Reason.com, a mouthpiece for the Libertarian Party, bills itself as “free minds, free markets.” More accurately, it should be called “closed minds, closed markets, and free lies.”
Here is the latest post from Eric Boehm, Reason.com’s economic policy reporter. As expected with Libertarian economic “thought,” it is loaded with wrong inferences, misunderstandings, and/or outright lies.
November’s $249 Billion Federal Budget Deficit Set a Record. Now, Congress Is Preparing To Spend Even More.
The government spent $501 billion in November but collected just $252 billion in revenue, meaning that about 50 cents of every dollar spent were borrowed.
ERIC BOEHM | 12.16.2022 1:00 PM
The article comes with the photo and caption shown above.
Boehm doesn’t realize that his photo undermines his claim that “about 50 cents of every dollar spent were borrowed.”
The photo shows someone (presumably representing the government) creating dollars from thin air using a copy machine. This immediately demonstrates the senselessness of the Libertarian economic claims because it illustrates why the federal government has no need to borrow dollars.
In fact, the government does create dollars from thin air simply by pressing computer keys, so it never borrows dollars.
Boehm claims that T-bills, T-notes, and T-bonds represent borrowed money. Completely false. They represent dollars deposited into privately held accounts, similar to safe deposit boxes. The government never touches the contents of those accounts.
The dollars are the property of the depositors, not of the government, and remain inviolate until the accounts mature when the contents are returned to the owners. The dollars never are borrowed or used by the government or by anyone else.
Though those dollars often incorrectly are termed federal “debt,” the government does not owe the money any more than a bank owes the contents of a safe deposit box.
As the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank has said:
“The U.S. government can never become insolvent, i.e., unable to pay its bills . . . the government is not dependent on credit markets to remain operational.
“Not dependent on credit markets” is government-speak for, “does not borrow.”
Further, even if the T-securities were debt, the federal government pays all its debt by creating new dollars ad hoc. It does this by the simple expedient of passing laws and pressing computer keys, both of which it has the infinite ability to do.
Debt never is a burden on the U.S. government or on taxpayers.
As for those taxes you are forced to pay, they are destroyed upon receipt by the Treasury. You take dollars from your checking account — dollars that are part of the M2 money supply measure — and when they reach the Treasury, they cease to be part of any money supply measure.
There is no measure of the Treasury’s money holdings because the Treasury has infinite money. Thus, your tax dollars disappear, effectively destroyed.
So much for all that talk about falling deficits.
The federal government ran a $249 billion deficit during the month of November—that’s the largest total ever posted for that month, and a staggering $56 billion increase over the deficit from November 2021.
The economy is measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The formula for GDP is:
GDP = Federal Spending + Non-federal spending + Net Exports
Thus, by simple algebra, federal spending always grows the economy. Boehm may not realize that he is complaining about economic growth.
Nearly 50 cents of every dollar spent were borrowed and added to the national debt. That’s utterly unsustainable.
“Unsustainable” is the favorite word of deficit liars, who never explain why any size deficit cannot be sustained.
The gross federal “debt” (deposits) totaled $51 billion in 1940. It now totals about $30 trillion, nearly a 600-fold increase, and here we are, sustaining.
For over 80 years, the debt whiners have claimed the debt is “unsustainable.” Year after year after year, they have been proven wrong, and still, they learn nothing. Truly pitiful.
And now Congress is gearing up to spend even more.
Though the final details of a lame-duck session omnibus bill won’t be known until next week (likely not until just before lawmakers are asked to vote on it), it’s a near certainty that the final agreement will add to this year’s budget deficit and the ballooning national debt.
Translation: The final agreement will add to the budget deficit which will grow GDP.
Congress passed a short-term spending deal on Thursday night to avert a government shutdown and give lawmakers another week to hammer out a more comprehensive deal to fund the government through the end of the current fiscal year.
Where did the dollars to fund the government come from? The government merely created them from thin air by creating laws and pressing computer keys, something they can do forever.
That larger omnibus bill could include billions of dollars in additional military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, as well as emergency funds for hurricane relief, The Washington Post reports.
The final price tag is likely to be about $1.7 trillion, according to Politico.
That will be $1.7 trillion added to Gross Domestic Product.
Depending on what else ends up in the final version of the end-of-year omnibus, the package will add between $240 billion and $585 billion to this year’s budget deficit, according to an analysis by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), a nonprofit that advocates for balancing the books.
It says much about your lack of economics knowledge when you resort to the CRFB for your ideas. Here is what happens when the government balances the books:
1804-1812: U. S. Federal Debt reduced 48%. Depression began 1807.
1817-1821: U. S. Federal Debt reduced 29%. Depression began 1819.
1823-1836: U. S. Federal Debt reduced 99%. Depression began 1837.
1852-1857: U. S. Federal Debt reduced 59%. Depression began 1857.
1867-1873: U. S. Federal Debt reduced 27%. Depression began 1873.
1880-1893: U. S. Federal Debt reduced 57%. Depression began 1893.
1920-1930: U. S. Federal Debt reduced 36%. Depression began 1929.
1997-2001: U. S. Federal Debt reduced 15%. Recession began 2001.
Balancing the books is a good idea for monetarily non-sovereign entities like cities, counties, states, euro nations, businesses, and individuals. They do not have the unlimited ability to create their own sovereign currencies.
In fact, they have no sovereign currencies.
But the U.S. government is Monetarily Sovereign. It can create infinite dollars and the legal ability to make those dollars worth anything it chooses.
Over the 10-year budget window used by the Congressional Budget Office and other number crunchers to assess the federal budget, the damage could exceed $5 trillion.
Translation: Exchange the words “economic growth“ for the term “damage” and you will see the truth.
“Not only would these policies increase deficits, but they would also worsen inflation,” the CRFB warns in its analysis.
“With inflation surging and debt approaching record levels, policymakers should avoid passing costly end-of-year policy changes.”
As always, the CRFB spouts nonsense. Inflation is not caused by or “worsened” by federal deficits. All inflations through history have been caused by shortages of important goods and services.
If federal deficits “worsened inflation,” one would expect the peaks and valleys of the above graph to correspond. They do not.
Inflations are not caused by federal spending. Today’s inflation was caused by COVID-related shortages of oil, food, shipping, lumber, computer chips, labor et al.
For much of the past year, the Biden administration has been touting falling deficit figures as evidence that the economy was picking up and, implicitly, as a signal that government spending could increase without adding to the nation’s tenuous fiscal situation.
If true, that would be incredibly uninformed by the Biden administration.
Mathematically, it is not possible for falling deficit figures to be evidence of growing Gross Domestic Product. That would be like falling food supplies being evidence of growing nutrition.
That was always misleading, as the falling deficit was entirely the result of one-time, emergency COVID-19 spending coming off the books.
The underlying figures showed all along that the deficit situation was continuing to worsen, and that President Joe Biden’s policies were adding trillions of dollars to the deficit over the long term.
Wait, Mr. Boehm. You say emergency COVID-19 spending came off the books, yet now we have inflation. What happened to your claim that increased federal spending causes inflation?
November’s spending and revenue figures should put an end to these silly games. We’re only two months into the fiscal year, but the federal government is now on pace to run a deficit of about $1.9 trillion, which would be the largest nonpandemic budget deficit ever and a huge increase from the $1.38 trillion deficit in the fiscal year that ended on September 30.
That spending has helped reduce the likelihood of a recession, which by the way, is defined as two consecutive quarters of reduced GDP — a reduction which is exactly what you want to do.
A major driver of November’s rapidly expanding deficit was something else that fiscal hawks have been warning about for a while: higher borrowing costs created by higher interest rates.
The Wall Street Journal notes that the federal government spent 53 percent more on borrowing costs last month than it did in November 2021.
The higher borrowing costs were foolishly and arbitrarily created by the Fed. They do nothing to prevent/cure inflation. They do nothing to cure the shortages that cause inflation.
In fact, higher interest rates exacerbate the shortages and thus, exacerbate inflation. In essence, the Fed is applying leeches to cure anemia.
Higher borrowing costs are not the result of federal deficits. They are the result of Fed ignorance.
The best time to stop borrowing heavily was yesterday (or several years ago), but the second-best time would be today. Instead, Congress is likely to make this problem even worse—again—by continuing to spend like there’s no tomorrow.
The entire Boehm article is based on commonly held myths. The facts are:
- Federal deficits are necessary for economic growth. (That is simple mathematics.)
- The U.S. federal government never borrows dollars. (Why would it, given its infinite ability to create dollars).
- Reduced federal spending causes recessions and depressions. (Again, this is simple mathematics.)
- Inflations are caused by shortages of key goods and services, not by federal spending. (As demonstrated by history).
- Inflations are cured by federal spending to acquire and distribute the scarce goods and services. (Again, as demonstrated by history.)
- Increasing interest rates does not help prevent or cure inflations.
- Increasing interest rates exacerbates the shortages that cause inflations. (That is why raising interest rates is recessionary.)
Oh, and applying leeches does not cure anemia.
Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
Twitter: @rodgermitchell Search #monetarysovereignty
Facebook: Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
The Sole Purpose of Government Is to Improve and Protect the Lives of the People.
13 thoughts on ““Free minds, free markets,” and free lies.”
Boehm is a transliteration of Böhm. Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk who served intermittently as the Austrian Minister of Finance between 1895 and 1904 was a professor to Schumpeter and von Mises. https://www.fff.org/explore-freedom/article/bohm-bawerk-austrian-economist-who-said-no-to-big-government/
Rare anymore to find libertarians in America who don’t subscribe to gold is good Austrian Economics
“…the Treasury has infinite money…”
That phrase alone destroys everything that’s being taught in economics; any halfway conscious student should be wide-eye-stunned into full consciousness by it. But full consciousness of the facts is not what established thinking is concerned with. Established thinking, as you point out, won’t dare face facts. For example, how is it that science and engineering is always improving and advancing itself, but economics remains stuck in the 19th Century’s pre-industrial, pre-automated scarcity model literally unable to account for the wealth of vast improvements of the 21st Century? If such an accounting system were ever to emerge, the gap between rich and poor would disappear and threaten the rich. Their desparate need to control the game of money-making keeps them where they are.
According to the nightly news, it appears time is running out for everyone, including the rich. A total affordability system would be our only real way out of debt.
Economics today is where Medicine was in the 1800s. Think about the establishment’s reaction to Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis. The poor man was driven mad by the obstruction of “experts.”
Reminds me of a U. of Florida Dentistry professor whose life work was and still is being obstructed by GMO paranoids. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2000/mar/23/technology & https://www.wired.com/2002/06/better-teeth-through-biochemistry/
Last attempt at a trial was abandoned early in 2005. FDA was a total road block to the technology and unfortunately Jeff was 20 years ahead of everyone. FDA was not ready to deal with a genetically altered bacteria. In many aspects, they still aren’t ready. It is interesting to note that the FDA seemed to be fine with genetically altered viruses for targeting cancer or for gene therapy. In a lot of ways, it really doesn’t make any sense.
Its interesting that almost all crime is related to (lack of) money, i.e. the root of all evil. So if money is debt, then debt must be a crime, albeit unrecognized as such. But we’re accustomed to things as they are; messing around with the money system seems like we’re messing with our means of survival. It’s no wonder people freak out or make faces (like Austin Goolsbee) when you mention any big change to the system; or more precisely, to the way we think about money; a scarcity-survival item that you must work for whether or not you like your job or can even find one. The murder/crime/illness/accident rate -I’ll bet – would drop fast in a guaranteed income environment. The total savings realized would more than pay for retraining-schooling of the jobless.
BUT how do you make people realize this and stop resisting change? As I’ve said all along, it’ll take a hellava lot of rich feet to the fire, the pinch point of pain.
A reduction in poverty would yield a huge reduction in violent crime. Other crimes would continue, albeit somewhat less.
You ever read the studies which propose that the across the board drop in violent crime from the early nineties peak was due to leaded gas being phased out beginning in the mid seventies [started with the northeast in 1974 I think]? Had two whole generations prone to violence from lead exposure. Peak absorption being at about age three and I believe they identified some serial offenders who did indeed live at a young age next gas stations or some other place with engines idling all day.
Not every country phased it out at the same time [a few are just doing it in the last several years] so the results are noticeable elsewhere.
Leaded petrol was removed from British engines later than in North America – and the crime rate in the UK began to fall later than in the US and Canada. Apr 21, 2014 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-27067615
https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexknapp/2013/01/03/how-lead-caused-americas-violent-crime-epidemic/?sh=5b32110e12c4 Rudy Ghouliani being mayor of NYC had next to nothing to do with the steep fall in crime during his two terms.
electric engines–clean, nonflammable, nonpoisonous, and apparently getting more efficient with time and breakthroughs.
Illinois Tech spinoff Influit Energy says it’s coming out of stealth mode to commercialize a rechargeable electrofuel – a non-flammable, fast-refuelling liquid flow battery that already carries 23% more energy than lithium batteries, at half the cost. https://newatlas.com/energy/influit-flow-battery-density/
Eventually they say it could carry five times more energy than lithium at a third of the cost.
One key issue currently (no pun intended) is recharging speed. A gasoline engine can be refilled in a minute or two. Batteries require much longer, so are inconvenient for long distance trips.
Inuit’s website says, “‘Rapid refueling pods’ will offer the ability to straight-up swap spent fuel out and put fresh stuff back in. But influit says you won’t lose your ability to plug in and recharge the fuel in the same way EV owners do now – either slowly through a wall socket, or rapidly through a higher-power charging station.”
If they can get this time down to a minute or two, we will see a real revolution.
Of course, the necessary infrastructure will take some time.
“The design freedom makes the flow battery much more readily adaptable for transportation because you can get three-minute refuelling. If you needed to charge the battery and you don’t want to refuel, you could just plug it in. It would take just the same amount of time as it does with a lithium-ion battery,” says Katsoudas.
“We have taken the thing that makes solid batteries good and merged it with the things that make flow batteries good to create a perfect solution for transportation,” he adds.
The charging infrastructure works the same way for Influit NEF batteries. The pump stations will be different from traditional gas stations. Fast fuel refilling will require four nozzles, two to flow liquid in and two to pump the separate liquids out.
“When you’re done using the fluid and the energy is discharged. Then you pump out the two discharge fluids, positive and negative fluid and pump in the fresh, positive and negative fluid that is charged.”
He reports that the Influit NEF system will last longer than competing batteries. Traditional flow batteries can last 10,000-20,000 cycles. Lithium-ion will go through about 2000 cycles.
[DARPA deficit spending gave us the internet among other things]
https://youtu.be/YZuYnX3IQSQ 6 years ago. The original spark of an idea Timofeeva and Katsoudas together had 13 years ago while talking through the wider big picture implications of results Timofeeva had been getting from lab experiments