–An “investigative” newspaper comments on the new tax agreement

The debt hawks are to economics as the creationists are to biology. Those, who do not understand monetary sovereignty, do not understand economics. Cutting the federal deficit is the most ignorant and damaging step the federal government could take. It ranks ahead of the Hawley-Smoot Tariff.
For reasons I cannot even begin to imagine, the Chicago Tribune, which prides itself on being an investigative newspaper, refuses to investigate facts before or even after, writing about the economy. I have contacted them often, and they never have displayed even a modicum of interest in learning anything about how the economy works. Instead, they rely solely on popular myth.

Here is a verbatum copy of an Email I sent to editors and others at the Tribune:

“Today’s (12/7/10) Chicago Tribune editorial titled, “Tax Dealing” contains a mixture of truth and myths.

1. Truth: “ . . .raising marginal (tax) rates, especially with the tax year ending an a matter of weeks, would hurt an economic recover still on life support. Obama knows he needs all the growth he can get.” Translation: Yes, taxes hurt the economy because they remove money from the economy. A growing economy requires a growing supply of money.

2. Myth: ” . . . nobody is reducing the cost of government to make up the lost revenue.” Fact: Federal spending is not constrained by taxes, nor do taxes pay for federal spending. Tax money is destroyed (i.e. “lost”) upon receipt and is not stored anywhere.

3. Truth: “The (commission on debt reduction) work can be a catalyst for historic change.” Yes, if we follow the commission’s debt reduction advice, we will have a depression of historic proportions. See item #1, above.

4. Truth: “The panel’s plan involves cutting everything from defense to Social Security . . . Everyone from senior citizens to post-office customers have complained about the pain involved if the plan were enacted.” Yes, it’s a plan that hurts everyone and benefits no one. It’s all pain and no gain.

5. Myth: “That’s unavoidable. Everyone is going to feel some pain when the nation makes its government live within its means.” Fact: Causing economic pain neither is unavoidable nor praiseworthy. As for the government “living within its means,” the Tribune demonstrates it does not know the difference between monetarily sovereign finances (U.S. Government) and monetarily non-sovereign finances (everyone else). You and I have “means.” We must have a source of money before we spend. We are limited in how much we can spend. The federal government is not limited. It creates money by spending. It alone has the unlimited ability to pay any bills of any size. It has no “means.”

6. Myth: You repeated Sen. Durbin’s comment, “Borrowing 40 cents out of every dollar we spend for missiles or food stamps is unsustainable.” Fact: The federal government does not need to borrow even one cent. Borrowing the money the federal government originally created, and can continue to create endlessly, makes no economic sense. It is a relic of the gold standard days, when federal borrowing was necessary. The government does not spend borrowed money. As for federal spending being “unsustainable,” this myth has been bandied about since 1980 (See: Unsustainable) It is no more true today than it was 30 years ago.

7. Myth: “It’s irresponsible for our nation to go on accumulating unaffordable debts that will force even more painful cuts down the line.” What makes the debt “unaffordable”? The Tribune has no idea. In fact, “federal debt” merely is a synonym for “federal money created.” Without federal debt there would be no money and no economy. The Tribune makes the nonsensical complaint that money is unaffordable.

8. Myth: “The coming agreement on tax cuts will avoid an unwelcome shock to the U.S. economy. It will buy time. But it has to lead to an agreement on long-term deficit reduction.” The Tribune editors do not realize that the first part of this paragraph contradicts the second part. If increasing deficits will help the economy, why do the Tribune editors want to decrease deficits? Ever?

In summary, the Tribune editors continue to parrot the myths of the day. Not once do they even make an attempt to provide evidence supporting their beliefs. So I’ll leave you with a couple of questions, you may or may not wish to answer:

–Exactly what do you mean by “make up for lost revenue.” Do you mean that without this “lost revenue” the federal government will be unable to pay its bills?
–Why do you feel economic pain is beneficial. Has the economic pain we already have felt proved beneficial?
–Why do you feel cutting defense will benefit the economy and American security?
–Why do you feel cutting Social Security benefits will benefit the economy?
–Why do you feel reducing postal service will benefit the economy?
–What is the definition of “means,” when you say the government must live within its means. What has happened because the government has not lived within its “means.”
–What do you mean by ‘unaffordable debts.” Do you think a government with the unlimited power to create money, cannot afford to pay for the T-securities it creates out of thin air? Similarly, what do you mean by “unsustainable”?
–Does the Tribune feel any concern about spreading false information that could damage your readers and the entire American economy?
–Is the Tribune interested in learning the facts?

If any of you are readers of the Chicago Tribune, you may wish to write to them. Perhaps mutiple voices would help. I write to:
Zoll, Yerak, Dold, Japsen, Page, Greising, Letters, Ponpei, Delama, Kern, , Oliphant, Hirt, Business, Knowles, Kass, Lythcott, McHolt, O’Brien, Epodmolik, Lev, Doneal
Hughlett, Nicholas, Widder, Jones, Hunter, Wong

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

No nation can tax itself into prosperity. Those who say the stimulus “didn’t work” remind me of the guy whose house is on fire. A neighbor runs with a garden hose and starts spraying, but the fire continues. The neighbor wants to call the fire department, which would bring the big hoses, but the guy says, “Don’t call. As you can see, water doesn’t put out fires.”

–Letters to the Chicago Tribune

The debt hawks are to economics as the creationists are to biology.

I read the Chicago Tribune. It’s my hometown newspaper. Over the years I have written many letters to the editors, trying to help them understand our economy. I have failed.

The Tribune editors still live in the gold standard world, where the money supply and the government’s ability to pay its bills is limited. In short, the Tribune editors are debt-hawks.

I should have done this long ago, but I now have decided to begin posting my Tribune letters all in one spot — here. I put today’s letter in this post, and subsequent letters will be in the comments, below.

My hope: Some of you will write to Pat Widder, chief economic correspondent (Can you believe they have one?), and give her the facts. Perhaps if she hears from enough people . . . who knows? Maybe she’ll decide to learn something. Her Email is: PWidder@tribune.com

Pat, I don’t get it. Why do the Tribune editors intentionally resist knowledge?

In today’s editorial, “Stop Spending, Part I, your editors refer to the proposed $250 payment to each Social Securities recipient as “$14 billion that the government doesn’t have, putting the taxpayers of today and tomorrow deeper in debt.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

First, the government “has” an unlimited amount of money. The government became monetarily sovereign in 1971, the end of the gold standard, and since then, has had the unlimited ability to create money. To say the government does not “have” money is more misleading than the lies our worst politicians tell.

Second, although Illinois taxpayers do pay for Illinois spending, and Chicago taxpayers do pay for Chicago spending, U.S. taxpayers do not pay for U.S. spending. The reason: Illinois and Chicago are not monetarily sovereign; the U.S. is. And in a monetarily sovereign nation, taxpayers do not pay for government spending. There is zero relationship between federal taxes and federal spending. Taxpayers do not owe federal debt.

Are your editors being deliberately dishonest or are they too lazy to learn the facts? It has to be one of the two. When I see the typical, misleading political advertising these days, all I can think is, “My God, the Tribune is worse.”
Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

No nation can tax itself into prosperity

Continue reading “–Letters to the Chicago Tribune”

–Less debt . . . oh, wait. More debt.

An alternative to popular faith

The 6/30/10 editorial in the Chicago Tribune, titled, “Enough debt, already,” had me confused. At first I thought they meant private debt. After all, consumers now deal with mortgages they can’t handle and credit cards charging 20% or more interest. And business profits, or lack thereof, won’t support much more debt without increased consumer buying. Consumers and businesses are going bankrupt in droves, so at this stage of the recession, “Enough debt, already” seems like good advice for the private sector.

But no, that is not what the Tribune meant. They wanted less federal debt and more private debt. The federal government has the unlimited ability to pay any debt of any size. It is a government that neither needs nor uses tax money to pay its debts. Yet the editors say, “. . . the U.S. has gone way, way down the path toward unsustainable debt . . .”

Will the government be unable to service its debts? No, that cannot happen. So, what makes federal debt “unsustainable”? The Tribune editors never say. However they call for more lending to business, despite the fact that growing business debt can be unsustainable. To make matters worse, the Tribune cheers the restriction on unemployment checks to those people who would have used those checks to buy things from businesses, thereby stimulating business. (“Unemployment checks extending up to 99 weeks instead of the usual 26 add more indebtedness.”)

The editors correctly say, “The U.S. economy is hungry for credit,” not realizing this means the U.S. economy is hungry for money, and federal deficit spending is the government’s method for adding money to the economy. The editors lament, “Washington already has bequeathed to our descendants a nation debt of $13 trillion,” – an untrue statement – and simultaneously wants to bequeath to our descendants added business debt. (Who do they think pays for business debt?)

To summarize: The Tribune editors oppose debt creation by the one entity that can afford unlimited debt service, but advocate more debt for the over-extended private sector. They support looser lending standards, so that less qualified businesses can go deeper into debt. They oppose increasing regulations on lenders, the same lenders whose unsupervised, profligate lending triggered the recession. They favor the end to federal stimulus plans, which would add the money they say the economy needs. And they hope the economy will recover — somehow.

Clearly, economics is not the Tribune editors’ forte.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

No nation can tax itself into prosperity