The inflation con. How can it be any clearer than this?

The Chicago Tribune, a mighty newspaper having substantial resources for information-gathering, repeatedly promulgates the “Big Lie” in economics — the lie that because U.S. federal finances are just like state/local government finances, business finances, and personal finances, the federal deficit must be cut and/or taxes increased to “pay for” it all.

In truth, federal finances have almost nothing in common with the finances of other entities, not even the finances of Germany, France, Italy, et al.

Here are some excerpts from a Tribune editorial dated 7/19/2021:

Spend-borrow-repeat will be the ‘debt’ of us
Mark Lennihan/AP

National governments worldwide — ours in the forefront — have fought the pandemic and its side effects with borrowed money. Much of this new debt will fall not only on today’s children and grandchildren, but also on our descendants not yet born.

Wrong: “Today’s children and descendants not yet born” will not pay for any part of the so-called “debt,” just as you have not paid anything for the $25 trillion already accumulated.

It’s not debt. The misnamed “debt” is nothing more than the total of deposits into Treasury Security accounts, which resemble bank safe deposit accounts.

The government never touches those accounts, except to deposit interest, and the “debt” easily is paid off simply by sending the money back to the depositors. No tax dollars ever are involved.

So we were concerned if not surprised by a Wall Street Journal news story headlined “Governments world-wide gorge on record debt, testing new limits.” The Journal reports: “The U.S. government is on course for a budget deficit of $3 trillion for the second year in a row.”

The deficit (the difference between taxes and spending) is not a real deficit. Federal taxes have no relationship to federal spending; all federal taxes are destroyed immediately upon receipt.

When you pay your federal taxes, you take dollars from your checking account (which is part of the M1 money supply), and you send them to the federal government, where they are destroyed. That is, they cease to be part of any money measure. They cease to exist.

The federal government does not use your tax dollars to pay its bills. It creates new dollars, ad hoc.

Even if the federal government collected zero taxes, it still could continue spending forever. The main purpose of federal taxes is to control the economy.  The government taxes what it wishes to discourage, and it gives tax breaks to what it wishes to encourage.

We mention this as our government’s Internal Revenue Service delivers the first of several child tax credit payments to single parents earning up to $95,000, and to couples earning up to $170,000. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats say they intend to pass a sweeping social, educational and environmental package they price at $3.5 trillion. 

A trillion of anything befuddles many Americans, journalists included. The temptation is to toss one’s fidgety hands in the air and mutter that these debts belong not to us individual Americans but to a faceless federal government.

That last paragraph is true. The misnamed “debt” is just a notation on the federal government’s books. It is completely unrelated to individual Americans or to taxes.

No one is liable for paying off the federal “debt,” which is paid off by returning dollars already in the T-security accounts.

Ah, problem already. That government is essentially a big checking account with a standing army; it collects and spends tax dollars.

Wrong. Although the government does collect tax dollars, it does not spend tax dollars.

It has the unlimited ability to create new dollars and that is what they use when paying their bills.

No one has said it better than former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan:

Absolutely correct.

The U.S. government uniquely is Monetarily Sovereign — it is sovereign over the U.S. dollar. It can create as many as it pleases at any time it pleases, for any purpose it pleases, and give them any value it pleases.

As our national debt rises daily toward $29 trillion, the government’s perpetual printing of new dollars threatens to cheapen the currency. In short, we — or our progeny — have to repay every dollar now being lent to Washington by China and other buyers of U.S. bonds.

Mark Lennihan, the author of the editorial, publishes two errors in one paragraph. “Cheapen the currency” refers to inflation. Lennihan is claiming that the rising national “debt” (deposits into T-security accounts) causes inflation.

He is wrong. The “debt” has risen, in the past 80 years from about $40 billion to about $25 trillion (depending on who’s counting), a gigantic increase. But in those 80 years, inflation has been modest.

The red line is federal debt growth. The green and blue lines are different measures of inflation.

Further, being Monetarily Sovereign, the federal government retains absolute control over the value of the dollar. It can change the value at will, as it has done many times in the past, the most recent being in 1971.

Maybe the accumulation of debt continues indefinitely without consequence. Or maybe critics cited by the Journal are right to warn that our spending is excessive, “risking an overheated economy and a lasting rise in inflation and interest rates.”

If federal debt caused inflation the two lines should essentially be parallel. As you can see they are nowhere near being parallel. There is no relationship between federal debt and inflation.

The accumulation of debt has continued without consequence for 80 years, despite repeated (and wrong) warnings from debt fear-mongers. Inflation has been modest — close to the Fed’s 2% annual target.

Which raises a question we hope Illinoisans will direct to their members of Congress: When does necessary spending on pandemic relief mutate into optional spending on the desirable but unaffordable?

We argue that unchecked cycles of spend-borrow-repeat eventually enfeeble any nation. That may not happen while interest rates are as low as today’s. But those rates — the relentless cost to taxpayers of carrying so much debt — now are likelier to rise than to fall.

Nothing is “unaffordable” for the federal government. It has infinite money. The author is confusing federal finances with personal finances or state/local government finances.u

Federal taxpayers have not and will not “carry” any of the federal debt. Tax dollars are destroyed upon receipt. They do not fund the debt.

Thus far in the pandemic, global securities markets happily support all of our borrowing; because of its prosperity, America is a safe haven for investors.

The federal government, having the infinite ability to create dollars, never borrows. More confusion by the author of the editorial.

But as Robert Rubin, the treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton, warned in a 2018 op-ed published in the Tribune: “The European financial crisis that began in early 2010 shows how markets can ignore unsound conditions for a long time — until they don’t. For many years,

Greeksovereign bonds traded at virtually the same yields as their German counterparts, which made no sense. Then, when the bond markets suddenly focused on the fiscal problems plaguing Greece and the other weaker countries, interest rates spiraled into crisis.”

Astoundingly, the treasury secretary did not understand the differences between a Monetarily Sovereign government (the U.S.) and monetarily non-sovereign governments (euro nations, Greece, Germany, Italy et al)

Greece, Germany and all the other euro nations do not have the ability to create their sovereign currency at will. Like you, and me, and our cities and states, they do not have a sovereign currency. They use the euro, which is the sovereign currency of the European Union, not of any individual nation. (It’s similar to the way American states are not sovereign over the dollar.)

All of us can run short of money. The U.S. government cannot. Anyone who does not understand the difference, does not understand economics.

Many Tribune readers are smarter than their government: Chastened by the Great Recession in which the inability to pay mortgage debt cost people their homes, Americans have attacked private-sector debt even as their politicians raised public-sector debt.

Again, Mr. Lennihan demonstrates a shocking ignorance of economics. He confuses personal (monetarily non-sovereign) finances with federal (Monetarily Sovereign) finances. It is amazing that he receives such a nationwide platform to spew such nonsense.

A classic example of citizens taking to heart the admonition, “Don’t try this at home.”

To reiterate arguments you’ve read here before: We write often about debt in part to counteract the popular (and in Illinois, political) tendency to see borrowed money as free manna that somebody else will worry about, someday. The truth is that, whether it’s enforced or nominally forgiven, someone always pays.

The admonition, “Don’t try this at home” is correct, because “home” is not Monetarily Sovereign.

Since it’s not real debt, but rather it’s deposits, no one pays. However, the federal government always pays its creditors — with newly created dollars.

When America’s debt inevitably grows too onerous for taxpayers to bear or global investors to tolerate, expect a furious blame game: Why did our politicians let this happen?

America’s debt is not borne by taxpayers. If it were, the debt could not have reached $25 trillion. It already would have been “borne.”

The “blame game” only will occur if we have a recession, which would be caused by too little deficit spending.

We voters didn’t demand that spending not exceed revenue, that debt not be allowed to pile up like snow atop a mountain. A long line of presidents and Congresses have talked about preventing the avalanche. But we voters have let them get by on that lip service alone.

When spending doesn’t exceed revenue, we have recessions if we are lucky, and depressions if we are not lucky.

U.S. depressions tend to come on the heels of federal surpluses.

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.

A growing economy requires a growing supply of money. If the money supply shrinks, or even grows too slowly, we have recessions or depressions.

Their greatest sin thus far is abject failure to reform the debt-manufacturing entitlement programs such as Medicare (whose hospital coverage trust fund is projected by its trustees to run dry in 2026) and the Social Security retirement fund (projected as empty in 2034).

Finally, toward the end of his editorial, Mr. Lennihan reveals the true purpose of his Big Lie: He wants to cut the benefits that would go to the masses.

Why? Because that is what the very rich, who really run America, want.

It’s called Gap Psychology, the desire to distance oneself from those below. The rich are rich only because of the Gap. If there were no Gap, no one would be rich; everyone would be the same. And the wider the Gap the richer are the rich.

To widen the Gap, the rich bribe the media (via ownership and advertising dollars). They bribe the politicians (via campaign contributions and promises of lucrative employment, later.) They bribe the economists (via university endowments and promises of employment with “think tanks.)

So as members of Congress and President Joe Biden ponder a massive expansion of social, educational and environmental spending, we have a request:
Whatever the final shape of your package, pay for it rather than borrow for it. Because given how you’ve behaved — especially since the pandemic struck — your binge of spend-borrow-repeat will be the debt of us.

Fear, not Mr. Lennihan, it all will be paid for in exactly the same manner as always. No, the federal government will not borrow its own sovereign currency. It will create new dollars, ad hoc.

Now we have a request: Stop disseminating the Big Lie, either by ignorance or intent.

If you don’t understand Monetary Sovereignty, read up on it before writing anything more.

If you do understand it, and still are spreading the Big Lies, retire immediately in ignominy. You don’t deserve to have any of your work published.

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

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THE SOLE PURPOSE OF GOVERNMENT IS TO IMPROVE AND PROTECT THE LIVES OF THE PEOPLE.

The most important problems in economics involve:

  1. Monetary Sovereignty describes money creation and destruction.
  2. Gap Psychology describes the common desire to distance oneself from those “below” in any socio-economic ranking, and to come nearer those “above.” The socio-economic distance is referred to as “The Gap.”

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 Monetary Sovereignty and The Ten Steps To Prosperity can grow the economy and 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. 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 the rest.

MONETARY SOVEREIGNTY

The genius of the board game, Monopoly®.

If you have, like I have, spent the most recent 25 years of your life trying to explain to your friends and strangers, something the basics of which an 8-year-old should be able to understand — and like me, you have utterly failed — try using the board game Monopoly® as your example.

First, why do I say 8-year-old? Well, this is the on-line ad:

GREAT FAMILY GAME: This Monopoly board game is fun for families and kids ages 8 and up.

So yes, and 8-year-old can understand Monopoly®.

But, why do I reference Monopoly®?

You, your friends and strangers almost surely have played Monopoly®. Behind chess, checkers, and backgammon, Monopoly® is the world’s most popular board game in history.

So, even the semi-literate universe knows how the game works.

As they will recall, it is a game about buying, improving, renting, and selling real estate. There are players — usually four, plus a Bank.

The players are analogs for the U.S. private sector (aka, “the economy”), and the Bank is an analog for the U.S. Treasury. It doles out money. It collects money that it doesn’t need.

And by law (i.e. by rule), it never can run short of money — just like the Treasury. Here are some of the Monopoly® game’s parallels to reality:

1. The real world and the game use paper “money,” which isn’t really money. The U.S. dollar bill is the title to a dollar,not in of itself a dollar. The actual dollar is merely a bookkeeping notation in the government’s accounting records.

How to play Monopoly without using Monopoly paper dollars. Create a table. THE BANK HAS NO COLUMN BECAUSE IT HAS INFINITE MONEY.

A U.S. dollar has no physical presence. It is just a number in a balance sheet.

Similarly, a Monopoly® paper dollar merely represents game points.

Years ago, I played a game of Monopoly® that did not include any paper “dollars” at all.

We simply used a record of points — a table in which each participant had a column in which his/her winnings and losings were recorded.

The Bank had no column, because the Bank (like the U.S. Treasury), had the infinite ability to create dollars.

Such a column would have made no sense.

The use of the table proves that, like U.S. dollars, Monopoly® dollars have no physical substance. They are just balance sheet numbers.

2. Like the U.S. Treasury, the Monopoly® Bank generally runs a deficit, which is an asset for the private sector.

Just as the U.S. Treasury never can run short of U.S. dollars, the Monopoly® Bank never can run short of Monopoly® dollars.

This is stated in the rules of the game.

Monopoly taxes, which are paid to the Bank, do not fund Band spending. Since the Bank had no column to show how much money it has, all taxes paid to the bank disappear upon payment.

When players pass “GO” and receive $200, no taxpayers are obligated to fund those $200 payments. No one asks, “How will the Bank pay for it?” just as no one should ask, how will the federal government pay for (anything).

3. For historical reasons, based on obsolete gold standards and silver standards, the U.S. federal government keeps track of “deficits” (i.e. the difference between tax income and spending).

In U.S. history, there have been intermittent gold and silver standards, in which the U.S. required itself to store physical gold and silver in dollar amounts equal to those deficits.

“Wait,” you say. “Gold and silver are physical metals, measured in ounces. How can ounces be equal to dollars?”

Answer: The U.S. government, being Monetarily Sovereign, has the unlimited power to fix an ounce of silver and an ounce of gold to equal any number of dollars it wishes.

The government has the unlimited power to fix the price of any commodity vs. the dollar: Iron, corn, cotton, water, oil, etc.

Ever since 1971, when President Nixon took us off the last gold standard, the value of gold vs. dollars has varied wildly.

For that reason, keeping track of deficits no longer is necessary other than to measure dollars going into the economy.

When too few dollars are pumped into the economy we have recessions, and when dollars actually are taken out of the economy we have depressions.

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.

By contrast, the game of Monopoly® does not keep track of the Bank’s deficits. There is no need to, because the deficits do not affect the Bank’s ability to pay, just as federal deficits do not affect the federal government’s ability to pay.

4. Similarly, neither the Monopoly® Bank nor the federal government ever borrows dollars. Being Monetarily Sovereign, they never need to.

The U.S. Treasury issues Treasury certificates (T-bills, T-notes, T-Bonds), which misleadingly are called “borrowing.”

In a typical borrowing situation, someone needs additional money temporarily, so they borrow it from a lender, and later, pay it back.

But, the federal government, having the unlimited ability to create dollars, never is in a  position in which it needs money.

It has the infinite ability to create money, at the touch of a computer screen. Those T-securities, which misleadingly are labeled “borrowing,” are more akin to safe-deposit boxes, into which depositors place values, and later retrieve them.

The sole differences between T-security accounts and safe deposit boxes are:

a. T-security accounts have a maturity date; safe-deposit boxes do not

b. T-security accounts receive interest; safe deposit boxes do not (although negative interest rates for T-security accounts have been discussed, which would make them even more like safe-deposit boxes.)

The federal government never touches the contents of safe-deposit boxes or of T-security accounts, and to “pay them off,” the owner simply retrieves the contents of the T-security accounts and the safe-deposit boxes.

There is no bank or government obligation to “pay off” safe-deposit boxes or T-security accounts. The sole financial purposes of T-securities are:

a. To provide a safe place to store unused dollars, which stabilizes the dollar

b. To assist the Federal Reserve to control interest rates, which helps control inflation

T-securities do not provide spending funds for the federal government. Every time you think of federal government financing ( which is nothing like state/local government financing) think of the Monopoly® Bank.

That will help you visualize why federal deficits and debt are not a burden on the government or on taxpayers. Compare that with the contents of the following article from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Deficit (CRFB):

The Nation’s Upcoming Fiscal Challenges APR 29, 2021 | BUDGETS & PROJECTIONS
Record Debt Levels: Debt held by the public will total 108 percent of Gross Domestic Product this fiscal year. After the previous record of 106 percent of GDP, set in 1946 just after World War II, policymakers ran years of balanced budgets to bring debt down to manageable levels. We now face large structural deficits and an ever-rising debt-to-GDP ratio.

The “debt” / GDP ratio is meaningless. It predicts nothing. It has nothing to do with the federal government’s ability to pay its debts. It does not say anything about the health of the economy.

The End of Discretionary Spending Caps: Since 2012, discretionary spending caps have been in place (though in practice, these caps have often been increased and in some instances violated).

“Increased” and “violated” because they serve no function.

These caps expire at the end of this fiscal year, leaving appropriators without a legal constraint on discretionary spending and thus creating the opportunity for a spending free-for-all.

Obviously, caps that are “increased” and “violated” are not caps at all, and do nothing to prevent Congress from spending as much as it wishes. Further, there are no economic reasons to restrict Congressional spending. On the contrary, federal spending stimulates economic growth.

Predictable Expirations and Fiscal Deadlines: President Biden’s agenda, like those who came before him, will be in many ways dictated by a series of expirations and deadlines.
This year alone, the country will have to deal with the return of the debt limit (August 1), the end of expanded unemployment benefits (September 6), the expiration of numerous program authorizations (September 30), and the end of the expanded Child Tax Credit and other tax breaks (December 31).

The “debt limit” is one of the least intelligent laws passed by Congress, and that is saying something. The “limit” does not limit debt. It limits payment for debt already contracted.

It’s a “stiff your creditors” law, that has no economic purpose. Zero. Zilch. None. The fact that every time it is reached, Congress raises it, should reveal something to even the least educated among us.

Policymakers must also address the statutory Pay-As-You-Go scorecard if they choose to avoid an across-the-board sequestration. 

“Pay-As-You-Go” is a system by which the federal government would add net zero dollars to the economy, thereby guaranteeing a depression. Not smart, which is why the CRFB likes it.

Major Trust Funds Are Headed Toward Insolvency: Four major trust funds are projected to deplete their reserves within the next 14 years: the Highway Trust Fund in FY 2022; The Medicare Hospital Insurance trust fund in FY 2026; Social Security’s retirement fund in calendar year 2032; and the Social Security Disability Insurance trust fund in calendar year 2035.
Given this tight timeline, all of these trust funds should ideally be secured during President Biden’s time in office.

Just as federal “debt” is not debt, federal “trust funds” are not trust funds, and they cannot “deplete their reserves” unless Congress and the President want them to.

Just as the federal government cannot run short of dollars, no agency of the federal government can run short of dollars, again, unless Congress and the President want them to.

See if you can learn when the non-existent trust funds for the military, the Supreme Court, the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives will face insolvency. Oh, they have no trust funds? Ask yourself, “Why not?”

IN SUMMARY The board game, Monopoly®, is similar to the U.S. economy.

The Monopoly® Bank resembles the U.S. government, and the Monopoly® players resemble the U.S. economy.

Just as the Monopoly® Bank never can run short of dollars, the U.S. government never can run short of dollars.

Just as the Bank does not borrow dollars, the U.S. government does not borrow dollars.

Federal Treasury securities, misnamed “borrowing,” actually are similar to safe deposit boxes. Just as your bank doesn’t touch what you put into your safe deposit box, the federal government doesn’t touch what you put into your T-security account.

To “pay off” that misnamed “debt,” the federal government simply allows you to take back the contents of your T-security account, in the same way as you would take back the contents of your safe deposit box. No tax payers or tax dollars are involved.

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

THE SOLE PURPOSE OF GOVERNMENT IS TO IMPROVE AND PROTECT THE LIVES OF THE PEOPLE. The most important problems in economics involve:

  • Monetary Sovereignty describes money creation and destruction.
  • Gap Psychology describes the common desire to distance oneself from those “below” in any socio-economic ranking, and to come nearer those “above.” The socio-economic distance is referred to as “The Gap.”

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 Monetary Sovereignty and The Ten Steps To Prosperity can grow the economy and 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. 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 the rest.

MONETARY SOVEREIGNTY

Would you puleeeze tell Jonah Goldberg he doesn’t know WTF he is writing about?

Image result for Jonah Goldberg
Jonah Goldberg

Boston Herald
Goldberg: Culture wars a convenient distraction from spending
Jonah Goldberg

You know what you get for spending trillions of dollars you don’t have? More fights over Dr. Seuss, cancel culture and identity politics.

Puleeeze, someone tell Jonah Goldberg the federal government always spends dollars it doesn’t have, for one simple reason.  To pay for goods and services, the federal government creates brand new dollars, ad hoc.

No one knows how many dollars our Monetarily Sovereign federal government “has” because it is a nonsense concept. It’s like asking how many laws Congress can create, or how many lies Donald Trump “has.”

The answer to all such questions is “infinite.”

By any measure, the federal government has been on a spending spree for decades. Without getting bogged down in the green eyeshade stuff, suffice it to say Uncle Sam has been spending more than he takes in from tax revenues since the 1990s.

Puleeeze tell Jonah Goldberg that Uncle Sam has been spending more than he takes in for much longer than the 1990s.

        Year-by-year federal debt 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is all-debt.png
Source: The Balance.com

In fact, the first dollars the federal government spent in the 1780s were dollars that didn’t exist until the government spent them.

Back in 1929, the federal debt was “only” $17 billion.

Since then, it has risen almost every year, with positive effects, until today it exceeds $28 TRILLION, an astounding 16,470-fold increase. 

In those years, the U.S. federal government has spent more than it “has” — about $26 trillion more. 

So, where is the crisis that Jonah Goldberg seems to anticipate?

The federal debt is nothing more than the total of deposits into T-Security accounts, which rightly can be considered interest-paying safe-deposit boxes.

While federal debt (red) has risen massively, inflation (blue) has risen modestly.

Just as your bank doesn’t access the money you may have stored in your safe-deposit box, the federal government doesn’t access the dollars in your T-security account.

We have documented that since 1940, pundits wrongly have referred to the federal debt as a “ticking time bomb.” Jonah seems to fall into that misbegotten group.

We’ve made up those shortfalls by borrowing money. The national debt ($28 trillion) is now considerably larger than the GDP (about $21 trillion).

Unlike state and local governments, the U.S. federal government does not borrow. Having the unlimited ability to create dollars, why would it?

What Jonah Goldberg erroneously terms “borrowing.” actually is the acceptance of deposits into the above-mentioned T-securities. Like the contents of your safe-deposit box, these deposits are not a burden on anyone, not on the government, not on today’s taxpayers, not on future taxpayers.

To service these accounts the federal government simply returns the dollars deposited in them.

The fact that the total of dollars deposited into T-security accounts is greater than the GDP is meaningless. It’s like saying that the amount deposited in a bank’s safe-deposit boxes is greater than the bank spends. It’s a silly comparison.

Reasonable people can differ on how much value we got for all that credit card debt. But that’s not relevant here.

The government has nothing like “credit card debt.” To pay what it owes, it just creates the dollars from thin air, as it always has. That is how it created, from nothing, the very first laws which created the very first dollars.

And the so-called federal “debt” is not really the federal government’s debt.

The real “debt” is the comparatively small amount the government owes suppliers between the time it orders and receives goods and services vs. the time it pays for them. That “debt” lasts a few weeks.

What’s relevant is that when both parties reach a de facto bipartisan consensus that deficit spending is fine — at least when their party is doing the spending — it makes it difficult to argue about overspending or overborrowing in a credible way.

The federal government, unlike state and local governments, cannot overspend, though it continually underspends which is why we have recessions every five years on average. (Yes, federal underspending leads to recessions, and increased spending is what cures them.)

And, unlike state and local governments, the government does not borrow.

Puleeeze tell Jonah Goldberg.
goldbergcolumn@gmail.com.

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Rodger Malcolm Mitchell Monetary SovereigntyTwitter: @rodgermitchellSearch #monetarysovereignty Facebook: Rodger Malcolm Mitchell 


THE SOLE PURPOSE OF GOVERNMENT IS TO IMPROVE AND PROTECT THE LIVES OF THE PEOPLE.The most important problems in economics involve:

  • Monetary Sovereignty describes money creation and destruction.
  • Gap Psychology describes the common desire to distance oneself from those “below” in any socio-economic ranking, and to come nearer those “above.” The socio-economic distance is referred to as “The Gap.”

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 Monetary Sovereignty and The Ten Steps To Prosperity can grow the economy and narrow the Gaps: Ten Steps To Prosperity:

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

MONETARY SOVEREIGNTY

 

There you go again. The same old, wrong story about federal “debt.”

And to quote President Ronald Reagan, “There you go, again.”

Except the first time he was talking about President Jimmy Carter’s charge that Reagan opposed Medicare. This time, we reference the Libertarian ongoing, interminable, economically ignorant claim that the so-called “federal debt” is too high by once again calling it a “ticking time bomb.”

I won’t go into details about why the federal “debt” is not a debt in the usual sense; rather, it is deposits that easily are paid off simply by returning them to the depositors. You can read about that, here.

Instead, we will dive directly into an article written by Todd G. Buchholz, “a former White House director of economic policy under President George H.W. Bush and managing director of the Tiger Management hedge fund, who was awarded the Allyn Young Teaching Prize by the Harvard Department of Economics. He is the author of New Ideas from Dead Economists and The Price of Prosperity.

In  75 years, a 90-fold increase in debt (blue) vs. a 10-fold increase in inflation (red). Still no “time bomb” explosion.

America’s New Debt Bomb, Aug 20, 2020, by TODD G. BUCHHOLZ

Like in World War II, the United States is piling on debt to confront a whole-of-society crisis, raising the question of who will foot the bill in the long term.

Immediately, we come across a misstatement. There is no “bill” for the federal debt. No one ever will pay for the federal debt, not today’s taxpayers nor tomorrow’s. Federal taxes do not fund federal debt.

Federal finances are nothing like personal finances, which require income to fund outgo. The federal government requires no income. It never can run short of dollars, and it does not use taxes to fund spending.

But, unlike the post-war era, the underlying conditions for robust economic recovery today are less than favorable, placing an even greater onus on wise policymaking.

The United States today not only looks ill, but dead broke. To offset the pandemic-induced “Great Cessation,” the US Federal Reserve and Congress have marshaled staggering sums of stimulus spending out of fear that the economy would otherwise plunge to 1930s soup-kitchen levels.

When someone or something is “dead broke,” they are unable to pay their bills. But the federal government never is unable to pay its bills. Being Monetarily Sovereign, it has the infinite ability to pay bills, even without collecting taxes.

The 2020 federal budget deficit will be around 18% of GDP, and the US debt-to-GDP ratio will soon hurdle over the 100% mark. Such figures have not been seen since Harry Truman sent B-29s to Japan to end World War II.

The debt/GDP ratio is completely meaningless. “Debt” is the net total of deposits into Treasury Security accounts in the 240+ years since the U.S. became a nation. GDP is one year’s total American spending — the ultimate apples/oranges comparison. There is no relationship between the debt/GDP ratio and America’s economic viability.

Assuming that America eventually defeats COVID-19 and does not devolve into a Terminator-like dystopia, how will it avoid the approaching fiscal cliff and national bankruptcy?

To answer such questions, we should reflect on the lessons of WWII, which did not bankrupt the US, even though debt soared to 119% of GDP.

The federal government cannot go bankrupt. It is a mathematical impossibility for a nation with the infinite ability to create its sovereign currency.

By the time of the Vietnam War in the 1960s, that ratio had fallen to just above 40%. WWII was financed with a combination of roughly 40% taxes and 60% debt.

Mr. Buchhotz first advises reflecting on the lessons of WWII, then promptly forgets what he has written.

WWII was not finanaced with taxes or with debt. It was financed with federal money creation. Even if the federal government had collected zero taxes and zero deposits, it easily could have paid all war bills. That is the fundamental difference between personal finance and federal finance.

These US bonds were bought predominantly by American citizens out of a sense of patriotic duty.

Fed employees also got in on the act, holding competitions to see whose office could buy more bonds. In April 1943, New York Fed employees snapped up more than $87,000 worth of paper and were told that their purchases enabled the Army to buy a 105-millimeter howitzer and a Mustang fighter-bomber.

It was a con job by the government, to make Americans feel they were part of the war effort. Similar psychological efforts included school children saving and turning in newspapers and housewives turning in used cooking oil.

Neither the newspapers, nor the cooking oil, nor the “war bonds” had any utility for the government.

Patriotism aside, many Americans purchased Treasury bonds out of a sheer lack of other good choices.

Until the deregulation of the 1980s, federal laws prevented banks from offering high rates to savers. Moreover, the thought of swapping US dollars for higher-yielding foreign assets seemed ludicrous, and doing so might have brought J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI to your door.

While US equity markets were open to investors (the Dow Jones Industrial Average actually rallied after 1942), brokers’ commissions were hefty, and only about 2% of American families owned stocks.

Investing in the stock market seemed best-suited for Park Avenue swells, or for amnesiacs who forgot the 1929 crash.

Today, bonds have two primary purposes:

  1. To provide a safe “parking place” for unused dollars (which helps stabilize the dollar) and
  2. To assist the Fed in controlling interest rates (which helps control inflation.

In no case are bonds a method for the U.S. government to obtain dollars. The federal government (unlike state and local governments) creates dollars, ad hoc, by spending dollars.

How, then, was the monumental war debt resolved? Three factors stand out.

First, the US economy grew fast. From the late 1940s to the late 1950s, annual US growth averaged around 3.75%, funneling massive revenues to the Treasury. Moreover, US manufacturers faced few international competitors. British, German, and Japanese factories had been pounded to rubble in the war, and China’s primitive foundries were far from turning out automobiles and home appliances.

Second, inflation took off after the war as the government rolled back price controls. From March 1946 to March 1947, prices jumped 20% as they returned to reflecting the true costs of doing business.

Third, the US benefited from borrowing rates being locked in for a long time. The average duration of debt in 1947 was more than ten years, which is about twice today’s average duration. Owing to these three factors, US debt had fallen to about 50% of GDP by the end of Dwight Eisenhower’s administration in 1961.

The “monumental war debt” (i.e. the total to deposits into Treasury Security Accounts) was “resolved” (reduced) when existing bonds matured and fewer people wanted to make deposits into new bond accounts.

This “resolution” neither benefited, nor was a burden on, the U.S. government. The government has total control over the number and face amount of bonds outstanding.

If it want more deposits, it either can raise interest rates or the Fed itself can create dollars and make those deposits.

So, what’s the lesson for today?

For starters, the US Treasury should give tomorrow’s children a break by issuing 50- and 100-year bonds, locking in today’s puny rates for a lifetime.

The above makes the implicit and false assumption that “tomorrow’s children” will fund federal debt. Again, this belief is based on the false assumption that Federal debt is like state/local debt and personal debt.

Finally, what about the post-war experience with inflation?

Should we try to launch prices into the stratosphere in order to shrink the debt? I advise against that. Investors are no longer the captive audience that they were in the 1940s. “Bond vigilantes” would sniff out a devaluation scheme in advance, driving interest rates higher and undercutting the value of the dollar (and Americans’ buying power with it).

Any effort to inflate away the debt would result in a boom for holders and hoarders of gold and cryptocurrencies.

Utter nonsense. Inflation does not “shrink the debt” (total deposits), and though inflation can shrink real deposits (i.e. inflation-adjusted, total deposits), there is no purpose served in trying to shrink it.

Further, inflation neither is caused nor cured by federal debt. All inflation, down through history, has been caused by shortages, usually shortages of food and/or energy. Inflation is cured by curing the shortages, which sometimes requires increased deficit spending.

The federal debt (total deposits in T-security accounts) is not a burden on the government, not a burden on taxpayers, not a burden on future generations, and not a burden on the economy.

The “debt” has increased massively, with no adverse effect on anyone. But the debt-scare-mongers are immune to learning from experience, which is why we continually add to the following list:

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September, 1940, the federal budget was a “ticking time-bomb which can eventually destroy the American system,” said Robert M. Hanes, president of the American Bankers Association.

September 26, 1940, New York Times, Column 8

By 1960: the debt was “threatening the country’s fiscal future,” said Secretary of Commerce, Frederick H. Mueller. (“The enormous cost of various Federal programs is a time-bomb threatening the country’s fiscal future, Secretary of Commerce Frederick H. Mueller warned here yesterday.”)

By 1983: “The debt probably will explode in the third quarter of 1984,” said Fred Napolitano, former president of the National Association of Home Builders.

In 1984: AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland said. “It’s a time bomb ticking away.”

In 1985: “The federal deficit is ‘a ticking time bomb, and it’s about to blow up,” U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell. (Remember him?)

Later in 1985: Los Angeles Times: “We labeled the deficit a ‘ticking time bomb’ that threatens to permanently undermine the strength and vitality of the American economy.”

In 1987: Richmond Times–Dispatch – Richmond, VA: “100TH CONGRESS FACING U.S. DEFICIT ‘TIME BOMB’”

Later in 1987: The Dallas Morning News: “A fiscal time bomb is slowly ticking that, if not defused, could explode into a financial crisis within the next few years for the federal government.”

In 1989: FORTUNE Magazine: “A TIME BOMB FOR U.S. TAXPAYERS

In 1992: The Pantagraph – Bloomington, Illinois: “I have seen where politicians in Washington have expressed little or no concern about this ticking time bomb they have helped to create, that being the enormous federal budget deficit, approaching $4 trillion.

Later in 1992: Ross Perot: “Our great nation is sitting right on top of a ticking time bomb. We have a national debt of $4 trillion.”

In 1995: Kansas City Star: “Concerned citizens. . . regard the national debt as a ticking time bomb poised to explode with devastating consequences at some future date.”

In 2003: Porter Stansberry, for the Daily Reckoning: “Generation debt is a ticking time bomb . . . with about ten years left on the clock.”

In 2004: Bradenton Herald: “A NATION AT RISK: TWIN DEFICIT A TICKING TIME BOMB

In 2005: Providence Journal: “Some lawmakers see the Medicare drug benefit for what it is: a ticking time bomb.”

In 2006: NewsMax.com, “We have to worry about the deficit . . . when we combine it with the trade deficit we have a real ticking time bomb in our economy,” said Mrs. Clinton.

In 2007: USA Today: “Like a ticking time bomb, the national debt is an explosion waiting to happen.

In 2010: Heritage Foundation: “Why the National Debt is a Ticking Time Bomb. Interest rates on government bonds are virtually guaranteed to jump over the next few years.

In 2010: Reason Alert: “. . . the time bomb that’s ticking under the federal budget like a Guy Fawkes’ powder keg.”

In 2011: Washington Post, Lori Montgomery: ” . . . defuse the biggest budgetary time bombs that are set to explode.”

June 19, 2013: Chamber of Commerce: Safety net spending is a ‘time bomb’, By Jim Tankersley: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is worried that not enough Americans are worried about social safety net spending. The nation’s largest business lobbying group launched a renewed effort Wednesday to reduce projected federal spending on safety-net programs, labeling them a “ticking time bomb” that, left unchanged, “will bankrupt this nation.”

In 2014: CBN News: “The United States of Debt: A Ticking Time Bomb

On Jun 18, 2015: The ticking economic time bomb that presidential candidates are ignoring: Fortune Magazine, Shawn Tully,

On February 10, 2016, The Daily Bell“Obama’s $4.1 Trillion Budget Is Latest Sign of America’s Looming Collapse”

On January 23, 2017: Trump’s ‘Debt Bomb’: Deficit May Grow, Defense Budget May Not, By Sydney J. Freedberg, Jr.

On January 27, 2017: America’s “debt bomb is going to explode.” That’s according to financial strategist Peter Schiff. Schiff said that while low interest rates had helped keep a lid on U.S. debt, it couldn’t be contained for much longer. Interest rates and inflation are rising, creditors will demand higher premiums, and the country is headed “off the edge of a cliff.”

On April 28, 2017: Debt in the U.S. Fuel for Growth or Ticking Time Bomb?, American Institute for Economic Research, by Max Gulker, PhD – Senior Research Fellow, Theodore Cangeros

Feb. 16, 2018  America’s Debt Bomb By Andrew Soergel, Senior Reporter: Conservatives and deficit hawks are hurling criticism at Washington for deepening America’s debt hole.

April 18, 2018 By Alan Greenspan and John R. Kasich: “Time is running short, and America’s debt time bomb continues to tick.”

January 10, 2019, Unfunded Govt. Liabilities — Our Ticking Time Bomb. By Myra Adams, Tick, tick, tick goes the time bomb of national doom.

January 18, 2019; 2019 Is Gold’s Year To Shine (And The Ticking US Debt Time-Bomb) By Gavin Wendt

[The following were added after the original publishing of this article]

April 10, 2019, The National Debt: America’s Ticking Time Bomb.  TIL Journal. Entire nations can go bankrupt. One prominent example was the *nation of Greece which was threatened with insolvency, a decade ago. Greece survived the economic crisis because the European Union and the IMF bailed the nation out.

July 11, 2019National debt is a ‘ticking time bomb‘: Sen. Mike Lee

SEP 12, 2019, Our national ticking time bomb, By BILL YEARGIN
SPECIAL TO THE SUN SENTINEL | At some point, investors will become concerned about lending to a debt-riddled U.S., which will result in having to offer higher interest rates to attract the money. Even with rates low today, interest expense is the federal government’s third-highest expenditure following the elderly and military. The U.S. already borrows all the money it uses to pay its interest expense, sort of like a Ponzi scheme. Lack of investor confidence will only make this problem worse.

JANUARY 06, 2020, National debt is a time bomb, BY MARK MANSPERGER, Tri City Herald | The increase in the U.S. deficit last year was about $1.1 trillion, bringing our total national debt to more than $23 trillion! This fiscal year, the deficit is forecasted to be even higher, and when the economy eventually slows down, our annual deficits could be pushing $2 trillion a year! This is financial madness.there’s not going to be a drastic cut in federal expenditures — that is, until we go broke — nor are we going to “grow our way” out of this predicament. Therefore, to gain control of this looming debt, we’re going to have to raise taxes.

February 14, 2020, OMG! It’s February 14, 2020, and the national debt is still a ticking time bomb!  The national debt: A ticking time bomb? America is “headed toward a crisis,” said Tiana Lowe in WashingonExaminer.com. The Treasury Department reported last week that the federal deficit swelled to more than $1 trillion in 2019 for the first time since 2012. Even more alarming was the report from the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicting that $1 trillion deficits will continue for the next 10 years, eventually reaching $1.7 trillion in 2030

April 26, 2020, ‘Catastrophic’: Why government debt is a ticking time bomb, Stephen Koukoulas, Yahoo Finance  [Re. Monetarily Sovereign Australia’s debt.]

August 29, 2020LOS ANGELES, California: America’s mountain of debt is a ticking time bomb  The United States not only looks ill, but also dead broke. To offset the pandemic-induced “Great Cessation,” the US Federal Reserve and Congress have marshalled staggering sums of stimulus spending out of fear that the economy would otherwise plunge to 1930s soup kitchen levels. Assuming that America eventually defeats COVID-19 and does not devolve into a Terminator-like dystopia, how will it avoid the approaching fiscal cliff and national bankruptcy?

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Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

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

THE SOLE PURPOSE OF GOVERNMENT IS TO IMPROVE AND PROTECT THE LIVES OF THE PEOPLE.

The most important problems in economics involve:

Ten Steps To Prosperity:

  1. Eliminate FICA
  2. Federally funded Medicare — parts A, B & D, plus long-term care — for everyone
  3. Social Security for all or a reverse income tax
  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 the rest.

MONETARY SOVEREIGNTY