Best of the Week
Most Popular
1. Investing in a Bubble Mania Stock Market Trending Towards Financial Crisis 2.0 CRASH! - 9th Sep 21
2.Tech Stocks Bubble Valuations 2000 vs 2021 - 25th Sep 21
3.Stock Market FOMO Going into Crash Season - 8th Oct 21
4.Stock Market FOMO Hits September Brick Wall - Evergrande China's Lehman's Moment - 22nd Sep 21
5.Crypto Bubble BURSTS! BTC, ETH, XRP CRASH! NiceHash Seizes Funds on Account Halting ALL Withdrawals! - 19th May 21
6.How to Protect Your Self From a Stock Market CRASH / Bear Market? - 14th Oct 21
7.AI Stocks Portfolio Buying and Selling Levels Going Into Market Correction - 11th Oct 21
8.Why Silver Price Could Crash by 20%! - 5th Oct 21
9.Powell: Inflation Might Not Be Transitory, After All - 3rd Oct 21
10.Global Stock Markets Topped 60 Days Before the US Stocks Peaked - 23rd Sep 21
Last 7 days
Stock Market Trend Forecast Early 2022 - Tech Growth Value Stocks Rotation - 18th Jan 22
Stock Market Sentiment Speaks: Are We Setting Up For A 'Mini-Crash'? - 18th Jan 22
Mobile Sports Betting is on a rise: Here’s why - 18th Jan 22
Exponential AI Stocks Mega-trend - 17th Jan 22
THE NEXT BITCOIN - 17th Jan 22
Gold Price Predictions for 2022 - 17th Jan 22
How Do Debt Relief Services Work To Reduce The Amount You Owe? - 17th Jan 22
RIVIAN IPO Illustrates We are in the Mother of all Stock Market Bubbles - 16th Jan 22
All Market Eyes on Copper - 16th Jan 22
The US Dollar Had a Slip-Up, but Gold Turned a Blind Eye to It - 16th Jan 22
A Stock Market Top for the Ages - 16th Jan 22
FREETRADE - Stock Investing Platform, the Good, Bad and Ugly Review, Free Shares, Cancelled Orders - 15th Jan 22
WD 14tb My Book External Drive Unboxing, Testing and Benchmark Performance Amazon Buy Review - 15th Jan 22
Toyland Ferris Wheel Birthday Fun at Gulliver's Rother Valley UK Theme Park 2022 - 15th Jan 22
What You Should Know About a TailoredPay High Risk Merchant Account - 15th Jan 22
Best Metaverse Tech Stocks Investing for 2022 and Beyond - 14th Jan 22
Gold Price Lagging Inflation - 14th Jan 22
Get Your Startup Idea Up And Running With These 7 Tips - 14th Jan 22
What Happens When Your Flight Gets Cancelled in the UK? - 14th Jan 22
How to Profit from 2022’s Biggest Trend Reversal - 11th Jan 22
Stock Market Sentiment Speaks: Are We Ready To Drop To 4400SPX? - 11th Jan 22
What's the Role of an Affiliate Marketer? - 11th Jan 22
Essential Things To Know Before You Set Up A Limited Liability Company - 11th Jan 22
NVIDIA THE KING OF THE METAVERSE! - 10th Jan 22
Fiscal and Monetary Cliffs Have Arrived - 10th Jan 22
The Meteoric Rise of Investing in Trading Cards - 10th Jan 22
IBM The REAL Quantum Metaverse STOCK! - 9th Jan 22
WARNING Failing NVME2 M2 SSD Drives Can Prevent Systems From Booting - Corsair MP600 - 9th Jan 22
The Fed’s inflated cake and a ‘quant’ of history - 9th Jan 22
NVME M2 SSD FAILURE WARNING Signs - Corsair MP600 1tb Drive - 9th Jan 22
Meadowhall Sheffield Christmas Lights 2021 Shopping - Before the Switch on - 9th Jan 22
How Does Insurance Work In Europe? Find Out Here - 9th Jan 22
MATTERPORT (MTTR) - DIGITIZING THE REAL WORLD - METAVERSE INVESTING 2022 - 7th Jan 22
Effect of Deflation On The Gold Price - 7th Jan 22
Stock Market 2022 Requires Different Strategies For Traders/Investors - 7th Jan 22
Old Man Winter Will Stimulate Natural Gas and Heating Oil Demand - 7th Jan 22
Is The Lazy Stock Market Bull Strategy Worth Considering? - 7th Jan 22
METAVERSE - NEW LIFE FOR SONY AGEING GAMING GIANT? - 6th Jan 2022
What Elliott Waves Show for Asia Pacific Stock and Financial Markets 2022 - 6th Jan 2022
Why You Should Register Your Company - 6th Jan 2022
4 Ways to Invest in Silver for 2022 - 6th Jan 2022
UNITY (U) - Metaverse Stock Analysis Investing for 2022 and Beyond - 5th Jan 2022
Stock Market Staving Off Risk-Off - 5th Jan 2022
Gold and Silver Still Hungover After New Year’s Eve - 5th Jan 2022
S&P 500 In an Uncharted Territory, But Is Sky the Limit? - 5th Jan 2022

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

How to Protect your Wealth by Investing in AI Tech Stocks

U.S. Economy Saved by a Trillion-Dollar Coin?

Currencies / Fiat Currency Aug 07, 2011 - 03:50 PM GMT

By: Robert_Murphy

Currencies

Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleNow that the "crisis" over the federal debt ceiling has been averted, we can leisurely explore two of the wackier proposals that emerged during the state of panic. Not surprisingly, the schemes involved the Federal Reserve and its ability to circumvent, not just standard accounting, but also the traditional divisions of political power. It's worth studying the episode carefully because we will probably see one or more of these "solutions" promoted as the only answer to another crisis in the not-too-distant future.


Bernanke and Geithner Don't Need No Stinkin' Debt-Ceiling Increase

Late last week, when more and more analysts contemplated the horror of a US government default and partial shutdown, Jack Balkin — a professor of constitutional law at Yale — outlined strategies that the White House could use to evade the pesky borrowing ceiling imposed by a fickle Congress:

Are there other ways for the president to raise money besides borrowing?

Sovereign governments such as the United States can print new money. However, there's a statutory limit to the amount of paper currency that can be in circulation at any one time.

Ironically, there's no similar limit on the amount of coinage. A little-known statute gives the secretary of the Treasury the authority to issue platinum coins in any denomination. So some commentators have suggested that the Treasury create two $1 trillion coins, deposit them in its account in the Federal Reserve and write checks on the proceeds.

The government can also raise money through sales: For example, it could sell the Federal Reserve an option to purchase government property for $2 trillion. The Fed would then credit the proceeds to the government's checking account. Once Congress lifts the debt ceiling, the president could buy back the option for a dollar, or the option could simply expire in 90 days. And there are probably other ways that the Fed could achieve a similar result, by analogy to its actions during the 2008 financial crisis, when it made huge loans and purchases to bail out the financial sector.

The "jumbo coin" and "exploding option" strategies work because modern central banks don't have to print bills or float debt to create new money; they just add money to their customers' checking accounts.

These suggestions should horrify anyone who understands the importance of sound money. Not only are the proposals themselves preposterous, but the mere fact that they are being discussed is a symptom of the cultural decadence wrought by the government and the Fed's responses to the 2008 financial crisis.

Money for Nothing

When critics of the Fed assert that Bernanke creates money "out of thin air," they mean the following: The Federal Reserve has the power to buy whatever assets it wants at whatever price it wants. In principle, Treasury Secretary Geithner could sell a paperclip to the Fed for $2 trillion. The Fed would simply write a check made out to the Treasury, drawn on the Fed itself.

When the Treasury deposited this check with its own bank — which just so happens to be the Fed — then its own "checking account" balance would go up by $2 trillion. This money wouldn't come from anywhere in the sense that some other account would need to be debited $2 trillion. On the contrary, the system's total reserves (and what is called the "monetary base") would have swelled by $2 trillion. The Treasury would be free to start paying bills by writing checks on the $2 trillion in its account.

The only kink in the plan would be the state of the Fed's balance sheet. Initially it could value the paperclip at $2 trillion — what the Fed paid for it — and list the paperclip among its other assets such as Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities.

"These suggestions should horrify anyone who understands the importance of sound money."

Of course, people in the financial markets would cry foul. They would know that if the Fed's books were "marked to market," the paperclip would be worthless and the Fed would suddenly be insolvent according to regular accounting rules. (Its liabilities, in part consisting of bank reserves — which are dollar-denominated claims on the Fed — would have risen by $2 trillion, while its assets didn't budge.) But this would merely be an embarrassment rather than a legal obstacle because the Fed has put into place Orwellian rule changes that allow it to shield its shareholder equity from capital losses.

The difference between my absurd paperclip scheme and the two proposals discussed by Balkin is one of degree and not of kind. As of this writing, platinum is trading for a little less than $1,800 per ounce. Thus, $2 trillion in platinum would weigh about 35,000 tons, almost one-sixth the weight of the Sears Tower. (Those would be two of the heaviest coins Bernanke would likely encounter in his life.) Clearly, the platinum coins stamped "$1 trillion" would not actually be worth that in terms of the metal content.

Things are just as bad with the option scheme in which the Fed would quite deliberately pay $2 trillion for an asset that it intended to hold until it expired as worthless. At least my hypothetical paperclip would still be useful after 90 days.

Debasing the Money, As Well as the Public's Ideology

Conventional "open-market" operations are a convoluted form of legalized counterfeiting, as I've explained before. The virtue of Balkin's discussion is that the sleight-of-hand is minimized and most readers will be able to see the naked redistribution in all its glory (or lack thereof). We are moving ever closer to the point at which the government runs the printing press to directly pay its bills, just as surely as the monarchs of old who added base metals to the coinage of the realm.

The danger of these proposals doesn't consist solely in the price inflation and transfer of purchasing power that they would entail if implemented. No, simply the discussion of them by allegedly sophisticated scholars further degrades the public's understanding of money. More and more Americans are "learning" that saving and frugal living is a sucker's game, because the Treasury and Fed will simply create money to bail out their rich buddies.

Conclusion

Flawed as it is, the US Constitution vested fiscal authority with the Congress — rather than with the Executive Branch — for an important reason. The president has several advantages, not least of which is his (or her) ability to wage war. Therefore the Constitution seeks to limit that power by keeping the purse strings in the hands of elected representatives.

If the Treasury ever falls back on a scheme such as the ones Balkin discusses, the United States will be one step closer to an outright dictatorship. The American president now claims the authority to execute US citizens without any judicial oversight at all. This is not a person to whom we should grant a printing press.

Robert Murphy, an adjunct scholar of the Mises Institute and a faculty member of the Mises University, runs the blog Free Advice and is the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism, the Study Guide to Man, Economy, and State with Power and Market, the Human Action Study Guide, and The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Great Depression and the New Deal. Send him mail. See Robert P. Murphy's article archives. Comment on the blog.

© 2011 Copyright Robert Murphy - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.


© 2005-2019 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in