On Sep 22, 2012 8:31 AM, “Art Patten” wrote:
As always, we appreciate your hard work and everything you do for your constituents. But I can’t bring myself to congratulate you on the award from the Concord Coalition, an organization that unwittingly works to undermine public purpose.
Like so many organizations, economists, politicians, and citizens, the Coalition fails to recognize that, as one writer recently put it, ‘Everything changed in 1973 [when President Nixon ended the Bretton Woods monetary system], except the economic textbooks.’
We are no longer on the gold standard. The U.S. government doesn’t ‘owe’ anybody, inside or outside the country, anything but U.S. dollars, which it is the monopoly supplier of.
In our current monetary system, the relevance of the federal deficit is its role in supporting aggregate demand. Whether the deficit is large enough is reflected in GDP growth and the unemployment rate. Inflation, although terribly difficult to measure with accuracy (and probably chronically overstated, in my view), indicates when fiscal deficits are too large.
The Coalition and many other groups witness the large budget deficits of recent years and imagine that the federal government faces the same constraints as any household, business, or state or municipal government. But that simply isn’t the case. The monopoly supplier of U.S. dollars can run deficits indefinitely. And if those other sectors of the economy want dollars to save, invest, or spend (and if other countries want to sell us stuff), they all need the U.S. government to run optimally sized deficits.
Unfortunately, the imaginary concept of a real budget constraint is reflected in harmful economic myths such as the inevitability of ‘crowding out’ and higher interest rates, and the inter-temporal government budget constraint; myths that both parties have elevated to high policy dogma. As a result, the Coalition and others urge us to gnash teeth and rend garments in response to large federal deficits, due to the draconian fiscal future we are supposedly imposing on our children and grandchildren. Many very smart people believe in this narrative. However, in our current monetary system, it is nothing more than the collective imagination run wild.
The real burden we are imposing on future generations (and today’s lower and middle classes) is not some future date with the fiscal pied piper, but long-term and completely unnecessary opportunity costs, due in large part to the myth that we must reduce and limit federal deficits. Millions of households are earning less than their combined talents are truly worth as underemployment remains mired at 1930s levels. Our public infrastructure continues to deteriorate. There’s still much more we can do for veterans and the needy. The list goes on. And by any of those metrics, the current federal deficit remains too small. That means either federal tax revenue is too high or spending too low, and the Coalition and other groups like them are misguidedly placing the highest priority on what should be among our least important concerns today.
P.S. I’m attaching “Seven Deadly Innocent Frauds” by Warren Mosler. You can also find it online here. It is a quick but powerful read, and one that you could get through in a single train trip to Washington. As a member of a household that has been periodically underemployed since at least 2008, (and overtaxed when we’re fully employed! :)) I implore you to give it a look. Warren is running for Congress in the USVI this fall. He’s a wonderful guy, and if all goes well, perhaps you two can sit down and talk about this stuff next year. Best regards.
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