Clarity please

Failure to think and speak clearly is a major reason why we have rich and poor.  Yes, it really is that simple.

Consider the 90-second video below by Matthew Yglesias of the Vox blog. The video is mostly correct, but it makes a serious error at the end.

Its assertions…

[1] The US government can never run out of dollars. (Correct.)

[2] Dollars are created by the Fed on computers. (Partly correct.)

[3] The only real hazard is inflation, which is very low right now. (Correct.)

[4] If inflation got out of control, the Fed could control it by raising interest rates.  (Correct.)

[5] Therefore debt isn’t a problem right now. Whoa. Wrong. This statement makes people dismiss the entire video, and therefore remain enslaved. You can see this dismissal in all the reader comments below the video. Millions of Americans have a lifetime of student loan debt servitude. Tell them that “debt isn’t a problem.”

Yglesias starts his video by addressing the public debt (i.e. the “national debt”). That is good. However he ends his video by saying, “Debt isn’t a problem.” That is an error. The “public debt” is trivial and harmless, but private debt will eventually destroy the USA as creditor-parasites suck the nation dry. Public and private debt are two very different things.

We must be clear at all times about the difference between public and private debt (and about the difference between foreign and domestic currency).

What about contention #2: dollars are created by the Fed on computers? Let’s clarify this so we don’t become victims of Ellen Brown Syndrome (EBS). Coins and currency notes represent money, and can be used as money, but technically they are not money. Actual dollars (true dollars) are not physical, and only exist in computerized bank accounts. However the fact that true dollars only exist in bank accounts does not mean that all dollars are lent into existence. Some are. Some are not.

Since true dollars only exist in banks, a currency bill is a currency “note.” And since the Fed is the U.S. government’s central bank, a U.S. currency bill is a Federal Reserve Note. But remember, we are only talking about physical currency. Money in your own bank account is not a note, and did not come from the Fed unless you purchased a T-security and you were paid interest when it matured.

Now let’s be careful. When the U.S. government orders your bank to credit your account (e.g. for Social Security benefits), who creates those dollars — the U.S. government, or the bank? Both. The bank creates dollars by obeying government instructions. Those dollars are not lent to you, although you turn around and lend them to the bank for as long as you leave them in the bank. Your dollars are deposits. (The “national debt” is deposits with the Fed.)

The Fed creates dollars in order to pay interest, on T-securities, but the U.S. government also creates dollars by ordering banks to credit accounts. These U.S. government orders ultimately come from the U.S. Treasury, not the Fed.

Don’t believe me? Before 1 March 2013, about seven percent of Social Security recipients still received their benefits by physical check in the mail. (Today all benefits come via direct deposit.) As you can see below, the checks came from the U.S. Treasury, not from the Fed. Today, benefits by direct deposit still come from the Treasury, not the Fed. Money from the Treasury is not a loan (although it is taxable).

All I’m asking is for people to think clearly about these things. Otherwise they will remain slaves.

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2 Responses to Clarity please

  1. May we repost this as a guest authored commentary at Global Economic Intersection?


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