Lawrence J. Christiano was the lead author of the article announcing the Dilettante doctrine that I discussed in the first column in this series. His ‘dilettante article’ claimed that modern macro got the last crisis so wrong because it ignored the ‘shadow’ financial sector. I have found a 2008 article by him and two Minneapolis Fed co-authors that illustrates modern macro’s blindness to the shadow financial sector. The article is entitled “Facts and Myths about the Financial Crisis of 2008” and the first footnote says that they wrote the article based on information available on October 25, 2008. The purpose of the article was to demand that proponents of fiscal and monetary stimulus prove a specific “market failure” justifying stimulus. Christiano and his co-authors agree that the Nation is in a “financial crisis” and that it could lead to a serious recession, but see no reason for the government to act.
The Republican tax reform will be criticized on many fronts. It is a battle of criticisms that will likely become as chaotic, ill-informed, and counter-productive as the tax reform process itself has been. This is because it will surely ignore the only strategic battle-front that ultimately matters: the basic premise of what taxes are for and why they’re necessary.
Before the Republican tax reformers even said a word, their arguments and proposals were packaged in the tired and tiresome macro-economic assumptions that misguidingly underpin our entire political discourse. Namely: (a) The federal government collects taxes in order to pay for federal spending; and (b) it cannot collect enough taxes to meet the spending needs of the budget it annually produces. To solve this conundrum some combination of reducing the budget and increasing taxes is therefore required. The magic Republican formula to simultaneously accomplish both of these goals is to dramatically reduce taxes on the wealthiest class of corporate operatives—which is made palatable to the voting masses by attaching to the corporate coat-tails some colorful snippets of tax-relief for lower and middle-class working families.
The truly exceptional thing about ‘modern macroeconomics’ devotees is not that they are so consistently and horrifically wrong or that they persist in their errors – but their exceptional combination of arrogance and disdain for those who have dramatically better records and broader and more relevant expertise. Kartik Athreya, the Richmond Fed’s Research Director, led the modern macro parade on June 17, 2010 with his blog (which he later withdrew in embarrassment) when he announced the Athreya Axiom of Absolute Arrogance.
So far, I’ve claimed something a bit obnoxious-sounding: that writers who have not taken a year of PhD coursework in a decent economics department (and passed their PhD qualifying exams), cannot meaningfully advance the discussion on economic policy. Taken literally, I am almost certainly wrong. Some of them have great ideas, for sure. But this is irrelevant. The real issue is that there is extremely low likelihood that the speculations of the untrained, on a topic almost pathologically riddled by dynamic considerations and feedback effects, will offer anything new. Moreover, there is a substantial likelihood that it will instead offer something incoherent or misleading.
What follows is a to-do list for the next political power generation―the Millennials in whose hands the operation of America will begin soon, thankfully, to be grasped. The Boomer and GenX generations have succeeded in guiding America to the brink of social chaos and environmental disaster. Thankfully, the Millennials actually have the critical tool necessary to build anew what the 1% power-structures of the Boomer/GenXers have so greedily destroyed. All that is required is for the Millennials to step into their political power, grasp the tool, and begin the work.
The Millennial Agenda, as I think of it, encompasses a broad scope of specific, concrete, public and collective goods and services. Underlying each of the specific agenda items is the same essential proposition―the “tool” I just made reference to. This tool is already in place and operational, though it has been willfully misunderstood, misused and gummed up by the Boomer and GenX logic of economic power. The tool is “sovereign fiat-money.” And the proposition which will underpin each of the Millennial Agenda items is this: public and collective goods in America are to be purchased from American businesses and citizens with sovereign fiat-money―rather than U.S. tax dollars.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is in limbo as two people claim to be its new acting director. The outgoing head tapped Leandra English as his successor, but Donald Trump then appointed Mick Mulvaney, who has called the CFPB a “sick, sad” joke. NEP’s Bill Black appears on The Real News Network discussing the attack on CFPB. You can view here with a transcript.
It is literally painful to watch our political leaders’ efforts to rethink and restructure how we are going levy taxes on ourselves as a collective society. It is like watching a family member struggling with mental illness: the demons being wrestled with are imaginary—yet they have the palpable force somehow of a granite wall. And as the struggle with this palpable monolith unfolds, even we—the clear observers of reality—forget that it is imaginary; when we do remember, the pain becomes excruciating for the simple reason that we know it is completely unnecessary.
Why does our political system choose to believe and struggle with the imaginary constraint that taxes must pay for sovereign spending? How can we explain to ourselves, in the face of this rock-solid demon, that the simple logic of fiat money demonstrates that sovereign spending must occur first, with taxes collected after? How can we reassure our terrified and confused representatives in congress that if our sovereign government collects back fewer dollars than it issues and spends, the difference is not our collective “debt”—it is, in fact, our collective savings? But the demon will not allow us these explanations.
The good news is that President Trump has been slow to nominate heads for regulatory agencies, says NEP’s Bill Black in his appearance on The Real News Network. The bad news is that Trump will pick someone eventually to replace Richard Cordray. You can view here with transcript.
In what is being called the biggest merger in the history of the health insurance industry, CVS is making a $66 billion bid to buy Aetna. NEP’s Bill Black discusses the merger’s potential consequences with The Real News Network. You can view here with transcript.
Think of how many of our seemingly intractable local and national problems could be solved if only America had its own sovereign fiat-money system! Unfortunately, most Americans can’t even think about that question because they’ve never heard a proper explanation of what “fiat-money” actually is. Here, then, is quick solution to that problem: