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IMF-STYLE AUSTERITY COMES TO AMERICA

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What "Fiscal Responsibility" Really Means

All of this puts "fiscal responsibility" in a different light. Rather than saving the future for our grandchildren, as the President himself seems to think it means, it appears to be a code word for delivering public monies into private hands and raising taxes on the already-squeezed middle class. In the parlance of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), these are called "austerity measures," and they are the sorts of things that people are taking to the streets in Greece, Iceland and Latvia to protest. Americans are not taking to the streets only because nobody has told us that is what is being planned.

We have been deluded into thinking that "fiscal responsibility" (read "austerity") is something for our benefit, something we actually need in order to save the country from bankruptcy. In the massive campaign to educate us to the perils of the federal debt, we have been repeatedly warned that the debt is disastrously large; that when foreign lenders decide to pull the plug on it, the U.S. will have to declare bankruptcy; and that all this is the fault of the citizenry for borrowing and spending too much. We are admonished to tighten our belts and save more; and since we can't seem to impose that discipline on ourselves, the government will have to do it for us with a "mandatory savings" plan. The American people, who are already suffering massive unemployment and cutbacks in government services, will have to sacrifice more and pay the piper more, just as in those debt-strapped countries forced into austerity measures by the IMF.

Fortunately for us, however, there is a major difference between our debt and the debts of Greece, Latvia and Iceland. Our debt is owed in our own currency U.S. dollars. Our government has the power to fix its solvency problems itself, by simply issuing the money it needs to pay off or refinance its debt. That time-tested solution goes back to the colonial scrip of the American colonists and the "Greenbacks" issued by Abraham Lincoln to avoid paying 24-36% interest rates.

Economic Fearmongering

What invariably kills any discussion of this sensible solution is another myth long perpetrated by the financial elite -- that allowing the government to increase the money supply would lead to hyperinflation. Rather than exercising its sovereign right to create the liquidity the nation needs, the government is told that it must borrow from private lenders. And where does their money come from? Ultimately from banks, which create it on their books just as the government would have done. The difference is that when bankers create it, it comes with a hefty fee attached in the form of interest.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve has been trying to increase the money supply; and rather than producing hyperinflation, we continue to suffer from deflation. Frantically pushing money at the banks has not gotten money into the real economy. Rather than lending it to businesses and individuals, the larger banks have been speculating with it or buying up smaller banks, land, farms, and productive capacity, while the credit freeze continues on Main Street. Only the government can reverse this vicious syndrome, by spending money directly on projects that will create jobs, provide services, and stimulate productivity. Increasing the money supply is not inflationary if the money is used to increase goods and services. Inflation results when "demand" (money) exceeds "supply" (goods and services). When supply and demand increase together, prices remain stable.

The notion that the federal debt is too large to be repaid and that we are imposing that monster burden on our grandchildren is another red herring. The federal debt has not been paid off since the days of Andrew Jackson, and it does not need to be paid off. It is just rolled over from year to year, providing the "full faith and credit" that alone backs the money supply of the nation. The only real danger posed by a growing federal debt is an exponentially growing interest burden; but so far, that danger has not materialized either. Interest on the federal debt has actually gone down since 2006 -- from $406 billion to $383 billion -- because interest rates have been lowered by the Fed to very low levels.

They can't be lowered much further, however, so the interest burden will increase if the federal debt continues to grow. But there is a solution to that too. The government can just mandate that the Federal Reserve buy the government's debt, and that the Fed not sell the bonds to private lenders. The Federal Reserve states on its website that it rebates its profits to the government after deducting its costs, making the money nearly interest-free.

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Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including the best-selling WEB OF DEBT. In THE PUBLIC BANK SOLUTION, her latest book, she explores successful public banking models historically and (more...)
 

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