This is a documentary about the late David Rockefeller, billionaire architect of corporate globalization, international free trade treaties (eg TPPA) and most CIA coups and US resource wars of the late 20th century (eg the US war on Iraq). Activists have known for decades that the US is run by billionaire oligarchs – and not Congress and the President. However it’s only with the advent of the Internet and Information Age that we could start to identify who these oligarchs are and how they control our democratic institutions. As in other documentaries, James Corbett does an excellent job exposing these secret levers of power.
According to Corbett, David, the last grandson of oil tycoon J.D. Rockefeller to die (in 2017), principally exerted his influence through foreign leaders he befriended in his role as CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank and World War II military intelligence officer; through his membership in secret round table groups (eg the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission and the Bilderberg Group) that craft foreign policy for all so-called western democracies; the insertion of his high level errand boys (eg Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski) into every presidential administration from Lyndon Johnson on; and the the vigorous role played by Rockefeller-funded foundations, universities, think tanks and media outlets in shaping public opinion.
In 1973, Kissinger (under David’s interest) was instrumental in launching the 1973 CIA coup in Chile to protect Rockefeller mining interests. Via David’s leadership role in the Bilderberg Group, he played a principle role in instigating the 1973 oil embargo (which jacked up oil prices and Rockefeller oil profits, the formation of the Eurozone and the euro and the 2003 invasion Iraq.
The Trilateral Commission, which David and Brzezinski co-founded in 1973, has been largely credited for Carter’s selection as the 1976 Democratic candidate – and (thanks to fawning coverage in the corporate media) his ultimate election as president.
With his five billionaire brothers, David also played a key role in founding the United Nations in 1945 (on donated Rockefeller land). The latter was openly designated the “world capitol” in historical newsreels.
The first video is a 2015 presentation by William Engdahl about his 2010 book The Gods of Money. It focuses on the use of US economic and military warfare to maintain the supremacy of the US dollar as the global reserve currency.
As his point of departure, he begins with the 1944 Bretton Woods agreement, in which the Allied powers agreed to use the gold-backed US dollar as the world’s reserve currency. In 1971 when Nixon was forced to end the gold standard,* the gold-backed US dollar was replaced by the “petrodollar.” According to Engdahl, it was so named because of a secret agreement the US made with Saudi Arabia – in return for a guarantee that OPEC would only trade oil in US dollars, the US guaranteed the Saudis unlimited military hardware.
In this way, oil importing nations (most of the world) were forced to retain substantial US dollar reserves. This was the only way they could provide their economies with a continuous supply of oil.
The petrodollar remained supreme until the mid-1980s, when the collapse of the US Savings and Loan industry (a pre-cursor of the 2007 banking collapse) raised concerns in Europe that the US was failing as a super power. Fearing the US economy was collapsing, they created the euro and the Eurozone, to prevent the Soviet Union or China from filling the power vacuum.
The financial warfare unit of the US treasury responded by feeding hedge fund manager and currency speculator George Soros secret information that enabled him to lead an attack on the British pound. This, in turn, destabilized the British economy to the point the UK no longer qualified to join the euro.
In 1997 the US Treasury and Soros made a a similar attack on economies of Southeast Asia (Thailand, South Korea, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines) that attempted to use currencies other than the dollar as their reserve currencies.
In 2010, after the US government had run three years of $1 trillion deficits, China, Russia and Japan announced their intention of selling US Treasury bonds (which the US government sells to finance its debt) to increase their euro reserves. Concerned this placed the US dollar on the brink of catastrophic collapse, the US Treasury and Soros attacked the Euro directly by collapsing the Greek economy. The mechanism Soros used was to direct his hedge funds to dump the sovereign treasury bonds that financed Greek debt.** When the European Central Bank announced its commitment to a Greek bail-out, the US Treasury and Soros followed up with an attack on Irish, Spanish and Portuguese sovereign bonds.
*A US economic crisis led to massive foreign demand for US dollar redemption that threatened to deplete US gold reserves.
** The immediate effect of bondholders dumping Greek bonds raised interest rates on Greek debt to a level that threatened to bankrupt their government.
The second clip is a Guns and Butter radio interview with Engdahl. It focuses on a second area the Gods of Money covers, namely the long US battle to abolish their private central bank (aka the Federal Reserve) and end the ability of private banks to create money out of thin air (see How Banks Create Money Out of Thin Air).
After a brief explanation of fractional reserve banking, whereby 97% of our money is created by private banks, Engdahl traces the history of the First Bank of the United States, created by Alexander Hamilton in 1791. The latter was the first US central bank, 80% owned by private (mostly Rothschild-controlled) banks in the City of London and 20% owned by the US government. President James Madison’s refusal to renew the bank’s charter in 1811 would result in Britain and the US going to war in 1812.
When the war ended in 1815, the American war debt was so substantial, the US had no choice but to charter the Second Bank of the United States, which once again was 80% controlled by London banks.
In 1832, Andrew Jackson refused to renew the bank’s charter, and the US had no central bank between 1832 and 1913. In 1913 when President Woodrow Wilson secretly colluded with the global banking establishment to create the Federal Reserve.
Both Lincoln and Kennedy challenged the exclusive role private banks play in creating the US money supply – Lincoln by issuing greenbacks (rather than borrowing money from private banks) to pay for the civil war and Kennedy by issuing silver certificates directly redeemable by the US Treasury. In both cases, Engdahl feels their defiance of the international banking establishment played a role in the decision to assassinate them.
This is a five-part miniseries describing how European banks have hijacked the euro monetary union to vastly increase their wealth. The upcoming Brexit vote in Britain makes this a particularly relevant topic.
Part 1 A Bank Crisis a Week
The series begins by describing the history of the European monetary union. Built at the height of neoliberalism it adopted all the rhetoric of Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Alan Greenspan promising that globalized capitalism and free markets would end economic crises, increase prosperity and end inequality.
What really happened is that creating the euro massively increased inequality between northern and southern Europe and between workers and the super rich.
In seeking to make European banks as strong and competitive as US and British banks, Eurozone leaders ceased regulating them. Wall Street is often blamed for the EU’s 2008 meltdown. In actuality, deregulated European banks were equally guilty of risky speculation in derivatives and subprime mortgages.
Following the 2008 economic crash, European banks required massive government bailouts to keep European economies from collapsing. Promised banking reforms to prevent a recurrence of 2008 never happened. And according to the IMF, the global banking system is even more unstable today as it was right before the meltdown.
Part 2 Austerity Till the Grave
The bailouts required to keep their banks (and economies) going virtually bankrupted all Eurozone governments. All borrowed deeply (from the global banking system they had just bailed out) to keep their governments going. As a condition of this borrowing, the banks required them to reduce their deficits via deep austerity cuts. To qualify for further loans, they all cut pensions and benefits and laid off public service workers.
This segment focuses on Spain, where workers are organizing to block evictions, and Greece, where unemployed parents are forced to drop their kids off at orphanages because they can’t get welfare benefits to support them.
Part 3 Tax Haven Europe
This segment begins by profiling the Greek shipping magnates who run the largest merchant fleet in the world and pay virtually no tax. Corporations and the super rich pay far less tax than working people in all the EU countries. This massive tax avoidance forces all European governments to acquire major debt to keep from collapsing.
The documentary offers the example of Belgium, where the average tax rate is 12.5% and the most profitable corporations pay only 5% of their earnings in tax.
The filmmakers maintain that workers create wealth, though I doubt most neoliberals would see it that way. In 1981 Europe, 74% of the wealth workers created was returned to them as wages and government benefits. By 2012 only 49% of this wealth was returned to them and the super rich claimed the rest.
Part 4 Bratwurst, Lederhosen and Minijobs.
This was the most eye-open segment for me. It exposes the punitive conditions imposed on German workers from 2000 with the goal of making German export industries more competitive. Under former chancellor Gerhart Schroeder, massive wage reductions were imposed on all German workers – something IMF chief Christine LaGarde likes to call “labor market reform.”
Among other labor “reforms,” were a massive increase in “minijobs” – low wage part-time temporary positions that pay an average of 400 ($US 448) euros a month. Given Germany’s high cost of living, both parents need to work 2-3 “minijobs” (if they can find them) to cover a family’s basic needs.
The result was truckloads of cheap German imports flooding into southern EU countries (Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy), shutting down local industries that couldn’t compete.
In this way, Germany’s vicious attack on their own workers forced wages down in other EU countries. This, in turn, forced countries like Greece and Spain to borrow lots of money from German banks to keep their governments going.
Ironically Germany currently has the highest number of working poor (7 million) of all EU countries.
Part 5 What Kind of Europe Do We Want?
It’s vital for people to understand that the mantra EU governments repeat ad nauseum – that saving the euro is essential to strengthening the EU and restoring prosperity – is pure propaganda. Seven years of austerity is massively increasing deficits and debt by putting so many people out of work.
The truth is that the Eurozone has been hijacked by banks and multinational corporations who are determined to use trade agreements to lock member countries into austerity and statutory destruction of Europe’s proud tradition of democratic socialism.
The only solution is a public takeover of too-big-to fail banks. Continuing to bail them out, while allowing them to privatize all the profits, is simply legalized theft of public monies. And a yes vote on Brexit.
The latest news from Greece is that Prime Minister Tsipras has resigned and called a new election. This follows a rebellion by 1/3 of Syriza MPs, who voted against the IMF bailout Greek voters rejected in the 5 July referendum. According to the The Guardian, 25 Syriza MPs have broken away to form the anti-austerity party Popular Unity, led by former energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis. Some analysts predict the new party will call for Greece to exit the euro monetary union: see Senior Syriza MP Greece Must Exit Monetary Union
The following documentary lays out some of the economic and social realities that led to the rise of Syriza.
Greece on the Brink
Manuel Reichetseder (2014)
Greece on the Brink is a 2014 documentary about brutal living conditions in Greece that led to the rise of the left wing Syriza government. At the time the film was made, 65% of Greek youth age 15-34 were unemployed. Millions of Greeks had no income at all and were scavenging food out of garbage cans. Twenty thousand were homeless and one third had no access to privatized health care.
The film documents that only a tiny proportion of the $206.9 billion bailout Greece received between 2010-2013 went to public services:
48% went to European creditors
28% went to Greek banks
22% went into the national budget (of this 16% went to interest payments, most of the balance went to the Greek military)
In addition to bolstering Syriza’s rise to power, the Greek economic crisis has led to numerous experiments in worker self-organization: solidarity clinics run by health professionals volunteering their services, solidarity networks that provide free food, a journalist cooperative in which journalists run their own newspaper, various worker co-ops which have occupied and taken over shuttered factories, and TV journalists and engineers who took over the state broadcasting service after the Greek government shut it down.
Most of the commentators featured in the film are militant Syriza members who predicted a year ago (based on compromises Tsipras made to propel his party into power) that Syriza wouldn’t solve the problems faced by the Greek working class.
The most interesting section is a Marxist analysis by British economist Allen Woods about the real cause of the 2008 “credit crunch” that triggered Greece’s sudden economic collapse. According to Woods, debt is the mechanism capitalists use to avoid the crisis of overproduction. Marx believed that overproduction was an inevitable structural defect of so-called free market capitalism. By its very nature, capitalist production always overshoots the ability of the market to regulate it.
As Marx noted 150 years ago, capitalism tries to make up for this defect by expanding credit (ie debt). Woods gives the current 30% overcapacity of the global automotive industry as an example. This is illustrated by an article that appeared in Zero Hedge a year ago about new car graveyards – see Where the World’s Unsold Cars Go to Die
Woods predicts that there will be no solution to the current global economic crisis until overproduction (and the debt that supports it) are eliminated.
The 2011 Greek documentary Debtocracy effectively dispels the media myths about lazy Greek workers and and scofflaw Greek taxpayers being responsible for Greece’s present economic crisis.
The film begins with an overview of what its filmmakers (and I) feel has been a basic goal of both globalization and the creation of a single European currency – namely “labor discipline” and the suppression of wages in heavily unionized countries.
They show how sweeping deregulation in the industrialized world in the 1980s allowed manufacturers to eliminate unions by shutting plants down and reopening them as sweatshops in the third world. The subsequent creation of the Euro as a single currency allowed the central European countries (Germany and France) to use the mechanism of debt to weaken strong unions in peripheral Eurozone countries like Greece, Spain and Italy.
Thanks to relatively weak unions following reunification, Germany imposed a virtual ten year wage freeze. While workers suffered, German companies and banks racked up immense profits and stacks of cash, which they loaned to “peripheral” countries to finance big corporate tax cuts.
The bulk of the film focuses on the concept of “odious” debt and whether the Greek people should be forced to repay fraudulent loans from which they received no direct benefit. As Debtocracy poignantly depicts, Athens and other Greek cities are experiencing a third world humanitarian crisis, with massive homelessness, hunger and untreated illness.
Odious Debt: An American Invention
Odious debt was a principle invented by the US in the early 20th century to avoid repaying Spain’s war debt after the US took possession of Cuba following the Spanish-American War. George Bush invoked it following the US occupation of Iraq. His goal was to avoid repayment of Sadam Hussein’s debts to China, France, Germany and Russia. Since then approximately a dozen countries – most notably Argentina, Ecuador and Iceland – have repudiated so-called “illegitimate” debt incurred by deposed leaders.
The film focuses mainly Argentina’s and Ecuador’s default on their foreign debt. In 2001 the structural adjustments the IMF forced on Argentina bankrupted the country. A popular uprising forced the Argentine president to flee (in a helicopter), and the new government declared the IMF debt illegal and unconstitutional.
When Ecuador experienced a similar economic crisis and uprising in 2007, they, too, sent their president packing in a helicopter. In 2008, their new president Rafael Correa appointed a Debt Audit Commission to study the strong arm tactics (some of which John Perkins describes in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man) that caused Ecuador to borrow billions of dollars to pay for US-built infrastructure that only benefited Ecuador’s wealthy elite. Correa’s Debt Audit Commission ascertained that only 30% of their external debt was legitimately incurred.
CADTM’s Call for a Greek Debt Audit Commission
Iric Toussaint, a French economist who participated in the Ecuadorian Debt Audit Commission, believes a major proportion of Greek debt may have been fraudulently incurred. The following evidence supports this view:
Nearly one billion euros of debt resulted from a risky swap (of yen and dollars for euros) Goldman Sachs persuaded Greece to make in 2001. The transaction netted Goldman Sachs $600 million in profit (see Secret Greek loan).
Major German and French loans were issued on condition that the Greek government incur further indebtedness to purchase hundreds of millions of euros of German and French armaments.
Billions of dollars of Greek debt resulted from major cost overruns on the 2004 Greek Olympics (which cost twice as much as the Sydney Olympics in 2000). These have never been explained nor investigated.
In 2010 a former Goldman Sachs official was hired to manage the Greek public debt authority, with the result that the entire 2010 rescue package (103 million euros) was used to bail out Greek banks.
The film also discusses the March 2011 call by the Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt (CADTM) to create an audit commission to examine Greek public debt. It ends with the ominous sound of a helicopter, eerily foreshadowing the forced resignation of Greek prime minister George Papandreou last November, when CNN advised him to get a helicopter to save himself from angry protestors (see Fall of Papandreou).