EDITOR NOTE: This nearly 13,000-word article provides a thorough “exegesis” on the monetary sickness and "Monetary Monotheism" that’s ailing the American economy and, by extension, Americans themselves. It clearly makes that point that in the last half-decade or so, Americans have “normalized” two economically-deviant mechanisms: financial trickery and monetary debasement. Why trickery? If you look at any inflation calculator, you’ll notice that since 1971 (when Nixon “nixed” the gold standard), the average rate of inflation stands at 545.9%. True? If you can easily accept that, then take note that if we were using historical government calculations (according to the author), real inflation actually rose 4,000%. What kind of calculation trickery led to such a wide gap in the difference between the two? The acceptance of monetary debasement as business-as-usual is much easier to see, as the public’s ignorance of its own decline in purchasing power attests to it. With the economy now severely denatured, the ultimate outcome will, of course, bring a total collapse of the American economy. Like the Covid pandemic, it’s something that the mainstream public will never believe (and hence, never foresee) until it actually happens, by which time it’ll be too late. It’s called The Great Reset. It’s so insidious, that its footprint can be found in the latest FDIC amendment recently sent to you by your bank (check your current depositor agreement and look for the 24-hour clause regarding “bank failure”). This is why we encourage always holding a portion of your funds in a safe haven. And the only safe haven that we believe might withstand this impending collapse is non-CUSIP gold and silver.
Throughout modern history, a perpetual quest among leisurely aristocrats, the entourage of corporate titans and their political suitors has been solving the mysteries of how to get paid for doing nothing and how to look good while doing it. The various means developed over the centuries by our mainstream banking industry—wearing a princely costume, shifting papers around a desk, funding corporate dominance along with ruinous wars and welfare programs, then lounging in the comfort of an expansive corner office—have neatly satisfied both elements of that royal endeavor. Enslaving the public to endless financial servitude just adds an unfortunate side-effect of the primary mission.
In America, that economic bondage presently amounts to over $80 trillion in public and private debt that thousands of businesses and millions of citizens cannot possibly pay off. Political banking privileges have also created about 4,000% real inflation (using historical government accounting methods) since the U.S. fully abandoned the gold standard in 1971—turning $100 of savings into a paltry $2.50 of original value. (From the 1790s to 1933 in America, various gold standards—poisoned with fractional credit creation—failed to prevent about a dozen major banking collapses that many still mischaracterize as emotional “panics.” But those somewhat fixed standards did provide resistance to systemic monetary debasement.)
It almost goes without saying that high-striving politicians will stretch the facts when it serves their purposes—especially on financial matters. But only within the last three or four generations has a broad segment of the U.S. population accepted this gross economic abuse—along with many related cultural distortions—as unquestionable necessities.
By this late stage in Western society’s unraveling, the falsehoods protecting the chicanery are almost too many to fathom. So for this essay I will focus on the most prominent fictions of the financial world and some associated fables that bankers eagerly sponsor.
This essay will consider the claims of “good” inflation, the natural market tendency of deflation and the reality of money multiplying that few insiders dare to admit. It will likewise expand on the issue of bank counterfeiting and introduce a suggestion for broadening that “stimulating” privilege to the rest of us. The false sense of security of trying to “regulate” corrupt banking activity will get some overdue attention. Along the way, I’ll briefly address some problems of monopoly patent “rights,” since easy bank money funds this corporate welfare racket that hurts actual innovators (noting once again, our mainstream media’s refusal to do their job on this important topic as well). Then I will venture into uncharted waters of critically reviewing the popular new traditions of relying on corporate “benefits” in lieu of intact families and financial interdependence, along with the practice of quitting your job and handing your life’s savings to empty bank vaults and Wall Street gamblers.
A condensed table of contents for the section headings of this essay is provided below.
- A Few Experts with Something Useful to Say
- Money Multipliers and Empty Banks
- A Minor Fib on the Fed’s Virtual ‘Printing Press’
- Of Course, the Feds are Lying about Unemployment
- Five Sections on Inflationary Myths
- Sidebar on Monopoly Patents: More Corporate Welfare that Everyone Loves
- False Sense of Security: Trying to ‘Regulate’ Corrupt Banking Activity
- Four Sections on Retirement
- Corporate ‘Benefits’
- Monetary Monotheism
- Conclusion and Post Script
In researching and writing this three-part financial series, I frequently sat in amazement of the dismal state of economic understanding in America today. If our media did any honest reporting or our schools provided any challenging education, more people would already know just about everything to be discussed herein—as most of it is fairly easy to comprehend. But based upon our runaway debt, inflation and other catastrophic economic failures, that doesn’t seem to be the case. And it doesn’t appear to be an accident.
Catering to the desires of our insular financial, corporate and political classes, a subsidized clique of mass media and institutional soothsayers would have us believe that the system is not rotten to the core. Their false narrative maintains that private bankers did not conjure any of the roughly $80 trillion in total outstanding U.S. credit from thin air—debt that keeps the elites on top and the vast majority trapped in stagnation. The manufactured inflation that turned “penny candy” of 1913 into similar treats costing well over a dollar today gets whitewashed as either a conspiracy theory of “gold bugs” or a productive policy we need to extend indefinitely (or somehow both). The “thought leaders” of society proceed to insist that the historically and mathematically demonstrated “credit cycle” is actually a natural “business cycle” of the reckless marketplace, and that fiat “legal tender” mandates divinely write themselves, thus can never be unwritten.
On top of that, the skyrocketing cost of healthcare (a side-effect of easy money and World War II wage controls) associated with joining a corporate insurance pool is sold as “benefits”—always “your benefits”—to falsely impute personal ownership where none exists. Quitting your job, forever, and relying on altruistic Washington benefactors gets the double honorific—repeated ad nauseum—of being both “social” and enhancing “security.” Monopoly patent privileges and other barriers to market competition (medical licensing, legal guilds, teachers’ unions) must never be questioned, because they too are “beneficial” for society, we are frequently told.
Yes, there is quite of bit of mind-numbing disinformation to sort through in our daily attempt to carry on. While the general public seems to have an increasing awareness—thanks to the liberating nature of the internet—that something doesn’t quite make sense, all cylinders are not yet firing in any movement for economic progress that I’m aware of.
Part of the problem is the unnecessary distractions tossed out regularly by professional political experts—almost all of them lacking financial independence and thus prone to pandering to their base. Liberal/socialist pundits assure us that “unregulated” private-sector activity (although extinct since at least the 1970s) is to blame for every social ill; just a few thousand more rules and a few trillion more dollars for new centralized programs and we’ll be safe from those lingering free-market barbarians. Conservative/liberty types insist that the Federal Reserve is the root of all financial evil; never mind the numerous devastating banking collapses that occurred before the Fed was created (such as 1784, 1792, 1796, 1819, 1837, 1857, 1873, 1884, 1893, 1896, 1901 and 1907) and also ignore the inflationary debasement inherent to fiat banking.
Thanks to the empty nature of both partisan messages—and the many important gaps conveniently left out—politicized banking elites and fascistic corporate cartels have been corroding the social fabric of the West for centuries, with virtually zero effective opposition.
No matter how much we may claim to recognize the dishonest nature of our ruling authorities and their clandestine corporate masters, we just can’t seem to stop obeying all their foolish and harmful temptations. (Two such deceptive enticements will be explored at length in this essay, breaking tradition with conventional norms of tossing raw meat to the audience. Like most Americans, I thankfully have a full-time job outside of writing. So while I welcome any interesting feedback… I don’t need your financial support.)
In accordance with the title of this piece, considerable attention will be given to the many enduring myths that keep our financial system in its perpetual state of dysfunction. To offset part of that inevitable negativity and economic gloom, a few sections of more sensible and/or positive material have been included towards the beginning to start on a brighter note. These should also help dispel some of the false narratives I’ll be addressing later.
A Few Experts with Something Useful to Say
For a good overview on the economics profession, I’ll refer to a comment by RoatanBill in a previous article (not one of mine) published in April on this website:
It all starts with Economics. Economics is a fraudulent profession. Economics can’t prove anything, economists can’t predict anything without another economist saying the opposite and economists can’t even come up with why past events happened with a consensus OPINION.
In short, Economics is just BS OPINION spread around by people with degrees that shouldn’t exist. If you can’t PROVE something, then that ‘profession’ shouldn’t be able to hand out PhD’s. Having a PhD in an opinion is worthless to society and does real harm.
On a more upbeat note, I’ll add one of the best educational offerings I’ve found on the topic of economics. This starts with the important concept of a bank balance sheet. (Over the years, I must have read well over 100 economic essays by familiar names and from critical “outsiders” that manage to bypass this crucial topic.)
The example balance sheet below comes from an article written by Alasdair Macleod, a former stockbroker and banker who is now a Senior Fellow at the GoldMoney Foundation. I did some formatting to change his two tables into a single chart and added footnotes at the end to help explain some banking terminology. Mr. Macleod’s tables illustrate how modern banking activity results in “lending money into existence” as he aptly puts it.
Example Bank Balance Sheet
M.U. = Monetary Units. Above data and labels are from Alasdair Macleod, except for the “equity ratio” which is discussed in his article but not shown directly in his tables.
Additional notes by Steve Penfield:
Due from Banks = deposits from “my” bank into other banks to expedite future transfers.
Interbank Loans = short-term loans “my” bank receives from other banks for daily balancing.
Debt bonds are issued by banks and sold to investors (pension funds, etc.).
*Another way to view “shareholders’ equity” is to consider it the principal deposit.
His chart shows a true Balance Sheet to Equity Ratio with a proper focus on the money multiplier effect. Conversely, the politicized “reserve ratio” at the end of expansion would be 30 (cash) / 250 total = 12%, which passes the Fed’s historical 10% minimum (dropped to zero on March 26, 2020) for state-chartered banks, with federally chartered banks always allowed to hold less reserves. So under the existing labyrinth of federal regulation, the 12.5 money multiplier is perfectly legal.
Understanding a bank balance sheet also helps us recognize the common myth that only the government can create money out of thin air. Prior to the financial collapse of 2008, the only significant instances where fiat currency emanated directly from the U.S. federal government were the political rebels in 1775 who issued paper Continentals to fund their war against England and Lincoln’s Greenback stunt of the 1860s to wage battle on the South. Other than that, fiat credit creation—with its inevitable boom/bust cycles—throughout American history has been overwhelmingly accomplished by private bankers.
This manufactured boom/bust dynamic helps explain why the top 0.1% of Americans now own more wealth than the bottom 80%—an achievement suited for a banana republic led by a military dictator.
Blaming the current wealth gap on the Fed (or worse yet, “capitalism” itself) is just a cop out from people trying to attract attention to themselves or with some ideological axe to grind. Let’s recall that J.P. Morgan (1837–1913) at the end of his life had officers sitting on “the boards of directors of 112 corporations” and as of 1921 Andrew Mellon (1855-1937) served “on the board of more than 150 corporations,” as noted in my first essay of this series. Not bad for a couple of money manipulators with no useful job skills. (Fed-bashers take note: Morgan died before the Federal Reserve was created.)
For a more recent look at the riches of high finance, the ten largest banks in the U.S. have accumulated nearly $10 trillion in assets (as of December 2019)—mostly by loaning and investing “money” they never owned in the first place. Mostly by exploiting political privileges that ordinary people cannot access. Mostly from the safety of air-conditioned offices like these ones.
Of course, banks also provide the vital function of facilitating millions of transactions every day—with their check clearing, ATMs and credit card processing. Legitimate bankers can continue to play this important role in keeping consumer interactions secure and liquid without their fiat counterfeiting privileges. But why settle for an honest living when you can get rich on legalized alchemy?
Money Multipliers and Empty Banks: The Best Kept Secrets in the Financial Industry
While lingering just a bit longer on the positive side of the ledger, here’s a couple more sensible economic experts with important things to say about some rather villainous activity. These crucial topics tend to get obscured by so much heavy breathing over the Fed, the ogre of “globalism” or just vague denunciations of the “vampire squids” of finance.
It turns out, the very concept of the “money multiplier” that bankers have been using for centuries is so embarrassing to the financial industry that many simply deny it. Wikipedia provides a decent entry on the Money Multiplier concept, reflecting some of the controversy with their statement:
Although the money multiplier concept is a traditional portrayal of fractional reserve banking, it has been criticized as being misleading. The Bank of England, Deutsche Bundesbank, and the Standard & Poor’s rating agency have issued refutations of the concept together with factual descriptions of banking operations.
Legacy media, banking executives and their support staff at the Federal Reserve would much rather talk about “consumer protections” and “deposit insurance” from the minimal reserves they hold—or just prattle on about “stimulus” and “quantitative easing” to put people at ease.
Better yet, the major banks like to run advertisements in corporate media showing smiling parents walking into a sparkling new house (after signing a 30-year mortgage) or a college loan recipient clutching their precious diploma (not a care in the world over the debt they just incurred). The financial services industry spent nearly $16 billion in 2019 just on digital advertising to advance such blissful narratives. The overall theme of most financial promotions (that professional newsmen are glad to embellish) is that smothering debt equals pure joy.
Images of paid actors pretending to be happy homeowners and ecstatic college students in flowing graduation robes help distract from the shocking fact that as of December 2019, the FDIC reports a $110 billion insurance fund balance to cover $7.8 trillion in insured deposits—a paltry 1.4% reserve ratio.
For sake of completeness, their footnote #3 by the word “Fund” deals with accounting methods before 2006, thus is irrelevant for current data.
To the glaring obscenity of the naked emperors in Wall Street and Washington D.C. (as well as London, Paris, Berlin and other financial centers): their banks are all nearly empty.
As in the classic children’s story about a similarly exposed monarch, legacy media and leashed academics just tag along for the parade, pretending that the banking imperials are adorned in the finest of fashions.
Cutting to the heart of fiat credit creation, U.K. economics professor Richard Werner authored an essay in the International Review of Financial Analysis in 2016 that summarized various viewpoints on the “money multiplier,” with over two dozen prominent economists cited in lengthy excerpts. As commenter RoatanBill asserted, the professor’s essay confirms there is nothing close to a consensus within the pseudo-science of economics.
Werner’s essay investigates the three competing theories on the central question: “How do banks operate and where does the money supply come from?” In his words, with his groupings of economists into their respective categories shown in [brackets]:
- The currently prevalent financial intermediation theory of banking says that banks collect deposits and then lend these out, just like other non-bank financial intermediaries. [J.M. Keynes, Ludwig von Mises, Ben Bernanke and Paul Krugman support this theory]
- The older fractional reserve theory of banking says that each individual bank is a financial intermediary without the power to create money, but the banking system collectively is able to create money through the process of ‘multiple deposit expansion’ (the ‘money multiplier’). [Friedrich von Hayek, Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Samuelson support this theory]
- The credit creation theory of banking, predominant a century ago, does not consider banks as financial intermediaries that gather deposits to lend out, but instead argues that each individual bank creates credit and money newly when granting a bank loan.
The latter theory prevailed until the mid-1930s when famed economist Irving Fisher offered mild approval to that concept—and the more flamboyant Keynes sneered contemptuously otherwise. More recently, Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Basil Moore and Richard Werner ignored the academic scoffing and support the credit creation theory of banking, to which I would agree.
The fact that this core question is still viewed as controversial—and not remotely settled—just reinforces how far backwards the entire field of economics has regressed since the 1930s political takeover of the U.S. economy. Since that era, fiat credit creation became a moral imperative that dare never be publicly admitted by the vast majority of professional economists, politicians and media spokesmen. In Werner’s carefully measured words:
the economics profession has singularly failed over most of the past century to make any progress in terms of knowledge of the monetary system, and instead moved ever further away from the truth as already recognised by the credit creation theory well over a century ago.
Adding to the confusion, among the more vocal critics of the credit creation theory was MIT professor and author of the most popular economics textbook since World War II, Paul Samuelson (1915–2009). In the 1948 first edition of Samuelson’s famous economics textbook, he went to great length to insist it was “impossible” for a single bank to create money through the lending process. However, Samuelson conceded (for his example 20% reserve scenario) that:
the whole banking system can do what no one bank can do by itself. Bank money has been created 5 for 1…”
Rather than dwell on which of the three monetary theories is most accurate, I’ll just reiterate that the author of the leading college economics textbook of the 20th century (with over 4 million copies sold according to Wikipedia) admitted that the “banking system” creates money out of thin air. However, I will also note the acrobatics that Samuelson and others employ to fully absolve any individual banker of guilt.
It may be a sign of progress that the home of the conservative Fed-bashers, ZeroHedge, allowed a brief moment of clarity to invade their otherwise puerile platform of pro-banking mythology. Financial pundit Travis Kimmel explained in an August posting on inflation picked up by ZeroHedge (since moved behind their paywall) that:
A dollar is ‘born’ when a loan is made against collateral on a bank’s balance sheet. Banks can issue multiples of dollars for every dollar of collateral they have. … As banks lend more, more dollars are created and the money supply increases. This multiplicative lending is the chief driver of total dollars in the system.
Simple wisdom you will never find from a federal broadcaster shilling for corporate advertising dollars. So far, this isolated exception has apparently not been repeated in any conservative or libertarian publication that I can find. (Most liberal publications are too busy raging against “capitalist greed” to offer anything sensible on financial education. But that’s to be expected.)
With the internet lowering barriers to communication as not seen since the early 1920s advent of commercial radio (nationalized in 1927), useful information is now increasingly available to any person willing to look for it. But entrenched members of state media, corporate cartels and public schooling still hold a firm grip on institutional power. Those forces continue to wield enormous sway over who may speak on coveted broadcast airwaves, who receives a platform among censorious tech utilities and who gets pushed to the sidelines.
This vast influence further dictates who receives praise as trustworthy “experts” and who gets mocked and ridiculed with pejorative slurs and epithets to invalidate their message. In virtually every case, the “winners” favor arbitrary centralized power, while the “losers” do not.
A Minor Fib on the Fed’s Virtual ‘Printing Press’
To begin addressing the central “lying” theme of this essay, I’ll ease into it with a popular distortion that maintains a nugget of truth. When it comes to pointless diversions, it’s hard to beat the incessant right-wing and libertarian denouncements of the Fed’s legendary “printing press.” Anti-government extremists need a villain with the word “federal” in its title. And conservative demagogues have milked this trope for decades to sell their books and newsletters and to fill seats at weekend seminars (while not helping the public one bit).
The “printing press” meme grossly oversimplifies what the Federal Reserve does and distracts from the rampant counterfeiting of private fiat credit bankers whom the official Right cannot stand to criticize. As for the alleged Fed “printing,” banks conjure loans to the U.S. Treasury to buy government bonds (i.e., “financing the national debt”). When governments get desperate to spend new money they don’t have—and don’t have the integrity for transparent payment via unpopular tax increases—the Federal Reserve buys these bonds back from the banks, freeing up the banks’ balance sheets to create more loans (possibly) or buy more government and corporate bonds (more likely) or simply award lush C-suite bonuses (also likely). The latter option is exemplified in this 2009 clip from the New York Times (credit to Armstrong Economics):
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