Inflation: The causes and cures Saturday, Mar 9 2019 

In one sense, inflations (and hyperinflations) must be complex, not only because so many nations have suffered from them and not known what to do, but because so many events can cause inflations.

But in another sense,  many nations have figured out how to prevent and cure inflations, and the causes can be boiled down to just two. This post reveals the two causes of, and the two best cures for, inflation.

Inflation does not exist in a vacuum. It is a change in the relationship between the value of a currency and the average value of goods and services. In short, the value of the currency declines relative to the value of the goods and services.

Image result for hyperinflation germany wheelbarrow

Classic example of hyperinflation — wheelbarrow of money.

Popular wisdom holds that government deficit spending or “money creation” causes inflation. Many examples of inflation, particularly hyperinflation (an extreme form of inflation) do seem to correspond with money creation.

Weimar Republic (Germany) and Zimbabwe are perhaps the most cited examples.

Yet, in the U.S., the money supply has increased markedly with only moderate inflation.

The following graph shows indexes of three money measures, M1 (green), M2 (red), and M3 (blue), along with the consumer price index measure of inflation (purple). All indexes are based on January 1980 = 100.

While all three money measures have risen substantially, inflation has been comparatively modest, and within the Fed’s target of 2.5% annually. Why?

Here is another graph comparing the rise of federal debt (total of T-security accounts) with the consumer price index:

Federal debt grew massively while inflation remained moderate.

Again, there seems to be scant relationship between federal debt growth and inflation.

It would be difficult to look at these data and conclude that federal deficit spending (i.e. money creation) causes inflation. In fact, money creation seems to be a government’s response to inflation, not the cause.

Where does that leave us?

Inflation is based on the value of goods and service vs. the value of a currency. The value of goods and services is based on Demand/Supply. The value of a currency also is based on Demand/Supply.

The formula for the value of goods and services (Demand/Supply) is driven mostly by changes in the Supply side of the fraction. When food or energy are in short supply, inflation is inevitable. The Demand for food and oil (today’s stand-in for energy) is far less variable.

In the formula for the value of dollars, Demand/Supply, both Demand and Supply can be quite variable. The Demand for currency is based on Reward/Risk. The Reward for owning dollars is interest. The Risk would be the reduced “full faith and credit” of the issuer.

Because the full faith and credit of the U.S. essentially is perfect, Risk is not an important variable here.

This means that inflation comes when the Reward for owning dollars (interest) declines and/or the Supply of food and/or energy declines.

A larger economy has more money than does a smaller economy. For instance, California has a larger economy and more money than does Los Angeles. Therefore, to grow an economy requires growing the money Supply. 

That indicates that trying to fight inflation by limiting the money supply (aka austerity), via reduced deficit spending and/or increased taxation, will lead to recession or depression.

Annual % change in Federal Debt shows that reductions lead to recessions (vertical bars), and increases cure recessions.

As for surpluses (i.e. extreme deficit reductions), they lead to depressions (i.e. extreme recessions):

1804-1812: U. S. Federal Debt reduced by 48%. Depression began in 1807.
1817-1821: U. S. Federal Debt reduced by 29%. Depression began in 1819.
1823-1836: U. S. Federal Debt reduced by 99%. Depression began in 1837.
1852-1857: U. S. Federal Debt reduced by 59%. Depression began in 1857.
1867-1873: U. S. Federal Debt reduced by 27%. Depression began in 1873.
1880-1893: U. S. Federal Debt reduced by 57%. Depression began in 1893.
1920-1930: U. S. Federal Debt reduced by 36%. Depression began in 1929.
1997-2001: U. S. Federal Debt reduced by 15%. A recession began in 2001.

Bottom line: Inflation devolves to two variables: The supply of food and/or energy and interest rates.

The prevention and cure for inflation is to make sure the Supply of goods and services (usually food or energy ) is adequate, and the Reward for owning dollars (interest), remains adequate.

Example: Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation began when its leader, Robert Mugabe stole farm land from white farmers and gave it to black people who had no experience farming.

The resultant food shortage caused inflation.  Then, Mugabe’s response was to print currency, which did nothing to solve the fundamental shortage problem. And as the inflation worsened, more and more useless currency printing followed, and it was the currency printing that wrongly was blamed for the inflation.

It was as though someone prescribed wine to cure a cancer. As the cancer progressed, more and more wine was prescribed until the patient died, and the wine was blamed as the cause of the cancer.

 In short, to prevent inflation don’t cut federal deficit spending. Rather, make sure the economy has plenty of food and energy and high enough interest rates.

And so, to cure an existing inflation, you must increase your supply of food and energy, and/or increase interest rates.

Printing more currency is an ineffective inflation cure, as is cutting deficit spending (aka “austerity.) Both exacerbate inflation and lead to recessions and depressions. Instituting austerity to grow an economy is like applying leeches to cure anemia. 

What should a Monetarily Sovereign country do about inflation? Here are the best steps to take:

  1. Increase interest rates to make the currency more valuable. This is the method the Fed uses to control inflation.
  2. Support farmers by cutting farm taxes, passing farm support bills, support farm research to increase crop yields.
  3. Support energy creation: Oil drilling, renewable energy.
  • Do not blame federal deficit spending for causing future inflations
  • Do not begin austerity (reduced deficit spending, increased taxation)
  • Do not print additional currency.
  • Do not borrow a foreign currency

What about monetarily non-sovereign nations like the euro countries, which do not have a sovereign currency?

If the EU cannot be convinced to prevent and cure inflations, while supporting economic growth, euro nations must re-establish their own currencies, and become Monetarily Sovereign, again.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
Monetary Sovereignty
Twitter: @rodgermitchell
Search #monetarysovereigntyFacebook: Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

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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 Gaps between the rich and you.

MONETARY SOVEREIGNTY

Yet another economics writer who doesn’t understand the fundamentals. Monday, Mar 4 2019 

A fundamental truth of economics: A Monetarily Sovereign nation never unintentionally can run short of its own sovereign currency.

The nation does not need to tax and does not need to borrow. It creates its sovereign currency at will.

To not understand that fact is to not understand economics, for it is the absolute foundation of economics.

THEWEEK Magazine recently published the article, “The big question about Modern Monetary Theory everyone is missing,” by Ryan Cooper.

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and Monetary Sovereignty (MS) share many characteristics regarding money in today’s economies.

Here are a few excerpts from the article, together with my comments.

Economists are in the midst of one of the periodic debate flare-ups over Modern Monetary Theory.

On the pro-MMT side we have economists like Stephanie Kelton and Randall Wray, while on the other we have the odd bedfellows of The New York Times’ Paul Krugman and the People’s Policy Project’s Matt Bruenig.

Professor Kelton has been a “pen pal” of mine for several years. I met Professor Wray years ago, when I gave a talk to his class at UMKC.

This intricate debate is about the main merits of MMT, an economic school of thought which has received wide attention for its dismissal of the need for taxes to pay for new spending.

Both MMT and MS agree that unlike state and local taxes, which do pay for state and local government spending, federal taxes do not pay for federal spending.

The reason is that the U.S. federal government is Monetarily Sovereign. It is sovereign over U.S. dollars, which it creates ad hoc, every time it pays a creditor.

Even if the U.S. government collected zero taxes, it could continue spending, forever.

However, there is an important question which has to this point not been raised. The MMT advocates say that inflation should be controlled through fiscal policy, instead of monetary policy conducted by the central bank as is current practice.

In other words, if prices start rising, we can keep them in line by raising taxes.

But does that actually work?

No, it doesn’t work, cannot work and never will work.

Raising taxes is too slow and too political (waiting for Congress), too undirected (which taxes?), not incremental enough (raise taxes how much?), and too damaging to economic growth (taxes reduce the money supply). 

Unfortunately, MMT takes incompatible positions. It says correctly, that federal taxes do not fund federal spending, but incorrectly that federal taxes are necessary to cause demand for U.S. dollars.

During times of recession and economic slack, a state borrowing in its own currency has unlimited capacity to spend, because printing money or borrowing to spend on public works and so on will not cause inflation so long as there are unemployed workers and idle capital stock.

Think, Mr. Cooper. If a state has the unlimited capacity to spend and to “print” money, why would it need to, or even want to, borrow? Think.

Contrary to popular wisdom, the U.S. does not borrow dollars. Instead, it accepts deposits into T-security accounts, the purpose of which are:

  1. To provide the world with a safe place to park unused dollars. This helps stabilize the dollar.
  2. To assist the Fed in controlling interest rates, which control inflation.

But if there is full employment, taxes are needed for new programs — to fund them for the former, or to stave off inflation for the latter.

Here, Cooper reveals he doesn’t understand the differences between monetarily non-sovereign state and local government financing (where borrowing is necessary), vs. Monetarily Sovereign federal financing (that requires no borrowing).

The federal government levies taxes, but not to obtain dollars. It freely produces all the dollars it needs.

The purpose of federal taxes is to control the economy by discouraging certain activities with higher taxes and by encouraging others with tax reductions.

The effect of federal taxes (as opposed to the purpose), is to reduce federal deficit spending which reduces the money supply.

All federal taxes do this — income taxes, FICA, sales taxes, import duties, etc. They all reduce the money supply. Just as tax cuts are economically stimulative, tax increases are recessionary.

And just as increased federal deficit spending helps cure recessions, decreased federal deficit spending causes recessions, and worst case, depressions.

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.

Now, it should be noted that MMT’s style of argumentation seems to have dented the brainless pro-austerity mindset that dominates much of elite discourse, which is very much to its credit.

Remember the above comment, because later in his article, Cooper unknowingly supports the very austerity he calls “brainless.”

He discusses the key objection to MMT (and MS), inflation:

The way tax-side inflation control is supposed to work is through supply and demand.

Since taxation will leave buyers with less money in their pockets to spend, market competition will force suppliers to cut prices and workers to accept lower wages.

But if markets have become dominated by a few big firms, then business can resist this pressure, because buyers have nowhere else to go.

Taxation reduces the supply of money. Though taxation can support the demand for money, it is not necessary for that purpose.

Interest is a more effective device for supporting the demand for money. While taxes depress an economy, interest stimulates the economy by increasing federal dollar interest input.

Money growth grows an economy.

A good test of this prediction came in the late 1970s, when inflation was at its postwar peak.

Economist John Kenneth Galbraith argued for price controls, but conservative “monetarists” like Milton Friedman argued that (with) a steep hike in interest rates, inflation would come down quickly and easily.

The Fed tried Friedman’s policy, but it turned out Galbraith was right.

The Fed hiked interest rates to an eyewatering 20 percent, creating the worst recession since the Great Depression up to that time.

But inflation only came down very slowly — partly through Keynesian-style spending effects, but partly by badly damaging the labor movement, which cut unionization.

In the past 50 years, since President Nixon took the U.S. off a gold standard, inflation has not been caused by America’s massive federal deficit spending. See: Inflation has been caused by the price of oil.

The Fed wisely has not recommended controlling the price of oil, an action that would lead to an oil shortage, and a recession, if not a depression. That is what price controls do: Lead to shortages.

And what do shortages lead to? Hyperinflations.

So, Cooper writes that Galbraith was right about price controls?? Where did that come from? He provides no evidence.

The true effect of price controls is to reduce economic growth by reducing supply and profits — the economic necessities for growth.

Price control is a feature of the “brainless, pro-austerity mindset” that Cooper properly criticized a few paragraphs ago.

And do increased interest rates really lead to recessions? Or is it simply that recessions lead to decreased interest rates?

Interest rates (red); deficit spending increases (blue); recessions (vertical gray bars)

The above graph shows that sometimes interest rates peak at the start of recessions, sometimes they peak in the midst of economic growth, and sometimes they decline at the start of recessions.

One cannot say that increased interest rates historically have caused recessions.

The real pattern is that decreased deficit spending causes recessions and increased deficit spending cures recessions.

Why? Because a growing economy requires a growing supply of dollars, and deficit spending adds stimulus dollars to the economy.

Federal deficit spending and debt don’t cause inflation.

Since the U.S. went off the gold standard in 1971, the federal debt (blue) has risen massively, while inflation (red) has been moderate.

Most inflations and nearly all hyperinflations are caused by shortages, usually shortages of food, and often shortages of oil.

For instance, Zimbabwe, an oft-mentioned hyperinflation victim, had its hyperinflation begin with a food shortage. (Farmland was stolen from farmers and given to non-farmers.)

One reason inflation control is delegated to the central bank is that it can work quickly, adjusting interest rates in response to economic conditions several times per year.

Congress works extremely slowly at the best of times, and control is usually split between the two parties.

The Fed may have performed poorly over the last decade, but do we really want Mitch McConnell having to sign off on inflation policy?

Exactly. Now that Cooper belatedly has confirmed why price controls and tax increases don’t work and can’t work, we come to the:

SUMMARY

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and Monetary Sovereignty MS) describe the realities of economics similarly.

They agree that a Monetarily Sovereign nation, such as the U.S., cannot run short of its own sovereign currency, and neither needs nor uses tax dollars to fund spending.

They differ in many other areas however, one of which has to do with controlling inflation:

Three inflation controls were discussed, only one of which is effective:

  1. Price controls which cut profits and thus cut economic growth, lead to recessions and ultimately cause inflations by causing shortages. They don’t work, and neither MMT nor MS supports this approach.
  2. Tax increases, which are too slow, too political, not incremental, and cause recessions by decreasing the money supply. They don’t work, though MMT supports this approach.
  3. Interest rate increases, which actually increase the money supply (by causing the federal government to pay more interest into the economy, and work by increasing the value of dollars (by increasing the demand for dollars). Works, and has been working since the end of WWII. MS supports this approach.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
Monetary Sovereignty
Twitter: @rodgermitchell
Search #monetarysovereigntyFacebook: Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

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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.

MONETARY SOVEREIGNTY

 

What is the complex relationship among inflation, deficits, interest rates, oil prices, tax cuts, and GDP? Saturday, Mar 17 2018 

It takes only two things to keep people in chains:
.

The ignorance of the oppressed
and the treachery of their leaders.

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To answer the title question, we begin with three questions:

  1. What is the primary cause of inflation?
  2. What is the primary cure for inflation?
  3. What do high interest rates do to Gross Domestic Product?

If you ask the media, most economists, and the public to answer question #1, you probably will receive an answer something like the following:

Should we worry about inflation?
The Week, March 3, 2018

“Until recently, inflation seemed to be dead or, at least, in a prolonged state of remission,” said Robert Samuelson at The Washington Post.

Thanks to cautious companies holding down wages and prices in the aftermath of the recession, annual inflation between 2010 and 2015 averaged just 1.5 percent, “often too small to be noticed.” 

Apparently. Mr. Samuelson believes that prior to the “Great Recession,” companies were not cautious, and so were willing to pay employees more. But, having been frightened by the recession, they now refuse to pay employees more — and that has prevented inflation.

Utter nonsense. Caution has nothing to do with it.

Employers are buyers of talent. Like all buyers, employers try to pay as little as possible to obtain the employee quality they want. Isn’t that what you do when you buy anything?

Companies cannot “hold down” wages at will.

And as for prices, they are a reflection of each company’s market analysis. Companies try to set prices at levels that will provide the highest short- and long-term profits, volume, and share-of-market.

While Robert Samuelson wrongly seems to believe that business “caution” has prevented inflation, most people wrongly believe that federal deficit spending causes inflation.

The green line is inflation. The blue line is federal deficit spending.

Federal deficit spending does not parallel inflation. 

Inflation is a general increase in prices, and if there is one thing that generally increases (or decreases) prices it’s oil.

The green line is Inflation; the silver line is the price of Oil.

Oil prices parallel inflation.

No other factor so closely parallels inflation as does oil — not food, not housing and certainly not wages:

The green line is Inflation; the violet line is Wages

Contrary to popular wisdom, wage increases do not parallel inflation increases. 

In January, the Consumer Price Index, which tracks everything from the price of groceries to education costs, surged 0.5 percent; at that pace, annualized inflation would hit 6 percent by the end of the year.

It almost certainly won’t go that high, but it leaves newly installed Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell “facing a tricky task”: to contain inflation “without killing the economy.”

Traditionally, the Fed would respond by raising interest rates, said  The Wall Street Journal in an editorial.

Yes, while inflation primarily is caused by rising oil prices, inflation is controlled by increasing the value of the dollar, which is accomplished by raising interest rates.

(Value of the dollar = Demand/Supply; Demand=Reward/Risk; Reward=Interest)

But the corporate tax cut and President Trump’s deregulatory agenda could rapidly accelerate economic growth.

That could further fuel inflation, prompting the Fed to raise rates faster than anticipated. In the worst-case scenario, this will severely roil markets and darken the economic outlook.

Contrary to popular wisdom, economic growth does not cause inflation:

The green line is inflation. The orange line is GDP growth.

GDP growth does not parallel inflation.

The Fed’s most potent tool in fighting downturns is cutting interest rates. “Total cuts of 5 to 6 percentage points have been the norm in recent recessions.”

Wrong, again. Low interest rates do not stimulate economic growth:

The blue line is GDP growth. The red line is interest rates.

As interest rates fall, economic growth falls. There are several reasons for this, but the point is that low rates are not stimulative. In fact, by increasing the amount of interest money the government pumps into the economy, high rates can be stimulative.

Goldman Sachs expects the Fed to raise interest rates eight times over the next two years, largely to head off higher prices.

Each time the Fed raises rates, the stock market will respond negatively, only to rebound within a few days.

The negative response will be due to traders’ predictions that the market will respond negatively, not to any fundamental factors.  It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Finally, we come to tax cuts. Although business tax cuts ostensibly help businesses grow, by cutting business costs, tax cuts actually help shareholders profit. The real, net effect of business tax cuts is to widen the gap between the rich and the rest. 

BUSINESS The news at a glance
Taxes: Firms spend tax windfall on buybacks
The Week (US)

U.S corporations are spending most of their (tax cut) windfall not on higher wages or investment but on “buying their own shares,” said Matt Phillips in The New York Times. Over the past month, nearly 100 U.S. corporations have announced more than $178 billion in share buybacks—“the largest amount unveiled in a single quarter.”

Cisco is devoting $25 billion to buybacks; PepsiCo has announced $15 billion for shares; and Alphabet, home-improvement company Lowe’s, and chip equipment maker Applied Materials are each devoting between $5 billion and $9 billion.

“Such purchases reduce a company’s total number of outstanding shares, giving each remaining share a slightly bigger piece of the profit pie.”

“If the buyback frenzy continues, the administration is going to have some explaining to do,” said Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post.

Part of the problem is that the Trump administration predicted that tax reform would boost U.S. household income by at least $4,000 a year.

Business tax cuts will stimulate the economy and will boost total household income, because tax cuts add dollars to (or remove fewer dollars from) the economy.

However, the benefits will go primarily to the upper-income groups.

In summary, contrary to popular opinion:

  1. Inflation has not been related to federal deficit spending but rather to oil prices.
  2. Wage increases have not been associated with inflation
  3. Inflation and economic growth have not been related
  4. Interest rate cuts have not stimulated economic growth, nor have interest rate increases slowed economic growth
  5. While business tax cuts do stimulate overall economic growth, the benefit primarily goes to the upper-income groups, thereby widening the gap between the rich and the rest.

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

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THOUGHTS

•All we have are partial solutions; the best we can do is try.

•Those, who do not understand the differences between Monetary Sovereignty and monetary non-sovereignty, do not understand economics.

•Any monetarily NON-sovereign government — be it city, county, state or nation — that runs an ongoing trade deficit, eventually will run out of money no matter how much it taxes its citizens.

•The more federal budgets are cut and taxes increased, the weaker an economy becomes..

•No nation can tax itself into prosperity, nor grow without money growth.

•Cutting federal deficits to grow the economy is like applying leeches to cure anemia.

•A growing economy requires a growing supply of money (GDP = Federal Spending + Non-federal Spending + Net Exports). Federal deficit spending grows the supply of money

•The limit to federal deficit spending is an inflation that cannot be cured with interest rate control. The limit to non-federal deficit spending is the ability to borrow.

•Until the 99% understand the need for federal deficits, the upper 1% will rule.

•Progressives think the purpose of government is to protect the poor and powerless from the rich and powerful. Conservatives think the purpose of government is to protect the rich and powerful from the poor and powerless.

•The single most important problem in economics is the Gap between the rich and the rest.

•Austerity is the government’s method for widening the Gap between the rich and the rest.

•Everything in economics devolves to motive, and the motive is the Gap between the rich and the rest..

MONETARY SOVEREIGNTY

–The failure of common sense in economics. How the President and Congress ignore economic facts and play Russian roulette with our lives. Thursday, Jul 21 2011 

Those, who do not understand the differences between Monetary Sovereignty and monetary non-sovereignty, do not understand economics.
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There is something of a rule in problem-solving that questions beginning with “How” are to be preceded by a thorough examination of questions beginning with “Should.” President Bush II failed to do that when he asked his advisors questions like, “How do we fight a war in Iraq and Afghanistan” and “How do we arrest Saddam Hussein.” The correct questions were “Should we fight a war in Iraq and Afghanistan” and “Should we arrest Saddam Hussein.”

A football coach does not begin with “How can we increase our passing yardage?” He begins with “Should we increase our passing yardage?” A company does not begin with, “How can we increase the number of our stores?” It begins with a thorough examination of “Should we increase the number of our stores?”

Sadly, President Obama, Congress, the media and the old-line economists work feverishly to answer the question, “How can we reduce the federal deficit?” They believe a thorough examination of “Should we reduce the federal deficit?” is unnecessary. They already “know” the answer, despite massive evidence to the contrary.

When you ask the wrong question, you find the wrong answer. Congress and the President can’t agree on an answer, because the question is wrong. It’s akin to asking, “How should we sail a ship without falling off the edge of the world?”

The correct question is, “Should we reduce the federal deficit?” Many people give perfunctory, knee-jerk answers, such as, “The deficit is not sustainable” or “Our children will pay for it.” But no answers have been based on the one, overriding, undeniable fact:

Federal deficits = net non-federal saving

Cut deficits and you cut saving. Cut saving and you cut economic growth. Cut economic growth and you enter recessions and depressions and the unemployment that accompanies them. The facts are that simple and undeniable. But, the President and members of Congress do not work from facts; they work from what each believes is common sense.

Common sense consists of beliefs most people consider obvious and sound, things “everyone knows.” Yet, your common sense may be different from my common sense, because it is affected by our different personal experiences, as well as by analogy, religion, social mores, history, logic, teaching, folklore, aphorisms, leaders and every form of information transfer, all of which vary from person to person.

The earth must be flat, not round, else the oceans would pour out. Nothing can be in two places at the same time – except in Quantum Mechanics. Running fast does not make your watch run slower – except in Relativity. If a roulette wheel lands on red five times in a row, it is more likely to land on black the next spin. Common sense.

Because common sense does not require research, it allows for fast decisions and is powerfully built into our genes. We have great difficulty departing from our common sense beliefs, because they are evolutionarily valuable. We experience and use common sense every day of our lives. We do not need research to tell us to avoid walking blindly into a street or reaching into a fire. Anyone who intentionally does these things is a “fool.”

So powerful is common sense, we angrily consider all those who depart from of our visions of common sense to be fools. Here are examples of common sense for most Americans:

1. Debt is a burden on the debtor; the more debt, the greater the burden. Debtors can be forced into bankruptcy by creditors.
2. A deficit is worse than a surplus. Outgo requires income. Taxes and borrowing pay for government spending.
3. Everything has a cost and a limit. Nothing can be created from nothing. Nothing goes on forever. There is no such thing as a free lunch. No pain; no gain. If it sounds too good, it is.
4. The greater the supply, the less the value. “Printing” money causes inflation. You can have too much of a good thing.
5. Dollars are real and scarce. They can be held, stored and moved.

Every one of these common sense beliefs either is always false or often false, when applied to the U.S. federal government, because:

1. Federal debt is not a burden. Unlike state and local governments, the federal government cannot be forced into bankruptcy (except by Congress). It can service any debt of any size, any time.
2. Federal deficits stimulate the economy while surpluses cause recessions and depressions. The federal government, being Monetarily Sovereign, neither needs nor uses taxes or borrowing to pay its bills.
3. The federal government creates money by marking up the bank accounts of creditors, in a cost-free, pain-free, limit-free process. To the federal government, money is a “free lunch.”
4. Increasing the supply does reduce value, unless demand increases more. Money demand is increased by interest rates. Since we went off the gold standard, there has been no relationship between federal deficit spending and inflation.
5. Dollars have no physical reality. They are nothing more than numbers in bank accounts. Even dollar bills are not dollars; they are receipts or titles for dollars. Dollars are not scarce to the federal government.

These truths are counter to intuition, counter to common sense and counter to the beliefs of most Americans, yet they are truths, nonetheless.

Very soon, Americans will face the cold reality of recession or depression, caused by Congress’s and the President’s following their “common sense,” rather than economic fact. Federal spending for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and many other vital federal services will decline. We will suffer “invisible” pain from the loss of scientific and medical research, declining infrastructure, a weaker military, poorer schools, less food and drug inspection, and worse investment protections. Our standard of living will decline. Unemployment will worsen. Destitution will increase. Our children and our grandchildren will lead meaner lives. Their futures will be impoverished.

And most Americans will not realize what has been done to them.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
http://www.rodgermitchell.com


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No nation can tax itself into prosperity, nor grow without money growth. Monetary Sovereignty: Cutting federal deficits to grow the economy is like applying leeches to cure anemia.

MONETARY SOVEREIGNTY

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