I think I’ve been aware since the mid ’80s that Republicans are clever word smiths and never say exactly what they mean. I learned it in connection with “urban renewal,” which, as it turned out, was designed not to renew the cities, but to remove the people and prepare the ground for, mostly, commercial development. Emptying the cities not only had the advantage of providing a boon to developers, but of thinning well-established neighborhoods and undermining their political clout.
Undermining the citizenry is, of course, still the objective, especially now that the tradition of low voter participation seems to have been reversed and economic recessions no longer have the expected effect of returning Republicans to power after the damage their mismanagement causes has been fixed. The reelection of President Obama is clear evidence that the message of 2008 hasn’t registered. The clarion call to “save” money, bruited about during the nineties and championed by Al Gore under the rubric of the balanced budget that morphed into a surplus, is heard no more. Mostly that’s because the vast majority of Americans have nothing left over at the end of the month to save. Not to mention that the crash of 2008, which wiped out savings right and left, has a bad after taste.
The word of the month on Capitol Hill is “sequester.” I’m sure Congress likes it because it goes well will secret, a perennial counter to pesky citizens who keep insisting that information be released. Also, most people won’t know exactly what it means, unlike when they hear the word hoard or rationing. But, in fact, they are much the same. When the private sector does it, it’s called hoarding (over two trillion dollars at last count). Rationing, which is a somewhat traditional response to a scarce supply, like oil during the reign of Richard Nixon, has proved counter-productive since it seems to prompt hoarding on an individual basis, thereby aggravating whatever shortage is being addressed.
Nevertheless, the sequester that has been engineered by the Congress, supposedly in response to not having enough money on hand to pay for projects that have already been approved, is an effort to ration our dollars. What makes it really peculiar, aside from the fact that our private corporations are sitting on unspent trillions, is that the Congress, whose job it is to manage and distribute our currency has no shortage of money and simply can’t run out. After all, dollars are nothing but certified IOUs, which we now generate electronically. Might as well argue that there aren’t enough birth or marriage certificates to go around.
Once we register that the Congress is the source and issuer of all money, then the explanation that there isn’t enough money in the economy because corporations are hoarding is almost irrelevant. I say almost, because, like water in a stream, money is supposed to be moving (used) and when it is hoarded, it disrupts the flow of trade and exchange. And that’s, I would argue, hoarded money should be taxed, just to get it moving again. Maybe we should have a contest with the slogan, “Spend It or Send it to Uncle Sam,” to get our money moving at a better rate. The St. Louis Fed has a graph which shows how the velocity of money has dropped
You know, the hoarding of money is not a new problem. Jesus Christ addressed it in the New Testament when he said “Give unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” In the twenty first century, it’s no longer Ceasar’s money, rather it belongs to “we the people.” And, since it is ours, it is entirely proper for us to decide how and by whom and for how long it is to be used. If foreign countries send our money back to be stored for their later use, that’s not a loan, no more than the dollars that aren’t currently being sent out for pensions are a loan to the federal government.
Yes, we have obligations to our children and our elders and our neighbors and the natural and man-made environment. And we have agents of government who are supposed to satisfy them with the resources we have provided. For the Congress to argue that money, a figment of the imagination they can produce in infinite quantities is not enough, isn’t just disingenuous, it’s dishonest.
Luke 16: 1-13