Tag Archives: Modern Monetary Theory

New Wordology

By J.D. ALT

Whenever I get frustrated—which is quite often these days—I vent some steam (and feel somewhat better) simply by imagining a response that Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez might give to some conservative pundit when they say, “Yes, but that’s going to increase deficit spending beyond anything imaginable!”

REPLY: “Excuse me, Anderson, I don’t use the term ‘deficit spending’ because it suggests or implies something which is demonstrably not true. It implies that when the federal government spends more dollars than it collects in taxes it is creating a debt that it will have to repay in the future. This is factually not the case. If the government spends three dollars and collects one dollar in taxes, it creates a ‘net spending’ of two dollars. It’s as simple as that.

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Response to Doug Henwood’s Trolling in Jacobin

Doug Henwood has posted up at Jacobin an MMT critique that amounts to little more than a character assassination. It is what I’d expect of him in his reincarnation as a Neoliberal critic of progressive thought. (https://www.jacobinmag.com/2019/02/modern-monetary-theory-isnt-helping). It adopts all the usual troll methodology: guilt by association, taking statements out of context, and paraphrasing (wrongly) without citation.

According to Henwood, MMT is tainted by Warren Mosler’s experience as a hedge fund manager. Beardsley Ruml (father of tax withholding and chairman of the NYFed, who argued correctly that “taxes for revenue are obsolete”) is dismissed because he was chair of Macy’s (and Director of the NYFed—Macy’s still has a director on the NYFed) and because he argued that the corporate tax is a bad tax (his main arguments were later advanced by Musgrave&Musgrave, the textbook on public finance, by Hyman Minsky, and by me in the second edition of my Primer).

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Modern Monetary Theory is On the March

By William K. Black
February 18, 2019     Bloomington, MN

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) continues to advance rapidly.  We are past the first phase of reaction (first they ignore you), deeply into the second phase (then they attack you), and expanding the ranks of the third phase (then you win).  We are very early in the third phase, winning with increasing numbers of people, but still a minority view.

One of the proofs of MMT’s advances is a nearly respectable treatment by the Wall Street Journal as the feature of a news article.  The other major proof is the pathetic efforts of MMT critics quoted in the article to attack MMT.  The article, implicitly, admits that MMT scholars have repeatedly proved correct in their predictions that the existing and projected U.S. fiscal budget deficits would not trigger damaging shortages of real resources that will cause damaging levels of inflation.  The article, implicitly, admits that nations with fully sovereign currencies are vastly less vulnerable to economic injury from budget deficits.

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“What You Need To Know About The $22 Trillion National Debt”: The Alternative SHORT Interview

Steven Rattner’s opinion piece in the New York Times and Furman’s interview on National Public Radio are perfect examples of the ideas that MMT want to debunk. Deficits are not normal; deficits crowd out private investment; the public debt is a burden on our grandchildren; our ability to respond to societal problems is limited by the fact that the US government does not have enough money to confront them.

Below is an alternative interview to the Furman’s interview that reviews these points. This is the short version that provides quick-bit answers. A long version that provide data and more elaborated answers is available also on this blog (Dear Ms. Cornish, I hope you will forgive me but I will plagiarize you entirely for the sake of this exercise). Continue reading

“What You Need To Know About The $22 Trillion National Debt”: The Alternative Interview

Steven Rattner’s opinion piece in the New York Times and Furman’s interview on National Public Radio are perfect examples of the ideas that MMT want to debunk. Deficits are not normal; deficits crowd out private investment; the public debt is a burden on our grandchildren; our ability to respond to societal problems is limited by the fact that the US government does not have enough money to confront them.

Below is an alternative interview to the Furman’s interview that reviews these points. This blog will run like a traditional interview and all the evidence for the points made are in appendices at the end (Dear Ms. Cornish, I hope you will forgive me but I will plagiarize you entirely for the sake of this exercise).

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ZEN and the Art of the Federal Reserve System

By J.D. ALT

I know nothing about motorcycles, and not much more about the U.S. Federal Reserve system—yet I feel compelled to dismantle, pick apart, and understand the latter for the simple reason that it seems to be a machine I’ve been riding on (and vaguely writing essays about) for some time now. So, it stands to reason I shouldn’t be ignorant of it. Not that I would get much help in this effort from American economists. Indeed, they seem intent on keeping the mechanism under wraps—as if it were a proprietary secret which they can only refer to in code. Or, perhaps, they are just the kind of bikers who leave it to their mechanic to know how the carburetor works. There are a few exceptions—one being Eric Tymoigne who saw fit to post a kind of on-line parts manual for anyone who wants to take the time, and make the mental effort, to figure the machine out. So, I have the parts spread out now on my workshop floor. Here’s my own interpretive consideration, thus far, of what I’m looking at:

Three Dollars

There are not just “U.S. dollars,” but three kinds of dollars—or, perhaps a better description: there are three “states of existence” a dollar jumps back and forth between. The most fundamental state of a U.S. dollar is as a “reserve” in the Federal Reserve banking system. “Reserves,” as they’re commonly referred to, are what you might think of as “real money”—the “actual thing” of which the other two states are what I’m perceiving to be “pre-reserve” and “post-reserve” variations.

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An American Budget

By J.D. ALT

Let’s imagine pulling together a group of enlightened economic planners to create an American budget for, say, the years 2020-2024. What might they come up with? To begin with, how might they even go about thinking about how to create an American budget?

It’s not so obvious as, for example, the way the Congressional Budget Office might go about it. The CBO would begin by tallying up how much money America’s government will have to spend in the years 2020-2024. Then they’d allocate those projected dollars to various pots of spending—with some calculation about what the spending needs will be for each pot. In the middle of this exercise, they’ll discover that the spending needs for the pots far exceed the number of dollars they’ve projected America’s government will have to spend. So, they’ll tweak the tax revenue numbers, projecting that economic growth in this or that sector will generate more tax collections for the government, and they’ll search for a bevy of cost-savings the government can garner by eliminating “wasteful” spending. Then they’ll repeat the allocation exercise and discover the projected available spending dollars are still far short of what they’ve calculated the pots will demand. Thus they will next have to calculate how many dollars the American government will have to borrow to make up the short-fall—and will have to further calculate how much that borrowing will add to the “national debt,” and how many years (projected into a distant future using imagined numbers for economic growth and future tax-rates) will it take for America to repay the debt. Then they’d publish all these numbers and Congress would blanche and fall into chaos and confusion. The political party out of power would declare the party in power to be “fiscally irresponsible,” driving the nation to bankruptcy, and the arguing would begin over which pots should be reduced or eliminated. Another day in the life of American politics courtesy of the Congressional Budget Office.

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Understanding Modern Money – Video

Randall Wray presents in English the German version of his book “Understanding Modern Money”. The intro is in German, Randy’s presentation is in English.

AOC# and MMT Spook the AEI

William K. Black
January 17, 2019     Bloomington, MN

AOC# drives Republicans berserk.  Booing her, and only her, at the ceremony admitting the members of Congress, raging at her for dancing – yes dancing – in a college video, and attacking her for having a nickname (“Sandy”) in high school demonstrate the degree of derangement and the pathetic ammunition they have found in their failing efforts to discredit her.  MMT has become an indirect beneficiary of this derangement.  AOC# has expressed support for MMT – so the right is now eager to reach the famous second stage of opposition to good ideas (‘first they ignore them, then they attack them’).  It is far better for the right to attack our good ideas, than ignore them.  As with the right’s attacks on AOC#, the nature of their attacks on MMT is laughably extreme and nonsensical.  When they attack MMT, they spread our views.

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MMT’s Opening

By J.D. ALT

I recently read in the WSJ that Modern Monetary Theory is defined as the proposition that the federal government can borrow as much money as it needs so long as the interest rate it pays is less than the growth rate of the GDP. The short article, by Desmond Lachman, went on to argue why this was a dangerously false premise. Thus, MMT got shot with two bullets in one paragraph: first by defining it in a way that negates its most fundamental principle (that the federal government doesn’t need to “borrow” fiat currency in order to spend fiat currency), and second, by declaring MMT to be not only false, but dangerous.

It’s remarkable how stubbornly tenacious mainstream economic thinking is about misunderstanding and fearing MMT. The fundamental belief that refuses to be shaken is that for a sovereign government to spend, it must first claim—either through taxation or borrowing—some portion of the profits of private commerce. This immediately sets in motion complex calculations about what percentage of those profits can be claimed for government spending before the profit-making capabilities of private commerce, itself, are harmed (because the capital that would otherwise be used for expansion, is being appropriated for government spending). When that point is reached, the calculations insistently predict, private commerce will cease to grow—perhaps even shrink—which perversely will then reduce the amount of currency available for the government to claim a portion of; if, under those circumstances, the government continues nevertheless to increase its spending (by insistently increasing its taxing or borrowing), private commerce will be driven to shrink even further, setting in motion a disastrous downward spiral. The calculations, in other words, are structured to demonstrate that government spending per se strangles the goose that lays the eggs—and, therefore, it is rational to argue that government spending should be limited, and specifically that it should not exceed some calculated percentage of GDP (which, of course, in most calculations of this sort, it already does)!

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