Inflation and Modern Monetary Theory- MMT

How many of you have heard about “MMT” – Modern Monetary Theory?

MMT says federal budgeting should look ahead to whether spending will cause inflation instead of just worrying that it will. After analyzing whether spending might cause inflationary pressures, address those causes of inflation – resource & capacity shortages – in advance. Then spend.

That way government can do what it needs to do to meet the needs and wants of We the People.

Example, of you want a high-speed rail system make sure to set up steel & train car manufacturing etc. first, then build the rail systems. If you approach it that way, capacity and resource shortages – steel, labor & other resources – don’t cause inflation.

Address the causes of inflation first instead of trying to “fight inflation” later by forcing people out of work, etc.

Superstitious Fear of Deficits

We have a superstitious fear that we might “run out of money.” We used to use gold (or shells) as money. Kings used to have to round up gold. People still think this is what money is. People think taxes round up gold – “revenue” – and the government that makes money – “dollars” – can somehow run out of the money it makes.

But that is not what money is, and not how a modern economy works. Money is created by government. (We “make” dollars and license banks to “create” money.) Taxes help regulate the money in the economy and (used to) balance its distribution. Dollars are like points on a scoreboard. A baseball game can’t “run out” runs. Our government can’t “run out” of dollars. Dollars are just an instrument of keeping score of how government has allocated our resources.

Unfortunately, the way government budgeting still works now – worrying about “deficits” and inflation instead of addressing problems that deficits might cause – we end up with austerity. We don’t spend enough. We don’t address the needs and wants of We the People. And if we see inflation we do terrible things to fight it. We CAUSE unemployment. We CAUSE poverty. Etc. We try to fight inflation after it begins instead of not causing inflation in the first place.

Austerity Breeds Fascism

Our medieval monetary superstitions and the resulting practices cause us to refuse to allocate resources to address our societal problems. This austerity keeps us from doing things to make our lives better. We don’t fix and certainly don’t modernize infrastructure, don’t provide healthcare or childcare or good education (through college), etc., so people feel government doesn’t work. As we saw in the 1930s and are seeing again now, austerity breeds fascism.

This is a great book to help understand MMT:

The Deficit Myth
Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People’s Economy
by Stephanie Kelton

Also this April, 2021 NYT Op-ed by Stephanie Kelton, warning that our Covid relief budget process could boost inflation:
Biden Can Go Bigger and Not ‘Pay for It’ the Old Way

We CAN Have Nice Things

Take a look at this website keeping track of and teaching about MMT: We CAN Have Nice Things

TED Talk: The Big Myth of Government Deficits

This is a TED Talk by Stephanie Kelton, TED: The big myth of government deficits.

“Instead of trying to keep the deficit in check, Congress should be trying to keep inflation in check.”

“Instead of asking how will we pay for it, Congress should be asking, “How will we resource it.”

I Quit Twitter. Is Trump In Jail Yet?

I got off Twitter, for a while at least, and it’s wonderful. My concentration is returning. I’m able to go to the bathroom without my phone. And I’m even writing a blog post! (For better or worse.)

But I have a few questions:

– Has Trump or anyone at the top of things been held accountable for anything yet? I mean actually indicted for their crimes — not “stern letters” from Democratic senators. (Remember that report that detailed how Trump committed Obstruction but couldn’t be indicted because he was resident? Tell the Justice Dept. he’s not president anymore.) (PS His lawyer went to jail for a crime he committed with Trump but Trump couldn’t be indicted because he was president. Tell the Justice Dept. he’s not president anymore.)

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We Need a Department of Democracy

This post first appeared at Imagine Democracy.

This post expands on 2019’s , a “Department of Democracy,” to protect and promote democracy.

Democracy doesn’t have an advertising agency, and our discourse is swamped by well-funded anti-democracy efforts — done by self-interested parties like the tobacco and fossil-fuel companies. For obvious reasons such interests want to get government and its rules that protect the public from harms (a.k.a. regulations) “off their backs.”

Our elections have become a game in which secretly-funded disinformation, spread by secretly-funded propaganda outlets, in rigged districts, with voter suppression and apathy deciding who rules. Those minority-selected elected officials perpetuate these barriers in a “doom loop” that is ending democracy.

If what’s left of self-rule survives we need a government agency to take on the role of protecting and promoting democracy. Perhaps we could call it a Department of Democracy.

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Infrastructure “Deal”

So there’s a “bipartisan deal” on infrastructure that cuts out much of the original infrastructure plan, which was supposed to be urgently needed for the country. They say it can’t pass without an accompanying guarantee of a Reconciliation bill to pass the rest of what was proposed.

So in other words, we’ll get the entire original proposal (or maybe nothing) through reconciliation except months later than we would have if we had just passed it using Reconciliation in the first place, but leaving little time for much of the rest of Biden’s agenda, never mind all the bills the House has been passing.

This “deal” is because Biden, who was going to convince Republicans to work with him, couldn’t convince Democrats like Manchin to work with him. And Biden caved on taxing the rich.

Also you have to “pay for” something that will bring us trillions in future economic gains? But one way they are going to “pay for” it is by selling public infrastructure to private interests who can then charge US a fee to use OUR infrastructure.

PS For those who mistakenly think the US govt “borrows,” the interest rate is close to below zero when inflation is added in, so we actually “make money” if we “borrow.” But we absolutely can’t issue T-Bills to “pay for” the infrastructure that will bring us trillions of benefit.

PSS The US govt MAKES dollars. It doesn’t borrow them. It also chooses to sell T-Bills, for different reasons.

PASS Also, Republicans can now take credit for the infrastructure spending the public wants, even after cutting it by 2/3. Or is that 3/4?

The Democrats’ Dastardly Plan

This post first appeared at Imagine Democracy.

The Democrats have a sinister plan. They are going to trick people into voting for them by doing things to make their lives better.

They plan to use the people’s government to bribe the voters. They are strategically scheming to allocate government resources to deliver things like safety from the Covid-19 virus, health care, education, even modernized infrastructure. They plan to address problem like the climate crisis, racial injustice, even inequality, They will pass laws preventing companies from polluting, committing fraud and other things that companies have been allowed to do for so long! This hijacking of the government by Democrats for their own purposes could mean voters reward them by allowing them to do even more for them.

However the good Republicans also have a plan. To prevent the seizure of the government away from the corporations, they are passing laws to stop the voters from being able to reward the Democrats for their bribery schemes. They are gallantly making sure that it is very, very difficult for the bribed voters to get to polling places – of course prohibiting the ease of voting by mail – and if they get to voting places they will face all kinds of rules designed to keep the from the voting booths themselves.

In case voters actually do make it to the voting booths to cast votes, the districts are carefully drawn in ways that Democrat votes are concentrated into a very few districts, while the majority of districts remain under Republican control, no matter how the statewide vote turns out.

So be aware of this sinister plan by Democrats to bribe voters by making their lives better. Do not let them get away with it.

The #FightFor15 Minimum Wage WAS The Compromise. #FightFor24!

The minimum wage should be $24 if it had kept up with the gains in the economy.

Instead all those gains went to a top few.

CEPR: This is What Minimum Wage Would Be If It Kept Pace with Productivity

While the national minimum wage did rise roughly in step with productivity growth from its inception in 1938 until 1968, in the more than five decades since then, it has not even kept pace with inflation. However, if the minimum wage did rise in step with productivity growth since 1968 it would be over $24 an hour today, as shown in the Figure below.

$15 WAS the compromise!

$15 is a compromise already. If the minimum wages had kept pace with the gains in the economy it would be $24 or so per hour now, which is around $96K per year for a couple. What this means is that if labor’s share of the economy had stayed the same the minimum lifestyle equivalent would be what a $96K lifestyle today is. The house you’d be able to buy, etc. That would be our minimum.

#FightFor24

If they kill the $15 compromise there is no reason to keep fighting for $15. It should be $24 and we should all rightfully be fighting for that. It just gets us back to where we were before the great financialization, the great separation of labor wages from the economy, the great inequalizer.

So fuck 15, #FightFor24

Always Say “Jim Crow Filibuster” or “Racist Filibuster”

Always use the phrase “Jim Crow Filibuster” or “Racist Filibuster.” This takes away the cover of pretending the filibuster is a “norm” or “tradition” as an excuse for not killing it.

Senators like Manchin should not be asked if they support “ending the filibuster,” they should be asked if they support “keeping the racist filibuster.”

The Senate filibuster has a racist past and present. End it so America can move forward.

The nature of the filibuster, its rules and norms, is hardly an iron-clad tradition. It has changed and adapted greatly over the years since it first became popular in the civil rights era. But what hasn’t changed is its enduring connection to racism. The filibuster has always stood in the way of racial progress, whether employed by Southern Democrats of the Jim Crow era or the Republican Party today after a major shift in the party’s stance on racial equality. When you understand the filibuster’s racist past, it becomes clear that it has a racist present as well — and that we need to get rid of it.

Call it what it is, don’t let them take cover under “tradition.”

Don’t Nuke The Filibuster – Reform It

Dems should reform the filibuster to make it into what the public thinks it already is.

Currently there is a Senate rule that effectively means legislation is not allowed to pass unless it gets 60 votes. This is called the filibuster rule. It has allowed Republicans to obstruct everything that government can do to make people’s lives better for more than a decade.

But if you ask “regular” people what a filibuster is (I don’t mean people on Twitter or who obsessively follow the news, I mean regular, busy people) they will almost universally answer that a filibuster means senators talking all day and all night. They have no idea that there is a rule that effectively requires 60 votes for anything to pass.

The 1939 movie “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” led to public belief that a filibuster involves a senator talking until he or she can’t stand up anymore when they believe something being done is just wrong. They would go on as long as they could. This dramatic act gets news, and alerts the public to pay attention. It gives supporters time to rally their forces. Then the public can contact their senators and let them know if they should go ahead or stop.

Reform The Filibuster

In stead if “nuking” the filibuster Democrats should ask for filibuster reform. Get rid of the ridiculous rule that allows every bill to be blocked if it can’t get 60 votes. Return to a rule that allows a senator to talk and talk and give the public time to rally. Bring back this system that protects the minority, but in a way that makes it a rare, dramatic event. It is the rarity of the event that gives it its value.

It is not a “nuclear option” to change the rules to what the public thinks the rules already are.

On “Speaking Fees,” Biden and Yellen

In the 90s there was a scandal about “buckraking,” where journalists were reporting positively about certain moneyed interests while raking in huge “speaking fees” from them. (A good example was 1996’s Money Talks by Howard Kurtz, Part 1, Part 2.)

While Congress has since banned honoraria for its members, the market for reporters and pundits who speak to business audiences has never been hotter. Some big-name media people routinely receive $15,000, $30,000, even $50,000 for a single speech. And the bulk of that money comes from corporations and lobbying organizations with more than a passing interest in the issues the journalists write about and yak about for a living.

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Stop Blaming “Congress”

The American media likes to report that “Congress” isn’t getting anything done.

For example, for the last several months the media has been reporting that “Congress” hasn’t been passing a relief bill. That doesn’t give voters any information they can use. It just tells the public “Congress” is failing them, etc. But it doesn’t tell them WHO to hold accountable and so people turn against government in general. And against democracy.

Let The Public Know WHO

It was Republicans who blocked the bills. Voters need that information for democracy to work and hold the right people accountable so the country can get better. Don’t blame “Congress,” let the pubic know WHO to hold accountable so democracy can work.

My drumbeat on this has been going on for a while.

Protectionism, Trade and Democracy

This post originated at Imagine Democracy

“Protectionism” literally means we, as a nation, protect our national interests. It is one more word that has been twisted to make people think it’s a bad thing, like “entitlement” (the things we are entitled to as citizens in a democracy) or “welfare” (people in a democracy making each others’ lives better.)

“Trade” is about competitive advantages. It used to mean one region can grow bananas and another can grow corn, and by trading they each end up with both bananas and corn in their kitchens. (Good.) Today, though, it means authoritarian governments have the “competitive advantage” of allowing slavery and pollution so their factories can make things for less. So (the executives of) big corporations move production there, then squeeze the remaining workforce here with threats to move their jobs as well if they won’t lower their standard of living. (Bad.) All the gains of that “trade” are passed to a few already-wealthy owners and managers of that means of production. They use some of the gains to influence our laws to allow them to do this.

A democracy obviously would consider its people’s standard of living an interest worth “protecting” and would never allow businesses to influence lawmaking.

Trade can be done a different way but that requires democratic governance. Economists (used to) tell us that society gained from trade because making the economy more “efficient” by moving production to lower-cost regions frees up resources, providing increased investment and general prosperity; better infrastructure, higher pay and more free time for everyone in the society. And the production moved to the lower pay area means jobs and investment there, so they also move up that same ladder to increased investment and prosperity. That assumption depended on viewing society as liberal democracies capable of making and enforcing rules that would pass these gains on to everyone.

The failure of our country to maintain itself as a democracy has resulted in the allowance of trade with slavers and polluters, resulting in the extreme inequality we see. Thereby enabling further squeezing of workers and environment here. It also incentivizes authoritarian governments to allow slavery and pollution.

The solution to this, and so many other problems, is, of course, to remove the influence of money from our political system.