Sarrera gisa ikus Ikus Warren Mosler: zazpi gezur politika ekonomikoan (bertsio laburtua)
Warren Mosler: Deadly Innocent Frauds of Economic Policy
By Warren Mosler. Re-posted from http://moslereconomics.com/mandatory-readings/innocent-frauds/, with additions from the published book.
For the whole book, go to http://moslereconomics.com/wp-content/powerpoints/7DIF.pdf.
Liburu osoa, espainieraz, hemen: Warren Mosler-en liburua espainieraz
(Orain ingeles xume pixka bat, in plain English. Hemen dago laburtuta Diru Teoria Modernoaren funtsa. Berau ulertuta, ikasitako ekonomia guztia pikutara doa. Hortaz, badakizu zer egin behar duzun! Beharrezkoa da, nahitaezkoa, norbera beste dimentsio berri batean kokatzeko.)
(1) Lehen gezurra
The government must raise funds through taxing or borrowing in order to spend.
Government spending is NOT operationally limited or in any way constrained by taxing or borrowing.2
(ii) Bigarren gezurra
Collectively, in real terms, there is no such thing. Debt or no debt, our children get to consume whatever they can produce.3
(iii) Hirugarren gezurra
Government budget deficits take away savings.
Government budget deficits add to savings.4
(iv) Laugarren gezurra
Social Security is broken
Government Checks Don’t Bounce5
(v) Bosgarren gezurra
Trade deficits are detrimental.
Trade deficits directly improve our standard of living.6
(vi) Seigarren gezurra
We need savings to provide the funds for investment.
Investment adds to savings.7
(vii) Zazpigarren gezurra
Innocent Fraud #7
It’s a bad thing that higher deficits today mean higher taxes tomorrow.
I agree — the innocent fraud is that it’s a bad thing, when in fact it’s a good thing!!!8
The term ‘innocent fraud’ was introduced by Professor John Kenneth Galbraith in ‘The Economics of Innocent Fraud’, which was the last book he wrote before he died. He used the term to describe fraudulent concepts that were being sustained by the ‘conventional wisdom’ (a term he created in a previous book). The presumption of innocence by those perpetrating the frauds is characteristic of Professor Galbraith’s cynically gracious approach.
This book reviews 7 ‘innocent frauds’ that I suggest are THE most imbedded obstacles to national prosperity. The first 4 concern the federal government budget deficit, the 5th addresses social security, the 6th international trade, and the 7th savings and investment.
“Ask any congressman (as I have many times), or private citizen, how it all works, and he will tell you emphatically that:
One example of the right analogy would be parents creating coupons they can then use to pay their children for doing various household chores. And to make it all work, the children would be required to give their parents 10 coupons a week to avoid punishment.
Can you now see that the parents must first spend their coupons by paying their children to do household chores, to be able to collect the payment of 10 coupons a month from their children? How else can the children get the coupons they owe the parents to avoid punishment?
Next, the Federal Reserve counts it, and then gives you a receipt and a thank you for helping to pay for social security, the interest on the national debt, and the Iraq war. And as you, the tax payer, leaves the room and closes the door behind you, they take that hard earned cash you just forked over and throw it in a shredder.
Yes, they throw it away. Destroy it! Why? They have no further use for it. Just like a ticket to the Super Bowl. As you go into the stadium, you hand the man a ticket that was worth maybe $1000, and they tear it up and throw it away.
Now let’s look at what happens if you pay your taxes by writing a check. It’s almost the exact same thing. When your check ‘clears’, all the government does is change the number in your checking account (downward) when they subtract the payment from your bank balance.
Imagine you are expecting your $1,000 social security payment to hit your bank account which already has $500 in it, and you are watching your account on your computer screen. You are about to see how government spends without having anything to spend.
Presto! Suddenly your account statement that read $500 now reads $1,500. What did the government do to give you that money? It simply changed the number in your bank account from 500 to 1,500. It added a ‘1’ and a comma. That’s all.
It didn’t take a gold coin and hammer it into its computer. All it did was change a number in your bank account. It does this by making entries into its own spread sheet which is connected to the banking systems spread sheets.
Where else do we see this happen? Your team kicks a field goal and on the scoreboard the score changes from, say, 7 point to 10 points. Does anyone wonder where the stadium got those three points? Of course not! Or you knock down 5 pins at the bowling alley and your score goes from 10 to 15. Do you worry about where the bowling alley got those points? Do you think all bowling alleys and football stadiums should have a ‘reserve of points’ in a ‘lock box’ to make sure you can get the points you have scored? Of course not! And if the bowling alley discovers you ‘foot faulted’ and takes your score back down by 5 points does the bowling alley now have more score to give out? Of course not!
In fact, the people at the US Treasury who actually spend the money (by changing numbers on bank accounts up) don’t even have the phone numbers of the people at the IRS who collect taxes (they change the numbers on bank accounts down), or the other people at the US Treasury who do the ‘borrowing’ (issue the Treasury securities). If it mattered at all how much was taxed or borrowed to be able to spend, you’d think they’d at least know each other’s phone numbers! Clearly, it doesn’t matter for their purposes.
From our point of view (not the government’s) we need to first have USD to be able to make payments. Just like the children need to earn the coupons from their parents before they can make their monthly coupon payments. We don’t get to just change numbers like the government does (or the bowling alley and the football stadium), and neither do our children. Our children have to earn or somehow get their coupons to make their payments just like we have to earn or somehow get USD to make our payments.
Imagine a new country with a newly announced currency. No one has any. Then the government proclaims a property tax. How can it be paid? It can’t, until the government starts spending. Only after the government spends its new currency is does the population have the funds to pay the tax.
To repeat, the funds to pay taxes come from government spending or lending. Where else can they come from???
***For those of you who understand reserve accounting, note that the Fed can’t do what’s called a reserve drain without doing a reserve add. So what does the Fed do on settlement day when Treasury balances increase? It does repos, to add the funds to the banking system that banks then have to buy the Treasury Securities. Otherwise, the funds aren’t there to buy the Treasury securities, and the banks will have overdrafts in their reserve accounts. And what are overdrafts at the Fed? Functionally an overdraft is a loan from the government. So, again, one way or another, the funds that are used to buy the Treasury securities come from the government itself.***
And government spending is in no case operationally constrained by revenues. Yes, there can be and there are ‘self-imposed’ constraints on spending by Congress, but that’s an entirely different matter.
A few years ago I gave a talk in Australia at an economics conference. The title was ‘Government Checks Don’t Bounce’.In the audience was the head of research for the Reserve Bank of Australia, a Mr. David Gruen. This was high drama. I had been giving talks for several years to this group of academics and had not convinced most of them that government solvency wasn’t an issue. They always started with the familiar “What Americans don’t understand is that it’s different for a small, open economy like Australia than it is for the United States”, and there seemed to be no way to get it through their perhaps overeducated skulls that at least for this purpose none of that matters. A spread sheet is a spread sheet. All but Professor Bill Mitchell and a few of his colleagues seemed to have this mental block, and they deeply feared what would happen if ‘the markets’ turned against Australia to somehow keep them from being able to ‘finance the deficit’.
So I began my talk about how government checks don’t bounce, and after a few minutes David’s hand shot up with the statement familiar to all modestly advanced economic students: “If the interest rate on the debt is higher than the rate of growth of GDP, than the government’s debt is unsustainable”. It wasn’t even a question. It was presented as a fact.
I then replied “I’m an operations type of guy so tell me, what is it you mean by the word ‘unsustainable?’ Do you mean that if the interest rate is very high, and 20 years from now the government debt has grown to a large enough number, the government won’t be able to make its interest payments, and if it writes a check to a pensioner that check will bounce?”
He got very quiet, deep in thought, and said while he was thinking it through ‘you know, when I came here, I didn’t think I’d have to think through how the Reserve Bank’s check clearing works’ in an attempt at humor. But no one in the room laughed or made a sound. They were totally focused on what his answer might be. Again, this was high drama- it was the ‘showdown’ on this issue.
David finally said “no, we’ll clear the check, but it will cause inflation and the currency will go down. That’s what people mean by unsustainable”. There was dead silence in the room. The long debate was over. Solvency is not an issue, even for a small, open economy. Bill and I instantly commanded an elevated respect, which took the usual outward form of ‘well of course, we always said that’ from the former doubters and skeptics.
I continued with David, “Well, I think most pensioners are concerned about whether the funds will be there when they retire, and whether the government will be able to pay them”. To which David replied, “No, I think they are worried about inflation and the level of the Australian dollar”. To which Martin Watts, head of the economics department at the University of New Castle replied, “The Hell they are, David!” To which David very thoughtfully replied, “Yes, I suppose you’re right”.
So what actually was confirmed to the Sydney academics in attendance that day? Government can spend what they want when they want, just like the football stadium can put points on the board at will. The consequences of overspending might be inflation or a falling currency, but never bounced checks.
But as long as government continues to believe this first of 7 deadly innocent frauds- that they need to get money from taxing or borrowing in order to spend, they will continue to support policy that constrains output and employment, and prevents us from achieving what are readily available economic outcomes.”
“This deadly innocent fraud is often the first answer most give to what they perceive to be the main problem associated with government deficit spending. Borrowing now means paying later. Fortunately, like all of the 7 deadly innocent frauds, it is also readily dismissed in a way that all can understand.
Professional economists call this the ‘intergenerational’ debt issue. It is thought that if the federal government deficit spends it is somehow leaving the real burden of today’s expenditures to somehow be ‘paid for’ by future generations. And the numbers are staggering. But, fortunately, completely irrelevant.
Last year I ran into former Senator and Governor Lowell Weicker of Connecticut and his wife Claudia on a boat dock in St. Croix. I asked Senator Weicker what was wrong with the fiscal policy. He replied we have to stop running up these deficits and leaving the burden of paying for today’s spending to our children.
In 2028, just like today, the living will consume their real output of goods and services, no matter how many US Treasury securities are outstanding. There is no such thing as giving up current year output to be sent back in time to previous generations. Our children won’t and can’t pay us back for anything we leave them- even if they wanted to.
What the government deficits can influence, especially if not understood by the politicians, is the current year DISTRIBUTION of real output. Distribution is about who gets all the goods and services that are produced. But any distribution deemed unreasonable by the political forces at any time can be readily altered. Each year, for example, Congress discusses tax policy, always with an eye to the distribution of income and spending. Many seek to tax those ‘who can most afford it’ and direct federal spending to ‘those in need.’ And they also decide how to tax interest, capital gains, estates, etc. as well as how to tax income. All of these are distributional issues. In addition, congress decides who they hire and fire, who they buy things from, and who gets direct payments. Congress also makes laws that directly affect many other aspects of prices and incomes. This is all perfectly legal and business as usual, as each year’s output is ‘divided up’ among the living. None of the real output gets ‘thrown away’ because of outstanding debt, no matter how large. Nor does outstanding debt necessarily reduce output and employment, except when policy makers decide to take measures that do reduce output and employment.
So yes, those alive get to consume this year’s output, including the decision to use some of the output as ‘investment goods and services’ which serve to hopefully increase future output. And yes, Congress has a BIG say in who consumes this years output. And previous federal deficits that might alter distribution if left alone can be readily addressed by Congress and altered to their satisfaction.
And those worried about paying off the national debt can’t possibly understand how it all works at the operational, nuts and bolts, debits and credits level. Both ‘money’ and ‘Treasury debt (securities)’ are nothing more than accounts on the governments own books. When a Treasury bill, note, or bond is purchased by a bank, for example, the government makes two entries on its spreadsheet we call the ‘monetary system’.
First, it debits (subtracts from) the buyer’s ‘checking account’ at the Fed, and then it increases (credits) the buyer’s securities account at the Fed. As before, the government simply changes numbers on its own spread sheet. That’s all. And when the bonds come due and need to be paid, government again does simply changes two numbers on their own spread sheet- they debit (subtract from) the bank’s securities account at the Fed and credit (add to) the bank’s ‘checking account’ at the Fed. That’s all- debt paid!
To repeat, paying off the national debt is but a matter of government subtracting the value of the bank’s maturing securities from one account at the Fed, and entering adding that valued to the banks other account at the Fed.
Even briefer- to pay off the national debt the government changes two entries in its own spreadsheet- a number that says how many securities are owned by the private sector is changed down, and another number that says how many USD are being kept at the Fed is changed up. Nothing more. Debt paid, all creditors have their ‘money back’. What’s the big deal? And our children will be able to change numbers on what will be their spread sheet just as easily as we did. Though hopefully with a better understanding!
But for now, the deadly innocent fraud of leaving our debt to our children to pay continues to drive policy, and keep us from optimizing output and employment. This is a price we and our children pay. We make do with less than what we can produce and high levels of unemployment, while our children are deprived of the real investments that would have been made on their behalf if we knew how to keep our human resources fully employed and productive.”
“Several years ago I had a meeting with Senator Tom Daschle and then Asst. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers. I had been discussing these innocent frauds with the Senator, and explaining how they were working against the well being of those who voted for him. So he set up this meeting with the Asst. Treasury Secretary who was also a former Harvard economics professor and had two uncles who had won Nobel prizes in economics, to get his response and hopefully confirm what I was saying.
I opened with a question:
So I spend the next twenty minutes explaining the ‘paradox of thrift’ step by step, which he sort of got it right when he finally responded “so we need more investment which will show up as savings?” I responded with a friendly ‘yes’ after giving this first year economics lesson to the good Harvard professor and ended the meeting. And the very next day I saw him on a podium with the Concord Coalition- a band of deficit terrorists- talking about the grave dangers of the budget deficit.
Any USD government deficit exactly EQUALS the total net increase in the holdings USD financial assets of the rest of us- businesses and households, residents and non residents- what’s called the ‘non government’ sector.
***For those who understand reserve accounting, that net savings of financial assets is held as some combination of actual cash, Treasury securities, and member bank deposits at the Federal Reserve.***
Just ask anyone at the CBO (Congressional Budget Office), as I have, and they will tell you they have to ‘balance the check book’ and make sure the government deficit equals our new savings, or they have to stay late and find their accounting mistake.
When the accountants debit (subtract from) the account called ‘government’ when government spends, they also credit (add to) the accounts of whoever gets those funds. When the government account goes down, some other account goes up by exactly the same amount.
In July 1999 the front page of the Wall St. Journal had two headlines. On the left was a headline praising the record government budget surplus, and explaining how well fiscal policy was working. On the right margin was a headline that said Americans weren’t saving enough and we had to work harder to save more. Then a few pages later there was a graph with one line showing the surplus going up, and another line showing savings going down. They were identical, but going in opposite directions, and clearly showing the gains in the government surplus roughly equaled the losses in private savings.
There can’t be a budget surplus with private savings increasing (including nonresident savings of USD financial assets). There is no such thing, yet not a single mainstream economist or government official had it right.
So watch this year as the federal deficit goes up and savings goes up. Again, the only source of ‘net USD monetary savings’ (financial assets) for the non government sectors combined (both residents and non residents) is US government deficit spending.
“If there is one thing all members of Congress believe is that social security is broken. President elect Obama says ‘the money won’t be there’, President Bush used the word bankruptcy four times in one day, and Senator McCain says social security is broken. They are all wrong. And one of the major discussions is whether or not to privatize social security. That entire discussion, too, makes no sense whatsoever, so let me begin with that and then move on.
The idea of privatization is that the social security tax and benefits are reduced and instead the amount of the tax reduction is used to buy specified shares of stock. And because the government is going to collect that much less in taxes the budget deficit will be that much higher, and so the government will have to sell that many more Treasury securities to ‘pay for it all’ (as they say).
Got it? They take less each week from your pay check for social security and you get to use the funds you save to buy stocks. You later will collect a bit less in social security payments when you retire, but you will own stocks that will hopefully become worth more than the social security payments you gave up.
Those who favor this plan say yes, it’s a relatively large ‘one time’ addition to the deficit, but the savings in social security payments down the road for the government pretty much make up for that, and the payments going into the stock market will help the economy grow and prosper.
Those against the proposal say the stock market is too risky for this type of thing, and point to the large drop in 2008 as an example. And if people lose in the stock market the government will be compelled to increase social security retirement payments to keep them out of poverty. Therefore, unless we want to risk a high percentage of our seniors falling below the poverty line, government is taking all the risk.
The major flaw in this main stream dialogue is what is called a ‘fallacy of composition’, The typical textbook example of a fallacy of composition is the football game where you can see better if you stand up, and then conclude that everyone could see better if they only stood up. Wrong!
To understand what’s fundamentally wrong at the macro (big picture, top down) level, you first have to understand that participating in social security is functionally the same as buying a government bond.
With the current social security program you give the government your dollars now and it gives you back dollars later. That is exactly what happens when you buy a government bond. You give the government your dollars now and you get dollars back later. Yes, one might turn out to be a better investment and give you a higher return, but apart from the rate of return, each is the same. Now that you know this, you are way ahead of Congress, by the way.
Steve came down to speak about social security at one of my conferences in Florida. He gave his talk that went much like I just stated- by letting people put their money in the stock market rather than making social security payments they will better off over time when they retire, and the one time increase in the government budget deficit will be both well worth it and probably paid down over time in the expansion to follow, as all that money going into stocks will help the economy grow and prosper.
Me: “Steve, giving the government money now in the form of social security taxes, and getting it back later is functionally the same as buying a government bond, where you give the government money now and it gives it back to you later. The only difference is the return”.
Me: “OK, I’ll get to the investment aspect later, but let me continue. Under your privatization proposal, the government would reduce Social Security payments and the employees would put that money into the stock market”.
Me: “So what’s happened is the employees stopped buying into social security, which we agree is functionally the same as a government bond, and instead bought stocks. And other people sold their stocks and bought the newly issued government bonds. So looking at it from the macro level, nothing of substance has changed? All that happened is some stocks changed hands, and some bonds changed hands. Total stocks outstanding and total bonds outstanding, if you count social security as a bond, remained about the same. And so this should have no influence on the economy, or total savings, or anything else apart from generating transactions costs?”
Me: “Yes, with exactly the opposite change for others. And none of this has even been discussed by Congress or any mainstream economist? It seems you have an ideological bias towards privatization rhetoric, rather than the substance of the proposal”.
I’ll let Steve have the last word here. The proposal in no way changes the number of shares of stock or which stocks that the American public would hold for investment. So at the macro level it is not the case of allowing the nation to ‘invest better than the government can’. And Steve knows that, but it doesn’t matter, and he continues to peddle the same illogical story that he knows is illogical. And he gets no criticism from the media apart from the discussion as to whether stocks are a better investment than social security, and whether the bonds the government has to sell will take away savings that could be used for investment, and whether the government risks its solvency by going even deeper into debt.
“The problem is that 30 years from the there will be a lot more retired people and proportionately fewer workers. [that part’s ok] and the Social Security trust fund will run out of money [silly, but they believe it], so to solve the problem we need to figure out a way to be able to provide seniors with enough money to pay for the goods and services they need”.
With that last statement they assume that real problem of fewer workers and more retirees, which is also known as the dependency ratio, can be ‘solved’ by making sure the retirees have sufficient funds to buy what they need.
The real problem is, however, if the remaining workers aren’t sufficiently productive there will be a general shortage of goods and services and more ‘money to spend’ will only drive up prices, and not somehow create more goods and services.
And it gets even worse. Any mainstream economist will agree that there pretty much isn’t anything in the way of real goods we can produce today that will be useful 50 years from now. They go on to say that the only thing we can do for our descendants that far into the future is to do our best to make sure that they have the knowledge and technology to help them meet their future demands.
So the final irony is that in order to somehow ‘save’ public funds for the future, what we do is cut back on expenditures today, which does nothing but set our economy back and cause the growth of output and employment declines.
And, for the final ‘worse yet’ the great irony is that the first thing we cut back on is education- the one thing the mainstream agrees we can actually do that actually helps our children down the road.
Should our policy makers ever actually get a handle on how the monetary system functions, they would understand that we can pay seniors whatever we want regardless of what the balance in the Social Security trust fund happens to be. They would realize the issue is equity, and possibly inflation, but never government solvency. They would realize that if they want seniors to have more income, it’s a simple matter of raising benefits. If they are concerned about the future, they would support the education they thought would be most valuable for that purpose.
“By now you might suspect that, once again, the mainstream has it all backwards, including the trade issue.
To further make the point, if general McArthur had proclaimed after WWII that since Japan had lost the war, they would be required to send the US 2 million cars a year and get nothing in return, the result would have been a major international uproar about US exploitation of conquered enemies. We would have been accused of fostering a repeat of the aftermath of WWI, where the allies demanded reparations from Germany that were presumably so high and exploitative they caused WWII.
Yet for over 50 years, Japan has in fact been sending us about 2 million cars per year, and we have been sending them little or nothing. And, surprisingly (?) they think this means they are winning, and we think we are losing.
It is all wrong. We are benefiting IMMENSELY from the trade deficit. The rest of the world has been sending us hundreds of $billion worth of real goods and services more than we send them, which they get to produce and export, and we get to import and consume.
Is this an unsustainable imbalance? Why would it be? As long as they want to send us goods and services without demanding any goods and services in return, why should we not be able to take them? There is no reason, except a complete misunderstanding of our monetary system by our leaders.
Recall from the previous innocent frauds, the US can ALWAYS support domestic output and employment with fiscal policy- even when China, or any other nation, decides to send us real goods and services that displace our industries previously doing that work. All we have to do is keep American spending power high enough to be able to buy BOTH what foreigners want to sell us AND all the goods and services we can produce as ourselves. Yes, jobs may be lost in one or more industries, but with the right fiscal policy there will be sufficient domestic spending power to be able to employ those willing and able to work producing other goods and services for our consumption. In fact, up until recently unemployment remained relatively low even as our trade deficit went ever higher.
So where do things then stand? You exchanged the borrowed funds for the car, the German car company has a deposit in the bank, and the bank has a loan to you and a deposit belonging to the German car company on their books.
Where is the imbalance? The bank has a loan and a deposit, so they are in balance. The German car company has the $US deposit they want, so they are in balance, and you have the car you want and a car payment you agreed to, so you are happy as well.
So there is no imbalance. Everyone is happy with what they have at that point in time.
And the bank loan has funded the German desire to hold a USD deposit at the bank.
Where’s the ‘foreign capital’? There isn’t any. The entire notion is inapplicable. Domestic credit funds foreign savings. We are not dependent on foreign savings for funding anything. Nor can we be.”
“Second to last but not the least, this innocent fraud undermines our entire economy, as it diverts real resources away from the real sectors to the financial sector, with results in real investment being directed in a manner totally divorced from public purpose. In fact, it’s my guess that this deadly innocent fraud might be draining over 20% annually from useful output and employment — a staggering statistic, unmatched in human history. And it directly leads the type of financial crisis we’ve been going through.
It begins with what’s called “the paradox of thrift” in the economics textbooks, which goes something like this: In our economy, spending must equal all income, including profits, for the output of the economy to get sold. (Think about that for a moment to make sure you’ve got it before moving on.) If anyone attempts to save by spending less than his income, at least one other person must make up for that by spending more than his own income, or else the output of the economy won’t get sold.
Unsold output means excess inventories, and the low sales means production and employment cuts, and thus less total income. And that shortfall of income is equal to the amount not spent by the person trying to save. Think of it as the person who’s trying to save (by not spending his income) losing his job, and then not getting any income, because his employer can’t sell all the output.
So the paradox is, “decisions to save by not spending income result in less income and no new net savings.” Likewise, decisions to spend more than one’s income by going into debt cause incomes to rise and can drive real investment and savings. Consider this extreme example to make the point. Suppose everyone ordered a new pluggable hybrid car from our domestic auto industry. Because the industry can’t currently produce that many cars, they would hire us, and borrow to pay us to first build the new factories to meet the new demand. That means we’d all be working on new plants and equipment — capital goods — and getting paid. But there would not yet be anything to buy, so we would necessarily be “saving” our money for the day the new cars roll off the new assembly lines. The decision to spend on new cars in this case results in less spending and more savings. And funds spent on the production of the capital goods, which constitute real investment, leads to an equal amount of savings.
I like to say it this way: “Savings is the accounting record of investment.”
Professor Basil Moore
I had this discussion with a Professor Basil Moore in 1996 at a conference in New Hampshire, and he asked if he could use that expression in a book he wanted to write. I’m pleased to report the book with that name has been published and I’ve heard it’s a good read. (I’m waiting for my autographed copy.)
Unfortunately, Congress, the media and mainstream economists get this all wrong, and somehow conclude that we need more savings so that there will be funding for investment. What seems to make perfect sense at the micro level is again totally wrong at the macro level. Just as loans create deposits in the banking system, it is investment that creates savings.
So what do our leaders do in their infinite wisdom when investment falls, usually, because of low spending? They invariably decide “we need more savings so there will be more money for investment.” (And I’ve never heard a single objection from any mainstream economist.) To accomplish this Congress uses the tax structure to create tax-advantaged savings incentives, such as pension funds, IRA’s and all sorts of tax-advantaged institutions that accumulate reserves on a tax deferred basis. Predictably, all that these incentives do is remove aggregate demand (spending power). They function to keep us from spending our money to buy our output, which slows the economy and introduces the need for private sector credit expansion and public sector deficit spending just to get us back to even.
This is why the seemingly-enormous deficits turn out not to be as inflationary as they might otherwise be.
In fact it’s the Congressionally-engineered tax incentives to reduce our spending (called “demand leakages”) that cut deeply into our spending power, meaning that the government needs to run higher deficits to keep us at full employment. Ironically, it’s the same Congressmen pushing the tax-advantaged savings programs, thinking we need more savings to have money for investment, that are categorically opposed to federal deficit spending.
And, of course, it gets even worse! The massive pools of funds (created by this deadly innocent fraud #6, that savings are needed for investment) also need to be managed for the further purpose of compounding the monetary savings for the beneficiaries of the future. The problem is that, in addition to requiring higher federal deficits, the trillions of dollars compounding in these funds are the support base of the dreaded financial sector. They employ thousands of pension fund managers whipping around vast sums of dollars, which are largely subject to government regulation. For the most part, that means investing in publicly-traded stocks, rated bonds and some diversification to other strategies such as hedge funds and passive commodity strategies. And, feeding on these “bloated whales,” are the inevitable sharks — the thousands of financial professionals in the brokerage, banking and financial management industries who owe their existence to this 6th deadly innocent fraud.”
“Your reward for getting this far is that you already know the truth about this most common criticism of government deficits. I saved this for last so you would have all the tools to make a decisive and informed response.
First, why does government tax? Not to get money, but instead to take away our spending power if it thinks we have too much spending power and it’s causing inflation.
Why are we running higher deficits today? Because the “department store” has a lot of unsold goods and services in it, unemployment is high and output is lower than capacity. The government is buying what it wants and we don’t have enough after-tax spending power to buy what’s left over. So we cut taxes and maybe increase government spending to increase spending power and help clear the shelves of unsold goods and services.
And why would we ever increase taxes? Not for the government to get money to spend — we know it doesn’t work that way. We would increase taxes only when our spending power is too high, and unemployment has gotten very low, and the shelves have gone empty due to our excess spending power, and our available spending power is causing unwanted inflation.
So the statement “Higher deficits today mean higher taxes tomorrow” in fact is saying, “Higher deficits today, when unemployment is high, will cause unemployment to go down to the point we need to raise taxes to cool down a booming economy.” Agreed!”