New York Times op-ed: Learn To Love Trillion-Dollar Deficits, by Stephanie Kelton (Stony Brook; author, The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People’s Economy (2020)):
As a proponent of what’s called Modern Monetary Theory and as a former chief economist for the Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee, intimately familiar with how public finance actually works, I am not worried about the recent multitrillion-dollar surge in spending.
But there was a time when it would have rattled me too.
I understand the deficit myth because in the early part of my career in economics I, too, bought into the conventional way of thinking. I was taught that the federal government should manage its finances in ways that resemble good old-fashioned household budgeting, that it should hold spending in line with revenues and avoid adding debt whenever possible. ...
It is true that the dollars in your pocket are, in a physical sense, just pieces of paper. It’s the state’s ability to make and enforce its tax laws that sustains a demand for them, which in turn makes those dollars valuable. It’s also how the British Empire and others before it were able to effectively rule: conquer, erase the legitimacy of a given people’s original currency, impose British currency on the colonized, then watch how the entire local economy begins to revolve around British currency, interests and power. Taxes exist for many reasons, but they exist mainly to give value to a state’s otherwise worthless tokens.
Coming to terms with this was jarring — a Copernican moment. By the time I developed this subject into my first published, peer-reviewed academic paper, I realized that my prior understanding of government finance had been wrong.
In 2020, Congress has been showing us — in practice if not in its rhetoric — exactly how M.M.T. works: It committed trillions of dollars this spring that in the conventional economic sense it did not “have.” It didn’t raise taxes or borrow from China to come up with dollars to support our ailing economy. Instead, lawmakers simply voted to pass spending bills, which effectively ordered up trillions of dollars from the government’s bank, the Federal Reserve. In reality, that’s how all government spending is paid for.
June 17, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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