Monday, July 22, 2013

Kicking "The Can Kicks Back"

I recently stumbled upon a political action group called "The Can Kicks Back" on Facebook. It is a youth-oriented political action group that advocates for entitlement reform and deficit reduction, and does so with "hip" looking website and articles clearly written for a college age audience. It appears that most of its members are of or near college age as well, and a quick glance over the website makes it seem innocent enough. Upon closer inspection however, I quickly realized that it was just another variation on the Pete Peterson-funded theme of disseminating false information about government spending in order to gut our old age benefit programs of Social Security and Medicare. For those of you who don't know, Peterson is an ancient billionaire who has been using his money to advocate for gutting of SS and Medicare for decades now, with little success. (btw Peterson's money dump into this fruitless cause is an excellent demonstration of the low utility of rich people's dollars and the need for higher marginal tax rates!)

Anyhow, while I am always excited to see people my age interested and engaged with federal policymaking, I simply cannot trust any Peterson funded institution, of which "Can Kicks Back" is one of the most recent. It saddens me to see what seem like well-intentioned people wasting their talents on the cause of this billionaire hack. A basic understanding of modern public finance reveals that just about all the claims made on the "Can Kicks Back" site are incorrect. As we MMTers know, there is nothing to prevent the US from meeting any and all of its liabilities in the future. In no way are "unfunded liabilities" or the federal debt a "burden" to future generations. These funding issues are entirely within our control and are not worth 1/100th of the time we dedicate to debating them.  As the Maestrodamus himself said to Paul Ryan several years ago 'solvency is not a concern for SS, since we can always print money and give it to people....the real question is if there will be real goods and services for those dollars to absorb.' Additionally, spending on entitlement programs doesn't really preclude us from investing/spending on anything else.

Instead, it is climate change, which is several degrees of magnitude more important, than we should all be worrying about. Mitigating and adapting to climate change will be incredibly difficult, since the laws of Nature are most certainly NOT in our control. All economic and financial systems are. For future reference, here is my list of things to worry about:

1) In the short term: Unemployment
2) In the medium term: Health care costs (the primary driver of our deficits)
3)In the long term: Global climate change

Happily, PetersonInc has missed its July 4th deadline for brokering a "Grand Bargain" in Washington, partially due to the shrinking deficit and the media shifting its focus elsewhere. So while the deficit reduction fetishists seem to have been silenced for the time being, I'm sure they will return soon. Their over-the-top calls for deficit reduction come not from any real world understanding of macroeconomics; rather they are just further efforts by the PetePeterson medusa to impose on the rest of us his normative preference for smaller, impotent federal government. Thanks to the shrinking deficit, along with valiant efforts from Dean Baker, Paul Krugman, Brad DeLong, and the growing group of MMT economists, the latest Peterson snake head has been lopped off. However this is no time to rest on our laurels: He will be back soon enough.

1 comment:

Tyler Healey said...

"Peterson's money dump into this fruitless cause is an excellent demonstration of the low utility of rich people's dollars and the need for higher marginal tax rates!"

I agree, but the tax hikes should happen at the state and local level so the rich's dollars can be redistributed to the poor.