Posted by WARREN MOSLER on March 2nd, 2010
I arrived in Connecticut to begin a ‘listening tour’ before making the decision to run in the Democratic primary for United States Senate. Tonight I listened carefully to the Democratic candidates as they put forth their agendas for restoring the US economy and both fell far short of the mark. Neither had a credible economic agenda, and what they did propose- tax increases- would only make matters worse.
Making sure that people working for a living are paid enough to be able to buy the goods and services they produce has long been a core economic value of the Democratic party. And what drives the lion’s share of business, both large and small, is the competition to attract the consumer’s dollars by producing the goods and services working people want. Unfortunately, the current situation is clearly one where people working for a living are not taking home enough money to buy what business is desperately trying to sell. Consequently, business has been contracting and laying people off, which makes matters even worse.
The Republican response has traditionally been to give tax cuts and other monetary incentives to business rather than to the people doing the work. That does not result in new hires for the businesses, as business only hire when orders and sales pick up. Instead, it results in higher profits with the hope that those profiting will hire more domestic help and more gardeners, and produce a few jobs that way, which is known as trickle-down economics.
So while, in addition to tax hikes, both Democratic candidates for US Senate proposed tax relief, it was for small businesses- the traditional Republican approach, and indeed, the approach of the Obama administration. Note that last week’s jobs bill featured a $5,000 payroll tax reduction for businesses, and not for employees. In contrast, I have long been proposing a full ‘payroll tax holiday’ where a couple earning a combined $100,000 per year would see their take home pay rise by over $650 per month. That would be enough to fix the economy as people could then make their mortgage payments and car payments, and even do a little shopping. This is the Democratic approach which also gives businesses what they really need- people with enough money to spend to buy their products. It’s people with money to spend that creates the backlog of orders which then quickly results in the millions of new jobs we need to restore our economy to full employment levels and prosperity. The payroll tax holiday also reduces costs for business. In a competitive environment this translates into a combination of both lower prices and better cash flow for business that can be used for the new investment the recession has long delayed.
The reason the Democrats don’t propose this kind of tax cut is because they can’t answer the question of ‘how are you to replace the lost revenues.’ And, in fact the Obama administration has currently put Medicare and social security cuts on the table to ‘pay for’ what they’ve already spent. What both Democratic candidates are displaying is a failure to understand the difference between the function of Federal taxation and State and local government taxation. I grew up on the money desk at Banker’s Trust on Wall St. in the 1970′s, ran my own investment funds and securities dealer for 15 years, currently own a small Florida bank, and visit the Fed (Federal Reserve Bank) regularly to discuss monetary policy and monetary operations. I know how the payment system works, as does the Fed’s operations staff.
What we all know is that when Federal taxes are paid, all the Fed does is change the numbers down in our bank accounts. For example, if you have $5,000 in your bank account, and you pay a Federal tax of $1,000, all the Fed does is change the 5 on your bank statement to a 4, so you then have only $4,000 in your account. With online banking you can watch exactly that happen on your computer screen. The Fed doesn’t ‘get’ anything. It just changes the numbers in your account. And when the Federal government spends, it just changes numbers up in our bank accounts. It doesn’t ‘use up’ anything. In fact, the Federal government (unlike State and local governments and the rest of us who do need money in our accounts to be able to spend) never has nor doesn’t have dollars. Think if it as the score keeper for the dollar. When a touchdown is scored and 6 points go up on the scoreboard, does anyone ask where he stadium got those 6 points? Can the stadium run out of points to post on the score board? Of course not!
So why then does the Federal government tax, when it doesn’t get actual revenue (it just changes numbers down in our accounts) and it does not use up anything when it spends (it just changes numbers up in our accounts)? The fact is, taxes function to regulate the economy by controlling our take home pay. If taxes are too low, the result is excessive spending and the strong upward pressure on prices we call inflation. If we are over taxed, as we are today, and the Federal government is taking too much out of our paychecks, the result is a drop off in sales by businesses, and rising unemployment. Federal taxes are like the thermostat. If the economy is too hot (something I have never seen in my 37 years in the financial markets), they can be raised to cool it down. And when the economy goes ice cold, like it is now, my full payroll tax holiday is in order. The Federal government’s job is to keep the economy just right by keeping taxes low enough so people working for a living can afford to buy the goods and services they are capable of producing.
That’s what fiscal responsibility is all about. But until our politicians understand the difference between State finances and Federal finances, the will continue to fail to make sure our take home pay is high enough to sustain the high levels of output and employment that are the hallmarks of American prosperity.
Let me conclude with a word about China. It was stated in the Democratic debates and not disputed that the US was borrowing $4 billion from China to pay for the war in Afghanistan. However, close examination of monetary operations shows this is not at all as it seems. China has what amounts to a checking account at the Federal Reserve Bank. China gets its dollars by selling goods and services to the US, and those dollars are paid into that checking account at the Fed. And US Treasury securities are nothing more than fancy names for savings accounts at the Fed. So when China buys US Treasury securities, all the Fed does is shift China’s dollars from its checking account at the Fed to a savings account at the Fed. And when those Treasury securities become due and payable, all the Fed does is shift the dollars in the savings accounts (plus interest) back to China’s checking account at the Fed. That’s it. Debt paid. And it happens exactly this way every week as billions of Treasury securities are purchased and mature. And this process has no connection to Federal government spending for the war or anything else. Spending is always nothing more than the Fed changing numbers up in people’s bank accounts, no matter what China might be doing with their Fed accounts. That’s why the ‘national debt,’ which is nothing more than dollars in savings accounts at the Fed, has never created a financial problem, and never will, either for us or for our children. Yet the administration, the media, and the two Democratic candidates for US Senate from Connecticut have the story completely wrong as well, which results in proposals which are bad for Connecticut and bad for America.
America is grossly overtaxed and needs a full payroll tax holiday NOW to stop the bleeding and restore the American dream. The only thing standing in the way of economic prosperity is a lack of understanding of our monetary system.