The banking system putting pressure on consumers

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New laws are designed to trap us in a web of digital debt, writes Simon Cole.

THE OLD ADAGE “safe as houses” is no more in Australia.

The current property debt crisis is much like the U.S. sub-prime loan debacle that caused the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), according to the ABC’s Four Corners. This is why the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) and the Federal Government is preparing to put interest rates down to zero or more.

The financial system is becoming more bizarre. We now have to consider the likelihood of paying the banks to store our savings. If negative interest rates are hard to believe, the European and Japanese central banks are already there. The RBA is prepared for unconventional policy’, according to the ABC. Why are they doing this?

It will relieve pressure on mortgage-stressed homeowners and encourage speculative borrowing. Population growth will sustain property prices and further fuel our narrow economy’s addiction to growth.

Negative interest rates support borrowers and penalise savers.

But this is how the squeeze on savers starts: with the banks’ current low-interest rate and inflation at similar levels, the value of your savings is treading water — the interest merely offsets inflation. For example, $10,000 has lost almost $1,000 in value over the last five years, according to the RBA’s inflation calculator.

Some new financial laws appear to be designed to support the authorities’ ability to drive interest rates down. The Currency (Restrictions on the Use of Cash) Bill 2019 limits cash transactions to up to $10,000. Ostensibly to stop drug running and terrorism, this forces us to trade and save online with the banks. Now they can eat away at it with negative interest rates — even confiscate it should the bank fail, as happened in Cyprus.

The bail-in law Financial Sector Legislation Amendment (Crisis Resolution Powers And Other Measures) Bill 2017 was introduced in February 2018. This law gives the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) the ability to step in. It can use depositors’ funds to cover losses and avoid resorting to taxpayers’ money. For example, the worst-case scenario is depositors’ funds are converted to worthless shares in the bank.

There are good reasons for shifting the burden of bank failures from taxpayers. However, the Bank of International Settlements tried to take control of APRA from our Government under the pretence of making it more “independent”. Fortunately, the Government resisted, otherwise our domestic financial system would be further in the grip of the international banking elite.

No one is suggesting the wealthy –the main beneficiaries of the international debt-based monetary system – bear the burden when banks go belly up.

Another reason the banking system is trying to tighten their grip on us is the threat cryptocurrency poses to them. Our best chance of financial independence is ethical and open-sourced mutual credit cryptocurrency on the Holochain, but that revolution will be slow-coming.

Meanwhile, until they get the debt ratio in the property market back to sensible levels, the Government and banks will push interests rates down and keep population growth high to manage the property-led economic crash.

Australia’s economy is very limited to the construction (infrastructure & housing), education and mining industries. Politicians have become addicted to immigration-led population growth because it keeps those industries growing. Labor’s previous Election platform may be a sign that some of them are beginning to see the downsides. They proposed negative gearing and capital gains tax reforms to address housing affordability. But the big end of town, their political allies and ordinary people with dollar signs in their eyes are intent on a “big Australia” — forget about the environment or climate change.

If they realise all this growth in the human enterprise is damaging the natural environment enough to threaten our existence, they may start managing a transition to a more stable population and diverse economy.

It’s going to take a long time to rebuild local manufacturing. Our food industry relies on unsustainable production methods. Much resilience has been lost. For the time being, this is being rebuilt without much government support by citizens with more insight. However, most people don’t realise how dependent we are on a healthy, diverse natural environment. Only when nature hurts them directly will they act.

So what are our options? 

  • It is best to maximize your assets in things of real value, like the property you live in and goods you use (like cars) that are free of bank debt;
  • Bullion is a good, long-term store of value. When monetary systems are shaky they go up. Silver is important to some modern industrial processes. It’s abundant, but usually lost after use;
  • It’s safer to have money in a small bank. They have fewer creditors to cover in a crisis with the $20 billion cap on the Government’s depositor guarantee scheme. The main benefit of money in the bank compared to alternatives is its predictability — so keep some there for emergencies;
  • Invest in the community. Support open-sourced mutual credit cryptocurrency on the Holochain. These people are on our side; and
  • Less is more. Stop hoarding. Stop speculating. I stopped twenty years ago and watched my peace of mind grow.

Simon Cole is a teacher, campaigner and journalist.

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