Tag Archives: MMT

The Sinking of Norfolk

By J.D. Alt

How would Thomas Piketty propose to save the city of Norfolk, Virginia? He teaches us, ad-nauseum, that what the U.S. collective state has to spend on such things as sea walls, flood gates, elevating infrastructure and roadways, buying-out property owners so they can relocate to higher ground, etc., etc., is limited to the number of tax dollars that can be collected from U.S. citizens—as if the collective state itself were like a club, and if the clubhouse needs repairing, the club members must first pay a special assessment of dues—or, alternatively, the club can borrow dollars from the supply of Capital owned by the wealthiest  1% of its membership, or (as a creative alternative) the rebuilding effort could be structured in such a way that the newly elevated Norfolk would pay rent to the one percent in perpetuity for the privilege of living above sea-level.

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Taxes and the Public Purpose

By L. Randall Wray

In previous instalments we have established that “taxes drive money”. What we mean by that is that sovereign government chooses a money of account (Dollar in the USA), imposes obligations in that unit (taxes, fees, fines, tithes, tolls, or tribute), and issues the currency that can be used to “redeem” oneself in payments to the government. Currency is like the “Get Out of Jail Free” card in the game of Monopoly.

Taxes create a demand for “that which is necessary to pay taxes” (and other obligations to the state), which allows the government to purchase resources to pursue the public purpose by spending the currency.

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Seeping into the Mainstream?

By Stephanie Kelton

Scott Fullwiler spent part of the afternoon reading (and reacting to) a paper that John Cochrane just gave at a conference on central banking in Stanford, CA. I haven’t read the paper yet, but judging by Scott’s reaction on Twitter, there’s lots to like about it. (Mostly because it appears to draw heavily from a broad swath of at least a decade of published work from MMTers.)

STF

We’ll have to wait for Scott’s forthcoming post to see just how close the parallels are (and how much Cochrane 2014 departs from Cochrane 2009). It will be interesting, particularly because several years ago Cochrane wasn’t interested in garnering insight from outside the mainstream. “Every now and then,” he confessed, “there’s an excluded subgroup that turns out to be right.” But he readily admitted — nay, disparaged – “I haven’t read their specific work. I’m busy, and I try to read what is considered interesting and valid.” Being right matters, and I think that’s why MMT has begun to seep into the mainstream. The risk (though this is not how Noah sees it) is that “all the interesting heterodox ideas [will] quickly get incorporated into the mainstream in some slightly bastardized form,” leaving the discipline as a whole only marginally better off, while those who did the heavy lifting remain at the margins.

 

 

Pre-distribution or redistribution? The Piketty moment, the Democrats, and the oncoming elections (Guest Post)

By L. Randall Wray

I’ve been blogging a series on the role of taxes. In the first piece, I argued that “taxes drive money”, in response to a silly claim that MMT argues we do not need taxes. In the second instalment I examined other uses for taxes—including to reduce excessive aggregate demand and to discourage “sin”. Most importantly, I argued that we do not need taxes to “pay for” sovereign government spending. In the third piece, I argued against the “Robin Hood” view that we need taxes to “take from the rich to give to the poor”. That should be obvious—we can spend on the poor without any tax increase, and indeed could spend on the poor while reducing everyone’s taxes.

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A Proposal for Eliminating Youth Unemployment

Pavlina R. Tcherneva presents her proposal for a Youth Employment Safety-net (YES!) at the Interdisciplinary Conference on Youth Unemployment in Times of Crisis “¡No Mas! Strategies and Alternatives”. Middlebury College, VT (starts at 38min 45secs)

Essay Contest for Congress

By J.D. Alt

alt-ryanI’d like to propose an Essay Contest that might inform us better than any news talk show or presidential debate what we’re up against with our National Budget—and what might be the best course of action we should consider. Everyone in Congress should be required to participate, governors and state legislators who might become future congressional leaders should be encouraged to join in, and op-ed economic analysts invited to submit. The essays would be posted on a Congressional website established specifically to enable the public to vote on the best explanation of the topic. The topic I propose is this:

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Forget Taxes for Redistribution: What to do about Inequality

By L. Randall Wray

America has discovered inequality. But, as Jared Bernstein says, dealing with that will be expensive. He comes up with a nice wish list of policies to help the poor:

What will work here is a large, publicly funded infrastructure program to begin to repair our deteriorating public goods, with the jobs targeted at the working poor. All of the above — the expanded earned-income tax credit, universal preschool, job-creating infrastructure — will take more tax revenue, and much of that new revenue will need to come from those at the top of the wealth scale. 

He wags his finger at those who think there’s some free lunch that would let us help the poor without soaking the rich. Nope, he claims. Uncle Sam needs those taxes. The rich will have to pay-up.

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WHAT ARE TAXES FOR? THE MMT APPROACH

By L. Randall Wray

This is part of a series, following on from the last instalment that asked “Do We Need Taxes?”.

Previously we have argued that “taxes drive money” in the sense that imposition of a tax that is payable in the national government’s own currency will create demand for that currency. Sovereign government does not really need revenue in its own currency in order to spend.

This sounds shocking because we are so accustomed to thinking that “taxes pay for government spending”. This is true for local governments, provinces, and states that do not issue the currency. It is also not too far from the truth for nations that adopt a foreign currency or peg their own to gold or foreign currencies. When a nation pegs, it really does need the gold or foreign currency to which it promises to convert its currency on demand. Taxing removes its currency from circulation making it harder for anyone to present it for redemption in gold or foreign currency. Hence, a prudent practice would be to constrain spending to tax revenue.

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Three Principles for a Democratic Capitalism

By Brian Andersen

In my previous posts I stated several times that a currency should be equally spendable, savable and earnable. But I never tried to justify that idea, or explain why we should pursue those features as opposed to others. So the purpose of this post and the next is to explain that position. It is impossible to say what features the currency should have without some underlying value system to motivate the existence of currency in the first place. So in this post I will lay down the values I think should guide a sound currency administration. And in the next post I will use those values to explain my view that an equally spendable, savable and earnable currency should be our primary objective.

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“COST” & CONFUSION

By J.D. Alt

Even the most progressive proponents of climate change mitigation frame their argument with the proposition that the “cost” of mitigation today is far less than what the “cost” of climate change will be down the road if we fail to act now. While it sounds compelling, this argument perpetrates a deep confusion about what “cost” means when applied to the idea of inventing, designing and building the carbon-neutral infrastructure and energy systems that climate mitigation will require. This confusion, in turn, makes it more difficult for the political process to make rational decisions.

To illustrate, we need look no further than the recent United Nations IPCC report which, for the first time, not only details the potential catastrophe of climate change by the end of this century, but projects a “cost” for preventing that catastrophe from unfolding. This “cost” is calculated as a percentage of annual global GDP.

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