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This Time Is Different: Wray on Modern Monetary Theory

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Michael Stephens | February 4, 2019 Public interest in Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is undergoing a new growth spurt, and progressive politicians are playing a key role in the current phase. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez recently referenced the heterodox framework to push back against the assumption that her ambitious policy proposals must, as a matter of financial necessity, be made budget-neutral (an assumption, as Brendan Greeley of the Financial Times pointed out, that is informatively selective:  “When Washington wants something … it appropriates. And so arguments about balancing budgets aren’t actually about constraints. They’re about priorities. Important programs get appropriations, full stop. Unimportant programs need to

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Michael Stephens | February 4, 2019

Public interest in Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is undergoing a new growth spurt, and progressive politicians are playing a key role in the current phase. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez recently referenced the heterodox framework to push back against the assumption that her ambitious policy proposals must, as a matter of financial necessity, be made budget-neutral (an assumption, as Brendan Greeley of the Financial Times pointed out, that is informatively selective:  “When Washington wants something … it appropriates. And so arguments about balancing budgets aren’t actually about constraints. They’re about priorities. Important programs get appropriations, full stop. Unimportant programs need to be paid for with taxes.”)

The growing interest in the MMT view of fiscal constraints does seem to be part of a broader softening of attitudes toward public debt and deficits in our policy discourse. Ken Rogoff, for example, managed to write the following in The Times yesterday:  “To be frank, it has never been remotely obvious to me why the UK should be worrying about reducing its debt–GDP burden, given modest growth, high inequality and the steady (and largely unexpected) decline in global real interest rates.” This time is, indeed, different.

L. Randall Wray recently presented in Berlin at an event marking the release of the German translation of his book Understanding Modern Money. The presentation (in English) may be seen below, including responses by Doris Neuberger and Dirk Ehnts.

Wray begins with a brief history of the development of MMT and his role in that development. He then lays out his version of the central points that constitute MMT (at 27:24).

And for those who have been following the reactions in popular media, in which the conversation has shifted to the dangers of inflation, a segment that begins at 35:05 will be of interest. Here Wray discusses his view, following his reading of Minsky, that the job guarantee is crucial for achieving full employment without generating inflationary pressures or financial instability.

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