Prepare To Be Skinned
Geithner’s Victims of Last Resort
by Gary North
You may have heard that the Federal Reserve System is the lender of last resort. This is a misleading concept. The Federal Reserve loans the U.S. government newly created fiat money. The government issues the FED an IOU. It is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government. But who stands behind the United States government, wallets in hand? You do. And so do I.
We are the victims of last resort.
On May 13, Timothy Geithner wrote a letter to Colorado’s Senator Michael Bennet. In his letter, he presented the case against freezing the debt ceiling. The letter is here.
Geithner began with a statement that is muddled almost beyond belief. “As you know, the debt limit does not authorize new spending commitments.” Quite true. The debt limit does not authorize anything. It prohibits the authorization of any further borrowing. Officially speaking, prohibiting borrowing is the idea behind the debt ceiling. That is why Congress keeps raising it. Congress does not want to cut spending. It also does not want to raise taxes in order to pay for the spending.
The sentence says the opposite of Geithner’s point. We know this because of what came next. “It simply allows the government to finance existing legal obligations that Congresses and presidents of both parties have made in the past.”
He therefore did not really mean that “the debt limit does not authorize new spending commitments.” He meant to write this: “An increase in the debt limit does not authorize new spending commitments.” Therefore, he reminded Bennet, to raise the debt limit does not authorize any new spending commitments. Geithner, in his befuddled way, was trying to offer Congress a fig leaf to cover its nakedness. By raising the debt ceiling, Congress will be perceived by the voters as spending recklessly, which is an accurate perception. Geithner was trying to say this: by raising the debt ceiling, Congress does not automatically pass new spending laws.