P  R  E  S  S,   I  N  C  .

ISBN:  0-932863-90-6
9780932863904  $24.95  2012

Ebook $22.00


    The Stranglehold on the Global Future

    From the early stirrings of crisis in 2006-7 through the darkest days of the 2008-9 meltdown into this second decade of
    the 21st century, waves of financial and systemic crises have swept the world. First came trillions of dollars in
    emergency first aid for “victims” – Wall  Street’s private multinational banks and financial intermediaries, insurance
    companies and mortgage lenders, as well as assorted non-financial multinational corporations. Second, the blame game:
    Was it the fault of snoozing regulators, rating agency conflict of interest, a “shadow banking system” of derivatives
    traders, delusions of ivy league “quants”, Ponzi-scheming criminals, or some combination of them?  Third, were surveys
    of spreading mass public trauma: collapse of local banks, burgeoning personal debt peonage, increasing homelessness
    and spiraling unemployment in the US and elsewhere. Fourth, there was hope.

    In the US and across the world many breathed a big sigh of relief as Barrack Obama ascended to the Presidency. It was
    not only a question of US wars, secret rendition and torture. But here was a former university professor who actually
    read books and could understand policy advice given to him and act accordingly. Fifth came hope’s pledges. Trillions
    more dollars were injected into the economy to prop up what were effectively worthless, yet deemed vital, assets.  
    Legislation was promulgated for universal health care, “green” infrastructure, public sector employment, small business
    tax incentives, and so on. Finally the sages, like Federal Reserve (FED) Chairman Ben Bernanke, took to the stage with
    numbers that proclaimed the “recession” effectively over. True, there have been aftershocks:  the near collapse or
    rating agency-deemed fragility of the banking systems of outlier states like Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain (the so-
    called PIGS) and persistent financial institution duress in the US heartland requiring more “stimulus” rescues, ongoing
    home foreclosures, and so on. But political elites remain on message: “It’s the recovery stupid”!

    Throughout all of this, there emerged one indisputable growth industry—that of meltdown books. I have read many of
    these, perhaps too many, as my credit card spending record with online retailers reveals. The best books from both
    mainstream and more radical sides of the political spectrum move beyond the blame game to probe the deeper systemic
    causes of the crisis, many redolent of an ominous déjà vu. Almost uniformly they zero in on processes of economic,
    political and legal change commencing in the US from the 1980s. Central to the accounts is the rise of Wall Street itself,
    populated at its apex by mega banks—these melded into financial behemoths through orgies of mergers and
    acquisitions (M&A)—that are now “too big to fail”. Economic power translated into political influence as law after law
    instated following the 1929 Great Depression was rescinded. The US then leveraged its weight in the world economy to
    compel such “liberalization” and “deregulation” of finance across the globe. With the unfettering of international
    finance and its commanding heights institutions a spate of novel financial instruments and creative accounting
    practices quickly spread with the intention of increasing short term rewards for the ever riskier activities of the global
    financial sector headquartered on Wall Street. Government played its part through low interest rate “easy money”
    policies and tacit “wink-wink, nudge-nudge” assurances like those marking the Bush 1st bailouts during the US savings
    and loan (S&L) crisis of the 1980s. With Wall Street power becoming ever more herculean and politically buttressed,
    exotic credit instruments proliferating, rewards for swashbuckling risk taking investors growing, and money so easy
    that a new social class of NINJA’s (no income, no job or assets) were encouraged not only to “buy” homes but use them
    as ATMs, so came the deluge.

    But, as entertaining a read as the mélange of meltdown literature has been, the pages go blank at precisely that point
    where they should be elucidating what is really both the crux and the darkest side of the story. The task taken up by this
    book is to fill in those blank pages. Such an enterprise is most pressing because without crisp clarity on the real
    workings, actual purpose and endgame of what we blithely refer to as the “global economy” we will find ourselves being
    lulled into complacency by such widely acclaimed policy proposals as “small government”, “tax cuts”, “quantitative
    easing (QE)”[2],  Basel III [3],  EU bond issuance or combinations of these even partially ameliorating our abysmal
    current economic condition.

    The plain fact of the matter is that scholars and pundits alike have never stopped to ask, much less answer, a set of
    searching questions like: How did such an enchanted world come to pass where even after the US-originated 2008-9
    meltdown, trillions of dollars of global wealth continue to be driven away from a myriad of other potential investment
    destinations and right back to a Wall Street centered casino? How are we to understand the very existence of such an
    ever bloating ocean of funds in economies, the centerpiece and forte of which across the past two centuries has been
    the production and satisfying of social demand for mass produced material goods? What if any is the relationship
    between the tides of money sloshing through Wall Street (along with global satellites in London, Zurich, Singapore,
    Tokyo, etc.), and the “real” substantive economy of production and trade that undergirds human material reproductive
    existence? What are the ramifications for our future of the persistence of such a bloating ocean of funds, along with
    continuing political support for their institutional accoutrement and the speculative excesses the funds engage in? Why
    has government bolstering these funds by injecting trillions of dollars into failing commanding heights financial
    institutions and businesses in the meltdown’s aftermath failed to create even the minutest fraction of new jobs (and
    where jobs being created fall into the “Mc-jobs” category)?

    But, while answering these questions helps us make great headway in understanding the world we live in, the issue
    cannot be left here. In both academic and popular circles there exists a provocative yet hugely mistaken belief that the
    economy operates akin to a force of nature. Yes, according to this view, we can predict conditions where an economic
    tsunami might befall us. We can erect early warning systems, and even some protective infrastructure, but the force of
    nature itself is beyond human control. And, it will thus always be with us. Such a disempowering position is reinforced by
    the mainstream economics profession with its spurious physics-like approach to its subject matter and its rigid
    ideological patrolling of economic curricula in our schools. However, the social world, our societies, economies and
    whatever happens within them are all in the end products of our human agency.

    The capitalist economy may appear to be orchestrated with an “invisible hand”, to take Adam Smith’s much used
    metaphor, or to function like a “fetish”, endowed with extra human powers before which we prostrate ourselves, as Karl
    Marx famously put it. But ultimately it is our human agency or the purposive actions of real people that set “the
    economy” in motion. This basic understanding then permits us to easily envision human agency of other sorts stopping
    Smith’s hand dead and discarding the fetish along with our habit of prostration, freeing us to transform our economic
    life in fashions which better engender genuine human flourishing. Of course, in class divided societies, some humans
    and their organizations have much more “agency” or power than others. This holds as well for a world divided into
    political entities we call states. Therefore, if we really want to get to the bottom of what is happening to us and provide
    the most complete answers to the questions raised above we need to explore the asymmetric structures of agency and
    power at the national and international levels of our polity and society.

    The question here involves the quarter ton gorilla in the room that no one wants to see or talk about: Under what global
    conditions is it possible for the US and Wall Street to play a central role in international political, economic and financial
    affairs when the US has the world’s largest national debt, fast approaching $15 trillion, an annual trade deficit of around
    $400 billion, a capital account deficit (where the value of foreign claims on the US exceeds that of all US-originated
    investment abroad) of close to $3 trillion, a budget deficit zooming past $1.5 trillion and—this is the kicker—where
    personal savings in the US economy as a whole has been hovering near zero for over a decade?[4]  So, if we rephrase
    this economics textbook defying question in language used by the characters played by Cuba Gooding Jr. and Tom
    Cruise in the film Jerry Maguire, “show me the money!” the response should be a resounding, None! But there is money.
    And it flows from a sinister, rigged global game based on the role of the US dollar as world money or hub currency. A
    game where, for the cost of running a printing press, the US parlays dollar seigniorage benefits [5]  into a mode of
    domination more total than the jus primae noctis right of medieval lords in ages past. However, for this game in
    particular, major committed supporting players are required. These are first Japan, and later, with a vengeance, China.
    Together with the US, they form the evil axis of finance.

    Now the US-Japan-China evil axis did not spawn the bloated ocean of funds sloshing from Wall Street across the globe.
    How these funds agglomerated and the changes in major global economies, their business systems and government
    policies, as well as in the character of international investment and trade flows at the root of hypertrophic finance are
    dealt with in the early going of this book.  Nor is the US-Japan-China evil axis the progenitor of US dollar seigniorage.
    That stage was set following World War II (WWII) in the emergence of the US as the world’s paramount benefactor and
    architect of the brave new “free world”. The seigniorage play itself, however, debuts in the 1970s though its major acts
    really open only in the 1980s and 90s. Through no coincidence, these periods correspond to the respective ascendency
    of Japan and China in the world economy.  But the lead in the play is always held by the US. With an economy accounting
    for over 25 percent of global GDP during the period in question it is common sense to expect that any significant
    changes in the US economy would drive changes across the globe in both other major economies and international
    institutions that the US had assumed a primary role in creating. And so they did. And the US, particularly its corporate
    and financial elites within the top 5 percent of households,[6]  along with the political class they bankroll into office to
    do their bidding, rode shotgun over the wave of change to a windfall from the new dollar seigniorage global game
    cemented by financial machinations.

    How does the evil dollar seigniorage game work? Well, in the simplest terms it works like this. Imagine a country, the US
    in this instance, ensnared in the economic predicament the truth-telling figures cited above capture: its citizens
    dependent on the world for the goods ranging from televisions to toothbrushes they voraciously consume (and with
    little to trade in return given how much of its own industry has been sliced, diced and shipped abroad); its businesses
    facing a dearth of investment funds, in part due to woefully inadequate domestic savings, and also because outflows to
    foreign claimants of domestic assets exceeds the take from US international investments; its government not only with
    a debt almost equal to GDP but with domestic and international spending commitments which outstrip its annual tax and
    other revenues by well over a trillion dollars. Add to this picture the fact that the currency of this country is not only its
    money, but world money (bracketing for later discussion a host of other reasons pools of dollars are accumulated by
    foreign banks); money that is the lingua franca of international transactions and thus necessarily held by all for that

    What then if one country, Japan, hones its economy into a competitive efficiency machine in producing everything from
    sophisticated factory equipment to automobiles and electronics. As US businesses and individuals buy these (with little
    to trade in return) Japan accumulates dollars. While Japan uses some of the dollar booty to purchase major globally
    traded commodities like oil, the price of which is rising, it is still saddled with a huge surplus.  Surplus dollars can only
    problematically be exchanged into Japanese yen to fuel domestic investment because Japan’s hyper-productive
    economy rapidly spawned burgeoning overcapacity with respect to domestic demand and even international demand
    for many goods. So commencing in the late 1980s and spiking upward through the 1990s Japan, faced with US arm
    twisting compounded by narrow vision among its elites, saves the dollars—the global reserve currency and lingua
    franca of international transactions—in dollar denominated securities.[7]     

    For the US, this is Manna from heaven. First, it acts as an auto-borrowing mechanism for the US to finance its budget
    deficit. Aggregate spending in the US economy is thereby spurred under the most charmed conditions. On the one
    hand, US government spending increases in a fashion that does not “crowd out” private sector borrowing. On the other
    hand, it does not compel a rise in interest rates even though domestic savings as we have noted hover close to zero.
    And, in the end, the US is able to spend significantly more than its economic wherewithal—its domestic savings plus
    collected taxes—without instigating price inflation.

    Second, the fact of the dollar as global reserve currency, drawing global savings into US denominated savings
    instruments, largely Treasury Bills in what I refer to elsewhere as the T-bill IOU standard of global reserves, [8] helps
    maintain well lubricated and practiced financial markets in the US (these, of course centered on Wall Street). It is well to
    note here how prior to the recent meltdown the US coveted approximately 70 percent of all international financial flows
    to finance its deficit which constitutes over 1.5 percent of total global GDP.[9]  Looking at this from another angle,
    between 1999 and 2006 US borrowing of over $4.4 trillion equaled 85 percent of net external financing emanating from
    the totality of states with surplus “savings”.[10]

    Third, the interest paid by the US on what amounts to conscripted loans to it is low in international terms. Thus Wall
    Street finds itself in a privileged position of being able to leverage these funds across the globe through both private
    financial intermediaries headquartered there as well as conduits such as the World Bank (WB) and International
    Monetary Fund (IMF), both essentially managed by the US. We will have occasion in this book to examine the insidious
    way in which what has been dubbed the Washington Consensus utilizes Japan’s and China’s dollars to bludgeon weaker
    economies of the world into submitting to wholesale reorganizations in facilitation of the evil axis game.    

    But now, let us further imagine another country, China in this case, bursting onto the global trading scene to
    increasingly monopolize supply for US demand for low cost consumer goods.  The rise of China offers solace for Japan
    as an investment locale for Japan’s burgeoning overcapacity and market for Japanese technological expertise and high
    value added exports.  And the low cost goods that this international investment in China propels toward the US keeps
    US consumers well stocked with all the gadgets they have become enamored with, even as wage levels in the US
    stagnate. Put succinctly, the “American way of life” is presently made, low cost, in China. But, where China exponentially
    augments Japan’s Manna from heaven to the US in the rigged seigniorage game is not through the simple equation of a
    lopsided trade imbalance, as remarkable as that is. Rather, it is due to the trillions of dollars of surplus savings that
    flood into US financial markets largely via T-Bill IOU’s, and the $100s of billions in “hot money”[11]  bound for other
    domestic US assets as well. This surplus can only perilously be converted into Chinese yuan, partly due to the
    appreciation of China’s currency such a move will spur, though it is questionable whether that alone would completely
    compromise China’s export bonanza. Indeed, the Chinese yuan has appreciated 55 percent since 1994. And as it
    appreciated 20 percent between 2005 and 2008 alone, the US trade deficit with China leaped from $202 billion to $268
    billion.[12]  Of greater significance, however, as dealt with in Chapter 6, is the fact that should China abdicate its holding
    of US dollars and assets its core current economic structure and brutal authoritarian polity would unceremoniously

    We will bracket for later discussion as well the intricacies of Wall Street’s multiplication of financial benefits from the
    plethora of China’s (and not to be forgotten, Japan’s) dollars. The crucial point to be made here concerning the rigged
    game of US dollar seigniorage is something not well understood, given the ideological cloud cover on economic writing
    in both academic circles and the mainstream press: that in the half decade or so preceding the meltdown’s onset, the
    compounding economic impact of the US-China nexus (this includes asset inflation in the US which in turn underwrote
    the US consumer spending spree inflating Chinese production and wealth) contributed (depending on the estimate
    source) between 45 percent and 60 percent of all global growth![13]  In this way, the US-Japan-China axis today is the
    prime current enabler of both the bloating ocean of funds at the disposal of the Wall Street casino and the sinister US
    dollar seigniorage game. And it is ultimately the persistence of this evil axis of finance that places the stranglehold on
    our global future as per the subtitle of this book.

    The most visible embodiment of the stranglehold placed on our future by the axis of finance is the template for
    international production, investment and trade—in short, global development per se—imposed upon the world economy
    as a whole through machinations of the axis and the self-serving policy collaborations among axis powers. Long gone
    are the days of colonialism and imperialism where, as occurred in the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, it was the
    navy and army of dominant powers that invaded much of the world to create transportation networks for resource
    extraction and establish mediate industrial processes to their own advantage. Rather, today, through dollar seigniorage
    and the architecture of global finance, Wall Street constitutes the new command center from which the US, supported by
    evil axis partner dollar hoardings, manages the world economy by “remote control” for its own self-aggrandizement.
    Though with Japan and China along with major European Union (EU) and select Asian and Latin American states feeding
    at the trough.   

    However, the stranglehold placed on our global future is not just about finance and its relationship to the economy in
    any straightforward sense. Where the promised filling in of pages left blank in meltdown writing builds to a chilling
    crescendo is in the graphic portrait this book paints of human society presently trapped in a twilight zone between a
    decaying world and one struggling to be born. And the evil axis of finance in all its manifestations tethers us to the
    remains of that world, cosseting ideas and ways of doing things that are increasingly becoming not only terribly
    anachronistic but downright deleterious to the human species.

    Nowhere is this point more glaringly reflected than with regard to the field of economics. Whether one approaches
    economics from the mainstream, neoclassical Right side of the field or from the radical, Marxian Left side the reality to
    be faced is the same. On the Right, it is not simply a question of economists’ seduction by views of market “perfection”
    or their proclivities for dazzling mathematical formulations with scant attention paid to history or institutions as treated
    by Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman in his beseeching piece in The New York Times [14]  about how sages failed to “predict”
    the looming US meltdown. Rather, it is a matter of the whole thrust of the discipline, from its foundational claims about
    supply and demand equilibration to those on efficient allocation of resources, being based (irrespective of their
    veracity) on economic workings of material production centered societies that exist today at best as remnants. From the
    Left, Marxian economic analysts also have a penchant for burying their heads in the sand (unadorned of course with
    Nobel Prizes of their opposite numbers). Looking into the rear view mirror at the economic ups and downs of the past
    century Marx’s understandings of capitalist wealth asymmetries, exploitation of the industrial workforce, one-
    dimensional profit orientation, cycles of overproduction and crises, as well as imperialist territorial aggrandizement
    certainly have a truer ring than mainstream myths about economic harmony or “free trade”. But the current enchanted
    world of hypertrophic and footloose finance, including the 2008-9 meltdown, and machinations of the evil axis, owe little
    to those dynamics.[15]

    And let us make no mistake about it. There is no going back to repair the decay and resurrect the world lost. Indicator
    after indicator of global modernity now points to a wholly divergent and uncertain future. In prominent Organization for
    Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) states the proportion of employed populations in industry plummeted
    from a high point of 50 percent in the mid-20th century (in select states) to 20 percent or less by the century’s end—as
    agricultural employment plunged below 10 percent and services spiked upwards to constitute over 70 percent and
    more of total employment.[16]  In the US today, services comprise close to 80 percent of employment and manufacturing
    10 percent. Across the globe as a whole, particularly taking account of change in the non-developed countries
    (generally referred to optimistically as “developing” or “emerging markets”), mass population shifts from 2006 onwards
    have not been out of agriculture into industry as characterizing the past two centuries of capitalist development.
    Rather, the movement is out of agriculture and into services. [17]

    In countries like the US, where the new “take-off” first occurs in the mid-1970s, astute observers quickly grasped the
    bifurcated nature of the emergent service sector,[18]  where a small band of highly paid globe-trotting urban business,
    legal, high tech  professionals are serviced by brand name retailers, sushi chefs, limousine drivers and so on, with
    these in turn serviced by an exploding cohort of impoverished fast food restaurant workers, maids, janitors, low end
    retail sales clerks who in turn somehow manage to service themselves. And it is not only a question of the service
    sector acting as groundswell of depleted popular earnings. In 1960, for example, material goods production directly
    employed 17 million Americans from a total workforce of 68 million. Yet, in 2004, the much cheered financial services
    industry employed only 8 million Americans from a total of 131 million in the US workforce as a whole.[19]  Keep in mind
    as well that 100 jobs in manufacturing had created a further approximately 422 jobs attendant to them while personal
    and business services along with retail create respectively 147 and 94 only. [20] And evidence indicates that the recent
    meltdown has exacerbated trends toward outsourcing even higher end services to offshore locales [21]  relegating
    ever more of the US work force to bottom tier service sector jobs or no job.  

    Across the non-developed world there is a confluence of trends in the shift of work into services that portends the
    most frightening of future scenarios. First is the swelling of the so-called “informal” workforce where an average of 60
    percent of all new employment is occurring. In “high growth” Asia the figure for informal employment as a percent of
    total employment is 78.2 percent. This in turn feeds into a burgeoning “shadow economy”, of which the informal
    economy is a part, that in Asia, Latin America and Africa is equal to 34.9 percent, 39.7 percent and 40.1 percent
    respectively of GDP. [22] The move of populations into services in the non-developed world glaringly illustrates the two-
    tier employment structuring of that sector. Even India’s much vaunted internationally competitive business and
    communications service industries constitute only 5 percent of all service sector employment and 1 percent of total
    employment in India as a whole.[23]  The reality of service growth in India as elsewhere in the non-developed world is
    rather the ubiquitous street corner shoe shine boys, rag pickers and sex slaves.

    Second is the flooding of humanity into titanic urban agglomerations. The United Nations (UN) estimates that by 2050, 7
    out of 10 people in the world will be living in these “cities”. We put cities in quotation marks here because a figure fast
    approaching 1 trillion people living in them the world over are destined to inhabit ever-expanding urban slums![24]   
    Such rates of urbanization as are occurring in the non-developed world outstrip those of the industrial revolution
    heyday and in many locales exceed rates of economic growth to the extent that the UN itself labels the urban flood
    “pathological”.[25]  What is also extremely disconcerting is the fashion in which urban slums emerge as the nodal point
    where the melding of informal and formal employment occurs across the non-developed world.[26]  This is where what
    professional business literature refers to as “global value chains” of major non-financial multinational corporations (NF-
    MNCs) all pass through to prey on the benignly dubbed “vulnerable” workers. NF-MNCs that as we shall see have a
    greater incentive to maintain such horrendous international work circumstances rather than change them. And, while
    scant studies exist on informalization within the US economy itself,[27]  as one exploration of the phenomenon in Los
    Angeles vividly displays Americans can be assured that all this is happening in a city near you![28]

    Finally, and it is this point that vitiates claims about current trends simply exemplifying phases or development
    sequences of modernity: shifts out of both agriculture and industry toward services are occurring at lower and lower
    levels of GDP. Thus states where manufacturing employment as a percent of total employment is more reminiscent of
    pre-modernity than the century of West European industrial revolution, and in which per capita GDP hovers around a
    dismal $3000 (at current prices), are already experiencing what is referred to as “premature deindustrialization”.[29]  
    And, as this book shows, the recent meltdown further exacerbates the disintegration of existing material goods
    production [30] such that what industry is emplaced around the world is radically decoupled from industrialization as is
    what masquerades as “growth” decoupled from development. In short, the very model of progress that defined the
    modern era is consigned to the dustbin of history.

    And let us also not be misled into viewing the global meltdown of 2008-9 as a harbinger of progressive change.
    Meltdowns, this book makes abundantly clear, are an integral aspect of the evil axis of finance dollar seigniorage game.
    And despite public wrangling among evil axis members on matters of currency appreciation and depreciation (a largely
    spurious debate as we shall see) there is scant diminution in appetites among axis members for the T-Bill IOUs which
    undergird the global financial architecture and the rigged Wall Street centered game. The vaunted G-20, with its hop-
    scotch around the world where much of this currency charade has played out of late, is but a clone of US Treasury
    Secretary and consummate Wall Street insider Timothy Geithner.[31]   And we still see China and Japan vying with each
    other for the top holder of US Treasuries spot.[32]  It can further be remarked in passing that Japan has actually reaped
    a net gain from its US dollar holdings of $280 billion over the years. China, on the other hand, as it plunged into the
    business in a serious way between 1999 and 2007, actually lost (through successive currency devaluations) over $300
    billion from its US dollar “nest egg”[33];   that was estimated by 2009 to be $2.3 trillion reserves and $1.5 trillion asset
    holdings [34] (yet China preservers in building these as we will see)! Remember, we noted above how the US-China
    nexus alone accounted for between 45 percent and 60 percent of global growth across the first half of the opening
    decade of the 21st century (let us offer a compromise figure for future reference of “well over 50 percent”): This figure
    significantly exceeding the combined US-China 38 percent share of world output during the same period. Prior to the
    meltdown 40 percent of China’s exports went to the US. Of Japan’s total exports 24 percent go directly to the US and
    another 14 percent to China (and we know where most of the latter’s output ultimately ends up). [35]  One will therefore
    be hard-pressed to construct an argument for dominant forces within the evil axis of finance seeking to opt out of the
    game (and that is the operative word) whatever the short term losses or rifts.    

    Outline of the Book      
    Of course, as startling as the figures and studies cited across the pages of this book are, its revelatory power resides in
    the meticulous connecting of dots between each and every facet of our deteriorating human existence and the evil axis
    of finance machinations.

    To execute our task Chapter 1 recounts how following World War II (WWII) the US, then the world’s paramount creditor
    economy, fostered a “golden age” of capitalist prosperity within its own borders as well as among key allies in Western
    Europe and East Asia. While the attention of academics and pundits alike has been overly fixated upon the demise of
    this golden age our first interest resides in grasping the key ingredients of its success. This is of the greatest
    importance because implicit in much of the policy debate today over what steps are to be taken to ameliorate our
    wretched economic condition is the view the we can resurrect capitalist prosperity of this era—when the bitter truth to
    be faced is, we simply cannot. And the reason for this is that one weighty yet completely overlooked ingredient, to which
    all others in the golden age of capitalist prosperity equation were bound, exists nowhere on the economic horizon.

    Because of the indispensable part Japan and China play in the unholy alliance of the US-Japan-China evil axis of
    finance, no book can hope to adequately treat the current financial malaise without exploring the paradox of Japan and
    China’s ascent in the global economy. The use of the term “paradox” here, Chapter 2 explains, derives from the peculiar
    way in which the fortunes of Japan and China were inexorably intertwined in the aftermath of WWII. On the one hand,
    with Japan occupied by the US and allied forces, it was only under direct compulsion of Mao Zedong’s peasant army
    sweeping to victory in socialist revolution in China that the US shifted its global strategy toward rebuilding Japan as the
    economic powerhouse it became. On the other hand, it was only due to the cordon sanitaire the US-centered “free
    world” enwrapped China in, and the policies of Mao to “delink” from international economic interrelationships among
    capitalist powers in the “free world”, that China was able to consolidate the human and material infrastructure which
    could rocket it into the world economy in the late 1980s and 90s. And finally, it would be its entry into the orbit of a Japan-
    centered East and Southeast Asian economic growth spurt, itself piggybacking on US anticommunist policy foundations,
    which would underpin China’s participation with Japan in underwriting burgeoning US deficits.  
    With the foregoing historical contextualization behind us we can now begin to answer the key questions of this book. To
    decipher the destructive viral code the evil axis of finance implants in our human existence it is necessary to probe
    behind three dominant narratives which serve to conceal its tracks. These are “globalization”, “financialization” and the
    purported makeover for the US economy in the 1980s and 90s from wreckage of the golden age to a “new economy” and
    global capitalist “model” of “growth”.

    In Chapter 3 we commence our story of so-called globalization through the prism of recounting  factors in the demise of
    the golden age in the US which, given US reluctance to relinquish one iota of its international hegemony, compelled the
    US to seek a new economic orientation vis-à-vis the “free world” it had worked so hard to create. The chapter proceeds
    to cut a swath through three decades of jargon in explaining why globalization is simply a sexed-up term for the way the
    US escaped from the predicament it faced by transubstantiating into a global economy—dependent on the world for
    consumption goods its citizens demand, with financing for its government expenditures, investment capital for US
    business, liquidity for its burgeoning financial sector—while remaining as firmly in the global economic driver seat as
    the US was during the golden age when its national economy was the world’s creditor and manufacturing workshop. We
    expose the sinister enabling processes for this in the decoupling of manufacturing corporations from the business of
    making things, of global industry from industrialization, of agriculture from human food provisioning and of growth from
    development. Our analysis reveals how the Washington Consensus and insidious paradigm of “export oriented growth”
    was forged in the crucible of this transformation of the US economy to ensure that whatever the future human costs,
    goods from around the world would be favorably placed at the disposal of the one country most dependent on cheap
    access to them—the US.

    The excrescence of what is dubbed financialization and the destruction it visits upon humanity is not a condition which
    can be reset, as meltdown writings intimate, with a flick of the regulatory switch. To grasp the true depth and spread of
    the malignancy we offer another storyline. It is that of idle money or idle M. In its most fundamental incarnation idle M is
    funds destined in a healthy capitalist economy for regular conversion into real capital devoted to producing material
    goods for profit. But, in a decaying production centered economy, idle M, with no possibility of ever being converted
    into real capital, will first start to bloat aimlessly, and then metastasize into an evil force. As an evil force, idle M
    operates in a fashion akin to age old money lending “capital” bereft of social conscience and interested only in its
    “pound of flesh”.

    In a world where the US dollar is international money, universally held by all states as reserve currency and currency for
    conducting global transactions, our story of idle M becomes inextricably bound to the abdication by the US of its
    production centered economy and its transubstantiation into a global economy with the legion of aforementioned
    dependencies upon the world. This is precisely the raison d'être for the US creating a rigged global game through what
    neoliberals refer to as liberalization and deregulation of finance: Where accumulating idle M across the world is
    impelled to the US to be commandeered by Wall Street for sinister designs.

    Japan earns its place on the rising evil axis of finance roster through the formative and preponderant role it plays in
    global pooling of idle M and its “saving” in dollar denominated instruments such as T-Bills (along with ample investment
    in US domestic assets). Put differently, monies justly earned by Japan from the fact that it maintains a domestic
    production centered economy are funneled back into hands of the US which abdicated its industrial birthright, so the US
    can serve its profligate populace from the industriousness of Japan. But, such idle M, once in US hands, now
    increasingly infused by bloating funds of a powerful phalanx of “institutional investors” (pension funds, mutual funds,
    hedge funds), “freed” from all moorings in anything remotely resembling a real economy, are recycled from the Wall
    Street base camp of the evil axis of finance to mount speculative predatory operations across the globe. These
    operations feed on real economies for quick arbitrage gain with little concern for the scorched earth left in their wake.
    Yet this strengthens dollar seigniorage and galvanizes the US position as the sole global economy.   

    Chapter 5 commences with a background discussion of business cycle oscillations characteristic of capitalist
    production centered economies. We do this as a prelude to grappling with the third narrative crosscutting globalization
    and financialization: that of the alleged renewal of US growth in the 1980s and 90s, from which the case is made for the
    US as a post golden age “new economy” model for the world, with the mainstream economic argument heralding the so-
    called new economy period as an era where significant downturns or recessions are a thing of the past.[36]  What
    Chapter 5 demonstrates, however, is that from the late 1980s business cycles are replaced in the US economy by
    alternating asset bubbles and global meltdowns orchestrated from the Wall Street evil axis of finance command center.
    The chimera of US growth and so-called new economy are epiphenomena of these.

    As part of its argument, Chapter 5 explains the complicity of the US and Wall Street in fomenting the 1997 Asian Crisis. It
    is further maintained that funds decamping from the financial cataclysm which befell the Japan centered world
    economic growth pole made their way back to Wall Street just as they were desperately needed as the cushion for the
    increasing US current account deficit and to blow up the dotcom bubble.  

    Chapter 5 then turns to the opaque world of “structured finance” the US spawned to help rejuvenate its net worth in the
    face of trillions of dollars in asset write downs in the aftermath of the dotcom bubble burst. We clearly display that the
    global meltdown of 2008-9 is hardly the aberration it is made out to be but wholly consistent with Wall Street evil axis of
    finance command center predatory designs: For it is only through coveting global financial resources and blowing
    bigger and bigger global bubbles with them, with such then wreaking devastation upon what remains of the real world
    economy, that in its current orientation as a global economy the US is able to post GDP growth!

    Hardly a day goes by without our local news TV station or morning paper remarking on the rise of China to contender for
    number two spot behind the US, ahead of Japan, in global economic size rankings. China is also often lauded for its role
    as the leading BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China – sometimes BRICS with South Africa added); these being the
    prominent global emerging markets where the engine of global growth is purportedly shifting. Indeed, China
    commentary has spawned its own publication and media cottage industry. The purpose of Chapter 6, however, is not to
    jump on either the China glorifying or China bashing bandwagon. Rather it is to surgically probe the significance of
    China in the global economy and the domestic political and economic conditions which shape China’s role therein.
    We thus treat four aspects of the China factor: First, China’s place in so-called globalization which feeds low cost
    consumer durables to the US, extending the suzerainty of the US as the world’s singular global economy. Second, the
    emergence of China as poster economy for instituting dark modes of labor control that in part hark back to bondage-like
    work forms existing at the dawn of the capitalist era. Third, we make the case for the vital role China plays on the
    membership roster of the evil axis of finance. Fourth, our analysis looks at what compels the US and China to maintain
    their evil nexus. And the malignancies the evil nexus spreads.

    Chapter 7 brings us to the future that will not be given the stranglehold on humanity perpetuated by the evil axis of
    finance. At no time in all recorded history has the human species simultaneously faced three frightening existential

    The first is the crisis of the human economy. By “economy”, however, we are not referring to “Wall Street greed”, the
    extreme dividing of society between the impoverished “99 percent” and rich 1 percent, as expressed by recent protest
    slogans (though of course, these things are certainly highly odious ills of our present existence). Rather, what is meant
    by economy here is economic life in its deepest and most substantive sense. After all, in every society across the
    sweep of human history from the genesis of society to present times, economic life of some kind is a sine qua non. The
    major forms of economy marking human history came into being to satisfy a given constellation of human material wants
    and as the productive techniques for furnishing these became available. And each major form of economy then passes
    from history as its ability to manage human material reproductive affairs is exhausted and new human wants and
    productive techniques for satisfying them loom on the horizon.   
    The rulers and privileged of decaying economic orders, however, wage fierce battles to maintain the status quo
    whatever its destructive fallout for humanity. Nowhere are the battles more fervent than in the world of ideas. As
    capitalism with its new sources of wealth, attachment to modern science, and proclamations of legal rights and
    freedoms challenged ossified hierarchies of pre-capitalist “feudal” landholders, princes and hereditary monarchs,
    these classes invoked the “Divine Right of Kings” to paint their economy, which arose in the context of historical
    change, as a natural order. The fate of the recalcitrant who dared surmise “the earth was round not flat”, for example,
    was often burning at the stake at the behest of Inquisitions.  

    Today, Chapter 7 emphasizes, maintenance of the US as a global economy through machinations of the Wall Street
    commanded evil axis of finance with all the devastation it wreaks upon real economic life across the globe, reflects
    precisely the exhaustion of capitalism’s ability to manage human material reproductive affairs. The growing severity and
    increased frequency of economic convulsions, as in recurring bubbles and global meltdowns, 2008-9 being the most
    recent, are symptoms of this. And, the post-meltdown reversion to selfsame economic ways, embellished with ever
    more high tech predatory financial tools, and with an eye to blowing the next bubble before worthless “assets” of the
    last are written down, is but the harbinger of further tumult. Yet while economic life around the world sinks to the nadir
    of wretchedness, economic policy debate is becoming increasingly constricted around faux alternatives as popular
    consciousness drifts toward the kind of irrealism represented by the likes of the US Tea Party.

    Humanity, however, is simultaneously faced with two other even more frightening existential crises. We can say “more
    frightening crisis” because as stated above, it is us, and our human agency which in the end has the power to change
    economic direction. In the case of the other crisis—the corrupting of agriculture and food provisioning systems and the
    specter of climate change and environmental Armageddon—we are ultimately dealing with forces of nature which are
    beyond human control. Though we can definitely alter our orientation to nature before its tipping point is reached. The
    problem here, as Chapter 7 explains, is that the same bankrupt theories and approach to economic life, which provide
    ideological cover for the evil axis of finance that is driving our economy to catastrophe, have been shaping our
    relationship to nature with consequences that now threaten our very existence on the planet.                                 

    Finally, we conclude our story with indications of where an exit to our multifaceted malaise perpetuated by the evil axis
    of finance does exist.                                      

    1 Lest there be any doubters Bill Gross of PIMCO global investments estimates that in the US alone assets were overvalued by $15 trillion before their “re-
    inflation” by government bailouts following the meltdown. See Bill Gross, “Midnight Candles”, http://europe.pimco.
    2 The FED (or another central bank) “creating” money by digital fiat which is used to bolster financial institution reserves so that banks and other financial
    institutions may continue lending even in an adverse economic environment for credit issuance. Though, “credit” issued in this fashion is simply more debt
    on the other side of the balance sheet.
    3 What are known as the Basel Accords derive from “committees” set up in the mid-1970s by central bank Governors of the leading capitalist states: Basel I
    as it is known constitutes the first agreement reached in 1988 over “capital adequacy” (basically, the relationship between the assets of a bank and loans it
    makes) as well as globally acceptable norms of supervision of banking practices. Basel II, set out in 2004, sought to extend compliance to more
    jurisdictions and strengthen existing pillars of the agreement. Basel III strives to raise capital adequacy requirements and institute “buffers” that will protect
    major banks against future “stresses”. Basel III also seeks to expand regulatory coverage to a congeries of non-bank financial intermediaries such as
    insurance companies and hedge funds. For the intricacies of this refer to The Bank for International Settlements (BIS),
    4 These numbers are all easily accessible on the US Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) web site:
    5 The understanding of dollar seigniorage in this book is far broader than its more conventional usage in reference to the direct profits flowing to the US
    from the fact that as hub currency foreigners must necessarily hold US dollars and transact with them. See Eric Helleiner and Jonathan Kirshner, “The
    Future of the Dollar: Whither the Key Currency?” in Eric Helleiner and Jonathan Kirshner (eds.) The Future of the Dollar (Ithaca: Cornell University Press,
    2009) p. 5.
    6 By 1996 the top 5 percent of US households garnered 21.4 percent of total national income, the highest proportion ever since data was collected. See,
    Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “Poverty Rate Fails to Decline as Income Growth in 1996 Favors the Affluent”, http://www.cbpp.
    7 From approximately $50 billion in 1986 the dollar holdings of Japan leap to near $250 billion by 1997. See Akio Mikuni and R. Taggart Murphy, Japan’s
    Policy Trap: Dollars, Deflation, and the Crisis of Japanese Finance (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2003) p. 121.
    8 See my earlier book, Political Economy and Globalization (London: Routledge, 2009) chapter 4.
    9 Raghuram G. Rajan, “Global Imbalances – An Assessment”,
    10 Matthew Higgins and Thomas Klitgaard, “Financial Globalization and the U.S. Current Account Deficit”, Current Issues in Economics and Finance, 13, 11
    (2007), http://www.ny.frb.
    11 Despite capital controls in China a large volume of speculative Chinese private capital investment found its way into US dollar holdings of various types
    from mid-2006. See the Economist, Economic Focus: “Not quite so SAFE”, April 23 2009,
    12 Wall Street Journal, “Higher Yuan May Not Mean More US Jobs”, October 4 2010, http://online.wsj.
    13 Rajan, “Global Imbalances – An Assessment”, is the source of the 45 percent estimate. Niall Ferguson and Moritz Schularick, “‘Chimerica’ and the
    Global Asset Market Boom”, International Finance, 10, 3 (2007) p. 228 is the source of the 60 percent estimate.
    14 New York Times, “How Did Economists Get it So Wrong?”
    15 Readers interested in the high theory here may turn to my book Political Economy and Globalization. The argument will not be recapitulated in this
    16 See Charles Feinstein, “Structural Change in the Developed Countries During the Twentieth Century”, Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 15, 4 (1999).
    17 International Labor Organization (ILO), Global Employment Trends (Geneva: International Labor Office, 2008).
    18 Bennett Harrison and Barry Bluestone, The Great U-Turn: Corporate Restructuring and the Polarizing of America (New York: Basic Books, 1988).
    19 Kevin Phillips, American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century (New York: Viking, 2006) p.
    20 William Greider, One World, Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism (New York: Touchstone, 1997) p. 217.
    21 Gary Gereffi and Karina Fernandez-Stark, “The Offshore Services Value Chain: Developing Countries and the Crisis”, The World Bank Development
    Research Group Trade and Integration Team (April 2010), http://www-wds.worldbank.
    22 ILO/WTO, Globalization and Informal Jobs in Developing Countries (2009)
    dcomm/documents/publication/wcms_115087.pdf (See, in particular, figures 1.1 to 1.5).
    23 UNCTAD, Trade and Development Report, 2010: Employment, globalization and development,
    24 UN-HABITAT, State of the World’s Cities 2010/1011: Bridging the Urban Divide,
    25 State of the World’s Cities 2010/1011, Box 1.2.1.
    26 ILO, International Labor Conference, 90th Session 2002 Report IV. Decent Work and the Informal Economy,
    27 An exception here is the excellent study by Robert J.S. Ross, Slaves to Fashion: Poverty and Abuse in the New Sweatshops (Ann Arbor: University of
    Michigan Press, 2004).
    28 See Hopeful Workers, Marginal Jobs: LA’s Off-The-Books Labor Force, Economic Roundtable, http://www.economicrt.
    29 See, Sukti Dasgupta and Ajit Singh, “Manufacturing, Services and Premature De-industrialization in Developing Countries: A Kaldorian Empirical
    Analysis”, Center for Business Research, University of Cambridge Working Paper no. 327,
    30 Robert C. Feenstra, “Integration of Trade and Disintegration of Production in the Global Economy”, Journal of Economic Perspectives, 12, 4 (1998).
    31 Robert Wade, “The First-World Debt Crisis of 2007-2010 in Global Perspective”, Challenge, 51, 4 (2008) http://ideas.repec.
    org/a/mes/challe/v51y2008i4p23-54.html cites an anonymous source to the effect that G-20 participants were selected by Geithner during a phone call.
    32 Wall Street Journal, “China’s U.S. Treasury Holdings Rise”,
    33 See Daniel I. Okimoto, “The Financial Crisis and America’s Capital Dependence on Japan and China”, Asia-Pacific Review, 16, 1 (2009) pp. 47-8.


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The US-Japan-China
Stranglehold on the Global

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    "a very good overview of key debates on
    contemporary development strategies and
    alternatives.  As a rule, the chapters are devoted
    to state-based strategies. However, there is also
    material on relations between states, classes
    and social movements, and several chapters
    provide excellent and intriguing critiques of
    development strategy...."
                 —THOMAS BARNES,
                 Capital & Class 2012.

    "Anyone concerned with understanding combined
    and uneven development in the global economy
    today would profit immensely from reading this
    superb collection."  
                                 TONY SMITH
                 Against the Current, 2011