September 16, 2017

When frozen in other types of “cash”, it is hard to free up cash to spend on good causes without losing much value

Sir, I refer to “Debt Collectors” September 16, in which Eric Platt, Alexandra Scaggs and Nicole Bullock search to explain what could happen to the “portfolio of cash, securities and investments worth roughly $840bn, held outside the US by just 30 US companies, because of tax reform designed to … encourage American companies to bring back jobs and profits trapped overseas”.

The article, though it refers to difficulties such as the “repatriation process itself could involve selling bonds” and the impact of that on interest rates, fails to illustrate the whole truth.

The reality is that all that “cash”, as well as all that “cash” held by other wealthy (for instance in Panama) except for the less than 1% that could be in real cash, is in other assets like securities investments, perhaps even in art collections.

So, in order to convert all that “cash” into real cash, those other assets have to be sold to others who are then required to give up their real cash for these. And, in that process, clearly a lot of the value of the “cash” would just change hands or disappear.

Why are these difficulties of converting “cash” into cash not more discussed? Because doing so would be sort of inconvenient for those redistribution profiteers who try to sell their politically beneficial envy, for instance that present in the “one percenters being against all us 99 percenters” theme.

What is a £20 million flat in London or a US$200 million Picasso hanging on a wall but the voluntary freezing of millions in alternative purchase power that could be out there in the economy competing for consumer goods… and generating inflation? Is a lowering of the value of hard-assets the inflation driver central banks want?

PS. Of course the above does not take away one iota of the need to relentlessly pursue those who have accumulated “cash” assets illegally, and might hold these in places like in Panama.