Why is there no federal “debt” or “deficit,” and 7 other interesting questions.

[According to the MonopolyⒸ game rules, money is unlimited; if the Bank runs out of money it may issue as much as needed “by merely writing on any ordinary paper”.]

We previously have discussed the parallels between the MonopolyⒸ game’s Bank and the U.S. federal government.  Both are Monetarily Sovereign, which means:

Image result for four column chart
Create a column for each player.
  1. They cannot run short of money.
  2. They have no need to borrow money.
  3. They do not need to collect taxes.
  4. And the taxes they collect are destroyed upon receipt.

Let’s say you wish to play the MonopolyⒸ game with three friends, but when you open the box you find it has no money.

What do you do?

The paper “money” in a MonopolyⒸ game merely is a convenience, not a necessity. The game can be played in exactly the same way, without paper MonopolyⒸ dollars.

You simply can draw four columns on a sheet of paper — one column for each player. Then you write 5,000 (or any amount) at the top of each column. The total of the columns (say, 20,000) is the total amount of money in the game.

When any player spends money, you deduct that amount from the last number in the column, and when any player receives money, you add that amount.

But what happens when a player is required to pay money to the Bank? There is no column for the Bank. So, you simply deduct that amount from the player’s column.

Since the bank has no column, the money is destroyed. No record is kept of Bank “deficits.” The total in the game is now less than 20,000 MonopolyⒸ dollars.

This is similar to what happens when you pay taxes to the federal government. Although the federal government keeps a record of that payment, it doesn’t use those dollars for anything. Effectively, the U.S. dollars are destroyed.

And, like the MonopolyⒸ bank, the U.S. federal government creates brand new dollars, every time it spends.

And what happens when the MonopolyⒸ Bank spends money (for instance by paying 200 dollars when a player passes “GO”)? You add that 200 dollars to the appropriate player’s column. The total money in the game now increases by 200 Monopoly dollars.

The MonopolyⒸ Bank doesn’t have debt, because it simply creates new MonopolyⒸ dollars by the very act of spending. Similarly, the federal government creates new U.S. dollars by the very act of spending.

1. What is the federal “deficit”?
The so-called “deficit is the misleading name given to the difference between the amount of money the federal government collects vs. the amount it spends.

The deficit is just an arithmetic difference; it does not imply a real financial relationship between collections and spending.

Reductions in federal debt growth introduce recessions (vertical gray bars). Recessions are cured by increases in federal debt growth.

The federal government has the unlimited ability to create U.S. dollars, so the deficit merely shows how many dollars the government sends into the economy compared to the number of dollars the government takes from the economy.

Thus the so-called “deficit” more properly should be viewed as an “economic surplus.”

Because deficits add dollars to the private sector, they are necessary to cure recessions and depressions.

2. What is the federal debt?
The government accepts deposits into U.S. Treasury Security accounts. The purpose of these accounts is not to supply the government with dollars (it creates dollars at will), but rather:

  1. To help the government control interest rates.
  2. To provide the world with a safe “parking” place for unused U.S. dollars, which helps stabilize the dollar.

The total of deposits into the U.S. Treasury Security accounts is misleadingly known as the federal “debt,” though the accurate term would be “deposits.”

3. Do federal taxpayers pay for the federal debt?
These T-security accounts pose no burden on the federal government or on taxpayers. The government pays interest into these accounts by creating brand new dollars.

The accounts are paid off by sending the dollars that reside in the accounts, back to the account holders. No tax dollars are used.

4. Does the federal government borrow?
Unlike state and local governments, the U.S. federal government does not borrow. Why would it? Being Monetarily Sovereign, it has the unlimited ability to create dollars.

Though accepting deposits into Treasury Security accounts sometimes wrongly is called “borrowing,” those dollars are not used by the government. They stay in the accounts, earning interest, until maturity, at which time they return to the account owners.

The term “borrow,” implies that the borrower has some need of, or use for, the thing being borrowed. The federal government has neither need of, nor use for, the dollars deposited in T-security accounts.

The purposes of federal T-securities are:

  1. To help the Federal Reserve control interest rates
  2. To provide a safe parking place for unused dollars, which stabilizes the dollar.
  3. To convince the public that the federal government does not have the unlimited ability to create dollars.

(#3 helps the very rich prevent the public from demanding more social spending.)

5. Does federal deficit spending cause inflation?
Federal deficit spending adds growth dollars to the economy.

There is a popular myth that “excessive” government spending causes inflation. The common belief is that increasing the supply of dollars, without increasing the demand for dollars, would make each dollar less valuable, which is the definition of “inflation.”

While the total of deficits (blue line) has increased massively, inflation (red line) has been comparatively modest.

In reality, however, adding dollars to the economy puts spending-dollars into consumers’ pockets, which grows the economy and increases the demand for dollars. (See #6.)

Since 1947, the U.S. federal deficit increases have totaled more than 80,000%, while prices have increased significantly less.

The illusion of deficit spending causing inflation comes partly from the images of wheelbarrows filled with money during hyperinflations.

But those were examples of hyperinflations causing currency printing, and not the other way around.

Example: Zimbabwe. Farmland was taken from white farmers and given to blacks who did not know how to farm. Food shortage and then hyperinflation predictable results.

Inflations are caused by shortages, usually shortages of food or oil.

6. How is inflation prevented and cured?
The standard, recommended cure for inflations and hyperinflations is to reduce government spending, aka “austerity.” Unfortunately, this actually can worsen the problem by exacerbating the shortages.

The best prevention/cure for modest inflation: First raise interest rates to increase the value of the currency. This can be done quickly and incrementally, without the need for time-consuming, politically-tilted debates in Congress.

Meanwhile, to prevent/cure more serious inflations, increase government financial support for farming and oil exploration. Because this requires a counter-intuitive increase in government spending, it can take longer for a government to implement, but it is the only path to ending an inflation.

In extraordinary circumstances, it may be necessary to introduce a new currency, while focusing financial efforts on food and oil supplies. Until food and oil shortages are cured, inflations and hyperinflations cannot be cured.

7. How does Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) differ from Monetary Sovereignty (MS)?
These two economic philosophies agree that the federal government cannot run short of its own sovereign currency, the U.S. dollar, federal taxing does not fund federal spending, and that federal deficit spending adds growth dollars to the economy.

They further agree that the federal “debt” is not a burden on the federal government or on federal taxpayers.

MMT’s primary goals are full employment (effected by a Jobs Guarantee) and a stable currency.

In contrast, MS’s primary goals are economic growth and a reduction in income/wealth inequality (via the Ten Steps to Prosperity, below).

Since the great recession of 2008, unemployment (blue line) has dropped to low levels, and inflation as been within the Federal Reserve target of 2.5%. That would mean the economy already has met MMT’s goals. Presumably then, for MMT, all is well.

But wealth/income inequality has grown markedly, so clearly MMT’s goals are inadequate.

GINI index for the United States

The change in Gini indices has differed across countries. Some countries have change little over time, such as Belgium, Canada, Germany, Japan, and Sweden. Brazil has oscillated around a steady value. France, Italy, Mexico, and Norway have shown marked declines. China and the US have increased steadily. Australia grew to moderate levels before dropping. India sank before rising again. The UK and Poland stayed at very low levels before rising. Bulgaria had an increase of fits-and-starts. .svg alt text
Of the nations measured, only Brazil and Mexico have greater inequality than the U.S.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
Monetary Sovereignty
Twitter: @rodgermitchell
Search #monetarysovereignty Facebook: Rodger Malcolm Mitchell


The most important problems in economics involve the excessive income/wealth/power Gaps between the richer and the poorer.

Wide Gaps negatively affect poverty, health and longevity, education, housing, law and crime, war, leadership, ownership, bigotry, supply and demand, taxation, GDP, international relations, scientific advancement, the environment, human motivation and well-being, and virtually every other issue in economics.

Implementation of The Ten Steps To Prosperity can narrow the Gaps:

Ten Steps To Prosperity:

1. Eliminate FICA

2. Federally funded Medicare — parts a, b & d, plus long-term care — for everyone

3. Provide a monthly economic bonus to every man, woman and child in America (similar to social security for all)

4. Free education (including post-grad) for everyone

5. Salary for attending school

6. Eliminate federal taxes on business

7. Increase the standard income tax deduction, annually. 

8. Tax the very rich (the “.1%”) more, with higher progressive tax rates on all forms of income.

9. Federal ownership of all banks

10. Increase federal spending on the myriad initiatives that benefit America’s 99.9% 

The Ten Steps will grow the economy, and narrow the income/wealth/power Gap between the rich and you.



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