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Elizabeth Warren Supports Central Bank Cryptos. Should You Be Worried?

A Politico article discusses an alleged Fed opportunity to remake the dollar. Let's discuss the idea.
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Elizabeth Warren supports central bank cryptos. Should you be worried

The rise of private cryptocurrencies motivated the Fed to start considering a digital dollar to be used alongside the traditional paper currency. 

Politico writer Victoria Guida believes this represents a ‘Once in a Century’ Bid to Remake the U.S. Dollar.

The idea of creating a fully digital version of the U.S. dollar, which was unthinkable just a few years ago, has gained bipartisan interest from lawmakers as diverse as Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and John Kennedy (R-La.) because of its potential benefits for consumers who don’t have bank accounts. But it’s also sparking strong pushback from those with the most to lose: banks.

“The United States should not implement a [central bank digital currency] simply because we can or because others are doing so,” the American Bankers Association said in a statement to lawmakers this week. The benefits “are theoretical, difficult to measure, and may be elusive,” while the negative consequences “could be severe,” the group wrote.

The explosive rise of private cryptocurrencies in recent years motivated the Fed to start considering a digital dollar to be used alongside the traditional paper currency. The biggest driver of concern was a Facebook-led effort, launched in 2019, to build a global payments network using crypto technology. Though that effort is now much narrower, it demonstrated how the private sector could, in theory, create a massive currency system outside government control.

Now, central banks around the world have begun exploring the idea of issuing their own digital currencies — a fiat version of a cryptocurrency that would operate more like physical cash — that would have some of the same technological benefits as other cryptocurrencies.

That could provide unwelcome competition for banks by giving depositors another safe place to put their money. A person or a business could keep their digital dollars in a virtual “wallet” and then transfer them directly to someone else without needing to use a bank account. Even if the wallet were operated by a bank, the firm wouldn’t be able to lend out the cash. But unlike other crypto assets like Bitcoin or Ether, it would be directly backed and controlled by the central bank, allowing the monetary authorities to use it, like any other form of the dollar, in its policies to guide interest rates.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Digital Currency Initiative are aiming next month to publish the first stage of their work to determine whether a Fed virtual currency would work on a practical level — an open-source license for the most basic piece of infrastructure around creating and moving digital dollars.

Remake the Dollar?

No, this does not in any way "remake" the dollar. The dollar is still a dollar, it still floats, it still is not backed by gold. 

The dollar itself will not change in any fundamental way. 

Winners and Losers

Guida describes banks as the big losers. 

Although the American Bankers Association strongly objects, it is not at all clear that banks will be big losers although they would lose interest on excess reserves, or if you prefer, interest on reserves.

The two are identical because the Fed Board of Governors reduced reserve requirement ratios on net transaction accounts to 0 percent, effective March 26, 2020. This action eliminated reserve requirements for all depository institutions finally confirming my 2005 statements "banks do not lend from reserves and there are no real reserves anyway." 

Elizabeth Warren

“Legitimate digital public money could help drive out bogus digital private money, while improving financial inclusion, efficiency, and the safety of our financial system — if that digital public money is well-designed and efficiently executed,” she said at a hearing on Wednesday, which she convened as chair of the Senate Banking Committee’s economic policy subcommittee. 

Other senators highlighted the potential for central bank digital wallets to be used to deliver government aid more directly to people who don’t have bank accounts. A digital dollar could also be designed to have more high-tech benefits of some cryptocurrencies, like facilitating “smart contracts” where a transaction is completed once certain conditions are met.

Wealth Redistribution

People don't have bank accounts but will they will all have a digital wallet? Will they understand how to use it?

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This has little to do with the dollar per se, but it could make tax refunds and Congressional stimulus packages immediate rather than by check.

It's easy to see why Warren supports this and Andrew Yang and all the free money advocates would be on board as well. 

If bank accounts go away, poof, we can tax the wealthy, take money out of their accounts and immediately redistribute the funds as the progressives see fit.

Money Laundering

The overwhelming battle cry is guarantee to be the need to stop money laundering and to protect the population from evil or fraudulent cryptos.

Negative Interest Rates

Right now, negative interest rates are a tax on banks. 

If the Fed can implement negative rates without taxing banks, who knows what either the Fed or Congress might do to stop alleged hoarding of dollars.

Monitoring of Every Transaction

Once in place, governments or central banks will have the ability to monitor every financial transaction. Cash will disappear.

Reasons to be Frightened

There are all kinds of reasons to be frightened about what is clearly going to happen.

Why is is going to happen?

Because China is going to do it and the ECB will follow next if the US doesn't.

Once in place, who knows what Congress or the Fed will concoct?

I don't and no one else does either. That's what's scary. 

Mish