Tags: Neo Feudalism

Poverty in the UK Doubles Over the Past 30 Years, Despite Robust “Economic Growth”

One of my favorite lines about the current oligarch theft continuing to occur throughout the world is courtesy of the “Artist Taxi Driver,” who likes to state:

“This is not a recession its a robbery.”

Truer words were never said, but this theft goes back a lot further than the latest economic catastrophe. As we all know by now, real median wages haven’t increased in the U.S. for the past 45 years, while at the same time, so-called economic growth according to traditional metrics has exploded higher. As yesterday’s article from the Guardian below demonstrates, this is not just an American problem. It is pervasive throughout the Western world.

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The Co-Op Movement – A Decentralized Solution to Solving Inequality and Avoiding Serfdom?

Or take the right to vote. In principle, it is a great privilege. In practice, as recent history has repeatedly shown, the right to vote, by itself, is no guarantee of liberty. Therefore, if you wish to avoid dictatorship by referendum, break up modern society’s merely functional collectives into self-governing, voluntarily co-operating groups, capable of functioning outside the bureaucratic systems of Big Business and Big Government.

-Aldous Huxley, in Brave New World Revisited (1958) 

As readers of this website are well aware, the entrenched power structure has proven itself unwilling to address any of the extreme fraud, crony capitalism and corruption that plagues the U.S. economy. As such, it has become increasingly clear to myself and countless others that the solutions we need must be grassroots and decentralized. I have personally made it a point to encourage people to take matters into their own hands, using whatever tools they have available to make the communities in which they live better for their families and their neighbors.

Of course, in a world in which power is ever increasingly concentrated in the hands of a very unenlightened egomaniacal handful of oligarchs, this seems like a daunting and near impossible task to many. Because so many Americans are simply consumed with making ends meet and putting food on the table, the concept of changing the world appears entirely unrealistic if not downright impossible.

The message I want to convey is that this is not the case. Whether it be decentralized competing currency systems, states rights initiatives such as legalizing marijuana (some pot convictions can now be overturned in Colorado), neighborhood farms, independent energy systems, the path toward localized solutions is the one I firmly believe we must follow.

To that end, I want to highlight this encouraging article from the New York Times titled, Who Needs a Boss?, which explores possibilities worker co-ops provide for workers everywhere. Not only is the pay far better, not only is work engagement considerably more robust, but it restores a sense of community and power to those involved. I think this is a model we should greatly expand upon, rather than looking for centralized solutions, which are merely band-aids placed upon a cancer.

Here are some excerpts from the New York Times:

If you happen to be looking for your morning coffee near Golden Gate Park and the bright red storefront of the Arizmendi Bakery attracts your attention, congratulations. You have found what the readers of The San Francisco Bay Guardian, a local alt-weekly, deem the city’s best bakery. But it has another, less obvious, distinction. Of the $3.50 you hand over for a latte (plus $2.75 for the signature sourdough croissant), not one penny ends up in the hands of a faraway investor. Nothing goes to anyone who might be tempted to sell out to a larger bakery chain or shutter the business if its quarterly sales lag.

Instead, your money will go more or less directly to its 20-odd bakers, who each make $24 an hour — more than double the national median wage for bakers. On top of that, they get health insurance, paid vacation and a share of the profits. “It’s not luxury, but I can sort of afford living in San Francisco,” says Edhi Rotandi, a baker at Arizmendi. He works four days a week and spends the other days with his 2-year-old son.

Arizmendi and its five sister bakeries in the Bay Area are worker-owned cooperatives, an age-old business model that has lately attracted renewed interest as a possible antidote to some of our most persistent economic ills. Most co-ops in the U.S. are smaller than Arizmendi, with around a dozen employees, but the largest, Cooperative Home Care Associates in the Bronx, has about 2,000. That’s hardly the organizational structure’s upper limit. In fact, Arizmendi was named for a Spanish priest and labor organizer in Basque country, José María Arizmendiarrieta. He founded what eventually became the Mondragon Corporation, now one of the region’s biggest employers, with more than 60,000 members and 14 billion euro in revenue. And it’s still a co-op.

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UK Think Tank Proposes Law to Restrict Foreign Oligarch Real Estate Speculation

When people ask how there can be no inflation with Central Banks printing so much money, all one has to do is look at what I refer to as “oligarch assets” and you’ll see massive inflation. The reason for this is that the only people getting access to the newly created money at 0% interest or through crony deals are oligarchs and well connected figures within the global plutocracy. While there is also plenty of inflation for consumer goods (often times hidden in smaller package sizes and phony components), it is nothing like the tremendous price gains in assets oligarchs covet.

As most of my readers know by now, one such asset is high-end London real estate. In fact, oligarchs and cronies are scooping up London real estate at such a frantic pace that the regular peasants are being forced out of their own city. Even worse, many of these “investment properties” sit unfurnished and empty, merely another trophy home to top off the oligarch portfolio.

I’ve covered this oligarch buying trend on several occasions in the past (it’s also happening in the U.S.), and I believe it is only a matter of time before the public becomes angry enough to put a stop to it. We may be witnessing the start of such a trend at this time with the publication of the report Finding Shelter by think tank Civitas. While this is just a proposal and far from law, I do expect such laws ultimately to be passed globally in various jurisdictions in which the oligarchs are distorting prices and making every day life unaffordable and miserable.

Some key points from the report are:

  • 85% of prime London property purchases in 2012 were made with overseas money.
  • Problem is not confined to the top end of the market. Over the past two years only 27% of new homes in central London went to UK buyers, while more than half were sold to residents of Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Malaysia and Russia.
  • Two-thirds of homes bought by people from overseas were not purchased for owner-occupation but as investments.

From the Guardian:

Radical plans to stop rich overseas residents who live outside the EU buying British houses – as well as tight restrictions on them acquiring “newbuild” properties as investments – will be published in a report by a leading rightwing thinktank on Monday.

Free-market organisation Civitas castigates government ministers for allowing wealthy foreign investors to stoke a property boom that it says is driving up prices and locking millions of UK citizens out of the housing market.

The plans would prevent the likes of Roman Abramovich, owner of Chelsea football club, or other Russian oligarchs from adding to their multimillion-pound UK portfolios. They also aim to stem a flood of investment from countries such as China, Malaysia and Singapore.

Concerned that many middle and lower earners are being forced to pay high rents in London because they can’t afford to buy, Civitas calls on ministers to adopt a scheme similar to one operating in Australia, which ensures that no sale can take place to overseas buyers unless they can show that their investment will add to existing housing stock.

Such a system would mean that no existing home could be sold to a buyer from outside the EU, and that such buyers could acquire newbuild homes only if their investment led to one or more additional properties being built.

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How Debtors’ Prisons are Making a Comeback in America

Apparently having 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of its prisoners simply isn’t good enough for neo-feudal America. No, we need to find more creative and archaic ways to wastefully, immorally and seemingly unconstitutionally incarcerate poor people. Welcome to the latest trend in the penal colony formerly known as America. Debtors’ prisons. A practice I thought had long since been deemed outdated (indeed it has been largely eradicated in the Western world with the exception of about 1/3 of U.S. states as well as Greece).

From Fox News:

As if out of a Charles Dickens novel, people struggling to pay overdue fines and fees associated with court costs for even the simplest traffic infractions are being thrown in jail across the United States.

Critics are calling the practice the new “debtors’ prison” — referring to the jails that flourished in the U.S. and Western Europe over 150 years ago. Before the time of bankruptcy laws and social safety nets, poor folks and ruined business owners were locked up until their debts were paid off.

Reforms eventually outlawed the practice. But groups like the Brennan Center for Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union say it’s been reborn in local courts which may not be aware it’s against the law to send indigent people to jail over unpaid fines and fees — or they just haven’t been called on it until now.

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law released a “Tool Kit for Action” in 2012 that broke down the cost to municipalities to jail debtors in comparison with the amount of old debt it was collecting. It doesn’t look like a bargain. For example, according to the report, Mecklenburg County, N.C., collected $33,476 in debts in 2009, but spent $40,000 jailing 246 debtors — a loss of $6,524.

Don’t worry, I’m sure private prisons for debtors will soon spring up to make this practice a pillar of GDP growth.

Many jurisdictions have taken to hiring private collection/probation companies to go after debtors, giving them the authority to revoke probation and incarcerate if they can’t pay. Research into the practice has found that private companies impose their own additional surcharges. Some 15 private companies have emerged to run these services in the South, including the popular Judicial Correction Services (JCS).

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U.S. Treasury Department Guarantees Debt Issued by the Jordanian Government

In a bizarre announcement yesterday, the U.S. Treasury Department boasted that the government of Jordan had closed on a $1.25 issuance of sovereign debt guaranteed by the U.S. government. While I am not sure how common it is for our nation to guarantee these types of issuances (comments would be appreciated), the announcement represents a gigantic slap in the face on multiple levels.

From the U.S. Treasury Department’s press release:

This guarantee marks the conclusion of a process that President Obama set in motion in March 2013 when he visited Jordan.  During his visit, President Obama noted that a U.S. guarantee, “can help deliver the results that Jordanians deserve… to see their schools better, their roads improved, healthcare, clean water all enhanced, the training that I know a lot of Jordanians seek, particularly young people, to get a job or to turn entrepreneurial skills into a business that creates even more jobs.”  That vision was further affirmed by the signing of a loan guarantee agreement in Amman on August 14, 2013.

Did you catch that? The Treasury Department expressed its preoccupation with Jordanian healthcare on the same day it is revealed that the top hospitals in America will not accept Obamacare.

Oh, and good thing we are so concerned with Jordanian infrastructure spending. Meanwhile back in the USSA:

U.S.structure spending

I’m not done yet. More from the U.S. Treasury’s press release:

The U.S. government is committed to supporting Jordan’s efforts to provide critical services to its citizens as it enacts economic reforms to increase Jordan’s macroeconomic stability and  hosts more than half a million refugees fleeing the violence inside Syria. This loan guarantee also reinforces Jordan’s work with other donors, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), to implement its economic reform agenda. 

Violence inside Syria. Violence which the U.S. government has been doing its best to escalate…

Just another day in the Banana Republic.

Full press release here.

In Liberty,
Mike

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The Carlyle Group’s Latest Investment…Trailer Parks

Earlier this month, I highlighted the fact that the Carlyle Group was the latest in a series of “smart money” private equity firms to decide it was time to exit the suddenly extremely crowded “buy-to rent” residential real estate trade. At the time I noted that:

As it sells apartments, Carlyle is focusing investments in areas such as senior housing, self-storage units and manufactured homes, where demand tends to be driven by life changes such as retirement or marriages, and isn’t so closely tied to changes in employment and gross domestic product, Stuckey said.

Well it appears Carlyle has already started to make its move. As the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday: Carlyle Jumps Into Niche Space - Private-Equity Firm Adds Trailer Parks to Its Diverse Portfolio. In case you can’t figure out what appears to be the key logic behind the shift in focus, try this line on for size: 

Because the cost of relocating a home is expensive, residents are less likely to move away. “Our customers have no alternative shot at homeownership, nor do they [normally] even have the credit scores and quality to seek anything better,” Mr. Rolfe said. “They never leave the park they are in, and the revenues are unbelievably stable as a result.”

In neo-feudalistic America, always, always go long serfdom.

More from the WSJ:

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Red Cross Launches Emergency Food Aid Plan in the UK – First Time Since World War II

Welcome to the global recovery folks. A recovery that is so strong in the UK, the Red Cross has been called in to provide food aid for the first time since World War II. Nothing spells happy days are here again like that sort of news.

Oh, didn’t participate in the global recovery? No worries, oligarchs have got you covered and will happily offer you a piece of bread in between flat purchases in the City of London so that you remain quietly and apathetically planted squarely in front of the television . The “recovery” was and is a gigantic heist. Nothing more, nothing less.

From the Telegraph:

The Red Cross will this winter start collecting and distributing food aid to the needy in Britain for the first time since the Second World War, as welfare cuts and the economic downturn send soaring numbers of people to soup kitchens and food banks across Europe.

In what could be the start of an increased role in Britain for the Geneva-based charity best known for its work in disaster zones, its volunteers will be mobilised to go into supermarkets across the country at the end of November and ask shoppers to donate dry goods. The British Red Cross will then help FareShare, a charity working with the Trussell Trust and Tesco, distribute the packets and tins to food banks nationwide.

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It’s Official: American Adults are Dumber Than Average

The study is called the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies and it tested 166,000 people aged 16 to 65 in more than 20 countries.  It found that in math, reading and problem solving, American adults scored below the international average.

I can’t say this is surprising, after all, the public allowed the big banks that destroyed the economy to gift themselves trillions in the aftermath of the financial crisis with barely a peep in response. You don’t have to be a problem solving genius to figure that one out. Finally, there is some proof behind our long-held suspicions.

From the Associated Press via the New York Post:

WASHINGTON — It’s long been known that America’s school kids haven’t measured well compared with international peers. Now, there’s a new twist: Adults don’t either.

In math, reading and problem-solving using technology – all skills considered critical for global competitiveness and economic strength – American adults scored below the international average on a global test, according to results released Tuesday.

Adults in Japan, Canada, Australia, Finland and multiple other countries scored significantly higher than the United States in all three areas on the test. Beyond basic reading and math, respondents were tested on activities such as calculating mileage reimbursement due to a salesman, sorting email and comparing food expiration dates on grocery store tags.

Not only did Americans score poorly compared to many international competitors, the findings reinforced just how large the gap is between the nation’s high- and low-skilled workers and how hard it is to move ahead when your parents haven’t.

Yes, it’s called feudalism.

The study, called the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, found that it was easier on average to overcome this and other barriers to literacy overseas than in the United States.

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Pennsylvania Looks to Legalize Payday Loans by Calling Them “Mirco-Loans”

The exploitation of the poor through payday loans in America is one of the most underreported stories of 2013, even within the alternative media world.  I first wrote about it and the role our big bailed out banks play back in February in my piece:  TBTF Banks Enter Payday Loan Business with 500% Interest Rates.

The problem with stories like this getting such little coverage, is that the trend will invariably spread like a cancer without public awareness and outrage.  Take Pennsylvania for example.  The state has laws that make payday loans illegal, but state legislators want to do away with this.  They made their first attempt back in 2012 with House Bill 2191, which never made it to the floor for a vote.  Not being the types to take no for an answer, the state legislators are back.  This time state Sen. Patrick Browne is looking for co-sponsors for a bill that would allow punitive interest rates under the guise of calling it micro-lending.  From the Post-Gazette:

“A rose by any other name” equals a rose.

“Put lipstick on a pig” equals a pig.

“Micro-loan program” equals a predatory payday loan/debt trap.

Seeking to protect vulnerable people from being trapped in a vicious debt cycle, Pennsylvania has long outlawed the usurious practice of predatory payday loans.

However, lenders are trying to undo these limits. Last year, House Bill 2191, which would have undone this 100-plus-year-old protection, thankfully never made it to the floor for a vote.

While no such legislation has yet to be introduced, state Sen. Patrick Browne, R-Allentown, is seeking co-sponsors. Rather than calling it “payday lending,” it is touted as a “micro-loan program” promising a “reasonable annual percentage interest rate” to “eliminate the endless cycle of debt,” to “strengthen consumer protection” and to “protect our military families and veterans.”

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Interview #3 with Financial Survival Network: When Castles Grow in Washington

Yesterday, I had the pleasure to record my third interview with Kerry Lutz of Financial Survival Network.  Kerry is a fellow freedom fighter for civil rights, the Constitution and sound money.  In this segment we discuss a wide range of topics including recent weakness in The Gap and Darden Restaurants, as well as castles being built in D.C. as a sign of American feudalism.

Listen here.  Enjoy!

Mike