Michael Hoexter: Loathsome Wall Street Deficit Hysterics: ‘Blame the Old and Sick, Not Us’ – Part 1

By Michael Hoexter, a policy analyst and marketing consultant on green issues, climate change, clean and renewable energy, and energy efficiency. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives.

Lambert here: “Deficit hysterics,” like “deficit scolds” is far too kind; it leaves open the possibility that we are dealing with good faith actors and honest disagreements.

* * *

The austerity push by politicians, political operatives, and pundits of the last 5 years is the height of economic, political, and social perversity and stupidity. Yet, as it still resonates in the halls of power, in the White House and Congress, and in many parts of the media, it still requires explanation and clarification.  Besides inspiring the reduced level of government funding we are now seeing in the US and elsewhere, the deficit hysteria campaign is threatening to undermine what remains of the American social safety net that helped form and support the American middle class over the past 70 years.  In addition, now and in the future, we will need a government able to use the full range of fiscal (i.e. financial) tools to combat climate change, tools which the austerity campaign seeks to lame or sequester for the benefit of a small financial elite.   In the latest turn, deficit hysterics are trying to incite intergenerational warfare between the young and the old, accusing the latter of taking more than their share of public financial resources which the young will need later in life.

Within the past couple of years, I have tried to explain in a compact and vivid way the austerity campaign, which remains now as then a perverse, unrealistic and destructive set of economic opinions and policy recommendations.  Recently, a view of the austerity drive has come into focus, which maybe has occurred to others as well.  Here is my exposition of this sharper perspective upon what remains a dangerous movement among the political and economic elite to strangle and reverse social progress.

Quick Overview of Deficit Hysteria

During the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-2009, just when the economies of the developed world most required and benefitted from increased government spending, a frenzy of hysteria was whipped up which claimed that the instrument of government and government spending was a failed or failing instrument.  The interventions of governments had just prevented the world economy and the failing private financial system from plunging into total chaos and, immediately following, a seemingly new class of pundits and political leaders cropped up castigating government and government spending.

The word used over and over again in this new deficit hysteria campaign was “debt”, not differentiating between the debts of private individuals and corporations on the one hand and national currency-issuing governments on the other.  Of course, private individuals, corporations and non-currency-issuing governments (local, regional, and Eurozone governments) can run into trouble (become insolvent) with debts while currency-issuing governments (US, UK, Japan, Norway, Canada, Australia, etc.)  are never a solvency risk in debts denominated in their own freely floating currency.  Deficit hysteria was and is, superficially, an undifferentiated “debt hysteria”.

This public debt hysteria overlooks, or attempts to persuade people to overlook, that monetarily sovereign governments or currency-issuing institutions like the European Central Bank (ECB), could, as mentioned above, sustain practically any level of public debt if it is denominated in their own currency, i.e. the one they issued and control.  Those nations like Argentina or Greece that historically got into trouble with debt were those that didn’t control their own currency, i.e. were not monetarily sovereign by either choice (hitching their currency to a foreign currency) or by design (giving up the national currency for a supra-national currency like the Euro).  Public debt hysteria has, applied to monetary sovereign nations with freely floating currencies, no factual basis:  Japan is currently growing at approximately 1.9 % GDP/year with public debt levels over 200% of their GDP, growing faster than, for instance, low debt Germany (not a monetary sovereign but a beneficiary of the Euro to date) at approximately 0.7% GDP/year.

No monetarily sovereign government (US, Canada, UK, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, Japan, etc.) borrows their own currency from other countries when they spend on deficit or issue bonds.  However, they might offer, by statute or otherwise, secure, interest-bearing debt instruments (bonds) for investors and trading partners to place their money in, when the government spends more than it taxes as well as offer these bonds for sale in other circumstances.  The money denominated in the national currency spent by a monetarily-sovereign government comes from the monetary sovereign, not from the domestic or foreign bond-buyer that secondarily purchases a bond from that government’s central bank or treasury, under certain legally-defined but not economically-determined budget conditions.  In other words, the US dollar, Japanese yen or British pound doesn’t come from a Chinese, Canadian, Norwegian, or domestic bond buyer.

The above discussion overlooks the question whether public debt (bond) issuance should be statutorily required for deficit spending, i.e. should the amount of public debt (public bond issuance) be used as an accounting mechanism or liquidity-control mechanism (by tying up cash in a bond) levered to government spending over the amount of taxes collected.  A monetary sovereign is always on any day, capable of paying back the total bond principle and interest for all outstanding bonds but the process of issuing the bonds and then paying them back over time has become a core component of the financial architecture of the private banking and savings systems.  While a growing economy requires more government spending and government services as required by macroeconomic accounting identities, the issuance of bonds, if it assumed to act as a restraint on government spending, is not at all an effective nor task-specific tool for this, in many cases questionable, goal.

An orderly change in the process of legal and political accounting for deficit spending might detach deficit spending from bond (public debt instrument) sales, thereby clarifying what are two separate economic functions of government in a growing capitalist economy.  Deficit spending is, in a world capitalist economy that requires economic growth as a condition of existence, an absolutely essential function for a majority of currency issuing governments.  To link this to the notion of “debt”, although in this case public debts that carry with them no solvency risk, has led to a great deal of political confusion and in the case of deficit hysteria, malignant, destructive political mischief.

So-called deficit spending, a not very descriptive term which I have called the “net contribution” of government to growth, is not a “Left-Right” issue if both Left and Right are agreeing to, in their own ways, continue to endorse or support a growing capitalist economy (or a monetary economy of some other description that encourages private savings). Contrary to popular and political wisdom of the moment, balancing a national government budget or targeting budget surpluses are not “good” and deficit spending is not “bad”.  In fact, the reverse is true: for most nations under most circumstances, national government budget balancing or budget surpluses are literally toxic for the economy while deficit spending is under many circumstances “good” for the economy. The conventional wisdom that issues from various neoclassically trained pundits of the Right or much of what passes for a “Left” nowadays, has, what is supposed to be sound, fiscal advice for monetarily sovereign governments, entirely inverted.  If capitalist economies are to grow, governments are literally compelled to spend on deficit to provide enough liquidity for the economy as well as provide the public services that benefit a complex economy and civilization; political and economic predators have exploited the link to bond sales and increasing “debt” repayment obligations to muddy the political and financial waters.

In any case, the deficit/public debt hysteria campaign, even with the statutory requirement to issue bonds in the amount of budget deficits, is founded on a fundamental category error about the nature of public debt and how governments with their own floating currencies finance themselves, as well as upon a fundamental misconception about how economic growth and concomitant permanent growth in the amount of circulating or saved currency can even take place.  The social catastrophe is that significant sectors of the political class in Europe and the US, who can significantly influence the trajectories of national economies and the fates of hundreds of millions of people, have been captured to some degree or completely by deficit/public debt hysteria.  In test cases of the effects of austerity, the British government has increased unemployment, decreased wages, increased hunger and degraded social services by pursuing austerity and the US government has, as recognized by both the current and the outgoing chairs of the Federal Reserve, reduced economic growth and placed a drag on the economy by pursuing deficit hysteria-inspired austerity.  More of the same is promised in the wake of more deficit hysteria-inspired policy.  As long as deficit hysteria reigns in the national government, the chances of sustained recoveries with significant job growth are deemed by neutral observers to be very slim.  Swimming against and denying the facts, the austerity campaign has exploited the confused nature of mainstream neoclassical economics and economic policy advice as applied to government finance to sow economic chaos and destruction.

By contrast, with the current financial and fiscal structure of the Eurozone, there is actual real worry regarding the debts of some Eurozone nations as the euro has a fatal design flaw which was noted by Wynne Godley, one of the most important and overlooked macroeconomists of the latter half of the 20th Century, 20 years ago at the Eurozone’s founding.  Individual Eurozone countries are not monetarily sovereign: they must like private individuals, corporations and regional governments use a currency they do not issue, and borrow euros from others via bond sales.  If they do not collect enough tax revenues they can become insolvent, defaulting on these bonds.  To resolve this crisis, Europe must either split once again into individual countries or zones where the fiscal (spending) authority controls the currency, or unify spending and economic policy at the European level, becoming in essence the United States of Europe.  Deficit hysterics impressionistically or calculatingly overgeneralize the effects of the Eurozone’s flawed currency, attempting to stampede policymakers in the UK, the US and elsewhere into greater fiscal austerity, causing gratuitous social misery and endangering our collective future.

Epicenter of Deficit Hysteria: Wall Street

While a number of right-wing billionaires outside the financial industry, including the Koch Brothers, and other anti-Keynesian, anti-New Deal right-wing political operatives have contributed heavily to the deficit scare, the nucleus of the deficit hysteria campaign in the US has emerged from Wall Street and the political pressure groups and think tanks that some financial tycoons have financed.  Most prominently, the Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson on the Republican side and the former Secretary of the Treasury under Clinton, Robert Rubin from Citibank on the Democratic side have both been pushing the line through various front groups, acolytes, and paid pundits over the last 20 years that there is a long-term deficit and public debt problem in the United States.

As outlined above, the deficit hysteric account of government spending and macroeconomics more generally is financial and economic fiction packaged as fact.  These wealthy and powerful men have spun off think tanks and mentored disciples to (mindlessly) parrot their thinking that there is a combination of an “entitlement” problem and a debt problem for the U.S. government, due to social spending on the rising number of retirees relative to working age population.  Unlike their far right-wing allies from outside finance, identified only with the Republican Party or rightward, the financial industry deficit hysterics have been able to straddle both major US political parties.

On the one hand, the cover story for why these extremely wealthy men would be concerned about the pittances paid to retirees is that they (claim to) “know money” and can “do the math”, which, it is supposed, is part of the skill-set of a “finance guy”.  However, before the deficit hysteric scare reached its fever pitch, Congress and the Congressional Budget Office had already “done the math” and allowed for much of the growth in retirement spending by raising Social Security taxes, which is the current accounting mechanism (actually an inflation-dampening mechanism) for federal spending on retirement.   Even this method of accounting by Congress and the CBO is somewhat superfluous in that, the only constraint on what one would pay retirees or how one would care for them are the amount of real resources (labor and material) which one would devote to them as opposed to devoted to goods and services delivered to the under-65 population.  In other words there is no financial constraint for the federal government issuing a fiat currency to limit the dollar amounts of old-age pensions, just real constraints mediated by politics and the differing opinions that people have about where real resources should be directed.  As to using a Social Security tax as an accounting mechanism, it may be a good idea to dampen the inflationary pull of federal spending in the economy by flexible linkage with some form of taxation, preferably not via a regressive payroll tax, but an exact balance of taxation and spending is not required nor, in most situations in the accounts of a monetarily sovereign nation state, desirable.

Projected increases in Medicare spending have mostly to do with the for-profit American healthcare system being the most expensive in the world; deficit hysterics have no solutions to health care cost inflation, as their solutions inevitably “deal in” the inefficient private health insurance industry.

Wall Street has a deep interest-based antagonism to Social Security and other direct public provision of financial help to the population that “disintermediates” them and the private insurance industry (cuts them out) of the role as lenders and providers of private insurance products.   The business of Wall Street, i.e. the financial sector, is either managing real risk-related constraints symbolized by monetary amounts, enabling individuals, new enterprises or existing enterprises to take on new risks for potential common financial benefit, or imposing often arbitrary financial constraints upon households, corporations and governments and then collecting fees and interest from dealing with or managing those arbitrary or even superfluous financial constraints.

One of the “allies” of the business of the financial sector is market volatility itself, which creates financial risk that then needs to be managed.  The unquestioning worship of markets within the finance sector, business commentary and most sectors of academic economics is in part conditioned by the central, income-generating role of financial markets’ own volatility in generating income for financial intermediaries.  The mystical veil around markets serves the interests of the now over-powerful and over-wealthy finance-sector patrons of various social institutions, including academic economics.  The ideology and current business model of the finance sector, eager to grow beyond its current, already expansive, bounds, is then to ensconce people, businesses, governments and academic economics within the self-reinforcing world of market volatility, market worship and private debt dependence, so as to collect more management fees and interest and exert political-economic control over their business, which means, if they are not held in check, control over almost the entire economy and society.

The already bloated and over-powerful financial sector then has a business interest in increasing the scope of the following financial instruments:  private debt issuance, parceling tradable shares (equity) of assets from which fees can be collected for their “management” and in injecting volatility via markets into existing financial instruments, thereby increasing opportunities for industry profit via arbitrage, increasing consumer risk and therefore fees and dependence upon their “expertise”.  It also has an interest in curtailing the scope of direct provision of financial and social insurance products to the public by fiat-currency issuing governments.

In terms of provision of basic needs and basic financial security, the inevitabilities of life, a monetarily sovereign government can offer a superior product, which if applied to an economically efficient extent would substantially shrink the market for the riskier products of Wall Street and the FIRE sector.  There will always be a tension and competition between risk-driven and basic need-driven financial products but under the current neoliberal orthodoxy the former is considered morally and economically superior to the latter, a proposition which is not well supported by either reasoned moral argument or macro-economic reality.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. DakotabornKansan

    “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure but it is news when the stock market loses two points?” – Pope Francis

    “Blame the old and sick, not us”

    [afflict the afflicted and comfort the comfortable]

    Such a stark contrast to the words of Pope Francis, taking aim at free market capitalists, who said:

    “As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”

    “I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor.”

    While Francis [then Cardinal Bergoglio] avoided liberation theology – the Catholic social movement which emphasized the importance of reforming capitalist structures that disadvantage the poor – when many of his peers in Latin America were embracing it, he was an opponent of austerity during his time as spiritual leader of Argentina:

    “We live, apparently, in the most unequal part of the world, which has grown the most yet reduced misery the least. The unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to Heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers.”

    Thomas Trebat, “Argentina, the Church, and Debt,” writes:

    “The bishops [including Bergoglio] were critical of the economic model as a generator of poverty and unemployment, notwithstanding the stability it had brought to the country. And when the debt crisis hit in 2002, the church called in strong terms for a debt restructuring to take place which privileged social programs above debt repayment. They argued that the true problems in the Argentinian economy were, in their words, ‘social exclusion, a growing gap between rich and poor, insecurity, corruption, social and family violence, serious deficiencies in the educational system and in public health, the negative consequences of globalization and the tyranny of the markets.’”

    “Civil society, of which the Church is a part, has a clear role to play in demanding that debt service not take precedence over human development once reasonable efforts have been expended to pay the debt.”


    Pope Francis is truly the Austerity Pope for this age of austerity.

    [Afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.]

    He is the most interesting and hopeful political voice in the world today. I left Catholicism long ago, and while I recognize the many inconsistencies (financial, political, scandals, et al.) within the Vatican, I never believed that I would see a Pope take such a stand for the poor and against the “new tyranny” of unfettered capitalism in my lifetime.

    “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” – Mahatma Gandhi

    Francis is the first Pope to sound more like Christ in my lifetime.

    “If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.” – Stephen Colbert

    Roll on, Pope Francis.

  2. from Mexico

    Excellent essay.

    A point which needs to be driven home is this one:

    …a monetarily sovereign government can offer a superior product, which if applied to an economically efficient extent would substantially shrink the market for the riskier products of Wall Street and the FIRE sector.

    As Hoexter points out, we witnessed this ability of the government to offer a superior prouduct in the initial days of the GFC:

    The interventions of governments had just prevented the world economy and the failing private financial system from plunging into total chaos and, immediately following, a seemingly new class of pundits and political leaders cropped up castigating government and government spending.

    The men of high finance always want these superior products for themselves, while at the same time seeking to deprive them to the general public, and for the reason Hoexter states: “if applied to an economically efficient extent would substantially shrink the market for the riskier products of Wall Street and the FIRE sector.”

    The Federal Reserve was created for this reason, and has no other raison d’être other than to make the riskier products more beguiling and then, when a credit event does happen, to throw a lifeline to politically powerful finance sector actors while letting everyone else sink. John Kenneth Galbraith explains:

    Well before 1907, trouble in the big-city banks was an occasion for public action. In the panic year of 1873, the withdrawal of the hitherto wicked greenbacks was halted, and $26 million was reissued to provide reserves and ease tension in New York. In subsequent panics the Treasury deposited government funds to help the big banks withstand runs. In 1907, J. P. Morgan, who is celebrated by all historians for saving the Trust Company of America after declaring that the panic might as well be stopped right there, appealed to Secretary of the Treasury George B. Cortelyou for deposits to save the Trust Company. Resources subscribed for the rescue by other New York bankers, including Morgan’s, were insufficient. Cortelyou was not authorized to deposit public funds with a trust company. This was a detail; $35 million was promptly deposited in the national banks and just as promptly reloaned to the Trust Company of America. It was thus provided with the funds that persuaded its depositors that it was safe. These arrangements were ad hoc and unreliable. They also lacked compassion. In 1907, when Charles Barney, head of the desperately beset Knickerbocker Trust, went to J. P. Morgan to seek help, he couldn’t get in to see him. Barney thereupon shot himself. A central bank would at least have let Barney in. Partly to help beleaguered men like Barney, but more to serve the interests of more important men, the United States in ensuing years revived the idea of a central bank.


    If the near future is an extension of the near and more distant past, there are six imperatives that will shape or control monetary policy and the larger economic policy of which it is now a lesser part. These are:

    (1) The perverse unusefulness of monetary policy and the frustrations and danger from relying on it. This is perhaps the clearest lesson of the recent past. The management of money is no longer a policy but an occupation. Though it rewards those so occupied, its record of achievement in this century has been pattently disastrous. It worsened both the boom and the depression after World War I. It facilitated the great bull market of the 1920s. It failed as an instrument for expanding the economy during the Great Depression. When it was relegated to a minor role during World War II and the good years thereafter, economic performance was, by common consent, much better. Its revival as a major instrument of economic management in the late ’60s and early ’70s served to combine massive inflation with serious recession…. To argue that it was a success may well be beyond even the considerable skills of its defenders. Only the enemies of capitalism will hope that, in the future, this small, perverse and unpredictable lever will be a major instrument in economic management.


    Galbraith wrote that in 1975.

    I think his prediction has been vindicated. As he noted, by 1975 the Fed was well on its way down the road to perdition (once again). And it has continued down that pathway unrelentlessly, and with a zeal that can only be described as quasi-religious. And when I say religious I mean religious in the very worst sense of the word. As Niebuhr charged of Christianity: “It can not be denied” that the “Christian faith is frequently vulgarized and cheapened to the point where” its “faith in heaven is sometimes as cheap as, and sometimes even more vulgar than, the modern faith in Utopia.”

    1. skippy

      Queire… “a monetarily sovereign government can offer a superior product”

      Skip here… is law a product to be bought and sold.

      Skippy… market codification aplyied to state fuctions gives me puase.

      1. from Mexico

        skippy: “is law a product to be bought and sold”?

        Given what we’ve seen happen in the United States since the Nixon administration, I’d say “yes.”

        1. skippy

          Yeah I knew you were going to say that, yet as you constantly point out, its a game of narratives. Hence my distaste for the utilization of market based nomenclature w/ sovereign functions.

          skippy… its neoliberal creap infesting every aspect of life… sigh

          1. from Mexico

            I get where you’re coming from, skippy. It’s like we jetisoned all the old notions about sacredness, right and wrong, crime and punishment.

            As Robert H. Nelson explains:

            In the United States today, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, in terms of health care, food, transportation, communications, and a number of other important matters, a middle-class person enjoys a standard of living above that of kings and queens of a mere three hundred years ago.

            This transformation of the material circumstances of humankind (or at least in the economically most developed nations of the world) was confidently expected by the Progressives to transform everything else as well — including matters of morality and spiritual well-being….

            The progressive gospel of efficiency in the United States became one of the triumphant denominations in a worldwide “religion of progress” that shaped the dominant secular religions of the twentieth century.

            –ROBERT H. NELSON, Economics as Religion

            Part of the gospel of efficiency is the abiding faith that a price can be put on everything. But as Amitai Etzioni notes:

            Neoclassical cost-benefit analyses of health, safety, and of public goods (such as environmental protection) run into severe difficulties.


            Goodin (1985) points out that economists tend to presume that if we can compensate people we can do “anything” to them.

            –AMITAI ETZIONI, The Moral Dimension

            Neoclassical economists assume that people have no “absolute morality,” which are the “sacred, non-negotiable moral commitments” that in the areas to which they apply “repudiate the instrumental rationality” which is the holy grail of neoclassical economics.

            1. from Mexico

              Perhaps the greatest portrait ever rendered of the mind of the neoclassical economist was by Fyodor Dostoevsky in his protagonist Rodión Románovich Raskólnikov as he asserts:

              “I simply hinted that an ‘extraordinary’ man has the right…that is not an official right, but an inner right to decide in his own conscience to overstep…certain obstacles, and only in case it is essential for the practical fulfillment of his idea (sometimes, perhaps, of benefit to the whole of humanity)… [I]f such a one is forced for the sake of his idea to step over a corpse or wade through blood, he can, I maintain, find within himself, in his conscience, a sanction for wading through blood — that depends on the idea and its dimensions, note that.”


              “Well, listen then. On the other side, fresh young lives thrown away for want of help and by thousands, on every side! A hundred thousand good deeds could be done and helped, on that old woman’s money which will be buried in a monastery! Hundreds, thousands perhaps, might be set on the right path; dozens of families saved from destitution, from ruin, from vice, from the Lock hospistals — and all with her money. Kill her, take her money and with the help of it devote oneself to the service of humanity and the good of all. What do you think, would not one tiny crime be wiped out by thousands of good deeds? For one life thousands would be saved from corruption and decay. One death, and a hundred lives in exchange — it’s simple arithmetic!”

        2. from Mexico

          With the free market Gestapo, nothing is sacred, with the exception of compulsory “free” markets.

    2. Banger

      Great stuff–completely agree with Galbraith who was a rare being and exemplar of an era in intellectual history that has passed, or so it seems.

  3. washunate

    “The austerity push by politicians, political operatives, and pundits of the last 5 years is the height of economic, political, and social perversity and stupidity.”

    What? The past five years have seen the greatest short-term net deficit spending and long-term assumption of liabilities in the history of the Republic.

  4. Michael Hoexter

    I don’t know how kind it is that I call them “loathsome”…and go into some detail about their loathsomeness…

    1. susan the other

      The central bankers have pushed private debt for the profit of private bankers even to the point of killing the economy; they and Wall Street have promoted volatility and lack of regulation for private insider gains; now they do their “thin” trading fast enough to make up for the fact that they have destroyed the broader market and they trade at the speed of photons; and what a coincidence that the highly connected finance-government partnership follows self-serving policies taking Petey and Bobby’s position against “entitlements” and “deficits” as the only way for capitalism to go forward. This began after Vietnam, when it would have been better to turn hard socialist. But no. Instead, by the 80s the drive was on in Wall Street for “productivity” and the offshoring of US jobs and factories was a steamroller. Soon thereafter Wallstreet, who hated social security “entitlements,” was clamoring for custody of the SS fund. And now? They are so washed up it isn’t funny but nobody is saying it. And only the Fed is keeping them alive.

  5. Banger

    There is a lot of great analysis here which was well-said and well-reasoned. I have to add another element and that is I think there is a general tendency in our society in all areas to ignore reality. I think this extends to almost every area of life–what we should know if we follow the evidence-based reality is trumped by our mythological/ideological/tribal concepts. Why? Because we have not been able to digest the dramatic growth of information and disinformation in recent decades. One of the most egregious example of this is Obamacare which an utterly irrational solution to the problem of health-care delivery as one could be imagine that, to me, showed how the left part of the American political spectrum was and is as irrational as the right. The facts were out there and could have easily been presented yet only a small fraction of the American left argued for a rational solution instead they believed in a game of smoke and mirrors.

    We cannot only blame the oligarchs for this situation because we need to see how we are each a part of this condition (living in ideological/mythological constructs). We have, theoretically, all the intellectual tools, all the technology, all the creative solutions available to us to solve any collective problem we face–a situation beyond the imagining of Stewart Brand back in the day–yet, we hesitate, and cannot take the step forward but hide in bizarre myths and tribal/cargo-cult-like ideas. This is the question we need to look into.

    Having said that there is a realpolitik component to all this. The elites, seeing that society has been clamoring not for solutions to problems but escapism is holding down the hatches for the next phase of history. Many in the elite world recognize that we are drifting into a deep malaise and they want to preserve their wealth for themselves and their heirs. Austerity has the direct effect of limiting volatility somewhat and not allowing too many new players into the game–it also could moderate the growth of greenhouse gases and kill of the poorest among us.

    Austerity also tends to freeze class-structure. Since the population of the U.S. at least seems quite content with things as they are and responded to the last financial crisis not by clamoring to bring to justice the criminals who caused it but, instead, by buying more video-games and spending more time on mobile devices such that they avoid real social/political interaction and, indeed, anything we might consider “real.”

    My guess is that in the next few years this austerity regime will collapse because, I believe, most people in the West will become disenchanted with escapism–it only works for a short time. Things, thankfully, cannot be held down for long. We went through an era dominated by a combination of national chauvinism and fear after 9/11 to one of escape and cynicism after 2008 and I think we are approaching a time of cultural re-birth. I don’t think most people, ultimately, want us to crash and burn–I know it will look very different from what we expect.

    1. Justicia

      Right you are, Banger. It is fundamentally American to avoid reality at all costs, to be diverted from our environmental-social-economic context by all the engines of bread, circus and propaganda. As long as bellies are full of junk food and minds are lost in cyberspace the elites will continue their plunder.

      I think the ideological/mythological bubble will burst when too many Americans find they can’t afford food let alone the next video game. The bubble economy will burst when the costs of climate disruption and resource depletion drive GDPs negative. Things go on until they can’t

  6. Hugh

    We live in a kleptocracy. Deficit hysteria is just a convenient con to loot the rubes. The power of the monetary sovereign to create unlimited financial resources is reserved for the use by the rich and elites. The rest of us are forced into the constraints of the gold standard (although the US went off the gold standard 40 years ago) and austerity. We are told for us there is no money.

    It is important to note that while the monetary sovereign can create infinite financial resources, it can not create actual resources. Rather it can use its fiscal and monetary powers to effect redistributions of actual resources, and these redistributions of actual resources can result in the creation of new actual resources, accomplish a social good, or as now, destroy both current and future resources.

    1. Calgacus

      It is important to note that while the monetary sovereign can create infinite financial resources, it can not create actual resources. Rather it can use its fiscal and monetary powers to effect redistributions of actual resources, and these redistributions of actual resources can result in the creation of new actual resources, accomplish a social good, or as now, destroy both current and future resources.

      I’m not sure that this is a good way of expressing things.
      To a point, the sovereign does “create” actual resources by its “MMT” spending, for all intents and purposes. It is not redistribution, but predistribution. (Wray) The sovereign doesn’t rob Peter to pay Paul. Doesn’t redistribute as the word is normally used. It just does business as usual in a non-insane manner. Doesn’t randomly select people and make logically impossible demands on them. The only redistributions are the ordinary ones of ordinary commerce.

      It is more like the sovereign, the society stops adhering to a crazy religion that makes it lie down in its own poop and do nothing on random days determined by its court astrologer. Days when it is ready, fit and raring to go. This is not good for the long term health of the society, not only the short term absence of the product of the lie-down-in-poop days.

      If you don’t see that MMT, Keynesian economics emphatically can and does provide free lunches, you don’t understand MMT/Keynes. (Just saying this in general; not at you, it is not clear to me what you are saying.)

      The free lunch is provided by: Not destroying, systematically smashing to bits the lunch you already have – which is what modern mainstream quackonomics advises. Of course, once you’ve stopped doing this insane thing of forcing people not to work, of issuing logically contradictory commands to them, of squandering colossal, perishable real resources, you don’t have an automatic free lunch coming. But that’s the kind of problem you want to have: Releasing yourself from a cage of your own making.

      1. F. Beard

        Of course, without the government-backed counterfeiting cartel, the banking system, far less deficit spending by the monetary sovereign would be necessary and at the same time far MORE defict spending by the monetary sovereign would be possible without price inflation since purely private banks dare not leverage much.

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