The Weiner Component #89 – Money, Economic Growth, & The National Debt

English: President Barack Obama confers with F...

English: President Barack Obama confers with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke following their meeting at the White House. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to the last time I checked the Census Bureau the population of the United States was increasing at the rate of one person every 11 seconds. This included births, deaths, and immigration. This increases the overall population by about 117,818 people per year. In order for the per capita level to remain at 0% it must rise several points every year. In order for the economy to grow it has to rise beyond this point.

In order for the economy to function positively there must be a reasonable level of growth. For this to occur there must be a reasonable yearly growth of the money supply. If the amount of currency in circulation is stultified or decreases the country is in recession moving toward depression.

By the mid1970s the money supply in circulation was not increasing at a rate needed by the country for economic growth. At this point the banks by their lending policies, gradually began to fill the currency void. They gradually discovered that they could bundle their mortgages, dividing them up into infinitesimal pieces, set up hedge funds, sell the mortgage shares like stock, recover their investment, lend the money out again, and continue to do this endlessly, charging assorted fees on every level of this process. In doing this they created first billions of dollars and then trillions, always keeping a good percentage of this in the form of fees. While this process was needed for growth within the nation eventually, thirty odd years later, it had become a mad race for endless profits by the banks.

In 2008 this housing bubble the banks created burst and the country fell almost instantaneously into economic depression. What had been a dollar in value a few days earlier now became worth a nickel or at most a dime in value. The country was headed for a depression deeper than that of 1929.

Newly elected President Barak Obama and his administration stepped into the void and the Federal Government made massive loans to the banks and later to the dying American auto industry. Where did they get the money? They printed it and temporarily took on additional massive debt. All the loans were repaid within a few years with interest.

A word about the National Debt. What is it and where does it come from? The Debt is money the government spends in excess of the taxes it collects. It is currently more than 17 trillion dollars. The money is borrowed and has interest paid on it. This money is owed to individuals in and out of the United States, it is owed to countries like China and Japan, to both of whom is owed in excess of one trillion dollars, and mostly the money is owed to itself and its agencies such as Social Security, who is owed well over 2 1/2 trillion dollars, and Medicare. In fact just about all government agencies that have a surplus have had their excess taken and used in the General Fund. The interest on all of this is paid by the Federal Reserve to the General Fund. I remember reading several months ago about 88 or 89 billion dollars being transferred from the FED to the Treasury.

The National Debt is divided into two parts, public and private. Public would be what is owned by individuals or countries like China and Japan, generally acquired to balance international trade. Private ownership of the Debt is what the Federal Government owes itself. It admits to owning about 50% of its own debt. By my estimate the Federal Government directly or indirectly through its agencies actually owns roughly about 75% of its own debt.

Where does it get all this money? Simple! It prints it and issues the currency as needed. After all there is nothing behind the United States dollar but the word of the U.S. Government. There is nothing behind any currency but the word of the government using it.

By the year 2000 the banks had created trillions of dollars and were going strong with mortgages, both new ones and refinanced ones. Money that had been needed for economic growth and development was being readily supplied with the banks taking a good share of this currency. Large numbers of people were using their homes as bank accounts, refinancing again and again. The major banks were making billions in fees and wanted profits of many more billions. The mortgages were considered safe investments and they sold like shares of stock with a promised safe return. These were the Hedge Funds bought nationally and internationally that were touted as hedges against any type of financial loss and they paid nice dividends.

The situation grew more-tense as time went by with many bankers encouraging homeowners to lie on their applications. After all prices had been and were continually rising on real estate. Anything that could be mortgaged was mortgaged more than once. The situation grew more and more chaotic, until toward the end of 2008 when the entire economy collapsed. Shortly thereafter Barak Obama took office as the 45th President of the United States.

His theme had been “It’s time for a change.” By 2010 the economy had been saved but there wasn’t enough “change” to satisfy the majority of the voting population and the Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives. The Tea Party was in control of the Republican Party, moving its position far to the reactionary right. All possibility of fiscal policy ended. There would be no more government projects. In fact the Republicans had two specific goals: one was to shrink the economy by curtailing spending and the other was to make Barak Obama a one term president by not allowing him any legislative victories or successes.

They successfully achieved their first goal of contracting government expenditures, particularly on entitlement programs to the poor and to the states, forcing state governments to shrink their services, and they added to the unemployment caused by the Real Estate Bubble bursting. The House of Representatives would not even take up fiscal policy, keeping unemployment high and forcing the country to continue with an infrastructure well over fifty years old. They left any possible improvement to the economy to the Federal Reserve which, under Chairman Ben Bernanke’s guidance, used imaginative Monetary Policy to bring about some recovery.

Two major problems developed from the 2008 economic crisis: first the amount of money in circulation had to be increased significantly and second, many people were underwater on their mortgages; that is, they owed more on their property than it was worth. Something had to be done to alleviate the housing crisis. An additional crisis was who controlled the mortgages that had been broken into hundreds of pieces and attached to innumerable hedge funds. What the FED came up with was to add 85 billion dollars to the economy; 45 billion was spent buying up mortgage paper and 40 billion was used to buy up government debt. This was done monthly for several years, adding trillion of dollars in currency to the economy.

Toward the end of his tenure as chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke announced that the FED would decrease its purchases by 10 billion monthly. The new chairperson of the FED, Janet Yellen, stated that she would continue the policy, ending it in October of 2014.

Many prices had been gradually rising and the fear was that the country might fall into an inflationary spiral, too much money being in circulation and forcing prices up.

Toward the end of 2013 the housing crisis seems to have leveled off. There has been new construction throughout the United States and property values have gradually risen, taking a lot of people out from being underwater.

On Tuesday, July 16, 2014 Federal Reserve Chairperson Janet Yellen announced in her report to Congress that the FED might not completely stop buying debt and mortgage paper at the end of October.

What will happen should be very interesting. Following October is the 2014 Midterm Election. How will the country react if there is a stoppage of all Monetary Policy? Will there be a significant drop in the Stock Market, which today is far higher than it was just before the 2008 Crash?

How will the country react? Will they even notice the change? Will the election be affected in any way? The times are certainly changing!

There is enough money now in circulation, far more than there was in 2008. The problem is its distribution. More and more of it seems to go to the upper 20% of the population, forcing many in the middle class economically downward. Unemployment has dropped to a fraction above 6%. What the country needs is a redistribution of the National Income downwards and a rebuilding of its infrastructure. Affordable Health Care should have a single entity running it and not for profit. This would be the Federal Government and it should be paid for out of taxes like Social Security and Medicare. Instead we allow private companies to become richer running it. We need a greater level of fairness in this country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Weiner Component #66 – Macroeconomics & the GDP

Imagine a giant caldron or pot as high and as large as the tallest building you’ve ever seen,

The western front of the United States Capitol...

The western front of the United States Capitol. The Capitol serves as the seat of government for the United States Congress, the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government. It is located in Washington, D.C., on top of Capitol Hill at the east end of the National Mall. The building is marked by its central dome above a rotunda and two wings. It is an exemplar of the Neoclassical architecture style. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

filled[ with money, paper bills, with over 17 trillion dollars in it.  This is the Gross Domestic Product, the GDP, the amount of wealth produced in one year in the United States.  It represents the monetary value of all the goods and services produced and consumed in a twelve month period.  The money is a paper means of exchanging all this wealth and productivity, all the goods and services produced in one fiscal year.  It has no real value except as a token of transfer, goods and services for goods and services.  There is nothing behind the dollar except the word of the Federal Government.  Gold, which has a high value, cannot be used for money because there is not enough of it in existence to meet the financial needs of any of the many industrial nations.

The real wealth is what is produced and exchanged.  The money is merely the means of exchange that rates one unit of productivity against another and is used nationally or internationally.  The currency, then, is the tool through which this system of exchange occurs.  It can be used immediately or stored in institutions like banks or credit unions and used at some point in the future.  Money can also be used as a commodity, loaned or rented out with interest for a period of time or it can be used for all sorts of investments that pay interest or dividends.  It is in every case a tool to satisfy different types of wants and needs.

To consider money as the source of wealth is to be naïve.  The amount one has through earnings or inheritance can be used as a sort of score to determine one’s level of success against that of all other people in the society.  It is a government supplied tool that allows for the productive functioning of society.

It is the responsibility of the Federal Government to keep enough of it in circulation, a constant cash flow, so that full productivity occurs.  A shortage of the money supply in the nation can cause economic recession and eventual depression.  An excess amount of money in the National Economy can bring about run-away inflation, too much money available for the goods and services produced.  The Federal Government’s task is to provide just enough for full employment and full creation of the goods and services needed for the highest possible standard of living for the entire population.

This is not easy and requires constant readjustment because, according to the U.S. Census Bureau the population of the nation is increasing at the rate of one additional person every eleven seconds.  This figure includes births, immigration, and deaths.  In 2010, the time of the last National Census, the estimated population was 308,745,536, and this was considered a low count.  While an adjustment upward was made a year later this figure was used for the apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives.

One has to keep in mind that in addition to this number the population since then has increased at the rate of 5.46 people per minute, 327.27 per hour, 7,854.55 per day, 54,981.81 per week, 2,866,911 per year, plus another 7,854 for leap years.  The money supply has to be continually increased to keep up with these ever-growing numbers or the country moves in the direction of economic constriction, unemployment, recession, and finally depression.  All this is supposed to be done by the Federal Reserve with the aid of Congress and the President.

The Federal Reserve continually monitors the economy and continually makes its adjustments through Monetary Policy.  It can strongly but not completely affect the amount and flow of currency. The other section of the Federal Government that is supposed to continually affect the level of economic prosperity in the country is Congress.  They do this through fiscal policy; passing laws that can diminish or create employment throughout the United States by either increasing or decreasing government spending.  In essence through the passage of laws they can constrict or expand the cash flow and the level of employment

If we look at the actions of the Republicans in the House of Representatives from 2011 on, when they gained control of that body, it would seem that they by their actions are working very hard to bring this country into an economic depression and not allow for any recovery from the Real Estate Debacle of 2008.  We are still, six years later at seven plus percent unemployment.  Millions of people are still not earning enough to maintain a decent standard of living.  There is growing hunger in America, that many people are not food secure.  What are the Republicans proposing and trying to push through Congress?  Massively reducing food stamp and other programs that are vital for the proper survival of fifteen or more million people.

Their version of job creation is to massively reduce Federal spending for entitlement programs while wasting twenty-five billion dollars on shutting down the Federal Government for a period of time.  If one looked for a plan to destroy the United States or make it into a third rate nation then one would do exactly what the Republicans in Congress have been and are trying to achieve, to bring a large part of the population into despair and desolation.

The Republicans are acting like the Hoover Administration did from 1929, when the Great Depression broke, until 1933, when the Roosevelt Administration came into being.  Is it an act of maliciousness or just simply economic ignorance?  They are attempting to run the country as they run or ran their household budgets.  One Tea Party Congressman stated that he understood economics because he had raised a family.  They are making money the object of value and ignoring the potential productivity of the nation.  They are actually using the principles of Microeconomics, which works well with households, businesses, and state and municipal governments but can create disaster if it is used to run an industrial nation of over 300 million people.

 


 

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The Weiner Component #37 – The Concept of Money

Chicklet-currency

Cash, currency, paper bills, checks, credit cards, electronic deposits and transfers are all examples of money.  But what is it really?  What is its real value? 

Money, the currency of each nation, is the means of exchange used within that society, the means of exchanging goods and or services earned in the present or at some time in the past and saved for present or future use.  It is also a means of setting up the economic pecking order of individual levels within a society.  In the United States, for example, the more you earn, the more successful you are.  Generally it also denotes to which economic class you belong, what level of economic prosperity an individual has or has not achieved. 

Determining the actual value of money is interesting.  There is nothing behind any currency other than the word of the nation that issues it or the National Debt of that particular country.  Up until 1933 when Roosevelt took the country off the gold standard by collecting all the gold coins, had them melted down into gold bricks, buried them in depositories, issued gold certificates to the Treasury, and had the banks issue paper bills denoting that they were “Federal Reserve Notes,” money had been exchanging value for value.  A one ounce gold coin was a twenty dollar piece which could be exchanged anywhere for $20 worth of goods or services throughout the world.  The Roosevelt Administration changed the value of gold from $18 dollars an ounce to $36 and required that all gold mined in the United States be sold to the Federal Government.

Historically, the problem was that there never, with the exception of the Sixteenth Century when the gold in the New World was looted and sent to Europe, enough gold available to serve the business needs of the various industrial nations.  As a result of this, the amount of gold available for all commerce both within and between nations had been and was stretched by using paper bills that theoretically could be exchanged for gold at anytime.  Of course when this was done there was a run on the banks, causing bankruptcies and a depression. 

The amount of currency needed in circulation today has to be enough to allow for a full exchange of all needed goods and services in the society.  The money itself has no real intrinsic value; it is merely a tool that allows for this exchange.  The amount in circulation has historically been arbitrary, generally determined by the amount of gold coinage available, and then partially controlled by the state and by the financial institutions within the society that have continually operated on the basis of pure profit for themselves regardless of the consequences to the general society. 

This lascivious control, mostly by private enterprises has led to innumerable economic disasters such as the Great Depression of 1929 and the Real Estate Debacle of 2008; both of which almost toppled the entire society.  The two economic disasters were based upon an ever-increasing frantic race for increasing immediate gains, banks and a part of the general population rapidly acquiring massive amounts of currency for themselves.  This issue was not understood until well into the Twentieth Century and the assorted nations have never yet exercised their sovereign power to totally control or regulate the money supply. 

In the United States the myth that is constantly being propagated is that the Federal Government is inefficient or incapable and that only private enterprise and the Market System can properly run the economic system within the country.  It is bogus nonsense!  It was the Federal Government that both in 1933 and in 2009 saved the country from total economic collapse.  And, in both cases,  it was private enterprise and the Free Market System that almost destroyed the economy.

The reason we have had recovery since the bank caused disaster of 2008 has been through the actions of the Obama Administration and the creativity of the Federal Reserve in utilizing imaginative Monetary Policy.  In 2009 and 2010 the President and Congress saved the nation from total economic collapse.  Since 2011, when the Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives they have done everything they could to hamper economic recovery by their austerity program which has tended to actually shrink a recovering economy.  They seem to be more concerned with discrediting the Obama Administration than working to bring about recovery.  Their constant cry is to cut government spending, particularly in discretionary programs, and reduce the National Debt.  One direct result of their austerity program has been the collapse of a fifty some year old bridge in Washington along a major highway.

Money has no real value; it is a tool that the society uses to exchange some form of labor for goods and services needed for comfortable living.  As long as there is no wild inflation, more money being available in the general society than products that can be produced, there is no danger from rapid inflation.  .

In the crazy escalation of currency during the Real Estate Bubble that exploded in the latter end of 2008, where people utilized their homes as bank accounts, there was no real inflation, only economic growth.  The money supply shrank enormously as real estate values collapsed.  We have still not fully recovered from that bank-induced recession that could have toppled the entire economy.

It is time to stop treating money as the ultimate object of wealth and begin treating it as an object of exchange, as a tool that can be utilized to create and maintain a healthy economy with everyone prospering. 

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