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Why Post-Coronavirus America Will Have Massive Poverty

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The way that Congress and the President structured America’s coronavirus bailout legislation, the protections that go to the super-wealthy start immediately, but the protections that go to the neediest — the soaring numbers of unemployed, the increasingly endangered medical workers, etc. — require documentation which is creating delays that might soon cause many of these individuals to lose their homes, their cars, even their lives.

On April 17th, Matt Taibbi headlined “The Trickle-Up Bailout” and he noted that:

As we head into the second month of pandemic lockdown, two parallel narratives are developing about the financial rescue. 

In one, ordinary people receive aid through programs that are piecemeal, complex, and riddled with conditions.

A law freezing evictions applies to holders of government-backed mortgages only. “Disaster grants” are coming more slowly and in smaller amounts than expected; small businesses were disappointed to learn from the SBA early last week that aid would be limited to $1000 per employee.

That’s typical.

As I had already explained on April 14th:

America’s bailout package to overcome the coronavirus ‘recession’ is twofold:

One part is printing money for employees and consumers, so that they won’t be thrown out onto the streets for non-payment of debts such as mortgages, car-loans, credit cards, and student loans.

Another part is printing money for bondholders and stockholders, so that their investments will still have value and there won’t be panicked selling of them as corporations accumulate soaring losses because consumers are staying home and are cutting way back on expenses.

The top-down part of the bailout (the part for investors) will merely add to the wealth of the already-wealthy, while everybody else sinks financially into oblivion. (On April 9th, the Zero Hedge financial site explained in detail why even bailing out the airlines would hurt the economy more than help the economy.) The top-down part supplies the money to the corporations instead of to their employees and consumers, and is therefore supply-boosting instead of demand-boosting. Supplying money to the corporations that the Government selects to protect will enable those corporations to buy up assets and corporations which during the crisis are being auctioned off by the ones that go out of business, and this will leave the nation’s wealth in even fewer hands than before the epidemic struck.  

The bottom-up part (the part for workers and consumers) will be exactly the opposite of that: it will help prevent another Great Depression. By boosting purchases, instead of bailing-out billionaires and such, it will enable the economy to keep functioning, and it will not increase the concentration of wealth.

However, employees and consumers don’t have many lobbyists, but billionaires do, and billionaires also own (through political donations and lobbyists) almost all members of Congress (and also the mainstream press), and they not only own, but are represented by, one inside the White House, who is surrounded there by others, and by representatives of others, so that the concerns of the wealthiest will be very well represented by America’s Government, and will end up dominating the bailouts, so that only the insiders, who are well-connected in Washington, will be protected. (And Joe Biden would be no improvement over Donald Trump, though his rhetoric is different.)

Already, we see, in the ‘news’-reports, that there is ‘chaos’ etc. in the U.S. Government’s response to the crisis, but what’s not being reported in the mainstream ‘news’-media is that there very much is method to this seeming madness, and it is the method of the well-practiced and well-funded takers, definitely not of their victims, from whom they (and their Government) have been, and now increasingly are, taking. The takers own the Deep State, and are protected by it. The vast bulk of the bailouts will go to them. The vast bulk of the bailouts will go to suppliers (investors), not to their workers and consumers.

So, as a general rule: the more that a person’s income depends upon investments, and the less that it depends upon their labor (wages), the more fully that the bailouts will compensate for the losses they’ll be suffering as a result of the coronavirus disruptions.

Here is a breakdown of the incomes that the super-rich receive (mainly from investments), versus the incomes that everybody else receive:

As can easily be seen there, only the super-rich (the top 1%, and most especially the top 0.1%) receive the majority of their incomes from investments (“Business income” and “Capital income”). Everybody else receives it mainly from “compensation” (wages), “retirement income,” and “Transfer income” (welfare).

Most of the benefits to the top 0.1% will be coming by means of monetary policy, via the Federal Reserve, not by means of fiscal policy — such as the payments to the unemployed (which are subject to many delays) and such as the $1,200-per-adult grants (which were the fastest to be paid because it’s the “helicopter money” that buys votes for the political incumbents, all of whom had voted for the bailouts).

The bailouts’ widely publicized part is the $2.2 trillion, since that includes whatever the public gets. However, that part is the smaller portion of the entire program. As CBS News reported on March 24th, “Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the price tag of economic stimulus amounts to roughly $6 trillion, which includes $2 trillion for direct assistance, and roughly $4 trillion in Federal Reserve lending power. Kudlow said this will be the single-largest such Main Street financial package in the history of the country.” Kudlow said it at a White House press conference. He mentioned there just in passing (at 1:36), that it’s a “six trillion-dollar program, four trillion dollars in lending power from the Fed, that’s a six trillion-dollar package …,” and the reporters in the White House press corps didn’t ask him anything about the Fed’s part, the $4 trillion portion (the program’s part that protects the billionaires); they evidently didn’t care about that, but only about the $2.2 trillion, which is actually the PR decoration on this $6T cake — the $2.2T that the public is interested in, the bait-part of the entire bailout-program. (Its hook won’t sink in until the readers’ children and grandchildren will be paying for it via their taxes in a stripped America.) However, on March 26th, Wall Street on Parade (WSP) — the best investigative-reporting source about Wall Street — headlined “Stimulus Bill Allows Federal Reserve to Conduct Meetings in Secret; Gives Fed $454 Billion Slush Fund for Wall Street Bailouts” and disclosed that even what Kudlow had called “Main Street” (the $2.2T part) included much for Wall Street; and WSP then rhetorically asked, “Why does the Federal Reserve need $454 billion from the U.S. taxpayer to bail out Wall Street when it has the power to create money out of thin air and has already dumped more than $9 trillion cumulatively in revolving loans to prop up Wall Street’s trading houses since September 17, 2019 – long before there was any diagnosis of coronavirus anywhere in the world?” They promptly answered this: “The Fed needs that money to create more Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) — the same device used by Enron to hide its toxic debt off its balance sheet before it went belly up.” Furthermore, the $454 billion, which WSP called “the money the Treasury is handing over to the Fed” is what CBS had reported “would result in ‘$4 trillion in Federal Reserve lending power’.” And U.S. taxpayers are guaranteeing 100% of these loans to investors — so, it’s “heads you win, tails we lose,” for taxpayers addressing billionaires, and “heads we win, tails you lose,” for billionaires addressing taxpayers. The billionaires win, the public loses. But the billionaires’ media don’t mention this fact, that investors get the guarantees, while the public takes all of the risks. However, what is an “investment” for, if non-investors are receiving its risks? It’s just legalized crime. And these are huge risks, and all or most of the $454 billion that the U.S. is lending to the Fed to guarantee private investors’ investments could be destroyed in the coronavirus-crisis. This is far more socialism for the super-rich than for the bottom 99%. The billionaires love socialism when they’re the ones who are getting the bailouts — the public taking on the risks that investors are supposed to assume. The issue for billionaires isn’t “socialism versus capitalism,” like they always say; it’s actually “socialism for us, and capitalism for everybody else.” That’s not “survival of the fittest,” for the wealthiest class; it’s instead their ordering their politicians to: protect our wealth, no matter what the cost to the public could turn out to be. And that’s precisely what the President and Congress did. Kudlow, however, said, instead, that the “package” would produce “a good rebound in the second half of the year.” Maybe for the billionaires it would.

Kudlow was simply being consistent with his own prior record. On 10 December 2007, he had headlined in National Review“Bush Boom Continues: You can call it Goldilocks 2.0. But you can’t call it a recession.” And he closed by saying, “This sort of fiscal and monetary coordination will continue the Bush boom for years to come.” He’s good for the billionaires; and, so, today, he’s President Trump’s top economic advisor. He’s up there, because he’s wrong — not because he’s right. (If he had been right, he wouldn’t be there.) 

On April 21st, CNBC headlined “Here are the largest public companies taking payroll loans meant for small businesses” and the top 10 on the list totals $56.5 million going to 10 corporations whose collective market capitalization is $2.367 billion. The smallest of those ten bailouts is $10.0M going to the stockholders of a $151 million corporation. The largest of those ten bailouts is to a corporation whose top 3 investors are: Brown CapitalBlackRock, and Vanguard. On April 20th, Forbes reported that, “the U.S. central bank has hired private equity giant BlackRock BLK, which manages some $7 trillion in assets, to run purchases of corporate bonds and commercial mortgages that are part of its response to the pandemic-led recession.” So: the owners of BlackRock will now receive, from “the U.S. central bank” (the Federal Reserve), some of the bailouts from the U.S. Small Business Administration, in this “emergency” program.

Also on April 21st, David Sirota’s blog bannered “Dems Give Unanimous Consent To Trump”, and described the just-passed second coronavirus bailout legislation, which totals $484 billion: It “doesn’t include any resources for first responders, budget-strapped states or food stamps. It doesn’t include any new oversight of the first bailout bill. It includes nothing to help states move to a vote-by-mail system in the event that coronavirus complicates in-person voting during the general election. It basically doesn’t include any alleged Democratic Party priority at all.” But the legislation passed Congress with “unanimous consent,” in this ‘compromise’ with the Republicans (who oppose any government-benefits that might go to the poor).

After the immediate crisis is over, America will have a top 0.1% who are unscathed and whose mega-corporations will be selling not only what they had been selling before, but selling virtually everything that sells in the post-coronavirus world. For examples: what mom-and-pop businesses (including restaurants, B&Bs, etc.) had previously been selling, will, in the future, be supplied (to the extent that it remains being supplied at all) by McDonalds, Starbucks, Marriott, Amazon, Target, Walmart, and other megacorporations (controlled by billionaires), which will have been receiving, from the Fed, and from the Treasury, whatever they needed in order to carry their investors through the crisis-period. (And who are those investors? Look at that chart above, the recipients mainly of “Business income” and “Capital income” — the chief recipients of dividends, interest, and capital gains incomes.)

Furthermore: after the crisis, commercial real estate will be super-cheap, because of all the bankrupted mom-and-pop businesses. Wages also will decline, as the public become increasingly desperate, and the billionaires win increasing market-power. Therefore, not only will the megacorporations be selling a larger percentage of the national output, but their expenses will go down.  

Consequently: America will have lots more poor people, and lots wealthier billionaires.

This, however, will be only a temporary situation, because the enormous spread of poverty will result in greatly decreased taxes coming into all levels of the U.S. Government. Bridges will collapse, potholes will proliferate, unendowed colleges will close, nervous breakdowns and heart-attacks will increase, and thus the public won’t be able to spend as much as they were spending before the crisis hit. And, so, although the megacorporations will be selling a larger percentage of national output, that national output will decline, because of the spreading poverty. Therefore, even the billionaires won’t necessarily become richer than they were before the crisis hit.

All of this outcome is unnecessary and results from corruption. The only reason why there is any bailout, at all, for investors (in anything other than pass-through entities), is the pervasive governmental corruption at the very top. If there were no corruption, then the only bailouts would be to individuals and pass-through businesses (which are individuals) — the “bottom-up” bailouts. America is a very corrupt country at the top, and that is the reason why it will collapse in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis.

Ultimately, when the wealth-inequality is so extreme, the billionaires are selling mainly to each other, and the necessities for the public are less and less profitable to sell at all. The outcome will therefore be economic collapse, and perhaps even revolution.

The basic way to evaluate how well or poorly a nation’s Government is performing in this crisis is the country’s ratio of coronavirus cases to its total population, but if a given country has not yet reached its peak in its daily number of new cases, then that country’s ratio is probably still rising, in which instance, that country’s performance will probably turn out to have been less good than this ratio currently is showing it to be. And, conversely, the lower this ratio is, the better the performance of that country’s Government is shown to be in responding to Covid-19.   

Here are the ten nations that have the largest numbers of cases at the present time, and the ratio of that number to their total population; and also shown here is the date when the daily number of new cases peaked (because if it hasn’t yet peaked, then this crucial ratio will probably be rising in that country):

Ratio of total cases to total population, per million (the lower this number, the better):

USA 2,472 maybe not yet peaked

SPAIN 4,367 peaked March 26th

ITALY 3,043 peaked March 19th

FRANCE 2,421 peaked April 3rd

GERMANY 1,772 peaked March 27th

UK 1,901 peaked April 10th

TURKEY 1,133 peaked April 11th

IRAN 1,010 peaked February 12th

CHINA 57 peaked March 30th

RUSSIA 362 maybe not yet peaked

In addition, the following major countries might especially be noted, since the main reason they aren’t on that list is their being outstandingly good performers:

JAPAN 88 peaked April 11th

S. KOREA 208 peaked March 3rd

The worst of all these performers appear currently to be, though not yet in any clear order: USA, Spain, and Italy.

The best appear to be, in order: China, Japan, and S. Korea. 

Regardless of a country’s size, here are the absolute worst performers, and their respective known infection-rates per million: San Marino (14,028), Andorra (9,280), Iceland (5,210), Gibraltar (3,918), Faroe Islands (3,786), Isle of Man (3,610), Belgium (3,534), Ireland (3,248), Switzerland (3,243).

The U.S. press has recently been particularly praising Denmark’s performance, and noting that Denmark’s coronavirus emergency legislation is more socialistic than Sweden’s is. However, both of those Scandinavian countries actually have very similar actual performance, thus far, in this crisis. In Denmark, the focus of the emergency legislation was on “saving jobs,” instead of on protecting investors. It’s a democratic socialist country, perhaps the most equalitarian in the world. Of course, that’s the exact opposite of dictatorial capitalism (fascism), which became America’s system after FDR died in 1945, and increasingly thereafter (hyper-imperialistic, military-industrial-complex or “MIC” dominated, like fascist regimes usually are), perpetrating coups and invasions, destroying Iran, Iraq, and many other countries, in order to expand its power and the wealth of its billionaires (like the fascist countries had done going into WW II). No cases of coronavirus-19 were reported in Denmark until February 27th. Denmark unanimously passed its emergency law on March 13th — drastically different bailout legislation from the one that America subsequently passed — in order to deal with the crisis. The daily number of Denmark’s new Covid-19 cases peaked on April 7th, and has been declining since that time. Its neighbor Sweden peaked on April 8th. Sweden’s emergency legislation is less strict about lockdowns, but relies more on individual discretion. However, since Sweden, like Denmark, is a democratic socialist country, individuals needn’t worry about paying medical bills, nor about being paid while on sick-leave. So, employees aren’t desperate to return to their places of work, such as in America; and, therefore, these countries don’t spread the infection as readily as in the U.S. and are thus far less likely to have recurring peaks and delayed terminations of the coronavirus crisis. (By contrast: in America, where losing one’s job can mean losing one’s health care, even sick employees may be inclined to stay on the job and perhaps infect customers.) And there are no corporate bailouts in either Denmark’s or Sweden’s legislation. Denmark’s Finance Minister, the Social Democrat (or democratic socialist) Nicolai Wammen was interviewed for 15 minutes on March 27th, by Christiane Amanpour, and he explained Denmark’s emergency law, which was overwhelmingly bottom-up, not top-down (such as America’s is).

Here, therefore, is the actual performance, thus far, of both of those two countries:

DENMARK 1,329 peaked April 7th

SWEDEN 1,517 peaked April 8th

Both of them are reasonably comparable to Germany, UK, Turkey, and Iran, but not as good as S. Korea, and not nearly as good as the two best, China and Japan.

In the final analysis, China and Japan could turn out to have the least-corrupt and best-run Governments; and the most corrupt Governments could turn out to be USA, Spain, and Italy. However, the performances of Brazil and some other nations in the southern hemisphere might yet turn out to be even worse than those of USA, Spain, and Italy, because the winter season has’t yet reached there.

Another important way of measuring a nation’s coronavirus performance is tests per million population. Among the nations with the largest numbers of cases, Italy and Germany are excellent on this, having above 20,000 persons tested per million population; and China is the worst (because it doesn’t even say how many were tested). Consequently: China’s outstanding performance (as measured by low number of reported cases) might actually be fraudulent. Japan’s outstandingly low number of reported cases might also be fraudulent, because their test-number per million is only 923. America’s test-rate is in the mid-range: 12,651. Denmark’s is 17,358. Sweden’s is 9,357.

What cannot be reasonably doubted is that America’s Governmental response to the coronavirus-19 pandemic is catastrophically corrupt. On April 16th, Wall Street on Parade headlined “Here Are the Contracts Showing How $4.5 Trillion in Stimulus Was Outsourced to Wall Street” and described — and documented — what the Wall Street Journal and the rest of the financial press would not, which is the U.S. Government’s legalized money-laundering operation, via the Fed, transferring onto the American public almost all of the losses that America’s billionaires will be suffering from the coronavirus crash. Back on 21 January 2020, WSP described this money-laundering, in its earlier 2008 embodiment, this way: “The epic financial collapse on Wall Street in 2008 was, reduced to its basic terms, simply the end game of Wall Street banks’ efforts to monetize their frauds.” They noted: “On April 9, 2019, the nonprofit Wall Street watchdog, Better Markets, released a study titled: “Wall Street’s Six Biggest Bailed-Out Banks: Their RAP Sheets & Their Ongoing Crime Spree.” It should have made headlines on the front pages of every major newspaper in the U.S. Instead, it was effectively ignored by mainstream media.” (Incidentally: Obama repeatedly promised to prosecute banksters, but secretly protected them and prosecuted none of them, though their crimes had been monstrous. The billionaires’ thefts from the public are entirely bipartisan, supported by over 95% of Congress — the billionaires own the Presidents and members of Congress, and not only own virtually all of the news-media.) On April 20th, America’s National Public Radio (NPR) broadcast “Amid Pandemic, Italian Prosecutors Warn That Mafia Groups Are Cementing Their Power” and reported that Mafia bosses were buying up cheap some of Italy’s suddenly desperate small businesses. If the same thing is being done by America’s billionaires, that’s not yet being reported by their press — perhaps it will instead be reported by Italy’s press.

The Federal Reserve are controlled by and represent the banksters — Wall Street — who not only skim on their own accounts but work with and for the billionaires, some of whom are themselves banksters, but many of whom are operating hedge funds, private equity funds, and all types of FORTUNE 500 companies. Basically, Wall Street works for the billionaires. The billionaires run practically everything in America, except Main Street.

In the upcoming June 2020 issue of the neoconservative (pro-U.S.-imperialist) Democratic Party U.S. magazine, The Atlantic, their George Packer banners “We Are Living in a Failed State: The coronavirus didn’t break America. It revealed what was already broken.” That magazine blames this “failed state” on the (neoconservative) Republican Party, and so Packer’s phrase there “a dysfunctional government” links to an anti-Republican article, by one of the top officials in the liberal neoconservative U.S. Administration of the Democrat Barack Obama, titled “How Trump Designed His White House to Fail.” However, the actual cause of the gradual collapse, since 1945, of what had been U.S. President FDR’s largely democratic U.S.A., is the billionaires who own both Parties — it is bipartisan. This rot comes from both Parties’ billionaires. (The particular propaganda-operation, The Atlantic, happens to be controlled by the same Democratic Party billionaire who controls Apple corporation.) No billionaire will publish the reality. For example, Packer’s article said: “The second crisis, in 2008, intensified it [‘a bitterness toward the political class’]. At the top, the financial crash could almost be considered a success. Congress passed a bipartisan bailout bill that saved the financial system.” The presumption there is that the only way to restore the economy after a crash is to bail out the country’s billionaires. It’s a timely propaganda-message, at this moment when the billionaires require their Government to bail them out, yet again. (I recently proposed one way to reduce the billionaires’ dictatorship over America.)

On April 17th, WSP headlined “Americans Are Paying a Tragic Price for Allowing Five Banks to Control the U.S. Economy” and closed by urging: “Americans need to use this time at home to call their Senators and Reps in Congress and demand the separation of federally-insured, deposit-taking banks from the casinos on Wall Street. We’re talking about nothing less than the survival of this country.” Needless to say, the ultimate beneficiaries of this public largesse — to America’s billionaires — don’t desire to publicize such writings, any more than they desire to expose to the public their offshore bank accounts. 

Unlike so much that’s in the billionaires’ ‘news’, the facts that are reported here are solidly documented (and linked-to), but the billionaires don’t report these facts. Thus, the masses don’t know these facts, and so the mass-violence, when it comes, won’t be focused against the billionaires. What you’re reading, here, is being kept secret by (not being published by) the billionaires’ media. So — if only in order to spread word that the cause of this is not “the Chinese” or “foreigners” or “the Jews” or some other amorphous ethnicity (who aren’t actually to blame) — please email the URL (the web-address) atop this article, to all of your friends, as “FYI:”. It might stir some interesting conversations, especially if all the ‘news’ that they know comes from America’s billionaires — the same people who fund the country’s successful politicians, each and every election-year. The American Revolution did not come about by misinformed people. It came about by informed people. Misinformed people create only more problems.

So, that’s “FYI.” And thanks for reading here.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Economy

Rise of Billionaires In India, Lobbyism And Threat To Democracy

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Let me start by asking you – Have you watched Oliver Stones’ 1987 masterpiece, ‘Wall Street’? Great! For those who haven’t, here is a quick reflection of its storyline. This movie is a premise with a promise, and exert its audience to seek an answer to one of the most neglected question in the philosophy of ethics and greed – ‘How much money is enough money?’. Michael Douglas plays an unsparing millionaire raider Gordon Gekko. Bud Fox, played by Charlie Sheen, is a stockbroker full of ambition, doing whatever he can to make his way to the top. Fox is enchanted by Gekko, and entice him into mentoring him by providing insider trading information. Although Fox is loyal to his mentor Gekko, throughout the film, he is seen asking the millionaire trader Gekko, “How much money do you need to be satisfied with? How much is enough?”. And each time Gekko ponders and thinks hard, but the truth is, he himself doesn’t know. There is a scene in the movie where Gordon Gekko uses Fox’s inside information to manipulate the stock of a company that he intended to sell off, while throwing its workers, including Bud’s father. When Bud hears about his father losing the job along with other workers, he experiences deep agony and immediately repents his participation in the millionaire’s duplicity and deception. He storms to his office and asks again, “How much is enough, Gordon?”

And, Gekko answers – (Source :Wall Street, 1987)

“The richest one percent of this country owns half our country’s wealth, five trillion dollars… You got ninety percent of the American public out there with little or no net worth. I create nothing. I own. We make the rules, pal. The news, war, peace, famine, upheaval, the price per paper clip. We pick that rabbit out of the hat while everybody sits out there wondering how the hell we did it. Now, you’re not naïve enough to think we’re living in a democracy, are you, buddy?  It’s the free market. And you’re part of it.”

Now, what this scene exposes is the adrenaline rush of power that wealth provides. But, what this scene also highlights is how this power of wealth has created a society where corporate empires are thriving through lobbyism, while middle-lower class are palpitating in a life of destitution. And in case you are thinking how a 1987 American classic like ‘Wall Street’ is relevant to the rise of billionaires in 2021, here is the answer – wealth, national morality and democracy all symptomatic of a thriving country. But, with the rise of billionaires in India, this is exactly what is at stake.

Corporate Political Activity (CPA) – When Corporations Colonizes The State

Luis Fernandez said, “Either we can have democracy or a great amount of wealth concentrated in the hands of few. We cannot have both”. So, what did he mean by this? For starters, hoarding of wealth not only gives you the liberty to buy luxury goods, but it also gives you the freedom to buy votes, laws, and legislation. How? Well, corporate involvement in any democratic ecosphere is usually manifested into a corporate political activity (CPA). This corrupts the democratic process by excluding the citizens from policy decision-making. Thereby, privatizing profits for corporation and socializing the loss among citizens(Daniel Nyberg,2021). So, how is this accomplished? It’s achieved through a specialized team of people called – Corporate Lobbyists. They act as a mediator between the political parties and the corporation they work for. But, what do these billionaires lobby against? Mostly tax deregulations. However, the devil hides in details – Most billionaire monopolists lobby against anti-force entrustments, giant banks lobby against risk regulations, polluters in the private sector lobby against environmental regulations, and private corporations lobby against public services. Each one of these is detrimental to the growth of any democracy because lobbyists act out in the interest of billionaires and influence government policy-making by taking in no account of public interest (Mehrsa Baradaran, 2019). In simple words – they suggest extraneous elements in decision-making and subvert the public interest in areas like infrastructure (highways, airports, and massive scale projects under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission in 63 cities), natural resources, and energy (gas, oil, petrol, energy), telecom (3G and 4G technology),military (weapons and aircrafts), mining (where giant corporations have developed stakes making billions on India’s tribal heartland), and agribusiness (seeds, privatization of agriculture sector), etc. And, how does this work? Keep reading.

You must be aware of the ongoing farmers’ protest since last year. It is strictly against two issues. First being the ‘three new farm laws’ introduced by Modi government. Second, being the agitation against India’s two richest billionaires – Mukesh Ambani and Adani, who are close to Modi and is believed to profit from these new farm laws. These two billionaires have been eyeing India’s farm sector for a while now. In 2017, Ambani expressed his interest in investing in the agriculture sector. His Jio Platforms, today, is leveraging its partnership with Facebook to dilate into this domain with Jiokrishi app, which will ease out the farm-to-fork supply chain. The company’s records suggest that it source(ed) 77% of its fruit directly from farmers. Now, currently, the farmers take their produce to wholesale markets, governed by APMC (government body). APMC in every State decides the price it will pay to the farmers for their produce. Remember, this market becomes the central point for government acquisition of food grains. With the new farm laws, a giant corporation can directly approach the farmers, buy and pay for the produce at an agreed amount. In short, this new farm law aims to abolish this structural network and privatize it. But, this is just structural damage for farmers. As I mentioned earlier, the devil hides in details – The news laws do not make a written contract between the farmers and corporations mandatory. This means that if there is a conflict of interest between both parties, it will be extremely difficult for farmers to prove that a corporation has breached that agreement. Additionally, this law states that a farmer has no right to take these disputes to an independent judiciary for justice. Instead, they would have to reach out to two bodies – a conciliation board (district-level administrative officers) or to the appellate authority. Now, both of these bodies are dependent on government, which can potentially revert the case in favor of corporations. This law also has a grave danger of impacting the minimum support price that government bodies offer to farmers in case of a declined price fall for their produce during a particular season. The farmers here are sailing on a boat of uncertainty, economic chaos, and policy madness —- all favoring the interest of the giant corporates instead of the public; more specifically, the farmers, who are the beating heart of an agrarian economy like India.

Remember, The Rafael deal? The deal was given to a Ambani brother, who had minimal to no experience in aircraft. Rafael offset contract has been given to Reliance Defense, which was formed 12 days before the announcement of the Rafael deal. ‘Mediapart’, a French-language publication, quoted Francois Hollande (2018), “It was the Indian government that proposed this service group (Reliance), and Dassault which negotiated with Ambani. We had no choice. We took the interlocutor who was given to us.” Two weeks back, the French newspaper ‘LeMonde’ dropped a bombshell stating that the French authorities passed off Anil Ambani’s $162 million tax after Modi-led NDA government negotiated Rafael deal with France based Dassault Aviation. Another example- Back in 2018, when the Modi government approved the privatization of six airports, it also relaxed the prerequisite requirements. BJP allowed companies with no prior experience in this sector to present their bid. After deliberation, all six airports were given to Gautam Adani, the second-highest billionaire in India with no history of running airports. Today, in 2021, Adani Airports has acquired 23.5% stake in Mumbai International Airport Ltd(MIAL), and is set to extend the stakeholding percent to 74%, which will give Adani group the ownership of the upcoming Navi Mumbai airport in which MIAL holds majority stakes. His other ventures in sectors like Adani green energy, power, and transmission hold a close-by narrative. His Carmichael coal mine project in Australia has earned him an infamous ‘climate change villain’ title. Tax deregulations is the primordial goal of corporate lobbyists, and they seem to be winning. The Indian government last year announced that it had reduced the rate of tax for certain existing companies at 25.17% , the lowest since 2010. There is an extra tax deduction of 15% from earlier level of 25% for start-ups. One would argue that the low tax rate would increase international corporate investments. But recent studies show that businesses are moving to countries like Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia for labor-intensive operations. Thereby, failing to bring employment to the country.

Figure 1: The rate of tax imposed on corporates by the Indian government in the last ten years

Figure 2: Mukesh Ambani’s $2 billion house overlooking the slums of Dharavi – The world’s largest slum. Source of the image : www.thecharette.org

Tax deregulation, tax invasion, and corporate lobbying are not the only problems that manifest with the rise of billionaires in India. The most chronic and malignant effect is the ever-widening gap between the rich and poor, threatening economic justice and social cohesion in a society. This economic gap is so dilated that it becomes a life of excess for these billionaires and destitution for the rest of the 1.38 billion Indians. According to Forbes magazine, the third richest Indians – Mukesh Ambani ($84.5 billion), Gautam Adani & family($50.5 billion) and Shiva Nadar($ 23.5 billion) own 60% of the country’s wealth. India’s top three richest people have added over $100 billion between them. In fact, since the initial lockdown in March 2020, India’s top billionaires increased their wealth by 35% during COVID-19 pandemic. According to Oxfam report, India’s top 100 billionaires witnessed their fortune increase by staggering number of Rs 12.97 trillion. This amount could have provided every 364 million poor Indians a cheque for ₹94,045 each. So, what was the economic status of the working class? They suffered abominably during COVID, while billionaires thrived. The study, ‘State of Working India 2021 – One year of Covid-19’, by Azim Premji University, revealed that the economic recession caused by the COVID-19 has pushed 230 million Indians below the poverty line. This number accounted for and contributed to the global increase in poverty by a whopping 60% in 2020. The study shows the loss in monthly income earning for all kinds of workers. The fall was 17% for temporary salaried jobs, 18% for self-employed, 21% for daily wage workers, and 5% for permanent salaried workers. This ever-widening gap of economic inequality in India goes against every fiber of true democracy, where public resources and rights like healthcare, education, COVID relief financial aids, etc., instead of being elevate, are subverted. Gabriela Bucher, Executive Director of Oxfam International said, “Rigged economies are funnelling wealth to rich elites who are sailing through the pandemic in luxury and ease, while those on the frontline of the pandemic — medical assistants, healthcare workers, and market vendors — are struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table”. Existence of these billionaires in any society is symbolic of a theocracy thriving and a democracy that’s palpitating. Times like these demand a moral obligation to question, resist and fight against the economic injustice, not just for ourselves, but for our children and many generations to come by. Remember, power seeks self-preservation first and foremost. The billionaires will do anything and everything to continue hoarding resource, wealth and pass it to their heirs. So, the question is not – when will this stop? But, what are you going to do about it?.

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Economy

The light side (SMEs) and the dark side (virtual currency) in post-covid Italy

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With a view to assessing the impact of the pandemic that has been afflicting Italy since the beginning of 2020, I think we should examine the careful analysis made by the National Commission for Listed Companies and the Stock Exchange (Consob) in its report on the year 2020.

2020 was one of the worst years for Italy in economic and social terms since the end of World War II. After experiencing a significant fall in GDP, the country has been moving towards economic recovery since the second half of the year and, more markedly, in the early months of 2021, and is showing its own willingness to tackle the unresolved problems, by also taking advantage of the change in the EU’s fiscal policy attitude, which is a necessary foundation for cohesion among Member States.

The 2020 results confirmed the assessment that savings and exports are the two pillars of the country’s economic and social strength. The protection of savings by public institutions follows rules that have been tested and perfected over time. Nevertheless, they need to be updated in the light of technological innovations in the financial sphere. The most solid protection, however, remains its anchorage to real activity, the progress of which is shaped in Italy by export performance. On the other hand, private consumption and public spending show that they have not the momentum they have in other major world economies.

One of the few positive aspects emerging from the report is that the savings ratio of Italian households compared to their disposable income grew by 50% in 2020. Excluding savings invested in listed companies, its yield remained rather low, close to zero.

Considering the amount of financial assets owned by Italian households, each percentage point of return can be estimated at around 30 billion euros, i.e. almost 2% of GDP, the size of a good public budget plan and fiscal manoeuvre of the past.

Taking into account the management charges, savings have contributed significantly to sustaining market stability, but without producing real growth, although this effect is now the result of a crisis that arose for particular and contingent reasons.

Exports experienced difficulties, declining in volume by about one-seventh compared to 2019, due to the concomitant effect of falling global demand and quarantine-related obstacles to domestic production.

Imports fell more sharply, thus enabling Italy’s foreign current account balance to remain positive and increasing slightly with regards to GDP.

In 2020 Italy’s international investment position improved further, showing a surplus for the first time in three decades. The international financial market only partially recorded and acknowledged this favourable structural position of the country.

In the first quarter of 2021, world trade rose to higher levels than pre-crisis levels and Italy’s exports continued to grow at double their rate, thus confirming the resilience and dynamism of Italian companies in the sector – a traditional cornerstone of our economy.

The financial account balance with foreign countries, which had recorded a slight negative balance in 2020, also turned positive, thus confirming the role of Italian savings as a pillar of stability – another Italy’s point of strength.

Confidence in the Italian economy’s ability to react has grown, as shown by the significant reduction in the spread between BTP and Bund interest rates. This is also the result of the decisions taken by the ECB to purchase significant amounts of public bonds and by the European Commission to suspend – albeit temporarily – the Stability Pact and launch the Next Generation EU Plan (NgEU).

The report under consideration, however, states that for the recovery phase to continue, we need to complement and supplement the decisions taken so far to boost companies’ risk capital in view of improving their financial leverage and making them more willing to undertake new initiatives.

This phase provides an important opportunity for the tax reform that has been urged for some time and reaffirmed in the framework of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) implementing the Next Generation EU Plan.

State intervention for social purposes has reached unusual forms and levels, without anyway reducing citizens’ pressure on public resources. This is not surprising because the rational content of human action leads to choose obtaining the best result at the lowest cost.

Private companies, especially the exporting ones, have been forced by competition to solve their problems without delay, so as to avoid being excluded from the market. Their ability to do so is a cornerstone of growth and a foundation for the good and smooth functioning of the democratic system, which has the power to correct the income distribution determined by productive and commutative activity through regulations, taxes and levies.

Conversely, when these forms are insufficient and savings are not used by private individuals, the State resorts to debt, but not always following a well-founded assessment of the intergenerational redistributive effects.

In this regard, the report insists on the fact that – on the basis of the yardstick provided by the laws in force – it is no longer possible to distinguish – with technical and legal certainty – of what currently currency and financial products legally consist – a content that is interrelated due to the connection ensured by the conversion platforms between virtual and traditional instruments.

The market uses a different yardstick from that of the existing legislation, which needs to be incorporated and integrated into it. The activity in movable assets, securities  and forms that takes place in the field of financial information is also increasingly interfering with international relations and geopolitical equilibria, the stability of which plays an important role for exchanges with currency and nominal funds, especially as a result of the growing weight they have in a political scenario that is no longer at the height of the peace and prosperity achieved in the last thirty years of integration and cooperation between States.

However, the willingness expressed in various fora by government authorities to seize the opportunities opened up by technological innovations in capital movements and management should not be seen as acquiescence to the loss of market transparency, but as a desire to recover it by making use of the same financial innovations.

Therefore, the favourable attitude towards new techniques must be matched by clear rules on the emergence and exchange of encrypted instruments and their intertwining with traditional monetary and financial assets/liabilities, whether already digitalised or not, as an essential guide for operators managing liquidity and savings.

The spreading of virtual instruments has prompted the emergence of “technology platforms” enabling faster and cheaper ways for accessing payment and securities trading services than those offered by banks and other intermediaries and brokers.

We need to be careful, however, as the custody and exchange functions they initially performed have evolved to accommodate increasingly articulated and complex transactions, including the granting of credits secured by one’s own or others’ virtual instruments, or the conclusion of derivative contracts using cryptocurrencies (Altcoin, Crypto token, Stabe coin, Bitcoin, INNBC, etc.) as collateral, even for several transactions of the same type.

These new market segments are evolving rapidly and there seems to be a dangerous repetition of the experience before the 2008 crisis, when derivative contracts grew to ten times the size of global GDP.

Although with the necessary distinctions, it is likely that something similar is happening in the market for virtual monetary and financial products, especially the encrypted ones.

The use of these instruments in closed forms outside the participants in the initiative (permissionless) precludes private supervision (such as the one carried out by boards of auditors and certification bodies) or public supervision (by supervisory authorities). Without adequate safeguards (rules and bodies), the result is a deterioration in market transparency, which is the foundation of lawfulness and operators’ rational choices.

The well-known negative effects include the shielding that these techniques allow for criminal activities, such as tax evasion, money laundering, terrorist financing and kidnapping. The concentration in the possession of cryptocurrencies that has recently been ascertained may reflect this aspect of the problem.

For Italy, the problem raised has particular connotations compared to other countries due to the existence of a constitutional provision that attributes to the Republic the task of encouraging and protecting savings in all its forms, as well as the task of regulating, coordinating and controlling the credit exercise and operation.

It would be improper and inappropriate to attribute to the specific phrase “savings in all its forms’ and to the credit to be protected a connotation that would also embrace virtual instruments, without going through a specific regulation.

If this were to happen, the responsibility for the consequences suffered by savers could fall on the State, as has already happened in the past, because of the covert or overt legitimisation of their existence and the awareness that through financial innovations market manipulation and the consequent ruin of savers can be achieved.

Therefore, the existence and operation of a security system – even if left to private individuals – must be guaranteed and supervised by the State which, however, must bear in mind that the spreading of digital techniques in finance poses specific requirements and needs that must be addressed globally, otherwise its effectiveness will be reduced.

The legitimisation of the existence of “virtual savings”, in various forms, is now a reality that intersects with savings generated in the traditional way, i.e. without spending a portion of the income produced by labour or capital.

We are faced with radical changes that must be tackled being fully aware of their content and urgency in view of avoiding negative consequences on the micro and macro-systemic stability of the securities market and, in this way, on the savings and economic growth needed to protect them and use them properly.

An obligatory step is to reaffirm that the legal validity of contracts is only guaranteed by their denomination in sovereign currency. If – as it would appear to be the case – we intend to recognise the existence of private currencies, users must make it clear in a specific contractual clause that they are aware of the risks they are running in using non-public currencies.

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Economy

Beyond Being Friends: Russia and China Need an Exclusive Trade Deal

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RIAC’s 6th “Russia and China: Cooperation in a New Era” conference in early June showcased once again the will of the two countries to develop exclusive relations. Over the past 1,5 years, during the global COVID crisis, both sides have even strengthened mutual trust. In December 2020, Russia and China extended their agreement on notifying of missile launches for ten years. The document was first signed back in 2009. In March, the Treaty of Good Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation was prolonged, an agreement that has been cementing relations between the two countries for the past 20 years.

Economy contrasted with diplomacy

However, despite the long-sustained foreign policy rapprochement, Russia and China are far from fully utilizing their bilateral economic potential. In 2020, according to the Russian Federal Customs Service, China accounted for 15% of Russian exports, slightly more than the CIS (14%), but significantly less than the European Union (41%). In the structure of Russian imports, China is also behind the EU (24% versus 35%), although European food producers have been excluded from the Russian market since 2014.

In turn, Russia’s share was only 2% in Chinese exports in 2020 (with the U.S. share at 17%), and only 3% in imports (compared to 7% for the U.S., according to the ITC).

The same proportions are typical of mutual investments. By the beginning of 2020, according to the Bank of Russia, China accounted for less than 0.1% of accumulated direct investment from Russia (with the share of UK and Germany at 4.7% and 2.2%, respectively). As for the accumulated direct investments in Russia (private equity and debt instruments), China’s share reached only 0.8% in early 2020, while the share of France stood at 4.5%.

State support and guarantees

So far, Chinese investments are mainly focused on energy projects, directly or indirectly supported by the state. Yamal LNG plant is a good example (20% owned by CNPC, 9.9% by Silk Road Fund): to launch construction, Novatek raised a loan from the NWF (the sovereign National Wealth Fund). Another example is the Amur Gas Chemical Complex (AGCC) of Sibur (40% owned by Sinopec)—the project will enjoy tax benefits as a resident of one of the Far Eastern territories of priority social and economic development.

Ensuring guaranteed demand is equally important, as is the case for AGCC, which is located in close proximity to the world’s largest consumer of polyethylene and polypropylene, the basic petrochemical products. It is no coincidence that Sinopec acquired the share in the Amur GCC in December 2020. By that time, it became obvious that the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic would not undermine China’s growing demand for petrochemicals and gas chemicals: according to the ICIS forecast, China’s share in global polyethylene imports will grow from last year’s 35% to an even more impressive 43% by 2030.

Looking for viable opportunities

The lack of proper state support and guarantees restrains export in a number of other industries that could have enjoyed demand in the Chinese market. This is apparent in trade frictions between China and the U.S. (in 2019, China imposed a 25% duty on methanol imports from the United States) and Australia (in late 2020, China stopped buying Australian coal). And vice versa, it is possible to increase exports by searching for opportunities in the market niches where Russia’s sales potential is coupled with absolute competitive advantages, such as in helium market, where Russia may become one of the leading suppliers in the coming years.

Another option is the supply of Russian hydrogen, which may allow China to partially replace petroleum imports from other markets.

In 2018, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), some 1,790 hydrogen-fuel vehicles were operated in China out of 12,952 vehicles globally; the Chinese fleet grew to 6,180 out of 23,354 units by the end of 2019. And by 2025, China plans to increase the number of buses and trucks utilizing fuel cells to 50,000, jumping to 1 million by 2030.

Moreover, in 2035, according to the official plans of the Chinese authorities, half of vehicles sold should be climate-neutral, while the other half should be powered by hybrid engines or fuel cells. A similar shift will have to occur in Japan, where the IEA forecasts the number of fuel cell vehicles to increase from 3,633 in 2019 to 200,000 in 2025 and to 811,200 in 2030.

Russia has its competitive edge in hydrogen energy development, taking into account both global leadership in natural gas reserves (used for blue hydrogen stored in ammonia) and 50+ years of experience in nuclear and hydropower, needed for production of yellow and green hydrogen. Understanding these advantages is already reflected in regulatory plans: for example, according to the Energy Strategy adopted last year, Russia will increase its hydrogen exports from 200,000 tons in 2024 to 2 million tons in 2035.

Towards a New Trade Deal

We need to admit though that a long-term strategy requires long-term investment, while the latter requires secure return. To ensure there is a horizon for planning your business, you do not have to necessarily rely on budget support: this is where exclusive trade agreements can step in. This is exactly what the Trump administration did in January 2020, concluding an agreement that obliged China to boost U.S. imports by $200 billion above the 2017 level within two years, including energy ($52.4 billion), industrial production ($77.7 billion) and agriculture ($32 billion). The deal, among other effects, has revived the U.S. oil exports to China: supplies grew to 482,000 barrels per day (bpd) after a drop to 137,000 bpd in 2019 amid trade wars.

An exclusive trade deal between Russia and China could be smaller in volume and longer in tenor (aiming to increase the trade turnover by $100 billion in at least five years) to help resume, for example, the Eastern Petrochemical Company project, in which ChemChina planned to participate previously but which remained on paper. In return, Russia could extend the tax benefits, which are now granted to residents of the territories of priority social and economic development (TOSER), to all projects with Chinese shareholding. Thus, the success story of cooperation between Sibur and Sinopec in the Amur GCC would be replicated and should provide a new impetus to bilateral relations.

From our partner RIAC

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