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February 24, 2016 1:01 AM   Subscribe

 
I honestly don't understand this world.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:18 AM on February 24, 2016


Fat from radical - exactly what Australia did in 2008. Literally gave money away, to low income families . Did it work? Absolutely
posted by wilful at 1:29 AM on February 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


Of course, this would require every adult citizen to have some kind of bank account to receive the electronic deposit, and all those new accounts they will definitely charge for... cha-ching!
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:54 AM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


The US has more underbanked residents than other rich countries, but even so 94% of Americans over 15 had an account at a financial institution in 2014 (World Bank data)
posted by ormon nekas at 2:20 AM on February 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


Did it work? Absolutely

It was a Debt and Deficit Disaster!

(True story, yesterday I met someone who used his Rudd cheque to buy shares in a racehorse.)
posted by Mezentian at 3:16 AM on February 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


I honestly don't understand this world.

are you tony blair?
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:48 AM on February 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


Surely this
posted by chavenet at 3:59 AM on February 24, 2016


I'm sure it will never happen because some percentage of people would use the money for beer, drugs, or vacations rather than approved consumption, but I so wish we would set up some kind of basic income or support system. It could never fully replace other necessary parts of the safety net, but it would improve so many people's lives.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:05 AM on February 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


What was the story from the Golden Age of Science Fiction where production was fixed and so consumption was required? The wealthy were able to get off with consuming less, but the poor had to use up all their allotment: wear out their clothes, take advantage of their club memberships, etc.

Bester?
posted by oheso at 4:11 AM on February 24, 2016


Brave new world I think.

Ending is better than mending. The more stitches, the less riches.
A government slogan encouraging people to throw away old possessions and buy new ones, thus theoretically keeping the global economy strong.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:20 AM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


That story's most likely Frederik Pohl's "The Midas Plague".
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 4:24 AM on February 24, 2016 [10 favorites]


people would use the money for beer, drugs, or vacations rather than approved consumption

Shock! Horror!
posted by Mister Bijou at 4:33 AM on February 24, 2016 [10 favorites]


it was frederik pohl's "the midas plague" - which ends when the protagonist has trained his robots to do his consumption and wearing out of for him, confesses his "crime" to the government and is rewarded for his solution to the consumption problem
posted by pyramid termite at 4:38 AM on February 24, 2016 [9 favorites]


I have a weak grasp of global finance. Is this, or will this be seen as, an abandonment of supply-side economics? Will this finally put it to rest?
posted by klarck at 4:43 AM on February 24, 2016


Will this finally put it to rest?

No.

(Sorry)
posted by Mezentian at 4:53 AM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Of course, this would require every adult citizen to have some kind of bank account to receive the electronic deposit, and all those new accounts they will definitely charge for... cha-ching!

I presume any government willing to try this (in the US) would also be willing to consider postal banking.
posted by Octaviuz at 4:56 AM on February 24, 2016 [11 favorites]


I love that all of Milton Friedman's most socialist flavored policy proposals - money helicopters and minimum income - are getting so much play. I hope history remembers him as a double agent for the revolution.
posted by vorpal bunny at 5:37 AM on February 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


Imagine you're a baby boomer who retired with a decent nest egg say, eight years ago. Your expectation was to live on the interest. Only suddenly the Fed decides that there will be no interest for the duration of the crisis. Which is still with us. So that interest income you were counting on for the odd night out at the Olive Garden or taking the grand kids to Disney world is put on hold as you dig into principal which is scaring you to death but really what choice do you have? And of course negative interest rates, robbing even what remains of small savers’ principal, would be for small savers would be an even worse betrayal of public trust than inflation.

Imagine you are Goldman Sachs or a generic hedge fund eight years ago with a decent float and you are presented with government interest rates of zero percent. If you're at all clever, you can borrow this money and "invest" it in art, London real estate, commodities, or any other opportunity that comes along. Sure, it makes bubbles but where there is hot air there is property. So long as the borrowing costs are zilch, you are in good shape.

Of course the government likes low interest rates because the government is a debtor, not a saver, and for all the cliches about how we out it to ourselves and government finance is not like family finance, the fact remains that at some point, someone will get stuck with the check, and higher interest rates make the government uneasy.

Bottom line – I suspect that if they were to raise interest rates back to the historical norm, the savers – at least, those whose principal has not been shattered in the past eight years – might start spending again. And the hedge funds, who did nothing to boost the real economy and who are already becoming a bit played out, would decline as the life blood of low interest is no longer fueling their returns.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:30 AM on February 24, 2016 [8 favorites]


We need a better safety net that doesn't ask the most vulnerable and broken people to jump through hoops that are essentially designed to filter OUT the most vulnerable struggling people. If someone is so disabled they can't work reliably, then using their failure to be able to understand or navigate a humiliating process of proving themselves incompetent is just cruel. And it gets the desired result, very few people able to access help when they need it.

I want something like basic income because it would mean ALL the people who are floundering at the bottom (and there are SO MANY who aren't able to use any of the supposed support services that supposedly exist to help them) could get access to financial support. And it would help address this hate fest the working poor to often take out on those even more vulnerable than they are because they can't access support services and blame those who have fallen apart enough to qualify for disability or who have kids and have no other way to survive but use these services. (Instead of blaming those with a whole lot more power and money and for making the requirements to get aid so shit.)
posted by xarnop at 6:43 AM on February 24, 2016 [16 favorites]


Jubilee. That ought to boost spending. Of course, some people might take a hit....
posted by Roentgen at 6:44 AM on February 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm sure it will never happen because some percentage of people would use the money for beer, drugs, or vacations rather than approved consumption, but I so wish we would set up some kind of basic income or support system.

Do you realize that you've inadvertently (it seems) phrased this backward? You're assuming what Republicans who hate poor people want to prove. The mere idea that some people might spend even some of their income on things that make them feel good but aren't strictly necessary for bare survival is used to prevent things like this from happening: the mere idea is used to prevent this, not any observable reality. You're buying into that claim by suggesting that it corresponds to something real which would ruin this plan once it was observed.
posted by clockzero at 6:48 AM on February 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


The "savers" you conceive of are extremely few in number. inasmuch as there is a saver v spender rivalry in the American economy, the savers side is represented by large institutional investors (eg pension and mutual funds) whose holdings absolutely dwarf individual mom and pop investors. The percentage of the American middle class whose consumption is materially affected by the state of their stock portfolio is tiny, tiny, tiny. Housing is by far the more influential asset class in terms of wealth effects.


Hedge fund returns are already abysmal; they are currently experiencing their greatest outflows in years.

The idea of ZIRP is forcing savers to seek riskier assets in search of return, some of which ought to turn out to be productive assets which will return the economy to growth. The trouble is the people with the money seem unable or unwilling to do this. Corporate profits are higher than ever and they corporations are spending them on stock buybacks, or simply sitting on it.

Anyway, none of this is likely to matter because there's a strong case to be made that China's banks are going to go kerblooey, dragging the rest of the world economy with them.
posted by Diablevert at 6:48 AM on February 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


I suspect that if they were to raise interest rates back to the historical norm

We're in the Japan Trap now.

https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?g=3z5D

Green is federal interest payments / GDP, left axis.

blue is fed debt / GDP, red is consumer debt / GDP

last 10 years years we de-leveraged households and put the debt on the Feds (and the Fed, who now own trillions of this debt -- luckily we'll never have to pay that off since they'll just roll it over for us)
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 7:20 AM on February 24, 2016


Not only that we tripled the money supply but none of it went to anyone who could do anything with it.

A small subsegment of the population who are at this point collecting money for sport is basically killing all of us.
posted by Talez at 7:26 AM on February 24, 2016 [21 favorites]


Anyway, none of this is likely to matter because there's a strong case to be made that China's banks are going to go kerblooey, dragging the rest of the world economy with them.

Good thing that China has a savings economy, or else that potential bank failure could really mess things up for hundreds of millions of people.
posted by clockzero at 7:58 AM on February 24, 2016


"I'm sure it will never happen because some percentage of people would use the money for beer, drugs, or vacations rather than approved consumption, but I so wish we would set up some kind of basic income or support system. It could never fully replace other necessary parts of the safety net, but it would improve so many people's lives."

Beer, drugs and vacations are exactly the consumption we want! (Well, in states that tax recreational drug consumption.)

But I support the "helicopters full of cash" plan over a basic income, so…

"Bottom line – I suspect that if they were to raise interest rates back to the historical norm, the savers – at least, those whose principal has not been shattered in the past eight years – might start spending again. And the hedge funds, who did nothing to boost the real economy and who are already becoming a bit played out, would decline as the life blood of low interest is no longer fueling their returns."

Macroeconomically, this is not supported by actual evidence. Cheap new money plus increased redistributive policy (i.e. higher taxes and welfare spending) ends up being more effective.
posted by klangklangston at 11:24 AM on February 24, 2016


This makes a hell of a lot more sense that quantitative easing and giving free money to banks at a loss in hopes they will lend it out.
posted by humanfont at 12:01 PM on February 24, 2016


My understanding was that recent research had shown that direct cash payments to poor people are much more effective as welfare programs vs all the other kinds. Generally these had lower administrative costs and people tended to use the money more effectively.
posted by humanfont at 12:11 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Troll them. Buy gold. Bury it.
posted by Damienmce at 12:21 PM on February 24, 2016


Damienmce: "Troll them. Buy gold. Bury it."

Pay someone to dig it back up.
posted by chavenet at 1:34 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


The "savers" you conceive of are extremely few in number.

I think you are right that few people are real savers, but keep in mind that paying down debt is effectively a form of savings. If everyone in America got $1000 from the government and used it to pay off credit cards, we'd get zero new consumption. Although I wonder if you could preferentially give money to citizens with neither savings or debt to avoid that.
posted by miyabo at 8:17 PM on February 24, 2016


Beer, drugs and vacations are exactly the consumption we want! (Well, in states that tax recreational drug consumption.)

For some the "morality" of not seeing people poorer than yourself have enjoyment is more important than a rising tide lifting all boats or something. Or more fairly, I think most people just don't quite understand the argument in favor of this sort of thing, and then passing moral judgment is easier than thinking about it.

I personally I'm quite happy to spend found money on booze. These days in my situation (happily) an upgrade in quality rather than an increase in quantity, but a good drink is a perfectly good way to reward yourself or treat friends when you find extra money in your budget.

Also, in this case tax status of expenditures on drugs is largely irrelevant. Drug dealers who get a tax-free infusion of money spend it on other stuff too, increasing aggregate demand, and with no deadweight loss!
posted by mark k at 11:15 PM on February 24, 2016


The "savers" you conceive of are extremely few in number.

Well, okay them. So fuck 'em, them and their stupid horse and buggy play by the rules mentality. They shoulda been smarter bolder, braver.

More like Hedgies, if you like.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:38 PM on February 25, 2016


I wasn't playing a round of Who Deserves Most to Get Fucked Over, though we can if you like. What I thought we were playing was Which Lever Moves Most World, or what policy actions the federal government could undertake to provide the most benefit to the economy. Helping out individual savers is a short, shit lever. There aren't enough of them.

I mean, it's an open question at the minute whether the Fed in fact has any levers left at all. The tiny baby step rate hike they did undertake last month was followed by a giant market freak out. Correlation or causation, they probably won't risk another any time soon. Meanwhile the Bank of Japan and parts of Europe have gone negative; this doesn't seem to be helping much either, with some argument that it's actually causing a contraction in lending and imperilling bank stocks.

Something funky is going on with the global economy and nobody seems to know what it is. Which is not super-inspiring, because for all peeps in this thread are all pro-helicopter and whatnot, the reason we got eight years of ZIRP and QE in the first place is as soon as the immediate panic of the crisis faded, further stimulus became politically impossible. ZIRP ain't great. If a crisis comes and we're already at ZIRP....well, see the cover story on this week's Economist.
posted by Diablevert at 3:16 PM on February 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Well, okay them. So fuck 'em, them and their stupid horse and buggy play by the rules mentality. They shoulda been smarter bolder, braver.

More like Hedgies, if you like.
"

I'm of two minds on this. I'm not sure it's worth trying to persuade you by pointing out historical research on debt deflation, which does basically show that attempting to use interest rate increases to stimulate demand spending doesn't work, but validates the frame that this is unfair that it happened to people who "play[ed] by the rules. The other impulse is to point out that most of the people who thought they were playing by the rules were actually setting up a property regime that both over-valued their savings to begin with (mostly in the form of housing) and deeply fucked more than one generation after them, which I recognize is a bitter draught but pushes back against the indignant false dichotomy between the valorous lumpen and the scheming hedge funders. It sucks that people who thought they were playing by the rules are likely to never see their savings recover, but it's also important to recognize that those rules have been fucked for a while and that while both broadly morally appealing and directly financially appealing to people who are dependent on savings, it's unlikely to make them all that better off in the short term and likely to make a lot of us much, much worse off in the long run.

On some level, it reminds me of the difficulty in persuading people that it's worthwhile to invest in rehabilitation programs in prisons, since often that means paying for things that make prison a less shitty experience and the impulse to punish people is undeniable. But just punishing more doesn't actually work that well to prevent recidivism, and so despite the fact that some ex-cons will inevitably hurt more people, it ends up being more effective to act in the interests of people who may not deserve that support in the eyes of many, because helping them ends up being more effective in furthering the interests of most people.

I mean, if this is what it takes for someone to realize that capitalism itself is amoral at best, and that "the rules" require endless growth (which entails inflation, hurting savers), well, hopefully that person will realize that rather than trying to reclaim their personal savings, they may be better off supporting policies that reduce the demands on their savings, e.g. universal health care. Their savings may be worth less, but an increased percentage of it would be available for spending on things they want, rather than the metaphorical broken windows of the human body.
posted by klangklangston at 1:39 AM on February 26, 2016




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