Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is getting significant media attention these days, after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview that it should “be a larger part of our conversation” when it comes to funding the Green New Deal. According to MMT, the government can spend what it needs without worrying about deficits. MMT expert and Bernie Sanders advisor Prof. Stephanie Kelton says the government actually creates money when it spends. The real limit on spending is not an artificially imposed debt ceiling but a lack of labor and materials to do the work, leading to generalized price inflation. Only when that real ceiling is hit does the money need to be taxed back, and then not to fund government spending but to shrink the money supply in an economy that has run out of resources to put the extra money to work.
The policy of guaranteeing every citizen a universal basic income is gaining support around the world, as automation increasingly makes jobs obsolete. But can it be funded without raising taxes or triggering hyperinflation? In a panel I was on at the NexusEarth cryptocurrency conference in Aspen September 21-23rd, most participants said no. This is my rebuttal.
In a landmark infrastructure bill passed in December, Congress finally penetrated the Fed’s “independence” by tapping its reserves and bank dividends for infrastructure funding.
The bill was a start. But some experts, including Congressional candidate Tim Canova, say Congress should go further and authorize funds to be issued for infrastructure directly.
Part H in the Insider’s Economic Dictionary.
Half-life: In physics, the time it takes for half the mass of a radioactive element to decay into the next-lower isotope or element, typically ending in a stable and inert element such as lead. By extension, the time it takes for an economic theory or ideology to lose half its influence, e.g. as Marxist value theory, Henry George’s Single Tax, Keynesian income theory, Chicago School monetarism, or most recently, neoliberalism. In international relations, the time it takes for an industrial creditor nation to dissipate half of its economic advantage and free lunch. Continue reading
The war between fiat paper money and precious metals continues as the price of gold keeps going through the roof and the US paper debt-currency submerges.
For the uninitiated, the convenience of fiat money is that you can make it out of air with transferences of numbers from the red to the black side of the accounting page, adding usurious interest if you’re the Fed. Continue reading
By Mike Whitney
Information Clearing House
April 26, 2011
The Federal Reserve is not going to push the economy into Zimbabwean hyperinflation. That’s pure bunkum. The Fed’s plan is to weaken the dollar to boost exports and to force China to let its currency appreciate to its fair-market value. The policy should help to lower the US’s bulging current account deficit. By purchasing $600 billion in US Treasuries (QE2), the Fed effectively reduces the supply of risk-free assets, which sends investors into riskier assets like stocks and commodities. Is there an element of class warfare in the policy?
Unlike Zimbabwe, the U.S. can easily get the currency it needs without being beholden to anyone. But wouldn’t that dilute the value of the currency? No.
A month ago, the bond vigilantes were screaming that the Fed’s QE2 would be the first step on the road to Zimbabwe-style hundred trillion dollar notes. Zimbabwe (the former Rhodesia) is the poster example of what can go wrong when a government pays its bills by printing money. Zimbabwe’s economy collapsed in 2008, when its currency hyperinflated to the point that it was trading with the U.S. dollar at an exchange rate of 10 trillion to 1. On November 29, Cullen Roche wrote in the Pragmatic Capitalist:
Last week, a Chinese rating agency downgraded U.S. debt from triple A and number one globally, to “double A with a negative outlook” and only thirteenth worldwide. The downgrade renewed fears that the sovereign debt crisis that began in Greece will soon reach America. That is the concern, but the U.S. is distinguished from Greece in that its debt is denominated in its own currency, over which it has sovereign control. The government can simply print the money it needs, or borrow it from a central bank that prints it. We should not let deficit hawks and short sellers dissuade the government from pursuing that obvious expedient.
We did not hear much about “sovereign debt” until early this year, when Greece hit the skids. Investment adviser Martin Weiss wrote in a February 24 newsletter:
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Fascism may be defined briefly as: “A politico-economic system in which there is: total executive branch control of both the legislative and administrative powers of government; no independent judiciary; no Constitution that embodies the Rule of Law standing above the people who run the government; no inherent personal rights or liberties; a single national ideology that first demonizes and then criminalizes all political, religious, and ideological opposition to it; the massive and regular use of hate, fear, racial and religious prejudice, the Big Lie technique, mob psychology, mob actions and ultimately individual and collective violence to achieve political and economic ends; and corporate domination of economic, fiscal, and regulatory policy.”
By Mike Whitney
Information Clearing House
October 21, 2009
The dollar is not going to crash. In fact, many economists believe that the dollar will rally when the Fed ends its quantitative easing program (QE) sometime in early 2010. The Fed is on track to buy nearly $2 trillion dollars of mortgage-backed securities, US Treasuries and agency debt. In other words, the Fed is printing money and pumping it into the housing market to keep the market from collapsing. This keeps interest rates low, but it also weakens the dollar. When the program ends, long-term interest rates will rise and the dollar will strengthen.
Ralph Foster, author of “Fiat Paper Currency — The History and Evolution of Our Money,” points out that the quote opening my article of May 19, 2009 on the Weimar inflation came from his book. (“It was horrible. Horrible! Like lightning it struck. No one was prepared. The shelves in the grocery store were empty. You could buy nothing with your paper money.”) My source was a secondary one that omitted that attribution, so I’ll make it here with apologies. Here is an endorsement of Foster’s groundbreaking book by Ruth Hanham, Ph.D., of Harvard University:
“[Foster] states his case clearly, drawing on a wealth of primary and secondary sources, touching upon many diverse cultures, from the Chinese to the European to the North American. His professional familiarity with all types of currency and coinage grounds the book, making it refreshingly free of airy theories and complicated jargon, accessible to any intelligent reader. I highly recommend it.”
Ruth S. Arnon Hanham
Harvard University 1978
Ellen Brown developed her research skills as an attorney practicing civil litigation in Los Angeles. In Web of Debt, her latest book, she turns those skills to an analysis of the Federal Reserve and “the money trust.” She shows how this private cartel has usurped the power to create money from the people themselves, and how we the people can get it back. Her eleven books include the bestselling Nature’s Pharmacy, co-authored with Dr. Lynne Walker, and The Key to Ultimate Health (co-authored with Dr. Richard Hansen). Her websites are www.webofdebt.com and www.ellenbrown.com
“It was horrible. Horrible! Like lightning it struck. No one was prepared. The shelves in the grocery stores were empty.You could buy nothing with your paper money.
– Harvard University law professor Friedrich Kessler on on the Weimar Republic hyperinflation (1993 interview)
Some worried commentators are predicting a massive hyperinflation of the sort suffered by Weimar Germany in 1923, when a wheelbarrow full of paper money could barely buy a loaf of bread. An April 29 editorial in the San Francisco Examiner warned:
“With an unprecedented deficit that’s approaching $2 trillion, [the President’s 2010] budget proposal is a surefire prescription for hyperinflation. So every senator and representative who votes for this monster $3.6 trillion budget will be endorsing a spending spree that could very well turn America into the next Weimar Republic.”1
In an investment newsletter called Money Morning on April 9, Martin Hutchinson pointed to disturbing parallels between current government monetary policy and Weimar Germany’s, when 50% of government spending was being funded by seigniorage – merely printing money.2 However, there is something puzzling in his data. He indicates that the British government is already funding more of its budget by seigniorage than Weimar Germany did at the height of its massive hyperinflation; yet the pound is still holding its own, under circumstances said to have caused the complete destruction of the German mark. Something else must have been responsible for the mark’s collapse besides mere money-printing to meet the government’s budget, but what? And are we threatened by the same risk today? Let’s take a closer look at the data.