With its recent miniscule 2% devaluation of the Yuan, media pundits noted that China had now also entered into the global currency war. What this comment implies is that other countries with the ability to issue or print their own currency, including the U.S., have been participating in a currency war by devaluing their own currency as a hoped for means to increase their country exports and thereby stimulate their economies. As China’s currency has been pegged to the USD, it had recently grown stronger as a byproduct of dollar’s recent dramatic strength. Accordingly, the peg that China used to tie-in to the dollar’s value had increased the Chinese yuan to a level that was hurting their exports. The resulting devaluation was China’s attempt to correct partially this unwelcome currency appreciation.
With FED’s past QE series of money printing, we have been at the forefront attempting to devalue our own currency as a means to improve our exports, reach the FED’s stated goal of increasing inflation which would produce higher GDP figures, allowing government officials to claim that economic growth or recovery is resuming. Not to be outdone, the European Central Bank has been purchasing weak credits from their banks, in order to make member bank financial solidity ratios appear stronger – which also requires substantially increasing its money supply. The largest and most outrageous example of intentional destruction in the value of its currency is Japan, which for nearly two decades has been on a mission to devalue its currency in order to stimulate inflation.
Currency expansion may seem like an ideal, benign solution to a country trying to stimulate its exports, but it does create a financial assault or loss to their trading partners. For example, China’s recent holding in excess of $1.3 trillion assets (until some recent sales of under $200 billion) from accumulated annual trade surpluses, would lose great value in its assets by the amount of such U.S. devaluation. If the U.S. were to expand its currency by 10%, China’s Treasury holdings could be reduced by $100 billion – not an insignificant amount. That is of course why the well known phrase “race to the bottom” stipulates that once one country starts to print currency, other countries, in order to protect themselves against the action of the initiator, have to follow and also devalue their own currency. We are currently witnesses to a race to the bottom in a continuing global currency war.
Definition of Currency War.
Wikipedia defines a currency war as “competitive devaluation where countries compete against each other to achieve a relatively low exchange rate for their own currency. As the price to buy a country’s currency falls so too does the price of exports. Imports to the country become more expensive. So domestic industry, and thus employment, receives a boost in demand from both domestic and foreign markets. The policy can also trigger retaliatory action by other countries which in turn can lead to a general decline in international trade, harming all countries.”
It is arguable that currency wars are not only fairly current affairs, but that they last for relatively brief periods of time not extending beyond a few short years – as highlighted by our FED’s recent QE series. How might our understanding of currency war change if we were to expand slightly the definition of currency war, and by also taking a far longer view – that of going back to the founding of the FED? How would we appraise the big picture of government and FED policy over the years, and its now fully observable results on the populace?
Some historians have noted that the founding of the FED in 1913, with its ability to create dollars, allowed President Wilson to commit America to participate in what became to be called WWI, which in reality was a European conflict. Wars are expensive, so having an institution that can “finance“ war makes it economically easier to participate. In this case, domestic currency accommodation to provide dollars by the FED made it possible for the U.S. to engage in the actual physical war. While currency accommodation for your own government seems detached from a real currency war, the dramatic expansion of money to finance war is a hostile assault on the value of every citizen’s purchasing power and reduction in the value of that currency.
Some economists posited that it was the FED’s profligacy in expanding currency and credit also during the 1920’s, and their support of low interest rates that created the great stock market rise and consequent conditions for the stock market crash and the Great Depression. Accordingly, this crash evolved initially from an inability of stock market speculators and other borrowers to repay their loans, thereby requiring sale or liquidation of leveraged stock portfolios. Thus, the rapid expansion of currency and credit during the 1920’s by the FED was seen as responsible for initiating America’s economic malaise of several decades. It is a form of a currency war, but one affecting our own citizens.
Up until the 1930’s citizens were able to convert their gold certificates (paper money) into actual gold coins at any bank – with gold at $20 per ounce. In 1933, President Roosevelt ordered all gold coins to be turned in for paper currency at their bank, in effect confiscating real money. After these coins were turned in by trusting citizens of their own government, the price of certificates was devalued such that gold was repriced to $35 per ounce. The necessity for governments to take, confiscate, or steal from one’s own people has a several thousand year old record resulting from a bad habit of governments spending more than they can reasonably take in from taxes. This is simply a different version of a currency war that one can identify as a short hostile action, one which was directed at the country’s own people.
After WW2, as U.S. emerged as the world’s greatest military and economic power, at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1945 America established a new currency system which was based on the premise that the U.S. dollar would be backed by gold, become the means of exchange for international trade transactions, and that sovereign nations would be able to exchange their dollars for gold at $35 per ounce at any time. With many parts of the world in economic and financial shambles after physical war, it is reasonable that a new currency system was desirable. However, the establishment of this new system could be seen also as a stealth currency battle as it was structured at its outset to be very favorable to America. For example, the IMF and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development were created, which became instruments of U.S. global financial influence, and some might argue new tools to conduct financial warfare.
This new currency system worked reasonably well for several decades until President Johnson decided to dispute an old repeatedly proven maxim that a country cannot afford both “butter and guns” for its people. In the 1960’s President Johnson chose to initiate a war with Vietnam, and felt compelled domestically also to start a “war on poverty”. Physical wars were becoming increasingly expensive, and required currency printing which the FED readily accommodated. The War on Poverty cost billions, while the cost of the then new Medicare program also rapidly escalated. The confluence of these expenditures required such a large expansion of our money supply, printing more dollars than its store of gold could support, that foreign nations noticed it and started to convert their dollars increasingly for gold. Eventually America’s store of gold was in a perilous decline such that it lead to the U.S. “defaulting” on its gold exchange policy by closing the gold exchange window to sovereign foreign banks. The retreat from a promise to redeem paper dollars for gold has all the hallmarks of a hostile currency action, which is easily interpreted as part of a currency war.
For those who disagree that this latter action was a form of a currency war, let us dwell on the fact that when President Nixon closed the gold window in 1971, he foreclosed the ability of foreign countries to turn their dollars at the promised $35 conversion rate into gold. As a result, every foreign country that had traded goods with the U.S. and held paper dollars was forced to swallow huge dollar devaluation losses. The price of gold reached over $150 by 1974 and over $800 by 1980, but since banks tend to hold their gold for long periods of time, it is not unfair to note that the price of gold in 2015 is over $1100 per ounce. As a result, the long-term loss to foreign dollar holders has been astronomical. The U.S. won that currency battle, but it has not quite won the war, as more countries became united in finding a means to reduce the influence and dominance of the dollar.
Abandonment of silver coins and societal change.
In 1964, our government led a hostile currency action against its people by eliminating silver coins from circulation. As 1965 and subsequent coins did not include silver, the more valuable silver coins quickly disappeared from use with some hoarded by citizens, but most simply were acquired by the Treasury. The reason this had to be done was due to continued inflation, and the subsequent increase in the price of silver in terms of paper currency.
It was a time when gasoline could be purchased for under $0.20 per gallon. While today’s gasoline costs between $2-$3 per gallon, you can still purchase that gasoline at the $0.20 price per gallon – if you convert two silver dimes (coin of the realm at that time) to today’s fiat currency. Another indication of the loss in the purchasing power of the dollar is shown by the fact that many houses purchased in 1960 for $20,000 could fetch $200,000 before the 2008 real estate meltdown. In some communities the annual real estate taxes due in 2008 and subsequent years were larger than the actual price of the house paid in 1960. This also speaks to the issue of citizens owning property free and clear. Political practice has evolved such that after paying the full market price for real estate, the owner really does not own it. Rather, after purchase and payment, he gets the privilege to rent it from the government at the current rate of annual taxation.This also speaks volumes about the store of value of fiat currency versus the two hundred fifty year old money as defined in the Constitution. Indeed there are many economists and financial observers who have calculated that the original dollar issued in 1915 is only now worth only 3 cents. This result seems to suggest an ongoing, longer currency war being practiced.
In the 1960’s, a household bread winner was able to provide for his family; however, in the 1970’s and beyond more than one income was often necessary to sustain a household. The established family pattern was disrupted with notable consequences. Corporations were happy to have more women join the workforce as their wages generally were lower than those of men, thereby improving corporate profit margins. Our government was happy to have additional incomes to tax. Women were happy, because according to the propaganda of the day, they were being liberated from household chores with an ability to “realize their full potential” and pursue a career. How the tradition for a woman working in the home raising children, and maintaining a job outside the home is liberating, rather than enslavement, has not been explained. The only losers in this evolution were the children – those that form the basis and future of our country.
It has been established by sociologists that the absence of fathers in many African American homes is the root cause of dysfunctional families manifested through maladjusted and underachieving children in society. Why should the results be any different in all other families where both the mother and the father are mostly absent? It is arguable that children’s declining math and reading scores, as well as unsocial behavior and other maladjustments are the result of this destruction of the American family. Such destruction has been accomplished through continued money expansion by the FED, with its consequent loss of purchasing power and loss of real incomes – which rather than giving women the option of working outside the home, required them to do so. So this currency creation system and policy has dramatically and detrimentally changed the American family, and the country’s future.
Later in the 1970’s as money printing, credit creation and inflation were increasing, the U.S. had some difficulty in selling their Treasury securities in global markets, as foreign banks and other financial institutions avoided buying dollar denominated bonds, which forced the Treasury to sell bonds that were denominated in, and had to be repaid in German marks or Swiss francs. It is clear that foreign institutions had become acutely aware that the U.S. was using its “exorbitant privilege” of a reserve currency in a fashion that shortchanged its international partners and these institutions were expressing their dissatisfaction through market rejection. This action may be seen as growing resistance against a U.S. based currency war.
As the dollar’s value was falling, the FED was forced by global market pressure to adopt a rigorous program to reduce inflation, thereby increasing the dollar’s value. Interest rates on U.S. Treasury bonds were raised to unprecedented heights topping out at approximately 15% in 1981, leading countries to invest in these secure high yields, pushing up the dollar’s value. High interest rates and trade imbalances caused a domestic recession – which was the eventual global market-forced payback to our previous closure of the gold exchange window, and subsequent rapid currency expansion. This episode to improve dollar’s value might be viewed as a temporary “retreat” in terms of our previous currency policy and financial war.
As the dollar subsequently increased in value compared to other country currencies, U.S. exports became increasingly more expensive and corporations started lobbying for government relief and intervention. Accordingly, the next offensive in our currency war took place with the Park Plaza Accord in 1985 in New York, when the U.S. prevailed over their formerly physically subdued war opponents, Germany and Japan – and had them agree to accept a 25-50% devaluation of the USD. That devaluation allowed U.S. exports to become cheaper and more competitively priced. That was another important currency battle that the U.S. won – and Japan and the Europeans lost.
During the 1960’s and 1970’s many countries throughout the world admired the relative prosperity of the U.S. and sought to emulate its financial policies. Accordingly, they bought into the sales pitch of the IMF and the World Bank and took on large amounts of debt for infrastructure development. Almost all of these large infrastructure debt programs defaulted, mostly through the decade of the 1980’s, and were restructured to the common detriment of the borrowing country. It could be argued that this outwardly attractive program for developing countries was in fact another stealth currency battle which the U.S. won in every country that it was tried. However, such results could not be hidden from the world, as it soon came to be understood for the nonphysical financial war which had been unleashed on unsuspecting developing countries. The IMF and World Bank became discredited among many developing nations of the world. In effect, the U.S. won all of those currency battles, but it embittered borrowers who have not forgotten their usurpation, and whose resistance to dollar hegemony has been steadily growing.
Credit Growth and Quality of Life.
Between 1964 and 2004 total credit in the U.S. had increased from $1 to $57 billion – a historically unprecedented rise. A shortage of currency and credit would stifle growth and trade; however, an overabundance of it creates business cycles and economic bubbles which leave retrenchment, default, and business failure in its wake. The overabundance of currency and credit since the 1960’s, due to the nature of our money creation process through the FED also commensurately increases national debt. This remarkable increase in currency and credit expansion paid for the greatest economic party, financed by debt, which America has enjoyed since its founding. However, as debt eventually has to be repaid, we now experience shades of our previous 1920’s decade as it drew to a close with approach of the Great Depression.
During these decades few people would claim that their quality of life has not improved significantly. It is true that easy availability of credit made it possible for citizens to purchase a home and cars – items that in the view of most people would be seen as improvement in the quality of life. However, during these decades we have also witnessed tremendous improvement in technology that has also dramatically improved living conditions. Abundant availability of food products, improved health care, wide choice of manufactured products including furniture, washing machines, refrigerators, television have improved quality of life. Their abundance and affordability comes mainly from technological advancement. Developed commercial air travel, smart cell phones, internet are all technological innovations, improving the quality of life. The question of whether it was credit availability or technological innovation that has improved quality of life begs to be answered. It is likely that technological development would have taken place whether or not credit had expanded as rapidly or at all through these decades. After 2008, and the recent mortgage and automobile loan bubble we are reminded that credit has to be repaid whereas technological improvement just keeps improving the quality of life.
International Currency War.
The U.S. has waged successful currency wars in the last several years against our perceived enemies such as Russia, Iran, and Syria – just to name a few. Such currency wars sometimes are signaled from our policymakers as when it is coupled with sanctions, but often FX transactions can take place creating havoc in a targeted currency without public notice. The trillions of dollars created by the FED and given to our domestic banks supposedly for strengthening balance sheets can be used for speculation, creating large flows of funds that destabilize foreign currencies and economies. Exchange rates for currencies are determined by markets. All markets have been manipulated, so foreign currency exchange rates have been manipulated. In addition, such huge financial war chests can also be used to influence commodity prices such as oil, which can have a devastating effect on countries relying on such exports for their budget revenues. Some huge flows of funds into foreign currencies may simply be speculative, but it also can be manipulative as a stealth currency war.
More recently China has expressed interest having their currency included in IMF’s currency basket. Given the size of China’s economy, this should have been offered to them – not something that China has to fight for. But this request has been deferred in part on the basis that China’s currency is not freely convertible. Of course everyone understands that including the yuan in IMF’s basket of currencies would decrease the importance of the dollar, would reduce its value, and therefore it is something that needs to be deferred for the U.S. to maintain its dollar hegemony. China is not depending on IMF’s acquiescence to include it in the currency basket but is hedging by setting up its own system.
Anyone following potential global currency manipulations of the last decades would understand that making the yuan fully convertible would also open it to those gargantuan flows of hot speculative money, visible in the carry trade, which might affect its currency more than China is capable or desirous of offsetting. So it is establishing the yuan as fully acceptable in trade by many of its trading partners without exposing its currency to attack. With its ability to make trade payments in currencies other than the USD they will be better protected from speculative market predations and manipulation. Since China has established a competing equivalent of the IMF bank, and is close to having an international currency clearing facility comparable to our SWIFT system, longer term China may not even need IMF’s acceptance and inclusion. Countries are coming together in order to obviate the need for the use of the dollar.Therefore countries, which have previously been taken advantage of by our financial and currency policies of the last fifty years, are now becoming more willing in its trade to accept yuans and rubles. A reduction in the use of dollars in trade, together with loss of admiration of America with our previously held moral high ground will have transformed into loss of empire and reduced citizen wellbeing. This would be recognized as our losing a major currency battle.
Domestic Currency War.
Hostile currency actions, battles, and wars have become increasingly devastating. They are more powerful than nuclear weapons. A nuclear bomb will kill hundreds of thousands of people, but a financial war can injure almost all citizens of a country or region. It is best to compare a financial war to that of the use of a neutron bomb – the buildings remain in place, but the population has been financially killed.
In the United States two such neutron bombs have been detonated already, but no one has sounded the alarm. The first neutron bomb was the FED’s reduction of interest rates to near zero, and keeping them there for more than six years. Note that the damage done to the savings and funding of pension plans is applicable to more than 150 million people in this country. Everyone is financially maimed. The second neutron bomb is the expansion of national debt from $8 trillion to more than $18 trillion in less than a decade. Our politicians verbalize reasons why this increase in debt is absolutely necessary for the health of our economy. However, this debt ultimately becomes the debt of its citizens, not of the politicians or government which created it. Citizens were just bystanders, as our politicians, FED and government dropped the neutron bomb on us. These two neutron bombs have already destroyed a large portion of our middle class, the base of a democratic society.
This debt bomb detonated in the U.S. but reverberated far beyond our own borders. These newly created trillions of dollars found themselves in the balance sheets of our banks, and became weapons of destabilization, manipulation, mass destruction in other parts of the world. The volatility of our markets is the result of too much fiat money in the world, which rushes in and out of selected countries, destabilizing their currencies and economies.
Think about it. We have experienced a dramatic rise and fall of currencies during 2015 and recent previous years that clearly are not representative of normal markets. Also, the dramatic rise and fall in the price of oil in a short period of time can only happen when markets are over-stimulated by speculation and manipulation. Our bond market has been manipulated for years by a FED policy of low interest rates and by its purchase of a large portion of our Treasury bond issues. That same policy has caused fiat currency and credit expansion and pushed up our stock market valuation. These trillions of dollars of slush funds at banks have drastically affected the price of foreign currencies versus the dollar. They have decimated currencies and economies of our alleged enemies. Yet other countries are mimicking what the US is doing with its money supply, trying to protect their currencies, economies, and dollar reserves. The greatest weapon of terror has turned out to be our rapidly and cancerously growing volume of the U.S. dollar with its concomitant growth of national debt, which has been directed against America’s perceived foreign enemies and our own citizens alike.
Historical Perspective and Future Consequences.
Could such financial damage inflicted upon the population really have been accidental, or from faulty policy – or was it the result of the FED currency’s systemic design?
For currency to be created by the FED, Treasury debt has to be issued. Thus, this system of money creation requires constant currency expansion, reducing purchasing power over decades which has become a systemic, century-long fleecing of the country’s citizens. Government and our elected representatives have abetted this financial terrorism against its own citizens, and also engaged in a long-term financial war against other sovereign nations they do not like.
Taking this long view it appears that our government with its financial institutions in tow, though previously lauded for extending democracy and freedom throughout the world have lost their moral high ground in the eyes of many sovereign foreign countries due to our leading a long-term mercantile currency war. Those sovereign countries are united ever more cohesively to free themselves from financial repression of a previously one-sided currency war with our reserve dollar the weapon of choice. Formation of BRICS and the New Development Bank, new international payment settlement system, China led AIIB, AFTA the ASEAN Free Trade Area, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Pan Asia Gold Exchange, is equivalent of aggrieved sovereign nations building their arsenals and massing their troops in what is to become their counter offensive. The established order will be challenged.
While the theoretical attributes of a republic or democracy with a Federal Reserve are many, we can get a more precise evaluation of it by looking at the historical actions of our government over the last century, including current policy trends and its actual results on its citizens. Taking into account the never ending expansion of government, persistent long-term loss of purchasing power in our currency, policies of wealth redistribution, the destruction of a traditional family and the middle class, eagerness in instigating or participation in unnecessary foreign kinetic wars, persistent offensives in a global financial war, it is difficult not to conclude that our own government has been increasingly implementing policies contrary to our Constitution and the will or benefit of its own people as well as people of other sovereign nations. Regardless of which political party is in power, representation of our citizens has been supplanted by the will of a small elite. Taking into account strategic actions of government or its actual controlling elite over the last century, one is forced to conclude that “they” have waged a long term nonphysical, highly destructive financial war against its own people.
What can we expect to happen in our homeland when finally even the generally uninformed population also understands that governments they have elected for decades, and its FED facilitator or controller, jointly have waged a century-long war on its citizens? The people of America cannot make a counter offensive similar to those of sovereign nations; however people are uniting in resistance to robber baron policies, as evidenced by the popularity of nonpoliticians currently in candidacy for the office of president. These troops will mass also, it just remains to be seen what form their eventual counter offensive will be. The established order will be challenged.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Oceania Saker.