Deficit Terrorists" Strike in UK -- USA is Next

Discussion in 'Economics' started by bearice, Jun 22, 2010.

  1. Last week, England’s new government said it would abandon the previous government’s stimulus program and introduce the austerity measures required to pay down its estimated $1 trillion in debts. That means cutting public spending, laying off workers, reducing consumption, and increasing unemployment and bankruptcies. It also means shrinking the money supply, since virtually all “money” today originates as loans or debt. Reducing the outstanding debt will reduce the amount of money available to pay workers and buy goods, precipitating depression and further economic pain.

    The financial sector has sometimes been accused of shrinking the money supply intentionally, in order to increase the demand for its own products. Bankers are in the debt business, and if governments are allowed to create enough money to keep themselves and their constituents out of debt, lenders will be out of business. The central banks charged with maintaining the banking business therefore insist on a “stable currency” at all costs, even if it means slashing services, laying off workers, and soaring debt and interest burdens. For the financial business to continue to boom, governments must not be allowed to create money themselves, either by printing it outright or by borrowing it into existence from their own government-owned banks.

    Today this financial goal has largely been achieved. In most countries, 95% or more of the money supply is created by banks as loans (or “credit”). The small portion issued by the government is usually created just to replace lost or worn out bills or coins, not to fund new government programs. Early in the twentieth century, about 30% of the British currency was issued by the government as pounds sterling or coins, versus only about 3% today. In the U.S., only coins are now issued by the government. Dollar bills (Federal Reserve Notes) are issued by the Federal Reserve, which is privately owned by a consortium of banks.

    Banks advance the principal but not the interest necessary to pay off their loans; and since bank loans are now virtually the only source of new money in the economy, the interest can only come from additional debt. For the banks, that means business continues to boom; while for the rest of the economy, it means cutbacks, belt-tightening and austerity. Since more must always be paid back than was advanced as credit, however, the system is inherently unstable. When the debt bubble becomes too large to be sustained, a recession or depression is precipitated, wiping out a major portion of the debt and allowing the whole process to begin again. This is called the “business cycle,” and it causes markets to vacillate wildly, allowing the monied interests that triggered the cycle to pick up real estate and other assets very cheaply on the down-swing.

    The financial sector, which controls the money supply and can easily capture the media, cajoles the populace into compliance by selling its agenda as a “balanced budget,” “fiscal responsibility,” and saving future generations from a massive debt burden by suffering austerity measures now. Bill Mitchell, Professor of Economics at the University of New Castle in Australia, calls this “deficit terrorism.” Bank-created debt becomes more important than schools, medical care or infrastructure. Rather than “providing for the general welfare,” the purpose of government becomes to maintain the value of the investments of the government’s creditors.

    England Dons the Hair Shirt

    England’s new coalition government has just bought into this agenda, imposing on itself the sort of fiscal austerity that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has long imposed on Third World countries, and has more recently imposed on European countries, including Latvia, Iceland, Ireland and Greece. Where those countries were forced into compliance by their creditors, however, England has tightened the screws voluntarily, having succumbed to the argument that it must pay down its debts to maintain the market for its bonds.

    Deficit hawks point ominously to Greece, which has been virtually squeezed out of the private bond market because nobody wants its bonds. Greece has been forced to borrow from the IMF and the European Monetary Union (EMU), which have imposed draconian austerity measures as conditions for the loans. Like a Third World country owing money in a foreign currency, Greece cannot print Euros or borrow them from its own central bank, since those alternatives are forbidden under EMU rules. In a desperate attempt to save the Euro, the European Central Bank recently bent the rules by buying Greek bonds on the secondary market rather than lending to the Greek government directly, but the ECB has said it would “sterilize” these purchases by withdrawing an equivalent amount of liquidity from the market, making the deal a wash. (More on that below.)

    Greece is stuck in the debt trap, but the UK is not a member of the EMU. Although it belongs to the European Union, it still trades in its own national currency, which it has the power to issue directly or to borrow from its own central bank. Like all central banks, the Bank of England is a “lender of last resort,” which means it can create money on its books without borrowing first. The government owns the Bank of England, so loans from the bank to the government would effectively be interest-free; and as long as the Bank of England is available to buy the bonds that don’t get sold on the private market, there need be no fear of a collapse of the value of the UK’s bonds.

    The “deficit terrorists,” however, will have none of this obvious solution, ostensibly because of the fear of “hyperinflation.” A June 9 guest post by “Cameroni” on Rick Ackerman’s financial website takes this position. Titled “Britain Becomes the First to Choose Deflation,” it begins:

    “David Cameron’s new Government in England announced Tuesday that it will introduce austerity measures to begin paying down the estimated one trillion (U.S. value) in debts held by the British Government. . . . [T]hat being said, we have just received the signal to an end to global stimulus measures -- one that puts a nail in the coffin of the debate on whether or not Britain would ‘print’ her way out of the debt crisis. . . . This is actually a celebratory moment although it will not feel like it for most. . . . Debts will have to be paid. . . . tandards of living will decline . . . [but] it is a better future than what a hyperinflation would bring us all.”