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An MMT Fiscal Responsibility Narrative: Some Truths

Many MMT posts and other writings on fiscal responsibility, including my own, focus on the myths of neoliberalism, pointing out why they are myths and developing an alternative MMT perspective in some detail. Off hand, and I may have forgotten something, I couldn't think of a brief positive MMT narrative containing primarily the truths, rather than the myths. So, here's my version. Comments, criticisms, recasting in more effective form, are all welcome.

-- The US Government can't involuntarily run out of fiat money because it has the constitutional authority to create it without limit. Congress constrains and regulates this ability; but its existence is still a stubborn fact! Read below the fold...

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Pragmatism Tempered By Vision and Justice

In this good post, Jared Bernstein, who is one of the few prominent writers in economics who is often close to being right, asks “How Did Things Get So Screwed Up?” he answers that it's money, ideology, and a rejection of fact-based policy analysis. He thinks that more pragmatism and willingness to accept facts would really help our politics.

But pragmatism is a vague term, and we have to be careful about what we mean by it. Few politicians have been more pragmatic than President Obama in the sense that he is willing to compromise principles to get something done. In being so pragmatic, I think he has damaged his presidency. Read below the fold...

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A Counter Narrative to Peterson's

Stephanie Kelton writes:

The US is broke. Government deficits are de facto evidence of a government gone wild. We’re careening toward Greece. Entitlements are the root cause of our fiscal woes, and the Chinese are coming for our grandchildren. How many Americans believe this garbage? My guess? Most of them.

Read below the fold...
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Neoliberalism Kills: Part Two

During Part One of this series, I approached the end of my post with this paragraph.

Apart from the political opposition from the insurance companies that Medicare for All would have engendered, I think the main justification for abandoning Medicare for All and switching to the PO and eventually the PO-less ACA, was actually neoliberalism. The President, his main advisers, the Democratic leaders in Congress, and most progressives working for Washington progressive organizations were steeped in neoliberal doctrine. They viewed the Bush tax cuts and the two Wars as unpaid for. The ARRA stimulus Act was similarly unpaid for and added to deficit spending and to the debt-subject-to-the-limit. They believed and most believe today that the Federal Government can have solvency problems if the debt-to-GDP ratio increases too much, and interest rates on the national debt are driven up by the bond vigilantes.

A Medicare for All Act would have required Federal spending on health care to rise by $800 - $900 Billion per year over present levels. They were not ready to cover that with higher tax revenues, and they were not ready to deficit spend it because they viewed that as fiscally irresponsible, and believed then and still believe now that it's necessary to decrease the debt-to-GDP ratio over time.

So, they wouldn't consider spending for Medicare for All. They wouldn't look seriously at the hundreds of thousands of lives they were consigning to oblivion, at the bankruptcies and divorces they could prevent, or at the obvious fact that while HR 676 would have cost the Government $900 Billion more in money annually that the Government can create at will and at zero real cost; it would have saved the people who have to pay for health insurance, and health care out of pocket and in the form of “co-pays” $1.8 Trillion annually, thus providing a marvelous boost to the economy. Instead, they just said to everybody, that it was impractical and that the United States couldn't afford it; but that it would be able to to afford a self-supporting PO bill, and later when that was taken off the table, a deficit neutral insurance bailout like the ACA.

My friend Lambert Strether liked Part One and cross-posted it at Yves Smith's Naked Capitalism site. But the above statement bothers him because he thinks that using the label neoliberalism alone without explaining what aspects of that paradigm provided the justification for taking Medicare for All off the Table, and who the political actors are who adhere to this, makes my treatment incomplete. Even though I agree with the view that it's easy enough to google “neoliberalism” if someone doubts what I mean by the “term,” I also agree with Lambert that it would add something to Part One for me to be more specific about my thinking and show the connections between neoliberalism and the decision to take Medicare for All off the Table. Hence, this Part Two. Read below the fold...

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Neoliberalism Kills: Part One

During the run-up to passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), I wrote a number of posts (here, here, and here) assessing the ACA very negatively, and pointing out the shortcomings of the various versions of this bill, preceding its final passage. My focus was on contrasting varying versions with HR 676, the Conyers-Kucinich Medicare for All bill, in relation to its likely impact on fatalities, bankruptcies and divorces attributed to lack of health insurance coverage in the US. Read below the fold...

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Paul K's Strange Logic

In an October 12th Post entitled “Foreigners and the Burden of Debt,” Paul Krugman made the following comment.

”. . . we’d all agree that deficits make us poorer if they crowd out investment spending — which they would if the economy were near full employment, but won’t if we’re deeply depressed. All we have to do is realize that net foreign investment — purchases minus sales of assets from and to foreigners — is also a form of investment. Or to put it a bit more simply, sure, budget deficits can make us poorer as a nation if they lead to bigger trade deficits.”

Read below the fold...
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These Folks are Soooo Clever . . .

Last week, Reps. Michael Honda, Keith Ellison, Raul Grijalva, Jan Schakowsky, John Conyers, Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey stalwarts of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) begged for mercy from “the Gang of Eight” in a letter.

Here's what they said and my commentary on their “loser liberalism.”

”Thank you for your work - past and present - towards solving one of the greatest policy challenges facing us today: the unsustainable path of our national debt. We appreciate the bipartisan and collaborative spirit with which you've approached your negotiations. . . .”

Thanks vanguard progressives for embracing the major premise of the austerity ideology, namely that the national debt is on an unsustainable path. I'm here to tell you that this idea is false and also terribly harmful to progressive aspirations to end economic stagnation and get everyone, who wants to be, employed at a living wage. You can't win an argument if you start by agreeing with your opponent's false premise. Read below the fold...

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Promises for America

The polling since the conventions shows that Democrats are doing better than expected. President Obama now apparently has a clear lead over Mitt Romney. Democratic Party control of the Senate seems likely to survive this election year of many more Democratic rather than Republican Senate seats up for election. And, even in House races, it looks like the Democrats will pick up a number of seats; though whether they can pick up enough seats to take back the House is still an unlikely prospect, and without the House President Obama's second term is likely to be much like his last year and three-quarters, rather than his first two years. Read below the fold...

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Alan Grayson's Right; But He Misses the Larger Point

Alan Grayson's e-mail on Moody's warning that it might reduce the US's AAA rating, suggested that Moody's was either threatening a downgrade because it wants to get the Bush tax cuts for the rich extended, or, alternatively, that “Moody's is living in what Aristophanes called "Cloud Cuckoo Land."” He says this because Moody's is upset about the possibility that the US may go over the so-called “fiscal cliff,” even though if it did, it would theoretically result in $560 Billion of deficit reduction annually, without further legislative changes, and it makes no sense on the surface for a rati Read below the fold...

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No Plan B?

Bob Woodward's releasing a new book, so we are now seeing articles based on it. A few days back, The Washington Post published the ”Inside story of Obama’s struggle to keep Congress from controlling outcome of debt ceiling crisis.” This account is a pretty downbeat one of how our political leaders and President Obama handled the debt ceiling crisis of the summer of 2011. I want to comment on what for me was the most salient point: that during the crisis, the President had no “Plan B” to get around the debt ceiling beyond negotiating a deal with Congress. Read below the fold...

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No, Barack, It Just Ain't Gonna Happen!

Who else thinks the President's speech didn't include any plans to create the 29 million full-time jobs for the dis-employed? Please raise your hand!

About jobs he said:

”We can help big factories and small businesses double their exports, and if we choose this path, we can create a million new manufacturing jobs in the next four years.”

Read below the fold...
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"We" Don't Owe $16 Trillion; and You Don't Owe $50,000

Just saw John Sununu, one of Republicans favorite Bushie junk yard attack dogs all up in arms about the debt subject to the limit (the so-called national debt) reaching $16 Trillion dollars, and going on to tell people that every man, woman, and child in the United States now owes $50,000 to pay that debt off. Now, I'm here to tell you that all that is bull shit.

The debt subject to the limit is a debt incurred by the Congress and the Treasury Department because when the Government spends more than it taxes, the Treasury Department issues debt instruments in the name of the US Government even though it doesn't have to do that in order to deficit spend. These instruments make the Government a debtor. But they don't make any individual man, woman, or child in the United States a debtor. So, the idea that YOU owe $50,000 or even a single dollar is BS. You've signed no such note. You've not charged a single dollar on your credit card for this purpose. And you've not made a single promise that any portion of the national debt will be paid by YOU. Read below the fold...

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It's Not About the Food Stamps; It's About a Job At a Living Wage

Got this in an e-mail yesterday from my brother, Hal:

“June food stamp Recipients Hit All Time High As Three Times As Many Americans Enter Poverty As Find Jobs, bringing the total to a new all time high of 46.670 million and once again rising fast.”

Read below the fold...
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Our Money Isn't Fake, It's Fiat!

A report on protests at the Tampa convention appearing in the Hill (h/t Lambertstrether) partly focused on views about our economy and financial system of an Occupy protestor named Andrew Speirs. The report says:

“Protesters with the Occupy movement were also in full force with calls to dismantle the United States’ economic and political system.

Read below the fold...
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Fix the Debt The Progressive Way!

In the shadow of the election campaign, receiving comparatively little attention from the media is another accelerating effort to prepare the way for a “grand bargain” that will legislate a long-term deficit reduction plan embodying “shared sacrifice,” including entitlement cuts that will weigh heavily on the vulnerable including, the young, the elderly, the old, the disabled and other disadvantaged groups; and that will also further exacerbate the rapidly growing inequality problem and increase the threat to our increasingly fragile democracy. Read below the fold...

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