Tag Archives: Ben Bernancke

Thomas Sowell: could a Cyprus-style confiscation of private savings happen here?

Thomas Sowell, an economist for the people
Thomas Sowell, an economist for the people

Surprise! It already is happening here. Thomas Sowell explains in the American Spectator.

Excerpt:

One of the big differences between the United States and Cyprus is that the U.S. government can simply print more money to get out of a financial crisis. But Cyprus cannot print more euros, which are controlled by international institutions.But could similar policies be imposed in other countries, including the United States?

Does that mean that Americans’ money is safe in banks? Yes and no.

The U.S. government is very unlikely to just seize money wholesale from people’s bank accounts, as is being done in Cyprus. But does that mean that your life savings are safe?

No. There are more sophisticated ways for governments to take what you have put aside for yourself and use it for whatever the politicians feel like using it for. If they do it slowly but steadily, they can take a big chunk of what you have sacrificed for years to save, before you are even aware, much less alarmed.

That is in fact already happening. When officials of the Federal Reserve System speak in vague and lofty terms about “quantitative easing,” what they are talking about is creating more money out of thin air, as the Federal Reserve is authorized to do — and has been doing in recent years, to the tune of tens of billions of dollars a month.

When the federal government spends far beyond the tax revenues it has, it gets the extra money by selling bonds. The Federal Reserve has become the biggest buyer of these bonds, since it costs them nothing to create more money.

This new money buys just as much as the money you sacrificed to save for years. More money in circulation, without a corresponding increase in output, means rising prices. Although the numbers in your bank book may remain the same, part of the purchasing power of your money is transferred to the government. Is that really different from what Cyprus has done?

I noticed that Brian Lilley had an article about whether Cyprus-style confiscations could happen in Canada. The short answer: yes – for amounts above $100,000 Canadian.

Michele Bachmann questions Ben Bernancke

Awesome:

Partial transcript:

BACHMANN: So the Fed wouldn’t need to be buying all these treasuries then. We could find other buyers of our debt. Is that true?

BERNANKE: Yes.

BACHMANN: So then why are we doing it?

BERNANKE: To keep rates a little bit lower, to help support housing, automobiles, and other parts of the economy that need support.

BACHMANN: But if there are other buyers, why the FED?

BERNANKE: To get rates a little bit lower.

BACHMANN: So if my 18-year-old daughter was spending 40 percent more than what my husband and I were giving her, and she didn’t just do it this month but she did it the next month and the next month and the next month — and finally my husband and I said, ‘We’re just not going to bail you out anymore, we’re not going to continue to finance that overspending that you’re doing,’ and she said to me, ‘Mother, we need to align our solution with the problem,’ — in other words, you need to keep giving me that money because it’s really not a problem yet — I would say, I think you have a problem today.

And the reason why I would say that is because the analogy with the federal government, in January of 2007, our debt was 8.67 trillion. That debt today is closer to 16.5 trillion with the intra-government debt, according to your calculation.

Do you think that’s a problem, that in six years, we’ve gone from 8.67 trillion to 16.5 trillion?

BERNANKE: Certainly I think it’s a problem, and I think it’s important we have measures to bring down it down over time.

BACHMANN: But you said we need to align the solution with the problem. It seems to me we have a big problem. and I’ll tell you why. When I was home this last week and talking to a lot of women, they were telling me, ‘I don’t get this — gasoline at Christmastime was $2.99 a gallon, now it’s $4 a gallon.’ They say, ‘I can’t keep up with the price increases at the grocery store. And we just got our health insurance premium and its going to be $300-a-month more than what it was.’

And so all I want to say Mr. Chairman is that what I’m hearing from people is that they are having to deal with the inflationary pressure.

Inflation is nothing but a hidden tax on people who save their money so that they can be independent in their old age. It’s nice to see Michele looking out for savers like me.