I just saw it again, the myth that all dollars are lent into existence by banks. According to this myth, the U.S. government borrows all its spending dollars. Likewise, dollars that are used to pay federal taxes are also borrowed from bankers. According to the myth, this is why we have a “national debt.”
Such nonsense sprouts from the “credit theory” of money. Proponents of the credit theory correctly note that all money is debt, meaning that all forms of money (including cash) are credit money. But some of them jump from this fact to the falsehood that all credit consists of bank loans. They think that when the U.S. government credits your bank account with money, the bank itself is doing the crediting.
Therefore, they claim, all money is created and issued by banks as loans. Therefore the USA has a “debt crisis.” Therefore we must have more austerity, which worsens our poverty and inequality.
Once people get this myth into their heads, they would rather die that give it up. They remain trapped forever.
An example is Ismael Hossein-zadeh Professor Emeritus of Economics at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
“The Federal Reserve centralized the power of U.S. banks into a privately owned entity that controlled interest rate, money supply, credit creation, inflation, and (in roundabout ways) employment.”
Money supply? What about U.S. government spending? The professor claims that the U.S. government must borrow all its spending money from banks.
(The Federal Reserve system allowed) “banks to lend money to the government and earn interest, or a fee; money that the government could create free of charge. This ushered in the beginning of the gradual rise of national debt, as the government henceforth relied more on borrowing from banks than on self-financing, as it had done prior to granting the power of money-creation to the private banking system.”
The professor believes that the U.S. government has a “debt crisis.” In so doing, he supports the lie that we must have more poverty, austerity, and inequality.
But if the “national debt” is supposedly the money that we supposedly owe to bankers, then why have the bankers allowed the “national debt” to keep growing since 1917 when the U.S. Treasury began issuing “Liberty Bonds”?
According to the credit theory myth, one day the bankers will “call in their loans,” and we will have to pay them. When will that day come? No one knows. It’s been almost a century, and no one knows.
Since the professor (falsely) believes that banks create all the money, his solution is to make all banks public — i.e. owned by the Federal government or by local governments. I agree that we need public banks, but since the professor (falsely) believes that the U.S. government has a “debt crisis,” he supports the lie that we must have more poverty, austerity, and inequality.
Noted commentator Ellen Brown also believes the lie that the U.S. government has a “debt crisis,” and must borrow all its money from bankers. Thus she supports the credit theory lie:
“For centuries, a secret battle has raged over who should create the nation’s money supply — governments or banks. Today, all that is left of the U.S. Treasury’s money-creating power is the ability to mint coins.”
What is her proof of this? She never gives any. For her it is “common sense” and “self-evident” (just like the emperor’s new clothes).
“To bail out the banks, the Federal Reserve, as head of the private banking system, issued over $2 trillion as “quantitative easing,” simply by creating the money on a computer screen. Congress, the White House, and the Treasury all rolled over and acquiesced. When it was proposed that the government bail itself out of its budget woes by minting a $1 trillion coin, the Federal Reserve said it would not accept the Treasury’s legal tender. And the White House again acquiesced, evidently embarrassed to have entertained this “ludicrous” alternative.”
Banks do indeed create loan money “on a computer screen.” But so does the U.S. government.
“Somehow we have come to accept that it is less silly for the central bank to create money out of thin air and lend it at near zero interest to private commercial banks, to be re-lent to the public and the government at market interest rates, than for the government to simply create the money itself, debt- and interest-free.”
Ellen Brown believes that we’d be better off if the U.S. government created money out of thin air like the banks do. She refuses to acknowledge that the U.S. government already does this. For fiscal year 2016 the U.S. government will create just under four trillion dollars out of thin air. Unfortunately the U.S. government will tax back 3.525 trillion dollars (i.e. remove those dollars from circulation), leaving a deficit of only 474 billion added to the economy, which is not nearly enough to get us out of our current “recovery” recession.
“We have lost not only the power to create our own money but the memory that we once had that power. With the help of such campaigns as Occupy Wall Street, Strike Debt, and the Free University, however, we are starting to re-learn the great secret of money: that how it gets created determines who has the power in society — we the people, or they the bankers.”
For the USA, austerity means an ever-smaller federal deficit, which means that less new money is permanently put into the U.S. economy. This forces us to take loans (e.g. student loans), which makes us slaves of the creditors.
“We may rail against the banks and demand change, but nothing will change until we grasp their fundamental secret, the foundation of their power: that those who create the nation’s money control the nation.”
Yes, and that includes politicians and bureaucrats who create federal money.
Ellen Brown quotes MMT people, but she disagrees with the foundation of MMT, which is that banks and the federal government both create money. Nothing can snap her out of her trance. Nothing.
Many Americans cope with their misery by pretending to be one of the rich, contemptuously looking down at the other peasants beside them. One way they do this is by echoing things like, “You are entitled to nothing,” which translates as, “I am entitled to whatever I get, but you are not.”
Hatred and selfishness among the lower classes makes society boil like a cauldron that the rich float on top of.
That’s why we frequently see items in right-wing blogs that are designed to foment hate. Here’s an example …
America’s principal health and retirement programs for the elderly, Social Security and Medicare, are placing a massive fiscal burden on its youngest generations and crippling the country with debts that cannot be paid.
The article claims that when we include “unfunded liabilities,” the “national debt” is not $18 trillion, but $200 trillion.
The Social Security trust fund is projected to reach insolvency in 19 years, and Medicare in 15 years. Young Americans are stuck paying into programs that, absent reform, will only partially be there for their retirements – if they’re around at all.
“Reform” means cuts or privatization.
To cover the ballooning costs of these programs, workers in 2050 will have to pay nearly a third of their hard-earned income just to cover their FICA tax obligations. This and other taxes will make it impossible for many workers to save for their own retirements.
Oh those thieving, larcenous seniors!
Some seniors believe that they are entitled to their Social Security and Medicare benefits since they paid into these programs throughout their working careers. However they will receive an average of between $3 and $7 more per dollar paid in Medicare benefits than if they’d invested in private markets. Social Security is no different. Due to a series of unfunded promises, current Social Security payments do not have the chance to accrue interest, as they are immediately paid out to retirees. Our payments are simply too generous.
Such lies could not seduce the peasants if the peasants were not already inflamed with hate. But it gets worse…
These entitlement programs function not only as wealth transfers from the young to the old, but from the poor to the wealthy. Today’s seniors have an average of 47 times the wealth of households headed by adults under the age of 35. This is a drastic increase from 1984, when seniors held only 10 times the wealth of young households.
Our entitlement programs have morphed into massive, unfunded promises. It is time for politicians and retirees to stop placing massive fiscal obligations on young Americans.
The author, Jared Meyer, writes garbage like this for the “Manhattan Institute,” a right-wing propaganda mill in New York City. Meyer is another one of those little worms that make extra money by championing the Gap between the rich and the rest.
Incidentally, presidential candidate Chris Christie is mad that the other candidates are getting positive attention, while Christie alone is demanding cuts in Medicare and Social Security. In the video below, Christie says, “No one else in the race has an entitlement reform program. No one.”
A lot of people share the delusion that, “If the federal government had a budget surplus, then we could pay off the national debt!”
Here’s a reader comment at the “Naked Capitalism” blog…
“Bill Clinton left the incoming Bush administration with a projected federal budget surplus of $5.6 trillion dollars over the next 10 years. This surplus would have eliminated the national debt at that time.”
Wrong. Since the so-called “national debt” is simply the amount of money that has been deposited in Fed savings accounts via the purchase of T-securities, we could have a quadrillion-dollar federal surplus, and still have a “national debt.” That is, the U.S. government could still sell T-securities.
The money deposited in Fed savings accounts poses no spending constraint on the U.S. government. Besides, the Fed itself has deposited a lot of that money in Fed savings accounts, since the Fed buys many T-securities.
It all goes back to the myth that a money creator is the same as a money user.
Rodger asks if people like Maya MacGuineas are ignorant or dishonest. I say dishonest, because Ms. MacGuineas would have to admit that the U.S. government can “print” all the dollars it needs, and therefore has no “debt crisis.” Nor is federal spending “unsustainable.”
Of course, she can use Plan B, which is to claim that austerity is our only protection against hyper-inflation. However she rarely bothers to use Plan B. She simply chants the magic words:
MacGuineas is just like the parasites in Washington whose livelihood is based on chanting in the echo chamber:
Here is one example (a rare one) in which Maya MacGuineas does use the hyper-inflation bogeyman…
“Printing large sums of money might offer a quick fix, but as international experience shows, it can lead to hyper-inflation.”
That’s all she says about inflation in a 15-page paper. The rest of the paper consists of chanting:
Maya MacGuineas claims that the USA has no austerity, since (according to her) deficit reduction is not austerity. Only a surplus is. She says that all FICA tax revenues should go to the thieves on Wall Street, since “Most beneficiaries get more out of Medicare and Social Security than they have paid into them.” (Speaking of Wall Street, MacGuineas’ husband, Robin Brooks, is a managing director at Goldman Sachs, with a reported base salary of $500,000.)
She says it would be useless to remove the $118,500-per-year income cap on paying FICA taxes, because it would “close only two-thirds of the 75-year shortfall and one-third of the shortfall in the 75th year.”
For MacGuineas, the only way out of our “crisis” is to privatize “entitlements” and to “broaden the tax base” (i.e. raise taxes on the lower classes).
I was going to discuss the recent Pew report about the vanishing middle class, but Rodger beat me to it. So today’s topic is this…
When you start with a false premise, you will inevitably commit errors that will compound on each other. For example, if you do not understand Monetary Sovereignty, then anything you say about economics, no matter how well-intentioned, will be erroneous, and will worsen the problem of inequality.
Since so few people understand Monetary Sovereignty, we continually see glimmers of hope, only to be disappointed. I’m talking about articles that begin with promise, but quickly lapse into errors that – intentionally or not – sustain the Big Lie, which in turn legitimizes austerity and inequality.
Here are some examples…
An article titled, “Will Congress Ever Grasp That the Debt Crisis Is Fake?” agrees that we need more deficit spending. That’s great, but the article also claims that “Yearly federal deficits pile up over time and increase the national debt.”
Wrong. The U.S. Treasury can choose to sell (or not sell) T-securities regardless of the size of the deficit. By law the Treasury is supposed to sell T-securities each fiscal year whose nominal value equals the federal deficit each fiscal year, but there are many ways around this. Federal finances are a giant sleight-of-hand game that involves myriad fictions and chimeras such as “trust funds” and “revenue constraints.”
The article goes on to say that the U.S. government is starved for revenue because rich people and corporations don’t pay their fair share in taxes.
Wrong again. The U.S. government does not need revenue. It creates revenue.
So why does the article say that the debt crisis is “fake”? Because…
Republicans don’t really care about deficits and debt. After all, Republicans created both — largely through tax cuts for the wealthy and unpaid-for wars during the George W. Bush administration.
Wrong again. “Unpaid-for wars” means the U.S. government borrows money to wage its wars. (No it does not.) Furthermore, tax cuts for the wealthy are not connected with the size of the so-called “national debt,” since the U.S. government does not borrow its spending money.
The whole Republican argument is a smokescreen for their core agenda — massive wealth transfers from the poor and what’s left of the middle class to the rich — through regressive tax policies and dismantling the safety net.
Yes, and your errors support the Republican project.
Here’s another glimmer of hope: Most of Our Debt Is Fake – Let’s Abolish It.
Wow! Maybe they have a clue!
The fact is, we live in a fiat currency system, meaning we can print an endless supply of dollars and not run up inflation, since the US dollar is the world’s reserve currency.
No. The U.S. government can indeed “print” an endless supply of dollars, but it is not true that inflation could never be a problem. If the supply of dollars far exceeded the demand for dollars, then we would have inflation. Today with austerity, the demand for dollars far exceeds the supply, which is why we are in a recession. People have no money to spend.
As for the U.S. dollar being the world’s reserve currency, this is largely irrelevant. A “reserve currency” is merely a convenience. If a manufacturer in Vietnam (for example) wants to sell to a store in Peru, and the manufacturer wants to be paid in Vietnamese dong, then the buyer and seller will need a third currency as a medium of conversion. The third currency is called a “reserve currency.” Peruvian nuevo soles can be converted to dollars, which can be converted to dong. Or converted to euros and then dong. Or converted to Australian or Canadian dollars and then dong. The U.S. dollar is simply the most commonly used medium of conversion between disparate currencies.
What gives the U.S. dollar its power is not that it is the most widely used reserve currency, but that it is the most widely used immediate currency. That is, the most widely used medium of direct exchanges between buyers and sellers, without currency conversion. The governments and central banks of all nations accept U.S. dollars directly. If the most widely used reserve currency ceased to be U.S. dollars, then it would have little effect on U.S. power. But if the most widely used immediate currency ceased to be U.S. dollars, then Americans could no longer use dollars to buy all imports. This would threaten the USA, since the USA has the world’s largest trade deficit.
From there on the article is full of non-stop errors. Here’s the next sentence…
Most of the paper money in circulation comes from fractional reserve banking, where banks lend out money they don’t have, which technically doesn’t exist, to anyone who applies for a loan.
No, no, no. I won’t waste your time explaining why this (and the rest of the article) is erroneous. The point is that these authors perhaps mean well, but their errors worsen the problem of inequality and mass confusion.
To repeat: If you do not understand Monetary Sovereignty, then anything you say about economics, no matter how well-intentioned, will be erroneous, and will worsen the problem of inequality.
Some people make a sincere effort to understand things, but they are sloppy in their writing. An example is “The Debt Crisis Is a Hoax.” Written in mid-2011, the article presumably refers to the “debt ceiling” antics that Republicans use in order to get their way. However the author fails to clarify the difference between the “national debt crisis” hoax, and the “debt ceiling” extortion racket.
(Under current Congressional laws, which Congress was free of between 1979 and 1995, a Congressional budget cannot be fully approved until the Congress votes to let the U.S. Treasury continue to sell T-securities. Republicans refuse to vote “yes” until the Republicans can get more money for themselves and their friends, and more austerity imposed on the public.)
And then the same article lapses into severe error…
All we really have in the US is a distant “deficit” problem. We’re overspending at a rate that — in the future — could take us to a point where we couldn’t pay the interest on money we’ve borrowed (i.e., US Government debt).
Sigh. From there it gets progressively worse, since the author has no understanding of Monetary Sovereignty. He thinks a money creator is the same as a money user. Once again we are disappointed.
Another article says that, “The national debt is a sham,” and that, “We have all been lied to.”
Wow! Maybe the writer has a clue!
But no, it’s just more errors. Whopping errors.
For decades, the leaders of both major political parties have promised us that they can get our national debt under control. As the 2012 election approaches, they are making all kinds of wild promises once again. It is all a giant sham. The United States has gotten into so much debt that there will be no coming back from this. The current system is irretrievably broken. Thirty years ago the U.S. debt was a horrific crisis that was totally out of control. If we would have dealt with it back then, maybe we could have done something about it. But now it is fifteen times larger, and we are adding more than a trillion dollars to the debt every single year. The facts that you are about to read below should set America on fire with anger. What we are doing to our children and our grandchildren is absolutely nightmarish. Words like “abuse”, “financial rape”, “theft” and “crime” do not even begin to describe what we are doing to future generations.
I thought, “Who wrote this trash?” Then I realized that it was on a blog associated with Peter Schiff and Jim Rogers, two notorious snake-oil salesmen who want you to buy “certificates” in their “gold exchange.” (You might as well buy cabbage patch dolls…literally.)
The article is titled, “34 Shocking Facts About U.S. Debt That Should Set America On Fire With Anger.” Every one of these “facts” is an error, or else is irrelevant.
It goes on and on. People who seem to have a clue, but who quickly prove that they do not. Or prove that they are right-wing liars.
Speaking of liars and idiots, the two-minute video below shows David Seeger, President and CEO of Great Lakes Credit Union in Bannockburn Illinois, about 25 miles north of Chicago.
Mr. Seeger issues a dire warning about the “national debt crisis.” He claims that because of this “crisis,” you personally owe hundreds of thousands of dollars to…whoever. Clearly Mr. Seeger is a liar or an idiot, and yet he heads a credit union!
Which brings up the question: would YOU deposit your money in a bank or credit union that was run by a liar or an idiot?
The Big Lie is that a money creator (e.g. the U.S. government) is the same as a money user (e.g. you and me).
From this lie sprout numerous other lies, such as the lie that money is limited, that the U.S. government is “broke,” and that the government relies on loans, and on tax revenue, and so on.
The beauty of the Big Lie is that by the time someone is actually willing to listen the facts, it is usually too late to make a difference in his life, or in the collective life of society.
For example, consider young people who take on a massive debt load to attend college. Since they are in their late teens or early twenties, they already “know everything.” They will not listen to the facts until they are trapped in debt slavery, by which time it is too late. The result is a nightmare for them, and for society at large.
Let me paraphrase an article by L. Ali Khan, professor of law at Washburn University, Kansas…
“Soler” (a woman) graduated from dentistry school in Wisconsin with $200,000 in student loan debt. Since then, repaying loans has been the primary predicament of her life. Soler has worked with chronic back pain exasperated by her work as a dentist, and she has lived without many comforts of the so-called “American dream.” She had made loan payments for eight years totaling $100,000, and she still owes $285,000 because of compounding interest. Instead of gaining any ground with her mountain of loan debt, Soler has been going backwards in an effort reminiscent of Sisyphus.
Soler’s story is an example of the consequences of massive debt with which various professionals graduate from occupational schools. Physicians, engineers, accountants, journalists, lawyers, and so on are crippled by debt.
This rising debt serfdom is similar to raw indentured labor in American colonies. Lending thrives. The money merchants flourish when professional schools, including law and medicine, keep raising the cost of tuitions each year.
Upon graduation, students holding professional degrees must start paying on their huge debts. If an illness, a family tragedy, or any other misfortune causes a student to fail to complete his professional studies, the loans must still be paid in full, with interest. Bankruptcy is not an option, since the money merchants bribed Congress in 2005 to get federal legislation that shut tight the bankruptcy escape door.
According to one survey, in 2014, the average indebtedness at more than 100 law schools was well over $100,000. At one law school, the average debt was more than $170,000 for 91% of students. At Columbia and Georgetown Law Schools, the average debt was above $150,000. At Berkeley, a state-supported law school, the average debt for 78% of law students was over $140,000.
Add to this the debt that law students take for four years of college studies, a prerequisite for entering law schools. According to the White House, average college debt is $23,000.
A law school graduate, bearing a total debt of $150,000 at 5.25% interest rate will pay a total of $242,584 over a period of 20 years in monthly installments of over $1,000. Many law graduates owe well over $200,000 in debt, the payment of which will require their whole lives. Most lawyers will be in their fifties before much of their student loan is paid off.
In addition to student loan debt, most professionals take on debt in the form of home mortgage, car loans, and credit card loans. This means that hundreds of thousands indebted professionals must continue to work just to pay off debt, as did indentured servants when American colonies were established for the benefit of money merchants, venture capitalists, and slave traders.
Despite nauseating rhetoric that the opportunity of education is available to all hardworking Americans, debt numbers tell an awful story. Professional education is an invitation to a life of debt (stress and worries) that swells with compounded interest and additional debt obligations.
When education was affordable, families could imagine a better future for their children. But later the money merchants subverted the promises of the twentieth century America. Now, only wealthy families can afford to send their children to professional schools without reducing them to debt slaves. Everyone else must sign a contract of indentured service.
Money merchants are equal opportunity enslavers. The doors of debt-laced education are open to all future professionals without discrimination on the basis of race, color, creed, gender, sexual orientation, and any other barrier. This is indeed an expanding market.
Poor households cannot even imagine running a debt of $200,000 for their children’s education. Consequently, high debts associated with professional studies compel children of poor and even middle class families to think small, and to only imagine scanning groceries, fixing leaks in houses, collecting refuse, cashing checks as tellers, and seeking other jobs that avoid debt-ridden education.
According to census bureau statistics, more than 32 million families in America live below the poverty level. Nearly 15 million families below the poverty level have children under age 18. These families are doomed to lick the bottom of the pyramid. Under disabling poverty, their sons and daughters may not even graduate from high school.
Upon graduation, the urgency of loan repayment limits job choices. Getting a job (any job) becomes more pressing than getting a decent job. Underemployment replaces full employment. Urgency justifies low wages –whatever you can get. Keeping a job, in order to keep paying the loans, becomes more valuable than anything else in life. Spouse, young children, and aging parents become second or third in priority. Even one’s physical health may be compromised by working late hours and weekends. In some cases, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and depression occupy professional corpuses. Lingering loans scar the minds and bodies of indentured professionals.
When you are in massive debt, you become terrified of losing your job. You avoid “rocking the boat.” You do not blow the whistle on the wrongs, injustices, or corruption you see in corporations, banks, hospitals, law firms, government, or wherever else the professionals serve. “Keep your mouth shut” becomes the mantra of survival and self-suppression. (The mantra actually means “Keep paying the loans.”) Consequently, wrong policies, flawed decisions, and corruption cripple society. The urge to quit an awful job seems irrational because of the debt hanging over one’s head.
As Rodger says, the penalty for ignorance is slavery. And the cause of ignorance is hate and selfishness. To the extent that we are hateful and selfish, we contribute to our own slavery.
I myself am lazy, but when I know that a friend, a relative, a neighbor, or even a stranger is suffering, and I am able to do something about it, I get a shot of adrenalin. It’s me against the problem, and I will win. I’m saying that if more people would empathize with others, we wouldn’t all be slaves.
Still, maybe there’s a point to all this madness…
But oh the wasted potential. How can there be creative innovation and technological advancement when professional people dedicate their whole lives to paying the criminal bankers, so that the criminals can use the money to snare more victims?
It seems to me that the U.S. Empire has died. All that’s left is a cancer that is eating the carcass.
Senator Ted Cruz has introduced legislation to give governors the ability to opt out of refugee resettlement programs. That’s comical, since immigration issues are exclusively under federal jurisdiction. Can you imagine if, during World War II, a leftist presidential candidate introduced legislation to give governors the ability to opt out of military conscription? Right-wingers (like Cruz) would scream, “Hey, that’s a federal matter!”
Anyway Rodger says, “We all are ignorant about most issues.”
I think this depends on our definition of “ignorant.” As I see it, there are two forms of ignorance. Simple ignorance is a lack of factual knowledge. Spiritual ignorance is a voluntary refusal to learn, and to empathize with others.
The latter is what right-wing politicians promote and exploit.
Some people are factually ignorant, but are spiritually insightful.
Other people are factually encyclopedic, but are spiritually ignorant.
The latter are what right-wing politicians promote and exploit.
Simple ignorance can largely be cured by books, schools, and experience. By contrast, spiritual ignorance is a personal shortcoming that each of us can only cure for himself by choosing to empathize with others. The refusal to choose empathy is what right-wing politicians promote and exploit.
You can learn all you like, but if you remain spiritually ignorant, you will remain a moron, slavishly believing only what you are told to believe.
Wealth and power cannot cure spiritual ignorance. Rich people and their puppet politicians are spiritual morons who rule the peasants by promoting and exploiting spiritual ignorance.
On a related matter, Rodger also says, “Politicians have learned that facts are not necessary, and actually may be an impediment to belief.”
Yes, our beliefs and opinions are products of our spiritual development, not of our factual knowledge. That is, our beliefs are not determined by what we know, but by what we are. And what we are is a matter of choice.
Meanwhile spiritually ignorant people insist that they choose the “truth.” This is an illusion. In reality they think what they are told to think.
Spiritual ignorance (which is always voluntary) keeps people enslaved. Politicians count on this. Actually politicians have no choice. If a politician exposed the truth about Monetary Sovereignty, then he would be attacked not only by the rich, but by the peasants who he wanted to liberate. He might as well pry open the door to a dungeon. The prisoners would not know what to do with their sudden freedom. Rather than celebrate in joy, they would tremble in fear.
But if that is true, and no one wants to hear the facts about Monetary Sovereignty, then why expose the facts? Because when each individual chooses to wake up, he will find all the tools he needs in Rodger’s blog. But he must first choose to awaken. No one can choose for him.
The world will change when enough people choose to wake up.
Finally, Rodger says, “Those who vote for mean-spirited bigots of outrageous action rather than leaders of intelligence and compassion, get exactly what they asked for. And then they suffer and wonder why.”