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.

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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

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.

WAKE UP! Economics Lecture Underway!!

When somebody starts talking about economics do you gaze off into the distance wondering, if he will ever get back to discussing something more engaging like why curve ball hitters tend to reach their peak later than fast ball hitters? If that describes your take on economics then you need to pay attention. NOW!
Economics is a way to discuss policy and how it impacts each and every one of us. Like any social science (bet you snoozed through social studies in the 7th grade!) it is unequal parts science, history, guess-work, math, bull shit, and of course engaging repartee. Your economic view-point is built up from your political leanings, as well as your social priorities. So why pay attention to details, NOW? Pick a political philosophy and let the economists who adhere to that philosophy determine how the economy works. That is what people have always done why is NOW different.
The difference is simple, and it is well-known, and politicians and economists to varying degrees are pretending to tell you they have it all under control. But they don’t. Much of that is because they are comfortable with working things out the way they used to be. Others, mostly politicians, believe they get more votes when the discussion of economics centers around taxpayer money. At the Federal level, there is no such thing as taxpayer money. Until the Federal government spends money; no money exists. Once taxes are collected, no money exists. poof! gone!
Perhaps you may realize that when money only exists after government spends it, changes entirely the paradigm about how we look at economics. It is a powerful revelation and our politicians need to know NOW that we know it.

GOPTaxScam – Democrats are shooting at the wrong targets

The #GOPTaxScam has finally brought up the subject of economics into the mainstream. People are paying more attention to that dreary science. And in 95% of the stories most people hear or write about the #GOPTaxScam they are wrong about it, whether they like the policy or not. Nearly every MSM and the MSM wannabes review places the impact that the policy will have on our debt and our deficit. The other common denominators are calling the policy a transfer of wealth, or a boon to corporations. From the plan’s detractors you hear how this policy is going to crash the economy and trash the Republican chances of holding their majority in Congress. From it’s supporters you hear how the lower taxes on wealth will spur investment, add jobs, increase salaries, and maybe even balance the budget. Both sides are wrong, and even worse on many points both sides are lying.

But they also both speak some truths. The supporters note that the Middle Class especially will see lower taxes. And that is true. But it is also true that taxes on wealthy people and corporations will be lowered even more, by any mathematical measure. The detractors point out that the higher tax rates return in 2025 for the Middle Class and that the Middle Class will lose some deductions, which are not tied to inflation effectively raising their tax rates at a proportionately higher rate than on wealthy people.

Here is what that means. Initially the Middle Class and to a lesser extent, the poor will have more money to spend, businesses who already have enough reserves to meet the increased demand will likely expand, add jobs, and even increase pay. Still the vast bulk of their tax savings will go to shareholders and offshore untaxed accounts. As the effective taxes on the Middle Class increase each year, there will be slower growth until by 2025, growth will be back to our current level of stagnation. That is, unless inflation such as we have not seen since the Nixon years takes hold; and this plan puts the US at risk for that to happen.

Additionally, there will be so-called deficits. This is the lie that both sides agree on. These deficits will be used by supporters as an excuse to cut back nearly every single social benefit funded by the US government. Again, the initial boom will make it appear that the deficits are not as bad as predicted, but by after 2019 election, the deficit numbers will put pressure on Congress to impose austerity. This is an actual lie which is at the heart of the #GOPTaxScam.  That initial boom potentially could kick off a round of inflation since there are no tools that I am aware of in this plan for managing that risk.

There is no deficit, there hasn’t been since Richard Nixon took us off the Gold Standard. Money is created into existence. Taxes serve two primary purposes, and neither one is to fund the federal government. Money is created by the US spending. It is not recycled as revenue, it is destroyed. When we, the users of money spend, the money is recycled so it’s value to the economy is greater that its nominal value. That is why tax cuts for the wealthy are useless, their money is not recycled rapidly if at all. But the Poor and the Middle Class spent nearly all their income. Taxes force the US Dollar to have value and be universally accepted. Taxes also remove excess money from the economy to regulate inflation. More money does not create inflation but less money slows inflation.

Last of all, there is no such thing as taxpayer money. All taxes are destroyed, not used to pay for wars, not used to pay for Presidential vacations, legislators benefits, or even your Social Security. #LearnMMT

MMT Discussion – Part 3 – My taxes paid for That!

BRADFROMSALEM

If you have not read Part 1 and are unfamiliar with the concept of Modern Money Theory [MMT], click here for a brief introduction. In Part 2 I cover 4 of the 5 reasons taxes are still necessary even though MMT explains that taxes do not fund Federal spending, click here to read about the first 4 reasons. Below, is the 5th reason for collecting taxes in an economy that honors the MMT economic descriptions.

The most popular feature of the MMT description of how money is created, circulated into the economy, and then ultimately destroyed is undoubtedly the approach to taxes. In the previous entry I described 4 reasons why taxes are collected even though the MMT description does not require tax receipts to fund government activities. Instead government activities are funded by money creation and taxes are ultimately destroyed. But MMT’s description of money creation limits that act to funding government expenses that serve a public purpose. Currently, in the news we have an expenditure that cannot be described as providing a public purpose. I use the example of the cost of maintaining a lavish and separate lifestyle for Mr. Donald Trump and his wife more for its notoriety than its dollar amount.

If we were funding government expenditures solely by creating whatever is required to pay for everything that is an expense, what is the public recourse? While there is little truth to the near myth that printing money will cause inflation, there is as my language indicates a path to that occurring. Also as I noted in the previous blog, should inflation start to accelerate, then raising taxes would brake that situation. To take the Trump example a little further, without a lever that the public can exercise to prevent extravagant spending by not just the President, but by all elected officials; who would gladly use that power to enrich each other along with their friends and others as well. It becomes evident that eventually the power will be abused and even with a remedy at hand (raising taxes) a better approach would be to allow tax receipts to be “allocated” as an accounting trick to certain government expenses.

This will allow taxpayers the right to proclaim, as they do now, that they do not want to pay taxes for Trump’s lifestyle choices. Taxes to serve the public purpose of maintaining citizen sense of ownership. In fact it’s more than a sense of ownership, it is real ownership. Something that rounds out the public purpose of spending. The question is then, how are public purpose expenditures separated from operational expenses that will not enhance serve the public purpose? One possible way is to fund all maintenance costs from tax collections. This would be items like road repair, upkeep of National Parks, along with salaries and expenses of Federal office holders and their direct staff. One critical expense would be all military spending, unless there is a true declared war.

Spending via money creation would be on all capital expenses. New infrastructure, Health Care, Social Security, Federal Job Guarantee, Basic Income Guarantee, and Public Education come to mind immediately. These are all items that serve a public purpose. Under the present arrangement these are the costs that are deferred, cut back or never even considered because it is believed we cannot afford it.

There are political advantages to restricting some expenses to be budgeted according to tax revenues. Using the model of assigning maintenance costs to those revenues is not perfect. There will be public purpose spending happening, but since the maintenance areas are the ones people care about the most means there is less push back from taxpayers when they have well maintained parks, roads and power grids.

There is one last caveat to the capital expenses that must be understood. The MMT descriptions only apply to the Federal government’s expenses, states, counties along with city & towns still must collect taxes to pay their bills. With an MMT model we do get more done with less taxes, but as I have shown taxes are a necessary and critical component of a healthy economy and a component essential to a dynamic democracy.

(I plan to write some more on other MMT aspects such as the Basic Income and Job Guarantee along with why it describes money so well and other descriptions are lacking.)