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.

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.

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

Hung Upside Down – It Ain’t How to Design Tax Reform

The Senate Tax Reform package will eventually become the text book model for how to do all the right things wrong. Reducing taxes is a good way to increase economic output, the Republicans accomplished that. Modifying deductions and using progressive tax rates as a tool to reallocate income distribution. Done. Using taxes or lack of taxes to discourage or encourage certain behaviors? They do that as well.

Sound, economy boosting tax reforms would have all of the attributes of the Senate tax plan. Reducing taxes does do exactly what Republicans say it does. It allows more money to remain in circulation, thereby increasing economic activity. Individual deductions are part of the income tax code to account for living expenses, increasing personal deduction moves us somewhat towards that goal, but any improvements on that intention were erased when state and local taxes became limited on the amount that could be deducted from gross income. Likewise many deductions such as homeowner mortgage interest, charitable contributions, and medical deductions were further limited than they had been in the Reagan era. These events ultimately impact middle class taxpayers from seeing any significant decrease in their tax bill; which by the way the tax rates are all scheduled to expire. And lets not forget that by eliminating the Health Insurance mandate only increases the cost of living for those that have insurance. that made up,were given limits they did fail to add a metric for it to keep pace with a hopefully rising. Very little will come from the Middle Class to help stimulate the economy, except for maybe in the 2019 tax season in 2020.

Progressive tax rates is one of the best tools that the managers of macroeconomic policy have to make certain that individuals that are living below the cost of living are not taxed, and persons whose incomes are exorbitantly beyond the cost of living, even after considering that a higher pay scale usually means a higher cost of living, pay a share of their excess income in order to totally remove that money from circulation. The harm to the individual is close to nil, since it is money they were not ever planning on returning into circulation. In other words, they are hoarding.

But, if the Republicans put in place a tax plan that eliminated any taxes on persons that earn the cost of living, with unlimited and unrestricted itemized deductions for those earning less than the average wage, higher taxes that eventually exceed 50% of income on the wealthy and restricting the amounts that they can itemize, we got a plan that will make America into a haven for the middle class, the poor will not be held back by the use of wage slavery and virtual poorhouses, and the wealthy will still earn outrageous sums.

So please do not talk about the Federal Debt, or deficits, keep your eye on the prize. The plan passed by the Senate is a great start, but it is upside down, and will work that way in the economy. What will happen is this; trickle down has never worked, it won’t this time. Austerity will spread like a disease throughout the entire economy forcing entire populations into poverty, all the wealth generated will remain at the top and coalesce there.