Eternal Spendathon

The Senate just passed a 500-page tax reform bill. Assuming it lives up to its promise, it will cut taxes on corporations and individuals. Predictably, the Left hates it and the Right loves it. I am writing to argue why the Right should hate it (no, not for the reason the Left does, a desire to get the rich).

 

The Federal debtberg has grown beyond all measure since Nixon’s gold default. So has the money supply and the amount of private debt. No-one expects this debt to be paid back ever. The idea that it is payable (without a massive devaluation of the currency) is a kind of illusion we have collectively decided to live with. Government spending perforce leads to capital consumption – while it disturbs the  production structure intra- rather than inter-temporally, it still results in an allocation of scarce resources that is not in line with actual consumer wants. Government bureaus cannot possibly ascertain the opportunity cost of their spending. They are not expected to make profits, economic calculation is not something they even care about. On the contrary, their incentives are often quite perverse: the more lavishly they spend, the better from their perspective, as that is often the best way to ensure they will receive the largest possible budget allocations every year. [PT] – click to enlarge.

 

The root of our problem is spending. The federal government spends much of our income, and an increasing amount of our wealth to the tune of over $4 trillion a year. That is over $11,000 for every man, woman, and child. But children don’t work and many adults don’t either (or they work for the government or a contractor).

Assuming 100 million work in the productive sector, the government spends $40,000 in cash for each one, not counting the promises it racks up. This is the federal government only, and of course the people also bear the burden of spending at state, county, city, and municipal water district levels.

The government spends more than it takes in tax revenues. A lot more. The federal debt today is over $700 billion more than it was a year ago. The reason is simple. The people may love spending, but they hate taxes. So the government makes it up by borrowing.

I have written a lot about this concept, borrowing. They call it borrowing, but without the means or intent to repay it, it’s really a fraud. This is my definition of inflation—counterfeit credit. It is the compromise between the party of spend more, and the party of tax less: the policy of borrow more.

 

Arthur Laffer next to his famous curve. While we disagree that the “optimal tax rate” that both minimizes taxation and maximizes government revenue can actually be quantified and pressed into an equation, Laffer’s idea had merit in principle. To put it bluntly: all the CBO “projections” about supposed revenue shortfalls “over the next decade” due to the tax cuts are complete nonsense with absolutely no basis in reality. No-one can forecast what the economy will do in the next ten years, and it is entirely possible that revenues will ceteris paribus actually rise rather than fall due to the incentives provided by lower tax rates. Moreover, the main complaint of the Left, namely that “tax cuts don’t help the poor” is even greater hooey than these useless forecasts: 1. around 50% of Americans make so little income, they actually don’t pay any taxes, so, duh, a tax cut obviously won’t benefit them directly. 2. But now the poor have a far greater incentive to try to become rich, as they know that once they make more money, they won’t immediately have to feed Leviathan to the same extent as before. 3. Because there will be more new enterprises and existing entrepreneurs will invest more, there will be more jobs and wages are likely to rise, all of which benefits the poor. What really bugs the Left is that in this case fewer people will be dependent on government (who are widely assumed to vote for the Left). Note: this is by no means intended to detract from the need to cut spending. [PT]

Photo credit: AP

 

The Seen and the Unseen

And that brings us to the present topic. Is it good to cut taxes? Economist Frederic Bastiat could have written this essay for me, in only 168 words. The first paragraph of the introduction to his 1850 book That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen reads:

 

“In the department of economy, an act, a habit, an institution, a law, gives birth not only to an effect, but to a series of effects. Of these effects, the first only is immediate; it manifests itself simultaneously with its cause — it is seen. The others unfold in succession — they are not seen: it is well for us, if they are foreseen. Between a good and a bad economist this constitutes the whole difference — the one takes account of the visible effect; the other takes account both of the effects which are seen, and also of those which it is necessary to foresee. Now this difference is enormous, for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favourable, the ultimate consequences are fatal, and the converse. Hence it follows that the bad economist pursues a small present good, which will be followed by a great evil to come, while the true economist pursues a great good to come, — at the risk of a small present evil.”

 

Frédéric Bastiat, a French “proto-Austrian” economist whose valuable lessons apparently have to be retaught incessantly. [PT]

 

If they cut taxes, the seen is the lower tax you must pay. That is good and everyone is happy. But what is the unseen? What is that thing to which Bastiat refers as the “ultimate fatal consequence”?

It is an increase in borrowing. The “great evil to come” is the collapse of the debt, which is the backing for what we call money nowadays. When the debt is defaulted on, our money will be worthless.

A reduction in tax revenues necessarily means an increase in net borrowing. Borrowing, of course, does not generate revenues. It is merely an addition to the debt.

To manage the rising debt — it is rising exponentially — they suppress the rate of interest. This keeps the monthly payment down, but it has many other unseen but foreseeable consequences. Just ask a retiree trying to live on fixed income.

 

Ludwig von Mises had the following to say about the nature of government debt: “The long-term public and semi-public credit is a foreign and disturbing element in the structure of a market society. Its establishment was a futile attempt to go beyond the limits of human action and to create an orbit of security and eternity removed from the transitoriness and instability of earthly affairs. What an arrogant presumption to borrow and to lend money for ever and ever, to make contracts for eternity, to stipulate for all times to come! In this respect it mattered little whether the loans were in a formal manner made irredeemable or not; intentionally and practically they were as a rule considered and dealt with as such. In the heyday of liberalism some Western nations really retired parts of their long-term debt by honest reimbursement. But for the most part new debts were only heaped upon old ones.  The financial history of the last century shows a steady increase in the amount of public indebtedness. Nobody believes that the states will eternally drag the burden of these interest payments. It is obvious that sooner or later all these debts will be liquidated in some way or other, but certainly not by payment of interest and principal according to the terms of the contract.” from: Human Action [PT]

 

Impoverished by Spending

The bottom line is that when the government spends our income and our wealth, we are impoverished. That is a fact, and there cannot be any real debate over it. The debate is whether it is less bad to tax us or to borrow.

When the government taxes us, we know we are poorer. It is seen. We adjust downward our consumption and our quality of life. This is why everyone hates taxes.

When the government borrows, by contrast, we do not feel the pinch of the impoverishment. Instead, the government sells us bonds. The bond is a financial asset which not only pays interest, but has been in a bull market since Ronald Reagan took office in 1981.

We not only don’t feel poorer, but we actually feel richer. The purchasing power of our investment portfolios is going up.

Borrowing is not a magic perpetual motion machine. It is not a way to spend above your revenues. It is not a way to consume without first producing. It is a just a way to deceive — to consume without the taxpayer realizing it.

It is Bastiat’s unseen.

 

Chart by: St. Louis Fed

 

Chart and image captions by PT

 

Dr. Keith Weiner is the president of the Gold Standard Institute USA, and CEO of Monetary Metals. Keith is a leading authority in the areas of gold, money, and credit and has made important contributions to the development of trading techniques founded upon the analysis of bid-ask spreads. Keith is a sought after speaker and regularly writes on economics. He is an Objectivist, and has his PhD from the New Austrian School of Economics. He lives with his wife near Phoenix, Arizona.

 

 

 

Emigrate While You Can... Learn More

 


 

 
 

Dear Readers!

You may have noticed that our so-called “semiannual” funding drive, which started sometime in the summer if memory serves, has seamlessly segued into the winter. In fact, the year is almost over! We assure you this is not merely evidence of our chutzpa; rather, it is indicative of the fact that ad income still needs to be supplemented in order to support upkeep of the site. Naturally, the traditional benefits that can be spontaneously triggered by donations to this site remain operative regardless of the season - ranging from a boost to general well-being/happiness (inter alia featuring improved sleep & appetite), children including you in their songs, up to the likely allotment of privileges in the afterlife, etc., etc., but the Christmas season is probably an especially propitious time to cross our palms with silver. A special thank you to all readers who have already chipped in, your generosity is greatly appreciated. Regardless of that, we are honored by everybody's readership and hope we have managed to add a little value to your life.

   

Bitcoin address: 12vB2LeWQNjWh59tyfWw23ySqJ9kTfJifA

   
 

Your comment:

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Most read in the last 20 days:

  • Pushing Past the Breaking Point
      Schemes and Shams Man’s willful determination to resist the natural order are in vain.  Still, he pushes onward, always grasping for the big breakthrough. The allure of something for nothing is too enticing to pass up.   From the “displays of disbelief, revealing touching old-fashioned notions” file... [PT]   Systems of elaborate folly have been erected with the most impossible of promises.  That prosperity can be attained without labor.  That benefits...
  • The Myth of Capitalism - A Book by Jonathan Tepper
      Crony Capitalism vs. Free Markets Many of our readers are probably aware of the excellent work our friend Jonathan Tepper does for Variant Perception (VP)*****, a financial research boutique that really does bring a unique perspective to the table*. Jonathan (with co-author Denise Hearn) has just added a new book to his résumé, which is going to be released on 12 November: The Myth of Capitalism (MoC) – Monopolies and the Death of Competition** (a link to the official site is at the...
  • Three Cheers for James Riley!
      Going All In All people, of both good and questionable character, share a singular talent.  They excel at taking something that’s tolerable in moderation, and then pushing it to the outer limits of absurdity.  Why live with restraint when you can get radical?   A fairly famous stretch of LA riverbed graffiti... [PT] Photo credit: saber   Public and private debt levels, NASDAQ stock valuations, the federal register, face tattoos, canned energy drinks.  You name...
  • Crumbling Piles of Sand
      Just a Little Avalanche or an Implosion? A few years ago, we briefly discussed the dynamics of sand piles in these pages, which are a special field of study in mathematics and physics (mathematically inclined readers can take a look at two papers on the subject here:”Driving Sandpiles to Criticality and Beyond “ (PDF) and  'Games on Line Graphs and Sand Piles “(PDF) – unfortunately two other studies that used to be available have in the meantime disappeared from the...
  • When Fake Money Becomes Scarce
      Remaining Focused A rousing display of diversions this week assured the American populace was looking every which way but right under its collective nose.  Midterm elections.  White House spats with purveyors of fake news.  The forced resignation of Attorney General Sessions...   Old drug warrior (otherwise recused) on his way home to Alabama...   Sideshows like these, and many more, offered near limitless opportunities to focus on matters of insignificance.  Why...
  • Fun and Profit - Precious Metals Supply and Demand
      While Not Saving The Planet, Let Us At Least Have A Good Time The price of gold went up seven bucks, and that of silver rose eight pennies. For many people, the attraction to gold and silver began with a desire to protect themselves from the monetary train wreck of 2008. That often grew into a sense that gold is the solution to that problem.   The post 2008 GFC monetary train wreck: US true broad money supply is expanded by more than 153% in a mere decade, as the Fed takes...
  • Wizard’s First Rule – Precious Metals Supply and Demand
      The Last to Go Terry Goodkind wrote an epic fantasy series. The first book in the series is entitled Wizard’s First Rule. We recommend the book highly, if you’re into that sort of thing.   An image from the title page of Terry Goodkind's best-selling fantasy epic “Wizard's First Rule”. We'd be at bit wary of standing around on that stone-slab bridge to be honest. [PT]   However, for purposes of this essay, the important part is the rule...
  • US Stock Market - Re-Coupling with a Panic Cycle?
      The Mighty Gartman Investment newsletter writer Dennis Gartman (a.k.a. “the Commodities King”) has been a target of ridicule at Zerohedge for a long time. His pompous style of writing and his uncanny ability to frequently make perfectly mistimed short term market calls have made him an easy target.* It would be quite ironic if a so far quite good recommendation he made last week were to turn into the call of a lifetime (see ZH: “Gartman: 'We Are Officially Recommending Shorting...
  • Roger Barris for Congress!
      Economic Man Threatens to Leave You Alone if Elected This one is mainly for readers residing in that glorious water source for California commonly known as Colorado. In case you are not aware of it yet, Roger “Economic Man” Barris, an occasional contributor to this site, is running for Congress in Colorado on a Libertarian Party ticket. We will briefly explain why you should vote for Roger, but first two pictures:   Roger Barris, Libertarian Party candidate for the House...
  • Revisiting the Halloween Effect
      From Crash Danger to End-of-the-Year Ramp   [Ed note by PT: we are unfortunately a week late in posting this issue of SI, which didn't reach us in time due to a technical problem. We decided to post it belatedly anyway: for one thing, the effect under discussion is normally in effect until the end of the year; for another, the statistical validity of this information goes beyond the current year, as it is a recurring phenomenon. Lastly we would note that we have a strong...
  • It's Not That Day Just Yet - Precious Metals Supply and Demand
      Degrees of Urgency Monday was Veterans Day, a bank holiday in the US. The prices of gold and silver dropped $23 and $0.61 respectively. “But isn’t gold supposed to go up when...?”   Warren Buffet and Aragorn discuss what to do with the gold. Aragorn wants it, because he knows that even if it's not today, “that day” will come. [PT]   Why? Because everyone else will bid it up. Why? Because they expect someone else to bid it up. Why? Warren Buffet is...

Support Acting Man

Item Guides

Austrian Theory and Investment

j9TJzzN

The Review Insider

Archive

Dog Blow

350x200

THE GOLD CARTEL: Government Intervention on Gold, the Mega Bubble in Paper and What This Means for Your Future

Realtime Charts

 

Gold in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Gold in EUR:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Silver in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Platinum in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

USD - Index:

[Most Recent USD from www.kitco.com]

 

Mish Talk

 
Buy Silver Now!
 
Buy Gold Now!