Argentine President: Political Leadership Must Confront the “Casino Capitalism” That is Killing People

In an Aug. 14 speech addressing the global economic crisis, and particularly the devastation of the Eurozone, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner charged that what’s lacking today is the “political leadership” required to “confront those interests that must be confronted and make the decisions that must be made,” before more people die from murderous austerity.

“If those of us who are sitting Presidents, don’t make them, the markets or the bank presidents will make them for us,” she said. There is no such thing as “self-regulation,” she stated.

Fernandez was speaking at a conference on sovereign debt crises, sharing the podium with U.S. economist Joseph Stiglitz. As she has done repeatedly, she attacked the genocidal austerity being imposed on European nations, to guarantee payment to creditors who used the debt as a mechanism to loot those countries—just as was done to Argentina in the 1980s and 1990s, leading to the social and economic explosion of 2001.

Let’s not dignify what’s happening today by calling it “capitalism,” Fernandez said. “This is not real capitalism… it is a casino capitalism, a speculative capitalism, based fundamentally on rescuing the banks rather than rescuing societies. And frankly, I don’t know why they want to save the banks. If people die from starvation, who’s going to go to the banks to get a credit card or make a deposit? In truth, this is collective suicide we’re seeing, when you think about it.”

“Who should be most concerned with maintaining economic activity, if not the banks?” Yet, President Fernandez said, what used to be called capitalism has degenerated into something “merely speculative which believes that money reproduces itself… as if banks were hens sitting atop money and could just hatch more money!”

Speaking of the debt burden imposed on Argentina over decades, Fernandez pointed to the unscrupulous creditors who “knew the situation, and knew that we who were receiving that money in dollars at annual rates of 14 or 15%… weren’t going to be able to pay it back.” The same thing is happening in Europe today, she said. The late Nestor Kirchner told the UN General Assembly in 2003 that “the dead can’t pay their debts,” Fernandez recalled. Economies had to be allowed to grow and develop, so that eventually they could honor their debts—but, Fernandez added, to honor the debts that they actually owed, not the illegitimate part. This concept was at the center of the debt restructuring that Nestor Kirchner oversaw in 2005.

The problem in Europe today, Fernandez warned, is bankers’ obsession with inflation rather than growth, pointedly referencing Germany’s demand for austerity. Perhaps that is rooted in Germany’s own history, she said, in which the standard belief is that Nazism was a product of the hyperinflation of the Weimar period. But in reality, she cautioned, the harsh conditionalities imposed on Germany by the Versailles Treaty gave birth to Nazism. If the Group of 20 and other world leaders don’t come up with a new “theoretical framework” of policies that allow for growth and stymie speculation, the world will see “social implosions of political and institutional consequences that will, in my view, be unmanageable.”

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