A reader asked me to explain MMT. I am not an economist and will try to avoid any jargon.
The basic tenet of MMT is that government has the power to reduce unemployment by increasing stimulus spending. Government spending in excess of tax revenues (a deficit) is funded by an increase in public debt. Deficits are likely to cause inflation but MMT holds that inflation can be reduced by raising tax revenues.
Problem with Lags
There is normally a lag between an increase in debt and the resulting increase in inflation. If you wait for inflation to rise before raising taxes, underlying inflationary pressures have already built and will be hard to contain.
There is also likely to be a lag between raising taxes and a resulting fall in inflation. This means that authorities will keep raising taxes for longer, causing an eventual contraction in employment.
The second problem is that it is far easier to increase government spending than it is to raise taxes. Voters seldom object to an increase in public spending but are likely to punish any government that increases taxes. This is likely to make the lag between identifying inflation and raising taxes even bigger.
Third, regular increases in government spending followed by tax increases (to subdue inflation) are likely to ratchet up government spending relative to GDP. Rising levels of public spending followed by rising taxes is simply creeping socialism and is likely to slow long-term economic growth.
Finally, sharp increases in public debt no longer deliver bang for buck.
Has inflation been tamed?
The consumer price index (CPI) is nowadays a lot less volatile than producer prices (PPI) which it tracked quite closely in the 1960s and 70s. Some of this can be attributed to better management at the Fed but the primary reason is the offshoring of manufacturing jobs to Asia.
The service sector is largely immune from producer prices and fluctuations in offshore manufacturing costs are partially absorbed through a floating exchange rate.
We have witnessed a decline in global trade over the past two years and this is likely to develop into a long-term trend towards on-shoring key supply chains in both Europe and North America. On-shoring is likely to drive up prices.
Inflation is not dead. On-shoring of supply chains is likely to drive up prices. Rapid expansion of public debt is expected to weaken the Dollar, slow growth and fuel inflation. Long-term costs of bringing inflation under control are likely to outweigh the shorter-term benefits of MMT-level stimulus.
Hat tip to Neils Jensen at Absolute Return Partners and Luke Gromen at FFTT.