12-Year-Old Girl Explains What Most Economists Can't About Money and Debt
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We have a big public debt because, starting in the early 1970s and continuing for three full decades, our governments spent more on all sorts of things, including interest, than they collected in taxes. . . . The problem was the idea, still widely popular, from the Greek parliament to the streets of Montreal, that governments needn’t pay their bills.
That contention is countered, however, by the Canadian government’s own Auditor General (the nation’s top accountant, who reviews the government’s books). In 1993, the Auditor General noted in his annual report:
[The] cost of borrowing and its compounding effect have a significant impact on Canada’s annual deficits. From Confederation up to 1991-92, the federal government accumulated a net debt of $423 billion. Of this, $37 billion represents the accumulated shortfall in meeting the cost of government programs since Confederation. The remainder, $386 billion, represents the amount the government has borrowed to service the debt created by previous annual shortfalls.
In other words, 91% of the debt consists of compounded interest charges. Subtract those and the government would have a debt of only C$37 billion, very low and sustainable, just as it was before 1974.
Mr. Watson’s final argument was that borrowing from the government’s own bank would be inflationary. He wrote:
Victoria’s solution is that instead of paying market rates the government should borrow directly from the Bank of Canada and pay only token rates of interest. Because the government owns the bank, the tax revenues it raises in order to pay that interest would then somehow be injected directly back into the economy. In other words, money literally printed to cover the government’s deficit would be put into circulation. But how is that not inflationary?
Let’s see. The government can borrow money that ultimately comes from private banks, which admittedly create it out of thin air, and soak the taxpayers for a whopping interest bill; or it can borrow from its own bank, which also creates the money out of thin air, and avoid the interest.
Even a 12 year old can see how this argument is going to come out.