Ellen Brown Robert Scheer SI Podcast

Robert Scheer/Ellen Brown Podcast on Crisis in the World Economy

Economic expert Ellen Brown talks to Robert Scheer about the financial revolution Vladimir Putin has started and what the global economic future could look like as a result.
Ellen Brown. [Photo courtesy of Ellen Brown]

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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the horrific toll it has been taking on the nation’s civilians and infrastructure makes daily headlines. So, too, has the West’s response: rapidly slapping Russia and high-ranking Russian officials and oligarchs with a slate of debilitating economic sanctions. But Russian President Vladimir Putin’s paradigm-shifting response to the coercive measures, while far less reported, could have global repercussions for decades to come. 

Economic expert and lawyer Ellen Brown joins Robert Scheer on this week’s “Scheer Intelligence” to discuss how Russia’s decision to undermine the dollar as the global reserve currency changes everything. Brown builds on thoroughly-researched piece for ScheerPost on the episode, and explains the history of the “PetroDollar” and outlines how Russia’s response to Western sanctions—aimed at strengthening the ruble—could be the start of a “Petro Ruble” revolution, which threatens the dominance of the dollar. 

The latest China-Russia strategic alliance, which had been historically untenable when both were communist countries, had already signaled a possible end to Western dominance. Now, with Russia’s latest economic move, this global transformation seems to be taking shape, as Brown and Scheer discuss in the new podcast episode. Brown believes that the current crisis could actually lead to an economic “reset” that works for more people–including Americans–as other countries begin to trade in their own currencies. 

The future of the world economic order is more uncertain than ever. Listen to the full conversation between Brown and Scheer as they try to make sense of the fast-paced developments linked to Ukraine and Russia, and make thoughtful predictions about where the world is headed as a result.

Credits

Host:

Robert Scheer

Producer:

Joshua Scheer

RS: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence, where the intelligence comes from my guests. In this case, no question about that when it comes to international or domestic economic matters, particularly banking and the role of banking. There’s no greater expert, for my money, than Ellen Brown. And she’s written a terrific article for Scheerpost, but I’ve admired her work elsewhere.

And what she does is demystify the economy, and particularly in relation to larger issues of who gets to make decisions. And right now I want to talk about the whole question of the Ukraine from an economic angle. And we know that preceding the Russian move into the Ukraine, there was an agreement with China, that Russia and China had a great deal in common, in favoring a multipolar world; you could argue what else they might have. 

But one of the ironies is when Russia was a communist country, they had trouble getting along with communist China. There was the Sino-Soviet dispute, and they were actually shooting at each other at different times. Now, with China still a communist country but Russia, Putin was elected as the anti-communist who defeated the Communist Party candidate; he was the guy favored by the United States. Nonetheless, there is now an alliance, and there’s an economic coming together as well.

And so I wanted to turn to Ellen to help explain this to us. And what has it really got to do with the role of the dollar? You know, the assets of Russia have been frozen; the question is, you know, how do you do trade, and the Russians are asking for it to be paid in rubles. And you’ve done a lot to demystify this whole drama. So why don’t you give us the larger picture?

EB: OK, well, both Russia and China have been sanctioned, of course. So they have that in common. And Sergei Glazyev, who is former advisor to President Putin on economic matters, pointed that out in this draft international agreement that they’ve done for an independent international monetary and financial system. 

But the big drama of late is that, of course, Russia was sanctioned, as you point out, including—we froze nearly half their financial reserves globally, and expelled some of the larger banks from the swift global payment system; put export controls on their technologies, or our technologies; did personal sanctions against some of their senior officials, some oligarchs. So the immediate effect was to crash the ruble.

So what Russia did in return, or response, was to say, well, fine. They’re not selling their oil, then, in dollars, because they can’t use the dollars. Or they’re not selling it in, you know, Euros or other currencies, because they can’t use them. So we, the West, actually, is in breach; I know the West is saying that Russia is in breach for not selling their oil in Euros. I mean, that’s the big one; that’s their big customer, of course, is Europe, and Europe really needs their oil. 

So Russia has said that the unfriendly countries, of which there are 48, I guess, that are going along with the sanctions—I mean, these are the big Western countries, of course, the G7 nations: the U.S., Europe, Japan, et cetera. But also many other nations that we have persuaded to also sanction Russia. And so the unfriendly countries are limited to rubles or gold for gas, and then the friendly countries—which as Putin has pointed out, that’s more than half the global population, so it’s a lot—

RS: Meaning China and India, among others.

EB: Yeah, China, India and Russia together are huge. And then Venezuela, which is a big oil country, and Turkey, et cetera. So they’re among the friendly countries, and they are allowed to use national currencies or bitcoin, it was announced recently. So India, for example, can sell—I mean, they actually have an agreement with Russia to buy oil in rupees. And China has an agreement to buy in yuan, and Turkey has an agreement to buy in lira. So they’re buying in their own currencies, which I think is really how it should work everywhere. I mean, that’s really what fiat money is. 

But I won’t go into—I mean, fiat money is the acknowledgment of the people of the country that—it’s like a promise to exchange our goods and services for the value of whatever that fiat money was. For example, the dollar is now backed only by the full faith and credit of the United States, which means we the people will take that money in return for our goods at the same value that we’re trading those goods domestically. And that’s the deal. So that is the trust that was broken by these sanctions. So– 

RS: Well, it should be pointed out that this was—you know, it’s interesting, because I’m talking to Ellen Brown, who—you are a lawyer by profession, right? Not a traditional economist.

EB: Right. Long retired, but yes.

RS: Well, I think that’s a blessing. Because really, we’re not talking about Adam Smith’s free market. We’re talking about legal structures, domestically and internationally, which govern trade. And ever since the end of World War II, with the Bretton Woods understanding, that this got severed. And the dollar was instituted as a global currency, but at that time it was tied to gold, to the price of gold. So it was not just to the benefit of the people who could print dollars; it was anchored in something else. 

And then that got severed. And it got separated, and now actually the United States has this power to print this currency that is the basis of trade, and particularly in the question of oil and so forth, that became the basis of the petrodollar market. And in return, the oil sheikdoms in Saudi Arabia were given military protection and stability for embracing the dollar. 

That is the main thing that’s being challenged now. Russia is a major exporter of petroleum and some other items, and the fact of the matter is that they’re responding to these sanctions. And you’re correct in pointing out China is also—and they say, OK, we’re going to go to a true, free-market trade; we’re going to unpeg it from the dollar. 

And that is a—so two things have happened. One is a realignment of powers. I mean, India, China and Russia, just to name three, of people who might provide another center of power as opposed to the NATO—let’s not call it the European Union—the NATO power alliance. And Western Europe has lined up solidly, and much of what used to be Eastern Europe, behind the U.S. leadership. And it’s being challenged, and that’s a big deal that’s not being talked about much.

EB: Bretton Woods was in 1944. And the deal was that we had already gone off the gold standard domestically. So in the United States, you could not trade in your dollars at the bank for gold. All through the 19th century you could; that’s really what a dollar was, it was a promissory note of the bank that you could take that note to the bank and you could get a dollar’s worth of gold. But the banks did not have enough gold. They issued many times more notes than they had gold, because they knew that people preferred the notes over the gold; they were more convenient to carry around and to trade with. 

So we periodically had banking crises all through the 19th century, and then we got the Federal Reserve, which was supposed to be the backup. But still we had the crash of ’29, and then in 1933 the dollar went off the gold standard domestically, so you couldn’t go to your local bank and trade it in for gold. But internationally you could; nations could still, gold was still used as reserve currency internationally. 

So then in 1944, at the end of World War II, we had the Bretton Woods agreement, where the global reserve currency became the dollar backed by gold. So again, nations could trade in their dollars for gold. But in the 1970s under Lyndon Johnson we had the Great Society and the Vietnam War; the Great Society was a lot of internal, you know, improvements that cost money. And so we were spending money like crazy. 

And Charles de Gaulle, who was then president of France, could see that we were running out of money, so he cashed in his dollars for gold at our gold window, you know, in the U.S. And then I think Italy followed suit, and the UK was going to do the same. And so Richard Nixon, who was then president in 1971, closed the gold window. He said we’re going to run out of gold. And the dollar crashed right after that, because it no longer had the backing that it once had, crashed on global markets relative to other currencies. 

So Nixon and Henry Kissinger made a deal with the OPEC countries, as you said, that we would back them militarily and they would sell their oil only in dollars, and the dollars would be deposited in Wall Street and City of London banks. So that gave us grounds, the ability to leverage this money and to expand it. 

And according to [unclear]—he’s an author who’s written a number of books, and he’s shown good evidence that Kissinger also said we are going to quadruple the price of oil. And that’s what happened; the price did quadruple, I don’t know if you remember when we used to have to wait in these long lines to get gas, and people were putting locks on their gas tanks because gas had gotten so expensive. 

So that obviously made it very worthwhile to the OPEC countries to enter into this deal. And that was apparently—it was due to an artificial, short war in the Middle East. Anyway, that maybe verges on conspiracy theory, but that was part of the deal. And so that held until 2000, when Saddam Hussein broke the deal by selling his oil in Iraq to Europe in Euros. And after that, Libya did the same under Gaddafi, and I think two other countries did the same. 

And so of course we went after Iraq and Libya, and they were destroyed physically and economically, and their presidents were murdered. And one thing about Gaddafi was that he was planning to set up this gold-backed currency for all of Africa; he was attempting to do an African system that would be independent of the Western system, independent of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which were also set up in 1944 under the Bretton Woods agreement. 

So we’ve had various sanctions on small countries ever since, but it wasn’t until—obviously, both Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi weren’t able to break this dollar dominance. But only this year has a major global power been able to do it, and that’s Russia, and they seem to be pulling it off.

RS: Well, it’s a major development, because you know, you can’t threaten these other countries by not going along. Because first of all, the oil-producing sheikdoms and Saudi Arabia and so forth, they’re benefiting from the current crisis. Their price of oil is very high, and they don’t have an interest in it being sold cheaply. 

And the question really will be, can you force—and there have been some threats towards China from the administration now, you know, that they can’t go alone and undermine the sanctions. But can you tell China you can’t buy this oil in your own currency? Can you tell India that you can’t buy oil in your local currency? That would seem to me to be a fundamental betrayal of any notion of sovereignty. 

And if the Russian oil starts flowing freely to China and India, it’s going to be a whole different market system. And it’s really the end of dollar dominance. Which, in your article that we’ve put on Scheerpost, or published there, you mentioned it’s a mixed blessing; it might bring manufacturing back to the United States. It might be better for workers in America not to have this dollar dependency; it’s a mixed bag. But it certainly would undermine a great sense of American power, and a lot of the superwealth. 

EB: Right. And it forces us to carry a trade deficit. So we have to—other countries need our dollars, and so we have to spend, and they can undercut us because they need our dollars. So they can undercut our workers, but they also drive up our federal debt, because what happens—it’s not like the treasury just prints dollars and spends them. The treasury has to go into debt in order to get their dollars. They print bonds, and they sell the bonds on the open market. 

So a lot of—so when, say, they trade with China, China has products, we get the products, they get dollars—what do they do with their dollars if we don’t have products that they want to buy? Then they buy bonds with them, because it’s a way of—supposedly, it was supposed to be a pristine asset that was totally solid, and that would pay them a little interest. 

So we’re paying interest, and at the rate we’re going, because we have this $30 trillion debt now, we’re going to be paying interest forever on that debt. I mean, there’s no way to get out of it. We can’t do it with taxes. So every year, the interest burden seems to get higher. And of course now the Federal Reserve is raising interest rates, so it’s going to go higher yet. I’ve seen projections where it won’t be long before the interest on the debt is going to be half of our tax take, which is rather insane.

RS: Well, one way you can deal with the debt is what we did with Russia now. And just seize their assets. And just violate any—I mean, the—what is it? The good faith, what is that phrase from our Constitution—

EB: Full faith and credit.

RS: Yeah, full faith and credit—what better way to violate the full faith and credit than to say, hey, if we have a profound disagreement with you, or one we feel is profound, we’re just going to seize your assets. And then what does that mean for China? Let’s say we don’t like China’s policy towards Taiwan—suddenly will all their investments in the United States, and including their carrying our debt, be wiped out? Well, that’s a big signal to—I mean, Russia is not as important an economy as China by any means. Or India, which has a tendency to go its own way. And it seems to me the price of the current sanctions is to say, you can’t trust the U.S. with your assets.

EB: Right—well, and you read a lot of, you know, on the dark side that this is all intentional; that there is the World Economic Forum, the old European money, that their goal is to take down global economies everywhere in order to implement the great reset. So we clearly need a reset; resets are something that happens every few decades because the debt gets too high. As Michael Hudson has written about, the ancient Sumerians and Babylonians, they knew that when the debts got too high they just did a debt jubilee, wiped it all out. 

But of course they were the kings, and the kings could—they were the creditors, so they could just say, all right, go back to your farms, go back to work, we’re starting over. But we can’t do that; how do you do a reset? And the World Economic Forum has their version, but it’s not the version that we want. But it is sort of a—looking on the bright side, it is an opportunity for us to never let a crisis go to waste, as they say. We too can use this crisis to implement a more sane and fair system than the one we have now. And actually, the way it’s framed, this new international system actually sounds pretty good and pretty fair.

RS: Well, it’s not fair if you’re, say, Russia right now, and you know, you feel your assets have been stolen—yeah.

EB: No, I mean the Russian—the one that Sergei Glazyev—

RS: Oh—

EB: The one that they’re framing actually sounds like it could be a better deal than what we have right now, even for us. Even though everybody says if we lose reserve currency status, we’re in trouble—but at least we’re not going to be going into debt. We will be—it’ll have the effect of tariffs, where it’ll nurture, or we’ll be forced to develop our industries. 

And we can do just like Abraham Lincoln did when he was faced with huge debts, war debts: print money, but use it for development, use it for internal development. You don’t want to just print money and send it off to the stock market for speculation, which is where it seems to wind up under our current system. But anyway, you know, it’s all doable, but we have to sort of restructure the system. But this is an opportunity to do it. 

RS: Well, it goes to the question of who’s the “we,” OK. You know, it’s true, if we couldn’t float on the power of our currency and this safe haven for rich people all over the world, you know, it would change the balance of things, and there might be more jobs for American workers. And it may make low-paying societies like China less attractive; that’s true. 

But the people who have been profiting from globalization—these enormous profits in the billionaire class—they’re going to be hurting, because they’re going to have to start paying real wages to people instead of the ones dragged off the farms in China to work assembling our iPhones. If you’ve got to assemble them in Kansas, you might have to pay more. You know, and they might be unionized, they might have the right to go on strike and all of these things, and it’s even threatening Amazon right now. 

So the “we” comes into question. “We” have not basically benefited from globalization; it’s been a one-way deal. And that’s why you have to wonder about what’s going on now. I mean, why does Western Europe and the United States want to challenge this mythology that we are a safe haven for other people’s money, including those oligarchs, be they Russian or Ukrainian or whatever—they’re now getting a message that nothing, your yachts are not sacred, your money is not sacred. So why park it here? That’s really kind of a big takeaway from this, isn’t it? 

EB: Right. Well, it does seem insane, and we’re actually—many commentators have said we’re shooting ourselves in the foot with this. And why are we doing it? It’s a question of who is “we,” like you say. If saner people—I mean, even just ordinary people like you and me, if we were in power, we would not be doing this; we would do it much more rationally. So why are we destroying our own economic system? But it goes right along with the great reset, World Economic Forum stuff, so anyway. 

RS: Well, we should talk about that. Because look, first of all—I mean, we haven’t talked about the sanctions and everything else. I mean, some people in the world might think, yes, you know, the Russians had no right, and it’s a war crime to invade another country, et cetera, et cetera. But you say in your article, in a way, the Russians are following the American playbook. Now, I know you didn’t mean that to mean militarily, but certainly we wrote the playbook about being able to invade countries. You know, and kill lots of civilians, whether it was in a truly declared war, like killing people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki with these weapons that now people are talking about using again, atomic weapons, or the invasion of Vietnam, the invasion of Iraq, et cetera, et cetera. 

But we’re saying their invasion is a very special order, and justifies basically tearing up the rules of the road for international commerce. And I don’t think people understand that. They think it’s a one-way street, that OK, this puts Putin in trouble because people are going to be very upset with their economy. But people are going to be upset all over the world with what’s happening to their economy. And if the big players, like China and India, can actually get the thing they most need, which is gas and petroleum—they need that, and they can get it using their own currency, I think that’s a deal, an offer they can’t refuse. 

EB: Yeah, totally. And I’ve seen people—you mentioned about who is “we”; I’ve seen pushback where people say, well, “we”—you know, the U.S. people—have been, like you say, done terrible things globally, and we deserve to suffer, and we shouldn’t be able to pull through this. But the thing is, we the people didn’t do it. We didn’t—we’re not the military, and we didn’t actually do those wars. And the people, all this has been built on the workers, on the backs of the workers of the American people. 

So they actually, like everyone else, deserve to have the possibility of a decent wage, like you say, and rebuilding in the right way. The American, what was called the American system in the 19th century, which was focused on—it was actually Senator Henry Clay who called it the American system. The British system—the British, of course, were colonialists; their idea was take over other countries and exploit their resources. And the American system, by contrast, was that we stick to our own borders and develop our own resources and our own industries. So you would focus on your industries with tariffs, protect them with tariffs, and have your own central bank that could issue money for development, for industrialization, not for just free money for wealthy people, the way it seems to be going. 

So that’s what we need. First of all, we need to remember our roots, it seems to me, remember who we are. And we actually had important principles that have absolutely been violated: free speech and freedom of the press, and freedom of religion and all those things seem to be going by the wayside lately. I mean, it’s quite alarming how things have changed just in the last couple of years. 

RS: Well, I want to bring it close to home. We’ve just gone—still in the tail end, hopefully tail end of a pandemic. And during that pandemic, our way of life that we proclaimed to the world, basically the key of our way of life is the freedom to shop. Consumer sovereignty, the right to buy what you want to buy. And in the darkest moments of the pandemic, that was facilitated by Amazon, which became the most successful company in the world, and Jeff Bezos the first or second richest man in the world. 

But they largely did it with goods produced in China, even though we were blasting China for the “China virus” under Donald Trump, the fact is they got back to normal a lot faster than anybody else, whether you agree or not with their methods. And most of the stuff that people were buying on Amazon was made in China. And that was part of the Chinese valuing dollars that purchased those goods, and also their ability to do this by exploiting Chinese workers with low pay. Even as they move into higher tech activity, that very good deal for the U.S. government and its billionaires didn’t translate into improved wages for American workers, and real income for American workers. 

Nonetheless, it was a sweetheart deal for Western Europe, for the United States. And that seems to be threatened right now, and that’s the point I want to get at here. It’s not a small thing if the Chinese, for instance, and India say, wait a minute—we’ll do this, we’ll swap with our own currency and buy what we want anywhere in the world, because people will respect it. And we’re not going to be—because we’re not hooked; maybe they’ll even get hooked to gold, you know; it’ll be another insult, but also we now have this bitcoin revolution, where you can’t even track a lot of this stuff and how it’s consumed. 

We’re in a different—I’m asking, basically, has the new world order been torn asunder, and is a new world order being built, on the backs of a policy that, you know, stressed economic strangulation as your fallback position, and it might be backfiring?

EB: Right. Well, there’s the Western new world order, which is not a good thing, and then the new, independent international monetary system that the other half of the world is attempting to set up. Sounds to me like it’s better, and they’re just reacting to what was wrong with our system. And nobody’s ever been able to break it before, even though they were always complaining about this exorbitant privilege, but they couldn’t do anything about it. 

In fact, I’ve seen the argument, whether you buy this or not, that some people have said why did Russia allow their—they’ve been preparing for sanctions since—well, they’ve been getting sanctioned ever since 2014. And so they should have kept their reserves at home so they couldn’t have been captured, but I’ve seen it alleged that they may have allowed that to happen on purpose because it’s a clear breach of our obligation to respect the full faith and credit of our own currency. That’s the whole point of, you know, global reserve currency, was supposed to be it was inviolate; you could trade it. And so we breached, and therefore that gives them grounds to breach by setting up their own system. And obviously they’ve now got quite a bit of support for it, a lot of empathy for their side.

RS: Well, the argument that’s going to be made by people who support the Biden administration is going to be that what happened with the Ukraine is so egregious that it warranted this, and that it should be applauded. But it’s better also than putting troops in or using nuclear weapons or risking a nuclear war. So we’re using the economic weapon. But many other countries, while they certainly would oppose intervention—whatever you think of China, for example, they’ve been pretty consistent about opposing what they consider intervention; they obviously have their own, every country has its own nationalist idea of where they’re allowed to intervene. But they certainly have favored economic expansion generally. But in the areas that they care about—for instance, they were sanctioned over their treatment of the native Muslim population. Well, the record of the United States in dealing with Muslims around the world is not such a wonderful—

EB: It’s not very good.

RS: Not good. You know, we’ve destroyed major societies; we’ve tortured people; we’ve violated their rights. Certainly our record—I mean, you’d be pretty hard-pressed, I know it was alleged by the Ukrainian leadership that this is the worst violation of human rights since World War II—well, you’ve got to tell that to the Indo-Chinese people, who lost somewhere between four and seven million people, most of them civilians. And you know, you can go right down the list. 

So if one government gets the right to seize all your assets and violate its obligations financially, why should anyone support them or honor that? I mean, certainly there’s going to be tension between China—in fact, there’s tension between two communist countries, China and Vietnam are rivals over some islands and what have you, and influence in the area. 

So every country in the world now would have to worry about this, it seems to me. And maybe this is a good way to wrap it up, but it seems—I would argue that maybe this is much more than was bargained for. We haven’t discussed the possibility of nuclear war and ending all life on the planet; that’s another subject. But just in strict economic terms, maybe this is what Lenin said: you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. Maybe this is the broken eggs now, and we don’t know where the omelet ends up. 

Because you know, what we’re saying really—and you think of two countries that have not had good relations, India and China for example, now in agreement that this is a good, as you say, way of getting petroleum and using their own currency. What will the U.S. do? Are we going to punish China? There has been talk about that, you know; are we going to attack them, are we going to deny their right to make their own economic decisions? And India as well? 

And I think your article—which has been getting a lot of attention on Scheerpost for, you know, an economics article, that’s very good—I think people are aware we may have set in motion some very troubling and disturbing patterns here. And we may be in for some kind of major worldwide recession. There’s a lot of talk about that now.

EB: Yeah, I’m afraid that’s true. Well, and economic sanctions was obviously a better alternative than nuclear war, and everybody’s always been afraid of nuclear war, and if we can avoid that, that’s great. But obviously economic sanctions aren’t the ideal solution either. At some point, we have to negotiate, I think. But anyway, that’s not my area of expertise.

RS: Well, OK, last word, though. Last word, because we used this “new world order,” you mentioned Michael Hudson, highly regarded. You know, just give us a sense of what might happen in the next just three, four months. Is this moving at a fairly fast pace? Is oil going to flow from Russia to China? That’s not so difficult technologically, you don’t have to, you know, there’s like a big, long border. Where does India come? What is your prediction?

EB: Yeah, well, I don’t think Europe, or certainly Germany doesn’t really have a choice. There’s no—nobody else can fill the need of Europe, and next winter they will—they need their gas for heat, they’re going to freeze. I mean we, here in L.A. we could get by. But agreeing to the terms is not really what it sounds like either, because they’re willing to take euros into their bank, a Russian bank, and then they convert that to their own currency, to rubles. 

So anyway—so it seems to me it’s not as threatening as it sounds, and I imagine that oil will be bought, or gas is certainly going to be bought in rubles as they want. Or maybe even gold, and an interesting thing I’ve been reading about is that by—that the Russians have now put a floor on the gold price. So they’ve agreed to sell their gold for X amount of rubles, which is less than our—it was, when they set it, it was less than the going price. But as the ruble gets stronger because other countries are needing it for their gas, and maybe other products, just as they needed the dollars for oil, the ruble will get stronger. Which means that the amount that they’re willing to pay in rubles may exceed the amount that you can get for gold in the U.S. 

So then you’ll have this arbitrage going on, where people will be selling their gold to the Russians for, you know, for this higher price. Which means the gold will all be flowing into Russia, which apparently they’re thinking of backing their new currency with gold. Or, you know, gold and other commodities and the currencies that are all party to their new arrangement. 

RS: You’ve just—we’ll end on this, but you’ve just sketched the sickest outcome of all of this. That, as with other imperial powers—and Russia’s view of Ukraine is imperial—they’re going to benefit from the suffering of people, just as we have benefited from the suffering of people, innocent civilians, tearing up other societies. 

And somehow out of the ashes, human ashes as well as physical property, housing and so forth, they make more money. Chaos makes money, and whoever thought the ruble would become a kind of gold standard, but you know, goodness doesn’t always win out. And this may be one of those—let’s assume there was good intentions on the part of President Biden, but it could be actually quite disastrous. 

That’s all the disaster we have time for today on this edition of Scheer Intelligence. I want to thank you, Ellen Brown, and I want to ask people to read your article on Scheerpost. It’s terrific, and it’s great having you writing for the publication every month. I want to thank Christopher Ho and the great staff at KCRW, the FM NPR station in Santa Monica, for hosting these editions of Scheer Intelligence. Joshua Scheer, our executive producer, who puts it all together. Natasha Hakimi Zapata, who writes the introduction and does the editing of them. Lucy Berbeo, who does the transcription. I want to thank the JKW Foundation for a grant in memory of Jean Stein, a great writer, for helping to support this. And T.M. Scruggs for helping us put these shows on. See you next week with another edition of Scheer Intelligence. 

25 comments

  1. The “ATROCITIES THAT HAVE PRESUMABLY OCCURRED AND ASSUMED TO BE DONE BY RUSSIAN MILITARY IS TOTALLY UNFOUNDED! IT WAS MORE THAN LIKELY DONE BY ZELENSKY’S NAZI INFESTED MILITARY AND POLICE FORCES. IN FACT, YOUR LAST COLUMN STATED THAT THE MAYOR OF BUCHA DIDN’T MENTION ONE WORD ABOUT IT AFTER THE RUSSIANS HAD LEFT! SO YOU’RE TALKING OUT OF BOTH SIDES OF YOUR MOUTH, ARE YOU NOT?

    1. Zelensky is a Jew.
      The Russian soldiers did that, why should nation kill it people. They were peaceful, then the enemy came in with big ideas. Fascism, is evil, bad spirits in a Nation, killing Jews. Germany paid the cost of that evil. All Jews can never forget the Holocaust.. Ukraine people before the war, the Revolution did not have a preference, Communism was applied on them. And the Rothschilds financed and created Communism. Marx theses, was financed by Rothschilds. And Lennin was there leader, a Bolshevic Jew. Of the Synagogue of Satan. Not an Isreaelite, Rothschilds own the World. In false usury.

      1. Ascot 7, you put your trust in people who have used it and abused it.

  2. There’s great misunderstanding about the petrodollar and why it came to be. When the dollar and gold were severed from their fixed and pegged relationship in 1971 , the value of the gold was lost to the dollar in that fixed and pegged context. The dollar did maintain the scalable relationship as the gold’s global price tool, however, floating and scalable at that point , instead of fixed. This has to be carefully considered as being the end-in-mind for Bretton Woods in the name of trade-free trade that can now dovetail with fully scalable liquidity.

    The dollar was in peril for becoming “unemployed” after Bretton Woods and sought to measure the trade value of something that had macro significance on a global scale. Enter oil but realize that the pricing relationship with oil is the same pricing relationship that the dollar had/has with gold. Both are fully scalable from a systemic point of view. The major difference in the early 1970’s was that oil was generously flowing for transaction revenue and gold still had to cut its teeth with a whole new pricing paradigm as the last tradable thing to enter the free floating price model that had been just been crafted. In short, gold was not quite ready for monetization by the market masses.

    Skip now to the digital progression. The fully free floating global price model is the now a new platform for balanced barter through the academic use of real-time price comparisons in eCommerce. This is exactly how gold and silver are used today in the fledgling payment models that use market gold and silver as market based money where the digital medium is FULLY full backed with vaulted bullion and the mass based digital medium is priced in real-time by the market participants.

    Let’s ask now. Why measure the trade value of oil (usd/brl) that goes up in smoke when you can measure the value of debt-free market based money (usd/gm) that whips around the globe in support real wealth creation?

    Bye-bye petrodollar …. hello 21st century fishes and loaves given the right market support.

    What has USD hegemony really been about all these years. Time to rethink !

    1. Hi Michael G,

      I’ve found many of your comments confusing, to say the least and the terminology and language you use is big part of it. It is a though you are speaking in shorthand.

      It seems like you are saying having a currency set up the right way, a fiat currency not backed by a limited commodity like gold or oil, or a digital currency like bitcoin, will create a bounty (fishes and loaves) by the “invisible hand”, the natural competitiveness of the market. I don’t think there is any panacea for a fiat currency, or any system really that cannot be subject to corruption (“gaming” the market), monopolies, or some form of unfair advantage (cheating).

      The US has abused the universal acceptance of the US dollar, and its use as the most common currency for trade, by printing money to invest in the stock market (quantitative easing) or military spending. So it’s not just what currency is used, but how the economic system as a whole is managed (social spending vs neoliberal austerity).

      The US essentially began as “free-for-all” during the early days of colonization and expansion West, but over time the strongest market players made sure they ran the system, and turned to the govt to bail them out whenever a speculative bubble burst. Add to this that the native peoples lived in harmony with the earth, but American consumer society has been so destructive. Self interest and the economy is part of who we are, but should never be the greatest or only thing that matters (I’m thinking of Margaret Thatcher’s scary statement that “there is no such thing as society”).

      1. It doesn’t matter to me which gobblydygok terminology is used. I have my own theory. As the pigs return home to feed off their own at an increasingly fever pitch as they will, we will need lots of shovels with which we can bang them viciously over their heads. Some won’t return as they pursue their greed with a new patriotism and allegiance to whatever ‘new world order’ will have them. Good riddance to the traitors, and to this ‘world order’. People are learning hard lessons. Hope lives.

  3. We should eliminate the Fed, terminate it completely, default on the Federal Debt because it is usurious and illegal, as well as a scam
    foisted upon us by super rich bankers. Over the years they have been made wealthy beyond belief because of the interest we pay on this debt. We simply need to get rid of the Fed and then refuse to recognize the debt. Who will try to enforce it and how??????

    This is an illusion used to keep Americans in a debt slavery system. It is time that we zeroed everything out and started anew.

  4. I wanted to offer the following for consideration, to (hopefully) help further understanding:

    “Money does not have intrinsic value, but has social or relationship value.”

    An analogy would be reputation. If a tradesperson or professional has a good reputation, people will do business with them, but if they are heard to be untrustworthy, the opposite is true. A professional might have valuable skills, but they aren’t worth much if people won’t engage with them. By the US seizing some of Russia’s foreign reserves, for example, the US has given the signal that it is less trustworthy. By Russia refusing to trade oil for Euros, they have effectively said the Euro is worthless to them (if Russia cannot then use the Euros they receive for further trades).

    “Creation of money is ideological.”

    This idea can’t be stressed enough. In the West, through neoliberalism, money creation is linked to debt, and govts stress the need to reduce social spending and avoid a deficit, because there isn’t enough money: this is largely a lie. The govt can create money -and- cancel debt, and I have heard the Bank of Japan has recently, carefully cancelled some of its debt, as an example.

    The problem is that because, like a stock, most currencies are traded, the financial community will punish a currency if they don’t like a govt’s ideology. Interest is always paid to bond or treasury bill holders, to Banks and Wall Street when money is “created”, which is a tax on society. Ellen spoke about govts creating money for internal development, and if we had an active social democracy, it would and should be, but that is not the case. Inflation can be a problem when printing money, but that depends on what the money is spent on. Remember that corporate concentration allows companies to artificially raise prices or limit production, so inflation doesn’t always mean the 99% has extra money to spend, driving up demand and prices.

    Michael Hudson has talked about the West being a rentier economy and debt being sacred. Ellen mentioned that ancient cultures like the Babylonians had a debt jubilee, and that is something that the circle at Davos will not allow. A debt jubilee is a very democratic idea, in ancient times to avoid a revolution, but today banks and Wall Street would punish the US Dollar if the govt hinted at this idea.
    The West would prefer to be a rentier economy, where debt is used to extract, exploit and discipline the rest of the population.

    We the people are not asked or encouraged to inform ourselves about how money creation really works, and finance as a whole uses complicated, arcane language to obscure a general understanding.

    1. You are right. Money is created by banks through credit allocation. That is a fact. And you are additionally right about inflation being the result of how that money is used. If it is used for the purchase of title or better, used for asset allocation and not productivity then there will be inflation, unemployment and wealth inequality as well as other forms of economic dysfunction. This has been developed by Richard Werner in his theory “the unity theory of disaggregated credit. The solution is to regulate banks in such a way as to limit money creation for asset investment and insist that money creation be used for productivity. Under this model of money creation there will be economic growth, employment, productivity, and more equality in economic outcomes

  5. Yeah! Undermine the dollar and US world hegemony. Just sick of the lies and lack of care and the torture and killing, the hypocrisy of accusations when USA, too should be considered war criminals. In countries who do not want to deal in our currency of lies and deceit and making the rich richer, we have waged war and murdered millions because they would not bow down to US nor want the US dollars currency. Amen and godspeed. We are not a country that anyone should emulate.

  6. Thank you for your consistently awesome show, Bob. I really appreciate the guests you bring on and their particular knowledge. To some, you might appear to be too critical of the US but I think that’s our right and privilege as Americans to critique US imperialism and its destructive impulse. I also agree with you that Putin adopted the US playbook when it came to invading UKR and that the US has no moral high ground when it comes to mass civilian fatalities or collateral damage as they now call it. On the one hand, it’s detestable that Putin followed suit, the other, well if the US had acted less ruthlessly abroad and also been willing to negotiate in the window provided months before Russian invaded, we wouldn’t have the carnage occurring.

  7. I disagree with Ellen when she says it is not “WE” the people who are to blame for this economic insanit. Anyone who still votes for the two party corporate oligarch political system is to blame. While there are many of us who refuse to vote for either party, there are many more who still do. And thus “WE” who do vote for them are indeed to blame.

  8. The Chinese have been using US debt to fund their BRI instead of US Treasuries. Thus, that debt is no longer in Chinese hands, with concomitant ramification. Thus, China may have trumped the US in those relationships. There is more here than just the value of the reserve currencies.

    There is the AIIB and the BRICS banks that overlap and provide a base for a common exchange currency. That announcement is still forthcoming, but the ramifications, again are substantive and depend in part on the market basket for stabilization whether there is crypto or not. In any case, those on either side of a transaction can do their own analysis.

    There is more here than “bringing mfg home” in a timely and beneficial manner. An interesting place to do an analysis is the rise of alt protein (food/agriculture) marketplace when comparing where the US industry is with the APAC (asian pacific marketplace). The planetary impact from an environmental and socio/economic perspective may question the idea of “bring ’em back home

  9. No! I have not read the full transcript of the interview. Is it really necessary to have done so, in order to have something to say?
    Vladimir Putin has started the financial revolution, and because of the counter sanctions he has imposed on his aggressors, it may overturn the world economy?
    Now there’s a good joke!
    I could have sworn it was the U.S. who first came up with the universal ideology of sanctioning those who disagreed with it.
    Putin may have actively transgressed the Ukrainian border, but in both of the above cited instances, he was reacting to NATO (U,S.) taunts.
    U.S. foreign policy initiatives; running counter to the democracy and human rights it proclaims to be upholding have to take place clandestinely, specifically because they are anti-democratic, tyrannical enforcement practices.
    In the aforementioned, the sole hegemons Western lackeys see it as Putin being solely to blame; after more than 20 years of beseeching the West to back-off, as they had earlier promised.
    Now, again, he (Putin) alone, is being seen as solely to blame for turning the world economy on its head?
    If he alone is the all-powerful Samson to bring the temple of ‘demockrisy’ crashing down to the ground, on top of the ignorance ‘heads’ of humanity’s, good on him!
    Beep, beep, look in the mirror!

    1. Em:

      I quote “No! I have not read the full transcript of the interview. Is it really necessary to have done so, in order to have something to say?”

      Thank-you for good laugh, I needed it, :). No, I don’t think one needs to read a full transcript, but it does help provide better context and prevents misunderstanding. I agree though that the American govt and media are soaked in hypocrisy over accusations about Putin and Russia.

      I’ll just add to my other comments as this topic is important to me: should China and Russia be successful in countering the US, the new balance of power will only help the world (assuming we avoid nuclear fire, first). China, as a rising power, seems to be making nice with its Belt and Road Initiative. China is no paradise for critical thought and human rights, but it is investing in, rather than destabilizing and impoverishing, other parts of the world, as the US has done in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen (via Saudi Arabia), Syria, etc…

  10. May overturn? It just body slammed the US dollar as the world reserve currency. Nobody outside the west trusts the western system any more. It has shown itself to be corrupted, untrustworthy, and irrational.

    One after the other the dominoes will now fall. The US has shown itself to be a paper tiger and the world has taken note. Because if this you can count on Washington to go to ever greater extremes of folly in their attempts to maintain hegemony.

    The more irrational and extreme they become the quicker world economic dominance will slip though it’s fingers. The only possible solution for the west is to assert such military dominance that it can destroy their victims, feed of it’s carcass, and teach an object lesson to everybody else who might want to challenge their power.

    In truth World War has already begun.

  11. Ellen Brown, Bob Scheer, Chris Hedges and Michael Moore all seem to be unaware of the democratizing, decentralizing potential inherent in making every citizen of America (or Russia, China, Ukraine, etc) an owner of income producing capital. Known variously as Economic Democracy, Universal Basic Ownership, or Capital Homesteading, (see CESJ.ORG) this reorienting of the current free market economic system attacks the economic roots of poverty, racism, and war, yet none of these very knowledgeable people mentioned above have, to my knowledge, ever commented on it. Until they do I believe that all 3 are missing the key ingredients to a 21st century solution to world problems.

    1. Rick:

      The CESJ (Center for Economic Justice) seems to promote private ownership and access to capital for enterprising people willing to make something of themselves in the economy: they state they do not want to challenge existing concentrated ownership of capital, just expand it for others. Concentrated, private ownership leads to much of the grotesque inequality, poverty and all its ill effects. Further, concentrated wealth tends to take control of the govt for its own, private benefit. The only freedom the CESJ and something like the Republican Party wants is the freedom of the wealthy to live as they please, even at the expense of other human and natural welfare.

      1. Cynical Rex apparently has a problem understanding the idea that with Universal Basic Ownership (UBO) ALL CITIZENS will have EQUAL ACCESS to the means required to become owners of income-producing capital assets in order to free themselves from the shackles of wage slavery while creating no consumer debt and paying down our national debt simultaneously!

  12. Mr. Scheer, the pandemic is not over. You mention that it is “the tail end”. That is not true. All reputable virologists and immunologists are opposed to this lifting of Covid precautions and they are the ones who know what they’re talking about. It is the capitalist system that is demanding that workers go back to work and children go back to school, and IT IS NOT SAFE. to do so. We still need Covid benefits for those who are immunocompromised. We still need a moratorium on rents. We still need coverage of all testing and treatment.

  13. Gold is a commodity. Its price can be and is manipulated like any other commodity. To base a currency on gold is no different, except in the imagination, than a currency backed by full faith and credit of the people. The US and most countries were on a gold standard in 1929. Did not stop the depression. The reason is simple. There wasn’t enough gold and there never can be enough gold to back a currency. If the population grows at 2% per year the economy and the money supply will also have to grow at 2% or greater or the population gets progressively poorer and more in debt. That is where we are right now and I do not see it getting much worse without a rebellion.
    Ellen’s public banking solution could allow growth without increased poverty by the government spending money into the real economy at low or no interest. To do that the government will have to create money outside of the private bankster cartel. Lincoln did that and was assassinated. JFK did that with his silver certificates and was assassinated. Coincidence???

  14. Putin
    Is a independent dictator. He does what he believes. If a General is in his way, he will have that General killed. Only a group of General’s can place him in prison. So he want’s to be the next tsar, and picks Ukraine. So he has nuclear weapons, he will eventually use them on the West. If the West lead by bull America, manage to install a Russian Pres to there liking, then AMERICA will have no one to fight ? In the Gospel, in Revelations, and Ezekiel. It states truly that the King of the North, will defeat the King of the South. Work it out.

  15. The left-ish Neo Progressive desperate attempts to find positive aspects in Putin’s disastrous, destructive and criminal war on Ukraine is becoming more and more pathetic.

    Brown’s assertion that Putin’s attempt to blackmail EU countries into prompting the falling ruble is a beginning of an alternative financial system to the one existing today is short sighted (since it ignores the fact that it would be branded forever as the violent, bullying atrocity that it is and in the long run more likely to cause Europe to wean itself from Russian energy than prompt a petroruble economy, not to mention the incentive it provides to prolong the ‘pariah’ status of Russia, if not to establish it as a permanent global geopolitical state as long as Putin is in control of the country), delusional (the comparison to the petrodollar system exhibit puzzling misunderstanding of the complex historical processes that enable it in the first place and that maintained it for as long as it did), and Orwellian (in branding the sanctions – a response to the crime of imperialist war – as the crime, in stripping Putin’s attempt to blackmail European countries from its violent and criminal intent, in denigrating and demoting one system of financial control – petrodollars – while praising and promoting (almost) the exact same system of control – petrorubles – as a financial solution, and one that supposed progressives can adopt at that, and denoting Putin’s friends and enemies list, as expressed in the distinction between those who can pay for energy with their own currency and those that must pay with the Ruble as a positive, perfectly acceptable measure).

  16. Excellent piece ,very clear arguments made about very complex issues ,Michael Hudson’s book about debt ,is excellent and I see it as some omen ,in that it could not carry on like that ,forever ,something has to give ,with the bullying by America has actually forced the issue , things might settle down , but thousands will die is that necessary, I don’t know perhaps so ,in the great scheme of things as we are so over populated.

  17. Some of the most reactionary and poorly informed people in the United States are primarily motivated in their “Cusservatism” by the fact of being so deep in debt their income can barely cover the interest. It’s not like they’ll be made solvent “if we put Trump back in nar” or that Biden will ever do anything more to bail them out. He can hear that train a-comin’! Duopoly is a bigger con than the Steal.
    If the flip away from the dollar as reserve currency comes in the next quarter we will see a “Depression” like nobody’s bidness. We’ll be watching the stock indexes tumble just as they did in 2020, and the FED won’t be able to bail fast enough. Well, it will be the end of the 1%’s dominion because their rents and interest will stop rolling in, just because “debts that can’t be paid won’t ever be paid” (as stated by M. Hudson). I don’t reckon it will really matter whether you appreciate a gender minority friend anymore, or if you think there are enough predatory trans women to cover all the public toilets. (It’s more likely Lindsey Graham and Ted Budd types along with Jim Jordan wrestlers are covering that beat.)
    There could be some breathing room open up after the fascist enforcers prove inadequate to debt collection. I expect to see some authoritarian pro-corporate operations overthrown down South of the Border in the Big Stick Monroe Doctrine area… so alot less pressure at the Texas border, unless US citizens flee toward Venezuela.
    Right now already the empty shelves and categories in the Food Lions, Ingles, Aldis (super markets) here in the Charlotte region are scaring folks silly, and the meateaters and sea food munchers are foaming at the mouth over the price hikes.
    I was out back this afternoon being thankful my some of my asparagus was big enough to cut (a little early). Gotta plant lots of corn and beans, set out those tomato and pepper seedlings. The last frost of 2022 came early this morning, but did not take out my orchard fruits. Had some overwintering leeks and chard with my rice and carrots for supper. How y’all doin’? Super glad I can still read Scheerpost. ‘Preciate it! It would be mighty depressing if the news bubble got fully opaque.

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