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Secret State 16: are British drones and special forces assisting the United States in Libya – yet another disastrous military intervention?

Open government or secret state? What is going on behind the scenes?

tobias ellwood mpLast week it was reported that Tobias Ellwood, the UK foreign office minister, wrote to parliament’s foreign affairs select committee to say he would not be able to provide further details of the role being played either by the Royal Air Force or UK-controlled drones over Libya. According to the Guardian, Ellwood has admitted that drones have flown over Libya and it has been repeatedly reported that UK special forces are in the country.

There are many media rumours of plans being made to send another thousand British troops to Libya. Will British citizens ever know what the elected government will decide and how taxpayers’ money will be spent?

US-NATO forces have bombed Libya’s irrigation system and wreaked havoc on the country. American attorney Ellen Brown (below left) reminds us that before 2011 Libya had achieved economic independence, with its own water, food, own oil, money, and state-owned bank.

ellen brown 3Under Gaddafi it had risen from being one of the poorest of countries to the richest in Africa. Education and medical treatment were free; having a home was considered a human right; and Libyans participated in an original system of local democracy. The country had the world’s largest irrigation system, the Great Man-made River project, which brought water from the desert to the cities and coastal areas; and Qaddafi was embarking on a program to spread this model throughout Africa.

 

Today the situation is dire

libyan ruin

As Dan Kovalik wrote in the Huffington Post, “the human rights situation in Libya is a disaster, as ‘thousands of detainees [including children] languish in prisons without proper judicial review,’ and ‘kidnappings and targeted killings are rampant’.”

Ellen Brown adds: “NATO intervention was allegedly undertaken on humanitarian grounds, after reports of mass atrocities; but human rights organizations questioned the claims after finding a lack of evidence. Today, however, verifiable atrocities are occurring”.

Surely Britain and America will go down in history as having been more cruelly destructive in the Middle East than Genghis Khan, who is said to have brought unity, peace and security to the territories he invaded.

And is there more to come? Another country in their sights?

 

Credit cards: government – brave the bankers, recapture funds, benefit the public

Ellen Brown ‘takes the lid off’ the credit card industry in Global Research. In extracts from that article, she says:

Taken on a visit to England

Taken on a visit to England

“You pay off your credit card balance every month, thinking you are taking advantage of the “interest-free grace period” and getting free credit.You may even use your credit card when you could have used cash, just to get the free frequent flier or cash-back rewards.

“But those popular features are misleading. Even when the balance is paid on time every month, credit card use imposes a huge hidden cost on users—hidden because the cost is deducted from what the merchant receives, then passed on to you in the form of higher prices”.

visa mastercardShe points out that Visa and Master Card – set up by big Wall Street banks  – charge merchants about 2% of the value of every credit card transaction, and American Express charges even more . . . 2% interest for 25 days works out to a 33.5% return annually (1.02^(365/25) – 1), and that figure may be conservative . . . the card-issuing banks get about 80% of the fees. Ellen then proceeds to a more technical exposition which may be read here.

A private sales tax?

“The credit card business has become the most lucrative pursuit of the banking industry. At one time, banking was all about taking deposits and making commercial and residential loans. But in recent years, according to the Federal Reserve, “credit card earnings have been almost always higher than returns on all commercial bank activities.”

It is on the fees that the banks really make their money:

  • late payment fees,
  • fees for exceeding the credit limit,
  • balance transfer fees,
  • cash withdrawal fees,
  • annual fees,
  • very lucrative merchant fees that accrue at the point of sale whether the customer pays his bill or not.

The merchant absorbs the fees, and the customers cover the cost with higher prices

A 2% merchants’ fee is the financial equivalent of a 2% sales tax – one that now adds up to over $30 billion annually in the US. The effect on trade is worse than either a public sales tax or a financial transaction tax (or Tobin tax), since these taxes are designed to be spent back into the economy on services and infrastructure. A private merchant’s tax simply removes purchasing power from the economy.

As financial blogger Yves Smith observes:

“Companies like General Electric are largely abandoning product innovation and becoming credit card companies, because that’s where the money is. Financialization is killing the economy, productivity, innovation, and consumer demand.

Ellen looks at the Costa Rican model

In Costa Rica, 80% of deposits are held in four publicly-owned banks; all offering Visa/MC debit cards and taking Visa/MC credit cards. Businesses that choose to affiliate with the two largest public banks pay no transaction fees for that bank’s cards, and for the cards of other banks they pay only a tiny fee, sufficient to cover the bank’s costs.

Her conclusion:

Local governments pay hefty fees for credit card use; the City and County of San Francisco pay $4 million annually for bank fees, more than half going to merchant fees.

Ellen points out that if the government could recapture these charges through its own bank, it could use the proceeds for the benefit of the people, by returning them in the form of lower taxes or increased public services.

Ellen Brown is an American lawyer and chairman of the Public Banking Institute. In her latest book, The Public Bank Solution, she explores successful public banking models historically and globally. She is currently running for California State Treasurer on a state bank platform.

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