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The IMF Hopes to Save the Banks---By Sacrificing the Economy
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The IMF foretells of vulnerable banks in US and EU while enabling unsustainable debt-leveraging, says economist Michael Hudson.

KIM BROWN, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Kim Brown, in Baltimore. With the worst of the great recession, supposedly, behind us, economic analysts still see signs that we’re not yet completely out of the woods. A new report released Wednesday by the International Monetary Fund shows that some banks in the United States and Europe may not be strong enough to survive another downturn, even with States assistance.

Joining us from New York is Michael Hudson. Michael is a Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. His latest book is Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy. Michael, thanks again for joining us.

MICHAEL HUDSON: Its good to be here. But we can’t get out of the woods.

BROWN: Okay, let’s get into that. The IMF report on financial stability says, in spite of banks being stronger now than before the economic crisis of 2007-2008, about twenty-five percent of US banks and about a third of European banks are too weak to even benefit from a potential rise in interest rates and any recovery aid, should the global economy take a downward turn. But before we get into any specific questions about the health of banks, Michael, are we still in a recession or are we firmly in a recovery now?

HUDSON: We are not in a recovery and we’re not really in a traditional recession. People think of a business cycle, which is a boom followed by a recession and then automatic stabilizers revive the economy. But this time we can’t revive. The reason is that every recovery since 1945 has begun with a higher, and higher level of debt. The debt is so high now, that since 2008 we’ve been in what I call, debt deflation. People have to pay so much money to the banks that they don’t have enough money to buy the goods and services they produce. So there’s not much new investment, there’s not new employment (except minimum-wage “service” jobs), markets are shrinking, and people are defaulting. So many companies can’t pay their banks.

The banks’ product is debt. They try to tell customers that “debts are good for you,” but the customers can’t afford any more debt, so there’s no way the banks can continue their current business plan. In fact, there’s no way that banks can be paid everything that they’re owed. That’s what the IMF doesn’t follow through its analysis, by saying, “Look, the banks are broke because the financial system is broke; and the financial system is broke because the whole idea of trying to get rich by running into debt doesn’t work.”

It was a false model. So really, we’re at the end of long cycle that began in 1945, loading the economy with debt. We’re not going to be able to get out of it until you write down the debts. But that’s what the IMF believes is unthinkable. It can’t say that, because it’s supposed to represent the interest of the banks. So all the IMF can say is to wring their hands over the fact that the banks won’t make money even if there is a recovery.

But there really isn’t a recovery, and no signs of it on the horizon, because people have to pay the banks. It’s a vicious circle – or rather, a downward spiral. Basically, the IMF economists are just throwing up their hands and admitting that they don’t know what to do, given the limits of their tunnel vision.

BROWN: Well, Michael, help us figure out why growth has been so weak over these past eight to six years or so.

HUDSON: If you take the average family budget – and I’ve said this on your show many times –we can go through the numbers. If you have to pay about forty to forty-three percent of your income for housing, you also have to pay fifteen percent of your paycheck for the FICA for Social Security wage withholding. You have to pay medical care, you have to pay the banks for your credit card debt, student loans. Then you only have about twenty-five or thirty-five percent, maybe one-third of your salary to buy goods and services. That’s all.

The problem here is that the way you get a job is with a company that sells goods and services. The companies aren’t hiring, because consumers don’t have enough money to buy the goods and services.

We’re in a chronic debt-deflation. There’s no way we can recover unless you write down the debts. And that’s what the IMF basically is implying (and it was explicit regarding Greece), but its not spelling it out, because that’s not what can be said in polite company.

BROWN: Michael the headline from MarketWatch about this IMF report, it reads, “Forget too big to fail. The big concern is banks too weak to survive.” If big banks almost capsized the global financial system, are weaker banks actually better for consumers?

HUDSON: Banks that are very narrow and do what banks used to do (before President Clinton abolished Glass-Steagall in 1999). Small banks that lend to consumers are fine. Most banks – with Deutsche Bank at the top of the spectrum here – have decided that they can’t make money lending to barrowers anymore, so they’re going to the second business plan: They lend money to casino capitalists. That is, to people who want to gamble on derivatives.


A derivative is a bet on whether a stock, or a bond or a real estate asset, is going to go up or down. There’s a winner and a loser. It’s like betting on a horserace. So the biggest bank lending for gambles – not for real production, not for investment, but just for gambles – was Deutsche Bank. Borrowers borrowed from Deutsche Bank to gamble.

What’s the best gamble in the world, right now? Its betting that Deutsche Bank stock is going to go down. Short sellers borrowed money from their banks to place bets that Deutsche Bank stock is going to go down. Now, it’s wringing its hands and saying, “Oh the speculators are killing us.” But it’s Deutsche Bank and the other banks that are providing the money to the speculators to bet on credit.

BROWN: Michael, the IMF report says that in the Eurozone, if the Eurozone governments could help banks dump their bad loans, it would have a positive effect on bank capital. What would be the effect on consumers in the EU economy, at large, if banks were able to just dump these bad loans?

HUDSON: Its really very simple mathematics. You have to abolish pension plans. You have to abolish social spending. You have to raise taxes. You have to have at least fifty percent of the European population emigrate, either to Russia or China. You would have to have mass starvation. Very simple. That’s the price that the Eurozone thinks is well worth paying. It’s the price that it thought Greece is worth paying. To save the banks, you would have to turn the entire Eurozone into Greece.

You’ll have to have the governments sell off all of their public domains; sell off their railroads, sell off their public land. You’ll essentially have to introduce neo-feudalism. You’ll have to roll the clock of history back a thousand years, and reduce the European population to debt slavery. It’s as simple a solution as the Eurozone has imposed on Greece. And it’s a solution that the leaders and the banks are urging for responsible economists to promote for the population at large.

BROWN: Let’s talk about the other little nugget of information released by the IMF about debt. Global debt has now reached about a hundred and fifty-two trillion dollars. This includes government debt, household debt, non-financial firms’ debt. What does all this debt mean for the global financial system and for everyday people here, Michael?

HUDSON: It means that the only way people can repay the debt is by cutting their living standards very drastically. It means agreeing to shift their pension plans from defined benefit plans – when you know what you’re going to get – into just “defined contribution plans,” where you put money in, like into a roach motel, and you don’t know what’s coming out.

To save the banks from making losses that would wipe out their net worth, you’ll have to get rid of Social Security. It means that you’ll essentially have to abolish government and turn it over to the banking system to run, with an idea that the role of governments is to extract income from the economy to pay to the bondholders and the banks.

When you say “paying the banks,” what they really mean is paying the bank bondholders. They are basically the One Percent. What you’re really seeing right now in the IMF report, in this growth of debt, is the One Percent of the population owns maybe three-quarters of all this debt. This means that there’s a choice: Either you can save the economy, or you can save the One Percent from losing a single penny.

Every government, from the Obama administration right through to Angela Merkel, the Eurozone and the IMF, promise to save the banks, not the economy. No price is too high to pay to try to make the financial system go on a little bit longer. But ultimately it can’t be saved, because of the mathematics that are involved. Debts grow and grow. And the more they grow, the more they shrink the economy. When you shrink the economy, you shrink the ability to pay the debts, so it’s all an illusion that the system can be saved. The question is, how long are people going to be willing to live in this illusion?

BROWN: That was my next question for you. Not only how long are people going to be able to live in this illusion, but how much longer is this illusion actually sustainable before we see another collapse of economies around the world? Is this something that is impending, that we should just be expecting to come, we should be readying ourselves for this?

HUDSON: We’re still in the collapse that began after 2008. There’s not a new collapse, there hasn’t been a recovery. Wages for the ninety-nine percent have gone down, steadily, since 2008. They’ve gone down especially for the bottom twenty-five percent of the population. This means that they’ve gone down especially for Blacks and Hispanics and other blue-collar workers. Their net worth has actually turned negative, and they don’t have enough money to get by.

In fact, one of the big consulting firms just did a study of the millennials. Ernst and Young did a study and they found seventy-eight percent of millennials are worried about not having enough good paying job opportunity to pay off their student loans. Seventy-four percent can’t pay the health care if they get sick. Seventy-nine percent don’t have enough money to live when they retire. So, already, we’re having a whole generation that’s coming on, not only here but also in Europe, that isn’t able to get good-paying jobs. The only way it can live the life they were promised is if they have rich enough parents who have given them a trust fund.

BROWN: We’ve been speaking with Michael Hudson. Michael is a Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. His latest book is Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy. Michael, you said you had another book coming out, is that right?


HUDSON: Yes, later this month. It’ll be J is for Junk Economics. And it’s a review of why the economists promise that somehow we’ll recover. Why this is basically junk, and why in order to be an economist these days, you have to participate in this fairytale that somehow we can recover and still make the banks rich. And it is a fairytale. J is for Junk Economics is about why it won’t work.

BROWN: Coming to a bookstore, near you, later this year. Michael, we appreciate you lending your time and expertise to us, as always. Thank you.

HUDSON: It was good to be here.

BROWN: And thank you for watching The Real News Network.

(Republished from TRNN by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Economics • Tags: Banking Industry, IMF 
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  1. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    “When you say “paying the banks,” what they really mean is paying the bank bondholders.”

    Not to get all technical, but banks don’t issue bonds. Tier 1 Common Equity or any of the myriad other capitalization metrics don’t include bonds as capital. Unfortunately, bonds are owned by pension funds and other entities (college endowments) that aren’t the 1%.

    As far as the larger point. Debt deflation? We are in a long term secular deflationary trend, but nowhere close to the classic 1930’s debt deflation. The turning point was the recent collapse in basic materials prices. Oil @ $40/bbl. And on and on.

    US banks are very well capitalized. European banks, unfortunately, have unhealthy amounts of European sovereign debt.

    The US economy is much healthier than it was during 1970’s stagflation.

    It’s all a matter of opinion. With the collapse of oil prices, I think a lot of people finally got religion regarding deflationary pressures. Until people quit talking about the inevitable collapse of the US Dollar due to printing money, they really haven’t got it. I don’t want to have that discussion. If you need to discuss it, then there is no point in discussing it.

    • Replies: @Rehmat
  2. hmm, seems like before the bubble bursts for the final time, get as much as we can out of the current situation and save ourselves.

    everyone for themselves. be smart. sucks for people who can’t take advantage before everything goes to shit.

  3. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    The question is, how long are people going to be willing to live in this illusion?

    The answer is the same as ever: so long as they are made to. This is the answer to the whole spectrum of possibly inquiry into what “people” “will”.

  4. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    HUDSON: We’re still in the collapse that began after 2008. There’s not a new collapse, there hasn’t been a recovery. Wages for the ninety-nine percent have gone down, steadily, since 2008. They’ve gone down especially for the bottom twenty-five percent of the population. This means that they’ve gone down especially for Blacks and Hispanics and other blue-collar workers. Their net worth has actually turned negative, and they don’t have enough money to get by.

    Neither they do the brainpower and knowledge to stop furnishing with their electoral support their exploiters.

    The strategists that be have successfully, and easily, set these people on self-harm mode.

  5. Rehmat says:

    IMF like the WB, UN, and NATO are connected to serve the interests of the 1% fat-cats against the remaining 99% ‘have-nots’.

    Just remember false-flag operation against IMF’s former Jewish Chief, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was arrested in the US on rape charges – for which the credit goes to Israeli Mossad in order to get Nicolas Sarkozy got re-elected.

    Libyan leader Col. Qaddafi lost his head for challenging the IMF in African continent.

    Surprisingly, in its 2011 report, IMF praised Iran for its program for eliminating state subsidies from the economy by “implementation of their ambitious subsidy reform program” with increases in prices of energy, public transport and bread having removed almost $60 billion of subsidies.

    “At the same time, the redistribution of the revenues arising from the price increases to households as cash transfers has been effective in reducing inequalities, improving living standards and supporting domestic demand in the economy,” the statement said about Iran’s monthly welfare payments to citizens.

    It’s a clear sign of victory for Iranian President Dr. Ahmadinejad who achieved IMF praise for his nation which has been under Israeli sponsored four ‘crippling sanctions’ by the US, UNSC and the EU.

  6. Anonymous [AKA "MagicHandFist"] says:

    A group of us who were Bernie Sanders supporters are so disgusted with the DNC and the stinking pile of fish they expect us to vote for that we are going to go on a spending diet until after the election.

    70% of Americans can’t even come up with a $1,000 in an emergency.
    Hillary keeps talking about “the recovery”. Well our money is not going to be any part of that mythical event.

    No discretionary spending until after election day. Holding a big garage sale next weekend. Why buy new stuff at big box stores when you can get better quality U.S. made stuff for pennies on the dollar?

    Stop using credit cards. The sales numbers are reported daily. If you pay cash for things your really need, the numbers may or may not show up for quite a while.

  7. No price is too high to pay to try to make the financial system go on a little bit longer. But ultimately it can’t be saved, because of the mathematics that are involved.

    That is correct, but what follows will not be much fun either. Right now it seems that the main objective is to prevent the election of a “populist” President so that the reins of government stay in the hands of the “establishment”/”deep state”/whatever.

    As usual, Professor Hudson is long on diagnosis, short on prescriptions.

    “There is a great deal of ruin in a nation.”

  8. Rehmat says:

    NEYTH – When you say “paying the banks,” what they really mean is paying the filthy moneychangers (Bible Luke 19:45; Matthew 21:12; Mark 11:15, and John 2:13).

    In the West, Jewish elites have always been identified with the moneychangers (bankers, money-lenders, etc.). Even today, the hub of world’s financial imperialism, the Wall Street, is JEWISH. According to Joseph Aaron and Bill Van Auken – two Jewish editors, who admit: “When it’s good for Jews, it rarely good for any one else”. William Shakespeare’s novel the Merchant of Venice, though acclaimed as the ‘Jewel of English Literature’ – now has been projected as “Anti-Semitic” literature by the pro-Israel Jewish Lobby for portraying the Jews (moneychangers) in a negative way, though many book reviewers believe that it’s the Christians and not the Jews, who are the villains in the novel.

  9. Greg Bacon says: • Website

    Pay no attention to what the man behind the curtain, the IMF, is implying about writing down debt. They stood by and did nothing for decades about the burgeoning debt, except to help USA financial sharpies loot, pillage and plunder nations like Greece to pay off the debt encouraged by the IMF.

    When those Too Big to Fail Wall Street casinos blow this time, it will make 2008 look like a walk in the park.

    We’ll be told that the Fed can’t handle the debt this time, but the IMF can because their printers do a better job of printing money out of thin air.
    The IMF will magically conjure up 100 TRILLION in a new currency, SDR’s which will replace the worn-out fraud called the Federal Reserve note and they’ll generously give us one SDR for each 10 dollars in Fed notes we exchange.

    After all, who wants to use a wheelbarrow to carry enough Fed notes to go grocery shopping?

  10. It’s a source of wonder to me that nothing really ever changes, including the limitless faith that the majority of people seem to have in their masters.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    , @Realist
  11. Taco Town says:

    The governments have to support the banks, because they’re in the same bed. Welfare states are supported by debt, and without the banks the governments would have to face economic reality. Meanwhile, productive people who can take care of themselves without government aid keep getting screwed.

  12. woodNfish says:

    If you haven’t bought a gun and ammo yet, you might want to consider doing so.

    I say we kill and eat the 1% and take all their money. It may not solve all the problems, but we’ll be well fed and happy afterward. It would also be good revenge for not giving US consumer mortgage holders mortgage vouchers so we could pay down our mortgage debt instead of just giving money straight tot the banks which squandered it and left us with the debt we had. Our government are our enemies, the sooner we can overthrow them by any means necessary, the better.

  13. nsa says:

    Anyone remember how the IJF helped the collapsed russians in the early 1990s? They parachuted in Jeffrey Sachs, a specialist in joonomics (legalized usury and counterfeiting). Sachs and his jooie pals handed out chits to every russian representing a share of the resources. Somehow, surprise surprise, jooie oligarchs ended up owning most of the chits i.e. the vast wealth of the former USSR. Yeltsin, the CIA asset and jooie useful idiot, legalled up the process. Man will be free when the last banker is strangled with the entrails of the last jooie………..

  14. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @jacques sheete

    In every animal group setting the best bet to survive for every member is to follow the leader(s).

    Hunting received vast enhancement when our ancestors switched from solo to team mode.

    Following is… followed by having to obey, and kowtow on some occasions, of course.

    The options for who doesn’t have what it takes to dominate the group and rule over the others are:

    1) Deny your compliance, get cast out, running into much harder a life if not death.

    2) Deny your compliance, don’t leave the group, get constantly assailed and possibly killed by the cock bigwigs or, more likely, by their ever-happily obedient hen flunkeys, who’ll act co-operatively, at the smallest sign of the former’s.

    3) Accept your place in the dominance hierarchy.

    Once you choose 3), and you choose it if you are evolutionarily “healthy”, two options are given to you.

    a) To still be rebellious and fume in your inward, being well aware that your superiors abuse you and their other inferiors (while, in the more evolved primate societies, speaking shamelessly of what they do for the good of the “community”, and using a rhetoric that poses everybody as “equals”), while complying on the outside.

    b) To make yourself unaware of the reality of power relationship and abuse, and enjoy your part, repressing your consciousness when it would otherwise hurt.

    Given the brain tries to digest strain-causing realities as well as possible just like a stomach too-spicy food, and all our organs work to fulfil nature’s purposes (minimization of strain is one of great import), 3) and b) have always been the ways to go.

    This is so deep embedded that it is fully unconscious (like, to name another one, mate-picking algorithmic strategies. Doesn’t superimposing a wealth of fabulous abstactions like “love” “destiny” and the like make women feel much better about their largely predictable, algorithmic to every effect, mate choices? It does.).

    Most predictable response to any of the thereof: “nonsense.”
    Which proves it more, but they don’t know.

  15. Art says:

    Hillary Clinton Begs Forgiveness From Rothschilds In Leaked Email

    By Whitney Webb | True Activist | October 18, 2016

    Many of these elites made their fortunes through centuries-old banking dynasties. The most infamous of these are undoubtedly the Rothschild family, who have been the world’s wealthiest family for over 200 years.

    In the email, Clinton tells Lady de Rothschild that she had to ask Tony Blair (then-Prime Minister of England) to accompany her to Israel due to the Middle East peace negotiations taking place at the time. Blair had previously planned to spend the weekend in Aspen, Colorado with the Rothschilds at an unspecified conference, but accepted Clinton’s invitation. Clinton then says “I hope you all understand. […] Let me know what penance I owe you.”

    Oh yes — Hillary is going to look after the little people – not the big banksters!

  16. nickels says:

    basically we are headed for a revolution.

    But, since technology has become so advanced, and any revolution can be squashed by drones from a hundred miles away….., we are headed for slavery….

    And here we thought we were working on technology to advance human society.

  17. Krollchem says:

    What Hudson describes is already a FIRE based EU dictatorship in the EU that puts the Hanseatic League to shame. As described in the movie BREXIT THE MOVIE FULL FILM (, the EU is controlled by various un-elected commissions and four un-elected presidents led by the rent seeking elite.

    Energy is another component to this FIRE crisis. When fossil fuel (oil/gas) energy extracted was 100:1 to energy expended in extraction the work derived from the fossil fuel served to feed both the greed of the elite with enough left over for the serfs. Now that the Energy return on energy invested is down to 5:1-10:1 there is less for the serfs and even the elite are fighting for their share.

    Add to this the substitution of robots for the labor component of production the serfs are increasing redundant at the time when the human population is beyond the long term carrying capacity of the earth.

    There seems to be no exit ramp that is acceptable, as “one cannot fix stupid” either with individuals or societies in general.

  18. tamako says:

    Zero Hedge is not necessarily always right, but here are two graphs I found there.

    When an airplane stalls, it can at least recover from the stall by making sure that its attitude matches its momentum. Even if all engines have failed, recovering from the stall is enough to ensure control over the aircraft.
    When that debt bubble blows to pieces, I doubt that they will have the will to ensure the economy not getting into a deep stall like Japan has.

  19. When an airplane stalls, it can at least recover from the stall by making sure that its attitude matches its momentum. Even if all engines have failed, recovering from the stall is enough to ensure control over the aircraft.

    IFF (that’s mathspeak for IF and only IF) the airplane has enough altitude to gain the speed it needs to re-establish lift, otherwise, not so nice (as I am sure you know).

    To extend the metaphor, will we be able to re-establish “growth” before we truly crash.

  20. Realist says:
    @jacques sheete

    Those are the idiots I am talking about.

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