Warning: At the end of this diary, I’m going to be asking for your support. Your financial support. Please consider making a donation today.
I remember the fall of 2008 not as the time of an historic election but as a time of astonishment at the massive amounts of money our government, a Republican administration and a Democratic Congress, was willing to throw at the financial elites while demonstrating, for the most part, their utter cluelessness about why the money was needed or what would be done with it. At first is was $700 billion, then $850 billion and then trillions. All within the space of a few weeks.
Perhaps the most striking fact revealed by the global financial crash — or rather, by the reaction to it — is the staggering, astonishing, gargantuan amount of money that the governments of the world have at their command. In just a matter of days, we have seen literally trillions of dollars offered to the financial services sector by national treasuries and central banks across the globe.
The effectiveness of this unprecedented transfer of wealth from ordinary citizens to the top tiers of the business world remains to be seen. It will certainly insulate the very rich from the consequences of their own greed and folly and fraud; but it is not at all clear how much these measures will shield the vast majority of people from the catastrophe that has been visited upon them by the elite.
But putting aside for a moment the actual intent, details and results of the global bailout offers, it is their very extent that shocks, and shows — in a stark, harsh, all-revealing light — the brutal disdain with which the national governments of the world’s “leading democracies” have treated their own citizens for decades.
Year after year, the ordinary citizens were told by their governments: we have no money to spend on your needs, on your communities, on your infrastructure, on your health, on your children, on your environment, on your quality of life. We can’t do those kinds of things any more.
Of course, when talking amongst themselves, or with the believers in the think tanks, boardrooms — and editorial offices — the cultists would speak more plainly: we don’t do those things anymore because we shouldn’t do them, we don’t want to do them, they are wrong, they are evil, they are outside the faith. But for the hoi polloi, the line was usually something like this: Budgets are tight, we must balance them (for a “balanced budget” is a core doctrine of the cult), we just can’t afford all these luxuries.
But now, as the emptiness and falsity of the Chicago cargo cult stands nakedly revealed, even to some of its most faithful and fanatical adherents, we can see that this 30-year mantra by our governments has been a deliberate and outright lie. The money was there — billions and billions and billions of dollars of it, trillions of dollars of it. We can see it before our very eyes today — being whisked away from our public treasuries and showered upon the banks and the brokerages.
Let’s say it again: The money was there all along.
A deliberate and outright lie. The money was there all along.
And now, just a year and a half later, the deficit hawks at the Peterson Foundation are at it again: attacking Social Security and Medicare, this time with a “National Fiscal Summit” including such notable “experts” as Robert Rubin and Alan Greenspan, among others “to Discuss Nation’s Rising Deficits and Debt.”
We have a massive need for a counter-narrative to their lies: that Federal deficit spending is bad, that it is a burden to the next generation, that deficit spending risks insolvency — basically that the Federal Government Budget is some how analogous to a household budget when, in fact, it is no such thing.
The Fiscal Sustainability Teach-In Counter-Conference on April 28th, 2010 in Washington, DC (At the George Washington University’s Marvin Center, Room 310, The Elliot Room, venue info here.) — the same day as the Peterson Foundation’s “Fiscal Summit” — aims to do just that. Here’s what Jamie Galbraith said about the Teach-In:
“The Fiscal Sustainability Teach-In Counter Conference will be the important event in Washington on April 28. Unlike the other meeting, this one will feature important work by honest scholars. It deserves at least equal attention, and very much more respect.”
— James K. Galbraith, The University of Texas at Austin. [April 19, 2010 via email with permission]
We can move beyond the false economic orthodoxy that got us into the current economic mess and that now is being promoted to attack Social Security and Medicare — and harming our Nation and its People in so many ways. But our help is needed (I warned you this was coming) to raise the money needed for speaker travel, venue, and other related expenses. No money is going to the organizers or to anything other than the conference. The Teach-In is being organized, at the last minute, with no charge for attendance and on a shoe-string budget, because the people involved believe in what they are doing.
|Time Period||Topic||Team Leaders|
|8:00–8:15 AM||Welcoming Remarks|
|8:15–9:45 AM||What Is Fiscal Sustainability?||Bill Mitchell, Research Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), at the University of Newcastle, NSW Australia, and blogger at billy blog|
|10:00 AM–11:15||Are There Spending Constraints on Governments Sovereign in their Currency?||Stephanie Kelton, Associate Professor of Macroeconomics, Finance, and Money and Banking, Senior Scholar at The Center for Full Employment and Price Stability (CFEPS), University of Missouri – Kansas City, Research Associate at The Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, and blogger at New Economics Perspectives|
|11:30–12:45||The Deficit, the Debt, the Debt-To-GDP ratio, the Grandchildren and Government Economic Policy||Warren Mosler, International Consulting Economist and blogger at The Center of the Universe|
|1:00–2:15 PM||Inflation and Hyper-inflation||Marshall Auerback, International Consulting Economist, blogger at New Deal 2.0 and New Economic Perspectives;
Mat Forstater, Professor of Economics, Director of CFEPS, Department of Economics, University of Missouri — Kansas City, Research Associate at The Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, and blogger at New Economic Perspectives
|2:30–4:00 PM||Policy Proposals for Fiscal Sustainability||L. Randall Wray, Professor of Economics, Research Director of CFEPS at the University of Missouri – Kansas City, and Senior Scholar at The Levy Economics Institute of Bard College;
Pavlina Tcherneva, Assistant Professor of Economics at Franklin and Marshall College, Senior Research Associate at CFEPS and Research Associate at The Levy Economics Institute of Bard College and bloggers at New Economic Perspectives
Please help by contributing to the cost of the Teach-In today. Donate Here. Every little bit helps.
Some other things you can do:
- Ask your friends to donate too
- Attend the Teach-In
- Spread the word — write a blog post, tell your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers
- Educate yourself — some great introductory resources are:
- Teaching the Fallacy of Composition: The Federal Budget Deficit, by L. Randall Wray
- Fiscal sustainability 101: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, by William Mitchell
- The Fiscal Sustainability Teach-In and Counter-Conference, by William Mitchell
- 7 Deadly Innocent Frauds, by Warren Mosler
- In Defense of Deficits, by James K. Galbraith
Finally, here is a bit of inspiration from Rob Parenteau, who also gave me the title of this post (both via email and used with permission):
Of course, there is a need to reconstruct the way economics is taught in academia. But this is not the highest priority at the moment. We have many average people and citizens walking around looking for answers. We need to learn to speak to them and persuade the entrepreneurs, the unionists, the teachers, the housewives, the priests, the cab drivers, etc. They are hungry for answers and vulnerable to demagogues.
We have demonstrated some capacity to finally forge our way through the last mile problem on MMT, functional finance, and the financial balance approach in the blog world and elsewhere. Some like Marshall, Bill Black, and Jamie are even able to get the message across through more mainstream media channels. The tenured academics will surely be the last to follow, and of course, that is their perogative. We should let Rob Johnson and INET continue to work on that contigent while we take our case to the misinformed and extremely frustrated public. They are desperate to make sense of what has happened and to figure out how to find a plausible way forward to a more sensible and satisfying world. We can do that. We can completely engage them, and get the ball rolling.
Marshall and I have dialogued with pure blooded Austrian Schoolers on blog sites and actually gotten some traction with them. It is possible to help people find new perspectives or at least question and possibly move beyond limited old ones. I unfortunately cannot attend this one because I have other commitments I cannot break that day, but I have a funny feeling it will not be the last one either and I wish you all the greatest success and effectiveness with this inaugural teach-in. I am certain you will be making history. Feel the power of this moment and wield it wisely.