I don’t even understand what he’s misunderstanding here

Usually with the Murphmonster it’s easy enough to see what true and obvious economic point it is that he’s misunderstanding to reach his erroneous conclusion. But here I’m afraid I’m mystified even as to what that is.

He shows us a piccie of a £10 note then says:

All of our money is ultimately based on the government’s promise to pay.

So you think George Osborne is right to reduce the national debt?

Why?

Do you want to destroy our money?

And how do you think the economy will do without it?

What? It’s fiat money. The value is based upon our willingness to accept it. Hyperinflation (as opposed to mere inflation) is when we won’t. That government willingness to pay, these days, being just that they’ll swap your tenner for two fivers if you ask nicely.

What this has to do with the national debt is unknown. There have been countries with successful fiat currencies and without a national debt (I think Oz was one for a time?).

Or, to take another example, the Bristol or Brixton pounds, LETS, all sort of other arrangements: they’re not linked to the national debt in any manner although people will accept them in exchange for goods and services of value. That being a useful definition of money. And there’s no central bank, issuing authority or debt standing behind gold: yet I am absolutely certain that you can use gold in many parts of the world. Drop a Krugerrand on the bar in the Savoy and they’ll feed and water you: might be a bit of head scratching first but I’m absolutely certain they will.

There just isn’t an connection between the existence of something that can be used, is used, as money and the existence or not of a national debt.

Which leaves us with the question: what the fuck it it this time that he’s failed to understand? What has he garbled to get to this position he’s got now, that the government should borrow more to spend on PCS members so as to avoid the country being bereft of money?

60 thoughts on “I don’t even understand what he’s misunderstanding here”

  1. He doesn’t understand anything in its entirety. He “knows” a few things. But combining them into a coherent whole is beyond him.

  2. Actually Murphaloon for once has a point, and it’s a point that MMTers have banged on about for some time and which Martin Wolf reiterated recently. The point is that the lower interest rates are, the more similar national debt becomes to base money (and a tenner is a form of base money).

    Or as MMTers like to put it, the state can be regarded as a bank which offers current accounts and deposit accounts just like ordinary banks. Current accounts contain instantly available money (like tenners) and deposit accounts are much the same as national debt: you can’t access the money immediately, but as compensation, you get interest.

  3. But Ralph, even that doesn’t get anywhere near stating that if the debt reduces then the money supply contracts.

  4. It does if you’re using the debt as base money. The problem is we’ve gradually lost the distinction between money and receipts for money, a long process which started with using gold and silver certificates as “the money” instead of the gold and silver themselves.

    So if all the debt in the economy gets paid off, all the “promisory money” disappears, and you’re just left with a bit of note and coin. Which some are arguing for the total abolition of, by the way, so then all you’ve got is the debt money.

    One point being that the amount of promisory money ought to contract in a recession (because there is less lending and borrowing) but as soon as that happens everyone shrieks about deflation and you end up with printing QE into existence to “compensate”. And so it goes on.

  5. This fails in so many ways. Ignoring all his waffle about fiat money, if somebody owes me money or I have a contingent claim against them, I want them to be as free as possible from other creditors.

  6. The thing that interests me about this issue from discussions here and other places is that we now have a money system that nobody can state with any confidence that they actually understand. Even the question of whether it’s actually a fractional reserve banking system is a conceptual matter with no clear answer.

  7. “The value is based upon our willingness to accept it.”

    Yes and no. When when men with guns come to your house demanding ‘taxes’ you better have some £s ready.

    An example from British colonial history:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hut_Tax_War_of_1898

    You’ll often find in

    “that doesn’t get anywhere near stating that if the debt reduces then the money supply contracts.”

    I don’t think Murphy understands what a decline in “national debt” means. Does he get endogenous money (loans create deposits)?

    Gross Saving and Investment are not directly linked. That is the insight from endogenous money – the two are not tightly coupled together.

    The two are not tightly coupled together.

    Banks buffer.

    Therefore is it perfectly possible for there to be a very great amount of Gross Saving going off in that sector at the same time as an even greater amount of spending on Capital Formation (investment.)

    The concern is that you have a boom based on household credit, which can be unsustainable if people don’t have income to service the debt.

  8. Ralph,

    “the more similar national debt becomes to base money”

    Outside of “MMT land”, and simplistically:

    The national debt is simply the specific IOU between “government and everyone else”. In a perfect world, and at a material level, at any point in time it would reflect value generated that would provide a return in the future (same as for any other organisation taking on a loan), as otherwise it relies on large scale future taxation to repay it.

    As the government can print base money, it’s also important that government controls its level of debt to avoid the perception that it might otherwise try and inflate that debt away and hence destroy the asset of the individual that lent it the money.

    Our base money stocks of paper and metal – to provide a means of exchange, liquidity and act as a low level store of value (and yes, I know someone will tell me that’s not technically accurate or complete) – are very small by comparison.

    How in any real world practical sense can the two be regarded as “similar”?

    Or does Ritchie’s comment only apply in “MMT land”? And apologies if I’ve misunderstood.

  9. OK. Putting it this way is probably the easiest.

    ‘Reduction in national debt’ does NOT mean an absolute decline in the stock of credit relative to a previous time point. It means a decline relative to the stock of debt.

  10. As a general rule, every boom fails due to an inability to service the debt, whether it’s households, or business institutions who did the borrowing.

  11. Tim, There are no sharp dividing lines here and it’s been widely accepted for a long time that there is no 100% clear definition of money. But national debt certainly merges into money. E.g. there is no effective difference between national debt that pays 0.1% interest and matures in a month’s time, and in contrast, £10 notes which pay 0% interest (which was the point made by Martin Wolf in the FT).

    In fact what those two certainly have in common (as MMTers point out) is that they are both net financial assets as viewed by the private sector. In contrast, money created by private banks nets to nothing because for every £ of money there is a £ of debt.

  12. “As the government can print base money, it’s also important that government controls its level of debt to avoid the perception that it might otherwise try and inflate that debt away and hence destroy the asset of the individual that lent it the money.”

    It’s the unprinting of bonds most people miss.

    Inflation is due to the *flow* of money. If the government ‘print base money’ this is inflationary to the extend there is increased flow. Which as QE has shown is pretty much f-all.

    “as otherwise it relies on large scale future taxation to repay it.”

    It doesn’t. The debt is never paid off.

  13. Regarding Australia:

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-12/joe-hockey-one-billion-a-month-interest-fact-check/5478480

    By the time Mr Howard was voted out of office more than a decade later, the Coalition had returned the budget to surplus and lowered the ratio of CGS to GDP to 5.4 per cent.

    “As a result of 10 years of strong economic management, net debt was eliminated in April 2006,” the Coalition said in its 2006-07 budget.

    Even during periods of surplus, the AOFM will issue securities in order to maintain liquidity in the bond market, meaning gross debt is never entirely eliminated.

  14. I think we’re getting back to that fun question of “Where does new money come from then?” which has caused much vexation/hilarity in the past.

    There is oodles more money about now than there was 100 years ago. Shall we start by settling the question of where it came from?

  15. “this is inflationary to the extend there is increased flow”

    Of course, ie all other things being equal. Not sure that it negates the point about inflation destroying the value of the asset of the person lending the money to government?

    And people have argued before on here that without QE, there might in fact have been deflationary pressures.

    “It doesn’t. The debt is never paid off.”

    Actually it does get paid off, continually, and gets replaced (rolled over) by new loans. And which might then (in a perfect world, and yes I know that doesn’t happen) reflect future value generated, etc, etc..?

  16. When the CB credits a non-govertnment account at the direction of the Treasury, banks account as the CB are credited with reserves balances (aka settlement balances). The reserve balances are liabilities of the CB and assets of the banks. The banks then credit customer accounts as directed. Notice that two sets of books are involved, that of the CB, the only place where reserves balances exist, and the banks. When the appropriate entires are made the books are in balance and government has increased its liabilities while non-government has increased its assets.

    Taxes and other obligations to government must be paid using settlement balances. That drains some of the settlement balances created by spending. When government spending is in excess of payment of obligations to the government, excess reserves remain in the hands of nongovernment, increasing nongovernment net financial assets in aggregate.

    When governments issue government securities in the amount of the fiscal deficit, then the reserve add in excess of withdrawals is drained into government securities, since government securities are purchased with reserve balances. The amount that the reserve balances increased from Treasury spending in excess of withdrawals is drained into government securities through this operation.

    Since the government securities purchased are assets of non-government, non-government net financial assets have increased in that amount, which corresponds to the Treasury spending in excess of taxes.

    Of course, if government didn’t issue securities corresponding to the deficit, then the increase in nongovernment net financial assets in aggregate would remains in the form of reserves balances.

    The degree that the CB expands its balance sheet by purchasing government securities from nongovernment the amount of nongovernment net financial assets remains the same but the composition changes. This goes both ways in the course of monetary operations conducted by a CB. The Cb can also shrink its balance sheet by selling securities to nongovernment, which decreases the amount of reserve balance held as bank assets and increases the amount of government securities held by nongovernment.

    Where most people get confused is in not understanding nongovernment net financial assets in aggregate and also reversing causality based on the so-called money multiplier, which is actually an accounting residual, ex post instead of ex ante.

    People also fail to understand that obligations to government and purchase of government securities only takes place through the central bank through exchange of CB liabilities. That means that government must supply those liabilities for those transactions to take place. Thus, the MMT dictum that a reserve drain into government securities requires a prior add of government liabilities, either as cash or reserve balances.

    The other difficulty comes from failure to realize that there are two sets of books involved, those of the consolidated government and those of consolidated nongovernment, or else mixing them up. This is the reason it is necessary to follow the accounting trail in thinking about this.

  17. “Isn’t “net debt” there actually referring not to the debt, but the deficit?”

    Correct. I meant “change in net debt.” Sloopiness on my part.

    “Actually it does get paid off, continually, and gets replaced (rolled over) by new loans. And which might then (in a perfect world, and yes I know that doesn’t happen) reflect future value generated, etc, etc..?”

    I meant it is never paid off in aggregate.

    Not exactly. There is the financial circuit and the real circuit. It works much like an induction circuit in electricity. Money changing hands induces production of goods and services.

  18. The problem I have with what Ritchie is saying is that it does not explain how currencies that are not issued by governments or central banks work.

    A modern example is Bitton. There is not central bank or government involved.

    For centuries cowrie shells were used as money in many places of the world. At the end of the second world war, packets of cigarettes were used as money.

  19. “By the time Mr Howard was voted out of office more than a decade later, the Coalition had returned the budget to surplus and lowered the ratio of CGS to GDP to 5.4 per cent.”

    They had, but there was an insane boom in household debt.

  20. “Even during periods of surplus, the AOFM will issue securities in order to maintain liquidity in the bond market, meaning gross debt is never entirely eliminated.”

    Issuance of gilts has nothing to do with spending. The government runs *intraday* overdrafts to finance its spending.

    There’s lots of good stuff on the DMO site where it details that the DMO targets a weekly cash balance in their BoE account to allow for daily buffering:
    http://www.dmo.gov.uk/index.aspx?page=publications/money_markets

  21. “I meant it is never paid off in aggregate.”

    Indeed, because in theory it would be nice if the debt at any point in time reflected some sort of future value that had been generated, be it sewers, infrastructure, whatever.

    No different, simplistically, to a commercial CID facility never actually being paid off but always supported by the trade debtors it finances.

  22. “This is the reason it is necessary to follow the accounting trail in thinking about this.”

    I agree, Rather than that perhaps somewhat “tortuous” prose (and no offence!), maybe there is something simpler somewhere that supports that detailed analysis with some simple T accounts or similar?

  23. Larry my darling,

    It is always ironic and hypocritical when Ritchie et al demand we all pay our dues to others through our taxes, but they constantly leech from others by using videos and images hosted by others, especially those they hate such as Google and Amazon. Those very people they say don’t add value to our economy, without noting the value that these services add to their own cause.

    It seems he’s changed the image after a friend of yours challenged him on it. He’s now stealing from The Grauniad instead, so I guess that’s ok.

  24. I don’t know what’s hard to understand about this particular expression, by Ritchie, of what it says in Mein Kampf about how Nazinomics works.

    The first line is only true if there are no property rights, as under a fascist regime.

    The second point is contingent on the first: if there are no real property rights, the ‘national debt’ is just a fiction, and repaying it is simply handing money to ‘the jooz’ for no reason.

    The rest is easy enough to understand once you’ve identified the track it’s following.

  25. OK – that’s not “quite” what I asked for (obviously) but thanks anyway..!!

    I’ve read some of this MMT stuff on there before and it never really satisfied me, but maybe it’s time to revisit.

    edit: “fuck all that” – ah, that looks a bit more concise (if that’s broadly the substitute for what you wrote above)..:)

  26. “As the government can print base money, it’s also important that government controls its level of debt to avoid the perception that it might otherwise try and inflate that debt away and hence destroy the asset of the individual that lent it the money.”

    Why? The individual saving the money that causes the ‘lending’ is causing a paradox of thrift. Much better that they spend it now so that nobody has to offset it. If they spend it, it generates tax and if nobody saves down the line the government gets all the money. If not back to step 1.

  27. Bob,

    OK, your comments / link deal fully with MMT, and my proviso at the top said “outside of MMT land”.

    But all the same, and very simplistically,

    I’m never going to believe that more “government” debt (liability) = more value (asset) to “non government”.

    Instead, I want that government debt (in principle or as a concept) to be supported by some other government asset, otherwise I (as non government) am not happy lend to or otherwise to store my value there. I’ll store it off-shore or “off-currency” instead.

    Why?

    Because, I don’t believe that a government that “needs to tax in order to control inflation” will ever achieve that effectively, not when governments most successfully get themselves elected by promising to do exactly the opposite, ie tax less than the other lot…

    Ie, I need a government to take its level of debt seriously (keep it under control) rather than claim it’s simply an asset (good thing) of non government. Reducing government debt does not destroy any value (of non government) or GDP, people and activity are simply swapped out and employed in the (generally more productive) non government sector instead.

    That’s it – simplistically..:)

    And if I am missing anything very fundamental there, I’ll try and follow up and read your other links in more detail.

  28. “What this has to do with the national debt is unknown. ”

    Cash is just a zero interest permanent bearer bond. Bank Reserves are just variable rate permanent bonds that can only be held by commercial banks. Gilts can be fixed and variable rate term bonds.

    The issue you perhaps are having is that you are sat inside the system looking out and therefore can’t see what it looks from the outside.

    From the point of view of the USD currency area, GBP changes value just like any other bond. You can’t see it from the inside any more than you can feel the Earth whizzing around the sun at 30km/s

    What you call fiat money is just a form of bond. The important base value of it is that it can be used to settle UK taxes – which are obligations imposed on people by the UK state that can only be settled with that particular bond type.

    We trade and pay and settle with each other by swapping debts. When I shop at Tesco I incur a debt as soon as I pick up a loaf of bread (as proved by the security guard fingering my collar if I head to the exit first before visiting the tills). Tesco has the debt asset (me owing them for the bread).

    When I visit the till I swap the debt asset that Tesco has (me owing them for the bread) for a debt asset I own – a £1 coin. I then have the debt asset for the bread and the debt liability for the bread which then annihilate each other in a puff of accounting logic. Tesco has a new debt asset of a £1

    That’s how trade works. We create money by building assets and liabilities and then we swap them all around to annihilate some of them.

    Debt is just a tally stick. There are two halves to it and the circulate separately. When they are brought together in the same place and snapped together it disappears. Think matter and anti-matter brought together.

  29. As the government can print base money, it’s also important that government controls its level of debt to avoid the perception that it might otherwise try and inflate that debt away and hence destroy the asset of the individual that lent it the money.”

    Why? The individual saving the money that causes the ‘lending’ is causing a paradox of thrift. Much better that they spend it now so that nobody has to offset it. If they spend it, it generates tax and if nobody saves down the line the government gets all the money. If not back to step 1.

    I probably just being quite thick, but don’t understand that.

    I want to have assets saved, to spend in the future (when I am less productive), I don’t want to spend it now. Equally, others (including companies) are happy to borrow, to invest / produce goods (and which I can buy in the future) etc.

  30. Yes, I know all of that, know the MMT arguments.

    The question is as in the post. What in buggery has this got to do with the idea that if we pay off he national debt then all money disappears? Which is what Ritchie is in fact saying.

  31. For those who struggle with the accounting of consolidation, there is explanation within the Whole of Government Accounts document.

    http://www.3spoken.co.uk/2014/03/uk-whole-of-government-accounts-some.html

    In particular the notes on QE:

    “Once intra-government transactions are eliminated, the scheme represents an exchange of gilts (liabilities of the National Loans Fund) for central bank reserves (liabilities of the Bank of England).”

    Or you could just leave them as bank reserves in the first place and get rid of all the Gilt issuing and redeeming nonsense.

  32. “I want to have assets saved, to spend in the future (when I am less productive), I don’t want to spend it now. Equally, others (including companies) are happy to borrow, to invest / produce goods (and which I can buy in the future) etc.”

    And when there are insufficient people borrowing to offset the amount you want to save, how are you able to save and why should you be able to save?

  33. “I want to have assets saved, to spend in the future (when I am less productive), I don’t want to spend it now.”

    I should of course point out that the act of borrowing from a bank automatically creates the equal and opposite savings instantly. So the amount you are saving in excess of current borrowing is by definition the consequence of government spending. You can’t have it in your hands otherwise.

  34. Hang on a minute, wasn’t it just yesterday (possibly literally, maybe figuratively) that he was arguing that the banks can create money out of thin air? Now they can’t if there is no National Debt? There must be countries out there with no National Debt, do they all have no money either?

  35. What in buggery has this got to do with the idea that if we pay off he national debt then all money disappears?

    That reminds me of a time running a banking operation in country x, the subsidiary of a bank in country y.

    The call came from head office in y to quantify and as far as possible reduce overall exposure to country x.

    My operation obviously had no cross-border exposure into country x so I could only offer to open the vault, open the tills open the bank’s doors and go to the airport.

  36. Tim>

    “What in buggery has this got to do with the idea that if we pay off he national debt then all money disappears? Which is what Ritchie is in fact saying.”

    You have the cart before the horse there. Ritchie is saying that there’s no such thing as money, and therefore paying down the national debt is a fiction. Obviously, if it’s a fiction, then paying down the debt is a euphemism for stealing from the country to give wealth to the bankers/jooz/whatever.

  37. And when there are insufficient people borrowing to offset the amount you want to save, how are you able to save

    Under the mattress used to be popular. Buying gold still is. Personally, I’m paying off the mortgage much faster than the bank expects (which has upset its temperamental little systems and darling administrators on a couple of occasions.)

    and why should you be able to save?

    It’s normally polite for the person making the outrageous statement to offer some justification. People have been “saving” ever since palaeolithic humanity learned to smoke meat.

  38. That’s not the point SE. Saving causes a paradox of thrift. Not everyone can save at the same time. That’s why the government offers safe assets (“national debt.”)

    “Buying gold still is. ”

    Note that buying gold, commodities or currency on a market is an exchange not a conversion (you get the gold, somebody else gets the currency. All that has changed is the ownership labels). Conversion happens when an exchange rate is fixed rather than floating. Previously gold had a certain value as it could be converted to fiat money.

    I would actually encourage buying gold. It is one of the few materials that can be hoarded with little effect on the real economy.

    People who bought gold during the last bubble were screwed.

  39. “People who bought gold during the last bubble were screwed.”

    Really? The world economy was motoring pretty good from 2002 to 2007, in which time gold went from $300/oz to about $600/oz. Its currently $1200/oz, and the peak was over $1800/oz. At the very worst you’ve doubled your money, maybe sextupled it if you picked the right buy and sell points.

    Thats some screwed!

  40. Bob

    And when there are insufficient people borrowing to offset the amount you want to save, how are you able to save and why should you be able to save?

    Answer to both is because someone wants to buy (create an IOU with me) for what I am producing. ie, am I productive and doing something that others find useful. If no one buys from me (creates an IOU), I won’t be able to save. It’s not actually that complicated.

    Otherwise, no, I wouldn’t be able to save.

    I should of course point out that the act of borrowing from a bank automatically creates the equal and opposite savings instantly.

    Yes, of course – see IOUs above..:)

    So the amount you are saving in excess of current borrowing is by definition the consequence of government spending. You can’t have it in your hands otherwise.

    See answer above. Only if the government’s employees (or whatever) want to buy what I produce.

    The real issue there is – is the government producing – ie as “quid pro quo” – anything that people want to buy (and no, useless legislation from bureaucrats enforced by the sword is not “wanted”), and, if not, are we therefore less efficient as a country / bloc / call it what you want…

  41. @ Bob
    SE has just explained how everyone can save at the same time (well, the fisherman smoked herring instead).
    Saving means consuming less than you produce so that you can use it later. Capitalism started with seedcorn
    Murphy thinks it is all about swapping pieces of paper that have no intrinsic value.

  42. The problem is Murphy thinking that the way the structure is currently set up is the only possible way the structure can be set up, and that everything that is done in relation to that structure is essential to its existence.

    A pound note is a thing that is accepted to be worth a pound. For pound notes to exist and pay a role in the economy, the key thing you need is the Treasury to print a load, and then sell them to people at a pound a go. You buy one, and you owe the Treasury a pound. Once they’re in circulation then they do the job of money. They’re a National Debt in that the Treasury is obliged to buy them back if you want to cash them in (as it were), but the amounts owed for the original sale of a note are an asset, so overall there is no debt.

    The complication comes because we do a lot of other things – partly because having a massive asset sitting around doing nothing while all the pound notes circulate is a waste of time – but the existence of pound notes only *requires* a national debt in the trivial sense of a credit entry on the Treasury’s ledger which is matched by a debit entry elsewhere.

  43. I thought the way money worked – and, admittedly I did sort of work this out for myself, so I may be going Full Murph here – was that the central bank “bought” something of value, exchanging it for tokens that were used for money.

    Back in days of Yore the thing they bought was precious metal, but that system hit the buffers last century when the banks needed to produce more money and therefore needed to buy more gold, only to find they already had most of it and the people who owned the rest of it weren’t selling.

    So, time for plan B – the central banks switched to buying government debt instead (Money Market Operations and all that), which is a bit incestuous but that’s fiat money for you.

    I think what Murph’s thinking is that, if the Government pays off some debt that’s owned by the central bank, then the money disappears back into the black hole it came from. To put the money back into circulation the bank goes out and buys more. But when Osborne has magically paid off all the debt in the next couple of years, the bank won’t be able to do that and we’ll have no money.

    Except, if that did happen (yeah, right), we’d simply switch to buying something else, wouldn’t we? Like mortgage debt, or corporate debt. Or if we ran out of debt, stocks and shares.

  44. Tim.

    He has heard that base money creation implies debt creation so infers destroying all debt would destroy all money. Failure to realise that national debt >> govt debt on BoE balance sheet. Also maybe thinking that Osborne wants to get debt to zero, not deficit.

  45. “Saving means consuming less than you produce so that you can use it later. Capitalism started with seedcorn”

    Common mistake.

    That’s real saving in the real circuit. We are talking about financial saving.

  46. Tim couldn’t you use your super-powers of influence to get Osborne to cut taxes, reducing the chance of a recession and Corbyn victory 😉

  47. ‘Money’ is a credible and enforceable promise to pay something of real value at a later date.

    A fiat currency is backed by the ability to pay your taxes with it. i.e. it’s backed by the promise not to use State force to put you in jail, which is of value to pretty much everyone. The government spend it first (using money they ‘printed’ to buy goods and services in support of state activities) and then ‘repay’ the debt when they accept it as taxes. Technically, government-issued money is a form of government debt, although I suspect it’s not really counted as such.

    However, the point Ritchie is missing is that the government-issued component of the money supply is only a small fraction of all the money in existence. Most of it is backed by private promises to repay value later, like the promise to repay a mortgage on a house, or a loan supporting a business. He’s figuring that because the government currency is formally backed by government debt, that it *all* is. So if you eliminated government debt you’d eliminate the currency itself. It wouldn’t – most of it being created and destroyed privately – but it would remove the biggest anchor that makes it a stable store of value. It would become, and operate as, a private currency.

    However, his bigger error is in misunderstanding the issue with regard to government debt. The issue is that no entity can survive indefinitely by spending more than it earns. Eventually the money has to be repaid.

    The debt that constitutes the money supply isn’t an issue in this regard, because the debt is repaid when the government accept these “worthless bits of paper” in payment of taxes. We have no objection to the government borrowing when it intends promptly to repay it. The problem is the *other* part of government debt where they keep on borrowing and borrowing and borrowing and the debt just keeps mounting higher and higher without ever being repaid.

    One day, it will have to be, and then you’ll have to spend just as many years of consistently spending *less* than you earn. That’s going to hurt.

    It’s a silly equivocation – using the fact that government money is technically a debt to dodge the argument about them spending more than they earn. It’s like the person running up massive credit card debts excusing it on the basis that they pay their gas bill in arrears, and so are ‘in debt’ for a month each month, and therefore “cannot get rid of their debt”.

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