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

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, ...

GOP Refuses Funding for Border Children Projects

A humanitarian crisis unseen before at our borders is becoming more and more urgent everyday at Rio Grande Valley, TX, and other Southwest locations. And yet the GOP is arguing over numbers. Yesterday President Obama requested an amount of $3.7 billion from Congress to help aid the 57,000 unaccompanied minors who illegally crossed the border from the Mexico side since October. They are mostly from violence-ridden Central American countries, like El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras (Honduras has the world’s highest murder ...

Problems galore for the new government headed by Mr. Narendra Modi in New Delhi – Imperative for the first time PM and his council of ministers in governance amidst multiple challenges

The phenomenal victory for Mr. Narendra Modi and his party (the BJP) in May 2014 general elections has not only drawn the adulation of people world over but also silenced all its die hard critics at home and abroad. It was so stupendous and stunning that even the American government and its top leaders across party lines acknowledged Mr. Modi as the emerging democratic leader of the world, setting aside their past antagonism as an error of judgment, not based ...

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 ...

Where the principle of difference [between political parties] is as substantial and as strongly pronounced as between the republicans and the monocrats of our country, I hold it as honorable to take a firm and decided part and as immoral to pursue a middle line, as between the parties of honest men and rogues, into which every country is divided. Thomas Jefferson
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Ralph Musgrave - Ralphanomics

Twelve reasons why MMT is right on the fiscal versus monetary policy question.

File:Abba Lerner.jpgAbba Lerner is often said to be the founding father of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). He argued that in a recession, government should simply create new money and spend it into the economy (and/or cut taxes) – effectively combining fiscal and monetary policy.

I’ll ASSUME that this “combined” policy is part of MMT (though perhaps some MMTers will disagree). Anyway, the arguments AGAINST implementing fiscal or monetary policy SEPARATELY are thus.

1. Adjusting interest rates is a form of monetary policy, BUT interest rate adjustments are DISTORTIONARY. An interest rate change works only via households or firms which are significantly reliant on variable rate loans: i.e. those reliant on FIXED rate loans or not reliant on loans at all are not affected by an interest rate change. Thus this policy makes no more sense than boosting an economy only via people with black hair, with blondes, red-heads, etc waiting for a trickle-down effect.

Bizarrely, James Bullard, president of the St Louis Fed claimed (p.9) that TAXES ARE DISTORTIONARY! Well it depends which taxes. Sales taxes like VAT or payroll taxes are pretty distortion free.

2. QE, another form of monetary policy, has the same defect: it works only via a limited proportion of the population, that is, the rich.

3. The idea that there is a close relationship between interest rates and the ACTUAL availability of credit has been shown to be TOTAL NONSENSE over the last two years. That is, rates are currently at record low levels, but banks are reluctant to lend.

4. Low interest rates can have a DEFLATIONARY effect (pointed out by Warren Mosler). If rates are cut, the central bank will then pay out less by way of interest. That is, less new money will be injected into the private sector.

Minor technical point: this effect depends to some extent on the rules governing the relevant central bank, Treasury, etc. To illustrate, in some countries a rate reduction may NOT automatically reduce the above injection. That is, the reduction may be treated as a reduced budgetary expense for the Treasury, which in turn is expected to collect less tax to compensate. In this case the above deflationary effect would not operate.

5. An interest rate reduction is an inducement to borrow and invest in assets, which tends to cause asset price bubbles. In contrast, a straightforward change in government net spending has less of a “bubble blowing” effect. That is, if the additional net spending is directed at a cross section of the population (not just the wealthy), there will not be a significant asset bubble effect.

6. The optimum price for borrowed money (i.e. the optimum rate of interest) is determined by the same sort of factors that determine the optimum price for concrete, steel or any other commodity: supply and demand. To put that in economics jargon, the rate of interest is optimised when the marginal disutility of forgone consumption by savers equals the marginal utility or marginal benefit from the investments that those savers fund.

If government interferes with this free market rate of interest, then the total amount invested will not be optimum. GDP will not be maximised.

7. Low interest rates allegedly encourage investment. Unfortunately those making investments look at LONG TERM rates, not the fact that the central bank has recently cut rates and will probably raise them again in two years time. And that applies both to firms investing in productive capacity and people who borrow with a view to buying houses.

And there is much argument as to just how much influence central banks have on long term rates. For example, there is one estimate here (3rd last para) to the effect that a 1% change in short term rates brings a change in long term rates of around 0.025: a total and utter irrelevance!

And if that is not bad enough, it seems that in as far as central banks can influence long term rates, they can only influence them slowly – over a two year period. See here. Again, that is utterly hopeless. For the purposes of regulating aggregate demand, one needs as quick an effect as possible.

While most people will not buy houses just because interest rates have dropped for a couple of years, there ARE those NINJA mortgage suckers who bought houses on the basis of near zero interests for the first year or two. I.e. there ARE idiots out there. So in that the “low interest rates encourages investment” argument DOES WORK, it works by encouraging idiots to behave irresponsibly!!! Now that’s a ringing endorsement for “low interest rates encourage investment” argument – I don’t think.

8. The idea that reduced interest rates encourage investment is rendered irrelevant by the fact that in a recession, more investment is exactly what is NOT needed. In recessions (certainly in SHORT recessions) there is more than the usual amount of capital equipment lying idle! Of course it takes TIME to manufacture or create real investments like machinery or factories, and assuming an economy will return to trend growth shortly after a recession, employers need to make sure they are not SHORT of capital equipment after a recession. But employers do not need governments to tell them this. Nor will irrelevant little inducements like 2% changes in interest rates do much to optimise any given employer’s investment strategy.

9. Radcliffe Report on monetary policy in the U.K. published in 1960 concluded that ‘there can be no reliance on interest rate policy as a major short-term stabiliser of demand’.

10. As to the possibility that credit card spending is influenced by changes in a central bank’s base rate, there seems to be no link between those rates and credit card rates. See here.

11. Now for the possibility of using fiscal policy alone: that is implementing the classic Keynsian “borrow and spend” policy. The problem with this policy is crowding out: that is, fact that when government borrows, that tends to raise interest rates, which has a deflationary effect, which negates the whole object of the exercise: imparting stimulus. THE EXACT EXTENT of this crowding out is disputed, but to the extent that it is a problem, the central bank can easily counteract the undesirable effect by cutting interest rates – which it does by creating money and buying up government debt.

BUT HANG ON……… What’s going on here is that the government / central bank machine is implementing the Abba Lerner “create money and spend it into the economy” policy!!!!!!!

Alternatively, to the extent that “borrow and spend” DOES WORK without a crowding out effect, there is another problem: what in God’s name is the point of government borrowing something (i.e. money) when it can create money in infinite amounts any time it likes and at no cost? You ever heard of anything so daft?

12. A novel argument in favour of using monetary policy alone was produced recently by Nick Rowe. This is that fiscal is already doing a huge amount, in the form of taking thousands of micro economic decisions a day – like deciding where to build bridges, to cite Rowe’s example. Thus, allegedly, we cannot impose more burdens on fiscal.

Well the answer to that argument is that the amount of work currently being done by any system has nothing to do with whether it should be given more work to do, or whether the latter work should be allocated to some other system. For example the fact that the military is already spending billions on warships, aircraft and so on has nothing to do with whether the military or the police should be responsible for dealing a riot or natural disaster. If the military are best at the job, they should do it, and be given the necessary funds. If the police are best at the job, they should do it, and get the relevant funds. Period. Full stop. End of argument.

Moreover, having fiscal influence demand is not difficult (contrary to James Bullard’s claims, (p.1). It is not a “burden” on fiscal. Britain has altered its VAT rate twice during the current recession. I’ve heard nothing about excessive bureaucratic costs involved in doing this.

By the way, Bullard makes just about every mistake it is possible to make in his paper. For example he claims government debt is a burden on future generations (p.17). For a demolition of this idea, see here. Bullard also got a drubbing on Warren Mosler’s site recently.

And finally, the above should not be taken as a criticism of the low interest and QE policies pursued by the Fed over the last two years or so. Given the refusal by Congress to implement enough stimulus, the Fed has little option but to employ interest rate reductions and QE. In contrast, the Bank of England and some other central banks have fewer excuses for implementing interest rate reductions and QE.

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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