Jeff Epstein: Naked Capitalism Led Me to MMT, and Its Commentariat Made Me a Better Writer

By Naked Capitalism reader Jeff Epstein, aka aliteralmind. Jeff is a progressive writer and podcaster with Citizens' Media TV (on Facebook and Twitter). Jeff ran on the ballot with Bernie Sanders during the 2016 Democratic primary and was a pledged delegate for him at the DNC. He just "Dem-entered," winning a write-in campaign for Democratic County Committee, and currently spends much of his time introducing MMT to anyone who will listen. Copy edited by Ben Szioli

I first encountered Naked Capitalism (NC) when a friend referred me to a 2013 journalistic series documenting Bank of America’s mass coverup of systematic fraud, committed against millions of American homeowners (via robo-signing) in the wake of the 2008 housing crisis. While the Obama Administration threw its weight behind the banks and made sure they paid only a pittance for their abuses, Naked Capitalism’s coverage of this particular official cover-up, the so-called Independent Foreclosure Reviews, meant that no one in DC or the press even tried to pretend that it had worked.

I hope you’ll go to the Tip Jar to support more of that sort of hard-hitting journalism.

Before discovering Bernie Sanders in August 2015, I spent my entire life politically asleep. I voted Democrat because I was told that Democrats were the good guys and Republicans were the bad guys. It is not an exaggeration to say that I grew up for the first time after discovering Bernie Sanders. The gift that he gave me and so many others was convincing us that money in politics is the root of all evil, causing both major political parties in the United States to abandon the people in favor of these large and unaccounted-for donations.

Bernie also showed us how terrible things are and, for the first time, how to truly envision the world as it could and should be. This then logically led to the question, “So if these things are so critical to our survival, then why don’t we have them?” For two years I asked this question.

I finally discovered the answer in February 2018: Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). MMT is a description of how our economy actually functions. Learning MMT instantly taught me how most Americans, including most self-described progressives, dramatically misunderstand our economy. This misunderstanding is brazenly manipulated by the powerful to get everything they want from our politicians, while those same politicians are magically “unable” to give the people anything they need to survive.

For years before I had ever heard of MMT, Naked Capitalism had been guiding me down the path of economic accuracy. All their original content and every link in their daily roundups, my primary source of written news during the time , had always been MMT-aware (and when not, an annotation calls it out). I am convinced that I discovered and acclimated to MMT more quickly because of it.

Naked Capitalism has also been early and astute in its coverage of developments in finance and economics. I am honored to have played a role by providing some articles that have run on NC, first on political and media issues, and then as I became conversant, on MMT as well. Some recent highlights:

It has been an honor to rub digital elbows with scholars, experts, and economists like Bill Black, Matt Stoller, J.D. Alt, Gaius Publius, Nathan Tankus, Warren Mosler, Randy Wray, and of course, NC editors Strether and Yves Smith.

The most exciting part of this experience has been the intense, detailed, and insightful feedback I have received on each of these articles from the Naked Capitalism “commentariat.” In particular, the feedback I received on my primitive yet well-received Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) lesson with Graham Elwood substantially contributed to shaping it into the semi-professional, hour-long presentation that it is today. The latest version of this lesson resulted in an invitation to informally give my lesson over lunch on all three days at the second annual International MMT Conference in New York City, which occurred during the final weekend of September, 2018. I was also invited to participate in a workshop panel.

Above all, however, what has kept me a regular reader of Naked Capitalism is its twice-daily news roundups, “Links” every day at 7 AM and “Water Cooler” every weekday at 2 PM. Without exaggeration, it is the only list of curated news that I trust, online or off. Lambert Strether’s incisive, bone-dry, and often darkly sarcastic commentary in the 2 PM Water Cooler is a regular treat.

Finally, I am currently following Naked Capitalism’s blistering and unflinching coverage of blatant corruption at CalPERS, a public body that manages a major California pension fund. NC’s coverage has now been begrudgingly acknowledged by mainstream media, and in the highest of compliments, Yves was the target of a hit piece this September for her CalPERS coverage.

Thank you, Yves and Lambert, for providing a small rock of sanity and stability in a world otherwise filled with journalistic quicksand. Especially in light of our rapidly diminishing freedom of the press and freedom of speech on the Internet, please support Naked Capitalism . Whatever you can give, whether $5, $50, $500, or $5000, all donations help keep this site unbossed and unbought.

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  1. JEHR

    MMT opens our eyes to how money really works and helps us see the corrupt ways that finance works today for mostly its own benefit.

  2. JP

    Cullen Roche says it better then I can:

    It’s helpful to think of the government’s balance sheet as a leveraging of the economy’s capital base. The bigger and better that capital base the bigger and more sustainable our government can be. The smaller and less efficient that capital base is the less credible the government is and the higher the probability that you will consistently look like Greece or Zimbabwe with continual failures in obtaining credible holders of government assets thereby leading to high inflations.

    1. Yves Smith Post author


      Greece is not a currency issuer but a currency user and hence is outside the MMT paradigm. But on top of that, Greece is teetering on the verge of deflation, so Roche has basic facts wrong:

      And anyone who talks about Zimbabwe-like outcomes as a real risk discredits himself. Zimbabwe has a significant portion of its productive capacity rendered unusable plus large foreign currency obligations . See here for details:

  3. AbateMagicThinking But Not Money

    Modern Monetary Method rather than MMT

    I recently listened to a NPR podcast on MMT and my main take-away* was that Warren Mosler examined how the US government actually runs money.


    *My other take-away was that the podcast was infantile enough for the average politician to understand it.

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