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  • (pleasant orchestral music)

  • - [Narrator] When the economy screeched to a halt

  • in mid-March, businesses shut down almost overnight,

  • and quickly, millions of workers became unemployed.

  • Within weeks, the government moved

  • to provide trillions of dollars of stimulus relief

  • to workers and businesses throughout the economy.

  • - $1200 checks to anyone who makes less than $75,000.

  • - This is another $600 a week for four months.

  • - [Reporter] Congress approving another

  • $484 billion for loans.

  • - [Narrator] So where does all this money come from?

  • Is it taxpayer funds?

  • Is the government printing a bunch of new cash?

  • As you might expect, there's a lot more to know.

  • (pleasant orchestral music)

  • Congress can authorize taxes to pay for new spending,

  • but that's not where the stimulus money is coming from.

  • That money is being raised through borrowing.

  • The government expects to borrow a record $4.5 trillion

  • for the fiscal year that ends in September.

  • That's more than three times the $1.28 trillion

  • it borrowed the year prior.

  • That borrowed money is being used

  • to subsidize small business payrolls,

  • send checks to households,

  • and offer taxpayers a temporary holiday

  • on making tax payments.

  • The Treasury Department is in charge of the borrowing.

  • The agency borrows by selling treasury bills or bonds

  • to the three main groups of savers.

  • The public sector, like other parts of the government,

  • the private sector, which includes companies or individuals

  • like you and me, and foreign entities.

  • These bills are like IOUs, someone agrees to buy them,

  • and the government agrees to pay them back

  • with a little bit of interest.

  • In the meantime,

  • the government can use that borrowed money for stimulus

  • to support private individuals and companies,

  • or state and local governments.

  • - This year, the federal government will get

  • most of its borrowing from the private sector,

  • and the reason for that is because private borrowers

  • who would normally be competing with the federal government

  • for private savings, have basically disappeared.

  • - [Narrator] That stimulus money can make the economy larger

  • than it otherwise would have been.

  • It encourages employers to keep people employed,

  • and it encourages individuals to spend.

  • Here's a hypothetical example.

  • Let's say Congress authorizes

  • $1 billion in stimulus spending.

  • The Treasury would borrow one billion

  • by selling treasury bills.

  • It would then use that borrowed money

  • on the stimulus programs,

  • with the hopes of keeping the economy churning,

  • but it doesn't end there.

  • If the economy keeps moving,

  • households and businesses can keep earning income,

  • and some of that income can be saved,

  • and in the future, they can use those savings

  • to invest in more treasury bills,

  • supplying the government with more money to spend.

  • - The amount of saving in the economy is not a fixed amount.

  • Federal stimulus can actually result in more people working,

  • more firms having profits, higher incomes

  • than would have been the case

  • if there hadn't been any federal stimulus at all.

  • This is known as Keynesian stimulus

  • name for the British economist John Maynard Keynes

  • who first came up with the concept back in the 1930s.

  • The government is not like a family that has a fixed amount

  • and can't borrow more than it can pay back

  • because it'll go bankrupt.

  • Government can in effect borrow enough

  • to actually make the economy bigger.

  • - [Narrator] Now on top of the three main sources

  • of borrowing, there's another source too,

  • the Federal Reserve.

  • The central bank is like the other sources,

  • but with a key difference.

  • The Fed can raise funds to buy treasuries

  • by simply printing money.

  • - So when we say the Fed is printing money,

  • we don't literally mean it's firing up the printing presses

  • and creating paper money.

  • Instead, what we mean is the Fed basically clicks a button

  • and credit the Treasury's account with this money.

  • It's electronic money, it's not paper money.

  • - [Narrator] In effect, the Treasury sells a bond

  • and in return gets brand new money.

  • Right now, the Fed is ramping up its lending.

  • Assets on the central bank's balance sheet

  • topped $6.7 trillion during the first week of May 2020.

  • That gives the Treasury more money to spend

  • on stimulating the economy and other programs.

  • Critics of the stimulus, say the government competing

  • with other borrowers for savings

  • will push up interest rates,

  • making it harder for private companies

  • and individuals to borrow and invest.

  • They also say that if the Fed prints money

  • to finance the borrowing,

  • that will lead to inflation and economic turmoil,

  • like what's seen in Venezuela

  • and the trillion dollar notes seen in Zimbabwe,

  • - It's only a problem if they print and they print

  • and they print and the those dollars gets spent

  • and spent and spent again,

  • until all that spending far exceeds

  • the supply of goods and services in our economy,

  • that's when you get high inflation.

  • How will we know that's happening?

  • Well, we probably see long term interest rates start to rise

  • as investors get ready for the approach of inflation.

  • Then we'd start to see actual inflation rise,

  • but we're not seeing that now.

  • (pleasant mallet percussion music)

(pleasant orchestral music)

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B1 US WSJ stimulus treasury government economy borrowing

How the Government Creates Stimulus Money | WSJ

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    洪子雯 posted on 2020/05/30
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