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Goldman Sachs Made 400 Million Betting On Food Prices In 2012 While Hundreds Of Millions Starved

Starving Child In Ethiopia - Photo by Cate Turton - Department for International DevelopmentWhy does it seem like wherever there is human suffering, some giant bank is making money off of it?  According to a new report from the World Development Movement, Goldman Sachs made about 400 million dollars betting on food prices last year.  Overall, 2012 was quite a banner year for Goldman Sachs.  As I reported in a previous article, revenues for Goldman increased by about 30 percent in 2012 and the price of Goldman stock has risen by more than 40 percent over the past 12 months.  It is estimated that the average banker at Goldman brought in a pay and bonus package of approximately $396,500 for 2012.  So without a doubt, Goldman Sachs is swimming in money right now.  But what is the price for all of this “success”?  Many claim that the rampant speculation on food prices by the big banks has dramatically increased the global price of food and has caused the suffering of hundreds of millions of poor families around the planet to become much worse.  At this point, global food prices are more than twice as high as they were back in 2003.  Approximately 2 billion people on the planet spend at least half of their incomes on food, and close to a billion people regularly do not have enough food to eat.  Is it moral for Goldman Sachs and other big banks such as Barclays and Morgan Stanley to make hundreds of millions of dollars betting on the price of food if that is going to drive up global food prices and make it harder for poor families all over the world to feed themselves?

This is another reason why the derivatives bubble is so bad for the world economy.  Goldman Sachs and other big banks are treating the global food supply as if it was some kind of a casino game.  This kind of reckless activity was greatly condemned by the World Development Movement report

“Goldman Sachs is the global leader in a trade that is driving food prices up while nearly a billion people are hungry. The bank lobbied for the financial deregulation that made it possible to pour billions into the commodity derivative markets, created the necessary financial instruments, and is now raking in the profits. Speculation is fuelling volatility and food price spikes, hurting people who struggle to afford food across the world.”

So shouldn’t there be a law against this kind of a thing?

Well, in the United States there actually is, but the law has been blocked by the big Wall Street banks and their very highly paid lawyers.  The following is another excerpt from the report

“The US has passed legislation to limit speculation, but the controls have not been implemented due to a legal challenge from Wall Street spearheaded by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, of which Goldman Sachs is a leading member. Similar legislation is on the table at the EU, but the UK government has so far opposed effective controls. Goldman Sachs has lobbied against controls in both the US and the EU.”

Posted below is a chart that shows what this kind of activity has done to commodity prices over the past couple of decades.  You will notice that commodity prices were fairly stable in the 1990s, but since the year 2000 they have been extremely volatile…

Commodity Prices

The reason for all of this volatility was explained in an excellent article by Frederick Kaufman

The money tells the story. Since the bursting of the tech bubble in 2000, there has been a 50fold increase in dollars invested in commodity index funds. To put the phenomenon in real terms: In 2003, the commodities futures market still totaled a sleepy $13 billion. But when the global financial crisis sent investors running scared in early 2008, and as dollars, pounds, and euros evaded investor confidence, commodities — including food — seemed like the last, best place for hedge, pension, and sovereign wealth funds to park their cash. “You had people who had no clue what commodities were all about suddenly buying commodities,” an analyst from the United States Department of Agriculture told me. In the first 55 days of 2008, speculators poured $55 billion into commodity markets, and by July, $318 billion was roiling the markets. Food inflation has remained steady since.

The money flowed, and the bankers were ready with a sparkling new casino of food derivatives. Spearheaded by oil and gas prices (the dominant commodities of the index funds) the new investment products ignited the markets of all the other indexed commodities, which led to a problem familiar to those versed in the history of tulips, dotcoms, and cheap real estate: a food bubble. Hard red spring wheat, which usually trades in the $4 to $6 dollar range per 60-pound bushel, broke all previous records as the futures contract climbed into the teens and kept on going until it topped $25. And so, from 2005 to 2008, the worldwide price of food rose 80 percent –and has kept rising.

Are you angry yet?

You should be.

Poor families all over the planet are suffering so that Wall Street bankers can make bigger profits.

It’s disgusting.

Many big financial institutions just seem to love to make money on the backs of the poor.  I have previously reported on how JP Morgan makes billions of dollars issuing food stamp cards in the United States.  When the number of Americans on food stamps goes up, so does the amount of money that JP Morgan makes.  You can read much more about all of this right here: “Making Money On Poverty: JP Morgan Makes Bigger Profits When The Number Of Americans On Food Stamps Goes Up“.

Sadly, the global food supply is getting tighter with each passing day, and things are looking rather ominous for the years ahead.

According to the United Nations, global food reserves have reached their lowest level in nearly 40 years.  Global food reserves have not been this low since 1974, but the population of the world has greatly increased since then.  If 2013 is another year of drought and bad harvests, things could spiral out of control rather quickly…

World grain reserves are so dangerously low that severe weather in the United States or other food-exporting countries could trigger a major hunger crisis next year, the United Nations has warned.

Failing harvests in the US, Ukraine and other countries this year have eroded reserves to their lowest level since 1974. The US, which has experienced record heatwaves and droughts in 2012, now holds in reserve a historically low 6.5% of the maize that it expects to consume in the next year, says the UN.

“We’ve not been producing as much as we are consuming. That is why stocks are being run down. Supplies are now very tight across the world and reserves are at a very low level, leaving no room for unexpected events next year,” said Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior economist with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The world has barely been able to feed itself for some time now.  In fact, we have consumed more food than we have produced for 6 of the last 11 years

Evan Fraser, author of Empires of Food and a geography lecturer at Guelph University in Ontario, Canada, says: “For six of the last 11 years the world has consumed more food than it has grown. We do not have any buffer and are running down reserves. Our stocks are very low and if we have a dry winter and a poor rice harvest we could see a major food crisis across the board.”

“Even if things do not boil over this year, by next summer we’ll have used up this buffer and consumers in the poorer parts of the world will once again be exposed to the effects of anything that hurts production.”

We desperately need a good growing season next summer, and all eyes are on the United States.  The U.S. exports more food than anyone else does, and last summer the United States experienced the worst drought that it had seen in about 50 years.  That drought left deep scars all over the country.  The following is from a recent Rolling Stone article

In 2012, more than 9 million acres went up in flames in this country. Only dredging and some eleventh-hour rain kept the mighty Mississippi River from being shut down to navigation due to low water levels; continuing drought conditions make “long-term stabilization” of river levels unlikely in the near future. Several of the Great Lakes are soon expected to hit their lowest levels in history. In Nebraska last summer, a 100-mile stretch of the Platte River simply dried up. Drought led the USDA to declare federal disaster areas in 2,245 counties in 39 states last year, and the federal government will likely have to pay tens of billions for crop insurance and lost crops. As ranchers became increasingly desperate to feed their livestock, “hay rustling” and other agricultural crimes rose.

Ranchers were hit particularly hard.  Because they couldn’t feed their herds, many ranchers slaughtered a tremendous number of animals.  As a result, the U.S. cattle herd is now sitting at a 60 year low.

What do you think that is going to do to meat prices over the next few years?

Meanwhile, the drought continues.  According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, this is one of the worst winter droughts the U.S. has ever seen.  At this point, more than 60 percent of the entire nation is currently experiencing drought.

If things don’t turn around dramatically, 2013 could be an absolutely nightmarish year for crops in the United States.  If 2013 does turn out to be another bad year, food prices would soar both in the U.S. and on the global level.  The following is from a recent CNBC article

The severe drought that swept through much of the U.S. last year is continuing into 2013, threatening to cripple economic growth while forcing consumers to pay higher food prices.

“The drought will have a significant impact on prices, especially beef, pork and chicken,” said Ernie Gross, an economic professor at Creighton University and who studies farming issues.

So let us hope for the best, but let us also prepare for the worst.

It looks like higher food prices are on the way, and millions of poor families all over the planet will be hard-pressed to feed their families.

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs will be laughing all the way to the bank.

A Global Food Crisis Is Coming - Are You Ready? - Photo by Oxfam East Africa

The Federal Reserve Shows Barack Obama Who The Real Boss Is

The Federal Reserve Shows Barack Obama Who The Real Boss IsBarack Obama has greatly expanded the powers of the presidency during his time in the White House, but there is one institution that he simply will not mess with.  There is one organization that is considered to be so sacred in Washington D.C. that Obama will not dare utter a single negative word against it.  That organization is the Federal Reserve.  Even though he has shown that he is unafraid to pick a fight with just about everyone else in Washington, Obama flat out refuses to criticize the Fed and he even reappointed Ben Bernanke for another term as Fed Chairman even though Bernanke has a track record of failure that would make the Chicago Cubs look good.  Perhaps Obama is aware of what has happened to other presidents that have chosen to tangle with the Fed.  In any event, it has become clear that Obama submits to anything that the Fed says without question, and the controversy over the “trillion dollar coin” is another perfect example of this.  For weeks, there has been much speculation in the mainstream media about the possibility that the Obama administration may print up a one trillion dollar coin that it would use to keep paying the bills of the federal government if an agreement to raise the debt ceiling is not reached.  But on Saturday the Federal Reserve killed that idea, and we shouldn’t be surprised by that because under no circumstances will the Fed ever accept a threat to their monopoly over money creation in the United States.  If the Federal Reserve had allowed Obama to print up a debt-free trillion dollar coin, that would have set a very dangerous precedent for the Fed.  The American people would have realized that the federal government can actually create debt-free money whenever it wants and that it does not actually have to borrow money from anyone.  That is something that the Fed probably would have moved heaven and earth to keep from happening.  But now we won’t ever know how far the Fed would really be willing to go to keep their monopoly over money creation, because Obama has no plans to challenge this latest ruling from “the real boss” of our financial system.

Sadly, most Americans don’t even realize that a private banking cartel has a monopoly over all money creation in this country.  In recent years they have abused this power by wildly printing money (“quantitative easing“), and by making more than 16 trillion dollars in secret loans to their friends during the last financial crisis.  Under our system, the private Federal Reserve creates money whenever they want, and nobody else gets to create money.  It is an insane system, but very, very few of our politicians will ever dare to question it.

At this point, the U.S. Treasury Department is essentially just an arm of the Federal Reserve.  That is why it was no surprise that the Fed and the Treasury Department issued a joint statement on Saturday.  According to Treasury spokesman Anthony Coley, both the Treasury and the Fed have come to the conclusion that under no circumstances should a trillion dollar coin be printed up by the Obama administration…

“Neither the Treasury Department nor the Federal Reserve believes that the law can or should be used to facilitate the production of platinum coins for the purpose of avoiding an increase in the debt limit”

But of course it was actually the Federal Reserve which made this decision.  The following is from a report posted by Zeke Miller of Buzzfeed.com

The Federal Reserve was responsible for killing a controversial proposal to circumvent the debt limit, a senior administration official told BuzzFeed Sunday.

On Saturday the Treasury Department released a statement ruling out the only remaining alternative to Congress raising the nation’s borrowing limit, which would utilize a loophole in federal law to mint a $1 trillion coin to be deposited in the Federal Reserve and ensure the federal government could pay all bills and debt obligations.

According to that Buzzfeed article, the Federal Reserve would have actually refused to recognize the trillion dollar coin if the Obama administration had tried to deposit it with the Fed…

But it was the Federal Reserve that killed the proposal, the official told BuzzFeed, denying a purely political rationale for the announcement, saying the independent central bank would not have credited the Treasury’s accounts for the vast sum for depositing the coin.

Wow.

So there you go.

The real boss has told Barack Obama how it is going to be, and Obama plans to meekly comply.

So why is the Federal Reserve so adamant about maintaining their monopoly over money creation?

Well, it is all about compound interest.  Albert Einstein once made the following statement about compound interest…

Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it … he who doesn’t … pays it.”

When the Federal Reserve system was initially created back in 1913, the bankers that created it intended for it to be a perpetual debt machine that would extract massive amounts of wealth from the U.S. government (and ultimately from all of us) through the mechanism of compound interest.  Each year, hundreds of billions of dollars of interest are transferred into the pockets of the wealthy bankers and foreign nations that own our debt.  This is one of the reasons why I preach about the evils of government debt until I am blue in the face.  The debt-based Federal Reserve system is a way to systematically steal the wealth of the United States, and it is happening right in front of our eyes, but very few people actually understand it well enough to complain about it.

Unfortunately, we are rapidly getting to the point where we have accumulated so much debt that it is threatening to collapse our entire financial system.  The following comes from a recent Zero Hedge article

By now most are aware of the various metrics exposing the unsustainability of US debt (which at 103% of GDP, it is well above the Reinhart-Rogoff “viability” threshold of 80%; and where a return to just 5% in blended interest means total debt/GDP would double in under a decade all else equal simply thanks to the “magic” of compounding), although there is one that captures perhaps best of all the sad predicament the US self-funding state (where debt is used to fund nearly half of total US spending) finds itself in. It comes from Zhang Monan, researcher at the China Macroeconomic Research Platform: “The US government is now trying to repay old debt by borrowing more; in 2010, average annual debt creation (including debt refinance) moved above $4 trillion, or almost one-quarter of GDP, compared to the pre-crisis average of 8.7% of GDP.

This is a key statistic most forget when they discuss the stock and flow of US debt: because whereas the total US deficit, and thus net debt issuance, is about $1 trillion per year, one has to factor that there is between $3 and $4 trillion in maturities each year, which have to be offset by a matched amount of gross issuance just to keep the stock of debt flat (pre deficit funding). The assumption is that demand for this gross issuance will always exist as old maturities are rolled into new debt, however, this assumption is contingent on one very key variable: interest rates not rising.

Do you understand what is being said there?

Not only is our debt rising by more than a trillion dollars a year, we also need to roll over trillions of dollars of federal debt each year.  If interest rates on that debt start rising, we are going to start feeling the pain very rapidly.

As I have mentioned previously, the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt was 6.638 percent back in 2000.  If we returned to that level today, we would be paying more than a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt.

The main thing keeping interest rates low right now is the fact that the U.S. dollar is the de facto reserve currency of the world.  If that ends, interest rates on U.S. debt will skyrocket.  The following is from a recent article by Chris Ferreira

The US Dollar is the reserve currency of the world. You need it to buy oil, a vital component of any economy. Since other countries like China cannot print US dollars at their leisure, they have to get it from somewhere. They get it from trade with the US. The US buys products in Asia and the rest of the world with US dollars, and in turn these same dollar surpluses are used to buy oil and US bonds, creating a much needed artificial demand for US dollars.

This is also how the enormous US 558$ billion trade deficit in 2011 was financed. The US has been in a trade deficit since the 1980′s and it continues the grow as jobs and manufacturing are being lost to more competitive nations. The trade deficit also accounts for the national debt. The financing of the debt creates artificial demand for US bonds which helps lower the interest rate and coincidentally helps to raise the debt levels even higher.

Unfortunately, the rest of the world is starting to move away from the U.S. dollar.  Over the past couple of years, a whole host of international currency agreements have been signed that are intended to start reducing the use of the U.S. dollar in international trade.  For much more on this, please see the following article: “The Giant Currency Superstorm That Is Coming To The Shores Of America When The Dollar Dies“.

Most Americans have absolutely no idea how very close we are to financial catastrophe.  The only way we can continue to service our enormous 16 trillion dollar debt is for interest rates on that debt to remain super low.  But the only way those interest rates can remain low is for the U.S. dollar to remain absolutely dominant in international trade.  Once the rest of the world rejects the U.S. dollar, the game is over.

We are headed for total system meltdown, but neither major political party is going to do a thing about it.  They are both just going to continue to meekly comply with the dictates of the real boss of our financial system – the Federal Reserve.

It is imperative that we educate the American people about these things.  Please share this article with as many people as you can, and the following is another great article for anyone that does not understand how the Federal Reserve is destroying our financial system: “10 Things That Every American Should Know About The Federal Reserve“.

The Great Seal Of The United States - A Symbol Of Your Enslavement - Photo by Ipankonin

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