Real Fiscal Responsibility, Vol. II: The Peterson Network, Inequality, and the Failure of Neoliberalism
This is how the mission of the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform was defined by the White House on February 18, 2010:
The Commission is charged with identifying policies to improve the fiscal situation in the medium term and to achieve fiscal sustainability over the long run. Specifically, the Commission shall propose recommendations designed to balance the budget, excluding interest payments on the debt, by 2015. This result is projected to stabilize the debt-to-GDP ratio at an acceptable level once the economy recovers. The magnitude and timing of the policy measures necessary to achieve this goal are subject to considerable uncertainty and will depend on the evolution of the economy. In addition, the Commission shall propose recommendations that meaningfully improve the long-run fiscal outlook, including changes to address the growth of entitlement spending and the gap between the projected revenues and expenditures of the Federal Government.
And here is what President Obama’s web site had to say about deficit reduction in 2012:
Right now, President Obama is working with leaders of both parties in Washington to reduce the deficit in a balanced way so we can lay the foundation for long-term middle-class job growth and prevent your taxes from going up.
Below is an excerpt from my most recent e-book: Real Fiscal Responsibility, Vol. I: The Progressive Give-up Formula. The book is volume I of II critiquing austerity politics at the Federal level in the United States. It exposes its fallacies, its closed-mindedness and futility, and especially its reliance on wrong-headed conceptions of fiscal sustainability and fiscal responsibility.
In this volume, I relate neoliberalism, the Washington Consensus, and austerity politics pushed by the powers that be among the DC Village progressives, and the ideas of fiscal sustainability and fiscal responsibility, to the perspectives of Modern Money Theory (MMT), including MMT-based ideas about fiscal sustainability and responsibility. I also explain what I mean by real fiscal responsibility, rather than faux fiscal responsibility, and apply these ideas to an analysis of the US Government during the term of Jimmy Carter. I begin my analysis of current progressive ideas and activities by examining the views of Senator Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren, and then continue by analyzing the operation of the give-up formula among Congressional and DC progressives during the period 2009 - 2010, when the Democrats had big margins in Congress. I then move to the period 2011 – the present. Next, I analyze the Campaign for the American Future and its New Populism Campaign, and then conclude by relating the give-up formula to real fiscal responsibility.
If the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement will, if implemented, and as I've argued elsewhere, result in the death of national and state sovereignty, constitutional separation of powers, and democracy, then what system and what principles will replace these things? Read more about TPP: The Fascism Issue
Fast/Track/TPP: The Death of National Sovereignty, State Sovereignty, Separation of Powers, and Democracy
Most of the critical attention given to the Fast Track Trade Agreement legislation and to the associated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Congressional – Executive Agreement on mainstream corporate media and by politicians and establishment interest groups interacting with them in the beltway echo chamber, has focused on the likely or possible economic impacts of these. But relatively little attention has focused on sovereignty, constitutional separation of powers, or democracy impacts, which however are being covered increasingly well in alternative social media. See here, here, here, and here. Read more about Fast/Track/TPP: The Death of National Sovereignty, State Sovereignty, Separation of Powers, and Democracy
People who support the Administration's efforts on the TPP have been known to reply to my posts on this subject by attempting to ridicule the scenarios I've presented as possible under the TPP Agreement as “out there” speculation of the tin foil variety that will never actually happen. For those who think that my examples of what is possible under the TPP are just this kind of speculation, please keep in mind that I don't have the proposed draft agreements to work from.
This is due to the President's decision to classify the drafts and seek Fast Track Authority before disclosing them more freely even to Congress for an up or down vote. However, there is no indication from anyone that the actual drafts of the agreement contain rules that would definitively prevent the possible very damaging consequences I've mentioned here for example. Read more about Ridiculing Concerns About TPP Tyranny: A Reply
Indicting the Trans – Pacific Partnership: Even One of These Counts Is Sufficient to Vote to Kill It!
To really appreciate what a travesty the TPP is, and the scandal of the failure of our Congress to reject it, and the “Fast Track Authority“ sought for it, out of hand, I'm going to list 23 negative consequences that would likely follow from it. Any one of these, would, by itself be sufficient for any representative of the people, Senator or Congressperson, to vote to kill it. I'll offer this list in the form of stanzas appropriate for a chant, except for the starting point in the list.
The tune of the chant that might be used is the tune used for Dayenu, the passover seder chant in which Dayenu means “It would have been sufficient,” where the reference is to all the things the almighty is purported to have done for the Israelites on their way out of Egypt and during their wanderings in the Sinai. I'm sure the President is familiar with this chant since he has had seders at the White House more than once. I'm also sure that he never envisioned using Dayenu to highlight the horrors of one of his favorite projects, the passage of “Fast Track Authority,” the TPP, and other “free trade” agreements such as the TTIP, and the TISA, all of which would get “Fast Track Authority” if the present bill passes. Read more about Indicting the Trans – Pacific Partnership: Even One of These Counts Is Sufficient to Vote to Kill It!
Right now the US fulfills the three essential conditions for monetary sovereignty: 1) it issues its own non-convertible currency, 2) which it allows to float on international currency markets; and 3) it owes no debts in any currency other than dollars. Because it is monetarily sovereign, and can always meet its obligations the US can never be forced into insolvency.
It can become insolvent due to Congressional decisions such as failing to raise or repeal the debt ceiling, or Executive decisions such as failing to use its platinum coin minting authority to fill the public purse and then pay its bills once it has reached the debt ceiling. But again, it cannot be forced into solvency by external financial or economic factors that are beyond the control of the Federal Government (including the Congress). Read more about How Can Our Senators and Representatives Vote for Giving Away Our Monetary Sovereignty?
There are two words that describe the Republicans' Senate Budget Committee's proposed budget: “dishonesty” and “austerity” for most Americans. Let's deal with the dishonesty part first. In due course, the austerity will be apparent. Read more about When Will the Senate Budget Committee Majority Ever Learn About Sector Financial Balances?
In addition to the House Budget Committee and OMB budget plans and 2016 – 2025 projections fiscal policy followers have also recently been graced with the effort of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) proposing their budget plan and 20 Read more about When Will Congressional Progressive Caucus Ever Learn About Sector Financial Balances?
In my last post I asked this same question about the House Budget Committee. As my readers saw in that one, the attempts at deficit reduction leading to budget balance were so severe that they implied that if the House budget were followed, and if the economy did not collapse before the decade projection period ended due to a collapse of aggregate demand, then private sector deficits would be produced in every year from 2017 – 2025. In addition, since the budget provided for severe cuts to federal spending designed to benefit poor people and the middle class, it was likely that the private losses from this budget would be concentrated on the people who can least well absorb them.
In this post, I'll review the sectoral financial balances implications of the White House/OMB projections to see how they compare to those of the House Budget Committee. I'll begin by repeating the explanation of sectoral financial balances basics I included in my earlier post. Read more about When Will the White House and OMB Ever Learn About Sector Financial Balances?
It never ceases to amaze me that those who offer budget plans and projections never take into account the reality that their projections must be consistent with implications of trends in sector financial balances for their projections. This is a simple lesson that those playing the fiscal responsibility game never seem to learn. Certainly this is true of the Republican House Budget Committee, as we'll see.
The Sector Financial Balances (SFB) model is an accounting identity, and these are always true by definition alone. The SFB model says:
Domestic Private Balance + Domestic Government Balance + Foreign Balance = 0.
The terms refer to balances of flows of financial assets among the three sectors of the economy in any specified period of time. Why must there be flows? Because the three sectors trade financial assets with one another. So, the equation says that the sum of all the balances of flows for the three sectors of the economy is zero, because, since there's only so much in assets traded in any time period, the positive balance(s) of one or more sectors relative to the others must be matched by the negative balance(s) of the other two sectors. Read more about When Will CBO and the House Budget Committee Ever Learn About Sector Financial Balances?
The public debt-to-GDP ratio is, perhaps, the most important measure used in discussions of the relative fiscal sustainability of nations. Nations with high levels of debt-to-GDP are viewed as having more serious fiscal problems than nations with lower levels. Nations having increasing ratios over time are viewed as becoming less fiscally sustainable, while those with decreasing ratios are viewed as more fiscally sustainable.
But is the public debt-to-GDP ratio really a valid measure of fiscal sustainability, or is it a measure that incorporates a neoliberal theoretical bias in its fundamental assumptions? In the United States, the total value of public debt subject to the limit at any point, is the total principal value of all the outstanding debt instruments sold by the Treasury Department. The GDP is the aggregate value of the production of goods and services in the United States within a particular period of time, adjusted for price changes.
So, the public debt is a variable measuring a cumulated stock, while GDP is a flow variable measuring economic activity within a particular period of time. Why compute a ratio of a cumulated stock to a flow within a circumscribed period of time?
Well, in this case of the debt-to-GDP ratio, neoliberal economists reason that the stock, the debt, can only be reduced if the government takes away part of the flow each year to repay a portion of the stock, the debt, leaving less of the flow to add financial savings to the private sector. After all, what other sources of government revenue are there except taxation? Read more about The Value of the Right Ratio Is Zero
Just as every Spring we can count on the Peter G. Peterson Foundation (PGPF) to do a supportive press release when the CBO issues one of its budget outlook 10 year projection reports, we can also count on being treated to public statements by Maya MacGuineas joining in the Peterson Army choir, warning about the coming debt crisis, and singing about the glories of deficit and debt reduction. And this while completely ignoring the real and sad consequences of deficit and debt reduction policies throughout the world since the crash of 2008, as well as previous applications to Latin American, Asian, and the nations of the disintegrated soviet empire, most notably Russia itself. Let's look at Maya MacGuineas latest effort; her testimony to the Senate Budget Committee. Read more about Maya MacGuineas: The Profound Fiscal Irresponsibility of Resistance to Facts
The Peter G. Peterson Foundation (PGPF) always does a press release when the CBO issues one of its budget outlook 10 year projection reports. The PGPF did another in January quoting its President and COO, Michael A. Peterson. Let's go through that press release and see how many troublesome or false statements we can find. Here's a breakdown of the press release quotation from Michael Peterson.
Today's CBO report reminds us once again that our nation has significant fiscal challenges that have yet to be solved.
It certainly does, but I doubt that Peterson and I would agree on what those challenges are. He thinks they have to do with bringing the national debt under control. I think they have to do with creating full employment with a federal job guarantee program, price stability, a robust economy, a great public and free educational system through graduate school, stopping and reversing climate change, providing everybody in, nobody out, no co-pays and no deductibles health care for all, a first class infrastructure, and a greatly expanded social safety net including a doubling of SS benefits.
He thinks the debt is a long-term problem that we have to start to solve now. I think there is, literally, no public finance-related debt problem for a fiat sovereign like the U.S., and that the problem that exists is not a debt problem, but a political problem created by Peterson and his allies across the political spectrum who have propagandized the view that there is a debt crisis since the mid-1970s, with increasing success since the 1990s. Read more about The Peterson Foundation Sings the Same Old Song