As a progressive independent who wants to see the Green Party become a major force in US politics, I’d like to make an appeal to all Greens regarding MMT (Modern Monetary Theory).
The Green Party have more progressive policies in their platform than any other party. They should enjoy unrivaled popularity. Unfortunately, Neoliberals counter every progressive policy with the same eight words: “how are you going to pay for it?”, for which they’ve manufactured a limited set of undesirable answers: (a) raise taxes, (b) go into debt to China and condemn our grandchildren to slave camps, or (c) take money away from the military or some other program and leave us defenseless or at risk of a shortage.
Progressives may be willing to accept some of these answers as necessary, but around half of the country do not, which is why progressive policies always get enough opposition from politicians to justify doing nothing. The problem with the Green Party (GP) is they play in this Neoliberal sandpit of manufactured answers. Their economic platform pushes fear-mongering about our grandchildren inheriting the national debt (section IV-M), and they propose answers (a) and (c) as ways to `get money to pay for things’ while having a `balanced budget’.
What MMT tells us is (a), (b), and (c) are all wrong and we should stop playing in the Neoliberal sandpit. Federal taxes have important uses, but there is no need to collect them before spending on the people. The US government issues its own currency: the dollar. That means it’s self-funding and can’t go broke. It doesn’t need to harvest money from rich people, nor does it need to defund the military (although it should for ethical reasons) to afford public programs. Furthermore, what we call the national debt is actually just savings accounts held by people and countries who’ve bought Treasury bonds. The government could technically pay off these bonds tomorrow, but why would they? Does your bank see your savings account as an unwelcome debt? Would you rather your bank closed your account and gave you the cash? You wouldn’t, and neither would bondholders. They want a risk-free savings account. It’s risk-free because the US government can’t go broke.
The Green Party wants to extricate our society from the clutches of Neoliberalism, yet their economic platform is riddled with infectious Neoliberal catchphrases that tighten our chains. For example, the platform renounces government deficits and treats our currency-issuing government like a household that requires a balanced budget. But, has your household ever issued currency? Of course not. In fact, the desire for a balanced budget is particularly damaging to the progressive cause because government deficits tend to benefit the people. Such a deficit usually means the rest of us (households and businesses) are in surplus. That’s why Bill Clinton’s government surpluses put households into debt and laid the foundations for the recession – it’s what Neoliberal economics does.
The GP should stop killing their own policies by pretending deficits, the national debt, and levels of taxation limit government spending. Climb out of the Neoliberal sandpit; stop playing their game. The only constraints on government spending are inflation and real resources, and inflation can only become an issue after our resources and labor have been fully utilized.
MMT tells us there needs to be a (d) in our list of answers: Congress should spend to fully utilize the resources and labor in our economy by providing the healthcare, education, jobs, and energy infrastructure we need. What this amounts to is: `the same damn way you Neoliberal parasites fund the military.’ Have you ever wondered how the government spends 700 billion on the military each year without taxes to pay for it? Neoliberals already use the principles of MMT to get what they want. It’s time the GP understood these basic economic tools can be at our disposal too.
So my appeal to the Green Party is: stop placing constraints on the 99% that don’t apply to the 1%. The GP, Bernie Sanders, Robert Reich, and many on the left are putting an unnecessary barrier in the way of progress. They’re saying we have to get money from somewhere else first (taxes, creditors, the military, etc). It’s like saying we have to cure racism before we can get healthcare. Sure, cure racism, but it’s not stopping us from getting healthcare. In the same way: sure, use taxes to delete more dollars from rich people, and thus address wealth inequality, but don’t make us wait for that to happen before spending on the people.
Unless progressives develop an understanding of MMT, it will remain difficult to implement progressive ideas. We’ll keep running into “how are you going to pay for it?”, and we’ll keep using answers that are undesirable to large swathes of the population. This is why the Neoliberal sandpit is quicksand for progressive policies. Currently, a plethora of economic myths linger in the minds of progressives who are asking for the very things those myths prevent us from getting. We have got to stop kneecapping ourselves. Greens know a thing or two about rejecting the mainstream media narrative. It’s time to reject the mainstream economic narrative as well.