Category Archives: Joe Firestone

How Can Our Senators and Representatives Vote for Giving Away Our Monetary Sovereignty?

Right now the US fulfills the three essential conditions for monetary sovereignty: 1) it issues its own non-convertible currency, 2) which it allows to float on international currency markets; and 3) it owes no debts in any currency other than dollars. Because it is monetarily sovereign, and can always meet its obligations the US can never be forced into insolvency.

It can become insolvent due to Congressional decisions such as failing to raise or repeal the debt ceiling, or Executive decisions such as failing to use its platinum coin minting authority to fill the public purse and then pay its bills once it has reached the debt ceiling. But again, it cannot be forced into solvency by external financial or economic factors that are beyond the control of the Federal Government (including the Congress).

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Consent of the Governed: Stop the Emerging Tyranny!

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, . . .

This, of course, is from the Declaration of Independence, one of the sacred texts of American politics and political theory. When the consent of the governed is superceded, or is not given due to force or manipulation, then that is tyranny and illegitimate, because no powers of such a government are or can be just.

So, let’s ask, based on what we know about the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement from leaks of current drafts, and also based on the proposed procedures for enacting it, and those for exiting the agreement, is it true that the TPP, if passed, would have the consent of the governed and hence be legitimate? Or would it be an instance of imposition of tyranny on the American people and also on the people of other signatory nations?

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When Will the Senate Budget Committee Majority Ever Learn About Sector Financial Balances?

By Joe Firestone

There are two words that describe the Republicans’ Senate Budget Committee’s proposed budget: “dishonesty” and “austerity” for most Americans. Let’s deal with the dishonesty part first. In due course, the austerity will be apparent.

The Senate Budget Committee’s statement, entitled “A Balanced Budget That Supports Economic Growth and Expands Opportunity for Hardworking Americans,” claims to support stronger economic growth, and provide greater opportunity. We might well ask “how much growth” “growth for whom” and “opportunity for whom?”

Certainly not for me and thee, since the Senate budget projects substantially decreased Federal outlays over the decade 2016 – 2025, compared to the CBO baseline budget. This decreased Federal spending comes from:

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When Will the Congressional Progressive Caucus Ever Learn About Sector Financial Balances?

In addition to the House Budget Committee and OMB budget plans and 2016 – 2025 projections fiscal policy followers have also recently been graced with the effort of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) proposing their budget plan and 2016 – 2025 projections. The CPC budget proposal is interesting because it is definitely not intended to be an austerity budget. Instead, its authors consciously try both to achieve the goals of “fiscally responsible” low deficit budgets while turning away from austerity and towards achieving full employment, renewed economic growth, economic stability, a strengthened social safety net, greater economic equality, an improved infrastructure, and transportation system, improving the health insurance system beyond the Affordable Care Act, a greener economy, improved education and other progressive goals.

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When Will the White House and OMB Ever Learn About Sector Financial Balances?

In my last post I asked this same question about the House Budget Committee. As my readers saw in that one, the attempts at deficit reduction leading to budget balance were so severe that they implied that if the House budget were followed, and if the economy did not collapse before the decade projection period ended due to a collapse of aggregate demand, then private sector deficits would be produced in every year from 2017 – 2025. In addition, since the budget provided for severe cuts to federal spending designed to benefit poor people and the middle class, it was likely that the private losses from this budget would be concentrated on the people who can least well absorb them.

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When Will CBO and the House Budget Committee Ever Learn About Sector Financial Balances?

It never ceases to amaze me that those who offer budget plans and projections never take into account the reality that their projections must be consistent with implications of trends in sector financial balances for their projections. This is a simple lesson that those playing the fiscal responsibility game never seem to learn. Certainly this is true of the Republican House Budget Committee, as we’ll see.

The Sector Financial Balances (SFB) model is an accounting identity, and these are always true by definition alone. The SFB model says:

Domestic Private Balance + Domestic Government Balance + Foreign Balance = 0.

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The New York Times Covers the TPP: A Commentary

Wikileaks did us all another service yesterday by releasing the “Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP): Investment Chapter Consolidated Text,” and collaborating with the New York Times to get the word out. Jonathan Weisman wrote the story for the New York Times. Apart from providing a very high level and very selective summary of what the chapter says, the article contains talking points used by proponents and opponents of the TPP. I think a close commentary on the article and associated issues would be useful. So here it is.

An ambitious 12 nation trade accord pushed by President Obama would allow foreign corporations to sue the United States government for actions that undermine their investment “expectations” and hurt their business, according to a classified document.

Why are we negotiating the TPP at all? Why is it the business of the Representatives of the people of the United States in Congress to support agreements that will mitigate the political risks borne by American businesses who chose to invest in other nations, as well as the political risks borne by foreign corporations, who choose to invest in the United States? Why is it their business to provide protection against such risks to foreign corporations beyond the protections we provide to our own corporations?

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Thoughts About the Trans-Pacific Partnership

During a recent Amy Goodman interview of Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, on her Democracy Now show, Wallach neatly summarized the problems of progressives with the TPP:

Well, fast-tracking the TPP would make it easier to offshore our jobs and would put downward pressure, enormous downward pressure, on Americans’ wages, because it would throw American workers into competition with workers in Vietnam who are paid less than 60 cents an hour and have no labor rights to organize, to better their situation. Plus, the TPP would empower another 25,000 foreign corporations to use the investor state tribunals, the corporate tribunals, to attack our laws. And then there would be another 25,000 U.S. corporations in the other TPP countries who could use investor state to attack their environmental and health and labor and safety laws. And if all that weren’t enough, Big Pharma would get new monopoly patent rights that would jack up medicine prices, cutting off affordable access. And there’s rollback of financial regulations put in place after the global financial crisis. And there’s a ban on “Buy Local,” “buy domestic” policies. And it would undermine the policy space that we have to deal with the climate crisis—energy policies are covered. Basically, almost any progressive policy or goal would be undermined, rolled back. Plus, we would see more offshoring of jobs and more downward pressure on wages. So the big battle is over fast track, the process. And right now, thanks to a lot of pushback by activists across the country, actually, they don’t have a majority to pass it. But there’s an enormous push to change that, and that’s basically where we all come in.

I, too, am bothered by all the things Wallach mentioned and I, too, am strongly opposed to the TPP, and the upcoming Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), which would impose similar agreements and rules to the TPP. So, I thought it would be worthwhile to add a few other concerns to the ones she mentions.

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The Value of the Right Ratio Is Zero

The public debt-to-GDP ratio is, perhaps, the most important measure used in discussions of the relative fiscal sustainability of nations. Nations with high levels of debt-to-GDP are viewed as having more serious fiscal problems than nations with lower levels. Nations having increasing ratios over time are viewed as becoming less fiscally sustainable, while those with decreasing ratios are viewed as more fiscally sustainable.

But is the public debt-to-GDP ratio really a valid measure of fiscal sustainability, or is it a measure that incorporates a neoliberal theoretical bias in its fundamental assumptions? In the United States the total value of public debt subject to the limit at any point is the total principal value of all the outstanding debt instruments sold by the Treasury Department. The GDP is the aggregate value of the production of goods and services in the United States within a particular period of time, adjusted for price changes.

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Maya MacGuineas: The Profound Fiscal Irresponsibility of Resistance to Facts

Just as every Spring we can count on the Peter G. Peterson Foundation (PGPF) to do a supportive press release when the CBO issues one of its budget outlook 10 year projection reports, we can also count on being treated to public statements by Maya MacGuineas joining in the Peterson Army choir, warning about the coming debt crisis, and singing about the glories of deficit and debt reduction. And this while completely ignoring the real and sad consequences of deficit and debt reduction policies throughout the world since the crash of 2008, as well as previous applications to Latin American, Asian, and the nations of the disintegrated soviet empire, most notably Russia itself. Let’s look at Maya MacGuineas latest effort; her testimony to the Senate Budget Committee.

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