You Should View Money as Another Government Weapon
I was out and about the other day and stopped into a corner bistro to buy an iced tea. With sales tax, the price was $2.68.
I handed three $1-bills to the cashier. She looked at me a little bit funny, and said, “Don’t you want to use a credit or debit card?”
It was my turn to be a little bit surprised. I said, “Use a card? For this?”
My thinking was to hand over $3 in cash and tell the nice young lady to keep the change. But her thinking was that it seemed odd for a customer not to use plastic.
At that moment, two different views of the world intersected: cash versus card.
This led to a discussion about how few people use cash anymore.
And interestingly, according to the proprietress of this little shop on a nondescript side street in Pittsburgh, well over 95% of her sales are electronic. Indeed, there are days when she doesn’t touch even one metal coin or Federal Reserve note.
It’s a sign of the times, perhaps. Cash has been fading for a while, but it really fell out of favor in the past year of Covid. Nobody wants to catch the corona bug, and there’s no telling where some of that dirty, filthy, germy cash has been, right?
Then again, the encounter prompted me to think about how, as a culture and society, we’re merrily waltzing down the road to a 1984-style total-surveillance state.
Because real money is real freedom. Yet we’ve moved deep into an era when what we consider money is just another weapon in the insidious arsenal of government power.
The very idea of money has transformed into a tool with which the government controls you.
Let’s dig into this…
First, you’ve probably heard the saying about how gangster Al Capone didn’t go to jail for murder. He went to jail for not paying taxes.
This illustrates an age-old aspect of government power. Government wants tax receipts and has vast powers to collect them.
There’s nothing new about government pursuing taxes; it’s an ancient ritual. “Render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s,” right?
Anymore, modern governments don’t even have to send armed agents dressed up in Ninja-SWAT garb to take people down, although that kind of brute force power-theater does happen on occasion.
No, the government just sends you a letter from the tax office. And quickly, part of your life is on hold, if not hard stop. If you’re smart, you’re immediately on the phone with your accountant or lawyer.
Indeed, the government (federal, state and local) already knows quite a bit about you or your business just by virtue of the fact that you file tax returns every year. An intrepid auditor can borescope you down to a financially granular level.
If a government agent really wants to nail you, the tax system provides many trap doors into your life. It doesn’t matter who you are, either. Not if you’re meek and mild, or high and mighty. A tax audit is the great leveler.
For example, look at how hard New York authorities are hounding former President Trump via his tax records. Trump fought disclosure all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but now those documents are in the hands of investigators (and their friendly, collaborating media outlets) that have axes to grind with the man.
I suspect that, sooner or later, prosecutors will somehow find something and hit Trump with it, good and hard. It’ll be banner headlines, which is a big part of the idea.
You can like Trump or not. You can be pro-MAGA. Or maybe believe that he’s spawn of the devil. That’s not the point, and it doesn’t matter.
But notice exactly how Trump’s enemies came for him. They aren’t making a case over his performance in office. They’re not investigating him over building a wall on the Mexican border, or placing tariffs on Chinese goods, or even how he shot cruise missiles at Syria.
No, prosecutors are gunning for Trump over whether he under-reported income, took disallowed business deductions, or misstated the value of real estate on his tax-abatement forms. Things like that.
And actually, when you get to the true roots of the chase, it’s not even about the tax money, one way or the other.
That is, so what if Trump underpaid his taxes by a few million? Or a few tens of millions? Or even more? I mean, we live in a world where Warren Buffet has bragged that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. And where many multibillion-dollar people and companies pay zero, even.
There are articles of the Tax Code written for specific people or businesses. Big players buy their most favored status through heavy lobbying and political donations.
Meanwhile, it’s a crazy time in America’s long history of tax-and-spend governance. Congress just passed an appropriations bill for $1.9 trillion, in which almost all of the money is in play for vaguely defined concepts. If you look at details, tens of billions here or there are naught but rounding errors.
It’ll all be paid for by the Fed issuing cash to the Treasury, all conjured out of thin air. In that sense, do taxes even matter anymore?
The fact is that we live in a world where government (at least, the federal side) just spends whatever it wants. Under the convenient voodoo economics of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), there truly are no limits anymore.
And at the end of the day, in the case of New York prosecutors versus Trump, it’s not nearly so much about unpaid or underpaid taxes as it is about just nailing the man out of raw political spite.
For many, pursuing Trump is a big game hunt, as well as a media circus. He’s famous. He has money. He can hire lawyers. People will watch it all unfold in the news feed, right?
Then again, that’s exactly the problem.
When tax prosecutors make a run against someone as high in the food chain as a former U.S. president (basically because they hate his guts), then what chance does the normal person have in this kind of system?
When the taxman comes around, what are the odds for honest, upright people like you? Or like me, certainly.
Then again, you’re innocent, yes? Earned every dime legally. Paid every nickel of taxes. You’re clean as a whistle, eh? “There’s nothing to worry about,” you say. Yup. Famous last words.
Which gets to the point here, because the way we do “money” in this culture has turned everyone’s life into an open book.
Stated another way, our money is weaponized.
Go back to that iced tea I bought and how the cashier was surprised that I paid cash.
If you’re even a little bit like me, you’ve probably noticed that shift from cash over the past year of lockdowns with restricted travel and such.
On my end, there were times when I’d go to the ATM, pull out some cash and still have those paper notes in my wallet two months later.
It’s not that I wasn’t spending money. I just wasn’t spending cash.
Think about it. Go to the grocery store? Pay with a credit card. Pharmacy? Credit card. Gas station? Credit card. Hardware store? Credit card.
And then there’s all the online commerce that exploded in the past year. Credit card, of course.
Ironically, I was accumulating frequent flyer mileage on the cards, too. This despite the fact that almost nobody was flying (not me, anyhow) and much of the nation’s airline fleet was grounded, with planes sitting in desert storage in Arizona and California.
Meanwhile these days, many people conduct most of their banking and pay a lot of bills online. Credit cards, utilities, college tuition, even property taxes.
And of course, there’s your stock trading; all of it is electronic anymore.
Bottom line is that fewer and fewer people are deep into the cash economy.
Which also means that pretty much everyone is in an alternate universe, deep in a shadowy, financial surveillance economy where anyone who is really interested can unpack your life.
For example, let’s say that you use a card to buy groceries. There’s a record of payment, obviously. But also, if someone wants to do a forensic audit, they can go back to the checkout counter scan and determine exactly what you bought, from meat to dairy to produce and canned goods, etc. (And don’t forget the surveillance cameras that recorded the event.)
Same with everything else, of course. Your pharmacy purchases, medical records, airline and hotel movements, gasoline, hardware store, even your clothing sizes. It’s all there, in your financial records if someone follows the tracks.
The modern financial system has transformed into a vast intelligence-collection process.
Couple this with what you’ve probably seen or heard, that we’re moving to a so-called “cashless” society. Coins and bills will be practically useless, other than you’ll be allowed to turn them in at a bank for electronic credit.
We’ve already reached the point where nearly everything you do leaves an auditable trail, all the way down to buying an iced tea at some corner shop (if you use your card). In that sense, you have zero financial privacy.
The other angle is that when cash is gone, so is any financial fire escape.
Consider how we’ve had near-zero interest rates for over a decade, with much talk of negative rates sooner or later.
But what happens when the bank tells you that it’ll keep your money on account but charge you a percent or two every year? Your $100 will be worth $98.50 in twelve months. And less and less over time.
Under that scenario, you won’t even have the option of withdrawing cash. It’s not like the olden days, when people could stuff cash under a mattress or bury it in the back yard.
There’s no cash anymore, remember?
Meanwhile, when there’s no more cash all money is now electronic. Now, add in a scenario where every unit of currency comes with an expiration date. (Even Bitcoin and other cryptos. Just you watch. That’s coming.)
That is, you must spend it within a certain time, or it begins to self-destruct in your account. This is truly the death of savings — certainly of long-term savings.
And basically, the powers who run things have you by the throat.
They have your money. It’s all electronic. They can force you to spend it or watch it disappear. They can even conveniently deduct any fines for misbehavior by just debiting your accounts, which is much how the game is already played in China.
At this point I’d say, “buy gold,” but the back end of that excellent advice raises another question, namely what happens when you want to sell it?
When you sell that gold, you’re right back into the electronic world of money tracking.
Still, I’d rather have the gold for at least the time being. I’d rather have something that preserves wealth and value over time, until we reach a point when circumstances dictate the next steps.
Because a government that has weaponized money the way we see things today is no long-term friend of your freedom.
On that note, I rest my case.
That’s all for now… Thank you for subscribing and reading.
Managing Editor, Whiskey & Gunpowder
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