Friday, March 25, 2011

Federal Debt and the Bank of Timmy

There has been much breathless discussion lately surrounding the national debt ceiling as total government debt approaches the legal limit. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said there was "no alternative" and threatened Congress with unspecified "catastrophic" consequences if the limit was not increased. Of course, he is merely following in the tradition of terroristic threats by corrupt Treasury officials.

But just as the implied threats of martial law were used by Henry Paulson as cover for one of the biggest thefts in history, we must now ask what lurks behind the current spate of threats out of Treasury? Paulson lied about what the TARP was to be used for - which is why he demanded immunity in advance. Geithner is lying about the need for an immediate increase in the debt limit. What is being hidden is many activities that aid speculators and bureaucrats that will have to end if the limit stays in place.

In the real world there is a problem that a lot of money is being spent that has nothing to do with the operations of the federal government. This can be seen clearly in the recent announcement that the Treasury will be selling off some of its $142 billion of MBS (mortgage backed securities). There really is no legitimate function of government that relates to manipulating the price of bonds. It's good that they are looking to get rid of them but there is no reason to have them in the first place other than to overpay to help sellers and also to make continuing holders look more solvent by deliberately distorting the "market" price.

Then there are the loans which Treasury has extended to the states to cover their own spending. The state unemployment funds are in hock to Washington for $46.3 billion as of March 23. This is problematic in that it undermines the constitutional requirements that many states must balance their budget every year. It also undermines the ability of the states to function as sovereign entities when they are financially so beholden to the central government. Thus it is a direct attack on the our Federal system of government.

Secretary Tim Geithner is not running a Treasury Department. He is in fact running a bank under the aegis of the federal government and Congress needs to keep that in mind as he goes begging them for more money. Treasury should not be in the business of lending money to the states or of buying private market debt. Those are functions for commercial banks and bond markets. Worse still, those banking functions have been performed using the credit of the American People. If Geithner was not playing these games, the Treasury would have another $190 billion in borrowing authority remaining.

Any increase in the debt limit should be conditional on the Treasury ceasing all interference in state finances and public financial markets.

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