Until the control of the issue of currency and credit is restored to government and recognized as its most conspicuous and sacred responsibility, all talk of the sovereignty of Parliament and of democracy is idle and futile.
— Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, 1935
On November 3rd, the US government will again run out of money due to a debt ceiling artificially imposed by Congress. This is the third time in four years that a radical faction has taken the country to the brink of default to extort concessions that are at best only marginally related to the budget.
The debt ceiling is an unconstitutional gimmick that violates the 14th amendment, which says the validity of the government’s debt shall not be questioned. The debt was incurred by Congress when it passed the budget, and the money has been borrowed and spent. Congress cannot now refuse to pay.
One good gimmick deserves another. The debt ceiling could be eliminated for good, by restoring to the government its constitutional authority to create money. Article 1, Section 8, provides: “The Congress shall have the power to coin money [and] regulate the value thereof . . . .” The president could pay the government’s bills by issuing some large denomination coins by executive order.
When the Constitution was ratified, coins were the only officially recognized legal tender. By 1850, coins made up only about half the currency. Today, they make up less than one-half of one percent of the money supply – about 50 billion out of a $12 trillion circulating money supply (M2). These coins, along with about $25 million in US Notes or Greenbacks originally issued during the Civil War, are all that is left of the Treasury’s money-creating power.
As the Bank of England recently acknowledged, the vast majority of the money supply is now created privately by banks as deposits when they make loans. The power to issue the national money supply needs to be returned to the people from whom it has been deceptively usurped. As Thomas Edison observed in the 1920s:
It is absurd to say our Country can issue bonds and cannot issue currency. Both are promises to pay, but one fattens the usurer and the other helps the People. …