Moyers & Company / Banking on Greed / The Problem with Genetically-Modified Seeds

Just when you think the reputation of banks couldn’t get any worse, comes word that we’ve seen nothing yet. As many as 20 banking institutions, including Barclays Bank, Deutsche Bank, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, UBS and HSBC, are reportedly under investigation for illegal and unethical practices toward protecting their profits at all costs and letting others pay for their mistakes. In this episode, financial expert Sheila Bair talks with Bill about the lawlessness of our banking system and the prognosis for meaningful reform. Bair was appointed in 2006 by President George W. Bush to chair the FDIC. During the 2008 meltdown, she argued that in some cases banks were NOT too big to fail — that instead of bailouts, they should be sold off to healthier competitors. Now a senior adviser to the Pew Charitable Trusts, Bair has organized a private group of financial experts including former Fed chairman Paul Volcker, former Senators Bill Bradley and Alan Simpson, and John Reed, once the chairman of Citicorp, to explore ways to prevent the banking industry from scuttling reforms created by the Dodd-Frank Act.

Sheila Bair: Banking on Greed

Bill talks to scientist and philosopher Vandana Shiva, who’s become a rock star in the global battle over genetically modified seeds. These seeds — considered “intellectual property” by the big companies who own the patents — are globally marketed to monopolize food production and profits. Opponents challenge the safety of genetically modified seeds, claiming they also harm the environment, are more costly, and leave local farmers deep in debt as well as dependent on suppliers. Shiva, who founded a movement in India to promote native seeds, links genetic tinkering to problems in our ecology, economy, and humanity, and sees this as the latest battleground in the war on Planet Earth.

Vandana Shiva on the Problem with Genetically-Modified Seeds

Full Show: Banking on Greed | Moyers & Company | BillMoyers.com.

Rewriting the Rules of the Global Economy

To start understanding what’s wrong with the international financial institutions (IFIs), we need to look at why we actually need economies to function. The most important economic issues to most people are whether they are able to get decent jobs and whether they are able to lift themselves out of poverty.

In writing the rules for economies, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and WTO (World Trade Organization) are major proponents of neoliberal ideology. That ideology is based on the theory that slashing government spending, reducing tariffs, privatizing public resources, and promoting corporate investment will result in higher economic growth, and that this will eventually result in a reduction in poverty because a rising tide lifts all boats. This contrasts with more progressive viewpoints that focus on reducing inequality by investing in health care, education, and opportunities for the poor.

The mandate of the IMF is to help countries overcome short-term financial difficulties by giving out loans. However, these loans are only provided if countries restructure their economies. That is, they have to adhere to these neoliberal economic policies, like cutting government spending in areas such as education and health care, to regain what is called “fiscal discipline,” which means not spending more money than you are taking in. The problem is that the result in many countries has actually been a reduction of growth and development – stagnant wages, more unemployment. Thus, while the creditors are bailed out by the IMF, often the borrowing country is unable to repay the loan, resulting in an endless cycle of impoverishment and indebtedness. Read more…