Sunday, February 04, 2018

Guest Post: Stephanie Kelton Introduces A New Candidate For Congress


Stephanie Kelton has been eager to introduce an acquaintance of hers, Justin Santopietro, who is running for the Democratic nomination for Congress in the rural, Appalachian district of VA-09. She had introduced me to Justin a couple of months ago and, among other things, I asked him how he would handle being smeared by Republicans as a puppet of Nancy Pelosi. At the time he told me that "The right wingers' attempts to smear all Democratic challengers as 'Pelosi Puppets' is even more laughable in rural districts like mine, where the national party has no presence whatsoever. All the professional politicos and consultants in Washington think of politics now as purely a numbers game, so they rarely if ever commit resources to areas that have 'gone red' in recent years. Even though a Democrat has represented my district for 35 out of the last 50 years, the numbers crunchers at the top of the party consider areas like mine unwinnable. In the end, this may turn out to be more of a blessing than a curse, since the national party has proven time and again that they don't know how to persuade or motivate voters in rural areas. Thankfully, the local Democratic organizations are in many ways the exact opposite; while they often lack in human and financial resources, they actually live and pray among rural people, and know that they can in fact be persuaded to back populist-style Democrats-- if only the national party would let them. And now that congressional Republicans have giddily exposed themselves as right-wing servants of the uber-wealthy, populist bread and butter economic campaigns can be extremely effective in working class districts like the fightin' 9th."

An Experienced MMTer Is Running For Congress In 2018
-by Stephanie Kelton

Justin and I first started corresponding over email when he was still an undergraduate student at the George Washington University. Like many other people, Justin came across my New Economic Perspectives blog in the period following the financial crisis. He was looking for solid, empirical explanations for the economic chaos of the previous years.

When the Democrats lost control of the Senate in 2014, Sen. Bernie Sanders became the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and he asked me to join him as the committee’s ranking chief economist. I accepted Bernie’s offer and moved to Washington a few weeks later. I met Justin in person for the first time over tapas in Jose Andres’ restaurant in DC’s Chinatown neighborhood. At the time he was working in the Legislative and Regulatory Affairs team at the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). While his professional work didn’t touch on what we now call “MMT,” he was actively writing his personal blog called All Wonks of Life, which took an MMT point of view towards fiscal and banking issues.

After I left Washington in 2016, I began planning the first International Conference on Modern Money Theory, which was held at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Justin participated on one of the conference panels, giving a paper on “Reforming the Federal Budget Process.” It was at this conference that Justin informed me that he was going to run for Congress in his home district of VA-09.

I’m supporting Justin’s bid for Congress because he is one of the few congressional candidates anywhere in the country who understands modern money and has applied it to his platform. As a mutual friend of ours, Geoff Coventry, wrote in a recent post here, the widespread misunderstanding of financial realities prevents a tremendous amount of good policy ideas from becoming reality. The “how do we pay for it” question is a killer for progressives, and unfortunately, not enough candidates know how to answer it. Thankfully, Justin is one candidate who can answer it from an MMT perspective, and he has used this confidence to put together a bold and detailed platform.

While VA-09 has become less Democratic over the past few years and went Bigly for Trump, it has been represented in Congress by a Democrat for 35 of the last 50 years-- and it can be again. I believe that an old-school populist Democrat like Justin is exactly the candidate that can win back many rural, blue collar voters. He’s told me that people around his rural district have been especially receptive to his Medicare-for-all plan, especially since Virginia did accept the Medicaid expansion.

The incumbent, Congressman Morgan Griffith, swept out popular, 14 term Democrat Rick Boucher in the 2010 Tea Party wave. Although Griffith cruised to re-election the past 3 times, there is now an unprecedented groundswell of anti-establishment sentiment in the district. This momentum, combined with Griffith’s far-right voting record and poor name recognition, make this a winnable race for the right kind of candidate in November. Justin has told me that he’s heard from dozens of Republican Trump voters who are very disappointed in Griffith and are ready to replace him. I believe that Justin’s economic and policy expertise, together with his experience in and around Washington, make him the prime candidate to do just that.

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At 7:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I seriously doubt that VA-09 voters are smart enough for his MMT shit to sink in. They'll still be of the 'taxes - bad' meme that our goodly schools crap out every year.

The harder he tries to make them understand, the more of them that will reflexively vote for the other guy.

At 11:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ultimately people aren't going to vote based on economic theory. They're going to ask first if they like the guy. If they like the guy, it's a question about what he's going to do for them in concrete terms, and whether or not they are happy with their current rep and the national situation.

VA-09 is a tough district for Democrats -- the last one to hold the seat was a Blue Dog with strong ties to the coal industry who wiped out in 2010. The district has shifted further into the GOP column since them.

It's a long shot, but you never know. Even if a candidate loses it will help the state-wide race, and if a candidate is introducing new ideas, even in defeat it's possible to plant some seeds for the future.

At 6:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

11:51, a good posting.

If they ask what the new guy could possibly do for them, they should consider that any truly progressive impulses he has will surely be suppressed in action by the tyranny of the money at the top of the party. He may SAY progressive things to impress voters, but he'll never be allowed to DO any of them. 2009 is your guide here.

As for planting seeds. Well, that COULD be true... 60 years ago. Today's voter has a memory that spans only from last week and a horizon that reaches out to next week. A seed would have to be nurtured and implemented in that time span. Once it dies, it takes a lot of human misery to resurrect it even as a seed and the money has infinite roundup and patience with which to kill them again and again. (SP became MFA; neither will ever pass; TBTF remedies died with the fake reg bill dodd-frank; etc.)

And there are scant few NEW ideas. There are only old ideas that don't work (these get implemented) and that did work (these never pass any more).

At 11:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see 2009-2010 as a missed opportunity. It serves as a useful benchmark for where the party was, but I don't think it defines the outer limit of what will always be possible. A lot has changed since then with the Sanders campaign and Trump election. The left is having to really rebuild independent organizational structures -- media, think tanks, candidate support structures -- from close to zero. I'm skeptical that we will make a major breakthrough in 2018 or 2020 (by "we" I mean the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party -- I expect the Democratic Party to ride a wave in 2018 and possibility into 2020; there are some good opportunities in the House, but I expect the Senate to remain an obstacle to real reform). I see a 15-20 year horizon as much more realistic. Of course this assumes human life on this planet and the United States still exist by that time, which is an open question. I would look at 1933 as a reference point for how major shifts can occur in U.S. politics. The New Dealers were able to build on a road map that was decades in the making. By the same token, it took movement conservatism about 16 years to really get its first foothold at the top levels of U.S. politics, and another couple decades before it started to dominate U.S. political life.

At 4:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I see 2009-2010 as a missed opportunity."

Missed, 11:07? THROWN AWAY DELIBERATELY says I, and this was obvious 11/5/08 when Barry The Bummer began nominating Republicans to his Cabinet. He sat on his ass all of 2009 waiting for Congress to send him a health care bill he could sign when he never once twisted a single Republican arm to vote on any bill. This is the short list of The Bummer's long list of betrayals of the voters.

I hope he chokes on his $65 million book advance and loses it all.

At 6:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

11:07, a thoughtful reply.

I will disagree thusly: It took the DLC exactly one (!!) cycle to turn a defeated party of FDR into the fascist left party of/by/for money. Given the fuster cluck in '32, it took about that long to get the democrats up to speed in '33 mostly because FDR was a democrat and, well he BECAME FDR! He didn't 'Johnson' congress into passing the NEW DEAL so much as make his case to the people, thus congress. He not only mocked the right and challenged them to 'come at me bro', he spelled out just how his program would help and why. He was inspirational on the radio machine. He walked his talk.

In 2009, the party surfed the cheney-stink wave and got similar numbers as FDR's. But obamanation never became FDR. He remained our black Hoover. The voters heard the black hoover's words but saw no results. never. The party never became FDR's party because nobody and nothing made them. They couldn't. The only thing that can move the money party toward the left is MORE FUCKING MONEY. And there just isn't any.

Shifting crooks back to lawfulness requires imprisoning (firing squads and beheadings also work) a bunch of them. Appealing to the better natures of fundamentally evil people is laughably ineffective, as all of human history keeps proving.

The democraps will never be fixed from within. There's no incentive for the evil crooks that run things to ever allow it to happen. It's like trying to make Capone go straight by asking his capos to just be nicer.

At 11:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Democratic majorities in both houses of congress in 1933-34 were much larger than those in 2009-2010. It's a different context too with the Democrats taking unified control after a nearly 4 year depression in 1933; whereas Obama assumed power only a few months after the 2008 crash, at a point when a lot of people still hadn't come to terms with what needed to be done. I agree that substantive change won't come to the Democratic Party without significant outside pressure and organization. Within the organization I also don't think people are necessarily "evil crooks". Ambitious, self-serving, venal, probably fits the bill in many cases (true of a lot of professions). The incentive structure itself is problematic. That's why it's important to build independent organizational structures where the lines of responsibility more directly relate to constituencies made up of ordinary people. e.g. organized labor used to play a much bigger disciplining role -- and does in socially democratic systems. Beyond individual candidates, it's the support structures that are going to have the biggest impact -- and building and sustaining those are a major project that will take years.


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