Tag Archives: MMT

Answers from the MMTers

By Stephanie Kelton and Randall Wray

A few days ago, Jared Bernstein posed some Questions for the MMTers in order to gain a “better understanding [of our] arguments.” We appreciate his interest in our ideas and, especially, his direct appeal for clarification of our views.  He raised four big questions, which our Australian counterpart, Bill Mitchell, has already answered in his own three-part series.  What follows is a response from two North American MMTers.

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We Pay versus You Pay

The New Regulatory Regime of Modern Fiat Money

By J.D. ALT

I was momentarily taken aback to read in the Washington Post that a primary reason Donald Trump was elected president of the United States was because of a little swampy area in the middle of an Iowa farmer’s cornfield. The cornfield in question belongs to an Angus beef farmer named Annette Sweeney who was both incredulous and outraged by the Obama administration’s new regulations on Clean Water. The regulations, known as WOTUS (Waters of the United States), established that the 1972 Clean Water Act applied not just to just major bodies of water, but also to their headwaters which, by circuitous routes, feed them. This headwater stipulation, by definition, included a ½ acre swampy place in the middle of the cornfield Annette Sweeney’s family had used to feed their beef cows for over two generations. This meant that the cornfield she thought belonged to her family was now essentially under management of the federal government—which stipulated requirements for new inspections and permitting regimes costing her thousands of dollars and untold hours of strife just to be allowed to plant feed-corn without garnering federal fines. Not only did Annette Sweeney vote for Donald Trump, she became a political activist advocating, successfully, against government regulations of virtually any kind whatsoever.

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The New Poverty

By J.D. ALT

We define poverty, I suppose, as that living condition which is unable to acquire enough dollars to purchase some, or most, of the basic necessities of life. It also seems to be an accepted notion that a certain amount of “poverty” is a necessary condition of our modern market economy—that a certain segment of the population will always be “unemployable” by the profit-oriented business community, either because they lack skills or because the business community simply does not need their services in order to generate its profits. Nobody really knows what to do with these “unneeded” people. We talk about “retraining” them—but there is no guarantee the profit-seeking business community will need them even with their newly acquired skills. In the meantime, these “unneeded” people don’t know what do with themselves either. This is, perhaps, the biggest problem of all—though I will not, in this short essay, go into the details of that (except to say that it is contributing to a tragedy that is now disrupting the lives of too many of us). The point is this: It is time to begin imagining specific, concrete solutions to what is becoming a fundamental dilemma of our time.

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Defining the Tax Reform Battleground

By J.D. ALT

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.

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Millennial Agenda― (and how to pay for it!)

By J.D. ALT

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.

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Monetary Mental Illness

By J.D. ALT

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.

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Wouldn’t it be great if America had a fiat-money system?

By J.D. ALT

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:

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Hy Minsky, Low Finance: Modern Money, Civil Rights, and Consumer Debt

By Raúl Carrillo

I delivered the remarks published below at the First International Conference on MMT on September 22nd, 2017. The panel, entitled “Modern Money, Courts, and Civil Rights — Against Legal Predation”, explored the interplay between the cycle of crisis, austerity, and privatization, and the concomitant loss of rights for the public. I was joined by two esteemed law professors: Angela P. Harris, formerly of UC Davis School of Law, and Martha McCluskey, of the University at Buffalo School of Law. The panel was moderated by Danny Sufranski, MMN Harvard Chapter President.

These remarks were delivered solely in my capacity as a director of the Modern Money Network and do not reflect the views of any past or present employers.

Good morning, everyone. My name is Raúl Carrillo and I’m a director of the Modern Money Network (MMN), a student-driven interdisciplinary organization promoting public understanding of money, law, finance, and the economy (obviously embracing MMT as a foundation). By day, I’m an attorney specifically focused on consumer financial protection or as one notorious predator, Capital One, would say, “What’s in your wallet?” Perhaps a better way to put it, is that, in the Minskian sense, I help people manage their “survival constraints.”

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Italy’s Great Experiment

By J.D. ALT

Italy is experimenting with giving tax-cuts to its citizens in exchange for public services―such as pulling weeds and cutting grass. Wow. What an amazing idea! The government issues a tax credit, and uses it to pay a citizen in exchange for the citizen’s services to the government. The government could even make this arrangement more formal by printing the tax credits on pieces of paper called “LIRIES” (or something like that) and paying for the weed-whacking services with this “cash.” That way the citizen who’s earned the “LIRIES” has the option of using them as payment to another citizen (who’d also like a tax-cut) for, say, a bag of potatoes. So, the first citizen pulls some weeds, gets paid in “cash” and then uses the “cash” to buy her dinner. If you thought about it, you could possibly run an entire economy in this fashion. The only thing you’d have to worry about, of course, is that the government might run out of the tax-credits it needs to pay the citizens to do the work! If that happened, where could the government possibly get more tax-credits? Could it collect tax-credits as “taxes”? Could it borrow them from all the street-sweepers and weed-whackers who’ve earned them? (In which case it would have to pay “tax-credit interest”―which just seems to exacerbate the problem!)  Hmmm. I’m going to have to think about that one. But in the meantime, doesn’t this mean that any Eurozone country has the option to stay IN the Eurozone while at the same time operating its own local economy using its own local “sovereign” currency?

 

A Memo From MMT’s Legal Department

By Rohan Grey and Raúl Carrillo

Orthodox economists are often inclined to think of law as an external force that ‘intervenes’ to regulate otherwise naturally occurring economic phenomena. In contrast, Modern Monetary Theory and its antecedent intellectual traditions have long recognized that law in fact constitutes and shapes modern economies and the monetary regimes that underpin them. For example, Knapp argued explicitly that money was a “creature of law.” Similarly, Keynes, in A Treatise on Money, stated:

“The State…comes in first of all as the authority of law which enforces the payment of the thing which corresponds to the name or description in the contracts. But it comes in doubly when, in addition, it claims the right to determine and declare what thing corresponds to the name, and to vary its declaration from time to time-when, that is to say, it claims the right to re-edit the dictionary. This right is claimed by all modern states and has been so claimed for some four thousand years at least.”

Today, many of the core propositions of MMT can be understood as essentially legal arguments. Here are a few examples:

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