Puerto Rico’s world-record $116 billion bankruptcy filing represents a massive liability risk for auditors who will likely demand that highly-indebted states — such as Connecticut, Illinois and California — disclose more liabilities, write down assets, and curtail debt issues.
Puerto Rico’s congressionally mandated PROMESA financial oversight board filed for Title III bankruptcy-type protection from creditors in the United States Court for the District of Puerto Rico in the early morning of May 3. The filing is the largest municipal bond bankruptcy in history, and America’s third largest bankruptcy, behind only the $691 billion filing by Lehman Brothers and the $328 billion bankruptcy of Washington Mutual.
Breitbart News reported that “vulture” capitalists who bought Puerto Rico bonds for pennies-on the-dollar were trying to court liens on the government’s assets after refusing to take discounts from face value of 77 cents-on-the-dollar for their general obligation bonds, and 58 cents-on-the-dollar for “Cofina” sales-tax-backed debt, offered by Puerto Rico’s Democrat Governor Ricardo Rossello.
Wall Street investment banks issued hundreds of Puerto Rico municipal bonds to take advantage of the triple feature that made the Caribbean Island’s debt exempt from federal, state, and local taxes, regardless of where the bond holder resided. Major underwriters included Citicorp, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays PLC, Morgan Stanley, RBC Capital, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, UBS and Lehman Brothers.
Caribbean Business reported in September 2016 that the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) had allegedly requested documents from bond underwriters as part of a probe into a $3.5 billion general-obligation bond issue of 2014, and a $600 million Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority bond issue in 2013.
Despite long-term Puerto Rico municipal bonds having already been downgraded by Moody’s to junk status, Barclays, Morgan Stanley and RBC Capital Markets sold the 2014 bonds at a cost to Puerto Rico of 8.727 percent.
The Commonwealth has been late in issuing its fiscal year-end financial statement by October 31 every year since 2,000. The U.S. territory set a record in 2014, according to Bloomberg News, by being 181 days late. Each failure was a violation of the Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring municipal-bond issuers to file audited annual reports in a timely manner.
The legislature’s Puerto Rico Commission for the Comprehensive Audit of the Public Credit issued a report in June 2016 that concluded that because Puerto Rico’s constitution specifically states that the territory’s budget must be balanced, at least $4.7 billion in island bonds sold by Wall Street bank syndicates to finance deficits and to pay interest and principal on older debt may be illegal.
According to the Justia Supreme Court blog, the 1885 case of City of Litchfield v. Ballou established that a “constitutional provision forbidding a municipality from borrowing money operates equally to prevent moneys loaned to it in violation of this provision.” The Court ruled that an illegal loan made collecting on municipal bonds was unenforceable.
Creditors in Detroit’s $19 billion bankruptcy lost $1.2 billion in an out-of-court settlement due to the city and its underwriters skirting the debt limit to sell bonds.
The turmoil, and potential misdeeds, in Puerto Rico are sure to put pressure on auditors in other states and municipalities to demand greater transparency regarding financial statements, and to take bigger reserves and write-offs on their balance sheets.
The Connecticut State Controller’s Office reported on May 2 that state income tax collections plummeted again in April, leaving the state in crisis with a $5.2 billion deficit over the next two fiscal years. With a state spending plan of $28.62 billion for 2016-17, the Controller’s latest estimate predicts revenues down by about $413 million this fiscal year, down another $597 million in 2018, and down another $865 million in 2019.
Breitbart News reported in January that California would face its first deficit since 2012, after Governor Jerry Brown admitted the state expected a $1.6-billion deficit, despite record tax collection.
Crain’s Business reported in March that the Illinois general funds budget deficit was $9.6 billion in fiscal 2016, an increase of $2.7 billion from the previous year, and the biggest deficit in at least 10 years.
Site C Dam is a proposed 60-metre high, 1,050m length dam on the Peace River on Treaty 8 territory in northeastern British Columbia (see image below), a project that if built, would create an 83km reservoir submerging 78 First Nations heritage sites in violation of the Constitution Act, but how does it connect to continental water diversion?
To date, much has been said in the media regarding the issue of Site C Dam, but very little has touched on the matter of NAFTA and water.
Peace River BC
The spin behind the necessity of the project has largely concentrated on exaggerated claims of the energy needs of Vancouver, to the BC Liberals’ power requirements for the LNG and Fracking industry, to providing below-market value energy to Alberta in exchange for agreeing to their pipelines. Recently, the Justin Trudeau Government approved two additional permits for Site C Dam despite recommendations against the project by the Royal Society of Canada and 250 of Canada’s top scientists on the basis that Site C Dam is an ecological catastrophe and gross violation of rights under the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Rights and violates our own Constitution.
Little, however, has been noted by the media about the NAWAPA (North America Water Power Alliance) connection to Site C Dam, and that is something all Canadians should be seriously concerned about.
NAWAPA is a continental water diversion plan drafted by the US Army Corps of Engineers during the 1950s -1960s. Essentially the plan involved diverting (stealing) water from Canada via the Rocky Mountain Trench to Southern California. The rivers of Canada in British Columbia and the Yukon were an integral part of this plan.
In 1964 Parsons Company published a paper called NAWAPA: “North American Water and Power Alliance,” by Roland P. Kelly, Technical Program manager of “The Ralph M. Parsons Company”. Essentially the paper estimates that NAWAPA could provide water supply to the continent (i.e) The United States for 100 years. In the proposal, the project would divert approximately 69,000,000 acre-ft to the United States Annually. In Water and Free Trade: The Mulroney Government’s Agenda for Canada’s Most Precious Resource, agrologist Wendy Holm discusses the core aspects:
“ The NAWAPA plan proposed by Ralph Parsons Co. of Los Angeles envisaged building a large number of the worlds biggest dams to trap the Yukon, Peace and Liard Rivers into a reservoir that would flood one-tenth of British Columbia to create a canal from Alaska to Washington State that would supply water through existing canals and pipelines to most areas of the continent..”(31)
Roland P. Kelly argues
“Since the water resources of the continent were placed by nature without regard to political boundaries, it seems logical…to figure out a distribution system maximizing these resources without regard to these boundaries”(31).
Obviously, the implications of this project would have devastating environmental and human impacts, in addition the destruction of eco-systems and diversion of water would serve as an accelerant to climate change.
With regard to the Site C Dam, it is worth noting that the proposed dam site falls directly on the lines drawn in the original NAWAPA plans. Site C and the Columbia River Project are integral to the implementation of NAWAPA, thus calling into question the nature of the project in relationship to continental water diversion plans.
It is of the upmost importance to note that, once impounded behind the dam, the Peace River is subject to NAFTA as a water commodity, thus putting the people of Canada at risk of loosing water rights if privatization of BC Hydro occurs. One might reasonably question BC Hydro’s managed fiscal state of ‘$18.1 billion in approximate debt’ as being a primer for manufactured privatization to occur. The only potentially saving factor in the political manoeuvring behind Site C and Continental Water Sharing is the fact that the Province of British Columbia is located on un-ceded territory. The Governments’ title to water is, therefore, invalid and any quiet agreements made by our politicians with regard to NAWAPA would not be recognized under International Law despite corporate interests involved.
The law must be the personal concern of every citizen, to uphold for our neighbours as well as for ourselves. What does it say if the Government of Canada is found in violation of section 35(1) of the Constitution Act, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and recently the violation of the Wildlife Act? It is time for people to start asking questions, who is benefitting from this project and what is going on behind the scenes?
WITH THANKS FOR THE ARTICLE, TO JAKE (from the USA) who writes:
The questions that no one seems to be asking are the obvious ones.
Big Pharma and Big Agriculture have taken control of most of the governmental bodies of the USA and sadly it appears by all of the evidence that a majority of the population are allowing it to occur, or simply are too dumbed down to care.
“If the USA were any other criminal nation the ‘Americans’ would invade the USA to keep the world safe.”
REPLY TO JAKE:
You observe: Big Pharma and Big Agriculture have taken control of most of the governmental bodies of the USA. That is true here, too. And add “most of the universities.”
Also true here:
The Financial and Banking Industry has just about been taken over by foreign transnationals, working with the Collaborators, as usual.
We are hard at it – – have to rally the troops fast, to stop the Canada Infrastructure Bank. If we can. Between it and clauses in the trade deals, the international Banksters take over.
If a country doesn’t control who is in charge of the money and financial structure, seems to me it’s game over – – pretty well the final nail in the democracy coffin, as I see it.
One by one the sectors have, or are falling. Taken over by Transnational Corporate Interests and values – –
Agriculture (heavy chemical loads poisoning land, water, and food; gmo monoculture causes loss of bio-diversity among other things; an industrial food supply that gives the opposite of health)
Governance (we’ve lost our regulatory capacity – the industries have “friends” in place in the structure. And THEIR money calls the tunes.)
Education (universities). And speaking for Sask., industry interests supply some of the course material for the schools. Uranium/nuclear, for example.
Money and Banking
There’s a huge battle to stop Water from going
UPDATE, May 18, 2017, Trump announcement: NAFTA is to be changed by the end of the year.
Canadians need to know the history of NAFTA. The Exemption for Water disappeared from the final text. There is currently a huge renewed threat. The Corporates want to make big money by privatization around water, make it a commodity like oil. They’ve made inroads since the original NAFTA. I won’t think we can trust The Liberals, or The Conservatives to defend our Water supply – – not without big pressure from voters. Both have dirty hands on the issue.
Simon Reisman was the chief negotiator for Canada under Mulroney, the man responsible for giving away the free trade Exemption on Water. On the other hand, Reisman addressed the Old Boys’ Club in central Canada, telling them of the riches to be had by selling water to the U.S. His words were recorded in the book, “To the Last Drop”, 1986, by Michael Keating. Keating was a Globe & Mail reporter with an international reputation for the quality of his work.
After reading To the Last Drop, I contacted Keating when we were fighting to stop boondoggle dams in Saskatchewan (at first, oblivious of their role in water diversion plans).
Keating did not say these words. It is what I constructed from attempted conversation with him: Keating suffered terrible attacks because he revealed Reisman’s (the Government’s) servicing of “The Old Boys”. Reisman’s address to the Club, which he obviously did not see being reported, spelt out a gross conflict-of-interest, and the betrayal of Reisman’s duty to Canadians.
The Canadian Establishment and the Corporate interests south of the 49th, were salivating over the “blue gold” released by NAFTA with removal of the Exemption for Water. Four big international engineering companies had formed a consortium because the engineering requirements for the water diversions were enough to keep them all rolling in money. The outrageously expensive infrastructure (large dams, canals, etc.) to deliver the water for “equity interests” and exploitation will be paid for by citizens. Privatize the benefits, and hand-off the costs. Keating spoiled the party. They retaliated with a vengeance.
I am reminded of John Perkins’ The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (2016). Canadians are real dupes if they believe that the American Empire won’t / doesn’t do to us what they have done for decades in developing countries. They get rid of people who won’t play ball with them. As Perkins documents – – hell, they’ve circled around to include the USA in their line of fire, now.
I believe that the attacks had an effect on Keating’s health. I won’t say more – – all you have to do is to look at their decades of assassinations, “plane crashes” of Presidents who resisted the exploitations, the thuggery.
Re Goodale and the Liberals; The Highgate Dam on the North Saskatchewan River near North Battleford is part of the Infrastructure for diversion of water south from Lake Athabasca to the United States (L. Athabasca empties into the Arctic Ocean via the MacKenzie River).
It was the Liberals with Finance Minister Ralph Goodale who set up clever entities in Saskatchewan with access to Federal funding, to develop the Highgate.
Had we not had the experience of fighting and stopping the Meridian Dam on the South Sask, and been networked with Canadians over protection of water, we would not likely have stopped the boondoggle Highgate.
They are close to getting the Site C Dam in place at the head of the Rocky Mountain Trench (Columbia River system). The Trench has long been designated for water diversion to the U.S. Step-by-step, a few setbacks, but there’s always a front on which progress can be made.
Beware the Canada Infrastructure Bank.
And beware the “tweaking” of NAFTA. The very best news was when Trump promised to end NAFTA. NOW, the Canadian “negotiators” can REALLY claim that they had to give away the farm in order to get a deal.
(the link is above – – there are a large number of Comments. Text is captured below)
When I was a child, nearly everybody became ill with chickenpox. Like nearly all kids, when I became ill with it, I stayed home from school about a week and fully recovered.
All that changed in 1995, when the FDA licensed and approved the live attenuated chickenpox (varicella) vaccine in persons aged >12 months. After the vaccine began to be used by most children, the incidence of chickenpox rapidly declined. However, due to continual outbreaks of chickenpox, a second dose of the chickenpox vaccine was added to the childhood immunization schedule in 2006.
Is the chickenpox vaccine effective at significantly lowering the incidence of chickenpox? Yes. Due to the vaccine, there is a significantly lowered incidence of chickenpox.
However, the most important question to ask is, “Has the chickenpox vaccine (along with the other 70 doses of vaccines given) improved the lives of our children and the rest of the population? The answer to that question is easy: No.
Yes, our children have less chickenpox due to the vaccine. However, shingles, a painful reoccurrence of chickenpox, has become an epidemic illness affecting both children and adults. The rapidly increased incidence of shingles is directly related to the use of the chickenpox vaccine. You see, we need chickenpox circulating in the environment to tweak our immune systems in order to stay alert. With the effectiveness of the chickenpox vaccine, our immune systems are no longer stimulated with the varicella virus (the virus that causes both chickenpox and shingles) which allows the reactivation of the chickenpox virus—shingles– to develop. Studies have shown that we spend more money treating shingles than the savings due to the lowered rate of chickenpox. And, shingles can develop into a chronic, debilitating disease and can cause death.
I keep hearing the mantra that vaccines are safe and effective. That is simply not true. Vaccines are associated with a host of adverse effects. In the case of the chickenpox vaccine, a recent study looked at the adverse effects of this therapy.
The study concluded, “We identified no new or unexpected safety concerns for the second-dose varicella vaccine.” (1)
However, when the entire study is read, a different picture is formed. The authors found 14,641 reports (from 2006-2014) to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) after the second dose of the chickenpox vaccine. VAERS is a voluntary reporting system designed to collect information about adverse effects from vaccinations. It is estimated that only 1-10% of all vaccine-related adverse effects are reported to VAERS since it is a voluntary system. (2) Since it is a voluntary system, there is no doubt that VAERS underestimates the adverse effects due to vaccines. I would venture a guess that most doctors who administer vaccines are unaware of VAERS. I know that is true from quizzing many doctors about whether they are aware of VAERS.
According to the study, 3% of the adverse reactions were classified as serious. Serious adverse reactions included anaphylaxis (83), meningitis (5), encephalitis—inflammation of the brain (16), cellulitis (52), chickenpox (6), shingles (6), and death (7).
Keep in mind that only 1-10% of all adverse reactions to vaccines are thought to be reported to VAERS. So, the numbers of adverse reactions may be multiplied by 10-100 to achieve the true numbers. The CDC estimates that around 100 people died per year due to chickenpox infection before the vaccine. However, the vast majority of those that died had other serious medical issues. When you factor in the under-reporting to VAERS, the chickenpox vaccine does not look so good. In fact, it is a perfect example of the metaphor, “Robbing Peter to pay Paul”.
There is no question that the chickenpox vaccine has lowered the incidence of chickenpox. However, the vaccine is not 100% safe as the study’s data shows. However, the real problem with the vaccine is that it does not provide life-long immunity. Therefore, it is logical to assume that we have created a whole generation of young adults who have received the chickenpox vaccine who are not immune to chickenpox. The benefit of getting natural chickenpox infection as a child is that the child is immune for life; not so with the vaccine. Furthermore, a real danger of chickenpox occurs in pregnant mothers and newborn children. Chickenpox in the first trimester of pregnancy can cause congenital varicella syndrome characterized by birth defects. A newborn baby is particularly vulnerable to serous effects from becoming ill with chickenpox. A mother that had a natural infection with chickenpox would normally pass short-term immunity to prevent the infection to her newborn baby. The protection of her baby against chickenpox does not occur in a woman immunized with chickenpox as this passive transfer of immunity does not occur with vaccination.
We would have been better off letting over 95% of our children become ill and recovering from chickenpox. These children would have life-long protection against chickenpox and there would be no worry about congenital varicella syndrome or their newborn children becoming ill with chickenpox.
Folks, we have a mess on our hands. We have immunized our children against a disease that they did not need to be immunized against. There are many studies showing that the immune system is healthier when exposed to and recovers from common childhood illnesses like chicken pox (and measles). Now, because of the chickenpox vaccine, we have an epidemic of shingles and a young population that is not fully immune to chickenpox. And, as I showed your earlier, the vaccine is not 100% safe.
If I knew my children were going to get chickenpox next week, would I recommend the vaccination? No way. I would ensure that they were nutritionally sound, eating a healthy diet and fully hydrated. Then, if they became ill, I would have them stay home from school to rest and I would take care of them until they recovered. And, I would use a lot of vitamin C. After recovering from the illness, my daughters would not have to fear becoming sick with chickenpox when they are pregnant.
There is a risk/benefit ratio for every choice in health care. In the case of the chickenpox vaccine, I think the long-term risk is too high with the chickenpox vaccine. The chickenpox vaccine mess should never have occurred.
(1)Pediatrics. Vol.139, N.3. March 2017
(2)Note: Serious adverse reactions are required to be reported to VAERS by doctors, hospitals, and other vaccine providers. However, it is still thought that only 1-10% of all adverse reactions are reported to VAERS and that includes serious adverse reactions.
Michael Hudson is one of the world’s leading economists. He acts as an economic advisor to governments worldwide including Greece, Iceland, Latvia and China on finance and taxation. www.michael-hudson.com
Joseph Roberts: You wrote The Bubble and Beyond before the 2008 financial crash happened.
Michael Hudson: [There were] articles I’d written since about 2004, basically, and I hadn’t yet put it all together in a book. I’d submitted a book to a number of publishers, The Fictitious Economy, forecasting there was going to be a crash in 2008. One year before at Harper’s, I published all the charts based on this book, showing exactly why it was going to happen. Then it happened right on schedule.
JR: What causes bubbles like that?
MH: Debt. The reason bubbles burst is that they’re financed by debt. People will lend more and more and more against real estate or companies and the cost of servicing this debt, the interest and amortization, exceeds the cash flow, the profit or income that’s being earned, and there’s a break in the chain of payments. The tendency of debt in every economy is to grow exponentially. Every interest rate is a doubling time. It can be thought of as that. And the debts grow independently of the economy.
When debts grow faster than the economy’s ability to pay, there’s a crash. That’s why the booms, the build-up and expansion of a business cycle are rather slow, but the crash comes very quickly. So it’s really not a cycle at all. It’s not like Schumpeter described in his book on business cycles: a very smooth sine curve. It’s a ratchet effect.
They’ll pay all of the increased rental value to the bank as interest because they’re hoping for a capital gain, because that’s where the action has been for the last 50 years in the US. Not income. Most people have got rich, not by saving their earnings, but they’ve got rich by the capital gain, which includes middle class families that got rich, not by saving their wages, but by their house appreciating.
JR: Why did Wall Street get bailed out in 2008 rather than Main Street? The US House and the Senate first initially rejected the bail-out. What happened after their first vote?
MH: A lot of pressure was put on the Republicans to say, “Wait a minute, most of your campaign contributions come from the financial sector, the FIRE sector: Finance, Insurance and Real Estate. Who are you going to be for, the voters or your campaign contributors?” And the politicians said, “Our campaign contributors. They’re our constituency.” Or, as Hillary Clinton’s people called them, “the donor class” – the large financial firms and monopoly real estate investors. So President Obama, essentially influenced by his mentor Wall Streeter Robert Rubin, decided to save the banks, not the economy.
JR: Vancouver, Toronto and other Canadian cities have these huge, expensive bank towers housing the Royal, TD, Montreal and Scotia banks, other financial corporate palaces and now even Trump Towers. But for the majority of people, there is a housing crisis. Housing has drastically changed. In 1957, my parents
bought a brand-new, two-story, three-bedroom home in Coquitlam for $13,000. It had a big back yard where we put in apple trees, a large front yard and a double car garage. Within three years, my parents had it paid off. They both worked; my dad was a machinist and my mother a schoolteacher. We were a working class family. Our children can’t do that today.
MH: That’s right. People think that if their grandparents and parents could somehow buy a house and it would go up in value, that would be their retirement fund. Since WWll, that’s how the middle class was essentially created. They often made more money on house appreciation in a year than they would make working for a whole year. And it’s gone up. In some cases, they made more on the house appreciation than all of their salaries for a lifetime.
That’s come to an end and people don’t want to acknowledge that era is over. Already, the economy is fully loaned-up. That’s the word that Wall Street uses. “Loaned-up” means there’s no more debt it can carry. All of the surplus income that families have, over and above basic subsistence needs, is paid to the banks and the real estate sector, the FIRE sector. There’s no more leeway in the economy to grow because it’s all been pledged for debt service. The growth is over. That’s why since 2008, the US economy has been shrinking, except for the wealthiest five percent. The bottom 95% have actually shrunk.
JR: Last year, the amount of capital gains in housing exceeded all of the labour combined in Vancouver. How did that occur?
MH: It happened because banks are willing to lend so much more money that the bank loans bid up the price of property. Property is worth as much as a bank lends against it, and it’s true that foreign investors have come – speculators Blackstone, I’m told, from America. The hedge fund was bought here. Chinese and European investors have all been bidding up the price of commercial property and luxury buildings.
But for the rest of Vancouver, [with regard to] the vast majority of buildings and houses, banks have lent more and more money because they don’t particularly care if the occupants go broke. If the occupants have to borrow so much to buy a home in Vancouver, over a million dollars for many single homes in Vancouver, well, in order to pay debt service on a million dollars, you have to earn about $100,000 a year. If they don’t earn that, if they go under, the banks will say, “Never mind, we’re not going to lose a penny on that because the land is more valuable.”
And if enough families can go broke and be foreclosed on, the banks will then say, “Okay, look, we have a big parcel of land. We’ve got the homeowners off. They’ve had to leave because of debt. Now, we can be building another great big office building.”
JR: How does foreign debt and foreign capital affect our housing and economy? Japan once held the most US capital debt, mostly in US treasury bonds, and now it’s China. These debt-rich countries go to the US to cash in that debt. They want to buy a super-port or Standard Oil of California and the US says, “No it is not in our national interest.” How do they unload their US treasury bonds? Does Canada accept US treasury bonds from China and other countries as currency?
MH: Well, yes. They’re certainly marketable and any country is willing to buy treasury bonds at pretty much the market price. Maybe a teeny margin below. The US, as Obama said, is the “exceptional country.” What does that mean? That means we don’t have to obey international law. International law is for other people. We’re the exception to international law. We’re the only country in the world that doesn’t have to obey international law.
We don’t obey any foreign court. We don’t obey the international courts. We don’t obey the Geneva Convention. Because we’re the “exceptional country.” We insist that other countries open their market to American investors to buy their commanding heights and then privatize them and treat their infrastructure as monopolies. But we won’t let China even buy gas stations in the US when it wanted to buy a set of oil distributors on the west coast. This is the double standard and it’s why China and Russia and Iran and other countries said it’s a guaranteed losing game. “They want to buy us but they won’t let us buy anything.”
JR: If a country doesn’t play along with the US empire, the empire strikes back.
MH: Yes. As it did in Chile.
JR: America has a list of countries that won’t comply to their unipolar world currency. Would it make sense to have more than one international currency system in the world?
MH: That is happening. That would be called a ‘multi-polar world’ and that’s exactly what countries out of the US are saying. That’s why China and Russia are moving closer together. They have a bank clearing system to replace the American/European bank clearing system to clear bank transfers in case the US says they will wreck their banking economy by unplugging them electronically from SWIFT system (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication). They’re having their own systems.
Other countries are having to protect themselves by withdrawing from the globalization order. That’s exactly why you have Brexit in England. The French election debated this. And north Italy parties are threatening to withdraw from the Euro Zone. The most active people supporting withdrawal from the Euro are the Portuguese because so many Portuguese are having to emigrate to Brazil where they speak the same language. Spain. And of course Greece.
So America, in being the “exceptional country,” with its double standard, says, “If you don’t do what we tell you, we’re going to treat you like we treated Gaddafi or Saddam or Assad.” Other people can say we want to decouple as quickly as we can. Globalization really means a US double standard of military, economic and financial control while other countries are trying to survive because, for them, this is really a new feudalism.
JR: So what’s different today from 30, 40 or 50 years ago in terms of the housing situation?
MH: Well, here’s the issue. Vancouver is part of a naturally rich British Columbia territory. It’s well situated geographically. Who is all this natural wealth going to benefit? Is it going to benefit the citizens who live in Vancouver or are they going to let one percent of the population – the political insiders, the real estate developers and bankers – siphon all of this rising property and rental value of real estate, just take it for themselves and shift the tax burden on to the wage earners and the businesses? That’s what’s happening now.
The fact is that if Vancouver acted in the way that Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and the classical economists urged, they would say, “Look, all this rising land value should be in the tax base.” Suppose this vast amount – really, I think a trillion dollars by now over the last decade of increased land value – suppose that instead of leaving it to landlords to be paid out as interest to the banks, this had been the tax base. Vancouver could’ve supplied public services freely. It could have free transportation, free schooling. There’s no need for Vancouver to have a sales tax. There’s no need for it to have an income tax because these taxes raise the cost of living and, therefore, raise the cost of doing business.
When Vancouver lets the real estate developers and the banks benefit from all this rise in the price of land that increases the cost of living to new buyers, that means you’re priced out of the market. In order to get a job in Vancouver and live here, you have to earn over $100,000 a year. In other parts of the world, people are able to do the same job for much less because they haven’t had a real estate boom. So it turns out the real estate boom that people think is a sign of prosperity and wealth is actually impoverishing Vancouver by driving it into debt. In order to buy into the real estate boom, new buyers have to take on an enormous new debt and the result will leave Vancouver debt strapped.
JR: People are pressured into playing the game.
MH: They really believe it’s still possible to get rich by going into debt, and for 50 years after WWll ended in 1945, that was the case. You could buy a house and as the economy got richer, the value of the house would go up and cities built more parks and schools and urban amenities. The value would go up, but all of that has now reached a limit.
When I first went to work on Wall Street, with the Citizens Savings Bank And Trust Company, basically banks would lend mortgages only if the cost of servicing a mortgage absorbed 25% of their income. If the mortgage costs were more than a quarter of your income, the bank would say, “Sorry, you can’t afford it.” Well, now in the US, almost all residential mortgages below super castles are government-guaranteed up to 43% of the wage earner’s income, of the borrower’s income.
Now, just imagine if you have to pay 43% of your income for a mortgage or for rent. In NYC, it’s common to pay 40% of your income for rent. You may also have to pay another 10% of your income for other debt – credit card, student loan, auto debts. There’s about a 15% automatic wage withholding for a very regressive social security tax and a healthcare tax. Then about 10-15% more regular income taxes and sales taxes. People don’t realize that only about 25-30% of the average family budget in America can be spent on goods and services. So how is the economy going to afford to buy what it produces? It can’t. Most people in NYC cannot afford to go out and eat in restaurants anymore so all over the city restaurants are closing down. In fact, all over the US. In March, it was announced that corporate and business bankruptcies are way, way up. The trend is for bankruptcies.
The Barnes and Noble where I live in New York has gone out of business. The bookstores I used to know are all out of business. Near NY University, on 8th Street, the main street, which used to be the street for bookstores and other big shopping, half of the storefronts are all boarded up, for rent, empty, going out of business.
And in Vancouver, the first day I was here, we walked down a big major street with wonderful art galleries going out of business. Other stores for rent, going out of business. Other buildings obviously had just been renovated, empty, nobody in them. So the effect is to empty out Vancouver.
JR: And who profits from that?
MH: Ultimately, the banks profit because most of the real estate is bought on credit. As I said, the motto of real estate investors is “rent is for paying interest.” They’ll pay all of the increased rental value to the bank as interest because they’re hoping for a capital gain because that’s where the action has been for the last 50 years in the US. Not income. Most people have got rich, not by saving their earnings, but by the capital gain, which includes middle class families that got rich by their house appreciating. That’s why groups that are
left out of home ownership have missed this whole capital gain bit.
So you’re having a bifurcated economy: an economy between a generation that inherits trust funds and is able to sort of live on money that their wealthy parents have made in the financial real estate sector and people who don’t inherit trust funds and are literally the disinherited. This polarization is going to widen and widen and become increasingly a political crisis.
JR: The inequality gap that’s occurring is astounding.
MH: And that should be what economics is all about. But if you look at all of the economic models, they’re all about equilibrium. The pretense – and this is junk economics – is that if an economy gets out of balance, automatic stabilizers return it to equilibrium. The reality is just the opposite: once an economy gets out of balance, it tends to veer further and further out of balance. Mathematicians call that hysteresis. Until there’s a crash.
JR: And there will be continual crashes because…
MH: Because they’ll get bigger and bigger and these economic crashes will be turned into political crashes.
JR: Thank you so much for this insightful conversation.
MH: Well, it’s been really good to be in Vancouver because I’m impressed by how many people really do understand the problems with finance and real estate. Obviously, there’s a lot of frustration in it not getting through politically. So the problem is how do they translate this economic understanding that things are out of balance into a political policy and movement that will put it back in balance?
And it can be put back in balance by a combination of fiscal policy, tax policy and financial policy. But it requires an educated electorate.
“If the State can tag, track down and force individuals to be injected with biologicals of known and unknown toxicity today, then there will be no limit on which individual freedoms the state can take away in the name of the greater good tomorrow.” — Barbara Loe Fisher, National Vaccine Information Center
by Marco Caceres
If you have ever wondered what the opposite of love is, let me tell you… it’s not hate. It’s fear.12Yes, I’m aware of the slightly different and perhaps more popular take on that idea by Elie Wiesel: “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”3 I like both of them, but I lean toward the former. So what breeds fear?
What we have in the evolving, ever more contentious debate over vaccines and vaccine policy in the United States is a lot of fear, fueled by a lot of ignorance. Ignorance about vaccine history, science and the ethics of mandatory vaccination laws. That’s bad enough. But what’s worse is the product of that ignorance-bred fear.
All too often, the by-product of fear is violence or the call to violence—which is what we’re starting to see in newspaper and magazine articles written by those who oppose and want to marginalize anyone who publicly criticizes the safety of vaccine policies or advocates for the human right to exercise informed consent to medical risk taking, which includes the right to make a voluntary decision about use of vaccines.
That’s right, each of us has the basic human right to be informed about any medical intervention a doctor proposes to perform on us or our minor children, and we have the right to consent or not to consent to that intervention. According to Barbara Loe Fisher, co-founder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), informed consent is an “overarching ethical principle in the practice of medicine for which vaccination should be no exception.”
We maintain this is a responsible and ethically justifiable position to take in light of the fact that vaccination is a medical intervention performed on a healthy person that has the inherent ability to result in the injury or death of that healthy person.5
It is only common sense that each of us should have the right to protect the biological integrity of our own body and those of our children. Why, specifically? Because, as Fisher has often and passionately argued:
If the State can tag, track down and force individuals to be injected with biologicals of known and unknown toxicity today, then there will be no limit on which individual freedoms the state can take away in the name of the greater good tomorrow.67
The latest example of the disturbing trend of prominent doctors, attorneys and journalists calling for severe punishment, including physical violence, against people refusing the medical intervention known as vaccination is a recent editorial titled “Preying on parents’ fear” published in the Boston Herald on May 8, 2017.8The article, written by the “editorial staff,” is yet another in a long series of attack pieces published by the mainstream media attacking freedom of thought, speech and conscience when it comes to vaccination. It ends:
Vaccines don’t cause autism. Measles can kill. And lying to vulnerable people about the health and safety of their children ought to be a hanging offense.5
A “hanging offense”? The editorial staff, led by editorial page editor Rachelle Cohen,910 is calling for people who criticize vaccine safety to be executed? Really?
Should we be surprised and appalled by the revelation of a major U.S. newspaper stooping to incite violence against Americans advocating for safer vaccines and more humane vaccine policies and the inclusion of informed consent protections in the U.S. vaccination system? Sadly, it’s not the first time threats have been made. In March, the magazine Scientific American published an article by Peter Hotez, MD of Texas Children’s Hospital also inciting violence against people who do not agree with current government vaccine policies.1112 Dr. Hotez stated:
An American antivaccine movement is building and we need to take steps now to snuff it out.1011
In 2015, USA Today published a column by Alex Berezow advocating that “anti-vax” parents be imprisoned.13 At the time, that seemed to be a draconion proposal, but certainly less so compared to today’s calls for execution. My, we’ve come a long way in two short years. I wonder what things will look like in America two years from now. In a 2015 commentary titled “The Vaccine Culture War in America: Are You Ready?” NVIC’s Fisher contemplated an America of the future that resembles nothing like the America we’ve known:
Will laws be passed to not only deny you a public education but prevent you from obtaining health insurance; entering a doctor’s office, hospital or retirement home; boarding a bus, plane or train; buying a ticket for a movie or football game; shopping in a store, getting a driver’s license, filing your taxes or otherwise participating in and moving freely in society unless you show proof you have gotten every government recommended vaccine? Will your healthy unvaccinated children be taken from you and will you be fined and thrown in prison? Will public health officials with police power knock on your door one day and take you to a quarantine camp or forcibly administer vaccines to you and your children without your voluntary informed consent?14
Is that the kind of future we’re facing? And for what? To allay the ignorant fears of a few irresponsible people who have been lent media platforms to incite collective fear within our society and violence toward a minority group?
Bertrand Russell warned: “Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.”15
Be careful with this path, America. Because once it is taken, there may be no turning back.
Authoritarian governments, under the control of tyrants, hold political prisoners without bringing charges. You ain’t allowed to do that in a democracy.
Laws become tools for silencing dissent when Governments can hold people hostage with the threat of prosecution, but never proceed to actual laying of charges.
The Prosecutor’s Office in Sweden – – FIVE years and no charges? Give me a break. They are puppets for someone, certainly not for democracy in Sweden.
So what’s OUR role? The citizens of Sweden aren’t doing their job in holding their Gov’t to account. I think we can and should help publicize the situation. It’s the old story – – who will defend you when your turn comes?
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
The Australian national has not left the Ecuadorean embassy in London for nearly half a decade. Reuters
Ecuador has voiced concern over the “serious lack of progress” by the Swedish government in dealing with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
It said there had been a “serious failure” by Sweden’s prosecutor to complete an inquiry into sexual assault allegations dating back to 2010.
Mr Assange has been confined to the Ecuadorean embassy, where he has asylum, for nearly five years.
He fears he will be extradited to the US if he leaves the building.
The Australian national is concerned the US may seek his arrest over Wikileaks’ release of 500,000 secret military files on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
The sex assault accusations – which Mr Assange denies – relate to a visit he made to Stockholm to give a lecture in 2010.
He is accused of raping a woman, named in legal papers as SW, at her home in August that year. But Mr Assange says the sex was consensual and believes the allegations are politically motivated.
In December last year, Sweden’s chief prosecutor travelled to London to question the Wikileaks founder for the first time over the case, although no details of the meeting were released.
In a letter sent to the Swedish government this week, the Ecuadorean authorities accused the chief prosecutor there of a “lack of initiative”.
It also raised recent comments from members of US President Donald Trump’s administration on the case, including CIA boss Mike Pompeo who described Wikileaks as a “hostile intelligence service”, suggesting this constituted an “obvious risk” for Mr Assange.
Last month, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said arresting Mr Assange was a “priority”. However, there was no official confirmation from the US justice department at the time about impending charges.
British police say he will be arrested if he leaves the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he is beyond the reach of the UK authorities.
Part of the Swedish investigations were dropped in 2015 because of a statute of limitations.
Newly-released government documents expose the privatization plans
at the heart of the Liberal’s proposed infrastructure bank
The Globe and Mail is reporting on government briefings that show the Canada Infrastructure Bank has been designed with one-sided advice that comes almost exclusively from the corporations and private investors, including pension funds, that will profit from it.
Read: Private-sector role in Canada Infrastructure Bank raises conflict issues (subscription required)
Drawing on documents obtained through Access to Information, the Globe describes months of meetings where members of Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s corporate-heavy Advisory Council on Economic Growth “worked directly with cabinet ministers, senior officials and political aides on the themes of the 2017 budget and plans for a Canada Infrastructure Bank.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Liberal cabinet ministers worked closely with the massive private investment firm BlackRock in the lead-up to a key November 2016 meeting, “to ensure the message cabinet ministers delivered at the closed-door event would be what BlackRock’s clients wanted to hear.”
The revelations help explain why the Liberals have broken their election promise of a bank that would provide low-cost lending to municipalities. Now, the bank is relying on expensive private financing. Legislation to create the bank, buried in the government’s omnibus budget bill, is being debated in Parliament.
The internal documents also highlight how Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec CEO Michael Sabia is embedded in shaping a bank that the Caisse hopes to profit from through a privatized light-rail project in Montreal.
Risks of unsolicited bids
Potential conflicts of interest could multiply. The bank will receive and evaluate unsolicited private-sector proposals to privatize infrastructure. The bank’s board is forbidden to include representatives of federal, provincial or municipal governments.
The risks of unsolicited bids are raised in documents obtained by the Canadian Press. CP is reporting on a Finance Department briefing note warning that unsolicited pitches come with many problems, including “a lack of transparency in the selection and implementation of projects, avoidance of competitive and due-diligence processes and the acceptance of poor quality bids – either in design or execution.”
Researchers at former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page’s think-tank have also weighed in on the bank. An Institute for Fiscal Studies and Democracy briefing concludes there’s no clear business case for private financing of our infrastructure.
The business case for the current vision of the CIB “is not compelling, as it has the potential to increase overall costs to taxpayers while privatizing the most high-return, low-risk infrastructure assets. So, why the CIB? We don’t know, and ‘just because innovation’ is not a good enough answer,” write researchers Azfar Ali Khan and Randall Bartlett.
The report notes that only the most profitable, least-risky projects will be privatized.
“Since it is Canadian taxpayers that will pay for these assets regardless of whether they are publicly or privately owned, this does beg the question: Why would taxpayers sell their most valuable assets to the private sector,” write the researchers.
CUPE economist Toby Sanger has highlighted these concerns, and proposed a public way forward, in his recent Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives paper, Creating a Canadian infrastructure bank in the public interest. CUPE has warned about the Liberal’s “bank of privatization” since it first surfaced, last year.
You might appreciate this addition to your deliberations:
Popular belief in the U.S. is that the vaccine manufacturers cannot be sued for injuries caused by their products. As with vaccines in general: the belief is in the process of being disproven. Which has implications for you.
C-87 is coercive: it effectively removes the “choice” element of the vaccination schedule. Which then makes the Government of Ontario responsible for injuries.
Through Bill C-87, the Legislature is, to me, clearly putting the foundation in place for: setting up the Government for very significant lawsuits, AND, very angry tax-payers who will be paying the bills for compensation.
One of the problems for you: you likely don’t have a clue about the amount of injury we are talking about. The media doesn’t talk about it. Big Pharma has a lot of money; its interests are served if you are uninformed.
The indemnity in the U.S. is through the 1986 Childhood Vaccine Injury Act. More than $3 billion of American tax-payers’ money has been paid to injured parties, on behalf of the vaccine manufacturers (the Government pays). The Vaccines Injury Court makes the determinations and pay-outs. $3 billion is the tip of an iceberg. It doesn’t cover all the parents who were not able to access, or did not know about the Court (intentionally not publicized). It only includes parents who found the Court AND who could afford to hire a lawyer. In many cases, the awards received were decimated by the legal bills. Families and the injured, sometimes dead, child face a lifetime of trying to cope with the aftermath of the “injury”.
Some astute people realized: Adult vaccines are not part of the 1986 federal law. The law shielding vaccine companies only applies to childhood vaccines.
Right now, in process, lawyers and their clients are suing Merck, the manufacturer, for injuries incurred from Merck’s shingles vaccine, Zostavax. Among the claimed injuries: contracting shingles; blindness in one eye; partial paralysis; brain damage; death. The Merck shingles vaccine is only for adults.
I recently talked to a friend: she and her husband got the pneumonia vaccination. They both then came down with pneumonia. That is not an uncommon occurrence with vaccines. In some cases, live viruses are used. This woman was extremely angry and said, “Never again.”
I phoned the Ontario Legislature Library and offered to send a copy of current literature coming out of the U.S., along with on-line access – – MPPs or staff could access it through the Library. The offer was forwarded to the Acquisitions Committee, as I understand.
Best wishes in your deliberations.
Forced injections (vaccinations) are not only an issue of
HEALTH (safety of the vaccines, the number, the age at injection, the ingredients, the combined effects)
INFORMED CONSENT (the information that should be provided is not)
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Major media aren’t giving this story the coverage it deserves. I certainly am.
Short question: Can a person sue a US vaccine manufacturer?
Short answer: Under certain conditions, yes.
Note: I’m not framing this article as professional legal advice. I’m reporting what I’ve been able to dig up on a very explosive issue so far. I’ve communicated with two lawyers and a law professor. I’ve been pointed to an important passage on a federal web page.
Right now, lawyers and their clients are suing Merck, the manufacturer, for injuries incurred from Merck’s shingles vaccine, Zostavax.
Among the claimed injuries: contracting shingles; blindness in one eye; partial paralysis; brain damage; death.
One of the plaintiffs’ attorneys told me he has already filed two cases in California. Each case has 50 plaintiffs. He states he has 5000 clients waiting in the wings. There are other attorneys with other plaintiffs.
But wait. Isn’t there a federal law that bars people from suing vaccine manufacturers?
Isn’t that law the 1986 Childhood Vaccine Injury Act? Doesn’t it demand that people go to a special federal “vaccine tribunal/court” and plead for compensation from the government?
Aren’t vaccine manufacturers shielded from liability for causing injury?
Well, it turns out there are exceptions to the rule.
Adult vaccines are not part of the 1986 federal law.
The law shielding vaccine companies only applies to childhood vaccines.
The Merck shingles vaccine is only for adults.
The special federal “vaccine tribunal/court” is established as part of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). This is where parents who claim their children were injured by vaccines must go, to ask for compensation from the government—not from vaccine manufacturers.
But on a web page of the US Dept. of Health and Human Services, under “Health Resources and Services Administration,” we see “Frequently Asked Questions.” And we read this rather opaque statement:
“In order for a category of vaccines to be covered, the category of vaccines must be recommended for routine administration to children by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…” [Note: On this clumsy FAQ web page, you have to click on “View Answer” under the following question to see it: “If a new vaccine product is licensed, what needs to occur before the vaccine will be covered by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP)?”]
What does “covered” mean? It means “covered exclusively by the federal compensation program.” It means a parent who believes her child has been injured by a vaccine goes to the special federal “court.” The vaccine must be FOR CHILDREN. However, an adult seeking compensation for vaccine injury, FROM AN ADULT VACCCINE, would, with a lawyer, argue his case in ordinary state or federal court. That adult would sue the vaccine manufacturer.
This message from the federal government is clear. The ban against suing vaccine manufacturers only applies to vaccines recommended for children (and pregnant women). The ban does not apply to adult vaccines.
Naturally, adults are going to be interested in seeing a list of adult vaccines, because in the case of vaccine-injury, these people can and must go to ordinary state or federal courts and sue the vaccine manufacturer. And they can sue for punitive damages. This is what scares vaccine manufacturers. Punitive-damage money can soar into the stratosphere.
Here, from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is the list of adult vaccines: Influenza; Td/Tdap; MMR; VAR; HZV (shingles); HPV Female; HPV male; PCV13; PPSV23; HepA; HepB; MENACWY/MPSV4; MenB; Hib.
However, some of the vaccines on this list are recommended for both adults and children. When a vaccine is recommended by the CDC for both adults and children, adults seeking compensation for vaccine-injury would not be permitted to argue their cases in ordinary courts and sue the manufacturer. Instead, they would have to go to the special federal vaccine “court” and try to obtain compensation from the government.
It will be very important to see what happens as these lawsuits against Merck and their shingles vaccine move forward. Many tactics will be deployed. Right now, in one suit filed in Philadelphia, Merck is arguing for a change of venue. Change of venue often signals an attempt to find a more friendly court.
We’re in the beginning stages of a struggle.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys have high hurdles to climb. Among them: causation. How do you prove a vaccine “caused” an injury? I’m not talking about truth, common sense, or even conventional medical standards. I’m talking about legal proofs, and what is admissible in court. That territory is a Twilight Zone of complexity.
Lawsuits for vaccine injury, against one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world (Merck), are sprouting like weeds. Will judges find a reason to cut them off, or will they proceed to trial? Will these lawsuits inspire other attorneys and their clients to sue vaccine manufacturers for injury from other adult vaccines?
Is this going to build to a tsunami?
(To read about Jon’s mega-collection, Power Outside The Matrix, click here.)
The author of three explosive collections, THE MATRIX REVEALED, EXIT FROM THE MATRIX, and POWER OUTSIDE THE MATRIX, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. He maintains a consulting practice for private clients, the purpose of which is the expansion of personal creative power. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world. You can sign up for his free NoMoreFakeNews emails here or his free OutsideTheRealityMachine emails here.