For progressives, the sky is no longer the limit on spending

When a “normal” federal budget, pre-COVID, was $4.4 trillion, and with borrowing, not taxes, funding nearly half of federal spending, it’s not crazy to ask how much is too much, before we risk huge inflation.

“Modern monetary theory” is a trendy philosophy — AOC is a fan — that holds that the government can spend as much money as it wants. Drinks all around! Even if bondholders don’t feel like lending to us to make up the difference in spending and revenues, the Federal Reserve can create new money through “keystrokes,” argues the first-ever MMT textbook, published in 2019.

The Fed has been doing that. In early 2008, the amount of money available in the U.S. economy was $7.5 trillion. By 2012, it had risen to more than $10 trillion. Much of this was the Fed printing electronic dollars, to encourage people to spend after the economy crashed: the Fed “grew” its own holdings from less than $1 trillion to more than $3 trillion.

(This may sound confusing, but it is no different than if you received a bank statement listing the amount of money in your checking account, didn’t like it, and so took a pen and added some zeroes.)