We Did It! Or At Least Got Through the First Stage!
A little more than three weeks ago on April 7, I posted an idea here, here, and here, calling for a Teach-In Counter-Conference on April 28th to oppose the message of austerity in social programs being formulated by the President's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, and The Peter G. Peterson Foundation, by bringing forward an alternative message based on a coherent economic approach. That approach has acquired the name Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) over the years.
My call for the Teach-In Counter-Conference wasn't answered by a formal organization, but by netroots bloggers who blog primarily at correntewire.com, and some of whom also cross-post at The Seminal at Firedog Lake. Lambertstrether, selise, BDBlue, DCBlogger, hipparchia, and I, worked together with no formal structure, each taking on what we had time for and thought we could accomplish. With lambertstrether as webmaster, we created a conference web site, gained the support of other netroots bloggers and local organizations in the DC area, generated a coherent set of Conference Topics reflecting various aspects of the MMT approach to fiscal sustainability, joined with a stellar group of MMT researchers, teachers, and consultant practitioners which ultimately gave us 6 wonderful speakers (Professors Bill Mitchell, L. Randall Wray, Stephanie Kelton, and Pavlina Tcherneva, and International Financial Consultants Warren Mosler and Marshall Auerback) for our day-long event, gained the sponsorship of The George Washington University's Department of Management, through it acquired a great venue at The Marvin Center Amphitheater, raised about 60% of our budget from small progressive donors, designed the dynamics of the conference around a combined, lecture, panel and conference participant approach to interaction, attracted coverage from many bloggers before, during, and after the Conference, including an article at New Deal 2.0, and two articles in The Huffington Post, one by a noted progressive blogger and activist, and the other (which has received 943 comments at this writing) by The Editor of New Deal 2.0, received press coverage of our event from therealnews.com and other news services, and, of course, held a wonderful satisfying conference loved by participants, panelists, and organizers alike, that accomplished exactly what we wanted it to in developing the alternate narrative we were looking for, and in providing us the material we need to produce conference artifacts we can use to spread the conference message and explode its impact over the coming weeks and months. We did this in three weeks time, by self-organizing each other into an informal team and then riding the waves of the netroots to create the momentum we needed to have this event.
Some have referred to this as a small miracle. But it wasn't really that. It was just some determined individuals (the small group of organizers, joining with another group of potential speakers committed to MMT) who came together using the collaborative and signaling tools of the Internet to multiply their influence many times, over the short space of a few weeks, by tying into other already existing groups and individuals, making common cause with their interests, and receiving their help in mobilizing some of their supporters to generate the Teach-In. By organizing and generating the Conference in this way, we were able to create our counter-narrative with less than 1 % of the resources The Peterson Foundation is rumored to have spent on its "Fiscal Summit."
I think we can yet neutralize or defeat the Peterson austerity message, because not only do we have a message that is far closer to the truth than Peterson's, but also, the Internet and the netroots can be the great equalizer; spreading our memes from the bottom up, until our message of hope gets through the smoke and fog spread by the mainstream media, and the Peterson and Administration PR minions, and creates a new public perception that Government can spend in the service of public purposes. And that when it spends in this way, it can help create full employment, achieve Medicare for All, re-create our economy's energy foundation, reconstruct our failed educational system, sustain our environment, increase our fiscal capacity and sustainability, and do all of this while avoiding inflation, too.
But whether we can do this or not, now hangs on the success of the next stage of our effort. Some members of the organizing group are working very hard now to get Conference artifacts to the Internet quickly and with them the narrative of the Counter-Conference. Not only will there be many blogs by ourselves and others. But there are already presentations, coupled with audio recordings of each session of the Teach-In on selise's blog. There will also be video and youtubes of various portions of the event. And there will be materials and models in the videos, and other artifacts for others to embrace and to carry forward in local Teach-Ins and Counter-Conferences. All this will be open to the netroots community, so that any blogger may join in a real dialogue on fiscal sustainability embracing both the Internet and face-to-face meetings – a dialogue that will reverberate across the internet; and, if we do things right, overwhelm with the strength of numbers, the Administration's effort to manage public debate so that the American people come to believe that the only alternative to collapse is austerity and suffering for working people.
I think the effort to spread our alternative narrative will never end. And it is a message that I, personally, will never cease to deliver. Ironically, this Administration's message is: no we can't have full employment; no we can't have Medicare for All; no we can't have a good public education for everybody; no we can't remake our energy foundation; no we can't do anything about global warming; and no we can't have bright futures, because solving our problems costs too much and we are running out of money.
Before our eyes, Mr. yes, we can, has morphed into Mr. no we can't. But we say in answer to Mr. no we can't: yes we can do all of these things. And an important first step in doing them is to cast off the blinders from our eyes, and to see the economy as it really is; a web of interacting self-organizing people whose fiat currency is issued by their Government. The value of this currency is based on the wealth, industriousness, and underlying productive capacity of the nation. So, any fiscal policy that destroys that wealth, industriousness, and productive capacity is not a fiscally responsible or fiscally sustainable policy, but instead is one of true waste and irresponsibility, another sham to transfer wealth upwards. What the Administration and Peterson are proposing is that kind of economic policy. It is about wasting lives, and about placing artificial constraints on economic activity. It is about dimming our collective and individual futures and making us a nation of sick, weak people without hope.
The yes we can President has deliberately disillusioned us with his increasingly depressive policies in the expectation that those who elected him on the wings of hope would turn their anger at him inward, follow him obediently into the posture of no we can't, and accept the few crumbs he and the elite he has joined so easily are willing to hand out. Accepting the ideology of deficit hawkism and the false economics that underlies it is another step along the road to disillusionment and passivity. But recognizing the facts of monetary operations that the MMT practitioners offer us is a way back to hope. It is the message we need to get to work again, to create again, to live in hope again, and to have the futures we all envision. It is the message of yes, we can, which itself is a message that was true, as MMT shows us. It is a message that we must not let Mr. no we can't, in our disappointment with him, take away from us. “Yes we can,” was never his. It was always ours. It is still ours. Embrace it, and with it embrace MMT and the real meaning of fiscal sustainability.