Apple Does Not Have More Cash Than The US Gov't; Stop Saying That It Does

from the please-make-it-stop dept

It seems that there’s a fun, but stupid, game that the press has picked up on in this whole debt ceiling debate (egged on by some in the government) that, thanks to the debt ceiling, Apple has more cash than the US government. As we get closer to the debt ceiling cut off, other mile markers are being highlighted as well, including the claim that Bill Gates has more money than the US government.

This is wrong. And it is stupid. Please stop repeating it.

The US government can print cash. It does not run out of cash. The numbers being talked about concerning the debt ceiling represent an artificial limit, set by the government, on how much the US can borrow (debt) in order to finance its operations (set in a budget by the federal government itself). What the Apple comparison treats as government “cash” is just the difference between what the government is (artificially) permitted to borrow and what it has borrowed already.

None of this has anything to do with how much cash the government has on hand. Comparing the distance to the debt ceiling with the amount of cash anyone has is comparing two totally different things, and while it sounds nice, it’s a silly political ploy and it makes you look silly. A more accurate comparison would be of something like how much money I have in my wallet right now to how much money Bill Gates’ arbitrarily promised his wife he would take out of the bank this year. The comparison is totally meaningless and stupid. Please stop making it.

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Comments on “Apple Does Not Have More Cash Than The US Gov't; Stop Saying That It Does”

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134 Comments
HiggsLight (profile) says:

Oh thank goodness

I had multiple family members exclaiming this to me over the weekend which produced big hard eye-rolls from me each time.

The government budget is not like business or family budgets. It just doesn’t work like that. The fundamentals of finance and civics will pretty much spell that out.

Unfortunately those subjects aren’t covered in normal US public school curricula.

The Mighty Buzzard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 confused

Well, you can but it’s not a direct effect. Devaluation of the dollar caused by over-borrowing causes a trade imbalance that does trickle in as inflation to some degree. Of course it also makes domestically produced goods cheaper outside our borders. Which affects both jobs and the trade deficit positively.

Economics is an extremely complicated subject. With all the determining factors and forces it looks more like spaghetti than the source code of Windows did.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 confused

Yes there is becasue to borrow you need to borrow AGAINST REAL property (this can still be service)

To priint money you are creating a bill of exchange against something that may not exist. Since cash is just a means of exchange that allows you to purchase something you require NOW instead of waiting for a barter system to work. To use this means of exchange the Real property (and this property can be labour) must actually exist.

If it doesn’t exist then you are devauling everything else that exists in your market, thereby creating inflationary problems where the actual value of the exchange medium (cash) is less than the actual value/worth of the product wanted. The opposite is true if there is not enough cash.

fb39ca4 says:

Re: Re: confused

By printing more money there are more dollars in existence so each one gets less valuable. The government does not just print it’s way out of debt as it would cause massive inflation which is very bad. It’s what happened to Zimbabwe, where it cost billions of their currency to buy a loaf of bread or something. It effectively rendered the savings of people worth next to nothing.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: confused

The government does not just print it’s way out of debt as it would cause massive inflation

The government can also borrow or raise taxes – all these things take resources away from other economic players (printing money causes inflation, which is effectively a tax on cash holdings). Borrowing is usually preferred, all things being equal, because, being voluntary, it creates less kickback. Printing money, although always possible, is the last resort because it undermines the ability to borrow later. Usually a government will try to print enough money to cover economic growth.

Nicedoggy says:

Re: Re: confused

To print money causes inflation, to manage inflation so people don’t have a runaway economy that artificial ceiling was put in place, so when the government wants to add money to the economy without having to print money they sell bonds and hope inflation will erode the debt to nothing in a hundred years, basically the U.S. borrows money because for them is free money they will never have to pay it in full or at least they hope, also the U.S. has control of one of the world global lender so they basically can set the values.

Also borrowing is used to regulate appreciation and depreciation of the currency with varying degrees of success, but it is also used as a reduction factor for risk, by spreading the shit(debt) around with bonds, that the government more then once forced others to accept in paying, some countries are not happy about that crap, that is why they are creating baskets of currencies to trade on the international market to reduce dependence on the dollar.

Bob (profile) says:

Re: Oh thank goodness

Apple is well ahead of the US Government, considering that they (we) are $14+ trillion in debt!

http://www.usdebtclock.org/

Add $45 trillion in unfunded obligations (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_public_debt

Unfortunately, our children will be paying this off over the next 40 years.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

LoL at your reply. But I wanted to LOL at his example:

“A more accurate comparison would be of something like how much money I have in my wallet right now to how much money Bill Gates’ arbitrarily promised his wife he would take out of the bank this year. The comparison is totally meaningless and stupid. Please stop making it.”

Since I can’t hit lol at the article I’m gonna hit lol at my own post with the quote =/

Anonymous Coward says:

Actually it is not the US Government that prints the money. It is the Federal Reserve which is a private bank. The federal government relinquished it’s responsibility to “coin money” with the signing of the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. So, in all actuality, the Federal Reserve has more money than the US Government.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Actually it is not the US Government that prints the money. It is the Federal Reserve which is a private bank. The federal government relinquished it’s responsibility to “coin money” with the signing of the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. So, in all actuality, the Federal Reserve has more money than the US Government.

I see lots of people making this point in the comments. It is not accurate. The Federal Reserve, while independent, is very much a part of the government.

kentiler says:

Re: EXACTLY!!!!

Mike – you are wrong. You just can’t print more money – that’s been stated many times here.

Donald Trump once said when he was burdened with 900 million dollars in debt: He was walking along the street he met a poor beggar, and in that moment Trump told himself ?If that man had nothing then he is richer than me by 900 million, because at least he had no debt.?

So yes – Apple and Microsoft and this anonymous coward who is broke but debt-free all have more money than the government, and when it comes time to pay this debt off, we’re going to find that the USA is owned by China and all the other countries that have been buying up our interests like a fire sale!

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

And you would have guessed wrong, since that has effectively no value to me.

Wait. Let me get this thread straight. You are saying that you refuse to stop repeating something that is completely wrong and meaningless unless someone pays you to stop repeating it?

Wow. Are you a Washington lobbyist or something like that?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

No, I’m saying I expect be compensated for doing what someone else wants when I don’t want to do it.

And “You’re a big stupid doody-head if you don’t!” is not compensation. It’s just a weak, whiny, ill-raised, ill-behaved, spoiled little brat’s attempt at emotional bullying.

IME, when people attempt to defend behavior like that, it’s because they’re dependent upon it themselves, and the more they are, the more and harder they attempt to defend it. Because they perceive the normal, sensible adult criticism of it as a threat to their manipulative little gravy trains, and they’d rather try to tear someone else down than put in the actual normal, sensible adult effort needed to actually compensate other people for doing things for them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

And yet again, what part of “‘You’re a big stupid doody-head if you don’t!’ is just a weak, whiny, ill-raised, ill-behaved, spoiled little brat’s attempt at emotional bullying,” did you not understand the first time, let alone the second, let alone the third?

You’re still just trying to change someone else’s behavior with the kindergarden threat of “I’m gonna call you mean names if you don’t!” It doesn’t matter what your intentions are; the form is the same regardless.

And yes, that makes it a weak, whiny, ill-raised, ill-behaved spoiled little brat’s attempt at emotional bullying.

And if you don’t like that. . .YOU stop doing it.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Re:

You’re still just trying to change someone else’s behavior with the kindergarden threat of “I’m gonna call you mean names if you don’t!” It doesn’t matter what your intentions are; the form is the same regardless.

Did you go back and read this after you wrote it? What you just said is basically “You’re trying to do X. It doesn’t matter that you’re not really trying to do X, because your words look very much like those of someone trying to do X.”

And once again, I am not trying to influence you. If you want to continue doing what you are doing, go right ahead. It’s kind of amusing, really.

And if you don’t like that. . .YOU stop doing it.

You repeating the same mantra over and over again really does not bother me. Plus, shouldn’t you be offering me money now, because you’re telling me to do something I don’t want to do?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:10 Re:

But why else would you keep trying to put me down? Because you do keep trying to hit me with put-downs.

Is it that you’re just so clinically abusive that you do it for the sheer enjoyment of saying mean things about other people?

Unfortunately for your attempt at argument from consistency, I was not telling you what to do. I was merely pointing out that if your own behaviors are causing you distress, you can prevent that distress by refraining from those behaviors.

Your failure is a disappointment for me too, since valid arguments from consistency are automatic capitulations. I.e., if you’re going to argue that I’m right — which you necessarily must to argue from consistency — then okay, fine by me; I’m right.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:11 Re:


But why else would you keep trying to put me down? Because you do keep trying to hit me with put-downs.

Just trying to help you see how you’re coming off.


Unfortunately for your attempt at argument from consistency, I was not telling you what to do.

“And if you don’t like that. . .YOU stop doing it” is much more telling me what to do than “And acting like you’re going to get paid to stop saying stupid things is called “being an idiot”, and it involves “people calling you an idiot”.” is telling you what to do.

if you’re going to argue that I’m right — which you necessarily must to argue from consistency — then okay, fine by me; I’m right.

I am challenging you to be consistent. You think you should be paid when someone tells you to stop doing something, so I asked if you believed I should be paid when someone tells me to stop doing something. Now you’re trying to claim you didn’t tell me to stop doing something, which IMO is weaseling out of it.

Mr. Smarta** says:

It's all a smoke screen anyway

The whole debt problem situation is a bunch of horse ****. It’s only one more way for the rich to get richer. Politicians have lots of stocks, they sell as the market goes high, they play up the fact that the government could go bankrupt and default on all loans and everyone will die, the markets freak out and plummet to low levels, politicians buy back all the stocks at a lower price, then they say “We’ve come to an agreement. Crisis averted.” Markets skyrocket. *BOOM* They’re richer.

Overcast (profile) says:

If the government can print cash why does it have to borrow?

Please explain.

Because it’s in debt to the federal reserve, along with bons owed to investors (China holds a LARGE amount of these; thus the ‘debt’ to China). At one point, bankers thought it would be a good idea to hold a financial gauntlet over the American people – and here we are..

http://forum.prisonplanet.com/index.php?topic=193828.0

oh really? says:

Re: Re: Re:

And you dont think congress or presidents have the ability to be corrurpt? Members of the executive board on the FED are commonly appointed for 14 year terms. You could easily have 4 Presidents in the term of just one member on that board. Excutive members on that board are commonly past presidents of different branchs of the FED bank.
Whos best interest do you think a past president of a bank has? The interests of a bank it used to run or the american people for which he/she is now responsible for?
Tell me now your tired of FED conspiracy thoeries. Do more research on the process before you speak.
Also take a look at the world bank and tell me how that isnt corrupt while you at it…..genious.

Anonymous Coward says:

Masnick is wrong.

The US government doesn’t print money, the Federal Reserve does.

The cash on hand that the US government has right now is less than the cash on hand Apple has.

That is why the debt ceiling must be raised; because the US has to borrow more in order to fulfill its obligations.

Masnick is just mad because this points out how incredibly wealthy a tech company got selling things like devices that store pirated music. And he is desperate to save the sinking ship that is his piracy apologist business model.

i M correct says:

Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Aug 1st, 2011 @ 12:59pm

Apple does not have more cash on hand than the us. Dept obligations and cash on hand are different. If you have $20 in the bank and owe $200,000 you have $20 cash on hand. Consider this… the USA taxes apple and Exxon and Microsoft and every other us business and it employees at least an average of 20% so at any given time they could have a trillion dollars on hand.

We borrow money for many reasons…how many countries that we borrow from are we at war with? Or at risk of a war?

This debt logic goes back to the civil war. We could live debt free but 200 years ago we decided not to for many good reasons. First if china attacks us we won’t repay debt. Does that make there money worth less? Yes because they now have less income. Does it make our cash available to fund a war go up? Yea… of course the real issue is not if we borrow but how we use that money. Don’t forget the USA has oil reserves that are worth many times what apple has in cash on hand. If there is massive inflation apple could end up having the equivalent of $1000 in cash.

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile) says:

Budget cuts

Just like their budget cuts are only cuts to the increases in spending they plan…not to what they currently spend. I have used a similar allegory before but here is Ron Paul’s explanation:
No plan under serious consideration cuts spending in the way you and I think about it. Instead, the ?cuts? being discussed are illusory, and are not cuts from current amounts being spent, but cuts in projected spending increases. This is akin to a family ?saving? $100,000 in expenses by deciding not to buy a Lamborghini, and instead getting a fully loaded Mercedes, when really their budget dictates that they need to stick with their perfectly serviceable Honda. But this is the type of math Washington uses to mask the incriminating truth about their unrepentant plundering of the American people.

PrometheeFeu (profile) says:

Re: Budget cuts

That happens to be true and it is actually even more absurd than that. The cuts are not even binding because future Congresses are not bound by previous Congresses. So really, the cuts are a promise that some guys in the future will spend less money than the current Congress had previously imagined. In other words, it means nothing.

Aaron Pressman says:

You are being way too glib

Contrary to your glib post, the United States government is bound by an assortment of laws governing its ability to tax, borrow and spend. If your post were remotely true, there would be be no debt ceiling conflict. In the real world, the US government takes in tax receipts and other revenue, spends it on authorized programs and borrows to make up the difference. When the government cannot by law borrow more, it cannot spend more than the cash on hand.

This statement is factually incorrect: “What the Apple comparison treats as government ‘cash’ is just the difference between what the government is (artificially) permitted to borrow and what it has borrowed already.”
As is this one: “None of this has anything to do with how much cash the government has on hand.”

The cash figure is the amount of money left ON HAND at the end of each day in the government’s coffers after all spending and revenue from all sources (borrowing, tax receipts, fines, etc) is accounted for. The calculation has nothing to do with the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling could be raised by $2 trillion in one moment and the cash balance would not change one cent. Once the government went out and sold some T-bills and the proceeds came in, that exact amount would be added to the cash. It’s not that complicated.

By your logic, Apple doesn’t have $76 billion in cash because it could borrow more or maybe it has less because it could spend some of it tomorrow? If Apple couldn’t issue debt because of a law or a contractual agreement or a restriction in prior borrowing, would that just be an “artificial” limit?

Do you remotely understand that the Federal Reserve is an independent arm of the government that has little to do with the federal budget as it expands and contracts the nation’s money supply via the banking system in an effort to stimulate employment and keep inflation low?

Nicedoggy says:

Re: You are being way too glib

Exactly who controls the Federal Reserve?

If the government orders them to do something will they not have to abide by it?

Could congress not dissolve the Federal Reserve and recreated it as a federal things?

That distinction is just cosmetic, the Federal Reserve can be private, so what it still forced to fallow what the government says it should do.

Laws and regulation LoL

Are you kidding me, in the real world that is not a problem since the government is the one responsible for enacting those laws and regulations and they have a lot of room to do it at discretion.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: You are being way too glib

Exactly who controls the Federal Reserve?

If the government orders them to do something will they not have to abide by it?

My understanding is no, they do not have to follow instructions from, for example, the executive branch. Congress has “oversight” over them, but doesn’t ratify their decisions.

Could congress not dissolve the Federal Reserve and recreated it as a federal things?

Of course.

Hans says:

Re: You are being way too glib

“When the government cannot by law borrow more, it cannot spend more than the cash on hand.”

Congress makes a law that it can’t borrow more than some ceiling, and then has a “crisis” when it spends more. Absurd, particularly when you consider that Congress itself appropriated (spent) that money already.

Further, some scholars opine that in fact once Congress has passed an appropriation, they’ve implicitly raised the debt ceiling. Therefore one way out of this “crisis” is for the President to simply ask the Federal Reserve to go ahead and sell more bonds. Poof!

f0nZi3 (profile) says:

I don't care what "they" call it...

Operating anything that has spent more money than it has taken in for 69 out of 80 years is not what I call “responsible”. An individual, family, organization or business could not operate this way for very long. Why do we allow our government to get away with it?? 14.5 trillion dollars! Does anyone really think that debt is ever going to get paid off? Does anyone really think the US will even be able to pay back 25% of it?

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

How about comparing financial solvency instead? Let’s see, Apple seems to be doing fairly well, and the US government has about $14 trillion in debt and is considering going even further into debt

Sure. That’s a perfectly reasonable argument. I don’t disagree that the US is horribly managed from a fiscal perspective. But the whole claims about how much “cash” it has is so incredibly misleading. What shocks me is how many people here in the comments think it’s accurate.

It’s not. Comparing the government’s “cash” to Apple’s “cash” are comparing two totally different things.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

So you agree that it is a solvency issue, right? Well, cash on hand is a great measure of solvency, especially if you also look at in conjunction with the short, medium and long term funding needs that an organization has.

Apple has a shit load of cash and NO DEBT. They are solvent. The U.S. Treasury has relatively very little cash and a shit load of debt.

Simply comparing cash stacks is missing the picture, but comparing cash stacks when the U.S. Government has significant near term funding needs and questionable ability to raise more cash through issuing debt is a valid consideration.

People who think that saying ?Apple has more cash than the USG? means Apple is better off for just that reason alone, are similar to people that would think a companies valuation would be lower on a $10 stock than a $20 stock without looking at the shares outstanding or the balance sheet.  The point: It is significant that the U.S. Treasury has less cash than Apple given all of the other circumstances? but it is also a headline grabber.

Anonymous Coward says:

US Government does not print cash

I just wanted to point out something..
As I understand it, the US Government does not print cash. Only the Federal Reserver does this. And the Federal Reserve is privately owned. (Neither the US citizens nor the US Government have control of their own money.) The money the US government gets is loaned to them from the Federal Reserve and we the people are supposed to be responsible for paying this money back along with all the interest – to the private Federal Reserve.

darryl says:

Oh no blowback --- Mike

I was going to comment in how stupid it was for someone to say “the gov can just print more money”, and be considered serious, or someone who actually has any form of clue about,,, we’ll anything !!!..

Masnick, who are you trying to convince ?

It does not appear to be your readers, it appears to be more you are trying to convince yourself !!!

How is that working for you ? are you there yet ?

The Truths Razor says:

“The US government can print cash. It does not run out of cash.” Think before you speak please. The Federal Reserve is as Federal as Fed Ex. The Federal Reserve is independent within government in that “its decisions do not have to be ratified by the President or anyone else in the executive or legislative branch of government.” United States Department of the Treasury Department actually Prnts it.

The Truths Razor says:

“The US government can print cash. It does not run out of cash.” Think before you speak please. The Federal Reserve is as Federal as Fed Ex. The Federal Reserve is independent within government in that “its decisions do not have to be ratified by the President or anyone else in the executive or legislative branch of government.” United States Department of the Treasury Department actually Prnts it.

Ray says:

Apple does not have more cash than the government...

Mike your a MORON! Yes of course the government can print more money. However, every time they start up the presses it dilutes the value of the money in the system. You obviously have never had to balance a budget if you had you would realize that at some point there WILL be payment due. It may not be tomorrow or even in this generation but……IT WILL COME DUE! You can’t borrow forever. When you build a house of cards high enough it has to crumble. You may glue it or shore it up with multiple racks of cards but everything that goes up MUST come down. It is one of natures most basic laws. The question I would ask is this….
Do you expect to pay for the financial mess this country is in or do you expect to defer it to your kids or grand kids???

lolreally says:

Economics 101

The reason they don’t or rather the federal reserve doesn’t… Is because for every sheet of paper they print the U.S. MUST have it’s value in hard currency i.e. gold.

If not… This causes what we all know as “Degradation of the American Dollar”

You know where the Euro is worth more than the US dollar right now… while the Canadian currency is not far behind the US dollar if not equates it.

lolreally says:

IMO

I believe this country has 1 major problem.

John Joe Citizens is paying more to keep the US’s economy from sinking while corporations like Microsoft and Apple are not.

If I could afford to pay a health care system that is manditory don’t ya think I’d have Private insurrance?

God forbid rich people pay what John Joe Citizen contributes in equal taxes…. Imagine how poor the country would be if corporations and/or the rich paid exactly what some jackass who makes $20,000/year pays.

We wouldn’t have 1/2 of the problems we have now.

The government is leaning on the average citizen who can’t afford private insurance while giving tax breaks to the corporations and rich.

That my friends is “The American way of life.”

Get used to it.

Bryan says:

Usa cash ? Apple

I think you have absolutely no concept at all regarding the world of finance. Your patriotic cry for rich america is in wet sand and drowning. The usa government is totally bankrupt. They/you owe nearly 18 trillion dollars to others. Printing cash does not make them have money but just make the dollar worthless slowly. Usa today is frenzy about ideals and concepts and pushing the world to war in order to survive. Like a cockaroach in a corner. Get some education about money. Apple does have more money than the government. You are the ignorant one..not the others

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