Through the use of the shiftless practice of fractional reserve banking the fiduciary overlords that run the banks have been able to inflate the currency, making $9 for every dollar invested in their vaults. For the average greedy person multiplying their wealth by ten times by a simple magic trick of accounting (it’s all done with mirrors) would generally prove sufficient but of course bankers are over endowed with greed and have found a way to generate any amount of money out of thin cyberspace that makes their old methods look amateurish by comparison. This ultimate cash cow for the banks takes the form of digital money.
The ultimate origins of cyber-money is in 1950 when Diners Club brought out the first ever credit card. While this convenient new method of shopping was initially meant for those more fortunate souls who spend profusely and have the money to pay the bills, limiting the market for plastic money to the wealthy wasn’t really the most effective means for the banks to maximize their profits from such a potentially good earner. Gradually the banks lowered their standards for what was required to qualify for one of these cashless wonders and it is no coincidence that the rise of credit card currency was progressing at a pace with the inflation of our currency using fiat money that had been printed on a wink and a promise from the Federal Reserve. But this new façade for fiat money really came into its own when money became digitized as ATMs popped up like weeds across the world. Soon the traditional bank book had been replaced by a debit card, our accounts developed a case of the monthly statements that required extra bank charges to staunch the financial hemorrhaging that was bleeding the banks dry of their profits. Our money was so ill that there was no longer any hope that it could produce a dividend from being invested.
Now banks did all of their transfers digitally and our transactions were reduced to streams of binary code that sent our money travelling endlessly through cyberspace. Our bank balance was no longer a figure written in the debit column of our passbook but a figure flashed on a screen that seemed to diminish every time we looked as the banks gouged us for the privilege of leaving our wealth in their vaults. As the banks pushed more and more credit on those people that could least afford it their trips to the discount window at the Fed became the focus of their business and now, in the face of all of their credit accounts the business of looking after people’s savings became a hassle that was too much trouble to be bothered with. Even with all of these ways to squeeze more out of every dollar the banks weren’t satisfied and now that the vast majority of money was digital and transactions were merely a matter of shooting a few electrons down the telephone lines they were free to create as much money as they liked simply by handing out more and more credit cards.
On the surface it would seem that credit cards would have to be backed by some sort of asset of value but finding out what sort of investment is behind any of the big credit cards is almost impossible. The magic happens when a credit card is issued. The money to back up that credit card doesn’t need to be produced until some of it is spent and because it is viewed as a short term loan the big banks can take it out of their daily cash circulations without even noticing it. As credit card debt mounts up (it is around $1 trillion in the US alone) the banks go to the discount window at the Fed and cash it in. This then allows them to loan it out all over again. While this practice is nothing new, they have been inflating the currency for decades by doing this with home loans (notice how well that worked for them) this level of debt was more fluid and immediate then the longer term mortgages and it is this that makes it the real cash cow for the banks because an undeterminable amount of it is in cyberspace, money that is just numbers in the servers of the banks and which jumps back and forth between them without ever becoming hard currency. This strategy of sending money into cyberspace has been so effective that most developed economies have less than 20% of their GDP in actual hard currency, like coins and printed bills.
The effects of this subtle inflation of the currency are hard to see but there have been a lot of indicators that the nature of money has changed. Foremost is the fact that in 2006 the Federal Reserve and the US Treasury stopped trying to calculate M3 money. M3 money is the sum of all of the money that is in circulation in the economy in whatever form it takes, be it cash, bonds, credit notes or any of the myriad shapes that the banks have bent money into in the past century or so. The reason that they have stopped trying to calculate M3 money is that by the time that they calculate how much there is rather like Carroll’s tale of the race between Achilles and the Tortoise, the banks have made more.