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Jane L. Johnson



Articles by Jane L. Johnson

Evil Twins: US Federal Budget Deficits and US Trade

22 days ago

One hears little today of the US “twin deficits,” a phrase familiar during the 1980s when the US had consistently run both federal budget deficits and international trade deficits. Economists hypothesized at that time that there was a theoretical and/or empirical relationship assuring the two deficits’ increasing or decreasing together.How Do Federal Budget Deficits Arise?Annual federal budget deficits exist whenever federal spending exceeds annual tax revenue. The US has consistently run these deficits in most of the postwar period, except during the Clinton administration in the 1990s. Fiscal year 2001 was the last time the US federal budget was in surplus.The fiscal year 2023 budget deficit was $1.7 trillion, with tax revenue at $4.4 trillion and federal

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Banking’s Unique Business Model, And Why Capital is not a “Rainy Day Fund”

April 8, 2024

Banks are highly regulated businesses, as expected of entities to which we entrust our money, and from which we may expect to borrow someday to buy a home or start a business. Bankers interact with regulators daily. Investors wishing to establish a bank must first obtain capital pledges from future shareowners and apply for a bank charter from either federal or state government regulators. Once in business, a bank is overseen by one or more of the following state and federal regulators: a state banking commission if a state-chartered bank, Office of the Controller of the Currency if federally-chartered, the Federal Reserve if a member of that system and/or a one-bank holding company, National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) if a credit union, Federal Deposit

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California’s Latest Hustle: Utility Bills Based on Ratepayers’ Income

March 25, 2024

Utility bills—for electricity, natural gas, water, and garbage—have by long-standing tradition been based on customer usage, measured in kilowatt-hours of electricity, therms or Btu of natural gas, hundred cubic feet of water, or number of garbage cans. Every residence and business has electric, gas, and water meters that measure utility usage.But changes are afoot in the utility business as federal and state governments urge Americans to convert from fossil fuels to electricity for home heating, appliances, and transportation. From this transition will undoubtedly follow changes in utility rate-setting models.Fixed Fees Coupled with Usage-Based Electricity RatesSome electric utilities currently charge customers a flat, fixed fee as well as usage-based charges,

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Should the US Congress Audit the Federal Reserve?

March 14, 2024

The Federal Reserve system, including its twelve regional district banks that issue our US currency, is a creature of Congress, which passed the Federal Reserve Act in 1913 to create our central bank. The Fed is neither part of the executive branch of the federal government, nor is it an independent federal agency within the government, although members of the Fed’s Board of Governors are appointed by the Presidential and confirmed by Congress.The Fed’s unique independence has two features: 1) the regional Federal Reserve district banks are privately owned by their member commercial banks, and 2) the FR system receives no funding through the federal government budget. Thus, the Fed is arguably the most independent of the world’s central banks, a uniquely designed

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Junk fees, Shrinkflation, Surge Pricing and Other Legal Price-setting Strategies: Price Controls by Another Name

March 11, 2024

President Biden needs an economics lesson. Demonstrating his ignorance of economics, his recent State of the Union speech regaled us with a laundry list of legal business pricing strategies that he wants to see restricted or banned by federal agencies such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC). These pricing strategies include what Biden pejoratively calls “junk fees”, “shrinkflation”, “greedflation”, “surge pricing”, and “price gouging”. Both American businesses and consumers are targets of Biden’s barbs, as he blames the former for inflation and the latter for their stupid gullibility to businesses’ evil ways.But he fails to understand that successful businesses carefully survey customers’ preferences and behavior

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How Would US States Actually Declare Bankruptcy?

March 5, 2024

Stephen Anderson, in his Mises Wire essays of February 1 (“Are Bankruptcies of Some US States in the Future?”) and February 23 (“US States Have a Long History of Defaulting”), worries that some US states may be on the precipice of bankruptcy. While a potential problem—especially in light of high debt levels among federal government, businesses, and consumers—possible state bankruptcies and defaults must be clarified before we conclude that state bankruptcies lie ahead.Mr. Anderson is correct that federal bankruptcy law does not allow states to declare bankruptcy. According to the contracts clause of the US Constitution—Article 1, Section 10—states are barred from impairing the obligation of contracts, and the Supreme Court has interpreted this to mean that a state

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The Federal Mega-Debt is Here to Stay

February 16, 2024

US fiscal realities are well known. Total federal debt outstanding has now reached $34 trillion, up from $98 billion in 1981, $5.67 trillion in 2000, $13.56 trillion in 2010, and $26.95 trillion in 2020. And at 120 percent of the US economy’s productive capacity (gross domestic product), the federal debt matches that at the end of World War II.
That $34 trillion, when spelled out, is the number thirty-four followed by twelve (count ’em) zeros separated by four commas. So it looks like this, a lot of digits and commas for the human brain to comprehend: $34,000,000,000,000.
These official debt figures do not even include the large unfunded liabilities inherent in the largest federal entitlement programs, Social Security and Medicare, Medicaid, and several others

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Are We Really All in This Together?

February 14, 2024

Whenever governing elites create a new crisis, they insist that “we’re all in this together.” It’s time to ignore their lies altogether.
Original Article: Are We Really All in This Together?

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Federal Student Loans Drive Up College Tuition Levels

December 29, 2023

Like every other government program designed to make something “more affordable,” the student loan program has managed to drive college tuition to atmospheric levels and saddle students with massive levels of debt.
Original Article: Federal Student Loans Drive Up College Tuition Levels

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Federal Student Loans Drive Up College Tuition Levels

December 18, 2023

Mises Wire contributor Kevin Van Elswyk, in his November 29 article “Student Loans: The Continuing Crisis That Is Getting Worse,” nicely summarizes the current confusion and scandal of federal student loan programs, which at this point appear a miasma that will likely turn into an outright student grant program as more and more of these loan balances are forgiven.
It is most unfortunate that the US government, with good intentions to increase college attendance, ever became mired in this student loan morass. The effort originally began in the 1960s when economists observed that college graduates typically earn higher lifetime incomes than those who ended their formal education with high school. Thus Congress included in the Higher Education Act of 1965 a federal

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Today Is the Best Day of the Year to Rob a Bank

December 11, 2023

Today, the Fed takes a short break from robbing us via inflation and, instead, delivers huge amounts of cash to banks to service Black Friday purchases. The large cash infusions often make banks vulnerable to robberies.
Original Article: Today Is the Best Day of the Year to Rob a Bank

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Today Is the Best Day of the Year to Rob a Bank

November 22, 2023

Depression-era bank robber Willie Sutton, when asked why he robbed banks, replied, “Because that’s where the money is.” By “money,” he meant United States currency. He never indicated how he scheduled his robberies, but some days of the year may be more profitable for bank robberies than others.
Disclaimer: Neither I nor the Mises Wire in any way endorses bank robbery, which is a federal crime.
First, here are some facts about US “folding money,” Federal Reserve notes in denominations of $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100. The Fed no longer issues $500, $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000 bills, but they are still legal tender and may still be in circulation.
This currency is printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing division of the US Treasury, then supplied to

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The Federal Reserve is Running Losses. Does This Cost Anyone Anything?

November 7, 2023

Financial statements of the US Federal Reserve, which consists of the board of governors in Washington and twelve district reserve banks across the country, indicate that the consolidated system has generated both capital and operating losses for the past couple of years. The Fed was created in 1913 to issue and circulate an “elastic currency” that could respond to consumers’ demand for cash, end bank runs known then as “money panics,” and serve as a “lender of last resort” to the nation’s commercial banks. How is it possible that the Fed could be losing money after one hundred years of operation?
The debate has raged in the banking and finance communities. Two investigators, Paul Kupiec at the American Enterprise Institute and Alex Pollock at the Mises Institute,

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It’s Time for Some Debt and Entitlement Alarmism

October 12, 2023

Climate alarmism dominates the news cycle, but perhaps people be more alarmed by massive federal budget deficits and runaway entitlement spending.

Original Article: It’s Time for Some Debt and Entitlement Alarmism

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