Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The "Full Faith and Credit of the United States"? Right!

I remember watching advertisements 30 years ago for U.S. securities in which the narrator asks the prospective buyer, "What stands behind your investment? Why the full faith and credit of these United States!" with a picture of the U.S. Capitol standing behind him.

Even then, I thought that to be a bit excessive, given that he was not speaking of the USA as a collection of people, but rather the federal government, which he was equating to all of us, as though the sum total of our entire lives is the majesty of the American state. In other words, he was saying, "The U.S. Government will extract the money from others in one way or another to pay back these 'investments'."

Unfortunately, Paul Krugman uses the same language, and as an economist, he should know better. Furthermore, he is being knowingly deceptive, for a term like "full faith and credit" means that the borrower will pay back according to the terms of the agreement.

However, that is not what the U.S. Government does or has been doing for decades. When it pays back its loans, it does so with purposely-debased money and also by robbing Peter to pay Paul, an act in which it purchases bonds to pay repay bonds that were issued to pay back previously-issued bonds -- and so on. (This kind of borrowing, by the way, is illegal in the private sector and in municipal trading, although I am sure that states and cities do it more often than they ever will admit.)

Krugman writes: "John Boehner has just declared that he’s going to hold the full faith and credit of the United States hostage every time we hit the debt limit."You see, there can be no discussion at all of where all of this is heading. Instead, we are supposed to simply trust Washington to spend wisely, as though that already were happening.

This is not an endorsement of Boehner, by any means. Boehner cannot even stand debate within his own party, let alone a larger political arena. Instead, we get posturing by President Obama and Boehner as though they really were serious about getting things under control, with Krugman's answer is for the debt ceiling to be removed so that the U.S. Government can continue the delusion that it is creating wealth when, in fact, the government is transferring and destroying it.Yes, Congress and the president have no self-control, so the answer is to pretend that they do. Amazing.

That Krugman actually buys into the notion that the U.S. Government can borrow and print its way into the future without serious consequences is amazing, given his stature within the economics profession. Debasing the currency, crony capitalism (which he endorses via "green energy" subsidies), and preventing the creation of wealth through monopolistic regulation is not an economic plan; it is a plan for destruction.

So, there is no "full faith and credit of these United States" by any means. Krugman may want us to believe that paying back bonds with depreciating currency has only good effects, but rhetoric and financial trickery is no replacement for the Law of Opportunity Cost.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Have you considered reading an indenture for a US Treasury bond? Clearly, you have not, and should consider not commenting on topics you clearly do not understand.

Zachriel said...

William L. Anderson: Furthermore, he is being knowingly deceptive, for a term like "full faith and credit" means that the borrower will pay back according to the terms of the agreement.

However, that is not what the U.S. Government does or has been doing for decades. When it pays back its loans, it does so with purposely-debased money ...


The debt is denominated in dollars. That is part of the agreement.

Mike said...

When interest rates are artificially suppressed through the central planners at the Fed, the buyer of the bond is not able to use the interest rate to compensate for devaluation of the currency the bond is denominated in. Thus it is a form of default and a dishonor of the intent of terms of the indenture.

If I borrow a dozen apples from you today and promise to pay you back next week with a dozen apples and do so with rotten worm infested ones, accordingly to government standards I have honored my agreement.