Tag Archives: Taxes

Tax Bads, Not Goods

By L. Randall Wray

This is another instalment in the series on the MMT view of taxes. I’m back from China, participating in the annual Hyman P. Minsky Summer Seminar at the Levy Economics Institute. Yesterday my colleague, Mat Forstater, gave a talk on the job guarantee and “green jobs”. Along the way he made two particularly insightful comments on MMT and taxes that I’ll use to introduce this instalment.

First, he discussed the MMT view of “modern money”—that is to say, the money that has existed “for the past 4000 years, at least, as Keynes put it in his Treatise on Money. The money of account is chosen by the sovereign and used to denominate debts, prices, and other nominal values. It is the Dollar in the US.

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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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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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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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DO WE NEED TAXES? THE MMT PERSPECTIVE

By L. Randall Wray

What do you get when you drop taxes? Well, Bitcoins.

Sometimes the only appropriate response to critics is embarrassment. For them.

Witness the following exchange on twitter:

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Doctrine of Mathematical Impossibilities

By J.D. Alt

There’s a joke about a farmer and his pig. The pig is covered with a patchwork of large and small Band-Aids. A puzzled visitor asks the farmer: “Why is your pig covered all over with Band-Aids?” “Well,” says the farmer, “obviously, I can’t butcher him all at once: if I cut out too much he might die—and then I’d soon have nothing to eat.”

Most people who hear this joke chuckle to themselves (in a sickly way) because they intuitively realize the absurdity of the farmer’s misunderstanding the true nature of his resources. It is exceedingly odd, therefore, that most of these same people find it difficult to understand that our political and economic leaders—and the mainstream media that covers them—view the U.S. economy with exactly the same logic as the farmer views his pig. 

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Money, Taxes and What We Can Afford

By Dan Kervick

People sometimes seem to suggest that the Western democracies are at the end of the road economically.  They claim that these governments are spent, broke, tapped out.  They insinuate that Western nations can no longer afford to carry out ambitious projects of the kind they organized in the past, and must downsize or dismantle many of the governance systems and public enterprises they currently operate.  They insist that these democracies must hand over yet more of their nations’ destinies to the financial and corporate baronies that dominate the private sector, and give the latter a free hand to arrange whatever kind of future they might deign to mash up for us as a by-product of  their voracious struggles for private gain and glory.

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Greg Mankiw Discovers the Math and the Arithmetic on the Same Day

By Dale Pierce

Raising taxes is a good idea after all. In fact, it is now quite necessary, according to former Romney flack and alleged deep thinker Greg Mankiw of Harvard University. (Whose introductory textbook in economics may go down in history as the single greatest disinformational success of all time.)

In this Sunday’s New York Times, Prof. Mankiw bravely challenges what he takes to be the newly prevailing group-think in Washington – namely, the bi-partisan idea that “taxes on the middle class must not rise.” This is “Bad Math”, we are told. This does not accord with the “laws of arithmetic” – at least not as Prof. Mankiw understands them. It is, he concludes, our government’s stubborn reluctance to tax the non-rich which explains why “the political process has become so dysfunctional.”

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NEP’s Stephanie Kelton Has Op Ed Piece in LA Times

Look, up in the sky! It’s a “fiscal cliff.” It’s a slope. It’s an obstacle course.

The truth is, it doesn’t really matter what we call it. It only matters what it is: a lamebrained package of economic depressants bearing down on a lame-duck Congress.

Read the entire piece here.