A prominent advocate of bigger deficits and unconventional economics will be Sen. Bernie Sanders’ chief economist when he becomes the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee in January.
Stephanie Kelton, a self-described “deficit owl” and a leading proponent of the alternative economics theory known as modern monetary theory, announced that she would be the chief economist for the minority on the Budget Committee Friday.
“We’re very excited to have her on our team,” Sanders aide Warren Gunnels told the Washington Examiner, noting that Kelton has “very strong academic credentials.”
Kelton is currently the chairwoman of the economics department at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. In addition to her academic career, she has a strong presence on social media, especially on Twitter.
Since the financial crisis, Kelton has developed a following as a defender of larger deficits to counteract the recession, as well as one of the leading exponents of modern monetary theory, popularly referred to as MMT.
Deficit owls distinguish themselves from deficit “hawks,” who favor spending cuts and, in some cases, tax increases to reduce deficits.
University of Texas professor James Galbraith, another self-described deficit owl, said in a 2012 interview that “a deficit owl believes that the deficit is a result, not a cause, of economic difficulty, and that it’s not something policy should work on directly. In my opinion, the deficit is a symptom, not a disease in itself.”
Modern monetary theorists, who have pressed their case in journals and blogs in the wake of the recession and ballooning federal deficits, argue that the federal government can never run out of money, as it can print its own, and that deficits are helpful for growth.
Sanders, who represents Vermont, is an independent socialist who caucuses with Democrats.
In his tenure as a senator, he has highlighted inequality as a major political issue, and has sought to implement higher taxes on high-income earners and expand government programs.
Perhaps most famously, Sanders held an eight-hour floor speech against extending the Bush tax cuts for high earners in 2010. He has said that he aims to oppose GOP plans to overhaul Social Security and Medicare as the ranking member of the Budget Committee.