CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’: HOW THE STATE CAN BEAT ITS BUDGET WOES - Ellen Brown


“As goes California,” says the adage, “so goes the nation.” All eyes are therefore on the Golden State as it attempts to solve its $26 billion budget deficit. The world’s eighth largest economy is not going quietly into that pit of debt and devastation that has devoured Third World countries whole. The State’s voters have drawn a line in the sand against further tax hikes, while Democratic leaders have drawn a line at further cuts in services or selloff of public assets. State legislators are deadlocked, caught between the rock of tax ceilings and the hard place of debt limits.

“Expect the best and accept nothing less,” says another adage that typifies the attitude sometimes called “California dreaming.” You create your own reality. Instead of trying to prop up an old model that has failed, you can dream up a new one. If anyone can come up with an original solution to the problem, Californians should be able to. But what? While waiting for developments, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has started paying the State’s bills with IOUs (“I Owe You”s evidencing debt, technically called “registered warrants”).

Hmm . . . Pay the bills with IOUs. Not a bad idea! That was, in fact, the original innovation that got the American colonists out of their financial straits back in the 18th century, when they lacked the silver and gold used in the Old World for conducting trade. Money, after all, was just a medium of exchange, an acknowledgment of goods and services delivered or a debt owed. The notion that the government could pay in paper receipts was first hit on by the governor of the province of Massachusetts in 1691, when he needed money to fund a local war. The use of a paper currency had been suggested in an anonymous British pamphlet in 1650, but the proposal was modeled on the receipts issued by London goldsmiths and silversmiths for the precious metals left in their vaults for safekeeping. The problem for the colonies was that they were short of silver and gold. The Massachusetts Assembly therefore proposed a different kind of paper money, a “bill of credit” representing the government’s “bond” or IOU. The paper money of Massachusetts was backed only by the “full faith and credit” of the government.

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