"That $50 Billion Infrastructure Plan" by Michael Hudson

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Here are two incredible essays from Michael Hudson:

“From Marx to Goldman Sachs: The Fictions of Fictitious Capital”, June 2010:


Fictitious Capital

Bankers and other creditors produce interest-bearing debt. That is their commodity as it “appear[s] in the eyes of the banker,” Marx wrote. Little labor is involved. Calling money lent out at interest an “imaginary” or “void form of capital,” [16] Marx characterized high finance as based on “fictitious” claims for payment in the first place because it consists not of the means of production, but of bonds, mortgages, bank loans and other claims on the means of production. Instead of consisting of the tangible means of production on the asset side of the balance sheet, financial securities and bank loans are claims on output, appearing on the liabilities side. So instead of creating value, bank credit absorbs value produced outside of the rentier FIRE sector.

“The capital of the national debt appears as a minus, and interest-bearing capital generally is the mother of all crazy forms …” [17] What is “insane,” he explained, is that “instead of explaining the self-expansion of capital out of labor-power, the matter is reversed and the productivity of labor-power itself is this mystic thing, interest-bearing capital.” [18]

Financialized wealth represents the capitalization of income flows. If a borrower earns 50 pounds sterling a year, and the interest rate is 5%, this earning power is deemed to be “worth” Y/I, that is, income (Y) discounted at the going rate of interest (i): 1,000 pounds. A lower interest rate will increase the capitalization rate – the amount of debt that a given flow of income can carry. “The forming of a fictitious capital is called capitalising. Every periodically repeated income is capitalised by calculating it on the average rate of interest, as an income which would be realised by a capital at this rate of interest.” Thus, Marx concluded: “If the rate of interest falls from 5% to 2½%, then the same security will represent a capital of 2000 pounds sterling. Its value is always but its capitalised income, that is, its income calculated on a fictitious capital of so many pounds sterling at the prevailing rate of interest.”

Finance capital is fictitious in the second place because its demands for payment cannot be met as economy-wide savings and debts mount up exponentially. The “magic of compound interest” diverts income away from being spent on goods or services, capital equipment or taxes. “In all countries of capitalist production,” Marx wrote, the “accumulation of money-capital signifies to a large extent nothing else but an accumulation of such claims on production, an accumulation of the market-price, the illusory capital-value, of these claims.” Banks and investors hold these “certificates of indebtedness (bills of exchange), government securities (which represent spent capital), and stocks (claims on future yields of production)” whose face value is “purely fictitious.” [19] This means that the interest payments that savers hope to receive cannot be paid in practice, because they are based on fiction – junk economics and junk accounting, which are the logical complements to fictitious capital.


Now Comes a Topper: Obama’s Newest Giveaway to the Banks - $50 Billion “infrastructure” Gift to the Banks, September 14, 2010


“I can smell the newest giveaway looming a mile off. The Wall Street bailout, health-insurance giveaway and support of real estate prices rather than mortgage-debt write-downs were bad enough, not to mention the Oil War’s Afghan extension. But now comes a topper: the $50 billion transportation infrastructure plan that Obama proposed in Milwaukee – cynically enough, on Labor Day.

It looks like the Thatcherite Public-Private Partnership, Britain’s notorious giveaway to the City of London underwriters. The financial giveaway had the effect of increasing prices for basic infrastructure services by building in heavy financial fees – guaranteed for the banks, who lent the money that banks and property owners used to pay in taxes in more progressive times.

The Obama transport plan is like a Fannie Mae for bankers, based on the President’s guiding mantra: “Let’s help Wall Street put Americans back to work.” The theory is that giving public guarantees and bailouts will enable financial managers to use some of the money to fund some projects that employ people – with newly created, non-unionized companies, presumably.

Here’s the problem. Transportation projects will make real estate speculators, the construction industry and their bankers very rich unless the government recovers its public spending through windfall site-value gains on property along the right-of-way.

What’s the point of a party having a constituency, after all, if not to sell it out? Is not the Democratic Party’s role to deliver labor, the minorities and the large cities hog-tied to Wall Street?...

“The program is simply an excuse for re-introducing Reaganomics as if the aim this time around is to “create jobs.” The way that Obama proposes to do this threatens to price American labor even further out of world markets, by raising the cost of getting to work, and of renting or going into debt to buy homes and offices near the new transportation hubs. And I suspect that as in Britain, the new public-private agency will be non-unionized. Britain’s Public-Private Partnership still looms as the dress rehearsal for what we are getting into.”

demandside's picture
Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm


From above: “The program is simply an excuse for re-introducing Reaganomics as if the aim this time around is to “create jobs.”

poly replies: The program is in direct opposition to financing infrastructure in a way that ultimately pays for itself...with an economic return.

While FDR would be turning in his grave...Republican Pres Eisenenhower would rise up in horror.. His Interstate Highway program was one of the greatest the world had ever seen...and paid for itself with taxes on the high wages, and new economic activity generated nation-wide along its routes that is still paying into tax revenues decades later...

Obama's plan is another bonanza for banksters/financiers...just in the financing arrangements!..

More to banksters and Wall Street will trickle down to Main Street. Same old Chicago School of Economics B.S. that got us into this mess in the first place.

Recovey is a bad joke.

Hudson is a world class economist. Thanks for posting him, Demandside.

Retired Monk - "Ideology is a disease".


Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

Trump Is Using Racist White People To Make The Rich Richer

There is this whole mythology that Donald Trump came to power because 53% of white women voted for him, because 66% of white working men who didn't have a college degree voted for him.

That may be, but those are not his constituents. Those are his suckers. Those are his rubes.

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