Open letter to President Obama (Part 697) “How to Cure Inflation” in Milton Friedman’s FREE TO CHOOSE Part 5 of 7 There is no Congressman, no Senator, who will come out and say, “I am in favor of inflation.” There is not a single one who will say, “I am in favor of big deficits.” They’ll all say we want to balance the budget, we want to hold down spending, we want an economical government. How do you explain the difference between performance and talk on the side of Congress?

Open letter to President Obama (Part 697) (Emailed to White House on July 29, 2013)

President Obama c/o The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

I know that you receive 20,000 letters a day and that you actually read 10 of them every day. I really do respect you for trying to get a pulse on what is going on out here.

______________________________

In 1980 I read the book FREE TO CHOOSE by Milton Friedman and it really enlightened me a tremendous amount.  I suggest checking out these episodes and transcripts of Milton Friedman’s film series FREE TO CHOOSE: “The Failure of Socialism” and “What is wrong with our schools?”  and “Created Equal”  and  From Cradle to Grave, and – Power of the Market.“If we could just stop the printing presses, we would stop inflation,” Milton Friedman says in “How to Cure Inflation” from the Free To Choose series. Now as then, there is only one cause of inflation, and that is when governments print too much money. Milton explains why it is that politicians like inflation, and why wage and price controls are not solutions to the problem.

In this episode Friedman noted:
 I think that is a very important point that Dr. Emminger just made because there is not a one-to-one relationship between government deficits and what happens to the money supply at all. The pressure on the Federal Reserve comes indirectly. It comes because large government deficits, if they are financed in the general capital market, will drive up interest rates and then we have the right patents in Congress and their successors pressuring the Federal Reserve to enter in and finance the deficit by printing money as a way of supposedly holding down interest rates. Now before I turn to Mr. Brown and ask him that, I just want to make one point which is very important. The Federal Reserve’s activities in trying to hold down interest rates have put us in a position where we have the highest interest rates in history. It’s another example of how, of the difference between the announced intentions of a policy, and the actual results. But now I want to come to Clarence Brown and ask him, shift the buck to him, and put him on the hot seat for a bit. The government spending has been going up rapidly, Republican administration or Democratic administration. This is a nonpartisan issue, it doesn’t matter. Government deficits have been going up rapidly. Republican administration or Democratic administration. Why is it that here again you have the difference between pronouncements and performance? There is no Congressman, no Senator, who will come out and say, “I am in favor of inflation.” There is not a single one who will say, “I am in favor of big deficits.” They’ll all say we want to balance the budget, we want to hold down spending, we want an economical government. How do you explain the difference between performance and talk on the side of Congress?
BROWN:
FRIEDMAN: I think that is a very important point that Dr. Emminger just made because there is not a one-to-one relationship between government deficits and what happens to the money supply at all. The pressure on the Federal Reserve comes indirectly. It comes because large government deficits, if they are financed in the general capital market, will drive up interest rates and then we have the right patents in Congress and their successors pressuring the Federal Reserve to enter in and finance the deficit by printing money as a way of supposedly holding down interest rates. Now before I turn to Mr. Brown and ask him that, I just want to make one point which is very important. The Federal Reserve’s activities in trying to hold down interest rates have put us in a position where we have the highest interest rates in history. It’s another example of how, of the difference between the announced intentions of a policy, and the actual results. But now I want to come to Clarence Brown and ask him, shift the buck to him, and put him on the hot seat for a bit. The government spending has been going up rapidly, Republican administration or Democratic administration. This is a nonpartisan issue, it doesn’t matter. Government deficits have been going up rapidly. Republican administration or Democratic administration. Why is it that here again you have the difference between pronouncements and performance? There is no Congressman, no Senator, who will come out and say, “I am in favor of inflation.” There is not a single one who will say, “I am in favor of big deficits.” They’ll all say we want to balance the budget, we want to hold down spending, we want an economical government. How do you explain the difference between performance and talk on the side of Congress?
BROWN: Well, first I think we have to make one point. I’m not so much with the government as I am against it.
FRIEDMAN: I understand.
BROWN: As you know, I’m a minority member of Congress.
FRIEDMAN: Again, I’m not __ I’m not directing this at you personally.
BROWN: I understand, of course; and while the administrations, as you’ve mentioned, Republican and Democratic administrations, have both been responsible for increases in spending, at least in terms of their recommendations. It is the Congress and only the Congress that appropriates the funds and determines what the taxes are. The President has no authority to do that and so one must lay it at the feet of the U.S. Congress. Now, I guess we’d have to concede that it’s a little bit more fun to give away things than it is to withhold them. And this is the reason that the Congress responds to a general public that says, “I want you to cut everybody else’s program but the one in which I am most particularly interested. Save money, but incidentally, my wife is taking care of the orphanages and so lets try to help the orphanages,” or whatever it is. Let me try to make a point, if I can, however, on what I think is a new spirit moving within the Congress and that is that inflation, as a national affliction, is beginning to have an impact on the political psychology of many Americans. Now the Germans, the Japanese and others have had this terrific postwar inflation. The Germans have been through it twice, after World War I and World War II, and it’s a part of their national psyche. But we are affected in this country by the depression. Our whole tax structure is built on the depression. The idea of the tax structure in the past has been to get the money out of the mattress where it went after the banks failed in this country and jobs were lost, and out of the woodshed or the tin box in the back yard, get it out of there and put it into circulation. Get it moving, get things going. And one of the ways to do that was to encourage inflation. Because if you held on to it, the money would depreciate; and the other way was to tax it away from people and let the government spend it. Now there’s a reaction to that and people are beginning to say, “Wait just a minute. We’re not afflicted as much as we were by depression. We’re now afflicted by inflation, and we’d like for you to get it under control.” Now you can do that in another way and that without reducing the money supply radically. I think the Joint Economic Committee has recommended that we do it gradually. But the way that you can do it is to reduce taxes and the impact of government, that is the weight of government and increase private savings so that the private savings can finance some of the debt that you have.
FRIEDMAN: There is no way you can do it without reducing, in my opinion, the rate of monetary growth. And I, recognizing the facts, even though they ought not to be that way, I wonder whether you can reduce the rate of monetary growth unless Congress actually does reduce government spending as well as government taxes.
BROWN: The problem is that every time we use demand management, we get into a kind of an iron maiden kind of situation. We twist this way and one of the spikes grabs us here, so we twist that way and a spike over here gets us. And every recession has had higher basic unemployment rates than the previous recession in the last several years and every inflation has had higher inflation. We’ve got to get that tilt out of the society.
MCKENZIE: Wouldn’t it be fair to say, though, that a fundamental difference is the Germans are more deeply fearful of a return to inflation, having had the horrifying experience between the wars, especially. We tend to be more afraid of recession turning into depression.
EMMINGER: I think there is something in it and in particular in Germany the government would have to fear very much in their electoral prospects if they went into such an election period with a high inflation rate. But there is another important difference.
MARTIN: We fear unemployment more than inflation it seems.
EMMINGER: You fear unemployment, but unemployment is feared with us, too, but inflation is just as much feared. But there is another difference; namely, once you have got into that escalating inflation, every time the base, the plateau is higher, it’s extremely difficult to get out of it. You must avoid getting into that, now that’s very cheap advice from me because you are now.
(Laughing)
EMMINGER: But we had, for the last fifteen, twenty years, always studied foreign experiences, and told ourselves we never must get into this vicious circle. Once you are in, it takes a long time to get out of it. That is what I am preaching now, that we should avoid at all costs to get again into this vicious circle as we had it already in ’73_’74. It took us, also, four years to get out of it, although we were only at eight percent inflation. Four years to get down to three percent. So you __
MCKENZIE: Those were __ yes.
EMMINGER: You have, I think, the question of whether you can do if in a gradualist way over many, many years, or whether you don’t need a sort of shock treatment.

___________________________

Thank you so much for your time. I know how valuable it is. I also appreciate the fine family that you have and your commitment as a father and a husband.

Sincerely,

Everette Hatcher III, 13900 Cottontail Lane, Alexander, AR 72002, ph 501-920-5733, lowcostsqueegees@yahoo.com

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