Leonhardt is Wrong about Liberals, Conservatives and the Family Debate

By June Carbone

David Leonhardt, in a recent “Letter from the editor” in the New York Times, wades into the marriage debate. In the new guise of journalist as judge he pronounces that “liberals are wrong” on the relationship between inequality and the change in family structure.  In the process, he misstates what the issue is about and gets the wrong answer to the question he does ask. He makes both mistakes because of an age old journalistic problem: those trained to meet the limited space of physical newspaper column are taught to turn a complex issue into a simple one: does inequality cause a change in family structure or does a change in family structure cause a change in inequality? Here is how Leonhardt initially frames the supposed debate as to which liberals are “wrong.”

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Replacing the Budget Constraint with an Inflation Constraint

By Scott Fullwiler

Tim Worstall has a post decrying the dangers of MMT ever being used in the real world—even as he recognizes or at least suggests that it might be the correct description of how the monetary system works—and is particularly concerned about Stephanie Kelton’s new appointment as Chief Economist on the Senate Budget Committee. (Note: Randy Wray also posted a critique of Mr. Worstall’s post today.)

Mr. Worstall’s main issue is one we’ve heard hundreds of times before—because MMT explains that currency-issuing governments operating under flexible exchange rates and without debt in a foreign currency do not actually have budget constraints, this opens the door to all sorts of problems if put into practice. We can’t trust our government with this information, in other words—it must be required to match spending with revenues over some period (whether each year, over the business cycle, etc.) or at least plan over some period of time to not allow the debt ratio to rise beyond a modest level.**

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Dynamic Scoring—a First Step?

By J.D. ALT

What? You mean we haven’t always been doing that?

A recent op-ed in the Washington Post (“Dynamic Scoring” by Congressman John K. Delaney) alerts us to an astonishing fact: Not only does our political leadership insist that the federal government manage its budget in the same way as a household—i.e. not spending more than it “earns”—but further insists that the federal government behave like a household devoid of any rational capacity to evaluate the net future benefits of its budgetary decisions. In other words, if the U.S. federal “household” wanted to buy seeds for the federal “household” garden, it is required to deduct from its budgetary calculation the cost of the seeds, but it is NOT allowed to add to its budgetary calculation the value of the tomatoes and cucumbers that will grow from the seeds it intends to plant—nor is it allowed to assign a value to the nutritional benefits that the “household” members will obtain by eating the tomatoes and cucumbers (or the health-care costs incurred if the veggies are not consumed.) This is called “static scoring”, and it is what the Congressional Budget Office, Delaney tells us, is required to do each time Congress proposes to spend money on any particular item or program.

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A Technological Fix for Failing Democracies

Dysfunctional democracies are provoking anger, confrontations, crises and conflicts for the following reasons:

  • In many cases, the citizens of dysfunctional democracies are unable to decide who runs for office, who gets elected and what laws are passed because of obstacles erected to prevent them from doing so.
  • Several of these obstacles, for example election laws in the U.S., result in the election of lawmakers, such as those who control the U.S. Congress, who represent only a minority of eligible voters and pass legislation that rarely represents the will of a majority of voters.
  • According to extensive research, special interests, wealthy individuals, corporations and financial institutions tend to exert greater influence than voters over lawmakers’ legislative actions because they finance lawmakers’ electoral campaigns.
  • Rogue lawmakers whose actions are not controlled by their constituents but by influential groups and wealthy campaign funders are contributing to the creation of increasing inequalities of wealth that enable a small percent of the population to acquire most of their nation’s wealth, while the rest of the population has little or no wealth and few if any opportunities to create wealth.
  • Undemocratic political parties that control electoral machinery and do not allow competitive parties to take root prevent voters from setting party agendas and nominating and electing candidates of their choice, increasing the legislative disconnect between voters’ and lawmakers’ priorities.

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Is It Time for MMT To Become Mainstream to Save Us from the Second Global Financial Crisis of the Millennium?

By L. Randall Wray

Some of you will remember that MMT got its first huge mainstream exposure through a Washington Post article written by Dylan Matthews.  He’s just written another excellent story, this time about Stephanie Kelton going to Washington. Finally, there might be an alternative to the deficit hawk and timid deficit dove lovefest!

As Dylan says: “For years, the main disagreement between Democratic and Republican budget negotiators was about how to balance the budget — what to cut, what to tax, how fast to implement it — but not whether to balance it. Even most liberal economists agree that, in the medium-run, it’s better to have less government debt rather than more. Kelton denies that premise. She thinks that, in many cases, government surpluses are actively destructive and balancing the budget is very dangerous. For example, Kelton thinks the Clinton surpluses are nothing to brag about and they actually inflicted economic damage lasting over a decade.”

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Vanity of Vanities; All is Vanity: Obama’s Vain Search for a TPP “Legacy”

By William K. Black
Bloomington, MN: January 8, 2015

The banksters have given Obama an important political opportunity – which he has spurned. The very first thing the new Republican majorities sought to do with their power was to use the Omnibus bill to extort the first of many cuts designed to destroy the Volcker rule. Naturally, Obama agreed and wouldn’t join the Democratic wing of the Party when they could have easily stopped the giveaway if they had received even mild help from the administration. Instead, the administration lobbied hard for the Omnibus bills’ Christmas gift to banksters.

Next, the Republicans sought to slip another big delay in the effective date of provisions of the Volcker bill through Congress. Progressive Democrats killed that attempt. The Obama administration couldn’t even bring itself to feign rage at the effort to gut the Volcker rule.

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WSJ Praises the “Triumph of Austerity” in Greece

NEP’s Bill Black appears on the Real News Network and questions the authenticity of the coverage in the NYT and WSJ about the impact of austerity measures in Greece.

If you would like to view to video with a transcript, it can be seen here.

Je Suis Oncle Bernard

By William K. Black
Bloomington, MN: January 8, 2015

As the new editor-in-chief of New Economic Perspectives (given the fantastic news, except for UMKC, that Stephanie Kelton has been named Chief Economist for the Senate Budget Committee) it is my sad responsibility to note the murder of Bernard Maris, a prominent French economist and opponent of financial terrorism via austerity, in the terror attack on Charlie Hebdo. Bernard was known in France as Oncle Bernard. This excerpt provides a brief description of the man we have all lost. We offer our condolences to all who knew him.

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EU Deflation Arrives and the Troika Continues to Fiddle While the EU Burns

By William K. Black
Bloomington, MN: January 7, 2015

The troika (the EU Commission, the ECB, and the IMF) are flirting with throwing the entire eurozone back into a third Great Recession and much of the periphery into the continuation of the Troika Depression. For nations like Greece, the current Great Depression is now more severe and longer lasting than the Great Depression of the 1930s. The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal’s journalistic malpractice in covering the troika’s gratuitous infliction of misery upon the people of Europe has been the perfect side dish to complement the troika’s toxic economic malpractice.

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Herr Henkel is Shocked that His Party Embraces Bigots

By William K. Black
Bloomington, MN: January 6, 2015

If one wishes to know why Germany’s financial elite embraces vicious economic assaults on their fellow Europeans of the periphery via the economic malpractice of austerity it is essential to consider not only that malpractice, but also the moral rot at the core of the German financial elite. This column updates my earlier discussion of Germany’s internal financial troika, which makes Prime Minister Angela Merkel appear almost rational. My prior column skewered the New York Times’ coverage of that troika. This update addresses the Wall Street Journal’s woeful coverage of two members of the German troika.

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