The Jefferson Tree - A platform for debate and discussion of current events and politics...

Former NSA Chief Keith Alexander Quickly Becoming the Villain

Certain people, who had their egos (not national security) terribly hurt by the Edward Snowden revelations, continue to call Snowden names and stuff and show their outrage toward him for exposing the NSA’s wrongdoing.  It would seem, however, they might want to redirect their outrage toward another former employee of the NSA: ex-chief Keith Alexander. It was revealed yesterday the NSA is now being sued by a reporter for not disclosing Alexander’s financial records in the interest of making sure there ...

Palestine Borders and Demographics Prove to be A Ghetto

Thanks to a good idea given to me by my partner here at STL, I started to research and analyze some geographic information regarding the Jewish land-grab in Palestine. I then followed by studying some demographic info on the Gaza Strip and drew some interesting conclusions. Here’s what I found: First, some great maps over at Wikipedia with adjoining historical context info and links portraying the boundaries of Palestine/Israel since the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement (The linked information could have you reading ...

Social Protest Lit: Ebenezer Elliot, “The People’s Anthem”

A poem from Ebenezer Elliot entitled The People’s Anthem from Book IV called “Out of The Depths.” This chapter is focused on man’s pursuit of remedy for social injustice: When wilt thou save the people? O God of mercy! when? Not kings and lords, but nations! Flowers of the heart, O God, are they! Let them not pass, like weeds, away! Their heritage a sunless day! God save the people! Shall bring crime for ever, Strength aiding still the strong? Is it thy will, O Father? That man shall toil for wrong? “No!” ...

Stephen Moore’s Ridiculous Anti-Clean Energy Rant

Hard right-winger Stephen Moore took a break from pushing debunked trickle-down economic policies to take a pathetic shot at clean energy.  Let the stupid begin. …radical Greens, one of the most influential political forces in America today… Seriously?  He goes on to mention the famed Sierra Club as one of these forces.  And where did they rank in 2013 on lobbying: 755.  In fact, if we look at the top 50 interest groups giving to members of Congress this year, no sign ...

Anti-Israel Policies/Actions Is Not Anti-Semitsim

There have been growing protests in Europe against the mass murder of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by the State of Israel. These actions are in response to the IDF killing 500 Muslims there with the vast majority of them being civilians. But what is troubling about these movements is, according to this article in the NYT, an anti-Semitic tinge has taken place at these protests. The story reads that in France: Several recent pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Paris have boiled over ...

Warren For President?

Today at the the annual Netroots Nation conference in Detroit, the nation’s largest gathering of liberal activists and organizers, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) reportedly drew an applause that Hillary could only dream of. According to NYT and Politico reports, Warren was a rock-star while Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic candidate for President, was absent. Warren’s populist talking points and her history of taking Wall Street to task (remember that Warren was an early advocate for the creation of a new Consumer Financial ...

Social Protest Literatue at Sparking The Left

Here at STL we are starting a new feature. In between our political-insight posts, I will start publishing excerpts or entire pieces of great literature that speak to crucial social and political issues which span the centuries. Though almost all in the Western tradition, the subject matters are transcendental. Now first to name my source, I am taking pieces from Upton Sinclair’s selected and edited collection “The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Great Social Protest Literature of All Time.” ...

Pulitzer-Winning Journalist Detained for Being Undocumented

I was first brought aware of Jose Antonio Vargas’ story last week in a piece he penned in Politico. He explained that he was in the Rio Grande Valley, in the city of McAllen, just north of the Mexican border. He was there to see first hand the tens of thousands of undocumented children, most of them from Central America, and observe how they were being treated. The trip was also used for a news conference appearance and vigil organized by United We Dream, ...

Selective Outrage

War is hell.  All we have to do is look around the world to see its toll.  That being said, I don't understand the lack of outrage coming from this President and his administration other than that aimed at our one ally - Israel which is doing no more than trying to protect it's people from rocket fire and constant raids from Hamas. The fact that Palestinian civilians are getting killed is a tragic yet unavoidable aspect of this war.  Why ...

Why Are We So Full Of Hate?

What has happened to human kind?  No matter where you look we find ourselves surrounded by a world filled with hate. What puzzles me is how it's combined with political correctness.  Take this country where so many words are now frowned upon and even forbidden because they are hurtful to certain people.  Redskins, squaw, savage plus a whole lot applying to blacks, orientals and hispanics not to mention middle easterners.  Has it dawned on anyone banning the names has done nothing ...

Has Putin Over Reached Once Too Often?

My, oh my.  We've watched this man make mince meat of Obama over the past several years.  Each time you could see the smirk broaden and the swagger get more pronounced. He and his allies - Iran, China, Syria and North Korea were truly enjoying themselves. But as happens with a lot of bullies, they get over confident and suddenly everything around them collapses. I'm wondering if this is the case with the downing of the Malaysian passenger jet. With the death ...

If Only It WERE The Heat!

What a day.  A passenger plane has been shot down over Ukraine uncomfortably close to the Russian border. Hamas reneged on the humanitarian cease fire so Israel launched their ground offensive. Children still pour across the border while Congress dithers. It's now being reported parents are giving them birth control in case they are raped during the journey. Along that line former member of Congress, Todd Aiken, who once talked about legitimate rape and the idea that women's bodies protected them from becoming ...

Hannity's Histrionics

For a person who doesn't have much faith in the intellect of pundits, I wonder why I watch them so often.  I wonder even more why the cable outlets and networks that employ them don't take more care in who they hire. Many of them get on crusades that bear no resemblance to reality.  Sean Hannity is one of the most prominent. The night before last  he was on his Bowe Bergdahl kick demanding to know why he was returned to ...

Do Actions Speak Louder Than Words?

If the President could run away from the border mess any faster I'm sure he would. It's being said it's because being seen in the setting of kids crammed into confined spaces with their scabies and lice would reflect badly on him.  It could even be his Katrina.  Well, maybe.  But who's fault is that? It goes to show his handlers aren't as smart as they think they are.  For one, drinking beer and shooting pool in Colorado, a state where ...

The Kids Always Went Home

Watching the immigration mess going full bore brought to mind a lot of things that have involved children from other nations.  The first thing that comes to mind is the Disney song It's a Small World After All that speaks to all we have in common. Hopes, dreams, all the warm fuzzy stuff. We've had exchange student programs where a student from another country lives with a local family to learn not only academics but what life in American and Americans ...

The Militia Is Coming, The Militia Is Coming!

That's all we need! News has it a call has gone out for militia, both unarmed and armed, to gather along the border to help private land owners protect their property in something called Operation Save Our Borders.  Terrific! Remember how well it went when militia turned out to help to  help Cliven Bundy in his fight over Federal grazing rights in Nevada?  It came within a hair's breadth of turning violent. I really feel for the border towns who are the ...

I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country. Thomas Jefferson
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Ralph Musgrave - Ralphanomics

Three MMTers and Milton Friedman say government borrowing is pointless.

The plonkers running Western economies have for the most part not grasped the distinction between micro and macroeconomics: in particular they think government, plus government income, spending and borrowing can be treated the same way as a household’s income, spending and borrowing.

In fact the two are as similar as chalk and cheese. (Incidentally, I’ll use the word “government” in the sense “government and central bank combined”).

Micro and macro borrowing.

Borrowing can make good sense for a microeconomic entity, like a household or business. For example, where such an entity wants to make an investment that makes sense, and the entity does not have enough cash, it will borrow. Nothing wrong with that.

However a country that issues its own currency (a “monetarily sovereign” country / government), is totally different. This “entity” has a limitless supply of cash: it can print the stuff. Borrowing is totally pointless. (Same goes for the Eurozone as a whole – though INDIVIDUAL COUNTRIES within the EZ are a different kettle of fish.)

New Economic Perspectives and Friedman.

The New Economics Perspectives site has just published an article by Dan Kervick (who I regard as very clued up) arguing that government borrowing is pointless. This argument is not new, but it’s good to see someone joining the “borrowing is pointless” chorus.

Milton Friedman in 1948 argued for a zero government borrowing regime. See paragraph starting “Under the proposal…” (p.250) here.

Friedman’s arguments were, first, that borrowing might be justified in war time when government spending relative to GDP is very high, and collecting very large amounts of tax might be impractical. However, so argues Friedman, this point is invalid in peace time, ergo borrowing is not justified in peace time.

Second, Friedman debunks the argument that borrowing is justified because, in his words, it is “less deflationary” than getting a similar amount of money via tax. As he rightly points out, simply printing money is even less deflationary.

Warren Mosler

Warren Mosler also argues for a zero borrowing regime. See second last paragraph here.

He does not give any detailed reasons, far as I can see. He says that “No public purpose is served by the issuance of Treasury securities with a non-convertible currency and floating exchange rate.” That is true, but that simple statement needs bolstering with some more detailed arguments, which I attempted to set out in a paper entitled “Government borrowing is near pointless”.

My Reasons

It is not possible to accurately summarise all the arguments in the latter paper. But briefly the main arguments are thus.

1. A popular argument for borrowing is the Keynsian “borrow and spend with a view to stimulus” argument. However, Keynes himself pointed out that printing money was a perfectly good alternative to borrowing it. But even that is too charitable an attitude towards borrowing. Reason is thus.

Where a government issues its own currency and borrows units of its currency, it is borrowing something which it can create itself in limitless quantities: similar to, and as pointless as a dairy farmer buying milk in a shop.

2. There is borrowing with a view to the purchase of assets, like infrastructure investments. One flaw in that argument is that infrastructure investment spending is small compared to total government spending, thus such spending can perfectly well come out of income.

Another possible excuse for borrowing to fund infrastructure is that the borrowing spreads the cost over the generations that benefit from such spending. That argument is nonsense because it is just not physically possible to consume real resources like concrete or steel produced in 2030 to construct roads and bridges in 2012.

3. Government borrowing smooths out the erratic timing of government expenditure and income from taxation? Sorry: just another flawed argument.

To illustrate, if all corporation tax is paid in January, government will on the face of it be short of funds towards the end of each year, which for “borrow” enthusiasts means government will have to borrow.

Not true: suppose the government just prints money towards the end of the year, would that be inflationary? The answer is “no”, because corporations know perfectly well that a significant chunk of their cash is going to disappear in January. That money is not “spendable” money. In fact the deflationary effect of abstaining from spending that money will pretty much cancel out any inflationary effect of government printing and spending money late in the year.

4. Given the hopeless arguments for government borrowing, what are the REAL REASONS for such borrowing? Well, the real reason is moral hazard, skulduggery, corruption – call it what you will.

To be specific, voters attribute tax increases to governments and politicians to a far greater extent than they attribute interest rate rises to governments and politicians. Thus it always pays incumbent politicians to run up national debts, and leave the consequent mess to their successors to sort out. 

And finally.

So if three MMTers (Warren Mosler, Dan Kervick and me) all say the same, namely that government borrowing is pointless – not to mention Milton Friedman – I challenge anyone to contradict us!!!!

Ralph Musgrave - Ralphanomics

Author: Ralph Musgrave - Ralphanomics

I wrote a book on unemployment recently with James Galbraith, and others. Galbraith is one of Obama's economic advisers. I love the different cultures that exist in this world. I took an interest in them long before the daft word 'multiculturalism' was widely used. I want to see these cultures preserved. I want to see Tibet staying Tibetan, and Britain staying British.

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