The Fiscal Summit Counter-Narrative: Part Eight, Narrative and Counter-Narrative For Fiscal Sustainability
I started this lengthy series by saying:
Well, it's Springtime in DC. Time for the Peter G. Peterson Foundation's annual event. The Fiscal Summit, to be held on May 15, better named the Fiscal Cesspool of distortions, half-truths and lies, is a propaganda extravaganza designed to maintain and strengthen the Washington and national elite consensuses on the existence of a debt crisis, the long-term ravages of entitlement spending on America's fiscal well-being, and the need for long-term deficit reductions plans to combat this truly phantom menace. The purpose of maintaining that consensus is to keep an impenetrable screen of fantasy intact in order to justify policies of economic austerity. that have been impoverishing people and transferring financial and real wealth to the globalizing elite comprised of the 1% or far less of the population, depending on which nation one is talking about.
I then pointed to the first two Fiscal Summit Conferences in 2010 and 2011, identified some of the featured participants in both of these, and the then pending 2012 conference, and identified the primary myths used to form the neoliberal-based deficit hawk/austerian “fiscal sustainability”/”fiscal responsibility” narrative driving the politics of fiscal policy towards debate, discussion and passage of a long-term fiscal policy plan focused primarily on deficit reduction and long-term “fiscal responsibility” and “fiscal sustainability.” I then set out to present a detailed account of the five sessions of the April 2010 Fiscal Sustainability Teach-In Counter-Conference along with comments and references (links) to posts appearing since the Teach-In. The five sessions and accompanying Q & A, covered in posts 2-7 of this series, supplemented by additional post-conference work provide a fiscal sustainability/fiscal responsibility counter-narrative based on the Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) approach to economics.
In this final post of the series, I'll juxtapose the primary claims underlying the neoliberal austerian fiscal sustainability/fiscal responsibility narrative, and the MMT answers to them. The austerian claims all link to MMT-based posts that critique them. The paragraphs following each austerian claim summarize the MMT answers, and the counter-narrative. Read more about The Fiscal Summit Counter-Narrative: Part Eight, Narrative and Counter-Narrative For Fiscal Sustainability
The Fiscal Summit Counter-Narrative: Part Seven, Policy Proposals for Fiscal Sustainability, the Q & A
The way we designed the program of the Fiscal Sustainability Teach-In Counter-Conference, was to introduce the fundamental ideas of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) in the first three presentations on defining fiscal sustainability, whether or not there are spending constraints on governments sovereign in their currency, and whether deficits, debts, and debt-to-GDP ratios are really a problem for entitlement programs and our grandchildren. Then Presentation Four, by Marshall Auerback, was given to consider the main critique of MMT's stance on deficit spending, the possibility of inflation or hyperinflation.
Finally, Presentation Five, which we'll cover in this post was designed to highlight the proposals for full recovery favored by the MMT economists. These proposals are the counter to the austerity proposals of Paul Ryan, Pete Peterson, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, David Walker, Barack Obama, and the rest of those convinced that the US Government has solvency/debt/deficit problems that must be solved by some combination of spending cuts and tax increases. Read more about The Fiscal Summit Counter-Narrative: Part Six, Policy Proposals for Fiscal Sustainability
One of the raps on deficit spending in neoliberal circles is that it will trigger substantial inflation or hyper-inflation. Even when mainstream economists grant the MMT point about the impossibility of the US becoming involuntarily insolvent, they will still insist that sustained deficit spending is a bad idea because it will inevitably lead to unmanageable inflation. A variant of their critique is that especially “pure deficit spending,” I.e. deficit spending without issuing debt instruments to absorb the increase in the money supply created by deficit spending, will be an inflation trigger. Read more about The Fiscal Summit Counter-Narrative: Part Five, Inflation and Hyper-inflation
The Fiscal Summit Counter-Narrative: Part Four, The Deficit, the Debt, the Debt-To-GDP Ratio, the Grandchildren, & Fiscal Policy
The neoliberal austerian ideology often emphasizes the consequences of excessive deficit levels, a high national debt, and a debt-to-GDP ratio. Among those supposed consequences are rapidly increasing and high interest rates in the bond markets, inability to “borrow” to pay for imports, inability to maintain spending levels on entitlements like Social Security, Medicare, and Unemployment Insurance, an increasing threat to government solvency, and a growing national debt burden that will have to someday be repaid by heavily taxed children and grandchildren. Read more about The Fiscal Summit Counter-Narrative: Part Four, The Deficit, the Debt, the Debt-To-GDP Ratio, the Grandchildren, & Fiscal Policy
The Fiscal Summit Counter-Narrative: Part Three, Are There Spending Constraints On Governments Sovereign in Their Currencies?
[This is an important series of posts. As the elite tees up for Grand Bargain™-brand catfood, it's important to understand that the entire ZOMG!!!!! Teh debt!!!! narrative is not merely fakery, but fakery that's funded by those who will benefit from the looting, and that's not you. --lambert]
An issue at the core of all the fuss about fiscal sustainability is Government solvency. The deficit hawks and doves believe that Governments sovereign in their own currency can run out of money if they keep deficit spending, and keep borrowing to do it. They believe that if deficit/debt levels are high enough, then Government insolvency can occur, because eventually the burden of interest on the public debt will crowd out all other public spending and investments. So, they are for working towards debt/deficit reduction, “reforming” (i.e. cutting) entitlement spending, and raising taxes, though not necessarily on the rich. Read more about The Fiscal Summit Counter-Narrative: Part Three, Are There Spending Constraints On Governments Sovereign in Their Currencies?
In the big budget fight going on right now in Congress, the Tea Party conservatives rightly point out that $61 Billion in spending cuts is just a drop in the bucket compared to the $1.6 Trillion predicted deficit, and they react with a great deal of moral fervor to the suggestion that they ought to compromise on $33 Billion in cuts in order to avoid shutting down the Government. That moral fervor sounds perfectly reasonable to me as long as one agrees that Government spending causes inflation, that we now have a huge deficit, debt problem in the United States that we must solve, or face national insolvency in the not too distant future, and also if the people afire with moral fervor would also apply that to the issue of the wealthy paying their fair share of taxes. Read more about Neo-Liberalism Can't Beat the Tea Party: But MMT Can
After the scorching he received in many of the comments on his printing press post Paul Krugman decided to dig his MMT blogging hole even deeper.
“. . . I think one way to clarify my difference with, say, Jamie Galbraith is this: imagine that at some future date, say in 2017, we’re more or less at full employment and have a federal deficit equal to 6 percent of GDP. Does it matter whether the United States can still sell bonds on international markets?
The Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) approach to economics must be starting to make some waves, because today, Paul Krugman, followed his earlier attack on it and his debate with Jamie Galbraith and others last summer, with another swing at MMT. The debate last summer was an extensive one at Paul's blog site at the New York Times, and, in addition, there were a number of posts at other sites replying to Paul. The debate was a classic in the developing conflict of views between the “deficit doves” (represented by Paul) and the “deficit owls” (represented by Jamie Galbraith and other MMT writers).
Given the earlier debate, you'd expect that Paul's second try at MMT would reflect a bit of learning on his part, and also a characterization of the views of MMT practitioners that is a little more fair than he provided in his first attempt. This post will analyze Paul's new attack and assess how much he's learned. But first, I'll review the earlier debate. Read more about Paul Takes Another Swipe at MMT
A number of people including myself have been furiously blogging for many months now on the world-wide austerity war that most Governments are fighting against the well-being of their citizens. Read more about Bill Mitchell on the Austerity War
Recently, my friend Marshall Auerback posted an article at New Deal 2.0 about Obama's coming “teachable moment” when the Republicans try to wring concessions out of the Democrats by refusing to raise the ceiling on the national debt. The post stimulated a lot of good discussion about alternatives Obama might have to shutting down the Government in response. Read more about Constitutional Crisis Over Debt Ceiling? Does the Government Have To Shut Down?
Mike Allen in the Politico Playbook reports that he hears from the Administration that the members of the mis-named National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform may be nearing a deal “around a package on Social Security.” The money quote is: Read more about You Want To Cut Social Security for My Kids and Grandkids, So You Can Do What?
Hint: it’s not Republicans.
Social Security remains one of the greatest achievements of the Democratic Party since its creation 75 years ago. Although Republicans have historically fulminated against the program (Ronald Reagan once
onald Reagan">likenedRead more about Which Party Poses the Real Risk to Social Security’s Future?
Bob Herbert, in his column on June 7th said:
There is no plan that I can see to get us out of this fix. Drastic cuts in government spending would only compound the crisis. State and local governments, for example, are shedding workers as we speak.