Usuury: the practice of making unethical or immoral monetary loans that unfairly enrich the lender. Originally, usury meant interest of any kind. A loan may be considered usurious because of excessive or abusive interest rates or other factors. Historically, in some Christian societies, and in many Islamic societies even today, charging any interest at all would be considered usury. Someone who practices usury can be called a usurer, but a more common term in contemporary English is loan shark.
Robber baron, pejorative term for one of the powerful 19th-century U.S. industrialists and financiers who made fortunes by monopolizing huge industries through the formation of trusts, engaging in unethical business practices, exploiting workers, and paying little heed to their customers or competition. Alternatively, those who credit the explosive growth of American capitalism during this period to the indefatigable pursuit of success and material wealth are likely to celebrate these entrepreneurial tycoons as “captains of industry.” Among the sectors in which they compiled their great wealth were the oil, steel, liquor, cotton, textile, and tobacco industries, railroads, and banks.
2019 Update: The Banks are Now Making a Profit Risk Free:
While total profits are up, the rate of profit is down and usury is up!
Falling Rate of ProfitWhen Mary Poppins was made into a movie in 1964, Mr. Banks’ advice to his son was sound. Banks were then paying more than 5% interest on deposits, enough to double young Michael’s investment every 14 years. Now, however, the average savings account pays only 0.10% annually – that’s 1/10th of 1% – and many of the country’s biggest banks pay less than that. If you were to put $5,000 in a regular Bank of America savings account (paying 0.01%) today, in a year you would have collected only 50 cents in interest. That’s true for most of us, but banks themselves are earning 2.4% on their deposits at the Federal Reserve. These deposits, called “excess reserves,” include the reserves the banks got from our deposits, on which they are paying almost nothing; and unlike with our deposits, there is no $250,000 cap on the sums banks can stash at the Fed amassing interest. A whopping $1.5 trillion in reserves are now sitting in Fed reserve accounts. The Fed rebates its profits to the government after deducting its costs, and interest paid to banks is one of those costs. That means we the taxpayers are paying $36 billion annually to private banks for the privilege of parking their excess reserves at one of the most secure banks in the world – parking their reserves rather than lending them out. The banks are getting these outsized returns while taking absolutely no risk, since the Fed as “lender of last resort” cannot go bankrupt. — Ellen Brown, Why Is the Fed Paying So Much Interest to Banks?
It is hard to find an ecomomist that is honest about the economy. Two that I have found are Libertarian John Williams and Social Democrat Michael Hudson. The below quotes by Michael Hudson, and the quotes from John Wiliam’s web site, Shadow Government Statistics, give an honest appraisal of todays Economy:
From: Trumponomics and the Stock Market: So Michael, if the stock prices are not increasing because of what Trump calls “high business spirit,” explain the rise in the stock prices. Michael Hudson: The answer’s quite simple. The key is, who is buying these stocks? It’s not individuals. It’s not even pension funds. It’s not the private sector. Almost all the stock purchases are being bought back by corporations in share buyback programs. In other words, companies are buying their own stocks in order to push up the price. by Michael Hudson
From: Shadow Government Statistics Commentary 903 Opening Comments and Executive Summary Real World, Negative Economic News Intensified, Despite Heavily-Gimmicked GDP and Labor Numbers: Mounting Political and Policy Issues for the Administration and the FOMC. With headlines such as the unemployment rate at a sixteen-year low and GDP growth purportedly on the rise, it is understandable that the current Administration takes credit for the good news. The problems with that, however, are twofold. First, most of the better-quality, underlying economic series show that headline economic activity never recovered fully from the collapse into 2009, having yet to reach the status of “Economic Expansion” (see Commentary No. 876), and they are turning down anew. Headline labor and GDP eventually will come into line with underlying reality. Second, the U.S. economy does not change direction quickly, usually with a time-lag of nine-to-twelve months, often more. Accordingly, whatever is happening in the current economy largely still reflects circumstances in place during the prior Administration. That will change within the next four-to-six months, in time for the current Administration to receive credit for a new recession that already is in play. Similar circumstances were seen where the 2001 recession came out of the Clinton Administration and was credited to the Bush Administration, where the 2007 recession and economic collapse unfolded during the Bush Administration and was taken on by the Obama Administration and now, in its residual, re-intensifying form, has been passed on to the Trump Administration. The President always needs to exude optimism, but rather than taking credit for turning the economy around, prudent caution on what lies ahead and intensified pressure on Congress to generate new economic stimulus might make some sense. . . .
LIberal Economists and Liberals, in general do not see todays’ conditions in class terms.
The answer is simple. The Capitalist, due to the treachery of the trade union bureaucracy, which openly are ‘in partneship’ with capitalism, have been able to steal the working class’s share of the surplus valve that they produce. And through dividends, buybacks, and reinvesting in their own stocks. Thus, the rise in the stock market reflects the rise in profits, but not through any new value produced.
From the Harvard Business Review a 2014 article, Profits Without Prosperity By William Lazonick: Five years after the official end of the Great Recession, corporate profits are high, and the stock market is booming. Yet most Americans are not sharing in the recovery. While the top 0.1% of income recipients—which include most of the highest-ranking corporate executives—reap almost all the income gains, good jobs keep disappearing, and new employment opportunities tend to be insecure and underpaid. Corporate profitability is not translating into widespread economic prosperity. The allocation of corporate profits to stock buybacks deserves much of the blame. Consider the 449 companies in the S&P 500 index that were publicly listed from 2003 through 2012. During that period those companies used 54% of their earnings—a total of $2.4 trillion—to buy back their own stock, almost all through purchases on the open market. Dividends absorbed an additional 37% of their earnings. That left very little for investments in productive capabilities or higher incomes for employees.” At the same time, Real Wages have Fallen Since the Wage Price Freeze of 1972 (Shadow Government Statistics): Graph 3 plots the seasonally-adjusted earnings as officially deflated by the BLS (red-line), and as adjusted for the ShadowStats-Alternate CPI Measure, 1990-Base (blue-line). When inflation-depressing methodologies of the 1990s began to kick-in, the artificially-weakened CPI-W (also used in calculating Social Security cost-of-living adjustments) helped to prop up the reported real earnings. Official real earnings today still have not recovered their inflation-adjusted levels of the early-1970s, and, at best, have been in a minimal uptrend for the last two decades (albeit spiked recently by negative headline inflation). Deflated by the ShadowStats (1990-Based) measure, real earnings have been in fairly-regular decline for the last four decades, which is much closer to common experience than the pattern suggested by the CPI-W. See the Public Commentary on Inflation Measurement for further detail.This process has led to a greater productivity and windfall profits forthe capitalist, without more value being added to society. As Marx stated:
What, then, is the general law that determines the rise and fall of wages and profit in their reciprocal relation? They stand in inverse proportion to each other. The share of (profit) increases in the same proportion in which the share of labour (wages) falls, and vice versa. Profit rises in the same degree in which wages fall; it falls in the same degree in which wages rise. — Karl Marx, The General Law that Determines the Rise and Fall of Wages and Profits
It is only a matter of time before this stock market rise bubble bursts again, since it does not reflect any increase in real value, but paper value.
Capitalism can only impose more theft (Austerity) to solve its’ current crisis, and to imposed the Iron Heel, if necessary.
The only real alternative to the paper illusion of Capitalist prosperity, is the socialist solution. — To act collectively, in our overall interests for our survival as a species, to correct the problem and to remove the obstacle of capitalism. It requires a society where humanity has social, economic, and political control over the entire environment. Such a society, a socialist society, is needed to ensure that all decisions affecting the environment are under the democratic control of humankind so that the production of goods will be done for the needs and survival of planet and humanity instead of the production and the destruction of humanity and other species for profit.