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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 11/16/21

Whose Money Is It?

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Let me throw out some very basic propositions. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Starting with a question: In a democratic country -- government of the people, by the people, for the people -- who "owns" the government's money?

Either money is privately owned (people, companies, corporations, investment banks, etc) or it's publicly owned.

If through taxes, bonds, borrowing, printing, digital creation, money is deposited in the U.S. Treasury for later disbursement, whose money is it? Who actually OWNS that money before it's sent on its way to pay the bills?

Yes, Congress has the power and responsibility to decide where the money goes. The President has some discretion about spending money, as long as such disbursements are "legal", that is, authorized by laws which specify the allocation of said monies and they are not in violation of the Constitution.

But Joe Biden doesn't own it. Neither does Nancy Pelosi or Mitch McConnell or Chuck Schumer. It's not their money.

Make no mistake about it, our leaders act as if it's theirs. I mean this in both senses. Sometimes out of some misplaced sense of entitlement and sheer arrogance, these folks do act like the trillions that pass through the U.S. Treasury is their personal slush fund to do as they see fit.

The other is the strictly legal sense. In specific legal terms, government officials, regardless of how highly placed, are only empowered to act as trustees, to direct the disbursement of those funds, with the general understanding that such spending ultimately serves to "promote the general welfare" and to enable the functioning of the government, all of the foregoing ON BEHALF OF THE CITIZENRY.

In neither case, however, is the money actually theirs. As when we deposit money in a bank, the bank may have physical possession of it -- whatever that means in a world of digital transactions and bookkeeping -- but it's still our money.

So who owns the money the government at any given time has in its coffers?

We could ask a similar question about public property and infrastructure. This might offer some guidance. Who owns the interstate highway system? Who owns the roads, ramps, bridges?

Yes, the obvious answer is the government. But as a democracy, as active participants in a system of self-government, aren't WE the government?

I think there's a common but valid and useful understanding which we should insist on here.

Acknowledging that some have asserted via The Act of 1871 there has been a corporate framework, a legal entity -- a legalistic sham -- set up to accommodate the necessity of our federal government machinery having status and standing in the vast economic environs which we call domestically the national economy, which then participates in the vaster economic environment known as the world economy, I still think the best understanding of "ownership" when it comes to the commons is that WE THE PEOPLE collectively own the physical and financial assets of the United States of America. The CITIZENS. Not those charged with representing the needs, wants and priorities of the citizens, not those doing what needs to be done to realize in real terms what we democratically decide needs to be done -- i.e. the Pelosis, McConnells, and Bidens in positions of power. It is WE THE PEOPLE who confer to them the power to act on our behalf, to protect, develop, expand those assets, ON BEHALF OF THE PEOPLE, serving our interests individually and collectively. That assignment of power is not without conditions; assumes transparency and full accountability; is not permanent in the sense that officials of government are not permanent fixtures (bureaucrats tend to be more enduring but certainly elected officials have fixed terms of service); can be withdrawn or withheld, though admittedly this is a cumbersome process; is not unlimited but reflects constitutional as well as statutory limitations, and whatever limits WE THE PEOPLE decide to impose.

It is WE THE PEOPLE who have original and overriding control -- ownership? -- of what passes through the Treasury and where that money goes. After all, it is OUR tax dollars which are collected and pooled to fund the government, it is in OUR name that bonds are floated and it is us who are directly obligated to repay at some future time the money borrowed to fund the government. It seems reasonable to conclude that until that money is disbursed for whatever reason and is on its way to creditors or the states or government contractors or paid as salaried to federal employees or sent to anyone who has a legitimate claim for payment, the money which is in the vaults and accounts of OUR government is OURS.

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John Rachel has a B.A. in Philosophy, and has written eight novels and three political non-fiction books. His political articles have appeared at OpEdNews, Russia Insider, The Greanville Post, and other alternative media outlets. Since (more...)

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