The American Bear


Why There is an Alternative to European Austerity | Michael Hudson

The last three years since September 2008 have seen the largest money creation and credit creation in history in the United States. And, yet, prices have not gone up at all. That is, consumer prices have not gone up since 1980. Wages in the United States have drifted downwards for 30 years. And consumer prices and commodity prices have been stable. But there has been an immense inflation; the largest bond market price increase in history has occurred, as interest rates have fallen from 20% to only one-quarter of 1% today. What has gone up is the price of real estate, the price of bonds, the price of stocks. So, the result is that the value of wealth—and most wealth is held by the wealthiest 1% of the population—wealth has gone way up relative to wages. The result is a new kind of class war, [but it is] not the typical kind of class war between employers and employees. It’s a war of finance against the economy.

Under industrial capitalism, the idea was that credit would be created productively to fund capital investment that would employ labour. That is not what is occurring today. When commercial banks create credit, it is to create claims on wealth. It is to create mortgage debt. It is to create corporate debt. It is to create personal debt, and student loans, and credit card debt. This is what makes commercial bank credit creation different from the central banks’ creation of money.

When central banks create money, they do so for a long-term public purpose. They fund government spending and capital investment and public infrastructure. In most countries in the world, public infrastructure, roads, communication systems, railroads, water and sewer systems have all taken a capital investment that is larger than all the manufacturing capital investment. In the United States, the value of New York’s real estate, alone, is larger than the value of all of the plants and equipment in the United States. The result is: The textbooks that are taught in the United States ignore this difference that we have been talking about. There is a formula, MV = PT. It means an increase in the money supply increases the price level. But the price level that the textbooks talk about are only consumer prices and commodity prices. Nowhere in the textbooks do you find a relation between the credit supply and asset prices, real estate, stocks and bonds. And, yet, 99% of the credit spent in the United States economy is spent on these financial claims. Every day an amount equal to the entire year’s gross national product passes through the New York monetary clearinghouse and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The vast amount of payments are within the financial sector. And, within the last ten years or so, all of the growth of bank lending is to other financial institutions. [++]