It never ceases to amaze me that those who offer budget plans and projections never take into account the reality that their projections must be consistent with implications of trends in sector financial balances for their projections. This is a simple lesson that those playing the fiscal responsibility game never seem to learn. Certainly this is true of the Republican House Budget Committee, as we'll see.
The Sector Financial Balances (SFB) model is an accounting identity, and these are always true by definition alone. The SFB model says:
Domestic Private Balance + Domestic Government Balance + Foreign Balance = 0.
The terms refer to balances of flows of financial assets among the three sectors of the economy in any specified period of time. Why must there be flows? Because the three sectors trade financial assets with one another. So, the equation says that the sum of all the balances of flows for the three sectors of the economy is zero, because, since there's only so much in assets traded in any time period, the positive balance(s) of one or more sectors relative to the others must be matched by the negative balance(s) of the other two sectors. Read more about When Will CBO and the House Budget Committee Ever Learn About Sector Financial Balances?
Wikileaks did us all another service yesterday by releasing the “Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP): Investment Chapter Consolidated Text,” and collaborating with the New York Times to get the word out. Jonathan Weisman wrote the story for the New York Times. Apart from providing a very high level and very selective summary of what the chapter says, the article contains talking points used by proponents and opponents of the TPP. I think a close commentary on the article and associated issues would be useful. So here it is. Read more about The New York Times Covers the TPP: A Commentary
During a recent Amy Goodman interview of Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, on her Democracy Now show, Wallach neatly summarized the problems of progressives with the TPP:
Well, fast-tracking the TPP would make it easier to offshore our jobs and would put downward pressure, enormous downward pressure, on Americans' wages, because it would throw American workers into competition with workers in Vietnam who are paid less than 60 cents an hour and have no labor rights to organize, to better their situation. Plus, the TPP would empower another 25,000 foreign corporations to use the investor state tribunals, the corporate tribunals, to attack our laws. And then there would be another 25,000 U.S. corporations in the other TPP countries who could use investor state to attack their environmental and health and labor and safety laws. And if all that weren't enough, Big Pharma would get new monopoly patent rights that would jack up medicine prices, cutting off affordable access. And there's rollback of financial regulations put in place after the global financial crisis. And there's a ban on "Buy Local," "buy domestic" policies. And it would undermine the policy space that we have to deal with the climate crisis—energy policies are covered. Basically, almost any progressive policy or goal would be undermined, rolled back. Plus, we would see more offshoring of jobs and more downward pressure on wages. So the big battle is over fast track, the process. And right now, thanks to a lot of pushback by activists across the country, actually, they don't have a majority to pass it. But there's an enormous push to change that, and that's basically where we all come in.
The public debt-to-GDP ratio is, perhaps, the most important measure used in discussions of the relative fiscal sustainability of nations. Nations with high levels of debt-to-GDP are viewed as having more serious fiscal problems than nations with lower levels. Nations having increasing ratios over time are viewed as becoming less fiscally sustainable, while those with decreasing ratios are viewed as more fiscally sustainable.
But is the public debt-to-GDP ratio really a valid measure of fiscal sustainability, or is it a measure that incorporates a neoliberal theoretical bias in its fundamental assumptions? In the United States, the total value of public debt subject to the limit at any point, is the total principal value of all the outstanding debt instruments sold by the Treasury Department. The GDP is the aggregate value of the production of goods and services in the United States within a particular period of time, adjusted for price changes.
So, the public debt is a variable measuring a cumulated stock, while GDP is a flow variable measuring economic activity within a particular period of time. Why compute a ratio of a cumulated stock to a flow within a circumscribed period of time?
Well, in this case of the debt-to-GDP ratio, neoliberal economists reason that the stock, the debt, can only be reduced if the government takes away part of the flow each year to repay a portion of the stock, the debt, leaving less of the flow to add financial savings to the private sector. After all, what other sources of government revenue are there except taxation? Read more about The Value of the Right Ratio Is Zero
Just as every Spring we can count on the Peter G. Peterson Foundation (PGPF) to do a supportive press release when the CBO issues one of its budget outlook 10 year projection reports, we can also count on being treated to public statements by Maya MacGuineas joining in the Peterson Army choir, warning about the coming debt crisis, and singing about the glories of deficit and debt reduction. And this while completely ignoring the real and sad consequences of deficit and debt reduction policies throughout the world since the crash of 2008, as well as previous applications to Latin American, Asian, and the nations of the disintegrated soviet empire, most notably Russia itself. Let's look at Maya MacGuineas latest effort; her testimony to the Senate Budget Committee. Read more about Maya MacGuineas: The Profound Fiscal Irresponsibility of Resistance to Facts
The Peter G. Peterson Foundation (PGPF) always does a press release when the CBO issues one of its budget outlook 10 year projection reports. The PGPF did another in January quoting its President and COO, Michael A. Peterson. Let's go through that press release and see how many troublesome or false statements we can find. Here's a breakdown of the press release quotation from Michael Peterson.
Today's CBO report reminds us once again that our nation has significant fiscal challenges that have yet to be solved.
It certainly does, but I doubt that Peterson and I would agree on what those challenges are. He thinks they have to do with bringing the national debt under control. I think they have to do with creating full employment with a federal job guarantee program, price stability, a robust economy, a great public and free educational system through graduate school, stopping and reversing climate change, providing everybody in, nobody out, no co-pays and no deductibles health care for all, a first class infrastructure, and a greatly expanded social safety net including a doubling of SS benefits.
He thinks the debt is a long-term problem that we have to start to solve now. I think there is, literally, no public finance-related debt problem for a fiat sovereign like the U.S., and that the problem that exists is not a debt problem, but a political problem created by Peterson and his allies across the political spectrum who have propagandized the view that there is a debt crisis since the mid-1970s, with increasing success since the 1990s. Read more about The Peterson Foundation Sings the Same Old Song
We can see the positioning and the messaging on the Democratic side beginning to take shape for the 2016 elections. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren with nods to Thomas Piketty and various economists have stepped forward to offer the themes of salvation for the middle class, moderating the extremes of inequality in American society, and doing something real about jobs and wages.
Clinton World seems to be responding, not yet with forthright statements from Hillary Clinton, but recently with articles by stalwarts of neoliberal Clintonism (and veterans of the Obama Administration) such as Larry Summers and Peter Orszag, expressing concerns about inequality and proposing measures to alleviate it, even including increased taxation on the wealthy. Read more about Will We Ever Get Change if We Keep Electing People Who Represent Special Interests?
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?
Tuesday night Obama set up a 2015 agenda that Glen Ford in “State of the Union 2015: Lethal, Predatory, Delusional” asserts would have been a modest and easy win in 2009 and 2010 when the Dems dominated both houses, but hasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell with a Republican Congress.
In 2009 and 2010 Obama fed us, the citizens who put him into office, to the proverbial wolves, or as Ford lists them, “bankers, Wall Street, private insurers and Big Pharma.”
Philip Guelpa in “New York City’s housing and homelessness crisis intensifies under de Blasio” offers some very troubling statistics and analyses. Bill de Blasio, NYC Democratic mayor, has been in office a year now and the enormous problems of homelessness and unaffordable housing are worsening even from the “12-year-mayoral-tenure” of billionaire Mike Bloomberg.
Here are 15 serious considerations from Guelpa’s report and analysis: Read more about Major 'Mayor-de-Blasio-FAIL’ re NYC Homelessness & Housing
Dysfunctional democracies are provoking anger, confrontations, crises and conflicts for the following reasons:
- In many cases, the citizens of dysfunctional democracies are unable to decide who runs for office, who gets elected and what laws are passed because of obstacles erected to prevent them from doing so.
- Several of these obstacles, for example election laws in the U.S., result in the election of lawmakers, such as those who control the U.S. Congress, who represent only a minority of eligible voters and pass legislation that rarely represents the will of a majority of voters.
- According to extensive research, special interests, wealthy individuals, corporations and financial institutions tend to exert greater influence than voters over lawmakers’ legislative actions because they finance lawmakers’ electoral campaigns.
- Rogue lawmakers whose actions are not controlled by their constituents but by influential groups and wealthy campaign funders are contributing to the creation of increasing inequalities of wealth that enable a small percent of the population to acquire most of their nation’s wealth, while the rest of the population has little or no wealth and few if any opportunities to create wealth.
- Undemocratic political parties that control electoral machinery and do not allow competitive parties to take root prevent voters from setting party agendas and nominating and electing candidates of their choice, increasing the legislative disconnect between voters’ and lawmakers’ priorities.
The spectacular intrusion of special interests into the passage of the $1.1 trillion government spending bill on December 13, 2014 was breathtaking as bankers and lobbyists whipped the vote by calling Congressional representatives directly to demand a host of special interest provisions, including the following:
- Repealing the Dodd-Frank prohibition on locating derivatives trading activities in the same bank subsidiary company as their depositories containing checking, savings, and other accounts insured by the FDIC.
- Raising individual campaign contribution limits by roughly 10 times the present limit.
- Allowing businesses to default by as much as 1/3 of their private pension obligations.
- Preventing the EPA from introducing new climate protections.
So it is now abundantly clear that what we have is government by minority rule in which special interests reign supreme. Clearly, this cannot continue. It is for this reason that we are sharing the post below describing the only solution to the democracy crisis of which we are aware that can be implemented in the near future. It is long and we do not expect many readers to get through it in one sitting, or even at all. But if it piques your interest, you can re-locate it here at a more opportune time.
INTERACTIVE VOTER CHOICE SYSTEM
Technical Features of the Interactive Voter Choice System (U.S. Patent No. 7,953,628)
Accelerating the Technological Evolution of Democracies
Group Forming Network
World's First Large Scale Consensus Building and Conflict Resolution Platform
A Closer Look at Complex Adaptive Systems (CASs)
Integrating IVCS-Enabled CASs into Electoral and Legislative Processes
Summary and Conclusion Read more about The Technology Solution to the Democracy Crisis
(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