Does Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) Destroy National Debt Concerns? SOURCES.

The Real News Podcast – Modern Monetary Theory – A Debate Between Randall Wray and Gerald Epstein The Real News. 2019. Is MMT “America First” Economics? Gerald Epstein. 3 20 2019. Institute for New Economic Thinking. On Modern Monetary Theory

Why Trump lost his battle against the trade deficit

“the U.S. trade gap is on track to exceed $600 billion this year. That would be the highest since 2008, just before the global financial crisis.

The monthly deficit in U.S. goods trade with all other countries set a record high in August at more than $83 billion.

Trump has blamed the trade deficit on bad trade deals negotiated by his predecessors and unfair trade practices by other countries, but most economists disagree with that explanation.”

“A variety of factors contributed to Trump’s failure to eliminate the trade gap, which White House trade adviser Peter Navarro predicted in 2016 could be erased in one or two years.

Overall trade remains depressed compared to year-ago levels because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But the massive U.S. government stimulus payments to businesses and consumers have helped U.S. imports recover faster than U.S. exports. That explains why the monthly goods deficit has increased from the average level of $73.3 billion in 2019.

However, even without the pandemic, Trump’s practice of piling tariffs on China and selected other products like steel and aluminum was never going to turn around the deficit, most economists agree.”

” The large U.S. trade deficit is fundamentally driven by larger economic factors — like the fact Americans spend more than they save and have to borrow from abroad to finance the difference”

“Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut in 2017 contributed to that problem by running up the U.S. budget deficit.”

“Looking at trade in 2019, the last full year of data, the overall U.S. trade deficit fell by less than 1 percent from the previous year to $577 billion. However, the bilateral trade deficit with China fell by a much more impressive 17 percent to $345 billion as importers turned to other countries such as Mexico, Vietnam, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and members of the EU.”

““We would say one of the big failures of the Trump administration with respect to trade policy is the failure to address currency misalignment in any kind of meaningful way,” said Thea Lee, president of the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank aligned with union groups. “Putting a couple of sentences into the deal, but without a clear road map as to how it’s going to be instrumentalized, doesn’t really do very much.””

“Trump’s revised NAFTA agreement with Mexico and Canada does include strong protections for workers rights, which helped the pact win overwhelming approval in the Democratic-controlled House. But the fact that labor concerns were not addressed in the China agreement “just shows that the Trump administration is not driven by any principles in this area, but simply by political expediency,” Lee said.

The administration hails China’s agreement as part of the phase one trade deal to purchase $200 billion more of U.S. goods and services in 2020 and 2021, compared with the record it set in 2017.

But the data released on Tuesday shows that China is well behind on that goal. During the first eight months of this year, it had imported just $69.5 billion worth of U.S. farm and manufactured goods, compared to $80.2 billion in the same period in 2017.

U.S. farmers were hit so hard by Trump’s tariff war with China that his administration doled out more than $20 billion in emergency aid payments to help cushion the blow.

U.S. farm exports to China had reached as high as $25 billion annually a few years before Trump was elected. But they plummeted to $6.8 billion in fiscal 2019 after Beijing retaliated against Trump’s tariffs by raising its own duties on U.S. farm exports.”

Biggest U.S. Banks Seen Adding to Reserves for Pain Yet to Come

“When it comes to loan losses sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic, U.S. banks aren’t taking any chances.

The nation’s four biggest lenders probably set aside about another $10 billion for bad loans in the third quarter, according to analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg, even though stimulus moves by the government and Federal Reserve have so far staved off a spike in missed payments.

While the third quarter’s tally is well below the pace of the first half, it means that the banks will not only have covered the losses they’ve seen since the start of the pandemic, but also added almost $50 billion to reserves for future pain. Investors’ big question will be whether that comes from typical caution, or if the banks are seeing worrying signs as forbearance programs wind down and stimulus efforts get bogged down in a partisan fight.”

“Banks may be setting aside more than they need for loan losses to take advantage of strong trading revenue and the fact that they can’t return excess capital to shareholders. The Fed this month extended through the rest of the year its unprecedented constraints on dividend payments and share buybacks for the biggest U.S. lenders.”

Democrats and the White House Were Nearing an Agreement on Renter, Homeowner Assistance. Then Trump Tweeted.

“House Democrats passed a $2.2 trillion HEROES Act, which includes $50 billion for emergency rental assistance, and $21 billion in funding for states and territories to spend assisting homeowners.

Of that $50 billion in rental assistance, at least 40 percent would have to go to tenants making 30 percent or less of their area’s median income, and 70 percent of it would have to be spent on those making less than half their area’s median income. Tenants making up to 120 percent of area median income would be eligible for assistance.

These income restrictions are identical to those found in the enlarged $3.5 trillion HEROES Act back in May, which earmarked $175 billion to renter and homeowner assistance. The $71 billion in renter and homeowner assistance proposed by Democrats now is still too rich for many congressional Republicans but is much closer to the $60 billion that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the White House could accept.”

“Eviction filings are below historic averages in 15 of 17 cities tracked by Princeton University’s Eviction Lab. Places like Boston and Austin—both of which have local eviction moratoriums in addition to the CDC’s policy—have seen evictions drop close to zero. The two exceptions are Columbus, Ohio, and Richmond, Virginia, where evictions are above historic averages by 48 and 300 percent respectively.

With eviction rates below historic averages in most cities and rental payment rates staying pretty steady throughout the pandemic, a massive new federal program to bail out tenants and rental property owners seems excessive.

That’s particularly true when most of the stimulus proposals on offer include expanded unemployment benefits and another round of $1,200 stimulus payments. Renters report using those types of benefits, which were included in the March coronavirus relief bill, to cover their housing costs earlier in the pandemic.

Whether the mercurial Trump will stick to his decision to walk away from stimulus talks remains to be seen. After tweeting that he was done negotiating, the president again took to Twitter to urge the passage of a bailout for the airlines and another round of stimulus checks.

It’s possible renters and homeowners will also benefit from Trump’s backtracking. If they don’t, they’ll have to wait until 2021 for more help from the feds.”

Poll: Half of Americans who lost their job during the pandemic still don’t have one

“The study, which surveyed 13,200 US adults in the first two weeks of August, found some limited recovery with respect to employment: Of all those who said they had lost a job, a third have returned to their old job, and 15 percent say they have a new job.”

“while 58 percent of upper- and middle-income adults who lost a job due to the coronavirus have returned to their old job or gotten a new one, only 43 percent of lower-income adults have been able to do the same.”

“reason for concern. The jobs report signaled a slowdown from earlier in the summer: the economy added 4.8 million jobs in June, and 1.7 million in July.”

Experts Think The Economy Would Be Stronger If COVID-19 Lockdowns Had Been More Aggressive

“our economic survey, conducted in partnership with the Initiative on Global Markets at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, FiveThirtyEight polled 32 quantitative macroeconomists about the present and future of the economy. And because we couldn’t resist some Monday-morning quarterbacking, we also asked whether the lockdowns earlier in the year were too aggressive or not aggressive enough.

Out of those surveyed, 74 percent of economists said the U.S. would be in a better economic position now if lockdowns had been more aggressive at the beginning of the crisis. Among that camp, the most commonly cited reason was that early control over the virus would have allowed a smoother and more comprehensive return to economic activity later on.”

“Proponents of tighter lockdowns pointed to Japan and various European countries (such as Germany, Norway and Denmark) as examples of how reducing the virus to extremely low levels early on allowed for a quicker recovery. Others noted that children could have returned to school for in-person learning faster with earlier control over the virus — a major consideration in maximizing the country’s economic power as it bounces back from the pandemic.

Among the 26 percent who thought lockdowns should have been less aggressive, the main theme was that more good could have been done with a targeted approach that protected at-risk populations and stopped potential superspreading events, while allowing more activity overall. Others thought the lockdowns didn’t even matter much, or that most of the reduced activity was due to individual self-regulation rather than government intervention.”

“In the same vein — but this time, looking forward — we asked the economists to imagine a new shutdown had to occur as the result of a spike in COVID-19 cases. Which activities would they shut down first if they also wanted to minimize economic damage? With the caveat that our panel consists of economic experts — not epidemiologists — they clearly prioritized indoor dining (and to a lesser extent, gyms) to be the first shut down, while outdoor dining and recreation were at the bottom of the list “

“Reopening” isn’t enough to save bars and restaurants — the US needs a bailout

“The whole “airborne” debate can get very complicated and technical, but the basic issue is simple: Indoor dining is very unsafe. And the outdoor dining that’s been used as a substitute is running out of steam as weather gets cooler across much of the country. For health reasons, we need fewer customers at these businesses. For economic reasons, we need them to survive. The fix is a huge bailout.”

How to save the economy for everyone

“Already, the current downturn is turning out to be less traumatic for wealthy and well-established people than it is marginalized groups and the poor.

The stock market is soaring, even though millions of people are out of a job. The Federal Reserve has really stepped up in terms of monetary policy to inject liquidity into the economy and keep markets afloat, while Congress hasn’t really kept up its end of the bargain. It passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Securities Act, or the CARES Act, in March, but much of the support from it has dried up, and it’s not clear what, if anything, Capitol Hill plans to do next on the economy.

“The rich experience these recessions much differently than the rest of us,” Bharat Ramamurti, managing director of the Roosevelt Institute’s corporate power program, told me. “The pain is much more time-limited, it’s not as deep, and as a result, they recover much more quickly, and then they’re in a position to take advantage of the fact that other actors in the economy are still struggling and can use that to further consolidate their control and their power.””

“After returning from recess in September, Senate Republicans put forth a “skinny” stimulus to counter a much more ambitious package proposed by Democrats in the House in May. But even the GOP’s bill failed in the Senate — as Vox’s Li Zhou explained, in part because it was more of a messaging bill than a sincere effort at helping the American public. The economy isn’t as bad as some of the doomsday predictions, so some lawmakers seem to have decided more assistance isn’t necessary.”

The Supreme Court’s role in economic policy, explained

“in the American system, essentially every law and regulatory undertaking is subject to litigation and second-guessing by the courts. That means Supreme Court appointments have vast and wide-ranging authority over economic issues — authority that is often ignored by politicians and the media, but not by people with money at stake.

The US Chamber of Commerce, for example, did not enthusiastically back Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination because they liked his thinking on abortion, but because they like his hostility toward regulatory agencies. And while progressives often appreciated that Kavanaugh’s predecessor Anthony Kennedy sided with liberals like Ruth Bader Ginsburg on some abortion and LGBTQ rights cases, it’s telling that Kennedy himself — like Sandra Day O’Connor before him — strategically timed his retirement to be replaced by a Republican president and a GOP Senate.”

“though the bulk of the law was spared by John Robert’s judiciousness, he did cost millions of people health insurance by inventing a new doctrine (that Congress could not threaten to take away previously provided matching funds to create an incentive for states to accept new matching funds) to block aspects of Medicaid expansion.

What makes Ginsburg’s departure from the bench alarming in this regard is that post-Lopez, essentially all new progressive legislation has been a crapshoot. There’s inevitably a lawsuit to strike down anything, but on any given issue, a Roberts or (more rarely) Gorsuch or Kavanaugh might defect. With a sixth conservative justice, it would be that much easier to stop any new law that you like, since you only need to get five of them. There are many conservative legal theorists — including Thomas on the bench and Georgetown professor Randy Barnett in the scholarly world — who believe that essentially all modern economic regulation is unconstitutional. There are plenty of smart conservative lawyers to write up a brief arguing that any new law should be struck down. As for using old laws to address new problems, well, there’s a fix for that, too.”

“Conservative jurists, in other words, are preparing to sharply limit regulators’ ability to promulgate new rules, arguing that each new change in policy should be achieved through the passage of a new law.

That sounds nice, but it’s completely out of touch with how the American political system actually functions.”

“the business community and the Supreme Court bar and the conservative legal movement are all well aware that there is a huge economic and regulatory element. Their strategy is to put in place a judicial roadblock to democratic governance of the economy.”