Eradication of cash only benefits governments and central banks
You’ve probably read that there is a “war on cash” being waged on various fronts around the world.
What exactly does a “war on cash” mean?
It means governments are limiting the use of cash and a variety of official-mouthpiece economists are calling for the outright abolition of cash. Authorities are both restricting the amount of cash that can be withdrawn from banks, and limiting what can be purchased with cash.
These limits are broadly called “capital controls.”
Before we get to that, let’s distinguish between physical cash — currency and coins in your possession — and digital cash in the bank. The difference is self-evident: cash in hand cannot be confiscated by a “bail-in” (i.e., officially sanctioned theft) in which the government or bank expropriates a percentage of cash deposited in the bank. Cash in hand cannot be chipped away by negative interest rates or fees.
Cash in the bank cannot be withdrawn in a financial emergency that shutters the banks (i.e., a bank holiday).
When pundits suggest cash is “obsolete,” they mean physical paper money and coins, not cash in a bank. Cash in the bank is perfectly fine with the government and its well-paid yes-men (paging Mr. Rogoff and Mr. Buiter) because this cash can be expropriated by either “bail-ins” or by negative interest rates.
Inflation and Negative Interest Rates
Mr. Buiter, for example, recently opined that the spot of bother in 2008–09 (the Global Financial Meltdown) could have been avoided if banks had only charged a 6 percent negative interest rate on cash: in effect, taking 6 percent of the depositor’s cash to force everyone to spend what cash they might have.
Both cash in hand and cash in the bank are subject to one favored method of expropriation, inflation. Inflation — the single most cherished goal of every central bank — steals purchasing power from physical cash and digital cash alike. Inflation punishes holders of cash and benefits those with debt, as debt becomes cheaper to service.
The beneficial effect of inflation on debt has been in play for decades, so it can’t be the cause of governments’ recent interest in eliminating physical cash.
So now we return to the question: Why are governments suddenly declaring war on physical cash, the oldest officially issued form of money?
Why They Hate Cash in Hand
The first reason: physical cash has the potential to evade both taxes as well as officially sanctioned theft via bail-ins and negative interest rates. In short, physical cash is extremely difficult for governments to steal.
Some of you may find the word theft harsh or even offensive. But we must differentiate between taxes — which are levied to pay for the state’s programs that in principle benefit all citizens — and bail-ins, i.e., the taking of depositors’ cash to bail out banks that became insolvent through the actions of the banks’ management, not the actions of depositors.
Bail-ins are theft, pure and simple. Since the government enforces the taking, it is officially sanctioned theft, but theft nonetheless.
Negative interest rates are another form of officially sanctioned theft. In a world without the financial repression of zero-interest rates (ZIRP — central banks’ most beloved policy), lenders would charge borrowers enough interest to pay depositors for the use of their cash and earn the lender a profit.
If borrowers are paying interest, negative interest rates are theft, pure and simple.
Why are governments suddenly so keen to ban physical cash? The answer appears to be that the banks and government authorities are anticipating bail-ins, steeply negative interest rates and hefty fees on cash, and they want to close any opening regular depositors might have to escape these forms of officially sanctioned theft. The escape mechanism from bail-ins and fees on cash deposits is physical cash, and hence the sudden flurry of calls to eliminate cash as a relic of a bygone age — that is, an age when commoners had some way to safeguard their money from bail-ins and bankers’ control.
Forcing Those With Cash To Spend or Gamble Their Cash
Negative interest rates (and fees on cash, which are equivalently punitive to savers) raise another question: why are governments suddenly obsessed with forcing owners of cash to either spend it or gamble it in the financial-market casinos?
The conventional answer voiced by Mr. Buiter is that recession and credit contraction result from households and enterprises hoarding cash instead of spending it. The solution to recession is thus to force all those stingy cash hoarders to spend their money.
There are three enormous flaws in this thinking.
One is that households and businesses have cash to hoard. The reality is the bottom 90 percent of households have less income now than they did fifteen years ago, which means their spending has declined not from hoarding but from declining income.
The bottom 90 percent has less income and faces higher living expenses, so only the top slice of households has any substantial cash. This top slice may see few safe opportunities to invest their savings, so they choose to keep their savings in cash rather than gamble it in a rigged casino (i.e., the stock market).
The second flaw is that hoarding cash is the only rational, prudent response in an era of financial repression and economic insecurity. What central banks are demanding — that we spend every penny of our earnings rather than save some for investments we control or emergencies — is counter to our best interests.
A War on Cash Is a War on Capital
This leads to the third flaw: capital — which begins its life as savings — is the foundation of capitalism. If you attack savings as a scourge, you are attacking capitalism and upward mobility, for only those who save capital can invest it to build wealth. By attacking cash, the central banks and governments are attacking capital and upward mobility.
Those who already own the majority of productive assets are able to borrow essentially unlimited sums at near-zero interest rates, which they can use to buy more productive assets. Everyone else — the bottom 99.5 percent — is reduced to consumer-serfdom: you are not supposed to accumulate productive capital, you are supposed to spend every penny you earn on interest payments, goods, and services.
This inversion of capitalism dooms an economy to all the ills we are experiencing in abundance: rising income inequality, reduced opportunities for entrepreneurship, rising debt burdens, and a short-term perspective that voids the longer-term planning required to build sustainable productivity and wealth.
Physical Cash: Only $1.36 Trillion
According to the Federal Reserve, total outstanding physical cash amounts to $1.36 trillion.
Given that a substantial amount of this cash is held overseas, physical cash is a tiny part of the domestic economy and the nation’s total assets. For context: the US economy is $17.5 trillion, total financial assets of households and nonprofit organizations total $68 trillion, base money is around $4 trillion, and total money (currency in circulation and demand deposits) is over $10 trillion (source).
Given the relatively modest quantity of physical cash, claims that eliminating it will boost the economy ring hollow.
Following the principle of cui bono — to whose benefit? — let’s ask: What are the benefits of eliminating physical cash to banks and the government?
Benefits To Banks and the Government of Eliminating Physical Cash
The benefits to banks and governments by eliminating cash are self-evident:
1. Every financial transaction can be taxed.
2. Every financial transaction can be charged a fee.
3. Bank runs and Robberies are eliminated.
In fractional reserve systems such as ours, banks are only required to hold a fraction of their assets in cash. Thus a bank might only have 1 percent of its assets in cash. If customers fear the bank might be insolvent, they crowd the bank and demand their deposits in physical cash. The bank quickly runs out of physical cash and closes its doors, further fueling a panic.
The federal government began insuring deposits after the Great Depression triggered the collapse of hundreds of banks, and that guarantee limited bank runs, as depositors no longer needed to fear a bank closing would mean their money on deposit was lost.
But since people could conceivably sense a disturbance in the Financial Force and decide to turn digital cash into physical cash as a precaution, eliminating physical cash also eliminates the possibility of bank runs, as there will be no form of cash that isn’t controlled by banks.
So, when the dust has settled who ultimately benefits by this war on cash, government and the central banks, pure and simple.
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BAN On Use of CASH!
Government Attempts to Ban Cash? (what’s most disturbing is why they’re doing it)
Recently, Louisiana became the latest state to attempt a massive ban on cash that would have resulted in making it illegal to use U.S. cash dollars in any secondhand transactions.
The law, called R.S. 37:1866, made it illegal to, say, go to a garage sale and buy a lawn mower with cash dollars. That’s right: It would have prohibited American citizens from using legal U.S. tender.
After an outcry by critics who called the law unconstitutional, Louisiana “amended” the bill to remove the widespread ban.
RELATED: The strange reason America’s ATMs are about to shut down…
However, rather than end the ban completely, the state government chose instead to narrow the focus, making it illegal to exchange cash dollars for gold or any precious metals. This, of course, brings to mind the 1930s when FDR banned the private ownership of gold by U.S. citizens.
And it comes at the tail end of a multiyear push to restrict cash use by American citizens.
Already the states of Florida, Texas, and New York have removed tollbooths from highways. Plenty more have installed cashless parking meters and banned cash at dumps and other local facilities.
In fact, when one man tried to pay his mortgage in cash at a Bank of America, he was arrested. A reporter from the Daily Kos (a liberal blog) was accused of “casing the bank” when he showed up to report on the story.
And these are just the latest examples of an attempt to restrict cash from moving around in the U.S. economy.
SEE ALSO: Scandal Behind Obama’s Digital Dollar?
Critics worry that this is “Big Brother’s” latest effort to monitor its citizens more closely.
However, new revelations – just leaked online – show a radically different cause for this government push… And one much more disturbing.
It would appear that there’s about to be a massive shortage of cash in America.
In fact, according to research just made public, the U.S. may already have less cash on hand than the GDP of Finland (a country with about two-thirds of the population of New York City).
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And it would appear that is all about to end with a scenario that the highest levels of our government and banking system have warned would devastate the country.
Janet Yellen, the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, has gone on record to call it America’s biggest economic risk.
A former official from the Treasury Department has described a scenario like this, saying, “Literally, your ATM wouldn’t work. You type in your code, no money comes out. You get your paycheck, you can’t cash it.”
According to a video – posted online – we’re about to experience that firsthand. And very soon.
Jesse Ventura Talks about the Fed.
Last week, the national debt surpassed $18 trillion.
That’s $124,000 for each American household or $56,378 per individual. It took the country 205 years to accumulate its first trillion dollars of debt in 1981, but has only taken us 403 days to accumulate our most recent trillion. It’s hard to even think about numbers that big; if you were to count to a million it would take one week; if you wanted to count to a trillion it would take 31 thousand years.
Like with our personal debt, there may actually be some advantages to taking on debt. The flatscreen TV and Christmas presents we purchase with debt likely increase our standard of living and wellbeing. But this short term gain is often paid for with long term pain. And the currency of this pain is interest.
Interest is the price of debt. So, when we buy a TV on a payment plan, we are actually buying two things: the TV and the debt that goes with it. While a few extra dollars spent on interest each month may be worth it to see our favorite football players in HD, too much of our income spent interest can seriously reduce our quality of life because we must forgo other purchases to pay for it.
This is the point that the country has reached with its interest on the national debt.
Last year, the U.S. spent $430 billion on interest payments alone. This means that every year, tax payers are spending $3,500 just on interest payments. This is money that isn’t going to pay for roads, bridges, education, medical research or defense.
It gets scarier. National debt interest rates are historically low at the moment – around 2.5 percent. When they rise, interest payments will rise exponentially thanks to the wonders of compounding rates. Say interest rates rise to 5 percent – still low by historical standards. That means we will owe nearly $1 trillion a year in interest alone. That’s about two-thirds of what the federal government brings in each year in total income tax revenue!
Fewer services and higher taxes – Uncle Sam’s spendthrift ways could end up hurting us all.Type your paragraph here.
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The paper was authored by Laurence Kotlikoff, an economics professor at Boston University, and Adam Michel with the Mercatus Center. Rather than examine how much debt the government has now, they included how much debt the government will take on in the future.
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