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Mon Feb 4, 2013, 09:34 AM

Chris Hedges: Breaking the Chains of Debt Peonage


from truthdig:



Breaking the Chains of Debt Peonage

Posted on Feb 3, 2013
By Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges gave this talk Saturday night in Brooklyn at the People’s Recovery Summit.


The corporate state has made it clear there will be no more Occupy encampments. The corporate state is seeking through the persistent harassment of activists and the passage of draconian laws such as Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act—and we will be in court next Wednesday to fight the Obama administration’s appeal of the Southern District Court of New York’s ruling declaring Section 1021 unconstitutional—to shut down all legitimate dissent. The corporate state is counting, most importantly, on its system of debt peonage to keep citizens—especially the 30 million people who make up the working poor—from joining our revolt.

Workers who are unable to meet their debts, who are victimized by constantly rising interest rates that can climb to as high as 30 percent on credit cards, are far more likely to remain submissive and compliant. Debt peonage is and always has been a form of political control. Native Americans, forced by the U.S. government onto tribal agencies, were required to buy their goods, usually on credit, at agency stores. Coal miners in southern West Virginia and Kentucky were paid in scrip by the coal companies and kept in perpetual debt servitude by the company store. African-Americans in the cotton fields in the South were forced to borrow during the agricultural season from their white landlords for their seed and farm equipment, creating a life of perpetual debt. It soon becomes impossible to escape the mounting interest rates that necessitate new borrowing.

Debt peonage is a familiar form of political control. And today it is used by banks and corporate financiers to enslave not only individuals but also cities, municipalities, states and the federal government. As the economist Michael Hudson points out, the steady rise in interest rates, coupled with declining public revenues, has become a way to extract the last bits of capital from citizens as well as government. Once individuals, or states or federal agencies, cannot pay their bills—and for many Americans this often means medical bills—assets are sold to corporations or seized. Public land, property and infrastructure, along with pension plans, are privatized. Individuals are pushed out of their homes and into financial and personal distress.

Debt peonage is a fundamental tool for control. This debt peonage must be broken if we are going to build a mass movement to paralyze systems of corporate power. And the most effective weapon we have to liberate ourselves as well as the 30 million Americans who make up the working poor is a sustained movement to raise the minimum wage nationally to at least $11 an hour. Most of these 30 million low-wage workers are women and people of color. They and their families struggle at a subsistence level and play one lender off another to survive. By raising their wages we raise not only the quality of their lives but we increase their capacity for personal and political power. We break one of the most important shackles used by the corporate state to prevent organized resistance. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/breaking_the_chains_of_debt_peonage_20130203/



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Reply Chris Hedges: Breaking the Chains of Debt Peonage (Original post)
marmar Feb 2013 OP
woo me with science Feb 2013 #1
dixiegrrrrl Feb 2013 #2
me b zola Feb 2013 #3
CrispyQ Feb 2013 #4
Lydia Leftcoast Feb 2013 #7
Orrex Feb 2013 #5
Octafish Feb 2013 #8
Demo_Chris Feb 2013 #9
CrispyQ Feb 2013 #10
Demo_Chris Feb 2013 #12
Orrex Feb 2013 #13
Demo_Chris Feb 2013 #18
leftstreet Feb 2013 #14
Puzzledtraveller Feb 2013 #16
Lydia Leftcoast Feb 2013 #6
CrispyQ Feb 2013 #11
raouldukelives Feb 2013 #15
Mojorabbit Feb 2013 #20
Hotler Feb 2013 #17
WillyT Feb 2013 #19

Response to marmar (Original post)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 10:36 AM

1. K&R

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 10:58 AM

2. Morning, Marmar...thanks for posting this.

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 11:08 AM

3. K&R

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 11:11 AM

4. He said something good about Nader, so that will discredit the entire article in some minds.

He said something bad about Obama, so that will discredit the entire article in some minds.

Excellent article.

The global and national economy because of this “satanic mill” continues to deteriorate, and yet, curiously, stock market levels are close to their highs in 2007 before the global financial meltdown. This is because these corporations have been able to suppress wages, slash social programs and bilk the government for staggering sums of money. The Federal Reserve purchases about $85 billion worth of mortgage-backed securities and Treasury bills every month. This means that the Fed is printing endless streams of money to buy up government debt and toxic assets from the banks. The Federal Reserve now owns assets, much of them worthless, of $3.01 trillion. This is triple what it was in 2008.




The former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, testifying before Congress, was quite open about the role of debt peonage in keeping workers passive. Greenspan pointed out that since 1980 labor productivity has increased by about 83 percent. Yet real wages have stagnated. Greenspan said this was because workers were too burdened with mortgage debts, college loans, auto payments and credit-card debt to risk losing a job. Household debt in the United States is around $13 trillion. This is only $2 trillion less than the country’s total yearly economic output. Greenspan was right. Miss a payment on your credit card and your interest rates jumps to 30 percent. Fail to pay your mortgage and you lose your home. Miss your health insurance payments, which have been spiraling upwards, and if you are seriously ill you go into bankruptcy, as 1 million Americans who get sick do every year. Trash your credit rating and your fragile financial edifice, built on managing debt, collapses. Since most Americans feel, on some level, as Hudson points out, that they are a step or two away from being homeless, they are deeply averse to challenging corporate power. It is not worth the risk. And the corporate state knows it. Absolute power, the philosopher Thomas Hobbes wrote, depends on fear and passivity.


Another good read from Hedges, on the NDAA: http://www.zcommunications.org/the-final-battle-section-1021-b-2-of-the-national-defense-authorization-act-ndaa-by-chris-hedges

Be careful Chris. Yours is a voice they'd like to silence. FYI, I've been reading Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine." I tried reading it when it first came out but couldn't. I couldn't get past the first chapters of the actual physical shock programs & how inhumane & heinous they were. I am in the heart of the segment on Russia. It's hard reading. Very depressing scenario played out over & over across the globe, apparently with no end in sight. So much concern over the 2nd amendment & very little over the 4th & 5th.

K&R

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Response to CrispyQ (Reply #4)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 11:29 AM

7. One of the saddest chapters in The Shock Doctrine concerns South America

I learned that in the 1960s, Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile were poised to catch up with Europe economically. Then the right-wingers took charge...

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 11:11 AM

5. Distressingly, I've seen all too many posts on DU that condemn the borrower

It's your own fault for not keeping a cushion of several thousand dollars to offset unforeseeable financial disaster, and if you should find yourself needing a new transmission and a new furnace while struggling with thousands of dollars in medical bills, well, that's your fault for not planning ahead.

Billion-dollar corporations are praised for their business savvy when they walk away from huge and insupportable debt, but when a private citizen misses a credit card payment, that person is demonized as if she were the primary cause of the nation's financial ruin.


I'm not convinced that raising the minimum wage would do much to defeat the problem of debt peonage, but we should raise the minimum wage regardless.

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Response to Orrex (Reply #5)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 12:13 PM

8. + Infinity

Gee. It's like you're a Democrat or something, Orrex, putting people ahead of things.

What's next? All people are equal?

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Response to Octafish (Reply #8)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 01:09 PM

9. That's crazy talk!

 

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Response to Orrex (Reply #5)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 01:11 PM

10. This^^^


Billion-dollar corporations are praised for their business savvy when they walk away from huge and insupportable debt, but when a private citizen misses a credit card payment, that person is demonized as if she were the primary cause of the nation's financial ruin.


And ditto on the minimum wage.

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Response to Orrex (Reply #5)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 01:17 PM

12. Not at all, they can borrow from their parents or sell some stocks.

 

Yes, I understand that it is not easy scraping by these days on a middle class income of only $399,000 a year, but that's why our progressive President secured for you a permanent tax cut. Now it's time to step up to the plate and be fiscally responsible. $30,000 a month only goes so far -- so yes, it might mean letting your personal shopper and antique scout go, but in these trying times we must all make painful sacrifices.

Sincerely,

A Modern Liberal

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Response to Demo_Chris (Reply #12)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 01:20 PM

13. Gosh! When you spell it out like that, it seems so obvious!

What was I thinking?

And I have that time share in Nassau that I can sell, not to mention the guest yacht.

I should really try to keep better track of my resources.

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Response to Orrex (Reply #13)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 03:55 PM

18. Remember: Austerity is Prosperity! (nt)

 

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Response to Orrex (Reply #5)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 01:22 PM

14. +1

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Response to Orrex (Reply #5)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 02:28 PM

16. DU has it's share of "latte liberals"

that are'nt one pay check away from living on the streets and never have been.

*disclaimer* No offense to latte drinkers

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 11:26 AM

6. High interest rates and low crop prices destroyed the family farms of the Midwest

while the Dems did nothing. They didn't even PROPOSE debt relief.

High interest rates and lack of jobs are destroying the futures of a generation of college graduates.

What are the Dems doing about it?

They could win a lot of young hearts and minds by offering, at the very least, low-interest refinancing, if not outright debt forgiveness, to graduates. Around the time I graduated from college in the early 1970s, there were Federal student loans at 2%. Why not now? When they turned the program over to the banks (with Federal guarantees), the interest rates immediately went up to 7%.

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Response to Lydia Leftcoast (Reply #6)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 01:13 PM

11. Kill the Banks First

Then Monsanto & then we can start working on a list.

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 02:22 PM

15. K&R I'm glad Hedges is out there rattling cages.

For all the people who stood against a Romney presidency, we sure do seem to have a lot of Romney wannabes. Mini Wall St tycoons. Willing to turn a blind eye to injustice in order to afford a fine wine. Willing to privately fund the climate change deniers while they openly wish for a more sustainable future.

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Response to raouldukelives (Reply #15)

Tue Feb 12, 2013, 11:29 PM

20. So am I. nt

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 02:45 PM

17. But, but, but......

I've been told over and over again here on DU that protest do not work.

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 04:02 PM

19. K & R !!!


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