I applaud Randy’s ambition, and anyone’s willingness to discuss it here.


What happens after that thousand dollar check is spent? Another thousand dollar check? It will take time (and possibly many needless deaths) for the political class, wonks and commentariat (= purveyors and guarantors of conventional wisdom), backed by their corporate sponsors, to come round to the new reality, but already those of us with time and relevant experience should be engaging in this kind of work, both imagining forward and conducting historical research. Many lessons of the Second World War are likely to be relearnt, and institutionalism and much else of heterodoxy are in a stronger position to benefit from this given their fitness for purpose.


The comparison with the shock therapy “administered” to Russia is instructive only insofar as that experiment in the most grotesque social Darwinism contrasts mightily with what has been suggested here, which is a comprehensive reconstruction of the US political economy and associated regulatory regime with a view to avoiding exactly that outcome, which the present conjuncture in many respects already resembles. The tragedy is that it is likely to take a great deal more suffering and death before there is a more generalised recognition of the scale of the necessary work now lying before us.


Collectively, we are all going to learn just how dangerous it is to adhere to models premised on atomised, homogenised, fully functional working age adults free of all social commitments and other “imperfections”. Just as the New Right was in the 1970s with the collapse of the Fordist paradigm, we must also be prepared to provide a logically coherent and persuasive alternative to the prevailing orthodoxy as this inevitably crumbles. Unlike the New Right, however, we have the advantage of starting from a much stronger basis in reality, in conditions that demonstrate very powerfully the futility of invidious distinction borne of material privilege. This kind of argument was much more difficult to make 40 years ago. Our chief disadvantage is that we are not offering “pie in the sky” utopias or excusing predatory behaviour as somehow integral to our nature and even laudable because functional or “rational”. But ruthless criticism of all that exists combined with practical strategies and policies for their implementation will have their effect, over time (much longer than it takes to spend a thousand dollar check), especially as the situation becomes more desperate. A particularly sad aspect of this is just how often it is demonstrated that human solidarity is most effectively forged in adversity, as we are being reminded once more.






From: AFEEMAIL Discussion List <[log in to unmask]> On Behalf Of erik dean
Sent: perjantai 20. maaliskuuta 2020 0.03
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: COVID-19 Pandemic


I think this is a very good place (and time) to have this discussion. 


Many on the left are criticizing Democratic leadership right now for what they see as an unnecessary insistence on means-testing--a staple of the neoliberal wing of the party (which, surely, is almost the whole of it).  To Randy, and setting your general critique of the UBI aside, do you think that an immediate check to everyone who could receive it (i.e. has a bank account, &c.) would be detrimental?  Perhaps it could be inflationary in a declining supply-type crisis?  Or is your position more along the lines of its inadequacies--whom it doesn't help, &c.?  From my view, I could probably do without, as I've still got full pay teaching online, but it wouldn't hurt to have a little extra savings to purchase that first house (once I'm 50).  But likewise, I think the understanding that many people either would not receive the check or would not be adequately helped by it should be made as salient as possible.


I've been impressed by how rapidly mainstream political discourse has taken up what only (and practically literally) yesterday I would've considered far from mainstream.  Trump indicated this morning that he would entertain restrictions on buybacks for companies receiving bailouts.  Who would've guessed?  Likewise for a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures.  Considering the politics of the past 5 years in this country, and the unprecedented nature of this crisis, maybe this is the point where we see surprising things--of the sort that we thought were impossible--actually getting done. 


Even if not, we can be useful as economists by sussing out the best policies and how to get them done.  For instance, what would need to happen to extend unemployment benefits to gig workers?  Perhaps recognizing them as employees of their 'platforms'--something that should've been done nationally already?  To Tim's point about pushing an agenda in a crisis, I think it's worth considering that any response is going to part of some agenda--wittingly or otherwise--, and will ultimately contribute to how things work post-crisis.  For what it's worth, some of Randy's arguments and proposals might not just be feasible in the present moment, but they may make us better prepared to face the next crisis (which I assume starts tomorrow).


My two cents and all.  Ya didn't ask for it, but ya got it anyway.






On Thu, Mar 19, 2020 at 12:23 PM Wray, Randall <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Tim: not at all; I never suggested you need to take it all. I suggested you think it through. I provided a reasonably comprehensive list of things you could choose from.


You want to endorse Trump's proposal. OK fine. I don't think he needs your letter.


You could make it a more progressive proposal by insisting on some kind of clawback for those who don't need the checks. Me, for example. 


The vast majority of the checks you want to send out will go to those who do not need them. You argue it is simpler; well, yes, but your method doesn't make it easier (at all) to reach those who most need the checks. 


You could, for example, push for expanded unemployment compensation for those who lost jobs or hours. Many progressives are arguing that right now. This could be more generous than Trump's plan. 


It could be extended to gig workers.


I admit, that still leaves many, some of whom are very hard to reach. Many of whom need basic shelter, food, and healthcare. A check would help them (if we can find them and they could find some place to cash it, without gouging fees), but they still won't be buying healthcare and probably not shelter unless their payment is ramped up significantly. What is a very nice gift for those who are doing relatively OK is not enough to get someone into an apartment. 


A social approach rather than a market approach might help those suffering the most.


Many of the other things I list (that you claim to be impossible) are right now being discussed, even by mainstream Democrats. 


Other things I list are now unlikely but will be on the table over the coming months.


And some are there--I admit--as dreams.


L. Randall Wray

Senior Scholar, Levy Economics Institute


Professor of Economics, Bard College


Emeritus Professor, University of Missouri-Kansas City

Co-editor Journal of Post Keynesian Economics
ISSN 0160-3477 (Print), 1557-7821 (Online)


Recent Books:

A Great Leap Forward: Heterodox Economic Policy for the 21st Century; Randall Wray; Paperback ISBN: 9780128193808; Academic Press; Published Date: 22nd January 2020;


Macroeconomics; Author(s): William Mitchell, L. Randall Wray, Martin Watts; Red Globe Press, Macmillan International; February 2019;


Why Minsky Matters: An Introduction to the work of a maverick economist, Princeton University Press


Modern Money Theory: a primer on macroeconomics for sovereign monetary systems, Palgrave Macmillan 




Please make note of my new email address as I will be transitioning all email to:


From: AFEEMAIL Discussion List <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Wunder, Tim <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thursday, March 19, 2020 1:14 PM
[log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [AFEEMAIL] COVID-19 Pandemic



Now it is quite visible what is wanted.  In words used by people here towards the other side "Never waste a good crisis."  The people out there who are about to be evicted are not means to and end, they are the end.  Your letter is disappointing at best and potentially morally bankrupt at worse.  You know for a fact that below reforms as a listed are impossible to get through congress in a matter of weeks and are equivalent to a shock therapy approach offered to the USSR that failed utterly.  How is this "evolutionary?"  How is this changing the institutions in our society in a reasonable manner with a minimum of social displacement?


"Do not support president Trump's re-election gambit"


I suspect this is the most important aspect of the entire letter.  This isn't about helping the millions of people who are about to be screwed, this is about pushing the ideological agenda at all costs.  And you are willing to pay that cost in the form of the weakest and poorest families being destroyed.  I am not willing to pay the price with other people's misery.  You are offering the equivalent of the argument that Trump is holding a gun to the peoples head and we should tell him to go ahead and pull the trigger.  Or better yet to just be quiet and let him pull  the trigger.  As if somehow, after he has killed the hostage, we will get our changes.


Here is the thing, after the hostage is dead we still won't get the change.  The only thing we will have is a dead hostage as the gunman chooses another hostage.


There is not a single thing below that I do not support completely and utterly, however I am NOT willing to burn millions of people in order to achieve them.  Further letting the poor fall off this cliff won't get us any closer to what you want below.  If you want the radical systemic changes below then why don't you truly call for what you are aiming for?  Why not make a call for people to go out into the streets.  That is what your letter ultimately would require.  Hell I might even heed that call, but at least its an honest call for a sharp opposition to the system.  


Your letter essentially implies unless we can get it all, we should do little to nothing.  That somehow giving families large chunks of money would only alleviate the pain for a short while so we shouldn't do it.  I am not sure how this is different from the world bank and IMF telling poor countries they need to have a massive "shock" to get the therapy.  Frankly I am not sure how alleviating the pain for millions of families for a short period of time makes anything worse.  How would any of the problems we face be made worse by giving all families 15 to 20k?  How would the lack of healthcare system get worse when households are better financed?  How would lack of sick leave get worse if households have more money?  How would giving this money in anyway stop us from pushing hard for all those other things?  


Short answer it wouldn't, but it would take some pressure off thus making our bargaining position stronger.  In other words you argue we need that hostage to get what we want.  Am I the only one that has a problem with that?


Your augment is premised one point, a move to alleviate household pain will take the pressure off the system and it will take longer to get the reforms you think essential.  Your letter is about using household pain to force systemic changes.  I am not sure I see a moral difference between the letter below and the methods the Oligarchs use.


Then again from the reactions so far I have seen I am clearly in the minority.




Timothy A Wunder

Clinical Associate Professor of Economics

Department of Economics


From: AFEEMAIL Discussion List <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Wray, Randall <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thursday, March 19, 2020 11:02 AM
[log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: COVID-19 Pandemic


Tim asked for my "letter" as an alternative to the free cash proposal; not sure you all want to sign on, but here's a more detailed policy response (draft):


How to deal with the crisis


L. Randall Wray


Naomi Klein: Disaster capitalism creates crises and uses those to implement Shock Doctrine; most of the proposals coming out—writing checks to all, bail-outs for banks, hundreds of billions for corporations—are all examples of taking advantage of the shock of a crisis to further the doctrine of “free markets”. Klein argues that what usually happens in a crisis is that all the progressives get co-opted and abandon progressive policy because they see the crisis as so severe, and causing so much suffering, that they’ll settle for the Doctrine as better than nothing. Slowly but inevitably, we lose all social protection as progressives abandon their principles to deal with the immediacy of the serial crises created by disaster capitalism.

Of course you will see this agenda as “politically infeasible”—and it is infeasible if you accept the premise of the Doctrine that there is no alternative to Neoliberalism’s Disaster Capitalism.

  1. Don’t pay attention to the stock market. It was boosted largely by corporate buy-backs and is vastly overvalued. Reported corporate profits since the GFC have been high, and more than all of them were used to goose stock prices. The stock market should—and will—fall much more.
    1. Yes, people are worried about their retirement portfolio. But saving Wall Street is not the answer
    2. Wall Street must be replaced by decent government-funded pensions.

  1. GDP is likely to fall by about 20%;
    1. much of this will be in the service sector where personal services are required.
    2. Additionally it will hit entertainment and travel very hard. And education.
    3. A rough guess is that the impact is similar to that of the GFC (where home construction and related sectors were hit)—just over 16% of the economy
    4. But people are still spending.
    5. It does not make sense to add $1 trillion to demand through thousand dollar checks sent indiscriminately, largely to those who do not need them, at a time when supply is declining. This is not a usual economic downturn caused by falling demand.

  1. Corporate debt is likely at an all-time record high—far higher than reported. Corporations were likely insolvent even before the Covid crisis. No wonder they are already begging for bail-outs—a couple of weeks into a crisis that has barely even begun and they’ve already run out of cash.

  2. Nationalization of troubled corporations is a better alternative than bail-out.
    1. We should insist on quid pro quo: only those corporations that submit to public management will receive help.
    2. Fed govt will select a manager to organize support and help rescue firm
    3. If a corporation seeks help, all top management must submit letters of recognition; the appointed manager will hold these and use them when necessary in the case of recalcitrant CEOs
    4. No bonuses will be paid to top management during 2020; any bonuses that have already been paid will be clawed back. All top management pay would be reduced to appropriate GS levels for as long as the firm needs help; thereafter, the top pay (including salaries, benefits, and deferred pay)  of any firm that received government help will be limited to 30 times the pay of the median worker in the firm for a period of at least a decade.
    5. Govt should insist that worker representation will be added to every Board; labor contracts will be enforced; laws protecting unions will be enforced

  1. The biggest banks have trillions of bad bets. They want bail-outs. We should take them over instead; then “resolve” them as mandated by law, breaking them up and shutting them down.

  2. Do not support President Trump’s Re-election Gambit of offering checks for all in an attempt to buy the election.
    1. He caused this disaster and is trying to divert attention; he sees the disaster as a way to ensure re-election
    2. BIG or UBI is the Neoliberal free market wet dream of Silicon Valley. They want to reduce the role of people in society to nothing more than consumers.
    3. This is shock doctrine—you lose your job, you lose democracy, all you get is a check.
    4. Instead of playing a role in the workplace and the political sphere, you get to “vote” with dollars for ice cream flavors.
    5. Disaster capitalism will use this crisis to bust the remaining unions

  1. We need to prioritize the health crisis impacts on people:
    1. Mandated paid sick leave and parental leave for the duration of the crisis; Fed govt offers refundable tax credit to fully cover the cost
    2. Ramp up unemployment compensation to cover ALL workers who lose jobs or hours; paid by Fed govt
      1. Extend to Gig workers
      2. Increase compensation to cover lost wages (@ 100%) up to $50,000 annual for duration of economic downturn
    1. Medicare for all, universal, immediate, free coverage for all treatment related to the virus
    2. Free testing for all
    3. Guarantee of adequate food, clothing and shelter for all
      1. Extended food stamps (loosen requirements, increase allotments, reverse Trump cutbacks)
      2. Safe shelter for all who request it
      3. targeted cash payment for all who need it

  1. It is best to target cash payments to those who need them; the argument that this is too difficult is overblown.
    1. Indeed, those who need the least help are the ones who are easiest to find: homeowners, employed workers, those who file tax returns.
      1. People are scared to spend, so those who do not need it won’t spend it anyway
      2. The check is too small to help those who just lost their jobs; more generous unemployment compensation is a better answer
    1. Those who need the most help are hardest to find: poor, unemployed, renters, homeless, and those with income so low that they do not file.

  1. In any event, if we do send checks to all (which I do not support), they can be issued now as a tax refund against 2020 taxes, with a proviso that those with taxable income below $30,000 for fiscal year 2020 keep the full value, but those with taxable income above $30,000 bear an additional tax equal to the value of the refund checks cashed. For those with taxable income over $30,000 the checks function as interest-free loans to be repaid at tax time (April 15 2021).

  2. We need a moratorium on:
    1. Foreclosures for missed mortgage payments
    2. Evictions of renters
    3. Rent and interest rate hikes
    4. Late fees and penalties for missed payments on debts (including but not limited to mortgages, student loans, auto related debt, and credit card debts)
    5. Debt collection
    6. Student loan payments
    7. Tax payments

  1. Payroll tax holiday: we do not need the stimulus, but the demonstration effect is important. The payroll tax is a terrible tax: regressive, taxes employment, taxes work. Workers and employers should demand a permanent holiday from this tax.

  2. Job Guarantee: an antidote to BIG and UBI. JG would be a permanent program; we can begin by creating projects to deal with this crisis. Because of quarantines, etc, it will take time to scale up to a universal program
    1. Unemp compensation now, JG a permanent response

  1. Tone of Macron is correct: we need a massive increase of the social safety net; we are at war—but not just a war against a virus, but against Disaster Capitalism;
    1. We need to use military hospitals, hotels, taxis, the army, National Guard, Corp of Engineers
    2. Build mobile hospitals and testing centers
    3. Better funding of community health centers
    4. More support for state and local governments
      1. Zero interest loans and grants
      2. Fed govt takes over all costs of Medicaid for duration of crisis
    1. Use emergency power to go after price gouging
    2. Use emergency powers to push increased production of medical devices, medicine, and research and development of treatment and vaccination



L. Randall Wray

Senior Scholar, Levy Economics Institute


Professor of Economics, Bard College


Emeritus Professor, University of Missouri-Kansas City

Co-editor Journal of Post Keynesian Economics
ISSN 0160-3477 (Print), 1557-7821 (Online)


Recent Books:

A Great Leap Forward: Heterodox Economic Policy for the 21st Century; Randall Wray; Paperback ISBN: 9780128193808; Academic Press; Published Date: 22nd January 2020;


Macroeconomics; Author(s): William Mitchell, L. Randall Wray, Martin Watts; Red Globe Press, Macmillan International; February 2019;


Why Minsky Matters: An Introduction to the work of a maverick economist, Princeton University Press


Modern Money Theory: a primer on macroeconomics for sovereign monetary systems, Palgrave Macmillan 




Please make note of my new email address as I will be transitioning all email to:


From: AFEEMAIL Discussion List <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Dell Champlin <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Wednesday, March 18, 2020 12:38 PM
[log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [AFEEMAIL] COVID-19 Pandemic


Thanks, Geoff, for posting this. 


The contrast with our “leader” is heartbreaking for those of us in the US.




Sent from Mail for Windows 10


From: Geoff Hodgson
Sent: Wednesday, March 18, 2020 10:21 AM
[log in to unmask]
Subject: COVID-19 Pandemic


Dear All


Thanks for the interesting discussion of what should be done to deal with the COVID

-19 pandemic. I paste below the text of President Macron’s speech of 16 March.


Compare and contrast with US and UK “leaders”.


Best wishes

Geoff Hodgson


President Emmanuele Macron      16 March 2020

“We are at war. This is a war of sanitation. We are struggling against an enemy we can’t see. We are at war. We need everyone to fight this enemy. Nobody can break this new rule.

We are at war. Everyone, every leader of all parts of French society, we call upon you to fight together. We must care for everyone. We cannot let anyone slip through the net.

Special medical services will be available for the elderly. Things will be available in your pharmacies on Wednesday.

Keep our children safe. We owe them a duty of care and safety. I assure everyone that money does not matter. We will open hotels, we will use taxis as ambulances, we will use the army and their ambulances. We will use military hospitals. We are at war.

We must take this decision to protect everyone. If you are French and overseas, come home now.

The consequences of this war will require everyone to make sacrifices.
We will support everyone economically. No company, whatever it is, will be put at the risk of bankruptcy. No individual will suffer .

We will defer all payments for taxes, rents, so nobody is left without resources.

We will massively widen social security payments.

We will work with our economic advisers to ensure security for all.

We cannot say how long this will go on. We are guided by experts. We continue to work to finding treatment.

I say to each of you I will tell you the truth at every stage of this war. If we work together as citizens, my dear people, we will accept and bear these constraints. We will all do this.

These are things which we know. A lot of things we thought to be impossible are happening. Remember this, on the day after we have finally won this war, we will never be the same. We will be stronger. We will be united. We can win this war together.”





Geoffrey M Hodgson

Professor in Management at Loughborough University London

Editor in Chief, Journal of Institutional Economics

Secretary of the World Interdisciplinary Network for Institutional Research (WINIR)

Secretary of Millennium Economics Ltd

[log in to unmask]






Erik Dean, Ph. D.
Instructor of Economics,
Portland Community College
Research Scholar, Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity
Portland, OR 97203