We the People or What is a Progressive

(This article was originally published on realprogressivesusa.com)

The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

We all are familiar with the opening three words of the US Constitution, “We the People”.  It is from the preamble, written to introduce the purpose of the Constitution. The body of the Constitution describes the structure of the government.  These are two discrete functions and all too often, the Supreme Court neglects to examine if a law that qualifies as Constitutional when it adheres to the structural description also satisfies the purpose.  In fact, the preamble has never been applied by the Supreme Court in any ruling, and has been mentioned very infrequently.  Reading it, the intention of the preamble is pretty clear, it is America’s mission statement.  It stands separate from the details of the Constitution and establishes a set of standards for the United States.  For example, the Patriot Act passed after 9/11 obviously provides for the common defense (sic), but it does not secure Liberty.  Is that direct violation of the preamble instructions enough to declare the law unconstitutional?

There is a majority on the Supreme Court who claim to be Originalists.  Their guideline for determining if a law is Constitutional is grounded in establishing what the framers meant when they wrote whatever clause or clauses gave Congress the authority to pass the law.  The preamble makes it apparent that the founders were well aware that conditions would change over time. It is rather unlikely they believed why they wrote each clause would determine future Supreme Court decisions.  The very words they chose to place immediately after “We the people”nullifies the idea that the document is intended to remain static, and closed to interpretation to fit the times.

“In Order to form a more perfect Union”. Go, ahead, back up your eyes and read it again.  Prior to the US Constitution, the 13 colonies formed a Confederation in 1777, under a document called The Articles of Confederation.  After the Revolution, there was unrest across the country due to shortcomings in the Article’s design.  The central government was extremely weak, with the power to mint coins, but not to tax.  US currency effectively remained worthless and all business transactions used local currencies issued by the states and banks.  In the North there were local militias taking up arms against the individual states and the central government.  In the South, slaves were escaping in the desire to reach a state that had little or no slavery.  James Madison called for a convention in order to revise the Articles.  They met in 1787 in Philadelphia. Instead of fixing what was broken, they created the present Constitution.  The only reference to the document they intended to make better and ended up replacing was referenced as a “perfect union”.  The wording was used to sell the Constitution.  Even though the Articles were “perfect”, the new Constitution would be “more perfect”.  A deliberate choice of an impossible phrase, but heavy with meaning.

Under the Articles of Confederation, the self-declared independent colonies fought a war against the most powerful military in the world; they also made a treaty with France to improve their chances of victory. And, they won the war under the Articles and signed a peace treaty with England.  There was justification in saying The Articles operated perfectly.  But as a peacetime independent nation, it’s weaknesses became evident.  Unpaid debts or debt paid in worthless money, escaped slaves, the Whiskey Rebellion and finally just prior to the convention Shay’s Rebellion, made it evident that the country was in chaos. More perfection was the necessary cure.

The framers who met in Convention faced the reality that what was perfect only 10 years prior was no longer perfect.  With that realization, not only did they recognize that over time circumstances change, but they also made certain to embed change into the new Constitution.  They wrote in three ways to amend the Constitution. That fact alone is a recognition that meanings and usefulness change over time.  Further proof of this recognition is that in the first 20 years after the first 10 amendments were passed – itself a recognition that the more perfect document itself, could be made more perfect – there were multiple changes made to Presidential elections and how Senators are chosen.  On the difficult issue of slavery, the framers inserted an end to the slave trade into the Constitution.  An indication that they recognized that slavery was not going to remain forever.

The people that sat and sweated during the summer of 1787 recognized that circumstances would change.  The Originalists on our current Supreme Court do not recognize the lesson, pointed out by the framers themselves in the preamble, that as circumstances change so does the purpose of individual clauses in the Constitution.  To account for change they created the preamble as the standard by which laws are made and judged.  Instead of attempting to divine what the framers meant back when the US was predominately an agricultural nation. Or before communications even indicated the possibility of happening instantaneously worldwide, before medicine had fully elevated itself from the belief that all disease was carried in the blood and sickness could be cured by bloodletting, and before anyone dreamed that a single weapon could wipe out dozens of lives in a mere moment.  If Originalists follow the declared intentions of the framers provided in the preamble, they would recognize that their responsibility is to continually make the union more perfect. They would make certain that there is justice for all, and people should expect to have a comfortable life with little to fear.  America should strive to be a nation safe from any enemies but also provide that the welfare of all be assured. Lastly, the US should do nothing that would jeopardize Liberty in the United States for Posterity.  So, when anyone asks “what is a Progressive”? – Tell them it is the preamble to the US Constitution.

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It Ain’t Easy Teaching People What They Think They Know

(A Message To People That Have Learned MMT And Want To #TeachMMT)

(This article was originally published on realprogressivesusa.com)

Bored?  Looking for something quick and easy to take up a bit of your spare time?  Something that just might change the world?  Sure you do.  Americans have a surplus of spare time, what with full-time hours reduced to 36 hours at the same weekly pay.  Remember back when President Obama was sworn into office and immediately signed the executive order to reducing full-time hours to 36?  Those were the days. The economic crises ended months later with unemployment right back where it was before the crash.

Too bad that never happened.  At that time, I had never heard of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), but that represented my thinking for a quick fix.  I still think it’s a good idea. But, Obama never took decisive action, and as we all know, he did just enough to prevent a total collapse. The economy never fully recovered, on the other hand, it just didn’t die.  I have added a lot of tools to my economic toolbox since then, most notably, MMT.

At first, I went around proclaiming to people that your taxes don’t fund spending, and that means we can do things like Single-Payer, rebuild the infrastructure, and all the other “ponies” being denied us by ignorant politicians. But by 2017, I finally realized that just because I say it’s true, that does not make people believe me. And that’s how I arrived at an idea of doing something quick, easy, and a world changer. Sure, I didn’t have lots of spare time, and I wasn’t exactly bored, but the world is reaching critical mass for a radical shift, perhaps I may be able to help shape that shift for the good. Not by myself of course, but by bringing about awareness of MMT to just a few people at a time, who could also spread awareness of MMT – and change for the better will occur.

I decided I would schedule myself to make presentations on MMT to local political groups and activists. The idea was to contact local activist groups and offer to spend a half hour explaining MMT to the group since most individuals that belong to one group also belong to other groups as well. Soon, I figured I would be doing an MMT presentation every month and maybe more. And early on I did get an invite. It was from the local Greens. And they gave me 30 minutes at the back end of their monthly meeting. It was once I started to prepare, that I realized it was not easy. I had to actually plan what I would say. While doing that I realized as I anticipated questions, I had to do some research as well. By the time I finished my prep, I had a great outline for my talk. It went well, the group was interested and had more questions than I had time to field. Unfortunately, nobody grabbed on to learn more. So I tried again.

After getting no interest, the chair of the local Democratic committee suggested I hold a meeting on my own. Attendance-wise, it was a failure since only two people showed up. One person, Susan Eldridge, who had been working with me and proofreading my talking points was there. The other was a Harvard law grad student who had sponsored both Pavlina Tcherneva and Bill Black to speak recently at Harvard. I pushed ahead with my spiel and got some invaluable feedback from both making the exercise well worth the time and effort.  Moving onward, I attended a DSA meeting in order to have an opportunity to pitch the idea of making a presentation to them. My pitch fell on ears that would only hear a response to the question “How will MMT advance the Socialist agenda?” But I got a valuable piece of information, a conference of Progressive activists and proponents of Social Justice was being held on April 21, about a 10-minute walk from my house.

So, I contacted the conference organizer and asked if I may present at one of the 15 or so breakout sessions. I even attended the planning meeting where I was challenged to justify doing a presentation on a subject, MMT, that nobody was familiar with. Not really true, since one person from the Green Party presentation was there and attested to the validity of my material. I decided at the meeting to change my main topic to the Federal Job Guarantee and follow with an overview of MMT. In the end, I got a slot and when I got there in the morning the organizer came over to me while setting up and informed me that she had to give me a larger room. She was really surprised at the interest. In the meantime, Susan and I were asked by Real Progressives to live stream, which we did. After we finished, the organizer told me that everyone really liked my presentation. We had gathered some names of people who are interested in learning more about MMT and the Federal Job Guarantee. And I was asked to join Real Progressives.

So, maybe it’s not easy but it does spread familiarity into the public about MMT and the policy choices it provides. Doing talks in front of small groups takes it out of the discussion medium and allows the opportunity to build, step by step the actual policy as well as MMT. You can break down the reluctance people have when they are told everything you believe is wrong before they express a challenge. The most important lesson I am learning is that preparation is key. Read your talking points through, think of questions someone may ask, try to build in the answer to what you will say. I also realize that getting the opportunities to speak are few and far between. But then how often do you get a chance to change the world?

One last thing, don’t take any questions until your entire talk is completed.

April 21 Federal Job Guarantee & Modern Money Theory

 This is the handout notes for a presentation made  by the Modern Money Policy group in Salem, MA  April 21, 2018

Presentation Overview

  • We will be introducing two economic concepts:
    • A Federal Job Guarantee (FJG)
    • Modern Money Theory (MMT)
  • FJG:
    • The larger portion of the presentation.
    • What it is, how it works, and why it is necessary.
  • MMT:
    • Modern Money Theory describes the funding mechanism that makes the Federal Job Guarantee possible.
    • Understanding MMT is essential when advocating for and implementing progressive policies.
    • It provides the answer to the inevitable “How are you going to pay for it?” question.

Questions Will be Answered After the Presentation

 

 

!

 

Federal Job Guarantee

Voluntary – Nobody is Required to Apply

  • Anyone without a job can apply and get a job full time or part time.
  • Jobs will be real, productive jobs.
  • The program is federally financed, locally run.

All FJG Jobs Are Paid $15/Hour

  • Every job has full benefits
    • Healthcare
    • Family leave
    • Retirement savings
    • Vacation
    • Childcare
  • Examples of FJG jobs:
    • In abandoned or areas of high industrial pollution, jobs can be created to restore the natural environment.
    • Setup and run public gardens in urban food “deserts.”
    • Create, protect, and expand networks of public trails.
    • Create public art including performances.
    • Assist public schools to help teachers and lessen their work loads.

▪ This is just one example where people can use their existing skills to learn about other careers.

 

  • Jobs that are not part of the FJG:
    • Private sector employers, in general, cannot submit requests for FJG employees.
    • Public sector jobs being performed by competitively hired persons cannot be replaced by FJG employees.

▪ Some FJG jobs may prove themselves as critical and in that case the jobs will move into the job market.

  • Work that does not produce something of value to the local community.

The FJG Sets the Minimum Wage

  • Current proposals are to start at $15 / hour with 100% paid for benefits.
  • Creates a competitive market for labor.
  • Universal Basic Income (UBI) does not enhance labor’s market position or add to the commonwealth.
  • Employers must meet or beat the FJG package.

All Economies Are Cyclical—An FJG Can Prevent a Downturn from Becoming a Serious Recession

  • Once the mechanism is in place to provide jobs, the impact of jobs lost is minimized.
  • Benefits are preserved.
  • Can be used to acquire new skills or keep existing skills sharp.
  • Unemployed people are at a disadvantage when private sector jobs return.

▪ Private sector employers tend to want to hire people who are already employed in another job over someone who is unemployed.

Lessens the Negative Social Impact of Joblessness

  • Universal Basic Income (UBI) cannot, by definition, do this.
  • Individuals are less likely to commit crimes when jobs are readily available.
  • Suicide risks increase among the unemployed.
  • Social benefits of working.
  • Does not force unemployed to take a job – respects individual preferences.

The FJG Serves as an Auto Pilot to Control Inflation

  • The Fed has a mandate to maintain unemployment at the lowest level that does not generate inflation.
  • With an FJG, employment is always at its highest level.
  • By adjusting the FJG base wage periodically based on productivity and actual living costs, it will not generate inflation.
  • Each time the wage is adjusted up, a small short one-time jump in prices may occur. Inflation is a steady increase in prices.

Anyone Can Still Use All the Existing Supports that Currently Exist

  • Food stamps, unemployment compensation, housing, and heating assistance, for example.
  • Most of those on the FJG may not qualify for some supports, but depending on their personal circumstances they may.
  • It is expected that shortly after a FJG is fully implemented, expenditures on safety net programs at all levels of government will begin to lessen.
  • There are no income requirements to enter the FJG program, anyone can apply.

The FJG is Fully Funded by the Federal Government, but is Managed at the Local Level

  • Current unemployment centers can become a full service employment center.
  • When someone becomes unemployed, they go to their local employment center where they can select a FJG that suits their skills.

 

  • Local charities, government agencies and non-profits can all submit lists of jobs that the FJG can fill:
    • The lists are reviewed, and then sent for approval to make sure the jobs are meaningful and do not replace existing jobs.
    • Jobs will be local to the workers and will allow them to participate and help generate private sector jobs.
    • Studies have shown that for most people the paycheck is not the primary reason for seeking a job. The social aspects and feeling of self-worth are rated higher.
    • Providing jobs for anyone that wants one is the primary purpose of the FJG. There are multiple incidental societal advantages:

▪ Less crime

▪ Less drug addiction

▪ Less suicides

 

FJG Impact on the Federal Budget

  • As noted, one impact is that existing programs for assisting unemployed will continue but will see less usage. Those funds can be redirected to a FJG program.
  • State and local programs will also have less “customers,” freeing up funds for their needs.
  • Since FJG workers will protect a down economy from a major recession, private sector jobs will likely return quicker, reducing the spending on the FJG program.
  • The FJG must be fully federally funded. States do not have the capacity during downturns to increase funding, while the federal government is not restricted at any time from increasing funding as needed.

Modern Money Theory

MMT alters the purpose of a federal budget from restricting expenditures to making priorities.

It raises the ceiling of what can be done, allowing moral choices to drive the process and sends austerity to the dustbin of history

 

 

 

Modern Money Theory

Gold Standard

  • Use ended in the US in 1971; the rest of the world followed shortly thereafter.
  • US began issuing Fiat money.
  • The US is Monetarily sovereign.

Describing MMT – Modern Money Theory

  • MMT is a description of how fiscal policy operates without a Gold Standard.
  • It is NOT Modern – It is NOT a Theory.
  • Federal government is the issuer or creator of all US Currency whenever it spends.
  • Everyone else including all other levels of government, banks, people, businesses and foreign entities are users.
  • Provides a job guarantee to smooth economic swings.

Taxes

  • Primary purpose is to create value for the US dollar.
  • Other functions:
  • Discourages social negatives
  • Reduce Income inequality
  • Controls the $$ supply
  • Slows inflation

 

 

Constraints on Money Creation

  • Full Employment
  • Resources such as land, raw materials, energy, knowledge, and infrastructure are unable to meet demand.

MMT and Mainstream Economists

  • US cannot go broke:
  • Greenspan
  • Krugman
  • Stiglitz

MMT Heterodox Economists

  • Leading Advocates:
  • Stephanie Kelton
  • Warren Mosler
  • William Mitchell
  • William Black
  • D. Alt
  • James Galbraith
  • Randall Wray

MMT and the Progressive agenda

  • Why Progressives should embrace MMT:
  • Eliminates the “how do we pay for it” argument
  • MMT is agnostic when it comes to political philosophy
  • Provides a common economic platform and disrupts stale mainstream thought.

Future Plans for MMT Advocates

  • Ongoing meetings to introduce activists to MMT and related policy initiatives.
  • Modern Money Policy – discussion groups.

 Questions?

 

 

Contact Me:

  • Messenger on Facebook – Brad Sandler
  • DM on Twitter – Sandler_Brad
  • Email – sandler@comcast.net
  • Facebook Group – Modern Money Policy

 

 

 

 

 

Resources for More Information

http://neweconomicperspectives.org

The go to place for all matters MMT. Archive of articles and blogs by numerous MMT proponents.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLrOKbhEhdY A video detailing what MMT is NOT

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d57M6ATPZIE Stephanie Kelton’s Angry Birds Presentation

https://moslereconomics.com/wp-content/powerpoints/7DIF.pdf

A free PDF version of Warren Mosler’s 7 Deadly Innocent Frauds of Economic Policy (When you open the link, you may need to scroll down to see the text.)

https://www.pavlina-tcherneva.net/job-guarantee

A collection of videos and writings by Paulina Tcherneva on the Federal Job Guarantee

https://modernmoneybasics.com/facts/

An overview topic by topic on all the major ideas associated with MMT

http://www.modern moneynetwork.org

Brings accurate and accessible knowledge of monetary and financial systems to the broader public.


 

elliswinningham.net

Always informative, Winningham uses simple language to make learning MMT easy.

Real Progressives Group on Facebook

Multiple FB groups touching on all facets of MMT at all levels of knowledge

https://www.facebook.com/groups/MMTforRP/ Modern Monetary Theory for Real Progressives

Modern Money Policy on Facebook

The Eastern MA based group doing this presentation

http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/pn_18_2.pdf

The written source of the proposal discussed in the presentation

https://www.pavlina-tcherneva.net/job-guarantee-faq

Recently created online FAQ put together by one of the authors of the above FJG proposal

New Hampshire Modern Money Group (MMT) on Facebook

A group from our Northern neighbor

It’s One, Two, Three, What are we Bombing For?

I am sure I am just having a brain fart. You know when the thinking process gets muddled, because you are certain that something don’t add up.

Take this whole bombing Syria thing. Here is one thing that don’t add up. And I tell you this aware that a horrible sweet smell may suddenly overcome my brain. Just assume, for a moment, that Assad actually bombed his own citizens with chemical weapons. And take that a step further, and assume he did that just prior to regaining full political control over his country. So, in order to make sure he doesn’t do that anymore, we bomb his citizens. Does that mean he intentionally bombed his own citizens to egg on the US into bombing more of his citizens? Are we just Assad’s patsy? Fart!!!

Or, perhaps the US is lying and we have no clue who used chemical weapons, but because Regime Change our “leaders” decide to retaliate against Assad, guilty or not, possibly leaving the true guilty party unpunished, and in doing so we kill more Syrians? In other words we get rid of the horrible, evil, Assad by being more evil than him. Fart!!!

Think of all the fun you can have making up justifications for bombing a country to show the world you can defeat any bad guy, or the USA will give you a dose of American deaf, dumb, and blind punishment. oh no…. Fart!!!

(Only try this in a room that has open windows)

Post Script:  This was originally posted on FB. I need to add a couple of disclaimers.  The scenarios are not necessarily my viewpoint of what happened as far as to who used chemical weapons or if they were used at all.  I do believe that some sort of bombing occurred, and that it is highly unlikely that Assad would have even done that.

What Does the Future Look Like?

Are you a pessimist, convinced we are heading on a one way trip to a world of serfs and princes? The place we read about in fantasy novels and fairy tales. A place where there are all these nameless people marching into war blindly following whomever happens to rule from their walled castle into battle. And uncounted nameless along with a few of the princes as well, die horrible gut wrenching deaths. The era of serfs and lords, when feudalism was the primary micro economic model while macro economics formed into a nascent version of capitalism called mercantilism.

Or maybe its a technology drenched world run by oligarchies who place panopticons everywhere. So omnipresent that they are even watching each other. It a bleached and barren dystopian world where the oligarchy knows everything about everyone, and punishment for not following the rules is swift and sure. But the rules are always changing and everyone only has time to keep up with the rules. Its a world where socialism defines why individuals not in the oligarchy cannot have, because it all has to be divided up equally, except for the ruling class oligarchs. One could look at it through a lens of our current era and declare it a communist society where the world is divided into two camps. This is what could happen if we adopt socialism without a plan for managing the macro economy. It becomes the ultimate egalitarian society that has lost all the flavors of individuality, but everyone is fed and everyone has clothing and a place to sleep.

The first, of course, is the exaggerated outcome of letting Free Market Capitalism to continue  along its current path. The latter is what happens when the entire world is handed over to Socialism and allowed to go along its path to Communism. I have heard Socialists speak of disdain for any macro economic models, under the argument that Capitalism requires macro, therefore Socialism must reject it.

The future does not have to be one evil or the other.  There is a future where everyone can have their needs met, food, clothing and shelter. We can build a world with these things by providing to everyone the same advantages that the princes and the oligarchs have. Education and training for everyone, the chance to paint your castle no matter how small or large, whatever color you want. But that won’t happen in a world dominated by the two opposite forces of conformity.  We were all born with a unique set of genes, and grew up with unique experiences, we are all different.

By recognizing that the only way to attain universal social equality requires economic equality. It is obvious that neither Free Market Capitalism or Socialism will bring that about. But an economy that relegates Socialism to assure that everyone gets what they need and hands the keys to Free Enterprise Capitalism for supplying what people want can create that world. One where Socialism is contained by limiting it to what it does best, protecting people and letting capitalism do what it does best by emphasizing competition. And there is only one macro economic model that allows both ideologies to work happily side by side. That is one that uses a sovereign fiat currency, where the government is the sole issuer of that currency and collects all taxes, fees, tariffs and fines as well as pays all it’s bills in that currency.

But that is not all. Those nations also need to recognize that their economy is only limited by its production capacity. That is the key to creating a nation that provides all the needs of all the people. A nation that also makes space for individual achievement and comfort. Some call this Modern Money Theory, I call it Modern Money Policy.

Now, go learn it.

Modern Money Policy

For a few years now, I have written from time to time about a subject called Modern Money Theory (MMT). Which is an objective, apolitical approach to describing macro economics. In particular, I have written about what the approach means in countries like the US, Russia, The UK, China, and Japan. Those countries named and many others, all have a currency that are called sovereign, fiat currencies. Issued solely by the government and used to make all payments, any payments due to these governments can only be made in their own currency. While there are other approaches for a nation to take regarding their currency, and MMT in each approach defines the limits of spending and taxation, issuing currency or collecting payments, I have only concerned myself with US and the limits MMT defines for a nation with a sovereign fiat currency.

The problem is that despite the explanations of how the US can benefit by understanding MMT from what myself and thousands of others have been explaining, many persons still have not even heard of MMT. Others dismiss it as foolishness or even a psyop.  Meanwhile, those of us familiar with MMT keep plugging away.  We are not all economists, but some are. Not all MMT economists are liberals, but most are.  Some MMT economists are even gaining fame and beginning to achieve recognition for their work.

I am not an economist, just one of thousands that have taken the time and spent the energy to learn about MMT and try to explain it to others.  The reason is simple, the awareness of MMT and it’s explanations of how the macro economy operates is gaining in academic acceptance. MMT economists have over the past few years have been able to reach out and be heard by many politicians and economic policy makers. Perhaps, many have not accepted the descriptions, but some do but are concerned the general public will not accept it.

So, in order to help these leaders understand the policy possibilities of exploiting the principles of MMT to spend public money for policy that serves a public purpose a new Facebook group has been formed; Modern Money Policy.

The focus will be on what can be done in the public purpose arena and by deepening the understanding of how MMT can be used to create a more stable micro economy, the economy where we all live.

Many are already being asked to join, but don’t wait for invite – join us.

It’s All In The Way That You Say It

The right wing in America has taken over our political language. Nearly all international politics are framed in terms of the neo-con agenda, nearly all economic discussion is framed in terms of the neo-liberal agenda. Don’t be fooled by the use of the word “liberal”; the neo-lib’s economics are a conservative cornerstone.

One of the most abused term by most Liberals who have adopted neo-lib economics is the phrase “taxpayer’s money”. How many charts have we seen saying how much the average taxpayer pays to support our war machine vs. items such as food stamps? But the use of the term “taxpayer money” does not truly convey an average, instead it implies that each dollar individuals pay in taxes is like a voting share of stock in the corporation called The United States of America. Those that are in the top 5% get a bigger say because they pay significantly more than the lower-income 95%. And what about those that directly pay no federal income taxes, are their needs diminished because they “contribute” less? While you may think my assertions here are not what is meant when you use the term “taxpayer money”, in practice that is what is happening.

So, lets all adopt the phrase “Public money”. A chart that says only 2% public money is spent on welfare such as food stamps, implies that federal spending is not a corporate stock vote, but instead a reflection of our values. Did not Rabbi Jesus ask that we not forget the poor among us? Is the US a corporation or a nation by and for the people? Over time, slight alterations in framing debates, change the actual out comes; try public money on for size, you might find it a comfortable fit.