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We Did It! Or At Least Got Through the First Stage!

letsgetitdone's picture

A little more than three weeks ago on April 7, I posted an idea here, here, and here, calling for a Teach-In Counter-Conference on April 28th to oppose the message of austerity in social programs being formulated by the President's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, and The Peter G. Peterson Foundation, by bringing forward an alternative message based on a coherent economic approach. That approach has acquired the name Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) over the years.

My call for the Teach-In Counter-Conference wasn't answered by a formal organization, but by netroots bloggers who blog primarily at, and some of whom also cross-post at The Seminal at Firedog Lake. Lambertstrether, selise, BDBlue, DCBlogger, hipparchia, and I, worked together with no formal structure, each taking on what we had time for and thought we could accomplish. With lambertstrether as webmaster, we created a conference web site, gained the support of other netroots bloggers and local organizations in the DC area, generated a coherent set of Conference Topics reflecting various aspects of the MMT approach to fiscal sustainability, joined with a stellar group of MMT researchers, teachers, and consultant practitioners which ultimately gave us 6 wonderful speakers (Professors Bill Mitchell, L. Randall Wray, Stephanie Kelton, and Pavlina Tcherneva, and International Financial Consultants Warren Mosler and Marshall Auerback) for our day-long event, gained the sponsorship of The George Washington University's Department of Management, through it acquired a great venue at The Marvin Center Amphitheater, raised about 60% of our budget from small progressive donors, designed the dynamics of the conference around a combined, lecture, panel and conference participant approach to interaction, attracted coverage from many bloggers before, during, and after the Conference, including an article at New Deal 2.0, and two articles in The Huffington Post, one by a noted progressive blogger and activist, and the other (which has received 943 comments at this writing) by The Editor of New Deal 2.0, received press coverage of our event from and other news services, and, of course, held a wonderful satisfying conference loved by participants, panelists, and organizers alike, that accomplished exactly what we wanted it to in developing the alternate narrative we were looking for, and in providing us the material we need to produce conference artifacts we can use to spread the conference message and explode its impact over the coming weeks and months. We did this in three weeks time, by self-organizing each other into an informal team and then riding the waves of the netroots to create the momentum we needed to have this event.

Some have referred to this as a small miracle. But it wasn't really that. It was just some determined individuals (the small group of organizers, joining with another group of potential speakers committed to MMT) who came together using the collaborative and signaling tools of the Internet to multiply their influence many times, over the short space of a few weeks, by tying into other already existing groups and individuals, making common cause with their interests, and receiving their help in mobilizing some of their supporters to generate the Teach-In. By organizing and generating the Conference in this way, we were able to create our counter-narrative with less than 1 % of the resources The Peterson Foundation is rumored to have spent on its "Fiscal Summit."

I think we can yet neutralize or defeat the Peterson austerity message, because not only do we have a message that is far closer to the truth than Peterson's, but also, the Internet and the netroots can be the great equalizer; spreading our memes from the bottom up, until our message of hope gets through the smoke and fog spread by the mainstream media, and the Peterson and Administration PR minions, and creates a new public perception that Government can spend in the service of public purposes. And that when it spends in this way, it can help create full employment, achieve Medicare for All, re-create our economy's energy foundation, reconstruct our failed educational system, sustain our environment, increase our fiscal capacity and sustainability, and do all of this while avoiding inflation, too.

But whether we can do this or not, now hangs on the success of the next stage of our effort. Some members of the organizing group are working very hard now to get Conference artifacts to the Internet quickly and with them the narrative of the Counter-Conference. Not only will there be many blogs by ourselves and others. But there are already presentations, coupled with audio recordings of each session of the Teach-In on selise's blog. There will also be video and youtubes of various portions of the event. And there will be materials and models in the videos, and other artifacts for others to embrace and to carry forward in local Teach-Ins and Counter-Conferences. All this will be open to the netroots community, so that any blogger may join in a real dialogue on fiscal sustainability embracing both the Internet and face-to-face meetings – a dialogue that will reverberate across the internet; and, if we do things right, overwhelm with the strength of numbers, the Administration's effort to manage public debate so that the American people come to believe that the only alternative to collapse is austerity and suffering for working people.

I think the effort to spread our alternative narrative will never end. And it is a message that I, personally, will never cease to deliver. Ironically, this Administration's message is: no we can't have full employment; no we can't have Medicare for All; no we can't have a good public education for everybody; no we can't remake our energy foundation; no we can't do anything about global warming; and no we can't have bright futures, because solving our problems costs too much and we are running out of money.

Before our eyes, Mr. yes, we can, has morphed into Mr. no we can't. But we say in answer to Mr. no we can't: yes we can do all of these things. And an important first step in doing them is to cast off the blinders from our eyes, and to see the economy as it really is; a web of interacting self-organizing people whose fiat currency is issued by their Government. The value of this currency is based on the wealth, industriousness, and underlying productive capacity of the nation. So, any fiscal policy that destroys that wealth, industriousness, and productive capacity is not a fiscally responsible or fiscally sustainable policy, but instead is one of true waste and irresponsibility, another sham to transfer wealth upwards. What the Administration and Peterson are proposing is that kind of economic policy. It is about wasting lives, and about placing artificial constraints on economic activity. It is about dimming our collective and individual futures and making us a nation of sick, weak people without hope.

The yes we can President has deliberately disillusioned us with his increasingly depressive policies in the expectation that those who elected him on the wings of hope would turn their anger at him inward, follow him obediently into the posture of no we can't, and accept the few crumbs he and the elite he has joined so easily are willing to hand out. Accepting the ideology of deficit hawkism and the false economics that underlies it is another step along the road to disillusionment and passivity. But recognizing the facts of monetary operations that the MMT practitioners offer us is a way back to hope. It is the message we need to get to work again, to create again, to live in hope again, and to have the futures we all envision. It is the message of yes, we can, which itself is a message that was true, as MMT shows us. It is a message that we must not let Mr. no we can't, in our disappointment with him, take away from us. “Yes we can,” was never his. It was always ours. It is still ours. Embrace it, and with it embrace MMT and the real meaning of fiscal sustainability.

(Cross-posted at All Life Is Problem Solving and Fiscal Sustainability).

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letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

They were great together, weren't they. I so glad we decided to go with their consensus on the people they wanted in. It did create a very clear MMT focus and counter-narrative.

tjfxh's picture
Submitted by tjfxh on

Congratulations to all on a job well done. I couldn't make it, so I look forward to the online record. Thanks to the organizers and presenters for all the effort they put into this, as well as to all that traveled to be there in person to participate and to all who contributed.

BTW, this generated a lot of buzz around the blogosphere. I pick up on something from a Google alert over at and jumped into the conversation there. I don't think anyone changed their minds but it was fun setting a few things straight about MMT.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

I've seen comments of yours at various sites over the past few months. You do a really great job.

coyotecreek's picture
Submitted by coyotecreek on

....why you blog under the name letsgititdone.

Well done. Well done, indeed! Thanks to all of you who did such an amazing job in such a short time.

Where can I learn all there is to know about MMT?

CMike's picture
Submitted by CMike on

Congratulations to letsgetitdone and Corrente.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

But a very good place to start is at the ppts and audios selise has kindly posted. She also has links to two papers on the bottom of the page, one by Jan Kregel, and the other by Scott Fullwiler. In addition, if you click on the link to her vampire squid piece, you'll find a list of basic references towards the end of that page.

From this list of things to read you can take off to other links, books, reports, etc. In addition, blogs that are not to be missed are the UMKC blog and billyblog. The last is my favorite because it has a deep educational orientation.

tjfxh's picture
Submitted by tjfxh on

selise's picture
Submitted by selise on

and great, as always to see you. (did i ever tell you that you recommended i read randy wray's book the same week that marshall and rob both did?)

may i swipe your list (with attribution and link back here to corrente)?

Submitted by hipparchia on

you have pics to post? those would be so awesome.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

I was awfully busy through most of the day just running up and down the steps of the stadium design of the amphitheater carrying microphones to people so they could ask questions, and I don't remember anyone taking still photos. But I suspect will be able to get lots of pics, clips and youtubes from the video record.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Thanks lib, I hope you'll get into the audios and ppts and when they appear the videos and then blog about the issues. Your gonna love the passion these people have for full employment and for ending the waste of lives and people we see in our neo-liberal system, and your gonna love learning about this. It's something you can bring to Jonathan Tasini's campaign I think, and perhaps Jonathan can somehow make common cause with Warren Mosler in standing for the same things in their long-shot runs for the Senate.

Also, please note that BDblue and DC blogger were very important to our efforts from the Corrente side, making valuable contributions to creating and getting our products ready, and to the PR side of things, which still continue. Also, selise's contributions were absolutely central in fund-raising, in her unremitting efforts to see that no vital components of success were overlooked, and also in her latest successful effort to get some of the products of the Conference out quickly.

We all also owe to selise her initial sharing of the approach of the MMT school with us. I was unaware of them until reading some of her comments at FDL which motivated me to start learning and eentually led to the idea to have the "Teach-In.".

Lambert, of course created a really fine web site in an incredibly short time, and gave us a home base and an identity on the web, and a foundation for future work. His contribution, also continues as I write this. In addition, Lambert as well as the rest of our self-organizing group have blogged and sometimes tweeted about the conference in the run up to it, and are doing that now to get the word out. That kind of activity will also continue.

I didn't mean to make this comment a general thank you. I intend a post on that, perhaps later today or tomorrow. But, for now I just wanted to make sure that everyone from Corrente who self-organized around this and put in substantial work and emotion to make it a reality gets recognized for their great contributions.

There's an understandable tendency to view me as somehow leading this, because I stated the idea first. But all through this other people took the lead in different areas and did their thing to make this a success in spite of my often mistaken efforts. And the success the effort may have had up till now, and any continuing success it will have in the future, depends on people continuing to act that way and not look to me as "the leader."

Hopefully, fiscal will provide a framework for that kind of collaboration in the future as we continue to try to spread the counter-narrative we created at the "Teach-In." I hope there will be very many more events of this type in the future, as occurred at the time of the Vietnam Teach-Ins and I wonder if some of our New Yorkers can't begin to plan one there?

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

but I am looking forward to the transcriptions, etc., coming together on the site.

If, once the smoke clears, everything could be centralized on that beautiful site, and then we could have a widget to permanently add to our blogs, then I think we can really start spreading the news and doing some organization and planning for other conferences. There is a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding out there, and to put everything in one spot would really help counteract the counterspin.

selise's picture
Submitted by selise on

worked together with no formal structure, each taking on what we had time for and thought we could accomplish.

just for the record, this does not reflect my experience in the slightest bit.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

It's true that these types of battles for social progress are never over. I'm glad you are all in it for the long haul!

Submitted by jawbone on

through interview with Alice Rivlin. So very, very reasonable sounding.

It was thought necessary changes to SocSec were quite a ways off, but they're coming faster than expected. WTF, Alice? There's over 20% real unemployment, no wonder SocSec/Medicare taxes are reduced.

And recession has increased debt ratio, so now must look at this issue. No mention that measure to build jobs would result in decreased debt ratio. US is not Greece (no shit, Sherlock), afraid, Americans, be very afraid. Time to gut entitlements, eh, Alice?

Have to look at everything on the spending side. Cuts to SocSec and Medicare will take a long time to achieve reductions, so must look at defense and discretionary spending as well for quicker turnaround. Must look at tax side.

Oh, yeah. Right.

Thnx so much to all who worked on the teach-in -- but here's NPR with its huge megaphone working to hype the Peterson approach. Any mention on NPR of the Fiscal Sustainability

selise's picture
Submitted by selise on

are you referring to this program: America’s Growing Debt, or is there another one i don't know about?

something that could be very helpful in designing a response to this is to know if NPR gets any funding whatsoever, and how much, from peterson direction or indirectly.

does anyone here know how to do that research?

anything from guidance on where to look to an actual figure (and links to back it up, 'natch), would be most welcome. thanks!

selise's picture
Submitted by selise on

too many names and i'm sure to miss some, especially the donors who's names i don't even know, so please forgive the general thanks.

we have less than 8 months before the president's let-them-eat-cat-food commission submits its report.

and 40+ years of indoctrination to overcome. starting with ourselves.

a very tall order, but i think joe's idea of the teach-in was not just a great way for us to start, but also as a way to continue to move forward. the next 8 months are key, but it doesn't end there.

my very sincere thanks to every single one of you.