PBI Newsletter – TPP and Public Banks, Cyprus, Letter from a Vermont Farmer, and more…

We at Ethical Markets  support the views of the Public Banking Institute and  our President ,  Hazel Henderson serves on its Advisory Board ,  Editor

TPP and Public Banks, Cyprus, Letter from a Vermont Farmer, and more…

PBI Newsletter, March 2013, Edition #23

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Editor’s Column — Shifting Ground

Two developments this past month are rapidly shifting long held beliefs about banking and markets.  Many of us, until now, believed that deposits in a bank were owned by the depositors.  Not true, as the events in Cyprus have so clearly indicated.  As Ellen Brown describes below, while the bank account is held by the depositor, the money is actually owned by the bank.  The depositor is merely an unsecured creditor with claims on the funds should the bank fail.  The depositor will be in line with all other depositors, along with other creditors, including the banks that provided credit to the failed institution.  Good luck with that.

The second development is the revelation that the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement draft will make all “local sourcing” purchasing clauses in government contracts illegal. Adding insult to injury, all government lending programs at below market rates will be illegal.  We might as well say goodbye to the nascent “Buy Local” movement, a key tenant of the New Economy movement.  TPP is clearly designed so that all expenditures on food, energy, healthcare, transportation and infrastructure development will be steered towards trans-national corporations, with all lending to be provided ONLY by the private banking sector.  Showcased below is our Featured Article, written by Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese (speakers at our upcoming conference), on the vast implications of this TPP multilateral trade deal.  After reading this, you’ll understand why many of us scoff at the notion of a “free market.”  It’s a rigged game, and TPP will make sure the trans-national corporations win.

The ground is shifting.  Banks in Cyprus are now seizing depositors’ money.  The absolute power of corporations is now being further codified into law in the form of the TPP trade agreement.  Both depositors’ money and public institutions are being targeted.  If this is not a wake-up call to your friends and family, what will be?

Please be sure to join us at our Public Banking 2013 Conference and Conversation, one of the few chances you’ll get this year to learn more about these very important issues.  Early bird registration ends this Monday, April 1st.

Regards,

Marc Armstrong
Executive Director
Public Banking Institute
[email protected]org
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It Can Happen Here:  The Confiscation Scheme Planned for US and UK Depositors

By Ellen Brown
Chair and President, Public Banking Institute

Confiscating the customer deposits in Cyprus banks, it seems, was not a one-off, desperate idea of a few Eurozone “troika” officials scrambling to salvage their balance sheets. A joint paper by the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Bank of England dated December 10, 2012, shows that these plans have been long in the making; that they originated with the G20 Financial Stability Board in Basel, Switzerland (discussed earlier here); and that the result will be to deliver clear title to the banks of depositor funds.

New Zealand has a similar directive, discussed in my last articlehere, indicating that this isn’t just an emergency measure for troubled Eurozone countries. New Zealand’s Voxy reported on March 19th:
The National Government [is] pushing a Cyprus-style solution to bank failure in New Zealand which will see small depositors lose some of their savings to fund big bank bailouts . . . .

Open Bank Resolution (OBR) is Finance Minister Bill English’s favoured option dealing with a major bank failure. If a bank fails under OBR, all depositors will have their savings reduced overnight to fund the bank’s bail out.

Can They Do That?

Although few depositors realize it, legally the bank owns the depositor’s funds as soon as they are put in the bank. Our money becomes the bank’s, and we become unsecured creditors holding IOUs or promises to pay. (See here and here.) But until now the bank has been obligated to pay the money back on demand in the form of cash. Under the FDIC-BOE plan, our IOUs will be converted into “bank equity.”  The bank will get the money and we will get stock in the bank. With any luck we may be able to sell the stock to someone else, but when and at what price? Most people keep a deposit account so they can have ready cash to pay the bills.

The 15-page FDIC-BOE document is called “Resolving Globally Active, Systemically Important, Financial Institutions.”  It begins by explaining that the 2008 banking crisis has made it clear that some other way besides taxpayer bailouts is needed to maintain “financial stability.” Evidently anticipating that the next financial collapse will be on a grander scale than either the taxpayers or Congress is willing to underwrite, the authors state:

An efficient path for returning the sound operations of the G-SIFI to the private sector would be provided by exchanging or converting a sufficient amount of the unsecured debt from the original creditors of the failed company [meaning the depositors] into equity [or stock]. In the U.S., the new equity would become capital in one or more newly formed operating entities. In the U.K., the same approach could be used, or the equity could be used to recapitalize the failing financial company itself—thus, the highest layer of surviving bailed-in creditors would become the owners of the resolved firm. In either country, the new equity holders would take on the corresponding risk of being shareholders in a financial institution.

No exception is indicated for “insured deposits” in the U.S., meaning those under $250,000, the deposits we thought were protected by FDIC insurance. This can hardly be an oversight, since it is the FDIC that is issuing the directive. The FDIC is an insurance company funded by premiums paid by private banks.  The directive is called a “resolution process,” defined elsewhere as a plan that “would be triggered in the event of the failure of an insurer . . . .” The only  mention of “insured deposits” is in connection with existing UK legislation, which the FDIC-BOE directive goes on to say is inadequate, implying that it needs to be modified or overridden.

An Imminent Risk 

If our IOUs are converted to bank stock, they will no longer be subject to insurance protection but will be “at risk” and vulnerable to being wiped out, just as the Lehman Brothers shareholders were in 2008.  That this dire scenario could actually materialize was underscored by Yves Smith in a March 19th post titled When You Weren’t Looking, Democrat Bank Stooges Launch Bills to Permit Bailouts, Deregulate Derivatives. She writes:

In the US, depositors have actually been put in a worse position than Cyprus deposit-holders, at least if they are at the big banks that play in the derivatives casino. The regulators have turned a blind eye asbanks use their depositaries to fund derivatives exposures. And as bad as that is, the depositors, unlike their Cypriot confreres, aren’t even senior creditors. Remember Lehman? When the investment bank failed, unsecured creditors (and remember, depositors are unsecured creditors) got eight cents on the dollar. One big reason was that derivatives counterparties require collateral for any exposures, meaning they are secured creditors. The 2005 bankruptcy reforms made derivatives counterparties senior to unsecured lenders.

One might wonder why the posting of collateral by a derivative counterparty, at some percentage of full exposure, makes the creditor “secured,” while the depositor who puts up 100 cents on the dollar is “unsecured.” But moving on – Smith writes:

Lehman had only two itty bitty banking subsidiaries, and to my knowledge, was not gathering retail deposits. But as readers may recall, Bank of America moved most of its derivatives from its Merrill Lynch operation [to] its depositary in late 2011.

Its “depositary” is the arm of the bank that takes deposits; and at B of A, that means lots and lots of deposits. The deposits are now subject to being wiped out by a major derivatives loss. How bad could that be? Smith quotes Bloomberg:

. . . Bank of America’s holding company . . . held almost $75 trillion of derivatives at the end of June . . . .

That compares with JPMorgan’s deposit-taking entity, JPMorgan Chase Bank NA, which contained 99 percent of the New York-based firm’s $79 trillion of notional derivatives, the OCC data show.
$75 trillion and $79 trillion in derivatives! These two mega-banks alone hold more in notional derivatives each than the entire global GDP (at $70 trillion). The “notional value” of derivatives is not the same as cash at risk, but according to a cross-post on Smith’s site:

By at least one estimate, in 2010 there was a total of $12 trillion in cash tied up (at risk) in derivatives . . . .

$12 trillion is close to the US GDP.  Smith goes on:

. . . Remember the effect of the 2005 bankruptcy law revisions: derivatives counterparties are first in line, they get to grab assets first and leave everyone else to scramble for crumbs. . . . Lehman failed over a weekend after JP Morgan grabbed collateral.

But it’s even worse than that. During the savings & loan crisis, the FDIC did not have enough in deposit insurance receipts to pay for the Resolution Trust Corporation wind-down vehicle. It had to get more funding from Congress. This move paves the way for another TARP-style shakedown of taxpayers, this time to save depositors.

Perhaps, but Congress has already been burned and is liable to balk a second time. Section 716 of the Dodd-Frank Act specifically prohibits public support for speculative derivatives activities. And in the Eurozone, while the European Stability Mechanism committed Eurozone countries to bail out failed banks, they are apparently having second thoughts there as well. On March 25th, Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who played a leading role in imposing the deposit confiscation plan on Cyprus, told reporters that it would be the template for any future bank bailouts, and that “the aim is for the ESM never to have to be used.”

That explains the need for the FDIC-BOE resolution. If the anticipated enabling legislation is passed, the FDIC will no longer need to protect depositor funds; it can just confiscate them.

Worse Than a Tax

An FDIC confiscation of deposits to recapitalize the banks is far different from a simple tax on taxpayers to pay government expenses. The government’s debt is at least arguably the people’s debt, since the government is there to provide services for the people. But when the banks get into trouble with their derivative schemes, they are not serving depositors, who are not getting a cut of the profits. Taking depositor funds is simply theft.

What should be done is to raise FDIC insurance premiums and make the banks pay to keep their depositors whole, but premiums are already high; and the FDIC, like other government regulatory agencies, is subject to regulatory capture.  Deposit insurance has failed, and so has the private banking system that has depended on it for the trust that makes banking work.

The Cyprus haircut on depositors was called a “wealth tax” and was written off by commentators as “deserved,” because much of the money in Cypriot accounts belongs to foreign oligarchs, tax dodgers and money launderers. But if that template is applied in the US, it will be a tax on the poor and middle class. Wealthy Americans don’t keep most of their money in bank accounts.  They keep it in the stock market, in real estate, in over-the-counter derivatives, in gold and silver, and so forth.

Are you safe, then, if your money is in gold and silver? Apparently not – if it’s stored in a safety deposit box in the bank.  Homeland Security has reportedly told banks that it has authority to seize the contents of safety deposit boxes without a warrant when it’s a matter of “national security,” which a major bank crisis no doubt will be.

The Swedish Alternative: Nationalize the Banks

Another alternative was considered but rejected by President Obama in 2009: nationalize mega-banks that fail. In a February 2009 article titled “Are Uninsured Bank Depositors in Danger?“, Felix Salmon discussed a newsletter by Asia-based investment strategist Christopher Wood, in which Wood wrote:

It is . . . amazing that Obama does not understand the political appeal of the nationalization option. . . . [D]espite this latest setback nationalization of the banks is coming sooner or later because the realities of the situation will demand it. The result will be shareholders wiped out and bondholders forced to take debt-for-equity swaps, if not hopefully depositors.

On whether depositors could indeed be forced to become equity holders, Salmon commented:

It’s worth remembering that depositors are unsecured creditors of any bank; usually, indeed, they’re by far the largest class of unsecured creditors.

President Obama acknowledged that bank nationalization had worked in Sweden, and that the course pursued by the US Fed had not worked in Japan, which wound up instead in a “lost decade.”  But Obama opted for the Japanese approach because, according to Ed Harrison, “Americans will not tolerate nationalization.”

But that was four years ago. When Americans realize that the alternative is to have their ready cash transformed into “bank stock” of questionable marketability, moving failed mega-banks into the public sector may start to have more appeal.

Ellen Brown is an attorney, chairman of the Public Banking Institute, and the author of eleven books, including Web of Debt: The Shocking Truth About Our Money System and How We Can Break Free. Her websites are webofdebt.com and ellenbrown.comFor details of the June 2013 Public Banking Institute conference in San Rafael, California, see here.

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Featured Article: TransPacific Partnership Will Undermine Democracy, Empower Transnational Corporations

by Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese
Originally published in Truthout

Our country’s democratic values could be under threat if President Obama fast tracks the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

On critical issues, the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) being negotiated in secret by the Obama administration willundermine democracy in the United States and around the world and further empower transnational corporations. It will circumvent protections for health care, wages, labor rights, consumers’ rights and the environment, and decrease regulation of big finance and risky investment practices.

The only way this treaty, which will be very unpopular with the American people once they are aware of it, can be approved is if the Obama administration avoids the democratic process by using an authority known as “Fast Track,” which limits the constitutional checks and balances of Congress.

If the TPP is approved, the sovereignty of the United States and other member nations will be dissipated by trade tribunals that favor corporate power and force national laws to be subservient to corporate interests.

Circumventing the Checks and Balances of US Democracy

President Nixon first developed the idea of “Fast Track” in 1973 as a way to secure Congressional approval of trade agreements, and it has been a key to passing many unpopular agreements such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and NAFTA. As people have caught on to the offshoring of jobs and other detrimental consequences of these agreements, civil society now understands how important it is to not allow a president to circumvent the democratic role of Congress. Fast Track expired in 2007, so President Obama must have it re-instated in order to pass the TPP. His administration is moving to have Fast Track approved and hopes it will happen by this summer.

Under Fast Track, the president was allowed to negotiate and sign trade agreements with whatever countries the executive branch selected – all before Congress voted on the agreement. Fast Track meant that the Congressional committee processes were circumvented and the executive branch was empowered to write lengthy implementing legislation for each trade pact without Congress. These executive-only authored bills required US law to conform to the trade agreement. For example, Glass-Steagall had to be repealed under President Clinton to conform to the WTO. And, Fast Track empowered the president to submit the executive-branch written bill for a mandatory vote within a set number of days, with all amendments forbidden, normal Senate rules waived, and debate limited in both chambers of Congress. Fast Track clearly undermined democracy.

Indeed, Fast Track turned the US Constitution on its head. Under Article I Section 8, Congress has exclusive authority “to regulate commerce with foreign nations” and to “lay and collect taxes [and] duties.” Under the Constitution, the president is empowered to negotiate treaties, but Congress must vote to approve them. Thus, Fast Track took constitutional power from Congress and prevented the checks and balances needed to prevent an imperial presidency.

For most of the history of the United States, treaties and trade agreements went through the normal congressional process described in the Constitution. Fast Track is a relatively new concept that coincides with an era of increasing presidential power, which includes the power to declare war and to murder US citizens without warning or judicial oversight. If Congress had reviewed agreements such as the WTO and NAFTA beforehand and civil society had been able to participate in a democratic process, would the United States have made the mistake of passing these laws that have so injured our economy and others?

Fast Track is very unpopular, so now President Obama and others who advocate for it do not use the term. Instead they call it by the euphemism “Trade Promotion Authority.” But changing the name does not change what it is – a method of ceding the constitutional power of Congress and undermining the checks and balances built into the constitutional framework.

Congress needs to consider what agreements such as the TPP will do to jobs, trade balances and the environment. Since Nixon, Fast Track has been used by presidents to go way beyond trade and tariffs. These agreements have been used to change US law by establishing “rules related to domestic environmental, health, safety and essential-service regulations, including deregulation of financial services; establishment of immigration policies; creation of limits on local development and land-use policy; extension of domestic patent terms; establishment of new rights and greater protections for foreign investors operating within the United States that extend beyond US law; and even limitation of how domestic procurement dollars may be spent.” Thus, not only has the constitutional power of Congress to regulate commerce with foreign nations been undermined, but a whole host of domestic laws have been rewritten to satisfy international trade.

The TPP Undermines US Law, Prevents Progressive Policy Around the World

The TPP is much broader than the usual trade agreement and will impact many aspects of society from the Internet to health care to regulation of risky bank speculation. For this reason alone, it is especially important to have a transparent, public debate on the agreement. The TPP contains 26 chapters, but only five of them concern traditional trade issues. The TPP has been negotiated in secret except for over 600 corporate representatives who have been advising the US trade representative on its language. In Washington, DC K Street lobby firms have been getting involved in the process, including pushing for Fast Track. Many of those corporations that have failed to get what they want from Congress are now getting their way through the secret back door of the TPP.

Though the TPP negotiations are being conducted in secrecy, portions of the text have been leaked. Here is what is known about some of the key issues that the TPP will affect:

Prevent Buy America Manufacturing Preferences: The TPP’s procurement chapter ends ‘Buy America’ preferences by requiring that all firms operating in any signatory country are provided equal access to US government procurement contracts over a certain dollar threshold, the same access that domestic firms have. To implement this, the United States would agree to waive “Buy America” procurement policies.

Undermine Environmental Laws and Regulations: Similarly, governments who are seeking to encourage localization and green manufacturing through procurement preferences will be stopped. A recent example involved Ontario, Canada, which has employed a renewable energy program that requires energy generators to source solar cells and wind turbines from local businesses so as to cultivate a robust supply of green goods, services and jobs.  The program has earned acclaim for its early success in generating 4,600 megawatts of renewable energy and 20,000 green jobs. But, the WTO ruled that this violated WTO rules. In another case, a US company Lone Pine Resources is suing the Canadian governmentunder NAFTA for more than $250 million due to lost profits from Quebec’s moratorium on fracking, which prevents Lone Pine from fracking under the St. Lawrence River. This is not an isolated incident:

. . . corporations such as Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Dow Chemical, and Cargill have launched 450 investor-state cases against 89 governments, including the United States. Over $700 million has been paid to corporations under US free trade agreements and bilateral investment treaties, about 70 percent of which are from challenges to natural resource and environment policies. Corporations have launched attacks on a range of public interest and environmental regulations, including bans or phase-outs of toxic chemicals, timber regulations, permitting rules for mines, green jobs and renewable energy programs, and more.

Undermine Internet Freedom: The Electronic Freedom Foundation(EFF) argues that the intellectual property chapter (see the February 2011 draft US TPP IP Rights Chapter [PDF]) would have extensive negative ramifications for users’ freedom of speech, right to privacy and due process, and hinder peoples’ abilities to innovate. Its provision on copyrights will adversely affect the creator’s ability to create content, the ability of technology companies to make innovative products, and the ability of users to use content in new ways. EFF summarizes the attack on Internet freedom by the TPP, writing:

In short, countries would have to abandon any efforts to learn from the mistakes of the US and its experience with the DMCA over the last 12 years, and adopt many of the most controversial aspects of US copyright law in their entirety. At the same time, the US IP chapter does not export the limitations and exceptions in the US copyright regime like fair use, which have enabled freedom of expression and technological innovation to flourish in the US. It includes only a placeholder for exceptions and limitations. This raises serious concerns about other countries’ sovereignty and the ability of national governments to set laws and policies to meet their domestic priorities.

Destroy Food and Agriculture: Agriculture trade rules have both undermined US producers’ ability to earn a fair price for their crops at home and in the global marketplace. Multinational grain-trading and food-processing firms have made enormous profits, while farmers on both ends have been hurt. The results are that hunger is projected to increase, along with illicit drug cultivation, and undocumented migration. Dairy farmers fear the TPP could decimate the US dairy industry and have urged Congress to refuse to Fast Track it. Failure to establish new agriculture terms would intensify the race to the bottom in commodity prices, pitting farmer against farmer and nation against nation to see who can produce food the cheapest, regardless of labor, environment or food-safety standards. Regarding food safety, current trade agreements contain language requiring the United States to accept imported food that does not meet our domestic safety standards and limiting inspection of imported foods and products. The TPP is expected to continue these practices.

Prevent Health, Safety, Environment, Consumer and Labor Laws: According to leaked documents, the TPP contains provisionswith special rights for corporations. The provisions protect investors by providing them with compensation for loss of “expected future profits” from health, labor, environmental and other laws. The negative effect is that nations will not pass laws that threaten corporate profits in order to avoid lawsuits and heavy fines. Court cases in which corporations are suing governments over laws and regulations that cause loss of expected profit will be tried before a trade tribunal of three judges. These judges can include corporate lawyers on temporary leave from their corporate job while they serve as judges. Global Trade Watch reports that under previous trade agreements “Over $3 billion has been paid to foreign investors under US trade and investment pacts, while over $14 billion in claims are pending under such deals, primarily targeting environmental, energy, and public health policies.” The right to sue governments will create a hurdle for governments considering actions to protect workers, consumers, health and the environment.

Privatize Health Care and Make it Unaffordable: Leaked documents show that the US Trade Representative is pressuring TPP member countries to expand pharmaceutical monopoly protections, which essentially trade away access to medicines. In a recent letter, Doctors Without Borders wrote that the TPP will be “the most harmful trade deal ever for access to medicines in developing countries.” The TPP does this damage by inflating pharmaceutical prices through lengthy patent protections, as Doctors Without Borders writes:

One proposed TPP provision would require governments to grant new 20-year patents for modifications of existing medicines, such as a new forms, uses or methods, even without improvement of therapeutic efficacy for patients. Another provision would make it more expensive and cumbersome to challenge undeserved or invalid patents; and yet another would add additional years to a patent term to compensate for administrative processes. Taken together, these and other provisions will add up to more years of high-priced medicines at the expense of people needing treatment waiting longer for access to affordable generics.

There is also concern that the TPP will force public health systems to open up their medication programs to pharmaceutical corporations giving them greater access and greater control over the price of medications, effectively destroying the ability of the public health system to negotiate for a low price. The same may occur with public health systems in the US such as Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare and the Veterans Health Administration, making medications more expensive and potentially out of reach for their patient populations.

In addition, countries that provide health care through a national public health program, rather than a market-based system dominated by for-profit insurance, are threatened by provisions that oppose state-owned enterprises. Corporations view state provision of services as unfair competition and therefore a violation of free trade. This will make it more difficult for the United States to adopt a single-payer health system, and it will make it more difficult for countries with such systems to protect them from privatization and health insurance domination.

Prevent Public Banks and Banking Regulation: These same provisions about state-owned enterprises will affect public bankingtoo. North Dakota is the only state in the US to have a public state bank, although over a dozen states and cities are considering them. Public banks are used to hold taxes that are collected, administer payroll for public employees and provide loans for public projects. The advantage is that all public dollars are managed in a public institution rather than having to pay fees and interest to a private bank. But the TPP would consider public banks to have unfair advantages and therefore violate free trade.

And trade agreements protect big finance by (1) preventing regulation of the finance industry by locking in a model of extreme financial service deregulation; and (2) allowing capital to move in and out of countries without restrictions. This prevents countries from controlling the flow of capital, which has many negative consequences. Over 100 economists wrote trade representatives urging them to ensure that the TPP, unlike other trade agreements, will allow governments to control and regulate capital without the threat of investor lawsuits, writing:

Authoritative research published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the International Monetary Fund, and other institutions has found that limits on short-term capital flows can stem the development of dangerous asset bubbles and currency appreciations, grant nations more autonomy in monetary policy-making, and protect nations from the dangers of abrupt capital flight.
See 102 Economists Issue Statement on Capital Controls and TPP

Thus, the TPP and other corporate trade agreements will undermine the ability of governments to regulate health, safety, labor, environment and finance. The 600 corporate advisers to the TPP see this as an opportunity to do an end-run around laws and policies that they have been unable to put into effect through the normal democratic process. This is why the TPP is being called a global corporate coup that makes corporations more powerful than governments.

Corporate Trade Agreements Hurt the US Economy

The evidence is stark that so-called ‘free’ trade agreements, really corporate trade agreements, are bad for the US economy.
Newly-released government trade data for 2012 show job-eroding US trade deficits have ballooned in countries with which the US has a corporate trade agreement and have declined in the rest of the world. The numbers are stark. In countries where the US has a trade agreement, the trade deficit has grown by more than 440 percent, while in countries where there is no agreement, the deficit has declined by 7 percent. In fact, the aggregate US trade deficit with trade-agreement partners is more than five times higher than it was before the deals went into effect, while the aggregate deficit with non-trade-agreement countries has actually fallen slightly.

And, this means a tremendous loss of jobs. Using the Obama administration’s net exports-to-jobs ratio, the FTA trade deficit surge means the loss of nearly one million American jobs.

We should have learned this lesson from NAFTA because what we are seeing with corporate trade agreements since NAFTA is more of the same. Under NAFTA, the US deficit with Canada ballooned and the small US surplus with Mexico turned into a $100 billion-plus deficit. As a result of NAFTA, the United States lost 692,000 jobsaccording to the Economic Policy Institute.

But, instead of learning from NAFTA, President Obama pushed a trade agreement with South Korea, promising it would result in economic benefits for the United States. One year has now passed since the Korean trade agreement was put into effect and the US ended up with the same result as it experienced with NAFTA. Eyes on Trade reports:

US goods exports to Korea have dropped 9 percent (a $3.2 billion decrease) since the Korea FTA took effect, in comparison to the same months in the year before FTA implementation. US imports from Korea have climbed 2 percent (an $800 million increase). The US trade deficit with Korea has swelled 30 percent (a $4 billion increase). The January data from the US International Trade Commission show that the US trade deficit with Korea skyrocketed 81 percent above December’s level, topping $2.4 billion – the largest monthly US trade deficit with Korea on record. The ballooning trade deficit indicates the loss of tens of thousands of US jobs.”

Exports are not as robust as advocates of trade agreements would like to believe. Between 2002 and 2012, US exports to trade-agreement partner countries grew annually at a rate of only 4.8 percent, while exports to non-trade-agreement countries grew at 6.6 percent per year on average. This has only worsened with the passage of the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) in 2005, which nearly doubled the number of trade-agreement countries. Since then, average US export growth to non-trade-agreement countries has topped average export growth to trade-agreement partners by 46 percent.

Advocates for corporate trade agreements manipulate statistics in order to make a false claim of economic benefit from the agreements. They create obvious falsehoods by not counting many major trade agreements put in place before 2003. This would exclude big agreements like NAFTA, count “re-exports” – goods made elsewhere that are shipped through the United States en route to a final destination, omit imports in their calculations so people do not see the trade imbalance, and not correct for inflation in order to exaggerate exports.

Sadly, rather than being honest about the failure of corporate trade, the Obama administration works overtime to mislead the public. The recently released 2012 annual trade report leaves out critical details from the very beginning. Eyes on Trade analyzes the Obama report:

Take the first sentence: ‘Trade is helping to drive the success of President Obama’s strategy to grow the US economy and support jobs for more Americans.’ Almost makes you forget that last year’s non-oil trade deficit rose to a five-year high, implying the loss of millions of jobs, doesn’t it?  How about the second sentence: ‘The Obama Administration’s trade policy helps US exporters gain access to billions of customers beyond our borders to support economic growth in the United States and in markets worldwide.’  That’s an interesting way to frame a year whose sluggish two percent export growth rate put us 18 years behind schedule in achieving Obama’s export-doubling goal.”

Time for a Democratic Revolt Against the TPP

A unique feature of the TPP is that it contains a “docking agreement.” This means that other countries can sign onto the agreement after it has been negotiated as long as they are willing to accept the previously negotiated terms. The US started the negotiations with allies such as Australia and New Zealand and a number of small countries such as Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Chile and Peru. Larger countries are able to force smaller, more desperate countries to accept terms that are detrimental to them. As more countries sign on, the TPP could become an agreement that defines global trade.
The TPP has gone through 16 rounds of negotiations in almost total secrecy. Some portions of the text have been leaked, but most remain secret. Throughout the process more than 600 corporate advisers have been working with the US Trade Representative in shaping the proposals and specific language of the text. Civil society has only been marginally involved, not provided drafts and ushered into stakeholder meetings where they can ask questions but only receive vague answers.

Despite this effort at secrecy, civil society groups have been getting organized to oppose the TPP, stop Fast Track and prevent the global corporate coup. More than 400 organizations, including our own organization, It’s Our Economy, representing a diverse range of issues including labor, environment, public health, famers, Internet freedom, banking regulation, human rights, faith, Native American and much more, have signed on to a letter to Congress emphasizing how the TPP negotiations have been “inconsistent with democratic principles,” opposing Fast Track and outlining expectations of how key issues should be addressed in 21st century trade agreements.

Citizens Trade Campaign summarizes writing: “The letter includes eight broad categories that the TPP, a Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement and any other US trade pact must address in order to improve quality of life for Americans and people throughout the world: (1) prioritization of human and labor rights; (2) respect for local development goals and the procurement policies that deliver on them; (3) no elevation of corporations to equal terms with governments; (4) protection of food sovereignty; (5) maintaining access to affordable medication; (6) safeguards against currency manipulation; (7) space for robust financial regulations and public services; and (8) improved consumer and environmental standards.”

On February 27, the AFL-CIO released an executive council statement questioning the TPP saying “The United States cannot afford another trade agreement that hollows out our industrial base and adds to our substantial trade deficit.” The executive council of the AFL-CIO went on to say, “We do not need another trade deal that simply boosts corporate profits by encouraging offshoring good jobs while undermining wages, benefits and worker rights. We must do better.” Americans have clearly learned the lessons of previous trade agreements – they only work for the transnational corporations and oligarchs around the world, they undermine workers, and spur lower wages and environmental destruction.

Arthur Stamoulis of Citizens Trade Campaign summarizes the antidemocratic actions of the Obama administration with regard to the TPP saying, “This is a rollback in transparency, and an extremely undemocratic way to craft policy that is likely to influence jobs, health care costs, financial regulations, consumer safety, the environment and more for decades to come. The only way to prevent the public from being saddled with a bad agreement is for Congress to exert its authority.”

The TPP is the battleground for defining democracy in the 21stcentury and setting up the rules for international commerce in the era of transnational corporate power. No matter what issues you are concerned about, if the TPP becomes law, it will undermine national sovereignty and hopes for progressive policies that put the people’s needs before corporate profits. The time is now to get active, work to oppose the antidemocratic Fast Track approach in Congress and say “no” to the democracy-undermining Trans-Pacific Partnership. This is a trade agreement that will be opposed by most Americans and a battle on which the people can prevail, but only if they know it exists.

For more information and to get involved, visit:
The Citizens Trade Campaign
Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch
Eyes on Trade
Flush The TPP
Truthout

Kevin Zeese JD and Margaret Flowers MD co-host ClearingtheFOGRadio.org on We Act Radio 1480 AM Washington, DC and on Economic Democracy Media, co-direct It’s Our Economy and are organizers of the Occupation of Washington, DC. Their twitters are @KBZeese and @MFlowers8.  They will be featured at the Public Banking 2013 conference June 2-4, 2013, in San Rafael, CA; details here.
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Michael Hudson interviewed by Paul Jay on Public Banking on TheRealNews.com. 10min video.

In this Newsletter

  • Editor’s Column
  • It Can Happen Here:  The Confiscation Scheme Planned for US and UK Depositors
  • Featured Article:  TransPacific Partnership Will Undermine Democracy, Empower Transnational Corporations
  • Upcoming Events (sidebar)
  • Public Banking in the News (sidebar)
  • Letter from a Vermont Farmer (sidebar)
  • Corporate-backed Trans-Pacific Partnership Shrouded in Secrecy (sidebar)


Early Bird Registration Ends April 1st.  Register here.

Conference Links:

List of speakers here.
Become a partner or sponsor of Public Banking 2013. Find out how
Do you wish to attend but are short on cash? Well then,volunteer before and during the conference — and help make this a success!
We have a high quality hotel at excellent rates.  Reserve now before rates go up.
Everything you need to know about the conference is here. Evening tickets as low as $35.

Public Banking Coalition Update:

These are the Public Banking Coalition state chapters and affiliates registered to-date, to be announced at Public Banking 2013:  Colorado, Washington, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Washington D.C.  Don’t see your state?  Get organized — contact Marc Armstrong at [email protected]org.  Counties will be announced, too, but be sure you notify Marc Armstrong!

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Upcoming Events

  • Apr 1 — Interview with Margaret Flowers, Progressive Radio Network, 11:45am EDT (Ellen Brown)
  • Apr 2 — Interview with Jay Taylor, VoiceAmerica, 12:30 PDT (Ellen Brown)
  • Apr 6 — Public Banking Conference Call, hosted by the Justice Party, 9am PDT, Noon EDT (Rocky Anderson and Ellen Brown) — BE SURE TO REGISTER!
  • Apr 12 — Get Organized!  Starting Your Public Banking Coalition Chapter, Monthly 9AM PDT Conference Call (Marc Armstrong) — BE SURE TO REGISTER BY CLICKING ON LINK!
  • Apr 18 — Democratic Party of San Fernando Valley (Ellen Brown)
  • Jun 2 — Public Banking 2013 Funding the New Economy Conversation (tickets available separately from Conference)
  • Jun 2-4 — Public Banking 2013 Funding the New Economy Conference

Public Banking in the News


Huffington Post, “Yes, We Can Have Banks That Work For The People,” Richard (RJ) Eskow, March 28, 2013

Central Penn Business Journal, “Panelists at F&M forum advocate for local financing,” Tim Stuhldreher, March 27, 2013

Truth Out, “TransPacific Partnership Will Undermine Democracy, Empower Transnational Corporations,” Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, March 27, 2013

Washington Post, “BRICS Nations Plan Development Bank to Build Massive Infrastructure, Challenge to World Bank,” Associated Press, March 27, 2013

Phillyburbs.com, “’Be Afraid’: Pirates in Pinstripes,” Mike Krauss, March 24, 2013

Truth Out, “A Safe and a Shotgun or Public Sector Banks, The Battle of Cyprus,” Ellen Brown, March 22, 2013

Truth Out, “Corporate-backed Trans-Pacific Partnership Shrouded in Secrecy,” Sam Knight, March 19, 2013

OpEdNews, “Money for the People:  Grillo’s Populist Plan for Italy,” Ellen Brown, March 8, 2013

Truth Out, “The Financial Instrument That Could Save The Economy…,” Ellen Brown, February 24, 2013

Courtesy, Gwendolyn Hallsmith

A Farmer’s Plea For a State-owned Bank in Vermont
by Ignatio Villa
Waitsfield, Vermont

Editor’s Note: This month I had the opportunity to spend over a week in New England, with much of the time spent in Vermont.  The commonsense approach to public banking displayed by the citizens and governing officials was a source of inspiration.  “Why pay interest to Wall Street bankers when we could pay it to ourselves?” was a common refrain.  Labor leaders promoted the idea that debt servicing costs should undergo as much scrutiny as labor costs.  And citizens were pushing back on doing business as usual — enriching Wall Street bankers at the expense of the public was no longer acceptable.  I thought that this letter, written in support of the newly formed Vermont Coalition for the New Economy, perfectly captures the spirit of both the New Economy and the support for public banking.

In Vermont, we have all been thinking outside the box. Let’s keep doing it and create a new economy.   I moved to Vermont 3 years ago to work on an exciting piece of that new economy: a small dairy farm starting to add value to its milk by making cheese. I added another value added enterprise to this system, whey fed pigs. Our pigs use by-products from three value added, artisanal enterprises: cheese, beer, and bread. This, in my view, is part of the new economy. One that seeks to create wealth from the sunshine we harvest here in our own state, which mixed with our labor, our ingenuity, and people who appreciate what we do and are willing to buy our products, make for a good model of a new economy.

In giving up a higher paying job to do this, I took a significant risk that I may not be able to support myself. I tell my friends that I retired into poverty, into one of the lowest paid professions: growing food. However, I keep hoping that I am doing the right thing, and that sooner or later I will be rewarded financially.  I’m already reaping other rewards –  I love what I do, and I know it is the right thing for myself, for my neighbors, for the community, for the state, and, at the risk of being presumptuous, for the planet.

Vermont has been a wonderful place to take on this initiative. There is support for what I am doing everywhere I go. I have received help in the business planning process, I have received help from legal counsel for the creation of the business, and I have had nothing but encouragement from the state agencies and their staffs. If there is a good place to work on the pieces of a new economy, it has to be Vermont.

It is exciting for me to discover that in Vermont we are giving serious consideration to the creation of a state owned bank, much like the one and only model offered by North Dakota. It appears that I was not alone in my limited understanding of how the money supply is managed globally, and how important it could be for Vermont to be able to create its own alternative means of supporting the right kind of economic activity. It is the beauty of our size that before long, we all seem to know each other, or of each other.

The creation of a new state bank is just one more example of how a small and creative bunch of people can give leadership for new ways of doing things… We can be nimble, we can be creative, and in the end, others might follow. Not that being first is what matters, but it does matter that we are dealing with things that are urgent. We need to respond to the urgent needs of the people, to the urgent need to create a new economy that benefits the people and keeps the wealth that we generate where it belongs, where it can, to the extent that it may, contribute to a higher quality of life.

I am writing this to ask our legislators to move swiftly towards the creation of Vermont’s state-owned bank.  I see it as a benefit for small farmers in the state in a couple of important ways.  First, the bank’s capital will enable the small banks in our communities to accept deposits of municipal taxes, which will give them more funds to lend to small businesses.  Second, by reducing the money we are paying out of state in the capital markets, we’ll have more money for important state budget needs like health care reform.  As a small entrepreneur, this is one of the most important services the state can provide to support the small business sector.

Editor’s Note:  As currently understood, TPP will prohibit the funding of the new economy by any government entity that provides loans at below market rates.  It will also prohibit any “Buy American” or “local sourcing” clauses in government purchase contracts.  Support the Public Banking Institute as we seek to establish public banks in Vermont and throughout the United States in order to support our local economies.  These banks will be transparent, accountable, and act in the public interest. Donate today.

 

Corporate-Backed Trans-Pacific Partnership Shrouded in Secrecy

 

Sam Knight
Originally published in Truthout