Discussão Teórica

Re-publicamos em baixo um texto de Michael Hudson, professor de economia na Universidade do Missouri, Kansas City, e autor de livros como “Super-Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire”.

O artigo argumenta que os ganhos resultantes do aumento de produtividade nos últimos 50 anos foram apropriados pelo sector financeiro da economia através da dívida e do mercado de produtos financeiros, ao mesmo tempo que se suprimiu o crescimento real dos salários. Por conseguinte, a criação de nova riqueza tem sido acumulada exclusivamente por uma elite (Hudson usa o termo  aristocracia financeira), com o apoio do Estado.

O artigo conclui com as implicações políticas e sociais (oligarquia e cleptocracia) deste tipo de organização económica, baseada em comportamentos que procuram maximizar monopólios e criar rendas.

Aconselhamos vivamente a leitura.


Productivity, The Miracle of Compound Interest and Poverty

April 22, 2012

By Michael Hudson

Original Post:

This is a re-working of my second talk at the Rimini MMT conference, as heard on Guns and Butter.

Suppose you were alive back in 1945 and were told about all the new technology that would be invented between then and now: the computers and internet, mobile phones and other consumer electronics, faster and cheaper air travel, super trains and even outer space exploration, higher gas mileage on the ground, plastics, medical breakthroughs and science in general. You would have imagined what nearly all futurists expected: that we would be living in a life of leisure society by this time. Rising productivity would raise wages and living standards, enabling people to work shorter hours under more relaxed and less pressured workplace conditions.

Why hasn’t this occurred in recent years? In light of the enormous productivity gains since the end of World War II – and especially since 1980 – why isn’t everyone rich and enjoying the leisure economy that was promised? If the 99% is not getting the fruits of higher productivity, who is? Where has it gone?

Under Stalinism the surplus went to the state, which used it to increase tangible capital investment – in factories, power production, transportation and other basic industry and infrastructure. But where is it going under today’s finance capitalism? Much of it has gone into industry, construction and infrastructure, as it would in any kind of political economy. And much also is consumed in military overhead, in luxury production for the wealthy, and invested abroad. But most of the gains have gone to the financial sector – higher loans for real estate, and purchases of stocks and bonds.

Loans need to be repaid, and stocks and bonds receive dividends and interest. For the economy at large, people are working longer just to maintain their living standards, which are being squeezed. Women have entered the labor force in unprecedented numbers over the past half-century – and of course, this has raised the status of women. Mechanization of housework and other tasks at home has freed them for professional life outside the home. But on balance, work has increased.

What also has increased has been debt. When World War II ended, John Maynard Keynes and other economists worried that as societies got richer, people would save more. For them, the problem was to keep market demand high enough to buy all the output that was being produced.

And indeed today, markets are shrinking in many countries. But not because people are saving out of prosperity. The jump in reported “saving” in the National Income and Product Accounts (NIPA) in recent years has resulted from repaying debts. It is a negation of a negation – and hence, a statistical “positive.”

Paying off a debt is not the same as building up liquid savings in a bank. It reflects something that only a very few economists have worried about over the past century: the prospect of debts rising faster than income, leading to financial crashes that transfer property from debtors to creditors, and indeed polarize society between what the Occupy Wall Street movement calls the 1% and the 99%.

What also was expected universally fifty years ago – indeed, until about 1980 – was that governments would play an increasingly important economic role, not only as forward planners but as direct investors in infrastructure. To Keynesians, government spending served to pump money into the economy, maintaining demand and employment in cyclical downturns. And for hundreds of years, governments have undertaken basic infrastructure spending so that private owners would not use monopoly privileges to charge economic rent.

Nearly all observers expected the fruits of technology to trickle down, not be siphoned up to the top, to the banking sector whose “financial engineering” played no directly technological role in the production process. Textbook models describe – or rather, assume – that rising productivity will be passed on to labor in the form of lower prices (reflecting falling costs of production, enabling wages to buy more) or, if prices are “sticky,” higher wages.

According to what the textbooks called Say’s Law, there is a circular flow between producers and consumers. Workers must be able to buy the results of what they produce. This correlation between output and consumption goes back to the Physiocrats prior to the French Revolution, who created economics and account keeping. Their founder, François Quesnay, was a medical doctor and a surgeon. He created the basic format of national income accounting on the analogy of the circulation of blood within the body. An increase in production had to find its counterpart in increased consumption, creating its market by paying workers who spent their wages on buying the products they produced.

Working harder, producing more, but going into debt to buy it

After World War II many women stayed home and raised families. But since the 1950s they have been forced increasingly into the labour force for what are called two-job families – and now, three-job families (with only two family members). If you project labor participation rates, by the year 2020 every woman will have to work 18 hours a day or economic trends will falter.

What was applauded as a post-industrial economy has turned into a financialized economy. The reason you have to work so much harder than before, even when wages rise, is to carry your debt overhead. You’re unable to buy the goods you produce because you need to pay your bankers. And the only way that you can barely maintain your living standards is to borrow even more. This means having to pay back even more in years to come.

That is the Eurozone plan in a nutshell for its economic future. It is a financial plan that is replacing industrial capitalism – with finance capitalism.

Industrial capitalism was based on increasing production and expanding markets. Industrialists were supposed to use their profits to build more factories, buy more machinery and hire more labor. But this is not what happens under finance capitalism. Banks lend out their receipt of interest, fees and penalties (which now yield credit card companies as much as interest) in new loans.

The problem is that income used to pay debts cannot simultaneously be used to buy the goods and services that labor produces. So when wages and living standards do not rise, how are producers to sell – unless they find new markets abroad? The gains have been siphoned off by finance. And the financial dynamic ends up in austerity.

And to make matters worse, it is not the fat that is cut. The fat is the financial sector. What is cut is the bone: the industrial sector. So when writers refer to a post-industrial economy led by the banks, they imply deindustrialization. And for you it means unemployment and lower wages.

Financial dynamics vs. industrial dynamics

The accumulation of payments on interest-bearing debt leads companies to search for new loan markets, just as industrialists seek out new markets for their expanding output. This search means looking for assets in place to be pledged as collateral. The largest asset in any economy is real estate – mainly the land’s site value. So about 80 percent of bank loans are mortgage loans. But by 1980 property prices had turned down as interest rates rose during the Vietnam War and the general Cold War buildup throughout the world. Overseas military spending obliged the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates to borrow abroad to prevent the dollar’s exchange rate from declining.

So in the 1980s banks found a new market: corporate raiders treated companies much like real estate, to be bought on credit and managed to create a capital gain. The rise in interest rates to 20 percent by 1980 forced most states to revoke their usury laws, and credit card companies played states against each other in a race to the bottom when it came to protecting consumer rights. So the high-interest junk bond was born, largely at the hands of Michael Milken’s gang at Drexel Burnham.

American industry began to be financialized (and in the process, criminalized). But running a company to make a financial gain is different from running an industrial firm to expand production. Cash flow that was not paid to bankers and bondholders for the credit to buy out stock holders was used for purposes other than direct capital investment – above all for stock buybacks to support their price, and for mergers and acquisitions to acquire yet more companies.

The aim was not to increase production but to increase balance-sheet wealth – while extracting revenue from companies much like landlords bleeding a building. That is the time frame of finance capital, in contrast to industrial capital. It is short-term, not long term. This is why it is extractive rather than productive. The revenue has no counterpart in new direct investment in output, but rather in overhead debt extracting a rising flow of interest from the economy.

“Wealth creation” by debt leveraging – that is, asset-price inflation – was celebrated as a post-industrial economy, as if this were a positive and natural evolution. But in reality it is a lapse back into a rentier economy, and even into a kind of neofeudalism. The post-2008 bailouts have vested a new rentier elite to lord it over the 21st century, thanks to the fact that most gains since 1980 have gone to the 1% – mainly the financial sector, not to the 99%.

In the end this shrinks the economy – and that means that more and more loans will go bad, until crisis levels are reached at the point where lenders realize that there is no more room to extract more, and stop lending. But in the absence of government budget deficits, bank lending is the only support for demand – so the financial rug is pulled out from under the economy. That is the point at which banks demand bailouts – giving them the money, rather than giving the economy the revenue to spend and pull itself out of depression. So government debt is increased by giveaways to the banks, not by spending into the “real” economy.

Economics textbooks teach supply and demand curves. Every marginal increase in supply lowers the price of what is being supplied. For the job market this means that the higher the unemployment rate, the lower wages will fall. Conversely, the more workers you hire, the more you have to pay to attract workers. Government officials and bankers are indoctrinated in these textbooks and conclude that the less employment there is, the more wages will fall – thereby presumably leaving a wider profit margin, assuming that the goods can still be sold at a steady price. So employers seek to earn more by keeping employment low enough to prevent wages from rising. This maximizes the power of wealth over labor.

Economists conclude that to make economies more competitive, they need to keep wages low so as to undersell other countries. So a race to the bottom develops. But what seems to help countries compete actually hurts their domestic market.

Back in the 19th century this was called the reserve army of the unemployed. Unemployment keeps labour down. And even more important, to the extent that incomes do rise, they are paid out as debt service. A dynamic is put in place in which debt keeps labor down – not only by eating up its wages in debt service, but in making workers suffer sharp increases in the interest rates they have to pay or even risk losing their homes if they miss a payment by going on strike or being fired. Alan Greenspan explained that unemployment was not needed to keep labor down these days. All that is needed is to traumatize and disable them politically by debt leverage. (Quote his Senate testimony)

This is why, despite the fact that productivity has risen so dramatically, the real economy and its wage levels have tapered off in an S curve. The magic of compound interest has increased debt (and the savings of the 1%) to more than absorb the productivity gains. And this financial overgrowth has accrued to the 1%, not to the 99%.

Finance is what makes today’s economy different from that of 1945. We are at the end of a long cycle. Back in 1945 the private sector in every country was relatively free of debt. There was little civilian output for consumers to buy during the wartime years. Companies had little reason to invest, except for the government’s military demand. So most families had little debt – and a lot of savings, and good job opportunities after the return to peace. But today the economy is in reverse. Savings have been run down and consumers, real estate and industry is left in debt.

Untaxing land rent and monopoly rent so that it can be paid to the bankers, not to government

To stop this reversal, it is necessary to understand its causes. They are not only financial. The banking interests have gained sufficient power to distort tax policy, creating a dual fiscal-financial problem. Taxes have been shifted off the major bank customers – real estate and monopolies – onto labor and consumers. In the United States, two-thirds of state and local tax revenues in the 1930s came from the property tax. Today the proportion has fallen to only one-sixth. States and cities replaced property taxes with income and sales taxes. Europe and the post-Soviet economies have adopted the most anti-labour tax of all – the value added tax.

The rationale is that it is easy to collect. But it falls on consumers, not on the economy’s free lunch of economic rent as advocated by classical free market economists. The value added tax adds to consumer prices and shrinks the market, preventing labor from buying the goods it produces. This is done simply to free more land rent, natural resource rent and monopoly rent from taxation so that it can be paid to bankers as interest.

When voters threaten to elect politicians to pursue less bank-friendly policies, the EU announces that the country needs a technocrat to impose more taxes to bail out the banks for their bad loans. It is all in vain without changing the system, because today’s financial business plan cannot work for more than a short time. Being extractive rather than productive, it leaves a swath of bankruptcy in its wake. Yet it is the banks that the technocrats are saving, not labor and industry, the “real” economy’s employment, social spending and public wealth.

Changing Social Security from being paid out of progressive taxation to a regressive labor tax

In 1982, bank lobbyist Alan Greenspan was appointed to head a U.S. commission to shift Social Security out of the public budget (where it was funded largely by progressive taxation) and fund it by user fees that fall on employees and employers. The aim was to privatize it Chilean style. Wall Street’s dream is to turn wage set-asides over to money managers to buy stocks and create a stock market boom (and in the end, siphon off commissions and push contributors into high-risk bets on the losing side of the deal with large financial institutions, Goldman Sachs style). In effect, Mr. Greenspan’s position was that Social Security should not be a public service. It should be a user fee, so that prospective retirees would pay for it in advance. Their savings were to be lent to the government to enable the Treasury to slash taxes on the higher income and wealth brackets. So the effect was to reverse the long trend toward progressive taxation.

The upshot of the Greenspan tax increases (only on labor, not on wealthy earners) was to create a budget surplus for the Social Security Administration, enabling the government to cut taxes on real estate, on finance, and for the rich in general. Capital gains taxes in particular were cut in half. And real estate investors (absentee owners, not homeowners) were allowed to pretend that the value of their holdings were depreciating rather than rising in price, by junk accounting based on junk economics.

The end game came when the Bush and Obama administrations announced, in effect, “We’re broke. So now we have to balance the budget by cutting social spending and raising the Social Security tax further. We’ve cut taxes on the rich by so much that the workers have not paid enough to cover this give-away, not to mention fighting the Bush-Cheney war in Iraq and the Obama Administration’s war in Afghanistan – or for that matter, the class war against labour.

Under Pension Fund Capitalism, employees are encouraged to think of themselves as capitalists in miniature – and provide for their retirement by employee stock ownership programs rather than saving up their wages themselves or having pensions financed on a pay-as-you-go basis out of future production. The idea is to make money from money (MM’), not by producing commodities (M-C-M’). In America, half the employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) have gone bankrupt, mainly by being grabbed by the corporate employers. Corporate raiders borrow credit from bankers and bond investors to fund management buyouts. The plan is to buy out stockholders, pledging the earnings to pay out as interest. And not only earnings; they loot the employee pension plans. George Akerlof won the 20– Nobel Prize for describing this. But novelists have recognized it more than economists. It was Balzac who said that behind every great family fortune is a great theft, often long forgotten to be sure.

Today’s economy is based on theft under the euphemism of “free enterprise.” It’s sometimes called “socialism for the rich” because they receive most government subsidy. But it’s not the kind of socialism that people talked about a hundred years ago. It is a travesty of social democracy and socialism. In a word, it’s oligarchy. But we’re living in an Orwellian world. No party calls themselves fascist today, or even anti-labor. They call themselves social democracy. But it’s the opposite of what social democracy meant in the 19th and early 20th century.

Social Security has not yet been privatized, but education has – not only privatized, but financialized. Students no longer get free or low-priced education. In order to qualify for professional jobs in America, they have to take out loans that put them deeply in debt. Then, when it comes time to start a family, they have to take on a lifetime 30-year mortgage debt. They need to take out an auto loan to buy an automobile to drive to work, especially where public transportation has been dismantled as in Los Angeles. And when their paychecks are squeezed more, they can maintain their living standards and social status only by taking on credit card debt.

Paying the carrying charges on this debt diverts spending away from the goods and services that employees produce. The result is debt deflation. Employees have less and less ability to buy what they produce – except by taking on even more debt. That’s why banks and bondholders have ended up with the increase in productivity – almost synonymous with the 1%. They are the core of the Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate (FIRE) sector that now absorbs most of the economic surplus in the form of various types of economic rent: land and natural resource rent, monopoly privilege and financial overhead.

The inversion of classical free market reform to its diametric opposite

Classical political economy sought to mobilize democratic government to tax the rentiers: landlord, monopolists and bankers. The objective was to create an industrial surplus and, in the process, raise productivity, wage levels and living standards. To keep prices low and hence national economies competitive, governments were to undertake society’s largest spending programs: basic infrastructure such as transportation, power production, communications – all of which happen to be natural monopolies as well. So the aim was not only to provide basic infrastructure needs freely or at subsidized prices, but to prevent private owners from erecting tollbooths on roads and charging monopoly prices for power, phone systems (as in Telmex in Mexico or similar phone monopolies in the post-Soviet kleptocracies).

Post-classical economics (deceptively called neoclassical) seeks to untax the rentiers, and shift the costs of government onto labor and even onto industry. To achieve this, democracy is rolled back to oligarchies. But this time they are controlled not by landlords as in the case of Europe’s landed aristocracies, but bankers and financiers. And their aim is to privatize the public domain with its monopolies. Bankers advance the credit to buyers, who install tollbooths and raise prices for basic needs. By paying out their revenue in a tax-exempt form, as interest, they keep their income out of the hands of government – forcing national treasuries to tax labor and industry, consumers and producers rather than finance, insurance and real estate. Governments thus become the protectors of monopoly and its financing.

It is a short-term policy. By raising domestic price levels, financialized economies price themselves out of global markets – unless than can create a world order in which all economies are symmetrically debt-burdened. This is where the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organization are brought into play – to financialize globalization, excluding countries as pariahs if they do not join this self-destructive and self-terminating system.

An object lesson of the shift from classical democracy to post-classical oligarchy is a country that is held out to you as a success story: Latvia, where neoliberals had a completely free hand, as they did in Russia. What they call a neoliberal paradise turned out to be debt-ridden kleptocracy. The country has a set of flat taxes on employment of 59 percent – and only a 1 percent real estate tax.

You can imagine what happened with real estate taxed so low and labor taxed so high. Employment was high-cost – but there was a real estate bubble. When I was Research Director at the Riga Graduate School of Law, I visited the government agency in charge of property assessments, and asked how they got the 1 percent. I was told that they based it on the most recent real estate appraisal they had. This turned out to be back in 1917, before the Russian Revolution. (The lead assessor had written her doctoral dissertation on this survey.) Whatever the tax collector gives up and relinquishes in taxes, is available to be paid to the banks as interest. So housing prices are bid up in price – on credit – while the tax collector has to turn to labor and industry for the revenue that has been given up. Instead of paying taxes, new homebuyers pay interest to the bankers. The upshot is that the banks end up with the rent that used to accrue to the landed aristocracies of Europe. This is making bankers the new aristocracy.

When I headed an international investigative economic team in 2010, we visited Latvia’s bank insurance agency and were told that they had anticipated a collapse of the bubble. Their response was to advise banks to back their mortgage loans not only with the property as collateral, but to get as many family members as possible to co-sign the loan. That way, if and when default occurred, the parents, siblings or other relatives would be personally liable.

The bank regulators did not urge the government to tax real estate more. That would have squeezed homeowners on their bank loans – and left less new rental income to be capitalized into new bank loans. But it would have enabled the government to reduce its heavy taxes on employment. This was not the bank regulators’ concern – and bankers themselves saw their main business in lending to fuel real estate, not industry, given what the neoliberals did to Latvia’s economy and that of the other Baltic states!

Unfair? Economically polarizing and destructive? Of course. But the bank insurers said that their task was to protect bank solvency, not create an optimum economic structure.

One result is that a recent EU survey found that one-third of Latvia’s population between the age of 20 and 35 either had emigrated or was planning to do so. As of 2012 the country’s population recently has shrunk by 15 percent. Marriage and birth rates are falling off, as they are throughout the post-Soviet economies. After all, who can marry and buy a house when your wages are taxed at 59 percent and you have to take on a debt?

Iceland provides another object lesson. Even more than Latvia, it became a rogue banker’s paradise – and also one for vulture banks. Their loans are indexed to the consumer price index – which means in practice to the foreign exchange rate. The krónur plunged after the banks crashed in 2008. The result a 1,000 krónur debt has become perhaps 1,800 – against property that has fallen from the equivalent of 1000 krónur down to perhaps 400 krónur. This leaves many families in negative equity. And they are personally liable.

When the crooked banks of Iceland went under (and they’ve only recently begun to arrest some of the crooks) the government took them over and, on European advice, sold them to vulture investors, for around ten cents on the dollar. Despite the fact that Iceland’s constitution said that they were not allowed to increase debts by indexing, this is just what the banks did. If the government had taken over, it could have written down the debts to the ability to pay. But the new vulture banks have not done this. And the Social Democratic government backed their rights to make as much as they can, rather than giving priority to the welfare of the Icelandic people.

What I find so striking is how far to the right wing of the political spectrum the Social Democratic and Labour parties have moved. Iceland’s Social Democratic leadership explained that it wanted to be part of Europe. But this meant acting on behalf of the British and Dutch bankers, not democratically on behalf of Icelanders. They acted on behalf of the emerging financial oligarchy.

I’ve known many of the social democratic leaders of America and the world since I was a young boy. My father was a socialist labor leader and political prisoner from Minneapolis, which was the high point of American labor history as a result of its great General Strike in the 1930s. I was told by a Socialist Party leader (Terence McCarthy) in the early 1960s that the travel and hotel expenses of nearly every member of the Socialist International (the Second International, of which Dmitri Papandreou of Greece is President as of autumn 2011) was paid for by the CIA or its front organizations. I watched the Socialist Party in America come to support the Vietnam War, and Michael Harrington ban criticism of the war in its youth magazine – driving it to quickly lose most of its members.

Harrington and his mentor, Max Shachtman, took this position because they believed that the West could not be persuaded to be Marxist until the world was freed from the Stalinist travesty that claimed to be Marxist. So the Social Democratic Party of America joined the Cold War effort. Politics was turned upside down by the triangulation of socialism, Stalinism and the ability of the United States to back and finance European social democrats to support the banks and “centrists.” This became the tragedy of the old non-Stalinist left in America and other countries. So the Social Democratic leadership imagined (or simply sold out to pretend to believe) that “free financial markets” would lead the world into economic progress.

This was just the opposite from the Progressive Era and indeed, what industrial capitalism promised. The Social Democratic parties of Iceland, Britain, Greece, Scandinavia and other European countries have adopted the position that the way to re-employ labor is to impose austerity. Budgets are to be balanced by lowering wages by 30 percent, and shifting taxes off the finance, insurance and real estate sector onto consumers.

Taxes on labor add to its cost. So competitive power would be maximized by untaxing labor and consumer goods, by getting rid of the value-added tax. But not all taxes are bad. The classical free market economists endorsed taxes on unearned income: land rent and natural resources, monopoly rent and financial privilege. These categories of income have no counterpart in a cost of production undertaken by the rent recipient. The more that governments can shift the tax burden onto land and property, the lower housing prices will be – and the less governments will need to tax labor by income and sales taxes.

Bankers back anti-government ideology because they want to obtain all of the untaxed rental revenue as interest. So taxes that otherwise would be paid to the government will be paid to the bankers. The result – what you’re seeing today in Europe and North America – is an economic grab that is in many ways like that which gave birth to European feudalism. But this time around it is financial, not military.

Este pequeno vídeo de 8 minutos tenta passar a ideia, pela voz de economistas de referência, que a ciência económica neoclássica (aquilo que é ensinado pelo livro do Samuelson e o modelo pelo qual o mundo se rege hoje emdia) está em falência enquanto modelo de análise porque a sua análise de uma economia de mercado (baseada nas curva negativa da procura e curva positiva de oferta) negligencia completamente a criação de crédito e dívida dentro da economia, que é uma fonte de permanente instabilidade e incerteza.

Acerca do problema da instabilidade do sector financeiro, que se alastra a toda a economia, podem ver esta palestra de Steven Keen, explicando o dito problema através da contribuição de Misnky, que formulou a hipótese da instabilidade inerente e inevitável ao sistema financeiro (e que contradiz a teoria de comportamento racional das economia neoclássica).


Neste artigo limitar-me-ei a dar o palco ao Sr. Michael Hudson, professor de economia na Universidade do Missouri (Kansas City), um dos poucos centros académicos nos Estados Unidos a tentar incluir no debate sobre a crise actual a Modern Monetary Theory, cujos princípios são em muito contrários à banha de cobra que o neoliberalismo, através do FMI, da Comissão Europeia e  do BCE, quer impôr na Europa.

Michael Hudson está também associado ao Levy Institute of Economics (já referenciado neste blog) da Universidade Bard (2 horas a norte de Nova Iorque), e que se distingue por um pensamento económico ligeiramente mais progressivo do que as correntes que dominam os discursos oficiais.

Temos então dois vídeos sobre o tema da escravatura da dívida e expropriação:

1. Nesta entrevista, Michael Hudson explica como as políticas da troika se destinam a proteger a posição dos dententores de capital (sector bancário de investimento) em relação ao resto da população, resultando numa redistribuição de riqueza de baixo para cima da pirâmide social. Analisa os particulares da situação europeia e dos PIIGS e compara-a com anexação territorial e ocupação militar, já para não dizer roubo. Uma das ideias chaves é que a austeridade resulta num falhanço inevitável nas metas de consolidação fiscal e orçamental, o que “obrigará” os Estados a alienar património a preços de pechincha (TAP, EDP, Águas e Saneamento, etc etc etc).

2. Este vídeo é a palestra que Michael Hudson deu recentemente em Berlim. Nos primeiros dez minutos faz uma resenha da actual resposta política e económica que tende a piorar a situação (expropriação da população para pagar aos bancos) e dá 3 possíveis e simples soluções para travar o sistema oligárquico sob o qual vivemos hojem em dia no mundo ocidental.

Finalmente, para os mais interessados, podem ler o paper que está na base desta palestra neste link.

Como exemplo da vida real do que as palestras em cima explicam, vejam este vídeo do despejo de um casal de idosos na Irlanda pelo Anglo Irish Bank, por falta de pagamento do empréstimo à habitação. Agora, levem em consideração que o Anglo Irish Bank foi resgatado pelo governo irlandês usando o dinheiro dos contribuintes, mais precisamente 34 biliões de euros. De uma forma sádica, e no que é praticamente um assalto à mão armada (pela polícia, pelo Estado e pelo banco), este casal de idosos é expropriado da sua casa por um banco que ajudaram a salvar com os seus impostos!

O Romântico Euro
O Romântico Euro

A Situação

A Austeridade é uma política pública desastrosa. A taxa de desemprego europeia (na zona euro) está em 10.8%. O que corresponde a um recorde de 13 anos e a um total de 17.1 milhões de desempregados. Nas economias germânicas, Austria e Alemanha, a taxa anda nos valores mais baixos (4% e 6% respectivamente), enquanto que nos países PIIGS, que estão activamente a implementer medidas de repressão financeira, a taxa de desemprego está dos 15% para cima. Leve-se ainda em consideração que há muitos sinais suspeitos que fraude nos números de desemprego é generalizada e existe até na Alemanha (ver este artigo).

Desemprego na Zona Euro

Os doutores da austeridade irão argumentar que isso se deve à falta de competitividade das economias do sul. E até pode ser, em termos de indicadores económicos. Mas as razões vão mais fundo. Como Richard Seymour argumentou no artigo que aqui re-publicámos, a situação actual de produtividade revela um canibalismo intraeuropeu em que a Alemanha (e potências associadas) cresce à custa das economias mais fracas, numa tendência que começou mais visivelmente nos anos 90 quando a Alemanha tomou medidas para suprimir salários (baixar os custos) e a procura interna (mantendo a inflação em baixo, logo os custos macroecómicos) e reorientar a produção, não para consumo interno, mas para os mercados de exportação.

Isto são precisamente o tipo de políticas económicas que o Passos defende e que a Merkel dita. O objectivo da Austeridade é reprimir as economias. O problema é que não há necessariamente crescimento, nem a longo prazo. Porque a Alemanha precisa de usar o instrumento da dívida de países como Portugal para financiar a procura externa dos seus mercados de exportação. E usar a dívida permanente como instrumento de controlo político significa que Portugal não se consegue livrar da escravatura da dívida que lhe é imposta, assegurando um futuro brilhante e expansionário à economia alemã (â custa de Portugal e outros PIIGS).

E a curto prazo, como já temos batido constantemente na tecla, a austeridade conduz à contracção acelerada da economia com contracção imediata do PIB e aumento dos níveis de privação da maioria da população, porque o Estado está basicamente a tirar riqueza de circulação e distribuição (ou melhor, a tirar riqueza e a distribuir para cima, em vez de para baixo, da pirâmide social).

E se prova querem de que esta crise austeritária se trata realmente da Alemanha a tomar controlo da zona euro e respectivas economias para seu benefício, só há que ver, por exemplo, o que aconteceu recentemente. O primeiro ministro grego já pôs na mesa a hipótese de um 3º resgate, porque as eleições estão aí à porta, e é preciso que os alemães façam chover dinheiro para garantir que um governo amigável e pró-colonial seja eleito. Entretanto, possivelmente, as exigências austeritárias sobre a Grécia vão diminuir e o dinheiro (ou parte dele) do resgate será colocado numa conta segregada, à qual o governo grego não terá acesso, e que servirá para pagar imediatamente aos credores (leia-se bancos alemães que financiam a procura externa à indústria alemã, bancos franceses e o BCE).

Germany, after ‘trapping’ many countries in the e-Zone ignored their situation while Germany continues to post increasingly lower-than-required rates of inflation as many in EMU ahve run higher rates. As a result of this, there is a huge competitiveness conundrum in the Zone. It seems to have been engineered by Germany-and they are great engineers. (…)

What allows the US to to maintain a union that has areas of vastly different real income, property values, etc, is its fiscal transfer system. Germany instead of dealing with today’s issues, and assisting with development (instead of just bail-out bucks) wants to roll the clock back and set up what I have called a Bento-box view of Europe in which GERMANS will be made safe as each member of EMU will have its own mandated balanced budget and will be put in a Germanic-like straight jacket of fiscal responsibility. Hey that sounds like fun!

The Euro zone is NOT the German Zone. It was not formed and does not exist for the benefits of Germans. But as Germany is in a position of power it is now trying to bend every EMU nation to its way of doing things. This widespread use of austerity is foolishness. You may denigrate ‘Keynesianism’ a term that is such a cartoon and straw-man that it has no meaning, but austerity in the midst of recession is tomfoolery!

If policy were geared for the average EMU country the Zone would be quite different. But it is not; it is geared for Germany making everyone else much worse off relative to Germany. Instead of having a zone with most members tightly clustered around the average with Germany and Greece as outliers we have a policy that is being run for one extreme of the Zone – Germany! (Zero Hedge)

Eis o mesmo tema abordado em entrevista ao Francisco Louçã na Real News Network, fazendo a ligação também aos interesses financeiros-banqueiros e de como a dívida é uma forma de escravatura moderna (em Inglês):


Uma possível solução usando a Modern Monetary Theory

O Instituto Levy de Economia da Universidade de Bard (EUA) publicou um pequeno paper publicitanto uma ideia nova: Títulos de dívida pública que, caso o Estado não possa pagar de volta, se transformam automaticamente em créditos fiscais. Ou seja, se eu tiver  100 euros em títulos de dívida pública e tenho que pagar 150 euros de imposto este ano, posso usar os meus títulos para amortizar essa dívida, ficando apenas a dever 50 euros ao Estado a ser pagos de forma tradicional (via transferência monetária).

Este conceito está alicerçado no facto de que o que dá valor ao dinheiro de papel hoje em dia, em que já não existe o padrão-ouro, é:

  1. a capacidade do Estado em recolher impostos. Ou seja, o valor de uma nota está garantido pela capacidade de taxação e não por directa associação a nenhum recurso raro e preciso (o ouro).
  2. A possibilidade de pagar esses mesmos impostos usando a moeda de papel reforça o seu valor monetário (uma lógica ligeiramente circular, mas é tema para outra discussão)

Assim, os títulos de dívida publica transformar-se-iam numa forma parelela de moeda, permitindo basicamente aos PIIGS emitir moeda de novo sem sair da zona euro e dando-lhes mais instrumentos para se financiarem a curto prazo. Os problemas estruturais continuariam, mas pelo menos haveria espaço para considerar políticas alternativas e atenuar o impacto da crise na população. A questão é se a Alemanha permitirá este esquema. Se este sistema funcionasse, a Alemanha perderia de imediato muito do seu poder, se bem que a curto prazo isso permitir-lhe-ia continuar a usufruir de um mercado de exportação rechonchudo.

O artigo explicando os pormenores desta proposta pode ser lido aqui.


Para quem ache que a Grécia está a roubar demasiada atenção a Portugal nesta crise de dívida externa, alegre-se! Chegou a altura de Portugal

 As taxas de juto exigidas por potenciais compradores a de dívida pública portuguesa a 10 anos estão em quase 13%, mais ou menos o dobro a que estavam faz agora um ano (Março 2011). A Espanha, por comparação, tem agora as ditas taxas a mais ou menos 3,5%. E é suposto ser também um país em crise.

Ora, o que isto significa é que a malta que tem dinheiro (principalmente os bancos europeus que receberam dinheiro à borliu do Banco Central Europeu) recusam-se a investir em títulos de dívida portuguesa porque acham que o país vai cair na banca rota mais cedo que tarde. E não há medida nenhuma de austeridade que ajude o Passinhos a fingir que está a resolver seja o que for. Só está a piorar a situação. Deve ser uma estratégia para reduzir o valor nominal dos bens a privatizar – fazer a alienação de Portugal a preços de pechincha na feira da ladra.

 Segundo Edward Hugh, autor de frequentes análises macroenómicas bem fundamentadas em dados númericos e economista de referência no mundo internauta, Portugal tem basicamente uma dívida pública e privada astronómica que não consegue pagar com o crescimento de caracol que tem (e que a austeridade transformou em recessão e crescimento negativo). Se não há crescimento não há criação de riqueza suficiente para pagar as dívidas acumuladas tanto no sector privado (através de lucros) como no sector público (através de impostos).

 Tal como 1+1=2, o que resulta do acima dito é que portugal vai à bancarrota. A data prevista de momento é setembro de 2013, altura em que o país tem pagar de volta 9.3 biliões de euros (9.3 mil milhões, ou 930 000 000 000) aos seus credores de uma só assentada.

 A situação em 2011 só foi salva pela transferência dos fundos de pensão do sector bancário para as contas públicas, mas isso foi um truque que não se poderá repetir. Sem isso, a performance austeritária do Passinhos teria sido bastante pior, e o FMI está bem ciente disso. 

That is to say the Fund has a double role here – to talk the efforts of the Portuguese administration up before the world’s press, and to try and keep the politicians in line in the background.

 O que se está a passar, muito provavelmente, é que a depressão causada pela austeridade vai afectar a criação de lucro e receita fiscal, tornando-se impossível atingir os níveis de receita previstos para um certo défice, levando por isso o Governo a implementar mais cortes (austeridade), numa espiral suicida da economia e do país. E mesmo assim os tais alvos de défices não serão atingidos. Portugal irá à falência.

 Mas a sitação não se trata apenas através do lado da receita. O nosso querido Estado de mercados livres conseguiu em 2011 gastar mais do que o previsto em empresas estatais e nas famosas parcerias público privadas. Ou seja, pode-se cortar na pensão dos reformados, mas mantêm-se os subsídios à grande e à francesa para os amigos empresariais e para coisas como a Lusoponte, que recebeu “dupla creditação” pelas portagens de Agosto de 2011. Como indicação Hughes calcula que o Estado português tem uma exposição à dívida das PPP de 14% do PIB e que todos os anos gasta 1% do PIB a pagar as taxas de juros das dívidas das PPP. Junta-se o insulto à injúria! Obrigado, Passinhos!

 Assim, a situação não está mesmo nada boa para 2012. Estimativas apontam que a economia privada em Portugal em 2011 gerou uma dívida privada de 3.5% do PIB (possivelmente semelhante em 2012) ao que se deverá acrescentar o estimado bailout do sector financeiro português (chamado de recapitalização) para 2012 de 4.7% do PIB!!!

 Que grande forrobodó!

 As perspectivas a longo prazo também não são melhores. A economia portuguesa tem estado em decadência faz 10 anos, as previsões do FMI não são melhores a longo prazo com médias de 2% de crescimento, temos uma população a envelhecer e os jovens a emigrar por causa da crise. De uma forma inesperada, Hughes mostra como a Hungria já implementou todas as medidas de supressão salarial no sector público que Portugal está agora a implementar e que isso teve impacto zero no crescimento (possivelmente porque reduzir os salários dos empregados públicos em nada melhora a “produtividade” da indústria e exportações portuguesas, ao mesmo tempo que reduz procura interna). De qualquer forma, da nossa perspectiva é errado baixar salários para aumentar competitividade, numa corrida para o fosso entre nações em crise, enquanto se preservam lucros de grandes empresas e mafias partidárias.

A conclusão é que o país está agora no ínicio de uma década deflacionária, com queda de rendimentos e níveis de vida. Quando Portugal emergir da crise daqui a 10 anos será em geral um país consideravelmente mais pobre e provavelmente com possibilidades de crescimento limitadas. E se hoje em dia já não é rico…

 Entretanto, na Grécia, continua a ocupação Alemã:

Lucas Papademos in place and have him “request” that Germany reoccupy Greece. Papademos is not elected. He is in power because his elected predecessor, George Papandreou, announced that Greece would hold a plebiscite on whether to agree to the terms of a deal on Greece’s sovereign debt that would have the effect of surrendering Greece’s remaining sovereignty and consigning the Greek people to an even deeper depression. The inevitable German reaction to the plebiscite was: Democracy in Greece – inconceivable! Germany threatened to destroy Greece’s economy if there were a plebiscite. Germany’s extortion led to the collapse of Papanderou’s elected government and Papademos’ appointment as Greece’s de facto prime minister.

 Vale a pena ler o artigo inteiro que analise a crise europeia a partir da Modern Monetary Theory (uma espécie de neo-keynesianismo), que é neste momento a maior e melhor alternativa aos dogmas económicos de Bruxelas e Berlim e uma possível arma de libertação nacional.

Fontes e Links EconoMonitor & Zero Hedge & Naked Capitalism

PS: Outro PIIG a sair-se mal com a austeridade e com a autosabotagem económica é a Irlanda.

PPS (Conselho): Esta é uma boa altura de correr ao vosso banco e perguntar aos servos-da-finança que aí trabalham como podem aplicar o vosso dinheiro (se tiverem algum) em ouro de investimento. É isso que os bancos centrais do mundo estão a fazer, porque já ninguém acredita muito em dinheiro feito de papel. E agora é uma boa altura porque os preços do ouro caíram ligeiramente. Parece ser uma das poucas formas existentes de preservar as poupanças, se as tiverem!

Crisis of Capitalism

Este pequeno artigo é uma tradução-paráfrase-resumo do original em inglês, publicado no blog Pink Scare. O original é uma discussão da definição do conceito de imperialismo, baseado nas ideias de Lenine, e pretende servir como um quadro de análise, ou como ponto de refência teórica, para perceber o que se passa no mundo: usando este conceito, o leitor poderá aventurar-se na interpretação de acontecimentos recentes (austeridade, guerra no iraque, guerra em qualquer lado) munido de uma base de análise que lhe permitirá ver a dimensão macro de diversos fenómenos político-económicos. Aconselha-se a leitura do original para não perder nenhuma nuance da definição.

  • O imperialismo é uma relação de dominação de um Estado mais forte sobre um Estado mais fraco, que involve exploração (extracção de mais valias sem justa recompensa), e que resulta numa constante luta pela divisão do globo em “zonas de influência”.
  • O imperialismo resulta da estrutura e organização capitalista da economia mundial e não pode deixar de existir enquanto essas condições se mantenham. Esta dinâmica está relacionada com o facto de a actividade económica tender para a acumulação de riqueza em alguns centros sistémicos (mundo actual, USA+Europa, com potências satélite como a Rússia). Esses centros de acumulação de riqueza entram em fricção mútua pelo controlo sobre pessoas e recursos e, consequentemente, de mais acumulação e meios de acumulação. Neste sistema, quem perde o poder de acumular sai da corrida e perde influência. Daí que a luta pelo maior PIB é hoje em dia uma obsessão e um valor de um país é medido na percentagem de quanto consegue fazer o dito crescer.
  • Esta relação simbiótica de capitalismo e imperialismo pode ser descrita com o seguinte esquema:  1) A concentração do capital e da produção dão origem a grandes conglomerados (monopólios, cartéis, oligopólios, etc) que se tornam pedras angulares da vida económica. 2) A expansão exponencial do sector financeiro através da fusão funcional entre bancos e companhias de produção industrial o que conduz ao 3) crescimento acentudo na exportação e globalização do capital (por oposição a simples produtos industrias prontos a consumir). Esta internacionalização conduz à 4) criação de conglomerados internacionais, que se 5) empenham na divisão territorial do mundo, através da competição, de forma a controlar os meios de acumulação.
  • A expansão exponencial do sector financeiro através da fusão funcional entre bancos e companhias de produção industrial/conglomerados é um dos factores chave do capitalismo moderno. Esta junção resulta numa tal acumulação acelerada de capital, que não existem oportunidades suficientes para absorver esses lucros de forma lucrativa (investimento+lucro). Isto é o que David Harvey chama de “capital absorption surplus problem” (ver vídeo em baixo) e que conduziu, desde os anos 70, a uma expansão geométrica do sector financeiro: a criatividade dos mercados “permite” multiplicar exponencialmente ad infinitum a aculumação de capital através da criação de ficções económicas tais como “securitazation”, “CDS”, re-hipotecação de colateral, etc. O problema está que esta expansão só existe em bits e bytes e quando rebentam as bolhas, levam a economia real pela água abaixo.  A segunda dinâmica a acompanhar o “capital absorption surplus problem” é que os conglemarados, à procura de mais sítios ainda mais lucrativos para pôr dinheiro, se lançam pelo globo fora à cata de ouro, petróleo, salários miseráveis, emprestimos e subsídios, etc etc etc.
  • Neste seguimento, o conflito armado resulta do interesse das elites de sociedades baseadas em sistemas de classe classe (onde uma minoria rica governa sobre a maioria sem nada exceptuando a sua força de trabalho) e que são também centros de conglomeração em manter a sua esfera de influência e as respectivos instrumentos de extracção de rendas e lucros. Contudo, não se pense que o imperialismo se expressa apenas em guerra. Ele existe permanentemente, já que faz parte integrante do sistema global, e em tempos de paz as suas expressões são talvez menos violentas e menos grandiosas em escala, mas continuam a existir de facto.
  • O imperialismo, como consequência da forma de organização e produção capitalista, tem inevitavelmente uma dimensão de classe. A competição pelo trabalho e capital que permitirão criar mais lucro é o motor que alimenta a ocupação colonial e outras formas de exploração, por exemplo, estrangulamento financeiro, supressão salarial, apropriação de bens públicos (ou seja, privatização), etc.

Aconselhamos mais uma vez a que se leia o posto original e, como forma de esclarecer o “capital absorption surplus problem” deixamos este vídeo com excertos de uma palestra de David Harvey, ilustrada pela RSA Animate. A palestra cobre um tema mais largo: a natureza da crise actual, as suas origens e relaciona ambos com a natureza do capitalismo.

Fonte/Link Pink Scare