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A Safe and a Shotgun or Publicly Owned Banks? The Battle of Cyprus

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Posted on Mar 22, 2013
loop_oh (CC BY-ND 2.0)

By Ellen Brown, Web of Debt

(Page 2)

The Real Profiteers Get Off Scot-Free

Felix Salmon wrote in Reuters of the Cyprus confiscation:

Meanwhile, people who deserve to lose money here, won’t. If you lent money to Cyprus’s banks by buying their debt rather than by depositing money, you will suffer no losses at all. And if you lent money to the insolvent Cypriot government, then you too will be paid off at 100 cents on the euro. . . .

The big winner here is the ECB, which has extended a lot of credit to dubiously-solvent Cypriot banks and which is taking no losses at all.

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It is the ECB that can most afford to take the hit, because it has the power to print euros. It could simply create the money to bail out the Cyprus banks and take no loss at all. But imposing austerity on the people is apparently part of the plan.  Salmon writes:

From a drily technocratic perspective, this move can be seen as simply being part of a standard Euro-austerity program: the EU wants tax hikes and spending cuts, and this is a kind of tax . . . .

The big losers are working-class Cypriots, whose elected government has proved powerless . . . . The Eurozone has always had a democratic deficit: monetary union was imposed by the elite on unthankful and unwilling citizens. Now the citizens are revolting: just look at Beppe Grillo.

But that was before the Cyprus government stood up for the depositors and refused to go along with the plan, in what will be a stunning victory for democracy if they can hold their ground.

It CAN Happen Here

Cyprus is a small island, of little apparent significance. But one day, the bold move of its legislators may be compared to the Battle of Marathon, the pivotal moment in European history when their Greek forebears fended off the Persians, allowing classical Greek civilization to flourish.  The current battle on this tiny island has taken on global significance.  If the technocrat bankers can push through their confiscation scheme there, precedent will be established for doing it elsewhere when bank bailouts become prohibitive for governments. 

That situation could be looming even now in the United States.  As Gretchen Morgenson warned in a recent article on the 307-page Senate report detailing last year’s $6.2 billion trading fiasco at JPMorganChase: “Be afraid.”  The report resoundingly disproves the premise that the Dodd-Frank legislation has made our system safe from the reckless banking activities that brought the economy to its knees in 2008. Writes Morgenson:

JPMorgan . . . Is the largest derivatives dealer in the world. Trillions of dollars in such instruments sit on its and other big banks’ balance sheets. The ease with which the bank hid losses and fiddled with valuations should be a major concern to investors.

Pam Martens observed in a March 18th article that JPMorgan was gambling in the stock market with depositor funds. She writes, “trading stocks with customers’ savings deposits – that truly has the ring of the excesses of 1929 . . . .” 

The large institutional banks not only could fail; they are likely to fail.  When the derivative scheme collapses and the US government refuses a bailout, JPMorgan could be giving its depositors’ accounts sizeable “haircuts” along guidelines established by the BIS and Reserve Bank of New Zealand.

Time for Some Public Sector Banks?

The bold moves of the Cypriots and such firebrand political activists as Italy’s Grillo are not the only bulwarks against bankster confiscation. While the credit crisis is strangling the Western banking system, the BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – have sailed through largely unscathed. According to a May 2010 article in The Economist, what has allowed them to escape are their strong and stable publicly-owned banks. 

Professor Kurt von Mettenheim of the Sao Paulo Business School of Brazil writes, “The credit policies of BRIC government banks help explain why these countries experienced shorter and milder economic downturns during 2007-2008.” Government banks countered the effects of the financial crisis by providing counter-cyclical credit and greater client confidence. 

Russia is an Eastern European country that weathered the credit crisis although being very close to the Eurozone. According to a March 2010 article in Forbes:

As in other countries, the [2008] crisis prompted the state to take on a greater role in the banking system.  State-owned systemic banks . . . have been used to carry out anticrisis measures, such as driving growth in lending (however limited) and supporting private institutions.


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