Kategorija: Pinigai

The Trivialization of Money


About 60 years ago, Sen. Everett Dirksen (R-Ill.) uttered the famous quip, “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon, you’re talking about real money.”

Has politics in Washington changed much in the six decades since? Yes and no. No, the same cavalier attitude about spending other people’s money rages on unchecked. Yes, the scale has changed drastically.

Today, the refrain is “a trillion here, a trillion there.”

“Trillion” is a simple word. It rolls effortlessly off the tongue. But the word’s simplicity belies the immensity that it signifies. If you stacked $100 bills flat on top of each other, $1 million would be about 40 inches tall, a billion would be more than twice the height of the Empire State Building, and a trillion would rise more than 631 miles. If those were $1 bills instead of hundreds, the pile (again, stacked flat on top of each other) would, if laid on its side, circle the Earth at the equator more than 2.5 times.

In terms of time, if you had been spending $1 million a day, every day since the birth of Christ, you still wouldn’t have spent even three-quarters of $1 trillion.

The first time the entire GDP of the country exceeded $1 trillion, John Kennedy was president. The first time the national debt reached that sum, Ronald Reagan was president. Today, the national debt has soared to more than $26 trillion. This summer, Uncle Sam set a record by spending more than $1 trillion in a single month.

Today, under the pressure of democratic politics in which government is viewed as a Santa Claus with infinitely deep pockets, the two parties (the party of Big Government—the Republicans—and the party of Bigger Government—the democratic socialists—never propose freezing, much less (gasp!) shrinking, federal spending. The only debate is about how many additional trillions of dollars of debt to add.

Among its other deleterious effects, the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the pace at which our government is adding to the national debt. Having already authorized at least $2.9 trillion in emergency spending—close to half of which the government hasn’t even disbursed yet, according to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.)—the current political quarrel is between Republicans prepared to spend $1 trillion more and Democrats who want to spend $3 trillion more.

The sad thing is that even if the pandemic were to disappear tomorrow, the crazed push for more debt would continue. Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden recently unveiled two multitrillion-dollar spending plans. First, Biden wants to spend $2 trillion in response to climate change (a figure that the democratic socialists in Congress will surely claim is far too small). That pales next to the $7 trillion that Biden says he will use to close the wealth gap between rich and poor, black and white.

The continued spending of trillions of dollars that don’t even exist yet is insane. What we are witnessing is the utter trivialization of money. Money used to be respected. It was a solid symbol that something valuable had been brought into existence by human ingenuity or effort. A unit of money represented economic production, the creation of new wealth. Today, our currency has taken on an unserious “Monopoly money” quality. Politicians treat it like a plaything. It doesn’t bother them that they are saddling our children with tens of trillions of dollars of debt.

Why worry? It’s only money. Or is it?

The Three ‘F’s’

There are three “F’s” that have enabled the trivialization of money: fiat currency, the Federal Reserve System, and financialization.

The “original [monetary] sin” is the adoption of a fiat currency—“fiat” denoting a money substitute that has no nonmonetary value in the marketplace. Our money used to consist of real economic goods—specifically, gold and silver coins or paper certificates redeemable in gold or silver. The United States went off the gold standard in two stages—in 1933, when FDR ended currency redemption for Americans and in 1971, when Richard Nixon did the same internationally.

When Americans bought and sold goods and services with precious metals (or a paper note redeemable in precious metal) there was an implicit sense, a confidence, and security that they were trading economic value for economic value.

A silver coin had genuine value, whether it was used as money or traded as a commodity. It would have value in the marketplace even in the absence of legal tender laws forcing people to accept it as “money”—unlike the backed-by-nothing-substantial Federal Reserve Notes we are compelled to accept today.

Fiat currencies sooner or later trade at a price that reflects economic reality—that trillions of rectangular pieces of “paper” (actually, a cotton-linen compound), or digital representations thereof, are essentially worthless. (If you doubt this, ask yourself if you would strive to accumulate those pieces of fabric if the government didn’t mandate that they be accepted as “money.”)

The Federal Reserve System, ostensibly created to support monetary stability and to lessen the ups and downs of the business cycle, has evolved into a bizarro monster. Having already seen about 97 percent of the dollar’s purchasing power melt away in its 106 years of operation, today’s Fed strives for a 2 percent inflation rate—that is, it seeks a deliberate devaluation of 2 percent of the buck’s purchasing power year after year. More ominously, the Fed’s main function now is to bail out Uncle Sam whenever our overleveraged financial system threatens to collapse and end the government’s ability to redirect trillions of dollars per year.

To accomplish this goal, the Fed has engineered near-zero interest rates for at least a decade. What has enabled the federal government to continue its profligate overspending is the Fed-engineered freedom from having to pay historically normal rates of interest, thereby shaving hundreds of billions from the federal budget.

The side effects of the Fed having driven interest rates to near-zero have been pernicious to our economy. The most important prices in a market economy are interest rates—sometimes called “the price of money,” but, more accurately, the price of capital. Interest rates apportion and coordinate consumption and production between the present and the future. With near-zero interest rates, the time value of money has been more or less obliterated, obscuring vital price signals that entrepreneurs need to help guide their decisions.

Another ill effect of near-zero interest rates is that they essentially create billions and trillions of dollars of “fiat capital,” which is no more real capital than fiat currency is real money. The artificially cheap fiat capital resulting from the Fed’s policies bails out zombie corporations, enabling moribund businesses to stagger on rather than fold. That retards the normal, healthy economic process of valuable economic inputs migrating from relatively uneconomical uses to entrepreneurs starting new businesses.

In short, the Fed has short-circuited the essential self-adjusting feature of the market economy—the “creative destruction” by which stagnant firms die out and vibrant new businesses take their place in the normal cycle of business. This has caused persistent slow growth as we inexorably head toward what I’ve been calling “the Japanization of the American economy.”

The third “f,” financialization, is the natural outcome of the Fed’s exotic monetary manipulations. Taking advantage of trillions of currency units created out of thin air and artificially suppressed interest rates, clever financiers play exotic financial games. In normal economic times, monetary savings supplied the capital that financed the production of new real wealth. Capital was used for the humane purpose of improving standards of living.

Today, though, capital has become a somewhat evanescent phenomenon, a mere abstraction. Financiers devise clever ways to arrange and package this semi-ephemeral thing called “dollars” to make other dollars without producing any real wealth at all. And, as we found out in the 2008 financial crisis, the federal government raced to rescue Wall Street for the completely self-interested reason that without an immense functioning financial infrastructure, Washington’s multi-trillion-dollar spending and redistributing machine would quickly grind to a halt.

Who’s to Blame?

Question: Who deserves the blame for the fiscal insanity of pseudo-money and pseudo-capital? Well, who deprived the American people of real money? The federal government. Who created the deus ex machina known as the Federal Reserve System? Again, the federal government. But it’s just too easy, convenient, and expedient to blame politicians.

The fact is that “we the people” are to blame. A majority of Americans over the past 140 years or so have fallen hook, line, and sinker for the progressive catnip of government being cast in the role of Mommy and Daddy and Santa Claus. A majority of Americans keep voting for the government to spend more, more, more. For the politicians, the incentives are plain: Spend more on programs that voters like, or those voters will send you packing.

The traditional abhorrence of government debt was burned into our political DNA by such fiscally honorable presidents as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. They thought it immoral to spend money today and expect future generations to pay for it. (Are today’s protesters sure they want to cancel out Washington and Lincoln completely?) Today, though, that moral restraint is outdated and defunct. Whether it’s private debt or public, tens of millions of Americans live according to a “consume today, pay for it later (maybe)” ethos.

With that being the prevailing mentality, the creation of new Federal Reserve Notes by the trillion will continue until that fateful day when the increasingly brittle debt structure starts to collapse.

And here’s some bad news to close with: In early 2019, I warned about Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) as a tool for weakening the private sector and imposing stealth socialism. Surprise! We’re getting a heavy dose of MMT right now. The federal government and Federal Reserve are working hand in hand to conjure up trillions of new fundamentally insubstantial and essentially counterfeit “dollars” for Uncle Sam to spend. All those trillions are adding absolutely nothing to our country’s stock of wealth, but they are making more Americans feel increasingly dependent on Washington.

As is often the case with monetary shenanigans, in the short term, creating additional trillions of fiat dollars doesn’t seem to be doing any harm. And in the long run? The British economist John Maynard Keynes parried that question by glibly replying, “In the long run, we’re all dead.” Well, yes, but a more honest answer is that monetary mischief can cause a lot of pain to a lot of people before they die.

The trivialization of money has far-reaching consequences that are anything but trivial.

Mark Hendrickson, an economist, recently retired from the faculty of Grove City College, where he remains a fellow for economic and social policy at the Institute for Faith and Freedom.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Kategorija: Pinigai

How Barack Obama Destroyed Libya

Libya’s long-running civil war has taken a new turn in recent weeks after the Turkish-backed Government of National Accord launched an offensive against would-be strongman Khalifa Haftar, pushing him and his Libyan National Army out of Tripoli and a number of near-by strongholds. But anyone who thinks that peace is at hand after nine years of anarchy and collapse should think again. Odds are all but certain that all it will do is introduce new chaos into a country that has already seen more than its fair share.

But before we speculate about the future, let’s pause for a moment to consider the past and how the craziness began. When historians conduct their post-mortem analyses, chance are good that they’ll zero in on one date in particular – Apr. 13, 2011. That’s the day Barack Obama welcomed Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, emir of Qatar, to the White House. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had just spent weeks lining up support for the effort to topple Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi in the wake of the Arab Spring. But in mid-March, she decided that the coalition was too western, too Euro-centric, for delicate post-colonial sensibilities, and so she set out to woo energy-rich Qatar as well. When Al-Thani at last agreed to come on board, his reward was an audience with His Coolness himself, the U.S. president.

But Obama should have paused before leaping into the unknown. Although Qatar enjoys a benign reputation thanks to its extensive economic and cultural ties with the west, its political profile has long been strangely bifurcated – liberal in some respects, increasingly Islamist in others. By the late 1990s, it was making a name for itself as a center for the ultra-austere branch of Islam known as Salafism. By 2003, reports were growing that local charities were funneling money to Al-Qaeda. But Washington paid little attention. How could such reports be true if Qatar was helping to depose the Gaddafi, long a thorn in the side of American imperialism? If he was working in behalf of U.S. hegemony, which is to say the ultimate good, didn’t that mean that he had to be good as well?

Such is the cartoonish mindset that prevails in Washington. After privately conferring with Al-Thani, Obama then paraded him before the press. “I expressed to him my appreciation of the leadership that the emir has shown when it comes to democracy in the Middle East,” he told reporters, “and, in particular, the work that they have done in trying to promote a peaceful transition in Libya.… He’s motivated by a belief that the Libyan people should have the rights and freedoms of all people. And as a consequence, Qatar is not only supportive diplomatically but is also supportive militarily.”

At which point, some emperor-has-no-clothes type might have popped up to ask: how can an absolute autocrat like Al-Thani care about rights and freedoms in Libya when it denies such privileges to his own people at home? A few hours later, Obama offered a few comments at a Democratic fundraiser in Chicago that were picked up by na open mike.

“Pretty influential guy,” he said of Al-Thani. “He is a big booster, big promoter of democracy all throughout the Middle East. Reform, reform, reform – you’re seeing it on Al Jazeera.”

Then he added: “Now, he himself is not reforming significantly. There’s no big move towards democracy in Qatar. But you know part of the reason is that the per-capita income of Qatar is $145,000 a year. That will dampen a lot of conflict.”

Immense energy wealth – adjusted for inflation, oil prices at the time were pushing $130 a barrel – evidently means that Qatar gets a free pass when it comes to democratic niceties that other countries are expected to observe.

But Obama was wrong about what all that money would do. Rather than tamping down conflict, it fanned it. Using his position in the U.S.-led alliance serving for political and diplomatic cover, Al-Thani seized the opportunity to distribute an estimated $400 million to Libyan Salafist rebels in the form of machineguns, automatic rifles, and ammo. Within months, insurgents were hoisting the maroon-and-white Qatari flag over Gaddafi’s once-impregnable presidential complex in Tripoli.

The result was bedlam. Even though Libya would eventually elect a national parliament, gunmen flush with Persian Gulf cash forced it to adopt a host of Islamist “reforms” – burkhas, gender segregation, compulsory hijabs at universities, the works. Islamists went on a rampage, killing U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens in September 2012, kidnapping Prime Minister Ali Zeidan in October 2013, kidnapping a group of Egyptian diplomats the following January, and then storming the national parliament two months later, shooting and injuring two lawmakers. The Obama administration thought of punishing Qatar by holding off military assistance and the like. But after objections from both the Pentagon and the State Department, and the administration held its tongue. A Libyan politician named Mohammed Ali Abdallah would later say of the Americans:

“They created the monsters we are dealing with today, which is these militias that are so empowered they will never subordinate themselves to any government.”

Quite right – and those monsters have only grown bigger and more vicious as the years have passed. So why did the U.S. allow a close ally to overturn the apple cart? One reason is incompetence, but another is America’s longstanding alliance with Sunni extremism. Remember – rather than merely cooperating with such elements, America helped call them into existence by partnering with the Saudis to create an anti-Soviet holy war in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Even though the effort left Afghanistan in ruins, the pattern has repeated itself again and again in Bosnia, Syria, Yemen, and Libya as well. Whenever Americans intervene in the Muslim world, Sunni jihadis backed by Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and other Persian Gulf oil monarchies invariably follow. Despite occasional blowback in the form of 9/11 and other such incidents, the U.S.-jihadi alliance has continued without major interruption.

The result in the case of Libya is a black hole where a more or less functional state used to be. Since geopolitics abhor a vacuum, outside powers can’t resist throwing themselves into the fray. But not only are Islamists on the GNA side – they are increasingly prominent in the Haftar camp as well. Since such elements are ultimately loyal only to their paymasters in the gulf, deepening chaos can be the only result.

Keep that in mind as the anarchy in Libya intensifies and spreads, leading in the worst-case scenario to a military blow-up between Turkey and Russia, which is among Haftar’s prime supporters. While no one knows how far the process will go, we have a good idea of how the breakdown began – with Barack Obama’s belief that money would buy peace. This is how corrupt oligarchies think. But it made no sense then, and it makes even less now that energy prices are crashing through the floor and the region is sliding deeper and deeper into ruin.

Via GreatGameIndia.com,

Huge foreign loans are given to sovereign nations by the World Bank, IMF and the likes. But the conditions that come attached to these loans are seldom told by governments to their citizens.

A recent case in Belarus has exposed the conditions laid by these agencies for loans being provided for COVID-19. The President of Belarus has exposed that the World Bank coronavirus aid comes with conditions for imposing extreme lockdown measures, to model their coronavirus response on that of Italy and even changes in the economic policies which he refused as being “unacceptable”.

Additional conditions which do not apply to the financial part are unacceptable for Belarus, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko said when speaking about external lending during a meeting to discuss support measures for the real economic sector on the part of the banking system, reported Belarusian Telegraph Agency, BelTA.

Aleksandr Lukashenko asked the participants of the meeting how things were with the provision of foreign credit assistance to Belarus.

“What are our partners’ requirements? It was announced that they can provide Belarus with $940 million in so-called rapid financing. How are things here?” the head of state inquired.

At the same time, he stressed that additional conditions which do not apply to the financial part are unacceptable for the country.

“We hear the demands, for example, to model our coronavirus response on that of Italy. I do not want to see the Italian situation to repeat in Belarus. We have our own country and our own situation,” the president said.

According to the president, the World Bank has showed interest in Belarus’ coronavirus response practices.

It is ready to fund us ten times more than it offered initially as a token of commendation for our efficient fight against this virus. The World Bank has even asked the Healthcare Ministry to share the experience. Meanwhile, the IMF continues to demand from us quarantine measures, isolation, a curfew. This is nonsense. We will not dance to anyone’s tune,” said the president.

Belarus is one of the only European countries that has not implemented strict coronavirus containment measures. The no-restriction situation is such that even the non-essential services remain open. The football league of Belarus is still being played. The only restriction kind-of step that Belarus took till now is that the school holidays have been extended.

Lukashenko is of the opinion that a complete lockdown was completely unnecessary. Similar, views have been expressed by many renowned scientists as well. Recently, an Indian doctor has debunked the official narrative on Coronavirus. He emphasizes that ‘stress affects health’ and said that fear isn’t necessary because eventually people will develop natural immunity to this virus. He is one of the few people to advocate the opinion that life must continue uninterrupted.

The President of Belarus is not the first one to have exposed the pressure exerted by global agencies amidst the coronavirus crisis to further their agenda.

Earlier, in a shocking development the President of Madagascar made a sensational claim that the WHO offered him $20m bribe to poison COVID-19 cure called COVID-19 Organics made from Artemisia.

The Tanzanian President kicked out WHO from the country after Goat and Papaya samples came COVID-19 positive. Days after the Tanzanian move, Burundi also kicked out WHO Coronavirus Team from the country for interference in internal matters.

It was also revealed in an intercepted human intelligence report that Bill Gates offered $10 million bribe for a forced Coronavirus vaccination program in Nigeria. After which, an Italian politician demanded the arrest of Bill Gates in the Italian parliament. She also exposed Bill Gates’ agenda in India and Africa, along with the plans to chip the human race through the digital identification program ID2020.

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