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Progressives — That’s Not How Money Works!

There is a NYTimes Guest Essay, What Kind of Country Do You Want? Start With Taxes.. Supposedly a progressive answer to Republican tax cuts for the rich & their corporations nonsense, it actually reinforces conservative arguments about government spending.

The essay amplifies conservative propaganda about the “price tag” of government tax cuts and spending. It uses conservative terminology like “revenue,” “borrowing” and “fiscal crisis.” This wording keeps people trapped in a medieval/conservative “gold standard” thought system about money that limits what governments can do to make people’s lives better.

The US dropped the gold standard some time ago. In a modern economy the government issues currency, period. The US government is not “funded” and certainly doesn’t have to round up or borrow gold before it can do things. It is not “in debt.” Think about what “bankrupt” means to a country that prints its own currency. It certainly doesn’t mean we can’t find enough gold to hand over and have to sell off the Washington Monument or the US Capitol. (Actually Congress has already sold itself but that’s another post.)

Taxes Are Not Revenue

Taxes do not “raise revenue.” Taxes balance income and wealth distribution and bring fairness. They incentivize desired behaviours. But they do not “fund” the federal government. The US government is not a family around a kitchen table scraping together a few dollars to pay for food, it manages a modern economy.

Instead of the current medieval-based system of superstitiously limiting spending “in case” doing so might “trigger” inflation, governments must do actual work to plan spending according to production capacities, available labor, available resources, etc in order to keep inflation at bay.

Free Your Minds

Understanding how modern money and budgeting works frees progressives to be able to get things done to make people’s lives better. Why can’t government guarantee a well-paying job with benefits to people who want to help solve society’s problems. For example teacher’s aides, elder or child care, insulating homes, etc? Why can’t government do what is needed to fight the climate crisis and transform to a green economy? Once you understand how money works the possibilities reveal themselves.

However

However, the public is not caught up with an understanding of modern budgeting, and these concepts could scare people and leave them vulnerable to conservative fear-mongering about “government spending” and “debt.” Wall Street and conservatives do everything they can to scare the public into thinking progressives will “bankrupt” the country. For now please just stop reinforcing old fashioned terms that limit what we can do while we wait for people to catch up with understanding how money really works. Do not use terms like “funding” and “revenue” and “borrowing” and “deficits” and “debt” in your discussions of budgets and taxes. We can say the same things without reinforcing those harmful concepts.

Government “Spending” Is The JOB Of Democracy

People think that government spending is like a “household budget” (it isn’t.)

So try this out. If a household INVESTS by putting solar panels on the roof (with a battery for storage) and converts appliances to electric it no longer pays for energy. Never again. After the investment is paid off (from the savings) energy is free.

“Spending” thereby SAVES. “Borrowing” thereby lowers spending.

If a household INVESTS in preventative healthcare it lowers spending on overall healthcare.

If a household INVESTS in making sure everyone has enough to eat, then the household members are more able to prosper.

The list goes on.

Democracy is the idea that government’s JOB is to spend (allocate resources) to make our lives better. Cutting “government spending” is cutting democracy.

And cutting democracy is the point behind efforts to convince people that “government spending” is somehow a bad thing.

The idea behind America was that finally regular people would have a government that works to make regular people’s lives better – and protects regular people from the things the rich and powerful do to enrich themselves at the expense of regular people.

Think about who benefits from convincing people to hold back on doing things to make regular people’s lives better, and from protecting regular people from harms and scams that enrich the wealthy and powerful at the expense of regular people.

Neoliberalism vs Democracy

Neoliberalism (conservative economics) is the idea that “markets” should decide things for society. It literally means One-Dollar-One-Vote.

Democracy is the idea that decisions should be made by and for We the People. It means One-Person-One-Vote.

PS Neoliberalism is heavily promoted by the wealthy because they have more dollars. Examples: “Business does everything better than government.” “Government is wasteful and inefficient.” “Make government smaller.” “Get government out of the way of businesses.” Deregulate to unleash businesses.”

A Game As Old As Wealth

Over at sister-site Government Cheese, a discussion of capitalism, propaganda and how a few wealthy people keep things under control

Capitalism literally means that the people with wealth make the investment decisions for society & get the return on investment, and the broad public don’t.

All the rest is just propaganda. Capitalism has nothing to do with “markets” or “freedom” or any of the rest.

It’s really so simple. It’s how a few people maintain control of society for their own benefit and it’s been this way for thousands of year, under different labels. It’s what a monarchy is. The King and his buddies control the wealth. “WE should have this and you should not and here’s why.”

It’s why the United States was such a breakthrough. WE THE PEOPLE will decide what’s best for us, not you. Government of, by and for THE PEOPLE. Not the elites, the wealthy, the aristocrats, the priesthood, the monarchy, the warlord, whatever label put on the ruling wealthy. A country run for the benefit of the people in the country. Whatever label we put on that – democracy, socialism, whatever.

That’s all. All the rest is just propaganda.

Read Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in the context of the monarchies of Europe just salivating waiting for “the Union” – the experiment in democracy – fail so they can get the world back where they want it.

“Big Government” is Good

When you hear “conservatives” talk about how bad “government” is, remember that in a democracy “the government” is us. When they run down “government” substitute the words “democracy is decision-making by We the People.”

Big “decision-making by We the People” is obviously good.

Decision-making by We the People is better than by business.

When Decision-making by We the People intervenes in the economy it is bad for profits at the expense of the people and the planet.

Government (decision-making by We the People) is good because its job is protecting us and making our lives better. Government spending is by definition spending that we want because it makes our lives better.

Lies vs Democracy

Well-funded lies are very effective.

The tobacco companies proved that with well-funded propaganda lies (a.k.a. “marketing”) you can get people to kill themselves while giving you their money.

The firearms industry proved that with well-funded propaganda lies you can convince people to allow kindergarteners to be killed while giving you their money.

Trump proved that well-funded propaganda lies (and media participation) he could convince people to kill democracy while giving him their money.

Now the oil&coal companies are proving that well-funded propaganda lies can get people to kill the planet while giving them their money.

Democracy doesn’t have an advertising agency to counter this stuff. This is why we need a Department of Democracy.