BRICS Against Washington Consensus

by Pepe Escobar, from Asia Times

The headline news is that this Tuesday in Fortaleza, northeast Brazil, the BRICS group of emerging powers (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) fights the (Neoliberal) World (Dis)Order via a new development bank and a reserve fund set up to offset financial crises.

The devil, of course, is in the details of how they’ll do it.

It’s been a long and winding road since Yekaterinburg in 2009, at their first summit, up to the BRICS’s long-awaited counterpunch against the Bretton Woods consensus – the IMF and the World Bank – as well as the Japan-dominated (but largely responding to US priorities) Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The BRICS Development Bank – with an initial US$50 billion in capital – will be not only BRICS-oriented, but invest in infrastructure projects and sustainable development on a global scale. The model is the Brazilian BNDES, which supports Brazilian companies investing across Latin America. In a few years, it will reach a financing capacity of up to $350 billion. With extra funding especially from Beijing and Moscow, the new institution could leave the World Bank in the dust. Compare access to real capital savings to US government’s printed green paper with no collateral.

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Who In Ukraine Will Benefit From An IMF Bailout?

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from Naked Capitalism

HUDSON: The objective of IMF loans is to deindustrialize the economy. It is to force the economy–meaning the government when you say the economy–the government has to pay the IMF loan by privatizing whatever remains in the public domain. The Westerners want to buy the Ukrainian farmland. They want to buy the public utilities. They want to buy the roads. They want to buy the ports. And all of this is going to be sold at a very low price to the Westerners, and the price that the Westerners pay will be turned over to the Ukrainian government, that then will turn it back to the Ukraine. So whatever the West gives Ukraine will immediately be taken back.

Sommers: The problem with this idea that somehow by joining the E.U. everything is going to be good for the people of Ukraine is that what the Ukrainians are essentially seeing are the echoes of a social democratic past which is being euthanized in the European Union… structurally, it’s being destroyed… there are offshore gas fields just off offshore of Crimea. Exxon put in a rather substantial bid in for those. They are going to lose that.

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The US Housing Market is Still “Flat on its Back”

from Mike Whitney, CounterPunch

Get a load of this chart from DataQuick’s National Home Sales Snapshot. It’ll tell you everything need to know about housing.

As you can see, prices are flatlining or drifting lower while sales are sinking like a stone. That’s the whole ball of wax, isn’t it?

Sure, sales will increase in the spring (as they always do), but judging by the sharp dropoff in last year’s hottest markets, this could be the crappiest spring selling season since the crash.

Why?

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(Note: MSA=metropolitan statistical area)

Because prices are too high, rates are too high, “organic” demand is too weak, credit is too tight, and the pool of potential buyers has shrunk to the size of a walnut, that’s why.The banks have reduced the percentage of distressed homes (foreclosures and short sales) on the market to roughly 11 percent from 59 percent in 2009. Fewer distressed homes mean higher prices, but higher prices mean fewer sales. It’s a trade-off. The banks get their money, but the market goes to hell. That’s how it works. According to most estimates, there are roughly 4.5 million homes in some stage of foreclosure. That means that –at the present pace–we should get through this Housing Depression a few weeks before Judgment Day. But don’t hold me to that.

Did you catch this gem on Bloomberg last week? It’s about the big private equity guys exiting the market. Take a look:

“Blackstone Group LP is slowing its purchases of houses to rent amid soaring prices after a buying binge made it the biggest U.S. single-family home landlord. Blackstone’s acquisition pace has declined 70 percent from its peak last year, when the private equity firm was spending more than $100 million a week on properties, said Jonathan Gray, global head of real estate for the New York-based firm…” (Blackstone’s Home Buying Binge Ends as Prices Surge, Bloomberg)

Okay, so the speculators are getting out of housing. How’s that going to effect the market?

No one really knows yet, but it can’t be good, after all, all-cash deals amounted to nearly 50 percent of all homes sales in many of the hotter markets last year. That’s why prices went up even though the economy was still in the shitter, because the fatcats were loading up on cheap real estate. Now it looks like they’re headed for the hills. That’s NOT going to be good for sales.

Did you know that existing home sales have dropped for six months straight, dipping below trend to the same level they were at in 1998?

But how can that be, you ask, when everyone’s blabbing about the recovery? How can that be when the Fed has purchased more than $1.4 trillion in mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and rates are a measly 4.5%? How can that be prices have been climbing higher for more than a year?

[read the rest, here]

Five years of Obama’s “recovery”

by Patrick Martin, WSWS

This week marks five years since the New York Stock Exchange hit its low point at the bottom of the financial crash that erupted with the collapse of Lehman Brothers investment bank. On March 6, 2009, Dow Jones Industrial Average hit its post-collapse low of 6,443. Three days later, on March 9, 2009, the S&P 500 hit its post-collapse low of 676.

Yesterday, at the close of stock trading for the week, the Dow Jones average closed at 16,452, up a colossal 10,000 points over five years, or 154 percent. The S&P 500 stood at 1,878, rising even faster than the Dow, gaining 170 percent over five years.

These are only the most striking of a barrage of numbers reported in recent weeks, demonstrating that for the US financial aristocracy, the Crash of 2008 has been used to engineer a historic redistribution of wealth.

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Soros Praises “Ukrainian renaissance” – He’s An Apologist for Neo-Nazi Violence and Brutal Repression

by Scott Creighton

[see updates at the end of this article]

“[N]obody who has read a business magazine in the last few years can be unaware that these days there really are investors who not only move money in anticipation of a currency crisis, but actually do their best to trigger that crisis for fun and profit. These new actors on the scene do not yet have a standard name; my proposed term is ‘Soroi’.” Paul Krugman 1999

You can’t make this stuff up. You just can’t.

Billionaire speculator and vulture capitalist George Soros (family changed their name from Schwartz in 1936) has penned an Op Ed praising the outcome of the recent IMF serving color revolution in the Ukraine. For a man who famously hates anti-Semitism, it seems rather odd that he would be aligning himself with the rise of the neo-Nazi nationalist parties in the Ukraine. But then again, Soros (Schwartz) has always been more about the money than he was about his religious identity.

That’s probably because money is his religion.

Not only is Mr. Soros (chosen name means “designated successor” or “next in line” in Hungarian) busily rewriting the history of this bloody conflict in his new Op Ed, he’s actually serving as an apologist for the neo-Nazi’s brutal violence which ultimately brought down the elected government of the country and now is positioning itself to wipe out what they consider to be enemies of the true Ukrainian state; Jews and other leftists.

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Ukraine’s Brown Revolution: Brought to you by your friends at the IMF

by Scott Creighton

Just a couple of quotes from recent articles to put all of this Ukrainian “democracy” into perspective for you.

  • Among the reasons Mr. Yanukovych turned away from signing political and trade accords with Europe in November was his unwillingness to carry out austerity measures and other reforms that the International Monetary Fund had demanded in exchange for a large assistance packageNew York Times
  • A $15 billion bailout package secured by Mr. Yanukovych from Russia in December has been suspended, and Ukraine is now hurtling toward default. New York Times
  • Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, the leader in Parliament of the Fatherland Party and a leading contender to serve as acting prime minister, pleaded with colleagues to swiftly reach an agreement on the designation of an interim government, which is needed to formally request emergency economic assistance from the International Monetary Fund. New York Times
  • The International Monetary Fund has made clear that it will demand austerity measures and other long-stalled economic changes in exchange for any assistance package. New York Times

As I have written in the past, the color revolution currently unfolding in Thailand was also brought to you by your friends at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as was the illegal Washington backed coup in Egypt.

 

A bankers’ plan for Detroit

from the WSWS

The proposal submitted late last week by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to the federal court overseeing Detroit’s bankruptcy is a blueprint for a devastating attack on the working class of the city. The “plan of adjustment” would be better termed the “plan of destruction,” targeting pensions, health care and core public assets, including the world-renowned Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA).

Orr’s plan confirms the central premise of the Workers Inquiry into the Bankruptcy of Detroit held by the Socialist Equality Party on February 15: A crime is being perpetrated, one that is the product of a political conspiracy involving both big business parties and all the institutions of the state.

A New York Times article over the weekend compared, approvingly, what is taking place in Detroit to the restructuring of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Indeed, the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina was used as an opportunity to depopulate sections of the city and go after basic social rights, including the handing over of public education to for-profit charter schools.

[read the rest, here]

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