–Reducing the federal deficit and other forms of national suicide

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.

Here is what my local newspaper, the Chicago Tribune, says about the federal debt and deficit:

“First pay attention to Ireland, the latest nation to discover that when no one will take your IOUs, terrible things happen. In exchange for a bailout, Ireland has committed to huge spending cuts and brutal tax hikes that will inflict sever economic pain across the Emerald Isle for years.”

Right you are, Tribune. Tax hikes and spending cuts always cause severe damage to a nation and its people..

“Second, pay attention to Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson. The dogged co-chairmen of the president’s deficit commission are telling you how difficult it already will be to save the U.S. from reaching the day when no onee will take our IOUs.”

If that’s what Messrs. Bowles and Simpson are saying they are more dog-brained than dogged. The U.S., as a monetarily sovereign nation, does not need anyone to accept our IOUs, for this simple reason: A monetarily sovereign nation never needs to borrow the sovereign money it already has the unlimited ability to create. In fact, when the U.S. “borrows,” it simply exchanges T-securities it creates out of thin air for dollars it already has created, also out of thin air. Monetarily non-sovereign nations do need to borrow, because they do not have the unlimited ability to create money.

“The lesson from Ireland, the lesson from Bowles and Simpson, the lesson that official Washington still doesn’t want to hear: If we don’t make painful choices on spending and taxes right now, we’re going to invite chaos.”

Ireland is monetarily non-sovereign; the U.S. is monetarily sovereign. The Tribune doesn’t understand the difference. And because the Tribune and Messrs. Bowles and Simpson, and indeed the entire political establishment thinks U.S. finances are similar to monetary non-sovereign finances, we most certainly will have chaos. What these people imagine as a problem (deficits) actually is a benefit (money), and they try to cure this supposed problem with solutions that will damage us for decades. It’s like trying to “cure” good height by cutting off a person’s legs.

“(Bowles’ and Simpson’s) plan would raise the retirement age for Social Security [Keep paying FICA, but work ’til you drop], put federal health care programs on a strict budget [i.e. cut Medicare and Medicaid to improve health care], slash defense spending [for a stronger America] . . . It targets everything from federal payments to states reclaiming abandoned coal mines [Goodby environment] to restrictions that stop the Postal Service from shifting to five-day-a-week delivery [What next? Once-a-week delivery?]. Everybody gets gored one way or another.”

Yes, we all will get gored. But aside from worse health care, poorer retirement, more poverty, less national defense, worse education, worse environment and a thousand other reductions in the American life style, not only for us but for our children and our grandchildren, why worry? There is only one small detail. I almost hate to mention it, but: Where is the economic evidence that our federal deficit is too large? Nowhere.

Where do we see that the federal government can’t pay its bills? Nowhere. Where do we find that inflation threatens us? Nowhere. Where do we find that deficits cause recessions, depressions, stagflations, unemployment, poverty or any other form of economic miserey? Nowhere. According to the Tribune et al, the debt is big, ergo bad. Don’t ask for evidence. There is none. Just take your bitter pill on our say so.

Bowles and Simpson will make Osama bin Laden happy. Between them, they propose more damage to America than the Taliban and al-Qaeda together would be able to effect in a century. And all because of brutal ignorance.

“All together, the 16-nation eurozone has less debt and a much lower deficit in relation to its size than the United States has.”

The ignorance just grows and grows. The 16-nation eurozone is composed of both monetarily sovereign nations (which can service any size debt), and monetarily non-sovereign nations, which have limited debt-serving ability. The Tribune treats them as one. This respected paper sees no differences among the U.S., our states, counties, cities, businesses you and me. To the Tribune, whatever applies to one, applies to all.

“We’re not heading into trouble. We’re there.”

With thinkers like Bowles, Simpson, our political leaders and the Tribune editors, we are in desperate trouble, indeed.

But dammit, if they expect us to endure all this misery, and if they expect us to agree to harm our children and our grandchildren, and if they, in their own words, want to “inflict sever economic pain for years,” shouldn’t they at least be required to provide evidence all this is necessary?

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.”

–Do you know what you want? Deficits vs. exports vs. stronger dollar vs. inflation

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

Here is a little test for you. Check all you believe will help the U.S. economy:
|__] 1. Reduced federal deficits
|__| 2. Increased exports (positive balance of trade)
|__| 3. Stronger dollar
|__| 4. Low inflation

Actually, it’s not so “little” a test. Many lay people, including most politicians and media people, would check all four. But you, being smarter, realize that #2 and #3 are incompatible. A stronger dollar makes our exports more expensive, while making imports cheaper. So to achieve increased exports or even a positive balance of trade, the dollar must weaken. This comes as a great disappointment to those who equate “stronger” with better. Sorry.

Now we get to the tricky pair: #1, reduced federal deficits vs. #2, increased exports. Who doesn’t want those?

Federal deficit spending increases the number of dollars in the economy, which many people reject because of fears about inflation. Ironically, these same people want increased exports – a positive balance of trade – which also increases the number of dollars in the economy. In short, federal deficit spending and exporting essentially are identical.

In the first case, the federal government buys, and pays with dollars, for goods and services. It is the customer. In the second case, foreigners buy, and pay with dollars, for goods and services. Foreigners are the customers. In both cases, dollars are added to the U.S.economy.

Admittedly, there is are differences. First, unlike exports, federal deficit spending adds to the federal debt, which most people mistakenly believe adds to our tax burden. However, because spending by a monetarily sovereign nation is not constrained by taxes, or any other income, there has been no historical relationship between tax collections and deficits, no will there be. See: Summary, numbers 9 and 9a. Your grandchildren will not, and actually cannot, pay for deficits. So this supposed “difference” amounts to a non-difference.

Second, while federal deficit spending adds to the world’s supply of dollars, our positive balance of trade does not. So, which is better? A growing economy requires a growing supply of money. So, any amount of inflation, plus population growth requires increases in the nominal supply of currency, just for GDP to remain level, let alone grow. Because the dollar is the world’s reserve currency, world GDP growth requires ongoing growth in the world’s supply of dollars. So, on balance, federal deficit spending is more beneficial to America and to the world, than is U.S. exporting.

Returning to the four questions, above, I suggest that this would be the ideal mix for America and the world:

1. Increased federal deficits, for world economic growth
2. Reduced exports (negative balance of trade), to supply the world with dollars.
3. Stronger dollar, for more imports, providing us with better goods and services at lower prices
4. Modest inflation, to stimulate present demand for goods and services.

Sadly, the U.S. federal government wants to do the opposite –reduce deficits, increase exports and reduce the value of the dollar — and that is just a sampling of reasons why we fall into a recession, on average, every five years. With a record like that, why do Americans believe what their leaders tell them?

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

No nation can tax itself into prosperity

–The “Pledge to America” Sham

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

The House Republicans have published a “Pledge to America.” It is a blatant, political sham. It includes:
–Make the Bush tax cuts permanent
–Give small businesses an additional tax deduction
–Fully fund missile defense
–Strengthen our Mexican border
–Reduce government spending to the 2008 levels
–Reduce the federal deficit

See anything wrong with these nice, safe political “pledges”? If you make the tax cuts permanent, give extra tax deductions to small business, fully fund missile defense and strengthen our border, there is no way to reduce spending to the 2008 levels and reduce the deficit — nor should we. Reduced spending (aka “money creation”) would doom us to an immediate return to recession. All six depressions and nearly every recession immediately have followed reductions in deficit growth. The reason: Federal deficits provide the money for economic growth.

Further, what spending would be cut? See: Federal Debt cuts for a list of right-wing recommended spending cuts and tax increases. Ask yourself which ones you like.

And, of course, nothing is said about Social Security and Medicare, which politicians will tell you (wrongly) require either tax increases or benefit cuts.

The Pledge also includes:
–Repeal the health-care law
–Ensure access for patients with pre-existing conditions

But, of course, ensuring access for patients with pre-existing conditions is one of the benefits of the health care law the House Republicans want to scuttle. The health care plan also contains such benefits as:
*Young people can remain on parents’ insurance until age 26
*No discrimination against children with pre-existing conditions
*No dropping people from coverage when they get sick
*No lifetime limits on coverage
*Free preventive care
*Increased ability to appeal decisions made by your health plan
And other benefits that slowly come on line between now and 2014. How many of these would you like to forgo if the health care plan is repealed?

And the Pledge includes:
–Tough sanctions against Iran (but no mention is made of Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, where our troops actually are fighting and additionally, spending massive amounts of money.)

In short, the House Republican “Pledge” includes a potpourri of popular-sounding, though contradictory ideas. They want to spend more and spend less. They want to increase benefits and reduce them. They want to cut taxes and cut the deficit. Meanwhile, the public has been sold on the idea of “reduced federal deficits,” while not understanding what that really means. It means higher taxes and/or reduced federal benefits.

And it means recessions and depressions. But the politicians don’t tell you that.

Yes, the Pledge is a sham, but it will fool some of the people, and that might be enough.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

No nation can tax itself into prosperity

–A solution for unemployment

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

The single most contentious subject in our economy is unemployment. Everyone is against it, but there is scant agreement about how to reduce it. Most of the suggested efforts involve federal spending of some sort, but there is widespread agreement among politicians, economists and the media, that the federal deficits and debt should not be increased.

So countless hours have been spent trying to find just the right combination of targeted spending and tax increases, that would reduce unemployment in a “revenue neutral” way, the belief being that some government spending and some tax cuts reduce unemployment while other spending and tax cuts do not.

As to which does which is not known by anyone, though ample, strong opinions are rife. So we offer this graph:

The above graph shows one of the more remarkable correspondences you will find in economics. Most of the time, when deficit growth goes up, unemployment tends to go down, and vice versa. Though one may argue that correspondence does not equal cause/effect, it certainly is suggestive. And what it suggests is this: Increases in federal deficit growth help prevent and cure unemployment, while decreases in federal deficit growth help cause and increase unemployment.

Yes, there are yearly exceptions. Unemployment is complex and there are no perfect correlations in economics, but the tendency is clear. The two lines are almost mirror images, save for recessions, when unemployment rises and federal debt rises to cure the recession.

Importantly, the graph doesn’t differentiate among different causes of deficit growth, nor does it identify where money is spent, nor whether tax decreases (if any) played a role. It merely shows that deficit increases — any deficit increases –reduce unemployment. This tells me that all the conversation about “revenue neutral,” or which taxes can be cut, or where money should be spent are not germane to unemployment, and merely reflect blue sky speculation by self-anointed experts.

In short, the graph seems to say: “Increase federal spending — any federal spending — and decrease federal taxes — any taxes, and stop all the mindless debate about things you know not.” Although I personally favor the immediate end to FICA taxes for Ten Reasons , I would accept seeing personal taxes reduced or eliminated.

And while I favor a simple stimulus in which a total of $1 trillion or more is sent to each state according to its population, I’ll settle for any equally ample spending idea. In short, deficits cure unemployment, so let’s have the deficits, now.

In 1971, we went made ourselves a monetarily sovereign nation, let’s not waste the opportunity this effort gave us.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

No nation can tax itself into prosperity