Macro and Cheese

Real Progressives

Macroeconomics has never been so ... delish!

Macro and Cheese explores the progressive movement through the lens of Modern Monetary Theory.

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We here at Macro N Cheese are immersed in the world of MMT, but that doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate people who aren’t yet on board. As long as they’re not pushing an austerity agenda, we welcome them. Today’s guest, Margaret Kimberley, of Black Agenda Report, is just such an ally. Her book, Prejudential: Black America and the Presidents, was published earlier this year. This interview takes place as one region of the US is ablaze in wildfires and the pandemic is no closer to being resolved. Margaret sees the inadequate handling of COVID19 as confirmation that we live in a failed state. Countries that have responded best to the virus are either fully socialist or have robust public funding of their healthcare system. The climate crisis is further proof that capitalism is in crisis and neither of our two major political parties has plans to protect us from the fallout. Barack Obama illustrates the hypocrisy as he tweets dramatic images of the orange fire-lit skies and urges people to “vote like your life depends on it.” During his term as president, he bragged about increasing oil production and fracking. The Governor of California, another Democrat, has given more fracking permits this year than he did in 2019. The point is, we have these two parties who come together more often than not. Margaret reminds us that Democrats used to go through the motions of being the working people's party, and have been living off this reputation for decades. Yet when Kamala Harris was announced as Biden’s running mate, the headlines announced: "Wall Street Breathes a Sigh of Relief." "Silicon Valley is Happy." It’s impossible to have a conversation nowadays without debating the current presidential elections. Steve brings up his fear that a Biden win will cause Democrats to relax and go to brunch. Any energy built up in the resistance to Trump will die out. He asks whether she sees more possibilities for revolutionary change arising from a Biden or Trump victory. Margaret, who votes Green, believes they’re about equal, but doesn’t want to focus on electoral politics. Our job is to build the movement, taking a lesson from the civil rights era:   During those years, people made concrete demands and they stuck with them. And they knew that they had an adversarial relationship with politicians and they didn't care. They knew that when they demanded the right to vote, or an end to segregation, or an end to housing discrimination, they knew that politicians didn't want to do what they were demanding. But they demanded it anyway. They worked cohesively en masse for years. And that is how those changes came about. I think the problem with electoral politics is that it should be what comes last. It's the movement that has to come first to create the political crisis, to move politicians, because that is the only way they move. That's true not only of civil rights legislation, it's true of the environment. Nixon gave us the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency. Why he gave it is because people were in the streets, there were millions of people.   Steve and Margaret talk about the differences and similarities between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. By the end of King’s life he had broken with Lyndon Johnson, who was seen as an ally of the civil rights movement. This could be a model for working with elected officials; you don’t have to sell out your principles. The interview goes over many of the crucial issues affecting our lives in 2020, from Bernie Sanders to the actions of the Democratic Party elite; from Black Lives Matter to Antifa; from the Green Party to the need to end the duopoly. Margaret Kimberley is a co-founder and Editor and Senior Columnist for Black Agenda Report. Her first book, “Prejudential: Black America and the Presidents” was published in February. @freedomrideblog on Twitter http://steerforth.com/titles/prejudential/ https://bookshop.org/books/prejudential-black-america-and-the-presidents/9781586422486

Sep 19

59 min

Back in 2018, Steve invited Robert Hockett to come on to talk about shadow banking and explain its role in the 2008 financial crisis. We’re bringing back this interview because shadow banks are still around and people still have a hard time grasping exactly what they do. This is partly because many don’t understand what banks themselves actually do. The popular vision is that banks borrow and lend and that they make loans based on what they have in the vault; we MMTers know that they make loans based on profitability. Banks are policed with a view to their liquidity risk, while shadow banks are behaving the same way, without the policing. In order for us to unpack this issue, we need to know the meaning of “endogenous” and “exogenous” money. Bob defines endogenous as the credit-money generated by private banks and lending institutions, while exogenous is the sovereign element, created by the Fed or central bank. As in most cases, there’s always an element of public involvement in the private. This is usually overlooked. To better illustrate this, Bob uses the metaphor of franchising, where the Fed is the franchisor and the private financial institutions are the franchisees, charged with distributing a public resource which Bob defines as “the sovereign’s monetized full faith and credit.” When the Fed recognizes a bank loan or loan extended by a financial institution, it is effectively turning a private liability into a public liability. But if it's not fully cognizant that it's meant to be exercising quality control, you can get a defective product. That certainly happened in the lead up to 2008. In this interview, Bob points out that everyone operates under the false premise that there’s a shortage of capital. He also distinguishes between capital meant for productive use and that meant for speculation and gambling. The market for speculation - ie, the neverending quest for new ways to generate profit - leads to the creation of new and twisted kinds of financial instruments, such as the disastrous subprime mortgage packaging that led up the financial crisis. Bob’s proposal to insulate us, the public, from the kind of harm that arises from speculative mania is to separate the two kinds of financial institutions. Those that actually extend primary credit to homebuyers, small businesses, producers of goods and services should be separated from those that create credit for speculation. In other words, one institution would not be able to perform both functions. For a true solution, he suggests we look to the past, to the Reconstruction Finance Corporation of the 1930s and ‘40s: The RFC in its day was by far the largest financial institution in the entire world. Its balance sheet dwarfed all of the combined balance sheets of the Wall Street institutions. It was by far the largest credit-generating institution, credit-extending institution in the world, and it extended loans as small as $20 or $30 to African American barbershops in certain Los Angeles neighborhoods to giant mega-million or even billion-dollar loans for large public infrastructure projects like the Hoover dam or what have you. And this institution was a public institution. It was a government institution. After all, it’s our credit anyway, isn’t it? Robert Hockett is the Edward Cornell Professor of Law at Cornell Law School, Visiting Professor of Finance at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, and Senior Counsel at Westwood Capital, LLC. He specializes in the law, economics, and philosophy of money, finance, and enterprise organization in their theoretical and practical, their positive and normative, and their local, national, and transnational dimensions. @rch371 on Twitter

Sep 12

52 min

Our guest this week is long-time friend of the podcast, Fadhel Kaboub. The Macro N Cheese audience will remember when Fadhel and Ndongo Samba Sylla visited with us last October on their way to the conference on African Monetary and Economic Sovereignty in Tunis, Tunisia. In that episode, we learned about the CFA franc, a vestige of colonialism, a symbol of the lack of true sovereignty in the post-colonial world, and a tool of economic oppression by international financial powers. The conference in Tunis was an unqualified success and plans for a second one were underway until COVID19 interfered. To keep the conversation alive, Fadhel and his colleagues from Senegal, Tunisia, and Germany wrote An Open Letter on African Economic and Monetary Sovereignty. Having it translated into 50 languages and creating audio recordings in each, makes it accessible at the grassroots level. There are more than 500 signatures of scholars, economists, activists, and political figures from developing and former colonial nations. (See link below) Ironically the pandemic turned a spotlight on the systemic problems of most countries, including those of the developed world. Hardest hit are the former colonies, especially those on the African continent, who are adversely affected by the extractive nature of the global supply chain. Fadhel uses the MMT lens to explain the interconnectedness of the lack of monetary sovereignty, lack of food and energy independence, and lack of political power. In building a coherent economic development alternative for the developing world, we need to understand how the interests of the IMF and World Bank, in conjunction with those of private importers, trap poorer nations in external debt and prevent the development of a strong national economy. There’s an illusion that richer countries send money to poorer countries when in actuality the US (and others) extract more wealth than they inject; it’s a recurring global pyramid scheme. Fadhel lays out the myriad ways this is accomplished and looks at the kind of investments, both financial and resource-based, required for achieving sovereignty and reliable growth. In the second part of the interview, Steve and Fadhel talk about the Green New Deal. Too often the discussion of combating climate change focuses on plans and obligations of the developed world. When we ask what it would mean to look at it from the point of view of the poorer nations, it’s clear that we need to consider a global reparations agenda. Fadhel says: I use reparations in the broadest sense of the term. That includes reparations for slavery, reparations for colonialism, reparations for post-colonial abuse, reparations for climate debt. And reparations are not one country to another alone; it's also within countries because countries have abused their own native people and have abused their own environment... So we're talking about a global reparations model that goes beyond the United States.   To read the Open Letter on African Economic and Monetary Sovereignty, visit the website: mes-africa.org/ @Mon_Sovereignty on Twitter If you’d like to hear more from Fadhel, with Q&A, you’re invited to attend the Real Progressives National Outreach Call. September 16, 2020, at 9pm EDT/6pm PDT. Register here: https://www.bigmarker.com/real-progressives2/September-National-Outreach-Call-w-Dr-Fadhel-Kaboub Dr. Fadhel Kaboub is an Associate Professor of Economics at Denison University and President of the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity. global-isp.org @FadhelKaboub and @GISP_Tweets on Twitter

Sep 5

66 min

This week Brett Scott brings us a report from the war zone. He’s based in the UK but the war on cash serves the same global interests and employs the same sort of weapons in the US. The interview begins with Steve asking about COVID19 as perhaps a stealth weapon. Brett tells of the huge British supermarkets, at the start of the pandemic, blasting the message that cash is dangerous; warning that passing cash from hand to hand is likely to carry the virus along with it. Infectious disease specialists as well as major financial institutions have published evidence to the contrary. They say, in fact, that credit cards and pin pads are far more likely to transmit the coronavirus. But the message persists: cash is dirty. The mainstream narrative has it that the move to a digital economy is happening organically, from the bottom up. As if people are simply drifting away from cash and migrating towards digital payment systems. In reality the opposite is true. You could say the war on cash is a war on class, from the top down. Working-class and poor communities are highly suspicious of banks and digital finance. Once you have your dollars in your pocket, nobody has to know what you do with it, where you go, how you spend it… which is why the banks hate cash. Clearly then, the extension of that mainstream bottom-up narrative also deserves scrutiny. This is the part bemoaning the fact that certain marginalized communities have been left behind. (If only we could plug them into digital payment systems, everyone would be on the same level.) Cash is a public utility. Brett calls it a nonjudgmental form of money in this potentially dystopian brave new world. Without physical forms of money, you’re absorbed into a panopticon banking system which we have every reason to mistrust. It’s not just the finance sector that’s waging war against cash. Huge companies like Facebook need to sell ads. How can they prove to advertisers that the ads are effective if they don’t know what you’re buying? The need to know when you've bought the new appliance so they can stop flooding your pages with ads for them and begin pushing something else. Behemoths like Amazon and Uber profit from being automated and efficient. When big tech marries big finance, the aim is to seamlessly integrate on a huge scale. This is why they are able to annihilate small businesses and independent operators. The international aid community has usually handed out cash in disaster areas. Not only does it help the refugees, it typically gets spent into the local economy, boosting the community. Now these organizations are moving to digital transfers of funds via prepaid cards. Digital payments are designed for web commerce, not local development. Brett has spent the past 18 months working on a book that will be published late next year. We expect it to be full of the kind of insights about cash and class he has shared with us today. The book will also look at cryptocurrency (if you’re still unsure about bitcoin, this episode will set you straight). It will cover another area of Brett’s expertise: alternative monetary systems. For the remainder of the interview, Brett teaches Steve, and the rest of us by extension, about mutual credit systems and ripple credit systems. It’s rare that a guest talks about something that’s completely new to us. We found it exciting and we know our listeners will too. Brett Scott is a journalist, campaigner, former derivatives broker, and author of The Heretics Guide to Global Finance: Hacking the Future of Money. @suitpossom on Twitter Subscribe to his new newsletter: BrettScott.substack.com

Aug 29

59 min

Whenever Steve's guest is a lawyer, we know we're going to learn something new. Rohan Grey told us it's like the saying: “when you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” When you're a lawyer, you look at any issue and see a network of laws. This is why we're so grateful for the lawyers on Macro & Cheese - they teach us about that underlying legal framework. Camille Walsh isn't just a lawyer, she's a historian. We've been hearing about her book, Racial Taxation: Schools, Segregation, and Taxpayer Citizenship, 1869-1973, for a long time. Interestingly, she never intended to write about taxation, but her research led her there, and decided it for her. The notion of identifying as “taxpayer” is entwined with presumptions of entitlement which, in the US, date back to the founding principles, determining who has the right to be a citizen, who's qualified to vote, claim property, or own other human beings. The bottom line: it was a privileged group of white males back then and little has changed. Ultimately a group’s identity as taxpayers decides whether they’ll get some tiny amount of financial support, be it by federal, state, or local governments. After the Civil War, the taxpayers’ status was firmly established. All power was concentrated in their hands; they wrote all the laws and accrued all the benefits. It was during this period -- Reconstruction -- that there was a boom in the founding of schools. The fact that they were funded by local property taxes determined something as basic as whether a school was a one-room shack or a schoolhouse supplied with books. To this day, we have a stark disparity in resource distribution between schools in white and minority districts, with white men predominantly staffing the school boards and unevenly allocating funding based on this false sense of entitlement. The burden of educational funding remains squarely on the shoulders of revenue-constrained states and communities, creating a sense of scarcity and subsequent resentment toward nonwhites as “others,” allowing racist and classist biases to guide the outcome. Underfunded schools lead to under-educated citizens -- poor whites as well as minorities -- relegating them to low-income employment in a vicious cycle that traces back to the rigged educational system. Camille talks to Steve about the shocking number of rights that are assumed to be in the Constitution but aren’t actually spelled out until there’s a legal challenge, in which case the court’s ruling sets them in stone -- for better or worse. For example, the right to interstate travel didn’t exist until California attempted to limit settlers from other states. People assumed that Brown v Board of Education settled the issue of an equal right to education. In the 1954 ruling, Earl Warren said “education is possibly the most important function of state and local governments." What many of us weren’t aware of, though, was the 1973 decision in San Antonio v Rodriguez. It’s a little known case -- one out of many that dealt with education and segregation. In a 5-4 decision, it shot down the right to equal funding of schools. Unequal funding means unequal education. The argument leaned heavily on anti-communism, warning that once we start funding schools equally, we’ll be on the slippery slope to becoming Stalin’s Russia or Mao’s China. Justice Powell, that great hero of neoliberals everywhere, wrote the majority decision. In this particular moment in time, as extraordinary and unprecedented things are intersecting and coalescing, we need to understand the consequences of our history. This episode gives us much to consider. Camille Walsh is an Associate Professor of Law, Economics, and Public Policy at the University of Washington Bothell. She doesn’t spend much time on social media. Racial Taxation: Schools, Segregation, and Taxpayer Citizenship, 1869-1973 https://bookshop.org/books/racial-taxation-schools-segregation-and-taxpayer-citizenship-1869-1973/9781469638942

Aug 22

57 min

World-renowned economics professor and accomplished author/podcaster/speaker Mark Blyth joins us this week to discuss MMT, the variants of capitalism, and the current culmination of the populist anger outlined in his new book Angrynomics, co-authored by Eric Lonergan. The book, in brief, is a revolutionary, yet practical solution for an economically unjust world brought into clear focus by the Covid19 pandemic. Mark has been a consistent ally to the progressive movement over the years, using his broad reach to advocate for economic literacy and justice. Although he hasn't fully embraced MMT as his lord and savior, he calls himself a fellow traveler with no doubt that when they round up the MMTers, he'll be thrown in the back of the van with them all. His sharp wit and finely honed sense of the absurd make his social and political observations as interesting as his economic ones. An underlying theme the authors encountered consistently throughout the research for Angrynomics was - you guessed it - anger. It arises from the disconnect between our experience of the world and how it's explained to us. About anger, Mark says, “you assume you know what it is, but don’t necessarily think about it.” He talks about public and private anger, distinguishing righteous anger from tribal anger which is, inevitably, weaponized. The economic portion of the discussion touches on the variants of capitalism throughout our history, and the benefits or drawbacks of each. He also focuses on how, when the government spends at the bottom through wages and public purpose spending, the wealth trickles up, but when spent at the top, it most certainly does NOT trickle down. There’s no lack of good ideas and policy prescriptions; there’s a lack of political courage to implement them. Mark and Steve look at the social and political differences between “boomers” and the generations that came after. Mark attributes it to their incomes. The boomers’ income is asset-based, making it stable and secure, while the others rely on income drawn from wages, uncertain and insecure. These younger and poorer Americans are expected to be the shock absorbers of a volatile and unpredictable economy. The current pandemic is revealing the gaping flaws in our economy and waking up many normally comfortable and apathetic folks to the reality millions of Americans have been living every day -- being left behind by an economy built by, for, and of the oligarchs. It’s capitalism… and the people are angry. We cannot nudge the system back to stability. We need radical economic reform to create a bottom-up economy now. Mark Blyth is Professor of International Political Economy in the Department of Political Science at Brown University and a Faculty Fellow at Brown's Watson Institute for International Studies. He is co-author, with Eric Lonergan, of Angrynomics, and author of Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea. Check out his podcast https://watson.brown.edu/rhodes/podcasts, including a recent interview with Stephanie Kelton http://markblyth.com/ @MkBlyth on Twitter https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48908670-angrynomics

Aug 15

50 min

The Covid19 pandemic is much more than a public health catastrophe; it has highlighted and exacerbated economic, social, and environmental crises on an unprecedented scale. While Congress sits on their hands, a learning-by-doing experiment is already underway at the Federal Reserve. With more than 40 million Americans out of work, the Fed appears ready to fulfill its congressional mandate to both maximize employment and promote stable prices. Indeed, the strongest signal that this time things can be different is the opening of the Fed’s new Municipal Liquidity Facility (MLF), which promises to buy both existing and future state and municipal debt. -- from “Overcoming Covid19 Requires Rethinking University Finance” (see article link below) Our guests, Ben Wilson and Scott Ferguson, are working with others in the MMT community to develop the plan for a new university-issued currency, the Uni, with backing by the Federal Reserve. Universities are not unlike small states or municipalities. They provide jobs and living quarters, engage in commerce both on- and off-campus. They collect rent on their vast real estate holdings. They also behave like banks, providing students with accounts for purchasing books and supplies. The university’s stated mission is to contribute to the greater good, produce educated citizens, and be cooperative partners with the surrounding communities. According to our guests, the Uni’s value extends beyond immediate financial practicalities. The project can use the university as a proxy for reformulating the macro economy on a micro-scale, creating real-world experience pushing the modern money agenda forward. We can ask ourselves what we want money to do for us and how it can meet the needs of our communities. Rather than wait for the federal government to act, we can structure it on our own terms. Benjamin C. Wilson is an Associate Professor of Economics at the State University of New York at Cortland and a research scholar at the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity. @autogestion77 on Twitter Scott Ferguson is an Associate Professor of Film & Media Studies in the Department of Humanities & Cultural Studies at the University of South Florida and a Research Scholar at the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity. He is co-host of Money on the Left podcast featured by Monthly Review Online. @videotroph on Twitter https://www.boundary2.org/2020/07/scott-ferguson-benjamin-wilson-william-saas-maxximilian-seijo-overcoming-covid-19-requires-rethinking-university-finance/ Read about the Uni in the demands issued by the Resident Assistant/Peer Mentor union at UMass Amherst. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1psWUI4PGVVYOJ9flQiwsWKWHK9qhdLPFjonToNo4R7M/mobilebasic?fbclid=IwAR2pKwOHzggugNSJsrrQGFtm1Bl7D-1eYJDfQNgzD4s5yIfnu2VgmkJCTkc    The Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity http://www.global-isp.org/

Aug 8

72 min

This week we welcome Richard Dien Winfield, a rare candidate for national office who is running on the Federal Job Guarantee and Medicare for All. It’s no surprise, then, that Richard is fully onboard with Modern Monetary Theory and spoke at the MMT Conference in Stonybrook last September. Steve talks with him about his new book, Democracy Unchained: How We Should Fulfill Our Social Rights and Save Self-Government, and the platform for his current campaign. Richard is running in Georgia’s special election for the US Senate. His campaign is founded on correcting the failure to recognize and enforce our social rights, which he sees as the key to remedy blockages of opportunity that hobble our democracy. Throughout this interview, he frequently returns to the concept of social rights as the rights that are not in our constitution but should be. These include the right to a decent livelihood, healthcare, education at all levels, the right to balance work and family, and to level the playing field between employer and employee. Martin Luther King said that without a job and income, one can have neither life, liberty, nor the opportunity to pursue happiness. Richard eloquently connects the dots between our social rights, demonstrating their interdependence. How can you solve homelessness without a job guarantee, which will require a higher minimum wage than the $15-an-hour we normally hear about. The job guarantee would, of course, include full benefits of pension and healthcare -- though we wouldn’t need the latter if we had Medicare for All, which is another necessary social right: without health, we can’t exercise our freedoms. There are two exacerbating factors disempowering employees. The first is globalization and free trade, due to the ease with which companies can find the lowest wages and relocate. The second factor is the rise of the gig economy. Employers can use technological advancements so that workers are on their own and scattered around the globe; the employer doesn’t have to provide overhead or face worker solidarity. Richard describes the UBI as setting up a 2-tiered society: those condemned to the poverty income of the UBI alone, and those who receive the UBI plus wages from their jobs. Instead of eliminating economic disadvantage, it sanctions it. Considering the threat of fascism, we look again to an FJG. For all the praise given to the social democracies of northern Europe, the fact that they don't have a job guarantee has left them vulnerable to the kind of xenophobia and bigotry that has caused workers in other countries to vote for extreme right-wingers. When there aren't enough jobs, a wave of immigrants is seen as a threat. Universal healthcare and generous unemployment insurance do not replace the need for jobs. Richard and Steve go through all the social rights in depth and, sometimes, from a new angle. Listeners will hear something they might not have considered about racism, sexual harassment, unionization, corporate compensation, reparations, the needs of families, and much more. Have you ever heard a candidate demanding legal care for all? Listen to the episode! Richard Dien Winfield is an American philosopher and Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of Georgia. He has supported striking workers, organized sugarcane laborers, and joined unionizing efforts at UGA. Winfield was a candidate for U.S. Representative from Georgia's 10th Congressional District in 2018 and has declared his candidacy for the 2020 United States Senate special election in Georgia. WinfieldforSenate.com @WinfieldForUS on Twitter https://bookshop.org/books/democracy-unchained-how-we-should-fulfill-our-social-rights-and-save-self-government/9781950794133 Find his books on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Richard-Dien-Winfield/e/B001HP3FH2?ref_=dbs_p_pbk_r00_abau_000000

Aug 1

69 min

J.D. ALT is an architect who has spent much of his career researching, inventing, and visualizing things that he hoped might improve the quality-of-life and prosperity of collective society. Gradually, he came to two realizations: first, the kinds of things he was envisioning (free-to-ride downtown people-movers and affordable housing strategies) would never be undertaken by a profit-oriented corporate business model and, second, the only other possible financier--the federal government--was "broke" and hopelessly in debt. Alarmed and discouraged by these realizations, he stopped thinking about new things to build and started investigating how--and why--it could possibly be true that collective society was, "for lack of money," so helplessly unable to build things it both needed and could dramatically benefit from. So begins J.D. Alt’s biography on Amazon. This week he joins Steve to talk about his new book, Paying Ourselves to Save the Planet: A Layman's Explanation of Modern Monetary Theory. The interview begins with J.D. describing the insights he gained once he understood that fiat money actually refers to reserves and the other money we use, bank-created money and cash money, are claims on those reserves which are held in the reserve banking system and never leave. They are digital entries on a score sheet. One method for creating reserves is when banks make loans (creating bank-money). This is a claim on that bank’s reserves at the central bank and is how money for private enterprise is created. Since private corporations only engage in producing goods and services generating profits, it’s safe to say that bank-money is only created for profitable endeavors. Therefore, the myriad of things we need as a society that don't bring in a profit must be created by public enterprise. Where does the money for public enterprise come from? This leads to the heart of MMT, and J.D. breaks down the distinction between it and the standard theory of money. In his book, J.D. tallies up the public enterprise goods and services we require and puts together a projection of what they’ll cost. When compared to how much the standard money theory believes the government can either collect in taxes or borrow, it becomes clear that we must look at a different way to finance the public needs. Steve and J.D. discuss just a few examples of the cost of the climate crisis. Much of it involves paying people to mitigate and adapt to climate change, which includes the expense for farmers to sequester carbon in their soil and workers to build machines that scrub carbon out of the atmosphere. Ironically, the bottom line is instead of costing the people a lot of money, a lot of people will be getting paid. J.D. Alt is an architect who writes about the economy, the climate crisis, housing, and the needs of humanity. His books include Paying Ourselves to Save the Planet, The Millennials’ Money, The Architect Who Couldn’t Sing, Low Earth Orbit, and Housing for the Masses, Dwellings for the Soul. Find him and his books at JDAlt.com @JD_ALT on Twitter

Jul 25

53 min

A discussion of racial taxation and private digital currency may seem like two disparate subjects. Raúl Carrillo’s genius is his ability to explain these things in such a way that their intrinsic connections are unmistakable. Just as there is racialized taxation, we also have racialized surveillance, and private digital currency is definitely in the surveillance business. Previous episodes have spoken of the effects of racial taxation, creating a disparity in public schools due to the inequities in local property tax funding schemes that pay for education. The same kind of taxpayer pressures that have defunded the schools have combined with the starving of federal support for the states, making it hard for local governments to provision themselves. States and municipalities resort to collecting fines and fees through petty crime designation, using the courts and incarceration as a funding source. The burden falls heavily on poor and oppressed minorities. These problems come from neoliberalism’s core embrace of austerity. Mass unemployment results in near-mass incarceration. A theme running through Raúl’s scholarship and our collective activism is that if something is a right, or is integral to due process and constitutional safeguards, then it should be funded by the federal government. Otherwise, what does it mean to have fundamental rights in this country? The government is willing to spend unquantifiable sums defending the rights of property while insisting it’s too expensive to provide jobs, healthcare, and housing. When the government doesn’t meet the people’s needs, it creates a vacuum that forces them into debt, turning to the predatory lenders who have built an industry on the backs of the needy. And now Wall Street is increasingly serving fewer kinds of investors. When Wall Street decides it’s no longer profitable to prey on the poor, Silicon Valley is offering an alternative that is predatory in its own way. Raúl recently produced a Black Paper on Libra, Facebook’s foray into the digital currency market. Most cryptocurrency doesn’t have retail value, so much of the activity is through speculation. Libra is an attempt to create a stabilized private money, which introduces a new set of dangers. Steve and Raúl devote a good portion of the interview looking at the different levels of threats that are posed by turning over the reins of currency creation to tech corporations. Libra is connected to Facebook and Uber, but Google and Amazon can’t be far behind with their own projects. Silicon Valley is now in the debt game. With public money, we can still demand some degree of protection for our privacy rights. Facebook’s entire business model is based on surveillance; it knows what you’ve bought, where you’ve been, what you like, and who you hang out with. Police have been using Facebook’s facial recognition to identify Black Lives Matter protesters. It’s hard to imagine enforcing legal protections when Facebook has been breaking promises to (defanged) regulators for years. For the US, public-private partnerships have crowded out government spending on social needs. For us MMTers, using the public purse for the public purpose is of seminal importance. A private currency, spying on us all, cannot be tolerated. We need to multi-task - wed the anti-racist, decarceration, and abolitionist fights with a vision of public money spent in a way that allows people to flourish. Raúl Carrillo is the Board Chair of the Modern Money Network and a Research Scholar at the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity. He sits on the boards of the National Jobs for all Network and the Our Money campaign. @RaulACarrillo on Twitter Reflections: Challenging Monetary Sanctions in the Era of Racial Taxation https://escholarship.org/uc/item/7rp8g89c Banking on Surveillance: The Libra Black Paper: https://ourfinancialsecurity.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Libra-Black-Paper-FINAL-2.pdf?fbclid=IwAR1qqjecm45wHuNUljezfm19qCLg034VqgL2rQAwjqsr__B_Zfulzt0OKLs

Jul 18

62 min

Our guest is Jengis Osman, an activist and labor organizer who was led to Modern Monetary Theory through his life experiences and those of his family and the people he works with. After graduating from university, he struggled to find work and questioned why it had been easier for his grandparents who had immigrated to Australia from wartorn Cyprus in the 1970s. When he taught English to new immigrants, they asked the same question: why aren’t there enough jobs? Jengis now lives in the Northern Territory, a remote section of Australia. The effects of austerity are always harshest on the most vulnerable groups, but the living conditions of Australia’s indigenous population also reflect that country’s unique history of brutal colonial oppression. Before colonization the people had an abundance of food and water; their kinship systems worked for them. The colonizers tore communities apart with forced relocation to different regions with different customs and a foreign language. Children were uprooted and sent to mission schools far from their families. Colonialism effectively made slaves of the indigenous people and austerity assured their continued suffering. When Jengis discovered Bill Mitchell’s blog (http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/), the pieces began falling into place. Much of this interview takes us through the MMT fundamentals that brought reality into focus for so many of us, starting with the difference between a currency creator and a currency user. Jengis talks about Pavlina Tcherneva’s example of the “hut tax” imposed by the British in Malawi as a coercive measure that provided the colonists with a labor force by creating a need for the pound sterling. Understanding that taxes don’t fund government expenditures at the national level leads to awareness of the vast array of unnecessary political choices that cause pain at every level, including unemployment and homelessness. Fracking in the Northern Territory will damage the water supply and prolongs the negative impact of fossil fuels. Yet when the central government doesn’t spend enough in the territories and states, regional governments are forced to find private investors whose interests don’t align with that of the community. This brings us back to the difference between a currency creator and a currency user. Steve often asks our podcast guests how they introduce MMT to the uninitiated. Jengis talks about money as akin to points on a scoreboard -- the referee cannot run out of them. Money is a measure, like an inch or a mile. Those numbers are a statistical artifact and without a context, they make no sense. The economy isn't an abstraction that sits above us and is not a “thing” we should be working to serve. The economy is us. We want to focus on achieving real outcomes, like employment opportunities, tackling climate change, and creating the kind of world we want to live in. Jengis Osman currently works as a union organizer. He has had many occupations over the years including a substantial time unemployed as neoliberalism has decimated the idea of secure employment, providing sufficient work for all and forced education and training onto the individual rather than a collective responsibility. These jobs include a terrible stint in the retail sector, a call center as a researcher, a garbage man, and an ELICOS teacher. Check out his blog: https://jengis.org/ @JengisO on Twitter

Jul 11

61 min

This week we welcome back our favorite Cowboy Economist, who immediately tells us what a great job Real Progressives and Macro & Cheese are doing. Smart guy! John Harvey and Steve have much to discuss. The coronavirus pandemic is showing no signs of abating. It underscores or exacerbates all the other monumental problems we’re facing. There’s the high stakes presidential election asking us to choose between a deficit hawk neoliberal and a lunatic, while a large portion of the public have no faith that the electoral process is anything but rigged, especially after the primaries. Police brutality and injustice have reached critical mass, sending people into the streets in numbers we haven’t seen in our lifetimes. The climate crisis is being ignored, but the IPCC predictions hang over us like a doomsday clock, ticking away. Steve and John share the frustration of everyone who understands MMT: we know things don’t have to be this way. John holds the current economics discipline in particular disdain. Politicians turn to mainstream economists for advice, but the leading lights in the field believe that the market fixes itself. Paul Krugman might concede that we can “help it along,” but there are few other fundamental differences between the liberals and conservatives in the profession. Given that we’re staring down the barrel of a worldwide depression, Steve asks what we can learn from the Wall Street crash of 1929. John gives a concise history lesson, beginning with the enormous economic expansion that took place in the 1920s when, for the first time, there were as many people living in cities as on the farms. It was a time of huge investments on the part of government, businesses, and individuals. The federal response is where we see the difference between the depression of then and now. Today both parties confuse the economy with the market system. The economy is the means by which we meet our needs for food, shelter, and clothes, among other things. We don’t need the free market system to do that. During the New Deal, they applied extra-market solutions. There wasn’t a food scarcity, nor is there in 2020. What people need is an income so they can purchase those necessities, pay the rent and bills. John says that policies of the New Deal addressed social problems, not market problems. There were urban and rural projects, like building city parks or the Tennessee Valley Authority, creating jobs while improving the quality of life for residents of the area. Compare the government’s solutions today. The COVID-19 crisis has created massive unemployment and business closures, The response by every state governor is to increase commerce - get the market running again. The federal government could have generated income for everyone. Instead, we’re going to emerge from this pandemic under a mountain of debt. This interview isn’t entirely limited to the discussion of economics -- it would be hard for John and Steve to stay away from politics for a full hour. Their exchange of ideas is interesting because neither of them insists that he has all the answers. (We need a strong third party in order to exact some leverage. Or should we expend energy on parties at all right now?) They appear to be considering and reconsidering their positions just as we all are. In our whiplash world, how could we trust anyone who claims otherwise? John T. Harvey has been a Professor of Economics at Texas Christian University. since 1987. He specializes in exchange rates, macroeconomics, business cycles, and contemporary economic schools of thought. Check out the Cowboy Economist on YouTube.. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCL9PHjlPQ5wq0CD6vAibxYg/featured @John_T_Harvey on Twitter

Jul 4

64 min

An alternate title for this episode could be “Back to Basics.” It reminds us why Randall Wray’s MMT Primer continues to be a definitive resource for the Macro & Cheese community. This 2017 interview came about when the American Monetary Institute (AMI) published an article critiquing MMT. Randy Wray was mentioned and quoted throughout, so Steve invited him on to set the record straight — and maybe shed some light on AMI and its theory of “positive money.” If you don’t come away with a clear understanding of it, it’s because Randy himself can’t always get to the bottom of AMIs logic. It turns out they have some less than pristine methodology. It’s hard to assess the strength of their theory when you can’t pin down the theory. They don’t even produce balance sheets. AMI wants the Treasury to print greenbacks because they posit that the Federal Reserve is private and independent, with full control over the US dollar. Randy explains that we do, indeed, have a sovereign currency, and suggests that we read the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. The Fed is a creature of government, under the control of the Congress. Its very limited independence consists of the freedom to set overnight interest rate targets. It’s easier for Randy to debunk AMI’s critique of Modern Monetary Theory, and a large part of the interview takes us through the fundamentals of MMT — how money is created, the differing roles of the Treasury and the Fed, the causes of hyperinflation, sectoral balances, and why the US will always have a trade deficit. In our lifetimes, at least. We end with a long discussion of solutions to inequality. Since taxing the rich is politically unfeasible, Randy says a better way to reduce their wealth is to attack it at its source, where vast wealth is amassed. He wants to forbid corporations from buying back their stocks. Corporate CEOs and upper management receive outsized compensation in the form of stock options. Corporations spend more on stock buybacks than on investment in plants and equipment, which would create jobs. The buybacks raise the value of the shares, then the CEOs exercise their stock options for huge amounts of money. There’s no reason to allow it. This is an episode you’ll want to listen to right before trying to explain MMT to your uncle. Better yet, send him the link. L. Randall Wray is a Professor of Economics at Bard College and Senior Scholar at the Levy Economics Institute. http://www.levyinstitute.org/scholars/l-randall-wray https://neweconomicperspectives.org/modern-monetary-theory-primer.html Steve Grumbine says this article changed his life. Check it out: https://neweconomicperspectives.org/2014/05/taxes-mmt-approach.html

Jun 27

59 min

If any of our listeners aren’t following The Funky Academic on his website, YouTube, or Twitter, this episode will change all that. Macro n Cheese usually leans heavily towards economics, but Irami Osei-Frimpong arrives at many of the same conclusions that we do, yet gets there by a different route. That helps make this such an interesting interview. In these disturbing times, his strong sense of humor and irony are a welcome respite. Irami is a PhD student in philosophy, which he chose to study because, as an undergraduate, he realized that people are confused about what justice looks like. In a liberal democracy, there’s no need for a minister of propaganda; our thinking is controlled by what is omitted from our education. He says we must know what we’re fighting for because if we’re merely guided by emotions or compassion, we can be easily confused and swayed. “You need actual arguments to ground you so you're not buffeted about when your latest crush is a Republican.” This is how we end up accepting that there’s a “natural” rate of unemployment, for example. The episode is full of astute observations about racism, economic insecurity, and the indisputable necessity of a Federal Job Guarantee. Alton Sterling was selling CDs from the trunk of his car, and Eric Gardner sold loose cigarettes. Imagine if they had guaranteed jobs that paid a dignified wage, which Irami maintains should be $22 an hour. We don’t want a living wage because we want to do more than just live. Irami draws lessons from history as much as from today’s headlines and he often ponders the concept of citizenship. How can we participate in the political process while dealing with unemployment? In a nation of laws, how can we exercise our rights as citizens if we can’t afford legal protection? He tells an anecdote about Hulk Hogan which illustrates why we need a single-payer legal system as much as we need single-payer healthcare. Steve and Irami discuss the marijuana business, reparations for African-Americans, and unprovoked police shootings. While the interview is laced with humor, the themes and implications are dead serious. Irami Osei-Frimpong is a PhD student in Philosophy at the University of Georgia. Check out his website: funkyacademic.com @IramiOF on Twitter

Jun 20

72 min

The coronavirus epidemic has brought about an unprecedented level of unemployment and destitution in the US. Without significant structural change, it could affect people’s lives for decades to come. In this interview, Pavlina Tcherneva talks about the roots of the problem and lays out the kind of imaginative yet practical solutions that we need. Pavlina’s new book, The Case for a Job Guarantee, will be published later this month. It is a call to rethink the assumption that unemployment is unavoidable and that there’s little we can do about it. As a primer on the Job Guarantee, it documents all the benefits of the proposal. It confronts the narratives on competition, the market, and personal responsibility. The book exposes what Pavlina calls a major failure of her profession of economics. Economists have validated unemployment, structuring our thinking about the economy, markets, and their behavior, around the fallacious concept of a “natural rate of unemployment.” This validation brings massive failure at the theoretical, policy, and moral levels. At the time of this interview, ongoing demonstrations across the globe have been erupting -- spurred by the Black Lives Matter movement in the US -- expressing discontent with inequality in country after country. The spotlight on racial and economic inequality, compounded by the public health crisis, makes this an ideal time to look at the Job Guarantee. In addition to providing economic security for individuals, it centers on the creation of jobs that are geared to the needs of each community. This is a time to think long and hard about preparedness for future crises of all types, and environmental rehabilitation is long overdue. The Job Guarantee has a significant place in all of these plans. In the current economic paradigm, work that doesn’t generate profit is undervalued. Yet on a human level, these are the jobs that matter the most: education, health care, environmental protection, and care for the young or elderly are the true essentials of life. The interview is vibrant with the depth of understanding and empathy that we’ve come to expect from Pavlina. Our social, political, and economic problems are not intellectual problems to be played out on charts. Unemployment and underpaid jobs take a devastating toll on individuals, families, and communities. Nobody understands this as well as Pavlina. PAVLINA R. TCHERNEVA, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Economics at Bard College and a Research Scholar at the Levy Economics Institute, NY. She specializes in Modern Monetary Theory and public policy. Check out a recent op-ed crafted by a group of international female scholars. It’s been published in 26 languages. https://democratizingwork.org/ Book https://www.wiley.com/en-us/The+Case+for+a+Job+Guarantee-p-9781509542109 Website: https://www.pavlina-tcherneva.net/ Twitter: @ptcherneva

Jun 13

65 min

Tschaff Reisberg is not only an early proponent of MMT, but is also a union representative with extensive experience in real-world struggles between workers and employers. His story - and that of the flight attendants union - is instructional for anyone fighting for fundamental change. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the airline industry was booming. Flight attendants’ jobs were secure, with expectations of growth and more hiring. When the virus hit, the entire industry shut down. They lost 95% of their passengers. Like many industries during the crisis, there were talks of bankruptcy and furloughs. Tschaff and Steve discuss the impact of the virus on the working class as a whole. When people lose their jobs, they stop spending; when they stop spending, others lose their jobs and it snowballs across the country, as we’ve seen in the record-breaking unemployment figures. In past financial crises, government bailouts served to enrich corporate CEOs and shareholders, while allowing the working class to suffer. Tschaff’s union was able to win unprecedented protections in the CARES Act, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The airlines were awarded grants that came with stiff conditions: they can’t downsize or do stock buybacks, there are hard limits on executive compensation, and they can’t furlough the employees. Paychecks will be protected through September. Tschaff’s political and economic education included the realization that unions can’t just fight employers but need to work with the government as well. Corporate interests build connections with political officials and apply constant pressure to carry out their agenda. When the unions do likewise, they’re able to get a seat at the table. Organized labor has been weakened over the past half-century but has finally stopped declining. The more the unions flex their muscles the more popular they become. As MMTers, Tschaff and Steve understand the importance of fighting for a Job Guarantee. They talk about the myriad benefits which include protecting labor, stabilizing the economy, and preventing inflation. It also combats anti-immigrant sentiment; if your own job is secure, you have no reason to fear others. They talk about one aspect of organizing that isn’t always considered. The more engaged you become, you don’t just change others -- you yourself are changed because you interact with people you wouldn't ordinarily meet. Awareness of each others’ issues develops into overlapping and united interests. This is how we build a movement. Tschaff Reisberg has been in airlines for 12 years, having worked on the ramp, deicing, customer service, and IT. He’s a union delegate for the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA local 23089. He currently resides in Charlotte, NC, with his wife and 2-year-old daughter.

Jun 6

55 min

Howie Hawkins is the Green Party’s candidate in the US presidential race. He joins Steve to discuss not only his platform, but the role of third parties in US politics and, of course, economics. Steve opens the episode by pointing out that he and Howie are in about 90% agreement on all the issues. Howie was the first US candidate to campaign for a Green New Deal ten years ago, in 2010. He ran against Andrew Cuomo for Governor of NY state in 2010, 2014, and 2018. With the suspension of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, progressives are confronted with the choice of “Dem-enter,” which nobody is excited about, and supporting a third party, which many think of as a wasted vote. Here Howie makes a good case: a strong third party can force the media and other candidates to deal with our demands and confront issues that they’d prefer to avoid. There are historical precedents: the Liberty Party put slavery on the ballot and the Socialist Party brought social insurance programs into the forefront, some of which were adopted in the New Deal. Howie’s gubernatorial run in NY put so much pressure on Cuomo that he was forced to adopt some Green Party positions including a ban on fracking, the $15 minimum wage, and paid family leave. One of Howie’s goals in this campaign is to receive a large enough percentage of the vote to get the Green Party on the ballot line during the next election cycle. This will make it easier for down-ballot Green candidates to run. To seriously compete for national power, it must be built from below. Steve and Howie discuss strategies for breaking through the media blackout, achieving rank-choice voting, and forcing third party candidates into the debates, which was easier to do when debates were sponsored by the League of Women Voters -- before the Commission on Presidential Debates muscled them out. The Commission is not a government agency; it’s a private nonprofit corporation controlled by Democrats and Republicans, so everyone has to play by its rules. The majority of the interview is about combating the climate crisis within the time limit we’re faced with. Steve brings up his recent interview with Steve Keen who says we will need a command economy. Howie counters that we need a democratically planned economy. We already have a command economy with giant corporations that are “private tyrannies.” The people don't have a say in whether we're doing more oil and gas drilling or investing in renewables. Howie proposes a socialist economic democracy which he says we will need in the key sectors if we're to make the rapid transition. It can’t be done with carbon taxes, some mandates, and a few incentives. The incumbent industries will always fight those and keep us tied up. We should take over the utilities and companies like Exxon Mobil and Koch Brothers Industries. Howie outlines a plan that includes maintaining a living wage for workers in that sector. The rest of the interview goes into the need for free or low-cost high-speed internet throughout the country, the historic movement for a job guarantee, and international policy. We suggest that after listening, you check out Howie’s website, howiehawkins.us Howie Hawkins is one of the original Greens who has run on the GP ticket numerous times. He became an activist during the civil rights and anti-war movement of the ‘60s and has been involved in the labor movement for much of his life. @HowieHawkins on Twitter Howie Hawkins 2020 on Facebook

May 30

63 min

In March, Rohan Grey was the guest speaker on a Real Progressives National Outreach Call. He talked about his forthcoming book, Digitizing the Dollar: The Battle for the Soul of Public Money in the Age of Cryptocurrency. The title says it all.  In the midst of the pandemic, people are living with unprecedented financial insecurity. There’s no real sense of when they’ll be able to return to work or whether there will be jobs awaiting them. Rohan had been working with Representative Rashida Tlaib on her emergency assistance act, which is designed to provide relief funds of $2,000 a month to every man, woman, and child in the US. He explained the thinking that went into drawing up the bill, which is far more generous than any other coronavirus stimulus bill to this day.  Of special interest to proponents of MMT is the fact that the Treasury would finance the program through minting trillion-dollar coins. Rohan told us how this provides a legal workaround to arguments about the debt-ceiling.  The distribution method is also of interest to MMT-ers and it leads to the central topic of the presentation: digital currency. A debit card would be issued to everyone, sent by mail or available for pickup at numerous distribution centers. The debit cards themselves are to be privacy-protected. That issue - privacy - must be at the heart of any plans for cryptocurrency. The goal in designing the bill was that it be as simple, universal, and accessible as possible, but there’s nothing simple about the reasoning and planning that went into it. Rohan walks us through the process, showing the logic behind each choice.   Fans of this podcast are familiar with Rohan Grey’s ability to explain complicated issues in a clear and fascinating way, making connections between ideas and facts, contemporary and historical. He refers to ancient Mesopotamian temples and Seinfeld plots to make a point. He is the ideal teacher to guide us through the maze of technical and moral issues we confront when dealing with digital currency.   When asked about the phrase from the title of his book - the battle for the soul of public money - Rohan says that this is the soul of the human race. It’s the soul of democracy. We put our hopes and dreams, our personalities, and our experiences into our computers every time we use Google or Facebook. More to the point here, every time we use Venmo or Paypal. The net that holds those souls either respects our freedom and privacy or it doesn't. It’s either a tool of emancipation that connects us as equals or it’s a tool of control and subjugation. Do we entrust it to private corporations? In the battle for the soul of public money, “it's hard enough to learn about money -- and about law. Now we're adding technology. Those three worlds are converging at a rapid pace. The fight we’re facing is for a just money system, and when we get that money, it isn't a snitch, isn't a traitor.”   In discovering why we need to struggle for the soul of public money, this episode takes us straight to the heart of the matter.    Rohan Grey is the founder and president of the Modern Money Network, a research scholar at the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity, and a J.S.D. candidate at Cornell Law School, where his research focuses on the law of money in the internet society.   https://modernmoneynetwork.org/ @rohangrey on Twitter

May 23

81 min

MMT seems like a natural fit for Marxists so why has there been some resistance to it? MMT explains the monetary system. Period. If we build a post-capitalist society we’ll need to understand how currency works. If we want to discuss getting rid of money altogether, we’ll still need to understand it. In this episode, Steve called upon Nathan Tankus to break it down and explain the objections to MMT among some on the left, particularly Marxists. Along the way, he tries to dispel some of the fears and objections. Marx devoted himself to studying and developing a theory of capitalism. He left a huge body of work and, occasionally, some parts of it contradict other parts. There’s a strand of Marxist tradition that influenced Post-Keynesians, Chartalists, and MMTers, so it’s hard to make the case of incompatibility. A criticism of MMT from the left is that it is only relevant to a monetary sovereign nation, especially one, like the US, that doesn’t hold foreign-denominated debt. MMT is explicit about the perils of holding debt in a foreign currency, whether in the Weimar Republic, Zimbabwe, or the Eurozone. In fact, Stephanie Kelton made an early call on the unsustainability of the Euro. (For an in-depth discussion of the economic problems of the post-colonial world, listen to our episode “The Spectrum of Monetary Sovereignty in developing Nations with Ndongo Samba Sylla and Fadhel Kaboub.”) Steve brings up the specter of capital flight, which Nathan describes as a non-Marxist issue that Marxists argue about. Marx demanded clarity; to understand an issue, one must look at what is really going on. In the case of capital flight, Nathan asks what kind of capital they’re worried about. Is it commodity capital? Variable capital? Constant capital? We must understand which processes and mechanisms apply. What are the underlying biophysical relationships, ownership relations, and payment systems? By tracing various hypothetical cases of capital flight, Nathan demystifies this often exaggerated problem. It’s practically canon among leftists that we prioritize raising taxes on the rich. Our listeners know that MMTers are sometimes criticized for decoupling “taxing the rich” from our demand for social programs. Nathan and Steve discuss the irony in the fact that raising the marginal tax rates on billionaires may decrease their household wealth, but it does nothing to change the fundamentals -- the ownership and control of the means of production. Universal healthcare will immediately save lives. A Green New Deal will immediately save the planet, thus saving lives. Free college education will improve lives, as will student debt forgiveness. A federal job guarantee will transform the social fabric, benefiting communities, families, and individual lives. What do we gain from increasing taxes on the 1%? It’s not a Marxist proposition: he never suggested that taxes would alleviate exploitation. Nathan makes the point that tying these vital programs to the collection of taxes implies that capitalists fund the government with their tax dollars and it limits us to what we can squeeze out of them. This interview is packed with important ideas and facts. They consider the irrational fear of robots replacing human labor. They look at some of the endless possibilities opened up by a job guarantee, including as a way to finance workers’ coops, creating laboratories for other means of organizing labor. Nathan explains the bathtub analogy for understanding stocks and flows. And there’s much, much more. Nathan Tankus is the Research Director of the Modern Money Network and Research Scholar at the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity. He has written for the Financial Times, Business Insider, Naked Capitalism, The Appeal and JSTOR Daily, and currently has a blog, Notes on the Crises, at NathanTankus.substack.com

May 16

54 min

This week we’re bringing back a conversation Steve had with journalist and researcher Claire Connelly in 2017, which explores all the best arguments in the job guarantee vs universal basic income debate. Claire says that the American nostalgia for a more prosperous era supports the case for government involvement in employment even beyond the New Deal. The fact that the US had almost full employment during WW2 is largely responsible for much of the prosperity in the postwar era. Even today, it could be said that the military is the closest we have to an employer of last resort. Conservatives object to government involvement in the economy - but Claire points out all the ways in which the government subsidizes large corporations and enriches the lives of those at the top. Since the government creates the currency, a job guarantee wouldn’t require a tax increase that would decrease anyone’s stash of money. We’ve given the government permission to abdicate its responsibility for employment and both sides of the political aisle are comfortable with the idea. That being the case, Claire asks why not dissolve government entirely and elect the CEO of Goldman Sachs? The implications are directly responsible for the situation in the Eurozone. The EU, IMF, and World Bank have more power than the national governments themselves. Most of those countries have not benefited from the arrangement. Even the Greek bailout did more for the German banks more than the people of Greece. One of our objections to a UBI is the fact that it doesn’t set a price anchor or a wage floor. It simply serves to funnel more money to these same corporations and rentiers. Claire talks about the rentier economy being one of the largest detriments to economic growth. The level of personal debt in the developed nations implies that income derived from a UBI will simply go to the rentiers - in the form of mortgages, rents, payment of credit card or other debts - doing little to improve the lives of the citizens and possibly making it worse by effecting a rise in prices. Elsewhere in this episode, Steve and Claire discuss a range of topics from Georgian land value taxes to autism, all within the context of the jobs and income. Anyone who gets involved in arguments about the UBI and FJG will want to listen.

May 9

54 min

April was the 33rd anniversary of the Keating 5 Savings & Loan scandal, so we brought back our favorite former bank-regulator, Bill Black, to talk about it. It turns out that Bill has been involved in a documentary series about banking fraud and suggested that we should also hear from the directors, Patrick Lovell and Eric Vaughan. He calls them “the Coen brothers of documentaries.” The Con is a 4-part series that was inspired by Patrick’s own experience during the 2008 Great Financial Crisis. He was a successful producer and entrepreneur who had built a business and owned a home for his young family. The financial crisis wiped him out. Listeners to our podcast will be struck by the similarities to Steve Grumbine’s story. People who were hurt by the crisis say that they were struck by the disconnect between the media portrayal and their own real-life experiences. The victims were said to have been greedy and irresponsible, trying to “use their homes as ATMs.” The perpetrators were dismissed as a few bad apples. Patrick and Eric set out to uncover the true story behind 2008 and other financial crises. They were fortunate to find Bill Black. To produce a financial crisis, Bill says there must be two crucial components: elite crimes at the very top of the private sector and corruption by their political allies in the public sector. The Keating 5, in fact, were US Senators who got together with the specific purpose of pressuring S&L regulators to go easy on Charles Keating, the owner of Lincoln Savings & Loan. Bill calls it the first act in the three-act tragedy that produced the GFC. In making The Con, Patrick and Eric began looking for a top-down explanation of the financial deception that trickled down to ordinary people and caused tens of millions to lose their homes. But when they heard Bill Black say that the targets of people like Keating were “the meek, the weak, and the ignorant” it opened a new lane of investigation for them. Whether being conned into taking a risky mortgage or putting their life savings into uninsured junk bonds, the scams were carefully orchestrated to target the most vulnerable among us. The Con tells their stories as well. The series is made in the style of a true-crime documentary, which seems like a good way to emphasize that these were not just boardroom shenanigans. They were crimes, perpetrated by criminals on real-life, flesh-and-blood victims. The people who tried to do the right thing were also victimized; they were silenced and, for many of them, their careers were ended. Bill Black always has important lessons for us. It’s fascinating to hear what these two film-makers learned from him; they clearly value him as much as we do. The Con should be released sometime this summer. We hope they’ll come back then to talk about it. Bill Black is a professor of Economics and Law at the University of Missouri – Kansas City (UMKC) and the Distinguished Scholar in Residence for Financial Regulation at the University of Minnesota Law School. He is a serial whistleblower and authored The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One. Patrick S. Lovell is a 30 year veteran of media production. He is producer and protagonist of the upcoming documentary limited series: The Con. Eric S.Vaughan is an award-winning commercial director/producer with extensive experience in leading-edge media production from narrative films to VR/immersive experiences. Eric has recently completed his long-form documentary series directorial debut, THE CON.

May 2

67 min

The progressive movement is still coming to terms with the suspension of Bernie Sanders’ campaign and his endorsement of Joe Biden. We decided to check in with one of our favorite people in independent media, Jamarl Thomas of Progressive Soapbox. Steve and Jamarl spend an hour (give or take a few minutes) addressing the two questions that seem to be on everyone’s mind: what went wrong and where do we go from here? Jamarl’s critique of Sanders is fairly straight-forward -- he went to war against a powerful enemy with no powder in his gun. Would it have helped if Bernie had allowed his team to use opposition research against Joe Biden and others? Jamarl thinks that's part of what the campaign lacked. We’ll never know. To understand 2020 we have to understand that the Democrats’ number one priority was beating Sanders. His movement was a threat to the oligarchy. When they picked Biden they understood all his defects, but in their calculations, they figured that he could get the Black vote, which was enough to beat Sanders. Whether it’s enough to beat Drumpf is secondary. Jamarl makes the case that none of the Democrats in power are actually hurt by Drumpf; they may find him distasteful, but their material interests are not threatened. They know if that if Sanders were to win, they’d lose the party for a generation. They’d be exposed for they truly are. Despite paying lip service to identity politics and concern for the poor, they don’t fight to materially improve people’s lives. They were threatened by Sanders but couldn’t mount an effective attack on him due to his long history of authenticity and consistency. So they went after his supporters. They made the same accusations of racism and sexism against Bernie’s supporters as against Drumpf’s. In Jamarl’s view, the left has been weak and cowardly for 30-40 years. The Democratic Party can neglect and ignore them because they continue to get away with it. In the end, the opposition always buckles. To succeed the movement has to be willing to withstand the accusation that they’re the reason Donald Drumpf was elected. Steve brings up the question of building a third party but Jamarl insists that the left has to unite around policy, not party. Everyone needs to agree on some basic demands and stand up to the Democrats. That’s playing hardball. The conversation goes well beyond campaign politics. Jamarl and Steve talk about the Labour Party’s bungling of Brexit, and how the lack of monetary sovereignty is crippling the economies of the Eurozone. Jamarl explains why African Americans always vote Democratic, and whether it’s possible to make a change. They look at FDR’s deft use of the New Deal to ward off the imminent threat of socialism in the 30’s and visit a number of other issues, domestic and international -- past, present, and future. For more from Steve and Jamarl, check out Steve’s appearance on Political Misfits: https://www.facebook.com/SputnikNews/videos/586423068641351 Find Jamarl and the Progressive Soap Box on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/jamarl31 On Twitter: @theProgSoapbox @JamarlThomas

Apr 25

69 min

If you missed our recent episode with Professor Steve Keen, you’ll want to go back and listen to it soon. In January he spoke of the inevitability of disastrous climate crises. Now here we are, a few months later: different crisis, same chaos, inescapable tragedy. Although there is much agreement between Steve Keen and our friends in the MMT community, there are a couple of areas where the views diverge. At Macro n Cheese, we’re not afraid of a little disagreement. In fact, we welcome it. We’re all on the same side. Keen believes that during a crisis -- climate or pandemic -- we need a centralized authority to take over and maintain civilization. We've been following the advice of neoclassical economists for about half a century. During the stagflation of the 1970s, Milton Friedman vanquished the last remnants of the Keynesian approach. Thus began the unshakable belief in deregulation, privatization, and globalization. Reduce the size of government and let the market take control. This ideology ignores the crucial fact that the economy exists inside the ecology; without the ecology, there is no economy. Without the ecology, there are no humans. Steve Grumbine brings up Warren Mosler’s assertion that imports are a real value, exports are a real cost. As Mosler asks: which would we rather have, the little green pieces of paper or the cars, phones, and cheap goods we can buy from other countries? Steve Keen vehemently disagrees with this premise. It certainly doesn’t hold up during the kind of crisis we’re facing with the coronavirus. The supply chain is broken and the US is unable to get its hands on an adequate number of ventilators, masks, food and other necessities. He says that we need regional production capability for essential goods. Loopholes in US export tariff laws make it cheaper for companies to spread manufacturing across the globe, wherever they find the cheapest labor and resources. 43 countries are involved in producing the iPhone, for example. During the pandemic, 20 of these nations aren’t shipping to the US. While we can survive without iPhones, some products can be a matter of life and death. Keen and Grumbine discuss the unavoidable comprehensive solutions required in the face of a widespread crisis like this one and debate the concept of a universal basic income. The episode gives us a lot to think about. Professor Keen is a Distinguished Research Fellow at UCL and the author of “Debunking Economics” and “Can We Avoid Another Financial Crisis?” He is one of the few economists to anticipate the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, for which he received a Revere Award from the Real World Economics Review. His main research interests are developing the complex systems approach to macroeconomics, and the economics of climate change. @ProfSteveKeen on Twitter Most of his content on Patreon is free. Subscribe: https://www.patreon.com/ProfSteveKeen https://www.wiley.com/en-us/Can+We+Avoid+Another+Financial+Crisis%3F-p-9781509513727 https://www.zedbooks.net/shop/book/debunking-economics/

Apr 18

51 min

As The Intercept’s DC Bureau Chief, Ryan Grim is well-positioned to assess the American political scene. This interview took place a few days before Bernie Sanders suspended his presidential campaign, but the writing was already on the wall. We all know that the movement still has work to do, but we're faced with different possible strategies now that we no longer have Bernie to shine a light and bring media attention to it. Steve and Ryan discuss where to go from here. Between the energy and attention generated by Bernie’s campaign and the coronavirus pandemic, the people have never been more open to progressive policies. For the first time, the idea of public health is taking hold. The US handling of the COVID-19 crisis is worse than anywhere else in the world. There’s an inescapable connection between that and the fact that we don’t have a real public health system in place. The patchwork quilt of private healthcare simply doesn’t work. The mainstream media joined Bernie’s opponents in insisting we can’t afford universal single-payer healthcare -- and they’re all now exposed as economic illiterates. Those who claimed that 165 million people who are insured through their employers “love their insurance companies” now look like clowns. The left has a real opportunity to expose these things and rethink what is possible. Ironically, most Democrats agree on the issues much more than Republicans do and yet are unable to build an effectual coalition. How did we end up with a candidate who represents almost none of the policies that the constituents want? Steve and Ryan analyze what went wrong with the presidential campaign and speculate on what the next steps might be. What will the left do to make sure this revolutionary moment turns into something serious and long-lasting? They look at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the “Squad.” Have their tactics changed? Will coalition-building be more effective than a more aggressive approach? For the first time, the left has been able to envision itself with an inexorable voice. Now we have to ask ourselves whether we are simply here to engage in the conversation or if we want real power. Ryan points out that historically the success of a third party is contingent upon one of the two main parties failing. The Whigs were torn apart by the issue of slavery. Ryan is unconvinced that big money and corporate power will rise to that level. People won’t fight over capitalism the way they fought over slavery. The conversation ranges from the very real threat of climate change to the very realistic depiction of contemporary dystopia in the film “Joker.” We’re not saying we have the answers, but you’ll certainly come away with a lot to think about. Ryan Grim is The Intercept’s D.C. Bureau Chief and author of the book “We’ve Got People: From Jesse Jackson to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the End of Big Money and the Rise of a Movement.” @RyanGrim on Twitter https://theintercept.com/staff/ryangrim/ https://strongarmpress.com/catalog/weve-got-people/

Apr 11

54 min

This week’s guest is a bit of a departure for us. We don’t usually interview political candidates but Lauren Ashcraft is a stand-up comedian, a Democratic Socialist, and an ardent proponent of MMT, so how could we resist? She was introduced to us by our friend Andrés Bernal, who must have recognized how well all these attributes would serve her in the US Congress. When someone’s convictions are born of their lived experiences, the roots run deep. Corporate greed literally killed her grandfather who was a victim of a notorious coal mining accident. Her grandmother could not have survived without Social Security. Ironically Lauren became radicalized from working in the belly of the capitalist beast. She worked for one of the huge financial institutions where she received daily messages about profits being down. Staff was constantly being laid off or forced to relocate, at a time when these companies were receiving billions of dollars in incentives. And somehow the compensation to those at the very top continued to grow. She was witnessing the “socialism at the top, rugged capitalism for the rest of us” that Bernie Sanders talks about. Lauren is running as a Democrat in New York’s 12th Congressional district, challenging incumbent Carolyn Maloney. The district includes some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the country (we’ve all heard of NY’s Upper East Side, right?), but also extends to the Queensbridge Houses, the nation’s largest public housing development. Steve and Lauren debate whether it will be possible to change the Democratic Party from within, and agree that it’s really not about Democratic vs Republican. They talk about strategies to continue expanding the movement, breaking away from partisanship, and how the COVID-19 pandemic is shining a light on - and exacerbating - the need for the very policies in Lauren’s platform. There’s much more to her story, including her journey to becoming a stand-up comedian. Let’s just say it began with a Groupon coupon -- you’ll have to listen to the episode to hear the rest. Lauren Ashcraft is a candidate for New York’s 12th Congressional District. She has been endorsed by Brand New Congress, Marianne Williamson, and Shahid Buttar, among others. https://laurenashcraft.com/ @voteAshcraft on Twitter

Apr 4

63 min

Sometimes it seems like economists forget that economics is a social science which is why we’re excited to bring the new generation of MMT to Macro n Cheese. Matthew Robinson is a doctoral student at UMKC, which has been an academic home base to many friends of this podcast, including Mat Forstater who brought Matthew to our attention. Matthew talks to Steve about the personal and academic journey that led to his current work. As an undergrad at Fresno State, he saw a disconnect between what he was being taught and what he was seeing as a volunteer in the community. The west side of Fresno was a segregated neighborhood, with as much as 20% unemployment -- a reality that wasn’t reflected in the textbooks. At UMKC’s Center for Economic information, there’s a group working on health issues, recognizing that minority neighborhoods experience the worst cases of childhood asthma, lead poisoning, and a myriad of other problems, exacerbated by years of poor housing conditions and inadequate healthcare facilities. Matthew’s area of focus is violent crime, with the understanding that people make certain choices out of necessity. Reaching out to the community is a great use of economists’ time. It’s a field that isn't known for advocating for the people most in need. There’s a lot of theory but the least served populations aren’t included in the conversation. Matthew talks about what it means to serve as a support role for those on the front lines. He is also involved in bringing MMT to the HBCU’s -- Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Before the coronavirus pandemic brought things to a standstill, he had been to Morehouse, the alma mater of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, who advocated for a job guarantee more than half a century ago. There’s no doubt of the value of a federal job guarantee but Matthew talks about the level of skepticism in the Black community. There have been so many promises made, matched only by the numbers of failed results. In these pessimistic times, our listeners will be encouraged by hearing a voice from this new generation of activist-scholars. Matthew Robinson is getting his PhD in Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. He went to Fresno State and got his master's degree at the University of Denver. @econ_robinson on Twitter

Mar 28

58 min

When asked to talk about public health needs during the current coronavirus pandemic, Fadhel Kaboub immediately brings up climate change and expands the concept of public health to a degree that some will find surprising. After giving it a moment’s thought you can’t help but agree. Even if COVID-19 isn’t related to climate change, the effects of the climate crisis will accelerate in the coming years and we’ll see more pandemics and other disasters. We were caught flat-footed this time, but our inexcusable lack of preparedness cannot happen again. As Fadhel warns, there can be no “return to normal.” This pandemic illustrates why it’s impossible to think of public health needs in narrow medical terms. This kind of crisis requires massive intervention early on. Clearly we need the infrastructure and medical capabilities to handle screening, testing, treatment, and hospitalization of huge numbers of patients all over the world. To slow the spread of the virus requires decreasing the intensity of human contact by working and shopping from home. Businesses and their customers, schools or universities and their students, all will need broadband internet access as a public utility. Privatization and deregulation of the telecommunications industry will have to be reversed, which means going up against entrenched interests and their representatives in the government. Everyone deserves paid sick days and universal medical coverage. We need contingency plans across the system, including efficient means of providing goods and services during the crisis. We have to keep the supply chain moving as much as possible, keep the quality of life maintained -- these are enormously complex problems, as Fadhel explains. An overarching impediment to this level of emergency planning is the fact that the market considers it a waste. To have enough hospital rooms, ventilators, ambulances and test kits during the crisis, they must be constructed beforehand. Capitalism doesn’t produce excess goods out of a sense of civic duty. Only the federal government can afford to do this. The pandemic demonstrates what MMT has been emphasizing all along: that it's not about having the money. To transform our system to handle public health emergencies, what matters is the real productive capacity of the economy -- the physical and technical resources, human capabilities, and knowhow. Fadhel says it’s time to reframe our current crisis within the economic policy agenda that we've been talking about for years. Understanding the monetary sovereignty of the US government, we need a three-point program: 1 - Universal public services: education, childcare, healthcare, and broadband access. It’s the responsibility of the federal government to guarantee these things as human rights. 2 - Job guarantee for people who want to work. The program should be resilient and flexible enough that you don't have to be physically present. 3 - Generous income support for people who cannot or should not work. As always with Fadhel, the discussion covers too much to recount here. He tells us how to address the “cost” of the Green New Deal and what to say to someone who thinks the federal budget should be treated like that of a corporation. He reveals a serious flaw in our understanding of the GDP. It’s easy to forget that we’re still in the throes of the political primary season, but Steve had to ask him to weigh in on that. Fadhel leaves us with a reason for optimism. Bernie Sanders and his supporters have proven that there’s an alternative to rule by super-PACs and corporate interests. People believe in the transformational nature of the movement and many dozens have been inspired to run for office with a progressive agenda. Dr. Fadhel Kaboub is an Associate Professor of Economics at Denison and President of the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity. http://www.global-isp.org/president/ @FadhelKaboub and @GISP_tweets

Mar 21

67 min

Recent presidential primary results have been disappointing for supporters of Bernie Sanders. The corporate media and mainstream pundits say that Bernie’s weakness is his failure to attract Black voters. Steve’s guest, Glen Ford, executive editor of Black Agenda Report, tells us that, in fact, Bernie’s agenda is quite popular among blacks, especially the younger generation. The problem lies elsewhere. Our two-party system of governing reflects the realities of our capitalist and racist nation. One side of the duopoly is always the party of white supremacists -- the white man’s party -- which must be kept out of power. In the past the Democrats had been the white man’s party, switching roles in 1968. For Black voters, the presidential primaries are about choosing the candidate who can defeat the Republican. Most Blacks understand Joe Biden’s culpability in the murder and mayhem caused by police in their communities. They know the part he played in the passing of the crime bill. Many would prefer a Sanders presidency, but they see that Biden has the support of the corporate media and the ruling class. Under capitalism, that means that Biden will be the nominee. The powerful elite will oppose Sanders; if he were to be nominated they would undermine his candidacy, making way for another term with the white man’s party in power. Glen talks about the Blacks who hold elite positions within the Democratic party and serve as gate-keepers between the Black community and the corridors of power. He refers to them as the “mis-leadership” class, calling them a profoundly reactionary element within the community. Their fortunes are tied to the party establishment, making them unwilling to upset the status quo. Consider the effects of Representative Jim Clyburn’s endorsement of Biden prior to the S. Carolina primaries. “We have two governance parties,” Glen says, “and both are capitalist.” People are pressured to fashion their politics accordingly. Electoral politics can be important; politicians pass laws and enact programs. However, the duopoly serves as a cage for Black America because of the critical need to oppose the white man’s party. In fact, the duopoly suppresses all anti-corporate politics, making it difficult to build a left movement via the electoral route. Glen and Steve look at the acute crisis in capitalism. Young people of all races know this, which is why they favor Bernie. The contradictions are evident all around them, as reality butts up against the false narrative of neoliberalism. There has been a 40-year race to the bottom as wages, working conditions, and security are being systematically degraded by the oligarchy. The youth, especially, have no illusions about their bleak future under capitalism. Without mentioning MMT, Glen is crystal clear on the reasons behind the shredding of the social safety net. It has nothing to do with affordability or budget deficits. Destroying social programs serve the capitalist class by creating desperation and precarity among the working class, so they will be forced to accept lower-quality jobs and paltry wages. They are deprived of all other options. Bernie's platform is the antithesis of the race to the bottom -- universal childcare, a minimum wage, affordable housing, and national healthcare, all create conditions in which workers can turn down inadequate jobs. He has been the biggest threat to the ruling duopoly in the postwar era. Glen has fascinating insights into the real reasons behind Mike Bloomberg’s recent candidacy. It had nothing to do with buying the presidency. Listen to the episode for more on this as well as the catch-22 in the handling of the coronavirus! Glen Ford is the Founder and Executive Editor of Black Agenda Report. See his full bio here: https://blackagendareport.com/about-us @GlenFordBAR on Twitter

Mar 14

57 min

Our guest is the OG of MMT. Listeners always appreciate Warren Mosler’s ability to slice through to the clear and practical fiscal implication of any policy consideration. Today he talks to Steve about the deflationary bias of Medicare for All, the countercyclical effects of a federal job guarantee, how to apportion the resources that will be freed up by M4A, and why it makes sense to replace the income tax with some kind of asset tax.     You don’t need a degree in economics to understand why expanding Medicare’s coverage from age 65 to age zero will result in an immediate reduction in overall spending on healthcare. Warren estimates $600 billion in savings. Meanwhile at least 5 million jobs will be lost. Economists call it a massive “positive productivity shock.” Whenever you can produce the same amount of goods or services for less money, it’s good for the economy, despite the job loss. Now those people can be deployed for something more useful than the advertising, marketing, and administrative tasks of private insurance companies.     With M4A, the costs for private firms drop because they’re no longer buying medical coverage for their employees. This is another good thing. There’s no sensible reason for the cost of healthcare to be built into the cost of products; business expenses go down substantially, putting downward pressure on prices. It’s a deflationary event.     The two things described above - increased unemployment and downward pressure on prices - work together to reduce inflation. As Warren says, “when you have that kind of impulse you don’t raise taxes or cut spending to offset it. That’s nonsensical. It just makes it worse.”     Eventually moving to M4A could have inflationary effects, but Warren explains the importance of timing. We have to think about what happens on “day one.” People and firms will have more money in their pockets because they don’t have to buy healthcare. Ultimately they’ll begin spending some of it. Increased consumer demand will cause prices to rise; corporations might increase production. But these effects don’t play out immediately. So, again, it’s ridiculous to start with a huge tax to offset the inflation that hasn’t yet occurred. There will be time to decide what’s needed.     In light of the number of people who will become unemployed from M4A, Steve asks whether it makes more sense to have the Federal Job Guarantee in place first. This leads to a broader discussion of the FJG. Warren compares it to the joke that says, to avoid being eaten “I don’t have to outrun the bear; I only have to outrun you.” The FJG doesn’t have to be perfect; it only has to be better than unemployment. There are no economic criteria where it's worse than unemployment, so even if it's merely equal, economically, we should do it because by every other measure it's superior.     Mosler has always maintained that it must be transitional, while some MMT proponents see it as a chance to expand the public sector workforce, including within a Green New Deal. Despite some disagreements, the conversation has brought MMT awareness into the mainstream. This is a huge plus.     Once we get past the household analogy for the federal budget we can begin determining priorities for allocating resources, including labor. The US needs less than 1% of the population to grow all the food and 7% for manufacturing. Our productivity gains give us the luxury of allowing more time to be spent taking care of each other - with education, research, healthcare, and infrastructure, for example. In assessing the value of government expenditure, we aren’t limited to old notions of productivity. Solar energy requires more man-hours to produce than an equal amount of energy from coal, but that’s no reason to continue using coal. When planning for the public purpose we can take the greater good into account.     Warren Mosler’s books are available on his website: http://moslereconomics.com/    @wbmosler on Twitter

Mar 7

59 min

It’s always a treat to welcome L. Randall Wray, one of our favorite economists and guests, to Macro n Cheese. This episode is an added treat because, in a bit of a departure, Randy talks to Steve about politics and policy, looking through the lens of MMT while putting today’s issues in a historical context. Who better to bring that perspective than someone who lived through it? Maybe he wasn’t around for the Great Depression or World War II, but as a baby boomer, he witnessed first hand much of the massive growth and expansion of the postwar years and talks about what made America great and not-so-great during that period.   Randy states the only reason the policies proposed by Bernie Sanders seem so far outside the mainstream is because the mainstream has become so regressive. The ideas aren’t radical -- the Democratic Party is conservative.   Steve asks him why our society is so regressive. Much of the answer lies in the rise of finance capital -- the financialization of the economy. Wall Street has its fingers in every aspect of society, yet it doesn't produce anything, so the net value added to the economy is massively negative. Randy likens them to the rentier class. They take a percentage of corporate profit right off the top. A percentage of one’s paycheck goes to the FIRE sector -- finance, insurance, and real estate. (Obamacare is a recent example that furthered the process.) Obviously they’re not going to support democracy.   Randy says that in order to assess a policy proposal we shouldn’t ask how much it will cost. The correct questions are: do we know how to do it and do we have the resources. He and Steve go down the list, from free college and daycare, to Medicare for All, to the greening of the economy and public ownership of utilities -- the answer to those questions is “yes.” We have historical examples of some major successes. We also have examples of failures, like JFK’s “war on poverty,” from which to learn and craft more systemic approaches.   They consider the likely deflationary bias of Medicare for All and Randy explains why economists are talking about offsets. This is an episode that will interest everyone who’s interested in real possibilities for shared prosperity.   L. Randall Wray is a Senior Scholar at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College.   http://www.levyinstitute.org/scholars/l-randall-wray   https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33657496-macroeconomics

Feb 29

54 min

Our guest, Alexandra Scaggs, is a senior writer at Barron’s, where she covers markets and fixed income. The episode begins as an interview about financial journalism and dealing head-on with the neoliberal economic narrative, but evolves into a conversation that is both personal and political in which she and Steve share their experiences with everything from sobriety to learning about MMT. As Alexandra tells it, news organizations maintain the mainstream narrative through ways both subtle and direct. In her career, she hasn’t faced overt censorship. Financial publications often hire young journalists who don’t yet have a sophisticated understanding of functional finance or economics. They tend to respect credentials and positions of authority, thus are likely to accept the word of those in positions of power. Reporters are also dealing with deadlines, leaving them no time to investigate other explanations. Austerity begets austerity; the publication doesn’t hire enough journalists, so each of them are doing the work of several. Sounds like the conditions most workers face, doesn’t it? Steve likes to ask his guests about the “aha moment” -- that point in time when the veil was lifted, the haze cleared, and Modern Monetary Theory pointed them toward the truth. Alexandra remembers that shortly after the 2016 election there were a number of Democrats writing op-eds that sounded the alarm about the economic devastation that the Drumpf presidency would surely cause, driving our fiscal health into the ground, plunging the US into bankruptcy. She was struck by the disingenuousness of it. The political parties don and remove their cloak of fiscal responsibility depending on whose team is in power. She had also been aware that interest rates continue to be low regardless of the size of national debt or deficit. Alexandra credits friend-of-the-podcast Rohan Grey with teaching her about MMT. She was covering the treasury market where certain facts weren’t making sense. She met Rohan, “a very effective advocate, who sat me down and shouted at me until I understood it,” she says, “and I’m so glad he did.” The scarcity mindset pits us against each other in a zero-sum game. If the pie is small, we must scratch and scramble to secure our own little slice. With everyone competing for scraps there's little time to think of an alternative and yet Alexandra’s experience in the recovery community inspires her to imagine a broader collaboration that rejects the neoliberal imperative. She believes we can construct an economic reality in which all are valued and her optimism, in turn, inspires us. Alexandra Scaggs is a senior writer at Barron's covering markets, with a focus on fixed income. She previously wrote news and commentary about markets, the economy, and social issues for the Financial Times and FT Alphaville. Before that, she covered markets for Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal. https://www.barrons.com/authors/8576 @alexandrascaggs on Twitter

Feb 22

63 min

The mainstream media has created a pasteurized and homogenized version of Martin Luther King, Jr, befitting the neoliberal cultural bell jar. That being said, our friend Mathew Forstater reminds us that Dr King had a laser-like focus on economics and unemployment. The massively successful August 1963 march was called The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom for a reason. Without economic security, the social and political advances of the civil rights movement cannot take hold. Steve kicks off the interview by asking Mat to speak about MLK in the context of today’s debate about a Universal Basic Income versus the Federal Job Guarantee. Dr King and other civil rights leaders promoted an economic bill of rights that was specifically and intentionally not a UBI. The three-part platform demanded a job for anyone willing to work, an income guarantee for those who cannot work, and a raise in the minimum wage sufficient to lift the working poor out of poverty. All three prongs are necessary -- a job guarantee alone doesn’t help those who cannot work; raising the minimum wage doesn’t help the working poor. Dr King’s vision of a job guarantee encompasses four vital components:     1. The development of education and skills must be outcomes of the program and not prerequisites. Rather than being trained for nonexistent jobs, people are to be hired first and trained while they’re being paid.     2. Any jobs should produce community services -- the public and social services that are in short supply and benefit the neediest communities. Labor is directed to our most pressing demands, including environmental and social justice.     3. The program generates income for families that have unmet basic needs. There must be an improvement in basic standards.     4. Acknowledge that there are numerous psychological and social benefits for individuals, families, communities, and the nation as a whole. This is based on MLK's recognition of the social and economic costs of unemployment. Research outside the field of economics (anthropology, social psychology, sociology) confirms the importance of work. In contrast, a UBI provides no development of skills and no production of public services to benefit the community. In a UBI only the income piece is addressed. Supporters of the UBI tend to look at work or human labor not as it was meant to be -- a pursuit of one’s life mission. They're looking at dead-end low-paying jobs with horrible working conditions. It's understandable that they would oppose that kind of work. We have always distinguished our version of a job guarantee from draconian workfare -- the kind that forces welfare mothers to take underpaid jobs where they'll develop no skills or knowledge. Our plan is built around the understanding that people enjoy contributing, working with others, and developing their talents. For models, we look to successful programs of the past like the WPA, CCC, and Argentina’s Plan Jefes. In the rest of the interview, Mat explains that Dr King was not alone in advocating for a JG. He talks about the history of the Humphrey-Hawkins Act, which was originally intended as full-employment legislation but ultimately was gutted. From 1946 to 1978 virtually every major African American leader and organization came out for full employment, including James Farmer of CORE, Bayard Rustin of the AFL-CIO’s A. Philip Randolph Institute, and Oliver C. Cox, who wrote a number of Marxist critiques of capitalism. The second demand of the Black Panther Party’s 10 Point Program was that the government provide “full employment for our people.” We know our Macro n Cheese audience will appreciate this fascinating history of the intersection of the civil rights movement and the ongoing fight for a Federal Job Guarantee. Mathew Forstater is a Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri–Kansas City and Research Director at the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity. http://www.global-isp.org/research-director/ @mattybram on Twitter

Feb 15

59 min

In the midst of the chaos of the campaign season, it’s important to remember that there’s a whole world out there, where people are suffering in large part due to the actions of the US. Our guest Ajamu Baraka is never far from that reality and his global perspective is woven throughout this interview. He is an internationally recognized leader of the emerging human rights movement in the U.S. and has been at the forefront of efforts to apply the international human rights framework to social justice advocacy in the U.S. for more than 25 years. Ajamu is co-chair of the Embassy Protectors Defense Committee. The Washington, DC, trial will begin on February 11th, and he tells Steve the story of the events leading up to it. Many Americans are unaware of the extent of the international sanctions that have been put in place - by both parties - over the last decade or so. It’s not just Iraq and Iran; there are now around 33 nations under sanctions. Ajamu wants us to understand that US sanctions aren’t simply geared towards top officials but are structured to bring real pain to innocent civilians in hopes that they will rise up against their leaders and achieve the regime change that is the true agenda of the US elite. The problem is that sanctions don’t merely cause discomfort. People are dying. In Venezuela alone, over 40,000 have died as a consequence of US sanctions since 2017. To understand the situation in Venezuela, one must consider the history of colonialism in Latin America and the liberation struggles that emerged in the post-World War II era. Over the last few years, progressive efforts have been undermined in Bolivia, Ecuador. and Brazil. In Venezuela, a phony election in the Senate resulted in the sham “presidency” of Juan Guaidó. Despite the fact that his position is not recognized by the UN nor the majority of the world’s nations, US support for him is steadfast. Against this backdrop, a group of activists occupied the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC, with the support of the legitimate (Maduro) government. They stayed for 37 days until they were forcibly removed by federal and DC police. Ajamu and Steve talk about the stepped-up repression of progressive movements domestically as well as abroad. They discuss our need to recognize and oppose the expansion of the American empire that savages the lives of millions. Given that Ajamu was the Vice Presidential candidate for the Green Party in the 2016 election, Steve wanted to get his take on Bernie, the current campaign season, and whether it’s possible to enact a progressive agenda while the country is hamstrung by the two-party system. Ajamu continues to build support for the Embassy Protectors and is working to organize resistance to aggression towards Iran. Refusal to withdraw forces from Iraq exposes how the US has become a rogue state. Ajamu is raising awareness on the domestic front as well: A few months ago, Drumpf announced what is in effect a domestic military "surge." Under the guise of fighting crime, they will start with the infusion of federal dollars and military assistance to the first seven cities. The prime targets? The brown and black working class. Ajamu Baraka is a human rights defender, member of the leadership, US Peace Council, national spokesperson for Black Alliance for Peace, a geopolitical analyst, United Antiwar Coalition member, and co-chair of the Venezuelan Embassy Defense Committee. He is the former vice presidential candidate for the Green Party. https://www.ajamubaraka.com/about @ajamubaraka on Twitter

Feb 8

56 min

The post-war years are widely trumpeted as the golden era for America’s middle class. This is when we became a nation of suburban homeowners. Most would agree that federal programs - like the GI Bill and the FHA - contributed to this prosperity. Where some will differ is the extent to which the government is responsible. Our guest, David Freund, sets us straight.    David pierces through the propaganda and exposes the reality behind the sunny fantasy of the post-war economy. His book, Colored Property: State Policy & White Racial Politics in Suburban America, reveals the mechanics of the federal programs and the institutional racism built into them.    The racial politics of redlining are known to many of us, but there were also significant changes in municipal politics during this era. Among these was the rise in municipal zoning, giving local governments the actual power to legislate those decisions.  There was simultaneous growth of the planning profession and real estate industry. Taken altogether, David argues that these developments created the very familiar late 20th-century US landscape, where the majority of white people own their homes and where most growth is focused in suburban rather than urban areas, with remarkable disparities in wealth.   Interestingly, enormous effort was made to obscure this history from the people living it. There has been a specific political narrative intended to distort our understanding of the federal government’s role in creating segregation and wealth disparity. The mechanics are important to understand and those mechanics help us see why particular narratives were popularized.   The white beneficiaries of the boom became invested in a falsehood: that it was the free enterprise system that was producing the post-war prosperity and literally remaking the nation. It was the golden age of celebrating free-market capitalism. This was the cultural and political landscape. The image is one of bustling economic prosperity with a little bit of assistance from government programs. But the reality was something else entirely.   Prior to the boom, people were afraid of going into debt. A 30-year mortgage was seen as incredibly risky; bankers didn’t want to lend and borrowers didn’t want to borrow. The FHA needed to prime the pump so they applied aggressive marketing techniques. They did extensive groundwork educating the real estate and banking industries. They produced film reels and literature, and FHA officials went on speaking tours to professional conferences. They took their pamphlets door-to-door, contacting millions of households.  In the end, they successfully convinced banks to become debtors and consumers to go into debt. This was no small campaign; it went on for a quarter of a century -- all while insisting that these federal programs were not distorting the free market. At the same time, they perpetuated the mythos of the American dream and fed the narrative that anyone could achieve it. The 2020 campaign season has us talking about what it would mean to have a job guarantee, to create a green new deal, and to properly fund public education. As we do, David Freund cautions us to learn the lessons of history - the real history - else we be doomed to repeat it. David M. P. Freund is Associate Professor in the Department of History, University of Maryland, College Park. He is the author of Colored Property: State Policy and White Racial Politics in Suburban America (University of Chicago Press, 2007), which received the 2008 Ellis W. Hawley Prize from the Organization of American Historians, the 2007 Kenneth Jackson Book Award from the Urban History Association, and the 2009 Urban Affairs Association Best Book Award. @MpeterF on Twitter https://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/C/bo5298959.html

Feb 1

57 min

On a podcast that’s primarily about macro, today we’re compelled to talk about the cheese. The last time Bob Hockett was here, he told a skeptical Macro & Cheese audience that Elizabeth Warren was genuinely progressive and, he believed, deserving of our trust. We’ve seen him on Twitter, getting into testy exchanges about her motives. Now he sadly acknowledges that those motives are less than pure. Last week on the debate stage, Warren called into question Bernie’s truthfulness. In apparent collusion with CNN, her campaign released a story alleging a negative attitude about the possibility of a female US president. Nobody who has followed Senator Sander’s career would believe this story but it succeeded in muddying the waters, diluting his message, and hijacking the news cycle. Bob examines all possible hypotheticals of Warren’s motives, sincerity, and beliefs -- and she comes up short. As he puts it, nobody who is serious about helping the working class would employ such a movement-splitting gambit. Even if she truly believes in the programs she proposes, her actions reveal a level of opportunism. In July she was on the same debate stage hugging Bernie, yet she claims that he made this dubious statement in 2018? Either she believes he is misogynous or she doesn’t. What changed last week other than a slip in her poll numbers? Steve and Bob spend much of the episode exploring the reality of political calculations and questioning the invisible hand of the party machine behind certain campaign tactics. They consider the different types of alliances - or “marriages of convenience” - debating how to engage without compromising one’s core principles. It’s a slippery slope for which there are no easy answers. Join us for this thoughtful discussion. Robert Hockett is the Edward Cornell Professor of Law at Cornell Law School, Visiting Professor of Finance at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, and Senior Counsel at Westwood Capital, LLC. He specializes in the law, economics, and philosophy of money, finance, and enterprise organization in their theoretical and practical, their positive and normative, and their local, national, and transnational dimensions. @rch371 on Twitter https://www.lawschool.cornell.edu/faculty/bio_robert_hockett.cfm

Jan 25

74 min

If you thought you understood the urgency of climate change, our guest, Professor Steve Keen, will shatter those illusions. We’ll be straight with you, this is not an easy episode to hear - but you need to listen anyway. How can we deal with the effects of climate change if we don’t understand the urgency? Professor Keen won’t sugar coat it but he can back up every statement with facts, figures, and astute analysis. Throughout the interview, he refers to - and debunks - the work of William Nordhaus, who won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2018 “for integrating climate change into long-run macroeconomic analysis.” From Left Foot Forward: "When future generations ask why humanity delayed taking action against climate change for so long, Nordhaus’s model will be one of the prime suspects. The model, known as DICE – Dynamic Integrated model of Climate and the Economy – is a dangerous gamble for humanity’s future.  "Nordhaus’s transgressions are immense. His ‘damage function’ which he uses to estimate global warming damage is incorrect and uses data that has nothing to do with climate change. Despite this, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) uses his model to advise governments about the economic impact of global warming." Nordhaus’s sins trace back to his attacks on 1972’s “Limits to Growth” study. The predecessors to our contemporary climate deniers dismissed its findings, yet it has been proven remarkably accurate. In this interview, Professor Keen compellingly compares facts to fancy. As his home country of Australia is ablaze, he explains why this was predictable. What you learn in this episode will enrage and probably depress you. We can’t afford to ignore it; ignorance is not an option. Professor Keen is a Distinguished Research Fellow at UCL, the author of Debunking Economics (2011) and Can We Avoid Another Financial Crisis? (2017), and one of the few economists to anticipate the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, for which he received the Revere Award from the Real World Economics Review. His main research interests are developing the complex systems approach to macroeconomics and the economics of climate change. @ProfSteveKeen on Twitter https://www.patreon.com/ProfSteveKeen

Jan 18

68 min

What are the mental roadblocks to achieving a system that creates prosperity for all? We often talk about the neoliberal narrative on this podcast, but this week’s guest, Lua Yuille, peels the onion a few more layers to reveal the structure beneath the story-telling -- what some may call brain-washing -- showing us how our minds have been colonized and need to be untrained. Our entire legal system is framed and structured to convince people that they are achieving or failing on their own. We frame certain types of support as supporting their initiatives. It’s deeper than storytelling; it’s a structure that exists to make invisible all of the ways the government props you up. If someone buys a house there are tax breaks for the homeowner. Estate laws allow you to inherit a house you didn’t pay for. In these ways you’re rewarded for being an autonomous individual (or being born to one). On the other hand, if you need housing assistance, you’re in public housing. It’s seen as largesse for losers. You can look at any tiny thing that happens in your life and see the ones that are coded positively and negatively. The government has made those choices. The government makes itself undetectable by coding things positively, and it highlights itself - and the people are denigrated - by coding negatively. When we call some support “welfare” but call other kinds of support “breaks” or “benefits” we’re teaching ourselves to see these things in a divisive way. It makes it hard to engage with one another and find solutions. Lua demands that we deal in actual reality. She says we need to engage in a clear-eyed process of “naming, claiming, blaming” -- calling things out for what they are. We must understand the way economic policy itself shapes our brain and convinces us what is possible and what is not. When our conversation about policy includes the “pay for” question we’re training the entire nation to understand that the necessary consideration is “how do we pay for it?” Steve and Lua use the latter part of the interview to talk about their own lives and delve into the complex questions of race and privilege. In the civil rights movement, Black people literally put their lives on the line because they felt they had nothing to lose. Will we reach the point where white people are willing to do the same? In a world of winners and losers -- where very few are winners -- what will it take for people to risk it all? This is a fascinating episode that will add nuance and clarity to your understanding of our social, political, and economic crisis. It may be that nothing short of a revolutionary movement will free us. Lua Kamál Yuille is an interdisciplinary scholar whose current work connects property theory, business law, economics, critical pedagogy, and group identity. She is Associate Professor in the School of Law and Core faculty in the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of Kansas. https://www.profyuille.com/ @ProfYuille on Twitter

Jan 11

56 min

The UK’s MMT Podcast has been an inspiration to us since well before we launched Macro n Cheese. As fellow MMT promoters from outside the academy, we consider the co-hosts, Patricia Pino and Christian Reilly, to be kindred spirits. So it’s always a treat to have them as guests on our show. This week, it’s Patricia’s turn to explain the behavior of our UK cousins as we seek to learn lessons from their most recent electoral debacle. When Steve spoke with Patricia, she was still feeling intense disappointment and frustration in the wake of the Tory victory. Many in the Labour Party were in shock, trying to make sense of it all. Unfortunately, the most dominant voices are the least likely to admit fault. Attempting to understand Labour’s loss requires considering a multitude of layers -- economic, cultural and political -- historic issues of democracy which have been ignored for a long time. Patricia believes that the issues of sovereignty and perhaps even national identity, may play a stronger role in the UK than they do in the US. Britain joining the European Union was a blatant step in the continued abandonment of the nation-state. The challenge to their national sovereignty may appear to be less significant to the UK than to the Eurozone nations because the British retained the use of their own currency. Patricia explains that while the UK has more autonomy than the Eurozone countries, the government portrays the neoliberal policies of the EU as if they were mandated or part of an international treaty. The EU has no means of enforcing rules regarding deficits or privatization, but it applies enough political pressure to direct policy in a certain direction, simultaneously providing cover so the government can avoid claiming responsibility for unpopular policies. In both the UK and the US, elements of the right have tapped into discontent felt by marginalized members of society and gained a new throng of voters. Patricia refers to Jeremy Corbyn as a “Euro-skeptic,” which may explain why he understood the voters’ discontent in a way that other members of Labour’s leadership did not. Just as in the US, the party that was supposed to represent the interests of working people has proven to be out of touch. Labour voters had chosen Brexit; the Labour leadership was perceived as blocking it. The rank and file stopped believing their promises. As is always the case with Steve and his guests, the discussion turns to solutions -- specifically, how to deal with those people who are supposed to be on our side yet are still spreading incorrect analysis based on ridiculous assumptions, when applying the lens of MMT would bring things into focus. In the UK, even the so-called leftwing economists engage in the same kind of fear-mongering as the most dedicated neoliberal ideologues. Patricia clarifies that not all MMTers are Brexiters, but knowledge of MMT clearly illuminates the ills of the EU and the consequences of interfering with national sovereignty. Understanding how power is wielded through control of the currency naturally leads one to be an advocate for democratic systems of government. She suggests that she’s ready to step out of the functional finance silo and plans to start working with groups who may not yet support MMT but whose causes will be advanced through knowledge of it. With 5 years of Conservative rule to look forward to, she can’t afford to sit on the sidelines. None of us can. Patricia Pino is a London-based engineer, artist, and activist. She is co-host of the MMT Podcast and a founder of the Gower Institute of Modern Money Studies.  @PatriciaNPino on Twitter https://pileusmmt.libsyn.com/ https://gimms.org.uk/

Jan 4

59 min

In April of 2018, Jacobin Magazine published “Why the Left Should Embrace Brexit,” which made the case for this radical break from neoliberalism. To gain perspective on Labour’s trouncing in the recent elections, we called upon our friend, Bill Mitchell, one of the co-authors. Bill has been writing and speaking about the UK’s entry into the Eurozone since the 1990s. As an outside economist, his warnings about the dangers of ceding fiscal control fell upon deaf ears. He addressed these issues in two books, Reclaiming the State -- co-authored with Thomas Fazi -- and Eurozone Dystopia. He recalls that as a young academic he was puzzled by the fact that social democratic political parties in the UK, Europe, and the US were supporting anti-labor policies and enabling the advance of the neoliberal agenda. Reclaiming the State traces the turning points -- those historical moments in the 1970s and 90s when Labour adopted monetarism, threw their support behind austerity politics and became apologists for globalization. Western governments were no longer mediators between workers and capital. The ruling elites created alternate media and think tanks while revamping the legislative structure. They reshaped the state in their own image, reflecting and serving their own needs -- and in the process the people lost the gains made in previous decades. In order to understand the recent UK elections and the significant role played by Brexit, it’s necessary to look back at the post-World War 2 era of nation-building and economic growth, the gains that were made by working people, and the point at which capital had had enough. Compared to the US, the UK maintained a fairly robust social safety network in spite of the capitulation by “New Labour” in the 1990s. When it comes to the question of British membership in the European Union, both Labour and the Tories have been conflicted. Ultimately, accession into the EU was pushed through as a consequence of the rising concepts of globalization and monetarism. After the great financial crisis, the hollowing out of the state proceeded apace in the UK. The Tories inflicted harsh austerity by de-funding local governments, thus shutting down the most basic services that people relied upon. Traditional Labour constituencies in the mining and industrial regions in the North and the Midlands were hard hit by the free trade treaties, deregulation, and the destruction of the manufacturing sector. Meanwhile, the increased financialization of the economy had turned London into a huge international hub which benefited the urban residents who enjoyed access to freedom of travel and relatively high paying jobs. If you’ve forgotten the history of the Brexit vote, Bill sums it up for us here. Both British parties underestimated the seething discontent brought about by membership in the European Union, but the divide within Labour turned out to be fatal. In the latter portion of the episode, Steve and Bill bring it around to the US presidential race, comparing the treatment of Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders -- not only by the mainstream media but by their own political parties. They speculate on Sanders’ chances for success and talk through potential strategies for future action. Are there lessons to be learned from what we’re seeing in the UK? Bill Mitchell is Professor of Economics at University of Newcastle, Melbourne, Australia, and creator of the first blog devoted to MMT. He is the co-author of Macroeconomics and Reclaiming the State: A Progressive Vision of Sovereignty for a Post-Neoliberal World, and author of Eurozone Dystopia: Groupthink and Denial on a Grand Scale. http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/ Twitter @billy_blog https://www.jacobinmag.com/2018/04/brexit-labour-party-socialist-left-corbyn https://www.macmillanihe.com/page/detail/Macroeconomics/?K=9781137610669

Dec 2019

64 min

We admit that Macro n Cheese can be quite wonky. We interview an impressive array of scholars and a typical episode looks at functional finance on a granular level. This episode is a treat for the rest of us, with a guest who makes a point of speaking in plain English. Clint Ballinger’s book, 1,000 Castaways: Fundamentals of Economics, is meant to be a primer, bringing macroeconomics to those with no special background in the subject. Its title - and dominant model - is a reaction to the Austrian school’s hypothetical society consisting of 10 people or Paul Krugman’s “babysitters co-operative.” Clint expanded his model to more accurately reflect reality. Let’s face it: 10 people is reductionism, not simplification. “A renegade band of Modern Monetary Theorists has overturned mainstream economics in part by emphasizing that there is not one, but two systems of modern money, the ‘vertical’ and the ‘horizontal.’ They conclusively demonstrate how unifying our understanding of these is crucial for grasping modern economics.” Clint’s jumping-off point for the book is Warren Mosler’s quote: “The key to understanding Modern Monetary Theory is this vertical-horizontal relationship” On his island of castaways, Clint creates simple scenarios that illustrate the need for, and development of, the two money systems. Horizontal money is bank credit, ideally used to provide capital to improve productivity. On the island, a fisherman realizes he could catch more fish by using bigger nets, so he hires others to help weave them. A primitive payment system develops into the use of IOUs, and eventually a ‘trusted group of citizens’ begin making those loans. The hypothetical community determines a need or desire for goods and projects that will add to the wellbeing of the citizens. For example, a road will improve access to lumber and a school will educate the children. Thus, vertical, or government-issued money, is born to fund projects that will directly improve their lives or will amplify private industry. To the citizens, it’s a seamless system: a dollar is a dollar. But in reality, the government-issued dollar remains in existence until it’s taxed out. Banks just operate as accounting ledgers, providing the promise to pay. In the private system, it nets to zero. Simple and elegant, it’s also crucial; Clint believes that voters, public servants, and students of economics need to understand how these basic systems operate. In the later chapters, 1,000 Castaways addresses how we can use these principles for real-world solutions. As Steve points out, it all comes down to real resources and the island is a great illustration because it’s a confined system where you easily see cause and effect. There is so much misinformation about economics. The mainstream uses confusing terms, leaving people ill-equipped to defend themselves. The narrative becomes the rule and the rule becomes how we structure society, rightly or wrongly. In Clint’s view, the problem that led to the 2008 recession was that the FIRE section (finance, insurance, real estate) was allowed to become too bloated. There’s a simple fix. We give public licenses to banks; we can take them away. Meaningful regulation would limit banks to funding productive enterprises and running our payment system. Period. Could combining a sensible, boring, banking system with robust funding for the public purpose turn our modern world into an ideal society? You decide. Clint Ballinger got his MA in Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he focused on modern uneven economic development and went on to specialize in the interpretation of global econometric data for his PhD in Geography at Cambridge University. His interest in developing economies has led him to live in China, Costa Rica, and the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. https://clintballinger.wordpress.com/2019/01/14/1000-castaways-fundamentals-of-economics/ @ClintBalllinger on Twitter

Dec 2019

57 min

Steve’s guest, Emma Caterine, is a consumer rights attorney with special interest in predatory lenders like loan sharks and payday loan companies. She begins by talking about credit as a social construct, To fully grasp the causes of Great Recession we must understand the difference between consumer debt, with a high risk of default, and federal spending, which is new money and can never default. When our economy grows through private debt, it’s unsustainable and leads to crises like the Great Recession. MMT economists, including Wynn Godley, Stephanie Kelton, and L. Randall Wray, have shown that the idea that public “debt” and the deficit are inherently evil and to be avoided at all costs, or that financial crises are caused by “imbalance in the economy” are all myths. What we see then is that cutting public spending -- austerity -- is a political choice. Emma asserts that private household debt and private corporate debt have similar consequences on different scales, though the households bear more of the burden. Private equity firms load companies with tons of debt to be serviced by cutting labor and selling real estate holdings, which is detrimental to surrounding local communities -- people of color and the working poor in particular. This growth model based on private debt proves that lessons weren’t learnt from the Great Recession. It’s a more intense and modern version of basic capitalism. The data underscores how undemocratic it is. It’s actually about who gets the power to make these decisions. Emma boils down the increasingly neoliberal method: austerity politicians deregulate and cut funding, then the private financial sector fills the gap with privatization. Nearly everything in our lives has private equity behind it, prepared to strip all value with no regard to long-term sustainability. Emma expresses the hope that politicians like Warren and Sanders can and will stop the Wall Street looting. Steve and Emma then turn to the effects of austerity, from abandoned malls and virtual ghost towns to shorter, more brutish lives, and an ever-growing private debt bubble from payday and title loans -- death traps for the already suffering. The average family cannot afford a $400 emergency but are forced to turn to these predatory forms of credit. Steve, as someone who suffered the ill effects of the recession, and Emma, a consumer rights attorney whose clients are working-class and mostly people of color, discuss how we cannot simply talk about income inequality but must actively choose to reverse austerity and the neoliberal paradigm to end the punishment of poverty. Emma advocates increasing public investment, regulating private corporations and the financial industry. She supports the Loan Shark Prevention Act, putting a cap on interest rates. This regulation would counter any inflationary risks of the Green New Deal and Medicare For All. Plans are not enough here; an organized, people-led movement is essential for any paradigm shift. Emma doesn’t trust “professional middle-class experts” to solve the problem but instead focuses on community groups, agitation, organizing, and allying with labor. The movement needs to be people-powered, and groups like DSA are there to hand out the (metaphorical) torches and pitchforks. Emma Caterine is a consumer rights attorney on the board of the Modern Money Network, a decades-long writer and advocate of economic justice, LGBTQIA+ racial and feminist justice movements - and a proud member of Democratic Socialists of America. @EmmaCaterineDSA on Twitter Sign the manifesto at https://jobguaranteenow.org/ https://lpeblog.org/category/piercing-the-monetary-veil/

Dec 2019

69 min

The Great Recession was a maelstrom that hit many Americans hard - lost jobs, lost homes, for some everything but the clothes on one’s back. Despite the stock market, real recovery has been glacial at best. Yet many don’t know just how deep the crisis' roots go when it comes to the Black community. Keeanga Yamahtta-Taylor explains the origins of the systemic discrimination behind the housing policies that skipped over, then exploited, Black families trying to find a safe, sound, and affordable place to raise their families.   Keeanga's newest book, Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership, evolved from her organizing and activist work as a tenant advocate to protect tenants from eviction. The Great Recession hit while she was in grad school and she saw the parallels between her research on the origins of segregation and the subprime lending market as she studied the relationship between the federal government and housing programs over the decades.   Steve notes the changes wrought by neoliberalism and the shift of power from public to private sector; Keeanga adds that though neoliberalism was always there in some form, it became a distinct and rising ideology during the late 60s to early 70s.   Contributing factors to “include” Black people in housing were a market opportunity that arose with white homeownership’s saturation of the market; demand that increased with the Black exodus from South to North, and their growing incomes; and urban uprisings like the Watts riots which pushed the federal government to find a solution to quell the rebellion - the idea was that if more Black people owned their homes, they’d be less likely to burn them down.   Between FHA guaranteed loans to blacks and a $2 billion pool raised by the top 300 insurance companies, cracks began to appear in redlining and housing discrimination, but the ensured inclusion of Blacks in the housing market instead became predatory, as real estate operatives and speculators jumped into the mix - buying houses for pennies on the dollar, quickly flipping them and selling them high. New methods of exploitation like these were developed to take advantage of Black people.   Conditions created by those decades of discrimination became "evidence of risk" to allow creditors, bankers, and realtors to devise a different set of rules for Black would-be homeowners and business owners. Black families went from being refused housing to bending over backward to get it - only to find conditions deplorable and forcing them to walk away, while real estate brokers and lenders got away with the loot between commissions, closing costs and the eventual foreclosure. One official called it “business in heaven - you can’t lose money.” A supposed step up for the Black community became a stumbling block and another source of corporate profit. Steve refers to Michelle Alexander, who called the situation “a horror story in racial capitalism” and Keeanga concurs: in the course of her research, it became ever clearer that "the issue is not the system failure of capitalism or American system of governance" but that the system works perfectly fine - just not for Black people.   In closing, Keeanga is inspired by the fact that thanks to Bernie Sanders and the Squad, housing as a human right is now being debated and discussed, which provides another shot to do things right this time. There must be boots on the ground to force the Republicans and centrist Democrats to do the will of the people they’re elected to serve.   Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor is Assistant Professor of African-American Studies at Princeton University. She writes and speaks on Black politics, social movements and racial inequality in the US. http://www.keeangataylor.com/   https://uncpress.org/book/9781469653662/race-for-profit/ @KeeangaYamahtta on Twitter

Dec 2019

47 min

“How do you pay for The Green New Deal?” is a serious question in today’s political environs -- though as Nathan Tankus clarifies, not for the reasons you might think. In Part 3 of his interview with Steve Grumbine, he recognizes that MMT and the US Bond market don’t finance spending in financial terms but shows us how non-fiscal “pay-fors” can give the US economy resource room to reallocate workers and energy through financial and environmental regulation. This can be accomplished without interest rate management and raising taxes to appease those who still believe the US is constrained by debt.   The Green New Deal and a Job Guarantee will make it possible to identify which areas in the US need more resources allocated to them simply by analyzing how many citizens sign up for the program. While the state of the US economy is oft described as a whole, the number of people entering the job guarantee program can show what counties are affected more by poverty and unemployment and allow them to remain in their home regions rather than flock to major urban centers to seek employment.   He also notes that the largest American cities are coastal and would be first affected by the rising waters due to climate change. Rather than drive people to those regions, we should be planning escape routes when those cities become uninhabitable. Describing a recent video narrated by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Nathan points out how an army of workers is going to be needed to help rebuild areas that are destroyed by natural or man-made disasters.   Using the example of how Syria endured years of drought which drove rural workers to city centers to find work, Nathan shows us how many poor & unemployed young people are now basically housed in prisons and argues that they should be emptied, primarily for moral reasons, but also to increase the productive capabilities of the United States. He cites the example of inmates being utilized as (unpaid) firefighters in California to show that we already do this to a limited extent and in an immoral way.   The remainder of the interview deals with Balance of Payments. Nathan explains that countries can have either a balance of payments deficit or surplus, depending on outflows such as payments for exports, interest payments and dividend payments netted with payment inflows. The addition of all balances of payments from all countries will, therefore, theoretically be zero. Monetary Sovereignty is a spectrum. Most countries in the world pay globally in US dollars because the large sums of debts and treaty obligations are denominated in dollars -- which in turn lead to exports and imports "invoiced" in dollars, which prevents countries from using their own currencies in payments. Thus, dollar exchange rates and interest rates are very important.   Nathan and Steve then examine the concept of the International currency hierarchy and the two elements that determine a country’s standing: Financial Strength and Physical Resources. A country can have a large current account deficit and a pegged currency but be rich in physical resources -- and be in equal or better standing than a country with a current account surplus and full monetary sovereignty but with few physical resources.   In closing, Nathan compares how US states have current account positions with one another, similar to those between Eurozone states. However, understanding this relationship is difficult because no records have been kept - and the data could be distorted to criticize states with large deficits as lazy or delinquent, simply because they have fewer jobs or lower incomes. Such data could be used by ‘bad actors’ who wish to divide people based on race.   Armed with this information, America could do some amazing things using the Green New Deal and the Federal Job Guarantee   Nathan Tankus is Research Director at Modern Money Network.   @NathanTankus on Twitter

Nov 2019

58 min

Public banking is a hot topic in progressive circles. We at Macro n Cheese support it as long as it serves the public purpose, but not all visions of public banking are equal. Luckily, we have Nathan Tankus to help us navigate the shoals. In this second episode of a three-part series, Nathan begins by addressing the overall question of banks as public institutions. All banks, whether private, public, or democratic cooperatives, are given government charters and must abide by regulations. There may be similarities in the structure of governance, but when it comes to incentives, they are very different creatures. Nathan compares the different kinds of banks, including China’s state-owned banking system and looks at possibilities for regulations and services. Steve brings up proposals for infrastructure banks and the concept of financing public spending through a network of public banks. Some of these ideas don’t necessarily jibe with the MMT perspective; Nathan, Raul Carrillo and Andres Bernal recently wrote an article in Business Insider making the case that the federal government must pay for the Green New Deal. Full stop. The power of the federal purse is far superior to public-private partnerships or, worse, nudging the private sector to finance local public projects. Public banks can and should provide much-needed services -- at present, state and local governments keep their funds in, and make payments through, private banks that charge astronomical fees for the privilege. (We’re looking at you, Wells Fargo.) Nathan explains what it means to be “unbanked” or “underbanked,” as with individuals and communities who are denied services by the private banking industry. Much of this is taken for granted by those who have always had access. Banks provide a place to cash a check or receive automatic deposits from one’s employer, not to mention mortgages and car loans. In the US, the poor are crowded out of the banks and pushed towards predatory actors like check-cashing and payday lenders -- the high cost of poverty. Public and postal banks would provide normal banking services for those who are traditionally excluded. Nathan suggests that rather than simply making loans, public banks should award grants and emergency funds to individuals. In the second half of the episode, Steve and Nathan turn to a positive vision of the future. Steve refers to the combination of the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, a Federal Job Guarantee and a universal right to housing as an end-to-end, 360-degree plan to address inequality. Nathan looks at different aspects of each and how they are interconnected. For example, right now people migrate to a handful of metropolitan areas because that’s where they can find employment. With the job guarantee, previously abandoned communities can be revitalized, housing can be refurbished and retrofitted, and choices can be made based on preference rather than necessity. Nathan points out that a minimum wage is a leaky wage floor; it’s meaningless for those who don’t have a job. The FJG provides a true floor, forcing employers to compete with wages and benefits. Creating a “just transition” for unemployed coal miners will require more than FJG jobs. With the other social insurance in place, compensation will more nearly approximate their lost salaries. They will need childcare, supplemental income through an expanded Social Security or basic income, affordable housing, and free education. In the heat of this presidential campaign season, candidates are competing for our attention with complicated proposals. After listening to this episode you’ll be equipped to unpack their promises and assess them through a true MMT lens. https://www.businessinsider.com/green-new-deal-climate-change-government-spending-no-private-money-2019-9 Nathan Tankus is Research Director at Modern Money Network. @NathanTankus on Twitter

Nov 2019

51 min

If you follow the financial press you’ve probably noticed some recent hysteria about the “repo market.” Since this involves the dealings of the Federal Reserve, it falls under our purview here at Macro ‘n Cheese. Because unraveling the strands of this dense subject requires someone more knowledgeable than we are, we called upon friend-of-the-podcast Nathan Tankus to help us out. Nathan is Research Director at Modern Money Network and can often be found on Twitter, educating the world about MMT. “Repo” simply refers to the repurchase of bonds. Banks and bond traders sell Treasury bonds back to the Federal Reserve with the understanding that they (the banks) will buy them back the following day. As Nathan points out, this is always spoken of from the point of view of the central bank as buyer; it could just as well be called the resale market. Why does this matter? Why do the banks sell back their Treasurys for such a brief period of time? When banks buy them back the price is higher due to the interest charged. So why do it at all? It turns out to be the mechanism by which banks ensure that they have enough balance reserves to ensure that their payments clear. To do this they need to deal with liquid assets, which can quickly be bought and sold and converted to "money" (or at least change the balance in their account). Nothing is more liquid than a Treasury bond. See? Perhaps the banking industry isn’t just lawlessness and anarchy after all? Well, they certainly want us to believe the system is self-regulating so we won’t demand that the lawmakers rein them in and protect the public. As Nathan explains it, concern about the repo market is much ado about nothing. The central bank has been doing these repurchase agreements since 1917 and during some periods they are a normal part of the Fed’s toolbox. But the 2008 financial crisis put a halt to the practice for a while. In response to the liquidity crisis (ie, the lack of liquid assets), the Fed created trillions of dollars of what most of us think of as bail-out money, which was distributed to all the banks. At that point, banks didn’t need to sell bonds to meet their reserve balances because they all had plenty. Thus, no need for repo. When repo agreements started up again, some in the media thought that, since it hadn’t been done since 2008, it must be a sign that there’s a new crisis at hand. It doesn’t help that the FDIC, headed by Trump appointee Jelena McWilliams, is investigating the central bank, insisting that the repo market is actually another bank bailout by the Fed. Somehow, people have forgotten that these have historically been normal activities. In this interview we learn the meaning of the liquidity trap -- and liquidity itself. We learn about settlement balances, quantitative easing, and overnight interest rates. We learn of regulations like Dodd-Frank and international banking agreements like Basel III. We learn how these things are connected to such far-flung historical events as Bretton Woods, the Yom Kippur War, and German postwar reparations. We learn why MMT economists have promoted a detailed understanding of monetary operations and argue that the banking system does not serve the public purpose. The next time you get spooked by a headline in the financial press, tune into this episode again. It all makes so much sense when explained by someone who knows what he’s talking about.  Nathan Tankus is Research Director at Modern Money Network. modernmoneynetwork.org @NathanTankus on Twitter

Nov 2019

52 min

This 2017 interview features a younger Steve Grumbine speaking with a younger-still Brad Voracek. Brad was in the first graduating class of the masters’ program at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College. His real-world experience as a teacher and mentor in Arizona is vastly different from Steve’s, a father of nine in Pennsylvania, who has had to cope with the medical challenges and expenses faced by his late father -- and now, his own.   It’s refreshing to hear a young person explain how MMT makes sense based on his own observations and point of view. Rather than engaging in arguments about politics and economics, Brad tells us that he approaches each issue with simple questions: what is our purpose/what do we want? In his view, rather than battling over a basic income, let’s determine how to meet people’s basic needs -- after all, we already know how to pay for it.   Steve and Brad take the discussion of a job guarantee away from the usual talk of a transitional buffer stock of labor and delve instead into a broader range of human values. In redefining work we can find a kind of fulfillment that we don’t always associate with minimum wage jobs. Whether we find that fulfillment in creative fields, caring for the vulnerable, or public service in general, the possibilities are endless.   Brad is less riled by anti-MMT cynics than some of our older colleagues. This may be because of his early exposure to the concept of sectoral balances. It boils down to basic double-entry accounting; a debit on one side is a credit on the other. It’s always a two-sided transaction between humans. A government deficit means a private surplus.   Join us for this intergenerational conversation. You might see something in a whole new light!   Brad Voracek got his master’s degree at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College. In 2017 he worked in AmeriCorps VISTA, observing how direct job creation programs work in practice. Now he is a high school teacher at Phoenix Coding Academy and lead mentor for the robotics team. @bradvoracek on Twitter

Nov 2019

50 min

Modern Monetary Theory is often accused of only being relevant to the US. While this is a ridiculous claim, some of us might be a bit guilty of lacking in-depth knowledge about Africa and developing nations. That ends today. We’re excited to introduce our listeners to Ndongo Samba Sylla, whom we met at the 3rd International MMT Conference where he delivered the keynote on “Money, Imperialism, and Development.” Fadhel, an old friend of this podcast, needs no introduction. Ndongo is an expert on the CFA Franc, a currency imposed on the former French colonies in Africa, who cannot achieve monetary sovereignty until they rid themselves of it. To provide context, he and Fadhel talk about the meaning of monetary sovereignty from an MMT perspective. It is important not to confuse it with political sovereignty. Political independence is limited without it. For full monetary sovereignty, a country must issue its own currency, tax the population in its own currency, be able to issue debt in the national currency (in other words, they don’t have to borrow and repay in another currency), and they don’t fix their exchange rate to gold, or dollars, or any other nation’s money. Not all countries are equal. There are those with full monetary sovereignty, like the US, Japan, or China, and there are countries that have given up their national currency. Some, like the 14 nations that use the CFA Franc, did so involuntarily. Others gave it up willingly. Most developing nations fall somewhere in this spectrum. Developing nations have structural weaknesses, like the inability to produce enough food or energy to meet the population’s needs. They tend to import, in addition to food and energy, capital goods, and export low value-added content, like manufactured consumer goods. Thus, they have trade deficits, placing downward pressure on the exchange rate of their currency. If their money is devalued, everything they import will be more expensive. In a very real sense, they’re importing inflation. When prices go up on essentials such as food, energy, and medical resources, it leads to social and political unrest. When discussing the economic problems of developing nations, we must look at the role of international institutions like the IMF and the World Bank, set up between World War I and World War II, to manage global financial activities. Remember that in 1945 when they were created, there were no developing nations; they were still colonies. Their economic concerns were not considered. But in the 1950s and 60s, as these countries achieved independence, economic problems began to emerge between the developing and developed nations. In the ensuing half-century, solutions prescribed by the IMF and World Bank have proven to be spectacularly harmful to the developing world. MMT focuses on the reality of econ activity, unlike the global financial institutions. When a country exports, these resources don’t go to the citizens. When looking at trade surpluses and deficits, the IMF and World Bank do not consider quality but limit their attention to monetary value. MMT allows us to consider root causes and craft solutions that address them. To that end, Ndongo and Fadhel announce an upcoming conference in Tunisia, November 6-9. “The Quest for Economic & Monetary Sovereignty in 21 Century Africa: Lessons to be Learned and the Way Forward” (see link below) will assemble economists, historians, Marxists, political scientists, to build on the advances of MMT in developing a plan to benefit Africa and the developing world. MES-Africa.org live-tweeting: @mon_sovereignty Dr. Ndongo Samba Sylla, a Senegalese development economist, is a Senior Research and Programme manager at the West Africa office of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation in Dakar  @nssylla on Twitter Dr. Fadhel Kaboub is an Associate Professor of economics at Denison and President of the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity @FadhelKaboub and @GISP_tweets on Twitter

Nov 2019

54 min

For non-economists to learn essentials such as the balance of payments, currency exchange, and trade between nations, presentation matters. The brilliant Bill Mitchell, as always, distills complex concepts in such a way that everyone comes away with valuable knowledge. He doesn’t simplify, but presents them as common sense. We recently came across this gem from Steve’s interview with him last year and immediately saw that it’s too valuable to gather dust in the library. Bill begins by addressing a criticism of MMT that has confronted him since the 1990s: "it only applies to the large, closed economy of the US." He explains MMT’s relevance to his home country of Australia - a small, open economy - as well as to developing nations. Material conditions and availability of resources will differ, affecting the balance of imports vs exports, and their respective standards of living reflect these realities. Regardless, the insights afforded by MMT are just as legitimate. MMT economists start with real-world behavior. Financial flows associated with trade can easily be traced. You go into a car dealership, buy an import, write a check or hand over your credit card, and ultimately your account is debited. But where do those numbers go? Some believe that when you buy foreign goods the money leaves the country and those dollars simply disappear. Bill points out that they can all be traced. “It’s not high intellectual stuff, it’s just detail” -- careful analysis of accounting conventions in real-time existence. By looking at interactions between commercial banks and central banks - and interactions across currencies through international exchange markets - one can clarify the process and solve the mystery. With a similar appeal to common sense, he punctures the mystique of the petrodollar, a favorite bug-a-bear of MMT critics. He talks about the changing role of central banks and the IMF from World War II until the present. The conversation veers to the philosophical when Steve expresses frustration with naysayers and merchants of doom. Bill reminds him -- and us -- that most of us are ignorant outside of our limited realm of knowledge. We extemporize our own experience which is narrow, ill-informed and emotional. We take advice from experts, relying on them to actually know what they’re talking about. He finds the "experts" in his own field to be a disgrace. In economic matters, we are guided by our individual life experience and that of our friends: debt is a matter of concern in our own household budget, so it must be the same on the national level. Then, we hear the “experts” reinforcing that view. It’s no surprise that we’re operating out of a fog of ignorance that reflects the dominant view. It’s heartening to hear Bill Mitchell’s take on the cynics and pessimists who predict failure for the Job Guarantee, for they have “such a negative view of human capacity.” Imagine the complex physics, astronomy, and engineering that was required to put a human on the moon 50 years ago -- yet they’re saying we can’t put together a few jobs? The limitations aren’t financial.  Whatever logistical constraints might exist will require foresight, planning, and imagination. Certainly we can rustle up a sufficient amount to make big changes. Bill Mitchell is Professor of Economics at University of Newcastle, Melbourne, Australia and creator of the first blog devoted to MMT. http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/ Twitter @billy_blog https://www.macmillanihe.com/page/detail/Macroeconomics/?K=9781137610669

Oct 2019

68 min

Regulatory agencies taking on Savings & Loan fraud may not be everyone’s idea of a swashbuckling tale, but for us nerdy types at Macro N Cheese it’s pure gold. It has villains like Charles Keating and the Keating 5. (No, that’s not an English rock group from the 70's.) It has unsung heroes whose names aren’t known to most Americans, including our special guest, Bill Black, and the cofounders of Bank Whistleblowers United. Had people like them been allowed to do their job, the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 might have been prevented, along with the economic devastation of millions of people. Financial fraud is somehow beyond the ken of neoclassical economists whose assumptions about the behavior of corporations render them blind to reality. They are left baffled and unable to explain the S&L debacle and the GFC. But, as Bill reminds us, seeking profit is risky; it’s a gamble. “Why would you think the CEOs are gambling when fraud is a sure thing?”   In the 1980s and 90s, regulators noticed that S&Ls were behaving in a way that made no sense under traditional economic models but made sense if they were engaging in what was called “control fraud.” The explicit targeting of Blacks, Latinos and the elderly became known to the rest of us during the subprime mortgage crisis - there have even been movies about it - but regulators saw it even then. “Control predation” functioned under the assumption that people who were less likely to be economically sophisticated would be easy marks. The history Bill relates is long enough to write a book about. And he did -- The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One: How Corporate Executives and Politicians Looted the S&L Industry. This interview begins with the tale of Long Beach Savings, which morphed into Ameriquest, the Johnny Appleseed of fraud and predation. Through successful manipulation of the system it managed to avoid prosecution, the fate of numerous other financial institutions in the early 90s. It landed outside the jurisdiction of the federal regulators and was allowed to grow for 13 years, pumping out 75 billion dollars in tainted loans. Ameriquest served as a blueprint for the other frauds and predators in that industry. Another stream of this narrative takes us through what Bill Mitchell might call “capturing the state.” It involves increasingly outrageous political appointments, placing industry foxes in the regulatory henhouse. With Reagan appointees diverting prosecutions from within, and lobbyists and Senators applying pressure from without, a whole lot of criminal activity was allowed to flourish in the most powerful financial institutions in the world. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush took the axe to legislation, like Glass Steagall, designed to protect consumers. The industry used its power to launch a smear campaign against the regulators at a time when anti-government ideology was taking hold throughout conservative and “New Democratic” politics. Our listeners will recognize the names of a number of the players, such as Alan Greenspan, appearing here as a lobbyist assigned to recruit Senators in support of Charles Keating. Keating, the CEO of Lincoln Savings, will be forever linked with the Keating 5, a group of US Senators, including John McCain, to whom he made huge political contributions and from whom he received outrageous favors. Greenspan and the Senators insisted that Lincoln Savings had a clean bill of health. The fact that it ended up with a loss of 3.4 billion dollars -- the largest failure in US banking history until the GFC -- didn’t deter Clinton from appointing him as Chairman of the Fed. Bill Black is an Associate Professor of Economics and Law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.  He is also a white-collar criminologist, a former financial regulator, former banker, and serial whistleblower.  He is a co-founder of Bank Whistleblowers United (BWU). https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1144371.The_Best_Way_to_Rob_a_Bank_Is_to_Own_One

Oct 2019

69 min

Mitch Green joins host Steve Grumbine to talk about his work with Democratic Socialists of America in Portland, OR, and the role Modern Monetary Theory can play in DSA. As an eco-socialist, Mitch’s focus is on the climate crisis, and as an economist, he uses MMT to answer the ubiquitous question concerning solutions: “how will you pay for it?” Even when people are not open to accepting MMT, he finds it effective to simply ask them the price of continuing to live like this. The standard posture is to simply “tax the rich” but given the political climate, that probably won’t fly. So, what should we do? The clock is ticking. If we consider the costs of catastrophe, even standard cost-benefit analysis will tell us we must act and take what he refers to as a moon-shot approach, opening up the spigot of federal money creation. None of this is to say we shouldn’t tax the rich. But we need not rely on their money to implement the necessary policies. We can apply the levers of the state. People can be taught that the laws of economics are not immutable; they are social phenomena -- of human creation. Mitch sees the Green New Deal as something bigger and bolder than any list of traditional policy objectives. It is a bold statement that says we want to change every aspect of our society. It takes the threat of ecological collapse and uses it as a way to galvanize many interests into one organized body of action. The GND is an opportunity to change how, where, and for whom we produce things, irrespective of financial price tag. We’ll do it in such a way that protects and respects the people who are immediately affected by the transition. When Steve asks him about the challenges we face, Mitch talks about the need to get money out of politics. (Fans of this podcast may remember Scott Ferguson insisting that we only need to get private money out of politics and, in fact, should have an injection of public money into the process!) The truth is that most Americans don’t “do” democracy very well. We must have a theory of democracy that understands power. If we’re naïve about power in politics we’ll be frustrated by the inability to change. Mitch expresses optimism for the future. His experience working with DSA has shown that people have a proclivity for community and stewardship. Organizing with a rights-based framework is inspiring and powerful. We see that conservatives are animated by the fear of losing their rights, and while this is mainly concerned with their right to own guns, everyone wants the right to a dignified life. It is up to us to seize control of the narrative and tie it to the right to a job, a clean environment, health care and housing. This is where our power stems from. The discussion goes into the difference between micro and macroeconomics. They talk about Steve’s view of the job guarantee as a democracy enhancer. And they go into greater detail about the possibilities arising from the Green New Deal. Mitch Green is a Research Scholar at the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity. He has taught courses in political economy, economic statistics and applied microeconomics at Franklin & Marshall College and currently moonlights as an adjunct economics instructor at Portland Community College. https://www.salon.com/2019/09/02/this-economist-debunked-all-the-right-wing-talking-points-about-the-green-new-deal/

Oct 2019

52 min

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