Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Interview with Michael Hudson

A transcript of a September 11 interview with Michael Hudson is now available for viewing at Naked Capitalism. Hudson discusses the boondoggle that is the European Union, speculation in commodities, financial fraud in the U.S., and much more.

An except:

"So employees and employers pay much more into the system than is paid out.

That’s the idea: to save enough in advance, beyond what you currently have to pay, to lend the revenue to the government to cut taxes on the rich. It’s pay-in-advance rather than pay as you go. Pay much more than the government needs at present, so that the Treasury has enough money to slash the income tax that wealthy people have to pay. You can follow the Treasury Bulletin or the Federal Reserve Bulletin to see how the savings of the Social Security Administration go up every year – and are lent to government. (George W. Bush wanted to put this money into the stock market to create a stock-price boom that would enrich Wall Street – and would collapse once the flow of funds was reversed and more stocks were sold to pay retirees than new employees paid in. Thank heavens that potential bubble was averted.)

The result that we have today is not really a Social Security system. It’s a system of taxing employees instead of the rich. This tax shift increases the cost of employing people in the United States. That is one of the reasons, in addition to the housing costs, that prices America out of world markets.

The system that financial lobbyists have put in is designed to tax labor and siphon off so much that American labor cannot compete in any market in the world except in arms markets and special markets, and food. So what they call free-market efficiency is crippling the efficiency of the United States by adding to housing costs and adding needlessly to the Social Security and Medicare costs.

There’s no need for these pre-savings to have taken place. Workers could have kept much more of their wages and the government would have had to maintain higher taxes on the rich. But the Republican policy was to tax labor and un-tax wealth – class war with a financial fist.

Since we’ve talked about Social Security, what about the new Super Congress – the Committee of 13, with Obama being the 13th member? What is the composition of this committee, and what automatic budget cuts will go into effect in November if Republicans reject the Obama budget?

The Super Congress is made up of people that President Obama has selected largely because they want to cut Social Security. They pretend that it must be paid as user fees, in advance, to stem the budget deficit that has resulted from untaxing the estates of billionaires – the super-rich – and continuing the regressive tax shift that has been underway since the 1980s.

The basic rule of high finance is that big fish eat little fish. Millions of Americans have put their paychecks into Social Security. Just as corporate raiders set their eyes on emptying out pension funds to pay themselves (and their stockholders and bondholders), so financial lobbyists are seeking to raid the Social Security fund. Their motto is, “Let’s take the employees’ money and give it to ourselves.”

President Obama’s “Main Street” is Wall Street. His talent as a politician is to get votes from Main Street and deliver policies to Wall Street. He actually seems to believe that Social Security should be cut back to give money to his major campaign contributors. The rich are his constituency today, just as they were for George W. Bush. So Obama may cast the deciding tie-breaking vote, but as we’ve spoken on your program before, he’s already appointed people to the Budget Commission and the Social Security Commission when he was first elected, people who want to cut back Social Security by pretending that there’s a crisis. Their working assumption is that if the government needs money the poor should lose, not the rich.

It’s hard for congressmen or senators to vote against Social Security and Medicare, because most voters are in favor of these programs. So President Obama’s strategy is to take the Social Security issue out of Congress – and give himself an opportunity to posture during late September and October to propose pro-labor policies that he knows a Republican Congress will reject, thereby triggering the “automatic” budget cutbacks he negotiated in August with the Republicans.

If you look at who the campaign contributors of the Super Committee, they’re mainly in the financial sector. Even if they committee members are unpopular, they’re going to be able to retire with such high paying jobs in the financial sector. This is what the Japanese call Descent from Heaven. They’ll get their payoff for taking the heat on stiffing the Social Security recipients for their Wall Street constituency.

I’m amazed that there’s not more of a political reaction against this. People have worked hard to save for Social Security out of their paychecks. These are real savings. For Republicans to characterize these payments as an “entitlement” is to treat the elderly as if they’re mere welfare recipients freeloading off the rich – while it’s actually the banks and big fortunes that have been given the handout.

If the Bush and Obama Administration can give $13 trillion to the banks to save them from taking losses on their bad investments, then why can’t they give another trillion to Social Security? The reason is, there’s a class war on. If you don’t realize this, then you’re not going to understand what politics is all about these days.

However, it’s not the kind of class war that people talked about a century ago. It’s fought in the financial arena. The idea is for the big sharks to take the savings of the little savers. They exploit labor not by employing it – as in Marx’s description in Vol. I of Capital – but financially, by loading it down with debt and making labor spend a working lifetime to pay it off. So instead of the wage slavery socialists used to talk about, you have debt peonage today".

Read the entire article here.


Clonal said...

The audio of the interview is archived here, and should be embedded in the main post

Letsgetitdone said...

That is one great interview. Michael is a real treasure.