Quantum of Suffering: Economic Hitmen Target Main Street
(Pro Liberate) -- by William N. Grigg --
...In addition to the writings of Quigley and Mills, John Perkins' 2005 memoir-expose Confessions of an Economic Hit Man appears to have inspired at least some aspects of the Quantum of Solace storyline.
According to Perkins, the organs of international finance, such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, engage in what is essentially a global loan-sharking scheme.
As an economic forecaster covertly recruited by U.S. intelligence in the 1960s, Perkins was dispatched to various countries — including Indonesia and Panama — as an "economic hit man," or EHM. His role was to help induce national leaders to take out huge World Bank loans to fund mammoth infrastructure programs.
Perkins claims that he was was just one EHM among thousands plying the same trade worldwide. If an EHM is successful, writes Perkins, "the [World Bank] loans are so large that the debtor is forced to default on its payments after a few years. When this happens, then like the Mafia we demand our pound of flesh. This often includes one or more of the following: control over United Nations votes, the installation of military bases, or access to precious resources…. Of course, the debtor still owes us money — and another country is added to our global empire."
Economic Hit Men aren’t the only weapons in the Power Elite's arsenal. Perkins also refers to "Jackals," who are sent to deal with the most refractory foreign leaders by fomenting revolutions, or staging assassinations.
"When the Jackals fail," Perkins continues, "young Americans are sent in to kill and die."
These depredations aren't confined to the Third World, at least as that designation is conventionally understood.
During the early years of the 21st Century, just before the Federal Reserve's most recent debt bubble collapsed, the EHMs preyed on municipal and county governments across the United States.
Among their victims are the residents of Jefferson County, Alabama, which has been bankrupted and ruined as the result of a plot eerily similar in some ways to the one depicted in Quantum of Solace.
In 1996, Birmingham was forced to sign a federal consent decree requiring it to reconstruct its municipal sewer system. The initial estimated cost was roughly $250 million. However, that initial cost estimate was like a tiny grain of sand lodged inside the mantle of an oyster. The Jefferson County political establishment quickly turned that grain of sand into an immense pearl of civic corruption, inflating the cost of the project to $3 billion.
When the County Commission sought lenders to refinance its sewer bonds, JP Morgan dispatched a low-grade EHM named Charles E. LeCroy. In 2002, Larry P. Langford, a man with a troubled financial background and a weakness for expensive clothes, was appointed president of the Jefferson County Commission -- and LeCroy had his General Medrano.
LeCroy compromised Langford with the clinical precision of a practiced seducer. Plying him with expensive clothes, jewelry, and cash payouts, LeCroy induced Langford to sign off on a series of esoteric "synthetic debt swaps" that eventually inflated the county's debt -- for rebuilding a sewer system, remember -- to $5.4 billion.
The mechanics of these instruments are deliberately convoluted; the agreements were cluttered with recondite language designed to obstruct understanding, and conceal trip-wires and trap-doors.
"I needed somebody to tell me what all that stuff was," Langford would testify in a June 2008 deposition. "And even when they told me, I still don't understand 99 percent of it."
Seeking an "independent" adviser to vet JP Morgan's proposals, Langford turned to William Blount, who ran the local investment firm of Blount Parrish & Company. It's entirely possible that Langford honestly didn't know -- at first -- that Blount had also been compromised by Quantum -- er, make that JP Morgan. In fact, Blount's $300,000 side-deal with LeCroy was roughly double the size of Langford's price tag...
As the irreplaceable Matt Taibbi pointed out in his definitive journalistic autopsy of Jefferson County, just about everybody in the Banking Cartel sought a piece of the action: Four of the nation's top investment banks, the very cream of American finance, were involved in one way or another with payoffs to Blunt in their scramble to do business with the county.
In addition to JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns paid Langford's bagman $2.4 million, while Lehman Brothers got off cheap with a $35,000 `arranger's fee.' At least a dozen of the county's contractors were also cashing in, along with many of the county commissioners."
Dozens of local businessmen and political officials -- including Langford, who was elected Birmingham Mayor in 2007, and Blount -- have been convicted on charges of bribery and other forms of corruption. LeCroy was eventually convicted and sent to prison for three months -- yes, three months -- for his role in a similar criminal enterprise in Philadelphia.
Some of those responsible for pillaging Jefferson County are behind bars, but nothing they will experience will compare to the suffering they have left in their wake.
A chilling scene near the end of Quantum of Solace shows Indian peasants looking on in frustration and alarm as their local water pumps suddenly run dry in (temporary) consummation of Greene's plan. More than a few residents of Jefferson County have lived through very similar privations.
County residents now pay an estimated $750 a year for municipal services, more than twice the national average. Sewer costs are now 300 percent higher than they were when the reconstruction project began in 1996. These ruinous increases reflect the fact that those sentenced to live in Jefferson County are being taxed to pay the service on the debts created by JP Morgan's Economic Hit Man and his seraglio of civic servants.
Birmingham resident Dora Bonner, a woman in her 70s who lives on a Social Security check and shares her home with four grandchildren, was among those forced to choose between paying a $250 water bill or keeping the furnace running in wintertime. "I couldn't afford the water, so they shut it off," Bonner told Bloomberg News.
Jefferson County residents draw nearer to bankruptcy every time they shower or flush the toilet. JP Morgan, the architects of this misery, received $25 billion in TARP bailout money and unspecified tens of billions more from indirect subsidies. Last year it dished out more than $11 billion in management bonuses...
Last fall, a "kind of civil legal civil war broke out" in Jefferson County "when three county agencies -- the sheriff's department, an indigent-care hospital and the tax-assessor's office -- sued the county commission to stop ... budget cuts on the grounds that they posed a danger to public safety," reported Bloomberg News last October.
Maintaining that budget cuts would make it impossible to provide law enforcement coverage for Jefferson County, Sheriff Mike Hale suggested that it would be necessary to call in the National Guard to serve as a police force. In fact, as AlterNet's Mike Ames observes, martial law is "a logical progression in the ongoing billionaire plunder of America."...MORE...LINK