Beyond Debt/Deficit Politics: The $60 Trillion Plan for Ending Federal Borrowing and Paying Off the National Debt
Well, here we are again, House leaders have agreed on a compromise continuing spending resolution at the same level as before from October 2012 through January 2013. It's likely now that the President(s?) will probably try to make the money available for deficit spending as of today, last through the time period of the continuing resolution so that one deal including both the budget and raising the debt limit can be made by March of 2013. According to the July 31, Daily Treasury Statement, there's $499,424,000,000 left until the debt ceiling. That's an average of $62,428,000,000 deficit spending per month for the next 8 months, ending March 31, 2013.
For the past 10 months, average deficit spending was at $114,802.3 Billion per month, and that amount was not enough stimulus for a full recovery. So, the likely 46% reduction in average deficit spending over the next 8 months is unlikely to be any more effective in pulling us out of the extended employment recession we are experiencing, than the deficits in the preceding 10 months were. On the contrary, deficit spending over the next 8 months is unlikely even to allow us to maintain the unemployment levels we have now. So, what ought to be done?
The most important thing that can be done is to change the fiscal context of politics from one of apparent scarcity "justifying" austerity to one where spending capacity is so plentiful, that Congress will be hard-pressed to impose austerity, because its justification in the form of apparent limitations on spending capacity will just seem silly. In the summer of 2011 I proposed a solution to the debt ceiling crisis calling for the minting of a $30 T platinum coin to overcome the problem and also improve the fiscal context for progressive legislation. Now, I want to update that post and apply it to the present political situation, where based on the above events, the next serious fiscal crisis is likely to happen in February and/or March of 2013. So, here's the update. Read below the fold...
Cullen Roche continued his extensive and multi-faceted critique of the Job Guarantee policy and the Modern Monetary Theory approach to economics with a piece attempting to distinguish “theory” and “fact.” His piece is based on the common sense idea that there's a distinction between them, and Cullen tries to use it in his argument. There is, but, unfortunately, the common sense notion of the distinction has long been put aside in the philosophy of science, and in most of the sciences a decade or so later, because of its incoherence. So, in using it, Cullen's argument shares this incoherence.
The “Theoretical” and Something Else Read below the fold...
(This Open Letter to Bernie Sanders was posted on November 20. I'm very glad I can now post it here on my favorite political blog.)
Today, you told the “Democrats stop caving in . . . ” to the interests of corporations, the tea party, wealthy individuals, and the Republicans in Congress. The only problem with your fiery statement is that you began it by “caving in” to them yourself. You did this by immediately legitimizing their frame of reference by saying:
“Here is something we all can agree on: Federal deficits are a serious problem.”Read below the fold...
Like many of us, every once in awhile I get an e-mail from Michelle Obama asking for a contribution in return for a chance at having an up close and personal dinner with her husband. Here's how I replied.
Dear Mrs. Obama
My wife and I will not contribute to your husband's campaign this time around unless he immediately
1) Abandons his ridiculous and harmful deficit reduction campaign;
2) Stops talking about the US running out of money;
3) PROVES that is not the case by using his authority under legislation passed in 1996 and minting a 1 oz. Proof Platinum $60 Trillion face-value coin, depositing it at the Federal Reserve, and the using the Mint's seigniorage profits to fill the Treasury General Account (TGA) with approximately $60 Trillion in electronic credits; Read below the fold...
There's a distinction between Congressional appropriations, the mandate to spend particular amounts on particular goods and services, and the capability to spend those mandated amounts. The capability is the amount of electronic credits in the public purse, whether any of it has been appropriated for spending by the Congress or not. Congressional appropriations, not the size or contents of the purse, determines what will be spent and what will simply sit in the purse for use at a later time. So, there is a very important distinction between the USD level in the purse and whether any of it can be spent. Read below the fold...
(Thanks to DailyKos commenter 2laneIA for suggesting this post and the title)
It's only a few days now until August 2nd. Perhaps a compromise on lifting the debt ceiling will be reached before then. Perhaps none will be reached. Perhaps the President will veto a compromise if it doesn't extend the ceiling sufficiently to support deficit spending until after the 2012 elections. If a debt ceiling extension is voted down, or if the President vetos an unacceptably small extension, then what is to be done? I've now run into six primary options the President can select among to avoid default. The six are:
-- Challenging the debt ceiling based on the 14th Amendment Section 4
-- Selective default
-- Proof Platinum Coin Seigniorage (PPCS)
-- Running an overdraft at the Fed Read below the fold...
Congress provided the authority, in legislation passed in 1996, for the US Mint to create platinum bullion or proof platinum coins with arbitrary fiat face value having no relationship to the value of the platinum used in these coins. These coins are legal tender. So, when the Mint deposits them in its Public Enterprise Fund account at the Fed, the Fed must credit that account with the face value of these coins. Read below the fold...
(Editor's Note: This post is being re-published with the permission of the author, Scott Fullwiler)
Cullen Roche’s excellent post at Pragmatic Capitalism explains—via comments from frequent MMT commentator Beowulf and several previous posts by fellow MMT blogger Joe Firestone (see the links at the end of Cullen’s post and also here)—that the debt ceiling debate could be ended right now given that the US Constitution bestows upon the US Treasury the authority to mint coins. Further, this simple change would lift the veil on how current monetary operations work and thereby demonstrate clearly that a currency-issuing government under flexible exchange rates cannot be forced into default against its will and is not beholden to “vigilante” bond markets. As Beowulf explains in a later comment, “The anomaly it addresses is that the US Govt has a debt limit yet an agency of the US Govt (the Federal Reserve) does not have a debt limit. Clearly this is a structural defect.”
The following is a description of how the process would work and the implications for monetary operations: Read below the fold...
In a comment on another post of mine, Kelly Canfield, a blogger and commenter at FDL, asked me for the following.
What I would appreciate is a simple, 3,4 bullet point method as to why I should support, and more importantly, tell others that MMT is superior to the Keynes theories which I have pointed out and illustrated to others before this current situation.
I can easily explain that the private sector is not providing demand, and that the Fed sector should, and people would be better off with demand stimulus.
Explain to me how I EXPLAIN that MMT is superior to that basic premise, if it is?
Not sure I want to do that in three or 4 bullet points. But what I will do is to state what I think are some differences that are very significant for policy activism between a Keynesian approach employed by people like Paul Krugman, Brad DeLong, and Robert Reich and a Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) approach employed by people like Warren Mosler, L. Randall Wray, Bill Mitchell, Jamie Galbraith, Stephanie Kelton, Marshall Auerback, Scott Fullwiler, and Pavlina Tcherneva. So, here are some contrasts between the two approaches on seven important issues. Out of these contrasts, there should be much material for short explanations about why MMT is superior to Keynesian approaches. [Readers? -- lambert] Read below the fold...
While some progressives are happy with the President's speech on the budget; others are suspicious, recognizing the President's repeated pattern of offering words that are reassuring to progressives while later acting to work against the general principles he asserts in a major speech. As Bernie Sanders is saying: “the devil is in the details.”
It surely is. But also, the devil is in the framing of the issues and the negotiation to come. And if the framing is done in such a way that the definition of the problem already implies an unfavorable solution for the middle class, American workers, the poor and the vulnerable, then I'm afraid the outcome is a predetermined defeat. So let's look at the framing in the form of a number of assertions made by the President during his speech. Read below the fold...
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 below the fold...
(Reprinted with the Permission of the Author)
(Editor's Note: This is a long and difficult piece, originally published at Yves Smith's Naked Capitalism site, and has an academic style. But, nevertheless, if you want to understand more about what the Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) school of economics has to offer, it is well worth your investment of time. It is the definitive critique of Paul Krugman's two recent blog posts on MMT, in my view.
In addition, in the process of criticizing Paul's views, Scott Fullwiler illuminates a lot of the deep thinking and knowledge developed by those following the MMT approach over many years, now. If you read this, you can see just how far off-base Paul Krugman is in his attempt to de-construct MMT, and you can also see how much work Paul has to do to really understand what his colleague economists using the MMT approach have developed.)
The old saying that bad press is better than no press is definitely true in this case. Without the advent of the blogosphere, our work would likely never even be noticed by the likes of Paul Krugman, so the fact that he’s writing about us (here and here) this weekend at least means we’re doing better than that, even if his assessment of us is far less than glowing. At the same time, and particularly given that Krugman is so widely read, it’s imperative to at the very least set the record straight on where MMT and Krugman differ. I should note before I start that others have done very good critiques already that overlap mine in several places (see here, here, here, and here).
Krugman makes three incorrect assumptions about what MMT policy proposals actually are while also demonstrating a lack of understanding of our modern monetary system (as is generally verified by volumes of empirical research on the monetary system by both MMT’ers and non-MMTer’s). These are the following:
Assumption A: The size of the monetary base directly (or indirectly, for that matter) affects inflation if we’re not in a “liquidity trap”
Assumption B: MMT’s preferred fiscal policy approach or strategy—Abba Lerner’s functional finance—is Non-Ricardian
Assumption C: Bond markets alone set interest rates on the national debt of a sovereign currency issuer operating under flexible exchange rates
Assumptions A and C are central to the Neo-Liberal macroeconomic model. Assumption B is a common misconception about MMT and a common perception of Neo-Liberals about the nature and macroeconomic effects of fiscal policy (i.e., Neo-Liberals often believe that activist fiscal policy is Non-Ricardian). Read below the fold...