|Floating above the muddy waters, the lotus flower is a symbol of PURITY. The lotus plant has several meanings in Buddhism. The main one is that a lotus grows in mud, rises through muddy waters, bypasses attachment, shuns any desire, and once it has risen above the murk, the lotus flower blooms (it achieves enlightenment).|
2018, what a year, and it sure was one for the Modern Monetary Theory books.
The year began with one of the MMT PhDs, telling us that “America was a junk economy” and that was coming from someone with their degree IN ECONOMICS (while we were only 15 months shy of officially entering the Longest Economic Expansion In UNITED STATES HISTORY).
That was followed by other MMT econ scholars insisting that we needed a make-work ‘JG’ program, where the federal gov’t creates ‘jobs’ (during A LABOR SHORTAGE).
In Australia, we had another MMT academic lecturing us that “exports are ‘real’ costs” (while Australia, thanks to the ‘real’ benefits of exports, was entering its 27TH STRAIGHT YEAR WITHOUT A RECESSION).
In 2018 we had MMT admins saying that money in bank accounts is “only acting like money” because it’s “lookalike IOU” (and followers actually bought into that nonsense). We had an unemployed MMT evangelist going to Washington, D.C., explaining to federal policymakers how to run the country and after getting back home, setting up a GoFundMe page for handouts (because he couldn’t even run a household). We had MMT leadership telling us that job-CREATING exports “are a cost” (and that job-DESTROYING imports “are a benefit”). We had an MMT trader telling you to leverage out and go long on oil, go long on gold; to short the dollar, to short the 10yr (and if you actually did all of that, you now know what ‘getting mental game’ actually means). We had those adorable Real Progressives still wearing ‘taxes don’t fund spending’ floaties in their MMT kiddie pool (even though Warren Mosler scolded them at least 117 times not to say that). We had 15 midterm-election candidates: Seale, Bashore, Glover, Mimoun, Wylde, Smith, Ayers, Barragan, Hoffman, Ringelstein, Abrahamson, Baumel, Estrada, Canova and even including Mr. Mosler, who thought that appearing on a Real Progressives broadcast was a good idea (who all then lost their elections); and after those midterms, these Real Progressives goofballs kept reprimanding the rest of us to #learnmmt (when ironically it’s them that are still nowhere near the vicinity of grasping MMT).
In other words, 2018 was a year of peddling fake ‘prescription’ MMT (under the guise of promoting pure ‘description’ MMT); it was a year of waving bye-bye to facts (because it got in the way of pushing dopey narratives); and it was a year when folks mixed their politics with their economics (and diluted both at the same time). In short, 2018 was just more of the same.
You can expect, that in 2019, what you’ll be hearing from political ‘prescription’ MMTers will be them telling you (again) who to blame, and that we need to be deficit spending on more ‘this’, and on more ‘that’; because in their utopia, the Fix-All is always just a ‘keyboard stroke’ away (while here in reality no keyboard can stop a federal gov’t shutdown).
In 2019, rather than cursing and fighting the windmills, you can be silently observing and learning how to properly (read: PURELY) play the cards that are presently being dealt (even if they’re ancient cards from a bygone, gold-standard era).
You can be blooming above the muddy waters (above the MMT kiddie pool), relying solely on facts, math & data (relying on the Writings of God).
In the new year you could rise above the ideologies, bypass the pet theories, shun the narratives, and achieve pure MMT enlightenment.
Deadly Innocent Fraudulent Misinterpretation #22: Taxes ‘create unemployment’.
Fact: Taxes create another bill to pay.
Sure, those locals in 1800’s Ghana (where the ‘taxes create unemployment’ yarn is derived) became ‘unemployed’ the day a ‘Hut Tax’ was enforced on them, but that doesn’t mean that they were not working before that!
They weren’t just sitting around doing nothing before the British showed up—they were hunting and gathering the things they needed. All that hut tax did was give them another new thing they needed to hunt and gather (the money to pay the new tax).
Fast forward to the 20th century, before US federal income tax became the law of our land (with the ratification of the 16th Amendment in 1913), citizens were employed—because they had bills to pay—and after those taxes were imposed, the only change was just that citizens had another bill to pay.
‘Taxes create unemployment’ is a catchphrase, using easy-to-remember, bumper-sticker logic to help grasp a simple ‘description’ MMT insight; but once again, the political ‘prescription’ MMTers take yet another analogy or meme too literally.
We can read in ‘The Seven Deadly Innocent Frauds’ (7DIF Fraud #1 pg 25) why—even though the federal gov’t is the issuer of fiat dollars and spends in its own fiat dollars—the federal gov’t still needs to collect tax dollars from us, that “taxes create an ongoing need in the economy to get dollars”. Mr. Mosler (correctly) explains that the financing function of federal taxation took the backseat to more important functions. One of those functions, an MMT pillar, is that in the post-gold-standard, modern monetary system, the federal gov’t no longer needs to collect dollars to spend, but YOU still need to collect dollars to spend—and to pay taxes.
In other words, one function of federal taxes today is to maintain demand for the currency. The other function is to maintain price stability, or as Mr. Mosler puts it, “leaving room for the government to spend without causing inflation”.
The only reason ‘taxes create unemployment’ keeps getting regurgitated is to push a narrative that Thy Federal Gov’t Giveth You Unemployment And Thy Federal Gov’t Can Taketh Unemployment Away, so if in charge, that’s another thing the almighty ‘prescription’ MMTers will do—they’ll also get the federal gov’t to guarantee a ‘job’, for poor little mortal you.
In other words, when the political MMT Party folks distract you by pointing at those ‘Evil’, ‘Neoliberal’, ‘Racist Murderers By Proxy’, they pull the oldest trick in the book (the never-ending finger pointing) when they say that taxes (and other ‘intentional’ federal gov’t policies) ‘create’ unemployment.
Taxes don’t actually create unemployment, but saying it does create a ‘problem’ (that ‘prescription’ MMTers will always be gainfully employed at ‘solving’).
Deadly Innocent Fraudulent Misinterpretation #23: Taxes ‘value’ the currency.
Fact: Production, not taxes, values the currency.
“All Innes, an amateur journalist, was saying in his ‘Credit theory’, was the same point that Knapp was making in his ‘State theory’, which is, that in opposition to the ‘Metallic theory’, what gives money the value, is its acceptability for payment of taxes.”—Michael Hudson, American economist, professor of economics at the University of Missouri in Kansas City and a researcher at the Levy Economics Institute at Bard College
What Mr. Hudson is saying there is simply pointing out the obvious in those Credit / State / Circuit / Debt theories of money. Which is that the monetary sovereign’s taxing power is the magical reason why today’s ordinary pieces of paper that we call fiat currency, are valuable (compared to yesteryear’s hard currency that needed to be literally made out of, or backed by, a precious metal like gold or silver, in order to be valuable).
MMTers routinely misinterpret that quote as meaning ‘taxes value the currency’ without realizing that they are putting the cart before the horse. Today’s US dollar, a ‘soft’ currency, is still ‘valuable’, like a ‘hard’ currency used to be, because the dollar, like any legal-tender sovereign currency, can settle debts—with taxes being one of many debts. The fact that taxes must be paid in dollars gives dollars some initial ‘velocity’ (it kick-starts the currency into first gear), sure, but that only goes so far—and that’s exactly where MMTers who say ‘taxes value the currency’ stay stuck in first gear.
For example, let’s again take that analogy about the Ghana Hut Tax in #22 above. That tax ‘creates value’ at first, sure, but Ghana would then need PRODUCTION to keep the currency ‘valuable’. Ghana would need to start actually producing goods & services and making things of ‘value’ available for sale. In addition, they would also need to avoid severe economic shocks, like gov’t corruption, that would affect production, or else the actual value of the currency—regardless of taxation—goes poof. The MMT takeaway is that once you change from a fixed-currency regime to a floating-currency regime (once you take off those ‘golden training wheels’), the currency’s value changes from only being whatever it’s *literally* made of; over to many other moving pieces (over to multiple sophisticated variables), including the production of that country and the full faith (real and perceived) of that monetarily-sovereign issuer.
“Taxes do not ‘drive the currency’ / ‘value the currency’. Look at the Middle East countries that do not tax. Here in the US, which does tax, the Fed mandate is maximum employment, or how I see it, maximum PRODUCTION. That’s what mostly values the currency—not the taxes. No matter how much taxes you collect, if the production collapses to nothing, then what is the currency valuing? A) Nothing! The further an economy is from its full productive output, the less the currency is worth. Anytime there is a large collapse in production, the currency devalues, which causes mild inflation at best, or severe inflation with possible hyperinflation at worse. Take hyperinflation, which is very poorly understood by most traditional economists. The widely held belief is that an increase in government ‘debt’ (aka too much ‘money printing’) causes hyperinflation. But research shows that hyperinflation is not merely the result of ‘money printing’ (an expansion of the money supply). In fact, it tends to occur around very specific and very severe economic circumstances (too much foreign debt, loss of a war, rampant corruption, regime change, collapse in confidence) that resulted in a severe collapse in PRODUCTION, which led to ‘money printing’ (which led to an increase in the money supply)—which ultimately led to hyperinflation. The correlation of ‘money printing’ was not causation.”—Jim ‘MineThis1’ Boukis
“Saying ‘taxes gives value to money’ is sloppy language, sloppy thinking, and just plain wrong. What matters is the obligation against your productive capacity. It can be said that taxes are a predicate condition in order to require work / production to get the money to pay the tax. The corollary is that the value of money is defined as the amount of work / resources needed to produce goods & services for sale either to the Government or within the Private Economy. Then a portion of the money is returned as taxes to make sure you keep using the currency to buy the real goods & services available (which makes money relevant to the economy). Miss the distinction between the predicate and the corollary and all the money and all the taxes in the world will not give currency value if there is little or nothing produced available to purchase (which makes money irrelevant to the economy).”—Charles ‘Kondy’ Kondak
“What is money? It stores value, measured by productivity, at par. In other words, an airline pilot’s dollars aren’t worth more than a sidewalk gum-scraper’s dollars—the pilot just earns more dollars. Money exists in two frames at the same time: Liability = Asset, as well as, Debit = Credit. Analyzing money flows is as simple, and as complex, as tracing which balance sheet shrinks vs. which balance sheet expands. Understanding is found in the awareness of the productivity swap. You’re not trading paper or keystrokes, you’re trading productivity-based value. You’re investing in production. The value is the production in economies, in firms, and in people.”—Mike Morris
“There’s a reason why the MMT people are usually wrong and the technical, non-ideological people are usually right.”—Logan Mohtashami
Deadly Innocent Fraudulent Misinterpretation #24: The federal gov’t is the sole monopoly ‘supplier’ of dollars.
Fact: The federal gov’t is not the sole monopoly ‘supplier’ of dollars.
The federal gov’t is the sole monopoly ‘issuer’ of dollars (the origin source of dollars), yes; but the sole monopoly ‘supplier’ of dollars (the only source of dollars), no. The federal gov’t supplies dollars, and the federal gov’t also delegates the function of money creation to their banking agents (to also ‘supply’ dollars into the banking system).
When Warren Mosler uses the analogy (one of my favorites) that the federal gov’t is ‘The Center of the Universe’, what that means is that the federal gov’t, the issuer of dollars, has the sole monopoly POWER over dollars. One example, the federal gov’t (via the Fed) has power to manipulate, to literally set, the ‘price’ (the short-term interest rate), of money—to influence long-term rates, spending decisions, etc. Another example, the federal gov’t (via Congress) has the Power of the Purse to authorize federal-gov’t deficit spending (to create money). Furthermore, the federal gov’t delegates the banks (under strict federal-gov’t supervision and regulation) to also create money—or more specifically, to facilitate the rest of us in the private sector to create money.
MMTers routinely get this confused because they are less concerned with the monetary ‘description’ and more interested in pushing a political ‘prescription’. They need listeners to believe that ‘federal gov’t money’ is ‘higher’ in a ‘hierarchy’ of money—that only federal-gov’t deficits can solve the ‘problems’. Try not to let ‘prescription’ MMTers drag you down their ‘banks don’t create money’ rabbit hole, or up into their ivory-tower echo chambers to peddle their pseudo-intellectual ‘exogenous’ creation is ‘superior’ to ‘endogenous’ creation NONSENSE.
There is a reason why you will never, EVER, see any bill in your lifetime quoted in ‘exo’ or ‘endo’; or any statement quoted in ‘federal gov’t money’ or ‘bank credit’.
That’s because all money is money.
They are all DOLLARS IN THE BANKING SYSTEM.
Deadly Innocent Fraudulent Misinterpretation #25: Only bank money creation ‘nets-out’.
Fact: All money creation ‘nets-out’.
Just like you, me, any household, or any business can pay back their debt, so can the federal gov’t. However, MMTers routinely misinterpret that as there being some perceived differences between federal-gov’t-sector money creation and nonfederal-gov’t (private) sector money creation. They usually do this to propagate a narrative that only more federal-gov’t money creation—that only more federal deficits—is the Fix-all (to their perceived problems).
Those that are fully-grasping MMT know that issuer solvency is basically the main difference between any money creation. For example, you are more likely to get your dollars back if you gave it to the issuer of dollars—like when investing in an interest-bearing term deposit at the Federal Reserve Bank (aka ‘buying a Treasury bond’):
“If one wants to put the finest of points between the two, perhaps the only difference is default risk on the money created by each. In the end, the most overzealous exo/endo MMTers want to eliminate private bank credit. Forgive them for they know not what they say, comrade.”—Charles ‘Kondy’ Kondak
MMTers like to say that ‘bank credit’ (their pet name for private-sector money creation) ‘nets-out’ as if to imply that federal-gov’t money creation can’t. They are misinterpreting the difference between federal-gov’t money creation and private-sector money creation, which is, simply that, one creates ‘risk-free’ bonds, and the other, doesn’t.
The reason why MMTers (deadly and innocently) get so mixed up with all this is that they are confusing Assets with Capital. When thinking about private-sector money creation (deficit spending) that ‘nets-out’, keep in mind that, just like federal-gov’t money creation that adds Net Financial ASSETS, private-sector money creation is an addition of ASSETS going into the banking system—but neither is talking about an addition of CAPITAL. Assets minus liabilities equal capital. A newly-created private-sector ‘bond’ (your personal promise to pay back the money with interest) adds dollars (ADDS ASSETS) into the banking system (but NOT Capital). For example, when you buy a new car on credit, with no money down, your net worth (your Capital) doesn’t go up because that car (your Asset) and your ‘bond’ at the dealership (your Liability) ‘nets-out’, but the assets sitting in your driveway (the total assets posted on your balance sheet) absolutely do up.
The same goes for the federal gov’t. If a new battleship is built and paid for on credit, the amount of ASSETS (the amount of NFAs) goes up, but the amount of the federal government’s net worth (Capital) doesn’t go up because that brand-new USS BONDHOLDER (Asset) ‘nets-out’ with that brand-new Treasury bond (Liability).
When the federal gov’t creates money there is an attached quote ‘debt’ unquote that CAN (just like private-sector money creation) ‘net-zero’; however, another slight difference is that it’s not intended to:
“It is *technically* debt, but it’s a debt that is never expected to be repaid.”—Michael Hudson
The MMT insight is that unlike private-sector money creation, federal gov’t ‘debt’ is never expected to ‘net-out’—not that it doesn’t at all.
Deadly Innocent Fraudulent Misinterpretation #26: There is no such thing as a ‘Fractional Reserve System’—it does not exist.
Fact: There is such a thing as a fractional reserve system—it still does exist.
“On January 18, 2018, the Fed updated its reserve requirement table. It required that all banks with more than $122.3 million on deposit maintain a reserve of 10 percent of deposits. Banks with $16 million to $122.3 million must reserve 3 percent of all deposits. Banks with deposits of $16 million or less don’t have a reserve requirement. In order to give banks an incentive to grow, the Fed changes the deposit level that is subject to the different ratios each year.”—Reserve Requirement and How It Affects Interest Rates
In other words, here on planet earth, US banks are required to have a ‘fraction’ of their total deposits on ‘reserve’ (called the cash reserve ratio). These $$$ are deposited at the Fed (called ‘required reserves’). Banks also have $$$ on deposit at the Fed that is above the required amount (called ‘excess reserves’). Just like the financing function of federal taxation, the traditional function of the fractional reserve system is no longer needed—but it still exists. It’s still the Modern Monetary Formality, like those pesky accounting rules and appropriations laws that, albeit unnecessary, never cease to frustrate the political ‘prescription’ MMTers.
The pure MMT insight is that, operationally, the federal fractional-reserve system is NOT NEEDED to create deposits—not that there is no fractional reserve system at all. That’s fake MMT, and anyone saying ‘there is no fractional reserve system’ has no idea how ridiculous they sound to experts in the field. Good luck telling the person that just got a costly margin call, or had their f/x account blown out (because their losses exceeded their required fractional reserve), that ‘there is no fractional reserve system’.
H/T to Steven Witcher who was keeping the MMT pure in an online discussion over at the Intro To MMT site on Facebook. He nails it on the head here—that MMTers are confusing ‘unlimited’ fiat $ creation with ‘unrestricted’ fiat $ creation:
“Banks still use the fractional reserve system in the US as a holdover. The difference is, since ’71, there’s no limits on reserves [but there’s still restrictions]. The key dates are 1913 (end of wildcat banking & establishment of the Fed); 1934 (gold became reserves rather than money); and 1971 (gold then becomes just a market commodity & reserves then just become a number). We [the United States] didn’t have any semblance of federal fractional reserve [like other countries did] until the Federal Reserve Act [of 1913]. Exchanging money for gold [domestic convertibility] ended in the 30s. In essence, before 1934, we had a ‘floating’ [a ‘partial’ or ‘managed’] conversion rate and banks were limited in their lending based on reserves—that’s your traditional fractional reserve system. 1934 [The Gold Reserve Act of 1934 changed the convertibility from $20.67 to $35, a 41% devaluation, which also outlawed private possession of gold and ordered all gold held by the Fed to be surrendered then transferred to the Treasury; BUT] changed nothing about the fractional reserve system, it just added reserves. 1934 was a massive increase in that reserve part of the fractional reserve system [by design to ‘inflate’ the money supply to get more dollars into the hands of consumers]. We maintained a fixed exchange rate [international convertibility] to gold afterwards, but because of that, the money supply was still limited by gold until ’71. Post 1971, [private] banks have no limit on how much it can lend, and neither does the [federal] discount window, because the entire system is based on risk assessment—but with no limit [restrictions, yes; a limit ‘ceiling’, no]”—Steven Witcher
Deadly Innocent Fraudulent Misinterpretation #27: Paying federal taxes is a destruction of dollars.
Fact: Paying federal taxes has not been a destruction of dollars since 1957.
MMTers, even The Great Ones, are still not fully-grasping the subtle differences between a ‘dollar drain’ and a ‘dollar destruction’—and are misinterpreting these two main levers in our modern monetary system.
For example, in a debate about trade differentials, Professor Steve Keen was (incorrectly) saying a trade surplus was a “third source of money creation”. The reason why he was wrong is because, counter-intuitively, a trade ‘deficit’ does not mean a creation of dollars like a budget deficit would mean. A trade deficit only means a drain of dollars to the nonfederal gov’t / international (aka foreign sector) from your nonfederal gov’t / domestic (aka private sector). Rather than a trade ‘deficit’ being ‘financed’ with a ‘creation’ of dollars (as Mr. Keen thought), or being a ‘destruction’ of dollars (as many others think), the amount of the trade deficit is instead only telling you how many dollars that just DRAINED from one nonfederal gov’t sector to another.
In the modern monetary system, using a free-floating currency (using f/x markets), US dollars never ‘leave’ the US banking system in a US trade deficit; however, that trade deficit is telling you exactly how many dollars worth of potential aggregate-demand from factories, salaried employees, surrounding businesses, neighborhood real-estate values, etc etc, that just drained from the US private sector to a foreign country.
It was Warren Mosler who corrected Steve Keen in that 05/07/18 debate (who graciously walked back his ‘third source of money creation’ posit); yet recently, it was Mr. Mosler himself, saying ‘old tax dollars are shredded’ who is now seemingly not seeing that subtle difference between a ‘dollar drain’ and a ‘dollar destruction’. This was overheard in a 12/20/18 post at the Intro to MMT site on Facebook (asking if anyone has worked at the IRS and has first-hand experience with shredding cash tax-payments):
“Warren Mosler, your language here is quite misleading. It’s old cash which is shredded, not tax payments. You probably mean this symbolically, but it’s quite misleading to the lay people we are trying to educate.”—Ken Otwell
“Ken Otwell, any payments made to Gov with old cash, including tax payments, etc., are shredded.”—Warren Mosler
Even the great ones swing and miss sometimes. Ken Otwell is correct. Saying that ‘tax dollars are shredded’ (no matter whether it is meant to be taken literally or metaphorically) is quite misleading and is causing deadly and innocent misinterpretations throughout the MMT community. Can we pinpoint to where this misrepresentation of taxes being ‘destroyed’ is happening? Yes we can, and let’s call it a subset to #27:
Deadly Innocent Fraudulent Misinterpretation #27a: “Federal tax remittance is subtracted from the US national debt on that big spreadsheet the gov’t runs.”
Fact: Federal tax remittance has NOT subtracted US national debt on the consolidated balance sheets of the federal gov’t since 1957.
“In recent years, as federal budget deficits have narrowed and even disappeared…they tend to be short-lived. When the federal government’s fiscal condition improves…do budget surpluses induce increases in federal spending? Or…reductions in taxes? Or, some combination with other possibilities, e.g., reducing the national debt? Consequently, only a small portion of surpluses in the modern era typically goes for debt reduction.”—Budget Surpluses, Deficits and Gov’t Spending, prepared by Vedder & Gallaway, Professors of Economics, for the Chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, December 1998
In other words, what these economists knew two decades ago is what many in the MMT community today haven’t yet grasped—that Congress not only has to approve federal-gov’t money creation (addition of NFAs), but its destruction (subtraction of NFAs) as well. MMTers, especially the ones talking from the political ‘prescription’ side of their mouths, are either letting facts get in the way of a good ‘taxes are a destruction’ story, at best; OR these MMTers are confusing the payment of federal taxes lowering the budget DEFICIT, with taxes lowering the national DEBT, at worst. Federal taxation does pay for debt SERVICE, yes; but do taxes pay for debt REDUCTION, no—not since 1957—the last time the national debt decreased. Political MMTers (that want their ‘prescriptions’ to be taken seriously) need to stop getting their ‘descriptions’ wrong.
Stephanie Kelton once replied “No” to the question “Do taxes fund federal spending.” As a result of that SINGLE Tweet, her entire choir instantly accepted that as gospel and started saying ‘federal taxes don’t fund spending because federal taxes are a destruction’ (sending them over a cliff).
Warren Mosler implies that federal ‘taxes are a destruction’ in 7DIF, based on a SINGLE fact that old cash bills are being shredded by the federal gov’t—but he left out the part where those tax amounts are credited to the Daily Treasury Statement account because he doesn’t consider that asset (that ‘soft currency’) in the DTS, as the Treasury getting, quote, a ‘thing’, unquote—YIKES (try telling the federal taxpayer—who votes—that just sent a check payable to the ‘US Department of the Treasury‘ for federal taxes due that ‘the Treasury isn’t getting a *thing*’)!
Just like Mr. Mosler, Randy Wray also argues that federal ‘taxes are a destruction’ based on a SINGLE instance from 260 years ago. In this case, a time in US colonial history that tax receipts were, indeed, destroyed—but causation is not correlation. Professor Wray (deadly and innocently) misinterprets the ‘burning’ of tax receipts by the Commonwealth of Virginia in the eighteenth century as meaning ‘taxes are a destruction’ today. What actually happened then, was akin to what we now call an Open Market Operation (that executes a dollar add or a dollar drain to maintain price stability). During The Seven Years War (1756–63), Virginia colonists needed to pay more taxes to help finance our then-mother-country’s war effort. Paying more taxes to Britain meant more ‘hard-currency’ dollars leaving Virginia and being shipped to England. In order to counter the deflationary effects of this decrease in the Virginia money supply, the Virginia Commonwealth would (wisely) introduce legal-tender ‘notes’ (do a ‘dollar add’). When the war ended, and the notes had served their purpose and were no longer needed (because the overseas war was no longer needed to be funded), Virginia would simply burn any of these notes received as tax payments (do a ‘dollar drain’) until the notes were out of circulation.
Note that this misinterpretation is similar to any other garden-variety ‘financial helper’ on the airwaves today, who easily (but not as innocently) snake-charms folks by constantly pointing to the tiniest part, to the SINGLE instance and saying ‘See, look right there, I told you so’. Rather than heed any of that ‘financial advice’, you should instead be standing way back from the picture, watching all the moving pieces and tuning out the noise. Which is again the reason why I loved Mr. Mosler’s ‘Center of the Universe’ analogy, because it personally helped me to bypass attachment—meaning to not consider MMT as being chiseled (attached) in stone—and attain pure MMT enlightenment.
What the ‘taxes are a destruction’ mentality is still not (deadly and innocently) grasping is the ever-so-slight difference between a ‘drain’ of dollars (a SWAP of dollars), like paying federal gov’t taxes / like federal gov’t surplus spending / like trade differentials; and a ‘destruction’ of dollars, like when Treasury bonds are paid off / like when corporate bonds are paid off / like when credit-card balances (a personal ‘bond’) are paid off in full. When you pay off your entire credit-card balance at the end of the month, you destroy dollars that you previously created (that you previously ‘conjured up’ during the month). Even more complex, is a Fed operation, where you can have a dollar drain (from savers to borrowers) with a simultaneous dollar creation into the banking system (to buy bonds on credit), and then followed by a dollar destruction (to return back to ‘normal’)—both a $$$ drain and a $$$ destruction happening discreetly out of money-supply-circulation sight (like QE and QE unwind).
It’s better to think of all money creation as being the newly-created BOND being created—and not the ‘money’ being created—because sometimes the ‘money’ being created is something you can’t always see. That’s a big reason why many MMTers keep struggling with putting different labels on the ‘money’ that the private sector creates (instead of just calling them $$$)—because they’re trying to wrap their hands around something you can’t always see. Rather than getting sidetracked concentrating on different ‘kinds’ of money, different ‘kinds’ of money creation, and different ‘kinds’ of money hierarchies, MMTers should instead be pinpointing the paramount part of all money creation—the bond creation. Whether the federal gov’t is deficit spending (creating a bond) to put a rover on Mars; or you are deficit spending (created a bond) to drink a cup of Starbucks, that is the exact moment it becomes a net creation of assets.
That newly-created bond is first and foremost. That bond represents the net addition of newly-created $$$ into the banking system (as opposed to not paying on credit and using already-existing $$$ in your pocket). If there is only a single thing that readers takeaway from this entire post, let it be this: Newly-created bonds create loans create deposits.
Here’s a quick story that is both relevant and quite interesting. In medieval England days, when you wanted to pay on credit, a notched tally stick was created (‘dollar creation’). To represent the newly-created asset with an attached liability of debt incurred, the stick was broken in two and the distinct grain-structure of the wood made the pieces ‘carbon copies’. The creditor (let’s say the King of England) got the asset side, the larger piece; and the debtor (let’s say a poor English subject) got the liability side, the shorter piece (and that’s where the phrase ‘getting the short end of the stick’ comes from). When the debt was paid back (when the subject paid the King back), the sticks were destroyed (‘dollar destruction’ aka ‘net-zero’).
Think about how innovative that was. This tally stick basically worked like money (one side was effectively a note-receivable; and the other side was the offsetting note-payable). As Real Macro instructor Mike Morris likes to say about money, the tally stick was ‘liquid production’—and in multiple ways: 1) People could now easily buy on credit (meaning more purchasing power in the hands of consumers); 2) the creditor side of the stick was essentially a note-receivable in bearer form (what we today call a ‘bearer-bond’) so shop owners holding the asset side of the tally stick could make capital with capital along with making money on their sales; 3) when other shops heard about that innovation (shop owners with excess cash, that only needed more sales rather than more cash), they jumped in on this credit action; 4) the more tally sticks created, the more competitive borrowing rates got; and 5) just like the taxing authority today can ‘pump the prime’ and deficit spend to stimulate the economy, the King could do the same by simply spending more ‘legal-tender’ tally sticks, which adds more financial assets into the monetary supply.
If the King was deficit spending (if an English subject provisioned the King on credit), the tally sticks were newly-created with the King as the debtor (the King had the short end of the stick). Here’s why I mentioned tally sticks in the first place: One way to settle that debt that the King owed to that English subject, the King could accept the offsetting piece of the stick as settlement of taxes due to England—and then those particular tally sticks were destroyed. Meaning in that one SINGLE instance of a payment of taxes, yes, that was a destruction, sure; but not to be misinterpreted and to be concluded that ‘tax payments are a destruction’. You can trust me on this, the English subject next in line settling his ‘federal’ taxes due by paying with gold, with bales of tobacco or cotton, with animals or their fur, or whatever else was legal tender—those weren’t ‘shredded’ (those taxes weren’t ‘destroyed’).
Just like deficit spending then, deficit spending today is a dual creation (two pieces). A creation of a newly-created bond (a newly-created Asset); PLUS, what ‘nets-out’ that asset, that other piece, the debt (the Liability). Even to this day, if you use a credit card, you are creating a tally stick, which is your promise to pay the vendor back (which is your ‘bond’). The seller (the creditor) keeps one part of that little piece of wood that you marked (that little piece of paper that you signed); and you the buyer-on-credit (the debtor) gets handed the other piece of wood (the paper receipt)—just like 500 years ago.
In other words, when you borrow / deficit spend / pay for something on credit today, you are creating both an asset and a liability (that ‘nets-out’ the asset). For instance, if you buy a new car on credit / no cash down / borrow the full price, then you are creating the ‘bond’ (your promise to pay back the money with interest) that the dealership gets. The car dealership (creditor) swaps out of a car on the lot and into your newly-created bond (asset). You (debtor) get that car, which doesn’t increase your net worth (capital) because it ‘nets-out’ with other half of the tally stick (liability) that you also get. (Note: The dealership’s net worth doesn’t change either, not until you, or a third counter party, makes good on your loan and only then the dealership collects the mark up, aka ‘profit’—otherwise the dealership’s net worth goes down if you default on your loan). The insight is that unlike an all-cash deal where you hand the dealership money from your pocket (with existing assets in the banking system), you instead, OUT OF THIN AIR, CONJURED UP and entered your ‘bond’, a newly-created financial asset denominated in dollars (a net addition of $$$) into the banking system.
Warren Mosler writes in 7DIF that tax dollars paid in ‘old’ bills are ‘shredded’ by the federal gov’t, so now MMTers (taking that SINGLE analogy too literally) are saying ‘taxes are a destruction’ (wrong), ‘taxes don’t fund anything’ (wrong), and ‘blah blah blah’ (wrong wrong wrong).
The proper interpretation of the 7DIF ‘tax dollars are shredded’ thing is that it’s just an example of one of the many paradigm differences between the issuer of dollars and the user of dollars. The issuer can shred an old $20 bill received, and replace it with a new one; while a user uses the $20 bill received no matter how old and worn it is. That’s all. If you want to take the shredder thing to mean that ‘taxes are a destruction’ to push your preferred politics and peddle your pet prescriptions, that’s fine, then go ahead, and good luck with all that—because you’re going to need it.
Paying federal taxes is not a destruction of dollars. Running a federal gov’t surplus is not a destruction of dollars, either. Taxes are a drain of dollars from the 5% (approx) that drain to the 95% (approx)—an example of Jim ‘MineThis1’ Boukis’s “eco-feedback loop” insight from unproductive capital (from the ‘financial’ economy) draining to productive capital (to the ‘functional’ economy). The payment of federal taxes nor the federal gov’t running a surplus DOES NOT reduce the national ‘debt’. The national ‘debt’ DID NOT go down during the Clinton Administration surpluses. The national ‘debt’ has never gone down since President Nixon severed the final link between the US dollar and gold (when closing the gold window for good) in 1971. The last time the national debt went down was in 1957; and that’s why tons of anti-central bank loons love to say that the Clinton surpluses ‘were a myth’—because they too are also misinterpreting and confusing a dollar drain (collecting taxes / running a surplus) with a dollar destruction (collecting taxes / running a surplus / PLUS paying off debt).
Paying federal taxes is just a series of dollar drains. Draining from one person (from the money supply), to the Treasury Daily Statement account at the Fed (not the money supply), and then right back to another person (back into the money supply).
Think about a circle, call that circle ‘the money supply circulation’; and then picture that circle is inside another bigger circle called ‘the entire banking system’. Paying federal taxes is only a dollar drain to and from the money supply circle (but still within the banking system circle). Since 1958, taxes have never been both a dollar drain PLUS a dollar destruction from the entire banking system:
Scenario #1) Fiscal year ending with a federal-budget surplus but does NOT pay off any Treasury bonds (does NOT lower the national ‘debt’): In this scenario the federal gov’t spent $$$ (dollar add) and collected a bigger amount of $$$ back in taxation (dollar drain). The private sector ended the year in deficit (which equals the amount of the gov’t surplus which is the same amount left unspent—still remaining—in the Daily Treasury Statement account). NOTE: No dollar creation or destruction.
Scenario #2) Fiscal year ending with a federal-budget surplus but also DOES pay off some Treasury bonds (also DOES lower the national ‘debt’): In this scenario the federal gov’t spent $$$ (dollar add) and collected a bigger amount of $$$ back in taxation (dollar drain). The private sector ended the year in deficit (which equals the amount of the gov’t surplus that was then spent on paying off some Treasury bonds—for good—meaning those bonds are not rolled over (the gov’t surplus was also ‘spent’ on lowering some of the national ‘debt’). NOTE: This is dollar destruction.
Scenario #3) Fiscal year ending with a balanced budget: In this scenario the federal gov’t spent $$$ (dollar add) and also collected the EXACT same amount of $$$ in taxation back (dollar drain). The private sector ended the year balanced. NOTE: No dollar creation or destruction.
Scenario #4) Fiscal year ending with a federal-budget deficit which adds newly-created Treasury bonds (which adds to the national ‘debt’): In this scenario, the federal gov’t spent $$$ (dollar add) and collected the exact same amount of $$$ in taxation back (dollar drain). The federal gov’t then spent even more $$$ (dollar add) and collected that exact same amount of $$$ back in Treasury bond sales (dollar drain). The federal gov’t then ALSO issued newly-created bonds, which raises the national ‘debt’, which is a net addition of financial assets (additions of NFAs), going into the banking system. The private sector ended the year in surplus (which equals the amount of the added bonds denominated in dollars). NOTE: This is dollar creation.
Scenario #1) All of the Clinton Administration surplus years…
Scenario #2) The last time that happened (the last time ‘taxes were a destruction’), was in 1957…
Scenario #3) There were moments when expenditures were exactly equal to receipts during all the Clinton Administration surplus years…
Scenario #4) Every year since 1958…
(Source: TreasuryDirect’s ‘Historical Debt Outstanding—Annual’)
Simply put, the opposite of dollar creation is destruction. Federal gov’t deficit spending is an example of dollar creation, of newly-created Treasury bonds, a net addition of financial assets, denominated in $$$, being added into the banking system. Paying off those Treasury bonds for good is the dollar destruction—and the same goes for the private sector when we destroy any personal debts (when we pay off any ‘bonds’ that we created).
To summarize, We The People paying federal taxes (and the federal gov’t running a surplus) are dollar drains, are ebbs & flows, from parts of the banking system, yes; but out from the banking system, out from the entire dollar dominion, no. However, continuing to collect federal taxes and running sustained budget-surpluses to the point where $$$ are also being ‘spent’ on paying off bonds—on CANCELLING DEBT—meaning that surpluses are given to people that are bondholders instead of people that are provisioning the gov’t, THAT IS THE DESTRUCTION OF $$$ (the opposite of the creation of $$$).
In other words, dollar creation for both the federal gov’t and the nonfederal gov’t sectors is when the bonds (promises to pay a counter party the money back with interest) is newly-created out of thin air; and dollar destruction is when the bonds are paid off.
It is only a destruction when putting those bonds in the shredder.
Deadly Innocent Fraudulent Misinterpretation #28: “The public debt is nothing more than the $ spent by gov’t that haven’t yet been used to pay taxes, sitting in the economy as cash, as $ in reserve accounts and as securities accounts…It functions as the net money supply.”
Fact: The public debt is nothing more than the $ spent by gov’t that haven’t yet been used to PAY OFF THAT PUBLIC DEBT, sitting in the economy as cash, as $ in reserve accounts and as securities accounts…It functions as the net money supply.
Even the great ones swing and miss sometimes. Every time that Warren Mosler or Stephanie Kelton says the above DIF#28 (and the entire MMT community repeats it), they confuse a dollar ‘drain’ with a dollar ‘destruction’. As explained previously in DIF#27A, there’s a difference between federal taxes that lower the deficit (a drain of $$$ in & out of money-supply circulation) and federal taxes that lower the debt (a destruction of $$$ out from the banking system entirely). In other words, the MMT community is perfectly understanding the creation of Net Financial Assets being added into the banking system (when Treasury bonds are issued); but they aren’t yet grasping the opposite of that creation (when Treasury bonds are paid off). Taxes lower the amount of deficits (lower the amount of Treasury bonds that needs to be issued), but the last time that taxes lowered the debt (paid off existing Treasury bonds) was in 1957—when Congress last approved that a surplus of tax dollars were to be spent paying down the public debt. Counter-intuitive as it may seem, the US National Debt did not go down during the Clinton surplus years. In 2001, after a vigorous debate over how best to use the unanticipated windfall of dollars draining into the Daily Treasury Statement account—where all federal spending is drawn—Congress decided NOT to pay off Treasury bonds (NOT to lower the national debt), but to cut taxes instead. Meaning that ever since 1957, all tax dollars getting collected have only been credited towards federal spending—lowering the amount of annual deficit spending—and NOT used to lower the amount of the cumulative federal debt. So what MMTers should be saying (which makes way more sense) is that the public debt is the $$$ spent into existence by gov’t that haven’t yet been used to pay off that public debt.
In addition to modifying the part in 7DIF to say that the federal gov’t is destroying ‘old’ cash bills, Warren Mosler may consider also modifying “the public debt is nothing more than the $ spent by gov’t that haven’t yet been used to pay taxes” for the same reason: It also doesn’t make sense because paying federal taxes is only a dollar drain and not a ‘net’ change to anything—unless taxes are both draining dollars AND destroying dollars (paying off public debt).
MMTers understand that federal gov’t deficit-spending creates dollars, but MMTers (deadly and innocently) misinterpret federal taxation as destroying dollars—and that’s why they (incorrectly) believe that taxes ‘don’t pay for anything’:
“So please stop accepting the bullshit that your taxes are paying for something – they aren’t. In fact the only time your taxes are paying for something is when the government’s budget is in surplus. Think about it – they are in surplus because they are taxing you MORE than they are spending. You are being overcharged!”—Ric Testori, AIM Network, ‘Hey, it’s not Taxpayers’ Money!’
Anyone that grasps the concept of being overcharged can see the contradiction there. You can’t say to a taxpayer that during a gov’t-budget surplus ‘You Are Being Overcharged’ (You are paying too much for something) while positing that the taxpayer’s taxes Aren’t Paying For Anything.
‘Taxes don’t pay for anything’ is fake ‘political’ economics. The actual econ, the pure MMT insight, is that, operationally, the taxes are NOT NEEDED to pay for anything—not that they don’t at all. Sure, taxes are a ‘destruction’ from one ‘scoreboard’ (taxes are ‘shredded’ out from money supply circulation); but at the very same time, taxes are being credited to another ‘scoreboard’ (taxes are added to the Daily Treasury Statement account where all federal spending is drawn). Furthermore, saying that ‘the public debt is the $ spent by gov’t that hasn’t yet been used to pay taxes’ contradicts MMT’s very own focal point—the Sectoral Balance chart. Which shows, by accounting identity, that as the federal gov’t raises its debt, financial wealth in the private sector rises to the penny. The opposite of that, is that the financial wealth (or ‘our savings’ or the ‘net money supply’ or whatever term you prefer) lowers AS THE GOV’T LOWERS ITS DEBT (and NOT as the gov’t taxes its citizens)—by a simple matter of logic.
Rather than misinterpreting the MMT (or more specifically, rather than confusing the modern monetary theory with the modern monetary formality), MMTers would be well-advised to tune out the dopey ‘taxes don’t pay for anything’ noise (ESPECIALLY during a gov’t shutdown that no ‘keyboard stroke’ can stop).
Federal taxes aren’t a net change in the money supply because dollars collected for federal taxes drain right back into circulation—to the penny—from whence they came (aka ‘surplus spending’). The spending, and the subsequent collection of taxes, is a wash.
In addition, dollars collected for Treasury bond sales also drain right back into circulation (aka ‘deficit spending’). That spending, and the subsequent collection of dollars in bond sales, is also a wash. The creation of the Treasury bond is the net creation of financial assets (is the addition of NFAs). The opposite of the creation is the destruction of the bond. So, rather than thinking that taxes are changing the ‘net money supply’, better to know what actually changes it are the expansions and contractions of leveraging and deleveraging (of creation and destruction).
To be fair, Mr. Mosler says “the public debt is nothing more than the $ spent by gov’t that haven’t yet been used to pay taxes” often because he (correctly) thinks that all economists should consider US Treasury bonds (the federal ‘debt’ held by the public) as being included in the definition of ‘money’.
Everybody considers their private money as being the amount of $$$ that is in both their checking account AND their savings account at their bank (not just the checking account)—so why not do the same thing when talking about our public money? As Mr. Mosler explains in 7DIF, $$$ are sitting in a Fed ‘checking account’ (aka the Fed’s Reserve Account) and also in a Fed ‘savings account’ (aka the Fed’s Securities Account). So why does the federal gov’t only consider the ‘checking account’ as being money and not the ‘savings account’?
“Why do they do that, because back in 1933, the reserve accounts were convertible to gold, and the securities accounts were not.”—Warren Mosler
So my interpretation of what Mr. Mosler is saying, is that, what is called ‘money’ (what is called the ‘money supply’), should include the Securities Account (aka Treasury bonds) and the ‘Net Money Supply’ would be the money supply minus those T-bonds.
That’s a great idea—it’s a superb ‘prescription’. What is considered being the money supply should be updated as per Mr. Mosler’s suggestion because ‘it’s about price, not quantity’. Policymakers should have done this the day that money supply figures became useless information on Wall Street trading floors in the mid 1980s. Which was around the same time Milton Friedman’s ‘Quantity Theory’ of money was debunked—when folks starting grasping that it’s more about the Fed controlling interest rates and less about the Fed controlling the money supply. I vividly remember those days, I was working for a brokerage called RMJ Securities near Wall Street in the mid 80s. As a junior Treasury bond broker, I would get pencils throw at my head if I input bond Bid and Ask prices incorrectly after money supply figures were announced every Thursday morning at 8:30AM sharp. A couple years later, ‘the street’ didn’t care about the money supply figures at all (and I would instead get pencils thrown at me when I entered bad prices on FOMC rate decision days).
Mr. Mosler’s idea could be one of the many steps (desperately needed to be taken) by policymakers to help wean the mainstream off that unnecessary fear of federal ‘debt’. Then everyone could start to relax about all those Treasury bonds—because all they really are, is just the part of the ‘money’ in existence that is earning more interest in the ‘savings account’ than the ‘money’ in the ‘checking account’, that’s all.
The national ‘debt’ is nothing more than the newly-created fiat $$$ spent into the banking system by the gov’t that haven’t yet been used to pay off the outstanding Treasury bonds.
The Net Money Supply (the checking account) is the Gross Money Supply (the checking & the savings account) minus the T-bonds (the savings account) that haven’t been paid off (that haven’t been destroyed).
Said another way, Treasury bonds are just an accounting entry of the $$$ that were deficit spent into existence by the gov’t that haven’t yet ‘net-out’ (that haven’t yet been ‘shredded’).
Thanks for reading and HAPPY NEW YEAR to the 100%,
Pure MMT for the 100%
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Fake MMT: “The national government creates money every time it spends. It never spends your ‘tax dollars’, because ‘tax dollars’ do not exist at the national level.”
Pure MMT: What part of those dollar signs and the word ‘taxes’ on yesterday’s DTS is confusing you?
Fake MMT: “Show me incontrovertible evidence that a dollar, once deleted from a reserve account in the banking system, is the very same dollar that appears in Treasury’s spending account at the central bank afterwards.”
Pure MMT: Here you go:
FAKE MMT: “Yeah, when the national government taxes, treasury uses a very delicate instrument designed based on quantum mechanics to isolate the photons that make up the number 100 on the computer screen so they cannot escape. Then treasury spends the very same photons by using the rubber mallet to hammer them into some bank’s computer monitor where they appear in someone’s account. This ensures that they are your tax dollars being spent. The government doesn’t need to do this, but it does anyway.”
PURE MMT: Your last sentence is perfect, you’re getting closer. The pure ‘description’ MMT insight is that, operationally, the federal gov’t DOESN’T NEED taxes to fund spending in its own fiat $$$—not that they don’t at all (because those pesky accounting rules and appropriations laws, albeit unnecessary, still exist). Regarding the rest, that’s funny, but that’s your problem, this is where you and all the fake MMT academics fail, because you are all trying (unsuccessfully) to take basic ACCT 101—to take simple credits & debits to and from the Daily Treasury Statement (the same account where all federal spending is drawn)—and make it into quantum mechanics.
Do try to understand, whenever there is a gov’t shutdown, it’s ALWAYS for the same reason—because there’s not enough revenues (taxes) to cover (fund) expenditures (surplus spending) so policymakers have to agree on raising the debt limit, meaning give authorization for further deficit spending (the spending that taxes don’t fund); and until then, no keyboard can stop a gov’t shutdown.
FAKE MMT: “Nuh uh, US taxpayers do not fund the US government. The US government funds US taxpayers. All dollars used by the US private sector to pay federal taxes come from the US federal government.”
PURE MMT: Deadly Innocent Fraudulent Misinterpretation #29: Under the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, federal taxpayers can pay with a credit card (meaning ALL dollars used by the private sector to pay federal taxes DO NOT necessarily come from federal-gov’t money creation).
The MMT insight is that the order of operations switched. The US government now funds the US taxpayers first and then the US taxpayers fund the US government back.
FAKE MMT: “Nuh uh, you pay your federal taxes, then your bank account is debited and reserves are deleted from your bank’s reserve account. Deletion means destruction. The reserves exit the banking system for good. The Treasury’s spending account is held at the Fed, it sits outside of the banking system.”
PURE MMT: You started well and then your wheels came off (which is ok, we were all there once). You pay your taxes & your $$$ are debited from your bank account, that’s correct; however, debited means a ‘$ drain’ not a ‘$ destruction’. Only Congress can approve federal creation of $$$ and only Congress can destroy those $$$ (federal taxation has not been a ‘$ destruction’ since before you were born). Taxation only means $$$ exiting money supply circulation (NOT the banking system).
Treasury’s spending account (the DTS) is held at the Fed, it is outside of money supply circulation, YES; but outside of the banking system (outside of the US dollar dominion), No.
Flustered Fake MMTer to bank teller: Show me incontrovertible evidence that this $20 bill that I just withdrew from the ATM is the very same dollar that I deposited into my account last week. I dare you to do this.
Bank Teller: I won’t.
Fake MMTer: You won’t because you can’t (Storms out of bank).
Bank Teller to co-worker: They’re so adorable when they’re going through their MMT phase.