Thursday, September 24, 2009

Voices of Descent and Dissent

The G-20 and People’s Movements

The G-20 meetings in Pittsburgh is not your ordinary gathering of governmental heads of state, trade representatives, and/or corporate CEOs. It’s all too easy to lump it together with the World Trade Organization (WTO), North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, World Economic Forum, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and other international and transnational groupings that periodically meet to shape policies that are beyond public input and which often meet behind closed doors.

The G-20 is a unique outfit. Its composed of representatives of two groups from 20 of the larger economies of the world: finance ministers and central bankers. Finance ministers are the equivalent of the US Treasury Secretary. Central bankers are the equivalent of the US Federal Reserve. Finance ministers are appointed by and accountable to elected leaders of nation-states. Central bankers are sometimes appointed and confirmed by elected representatives (as is the case with the chair of the US Federal Reserve, Ben Bernacke) but are largely accountable to private interests, namely banks.

Policies of finance ministers and central bankers, especially those in the US loosing rules and laws allowing financial speculation into wild and arcane financial “products” (i.e. derivatives) and predatory lending practices causing millions of homeowners to drown in debt, were directly responsible for triggering the global financial crisis. Banks and bankers engaged in financial speculation and risky loans were bailed out by hundreds of billions by the US Treasury Department through loans from banks (to figure!) and by the Federal Reserve which simply, as they routinely do, create money out of thin air — further devaluing the dollar. The US Federal Reserve, like central bankers elsewhere, control the monetary faucet of their respective nations. They, these apexes of corporate finance in nation after nation, determine how much currency (money) will be created and circulated. It is central banks, not governments, that largely determine financial interest rates — that is, how difficult or easy it will be for governments and people to pay off their loans for just about everything.

Finance ministers and central bankers are mainly responsible, thus, for the descending US and global economy. The G-20 represents the voices of descent.

The voices of dissent that have come to Pittsburgh to protest and resist the G-20 are committed and diverse. Having spent the better part of the last 5 days there, those who have attended forums and actions and are planning to march in both permitted and unpermitted marches are directing their outrage over issues of poverty, climate change, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the illegal coup in Honduras, racism, lack of jobs and housing, inadequate health care, among others.

It is certainly true that G-20 nations are responsible for both causing and are in a position to profoundly address these and many other problems. I wonder, however, if we, the voices of dissent, are in part not focusing our attention, concern, and resistance to a central core agenda item of the G-20 agenda in Pittsburgh — the effort to develop a single global central bank and single global currency with the IMF or some other entity more “independent” from any national government serving as a global central bank.

A single global currency controlled by a corporate-driven global central bank would be a disaster for national self-determination and for the people of the world concerned about meeting human needs and protecting the earth. It’s enormously difficult in the present to influence national governments to bend fiscal policies toward addressing social and economic needs of people. While central banks are for the most part private/corporate, there still remain at the nation-state level opportunities to reign in these entities through laws ranging from auditing central bank books to the actual creation of money by governments instead of central banks — if enough public pressure can be applied.

Globalizing banking and money creation and circulation simply reduces democratic self-governance.

This seems to be the central objective of the G-20 meetings in Pittsburgh.

Shouldn’t it also be the central objective of our voices of dissent...both in Pittsburgh and beyond?

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