Recently, I've been writing about oligarchs advocating for entitlement cuts and austerity. I've discussed attacks on entitlement benefits for the elderly from Abby Huntsman (of MSNBC's The Cycle) and Catherine Rampell (a Washington Post columnist), both the children of well-off individuals. These posts have come in the context of the English language release of Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century, and the more recent pre-publication release of a study by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page using quantitative methods and empirical data to explore the question of whether the US is an oligarchy or a majoritarian democracy. They conclude:
”What do our findings say about democracy in America? They certainly constitute troubling news for advocates of “populistic” democracy, who want governments to respond primarily or exclusively to the policy preferences of their citizens. In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule -- at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.”
With this as a backdrop, today I want to de-construct a recent statement by Michael A. Peterson, President and COO, of one of the centers of American oligarchy, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation (PGPF), and the son of the multi-billionaire Peter G. Peterson, commenting on the CBO's Report earlier this month, on its updated budget projections for 2014 - 2024. Read more about Peterson/CBO Beat for Austerity Goes On!
In my last post, I took issue with a recent column by Catherine Rampell, who tries to make the case that seniors haven't paid for their Social Security and Medicare because they “generally receive” more in benefits out of these programs than they pay into them. Rampell relies on an Urban Institute study to make her case. Since that post, she's offered another that replies to some of the questions raised by commenters on her earlier effort. I'll reply to that new post shortly, but first I want to present key points emerging from my analysis of Federal monetary operations in my reply to her earlier post. See that post for the full argument.
First, once Congress mandates spending, there is no way that the Treasury can be forced into insolvency or an inability to pay its obligations as long as it is willing to make use of all the ways it can cause the Fed to create reserve credits in Treasury spending accounts which can then be used for its reserve keystroking into private sector account activities that today represent most of the reality of Federal spending. Read more about More Misdirection from Rampell in the Service of Generational War
Some of the favored children of the economic elite who have a public presence, work hard in their writing and speaking to divert attention from inequality and oligarchy issues by raising the issue of competition between seniors and millennials for “scarce” Federal funds. That's understandable. If millennials develop full consciousness of who, exactly, has been flushing their prospects for a decent life down the toilet, their anger and activism might bring down the system of wealth and economic and social privilege that benefits both their families and the favored themselves in the new America of oligarchy and plutocracy.
Here and here, I evaluated Abby Huntsman's arguments for entitlement “reform,” and, of course, Pete Peterson's son, Michael fights a continuing generational war against seniors in pushing the austerian line of the Peterson Foundation. Now comes Catherine Rampell, who, in a recent column, sets forth the position that seniors haven't paid for their Social Security and Medicare because they “generally receive” more in benefits out of these programs than they pay into them.
I'll reply to all of the main points in Rampell's argument, by quoting liberally and then replying to the points she makes in each quote. She says: Read more about Misdirection: Rampell Views Entitlements Through the Generational War Lens
In recent posts I reviewed two commentaries by Abby Huntsman on Social Security and other entitlements, also noting points made in other critiques of her narratives. Abby's commentaries are here, and here, and my critiques are here and here. The most important point I emphasized in my two rebuttals is that there are no fiscal solvency or sustainability issues related to Social Security, or other parts of the safety net, but that the issues involve only the willingness of Congress to appropriate entitlement spending, and either the removal of current constraints on Treasury to spend appropriations such as the debt limit, or the willingness of the Executive Branch to use its current legislative authority either to a) generate sufficient seigniorage from platinum coins to spend such appropriations; or b) use a type of debt instrument, such as consols, which aren't counted toward the debt limit.
The day before I posted my second reply to Abby Huntsman, Richard J. Eskow and WeActRadio posted this video clip from Eskow's radio broadcast. In his critique, Richard shows that Abby Huntsman's treatment of Social Security and entitlements is full of misleading information and hews closely to the narrative offered by Alan Simpson, Pete Peterson, and organizations supported by Peterson funding, and he calls for the MSNBC producers of “The Cycle” to issue statements correcting the facts, and to give Abby's co-hosts on The Cycle a chance to reply to her about social security. Read more about The Village Still Ignores the Most Important Point
Abby Huntsman's first rant about entitlements soliciting generational warfare got a lot of pushback from defenders. I reviewed the main points made in defense of entitlements, and then added “the most important point of all” as well. Abby made a second try, however, this time singling out Michael Hiltzik's reply to her to respond to and adding a few more points, while withdrawing a bit from her claim that life expectancy has changed very much for seniors since the New Deal period. Hiltzik took issue with that one too. Let's review Huntsman's reply to Hiltzik by analyzing the MSNBC transcript of her second rant against entitlements.
. . . the need for entitlement reform. there was a firestorm of reaction. an article in the " l.a. times" went as far as to say i want to lead my generation into poverty. come on, man. this isn't about me. it's about the major problem.
MSNBC's right wing representative on The Cycle, Abby Huntsman, got a lot of pushback from Social Security defenders after her rant last week. They made points similar to the following in countering Huntsman:
(This Open Letter to Bernie Sanders was posted on November 20. I'm very glad I can now post it here on my favorite political blog.)
Today, you told the “Democrats stop caving in . . . ” to the interests of corporations, the tea party, wealthy individuals, and the Republicans in Congress. The only problem with your fiery statement is that you began it by “caving in” to them yourself. You did this by immediately legitimizing their frame of reference by saying:
“Here is something we all can agree on: Federal deficits are a serious problem.”
(Editor's Note: This post is being re-published with the permission of the author, Scott Fullwiler)
Cullen Roche’s excellent post at Pragmatic Capitalism explains—via comments from frequent MMT commentator Beowulf and several previous posts by fellow MMT blogger Joe Firestone (see the links at the end of Cullen’s post and also here)—that the debt ceiling debate could be ended right now given that the US Constitution bestows upon the US Treasury the authority to mint coins. Further, this simple change would lift the veil on how current monetary operations work and thereby demonstrate clearly that a currency-issuing government under flexible exchange rates cannot be forced into default against its will and is not beholden to “vigilante” bond markets. As Beowulf explains in a later comment, “The anomaly it addresses is that the US Govt has a debt limit yet an agency of the US Govt (the Federal Reserve) does not have a debt limit. Clearly this is a structural defect.”
The following is a description of how the process would work and the implications for monetary operations: Read more about Scott Fullwiler: QE3, Treasury Style—Go Around, Not Over the Debt Ceiling Limit
Yesterday, we actually ran over the debt ceiling of $14.294 Trillion by $50 Billion or so, which means that the Treasury has issued $52 Billion more in debt instruments than is allowed by Congress's debt ceiling, which, in turn, means that the current Administration stands in violation of the Law. In reply to this, some will say that the debt ceiling is unconstitutional so the President doesn't need to observe it. However, in the present context, I don't think that's true. Here's my argument. Read more about President Obama: Stop Breaking the Law; Use Coin Seigniorage
An Open Letter to Bernie
If you're really tired of the bullying then I think you need to stop believing in and start denying the basic premise the Republicans, the Blue Dogs, most Democrats and the Administration are all using to bully you and us into agreeing to spending cuts in key discretionary programs and entitlement programs, and also into not moving for more spending on jobs, better entitlement programs, including Medicare for All, and better discretionary programs we need to solve our many national problems. That premise is that the United States of America, the issuer of its own fiat currency, and the ultimate source of all US Dollars can run out of the money needed to continue to deficit spend and to pay its bills. Read more about Bernie Says: “. . . We're Tired of Bullying . . .”
I don't really mean to single out Gallup here. Well, I guess I do; but they're certainly not the only guilty party in the polling industry of doing what I'm about to rail against. Let's begin by stipulating that public polls cannot escape ideological and selection biases in how they frame questions and alternative closed end response choices. Nevertheless, if poll results are to be considered even minimally descriptive of public opinion, they must make a concerted effort to include multiple frames and not exclude response choices that go beyond the dominant ideology. After all what good are polls that channel opinion in pre-determined directions compared to those that allow respondents to express their own tendencies? Read more about Gallup Scores Another for the Plutocracy
Over the past year, I've written numerous posts about fiscal sustainability, fiscal responsibility, and the various fairy tales and myths underlying what almost all of our policy makers have to say Government finance. I continue to search for a meme that will catch fire and lead people to seriously question the false idea that the US can't: afford to put everybody back to work, see to it that all Americans have good health care; provide an excellent education for our children, reconstruct the energy foundations of our economy, re-invent our infrastructure, and take the measures necessary to solve our other major problems before they get any worse.
It's the idea that we can't afford to pay for many things that we would like to do, that makes it so hard to legislate solutions. With “the national debt” at the level that it is, many legislators who might normally do whatever they could to address our various problems just throw up their hands. The rhetoric of fiscal sustainability and fiscal responsibility is too powerful for them to oppose. They want to be “responsible.” They want to be “grown-up.” They want to be known as people who can make “tough decisions.” So, as long as they believe that Government spending costs something, and adds to a crushing debt burden that we have to do something about, they will not vote for effective measures that will solve our national problems because either the cost/debt implications of solutions involving additional deficits are too great, or the tax implications of matching the costs with additional revenue are a burden they are unwilling to face. Read more about Federal Spending Doesn't Cost Anything!
This is Part Two of a critical review of The National Journal's Debate on "Our Fiscal Future" between John Podesta and Douglas Holtz-Eakin with Jim Tankersley moderating, at The George Washington University's Jack Morton Auditorium. This part provides more observations and evaluation on some of the propositions offered by Holtz-Eakin and Podesta.
H-E: Eliminating tax cuts for the rich will cost 1.5% to 2% GDP annually. Read more about Loose Talk and Numbskull Notions At the Podesta/Holtz-Eakin Debate: Part Two
This is the third and last in a series of posts based on youtubes from a speech in Milford CT by Warren Mosler. Warren is running for the Senate in CT in the Independent Party primary. Unlike both the Democratic and Republican candidates Warren really understands economics and his forté is explaining it to people. Here's a youtube following on the last one I blogged about. My earlier post covered Warren's policy proposals. This one considers the question “How are you gonna pay for it?”” Read more about 'How Are You Gonna Pay For It?'
While Geithner has taken dramatic steps to address flashpoints in the economy, the work of carrying out those policies has bogged down because critical decisions about how to do so aren't being made, interviews with a broad range of federal officials show.