Author Archives: William Black

Wolfers Blames MMT for Orthodox Economists’ Ignorance of MMT

By William K. Black
March 14, 2019     Bloomington, MN

Number 6 in a Series of Articles on MMT

Justin Wolfers is an economist who is disgracing the university I love, the University of Michigan.  I had the great fortune to be born in Detroit and receive the first seven years of my higher education as an instate student at the University of Michigan.  I was able to graduate with virtually no debt.  Wolfers is also a native of Australia, which means he is familiar with kangaroos.  That familiarity is ironic because Wolfers is devoting his time these days to serving as the chief apologist for a kangaroo court of orthodox economists that convened to declare Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) anathema.

Kangaroo courts are sham legal proceedings which are set-up in order to give the impression of a fair legal process. In fact, they offer no impartial justice as the verdict, invariably to the detriment of the accused, is decided in advance.

The orthodox economists’ kangaroo court met that definition.  Here is what happened – and there is no factual dispute about it.  MMT opponents ignorant of MMT scholarship drafted two strawman questions.  (They were actually the same question, with unimportant changes in phraseology.)  The willingness of people who never read MMT scholarship to be fervent opponents of MMT demonstrates the severity of the scandal.  The kangaroo ‘poll’ drafters falsely claimed that MMT scholars would answer “yes” to both questions.  Indeed, the deliberate implication was that a “yes” answer to both questions defined MMT’s core precepts.  MMT scholars have repeatedly and unequivocally made clear for decades that the answer to both questions is “no.”  MMT scholars have repeatedly and unequivocally over the last nine years explained to Paul Krugman, the falsity of his recurrent ascription of the same strawman used by the orthodox economists’ kangaroo court to MMT scholars.  As I have demonstrated in prior articles in this series, Brad DeLong has documented Krugman’s repeated falsehoods, the repeated statements of MMT scholars refuting Krugman’s strawman claims, and the clear statements by MMT scholars as to what they actually believe, write, and teach.

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The Day Orthodox Economists Lost Their Minds and Integrity

William K. Black
March 14, 2019     Bloomington, MN

Fifth Article in a Series on MMT

Something extraordinary happened yesterday.  Orthodox economists, frustrated by their inability to intimidate progressive elected officials, have launched a coordinated assault on MMT in hopes of making it politically dangerous for elected officials to embrace MMT.  Yesterday brought three remarkable revelations about orthodox economists’ willingness to engage in naked intellectual dishonesty in their desperation to find something to discredit MMT.

The orthodox economic attack on MMT should be a ‘slam dunk’ – if orthodox economists were correct about MMT.  There are two obvious ways to deliver the ‘slam dunk.’  First, orthodox economists preach that a theory’s predictive ability is the test of its validity.  MMT scholars have been making predictions for decades, so orthodox economists should be able to produce a large number of falsified predictions by MMT scholars and declare victory.  There is only one problem with this option – MMT scholars have an exceptionally fine predictive record and orthodox macro scholars have such a terrible predictive record that prominent economists deride “modern macro” as the “dark ages” (Paul Krugman) and a religion unsuccessfully posing as a pseudo-science (Paul Romer).  .

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Four “Tells” That Show Krugman Knows He Cannot Win an Honest Debate

William K. Black
March 13, 2019     Bloomington, MN

Fourth article in the Series on MMT

  1. Honest debaters do not create strawmen arguments about opposing theories and then claim victory by attacking their own strawmen.

When Krugman and a bevy of the “Very Serious People” (VSP) Krugman used to ridicule created and then attacked strawman MMT positions (e.g., using Roche’s rant), they were unintentionally revealing their knowledge that they did not believe they could dispute successfully MMT scholars’ real positions.

  1. Honest orthodox economists and journalist do not spread “myths” they know to be “obvious falsehood[s]” in order to deny MMT insights the orthodox economists and journalist know to be “obviously true.” The second “tell” that the VSPs know they cannot win an honest debate is this deliberate strategy of deceiving the public and elected officials through the VSPs’ myths about nations with fully sovereign currencies. 

My first article quoted the “Very Serious People’s” admissions that MMT is “obviously true” and that the VSPs spread “myths,” quasi-religious “superstition,” and “obvious falsehood[s]” to deceive the voters and elected officials to reject MMT.  VSPs are openly admitting that the reason they lie is that they believe that the voters and elected officials would agree with MMT scholars’ if there were an honest debate.  You do not lie to win a debate when the facts are on your side. Continue reading

Three Natural Experiments Documenting Krugman’s Bias Against MMT

William K. Black
March 13, 2019      Bloomington, MN

Third article in a series on MMT[1]

I urge readers to review Scott Fullwiler’s brief paper on the theoretical and predictive successes of MMT scholars on a topic of enormous theoretical and practical importance.  You do not need economics training to understand it.  Fullwiler reports the results of two “natural experiments.”  In this context, this means an unplanned experiment.  The twin experiments were:

  1. What would happen if orthodox scholars tested the predictive strength of MMT?
  2. How would Paul Krugman react to an orthodox scholar’s demonstration of the predictive accuracy of key MMT insights – if Krugman did not know that the orthodox scholar’s work was verifying key MMT predictions?

Fullwiler’s paper answers both questions.  The orthodox scholar, unknowingly, confirmed the predictive strength of many of MMT’s most important insights.  Krugman praised De Grauwe’s findings as “seminal.”  Krugman had no idea he was praising the predictive successes of MMT scholars because Krugman had never read MMT scholars’ work.  Fullwiler’s paper shows that a series of MMT scholars made De Grauwe’s point more than a decade before De Grauwe published his “seminal” contribution in an orthodox journal.  Stephanie Kelton was one of the MMT scholars who demonstrated precedence, making Krugman’s use of the word “seminal” as a descriptor even more unintentionally humorous.

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MMT Takes Center Stage – and Orthodox Economists Freak

William K. Black
March 11, 2019     Bloomington, MN

First Article in a Series

The massive, coordinated assault on Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) scholars by the most elite forces of orthodoxy represents a watershed moment in economics, but we must not lose sight that the real attack is actually on progressives, particularly the newly elected progressive members of Congress plus Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders.  Even that statement is incomplete, for it is the combination of the rise of these progressive elected officials, the 2020 presidential election (and nomination battle), and the exceptional embrace of progressive policies by the general public and Democratic Party candidates for the presidential nomination that prompted the coordinated and personalized assault of overwhelmingly neoliberal economists on MMT scholars.  This first column in a series provides an overview of why the progressives’ embrace of MMT spurred the terrified assault on MMT by orthodox economists.  That desperate assault reveals how much orthodox economists fear the voters’ increasing embrace of the progressive core policy issues on the environment, health care, and restoring the rule of law to the markets.  Later articles in this series will flesh out that overview.

The polls showing enormous public support for the key progressive initiatives terrify the neoliberals.  Sanders’ 2016 policy initiatives have transformed the Democratic Party candidates’ policy proposals for 2020.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  Warren’s policy proposals are having a similar effect.  Polls show broad support for the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, a jobs guaranty program, a tax system that would reverse the current race to plutocracy, a campaign to reduce gun slaughter and massacres, the restoration of the rule of law (including antitrust laws) to business (particularly banking and Silicon Valley), and a meaningful minimum wage.

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Why Did Trump Choose to be Such an Unpopular President?

William K. Black
February 25, 2019     Ames, Iowa

Donald Trump promised to deliver a middle-class tax cut of epic proportions.

“The largest tax reductions are for the middle class, who have been forgotten,” Trump said in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on Oct. 22, 2016.

If Trump had fulfilled that campaign promise, it would have made him spectacularly popular and vastly increased his support beyond his base.  He, not the ‘Republican Party,’ controlled the House and the Senate.  Many Democrats would have supported a serious cut in middle-class taxes.  Better yet, from Trump’s perspective, many Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and ‘Chuck’ Schumer would have bitterly opposed the Trump Tax Triumph on the economically illiterate basis that budget surpluses are next to godliness.

Trump could have followed up his tax cut success with a real infrastructure program distributed through grants to counties, cities, and states.  Again, this would have been spectacularly popular and even Pelosi and Schumer would have rushed to co-sponsor the legislation.  This would have been the second Trump triumph.  With those two triumphs, the Republicans would have won a whole series of close congressional elections in 2018, retained (and perhaps expanded) control of the House, and expanded control of the Senate.  That would have been the third Trump triumph and would have positioned him brilliantly for reelection.

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Modern Monetary Theory is On the March

By William K. Black
February 18, 2019     Bloomington, MN

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) continues to advance rapidly.  We are past the first phase of reaction (first they ignore you), deeply into the second phase (then they attack you), and expanding the ranks of the third phase (then you win).  We are very early in the third phase, winning with increasing numbers of people, but still a minority view.

One of the proofs of MMT’s advances is a nearly respectable treatment by the Wall Street Journal as the feature of a news article.  The other major proof is the pathetic efforts of MMT critics quoted in the article to attack MMT.  The article, implicitly, admits that MMT scholars have repeatedly proved correct in their predictions that the existing and projected U.S. fiscal budget deficits would not trigger damaging shortages of real resources that will cause damaging levels of inflation.  The article, implicitly, admits that nations with fully sovereign currencies are vastly less vulnerable to economic injury from budget deficits.

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AOC# and MMT Spook the AEI

William K. Black
January 17, 2019     Bloomington, MN

AOC# drives Republicans berserk.  Booing her, and only her, at the ceremony admitting the members of Congress, raging at her for dancing – yes dancing – in a college video, and attacking her for having a nickname (“Sandy”) in high school demonstrate the degree of derangement and the pathetic ammunition they have found in their failing efforts to discredit her.  MMT has become an indirect beneficiary of this derangement.  AOC# has expressed support for MMT – so the right is now eager to reach the famous second stage of opposition to good ideas (‘first they ignore them, then they attack them’).  It is far better for the right to attack our good ideas, than ignore them.  As with the right’s attacks on AOC#, the nature of their attacks on MMT is laughably extreme and nonsensical.  When they attack MMT, they spread our views.

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Trump’s Version of ‘Let Them Eat Cake’

By William K. Black
January 14, 2019     Bloomington, MN

Queen Marie-Antoinette of France was libeled by the claim that when she was told that her starving peasants could no longer find bread to eat, she responded “then let them eat cake.”  (If you want to get precise she supposedly said let them eat ‘brioche.”)  There is no evidence she said any such thing.

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Trump CFPB Plans Obscene Change to Payday Lender Rule

William K. Black
January 14, 2019     Bloomington, Mn

Kate Berry, the American Banker reporter that covers consumer financial protection, has written another important article about the continuing horror story of Trump’s increasingly successful efforts to pervert the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) into an agency dedicated to harming consumers and protecting our Nation’s most predatory lenders.  Unfortunately, her January 14, 2019 article is behind a paywall.

The Predatory ‘Sweet Spot’

The context is one of the CFPB’s most important and useful anti-predatory lending rules by payday lenders.  Payday lenders often charge working class Americans interest rates well above 100 percent.  (In Missouri, a hotbed of predation, they can charge more than 500 percent.)  The ‘sweet spot’ for payday lenders is borrowers who will be unable to repay promptly the initial loan (with an obscene, but vastly lower initial interest rate).  This sets off a cycle of additional borrowing and extending of payday loans that places the borrower into a debt spiral that frequently results in bankruptcy.  Payday lenders, who exist to predate on customers, make their extraordinary profits largely from borrowers who cannot repay the initial payday loan when it comes due, but have some income and will continue to reborrow and attempt to repay for months.  Predatory payday lenders optimize by finding this ‘sweet spot’ of those who have enough income and a compelling intent to repay – but not enough income to pay off the entire series of loans.

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