Author: Evan Rose

Bernie Sanders Transformed Burlington, Vermont Into A Family Friendly City By Engaging The Youth

The very first focus for Bernie Sanders when he was elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont was to determine how to make the best environment for kids and families. That resulted in a teen center, a newspaper, and a TV show all led by youth, as well as an innovative childcare center, after school programs, artistic opportunities, and service programs.

These activations established Burlington as a desirable locale, receiving awards and acknowledgments for being one of the most livable, family friendly cities in the United States.

We at the Sanders Institute believe that mayors all over the country can create communities that value, engage, and respect our youth.

Please share this short synopsis of a replicable approach.

Featuring: Bernie Sanders, Dr. Jane O’Meara Sanders, Rachel Siegel, Selene Colburn, Bill Simmon, Dave Driscoll, Luis Calderin, and Maggie Leugers.

Unpacking The “Existential” Climate Crisis With Bill McKibben

Much of Maui has been decimated following one of the deadliest wildfires in U.S. history, wildfires are still ravaging Canada, ice in the arctic is melting rapidly, sea levels are rising and we’ve had the hottest day measured on our planet this year. There’s a lot happening as it relates to climate change. “It’s not the summer from hell, it’s the summer that sort of is hell,” says Bill McKibben.

The below is a transcript from the WITHpod where he discussed the growth debates of the 70s vs. contemporary ones, parallels between protecting the planet and our democracy, why this moment is such an inflection point and more. Note: The following is a rough transcript — please excuse any typos.

Bill McKibben: It seems to me that climate change is a kind of test of whether the big brain was a good adaptation or not. It can get us in a lot of trouble and now, we’ll find out if it can get us out of that trouble. And my guess is that the answer lies less in the size of the brain in the end than in the size of the heart it’s attached to.

This is going to be ultimately, there’s plenty of questions of self-interest and self-preservation, but there are also deep, deep questions about human solidarity that we’re going to answer one way or another in the next few years.

Chris Hayes: Hello and welcome to “Why is this Happening” with me, your host, Chris Hayes.

So I talked about this on the program before. We have a house north of New York City in a sort of rural area. And I feel very lucky to have it, very privileged. And, you know, it’s in the woods. And one of the things that I’ve undertaken over the last few years is a project to try to take the emissions of the house and drive them down to zero.

So this has been a kind of iterative process. So the first thing we did was, and this is something that is kind of news you can use. I think I’ve talked about it before. And we hired like, weatherization folks to come and measure the efficiency of the house and try to get it so that it’s much more efficient.

It was actually incredibly inefficient. There is a lot of air escaping. We did what’s called blower door test to test for that. And you should know that like many states, particularly under the Inflation Reduction Act and then state incentives, you can do it for free in a lot of places.

So we did that. And then we put in an enormous solar array that captures a huge amount of carbon free energy. It’s an incredible, beautiful thing. I love the little app on my phone that tells me how much energy I’m capturing. It’s a marvel of technology to me. And then after that, we were still heating the home off of fossil fuels because of it was a, you know, natural gas heater.

We replaced that with geothermal. So that now uses the sort of core temperature, you know, hundreds of feet beneath the earth, runs it through a heat pump. It’s very efficient. It’s also on the grid, right? So that’s not using any fossil fuels.

So we’re getting it close to a net zero operation. So we had this dilemma, which is like, you know, real first world problems here and I’m fully aware of that as I tell this story. But I think it actually represents a kind of fundamental larger issue.

Next to the solar array is this beautiful, huge old white oak tree, stretches up into the air. It’s beautiful. I love to look at it. It is precariously close to falling on the solar array should it ever fall. And also, it casts a huge amount of shade on the solar array so that it’s stopping the solar array from achieving its maximum efficiency.

This presented a dilemma. What should we get rid of the tree? Now, this is a fascinating dilemma because at one level, you’re an environmentalist. Trees are taking carbon out of the air. Trees are beautiful. You want to preserve trees. But also, if the tree were to fall, which could happen at any moment because it’s like right there, it would take out the solar array.

And also over time, it was significantly degrading the amount of energy that that solar array could capture. What is the correct environmentalist thing to do? What’s the conscientious thing to do in this situation? At one level, cutting down a tree seems like the least environmentalist thing you can do.

But then in the end, I made the decision to cut it down. Maybe I made the wrong decision. I want to fully cop to maybe making the wrong decision. But the solar array is really important to me and preserving its capacity for a very long time. Like the way that I think about this house is that I want to be in this house for a long time. And I don’t want this house to be at all fossil fuel dependent.

We’re almost there now. But I want it to be independent of any fossil fuels and any carbon energy for a long time. So we cut down the tree. This dilemma represents the global dilemma of development in the climate age, and it’s this. In order to get to net zero, there’s a lot of stuff that’s gonna have to be built, because the stuff that we have doesn’t give us net zero.

The facilities and infrastructure we have is based off of fossil fuel economy. So we’re gonna have to put in like a lot more solar arrays, lots, on lots of different places. And there’s a lot of infrastructure that’s going to have to go with that. Hopefully, more people like home heating. Heating a home without fossil fuels is a non-trivial thing, particularly in cold places, the Midwest, the Northeast.

We’ve got heat pumps going. We’re going to have to put a lot more heat pumps in. Hopefully we’ll deploy more geothermal. There’s fun stuff happening along like central heating where like you have a whole subdivision that’s heated by a large electric powered boiler that then like moves the heat to the different homes, the way that like the grid works.

There’s all sorts of crazy stuff happening. Point being, you gotta build a lot of stuff. Building a lot of stuff though, is often in tension with the environment writ large (ph), right? Like the origins of the environmental movement often are conserving what’s there, conserving what’s natural, stopping the encroachments and the ceaseless depredations of industrial capitalism, the fact that you’re constantly building stuff and you’re building factories and you’re polluting.

And these twin impulses are in tension with each other. And those twin impulses, if you dig one level deeper, come down to a really, really deep and fundamental question, which is, what is the point of growth? Like when we think about growth as an economic phenomenon, is it possible to have growth and preserve the habitability of the planet?

For the first 200 years of the Industrial Revolution, it just has been the case that growth is powered by fossil fuel consumption. One leads to the other. One depends on the other. If you wanna grow, over time, the amount of fossil fuels consumed per unit of growth has diminished. So the two have sort of become increasingly unlinked.

The question is, can we unlink them all together? Or do we have to think about a climate future where we’re not growing as much? And these are deep, profound questions. They’re at the core of, I think, a lot of the ways that we think about the present and the future. They were the subject of a fantastic article that I love by one of my favorite writers and one of my favorite thinkers and activists, Bill McKibben.

Now, Bill McKibben is legendary, so he doesn’t really need my introduction. But he’s got a million different hats, environmentalist, an educator, an author. He wrote for “The New Yorker” for years. He’s written a bunch of books. He just wrote a piece about to save the planet, should we really be moving slower, in The New Yorker, that sort of wrestles with some of these issues?

He’s also founder of Third Act, which is a mission to organize people over the age of 60 for action on climate injustice, the founder of, the first global grassroots climate campaign, and someone who is, you know, at the forefront of the climate movement now going on decades. So it’s my very great pleasure to welcome Bill to the program.

Bill McKibben: Chris, it’s always a pleasure to get to be with you, and this is especially cool to get to do it from your house there.

Chris Hayes: Yes. Well, here’s the question. Let me start. Did I make the right decision when I cut down the tree?

Bill McKibben: Well, you’re right. It’s a very interesting illustration. So in the easiest possible terms, you know, that tree sequesters carbon. So you want to calculate that and make sure you’re not.

Chris Hayes: Yup.

Bill McKibben: But it’s pretty clear now that cutting down a tree to allow more generation of solar energy replaces that carbon fast a year or two. So in that sense, it’s a decent trade-off. There are moments when I am tempted to say, oh, if only you’d listen to me when, you know, because I wrote the first book about climate change back in 1989, a book called “The End of Nature.”

Had we started working in 1989, as every scientist said we should, we wouldn’t be faced with quite this level of insane trade-offs —

Chris Hayes: Yes.

Bill McKibben: — that we now have to make. But we didn’t. We’ve poured more carbon into the atmosphere since 1989 than in all of human history before it. And as a result, we’re now in the summer of 2023, you know, it’s not the summer from hell, it’s the summer that sort of is hell.

We’ve had the hottest day measured on our planet and probably the hottest day ever for the last 125,000 years, the hottest week, the hottest month. The temperature in the North Atlantic is not just off the charts, it’s off the wall. The charts are tacked (ph), too.

As a result, we’re seeing epic and killer heat waves and fires. As we’re talking here today, they’re trying to get them under control in Maui, where 36 people at least are dead. But north of us in Canada, they’re not going to get the biggest fires in Canadian history under control until it snows in the fall.

What I’m trying to say is we’re in an emergency. And when you’re in emergency —

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Bill McKibben: — then you do things that are different from what you would ordinarily do because you have to get out of that emergency.

If we don’t, if we allow the temperature to keep going up, if we don’t stop using fossil fuel, then we’re in fairly short order, not going to have civilizations like the ones we’re used to because we can’t absorb an endless amount of this kind of violent chaos and flux. We’ve raised the temperature about two degrees Fahrenheit so far.

But we’re on track to raise it five or six degrees Fahrenheit. And that won’t be three times as bad as what we’ve done. It’ll be worse than that because the damage goes up exponentially. We think now that every tenth of a degree Celsius moves another 140 million people out of the kind of prime human habitat zone on this planet.

So, that’s the context in which this discussion is being held. And in that context, then you start making all kinds of choices you wish you didn’t have to make. Do we have to go mine lithium and cobalt? Yeah, we probably do because we can’t build renewable energy without it.

That doesn’t mean it’s a great thing to be doing because at the moment, it’s an environmental and human rights problem in some places of a serious order. But when you mine lithium or cobalt, you know, you go put it in a device like a battery and there it lasts for a quarter century. When you mine coal and oil and gas, what do you do?

You set it on fire. And so you have to get some more the next day.

Chris Hayes: Yeah, incinerate it.

Bill McKibben: We think that 40 percent of all the ship traffic on the planet is just carrying coal and oil and gas back and forth. That gives you some idea of how much kind of dematerialization there can be as we move in this direction. So there’s nothing even close to a free lunch. but there are lunches that are gonna kill us. And that’s the one that we’re eating right now.

Chris Hayes: Let’s sort of go back and let’s talk about, well, there’s two ways I wanna sort of approach this. So one, I wanna talk about the growth debates of the ‘70s because one of the things you do is sort of come back around to them in the article you wrote. And it’s also, I’m very obsessed.

I don’t know why I have a weird intellectual fixation with the growth debates of the ‘70s and something called the Simon-Ehrlich bet and the club of Rome. Maybe you can sort of lay out —

Bill McKibben: Sure.

Chris Hayes: — what the sort of growth, degrowth debates of, particularly they got, you know, really what got intense in the ‘70s, what they were all about.

Bill McKibben: I wrote a book once called “Deep Economy” that was largely about this question. And it’s fascinating. Really, we hadn’t focused on growth at all as a kind of policy objective or anything until the early to mid-part of the 20th century. And it was really only after World War II that it became the driving obsession.

But it happened quickly. And before long, you had, you know, in the Kennedy-Nixon debates and things, I can make the economy grow twice as fast. You know, on and on and on. And so growth was perceived as an unalloyed good until, as you say, the rise of the environmental movement in the late 1960s, the first birthday in 1970. And then in 1972, I think, the publication of this small book —

Chris Hayes: Yup.

Bill McKibben: — “Limits to Growth,” which turned out to be one of the two or three bestselling books of that decade. It was a report prepared by three researchers at MIT, one of whom, Donella Meadows, I came to know well and admire and really, really like.

And they used a computer, which in 1972 was still a kind of innovative thing to be doing. And they —

Chris Hayes: Yup.

Bill McKibben: — programmed in a lot of parameters and punched the button. And what they said was, if we keep doing this, sometime in the second or third decade of the 21st century, we’re gonna run into deep ecological walls that we’re gonna crash against. Lots of people read it and liked it. But there was lots of pushback from the usual suspects against this.

And as the decade wore on, this is the decade that E.F. Schumacher published, “Small is Beautiful.” It’s the decade that Jimmy Carter went on TV wearing a sweater and telling us to turn down the thermostat. I think that really, the central debate of the 1970s, was which side of this are we going to come down on?

Amitai Etzioni, who was then working in the Carter White House, apparently came to him with a poll in 1978 that showed that a third of Americans were now anti-growth, a third were pro-growth, and a third didn’t know. And Etzioni said, the tension here is too great. This is going to be resolved one way or its other.

And it was with the election of 1980 and with Ronald Reagan’s declaration that it was morning in America again. And that’s basically where we’ve been for the last 40 years, back very much on this idea that growth was what we wanted. It’s, you know, what Clinton and Obama, as well as the Bushes and everybody else worked on.

And we’ve now reached the second, I guess third decade of this century. And what do you know, half the sea ice in the summer Arctic is melted. Canada is on fire. You know, people are running into the sea in Maui to escape the flames, hoping that somehow the coast guard will come save them from drowning, were basically where they told us we were going to be.

So, you know, two points for Gryffindor. I mean, they figured it out. Now the question is, what do we do? Because we’re in a strange paradoxical situation. You would think that the most obvious answer would be to try and bring everything to a screeching halt and stop growing and start reducing our size and things. But that seems politically unlikely in a short term, in a democracy or in an autocracy.

Look at Xi Jinping and the trouble that he suddenly finds himself in as youth unemployment hits 20 percent, you know? And in order to get out of the incredible mess climatically that we’re in, we have to build, as you say, like we haven’t built since the beginning of World War II. This time, not tanks and planes —

Chris Hayes: Right.

Bill McKibben: –but solar panels and wind turbines. Which happily is possible because the engineers have dropped the price of renewable energy 90 percent in the last decade. That means we live on a planet where the cheapest way to produce power is to point a sheet of glass at the sun.

So you’d say, let’s go hard in that direction. And I think we very much should. But if all we do is replace the fossil fuel that we’re burning now with solar panels, yes, it will reduce the carbon in the atmosphere. But it won’t get us out of this fundamental problem that these guys identified in 1972, which is that growth is, on many, many, many environmental counts, extremely difficult.

It’s not just the climate. I mean, we have 70 percent fewer wild animals on this planet than we did 50 years ago because we’ve taken out all the habitat. Our oceans are an unbelievable mess. And we’re a planet that’s 70 percent ocean.

Chris Hayes: Right.

Bill McKibben: On and on and on. So I think probably that the best we might be able to do at this late date is build the hell out of solar panels and wind turbines. But as we do it, try to figure out some ways to use that last great burst of expansion to change things, i.e., if we’re building solar power, one of the beautiful things about it is there’s sun and wind everywhere. It’s not like coal and gas and oil, which are owned by MBS —

Chris Hayes: Right.

Bill McKibben: — and Putin and the Koch brothers, you know. That’s great. But to really take advantage of that, it should be owned close to the community. That’s one of the reasons that Denmark, say, has gotten way ahead of everybody because they figured out how to do a lot of that. And then we should be looking at lots of other things.

Yes, an electric vehicle is better than an internal combustion engine car. But the electric vehicles and vehicles in general that we drive are largely ludicrous. They are, you know, endlessly larger than we need them to be. You know, I’m old enough —

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Bill McKibben: — that I can remember when we did not own a whole fleet of semi-military vehicles with which to transport our bodies and our stuff. It worked fine. Think about the possibilities presented, say, by the e-bike. There’s an elegant piece of technology. It flattens out the hills so you needn’t be an athlete to ride a bike.

You don’t even have to get sweaty on the way to work. And it uses very little in the way of materials. And the city that embraces it, as, say, Paris is trying to do right now, ends up an infinitely nicer place than the one that’s still clogged with cars, say, Eric Adams, New York. So it’s a moment for working incredibly hard to build out the stuff that we have to have, and also a moment for thinking creatively about how to make societies work somewhat different.

And that, in another way, resembles wartime America of the last century. I mean, the only, you know, we built planes and tanks, but we also upended our social structure. Women were suddenly hard at work in factories across America.

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Bill McKibben: Which was something entirely new. In this case, think about things that we could do, like, say, the four-day work week. Juliet Schor at BC has done a big, big pilot project with the hundreds of companies around the world in the last two or three years, to demonstrate that A, your productivity is just as high, B, your employees are much happier, and C, they end up using significantly less carbon.

You know, things like that are possible. But there’s no use pretending that we don’t have to build out renewable energy fast. Because if we don’t, the temperature is going to get so high that, forget about, you know, thinking, sitting around thinking grand thoughts about restructuring society. All we’re going to be doing is pulling people out of forest fires and, you know —

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Bill McKibben: — trying to somehow block the rising sea.

Chris Hayes: And not to mention, I mean, there’s so much I want to say in response to that, but just on the last point, the geopolitical implications of the level of refugees and, I mean, we are seeing now, it is a routine thing for boatloads of migrants to drown in the Mediterranean Sea as a matter of course, as people flee to try to get to Europe.

We have saw blades installed between orange buoys deployed in the Rio Grande by the governor of Texas, there to slice up the desperate people who are fleeing to the U.S. across the Rio Grande. That is right now where the push factors of migration are being a whole bunch of things, including climate. We should be clear. Climate is one of the things driving it.

Bill McKibben: We now think, the UNHCR now thinks that climate and natural disaster caused by climate dramatically outpaces the war as a —

Chris Hayes: Yes.

Bill McKibben: — reason for migration.

Chris Hayes: Yeah, and that’s now and that’s nothing. And what country’s politics, internal politics will look like and the stresses it will put on them.

Bill McKibben: Yeah.

Chris Hayes: And the sucker aid and ballast it will give to the worst kind of right-wing impulses.

Bill McKibben: Yes. We’ll think about it for a minute. I mean, a million people came out of Syria to Western Europe after the civil war, itself, by the way, largely triggered by climate change. They had the deepest drought in the history of what we used to call the Fertile Crescent and it moved hundreds of thousands of people off farms into Syrian cities that couldn’t deal with it.

That million people coming into Western Europe was enough to turn the politics of that continent upside down. You know, we’re now electing, you know, Mussolini fans to run Italy. And, you know —

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Bill McKibben: — a million or two people on our Southern border was probably the single biggest reason that we ended up with Donald Trump ransacking American democracy. The U.N. estimates that if we let climate go at a kind of business as usual pace, it’ll produce between 1 billion and 3 billion refugees before the century is out. So multiply what we’ve seen so far —

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Bill McKibben: — by a thousand and then try to figure out what it does to our politics. On top of that, remember that most of the people fleeing climate disaster did nothing to cause it. You know, if you’re from Guatemala coming into Texas, you know, your carbon emissions are one-20th what a Texan’s carbon emissions are. And I mean, the iron law of climate change is the less you did to cause it, the sooner and the harder you get hit.

So, at some point, it’s just going to overwhelm our political systems, our moral systems, our everything systems. And that’s just one manifestation of this crisis.

Chris Hayes: Right.

Bill McKibben: We can talk about food supply. We can talk about a dozen other things that are, you know, equally enormous. I mean, in the most basic terms, we are shrinking the board on which the human game is played. It’s considerably smaller now than it was when you or I were bore (ph), and it’s gonna get much smaller still.

There are vast swaths of the world that are already getting too hot for people to reliably be able to live in. And there are most of the world’s major cities perched on the edge of oceans which have begun to rise pretty dramatically.

Chris Hayes: Right.

Bill McKibben: So, the job one, job two, job three for human civilization is to arrest the rise in temperature as soon as possible. And the only way to do that is to turn off fossil fuel. And in the world in which we live, in which people are going to continue to demand heat and air conditioning and mobility, I think the only way in the short run to do that is to build out this clean energy system.

Now, as I say, we’d be wise to build out that clean energy system in ways that were way less resource-intensive. But given the choice, we have to build it out. I mean, that’s the imperative here. And we’re in the emergency room. We’re not in the cosmetic surgeon’s office.

Chris Hayes: Right.

Bill McKibben: We’re in the emergency room and the patient is running in unbelievable fever.

Chris Hayes: Right.

Bill McKibben: You know, we should be freaking out.

Chris Hayes: So I want to just take a second to go back to the growth debates to resituate them —

Bill McKibben: Yes.

Chris Hayes: — because I also want to sort of give the growth side of them. I would sort of consider my politics, you know, a kind of pro-growth labor liberal, pro-growth social Democrat, you know, just to briefly make the case for growth, right? There’s basically zero economic growth among human societies from essentially Rome to the 1700 or 1800s.

You know, people died at 35. The vast majority of people are peasants living in pretty rough circumstances. There’s the burst of growth that comes with the combination of sort of industrial innovation at a technical level, the discovery of fossil fuel and the mass deployment thereof, and the creation of capitalism as a system, right? These come together.

Bill McKibben: Yeah. And they’re very closely linked.

Chris Hayes: Yes.

Bill McKibben: The way to think about it is that the adzed of fossil fuel upended everything because it gave everybody the equivalent of a hundred or a thousand servants that they didn’t have before.

Chris Hayes: Right.

Bill McKibben: There’s hundreds of thousands of, or tens of thousands of man hours of labor in a barrel of oil. So it was completely seductive and it produced, I think on balance, all kinds of good for a long time. Growth is like that.

But, you know, I’m a father. If my daughter at age 12 had stopped growing, I would have taken her to the pediatrician and said —

Chris Hayes: Right.

Bill McKibben: — something’s wrong. But if my daughter at age 30, as she is now, was growing eight inches every year, I’d take her to the doctor, too and say, this does not seem right somehow. So, you know, because something was good for a while, doesn’t mean that it’s good forever.

Our problem, I think deeply is that we’ve grown the world so unequally that there are now —

Chris Hayes: Well, that’s, yes.

Bill McKibben: — large parts of the world that are probably overdeveloped and large parts that are severely underdeveloped. And so part of the trick is figuring out how to —

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Bill McKibben: — balance some of that going forward.

Chris Hayes: Yeah, I mean, one of the things, points I want to make is that, you’re right, depending on where you are in this growth curve, right, I think there is a diminishing returns to it.

I mean, one of the things, like, you know, growth in a country like Nigeria, which is also happening both very rapidly and at tremendous ecological costs and also in incredibly unequal fashion, right, but if you look at a place like China in which, you know, hundreds of millions of people brought out of poverty, like there are huge welfare gains to human life and human flourishing, and the things that personally I value as, again, a kind of secular liberal, to that kind of growth, you know.

Bill McKibben: Absolutely.

Chris Hayes: People liberated from the grinding toil of the fields like —

Bill McKibben: Yes. And the good news is we can lock in most. I mean, we don’t have to worry about people dying at 35 because we learned about sanitation.

Chris Hayes: Right.

Bill McKibben: And we learned about antibiotics. And we learned about vaccinations, though we’re now forgetting about them.

Chris Hayes: Yes.

Bill McKibben: As long as we keep our minds together, we should be okay. And we have this substitute to provide a lot of energy. One way to think about it is, you know, for 700,000 years, human beings have been happily burning things on this planet. Darwin said that fire and language were the two things that set us apart. And it was all good.

You know, we learned to cook food, so we got the big brain. We could move north and south away from the equator. The anthropologists think that gathering around the campfire for a few eons was enough to kind of build the social bonds in a sort of protozoon, you know?

Chris Hayes: Right.

Bill McKibben: And then we got to the industrial revolution. And burning, controlling the combustion of coal and gas and oil brought us modernity. But now, we’re at the point where that math has flipped. So there’s not only the climate crisis, which is utterly existential.

If we don’t solve it, then every other question around us is essentially moot. There’s also the fact that we don’t pay enough attention to that 9 million people a year on this planet die. That’s one death in five on our earth from breathing the combustion byproducts of fossil fuel.

Chris Hayes: Yes.

California’s Justice For Renters Addresses The Housing Crisis And Homelessness

The United States is the wealthiest country in the world. We spend billions of dollars on the military, trillions bailing out Wall Street, and similar numbers in tax breaks for the top 1%. Clearly, there is no lack of resources to address the housing crisis and homelessness – simply a lack of political will. This is something we must change and California can lead the way.

A recent study conducted by the University of California, San Francisco shows that unaffordable housing costs are the main driver of homelessness in California. Conclusions can be directly drawn from the studies key finding, that continuing to build unaffordable market rate housing is not the answer and that responsible implementation of rent control can help preserve and keep housing affordable. Rent control does not deter housing production or discourage investment in the rental market, on the contrary, it fosters responsible landlord practices and encourages sustainable development, achieving a fair balance between the interests of tenants and property owners.

It’s time to dispel any misconceptions surrounding rent control and foster a healthy and inclusive housing market. As such, an initiative sponsored by the Healthy Housing Foundation and AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) titled Justice for Renters is looking to give local CA government the ability to enact or expand rent control in response to the unaffordable housing costs in their communities. Rent control can play a crucial role in stabilizing housing costs, providing individuals and families a sense of security, reducing the risk of eviction and improving access to essential services, ultimately helping to put an end to the cycle of homelessness.

This Year Is Set To Be The Hottest In History – Congress Must Act Now

If there is not bold, immediate action to address the climate crisis, the quality of life that we are leaving our kids is very much in question.

The last eight years have been the eight hottest on record. This year is on track to be the hottest year in recorded history, and this Fourth of July might have been the hottest day in the past 125,000 years.

Climate change is ravaging the planet. We are now seeing floods, droughts, extreme weather disturbances and wild fires causing unprecedented damage. If there is not bold, immediate and united action by governments throughout the world, the quality of life that we are leaving our kids and future generations is very much in question.

In the short term, we will be looking at more melting of the Arctic ice caps, rising sea levels and increased flooding. We will experience more drought and a decrease in food production. We will see major damage caused by intense storms, tornadoes and other extreme weather disturbances. We will see a decline in economic activity and the migration of millions of people as a result of water shortages. We will see a major disruption in all forms of marine life as a result of warming sea water and the acidification of the oceans.

Over last few weeks we’ve gotten a glimpse of what this dystopian future could look like. The unprecedented forest fires in Quebec, preceded by massive fires in Nova Scotia, British Columbia and Alberta, have resulted in dangerously unhealthy air all across the United States. New York, Washington DC, Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee and other cities have reported some of their worst air quality levels ever as people with chronic illness have been forced to remain indoors. Meanwhile, during this same period, Texas has experienced a record-breaking heat wave. In Corpus Christi the heat index, a measure of temperature combined with humidity, reached a 125F – close to the level at which humans are able to survive.

As a result of long-standing drought six western states that rely on water from the Colorado River have recently agreed to dramatically cut their water use. That river, which provides water for 40 million people and a $5tn-a-year agricultural industry, is drying up. The state of Arizona recently restricted future home-building in the Phoenix area due to a lack of groundwater, based on projections showing that wells will run dry under existing conditions.

Needless to say, climate change is not just an American issue. Despite the frightening impact of climate change on the United States, highly populated Asian countries are facing even worse challenges. Sea levels on China’s coastline have hit their highest on record for the second year in a row, rising more quickly than the global average. China’s coastal areas are home to approximately 45% of the country’s population of about 1.4 billion people, and contribute to over half of the country’s economic output. Major cities like Shanghai, Tianjin and Shenzhen are all located along the Chinese coast and could face catastrophic flooding in years to come – creating havoc with the entire Chinese economy.

Last year, India experienced a searing heat wave, during which parts of the country reached more than 120F. In 2022, India experienced its hottest April in 122 years and its hottest March on record. It experienced extreme weather on 242 out of 273 days between January and October 2022. Long-term projections indicate that Indian heat waves could cross the survivability limit for a healthy human resting in the shade by 2050. The impact of these continued heat waves will not only result in more deaths and disease in India but will increase poverty as a result of reduced economic output.

From June to October 2022, heavy rainfall in Pakistan caused flooding and landslides at a rate nearly 10 times the national 30-year average. The floods affected nearly 33 million people, damaged 4.4 million acres of agricultural land and killed 800,000 livestock. In the aftermath, rising food prices exacerbated already stressed levels of hunger and malnutrition in the country. The number of people experiencing severe hunger has more than doubled since the floods hit in June: today, 14.6 million people are experiencing severe hunger in Pakistan and the malnutrition rates are dire.

Climate change is taking a major human, economic and environmental toll in Europe, the fastest warming continent of the world. The year 2022 was marked by extreme heat, drought and wildfires. Based on country data submitted so far, it is estimated that at least 15 000 people died in Western Europe alone specifically due to the heat in 2022. Among those, more than 4600 deaths in Spain, more than 1000 in Portugal, more than 3200 in the United Kingdom, and around 4500 people died in Germany as a result of extreme heat.

As devastating as climate change has been for the United States, Europe, China and other developed countries, its impact is even worse for the poorest countries on earth who lack the resources to protect their inhabitants from the growing hunger, disease and migrations that droughts and floods are causing. Here are a few examples as reported by the UN World Food Program:

South Sudan’s temperatures are increasing at two and half times the global average. This has resulted in extreme weather events including four consecutive years of flooding that have left half the country underwater. The unprecedented flooding has swallowed large swathes of the country while other parts are grappling with devastating drought. Today, some 64% of the country’s population (7.7 million people out of 12 million total) are experiencing severe hunger.

In February of 2022, Madagascar was hit with four tropical cyclones. These storms destroyed infrastructure, decimated rice crops and left over 270,000 people in urgent need of food. Today, nearly 2 million people in Madagascar are experiencing hunger and are in need of humanitarian assistance.

In Somalia, there is no end in sight to the drought in that extremely poor country. Somalia has experienced five failed rainy seasons, drying up crops and killing livestock. This has resulted in 6.5 million people facing crisis levels of hunger.

It is no great secret that human beings are not particularly anxious to address painful realities – especially when it requires taking on powerful special interests like the fossil fuel industry. This time we must.

Our Earth is warming rapidly. We see this every day in every part of the world.

Drought, floods, forest fires and extreme weather disturbances are increasing. We see this every day in every part of the world.

Hunger, disease and human migrations are increasing. We see this every day in every part of the world.

Instead of denying this obvious reality, instead of doing the bidding of oil and coal companies, instead of fomenting a new cold war with China, members of Congress must develop an unprecedented sense of urgency about this global crisis. We must bring the world together NOW to address this existential threat. Failure to act will doom future generations to a very uncertain future. For the sake of our common humanity we cannot allow that to happen.

Why The Sierra Club’s Ben Jealous Is Targeting Red States

In the world of climate advocacy groups, the Sierra Club is perhaps best known as a grassroots, progressive heavyweight. For years, it has fought to close coal plants, one by one, and more recently the group has called on the Biden administration to do more to address climate change.

So it may come as a surprise that Ben Jealous—the former NAACP head who was recently appointed as the Sierra Club’s executive director—says he wants to revamp the organization to expand its presence in red states. As part of his agenda, the organization is opening up shop in conservative parts of the country—even as it goes through a round of layoffs. And Jealous has spent many of his early days in the new job on the road in rural and conservative places. “I’m focused on building an uncomfortably large coalition,” he tells me. “If you’re comfortable in your coalition, your coalition is too small.”

To understand the move, look no further than the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the landmark climate law enacted last year. The IRA has catalyzed billions of dollars in clean energy investment, much of which will go towards building clean energy infrastructure and manufacturing facilities in red states. To ensure that the money is well spent—and that the organization stays relevant—the Sierra Club needs to be on the ground everywhere. “Having a 50-state strategy is critical for us,” says Jealous. “In this moment, when the power grid will be changed in all 50 states, when we are building green industry in all 50 states, the Sierra Club must be as effective and impactful as possible in all 50 states.”

The strategy is a reflection of just how much the IRA has changed the dynamics of climate action in the U.S. Conservative estimates suggest the law will pump out nearly $370 billion in climate funding—and other estimates suggest the total could be much more. This money will catalyze clean-energy projects in states that have traditionally been skeptical of policies to address climate change and that are home to fewer traditional environmental watch dogs. Focusing on all 50 states will get the Sierra Club in the game on how that money is spent and who benefits from it.

In the close to a year since the IRA was unveiled, many climate and clean energy supporters have shifted strategies. Some of the most aggressive campaigners have criticized the Biden administration for doing too little. Select clean energy advocates have embraced once anathema proposals to streamline environmental laws, in hopes that it will allow for a faster build out of clean energy. And the American Clean Power Association (ACP), the leading trade group for clean energy, replaced senior leadership with ties to the Democratic Party with officials connected in Republican circles. “We have to make sure that the awful politics of [the IRA’s] passage don’t actually get in the way of it being implemented effectively,” says Jason Grumet, the former president of the Bipartisan Policy Center who now leads ACP.

Jealous does not mince words about how the IRA is shaping his strategy at the Sierra Club. The organization has a state director in every blue state, he says, but only in a third of red states. Building up a network of local activists helps create grassroots pressure on state and local energy and climate decisions, he says. And local Sierra Club offices on the ground in states will help identify the most important cases for the organization’s legal team to pursue as they seek to ensure that states are spending IRA money effectively. “Almost 90% of large scale renewable projects will be placed in red states,” says Jealous. “There is a need for us to really train and lead and support our activists in wielding those carrots and making sure that all the money gets out the door.”

On the surface, Jealous may seem like an unusual person to lead the Sierra Club through reforms that bring the organization further into red America. Jealous worked as a civil rights activist for decades before turning to politics. In 2016, he gave Bernie Sanders a full-throated endorsement, and, in 2018, he ran to serve as governor of Maryland with an unabashedly progressive agenda.

But his record—and importantly his civil rights work—may actually situate him well to reform the Sierra Club. In 2020, the group publicly denounced the racist beliefs of its founder John Muir. After an internal review the following year, the organization acknowledged that the legacy of that racism still persisted–and promised to do better. Nonetheless, Jealous’ predecessor resigned in the wake of the review, which also depicted sexism within the group.

Jealous, whose resume aligns well with the organization’s progressive base, offers the opportunity to turn over a new leaf. He told me a story of an older white woman in California who approached him after a Sierra Club event and told him that white activists should “just follow Black people.” (Jealous told her to “please, never give up your power.”)

The IRA and related Biden administration policies are also forcing green groups to reckon with related issues in their advocacy. A Biden-signed executive order mandates that 40% of the benefits from the IRA benefit historically disadvantaged communities and communities of color. Jealous sees the Sierra Club helping advance the environmental justice conversation with its cross-country network of on-the-ground activists that can support environmental justice fights. And he says he’s pushing for better engagement between project developers and communities. “We will also be working with environmental activists, convening environmental activists to have real brass tacks conversations about what it is going to mean to build a new power grid for the entire country,” he says.

I asked Jealous why he would take on the climate fight with so many years working on civil rights issues under his belt. Jealous described joining the Sierra Club as a coming home of sorts. Early in his career, he worked as a reporter in Mississippi covering environmental justice issues and later worked as an environmental organizer. “I had a need in my soul to focus on the most critical fight for humanity,” he says.

But, whatever his history working on environmental issues, it’s also fair to say that the IRA made the job more appealing. “One of the hardest things about being an American these last 50 years has been watching our nation go from a nation that prided itself on manufacturing to one defined by consumption,” he says. “The passage of the IRA is the greatest investment in American cities and American manufacturing that I’ve seen in my entire lifetime.” At the Sierra Club, Jealous says, he can help shape it.

How JFK Would Pursue Peace In Ukraine

Sixty years after Kennedy’s commencement address at American University, crucial lessons must still be learned about how to end dangerous conflicts in a nuclear world.

President John F. Kennedy was one of the world’s great peacemakers. He led a peaceful solution to the Cuban Missile Crisis and then successfully negotiated the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with the Soviet Union at the very height of the Cold War. At the time of his assassination, he was taking steps to end US involvement in Vietnam.

In his dazzling and unsurpassed Peace Speech, delivered exactly sixty years ago on June 10, 1963, Kennedy laid out his formula for peace with the Soviet Union. Kennedy’s Peace Speech highlights how Joe Biden’s approach to Russia and the Ukraine War needs a dramatic reorientation. Until now, Biden has not followed the precepts that Kennedy recommended to find peace. By heeding Kennedy’s advice, Biden too could become a peacemaker.

A mathematician would call JFK’s speech a “constructive proof” of how to make peace, since the speech itself contributed directly to the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty signed by the US and Soviet Union in July 1963. Upon receipt of the speech, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev told Kennedy’s envoy to Russia, Averell Harriman, that the speech was the greatest by an American president since Franklin D. Roosevelt, and that he wanted to pursue peace with Kennedy.

In the speech, Kennedy describes peace “as the necessary rational end [goal] of rational men.” Yet he acknowledges that peacemaking is not easy: “I realize that the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war—and frequently the words of the pursuer fall on deaf ears. But we have no more urgent task.”



The deepest key to peace, in Kennedy’s view, is the fact that both sides want peace. It is easy to fall into the trap, warns Kennedy, of blaming a conflict only on the other side. It is easy to fall into the trap of insisting that only the adversary should change their attitudes and behavior. Kennedy is very clear: “We must reexamine our own attitude—as individuals and as a Nation—for our attitude is as essential as theirs.”

Kennedy attacked the prevailing pessimism at the height of the Cold War that peace with the Soviet Union was impossible, “that war is inevitable—that mankind is doomed—that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are man-made—therefore, they can be solved by man.”

Crucially, said Kennedy, we must not “see only a distorted and desperate view of the other side.” We must not “see conflict as inevitable, accommodation as impossible, and communication as nothing more than an exchange of threats.” Indeed, said Kennedy, we should “hail the Russian people for their many achievements—in science and space, in economic and industrial growth, in culture and in acts of courage.”

Kennedy warned against putting a nuclear adversary into a corner that could lead the adversary to desperate actions. “Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war. To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy—or of a collective death wish for the world.”

Kennedy knew that since peace was in the mutual interest of the US and the Soviet Union, a peace treaty could be reached. To those who said that the Soviet Union would not abide by a peace treaty, Kennedy responded that “both the United States and its allies, and the Soviet Union and its allies, have a mutually deep interest in a just and genuine peace and in halting the arms race. Agreements to this end are in the interests of the Soviet Union as well as ours—and even the most hostile nations can be relied upon to accept and keep those treaty obligations, and only those treaty obligations, which are in their own interest.”

Kennedy emphasized the importance of direct communication between the two adversaries. Peace, he said, “will require increased understanding between the Soviets and ourselves. And increased understanding will require increased contact and communication. One step in this direction is the proposed arrangement for a direct line between Moscow and Washington, to avoid on each side the dangerous delays, misunderstandings, and misreadings of the other’s actions which might occur at a time of crisis.”

In the context of the Ukraine War, Biden has behaved almost the opposite of JFK. He has personally and repeatedly denigrated Russian President Vladimir Putin. His administration has defined the US war aim as the weakening of Russia. Biden has avoided all communications with Putin. They have apparently not spoken once since February 2022, and Biden rebuffed a bilateral meeting with Putin at last year’s G20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia.

Biden has refused to even acknowledge, much less to address, Russia’s deep security concerns. Putin repeatedly expressed Russia’s ardent opposition to NATO enlargement to Ukraine, a country with a 2,000-kilometer border with Russia. The US would never tolerate a Mexican-Russian or Mexican-Chinese military alliance in view of the 2000-mile Mexico-US border. It is time for Biden to negotiate with Russia on NATO enlargement, as part of broader negotiations to end the Ukraine war.

When Kennedy came into office in January 1961, he stated clearly his position on negotiations: “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate. Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.”

In his Peace Speech, JFK reminded us that what unites the US and Russia is that “we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

New World Economy – The Global Banking Crisis In A time Of War, Geopolitical Tensions And Climate Shocks

The immediate question is whether Silicon Valley Bank’s failure is the start of a more general bank crisis. The rise of market interest rates caused by the Fed and European Central Bank’s tightening has impaired other banks as well. Now that a banking crisis has occurred, panics by depositors are more likely.

The banking crisis that hit Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) two weeks ago has spread. We recall with a shudder two recent financial contagions: the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, which led to a deep Asian recession, and the 2008 Great Recession, which led to a global downturn.

The new banking crisis hits a world economy already disrupted by pandemic, war, sanctions, geopolitical tensions and climate shocks.

At the root of the current banking crisis is the tightening of monetary conditions by the Federal Reserve (the Fed) and the European Central Bank (ECB) after years of expansionary monetary policy. In recent years, both the Fed and ECB held interest rates near zero and flooded the economy with liquidity, especially in response to the pandemic.

Easy money resulted in inflation in 2022, and both central banks are now tightening monetary policy and raising interest rates to staunch inflation.

Banks like SVB take in short-term deposits and use the deposits to make long-term investments.

The banks pay interest on the deposits and aim for higher returns on the long-term investments. When the central banks raise short-term interest rates, rates paid on deposits may exceed the earnings on long-term investments. In that case, the banks’ earnings and capital fall. Banks may need to raise more capital to stay safe and in operation. In extreme cases, some banks may fail.

Even a solvent bank may fail if depositors panic and suddenly try to withdraw their deposits, an event known as a bank run. Each depositor dashes to withdraw deposits ahead of the other depositors. Since the bank’s assets are tied up in long-term investments, the bank lacks the liquidity to provide ready cash to the panicked depositors. SVP succumbed to such a bank run and was quickly taken over by the US government.

Bank runs are a standard risk but can be avoided in three ways. First, banks should keep enough capital to absorb losses. Second, in the event of a bank run, central banks should provide banks with emergency liquidity, thereby ending the panic. Third, government deposit insurance should calm depositors.

All three mechanisms may have failed in the case of SVB. First, SVB apparently allowed its balance sheet to become seriously impaired and regulators did not react in time. Second, for unclear reasons, US regulators closed SVB rather than provide emergency central bank liquidity. Third, US deposit insurance guaranteed deposits only up to $250,000, and so did not stop a run by large depositors. After the run, US regulators announced they would guarantee all deposits.

The immediate question is whether SVB’s failure is the start of a more general bank crisis. The rise of market interest rates caused by Fed and ECB tightening has impaired other banks as well. Now that a banking crisis has occurred, panics by depositors are more likely.

Future bank runs can be avoided if the world’s central banks provide ample liquidity to banks facing runs. The Swiss Central Bank provided a loan to Credit Suisse for exactly this reason. The Federal Reserve has provided $152-billion in new lending to US banks in recent days.

Emergency lending, however, partly offsets the central banks’ efforts to control inflation. Central banks are in a quandary. By pushing up interest rates, they make bank runs more likely. If they keep interest rates too low, however, inflationary pressures are likely to persist.

The central banks will try to have it both ways: higher interest rates plus emergency liquidity, if needed. This is the right approach, but comes with costs. The US and European economies were already experiencing stagflation: high inflation and slowing growth. The banking crisis will worsen the stagflation and possibly tip the US and Europe into recession.

Some of the stagflation was the consequence of Covid-19, which induced the central banks to pump in massive liquidity in 2020, causing inflation in 2022. Some of the stagflation is the result of shocks caused by long-term climate change. Climate shocks could become worse this year if a new El Niño develops in the Pacific, as scientists say is increasingly likely.

Yet stagflation has also been intensified by economic disruptions caused by the Ukraine War, US and EU sanctions against Russia, and rising tensions between the US and China. These geopolitical factors have disrupted the world economy by hitting supply chains, pushing up costs and prices while hindering output.

We should regard diplomacy as a key macroeconomic tool. If diplomacy is used to end the Ukraine war, phase out the costly sanctions on Russia, and reduce tensions between the US and China, not only will the world be much safer, but stagflation will also be eased. Peace and cooperation are the best remedies to rising economic risks.

Geopolitics Today

The new multilateralism should be based on globally agreed goals, notably the Paris Climate Agreement, the Biodiversity Agreement, and the Sustainable Development Goals.

There is universal assent that we are in a period of geopolitical tension and flux. In a rough chronology, 1815-1914 was the era of British hegemony, the not-so-peaceful Pax Britannica. What followed between 1914 and 1945 was a disastrous period of two world wars and the Great Depression. The end of World War II marked the rise of the United States as the new hegemon as well as the start of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. This period lasted from 1947 to 1989. The period from 1989 to around 2008 has been described (rightly or wrongly) as the unipolar world, with the United States widely regarded as the sole superpower. In the past decade or so we have entered a new geopolitical era, but of what kind?

There are at least five major theories about the current geopolitics. The first three are variants of the Hegemonic Stability Theory; the fourth is the important school of international realism. The fifth is my preferred theory of multilateralism, based on the pre-eminent importance of global cooperation to solve pressing global problems.

The Hegemonic Stability Theory, favored by American elites in politics, government, and academia, holds that the United States remains the world’s hegemon, the sole superpower, albeit a hegemon that is challenged by a rising competitor, China, and by a lesser but nuclear-armed competitor, Russia.

The Hegemonic Competition Theory, sometimes nicknamed the Thucydides Trap theory, holds that China’s rise has ushered in a period of confrontation between the United States and China, alongside the ongoing confrontation of the United States and Russia. The U.S.-China competition is analogized to that of Sparta and Athens in the Peloponnesian Wars, with China playing the role of Athens, the rising power in the fourth century BCE Hellenic world, challenging Sparta, the incumbent power.

The Hegemonic Decline theory focuses on the fact the United States is no longer willing or able to play the role of global stabilizer (if it ever did). According to this theory, our current period will be akin to the period of British decline after World War I and before the rise of American hegemony. The Hegemonic Decline theory holds that the waning of a hegemon leads to global instability.

The Realist theory holds that geopolitics is defined by great power politics, with China, the United States, the EU, Russia, and increasingly India, playing the role of the great powers, and sharing the world stage with regional powers (such as Brazil, Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, among others).

The Multilateralist theory, to which I subscribe, holds that only global cooperation and multilateralism, organized around UN institutions, can save us from ourselves, whether from war, dangerous technologies, or human-induced climate change. Multilateralism is often dismissed as excessively idealistic because it calls for cooperation among nations, yet I will argue that it is in fact more realistic than the Realist theory.

Of course, there are several other important approaches to geopolitics, including Marxist theories focusing on the interests and power of globally mobile financial capital, Immanuel Wallerstein’s core-periphery theory, and Samuel Huntington’s clash-of-civilizations theory. These are all well-known and have been widely debated. For the sake of brevity, I will focus on the three hegemonic theories, realism, and multilateralism.


Economic Drivers of long-term Geopolitical Change

America was far and away the world’s leading power at the end of World War II. According to the estimates of historian Angus Maddison (2010), the United States produced 27.3 percent of global output (measured at international prices) as of 1950, though constituting only 6 percent of the world population (and today only 4.1 percent). The Soviet Union was the next largest economy, at roughly one-third of the United States, while China was third, at roughly one-sixth. The American advantage was not only in total GDP but in science, technology, higher education, depth of capital markets, sophistication of business organization, and quality and quantity of physical infrastructure. American multinational companies circled the globe to create global supply chains.

The U.S. predominance has gradually declined since 1950 mainly because other parts of the world have gradually caught up with the United States in advanced technologies, skills, and physical infrastructure. As theory predicts, globalization promoted the spread of scientific and technological know-how, higher education, and modern infrastructure. East Asia was the greatest beneficiary of globalization. East Asia’s take-off started with Japan’s rapid postwar rebuilding during 1945-1960, followed by its decade of income doubling in the 1960s. Japan in turn provided a roadmap for the four Asian Tigers (Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore), which began their rapid growth in the 1960s, and then for China starting in the late 1970s with Deng Xiaoping’s reforms and opening of the country to the world. According to Maddison’s estimates, 16 major East Asian economies produced 15.9 percent of world output in 1950, 21.7 percent in 1980, and 27.8 percent in 1990. In the 1990s, India too began an era of economic opening and rapid growth.

When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, the United States did not face any major competitor for global leadership. While the Western European economy was broadly comparable in size to the American economy, Western Europe remained dependent on the United States for military security and was in any event a disjoint group of nations with foreign policies generally subordinate to the United States. East Asia had grown rapidly but was even less of a geopolitical force than Europe. According to IMF measurements, China’s GDP measured in constant international dollars was 17.5 percent of American GDP despite a population that was 4.6 times the size. Its per capita income was therefore a mere 3.8 percent of the U.S. according to the IMF estimates. China’s technologies and military capacity were decades behind those of the United States, and its nuclear arsenal was small. It is perhaps understandable that policymakers in Washington assumed that the United States would be the world’s sole superpower for decades to come.

What they failed to anticipate, of course, was the ability of China to grow rapidly for decades to come. Between 1991 and 2021, China’s GDP (measured in constant international dollars) grew 14.1 times, while the American GDP grew 2.1 times. By 2021, according to IMF estimates, China’s GDP in constant 2017 international prices, was 18 percent larger than U.S. GDP. China’s GDP per capita rose from 3.8 percent of the U.S. in 1991 to 27.8 percent in 2021 (IMF estimates in constant international dollars).

China’s rapid gains in output and output per person were underpinned by rapid Chinese advances in technological knowhow, capacity to innovate, quality education at all levels, and the upgrading and modernization of infrastructure. Naïve and sometimes racist American punditry has dismissed China’s success as nothing more than China stealing American know-how, as if the United States is the only society that can harness modern science and engineering, and as if it too doesn’t rely on scientific and technological advances made elsewhere. In fact, China has been catching up by mastering advanced technological knowledge and taking measures to become a major innovator in its own right.

Nor should we neglect the rising economic power of both India and Africa, the latter including the 54 countries of the African Union. India’s GDP grew 6.3 times between 1991 and 2021, rising from 14.6 percent of America’s GDP to 44.3 percent (all measured in international dollars). Africa’s GDP grew significantly during the same period, eventually reaching 13.5 percent of U.S. GDP in 2022. Most importantly in this context, Africa is also integrating politically and economically, with important steps in policy and physical infrastructure to create an interconnected single market in Africa.

In the past 30 years, three basic economic changes have transformed geopolitics. The first is that the U.S. share of global output declined from 21.0 percent in 1991 to 15.7 percent in 2021, while China’s rose from 4.3 percent in 1991 to 18.6 percent in 2021. The second is that China has overtaken the United States in total GDP and has become the leading trade partner for much of the world. The third is that the BRICS, constituting Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, have also overtaken the G7 countries in total output. In 2021, the BRICS had a combined GDP of $42.1 trillion (measured in constant 2017 international prices), compared with $41.0 trillion in the G7. In terms of combined population, the BRICS, with a 2021 population of 3.2 billion, is 4.2 times the combined population of the G7 countries, at 770 million. In short, the world economy is no longer American-dominated or Western-led. China is of comparable overall economic size to the United States, and the large middle-income countries are a counterweight to the G7 nations. It is notable that four G20 Presidencies in a row will be held by middle-income developing countries: Indonesia (2022), India (2023), Brazil (2024), and South Africa (2025).


Contrasting Visions of Geopolitics

As China has matched or overtaken the United States in economic size and has become the leading trade partner with many countries around the world, and as the BRICS have matched the G7 in overall economic size, a debate rages in the United States and globally about America’s changing role and power, and the implications for the future of global governance and international affairs. As mentioned above, there are five schools of thought, which I now review in greater detail.

The Hegemonic Stability theory remains the dominant school of thought in the United States, at least in the leadership circles and East Coast think tanks and academic centers. According to this view, the U.S. and the U.S. alone can maintain geopolitical hegemony and thereby provide stability to the world. When the United States speaks of the “rule-based order,” it is not speaking of the UN system or international law. It is speaking of an American-led order, in which Washington, in consultation with its allies, writes the global rules.

According to this view, China remains far behind the United States in all key categories of power: economic, military, technological, and soft power. Russia is viewed as a declining, nearly defunct, regional power—albeit one with a large nuclear arsenal. In this school of thought, the nuclear threat can be contained through counter-threats and deterrence. American hegemony will ensure that Russia will play no major geopolitical role in the future. This hegemonic vision, known as neoconservatism in the United States, finds its expression in a wide range of policies.

The war in Ukraine forms a central part of Washington’s strategy for continued U.S. hegemony. While American policymakers presumably bemoan the destruction and deaths in Ukraine, they also welcome the opportunity to push NATO’s eastward enlargement and bleed Russia through a war of attrition. The Washington policy elite is in no hurry to end the war.

Nor is it eager to look more deeply at the roots of the war, which was surely provoked in part by the United States in its battle with Russia for political and military influence in Ukraine. This competition turned red-hot after George W. Bush pushed NATO in 2008 to commit to enlarging to Ukraine and Georgia. This was part of a long-term game plan, outlined by Zbigniew Brzezinski in his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard, to end the ability of Russia to project its power towards Western Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean, or the Middle East.

Russia will presumably fight at all costs to prevent NATO enlargement to Ukraine. When Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych—who favored Ukraine’s neutrality instead of NATO enlargement—was overthrown with American financial and logistical support in early 2014, the Russo-Ukrainian war broke out. Russia retook Crimea and pro-Russian separatists claimed part of the Donbas. The war has escalated since 2014, most dramatically with Russia’s invasion on February 24th, 2022. In turn, the G7 and NATO have committed to support Ukraine for as long as necessary, with the goal of weakening Russia in the long term.

In addition to funding and arming Ukraine, the United States has now adopted the strategy of containing China, that is, hindering China’s continued economic and technological progress. The containment policy vis-à-vis China mimics the American strategy vis-à-vis the Soviet Union between 1947 and 1991. The anti-China containment policies include tariff increases on Chinese products; actions to cripple high-tech telecoms Chinese enterprises such as Huawei and ZTE; bans on exports of high-end semiconductors and semiconductor manufacturing equipment to China; decoupling American supply chains from China; creating new trade blocs, such as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, that exclude China; and an “entity list” of Chinese companies that are, in one way or another, barred from U.S. finance, trade, and technology. On the military front, the United States is forming new anti-China alliances such as AUKUS, with the UK and Australia, in this case to create a new nuclear submarine fleet and base in Northern Australia to police the South China Sea. The United States is also aiming to step up its military support for Taiwan, in one neocon phrase: to turn Taiwan into a “porcupine.”

The main competing vision of geopolitics today is the Hegemonic Competition theory, focusing on the coming clash between the United States and China. This theory is really a variant of the Hegemonic Stability theory. It argues that the United States may lose its hegemonic status to China, and that in any event, a bitter competition of the two countries is virtually inevitable.

The main failing of the Hegemonic Competition vision is its belief that China wants to become, the next global hegemon. True, Chinese leaders do not trust the United States nor Europe, especially in view of China’s suffering at the hands of outside imperial powers during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. China aims for a world in which the United States is not the hegemon. Yet there is little persuasive evidence that China wants to replace America as hegemon or could do so even if it so desired.

Consider that China is still a middle-income country, with decades ahead needed to become a high-income country. Consider too that China’s population will likely decline markedly in the decades ahead. In that context, China will also age markedly, with the median age rising from 47 years today to 57 years by 2100 according to UN projections. Finally, consider that China’s statecraft over centuries has never sought a global empire. The Middle Kingdom has always sufficed. China has not fought one foreign war in 40 years, and has just a few small overseas military bases, compared with the hundreds operated by the U.S. military.

Rather than China’s hegemonic aspirations, which I believe do not actually exist, the real problem is the so-called “Security Dilemma,” according to which both China and the United States misconstrue the defensive actions of the other side as being offensive, thereby falling into an escalatory mode. For example, as China builds its military in the South China Sea, in its view to protect its vital sea lanes, Washington interprets this as an aggressive action by China aimed at American allies in the region.

As the United States forms new alliances such as AUKUS and strengthens existing alliances, China regards these as blatant hegemonic attempts to contain China. Even when particular actions are truly defensive in nature—and not all of them are—they are readily misconstrued by the other side. This is indeed a major reason why the Thucydides Trap easily gives rise to war: not really because the two countries want war, but because they stumble into it by misinterpreting the actions of the other side.

The Hegemonic Decline theory is somewhat different. Instead of emphasizing the battle between China and the United States, this third theory emphasizes the implications of American hegemonic decline, which it takes for granted. The Hegemonic Decline theory starts with the idea that the world needs global public goods, such as macroeconomic stabilization policies, arms control, and common efforts against human-induced climate change. To ensure these public goods, according to this theory, a hegemon must bear the burden of providing the global public goods. In the nineteenth century, Britain underwrote Pax Britannica. Since 1950, the United States has supplied the global public goods. Yet with the gradual decline of the United States, there is no longer a hegemon to ensure global stability. Thus, we face a world of chaos, not because of U.S.-China competition, but because no country or region can coordinate global efforts to provide global public goods.

Charles Kindleberger, the MIT economic historian, was the originator and most persuasive proponent of the Hegemonic Decline theory, applying it to the Great Depression in his insightful book The World in Depression: 1929-1939 (1973). He argued that when the Great Depression hit, global cooperation was needed to address inter-country debts, failed banks, budget deficits, and the gold standard. Yet the UK was gravely weakened by World War I and the prolonged economic crisis of the late 1920s, and so was unable to act as a hegemon. The United States, alas, was not yet ready to take over that role, and would do so only after World War II.

All three hegemonic theories presume that hegemons are central to geopolitics and will remain so. The first assumes that the United States remains the hegemon; the second assumes that the United States and China are in competition to be the hegemon; and the third bemoans the absence of a hegemon just when we need one. This third theory, even though declaring the U.S. a has-been, is in some way still flattering it: après l’Etats Unis, le deluge.

The Realist theory denies the central role of hegemony, and perhaps would question whether America was ever truly the global hegemon. According to the realists, peace requires skillful balancing among the major powers. The essence of the realist theory is that no single power can or should presume to the rest; all need to manage their policies prudently to avoid provoking a conflict with the other powers. Leading realists such as Henry Kissinger and John Mearsheimer, for example, call for a negotiated end to the Ukraine War, arguing wisely that Russia is not going to disappear from the map, or from its geopolitical importance, and emphasizing that the war was partly provoked by the American misstep of crossing Russia’s redlines, notably regarding NATO enlargement to Ukraine and Georgia.

The realists argue for peace through strength, arming allies as necessary, and being on guard against aggressive actions by potential adversaries who cross American redlines. Peace, in the realist view, is achieved through the balance of power and the potential deployment of force, not through goodwill or high ideals. Deterrence matters. China is a competitor that must be matched economically, technologically, and militarily, but not necessarily a military foe. War can be avoided. The most famous historical model for the realists is Kissinger’s depiction of the Concert of Europe in the nineteenth century that kept the peace for most of the century.

The biggest challenge facing the realists is that maintaining a balance of power is very difficult when the relative capacities of the major powers is in great flux. The Concert of Europe broke down mainly because two major powers were on the rise economically. Germany surpassed Britain in GDP (on Maddison’s estimates) in 1908. The Russian empire was also growing economically, with a GDP about the size of Germany’s from 1870 onward. Britain feared Germany’s rise, and Germany feared a two-front war against Britain and Russia, which of course is exactly what transpired in 1914. According to many historians, Germany pressed for war in 1914 out of the conviction that delay would mean a more powerful Russia in the future.


Geopolitics as a Problem Solver?

The essential problem with these four prevailing geopolitical theories is they view geopolitics almost entirely as a game of winning and losing among the major powers, rather than as the opportunity to pool resources to face global-scale crises. The Hegemonic Decline theory recognizes the need for global public goods but holds that only a hegemon will provide those global public goods.

The Multilateralist theory starts from the premise that the world urgently needs geopolitical cooperation to solve global-scale challenges such as human-induced climate change and financial instability, and to avoid war among the major powers. The core of the multilateralist vision is the belief that global public goods can be provided cooperatively by the UN member states rather than by a single hegemon. The focus is on the constructive role of international law, international financial institutions, and international treaties, all under the framework of the UN Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights and supported by UN institutions.

This view is often argued to be unrealistic and dismissed as too idealistic. There are many plausible reasons for doubt: the UN is too weak; treaties are unenforceable; countries free ride on global agreements; and the veto power of the five permanent members of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) paralyzes the UN. These points are true, but not decisive in my view. Cooperation can be strengthened if the case for it is better understood. Most importantly, neither the three hegemonic theories nor realism offer solutions to our global crises.

The Hegemonic Stability theory fails because the United States is no longer strong enough and interested enough to bear the burdens of providing hegemonic stability. In the late 1940s, the United States was ready to fund and support global public goods, including the establishment of the UN, the Bretton-Woods Institution, the GATT, the Marshall Plan, and others. Today, the U.S. does not even ratify the vast majority of UN treaties. It breaks GATT rules, shirks decarbonization, underfunds the UN and Bretton Woods institutions, and gives a pittance of its gross national income (0.16 percent) as foreign assistance.

The Hegemonic Competition theory fails because it presages conflict rather than solutions to problems. It is as best an explanation of global turbulence but not a strategy for peace, security, or global problem-solving. It is a predication of crisis. It is crucial to recall that both Sparta and Athens suffered from the Peloponnesian Wars.

The Realist approach is far more accurate, practicable, and useful than the hegemonic theories. Yet the Realist approach also suffers from three major weaknesses. First, while it calls for a balance of power to keep the peace, there is no permanent balance of power. Past balances quickly become current imbalances.

Second, as with the game theory that underpins Realism, both game theory and Realism underestimate the potential for cooperation in practice. In the Realist approach, non-cooperation among nations is assumed to be the only feasible outcome of geopolitics because there is no higher power to enforce cooperation. Yet in experimental game theory and in practical geopolitics, there is a lot more scope for successful cooperation (e.g., in the experimental Prisoner’s Dilemma game) than the theory predicts. This point has been emphasized for decades by Robert Keohane and was also emphasized by the late John Ruggie.

Third, and most importantly, Realism fails because it fails to solve the problem of global public goods, needed to address environmental crises, financial crises, health crises, and others. No single hegemon is going to provide the needed global investments. A global cooperative approach is needed to share the costs and spread the benefits widely.

The roadmap for achieving twenty-first-century multilateralism requires a separate essay. In short, twenty-first-century multilateralism should build on two foundational documents, the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and on the family of UN institutions. Global public goods should be financed by a major expansion of the multilateral development banks (including the World Bank and the regional development banks) and the IMF.

The new multilateralism should be based on globally agreed goals, notably the Paris Climate Agreement, the Biodiversity Agreement, and the Sustainable Development Goals. It should bring the new cutting-edge technologies, including digital connectivity and artificial intelligence, under the ambit of international law and global governance. It should reinforce, implement, and build on the vital agreements on arms control and denuclearization. Finally, it should draw strength from the ancient wisdom of the great religious and philosophical traditions. There is a lot of work ahead to build the new multilateralism, yet the future itself is at stake.


Melting Alaska Wants To Drill More Oil

If you wanted an example of the reason we’re still losing the fight to slow the earth’s heating, the proposed Willow oil project in Alaska should suffice.

This should be the no-brainer of all time. The ConocoPhillips plan for a massive new oil field development flies in the face of all climate science and reason. It would be producing huge quantities of oil for at least the next three decades—long past the point when scientists say we must stop using it (and long past the point when, with a serious effort to electrify transportation, we’d need it).

And it would do so in a place—Alaska—already warming faster than almost any place on the planet. Warming so fast that taxpayers are already having to pony up huge sums of money to relocate coastal villages inland. Emissions from the Willow project’s oil would cause $19.8 billion in climate damages; it would generate $3.4 billion in federal tax revenue, which is…a lot less.

How insane is this project? ConocoPhillips has said it may need to freeze the rapidly thawing ground with massive chillers in order to drill for the oil that will drive that melt even higher. “Where necessary we use cooling devices (thermosyphons) that can chill the ground enough in the winter to help it remain frozen through the summer,” ConocoPhillips Alaska spokeswoman Natalie Lowman explained, a sentence that historians (assuming there are some) will someday parse in an effort to understand exactly how off-track a civilization can go.

It would be an enormous step backward for the U.S. All the way back in 2015, when the Obama-Biden administration rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, the president said “America is now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change, Frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership.” That’s far truer now—back then we hadn’t yet signed the Paris climate accords. Back then we hadn’t had the massive heatwaves in the Pacific Northwest, nor the massive fires in California, nor the massive floods in Pakistan. Back then Sudan hadn’t suffered through five straight dry rainy seasons. Back then large swaths of Alaska’s waterways had not yet turned orange from a warming-driven plankton bloom that threatens local drinking water supplies.

If you want numbers, an analysis from the Center for American Progress finds

the carbon emissions expected from Willow would negate the estimated 129 MMT of carbon emissions avoided by reaching the president’s goals of deploying 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind energy by 2030 and permitting 25 GW of solar, onshore wind, and geothermal energy on public lands by 2025. Put another way, allowing the Willow project to proceed would result in double the carbon pollution that all renewable progress on public lands and waters would save by 2030.

President Biden has done good work for the climate—from the Inflation Reduction Act to the recent decision to protect Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. But physics doesn’t grade on a curve. When Interior Secretary Deb Haaland makes the call on this project, she’ll be deciding whether to put a truly massive slug of carbon dioxide into the air—co2 that will long outlive her, and all the rest of us.

She’ll come under huge pressure: as always, Alaska’s politicians, Democratic and Republican, want more drilling. The power structure is so pervasive that Alaska Public Media, when it ran a story on the fight, put it right next to a big notice thanking ConocoPhillips for its support.

The Willow complex is located on the National Petroleum Reserve, created many decades ago by people with foresight, who knew that the smart decision in the moment was to save the oil so we would be able to see if we needed it later. In 2023, the best and highest use of that oil is clearly to keep it in the ground. If we don’t reserve that oil, if instead we spill it into the air, we will pay a huge price. Alaska will pay more price than most (though those same politicians will do their bipartisan best to make all Americans share the cost of the damages.) We can’t keep doing this; this is clearly the place to stop. Deb Haaland, and Joe Biden, need to stand up to the pressure.

The “National Debt” Is No One’s Fault

On March 27, 2018, a group of economists from the conservative Hoover Institution published an op-ed declaring that A Debt Crisis is on the Horizon. They wrote:

For years, economists have warned of major increases in future public debt burdens. That future is on our doorstep…Unless Congress acts to reduce federal budget deficits, the outstanding public debt will reach $20 trillion a scant five years from now, up from its current level of $15 trillion…When treasury debt holders start to doubt our government’s ability to repay, or to attract future lenders, they will demand higher interest rates to compensate for the risk…Such high interest payments would crowd out financing of needed expenditures to restore our depleted national defense budget, our domestic infrastructure and other critical government activities…

About a week later, five former chairs of the White House Council of Economic Advisors—including Janet Yellen and Jason Furman—countered with an op-ed of their own. They titled it A Debt Crisis is Coming. But Don’t Blame Entitlements. Here’s their opening paragraph. Notice how it affirms rather than counters the core of the conservative argument.

A group of distinguished economists from the Hoover Institution, a public-policy think tank at Stanford University, identifies a serious problem. The federal budget deficit is on track to exceed $1 trillion next year and get worse over time. Eventually, ever-rising debt and deficits will cause interest rates to rise, and the portion of tax revenue needed to service the growing debt will take an increasing toll on the ability of government to provide for its citizens and to respond to recessions and emergencies. None of that is in dispute.

As a reader of The Lens, you know that when the debate is broadened to include voices like mine, all of that is in dispute. But among establishment figures on both sides of the political aisle, there is shared agreement that something must be done to address America’s looming debt problem.

Thus, the debate—such as it is—revolves around who’s policies got us into this (supposed) mess, what we should do about it, and how much time we have to address the so-called problem.

That debate will intensify tomorrow, when President Biden meets with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to discuss raising the debt limit. McCarthy has made it clear that republicans are seeking (unspecified) spending cuts in exchange for their help in lifting the debt ceiling. Meanwhile, the White House says it’s in no mood to negotiate. The president wants a clean vote to raise the debt limit, and he has threatened to “veto everything” if Congress sends him a deal that includes spending cuts that would jeopardize the economic recovery.

It’s anyone’s guess as to how this ends. But one thing is clear: no one in either party seems to want to have an honest conversation with the American people. Already, lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle are talking and tweeting about how our (supposed) debt dilemma is mostly the fault of the other party.

You could argue that it’s endemic to our politics. I know from my time working for the democrats on the US Senate Budget Committee that messaging is everything and that politicians rarely stray from their talking points. There is also comfort in the familiar.


Pointless Finger-Pointing

It’s not that there isn’t a cohort of lawmakers who have been exposed to alternative ways of thinking about these issues. It’s that most of them haven’t figured out how to talk to the American people without starting from the shared premise that our nation is facing a serious debt problem. And once you concede that there’s a debt crisis, you have little choice but to identify the culprit.

Unfortunately, you find the same finger-pointing among economists.

For example, the conservative economists at the Hoover Institution pointed the finger at programs like Social Security and Medicare, singling them out as the main drivers of our (supposed) debt crisis:

As is well-known, our deficit and debt problems stem from sharply rising entitlement spending…To address the debt problem, Congress must reform and restrain the growth of entitlement programs and adopt further pro-growth tax and regulatory policies…If Congress acts now, it can avoid a fiscal collapse…It is time for action.

Not so fast, said the former CEA chairs who served under democratic administrations:

It is dishonest to single out entitlements for blame…[They] are not the primary cause of the recent jump in the deficit…The federal budget was in surplus from 1998 through 2001, but large tax cuts and unfunded wars have been huge contributors to our current deficit problem. The primary reason the deficit in coming years will now be higher than had been expected is the reduction in tax revenue from last year’s tax cuts, not an increase in spending.

In other words, our guy (President Clinton) presided over a balanced budget, and then your guy (President G.W. Bush) came in and piled on a bunch of debt with his tax cuts and “unfunded” wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yes, we’re in trouble, but it’s your fault, not ours.

It’s so counterproductive.

The pandemic gave us a brief reprieve from this pointless finger pointing, as democrats and republicans—working together—used fiscal deficits to shore up the balance sheets of families, businesses, and state & local governments. When reporters raised concerns about how much money the government was preparing to spend, President Trump dismissed any cause for alarm, explaining, “It’s $6.2 trillion and we can handle that easily because…it’s our money. It’s our currency.”

I hate to tell you, but he was right.


In the early phase of the pandemic, almost no one pointed a finger at the mounting fiscal deficit or the rise in the (so-called) national debt. Headlines like this one, proclaiming that we are all MMTers now, became commonplace. It started to feel like we might actually have an honest conversation about the limits to government spending.1

But now we are backsliding.

The debt ceiling fight has brought renewed attention to the anticipated path of future spending relative to income. The annual deficit already exceeds $1 trillion, and it is expected to rise sharply (for a variety of reasons, including the Federal Reserve’s hiking of interest rates) in the coming years.

Instead of opening up an honest dialogue about what this all means (and doesn’t mean) for the lives of everyday people, it’s back to finger-pointing.



We can go down this path for another half-century, trading barbs like, “Republicans only care about deficits when a Democrat is in the White House.” Or we can stop it and finally have an honest conversation.

How refreshing would it be to turn on the TV and find a member of Congress flipping the script? Pressed to share their ideas about how do deal with America’s “ballooning debt problem,” imagine hearing them riff from these talking points:

There is no debt crisis. Not today and not on the horizon.

The national debt poses no risk to our nation’s finances.

The so-called “debt” is just the dollars we spent but didn’t tax back.

It’s part of the broader US money supply.

It will not leave future generations with a lower standard of living or a crushing burden of debt and taxes.

It is nothing like running up your personal credit card.

We do not eventually need to “pay it off.”

That’s not a comprehensive list—feel free to add your own in the comments—and lawmakers would obviously need to be well equipped to defend each statement. It would take hard work, but it can be done!

How do I know? Because the (now former) Chairman of the House Budget Committee, John Yarmuth, has done it.



In Closing

There’s another reason why the finger-pointing is so frustrating. While democrats and republicans blame one another for “blowing up the deficit” with tax cuts, unfunded wars, spending on social programs, etc., the truth is that so much of what happens really just depends on the state of our economy.2

As MMT economist Eric Tymoigne shows in this recent article, deficits shrink in a booming economy (mostly because a progressive tax code substantially boosts tax revenue). Over time, if the deficit gets too small to support the private credit structure, it chokes off the boom. Unless something happens to recharge aggregate demand, the slowdown can evolve into recession. When that happens, the automatic stabilizersswing the other way, moving the deficit higher.

You can see this clearly in the data. When the unemployment rate is rising (blue line), the government budget tends to move more deeply into deficit (red line). Over the last year, the opposite happened. As President Biden likes to remind us, the fiscal deficit shrank from $2.6T to $1.4T last year. That was, in part, due to the ongoing economic recovery.



But what happens if the recovery falters, as most economists anticipate, sometime this year?

I would suggest that Democrats should be particularly cautious with the finger-pointing right now. Setting aside the fact that their rhetoric reinforces dangerous myths about the government’s finances, they should think about whether all of this bragging about shrinking the deficit is going to serve them well if/when the US economy tips into recession ahead of the next election. If that happens, then there’s a good chance the deficit will be increasing as we head into 2024.

So let’s stop the finger-pointing and improve the conversation. Here’s another talking point to get us started.



1- At its core, MMT is about replacing an artificial/imaginary/phony budget constraint with a real resource/inflation constraint.

2- In MMT parlance, it is driven by the net savings desires of the non-government sector.