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Baldwin-Hawley Act Would Fix Overvalued U.S. Currency Problem

September 05, 2019

Editors note: Michele Nash-Hoff is a CPA member.

The Baldwin-Hawley Senate Bill, S.2357, titled the “Competitive Dollar for Jobs and Prosperity Act” was introduced by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) on July, 31, 2019. The purpose of the Bill is “To establish a national goal and mechanism to achieve a trade-balancing exchange rate for the United States dollar, to impose a market access charge on certain purchases of United States assets, and for other purposes.”

[Michele Nash-Hoff | September 4, 2019 | Savingusmanufacturing.com]

This Bill is the legislative vehicle for the Market Access Charge (MAC) first proposed in a paper titled, “The Threat of U.S. Dollar Overvaluation: How to Calculate True Exchange Rate Misalignment & How to Fix It” released on July 11, 2017 by the Coalition for a Prosperous America and written by Michael Stumo (CEO), Jeff Ferry (Research Director) and Dr. John R. Hansen, a former Economic Advisor for the World Bank, CPA Advisory Board member, and founding  Editor of Americans Backing a Competitive Dollar (ABCD).

The paper explained the problem of the dollar overvaluation, showed how to accurately calculate the dollar’s misalignment against trading partner currencies, and proposed a solution to this serious threat to America’s future by means of a Market Access Charge (MAC). Dr. Hansen’s proposal was “to initiate the MAC with a 0.5% charge “on any purchase of U.S. dollar financial assets by a foreign entity or individual…As a one-time charge, the MAC will discourage would-be short-term investors, many of whom hold dollars or dollar-denominated securities overnight or even for minutes for the sake of a tiny profit.

The MAC rate would operate on a sliding scale, geared to the value of the trade deficit as a percentage of GDP. The MAC tax would rise if the trade deficit rose, and fall as the trade deficit falls… Most importantly, the MAC would have a substantial impact on the dollar’s value, moving it gradually and safely to a trade-balancing exchange rate and keeping it there, regardless of what other countries do. If the trade deficit goes to zero, so would the MAC.”

In an email to supporters on August 13, 2019, Dr. Hansen wrote, “A major milestone has just been reached in the battle to kill the U.S. trade deficit, stop the offshoring of U.S. industry, and put millions of Americans to work at well-paying jobs…The bill’s presentation to the Senate is indeed a major milestone – but only one of many that lie between where we are today and the bill’s ultimate passage. You support and advice would be most welcome as the process moves forward.”

The Bill’s summary cites the following ”Findings” by Congress:

 “(1) The strength, vitality, and stability of the United States economy and, more broadly, the effectiveness of the global trading system are critically dependent on an international monetary regime of exchange rates that respond appropriately to eliminate persistent trade surpluses or deficits by adjusting to changes in global trade and capital flows.

(2) In recent decades, the United States dollar has become persistently overvalued, in relation to its equilibrium price, because of excessive foreign capital inflows from both public and private sources.

(3) Countries with persistent trade surpluses maintain or benefit from undervalued currencies over a long period of time. As a result, those countries overproduce, underconsume, and excessively rely on consumers in countries with persistent trade deficits for growth. Those countries also export their unemployment and underemployment to countries with persistent trade deficits.

(4) Countries with persistent trade deficits, including the United States, absorb the overproduction of countries with persistent trade surpluses, thereby reducing domestic wages, manufacturing output and employment, economic growth, and innovation.

(5) The United States possesses fiscal and monetary tools to pursue national economic goals for employment, production, investment, income, price stability, and productivity. However, exchange rates that do not adjust to balance international trade can frustrate the achievement of those goals. The United States does not have a tool to manage exchange rates in the national interest.”

The Bill defines a “United States asset” as “(i) a security, stock, bond, note, swap, loan, or other financial instrument—

(I) the face value of which is denominated in United States dollars;

(II) that is registered or located in the United States; or

(III) that is an obligation of a United States person;

(ii) real property located in the United States;

(iii) any ownership interest in an entity that is a United States person;

(iv) intellectual property owned by a United States person; and

(v) any other asset class or transaction identified by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve as trading in sufficient volume to cause a risk of upward pressure on the exchange rate of the United States dollar.

It excludes:  “(i) a good being exported from the United States; or (ii) currency or noninterest bearing deposits.”

In the above mentioned paper, Dr. Hansen proposed that the MAC to be “a 0.5% charge on any purchase of U.S. dollar financial assets by a foreign entity or individual…As a one-time charge, the MAC will discourage would-be short-term investors, many of whom hold dollars or dollar-denominated securities overnight or even for minutes for the sake of a tiny profit. The MAC rate would operate on a sliding scale, geared to the value of the trade deficit as a percentage of GDP. The MAC tax would rise if the trade deficit rose, and fall as the trade deficit falls…”

The Balwin-Hawyley Bill stipulates that “On and after the date that is 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, there shall be imposed a market access charge on each covered buyer in a covered transaction…The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System shall establish and adjust the rate of the market access charge at a rate that— (A) achieves a current account balance not later than 5 years after the date of the enactment of this Act; and (B) maintains a current account balance thereafter.”

However, under the “ALTERNATE INITIAL MARKET ACCESS CHARGE” clause, “If, on the date that is 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Board of Governors has not established the initial rate for the market access charge, the initial market access charge shall be established at the rate of 50 basis points of the value of a covered transaction.”

The bill concludes with a description of how the Market Access Charge should be charged, collected, and reported to the U.S. Treasury.

At the time of the CPA paper cited above, the “The U.S. dollar was calculated at 25.5% overvalued compared to its Fundamental Equilibrium Exchange Rate (FEER). However, in an article titled “Why We Need Baldwin-Hawley Currency Reform Now,” by Jeff Ferry, CPA Chief Economist, published on August 21, 2019, he writes that the Coalition for a Prosperous America estimates “the dollar is overvalued today by 27 percent.” He points out that” that an overvalued currency makes it harder for a nation’s exports to compete in world markets and easier for foreign imports to take share in its domestic market.”

Mr. Ferry explains that “…overvaluation undermines our industrial base, makes our agricultural goods less competitive and tilts the income distribution in favor of the top 10 percent. Instead of an economy built on production and employment, we get growth built on consumption and debt. In fact, the only sector that favors overvaluation is the financial sector, because it helps Wall Street bankers sell stocks and bonds around the world. On Wall Street they like to call overvaluation the ‘strong dollar.’”

He concludes by saying that “Voltaire said the world is like a giant watch: it runs automatically according to an internal mechanism. If one of the settings is wrong, the watch won’t run properly. Our economy is a huge $21 trillion watch. If an exchange rate is set too high, a national economy runs down. If an economy doesn’t invest enough in its own industry, it becomes less competitive…On the international side, the US economy has been underproducing and overconsuming for some 40 years and adjustments are needed. Right now, Baldwin-Hawley is the most crucial adjustment Congress could enact.”

As a sales representative for American manufacturers, I can testify that America’s manufacturing industry is hurt by the overvalued dollar.  It hurts the ability for American companies to export products that are competitive in the world marketplace. It even hurts the ability for American manufacturers to compete against the low prices of Chinese imports in the domestic market.  I firmly endorse the passage of this critically needed bill by Congress in this session to reduce the U.S. dollar’s overvaluation, discourage unwanted investment in the dollar, and significantly reduce America’s trade deficit.

Read the original article here.

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