Tag Archives: MMT

The People’s Money (Part 4)

Inflation & Consumption

By J.D. ALT

Let’s quickly recap: I outlined, in PART 3, an argument that modern society has evolved in ways that necessitates a dramatic increase in public enterprise—yet, at the same time, we’ve doubled down on an old-world narrative about “money” that makes it mathematically impossible to meet that need. In PARTS 1 & 2 we reconfirmed a “modern money” perspective by simply observing the actual operations of the Federal Reserve—and reconfirmed, as well, how this new perspective holds out the opportunity to actually confront, through the efforts of public enterprise, the new challenges modern society faces.

It was my intention, at this point, to focus on the unfolding reality that climate change will soon prove to be the most dramatic challenge modern society is facing—and will be the challenge that necessitates, by far, the greatest need for goods and services produced by public enterprise. More to the point, climate change will generate the greatest need—by far—for implementing and managing a “modern money” perspective in America’s economy. While I still intend to pursue this argument, comments addressed to PART 3 have led me to change sequence: I realize now it will be ineffective (and perhaps futile) to discuss the extraordinary level of public spending that climate-change will necessitate without, first, attempting to address two related issues: (1) the stridently insistent warnings about “inflation,” and (2) the conundrum of the necessity for increased “consumption.”

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Wray Appearing Before Congress

L. Randall Wray will be providing testimony for Congress on November 20 at 10 am. The topic is the government debt and deficits. His full statement will be available at 10:30AM at the Levy Institute. His goal is to explain a) why we needn’t fear sovereign government deficits and debt; b) why in some important sense, deficits and rising debt are “normal”; c) the deficit is in any case largely outside the control of Congress; d) deficits and rising debt ratios will not lead to government insolvency or bankruptcy; e) all government payments can be made on time, unless f) Congress forces a default (due to the debt ceiling it imposes). The statement will provide a lot of new data related to these topics.

The link to the webcast is: https://budget.house.gov/legislation/hearings/reexamining-economic-costs-debt

The People’s Money (Part 3)

An Explanation of the Federal Reserve Money system and what it means for the potential accomplishments of American Democracy

By J.D. ALT

The big surprise of our tour of the Federal Reserve system (please see PARTS 1 & 2) is that the FED (America’s central bank)—as it is presently authorized to operate—can create “money,” as necessary, to support not only the undertakings of private enterprise, but the undertakings of public enterprise as well. Please recall that public enterprise produces needed goods and services which private enterprise cannot produce at a profit or, to make its profit, must set prices higher than what most citizens can afford to pay. To accomplish what private enterprise cannot, therefore, the U.S. Treasury, as directed by Congress, pays U.S. citizens and businesses directly to produce the goods and services of public enterprise.

The fact that the Federal Reserve system is able to create the “money” required for this spending is a surprise because we, the American voters, have always been led to believe that public enterprise is “financed” by a different method: namely, some combination of taxing private profits/income and borrowing from the investment capital of private enterprise. What we discovered, instead, is that, yes, taxes do fund some portion of the Treasury’s spending—but the remainder of the funding is derived from operations that have nothing to do with “borrowing” in any meaningful sense of the term.

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The People’s Money (Part 2)

An Explanation of the Federal Reserve Money system and what it means for the potential accomplishments of American Democracy

By J.D. ALT

Let’s begin by restating what I think was the main insight of PART 1: The overarching purpose of the Federal Reserve Act was to enable “money” to be created, as necessary, to support the scale of commerce that American Enterprise decides to undertake and accomplish. If the labor, materials, energy, technology, and ingenuity exist to do something—and it is desirable that it should be done—it is illogical to say it can’t be done because there isn’t enough “money” in the system to pay for the doing of it.

The only questions to be asked, then, are two: (1) Who will create the “money” when it’s needed, and (2) Who will decide when the creation of additional “money” is justified?

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MMT: REPORT FROM THE FRONT (PART 3)

By L. RANDALL WRAY

In this part, I’ll resume with comments on the critical contributions to the special issue of rwer. We finished Part 2 with a discussion of the shocking lack of citations to MMT literature in the critiques—especially the dearth of citations to the more academic contributions (as opposed to the summaries of MMT written for undergrads and the general public). Let me return to the oversight of contributions made by scholars such as Fullwiler and Tymoigne—who have mostly written academic pieces.

Sawyer does cite Fullwiler (although with the name misspelled! If he was my undergrad student, I would chew him out—at least get the damned names spelled correctly!). In his piece, which is largely an exposition that parallels MMT but is disguised as a critique, he wants to argue that MMT doesn’t properly distinguish between what circuitistes call initial versus final finance (Davidson has a similar distinction). But in reality, I have long used the circuit approach in my exposition—including in my own contribution to the rwer issue. The initial finance of government spending is created when the spending occurs, and today takes the form of two balance sheet credits: the deposit account of the recipient and the reserve account of the recipient’s bank. Sawyer seems to mostly agree with that. But according to Sawyer, MMT ignores the point that because bond sales and tax revenues logically follow government spending and can be seen as the funding stage. However, Eric Tymoigne made exactly this point in a 2014 article, arguing: “Put in terms of the circuit approach, taxes and bond offerings are part of final finance (funding).” So Sawyer is just wrong about this.

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The People’s Money (Part 1)

An Explanation of the Federal Reserve Money system and what it means for the potential accomplishments of American Democracy

By J.D. ALT

 

“Reserves”—that esoteric term in money-talk that postures to explain everything but explains nothing at all—have been much in the news of late. The Wall Street Journal even tried, recently, to explain what they are! They didn’t do such a great job. That’s unfortunate because, properly explained and understood, Reserves hold a big key to the political befuddlement—especially acute in the present election cycle—about what we can “afford” to accomplish as a collective society. This includes “paying for” real solutions to the five, money-intensive, life-defining dilemmas America now confronts: (1) climate change (2) healthcare (3) student debt (4) early child-hood care and development (5) affordable housing. It is therefore well worth the effort, I think, to attempt an explanation of “Reserves” that might actually be grasped by the collective consciousness of our political dialog.

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MMT: REPORT FROM THE FRONT (PART2)

By L. Randall Wray

PART 2

In Part 1 I discussed the third annual MMT conference that was recently held at Stony Brook, and you can find the program as well as videos of the conference here: (https://www.mmtconference.org/). In this Part 2 I discuss a special issue of real-world economics review devoted to MMT (http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue89/whole89.pdf). As usual, my report stretched out to become too long for just 2 blogs so there will be a Part 3, coming later this week. And who knows, maybe I’ll need a Part 4.

First, the good news. The editors seem to have played the game reasonably fairly. They invited contributions by MMT proponents and opponents. Often editors will give the opponents an advantage—for example, letting them see the contributions by MMTers in advance, without letting the MMTers see the contributions by the opponents. When it comes to MMT, editors don’t like to play fairly. It looks to me like proponents and opponents were treated equally. That is highly unusual when it comes to MMT “debates” which are almost always stacked against its proponents.

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MMT: REPORT FROM THE FRONT

By L. Randall Wray

PART 1

As many readers know, the third annual MMT conference was recently held at Stonybrook, and you can find the program as well as videos of the conference at the link: (https://www.mmtconference.org/). In addition, real-world economics review has just issued a new volume devoted to MMT (http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue89/whole89.pdf). I’ll briefly address both, in two parts. I’ll talk about the conference in this one, and about the RWER papers in the second part.

Part 1: The Third International MMT Conference

Unfortunately, I missed the first day of the conference as I was the plenary speaker at the annual ABFM (Association for Budget and Financial Management) conference in Washington DC. This invitation resulted from a chance meeting with a member of the group when I was teaching on a Fulbright to Estonia. At first he was shocked at the views I was propagating, but quickly became a convert, converted another member, and that led to the invitation. This group mostly researches state and local government finance—obviously those are currency users and need to balance budgets—but they tend to apply what they know to the federal budget. MMT of course explodes that because the finances of the sovereign currency issuer are nothing like those of the non-sovereign government entities. However, many of the attendees were open to MMT—or, at least, now they want to know more. It was a pleasant experience—and I learned more about a whole sector of the academy that I didn’t know much about. Many of those attending are in Masters of Public Administration schools. My own Professor Minsky’s first graduate degree was an MPA. I actually wrote a paper on the topic of the problems of state and local government finance, up here at Levy (http://www.levyinstitute.org/publications/fiscal-reform-to-benefit-state-and-local-governments-the-modern-money-theory-approach).

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Two-Cent Message

By J.D. ALT

Elizabeth Warren has succeeded, I think, in framing an argument as close as anyone is going to get (in the present election cycle) to the progressive position of MMT. Warren acknowledges that she’s proposing goals and undertakings that will “cost” a lot of money. She further acknowledges that everyone asks: “How are you going to pay for it?” And she gives a very specific and simple answer: an “ultra-millionaire tax”—which she details as “two-cents on every dollar of income over $50 million.” She then goes on to list what those “two-cents” will accomplish: The cancellation of college debt; free two-year college education; universal pre-school day-care…etc.

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Awakening the Investor-in-Whole-Society

By J.D. ALT

There’s a lot of handwringing now about how central banks have no ammunition to fight a recession. The fact that this is apparently true—and, perhaps, uniquely true in modern history—is all the more reason to explore MMT’s premise that central banks are not just instruments of private commerce, but are, as well, instruments of collective, democratic will. The bankers are in a box of their own making, but that box, in fact, is inside another box which, as MMT makes clear, has lots of ammunition not only to fight a recession, but to pursue the betterment of American society whether an economic downturn unfolds or not.

Let’s consider the central bankers’ basic dilemma: If private enterprise begins to slow, they would love to issue more money to get it back up to speed. But inside their box the only way to do that is by encouraging private enterprise to borrow more money. Private enterprise, in turn, decides to borrow more based on production and spending decisions tied to the making of potential profits. The only lever the central bank has to affect these profit calculations is the manipulation of interest rates—lowering rates to make the profitability of enterprise more feasible (hence, encouraging more borrowing and more money creation) or raising rates to do the opposite. So, if interest rates are already close to zero, the central bankers are out of ammunition if private enterprise, on a large scale, decides to slow down operations and lay-off workers.

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