it came to explaining why warfare intensified and inequality endured” (p. 264).....

 today Bryan’s legacy is primarily honored within right-wing circles, and then only for his role as an opponent of evolution.

He complains that in the post-war period “white progressives either ignored religious devotion or thought it an impediment to social change,” as though Bryan’s political evolution wasn’t the clearest demonstration of just that. He goes on to criticize liberals who “ignore religious issues grounded in moral conviction.”..

What about the question of public ownership, the redistribution of wealth, opposition to militarism? The Democratic Party rejects these Progressive Era goals...

Kazin’s work underscores the collapse of the liberal reformist perspective and the lack of any real commitment within the privileged upper-middle-class layer on which the Democratic Party rests to the defense of democratic principles.

This has material roots. The social foundations upon which the reforms of the Progressive and New Deal eras rested no longer exist. The global economic position of US capitalism has been decisively eroded. It is now the world’s largest debtor nation and faces powerful overseas economic competitors. Under these conditions, all the past gains of the working class, including basic democratic rights, are under attack.
The task facing the working class is not an attempt to revive moribund liberalism, but to construct an independent political party of its own based on a socialist and internationalist program.

 5--QE --coming soon

 

liquidity will likely continue to tighten gradually in the US banking system even after the Fed has stopped its balance sheet shrinkage, and - here is the punchline - in order to stop this liquidity tightening from advancing further, "the Fed may need to start open market operations sooner rather than later to inject reserves into the US banking system."

Open market operations is, of course, another name for QE, which as we have been saying all along is inevitable if for no other reason than to monetize the upcoming wave of UST supply especially if China decides to boycott (or outright sell) US Treasurys. Indeed, the Fed may have no choice but to launch QE simply because of too much Treasury supply and the market's ability to warehouse it - a challenge that will only grow in the coming years, which is why we have been warning for much of the past year to watch out for market crashes - just like the failure of Lehman - these are a convenient and easy scapegoat for the Fed returning launching another round of QE... much to Trump's applause.

 

6--Keynes letter to FD


. Some people seem to infer from this that output and income can be raised by increasing the quantity of money. But this is like trying to get fat by buying a larger belt. In the United States to-day your belt is plenty big enough for your belly. It is a most misleading thing to stress the quantity of money, which is only a limiting factor, rather than the volume of expenditure, which is the operative factor. ...  (The quantity of money doesn't matter, what matters is spending which increases growth, employment and investment.)


7--Anxious investors rush to bond funds at fastest rate since crisis

Almost $500bn went into fixed income products in first half of the year
 

8--Investors braced for global recession

Survey of fund managers shows highest expectations of recession in 4 years
 
“If the bond market is really telling us something, at what point will the equity market wake up?” he said.
 

 

 

 

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