An alternative to popular faith
Three economic truths: Federal deficit spending is necessary for economic growth; all money is debt; federal taxes do not pay for federal spending.
For you and me, running a financial deficit is bad. Deficits can deplete our personal money supply, reducing our ability to pay bills. Similarly, when a corporation or a city, county or state runs a financial deficit, their ability to pay bills is reduced.
However, despite what the media, the politicians and the economists tell you, when the U.S. government runs a deficit, that is good – in fact, necessary.
By definition, a large economy has more money than does a small economy. So, a growing economy must have a growing supply of money. Federal deficit spending is the way the government adds growth money to the economy. Because the federal government has the unlimited power to create money, it never can run short of money to pay its bills.
Every form of money is a form of debt. Bank savings accounts, checking accounts, money market accounts, CDs, travelers’ checks, corporate bonds and T-bills all are types of debt and money. Even the dollar bill is a debt of the federal government, which is why it has “federal reserve note” printed on it. “Bill” and “note” are words describing debt.
As debt and money are identical, a growing economy must have a growing supply of debt. It can be personal debt, corporate debt, city, county and state debt, and it can be federal debt. All debts, except federal debt, are limited by the debtor’s ability of pay, and excessive debt can lead to bankruptcy. This makes federal debt the safest form of debt. It can grow endlessly, without causing bankruptcy.
One counter-argument is that foreign countries (especially China) will refuse to lend us money. But, we don’t need to borrow from China or from anywhere else. We borrow by creating T-securities out of thin air, then selling them. This process is a relic of the gold standard days, when the government did not have the unlimited ability to create money. Today, the government does not need to create and sell T-securities. It merely can create money, also out of thin air. The processes are functionally identical. The end of federal borrowing would end concerns about federal debt. Rather than discuss “debt” we would discuss “money created.”
A second counter argument is that printing money causes inflation. Examples are given of pre-war Germany, China and Brazil, which suffered hyper-inflation, a different process. Hyper-inflation occurs if a government prints money in response to inflation, when the proper response is to raise interest rates. Since WWII inflation has not been caused by excessive money printing, but rather by excessive oil prices. The largest, recent inflationary period came during the modest Carter deficits. The massive Reagan deficits saw inflation decline. Making money more valuable by raising interest rates, prevents and cures inflation.
The media tell us the federal government spends “taxpayers’ money” or “our grandchildren’s money.” Neither is true. Other governments – city, county and state — do not have the unlimited ability to create money, so they spend taxpayers’ money. The federal government does not. There is no historical relationship between federal deficits and tax rates. The federal government literally destroys incoming tax money, and creates new money to pay its bills. There is no federal “bill-paying” account funded by taxes.
Federal debt has increased 1400% in just the past 30 years, and the government never has had any difficulty paying its bills. Were taxes to fall to $0, this would not affect by even one penny, the government’s ability to pay its bills.
In summary, much of what the media, the politicians and the economists tell you about our economy either is obsolete or always has been wrong. The lack of understanding that federal deficits are different from all other deficits has prevented universal health care and improvements in education, pension support, the ecology, the infrastructure, energy, the military and numerous other situations.
The misguided fear of inflation or taxes, neither of which is exacerbated by federal deficit spending, has paralyzed our ability to solve the most pressing problems of today.
Rodger Malcolm Mitchell