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Progress on The Fiscal Sustainability Teach-In and Counter-Conference

April 16th, 2010 · No Comments


A little more than a week ago, I proposed a Fiscal Sustainability Teach-In and Counter-Conference to be held in Washington, DC as a response to the First Meeting of the Administration’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, sardonically called by some the “steal our retirements commission,” on April 27th. The Counter-conference would also be a response to the Conference scheduled by The Peter G, Peterson Foundation’s (PGPF’s) “fiscal summit” on April 28th. This conference will be full of notables but won’t include even a single economist who doesn’t share the neo-liberal view of fiscal sustainability, centered around budget deficits, the national debt, and the debt held by the public to GDP ratio. The PGPF Conference, some powerful Senators and the President’s commission are spearheading a very broad-ranging campaign to persuade the American people that austerity is necessary for ordinary Americans (as if we haven’t had enough of that since the crash of 2008), including cutbacks on entitlements while, at the same time, the same people do all they can to preserve one of the periodic “great barbeques” in American history where well-off people accumulate immense wealth by looting the few resources owned by working people. It’s the purpose of the teach-in Counter-conference to oppose this deficit hawkism point of view with a alternate new economic paradigm offered by Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) that offers opportunity, balanced growth, and public purpose, in place of austerity, private irresponsibility, and hopeless Hooverism.

Last week, I further proposed that Firedog Lake, The Huffington Post, New Deal 2.0, and The American Prospect jointly sponsor and provide financial backing for this teach-In Counter-conference. I said:

“If the Conference could be planned and implemented over the next three weeks, it could go a long way toward beginning to blunt the impact of the Peterson Foundation Event and the first meeting of the President’s Commission. We need to blunt that impact if we expect to have any material success in getting progressive legislation on a host of issues in the coming decade. “We must make this commission politically radioactive.” “

One of these organizations, The Roosevelt Institute, the publisher of New Deal 2.0, has indicated that it would like to co-ordinate with us about the Counter-conference. The other three have not taken up the call thus far. But I’m still hopeful. In their absence, some bloggers and commenters at FDL/Seminal and Correntewire have joined together with 7 potential MMT speakers and other advisors to try to implement this Conference idea. With one week and a little more than five days left, here’s where we are in getting this Conference done.

First, and most importantly, we’ve formulated a program to answer the Administration and the PGPF Conference. The tentative program, speakers and schedule, subject to change, of course, are here.

Time Period Topic Team Leaders
8:30–8:45 AM Welcoming Remarks
8:45–10:15 AM What Is Fiscal Sustainability? Team Leader: Professor Bill Mitchell, Research Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), at the University of Newcastle, NSW Australia, and blogger at billyblog.
10:15–10:30 AM BREAK
10:30 AM–12:00 PM Are There Spending Constraints on Governments Sovereign in their Currency? Team Leader: Stephanie Kelton, Associate Professor of Macroeconomics, Finance, and Money and Banking, Research Scloar at The Center for Full Employment and Price Stability (CFEPS), University of Missouri – Kansas City, Research Associate at The Levy Institute of Bard College, and blogger at New Economics Perspectives
12:00–12:15 PM BREAK
12:15–1:45 PM The Deficit, the Debt, the Debt-To-GDP ratio, the Grandchildren and Government Economic Policy Team Leader: Warren Mosler, International Consulting Economist, and blogger at
1:45–2:00 PM BREAK
2:00–3:15 PM Inflation and Hyper-inflation Co-Team Leaders: Marshall Auerback, International Consulting Economist, blogger at New Deal 2.0 and New Economic Perspectives, and Mat Forstater, Professor of Economics, Director of CFEPS, Department of Economics, University of Missouri — Kansas City, Research Associate at The Levy Institute of Bard College, and blogger at New Economic Perspectives
3:15–3:30 PM BREAK
3:30–5:00 PM Policy Proposals for Fiscal Sustainability Co-Team Leaders: L. Randall Wray, Professor of Economics, Director of CFEPS at the University of Missouri – Kansas City, and Senior Scholar at The Levy Institute of Bard College; and Pavlina Tcherneva, Assistant Professor of Economics at Franklin and Marshall College, Senior Research Associate at CFEPS and Research Associate at The Levy Institute and bloggers at New Economic Perspectives

Second,we have a website up to market the Counter-conference and to serve as a coordination and action site for fiscal sustainability work thereafter. The new site is here.

Third, a section of the new site contains a list of blogs and web sites supporting the Fiscal Sustainability Teach-In Counter-conference. Right now that list contains four blogs, but will be growing each day, accompanied by Press Releases explaining why these blogs support our effort.

Fourth, we may have a venue in a University setting. But we’ll probably have to wait for Monday to verify that. In the meantime we’ve found a fail-safe site and will reserve it over the weekend to have a back-up just in case the first one falls through.

We’re also beginning to receive attention at blogs and web sites independent of the organizers of this effort including Naked Capitalism (Yves Smith) and Ian Welsh who have associated their blogs with our site. Ian has a nice post featuring our effort here:

Finally, we’ve completed and have been circulating a funding proposal. We designed a low-budget affair after the first few days of activity or response persuaded us that a top-shelf hotel venue wasn’t feasible for us. But still there are substantial travel expenses in the offing and we will need to raise funds to cover those, the venue, and incidental expenses. So, while this looks like it’s almost there now, it could still go south if funds are not forthcoming. Stay tuned until next week.

Of course, the PGPF has “all the money,” in the world and we have nothing but our knowledge that they are very, very wrong in their views, and will cause great suffering to working Americans if they prevail. Nevertheless, we will do the best we can to get people to realize that their Government has a responsibility to fulfill public purposes that it has been ignoring since at least the late 1960s, and that this responsibility needs to be fulfilled by solving the many outstanding national problems that have been accumulating for 40 years, regardless of deficits, debts, and debt-to-GDP ratios.

We will do our best to get people to realize that what happens to budget deficits, the national debt, and debt-to-GDP ratios are not excuses for the Government’s failure to live up to its responsibilities. Because what happens to these indicators is an effect of its failure to act as it should, rather than a cause of our problems.

Finally, I’ll probably be updating the FDL and Correntewire communities at least once more before this effort is over. Wish us luck in taking these next steps in creating a real answer to PGPF and the Administration.

(Also posted at and where there may be more comments)

Tags: Politics