From Liberation Theology to Public Money Creation with Delman Coates
Entzutekoa (elkarrizketaren hasieran)
Money on the Left
From Liberation Theology to Public Money Creation with Delman Coates
Reverend Dr. Delman Coates joins Money on the Left to discuss why the politics of public money creation are essential for social and spiritual liberation. Dr. Coates holds a Master’s in Divinity from Harvard and a Ph.D. in New Testament & Early Christianity from Columbia University. He currently serves as Senior Pastor at Mount Ennon Baptist church in Clinton, Maryland, and is founder of OUR MONEY, an organization fighting to restore democratic control over public money. In this episode, we speak with Dr. Coates about how he teaches Modern Monetary Theory to the over 10,000 members of his congregation; about his call for a new “theology of economics”; and his efforts to unite the traditions of the black church and the Civil Rights movement with the fiscal & policy frameworks of MMT. For more on Dr. Coates’s efforts, check out his essay, “The Unfinished Work of the Civil Rights Movement,” published recently in Sojourners magazine. Also, see ourmoneyus.org to learn about his organization’s work and how to get involved.
Elkarrizketa osoa jarriko dugu segituan, dibulgazio mailako aparteko lan sakon eta eder hau ingeles errazean dagoelako…
The following was transcribed by Richard Farrell and has been lightly edited for clarity.
(i) Hasiera: teologia eta Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
William Saas: Delman Coates, welcome to Money on the Left.
Delman Coates: Thank you so much for having me. I’m delighted to be a part of this conversation.
William Saas: We’re delighted to have you. To start off, could you tell us a little bit about your spiritual, educational, and professional background?
Delman Coates: Well, I’m originally from Richmond, Virginia and I’m a product of a small black Baptist church in the inner city of Richmond, Virginia. I grew up in the church, going to church probably four to five times a week. My journey towards pastoral ministry in many ways was shaped by an image I saw every time I went to church. My church was surrounded by two housing projects, the city jail, and the juvenile detention center. Every time I went to church, three-four-five times a week, and I mean that quite literally, I would see images of teenage boys locked up behind a barbed wire fence outside on their recreational time, and black men behind fences on their recreational time as well. I wrestled my entire life with the relationship between my faith community, our church, and the social and economic realities outside of our church. When I was a teenager, at one point, I became convinced that the theology, mission, and ministry of the church had to relate to the broader social, economic, and political realities outside of the church–that the gospel that I heard preached every week, that the messages I saw in scripture, had something to say about the pain, poverty, and pathos that I saw on a daily basis as I went to church.
When I became around 17, I really felt a calling to the pastoral ministry to be a leader and work towards relating the ministry of the church to everything that was happening around me. In many ways, that shaped and informed my call to ministry. My understanding of religion and theology is decidedly shaped by this imperative that we have to be relevant to the broader social and economic realities that are happening in our world today. When I went to college, in my freshman year at Morehouse College, I was introduced to what we called then the Social Gospel, which is a formal theological tradition of American Protestantism oriented towards relating the faith of the church to a range of social ills that are happening. The most famous communicator of the Social Gospel out of Morehouse is certainly the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, whose birthday we celebrate every year. That really shaped me in a profound way. And so, my formal theological education began at Morehouse College–this all male, predominantly African American institution in Atlanta, Georgia which shaped my formal training toward ministry.
I left there and went to Harvard Divinity School, where I was really intent on being a university professor at that time and started preparing for a PhD in biblical studies. If you know anything about that kind of academic work, the philological training and background is pretty extensive. And so, when I went to Harvard, I spent a great deal of time during my master’s program doing the linguistic and philological training to prepare me for the PhD. Ultimately, I did the PhD upon completing my master’s at Columbia University–did the PhD in New Testament and Early Christianity. Over the course of my graduate education, I really felt that the academy was not gonna be my terrain of struggle. I really became convinced that I wanted to use the best of my gifts, training and background, and passion to the institution that produced me, and that’s the black church. I wanted to bring the best of academia to serve her–that is the black church.
Now, I want to say something for a minute about what I mean by the black church. What I mean by the black church is that subset of African American Christian spirituality that has historically been on the side of the fight for freedom, justice, and equality. I say that because not all churches of blacks are committed to the black church tradition of freedom fighting. It’s the black church that helped to end slavery, to end Jim Crow segregation, and was a critical part of a range of other freedom movements in America. And so, I come out of that tradition. I’m committed to trying to further that tradition and have done so as a part of my pastoral ministry in Clinton, Maryland at Mt. Ennon Baptist Church, where I’ve been serving for the past 16 years. We’ve grown from about 1,500 to almost 10,000 in the last 16 years, in large part because we’ve brought together the best of African and African American sacred spirituality, and the best of the Social Gospel tradition of the African American church. And so, ours has been a ministry of public engagement. I’ve been a leading voice on a range of progressive causes–whether it has been fighting for universal health care, LGBTQIA+ rights, addressing mass incarceration, marijuana legalization, and a range of other issues. And I’m really delighted to continue that work as a part of this economic justice campaign that we started in May of 2019. That’s a bit about my journey.
Maxximilian Seijo: Before we get specifically into the tenets of the economic justice campaign, could you for a moment speak more about your commitment to liberation theology in the long Civil Rights movement, perhaps even with reference to your interesting doctoral project titled “Resistance Reading: Reconsidering the Functions of Early Christian Allegory” that you mentioned as a part of your work at the Harvard Divinity School?
Delman Coates: So my understanding of the witness of Jesus, as articulated in the tradition of the scriptures, is that his ministry and movement was largely a movement of social, political, economic, and spiritual liberation. That, for me, is framed by passages of scripture found, for example, Luke chapter four, verses 18 through 21, where Jesus talks about being anointed to preach the good news to the poor, to set the captives free, and to preach the acceptable year of the Lord’s favor. And so, for me, liberation is foundational to how I read the scriptures. It is the overriding hermeneutic that informs how I read the text of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. And while that can include certain notions of personal piety, for me, it is difficult to separate personal piety from social and economic salvation as well. I believe that salvation understood holistically in the scriptures, both in the Hebrew Bible and in the Christian Testament, are fundamentally about communal salvation, about the redemption of our society, and not just the liberation of souls. This is very important because there’s been this long tradition in the West, particularly the tradition that supported the transatlantic slave trade and colonialism in Africa, that has this ontology that separates peoples’ individual spirits from the society in which they lived. It enabled European missionaries and white Christians in America to have no problem proselytizing and baptizing Africans on the one hand, and enslaving them, on the other hand.
There is this very interesting image, if you go to West Africa to see the slave castles there in Ghana, where when you go down to the slave dungeons, and let’s say the Elmina Castle and Elmina Coast, you experience the horrors and the places where African bodies were put in chains and then shipped off to the so called “New World.” And right upstairs from these slave dungeons, there are these churches. It’s this interesting contradiction between the incarceration and enslavement of bodies and the liberation of souls. I believe in a much more integrated, holistic spirituality–one that sees a connection between our spirits, our bodies, and the society in which we live. And so, for me, it’s very foundational and fundamental to how I think about religion, and not just my own faith tradition, but all faith traditions, and even those who don’t have a professed faith tradition. What I affirm, as a Baptist, is people have freedom of and from religion. And so, I don’t believe that Christians have a monopoly on God or on heaven, for lack of a better term. I see the movement of the spirit expressed in a range of faith traditions. I just happen to be located in a particular place, but in that place, liberation is foundational.
(ii) Diru Teoria Modernoa (DTM) eta Stephanie Kelton
Scott Ferguson: Maybe we can turn now to your recent activism and thinking about Modern Monetary Theory. I’m curious, how did you find your way to this thinking and growing community? And what has your learning process been like? And then, in addition, what’s it like to minister to a congregation and beyond with Modern Monetary Theory in mind?
Delman Coates: Well, there are probably various phases of this work. If I think about my formative years as a child and as an undergraduate in college, you’re always wrestling with why there is so much economic poverty in the world. I mentioned that my church was surrounded by two housing projects, the city jail, and the juvenile detention center. There are a range of responses, interpretations, or analyses for why there is the kind of social and economic pain and poverty that we experience in black communities in America. I have socialized around a range of those ideologies that can span from these very conservative ideologies that tend to imply that people just lack certain morals or a kind of work ethic, and if they would just have better morals and work hard, then they could enjoy the good life, to perspectives on the other end of the spectrum that may talk about the need to overturn capitalism, and have a kind of standard Marxist critique of base and superstructure, and the reason that there’s all this poverty and inequality in the world is because of capitalism.
About 11 years ago as a pastor, I began to notice that there was an uptick in the number of people coming to my church needing emergency assistance because they were being evicted from their homes. Our congregation provides emergency assistance up to a certain amount if we can help people avoid eviction or foreclosure. And I saw a huge uptick in that number around 2007 and 2008, which we know as around the time of the global financial crisis. In attempting to respond to this crisis in our community–I think Prince George’s County leads the state of Maryland in foreclosures and Maryland was in the top two or three in the country in foreclosures–I really found myself around 2008 trying to get into the weeds and trying to understand the global financial crisis. I wanted to understand what was causing so many people to be put out of their homes. At that time, I was learning about mortgage securitization and collateralized debt obligations and all these kinds of things. I became really burdened and disturbed over time that the very financial institutions that caused the global financial crisis we’re getting bailed out, but the members of my church were getting put out. Over time, I began to notice that the very financial institutions that caused the crisis were two and three times larger after the crisis than they were before. This really seemed to be an injustice to me.
During that time, I recalled someone directed me to a book–I believe it was The Creature from Jekyll Island1–and I started learning about the history of the Fed and about money creation. That really kind of started my journey towards understanding money creation. Over time, I really became convinced that the root cause of many of our social and economic crises had a lot to do with how money is created in America. Dr. King has this quote from Victor Hugo in the aftermath of the riots, and he says something to the effect of, “If a soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. But the guilty one is not the one who commits the sins, but the one who causes the darkness.” And King, at other times, talks about the differences between derivative injustices and causative injustices. I became very much interested in trying to understand the causative structures that created poverty, inequality, and wealth concentration. And I started this journey, just by way of introduction, to a Positive Money approach to monetary reform. Over time, I began to feel, after I got introduced to Modern Monetary Theory, that MMT provided a very credible, legitimate framework for really thinking about what is desperately needed in America. And that is the need to re-legitimize the power of money creation for purposes in the public interest. That if we really want to reclaim our democracy, we do need to have campaign finance reform and do need to reverse Citizens United.
A part of that movement, in my mind, also needs to entail reclaiming the power of money creation. Because if it is the case that most of what we think of and use as money in our society is created by private interests and private banks when they make loans, this creates a fundamentally unstable foundation for our economy. To change that, we need to shift our reliance from money created by private banks through private lending to money created by the public through public spending. And if we do that, we can have a sustainable economy. After getting introduced to MMT from someone who is now our policy director for the Our Money campaign, Spencer Veale, I was very much interested early on in trying to reduce what I perceived to be the dissonance between kind of Positive Money perspective and MMT perspective. I really believe that Modern Monetary Theory provides the key to unlocking the untapped potential of our economy so that we can have an economy that works for us rather than against us.
Scott Ferguson: So what’s it like to speak to your particular community about MMT? MMT, at least in its most recent formulation, is largely an economics discourse that comes out of the Academy. And we on this show, being in the academy, but outside of the economics discipline, feel the need to develop, grow, and complicate that language for our questions and our communities, whether it’s with other scholars or with students in the classroom. I just imagine that ministering in the context of the church, it would present its own kinds of challenges and opportunities to expand the MMT project.
Delman Coates: Well, quite to the contrary, I have found it to be a joy and to be incredibly not difficult at all. I have really spent my entire professional career trying to figure out how to crystallize very technical academic concepts and theological concepts, mainly from my training as a Bible scholar and as a historian of religion, so that a 5th grader or a high school student could get it. So it’s a part of my training. I don’t go into the pulpit as a preacher preaching a text from Heidegger, Rudolph Bultmann, or James H. Cone. I have to crystallize these concepts using conceptual tools and metaphors that people can find accessible and that they can get. And so, when it comes to MMT, I really spent two or three years before we launched Our Money campaign trying to think through the best conceptual frameworks and metaphors to help people think about how money should be created, the public role of money, how to think about what happens systemically when money is created by private banks repayable with interest versus money created by the public purse, the public treasury, or the government without that obligation.
I have found the work of professor Stephanie Kelton, who was actually on the advisory council for Our Money campaign–if I haven’t said it already, our campaign’s website is ourmoneyus.org. But I think Professor Kelton really has some awesome tools and frameworks to help make MMT accessible to a more mainstream audience. We do need the technical work, and I know that there have been folks who have been working on the higher level discourse on MMT for 25 to 30 years–we all know the names. But if we’re gonna build public momentum or a grassroots movement to complement the grass tops academic work that’s been taking place over the last quarter century, we’re going to have to figure out how to develop tools and frameworks and conceptual metaphors that people can get. And I’m presently going around the country doing trainings and workshops for laypeople, civil rights organizations, and labor groups–wherever I’m invited–and I go in with a very basic lesson to help people understand that, at the end of the day, it is preferable to have money created by us and for us rather than having money created by private interests.
Oftentimes, I will start off using a deserted island illustration. I think I got this deserted island illustration from Ben Dyson, where in a lecture years ago, he asked the audience to imagine they’re on a deserted island, and on that deserted island, a discussion arose about how money should be created for those on the island, and he sort of postulated three options. I think the first was like, money would be created from the public purse, or the public treasury, and everyone will be given an equal amount of money. The second option was that money would be created from the public purse, or the public treasury, and they would pay people for work performed in the public interest. The third option is that there’s one enterprising person on the island who says, “Hey, I’ll create money for those of us on the island. You guys just pay me a small fee. Let’s call it interest for the privilege of creating the money.” And I asked people in the group to take some time to discuss which of these three options would be the best option. Invariably, the responses are always the same. There will be some discussion about the merits of options one and two. Some will say, “Can there be some kind of hybrid between options one and two.” But no one ever says we should allow this private individual to create our money and to charge us interest for the benefit of creating money. And that kind of sets the framework for people seeing that the irony is that, even though this is the option that’s least preferable, this is actually the kind of system that we’ve allowed to happen. And if we want to change that, we’ve got to reclaim the power of money creation through public spending.
And so, for me, it has not been a challenge or an issue. I think people find it incredibly enlightening because money is the one thing that we take for granted. We think we know where it comes from. We think we know how it’s created, but we really don’t, and educating people about how money is created, how it functions in our society, and how we can have a more sustainable economy by reclaiming and re-legitimizing the role of money creation–people get it. We just had a rally in D.C. on Labor Day, where about 1,000 people–I didn’t take a long time to plan this rally–but about 1000 people came out. Several of the guys from the Modern Money Network came down to speak. We had several organizers and activists to speak on a range of topics. And I find that when you teach people, they get it. They understand how this issue is affecting their lives. And I really believe that money is being intentionally obscured from the public–to keep money mystified. But when you explain it in concepts that they can get, that they find accessible, and give them tools to demonstrate certain concepts, they get it. I haven’t found it to be a problem at all.
(iv) Lan bermea eta Dr. King
William Saas: Do you find some joy in the translation and enlightenment of it being well received? In terms of the basics in the framework, do you also engage in the sort of history of the Job Guarantee advocacy that’s so central MMT and its articulation with the Civil Rights movement and the black church historically?
Delman Coates: Absolutely. I let people understand that the unfinished work of the Civil Rights movement is economic justice, and that foundational to that work, is a fight for a dignified job with benefits for every American who wants one. Many people fail to realize that the 1963 March on Washington was a march for jobs. It was not just a march for racial reconciliation so black kids and white kids could just hold hands and sing “kumbaya.” No, it was a march for jobs. Coretta Scott King, I believe in the seventies, led 1.2 million people in a quest for a Federal Job Guarantee. And a federal job guarantee was one of the core aspects of the nation’s first black female economist, Sadie Alexander. Economist Nina Banks has written a lot about Sadie Alexander. Nina Banks is on our advisory council as well. Back in as early as the forties, Sadie Alexander is talking about a Job Guarantee as one the best ways of addressing economic insecurity for African Americans, as a great way to reduce racism, and some of the concerns around economic insecurity that whites were feeling as well.
Gogoratu ondoko hau: Job guarantee, lan bermeko aitzindari bat: Sadie Alexander
And so, absolutely, we help people to understand how a Federal Job Guarantee is so critical and necessary today so that people can get better wages. If you’ve ever gone to your boss to get a raise, there’s less incentive for private sector employers to increase your wages if there’s a whole pool of unemployed people who are willing to take $10 an hour.2 So we educate people about a Federal Job Guarantee, we educate people about how the dual mandate of the Fed was really kind of a compromise of the push for the Federal Job Guarantee, and that we should not seek to balance the economy on the backs of the poor and the unemployed. When you talk to folks about the Federal Job Guarantee, Medicare for All, free public college, a Green New Deal, and federal funding for more local and state priorities, and you use the framework of MMT, it really gets us out of this common trap that occurs whenever public policies in the public interest are debated and discussed today by those running for office or those who are currently in power.
The one question is: “How we’re gonna pay for it?” Like how are we gonna pay for Medicare for All? You heard the presidential candidates on the Democratic side debating whether or not Medicare for All is feasible. One candidate boasts that their plan costs just $785 billion and how Bernie’s plan is irresponsible because it’s going to cost $30 trillion. Well, MMT helps us to understand that we don’t have to tax Amazon and Jeff Bezos in order to get public priorities. There’s a role for taxes, but public priorities should not be held hostage to taxing the rich in order to create the money through deficit spending in order to pay for it. I even say that these public priorities don’t cost us money, they create money. And when you understand that a policy like Medicare for All isn’t gonna cost us $30 trillion–and I really wish candidates pushing some of these policies would really embrace the MMT framework, because these policies are not gonna cost us money–it will responsibly create $30 trillion over 10 years, and I say responsibly because deficit spending for the federal government is something to be desired if it’s responsibly done. And it’s responsibly done as long as we don’t exceed the threshold of inflation. Whenever the federal government under-utilizes the power of money creation through deficit spending, it causes the public to rely on money created through private bank lending and borrowing.
And so, I have found MMT to be a very powerful framework to help us to reimagine what the future can be like–a future where every American who wants a dignified job with benefits can have one, where we can literally eliminate involuntary unemployment, where we can have single payer health care and not universal health insurance. We can have true health care, single payer health care, for every American. We can eliminate student loan debt. We can have free public colleges in America and do so responsibly by utilizing the power of the public purse. But when you help people to understand that the federal government does not need revenue first in order to spend and you show them a range of examples on how that’s done in their everyday life–like God forbid, I’m in an area where there are major military institutions and if we were to go to war tomorrow, no one is going to say where is the money gonna come from first in order to fund this war. Do we have to tax Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, or Warren Buffet to get the money for the war? No, we create the money through deficit spending. Deficit spending, properly understood, is net public money creation. And if we can responsibly deficit spend for unnecessary wars, if we can deficit spend to give tax cuts for the rich, we can certainly deficit spend for a range of public priorities that the people care about–to protect our environment, to eliminate mass incarceration in our society, and to have a sustainable economy.
(v) Ekonomiaren teologia eta DTM
Maxximilian Seijo: The sort of tenor of public money creation that you describe really calls to mind what you have called the need to reclaim a theology of economics. We’re wondering if you could ponder this question and call along the terms of what you seem to be suggesting, which is a tenet of economic creation and public creation that brings to the fore questions of infinity and scarcity, and how this theology of economics perhaps contrasts with those of the past and as well as other present theologies?
Delman Coates: Well, when I talk about reclaiming a theology of economics, I’m principally referring to this tradition of critiquing the private manipulation of money creation that we find in Judaism historically, Christianity historically, and Islam presently. And in these Abrahamic traditions, there’s been this historic critique of the manipulation of money. The term that’s often used is usury, or riba in Arabic and the Islamic tradition. Usury, historically, was more than just charging excessive interest on loans. The definition of usury as the charging of excessive interest was a definition of interest that the Venetian bankers were able to use to convince the church to give up its historical position that usury is sin. And with the help of some philosophers at the time, Jeremy Bentham and others, they were able to kind of convince the church to define usury as excessive interest, which then opened up the door to the church being comfortable with a little interest or some interest. But historically, usury was much broader than that. Usury was about the manipulation, the monopolisation of the money creation–money power. For example, Thomas Aquinas said in the 13th century that usury is the earning of interest on that which did not exist before.
This is very interesting, because when you think about how banks create money when they make loans–and it’s very important for us to frame this–because what is often called lending by banks is really not lending. When people think of lending, they tend to think of being lended something that already exists. But when banks “lend,” they create deposits out of nothing. So deposits don’t create the loan, the loan actually creates the deposits. So banks, when they lend, are creating the loan out of nothing. The Federal Reserve accommodates the commercial bank lending after the fact. So banks are literally creating loans and money out of nothing, and earning interest on money that they’ve created out of nothing. Honestly, there could be nothing more in line with Aquinas’ definition of usurers as the earning of interest on that which did not exist before. I would contend that is more in line with the historic definition of usury. And it is that stance or posture of critique of private money creation that I think people of faith need to kind of reclaim and have a critique around. Otherwise, what ends up happening is we get an endorsement of the current economic order that ultimately results in distortions of economics that we see today in the popular church community. Your audience may have heard about things like “prosperity gospel,” where preachers go around legitimizing a theology of wealth and getting wealth at any cost without any sort of critique around an understanding of the mechanisms of money creation.
So when I talk about reclaiming the theology of economics, for me, it’s about reclaiming this historic critique of private money creation that I see in these Abrahamic religions–and a critique that I think is also present in my own tradition, where the day before Jesus’ crucifixion there is this common story of Jesus overturning the tables of the moneychangers. And what many people fail to realize is that this story is more than just a critique of commerce gone awry. It’s a critique of the way in which the money lenders who had set up shop in the temple had monopolized the creation of the temple shekel and left people in more debt and bondage then they had when they left Passover, then when they came. I would contend that the overturning of the tables of the moneychangers was a critique of this private money creation mechanism. And it’s that perspective that I think we want to reclaim. We need to reclaim that tradition and critique.
(vi) Diru publikoa eta DTM
Scott Ferguson: One of the things that I’ve heard you say is that, despite our many differences, what unites us is our need for and reliance upon money. And this seems to really transfigure the way in the modern West we typically think of money’s so called universality. And the major way that we think of money’s universality is as a universal equivalent, which makes possible bilateral exchanges between private actors. But this is a totally different kind of articulation of universal connection, and one that probably seems strange or even perverse from a mainstream point of view that sees money as primarily a private wealth gaining activity. I’m wondering if you could just kind of reflect on that and flesh that out?
Delmon Coates: Sure. I’m starting from the perspective that money is a public utility. For me, money is fundamentally public in nature. It is a result of our failure to utilize that public power so that these private interests then step in and fill a space that the public has deferred to the private sector. But if we reclaim that public power, that understanding of the public nature of money seems to compliment, for political purposes, the various identity politics in the absence of a unifying meta-narrative that links us. It can cause those of us on the left, and while this program is called Money on the Left, money is public for everyone, whether they identify as left or not, I have found on the left that we are kind of a fragmented fellowship.
There is the LGBTQIA+ community. There are Marxists. There are MMT folks. There are Black Lives Matter folks. There are Latinx communities fighting. And for me, I’ve always struggled with: what is the narrative? What is that meta-narrative that’s gonna link us to really empower a movement going forward? For me, it’s money–not in a private sense, but understanding money in a public sense that links all of these disparate identities. And I have found that if we don’t have something that links us on the left, we find ourselves potentially vulnerable to the unified forces on the far right. And so, for me, the economic framing presented by MMT provides that kind of narrative that can help link the LGBTQIA+ movement, Black Lives Matter, those who are fighting to end mass incarceration, those who are fighting for health care reform, those who are fighting for a Green New Deal to address our environmental crisis. Money–as I understand it–public money can serve as that narrative that links us.
William Saas: This seems like a really good time to transition to talking about Our Money. Can you tell us a little bit about what that organization is and when it is after?
Delman Coates: Well, in May of 2019, I launched the Our Money campaign to really mainstream core concepts of Modern Monetary Theory. It’s been a long evolution–it is the final result of my wrestlings with a range of monetary reform movements. And I’ve really come to settle in on Modern Monetary Theory to provide the foundational framework for how we’re going to move forward. And really, whether there are people who self identify as MMTers or not, the core concepts of MMT, I believe, are applicable and unassailable, regardless of whether people identify as MMT or not. I mean, we see many mainstream economists even on the right saying, “Hey, deficits don’t matter the way we thought they did.” Or, the Phillips Curve isn’t as critical and foundational as we thought it was for addressing unemployment.
So we launched Our Money last year to help mainstream a set of core MMT concepts and principles. It is a campaign that in many ways is born out of my own personal ministry, and in large part funded by my congregation. We are now going around the country doing workshops and sessions with faith leaders, civil rights leaders, laypeople, and candidates for public office, educating them about the core tenets of Modern Monetary Theory and helping them understand how it relates to a range of public priorities that are currently on the table. There are a range of robust spending proposals on the table right now, and MMT, I believe, provides the answer to the one question that everyone is asking: “How are we gonna pay for it?” We pay for it by re-legitimizing the power of money creation, because the federal government does not need tax revenue in order to spend.
(vii) Defizitak eta DTM
William Saas: Could you say a little bit more about what you are up to in those workshops and maybe how people can start to get involved with the Our Money project?
Delman Coates: Well, what we are foundationally doing in the workshops is giving people a brief understanding of how it is preferable to have money created through the public purse, the public treasury, or by the government versus having money created by private interests, or the banks. It is about helping them then understand that, most of what we think of and use as money, is created by the least preferable mechanism, and that is money created through private bank lending. And that if we wanna have a sustainable economy, one that reduces private household debt, one that provides a dignified job with benefits for every American who wants one, one that even is beneficial to businesses because it is in the best interest of businesses for everyday Americans to have more money than they have credit or debt. If people are way down in credit card debt and student loan debt, then they are not able to buy shoes, food, and clothes. And so, we believe that this is also good for businesses. It’s good for growth. It’s good for people improving the quality of life.
And then we gotta walk people through how they can organize in their local communities to work for a specific set of goals right now. Right now, we’re trying to push for members of congress to oppose the Paygo budget rule, which is a budget rule primarily on the house side, largely pushed by the Democratic leadership, that says that for every dollar of public spending, there needs to be a dollar of revenue. Paygo, we believe, is really harmful to America because whenever the public sector is in surplus, the private sector is in deficit. See, we want public sector deficits because when the government is deficit spending, that means the private sector, homeowners, and private citizens have their surpluses. Paygo under-utilizes the power of money creation and prevents us from funding the things that the public needs. We want people to have their elected officials to oppose Paygo as a budget rule. We want them to ask their elected officials to push for congressional hearings on Modern Monetary Theory, on the Humphrey Hawkins Act, on regulating financial fraud in the securities industry, and to support policies such as a Federal Job Guarantee, a Green New Deal–which includes a Federal Job Guarantee–Medicare for All, free public college, abolition of student loan debt, and more federal spending for local and state priorities.
This fiscal policy framing is so powerful that we can think of a range of other state and local priorities as being funded through federal government spending. Right now, in my community and in communities all across the country, state legislatures are meeting this month, as they begin their new legislative session, thinking about which schools to build, which schools we’re gonna have to let close. We have schools in our community that are literally going to be closing down soon because the county doesn’t have the resources–the tax revenue–the state doesn’t have the money. And so, just imagine if the federal government thought about its responsibility to fund local and state priorities in a broader way. If our federal government said, we don’t want schools that are 40 or 50 years old, which we literally have in some of our communities in America, where when it gets cold there is no heat, and when it gets hot there is no air conditioning, where there is still lead in the water. We want schools that should be rebuilt over 25 years old. If we can build new ballparks in cities across America, we certainly ought to be able to rebuild America’s crumbling schools, and we’ll pay for it not through local and state revenue, but we’ll pay for it through federal deficit spending or public spending. The possibilities are literally endless. And this is fundamentally what we’re doing. We’re going around the country with these sessions right now.
Maxximilian Seijo: Well, Pastor Delman Coates, thank you so much for coming on Money on the left.
Delman Coates: Thank you so much for having me on. I’m really delighted to be a part of this conversation and look forward to working with Money on the Left going forward.
* Thanks to the Money on the Left production team: Alex Williams (audio engineering), Richard Farrell (transcription) & Meghan Saas (graphic art).
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