By Naked Capitalism reader aliteralmind, aka Jeff Epstein, an independent and progressive journalist and podcaster with Citizens’ Media TV. Jeff ran on the ballot with Bernie Sanders during the 2016 Democratic primary, at the request of the Sanders campaign. He was a pledged delegate for Sanders at the DNC, and one of only 60 finalists with Brand New Congress, out of 1,500 nominees nationwide. Jeff also just “Dem-entered,” winning a write-in campaign for Democratic County Committeeman. Originally published on Citizens’ Media TV
A lightly edited audio-only (podcast) version of both below videos. Link to SoundCloud
Part one. YouTube link
Part two. YouTube link
Interview conducted on June 27th, 2018, by Jeff Epstein, Editor-in-Chief of Citizens’ Media TV.
Article copy edited by Ben Szioli.
On Wednesday, June 27th, 2018, I had the honor of teaching the basics of modern money to progressive media figure Graham Elwood. Elwood is a stand-up comedian and semi-regular guest on The Jimmy Dore Show. He is currently on tour with Ron Placone, who is a guest on most of Dore’s shows. Elwood‘s show, The Political Vigilante, reaches tens of thousands, Dore’s reaches hundreds of thousands, and the main show on Dore’s network, The Young Turks, reaches millions.
Here is a link to the full transcript of our interview.
All of these truly progressive media outlets (along with Kyle Kulinski, Lee Camp, Caitlin Johnstone, Jen Briney of Congressional Dish, and many others) preach for and against exactly the right things, in exactly the right manner. They clearly and precisely describe how and why our current system is wrong and, just as clearly, what it can and should be.
Where they fail however, is when it comes to how we will pay for these programs and how federal taxes fit into the picture. That we bring up the “pay for” question at all reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of how our economy works. None of this, of course, is done with sinister intent, it is simply what most of us believe to be accurate and true.
Members of the progressive media – and to be sure, the vast majority of progressives, as well as all Americans – have been miseducated for their entire lives. These incorrect, misleading, and time-wasting concepts have been rammed into our brains for decades upon decades by our government, media, and education system.
We therefore demand things from a position of ignorance and continue to waste our time on pointless endeavors. That is why the powerless will never get the programs that they need to survive. The progressive movement’s leaders and media figures have the eyes and ears of millions. Until we learn modern money, the progressive movement will never be more than a thorn in the side of the Democratic Party. We are sabotaging ourselves with a Sisyphean task. At best, we are getting nowhere.
Bernie Sanders taught us that money in politics is the root of all evil. His incessantly repetitive and beautiful stump speech taught us step-by-step why and how this is true. Like putting on glasses after a lifetime of having blurry vision, for the first time, we were able to envision the world as it could be.
Modern money is no less profound, describing why we do not have programs for the powerless – and specifically why and how we can indeed have them. In fact, modern money shows that we could have had these things decades ago. After learning modern money, we can finally do what we should have done long ago: organize and march onto the halls of Congress and demand these programs. When a politician tries to distract you with the inevitable question regarding paying for it, the only reasonable response is to make their life a living hell until they either make it happen or get out of office.
Some notes about this lesson
|If you remember only one thing from this lesson, remember this phrase:
This lesson is geared toward those who know nothing about modern money – those who don’t even realize it’s a concept, let alone a profoundly important one. Most of the challenge in teaching the initial concepts of modern money is first discarding the incorrect knowledge. This takes time.
At the moment, an hour and a half to two hours seems appropriate for a one-on-one interactive format. As a lecture, it is intended as an hour long presentation, with a half to full hour of audience questions. (Graham was a particularly gracious host, giving me an hour and forty minutes of his time, despite originally committing to an hour. It was a thrilling experience to witness his many lightbulb moments during our conversation.)
This lesson is not intended to teach the deeper nuances and intricacies of modern money. It is only meant to get those who have spent their entire lives miseducated to open their minds to modern money.
Appendix for Naked Capitalism Readers Only: Request for Feedback
I believe this presentation is reasonably solid, especially given my audience: people who know zilcho. However, there are particular concepts that I am pushing my knowledge with, such as Social Security, the debt, and borrowing. Any particular feedback of inaccuracies or improper framing you may have, I would be grateful. I am only asking here, because NakedCap’s audience is the rare gem on the web filled with MMT knowledgeable people. I want this presentation to gradually improve to the level of a solid lecture worthy of an MMT economist. It’s certainly reasonable for what it is, but since it’s my first time giving it (aside from a couple rehearsals), I don’t doubt it could be substantially improved. Also, be aware I never heard of MMT or modern money before February of this year. In particular, I am concerned about this critical statement:
It’s a travesty that the United States chooses endless war, excessive military, and tax breaks for millionaires. It is a travesty that the United States chooses to not give us Medicare for All and free college and living wage and to fix our poisoned water. But the even bigger travesty is that the American people have been tricked into thinking that we only have enough money for one or the other. That we have to choose. We spend most of our time analyzing and justifying and researching why and how we should be able to afford these things, when the United States can easily afford to give us all of it, at the same time. They can keep their endless war. They can keep their tax breaks. Let them have their toys. (Temporarily! This is not a good thing!) But the United States can indeed afford it all.
The injustices (excessive military, endless war, immoral inequality) must be cured as quickly as possible, of course, but it was my understanding that temporarily having all of these things is not unreasonable. But I have gotten feedback from two people saying that this may not be correct. That there may simply may not be enough real resources to go around. What I’m really getting at with the above statement, however, is to urge those focused on fighting for Medicare for All (and other programs for the powerless) to not spend one second distracted by the fight against the injustices. In an airplane emergency, you have to put on your own oxygen mask before you can take care of your kids. We as the powerless must fight for what we need before we can worry about the injustices. When we get these programs (or a big one of them, like M4A), then we’ll be in a much better position to confront them. Those who do want to fight against the injustices should be encouraged to do so. They should not be distracted by our fight. Attacking these problems from many different directions is only a good thing. Feedback on this or anything else you notice as you watch the video, would be appreciated. Thanks.
- Thanks to Geoff Ginter of Real Progressives for dragging me into modern money in early February, when I knew nothing about the topic, including the fact that it was a topic. [Our interviews: one, two, three]
- Thanks to Kathleen Trambley for contributing to this lesson, especially with the concept of war bonds.
- Thanks to Kim Niles for being a guinea pig with a very primitive version of this lesson.
- Thanks to Steve Grumbine and Real Progressives for accepting me into their group, and to its many members whose feedback helped greatly improve this lesson.