The debt hawks are to economics as the creationists are to biology. Those, who do not understand monetary sovereignty, do not understand economics. Cutting the federal deficit is the most ignorant and damaging step the federal government could take. It ranks ahead of the Hawley-Smoot Tariff.
People often ask me whether I am part of MMT (Modern Monetary Theory), and my answer is, “No, I agree with MMT on its factual bases, but disagree with certain areas of opinion.
For instance, it is absolute, undeniable, historical fact that in 1971, the federal government gave itself the unlimited ability to create money, i.e. to spend dollars. This point cannot be argued. And because the government has the unlimited ability to create dollars, it needs neither taxes nor borrowing to support its spending. If taxes and borrowing were zero, this would not affect by even one penny, the government’s ability to create and spend dollars, which means that taxpayers do not pay for federal spending. The federal government does not spend taxpayers’ money. This too is undeniable fact.
If every federal lender (China et al) were to demand payment for all outstanding debts tomorrow, the U.S. government simply could say, “No problem. I’ll push this computer key, which will credit your bank account for the amount of the T-securities you own. All debts will be extinguished.”
Evolving from this is the fact that the federal government cannot be forced into bankruptcy, and evolving from this is the fact that no agency of the federal government can be forced into bankruptcy – not Congress, nor the Supreme Court, nor the Department of Defense, nor the other 1,000 federal agencies, including Social Security and Medicare. All those people who tell you Social Security will be bankrupt in “X” number of years, do not understand that the federal government supports all federal agencies the same way: By federal money creation. And none can be forced into bankruptcy.
Where I depart from MMT is where facts are lacking, i.e. in matters of opinion. MMT believes:
1. Taxation is necessary to give value to money
2. Inflation should be prevented/cured by reducing the money supply.
Originally, MMTers said federal taxes were necessary to give value to dollars. I pointed out if taxes were necessary, there existed. sufficient state and local taxes to do the job. That belief now has been adopted by MMT.
As I have stated elsewhere in this blog (“Ignorance: Why you will pay more taxes and receive less service in the coming years.”) I do not accept the idea that taxes are necessary for money demand. People accept dollars because:
-They are handier than barter.
-Everyone else accepts them.
-The government has made dollars legal tender in payment of all bills.
-There is no other governmentally authorized form of money.
-If you sell a product or service to the government, it will pay you in dollars.
-If you receive Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid or any other federal benefit, you and your service providers will receive payment in dollars.
-If you receive food stamps, your grocer will be paid in dollars
-Your army pay will be in dollars
-Federal stimulus payments, to cure recessions, will be in dollars
-In 2010, the federal government spend $3.7 trillion, all in dollars. The state governments spent trillions more, also in dollars.
Then there are non-tax payments to the government:
*Fines and Fees (for instance, in court)
*Fees (for instance, garbage pickup)
*Licenses (hunting, fishing, driving)
*Services (real estate registration)
(*Admittedly, these could be eliminated by a Monetarily Sovereign government and could be considered taxes)
Millions of people in America did not pay taxes last year, but they accept dollars. Of course, taxes are not going to disappear, so in practical essence the question is moot.
I believe inflation can and should be prevented/cured by raising interest rates. MMT holds that rather than curing inflation, raising interest rates actually exacerbates inflation. Their logic is: Raising interest rates, by increasing the cost of borrowing, increases the cost of production, which results in inflation. I suggest that interest payments are a minuscule part of most company’s costs, and increases in interest payments are even less important — not enough to cause significant price increases.
Instead, we should consider money to be a commodity, the value of which is determined by supply and demand. Yes, increase the supply, and the value goes down – unless you also increase the demand, which is influenced by the reward for owning money – i.e. interest. The higher the interest, the greater the demand for money. That is why, when interest rates go up, the demand for non-money (stocks, real estate) declines, while the demand for money (bank CDs, savings accounts, money market accounts) goes up.
MMT believes inflation can and should be prevented/cured by reducing the money supply, i.e by spending reductions and/or tax increases. However, history shows that every depression in U.S history, and most recessions, have coincided with reductions in debt growth or with actual reductions in debt. While recessions and depressions can stop inflation, they certainly are a bad medicine.
So in summary, I agree with the factual basis of MMT, and argue (without proof) against certain opinions held by MMT. If you want to give what I believe a name, call it “Monetary Sovereignty.” I’m not MMT. Are you?
Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
No nation can tax itself into prosperity. Those who say the stimulus “didn’t work” remind me of the guy whose house is on fire. A neighbor runs with a garden hose and starts spraying, but the fire continues. The neighbor wants to call the fire department, which would bring the big hoses, but the guy says, “Don’t call. As you can see, water doesn’t put out fires.”