Russia: Reforming the Reformers

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an Interview with Michael Hudson for Counterpunch By STANDARD SCHAEFER On Sunday, March 14, Russians will re-elect Vladimir Putin for a second term as president. In the Duma elections three months earlier, on December 7, his United Russia party won such overwhelming support that he will have the power to rewrite the constitution dictated by former Pres. Yeltsin under force of arms a decade ago. In which direction will Mr. Putin go? Will he continue to support the oligarchs who designated him to succeed Pres. Yeltsin? Their privatizations in the mid-1990s have gutted Russian industry and led to collapsing living standards, public services, science and technology, emigration and population shrinkage. Will this prompt Mr. Putin to shift gears to enforce what he has ...

An Insider Spills the Beans on Offshore Banking Centers

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an Interview with Michael Hudson for Counterpunch. By STANDARD SCHAEFER The oil industry created the practice of countries (SHIPS?) flying "flags of convenience" as a means of avoiding income taxes nearly a century ago. Since the 1960s the U.S. Government itself has encouraged American banks to set up branches in Caribbean hot-money centers and more distant islands as a means of attracting foreign money into the dollar. The initial aim was to help finance the Vietnam War by turning America into a new Switzerland for the world's hot money. This policy succeeded in turning the United States into a flight-capital center for third-world dictators, Mexican presidents and Russian oligarchs. The former Soviet Union now finances a substantial portion of the U.S. balance-of-payments deficit ...

How Privatization Sterilizes Culture

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an Interview with Michael Hudson for Counterpunch. By STANDARD SCHAEFER Since the 1980s computer technology has been promoted as democratizing leisure by lowering the production costs of knowledge and culture. Consumers were promised more free time, yet a quarter or even a third of family income for the low- and middle-income brackets now goes to pay debt service, leaving insufficient revenue available for the promised leisure society. Culture traditionally was a luxury, often the first item cut from in lean times. In these times, however, we're told consumption is patriotic, something that should be maintained even during national emergencies. Curiously, when it comes to cultural products like music, prices come down but quality is sacrificed. Anyone who knows how "live" recordings on ...