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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bankers Have Egyptian Blood on Their Keyboards

Hey Barry:

Well, it's really a mess in Egypt and a few other countries in the Middle East.

Sad to say, our good ol Merican bankers like the Golden Sox boys have contributed to the mess in a big way. It's not a big stretch to say they have blood on their computers.

Here's the thing: our bankers have been speculating big time in commodities like oil and wheat. That drives up the price. Then the poor folks in Egypt can't afford to eat. It is no surprise when they riot in the streets. What would you do if you have no money to feed your kids?

The background is this: Both FDR in the 1930's and the Dodd-Frank bill last year recognized that speculators could disrupt world commodity markets unless they were controlled. So FDR installed controls that stabilized the markets - until the Golden Sox boys and others lobbied Congress to remove the limits in the 1990's.

Dodd-Frank re-introduced controls on commodities and commodity derivatives, BUT, their implementation has been delayed because of lobbying in your White House.

Itsa cryin and a killin shame Barry. You gotta get on this soon.

Here's a transcript of MSNBC's Ed Shultz show of February 1, 2011 on the topic:

ED "So what else do these countries - Yemen, Jordan, Egypt - have in common?

One thing is high food prices, a factor in how all the riots really started and how all of it started. And it's not a coincidence that all of them have high food prices right now. Food prices have skyrocketed around the world and a big reason for that is wall street.

It started in 1991 with surprise, surprise Goldman Saachs. Before then, wall street speculateors played only a minor role in food prices. The way it worked food companies and their suppliers, America's farmers, wanted to keep their business stable. Even if prices spiked for wheat, corn, or other agricultural commodities. So they'd hedge their bets, signing contracts, futures, to lock in prices for some point in the future. Speculators helped, putting enough money in the system to keep things liquid.

After the depression, FDR saw that speculators could drive up the price of wheat, corn, whatever, by betting on commodity futures the way wall street later bet on dot coms. Distorting food prices like that could destroy the very stability future contracts were created to provide so FDR signed into law what are called position limits -- limits on how much of the total betting could be done by wall street. And what do you know it worked.

For decades the price of wheat was driven by fundamentals like the weather and wall street couldn't stand it.

In 1991, Goldman Sachs asked the commodity futures trading commission, the CFTC, to give them a waiver on those position limits, so they could bet as much as they wanted.

A CFTC appointee for the first President Bush said sure. More than a dozen other firms followed suit. Goldman Sachs even created commodities indexes. To simplify the betting and goose casual investors into the casino.

Again, wall street followed suit. Remember the real estate bubble? Wall street wanted to hedge all of those bets it made on mortgages. So they ramped up their bets on commodities.

And when wall street started losing money on sub primes, they bet it on commodities instead. By 2008, wall street had five times more futures contracts in commodities than it did in 2002. Commodity indexes held about $13 billion in 2003. By 2008 it was over a quarter trillion. That's how we got the oil bubble.

And record high gas prices added to the cost of shipping food plus speculators looking for another bubble, and you get a food bubble. Estimates are speculators held 65% of corn futures' contracts. 68% Of soybean, 80% of wheat. By mid 2008, the IMF food price index jumped more than 80% in just a year and a half before. It was the first time in history the proportion of people going hungry worldwide went up.

The number of chronically malnourished people rose by 75 million in 2007. 40 Million in 2008. That's why Egypt had riots back in 2008. Along with 30 other countries, Italian moms marched against the price of pasta. Wall street speculators admitted they were doing it.

In 2006 Merrill Lynch said speculation accounted for 50% of the price of commodities. Half the price.

In 2008 a Goldman Sachs research paper said, quote, without question, increased fund flow into commodities has boosted prices. 2009, Even republican senator Tom Coburn admits the speculation, quote, helped to inflate futures prices and there by disconnect futures from cash prices impairing farmers' and grain elevators' ability to hedge price risk.

Even Coburn said there was so much wall street money distorting prices that farmers and other guys who actually need commodity futures couldn't use them to keep their companies stable anymore. We don't notice price hikes so much because most of our food prices come from marketing and packaging.

But in the developing world, the price of food is everything. And what country imports more wheat than any other? Egypt. Where the price of wheat rose 70% last year. Last summer Goldman called a report on the role of speculation in food prices, quote, misleading and blamed other factors.

A lot of reports mentioned that Russia cut off its wheat supply last year. What they don't tell you is why. Because futures traders asked them to.

Let's bring in my colleague Dylan Rhadigan. He has his own show here on msnbc week days at 4:00. Formerly of cnbc and bloomberg news.

Thanks for coming in tonight, Dylan.

DYLAN: I appreciate it it's a pleasure.

ED I know you have talked a lot about speculators and what has happened on wall street but this has really been a tsunami in the food world, which has caused a lot of havoc around the world. Tell us, these price hikes, strictly due to speculation?

DYLAN No. First I want to compliment you on your reporting, Ed. I think you did an exquisitely good job of describing the contributing factor that financial speculation has been in the spike not just in food prices but also in energy prices. Unfortunately there are other factors also in the financial community that are even more sinister. There's a mathematical certainty, Ed, that is this.

All the paper currency in the world, all the money, all the paper must by definition equal the value of all the commodities because a commodity is equal to what the value of the currencies are in the world.

In order to cover up the massive bank theft that's been perpetrated in this country in 2008, the Federal Reserve under the guidance of first President Bush and now President Obama as you know, ed, has been printing trillions of new dollars and people, smart financial planners, have been concerned about the debasing effect that has on our currency.

Well, as a direct result of the Federal Reserve's money printing, to cover up our bank theft, that has been an additional factor in causing commodity prices to explode higher.

So in addition to the speculative aspects that you describe so well, a by product of the federal reserve and the white house and the treasuries decision to go with money printing as a way to prop up our economy, is driving food prices higher.

ED You know, it's just an amazing domino effect.

DYLAN There is no doubt.

ED But what exactly are these commodity markets supposed to be accomplishing?

DYLAN Well, very simply, they're supposed to create price stability as you described in your piece. There is a very, very valid role for a futures market in commodities both for food consumers who would like to be able to have a stable price for bread, a stable price for milk, a stable price for cheese and meat, not just here but around the world. Rice, tortillas, pasta, I don't care where you live.

And if you are a farmer, you want to know that you can lock in a price on your farm in this country or any other for that price.

The position limits, which you referenced, are critical in that they represent a limit as to how much grain could potentially actually exist. The elimination of the position limit makes it such that you can suddenly buy more grain than exists on the entire planet because now you're just speculating on the price or potential price and creating all the price inflation you described so well.

ED High prices, rural america does well. That ag dollar turns seven times on main street. So America is loving this stuff as far as the ag economy is concerned. Then you take a look at the construction of -- and the manufacturing of all the big equipment that goes with it.

But somebody pays a price down the line. In this case, it is people of these countries that are run by dictators that can't provide for their people. There is the snowball effect.

DYLAN I would say it's the poorest billion, whether it's the poor in the Middle East, the poor in Asia or the poor in Louisiana and Arkansas, those are the only people who suffer from the financial shenanigans.

ED What has struck me about this event in Egypt is for all of our carrying on about the spread of democracy through military assault and the death of our own soldiers and Iraqi civilians all you had to do was double the price of grain in the middle east from your trading floor in Goldman Sachs to receive the democratic revolution we claim to be in favor of with our military the past ten years."

Caint let this stand Barry. Ya gotta do something.

Your pal,

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