The Nation: It’s Time for the Government to Give Everyone a Job

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LUMPENPROLETARIATAt Lumpenproletariat, we’ve drawn attention to modern monetary theory (MMT, or modern money theory) because it shows us how we we can employ modern money for public purpose, such as eliminating involuntary unemploymentMMT synthesises ideas from the State Theory of Money of Professor Georg Friedrich Knapp (also known as Chartalism) and the Credit Theory of Money of British economist and diplomat Alfred Mitchell-Innes, the functional finance proposals of Professor Abba Lerner, Dr. Hyman Minsky‘s views on the banking system, and British economist Wynne Godley‘s sectoral balances approach.[Fulwiler, Kelton, & Wray]

MMT shows us how a modern monetary system works, such as that of the U.S., which means how such a nation’s money supply works and, by extension, how its federal government spending works.  Many people, for example, are still under the impression that our money system is still operating under a gold standard, by which American currency, the U.S. dollar, was backed by gold.  But American currency has not been backed by gold since 1971, when President Richard Nixon closed the gold window, which means that Nixon ended the international convertibility of the U.S. dollar to gold.  Nixon did so out of sheer necessity as the U.S. began to run out of gold with which it could back the U.S. dollar during the Vietnam War (or the American War, as the Vietnamese call it).

As a consequence of that Nixon shock, most other countries also soon abandoned the gold standard, as the Bretton Woods system of international financial exchange became inoperable without direct convertibility of the U.S. dollar.  This meant that the U.S. dollar became a purely fiat currency.  Without having to convert U.S. dollars to gold, President Nixon could continue to spend on U.S. military aggression against Vietnam without fiscal constraints.  The only constraints he, then, faced in waging imperialist wars were real resource constraints, such as metal for production of weaponry and human bodies for the war machine.

Similarly, today, when the economy is stagnant or in decline for most working class Americans, who are unemployed or underemployed, the U.S. government can afford to spend without fiscal constraints.  Again, the only constraints are real resource constraints.  These are all facts of a sovereign monetary system, such as that of the U.S., which are articulated by modern monetary theory (MMT).

One of the key policy proposals, which follows from an understanding of MMT, is the job guarantee programme.  Basically, since 1971, we have had the economic policy space to end involuntary unemployment as we know it.  Imagine that.  So many social ills, which arise out of involuntary unemployment, such as poverty, crime, family instabilities, and lack of economic opportunities, could be greatly reduced or eliminated.  Anyone who is in need of a job and is willing and able to work can be provided a job under an MMT-based job guarantee programme.  Again, as noted above, most Americans are still under the impression that money is a finite thing, that it’s backed by gold or that taxes must be collected from working people in order to fund federal government spending.  That is not the case.

The U.S. government creates dollars out of thin air by simply printing paper currency or making an electronic entry on a computer screen.  The U.S. government does this when it funds forever wars of aggression against the world.  And the U.S. government did this when they bailed out the bad banks during the Global Financial Crisis of 2007/2008.  And the U.S. government can do this today for socially beneficial government spending, such as the creation of a federal job guarantee programme or federally-funded cradle-to-grave health care or education.

The only thing we lack in order to provide economic security, jobs, education, and health care to all American families in need is the political will, as leading MMT scholar Dr. L. Randall Wray, often teaches his students (such as your author) at the University of Missouri-Kansas City as well as in public appearances and broadcast media interviews.  But, perhaps, the lack of political will in support of an MMT-based job guarantee programme is changing.

A new article in The Nation has broached the question of the job guarantee policy proposal in an article entitled “It’s Time for the Government to Give Everyone a Job: A new plan from CAP is a promising first step” by David Dayen.  It’s interesting, however, that the author claimed that the idea of “guaranteed employment for anyone who wants a job” has been “kicking around the left for a long time” because it really has not.  If it has, it’s been way under the radar of broadcast media.  Even the Pacifica Radio network, the nation’s leading left broadcaster is essentially ignorant of MMT and the job guarantee proposal.  With the exception of Pacifica Radio’s Guns and Butter, which broadcast seven consecutive one-hour weekly radio shows on the 2012 MMT Summit in Rimini, Italy, virtually all left broadcasters are either unaware of MMT and the job guarantee policy proposal, or they refuse to acknowledge it.  Occasionally, Against the Grain will discuss the idea of an unconditional basic income (UBI) guaranteed to all, whether employed or not.  But, even then, both the interviewers and the interviewees seem ignorant of MMT because they speak of taxes funding federal government spending, including for the basic income proposal, which is technically inaccurate.  If they only knew about MMT, the arguments of UBI advocates would be that much stronger.  But, then, if the public knew about MMT, the cat would be out of the bag, so to speak.  And the public would likely demand that the government start spending modern money for public purpose.  This is probably why Senator Bernie Sanders decided to not inform the American people about MMT or the feasible MMT-based job guarantee programme.  Bernie Sanders’ chief economist in the Senate Minority Budget Committee, and on his presidential primary campaign trail, was a former professor of mine, Dr. Stephanie Kelton, a leading MMT and job guarantee programme advocate.

It’s also notable that David Dayen’s article in The Nation didn’t even mention MMT, or how the job guarantee programme could be funded.  But, then, The Nation is not a very radical institution.  In fact, it’s often quite politically and intellectually dishonest.  Dayen merely invoked one figure of “a cost of about one-quarter of Donald Trump’s tax cut”, which misleads readers into thinking taxpayer dollars would be paying for the government programme.

Messina

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THE NATION—[19 MAY 2017]  It’s Time for the Government to Give Everyone a Job: A new plan from CAP is a promising first step.

David Dayen

The Center for American Progress has been a White House in waiting for mainstream Democratic candidates for over a decade now.  When it places something on the agenda, that becomes part of mainstream discussion on the center left.  And at its Ideas Conference this week, it embraced one idea that has been kicking around the left for a long time: guaranteed employment for anyone who wants a job.

In “Toward a Marshall Plan for America”, CAP frames this as an answer to growing despair and acute economic pain bred by stagnant wages and lack of opportunity.  But few advocates who have been pushing a federal-job guarantee for so long were considered or even cited in the proposal.  And while they’re generally thrilled that their life’s work has entered a broader conversation, they’re concerned that something is getting lost in translation.

The federal-job-guarantee concept goes back to Huey Long’s Share Our Wealth plan in the 1930s.  The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. endorsed “employment for everyone in need of a job” in the civil-rights era.  Under this framework, the government would fund jobs with a living wage and benefits similar to public-sector workers’.  The open-ended program would be funded as needed, expandable in recession, and contractable when the economy recovers.  Government would become the employer of last resort.

CAP’s version is somewhat targeted.  Its focus is on non-college graduates specifically, which it says have been disproportionately left behind economically.  Real income fell for workers without a college degree from 2000 to 2016, and mortality rates for this subset have grown.  So CAP proposes  a commission for a “national Marshall plan” to fund living-wage jobs at $15 an hour.  “An expandable public employment program could, for example, have a target of maintaining the employment rate for prime-age workers without a bachelor’s degree at the 2000 level of 79 percent,” according to the policy brief.  Right now, that would mean 4.4 million jobs at a cost of about one-quarter of Donald Trump’s tax cut.

[snip]

I talked to several supporters of public jobs and the federal-jobs-guarantee concept.  All of them welcomed CAP to the discussion.  “They’re invoking the language of a job guarantee which is a permanent program, that’s great,” said Pavlina Tcherneva of the Levy Economics Institute at Bard College.  But while the adoption shows the momentum for public job creation as a political force, job-guarantee supporters had several concerns about CAP’s formulation.

“Their discussion was heavily focused on the provision of employment for those with a high-school diploma or less,” said Sandy Darity of Duke University, one of the job guarantee’s greatest champions.  To him, this leaves behind large segments of the population who might need jobs.  For example, Darity points out, the unemployment rate for African Americans with some college education is higher than for whites who have never finished high school.  (Racial issues are “really repressed in their analysis,” Darity noted.)  The recently incarcerated and recent veterans also have high unemployment rates.  “We think anybody who cannot find work in the private sector should have the option,” Darity concluded.

Solely targeting non-college graduates, a measure clearly designed to serve a political goal (much of the CAP paper details the shift of the working-class vote in the Midwest from Barack Obama to Donald Trump), necessarily limits the reach of the program.  “How would this plan have helped after the Great Recession [or Global Financial Crisis], when 80,000 people a month were losing jobs, including skilled workers with college degrees?” asked Stephanie Kelton, economics professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and former budget aide to Bernie Sanders.  “If we’re genuinely trying to achieve full employment, we shouldn’t be targeting 79 percent labor-force participation.  We should eliminate involuntary unemployment.”

[snip]

Learn more at THE NATION.

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Dr. Stephanie Kelton, Dr. William K. Black, and Messina. Most Fridays at UMKC featured economics seminars, which often invited economists from around the world to speak at UMKC. Then we would often have dinner gatherings afterwards, such as this one.

[The “UMKC Economics” image was created by the UMKC Economics Club during 2013, when your author was studying economics, including modern monetary theory, at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where he earned his degree in Economics and graduated with honours.  Your author was a member of the UMKC Economics Club at that time.]

[20 MAY 2017]

[Last modified at 19:34 PST on 20 MAY 2017]

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Chris Cornell (b. Christopher John Boyle; 31 JUL 1964 – 17 MAY 2017)

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LUMPENPROLETARIAT—WTF?

Another musical legend has come to an untimely end.  It has been reported that the last song Chris Cornell played on stage last night was “In My Time of Dying“, a Led Zeppelin cover of a traditional gospel song.  Or, at least, it was incorporated into the set closer.  Dear gawd, please don’t tell us he hung himself.  Foul play or not, the world lost a piece of its soul yesterday.  If despair be the killer, may we bring more light and warmth to this ofttimes cold and dark world.  If big pharma is to blame, may the truth come to light, so nobody else suffers the same fate.

Condolences go out to the Cornell family.

UPDATE—[19 MAY 2017]  It has been reported today, by the Associated Press, Detroit Free Press, Slacker Radio, and other sources, that the Cornell family is disputing the medical examiner’s conclusion that Chris Cornell took his own life.  From the outset, there were mixed reports in the press.  Some sources reported that Chris Cornell was found with a belt around his neck, while others reported that he was found with a “band” around his neck.  But it was questionable that authorities seemed to have come to such an open-and-shut case of “suicide by hanging” so soon when no toxicology reports had yet been made.  Cornell’s wife, Vicky Cornell, has now reported that Chris Cornell had a prescription for Ativan, an anti-anxiety medication, and had told her in a phone call after the Detroit concert that he may have taken “an extra Ativan or two” and was experiencing slurred speech.  The most salient point about this revelation is that Ativan is known for having adverse side-effects, including suicidality.  If Chris Cornell’s death can be linked somehow to Ativan, it would seem the prescription drug company would be held liable. [1]

Messina

 

Like A Stone” by Audioslave

In My Time of Dying” by Led Zeppelin

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WIKIPEDIA—[accessed 18 MAY 2017]  Chris Cornell (born Christopher John Boyle; July 20, 1964 – May 17, 2017) was an American musician, singer and songwriter, best known as the lead vocalist, primary songwriter and rhythm guitarist for Seattle rock band Soundgarden and as lead vocalist and songwriter for the group Audioslave.  He was also known for his numerous solo works and soundtrack contributions since 1991, and as founder and frontman for Temple of the Dog, the one-off tribute band dedicated to his late friend Andrew Wood.

Cornell was known for his role as one of the architects of the 1990s grunge movement, for his extensive catalog as a songwriter and for his near four octave vocal range[3] as well as his powerful vocal belting technique.  He released four solo studio albums, Euphoria Morning (1999), Carry On (2007), Scream (2009), Higher Truth (2015) and the live album Songbook (2011).  Cornell received a Golden Globe Award nomination for his song “The Keeper” which appeared in the film Machine Gun Preacher and co-wrote and performed the theme song to the James Bond film Casino Royale (2006), “You Know My Name“.  He was voted “Rock’s Greatest Singer” by readers of Guitar World,[4] ranked 4th in the list of “Heavy Metal’s All-Time Top 100 Vocalists” by Hit Parader,[5] 9th in the list of “Best Lead Singers of All Time” by Rolling Stone,[6] and 12th in MTV’s “22 Greatest Voices in Music”.[7]

[snip]

Learn more at WIKIPEDIA.

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CBS DETROIT—[18 MAY 2017]  Chris Cornell Found Dead

Rocker Chris Cornell, frontman for Soundgarden and Audioslave, died following a sold out show at the Fox Theatre in Detroit.

A police source talking to WWJ Newsradio 950 Thursday morning said the 52-year-old singer-songwriter was found in the bathroom of his room at the MGM Grand Detroit hotel, after apparently taking his own life.

An autopsy by the Wayne County Medical Examiner later determined Cornell committed suicide by hanging.

According to a source familiar with the investigation, Cornell went back to his room at the MGM after the Soundgarden show; and, shortly after midnight, his wife called a band member and asked if he would check on Cornell.  The band member, along with MGM security, broke into the locked room and found Cornell dead with a belt around his neck.

Detroit police spokesman Micheal Woody would not confirm any details, but said “basic things” discovered at the scene led investigators immediately to suspect suicide.

[snip]

Learn more at CBS DETROIT.

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NPR—[18 MAY 2017]  Death of Chris Cornell, Powerhouse Voice of Soundgarden, Ruled a Suicide

Doreen McCallister and Colin Dwyer

Updated at 2:25 p.m. ET

Chris Cornell, the unmistakable voice and frontman of the bands Soundgarden and Audioslave, died overnight in Detroit at the age of 52.  He was discovered just past midnight at the MGM Grand Detroit, according to police.

The office of the Wayne County Medical Examiner on Thursday determined the cause of his death to be suicide by hanging, noting that a full autopsy has yet to be completed.

“His wife Vicky and family were shocked to learn of his sudden and unexpected passing, and they will be working closely with the medical examiner to determine the cause,” Brian Bumbery, Cornell’s representative, says in a statement.  “They would like to thank his fans for their continuous love and loyalty and ask that their privacy be respected at this time.”

[snip]

Learn more at NPR.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES—[18 MAY 2017]  Chris Cornell, Soundgarden and Audioslave Frontman, Dies at 52

Chris Cornell, the powerful, dynamic singer whose band Soundgarden was one of the architects of grunge music, died on Wednesday night in Detroit after the band had earlier performed there. He was 52.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office said the death was a suicide by hanging. It said a full autopsy had not yet been completed.

Soundgarden played at the Fox Theater in Detroit on Wednesday night, and it had been scheduled to perform in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday at the Rock on the Range festival.

Dontae Freeman, a spokesman for the Detroit Police Department, said in an interview that officers went to the MGM Grand hotel and casino around midnight in response to a call about an apparent suicide of a white man, whom he did not identify. Mr. Freeman said the man’s date of birth was July 20, 1964, which is Mr. Cornell’s.

[snip]

Learn more at THE NEW YORK TIMES.

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DETROIT FREE PRESS—[18 MAY 2017]  Chris Cornell’s final performance: Something clearly wasn’t right

Ashley Zlatopolsky

Last night just seemed like another Soundgarden show — my fifth time seeing the iconic grunge band live, and second time in Detroit.  It’s hard to pass up a good rock show at downtown Detroit’s Fox Theatre, one of the city’s architectural gems and a staple in its music history, its stage graced by the likes of Iggy Pop and Prince.

But when I woke up this morning, everything had changed.  And the sold-out show suddenly took on a different meaning.

Chris Cornell, Soundgarden’s lead singer, was found dead in his hotel room at MGM Grand Detroit just hours after the group performed at the Fox, with a medical examiner now ruling his death a suicide.

Even without the benefit of hindsight from the morning’s awful news, it was clear that something wasn’t right with the 52-year-old Cornell during the Fox performance. He often staggered back-and-forth across the stage, and seemed weak in his movements. Just one or two songs in, it was as if the energy had exited his body, and what was left was a shell of a man scrambling to do his job.

[Cornell’s final tweet was a shout-out to Detroit: Read what he said here.]

It’s not that the nearly two-hour show itself was bad, but it seemed like Cornell wasn’t mentally present.

[snip]

Learn more at DETROIT FREE PRESS.

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DETROIT FREE PRESS—[19 MAY 2017]  Family disputes Chris Cornell’s death was intentional

Associated Press

The family of Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell is disputing “inferences that Chris knowingly and intentionally” killed himself.

The family said in a statement that without toxicology tests completed, they can’t be sure what led to his death, or if any substances were involved.  According to lawyer Kirk Pasich, Cornell had a prescription for the anti-anxiety drug Ativan, which he said has various side effects.

[snip]

Learn more at DETROIT FREE PRESS.

***

[1]  See “Family disputes Chris Cornell’s death was intentional” by

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[18 MAY 2017]

[Last modified at 17:50 PST on 19 MAY 2017]

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NDTV: Muslim-American Woman Allegedly Thrown Out Of US Bank For Wearing A Hijab

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LUMPENPROLETARIAT  Islamaphobia, and hood-phobia, has reared its ugly head again, this time (and yet again) in the so-called land of the free, at a bank in Washington state, according to a report by New Delhi Television Limited (NDTV), an Indian television media company.

Messina

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NDTV—[14 MAY 2017]  Muslim-American Woman Allegedly Thrown Out of US Bank for Wearing a Hijab

Jamela Mohamed went to a branch of Sound Credit Union in Washington state on Friday to make a car payment.

Highlights

  1. Jamela Mohamed, recorded the incident on her cellphone
  2. The staff threatened to call the police if she did not ‘remove her hood’
  3. The bank admitted the situation was not handled well and apologised

New York: A Muslim-American woman was allegedly thrown out of a bank in the US for ‘wearing a hijab’ – with the staff threatening to call the police if she did not ‘remove her hood’. Jamela Mohamed went to a branch of Sound Credit Union in Washington state on Friday to make a car payment.

Ms Mohamed, an American and a member of the credit union, recorded part of the incident on her mobile phone, claiming it shows blatant ‘discrimination’.

She said she had been wearing a sweater and had the hood up because it was a Friday, which is when Muslims offer weekly prayers in the afternoon. The teller asked Ms Mohamed to take off her hood. A sign inside the Credit Union says hats, hoods and sunglasses are not allowed, ABC-affiliated television station KOMO-TV reported.

Ms Mohamed said she was following the policy so she went to her car to grab her headscarf, or hijab. She went back in with her scarf, while still wearing her hood, the report said.

While she was waiting, Ms Mohamed says she took some video of the sign and of two male customers wearing baseball caps because they were being helped without any issues.

“Why am I witnessing a man being serviced with a hat on and I’m being told to take off my hood?” she asked.

“This is my hood. My face is showing and so I currently do have an issue today. I’m being polite, I’m complying. I simply stated that I just need to pay my car note today,” she said to a teller again.

[snip]

Learn more at NDTV.

***

[Anti-mosque symbol by Albert Mestre, used via Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)]

[14 MAY 2017]

[Last modified at 14:06 PST on 14 MAY 2017]

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