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We Need Strategies for Integrating MMT Knowledge Into Progressive Politics

My purpose here is to spur the development and refinement of the conversation already going on about how to better disseminate knowledge and acceptance of MMT. I do not pretend to have answers but it is important to identify all the questions and challenges. Once we have, we need to collectively arrive at the best answers and strategies for meeting those challenges. We must think realistically and act boldly.

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) economists have provided progressive activists worldwide with a marvelous gift. Hopefully, those activists will be savvy enough to open the package, study the contents and apply the knowledge gained to turbocharge their efforts to achieve economic, social, racial and environmental justice for the people.

MMT is a politically neutral school of economics. Its research and teachings, especially its description of how our nation's sovereign currency works at the federal level, may be utilized by policymakers along the entire political spectrum. In practice, however, Congress, which for the last four decades has operated solely along the right side of that spectrum, has applied their knowledge of money operations for the benefit of the unelected ruling elite. And they have done so in such a successfully clandestine manner that the American public has been kept in the dark about this scam the whole time.

MMT truths give progressive activists important tools:

  • Unprecedented leverage with policymakers.
  • A clear blueprint for the implementation of public purpose spending.
  • A straightforward explanation of how money really works at the federal level, not the deceptive story we’re being told.
  • Policy space to pass progressive agenda items, like the Federal Job Guarantee, that will go far to end unemployment, reduce poverty, and give the main street economy a serious boost.

Since this article encourages others to develop strategies progressive groups and movements may use to integrate MMT ideas into their work, I will not go into the nitty gritty of MMT here.

For quick intros go here: https://modernmoneybasics.com/facts/

And here: http://downwithtyranny.blogspot.com/2018/01/making-modern-money-mainstream.html

Or read my other MMT articles at Medium.com.

Our starting point must be recognition of the longstanding, enormously successful fraud that has been perpetrated upon the American people. The centerpieces of that fraud are the assertions that federal tax payments fund federal spending, that "deficit spending" is our enemy, and that the federal government borrows to cover the deficit, allegedly putting our grandchildren at risk.

You might wonder how the fraud has been maintained so well. Outside of the relatively small band of MMT economists, it is apparent that politicians, the media, and orthodox economists have been quite diligent in keeping the cat in the bag. So much so that you would not be faulted for suspecting a conspiracy of silence. In the face of this, one is forced to ponder motives. Why lie to the public so boldly? What could be behind the drive to achieve such disciplined secrecy?

The motive of recent US administrations, Congress, and the corporate media is easy to discern. Since they all represent the ruling oligarchy, it is essential that they protect the long-held advantage that the truth about the workings of money confers. The secrecy allows them to direct great sums of public funds to huge corporations, and other wealthy campaign donors, while justifying the theft by appealing to "national security," "keeping America competitive," and other serious sounding rationales. The implied threat of these lame justifications softens us up to accept the next lie: those huge expenditures means "tax dollars" that currently pay for social programs will have to be tapped to cover the alleged shortfall. In this way, their ruler buddies get our money through both the front and back doors.

The explanation of why economists, generally, support the conventional narrative is more prosaic. Most still subscribe to the classical economics of their training, which is based upon conditions in effect prior to the US going off the gold standard in the early 1970s. That point of view presents no contradictions to the narrative. Unfortunately, today's economists are still being trained that way. There are some high-profile economists who do understand MMT, however, they have vested interests in deliberately supporting the lies told to the public.

Challenges

Given Congress' heavy investment in maintaining the false narrative, it will be an enormous challenge to force them to give it up. But they must give it up if the changes necessary to liberate the full policy space offered by our fiat currency are to be achieved. Only then will the implementation of expanded public purpose spending be possible.

Congress, however, is not an independent body. It is dependent upon the oligarchs who fund its members and protect their positions. It would be an adverse outcome for its corporate and wealthy backers were Congress to make the requisite policy changes and begin spending heavily on public programs. A scenario in which members of Congress move against their patrons is difficult to imagine in the current political environment.   

Another major challenge we face is the task of disabusing the public of their belief in the false narrative, perhaps the only narrative they have ever known, about how the economy works. It is quite natural and expected that they hold this erroneous understanding. Consequently, we should fully expect that people will receive the correct understanding, the MMT description, with great skepticism. It is tantamount to trying to convince an entire public that 2 + 2 = 4, if all their lives they’ve been taught it was 3.

Those of us promoting MMT to the public regularly take abuse from readers who strike out with ad hominem attacks.

Progressives, of course, are part of the general public. Our work has already shown us they can be as resistant to the message of MMT as anyone else. Since we need more progressives actively promoting MMT, it is a particularly urgent challenge to develop effective methods of winning them over.

The corporate media also presents a huge challenge to achieving widespread communication of MMT ideas. They represent the propaganda wing of the oligarchy. Their control over messaging is nearly airtight. Progressives stand very little chance of having their points of view objectively aired.

Existing progressive media has yet to embrace MMT economics. It is my impression that Lee Camp, who hosts the regular YouTube program, Redacted Tonight, is the farthest along. It is unclear to me what challenges may exist in bringing progressive media outlets onboard, so this is an important area to be explored with your help.

Readers are likely to identify additional challenges we face and are encouraged to do so. We need all hands on deck for this effort.

Meeting the Challenges

It will take some serious creative thinking to develop a strategy for confronting Congress members. Any way you look at it, it will be difficult to avoid exposing them as liars. They did put themselves in that position, after all, and we should not shirk from speaking truth to power. Hopefully, their weak standing in the eyes of the public will mitigate any backlash that might come our way.

There is a remarkable amount of fine MMT content available in various formats that is and can be used to make our case. Would it be worthwhile to tailor packages of content designed for the specific audiences we need to address? I could see content for congresspersons needing to be different from content for the general public, and still more content differences for uninitiated progressives and media people. (Just throwing out ideas for consideration, to let them sink or swim based upon their merit.)

It is axiomatic that progressive organizations should always try to work in coalition and find common ground with other progressive groups. More to the point, Real Progressives and other movement organizations that are down with MMT need to be reaching out to kindred groups to win them over to the merits of MMT and the advantages it provides to the implementation of progressive social policies. In the process, we may find out which are actual progressives and which are pretenders.

Social media is one of the most successful formats for spreading the MMT word to date, yet it unfortunately misses a lot of people. Indeed, according to the Pew Research Center, 11 percent of American adults do not use the internet, and of those who do, 24 percent do not use social media. Of course, a far fewer percentage of those are exposed to MMT.

We already know internet penetration is lowest among poor Americans, and that they are most in need of the progressive application of MMT principles to social policy. What are the avenues of reaching this population with our message? I am reminded of Rev. Barber's renewed Poor People's Campaign. I suspect introducing the MMT dimension to their work would be a fine way of exposing that underserved population to the ideas.

Local PBS affiliates, low-power community radio stations, homegrown internet investigative reporting shops, and community newspapers are all fair game to be approached with MMT programming or article ideas and letters. Seek out MMT sympathetic economists in your region and try to enlist them in such promotional efforts.  

I have run dry of ideas for now, but I am sure you will have more. Let's really put our heads together to move MMT and its sea-changing potential forward.


I hope Real Progressives and MMT for RP are open to receiving and recording the brainstorming products that may come in response to this plea. Readers are also welcome to make comments on my political FB Page: https://m.facebook.com/usprogressiveactivist/

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