Joseph Bernt

Joseph Bernt

Governor Kate Brown’s latest statewide freeze has forced the Cannon Beach Library to suspend Saturday afternoon browsing for at least two weeks. The library continues to offer door-side services, Mondays and Wednesdays, 12 to 4 p.m.

Use the online library catalog to select items wanted, and then call the library (503- 436-1391), email (info@ cannonbeachlibrary.org) or stop by to place an order and receive an appointment time. Arrive at that time and find your order outside the door in a bag displaying your name.

Other library events and meetings continue virtually via Zoom.

Linda Gebhart will lead members of Cannon Beach Reads via Zoom in a discussion of Susan Orlean’s “The Library Book,” Wednesday, December 16, at 7 p.m.

Orlean, who began her writing career at Willamette Week in Portland, dives into the 1986 Los Angeles Public Library fire, the largest library fire in U.S. history, a blaze that incinerated or damaged a million books.

Noted for her in-depth research, in “The Library Book” Orlean moves from an arson story that implicates Harry Peak, an aspiring young actor in this library arson case, to the history of books and libraries and the librarians who care for them and the importance of libraries and books to Orlean’s own life.

“The Library Book” becomes a love story about the role libraries play in their communities as people have isolated themselves in an electronic culture.

Members of Cannon Beach Reads will receive information about joining this Zoom discussion. Anyone else interested in joining this discussion should contact Joseph Bernt via email at berntj@ohio.edu. He will respond with Zoom access information.

Second reminder: The Northwest Author Speakers Series committee invites submissions to the library’s third annual Writers Read Celebration. Authors may submit as many as three writing entries on the theme of the pandemic. Each entry (essay, fiction, poem, etc.) may not exceed 600 words.

Submissions may be sent via email to info@cannonbeachlibrary.org or by USPS to P.O. Box 486, Cannon Beach, OR 97110. Include a cover letter with writer’s name, email address and telephone number; but do not include name or contact information on any entries. Deadline for submission is January 11, 2021. Writers will be contacted the following week.

A panel of judges will anonymously select writings authors will read on Saturday, February 20, at 7 p.m. Writers selected to read will need access to Zoom for this virtual celebration.

The last “At the Library” column listed a plethora of new books added to the library, including “The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People’s Economy” by Stephanie Kelton, a professor of economics at Stony Brook University and formerly the chief economist on the U.S. Senate Budget Committee.

Kelton, executive director of the Modern Monetary Theory Project, earned her Ph.D. in Economics from the New School for Social Research.

Occasionally I encounter a book that resonates page after page, argument after argument, with my own views or suspicions about the topic being discussed—in this case, Kelton challenges the importance both Democrats and Republicans mistakenly assign to balancing the budget of the United States of America.

Over the years, the hypocrisy displayed by national politicians who, concerned about balancing the budget, call for cuts in such entitlement programs as Social Security and Medicare but then “bust the budget” by demanding greater funding for military hardware than requested by the executive branch or somehow find an extra trillion dollars for a tax cut for corporations that already pay minimal or no taxes and often receive refunds as working Americans pay taxes at a 20-percent rate.

Why, moreover, are the establishment budget hawks so concerned about paying off the national debt when, since Dick Nixon took the United States off the gold standard in 1971, any amount of dollars can be printed?

Once the dollar was no longer pegged to gold, the U.S., as a monetary sovereign country, can print all the dollars necessary to balance its budget and address problems affecting the welfare of Americans.

Until I read Kelton’s “The Deficit Myth” last week, for a half century the argument about balancing the budget never made sense. What’s the problem? Just create more dollars. Had I missed something that drove budget hawks into a justifiable froth?

The 2008 Great Recession created more reason to question the budget hawks. The Federal Reserve and the Department of the Treasury transferred trillions into propping up the economy and bailing out banks too-big-to-fail. Did the economy overheat and bring on inflation? No, just the opposite.

The banks and Wall Street quickly bounced back. The Fed distributed trillions at zero percent. Rather than a massive bailout sparking inflation, though, economists worried about deflation as the steady recovery from the Great Recession took a full decade to claw back lost jobs and restore the housing market.

Clearly, the money hawks were overly concerned about the national debt. Stephanie Kelton argues that politicians who compare the federal budget to a family budget misrepresent how the U.S economy functions. They intentionally forget that a few keystrokes can erase the national debt whenever convenient.

Rather than worrying about a national budget deficit, policy makers should concentrate on different, far more important deficits, according to Kelton and other Modern Monetary Theorists (MMT).

These include the Good Jobs Deficit, the Retirement Savings Deficit, the Health- Care Deficit, the Education Deficit, the Infrastructure Deficit and the Climate Deficit—all deficits our economy has not seen fit to address. Nor have Washington politicians.

As an example, to address the Good Jobs Deficit MMT recommends a federal job guarantee program to serve as an automatic and powerful stabilizer for the economy.

Maintaining incomes and employing people throughout the business cycle, causes shorter and less severe recessions. As the economy improves, the private sector begins hiring workers from the guaranteed job program, attractive workers who have stayed employed while maintaining and expanding their job skills.

What MMT recommends is a decentralized Public Service Employment program funded by the federal government for jobs designed by the communities that will benefit from the work performed. The Good Jobs Deficit would be addressed through “millions of good-paying jobs that care for people, communities, and our planet.”

According to Kelton and her MMT friends, not only would such an entitlement program stabilize the business cycle but it would strengthen union membership and American workers’ bargaining position with a $15-an-hour base that would bolster wages in the private sector.

Provocative, clearly argued, persuasive and well worth checking out when you next peruse the library’s new arrivals, “The Deficit Myth” ain’t your grandparents’ economics textbook.

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