It Ain’t Easy Teaching People What They Think They Know (A message to people that have learned MMT and want to #TeachMMT)
Bored? Looking for something quick and easy to take up a bit of your spare time? Something that just might change the world? Sure, you do. Americans have a surplus of spare time, what with full-time hours reduced to 36 hours at the same weekly pay. Remember back when President Obama was sworn into office and immediately signed the executive order to reducing full-time hours to 36? Those were the days. The economic crises ended months later with unemployment right back where it was before the crash.
Too bad that never happened. At that time, I had never heard of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), but that represented my thinking for a quick fix. I still think it’s a good idea. But, Obama never took decisive action, and as we all know, he did just enough to prevent a total collapse. The economy never fully recovered; on the other hand, it just didn’t die. I have added a lot of tools to my economic toolbox since then, most notably, MMT.
At first, I went around proclaiming to people that our taxes don’t fund spending, and that means we can do things like Single-Payer, rebuild the infrastructure, and all the other “ponies” being denied us by ignorant politicians. But by 2017, I finally realized that just because I say it’s true, that does not make people believe me. And that’s how I arrived at an idea of doing something quick, easy, and a world changer. Sure, I didn’t have lots of spare time, and I wasn't exactly bored, but the world is reaching critical mass for a radical shift, perhaps I may be able to help shape that shift for the good. Not by myself of course, but by bringing about awareness of MMT to just a few people at a time, who could also spread awareness of MMT – and change for the better will occur.
I decided I would schedule myself to make presentations on MMT to local political groups and activists. The idea was to contact local activist groups and offer to spend a half hour explaining MMT to the group since most individuals that belong to one group also belong to other groups as well. Soon, I figured I would be doing an MMT presentation every month and maybe more. And early on I did get an invite. It was from the local Greens. And they gave me 30 minutes at the back end of their monthly meeting. It was once I started to prepare, that I realized it was not easy. I had to actually plan what I would say. While doing that I realized as I anticipated questions, I had to do some research as well. By the time I finished my prep, I had a great outline for my talk. It went well, the group was interested and had more questions than I had time to field. Unfortunately, nobody took grabbed on to learn more. So I tried again.
After getting no interest, the chair of the local Democratic committee suggested I hold a meeting on my own. Attendance-wise, it was a failure since only two people showed up. One person, Susan Eldridge, who had been working with me and proofreading my talking points was there. The other was a Harvard law grad student who had sponsored both Pavlina Tcherneva and Bill Black to speak recently at Harvard. I pushed ahead with my spiel and got some invaluable feedback from both making the exercise well worth the time and effort. Moving onward, I attended a DSA meeting in order to have an opportunity to pitch the idea of making a presentation to them. My pitch fell on ears that would only hear a response to the question “How will MMT advance the Socialist agenda?” But I got a valuable piece of information, a conference of Progressive activists and proponents of Social Justice was being held on April 21, about a 10-minute walk from my house.
So, I contacted the conference organizer and asked if I may present at one of the 15 or so breakout sessions. I even attended the planning meeting where I was challenged to justify doing a presentation on a subject, MMT, that nobody was familiar with. Not really true, since one person from the Green Party presentation was there and attested to the validity of my material. I decided at the meeting to change my main topic to the Federal Job Guarantee and follow with an overview of MMT. In the end, I got a slot and when I got there in the morning the organizer came over to me while setting up and informed me that she had to give me a larger room. She was really surprised at the interest. In the meantime, Susan and I were asked by Real Progressives to live stream, which we did. After we finished, the organizer told me that everyone really liked my presentation. We had gathered some names of people who are interested in learning more about MMT and the Federal Job Guarantee. And I was asked to join Real Progressives.
So, maybe it’s not easy but it does spread familiarity into the public about MMT and the policy choices it provides. Doing talks in front of small groups takes it out of the discussion medium and allows the opportunity to build, step by step the actual policy as well as MMT. You can break down the reluctance people have when they are told everything you believe is wrong before they express a challenge. The most important lesson I am learning is that preparation is key. Read your talking points through, think of questions someone may ask, try to build in the answer to what you will say. I also realize that getting the opportunities to speak are few and far between. But then how often do you get a chance to change the world?
One last thing, don’t take any questions until your entire talk is completed.