Why it’s So Hard to Sign Progressive Petitions

By Stephanie Kelton

Every day or so, someone sends me a petition via e-mail. Today, I got this one from a group called CredoAction. They’re urging people to tell the Super Committee to keep their hands off Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and they wanted my support. I read the petition, but I could not, in good faith, sign it. And so I did what I often do — I took the time to draft an explanation and send it to the anonymous “contact” behind the petition. Here’s what I said:

I just read your “Stop Cuts to Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid” petition. As a progressive economist who has published numerous essays on these issues, I would like to offer you a stronger argument. Your petition refers to “progressive reforms” but cautions that, “that’s not what’s on the table.” But even the so-called “progressive reforms” aren’t necessary. Raising the retirement age, means-testing, reducing the COLA, lifting the cap on incomes above $106,000, etc. None of them are necessary! Forget the Trustees and their long-range projections. We don’t need a Trust Fund in order to make good on our promises to dependents, retirees, or the disabled. The US government is the Issuer of the currency, not a User like households, businesses, etc. As the issuer of the currency, the federal government can always make payments on time and in full, regardless of the balance in the Trust Fund, just as Alan Greenspan testified before Congress.

Find Robert Eisner’s article — Save Social Security from its Saviors — published in the Journal of Post Keynesian Economics. It should be THE basis for the progressive opposition to any/all attempts to change the program. Listen to Jamie Galbraith not Dean Baker and the other so-called “progressives” on this. Baker accepts the conservative framing of the issue — government cannot “afford” to make good on its future promises and so some kind of “reform” will eventually be necessary. Baloney! Search [this] blog for articles on Social Security and Medicare.

We can help you make a stronger case than the one the headline progressives have been making. Affordability isn’t the issue. This is about politics (values, morals) not economics. Governments that issue their own currency do not face financial constraints. It is as simple as that, and you should argue your case that way. Kill the myth of TINA — There Is No Alternative — and you can protect millions of Americans for decades to come. Reinforce that myth by supporting “progressive reforms,” and millions will suffer needlessly.

In solidarity,

Stephanie Kelton, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, University of Missouri-Kansas City

A few minutes after I sent my letter, I received a very kind reply and a request to follow-up with the CredoAction team. About the same time, I received an e-mail from Truthout. Dean Baker had just written a new piece on Social Security. In it, he says: 

“The way in which Social Security is ostensibly similar to a Ponzi scheme is that it depends on new workers in the future to meet obligations that incurs today. This also happens to be true of any debt issued by either the government or the private sector.” 

The perfect example of why groups like CredoAction need an alternative to the headline progressive mantra. I offered up the entire MMT crew. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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