How to prevent and cure inflation. (It’s not what the “experts” tell you.) Thursday, Sep 19 2019 

Two related philosophies about federal finances are MMT (Modern Monetary Theory) and MS (Monetary Sovereignty). You now are reading an MS blog.

MMT and MS agree on the following principle that was expressed by MMT’s L. Randall Wray in his paper “WHAT ARE TAXES FOR? THE MMT APPROACH” 

“Taxes are not needed to ‘pay for’ (federal) government spending. The logic is reversed: government must spend (or lend) the currency into the economy before taxpayers can pay taxes in the form of the currency. Spend first, tax later is the logical sequence.”

Image result for monetary sovereignty mitchell

The U.S. government cannot run short of dollars.

U.S. federal taxes are not needed. The U.S. government, being Monetarily Sovereign, has the unlimited ability to create its own sovereign currency, the U.S. dollar.

The U.S. government never unintentionally can run short of dollars. Even if all federal tax collections totaled $0, the federal government could continue spending, forever.

The articles you read about the “unsustainable” federal debt are, very simply, wrong. There is no level of U.S. dollar obligations the federal government cannot easily sustain.

Ben Bernanke: “The U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost.”

Alan Greenspan: “Central banks can issue currency, a non-interest-bearing claim on the government, effectively without limit. A government cannot become insolvent with respect to obligations in its own currency.”

St. Louis Federal Reserve: “As the sole manufacturer of dollars, whose debt is denominated in dollars, the U.S. government can never become insolvent, i.e., unable to pay its bills. In this sense, the government is not dependent on credit markets (borrowing) to remain operational.

Professor Wray’s paper continues:

Some who hear this for the first time jump to the question: “Well, why not just eliminate taxes altogether?” There are several reasons.

First, it is the tax that “drives” the currency. If we eliminated the tax, people probably would not immediately abandon use of the currency, but the main driver for its use would be gone.

We disagree with the “taxes drive the currency” notion. Contrary examples abound. Professor Wray’s own “Roobucks” are not “driven” by taxes. They are driven by the discounts they provide. Bitcoin is not “driven” by taxes.

However, the real point is contained in the following paragraphs from Wray’s paper:

Further, the second reason to have taxes is to reduce aggregate demand. If we look at the United States today, the federal government spending is somewhat over 20% of GDP, while tax revenue is somewhat less—say 17%.

The net injection coming from the federal government is thus about 3% of GDP. If we eliminated taxes (and held all else constant) the net injection might rise toward 20% of GDP.

That is a huge increase of aggregate demand, and could cause inflation.

Ideally, it is best if tax revenue moves countercyclically—increasing in expansion and falling in recession.

That helps to make the government’s net contribution to the economy countercyclical, which helps to stabilize aggregate demand.

The implicit assumption of the above paragraphs is that the private sector’s money supply drives inflation, and the way to control inflation is to reduce the private sector’s money supply.

In a similar vein:

A Wikipedia article says, “Low or moderate inflation may be attributed to fluctuations in the real demand for goods and services, or changes in available supplies such as during scarcities. However, the consensus view is that a long sustained period of inflation is caused by money supply growing faster than the rate of economic growth.”

We disagree with Wray and with the Wikipedia author. A “long sustained period” of money supply growth cannot exceed a “long sustained period” of economic growth.

The money supply cannot grow faster than economic growth. The two are interdependent in the formula for GDP:

Real GDP = Real Federal Spending + Real Non-federal Spending + Real Net Exports

A decrease in taxes would increase the “Non-federal Spending” factor and GDP by the same amount. By formula, tax decreases increase GDP.

Inflation usually is defined as a general increase in prices. Another way to say it is, “Inflation reduces the purchasing power of each unit of currency.”

There are two levels of inflation: Intentional and unintentional. The intentional form is the amount that the central bank believes is helpful for a growing economy. The U.S. Federal Reserve has as its target rate, 2% inflation.

When annual inflation drifts above or below the 2% target, the Fed quickly raises and lowers interest rates, i.e. raises to rates combat inflation; lowers rates to stimulate inflation.

(The Fed also lowers interest rates to stimulate economic growth, which follows the common myth that stimulating growth and stimulating inflation require the same actions.)

The Fed’s target rate of inflation is maintained by interest rate control, which controls the demand for, and purchasing power of, U.S. dollars. Increasing the demand for dollars reduces inflation; decreasing the demand for dollars encourages inflation.

But what about high inflation, say of 50% or 50,000% annually or more. Such hyperinflations always are caused by shortages of food and/or energy (oil).

The famous Zimbabwe hyperinflation is a typical example. The government took farmland from white farmers and gave it to blacks who did not know how to farm. The inevitable food shortage caused hyperinflation.

In response, rather than trying to cure the food shortage, the Zimbabwe government began printing more currency.

This provided the illusion that currency printing caused the hyperinflation, when in fact, the hyperinflation caused the currency printing.

Think of a typical scenario this way: The inflation-adjusted money supply goes up. Where does the additional real money go? The vast majority goes to spending, which by definition, increases real GDP.

One might argue that some is saved, but since saved dollars are not spent, they cannot contribute to aggregate demand.

All increases in the real money supply increase real GDP.

Further, and most importantly, all decreases in the real money supply (because of taxes) decrease real GDP. Thus taxes, rather than being effective moderators of inflation, actually are recessive.

Recession is not the opposite of inflation. The two can occur simultaneously. The opposite of inflation is deflation. Taxes do not cause deflation. Deflation, i.e. price decreases, is caused by excess supplies of goods and services.

Thus, removing currency (via taxes) from the economy would have done nothing to cure the inflation, though it would have reduced real (inflation-adjusted) GDP economic growth, while it impoverished the populace.

There are several ways to prevent or cure inflation, but taxation is not one of them. Taxation merely takes dollars from the private sector and delivers them to the federal government, where your tax dollars are destroyed.

Taxation does nothing to address the fundamental cause of inflation: Shortages.

Imagine an inflation caused by a food shortage, and the automatic response is an increase in taxes. How would leaving fewer inflation dollars in the pockets of the people eliminate the food shortage?

It wouldn’t, of course.

Consider again, Zimbabwe: Rather than taxing, designed to reduce the currency supply (while impoverishing the people), or printing currency to increase the currency supply (thereby reducing the already diminished value of Zimbabe’s money), the Zimbabwe government should have taken steps to increase the food supply.

This might have included paying to educate Zimbabwe’s farmers and/or paying experienced farmers to manage farms or paying to import food from other nations.

These steps would have required the Zimbabwean government to spend more money to correct inflation — a counterintuitive response, but the only one based on financial reality.

In Summary
Any time a nation experiences an unwanted level of inflation, the correct early step is to increase interest rates, thus increasing the demand for, and the value of, the nation’s currency.

If the inflation has grown beyond interest rate increases as a sole solution, additional steps are needed:

  1. Determine what exactly is causing the inflation
  2. If the cause is a shortage of food or energy the government must either import the needed food or energy, or fund ways to increase the domestic production of food or energy.
  3. If the government is monetarily non-sovereign (a euro nation, for instance), and cannot afford to fund imports or fund domestic production of the scarce commodities, it immediately should begin the process of issuing its own sovereign currency, i.e. it should make itself Monetarily Sovereign.

Raising taxes is exactly the wrong step since that will worsen the inflation problem, while adding recession to the burden.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
Monetary Sovereignty
Twitter: @rodgermitchell
Search #monetarysovereignty Facebook: Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

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The most important problems in economics involve:

  1. Monetary Sovereignty describes money creation and destruction.
  2. Gap Psychology describes the common desire to distance oneself from those “below” in any socio-economic ranking, and to come nearer those “above.” The socio-economic distance is referred to as “The Gap.”

Wide Gaps negatively affect poverty, health and longevity, education, housing, law and crime, war, leadership, ownership, bigotry, supply and demand, taxation, GDP, international relations, scientific advancement, the environment, human motivation and well-being, and virtually every other issue in economics.

Implementation of Monetary Sovereignty and The Ten Steps To Prosperity can grow the economy and narrow the Gaps:

Ten Steps To Prosperity:

1. Eliminate FICA

2. Federally funded Medicare — parts a, b & d, plus long-term care — for everyone

3. Provide a monthly economic bonus to every man, woman and child in America (similar to social security for all)

4. Free education (including post-grad) for everyone

5. Salary for attending school

6. Eliminate federal taxes on business

7. Increase the standard income tax deduction, annually. 

8. Tax the very rich (the “.1%”) more, with higher progressive tax rates on all forms of income.

9. Federal ownership of all banks

10. Increase federal spending on the myriad initiatives that benefit America’s 99.9% 

The Ten Steps will grow the economy and narrow the income/wealth/power Gap between the rich and the rest.

MONETARY SOVEREIGNTY

An excellent article about Social Security, except for one small detail Friday, Jun 14 2019 

The Week Magazine published an excellent article titled, “Social Security’s looming crisis is political, not economic,” by Jeff Spross.

It begins by agreeing with much of what we have been saying for the past 20 years.

Here are excerpts:

There are few traditions in American politics as cherished as the semi-regular panic over Social Security. There are equally few that are such utter balderdash on the economic merits.

The latest example of this time-honored practice comes to us courtesy of The New York Times. “Social Security’s so-called trust funds are expected to be depleted within about 15 years,” the outlet warned this week.

“Benefit checks for retirees would be cut by about 20 percent across the board.” The cuts could potentially rise to 25 percent in later years.

The question is whether the cuts, at the basic structural level, are actually necessary at all.

It’s widely assumed the federal government is just like a private household or business; it can run out of money if it doesn’t manage its spending and revenue properly.

Indeed, Social Security’s trust funds are designed on this premise.

But that’s actually not how it works at all. The federal government can never “run out” of money, nor can it ever suffer an involuntary debt crisis. 

The implications for Social Security should be obvious.

As far as the federal government’s ability to procure dollars is concerned, the depletion of the trust funds is a meaningless event.

It can keep right on paying every last Social Security benefit it has promised in perpetuity.

Absolutely correct. So far, so good.

Image result for politician lying

If you don’t pay more taxes, we’ll have to cut your Social Security. Believe me.

Unlike state and local governments, and unlike businesses, you and me, the federal government uniquely is Monetarily Sovereign.

It created the very first dollars at will –from thin air — and arbitrarily gave them a value.

Today continues to create dollars at will, from thin air, and still controls the value.

Even if the federal government didn’t collect a single dollar in taxes, it could continue spending, forever. 

[There are two why the federal government levies taxes, and neither reason has anything to do with funding federal spending:

Reason 1. To control the economy be encouraging certain kinds of private spending and discouraging other kinds. (Tax breaks for home ownership are an example of the former. “Sin” taxes are examples of the latter.)

Reason 2. To create the illusion that the federal government’s spending ability is limited without sufficient taxes. (This is the method used by the government’s leaders — i.e. the rich — to justify cuts to benefits for the poor and middle classes and to increase their taxes.)] 

The very first Social Security beneficiary, Ida May Fuller, got her initial benefits check in 1939, after paying into the system for just three years — hardly enough time to build up the necessary “savings” to fund her retirement.

The very fact that benefit cuts would reduce Social Security to a cashflow basis demonstrates that current workers finance the benefits for current retirees, as opposed to payroll taxes being stored up for the future retirement of the citizens who payed them.

Oops! Now, Mr. Spross begins to slide off the rails, a bit.

Current workers pay FICA, but FICA does not finance benefits. Federal taxes do not fund federal spending.

Remember, Spross said it himself:

“As far as the federal government’s ability to procure dollars is concerned, the depletion of the trust funds is a meaningless event.

It can keep right on paying every last Social Security benefit it has promised in perpetuity.”

The actual function of the payroll taxes is to remove demand from the economy, thus making room for the demand that Social Security’s spending injects into the economy.

Which is what keeps inflation on an even keel.

The above is the old, “federal money printing causes inflation” myth.

Think about why the price of, say apples, would go up. Because people have too much money?

No, the price of apples or of any other products or services is caused by one thing: Shortages. 

The price of apples goes up when there is an apple tree disease, or a drought, not because your salary went up and you have more money to spend.

The notion that money creation (erroneously called, “money printing”) causes inflation, may stem from a misreading of hyperinflation.

Governments often respond to hyperinflation by printing currency.

But all hyperinflations begin and continue with shortages — usually, shortages of food — and they end only when the shortages are alleviated.

In short: the system is fine.

Of course, Congress still faces the fact that it made a rule for itself that benefits must be cut when the trust funds run dry.

If it wants to maintain the fiction, Congress could do what previous reforms have done, and bring spending and revenue back into line through some combination of benefit cuts and payroll tax hikes.

The above is exactly what the rich want you to believe: The benefits for the poor and middle classes must be cut, while their taxes are increased.

At some point, however, you’d think the better move would be to acknowledge the trust funds are a political gimmick, and just spend whatever benefits our elected representatives deem appropriate.

Social Security may face a very interesting political crisis in the coming decade or two. But in hard economic terms, there is no crisis at all.

Amen, brother Spross. The invented danger that Social Security (and Medicare and all other federal programs) could run short of dollars is a myth.

Now, while we’re at it, let’s get rid of that inflation myth, too.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
Monetary Sovereignty
Twitter: @rodgermitchell
Search #monetarysovereigntyFacebook: Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

The most important problems in economics involve the excessive income/wealth/power Gaps between the richer and the poorer.

Wide Gaps negatively affect poverty, health and longevity, education, housing, law and crime, war, leadership, ownership, bigotry, supply and demand, taxation, GDP, international relations, scientific advancement, the environment, human motivation and well-being, and virtually every other issue in economics.

Implementation of The Ten Steps To Prosperity can narrow the Gaps:

Ten Steps To Prosperity:

1. Eliminate FICA

2. Federally funded Medicare — parts a, b & d, plus long-term care — for everyone

3. Provide a monthly economic bonus to every man, woman and child in America (similar to social security for all)

4. Free education (including post-grad) for everyone

5. Salary for attending school

6. Eliminate federal taxes on business

7. Increase the standard income tax deduction, annually. 

8. Tax the very rich (the “.1%”) more, with higher progressive tax rates on all forms of income.

9. Federal ownership of all banks

10. Increase federal spending on the myriad initiatives that benefit America’s 99.9% 

The Ten Steps will grow the economy, and narrow the income/wealth/power Gap between the rich and you.

MONETARY SOVEREIGNTY

 

Inflation: The causes and cures Saturday, Mar 9 2019 

In one sense, inflations (and hyperinflations) must be complex, not only because so many nations have suffered from them and not known what to do, but because so many events can cause inflations.

But in another sense,  many nations have figured out how to prevent and cure inflations, and the causes can be boiled down to just two. This post reveals the two causes of, and the two best cures for, inflation.

Inflation does not exist in a vacuum. It is a change in the relationship between the value of a currency and the average value of goods and services. In short, the value of the currency declines relative to the value of the goods and services.

Image result for hyperinflation germany wheelbarrow

Classic example of hyperinflation — wheelbarrow of money.

Popular wisdom holds that government deficit spending or “money creation” causes inflation. Many examples of inflation, particularly hyperinflation (an extreme form of inflation) do seem to correspond with money creation.

Weimar Republic (Germany) and Zimbabwe are perhaps the most cited examples.

Yet, in the U.S., the money supply has increased markedly with only moderate inflation.

The following graph shows indexes of three money measures, M1 (green), M2 (red), and M3 (blue), along with the consumer price index measure of inflation (purple). All indexes are based on January 1980 = 100.

While all three money measures have risen substantially, inflation has been comparatively modest, and within the Fed’s target of 2.5% annually. Why?

Here is another graph comparing the rise of federal debt (total of T-security accounts) with the consumer price index:

Federal debt grew massively while inflation remained moderate.

Again, there seems to be scant relationship between federal debt growth and inflation.

It would be difficult to look at these data and conclude that federal deficit spending (i.e. money creation) causes inflation. In fact, money creation seems to be a government’s response to inflation, not the cause.

Where does that leave us?

Inflation is based on the value of goods and service vs. the value of a currency. The value of goods and services is based on Demand/Supply. The value of a currency also is based on Demand/Supply.

The formula for the value of goods and services (Demand/Supply) is driven mostly by changes in the Supply side of the fraction. When food or energy are in short supply, inflation is inevitable. The Demand for food and oil (today’s stand-in for energy) is far less variable.

In the formula for the value of dollars, Demand/Supply, both Demand and Supply can be quite variable. The Demand for currency is based on Reward/Risk. The Reward for owning dollars is interest. The Risk would be the reduced “full faith and credit” of the issuer.

Because the full faith and credit of the U.S. essentially is perfect, Risk is not an important variable here.

This means that inflation comes when the Reward for owning dollars (interest) declines and/or the Supply of food and/or energy declines.

A larger economy has more money than does a smaller economy. For instance, California has a larger economy and more money than does Los Angeles. Therefore, to grow an economy requires growing the money Supply. 

That indicates that trying to fight inflation by limiting the money supply (aka austerity), via reduced deficit spending and/or increased taxation, will lead to recession or depression.

Annual % change in Federal Debt shows that reductions lead to recessions (vertical bars), and increases cure recessions.

As for surpluses (i.e. extreme deficit reductions), they lead to depressions (i.e. extreme recessions):

1804-1812: U. S. Federal Debt reduced by 48%. Depression began in 1807.
1817-1821: U. S. Federal Debt reduced by 29%. Depression began in 1819.
1823-1836: U. S. Federal Debt reduced by 99%. Depression began in 1837.
1852-1857: U. S. Federal Debt reduced by 59%. Depression began in 1857.
1867-1873: U. S. Federal Debt reduced by 27%. Depression began in 1873.
1880-1893: U. S. Federal Debt reduced by 57%. Depression began in 1893.
1920-1930: U. S. Federal Debt reduced by 36%. Depression began in 1929.
1997-2001: U. S. Federal Debt reduced by 15%. A recession began in 2001.

Bottom line: Inflation devolves to two variables: The supply of food and/or energy and interest rates.

The prevention and cure for inflation is to make sure the Supply of goods and services (usually food or energy ) is adequate, and the Reward for owning dollars (interest), remains adequate.

Example: Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation began when its leader, Robert Mugabe stole farm land from white farmers and gave it to black people who had no experience farming.

The resultant food shortage caused inflation.  Then, Mugabe’s response was to print currency, which did nothing to solve the fundamental shortage problem. And as the inflation worsened, more and more useless currency printing followed, and it was the currency printing that wrongly was blamed for the inflation.

It was as though someone prescribed wine to cure a cancer. As the cancer progressed, more and more wine was prescribed until the patient died, and the wine was blamed as the cause of the cancer.

 In short, to prevent inflation don’t cut federal deficit spending. Rather, make sure the economy has plenty of food and energy and high enough interest rates.

And so, to cure an existing inflation, you must increase your supply of food and energy, and/or increase interest rates.

Printing more currency is an ineffective inflation cure, as is cutting deficit spending (aka “austerity.) Both exacerbate inflation and lead to recessions and depressions. Instituting austerity to grow an economy is like applying leeches to cure anemia. 

What should a Monetarily Sovereign country do about inflation? Here are the best steps to take:

  1. Increase interest rates to make the currency more valuable. This is the method the Fed uses to control inflation.
  2. Support farmers by cutting farm taxes, passing farm support bills, support farm research to increase crop yields.
  3. Support energy creation: Oil drilling, renewable energy.
  • Do not blame federal deficit spending for causing future inflations
  • Do not begin austerity (reduced deficit spending, increased taxation)
  • Do not print additional currency.
  • Do not borrow a foreign currency

What about monetarily non-sovereign nations like the euro countries, which do not have a sovereign currency?

If the EU cannot be convinced to prevent and cure inflations, while supporting economic growth, euro nations must re-establish their own currencies, and become Monetarily Sovereign, again.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
Monetary Sovereignty
Twitter: @rodgermitchell
Search #monetarysovereigntyFacebook: Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

The most important problems in economics involve the excessive income/wealth/power Gaps between the richer and the poorer.

Wide Gaps negatively affect poverty, health and longevity, education, housing, law and crime, war, leadership, ownership, bigotry, supply and demand, taxation, GDP, international relations, scientific advancement, the environment, human motivation and well-being, and virtually every other issue in economics.

Implementation of The Ten Steps To Prosperity can narrow the Gaps:

Ten Steps To Prosperity:

1. Eliminate FICA

2. Federally funded medicare — parts a, b & d, plus long-term care — for everyone

3. Provide a monthly economic bonus to every man, woman and child in America (similar to social security for all)

4. Free education (including post-grad) for everyone

5. Salary for attending school

6. Eliminate federal taxes on business

7. Increase the standard income tax deduction, annually. 

8. Tax the very rich (the “.1%) more, with higher progressive tax rates on all forms of income.

9. Federal ownership of all banks

10. Increase federal spending on the myriad initiatives that benefit America’s 99.9% 

The Ten Steps will grow the economy, and narrow the income/wealth/power Gaps between the rich and you.

MONETARY SOVEREIGNTY

Yet another economics writer who doesn’t understand the fundamentals. Monday, Mar 4 2019 

A fundamental truth of economics: A Monetarily Sovereign nation never unintentionally can run short of its own sovereign currency.

The nation does not need to tax and does not need to borrow. It creates its sovereign currency at will.

To not understand that fact is to not understand economics, for it is the absolute foundation of economics.

THEWEEK Magazine recently published the article, “The big question about Modern Monetary Theory everyone is missing,” by Ryan Cooper.

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and Monetary Sovereignty (MS) share many characteristics regarding money in today’s economies.

Here are a few excerpts from the article, together with my comments.

Economists are in the midst of one of the periodic debate flare-ups over Modern Monetary Theory.

On the pro-MMT side we have economists like Stephanie Kelton and Randall Wray, while on the other we have the odd bedfellows of The New York Times’ Paul Krugman and the People’s Policy Project’s Matt Bruenig.

Professor Kelton has been a “pen pal” of mine for several years. I met Professor Wray years ago, when I gave a talk to his class at UMKC.

This intricate debate is about the main merits of MMT, an economic school of thought which has received wide attention for its dismissal of the need for taxes to pay for new spending.

Both MMT and MS agree that unlike state and local taxes, which do pay for state and local government spending, federal taxes do not pay for federal spending.

The reason is that the U.S. federal government is Monetarily Sovereign. It is sovereign over U.S. dollars, which it creates ad hoc, every time it pays a creditor.

Even if the U.S. government collected zero taxes, it could continue spending, forever.

However, there is an important question which has to this point not been raised. The MMT advocates say that inflation should be controlled through fiscal policy, instead of monetary policy conducted by the central bank as is current practice.

In other words, if prices start rising, we can keep them in line by raising taxes.

But does that actually work?

No, it doesn’t work, cannot work and never will work.

Raising taxes is too slow and too political (waiting for Congress), too undirected (which taxes?), not incremental enough (raise taxes how much?), and too damaging to economic growth (taxes reduce the money supply). 

Unfortunately, MMT takes incompatible positions. It says correctly, that federal taxes do not fund federal spending, but incorrectly that federal taxes are necessary to cause demand for U.S. dollars.

During times of recession and economic slack, a state borrowing in its own currency has unlimited capacity to spend, because printing money or borrowing to spend on public works and so on will not cause inflation so long as there are unemployed workers and idle capital stock.

Think, Mr. Cooper. If a state has the unlimited capacity to spend and to “print” money, why would it need to, or even want to, borrow? Think.

Contrary to popular wisdom, the U.S. does not borrow dollars. Instead, it accepts deposits into T-security accounts, the purpose of which are:

  1. To provide the world with a safe place to park unused dollars. This helps stabilize the dollar.
  2. To assist the Fed in controlling interest rates, which control inflation.

But if there is full employment, taxes are needed for new programs — to fund them for the former, or to stave off inflation for the latter.

Here, Cooper reveals he doesn’t understand the differences between monetarily non-sovereign state and local government financing (where borrowing is necessary), vs. Monetarily Sovereign federal financing (that requires no borrowing).

The federal government levies taxes, but not to obtain dollars. It freely produces all the dollars it needs.

The purpose of federal taxes is to control the economy by discouraging certain activities with higher taxes and by encouraging others with tax reductions.

The effect of federal taxes (as opposed to the purpose), is to reduce federal deficit spending which reduces the money supply.

All federal taxes do this — income taxes, FICA, sales taxes, import duties, etc. They all reduce the money supply. Just as tax cuts are economically stimulative, tax increases are recessionary.

And just as increased federal deficit spending helps cure recessions, decreased federal deficit spending causes recessions, and worst case, depressions.

U.S. depressions tend to come on the heels of federal surpluses.

1804-1812: U. S. Federal Debt reduced 48%. Depression began 1807.
1817-1821: U. S. Federal Debt reduced 29%. Depression began 1819.
1823-1836: U. S. Federal Debt reduced 99%. Depression began 1837.
1852-1857: U. S. Federal Debt reduced 59%. Depression began 1857.
1867-1873: U. S. Federal Debt reduced 27%. Depression began 1873.
1880-1893: U. S. Federal Debt reduced 57%. Depression began 1893.
1920-1930: U. S. Federal Debt reduced 36%. Depression began 1929.
1997-2001: U. S. Federal Debt reduced 15%. Recession began 2001.

Now, it should be noted that MMT’s style of argumentation seems to have dented the brainless pro-austerity mindset that dominates much of elite discourse, which is very much to its credit.

Remember the above comment, because later in his article, Cooper unknowingly supports the very austerity he calls “brainless.”

He discusses the key objection to MMT (and MS), inflation:

The way tax-side inflation control is supposed to work is through supply and demand.

Since taxation will leave buyers with less money in their pockets to spend, market competition will force suppliers to cut prices and workers to accept lower wages.

But if markets have become dominated by a few big firms, then business can resist this pressure, because buyers have nowhere else to go.

Taxation reduces the supply of money. Though taxation can support the demand for money, it is not necessary for that purpose.

Interest is a more effective device for supporting the demand for money. While taxes depress an economy, interest stimulates the economy by increasing federal dollar interest input.

Money growth grows an economy.

A good test of this prediction came in the late 1970s, when inflation was at its postwar peak.

Economist John Kenneth Galbraith argued for price controls, but conservative “monetarists” like Milton Friedman argued that (with) a steep hike in interest rates, inflation would come down quickly and easily.

The Fed tried Friedman’s policy, but it turned out Galbraith was right.

The Fed hiked interest rates to an eyewatering 20 percent, creating the worst recession since the Great Depression up to that time.

But inflation only came down very slowly — partly through Keynesian-style spending effects, but partly by badly damaging the labor movement, which cut unionization.

In the past 50 years, since President Nixon took the U.S. off a gold standard, inflation has not been caused by America’s massive federal deficit spending. See: Inflation has been caused by the price of oil.

The Fed wisely has not recommended controlling the price of oil, an action that would lead to an oil shortage, and a recession, if not a depression. That is what price controls do: Lead to shortages.

And what do shortages lead to? Hyperinflations.

So, Cooper writes that Galbraith was right about price controls?? Where did that come from? He provides no evidence.

The true effect of price controls is to reduce economic growth by reducing supply and profits — the economic necessities for growth.

Price control is a feature of the “brainless, pro-austerity mindset” that Cooper properly criticized a few paragraphs ago.

And do increased interest rates really lead to recessions? Or is it simply that recessions lead to decreased interest rates?

Interest rates (red); deficit spending increases (blue); recessions (vertical gray bars)

The above graph shows that sometimes interest rates peak at the start of recessions, sometimes they peak in the midst of economic growth, and sometimes they decline at the start of recessions.

One cannot say that increased interest rates historically have caused recessions.

The real pattern is that decreased deficit spending causes recessions and increased deficit spending cures recessions.

Why? Because a growing economy requires a growing supply of dollars, and deficit spending adds stimulus dollars to the economy.

Federal deficit spending and debt don’t cause inflation.

Since the U.S. went off the gold standard in 1971, the federal debt (blue) has risen massively, while inflation (red) has been moderate.

Most inflations and nearly all hyperinflations are caused by shortages, usually shortages of food, and often shortages of oil.

For instance, Zimbabwe, an oft-mentioned hyperinflation victim, had its hyperinflation begin with a food shortage. (Farmland was stolen from farmers and given to non-farmers.)

One reason inflation control is delegated to the central bank is that it can work quickly, adjusting interest rates in response to economic conditions several times per year.

Congress works extremely slowly at the best of times, and control is usually split between the two parties.

The Fed may have performed poorly over the last decade, but do we really want Mitch McConnell having to sign off on inflation policy?

Exactly. Now that Cooper belatedly has confirmed why price controls and tax increases don’t work and can’t work, we come to the:

SUMMARY

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and Monetary Sovereignty MS) describe the realities of economics similarly.

They agree that a Monetarily Sovereign nation, such as the U.S., cannot run short of its own sovereign currency, and neither needs nor uses tax dollars to fund spending.

They differ in many other areas however, one of which has to do with controlling inflation:

Three inflation controls were discussed, only one of which is effective:

  1. Price controls which cut profits and thus cut economic growth, lead to recessions and ultimately cause inflations by causing shortages. They don’t work, and neither MMT nor MS supports this approach.
  2. Tax increases, which are too slow, too political, not incremental, and cause recessions by decreasing the money supply. They don’t work, though MMT supports this approach.
  3. Interest rate increases, which actually increase the money supply (by causing the federal government to pay more interest into the economy, and work by increasing the value of dollars (by increasing the demand for dollars). Works, and has been working since the end of WWII. MS supports this approach.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
Monetary Sovereignty
Twitter: @rodgermitchell
Search #monetarysovereigntyFacebook: Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

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The most important problems in economics involve the excessive income/wealth/power Gaps between the richer and the poorer.

Wide Gaps negatively affect poverty, health and longevity, education, housing, law and crime, war, leadership, ownership, bigotry, supply and demand, taxation, GDP, international relations, scientific advancement, the environment, human motivation and well-being, and virtually every other issue in economics.

Implementation of The Ten Steps To Prosperity can narrow the Gaps:

Ten Steps To Prosperity:

1. Eliminate FICA

2. Federally funded medicare — parts a, b & d, plus long-term care — for everyone

3. Provide a monthly economic bonus to every man, woman and child in America (similar to social security for all)

4. Free education (including post-grad) for everyone

5. Salary for attending school

6. Eliminate federal taxes on business

7. Increase the standard income tax deduction, annually. 

8. Tax the very rich (the “.1%) more, with higher progressive tax rates on all forms of income.

9. Federal ownership of all banks

10. Increase federal spending on the myriad initiatives that benefit America’s 99.9% 

The Ten Steps will grow the economy, and narrow the income/wealth/power Gap between the rich and you.

MONETARY SOVEREIGNTY

 

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