Modern Monetary Theory
The last few weeks have seen at least two posts calling attention to the potential use of the platinum coin in America's political economy. The first to appear was Rob Urie's piece in Counterpunch provocatively titled: “The Trillion Dollar Catshit Coin” And the second was Mike Sandler's post in The Huffington Post called “Greece and the U.S. Senate: Economics for the 99%.
Let's begin looking at these with Sandler's effort. He reports on two challenges to austerity. The first is from Syriza's victory in Greece and its promise to Greek voters that it will end austerity. The second:
The austerity mindset faces a new foe in the U.S. Senate as well. The re-shuffle of the last U.S. election that put austerity-minded Republicans in power has ironically resulted in a new anti-austerity economist being hired by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in the Senate Budget Committee -- Professor Stephanie Kelton of the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Professor Kelton is a proponent of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), a very pro-stimulus economic approach. Her hiring represents the biggest step forward for MMT, since the PR coup of the Trillion Dollar Platinum Coin in 2013. At that time, Kelton reportedly created the #mintthecoin hashtag that was featured in columns by Paul Krugman and others.
Sanders' hiring of Kelton is a break from the more conciliatory "balanced budgeting" approach of some Democrats, such as former treasury secretaries with ties to Wall Street and fiscally-conservative "deficit hawks." Kelton and her MMT colleagues go beyond the traditional Keynesian stimulus of short-term deficit spending. They seek to unleash the power of monetary policy to circumvent the scarcity mindset imposed on government action, perhaps even bringing the Trillion Dollar Coin back into the discussion.
Of course, Sandler means to say fiscal policy in the above, since MMT economics greatly favors reliance on fiscal, rather than monetary policy, in spite of the “monetary” in its name. But apart from that, he projects that we may see the platinum coin come back into prominence soon. Read more about Return of the Coin?
(Cross-posted with permission of the author from New Economic Perspectives)
Here’s a summary of the plan Bernie Sanders has set out, along with my comments (in italics).
1.) We need a major investment to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. $1 trillion investment to create 13 million decent paying jobs and make this country more efficient and productive.
Agreed, but let’s not settle for a mere 13 million jobs. We need twice that. And, of course, the “price tag” is irrelevant—so long as we create useful jobs that pay living wages, we can “always afford” to pay for them. By creating jobs we are not just investing in infrastructure, but we are also investing in our people, enhancing their participation in our society and providing them with the means to support their families. We can always afford that. Read more about A TWELVE STEP PROGRAM TO RESTORE PROSPERITY: THE BERNIE SANDERS PLAN
Can the Federal Reserve Really Refuse To Accept and To Credit A Platinum Coin Deposited By the US Mint?
The issue of whether the Fed can really refuse to accept and credit a deposit of a platinum coin with its face value, is being raised frequently on blog posts about Platinum Coin Seigniorage (PCS) and the Trillion Dollar Coin (TDC). In the past, I've argued that the Fed cannot; and the final decision on taking the TDC off the table was actually made by the President, and not by Chairman Bernanke.
Ellen Brown, the well-known author of The Web of Debt, and also of this recent post on fiat money, direct financing of federal spending, and using platinum coin seigniorage made this comment in a discussion thread at Monetary Realism: Read more about Can the Federal Reserve Really Refuse To Accept and To Credit A Platinum Coin Deposited By the US Mint?
As part of a wonderful discussion thread on the legal basis for using Platinum Coin Seigniorage (PCS), following a post by beowulf (Carlos Mucha), the first to propose the Trillion Dollar Coin (TDC). Read more about Downsides to the Platinum Coin; or Just Defense of the Status Quo?
A wonderful discussion thread has been going on at Monetary Realism (MR) after a very good new post by beowulf (Carlos Mucha), who first brought forward the proposal for the Executive Branch to use the authority provided in the 1996 Platinum Coin Seigniorage (PCS) legislation to fill the public purse, on whether the Fed had a legal basis for turning down PCS in the form of the Trillion Dollar Coin (TDC). Read more about Beowulf and Diehl Embrace Trillion Dollar Coin Incrementalism!
Some have responded to the recent boomlet for using Platinum Coin Seigniorage (PCS) as a solution to the debt ceiling problem, by reacting to the ridicule visited upon PCS advocates by know-nothings like Heidi Moore of the Guardian and Read more about Good Luck Stopping Austerity With Incremental Platinum Coin Seigniorage!
Our Congresspeople, corporate CEOs, tea partiers, most economists, Pete Peterson's minions, and even our President, tell us that we're running out of money; and that we can't keep running huge deficits, and increasing our national debt forever, because eventually, our creditors will just cease lending us our dollars back.
They also tell us that the Government can only raise money by either taxing or borrowing, and that when it comes to taxing, we can't tax “the job creators” very much or they'll go on strike and won't create any jobs because we'll have killed their incentive. So, here we are, we have to reduce our borrowing, and we can have hardly any tax increases on “the job creators,” so what's a fiscally responsible nation to do?
Well, they say, clearly “we” have to lower taxes on “the job creators” even more, raise them on the “unproductive” 47% or is it the 99%? And also, cut spending substantially on programs that provide benefits for the poor, the middle class, and even the 99%, so we can “. . . live within our means,” and remove the burden of excessive public debt on our grandchildren.
But, what if we say to these people, well, “the job creators” aren't making any jobs? That's a fact! They give all kinds of excuses, but the truth is that they have no sales, so they have no incentive to create any more jobs.
On the other hand, the more we lower their taxes, the more money they have sitting idle, and the more they have an incentive to use that money to invest in financial manipulation schemes rather than jobs. So, why not tax them at extremely high rates on net profits and provide them an incentive to lower their net profits by spending more of their gross profits on tax-deductible business expenses like employees and business expansion? Why won't high taxes on them do more to create jobs than lower taxes? Didn't we have far lower unemployment rates when marginal tax rates were sky-high, than we have now when they are a pittance on the wealthy? Read more about The Great Austerity Swindle!
A little disconnect: what President Obama, through Treasury and the Federal Reserve, really said last Saturday:
"We're running out of money because the Republican House may not allow us to float any more debt; so I took the Platinum Coin off the table just to ensure that we would!
Yesterday, Ezra Klein reported in the Washington Post that:
The Treasury Department will not mint a trillion-dollar platinum coin to get around the debt ceiling. If they did, the Federal Reserve would not accept it.
That’s the bottom line of the statement that Anthony Coley, a spokesman for the Treasury Department, gave me today.
“Neither the Treasury Department nor the Federal Reserve believes that the law can or should be used to facilitate the production of platinum coins for the purpose of avoiding an increase in the debt limit,”
The inclusion of the Federal Reserve is significant. For the platinum coin idea to work, the Federal Reserve would have to treat it as a legal way for the Treasury Department to create currency. If they don’t believe it’s legal and would not credit the Treasury Department’s deposit, the platinum coin would be worthless.
This statement from Ezra Klein would have us believe that the Federal Reserve is an independent agent in this matter, and that it can refuse to credit the deposit of a newly minted high face value proof platinum coin, if the Treasury makes such a deposit. It also assumes that if the Treasury insisted on the deposit of the coin, that the Fed would be in a position to go Court to contest that; that it has a choice in the matter.
I don't believe that either of these things are true. I also think they are just a rationalization, so the President, who most probably decided this can pretend that this decision isn't on him; or at least can be partially blamed on the Fed. Let's review some critical aspects of the relationship between the Fed and the Treasury. Read more about Make 'Em Do It! I Still Choose Using High Value Platinum Coin Seigniorage To End Austerity!
But there’s nothing benign about the platinum coin. It is a breakdown in the American system of governance, a symbol that we have become a banana republic. And perhaps we have. But the platinum coin is not the first cousin of cleanly raising the debt ceiling. It is the first cousin of defaulting on our debts. As with true default, it proves to the financial markets that we can no longer be trusted to manage our economic affairs predictably and rationally. It’s evidence that American politics has transitioned from dysfunctional to broken and that all manner of once-ludicrous outcomes have muscled their way into the realm of possibility. As with default, it will mean our borrowing costs rise and financial markets gradually lose trust in our system, though perhaps not with the disruptive panic that default would bring.
Name calling, labeling, and fear mongering aside, does Ezra understand the first thing about PCS? Does he know that if a $60 T coin were minted, and the Treasury General Account (TGA) filled with $60 T in electronic credits, the US would be able to just say goodbye to the international markets? If we were paying off the national debt as it fell due, we would not only not be defaulting, but would be paying all our creditors on time and in full, and without benefit of further debt instrument issuance. Nor would we care whether the markets trusted us or not; since we would not be borrowing money from them for the foreseeable future. So, how could our borrowing costs rise? Read more about Ezra Klein Chooses Fear Mongering the Big Coin, I Choose Ending Austerity!
Well, not really. But if you view the Trillion Dollar Coin (TDC) meme, as I do, as a short-hand for the more general idea of using Platinum Coin Seigniorage (PCS), then yes, it can change the whole political game for progressives if President Obama dares to use it.
Literal TDC proposals would solve the debt-ceiling, but they won't solve the larger problem of defeating the austerity politics that is so close to getting the cuts to social safety net and important discretionary government programs that austerians have long sought. PCS game-changer proposals are the ones calling for, or analyzing the impact of, PCS options aimed at paying off the national debt and covering anticipated federal deficit spending for some years.
PCS options of that kind change the game of fiscal politics by removing the issue of austerity from fiscal policy considerations. With this kind of PCS the national debt and the debt-to-GDP ratio go away as matters of concern. The focus of fiscal policy then becomes the impact of specific policies rather than some overall deficit or debt reducing target. The issue in fiscal policy then becomes public purpose. It becomes what specific impacts, including inflation, and full employment, are anticipated from passing specific legislation, and whether or not those impacts are in line with public purpose. But, when the national debt and the debt-to-GDP ration go away as matters of concern; then the issue of the deficit viewed as something that is draining a limited supply of financial resources goes away, also, because people will understand that using PCS to cover deficits ensures that the US Treasury can never run short of its own fiat currency.
I'm sorry to say that there are few posts of this kind, relatively speaking. I'll list and link to some of those posts later. But first I want to point to what some in the MSM blogosphere are saying right now. Read more about Wake Up Progressives: the Trillion Dollar Coin Can Be Game-Changing!
The exception to the general pattern focusing on the Trillion Dollar Coin (TDC) as the solution to the debt ceiling problem I outlined and critiqued in my last post, is in Joe Wiesenthal 's posts here and here. Wiesenthal alone criticizes, rather than ign Read more about The Small Ball Trillion Dollar Coin Seigniorage Exception
Wake Up Progressives: The Bad Guys Are Trying To Steal the Trillion Dollar Coin to Save the Financial Status Quo!
Among the many posts on the Trillion Dollar Coin (TDC) and Platinum Coin Seigniorage (PCS) we're seeing this week, is a category of posts favoring using PCS in a limited way to avoid the debt ceiling crisis, rather than using it in a much more robust way, that would change the procedures underlying Federal Read more about Wake Up Progressives: The Bad Guys Are Trying To Steal the Trillion Dollar Coin to Save the Financial Status Quo!
Enthusiasm for using Platinum Coin Seigniorage (PCS) to produce a Trillion Dollar Coin, or coins totaling a few trillion dollars continues to increase. Read more about Trillion Dollar Coin: Posts on Legality and Constitutionality
Another platinum coin surge in the Second Wave rippled through the mainstream media yesterday and this time hit the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Domenico Mantanaro of MSNBC kicked things off on one of the morning shows by mentioning the Trillion Dollar Coin (TDC) as a possible solution to the debt ceiling problem. Then, in the afternoon, on MSNBC's the cycle, Krystal Ball, and Steve Kornacke, in discussing the coming debt ceiling conflict talked rather matter-of-factly, I thought, about minting some TDCs to get around the debt ceiling. Read more about Paul Goes Platinum!