We can see the positioning and the messaging on the Democratic side beginning to take shape for the 2016 elections. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren with nods to Thomas Piketty and various economists have stepped forward to offer the themes of salvation for the middle class, moderating the extremes of inequality in American society, and doing something real about jobs and wages.
Clinton World seems to be responding, not yet with forthright statements from Hillary Clinton, but recently with articles by stalwarts of neoliberal Clintonism (and veterans of the Obama Administration) such as Larry Summers and Peter Orszag, expressing concerns about inequality and proposing measures to alleviate it, even including increased taxation on the wealthy.
By Joe Firestone
The last few weeks have seen at least two posts calling attention to the potential use of the platinum coin in America’s political economy. The first to appear was Rob Urie’s piece in Counterpunch provocatively titled: “The Trillion Dollar Catshit Coin” And the second was Mike Sandler’s post in The Huffington Post called “Greece and the U.S. Senate: Economics for the 99%.
Let’s begin looking at these with Sandler’s effort. He reports on two challenges to austerity. The first is from Syriza’s victory in Greece and its promise to Greek voters that it will end austerity. The second:
The austerity mindset faces a new foe in the U.S. Senate as well. The re-shuffle of the last U.S. election that put austerity-minded Republicans in power has ironically resulted in a new anti-austerity economist being hired by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in the Senate Budget Committee — Professor Stephanie Kelton of the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Professor Kelton is a proponent of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), a very pro-stimulus economic approach. Her hiring represents the biggest step forward for MMT, since the PR coup of the Trillion Dollar Platinum Coin in 2013. At that time, Kelton reportedly created the #mintthecoin hashtag that was featured in columns by Paul Krugman and others.
Sanders’ hiring of Kelton is a break from the more conciliatory “balanced budgeting” approach of some Democrats, such as former treasury secretaries with ties to Wall Street and fiscally-conservative “deficit hawks.” Kelton and her MMT colleagues go beyond the traditional Keynesian stimulus of short-term deficit spending. They seek to unleash the power of monetary policy to circumvent the scarcity mindset imposed on government action, perhaps even bringing the Trillion Dollar Coin back into the discussion.
Of course, Sandler means to say fiscal policy in the above, since MMT economics greatly favors reliance on fiscal, rather than monetary policy, in spite of the “monetary” in its name. But apart from that, he projects that we may see the platinum coin come back into prominence soon. Continue reading
By Robert E. Prasch
Professor of Economics
Last night, President Obama gave a great speech. He almost always does. And to that ever-shrinking group of die-hards who continue to insist that somehow, and in someway, President Obama will validate the hope kindled by his 2008 presidential campaign, it was a moment of triumph. Yes, they are saying, in his heart – very deep down, perhaps – Obama does in fact share our values and concerns, etc., he just has a hard time finding ways to express it, etc.
But let’s take a different tack. Let us begin with the old adage that “talk is cheap.” The fact is that this president has had six years to demonstrate – in deeds rather than words – what exactly constitutes his priorities. Let us, as this is a website devoted to economics issues, set aside the Obama Administration’s genuinely horrific record on civil liberties (The sordid record is long, but highlights include unchecked domestic spying by the NSA; drones deployed to terrorize the citizenry of numerous foreign nations; proclaiming and defending the prerogative to unilaterally kill American citizens with ever stating charges, much less presenting evidence or seeking convictions in the courts; solely and exclusively prosecuting those brave individuals who alerted the public to the Bush Administration’s war crimes, even as he comforted or promoted those who committed the crimes, etc.). Let us focus solely on economic policy. What follows is a brief review of the low moments thus far. These are not presented in any order and is not a comprehensive list:
President Obama’s remarks to the Business Roundtable on Trade raise alarm bells for us all, and suggest that he is still pushing his pro- 1% agenda for all it is worth. Perhaps it would be better if Congress just treated him as a lame duck from here on in. Here are a number of statements from his talk and answers to questions, and my comments on them.
Trade: In Asia, there is a great hunger for engagement with the United States of America, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership is moving forward. Michael Froman, who is here, has been working non-stop. I’ve promised his family that he will be home sometime soon. We are optimistic about being able to get a deal done, and we are reinvigorating the negotiations with the Europeans on a transatlantic trade deal.
If we can get that done, that’s good for American businesses, it’s good for American jobs, and it’s actually good for labor and environmental interests around the world. Because what we’re trying to do is raise standards so that everybody is on a higher, but level playing field. And I think that your help on that process can make an enormous difference.
So, he’s telling us that he’s still pushing for the notorious TPP, and well as the TTIP (also called TAFTA), and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), even though all three elevate the right of corporations to sue Governments for loss of potential profits if Congress or the legislatures of other nations pass laws to protect the environment, attempt to moderate climate change, exclude certain energy sources from use, or do anything else that harm the potential future profits of companies that are signators to this treaty. Such provisions clearly breach the sovereignty of the United States and assert these potential profits above the potential will of the people which in seeking public purpose goals may harm or extinguish these potential profits.
By Joe Firestone
A recent, very good post at Naked Capitalism by Clive, suggests:
. . . Dear readers, you may think that writing to your elected representative, commenting negatively on articles you read in the mainstream media about the TPP and generally kicking up a bit of a fuss, making some noise, is a waste of effort. That is not so. The world does watch what goes on in the US. If popular sentiment is against something, the US government has a much harder job of convincing foreigners that it’s just them being awkward and reactionary and not getting the big, progressive, reform-minded, modernising picture.
I agree that this is a good proposal for one way the American public could register its objections to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with foreign leaders. But, I think that such letters ought also to point out that even if the TPP were railroaded successfully in the next few months, then it is unlikely to stick. After all, it is only a Treaty. Wouldn’t an electoral victory here by a movement dedicated to overturning corporate control of the political system, result in withdrawal from the TPP before any concrete legislation likely to conflict with it was passed by Congress?