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Talking to Grandma About Fiscal Sustainability

letsgetitdone's picture
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[Give BDBlue some comment love at OL! --lambert]

My friend Ralph writes about the fiscal sustainability issue:

Real. Simple (but accurate). Language. Why should people be scared about the Peterson agenda? What are they trying to distract the public’s attention from? What do the American people deserve from their government’s economic policy? Why is this not “leftist” but in fact mainstream — even conservative — anywhere else in the world?

"Explain it like you’re talking to my grandmother. Make it real, real simple, especially given that she’s dead."

So, here goes. Let's have a dialogue with Grandma, but with a real live and skeptical one, who's far from dead yet.

Why Should People Be Scared About the Peterson Agenda?

Grandma: Joe, I've been reading about these people, the Peterson Foundation. They say the way things are going our country will owe so much debt and our interests rates will be so high, that the United States will either run out of money, or taxes to pay off the debt will be so high for you, my Grandson, that you'll be poor. They say we have to bring all this spending under control now, and that the best way to do it is to raise the eligibility age for social security and cut back my Medicare. What about these people. They've got “dollar Bill” Bradley on their side, and President Clinton, and lots of Senators, and lots of financial experts. Don't you think they're right? After all, like any family the Government can't live beyond its means forever. We can't keep spending like drunken sailors.

Joe: Gran, these Peterson folks and their allies are really, really scary. Remember Herbert Hoover? He kept saying we had to balance the budget and that prosperity was just around the corner. Well, these Peterson folks have been acting like him. They'll make the recession last ten years, while saying that it ended months ago, 'cause they're alright Jack! They'll make things so bad that even if we never run out of money because we can always create more of it, we could get inflation, not mainly because of the Government spending, but because, they will destroy our ability to produce the goods and services, the real wealth, that gives our money its real value. You know what I'm saying. By slowing down our economy with austerity, these fools could destroy enough of our real wealth, our ability to actually make things and create and deliver services, so that we have so much unemployment that when the Government moves to do something about it by finally spending enough money to solve the unemployment problem, the point where the demand created by such spending exceeds how much we can actually produce will be reached very soon, and before we can solve that problem.

If they have their way, by the time I get to be your age, I won't have social security because they'll have raised the age of eligibility so that I don't qualify. Also, if they have their way, there'll be deep cuts in Medicare. They're trying to say that there won't be cuts in medical care, only in waste, fraud, and abuse. But they won't control price increases by Doctors and Hospitals, and God forbid they should actually force the providers to modify their systems to save money, so how are they gonna cut Medicare without cutting actual care? By the time I'm old enough to have Medicare, I'll be lucky if they pay 50% of the costs. Also, if we do what they want, we won't be able to fix our roads, or educate our children, or get away from using imported oil. You know Gran, I'd really like to stay here close to you, but the way these bozos are acting, I'm thinking I'd be better off taking us and your Great-Grandchildren to a place like Canada, Australia, or New Zealand where the damned corps don't run everything, and where somebody can go build a life where they don't have to worry about getting driven into bankruptcy by Doctors and Hospitals, or dying because they can't get good care at all without health insurance, or failing to provide a good education for their children because the public schools are crap city, and the ordinary working people can't send their kids to college. I don't want to scare you, and I'd hate to leave you; but, what the hell, I wouldn't have to learn some foreign language, College is nearly free for the kids, and I could actually get to the Doctor. If Peterson gets what he wants, it'll be more gold for him, and more shit sandwiches for the rest of us, while he tells us he's better than we are because our moral character is flawed, or we wouldn't want any special favors from the Federal Government. Have you ever noticed that all those folks who go to Peterson's meetings are rich? What's that about? Why don't they ever hear from working people like us, or, God Forbid, even poor people?

Gran: Joe, where I can go to give this Peterson a piece of my mind?

Joe: Dammit Gran, I don't really know. Peterson announces “Fiscal Summit meetings” and doesn't invite the Public or even tell people where they will be. He must think he lives in a country run by the rich, and that all the rest of us are peasants. Do you think he's afraid that you'll come and give him a piece of your mind if he announced the venue of his meeting? Look, here's the thing: if they get away with their austerity program, every new Law that would do something for people using Government spending (that means through people all acting together through their Government) would be very, very hard to pass, because the same choices would always come up. Do we cut other programs, do we tax the very wealthy, or do we borrow from the Chinese. Never Mind that we don't have to do any of those things) So. Nothing. Important. Will. Ever. Get. Done. Like this crazy health care “reform,” my behind, bill they just passed, it will all be pretend.

But the worst thing about this is that the reasons Peterson gives for needing to have an austerity program are Baloney Sausage, Gran. Peterson says the Government is like a family. But the Government is not like any family I know, because families are limited in what they can spend by what they can earn, get from investments, or borrow. The government, unlike a family, has an unlimited ability to credit private accounts, regardless of whether it taxes or borrows relative to what it spends. What family can do that? Peterson also thinks, that Government debt, like family debt, has to be paid back, and so it does. But only as it comes due, and only in Dollars which can be created by the Government at will. Nobody, nohow can make the US pay what's due in anything but dollars. And as long we keep it that way, we don't have to worry about our not being able to pay our debt obligations. Now, next comes the Petersons saying: well what about interest rates? What about interest costs going so sky high that they “crowd out” expenditures on other budget items?

Well, Gran, unless they're awfully stupid, which I wouldn't put past those Peterson folks, that can't happen. First, it can't because, again, the Government can always spend what it needs to spend to meet its obligations, since its ability to credit private accounts is unlimited. And second, if the interest costs on the debt are getting too high, then the Government can stop selling Treasury Securities to the private sector at high interest rates by not selling any securities at all. If the Government does this it will flood the private sector, the banking system, with reserves; but so what? All that will do is to drive short-term interest rates down to zero or close to it. That will take care of Government interest costs being too high and will also mean less profits and growth for the bloated banking sector. What's wrong with that? I think it's just what America needs.

What Are They Trying To Distract the Public's Attention From?

Gran: Are these PGPF people trying to hide something from us? Are they so seemingly so worried about the deficit because they're even more worried about other things they're hiding?

Joe: now Gran, that's a very good question. I just can't imagine, can you? Do you think that perhaps they're trying to distract attention from the fact that some of the very same people pushing entitlement reform now, also pushed “previous reforms” in which the Government “borrowed” from “social security” while promising to pay back the borrowed funds. But now, suddenly, when they say social security will run out of money they have nothing to say about “paying back” the funds they borrowed. Maybe they want to distract attention from that because they don't want us to understand that their commitments are no good. Maybe also, they want to distract us from the fact, that much of their gloomy deficit forecast is based on their keeping taxes relatively low for the wealthy, which ballooned the deficit they now condemn during the years when many of these “hawks” were so influential. But maybe it's neither of these things. Maybe it's just that they want us to forget that they threw away all kinds of money on an unnecessary war in Iraq, which they funded without ever worrying about the deficit, and another war in Afghanistan, whose great length and great expense were unnecessary if only the boys who now call for austerity figured out a different kind of strategy that didn't involve trying to conquer and pacify a large area with a relatively small number of troops.

Or maybe what they want us to forget is that the deficits we have now are the result of recovery efforts and the operation of our safety net measures that were made necessary by the venality and incompetence of these very same people in regulating the financial industry, and creating the conditions that fostered the Crash of 2008 and the destruction of so much of the wealth of working people, and that they also want to distract us from their post-crash policies which have added to the wealth of those in the financial industry at the expense of all of this, and maybe they also want us to forget about the prosecutions for thievery and fraud that should have occurred after the crash, but never have.

But maybe, Gran, it's none of these things. Maybe what they want to distract us from with their deficit bogeyman is the truth. Namely that there is no deficit bogeyman. That deficits, the national debt, and the other things they talk about are themselves unimportant, and are only effects of their own failure to manage the economy competently. And that the real causes of the failure of the economy, are, as they were in 1929, the very failure of the reigning business leaders and politicians to regulate, to distribute income and wealth more equitably, and to make sure that there was full employment for all who. wanted to work. In other words, Gran, they want to distract us from the fact that the answer to our problems is not austerity. It is to remove them from influence in the Government, and to bring in other people who will face the reality that Government has no spending limits in nations like the United States where the Government is spending nonconvertible currency of its own making. Maybe these new people will figure out that we can restore prosperity and full employment, and also re-invent our economy without Government austerity causing private sector austerity and national decline.

What do the American people deserve from their government’s economic policy?

Gran: Well, Joe, if our Government has been behaving so badly for so long, what do we deserve to get from them now?

Joe: We deserve a Government that will work in the interests of most of the American population, and that won't give us excuses like: “We're running out of money;” “The Chinese will raise our interest rates,” “Our children and grandchildren will have to pay our debts, and “Do you want to be like Zimbabwe and Greece? Gran, all these excuses are based on a severe misunderstanding of economic systems, like the United States that run on non-convertible fiat currencies. None of the views behind these excuses are based on facts and theories about the economics that have proved even remotely true. Instead, their proponents are the same people who have lead into the Crash of 2008. Their “resumes” show that their economic “wisdom” is false. Let;s not listen to it anymore.

Why is this not “leftist” but in fact mainstream — even conservative — anywhere else in the world?

Gran: But Joe, aren't you talking “socialism?”

Joe: What have I said that's “socialism?” All I've talked about is the government not practicing austerity, but doing what's necessary to guarantee full employment, universal health care, a good education for everyone who wants one, and plenty of investment money for people who want to help us remake our economy and create a wave of prosperity for ourselves and our children and grandchildren. The economy would still be dominated by the private sector, individuals would still own businesses and get rich, many people would still be relatively poor, the stock market would still exist, but the safety net would be a lot stronger than it is now, and the banks and Wall Street would be a lot more closely regulated than they are now with people going to jail for a very long time if they defraud investors and consumers. Now that's not socialism, Gran. It's just good American practicality. And it's what's necessary if we're going a hand a prosperous Democracy over to our children and grandchildren, instead of a plutocracy run by a few people like Pete Peterson and his followers.

Fight For Real Fiscal Sustainability

To do what's right for Gran and ourselves we have to fight for real fiscal sustainability. That kind of sustainability is not about deficits, national debts, and debt-to-GDP ratios. Instead, it's about the extent to which patterns of Government spending do not undermine the capability of the Government to continue to spend to achieve its public purposes, which is an entirely different view of sustainability than that championed By Peterson and this Administration. It is the point of view of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), or as I sometimes like to call it, Value Economics. In order to fight for “real fiscal sustainability,” you have to understand what it is. And this is going to require some education.

A great step toward getting that education is to come to the Fiscal Sustainability Teach-in Counter-conference. The event is free and open to the public. You can find out a lot details about it here. Please help us make this Teach-in Counter-conference a success, by attending and contributing to our funding (See the ActBlue widget in the sidebar), and then follow up by spreading the word about Value Economics throughout and beyond the progressive community. Let's win the war against the deficit hawks. All of our futures depend on it.

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Submitted by ohio on

Funny how you're not lecturing your grandfather.

Why not skip this nonsense and just write an FAQ?

(I don't comment here much anymore but this post is ridiculous. And I hesitated about posting my comment longer than it took me to write the example question and answer. But what you're doing is important and your marketing should be better. Please note that the example is an example of tone---I don't know if I got the concepts right.)

Example question:

Q: Should I worry about the federal deficit?

A: Sure, primarily because our country's ability to borrow may mean higher interest rates to entice other countries or rich entities to lend to us*. Those higher interest rates will apply to you specifically regarding your mortgage, car or student loan, credit cards, and so on, meaning you'll have to pay more to borrow.

Past that, though, our federal budget isn't like your checkbook. If you bounce a check, the bank will come after you. But the federal government can't bounce a check because it makes the money---our deficit is in what we owe in U.S. dollars. Since the federal government bases our currency on our ability to make things and provide services, and our capacity to do that is near infinite, the government can fill its piggy bank by taxing and fining, investments, and most importantly, printing currency based on our---yours and mine---productive potential.

If we owed money in a different currency, say, the yuan, that would be different. We can't print yuan in the basement---at least, not legally.

Keeping our debts, and the global financial system, in our own currency is one major reason for our acts of aggression to seize key natural resources like oil. We want to keep the world's financial system based in U.S. dollars as it gives us the upper hand financially and politically. We keep that position by convincing the world that our assessment of our productive potential is nearly limitless, so we can print more money we can lend to other countries. Unfortunately, our productive potential is based on cheap energy, and the days of cheap energy are drawing to a close.

Unless we think of something clever, which we might since desperation is the mother of invention and fear of poverty is her midwife.

*Investing is about more than money---it's about building relationships. If someone lends you money, it is in her interest to see you succeed so you can pay her back, and maybe borrow from her again. She also has a relationship with you that means you may do something nice for her because she lent you cash when you needed it. This is true of governments as well. A nation that lends to another wants to see that borrower nation survive and thrive, because "payback" is more than cash and "interest" is more than paying a little extra for every dollar. "Return on investment" includes intangibles like goodwill and cooperation, key elements to political action.

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

start off with an even simpler answer - people who earn over $95k (or whatever the figure is) don't pay Social Security on that money. If we simply lift the cap, then Social Security is funded in perpetuity. Pete Petersen and his buddies don't want to spend their money on social security because they don't have to worry about retirement. They want to hog all the money our nation makes and they don't care about families or the dignity of our senior citizens. So, if we simply change the law and charge for social security up the economic ladder, we'll never have to worry about having enough money. Ever.

Next, what is this about Bill Clinton being on the side of the Petersen Commission?

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Though I don't agree that if we do this we'll never run of money. I might agree if I could see some projections, but . not just with the flat statement. However, I would have no problem with just doing away with the social security tax and funding everything our of Government spending. I don't see we'll fund wars that way, but not SS and Medicare. The SS trust fund has always been non-existent. The systems has always really been pay as you go. Not funding it out of progressive taxation is one of the causes of increasing mal-distribution of wealth.

Submitted by lambert on

My grandmother -- and, for that matter, my grandfather -- were both capable of thinking complex thoughts.

All I can say this I've been consumed with conference logistics.

Agree on the FAQ concept, sad to say. Or perhaps the interlocutor should be a Martian trying to understand earthly ways?

Jeff W's picture
Submitted by Jeff W on

I mentioned these two pieces in The Nation in my comment to BDBlue over at OL but I thought I'd mention them here also:

“In Defense of Deficits” by James K. Galbraith here

“Looting Social Security” by William Greider [from 2009] here

Both are very clear, interesting, and relevant.

(And a bit OT: I don't know if you caught William K. Black's testimony before the House Financial Services Committee yesterday, lambert, (featured on FDL here)—you're busy with the conference, I know—but it's well worth watching.)

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Sheldon Wolin, isn't it?

Jeff W's picture
Submitted by Jeff W on

it is. Fixed. Thanks for the correction. (I've had it that way for months!)

Submitted by jcasey on

You cover a lot of excellent ground here. This is an important conversation to have with as many people as we can. (I'm sure you would be careful to avoid any condescension in an actual conversation.)

I took a shot at reorganizing the message into smaller bites. I may have missed some things you feel should not be left out. To me these seem like the salient points. There's a bit of redundancy that is intentional.

1. Deficit hawks like Peterson are going to make the economy much worse, like the 1930s all over again.

2. They are trying to destroy what is left of the progress made by American society in the 20th century towards a more enlightened, higher civilization. No more Social Security. No more Medicare. No more public education. No more public health. No more middle class. All down the tubes.

3. Some very rich people think they own the government. They think it should operate only for their own benefit. Real sustainability requires the government to operate for the common good of all Americans and that's the principle we have to get back to.

4. Some of these wealthy people feel that only "superior" people like themselves are entitled to government socialism. They have bribed the government to award themselves huge subsidies and eliminate their taxes. They purchase laws that redefine what are considered to be crimes when committed by people (murder, theft, fraud) as "business as usual" when committed by corporations. They grow wealthy by destroying resources that everyone depends on and put the true cost to society on the backs of everyone else. The Peterson Commission is just more of the same.

5. Notice how these folks never want to talk about ending illegal, murderous wars of aggression that cost trillions of dollars? They did not hesitate to give away trillions of dollars to the financial industry but thought providing decent health care to all Americans was too expensive. Did you hear the Peterson Commission talking about ending the huge, destructive subsidies to the agribusiness giants? I didn't either.

6. The government of the United States cannot go broke. It pays its debts in dollars which it can create whenever it needs to. What backs up those dollars (and prevents inflation) is America's real wealth, the goods and services produced by the People who work to provide them. That real value that has been eroded by the policies of rich guys like Peterson and it is that value that is threatened by the deficit hawks in Congress and the Obama administration.

7. We need our government to take actions that bolster the real value of the American economy, the ability of its people to produce goods and services. To do that government should spend whatever is necessary to get the people of the United States fully employed at jobs that provide value to themselves and the rest of the world. We need to invest in the sustainability of that real wealth and the resilience of the people and communities that generate it.

---

This may not be strong enough. This is a class war. Guys like Peterson are actively promoting a more feudal society (an even more feudal society). Cheap serfs to labor for the aristocracy. Shorter lifespans (what good are old people anyway?). Public health crises (maybe they're counting on that?). Increased crime (good for business?). What's there to be alarmist about?

-- James

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Well, Ohio,

Thanks for your note and your opinion, and your reformulation of the question and answer. I'll address what you said in two parts. First, the charges, and then the reformulation. About the charges:

" . . . condescending, sexist, tone"

"Funny how you're not lecturing your grandfather."

You say this, but you don't provide any quotations. Other than the fact that a Grandparent is addressed and that the Grandparent is a Grandmother and not a Grandfather, what makes you think it's sexist. I made the interlocutor a Grandmother, first of all, because Ralph, in his comment at FDL, introduced the issue of what his dead Grandmother might ask, if she were alive. He might have asked about his dead Grandfather, but he didn't and I wanted to create the dialogue the character he imagined and not try to substitute a male version of the Grandparent. Secondly, I myself, and perhaps Ralph, too may not be relate to a Grandpa character. In my case, I didn't have one, both having died before i was born, and even though I am Grandpa now, I'm not sure I could have fit naturally into the relationship.

In any case, I don't think the choice of Grandma as opposed to Grandpa in the dialogue is an indication of sexism and I don't know why you think so unless you believe I "spoke" to Grandma in a condescending way. I don't believe I did.

Ralph set the stage for this dialogue in imagining Grandma as an intelligent person who wasn't immersed in economic terminology and economic issues who would be put off by the sem-priestly jargon of economics, so he asked me to try to put my views in common sense terms and I did my best to do that. Whether the result was "sexist" or not is a function of how I dialogued with Grandma, and again I ask for quotes that show sexist language or that otherwise indicate sexism or genderism.

About condescension, I won't deny that there may have been condescension in the post. But, in my view if it is there, it wasn't toward Grandma. It was toward the deficit hawks and their views. I make no excuses for language directed at them. I believe they are willfully ignorant about the real facts of how Government money is spent and that they are trying to screw people and that they deserve our condescension at the very least. Certainly they don't take a back seat to anyone when it comes to condescension.

I think I'll stop this reply here and consider your substantive views about the deficit in another separate reply.

Submitted by lambert on

I'm rushed for time in RL, so I'll comment only briefly on tone ("excess" is so subjective, and I err toward cryptic). Having been sensitized by the extremely level headed and valued poster Ohio, two quick examples:

1. Gran, these Peterson folks and their allies are really, really scary.

2. [N]ow Gran, that's a very good question.

I'm not yet Gran's age, but I can see it coming, and if anybody ever said either of those things to me, I'd brain them with my cane. The one is infantilizing, and the other is patronizing. And from a man to a woman doesn't exactly make it better.

I don't think it makes any sense to argue about this; it needs to fixed, if only to avoid big problems in public relations. This is my field both as an editor and a blogger, I know whereof I speak, and I'll can do the work, if need be.

Let's not stand in our own light, eh?

NOTE It's about the writing, not the person. I've been called out by Hipparchia, for example, on similar issues. So, one rectifies, and moves on. We're both still here.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

lambert

1. Gran, these Peterson folks and their allies are really, really scary.

2. [N]ow Gran, that's a very good question.

I'm not yet Gran's age, but I can see it coming, and if anybody ever said either of those things to me, I'd brain them with my cane. The one is infantilizing, and the other is patronizing. And from a man to a woman doesn't exactly make it better.

If I counted the times I've told people around me, both male and female, these two things I'd be a very rich man. The point of this blog was to try to be conversational. Maybe the conversation wasn't very good. But neither of these things is condescending. They are just manners of speech that everybody uses. You might say that they're clumsy devices, not very imaginative, poor writing, but "condescending," "infantilizing," "patronzing." I think these are highly subjective, and, I think, very unjust judgements.

Show me the pattern of condescension toward Gran you think is there. Remember, it was Gran who came to her Grandson with those questions, and who wanted direct common sense answers to those questions. Again, I still don't see it, and btw, I'm not yet Gran's age because I visualized a Gran over 80 for this one. But I am a Grandfather, and I can well imagine how in 10 years my son might explain something to me about an area I didn't understand very well, and I don't think that using expressions of the kind I used would be infantilizing, patronizing, or condescending.

I know that you and Ohio feel very strongly about this, but so do I. Why don't we agree to disagree. I don't think either of us has the time right now to argue it out and I think our common effort is much more important than this blog post. Let's work on making our answer to Peterson happen and let's just leave this discussion until after the Conference or for good. I won't object if you remove this post from Correntewire.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Here's my reply to the substance of your comment.

First:

"Q: Should I worry about the federal deficit?

A: Sure, primarily because our country's ability to borrow may mean higher interest rates to entice other countries or rich entities to lend to us*. Those higher interest rates will apply to you specifically regarding your mortgage, car or student loan, credit cards, and so on, meaning you'll have to pay more to borrow."

Well, Ohio, this is a legitimate question, but forgive me for saying that it is not the one Ralph posed, nor is it the one I tried to answer. As to your answer, the first part of it which I quoted above assumes that we need or want to borrow USD from other countries or other entities.

To this I reply by asking, why do we want to borrow from them? Why do we need to borrow from them? Why can't we just spend the money and not offer debt instruments to the public, foreign or domestic? And if we spend without issuing debt, then why would our interest rates rise? In that case there'd be no demand for the dollars held by the lenders, so it seems to me that interest rates would fall to zero.

I agree with the rest of your reply with the exception of your printing currency remark up to a certain point. The Government prints very little currency these days when it spends. What it does is to simply credit accounts in the private sector. The accounting identity is that the amount of Government spending is exactly equal to the amount of increase in private sector savings dollar for dollar.

The point at where I start to disagree again is when you say:

Keeping our debts, and the global financial system, in our own currency is one major reason for our acts of aggression to seize key natural resources like oil. We want to keep the world's financial system based in U.S. dollars as it gives us the upper hand financially and politically. We keep that position by convincing the world that our assessment of our productive potential is nearly limitless, so we can print more money we can lend to other countries. Unfortunately, our productive potential is based on cheap energy, and the days of cheap energy are drawing to a close.

I find this OK insofar as it talks about advantages of having the dollar as the world's reserve currency which are very real. But I that it suggests that if the world got rid of the dollar as a reserve currency it would mean an end to our operationally unlimited capacity to spend the dollars we want to spend. I think there is no such limitation, and that even if USD was not the reserve currency we could still make the money we needed to make when those debts came due. You are right to suggest that our productive potential is based on cheap energy and that the days of cheap energy are ending. But that's all the more reason why we should institute a crash Government spending program to re-invent our economy around alternative energy sources that are plentiful here.

Finally you end with this:

"*Investing is about more than money---it's about building relationships. If someone lends you money, it is in her interest to see you succeed so you can pay her back, and maybe borrow from her again. She also has a relationship with you that means you may do something nice for her because she lent you cash when you needed it. This is true of governments as well. A nation that lends to another wants to see that borrower nation survive and thrive, because "payback" is more than cash and "interest" is more than paying a little extra for every dollar. "Return on investment" includes intangibles like goodwill and cooperation, key elements to political action.

I'm very suspicious of analogies that relate the behavior of Governments to the behavior of people or to any other entities not sovereign in their own currency. I agree that a nation that lends USD to us by buying securities wants our nation to survive because they want their securities to continue to have good value. But also I think they have bought our securities because they wanted to send us their goods in return for our dollars and once they accumulated all those dollars they needed to but securities or they would get no return at all from the surplus of idle USD they might otherwise have.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

But Grandma is not the problem. Longwindedness is. If you want to sell an idea it must be easily digestible at a fifth-grade comprehension level.

This is where we librul types always fuck up. Please believe me. No normal person has time to read long diatribes about economic theory. The deficit terrorists, hawks, whatever, have "low taxes, deregulation, free markets, small government, balanced budget." Any of these soundbites encapsulates their philosophy.

Where's MMT's soundbite? You all need one or five, stat. Unless she was an econ major, Grandma would have died of boredom by the time let's was done. (Not that you're boring, let's - it's the subject matter.)

Submitted by lambert on

... who wishes the writer had written a different book.

I agree that MMT needs to be distilled, but a dialog is not the form to be doing that.

I'm trying to set up a live blog with some of the MMT guys, and we can probably do some sharpening there.

Meanwhile, why not take a stab at it yourself? It's fun and easy!

NOTE I don't think Grandma needs to keep being a problem. I've gotten mail on this, so I do need to get it fixed.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

But I completely disagree. What Ralph asked of Let's was what I'm asking for. Something simple that people who aren't economists can understand. Ralph said "Grandma," I say "Joe and Jane America." Potato, potahto.

I would love to try to distill MMT into soundbytes, but I am not ashamed to admit that I truly don't understand it. I've tried to hack my way through the econ-speak and it makes me cross-eyed.

Ah well. There it is. I hope to learn more during the liveblogs, if I can.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

I agree we need MMT sound bites. But not for Grandma. It's Grandma and Grandson, so Grandma, at least the one I'm familiar with wouldn't get bored and she would be able to understand, what I've written here, because it doesn't have a lot of economic jargon or supply and demand economic theory along with it.

Back to sound bites, however, the guy whose been doing those is Warren Mosler in his book for short flights: 7 deadly Innocent Frauds.

Sound bites have their place, but that place is in ads, not in conversations, except to underline certain points.

Lynn Parramore of the Roosevelt Institute is putting together a post for HuffPo to appear Sunday or Monday night on the Front Page on the Myths of deficit Hawk thinking. She's taking short statements about individual myths from all our speakers plus Yeva Nersisyan another UMKC researcher. Each person or pair of persons is covering one of the myths in something like 250 words. So that piece will have lots of sound bites, because that's what they're aiming for. The Blog post will be tied to our fund raising in some way.

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