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  • The U.S. national debt is more than $28 trillion.

  • It's a massive number.

  • Bigger, bigger than the size of our economy.

  • In fact, it's the biggest debt in the world,

  • but the U.S. government keeps spending more than it brings in.

  • Our rising debt levels poses a national security threat.

  • People need to start taking this seriously or it'll be too late.

  • With the COVID pandemic, government spending has exploded,

  • even as demands for more government programs are growing.

  • But who will end up paying for all this?

  • It's Washington, DC's game of kicking the can, and your kids are gonna be it.

  • Are future American generations really getting a broke country?

  • No.

  • Not all economists think the national debt is something we should worry about.

  • One of them is Stephanie Kelton.

  • She's a professor of economics and public policy at Stony Brook University.

  • I'm the former chief economist

  • on the U.S. Senate budget committee

  • for the Democratic staff.

  • And I'm the author of New York Times bestseller

  • "The Deficit Myth."

  • That book has a lot of interesting ideas about government debt.

  • We'll start with the fact that there's a big difference between you taking a loan,

  • and the government borrowing money.

  • If you can't get money to pay your debts, your creditors can take your assets,

  • and you could be in for a lifetime of misery.

  • But the U.S. government isn't you.

  • It doesn't have to worry about where it can get

  • the money to pay its debts because...

  • The federal government's the issuer of the dollar.

  • So it can never find itself in the same sort of

  • financial trouble that you might find yourself in

  • when it comes to paying your debt back,

  • because the government is paying back its debt

  • with currency that it issues itself.

  • Listen to that again.

  • The government is paying back its debt

  • with currency that it issues itself.

  • In other words, the federal government doesn't

  • have to worry about earning dollars in order to

  • repay its creditors,

  • because it gets to manufacture the currency.

  • This is the key point: The U.S. government can make more money

  • whenever it wants to, to pay for whatever it wants to, including its debts.

  • That means that not only can the U.S. federal government never go broke,

  • it doesn't need to borrow money from anyone else.

  • If you stop and think about it and you say,

  • if you could issue something

  • ...like the U.S. dollar...

  • and it could only come from you,

  • would you ever feel the need to go get it

  • and borrow it from anyone else?

  • OK. Now we've established that the federal government makes U.S. dollars

  • so it can never run out of them,

  • and that's how it can always pay its debts.

  • And that's why it never has to borrow from anyone else.

  • So if the government doesn't need to borrow, why is there a national debt?

  • It's a good question. But to answer that,

  • we first have to understand what a deficit means.

  • Imagine that the government spends

  • $100 into the economy,

  • but it only taxes $90 back out.

  • We label that a government deficit.

  • But what we have to remember is

  • if they put a hundred in

  • and only subtract 90 back out,

  • what they're really doing

  • is depositing $10

  • into some part of our economy.

  • So those $10 are actually circulating in the economy.

  • It's a negative in the government's books, but it's a positive for the rest of us.

  • Every deficit is good for someone.

  • The question is, who gets those dollars?

  • Where do they go? And what is that deficit being

  • used to accomplish in our economy?

  • Is the money going to people who will spend it on things they otherwise can't afford,

  • stimulating the economy more?

  • Or is it going to people right at the top, who will likely just save it?

  • Seeing our own money in the negative is scary.

  • So it's understandable to have a similar reaction

  • when we look at the government's finances.

  • And that's probably the idea that Mitt Romney was channeling when he said:

  • I think it's frankly not moral for my generation to keep spending massively more than we take in,

  • knowing those burdens are going to be passed on to the next generation.

  • But we know the next generation won't be paying for this spending out of their own pocket,

  • because the federal government makes U.S. dollars, so it can't go broke.

  • Which means it can always pay its debts,

  • which means it doesn't have to borrow from anyone.

  • Plus, deficit spending actually leaves money in the non-government part of the economy.

  • If you're thinking there has to be a catch,

  • that the government can't just keep printing money to fill our bucket.

  • Well, you're right.

  • At some point, there will be too many dollars chasing too few goods,

  • making prices go up.

  • We have so many dollars and we're so eager to

  • go out and try to chase after goods and services,

  • and our economy can't keep up.

  • We don't have the productive capacity. And all of a sudden, all of that spending

  • starts to overheat the economy,

  • and the bucket begins to overflow,

  • and you get an inflation problem.

  • Inflation is the actual limit to how much the government can spend.

  • Not debt.

  • Inflation is what we have to worry about.

  • Now to counter inflation, the government can try to reduce demand

  • by making it more expensive to borrow money.

  • It can also siphon back some of that excess money by taxing it.

  • But what if we made our bucket bigger, to fit more money?

  • If the government is spending on things like

  • infrastructure and education and R&D, research and development,

  • these are the kinds of things

  • that increase productivity,

  • and increase the economy's potential output so that you actually

  • end up with a bigger bucket over time.

  • So now that we know that a deficit isn't necessarily a bad thing,

  • and the U.S. government can always make money,

  • it's time to answer that earlier question:

  • Why is there a national debt?

  • The truth is, there isn't.

  • As Professor Kelton explains, what we call the national debt

  • is just the total account of all the money the government has spent over the years

  • minus all the money the government has taxed back.

  • Even if the government has spent

  • more than it's collected,

  • it doesn't have to pay anyone

  • back for the difference.

  • But what about when people say things like,

  • "The U.S. owes China!"

  • Well, investors, including foreign governments,

  • buy bonds issued by the U.S. Treasury.

  • The return on these investments is virtually guaranteed because

  • the U.S. can always create the money to pay.

  • So there's no danger of a foreign army showing up to repossess the White House.

  • Understanding that the U.S. government can never run out of money

  • and can continue deficit spending as long as inflation is kept under control

  • means big policy ideas like universal health care, a Green New Deal or student debt forgiveness

  • might pay for themselves by keeping more money in the hands of consumers,

  • employing more workers and expanding the country's infrastructure.

  • That's what happened after World War II, when huge government investment

  • led to the expansion of the middle class.

  • But for decades now, people have been told a different story.

  • If the state wishes to spend more, it can do so only

  • by borrowing your savings or by taxing you more.

  • And it's no good thinking that someone else will paythatsomeone elseis you.

  • There is no such thing as public money. There is only taxpayers' money.

  • Now like the U.S., Britain also issues its own sovereign currency

  • so Margaret Thatcher had it wrong.

  • When the government wants to spend, that money is made instantly.

  • It doesn't wait for taxes.

  • We saw that recently when the U.S. Congress wrote trillions of dollars into existence

  • by passing major COVID relief bills

  • without raising taxes.

  • So the obvious question now is: Why do we pay taxes at all?

  • Well, we pay local taxes because local governments do need revenue

  • they can't make money like the federal government can.

  • And we've already seen that the federal government

  • can use taxes as a tool to control inflation.

  • Taxes can also be used as incentives.

  • For example, if the government wants people to stop buying gas-powered vehicles,

  • it could offer tax breaks on electric cars.

  • Taxes can alter wealth distribution, spreading wealth among the population

  • or, as the 2017 Trump tax cuts did,

  • further concentrate wealth among a tiny slice of the population.

  • And finally, the government makes sure we continue to need the dollar

  • as currency by requiring that we pay it in that currency.

  • You and your friends could agree to start paying

  • each other in Bitcoin or Euros

  • or even chocolate bars.

  • But you'll still need the dollar

  • to pay the U.S. government.

  • A deficit doesn't mean the country is broke.

  • Your kids won't have to pay back the national debt.

  • Understanding this fundamentally changes our perception of what's possible.

  • The U.S. has been deficit spending for decades.

  • As long as inflation is kept under control, there's no reason it shouldn't keep doing so.

  • The government has been running deficits

  • virtually my entire lifetime,

  • and I'm older than I look!

  • And that's not to suggest that all of those deficits

  • and everything that was done to create and sustain those deficits

  • improved life materially for the broader society.

  • But, of course, there were times when

  • government deficits became very large and

  • sustained and material improvements were made.

The U.S. national debt is more than $28 trillion.

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B1 中級 美國腔

为什么美国不会破产?(Why The U.S. Can’t Go Broke)

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    Sam Yau 發佈於 2021 年 04 月 26 日
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