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Grain Market Manipulation = Petrofraud Redux

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Message Michael Fox

"This money is going to help Americans offset the high prices we're seeing at the gas pump, at the grocery store, and will also give our economy a boost to help us pull out of this economic slowdown." President George W. Bush, Friday, April 25, 2008 announcing that the "stimulus package" tax rebate checks would begin to be distributed this week.

For once, I think he is being totally honest. This money is going – quite specifically – to your gasoline bill and your grocery bill. And the only reason is that those very commodity markets are being shamefully manipulated. This is a swindle, plain and simple, but one with an unprecedented dynamic: Imagine if a bank robber [Bush] not only robbed the bank, but did so with the permission of the Bank's president, who went so far as to borrow the money [Pelosi] for the thief to steal! That's what's happening here! Here, then, the result...

"...the gas pump"

This afternoon, two local Union 76/Conoco Phillips (gadzooks, these mergers make for long names) gas stations in my Los Angeles neighborhood posted the number I recently anticipated would be the price this summer: full serve 91-Octane (premium) gasoline: $4.99/gallon. It's only a matter of time before regular grade 87-octane self-serve catches up, because the modus operandi is to get the number visible around town, then it takes about a month to accustom the public to seeing it, griping about it, then finally, dejectedly, paying it – feeling grateful that they're not the ones paying what will – by then – be in excess of $5/gallon for the premium grade.

There is no reason for this other than, as I have suggested here before, it's the last chance for a monumental financial grab by the Bush administration benefiting Big Oil before these oil executives go home to Texas (or Dubai, where they don't have extradition). Hand out $600 to every tax filer; just enough to cover the extraordinary 100% hike in gasoline prices rolled out over the last year. This is $150 billion being stolen – yes, stolen – from the government and given to the oil companies.

"...the grocery store"

Perhaps you're thinking that lots of prices have gone up. And you're right. There is a genuine global shortage of food supplies, and I discussed several months ago that Famine is approaching. But with that dismal anticipation came rampant speculation in the wheat, corn, soybean and rice markets. The sad truth is that shortages in any of those crops are due entirely to global trade agreements and genetically modified patented seeds; the combination of those two factors has virtually eliminated rice growing in places where it's been grown for millennia, such as the Philippines. This is, unfortunately, just one example of hundreds.

"Free Trade" has been a disaster for farming around the world. It is, however, creating a new financial bubble on the Chicago and London commodities exchanges and Wall St. This is a serious global disaster, and it is being exploited for profits as people starve. After reports from around the world have surfaced about food shortages and resulting riots, the first glimpse is being seen here at home. This afternoon I went into a local produce store that generally carries a large inventory of basmati rice from India – the kind that comes in large, 10, 20, and 50 pound burlap sacks. The entire aisle was bare. The proprietor of the store said that he'd just spoken to the distributor and that they had none. When a store goes from fully stocked to empty, in the absence of, say, an earthquake or hurricane, it is because of panic. The panic has been caused to run up the price. The real shortages are not bad enough for the whole world to suddenly not have rice.

I understand the impulse one might have to hoard a staple like rice, which keeps virtually indefinitely. But this shortage isn't being perpetrated by the shopper. It's being orchestrated by global trade deals that make farming prohibitively expensive, thus leaving the harvest of food stocks entirely to corporate agriculture, who, in turn can limit distribution and drive the price up just as OPEC and the oil companies have done. Rice will reappear on the shelves in a few weeks, and people will gladly pay double for it. Game over.

So in that regard, the President was right. All that money will go for gas and groceries. The "stimulus" checks will be stimulating the accounts of grain speculators and oil companies.

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Michael Fox is a writer and economist based in Los Angeles. He has been a corporate controller, professor, and small business entrepreneur. After a life-altering accident, he spent five years learning more about medicine and the healthcare (more...)
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