DOES APPLE INC. HAVE MORE CASH THAN THE USA?

There’s a very popular story going around today that is intended to make it sound like the USA is running out of money.  The article compares Apple Inc. to the US Federal Government.  It says:

“According to the latest statement from the U.S. Treasury, the government had an operating cash balance Wednesday of $73.8 billion. That’s still a lot of money, but it’s less than what Steve Jobs has lying around.

Tech juggernaut Apple had a whopping $76.2 billion in cash and marketable securities at the end of June, according to its last earnings report. Unlike the U.S. government, which is scrambling to avoid defaulting on its debt, Apple takes in more money than it spends.”

It’s amazing to me that these sorts of comparisons trump common sense.  The USA can never “run out” of dollars that it has the ability to print.  Our debts are entirely denominated in a currency that we can produce at will.  So, technically, the USA has infinitely more dollars than Apple Inc. could ever have.

Apple is a currency user.  The US Federal government is a currency issuer.  This is a very basic fact that Americans need to start understanding before they can elect politicians who won’t continue to drive this economy into the ground.

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Cullen Roche

Mr. Roche is the Founder of Orcam Financial Group, LLC. Orcam is a financial services firm offering research, private advisory, institutional consulting and educational services.

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Comments

  1. Cullen,

    I agree with the general MMT principle: a government which is a monopoly supplier of a fiat currency can never run out of that currency. In this sense the comparison to Apple is indeed absurd.

    But in terms of the precise mechanics of the US government, what about the divide between the Fed (which can create money or monetize debt at will), and the US Treasury? The US Treasury cannot print bills beyond a statutory limit, and as we’ve seen is limited in debt issuance via the debt ceiling (though as you point out coin seigniorage may be an option). I realize that the debt ceiling and other limits are arbitrary, but they are codified law. So, while we are shooting ourselves in the foot, people believe Apple has more money than the US government because the US government concurs that it is so.

    It’s been great to see specific ideas around the mechanics of coin seigniorage and other options developed here – as long at we’re stuck with an outdated legal framework, an important part of promoting MMT will be promoting workarounds.

  2. “US Federal Government spends them into existence and makes them available for the private sector to use to buy Ipods, Ipads and Macs.”

    And the Ipods, Ipads, and Macs are used for nothing else except to buy Apple Stock.

    “The US Federal government is a currency issuer”

    So why doesn’t the US Federal Govt just buy Apple stock directly? The Stock Market is the economy.

  3. What would be the point of the govt buying Apple? The govt is not in the business of making money or trying to do things better than the pvt sector….

  4. Cullen, then how does govt prevent unproductive use of capital and the loss of existing productive enterprise?

  5. Zen koan for TPC: If I post a comment to this site and it simply disappears (as happens with some frequency), did I actually make it?

  6. Yes. It generally means it just got hung up in spam for some reason. Maybe too many links, a bad word or just an error by the spam filter. I go through it a few times a day and review the comments in there though so they always make it up to the site. So if you ever have a comment get lost know that it will get posted eventually….Sorry about that.

  7. As a sovereign government neither has nor does not have money, Apple has both more and less money than the government.