84 years ago: US off gold standard

`a cycle of Uranus round the Sun is 84.01 Earth years.

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4-20-1933

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Screen Shot 2017-04-26 at 11.55.39 AM.png5-27-1933 –Cornell Daily Sun

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The Senate Banking Committee hearings opened on May 24, 1933 with the chambers packed.  J.P. Morgan, Jr. was the first witness.  In his opening statement, printed dutifully in the next day’s editions of The New York Times, Morgan heaped praise on himself and on the “honorable tradition” of private banking in the United States, which he claimed performed an essential function.

As was to become clear in the Senate testimony of the days following, what Morgan meant by “private banking” were the unregulated financial manipulations of an oligarchical club, in which the rich and powerful were allowed to make enormous profits, and through which the House of Morgan was able to buy and sell not just securities, but to gain control of most of U.S. industry, was able to buy politicians and diplomats, and effectively controlled the most powerful banks in the U.S..

Unknown.jpeg -Ferdinand Pecora, chief counsel to Senate Banking Com. investigation of Wall St.

Wrote Pecora five years later in his book, Wall Street Under Oath, “Undoubtedly, this small group of highly placed financiers, controlling the very springs of economic activity, holds more real power than any similar group in the United States.”

The meek response of the Morgan partners to these charges was that, while it might appear that they had control of many companies and banks, they were merely performing a “service” and exercised no control other than the “power of argument and persuasion.”

Thomas Lamont, the partner who effectively managed the firm, told the committee that the common belief in the great power of the House of Morgan was “a very strong popular delusion.”  All the firm did was offer advice, which its clients could take or leave. “We are credited with having what is known as power or influence; and we admit that we hope that our counsels are of some avail in the certain directions in sound finance.”

On the very first day, it was revealed that J.P. Morgan, arguably the most powerful banker in the nation, and all the 20 partners in his Morgan and Company and its Philadelphia operation, Drexel and Co., had paid no income taxes in 1931 and 1932 and had paid only small amounts in previous years.  Morgan defended himself, claiming that he had merely taken advantage of tax laws:  “If the laws are faulty, it is not my problem,” he told the committee.  It was also shown that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had never examined Morgan transactions–anything that was prepared by the bank was simply passed on by the examiners without even a cursory glance!…

Pecora fought to have various items entered on the public record: lists of companies in which Morgan partners held directorships, lists of banks on which they were directors, list of banks which held their deposits, and the firm’s balance sheets for the previous three years.

Most shocking were the lists of “preferred clients” and friends of the bank, who had been let in at a below-market price on a major 1929 speculative stock offering.  The list revealed two tiers of Morgan “cronies.”  The first were true “friends of the firm” who were Morgan allies and operatives, and the second was a “fishing list,” by which they sought prospective new operatives, with whom they would deepen their relations.  It showed that Morgan had effectively controlled those who made U.S. financial policy for more than three decades, as well as the leadership of both political parties, and much of the federal bench!

Pecora showed, and the partners confirmed, that Morgan handled one of the most confidential and critical aspects of British policy—the Bank of England’s pound stabilization fund operations.  This was handled, on this side of the Atlantic, by J.P. Morgan, Jr., personally, and his top henchman, Thomas Lamont.  In London, the office of Morgan Grenfell, from which two partners were members of the House of Lords, coordinated continental operations.  The firm had also established $200 million in revolving credit for the British government, which was used to buy British securities and discount them in dollars at 4.5 percent.

A similar fund was set up to market $24 million in securities for Mussolini’s fascist Italy (and an additional 5 million pounds sterling in securities), administered by Morgan Grenfell, and a syndicate of private bankers including Hambros and N.M Rothschild and Sons.  Additional securities and currency accounts were set up with Morgan by the Fed, the Bank of England and Schacht’s Reichsbank.  Morgan was thus shown to be the key instrument for carrying out international financial warfare and credit policy for British interests.

It was brought up that such operations might in fact be against the interests of the United States and some of the “clients” Morgan represented in the U.S.A.  Morgan categorically denied this.  Besides, the Morgan partners testified, this is just a matter of doing business, even when we represent foreign governments.  When Pecora pointed out that members of the Morgan firm in London were members of the House of Lords and were even officials of the British government, Morgan and his partners blustered that there was a “wall” between business and politics.  When Pecora pursued the issue, Morgan simply stated that there could be no conflict in policy between U.S. and British interests as such, and if there was such an “absurd” eventuality, the House of Morgan would behave as “reliable bankers!”

The most pointed exchanges occurred when Pecora zeroed in on the fact that Morgan, which took deposits, did not have to submit to any of the regulations or audits of a regular commercial bank.  At first, Morgan hid behind the limp argument that the bank was “private,” that it could only accept from someone recommended and it did not solicit business.  Then, he brusquely attacked all bank regulation, stating that it was “useless,” that it hadn’t kept banks from failing, and that he didn’t see why he should have to put up with it.  Morgan will never reveal its relations with its “clients,” he fumed.   “It is our business, and our business alone, and none of yours.”

-The preceding article is a rough version of the article that appeared in The American Almanac.   http://american_almanac.tripod.com/morgan1.htm

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4-23-17     One effect of the legal tender law is that it allows debts and obligations to be discharged in a cheaper form of “dollars” than coins made of gold and silver.  Thus, it in effect enables floating fiat Federal Reserve notes and deposits to be used in payment of “dollar” debts. If a “dollar” was exclusively defined as a gold coin of a specific weight, then floating fiat Federal Reserve notes would be useless, just bits of colored paper. They could not be used in payment, any more than the “dollars” which are included in the board game Monopoly.

It is doubtless true that the U.S. government suppresses and blocks use of alternative currencies – especially those based on gold – through various means.  This could be through regulatory burdens, taxes, and many other forms of harassment. …

Beginning in 1998, a private businessman, Bernard von NotHaus, began to issue a warehouse receipt currency called “Liberty dollars” based on gold and silver.  In 2007, the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided the vaults of the Liberty dollar, and confiscated $7 million of gold and silver bullion.  The seizure warrant was for money laundering, mail fraud, wire fraud, counterfeiting, and conspiracy.  Note that none of these charges have anything to do with “legal tender,” or any restrictions on people to transact in the currency of their choice.

In 2009, von NotHaus was arrested and charged with:  one count of conspiracy to possess and sell coins in resemblance and similitude of coins of a denomination higher than five cents, and silver coins in resemblance of genuine coins of the United States in denominations of five dollars and greater, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 485, 18 U.S.C. § 486, and 18 U.S.C. § 371; one count of mail fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341 and 18 U.S.C. § 2; one count of selling, and possessing with intent to defraud, coins of resemblance and similitude of United States coins in denominations of five cents and higher, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 485 and 18 U.S.C. § 2; and one count of uttering, passing, and attempting to utter and pass, silver coins in resemblance of genuine U.S. coins in denominations of five dollars or greater, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 486 and 18 U.S.C. § 2.

Prosecutors actually argued in court that the 90% silver Liberty dollar coins were a counterfeit of the common twenty-five cent piece.   -Nathan Lewis  nathan@newworldeconomics.com

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