Whose Money? Our Money
In conversation with PolicyLink's Demond Drummer, we explain why money is a public good that belongs to the people.
Episode 2: Whose Money? Our Money
References and resources
- Money From Nothing: Or, Why We Should Stop Worrying About Debt and Learn to Love the Federal Reserve by Robert Hockett
- The Wire on HBO
- “We Need More Women in Leadership at the Fed: Personnel Is Policy,” Ms. Magazine
- Public Banks: Bank of North Dakota
- “No One Person Can Transform a System,” The Forge
ORGANIZATIONS TO FOLLOW: PolicyLink, The New School, New Consensus, Institute for Local Self-Reliance
Kendra Bozarth 0:07
You’re listening to Raci$m Is Profitable, a podcast by and for people of color that aims to dismantle the assumptions that fuel the oppression economy. Your hosts are Jeremie Greer and Solana Rice, the co-founders and co-executive directors of Liberation in a Generation Action. Let’s get it.
Solana Rice 0:24
Today on Raci$m Is Profitable, we’re going to talk about the fact that when it comes to money and paying for nice things in this country, scarcity is used as a racist lie. Yes, we should tax billionaires out of existence. But our government can afford nice things anyway, and buy nice things. We mean taking care of people of color and consistently investing in our communities. Two years into the Covid recession, and Congress is still squabbling over how much they’re willing to spend to keep people safe, housed, and fed. We’re not here today to get technical about monetary policy; we want to dig into the role of money and how it’s distributed. At the end of the day, it’s our money — the people’s money — to spend. The only thing we can’t afford is more oppression. Demond Drummer of PolicyLink joins us to call out this lie and name our truths.
Members of Congress 1:20
This chart showing debt is not just about the big number. It’s not just about the $30 trillion of debt. This is about tyranny. History is screaming this warning at us. Countries that bankrupt themselves and destroy their economies simply aren’t around very long. There will be a day of reckoning, a debt crisis, and it won’t be pretty. Deficits do matter.
How long do you think your family would last if every month you spent more and more on the credit card and made the minimum payment?
Lester Freamon 1:54
You follow drugs, you get drug addicts and drug dealers. But you start to follow the money. And you don’t know where the fuck it’s gonna take you.
Solana Rice 2:04
I mean, the things that I’ve been thinking about is the way that we talk about the economy as if and what we can spend as if the government is a household. And before even going into that, I mean, I think it’s so important to like, just talk about our own upbringings with and our relationship with money, right? Like, in my household money was a scarce thing. Money was really important; you guard it like my, my dad taught me how to count by going to the store be like, Okay, this is 30% off. How much is that? How much is it? Really? It was like, We counted all the pennies. We counted out I used to roll my quarters. Yes, we used to like have little quarter things used to roll them up. It was a it was a big deal uh in my household. So yeah, of course I thought like that’s how everything runs, like you can’t run anything without having the money.
Jeremie Greer 3:05
Yo the shame, the shame around spending money, the tyranny, bankruptcy destroy, Day of Reckoning crisis, right? Like, the the mindfuck around like the shaming of spending money as if like money is something that is supposed to be like squirreled away in some dark corner, and never to be spent like, and I know where I, you know, in the home that I grew up in, that stuff resonated, because, Yo, you don’t borrow money you don’t have right like you don’t, you don’t borrow money from someone unless you know exactly how you’re going to pay that person back. Right? And like, this is why this stuff is so resonant. And because people have this relationship with money. They also don’t want to talk about it. They don’t want to want to deal with it. So it’s not crazy that this stuff like resonates with people. And that’s the game, right? Yeah. Yeah, cuz you’re, you’re you talked about your family scarcity, about not having money in the home. And that’s real. This is like made up shit. They’re acting like they’re, they’re acting like the US government is Smokey and Big Worms coming to get his money back.
Solana Rice 4:37
Nobody’s coming to get it. Right.
Jeremie Greer 4:43
Like they’re like, like, like, they’re just like the government is like gonna gotta run a dump from the loan sharks, because the debt collectors coming. You know? So which is the reason why we can’t spend the money on the things that we need. And then that’s where the racism is profitable because the people that aren’t going to get the money are going to be Black and brown folks.
Solana Rice 5:06
Right? Right. Right. What they’re really saying is that we don’t have enough in this country to really take care of everybody. Like we just have to make sacrifices. And we know that when we make sacrifices, that it means that Black and brown people, people of color are getting the short and the deal when in reality, and you know, there are a lot of folks that write books about this and how to study this on a regular in reality, the money is there. Because we are a nation that does not actually depend on other nations for creating our our sovereignty and our money, right? We are a nation that can not only afford things, but we can invest our money into everyone. Everyone can be fed, everyone can have a job. Everyone can go to college, if you want to go to college, right? This is not this is not a reality but but it is so attractive because it maintains a myth it maintains an easy story, an easy story in our head. But the the story of like, what money is in this country isn’t actually that easy. And it’s not even like we just print it. It’s even like, it’s created pics. Yeah, you just created like, it’s just, it’s like points on a scoreboard as some as some points of some folks said we don’t you don’t make the points like they just appear. They’re pixels.
Jeremie Greer 6:50
Yeah, I mean, I think back to like, what it is just in my lifetime, you know? I’ve, since I’ve been alive, this country has fought three wars. Three wars. One of them was like 20 years, the 20-year war. And no one ever asked, How are we gonna pay for that war? How are we gonna? What are we gonna do? But all through my life? If Black folks ask for more health care. Black folks for for clean and safe housing. Yeah. Black folks asked for a bus to come in front of your house to pick them up to go to work. We ain’t got the money. So it seems like it’s only scarcity. There’s only no money available, when Black folks ask for. But when folks are asking for it to go blow up other countries, or to bail out banks, the money materializes, it appears it’s created. And it is given to the people that hoard it, and hold it. And don’t share with the rest of us.
Solana Rice 8:02
But you said it at the beginning. Like Shouldn’t we be really afraid of spending things that we like spending money we don’t have? Like? What about the debt? What about our national debt? Are we just like, is this like climate change? And we’re just like, pushing it off to our kids? Like, are they just gonna owe China, and just like, be part of China? Like, I? Yeah.
Jeremie Greer 8:35
That’s what that’s what we need to ask Demond. Because I don’t I don’t know. I don’t know. Because I’ve been getting that. You have all our lives. And smart people tell me, we should worry about it. Other smart people tell me we shouldn’t. And, you know, I’ve just gotten to the point of like, I’m going to ask the people that I trust, because this is just because it doesn’t make any kind of sense.
Solana Rice 8:58
Yeah, yeah. And I think that the point is that we deserve — that Black and brown people — we deserve these basic rights and needs and life necessities, right. Like, we have done this in the past where we support white folks and building wealth and making sure that they have housing and education. And we could do it for everybody in this nation. It’s really it really is possible, but it’s just by design that we’re not that we’re not making these decisions.
Jeremie Greer 9:32
Yeah. And that’s where that Wire thing comes in. Maybe that’s how we figure out: We’re gonna follow the fucking money.
For this episode of racism is profitable, our friend of Demond Drummer is here. He’s the managing director of the equitable economy at PolicyLink. But we all know him as a thoughtful organizer, a strategic ass problem solver, and some say a funny dude. You can decide what’s up Demond.
Demond Drummer 10:04
How are you? I? What was that? Some say?
Jeremie Greer 10:09
You know, we all got to decide I’m let folks find you funny you’re not. Jury’s still out. Yeah. Tough audience. Thanks, man. But thanks for thanks for joining us. And you know, we’re talking about money today. And I’d love if we could start just talking about just learn a little bit about you. But also like, where did you first kind of start to think about like this question of like, What the, What is money?
Demond Drummer 10:37
Right? Like when you when you bang your head on the wall of a problem for long enough, you got to wonder if you’re looking at the right way, and if there’s a different way to come at this problem. And so, my background, the way I came to all this stuff, I, I guess got turned on to organizing when I moved actually not even when I moved to Chicago, like very early on. I was at Morehouse College, studying economics, thought I was going to learn how to fix the economy because I grew up in a household. That was a military family. So we have free health care. The housing was provided by the military. And if you lived off base, my father got a housing allowance. So you know, it was just a classic, I guess, standard American middle class kind of standard of living, right. Then my parents split up. And there was this huge healthcare disparity, and our own household where my brother and I — I’m a twin — we had free medicine, free health care. And my mother who actually had the job and worked full time, could not afford health care and could not afford her medicine. So I started putting two and two together. And I decided that I needed to study economics at Morehouse College, because I was going to fix this situation where, you know, people can work full time and not afford medicine, and basic health care, to say nothing for all the other things that people can’t afford when working full time in this country. And so I studied economics at Morehouse College. And this is a whole backstory, and I won’t throw Morehouse under the bus. I love Morehouse College. But the Econ department was teaching us the kind of standard neoclassical version of economics
Jeremie Greer 12:19
were like bougie Black economics, like we being real, right?
Demond Drummer 12:23
Maybe I came in with higher expectations, right? But, but but to be clear, they just bougie Black economics, it’s just like what is taught in every economics department, right? Say for few like UMass Amherst, etc. And, you know, the New School, the University of Missouri, Kansas City, you know, there’s a few departments in the country, very few who kind of see the bigger picture and are teaching, I would argue, the most accurate picture of economics, right. And so anyway, I’m learning this, this mode of economic analysis that wasn’t explaining anything that I had grown up with, or even the west side of Atlanta, where Morehouse is like smack dab in the middle of the whole AUC Atlanta University Center, Clark, Atlanta, Morris Brown, Spelman, Morehouse, and, and Morehouse School of Medicine, etc. are smack dab in the middle of the hood, the West End. And I’m in the urban economics class. And what I’m learning in this textbook is not explaining the phenomenon around me, right, cuz I lived off campus at that time. Um, I don’t know how I got out that class. I mean, I learned how to be real duplicitous, you know, you got to know what the right answer is on paper. And there’s like this. Right. Right. Right. But I’m got way too good at that. But, but, um, like, so after studying that and getting into organizing at Morehouse, you know, do a lot of voter registration drives, and really just trying to make sense of the world. By the time I’m a senior, all I have is like a longer list of questions. And I concluded that, okay, everything I’ve learned so far tells me that we have more than enough in our society, for everybody to have what they need to live a good life. And it was a question of how this more than enough was being inequitably allocated throughout our society. And so instead of continuing economics, because I had kind of concluded that economics was bankrupt, as a discipline and could not explain much of anything that I needed to have answered. I studied religion and public life at the University of Chicago, which is ironic, right? Because University of Chicago is where the Milton Friedman neoliberal kind of, kind of, you know, kind of worldview came into existence was popularized, right? And so I was studying religion at University of Chicago, and began to really learn about like how to study systems of belief rigorously with like a clear method, and came to see religion as a way that we tell stories about where we’ve been, how did we get here? Who we are What do we have to hope for? Right? And so in many ways, economics has answers to all those questions. So I began to see economics as a belief system. And, you know, state in organizing this work in Chicago eventually joined the Obama campaign because, you know, we thought that would end, you know, privatize healthcare as we know it, but how many podcasts can we do like eight episodes? But anyway? But anyway, long story short, you know, got came back to Chicago did more organizing in Chicago, and found myself in the nonprofit industrial complex of community development, where funders throw money at you to solve America. Gonna give you $10,000…
Solana Rice 15:44
The project that is America.
Demond Drummer 15:45
…and you’re supposed to solve for America in eight weeks? What a bunch of kids learning computer science, right? So learned a lot had a lot of fun did a lot of good work with great strong leaders in the neighborhood, co founded a resin Association in Inglewood, that’s still going strong, still served on the board there did a number of projects that got some policy change done, built power. But I looked up and it’s still not adding up. And it literally took me literally working in philanthropy at the Chicago Community Trust, running a city-wide tech Initiative, where my job is to basically shake down companies like Microsoft, and these like other tech companies for money, so Chicago can invest in digital inclusion in our city. And all the contradictions of the way we’re doing things were just like just bearing down on me where I was saying things I didn’t believe, adopting program models that I knew wouldn’t work and couldn’t actually sustainably solve the problem. And just saw that we were doing a lot of what one of my mentors says is palliative care for Black and brown people in the hood, which is just making this oppression more palatable. We’re gonna give you some anesthesia, and kind of make the pain a little less, have a little less bite. And so quit that job after six months ago. And while working on my own kind of technology, community technology startup, teaching young people computer science and web development. I was doing a lot of reading in econ, and happened upon what I later learned was the heterodox kind of approach to economics, which was rethinking all the assumptions that are embedded of the kind of neoclassical standard approach to economics that is taught in nearly like probably 99% of all, I guess, college, grad schools, and even high school economics courses. And so yeah, that’s that’s kind of where the, that’s where the kind of reengagement happened. So I know, that’s a long answer. But it was literally nothing was adding up. And by that point, I was like, every bit of 30. And it was like, There’s got to be a better way.
Solana Rice 18:02
What I’m so glad that you walked us through that, because actually, it’s, it explains a lot. No, it doesn’t. I’m really curious about this detour that you took in religion, and especially thinking about belief systems. So like, if we think about money as a belief as part of our belief system, we think, okay, we own it, and we spend it we have a clip, you know, that we were, we were talking about from The Wire, you know, this quote about man, money ain’t got no owners only spenders. Right. And you talk a lot about like, public money as like money as a public good. We’re, like, I think that’s a real push back on our current beliefs, like, say more about how money is a public good, like it’s in my wallet right now. Like, isn’t it mine?
Demond Drummer 19:01
So yeah, you know, the way I got introduced to that concept is crazy. I was on a plane flying to a retreat that was being held and Knoxville, Tennessee, and it was this group called Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats, and they were recruiting people to run for Congress. This is what early 2017. And there was we wanted to discuss this plan to just take over our government, right, reclaim our government and invest in our country and really provide that high quality of life, that high standard of living that I was aspiring to, and everything I was reading on this flight was was amazing. And so we’re in this library and Knoxville, Tennessee and Cory Bush is there right, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez is there. Troy Chakrabarti is there, Zack Exley is there waving his hands vigorously. You know, I’m, and I’m asking like, Okay, how do we pay for all this stuff? Where’s the money gonna come from? Is that literally like it’s not about the money? It’s about? Do we have the resources and the human and natural resources and capacity to get this stuff done? That’s the question. Right? The question isn’t this idea of like it? And I’m getting to the question here, because this is coming at this whole question from a different perspective, is that started with the money started with the money provides, right? So if we can get these things done, if we can have a rapid transition to renewable, sustainable energy, if we can provide universal health care, and excellent highest quality, universal, early primary care in education, right? If we can do this in our society, it’s a question of 1) deciding that we want to do it and 2) using money to resource that work. So what does that mean? Money is public. All money is public; there is no such thing as private money. What do I mean by that? Money is a thing that our government creates to mobilize resources — natural, human and otherwise — to get things done for our society. And what does that mean? It means doing things for the members of society. And in some cases, that’s providing public schools or a postal system. Or I don’t know, a military, right, things like that, right? That the government does directly also, things like doughnuts and haircuts, right? Which the government doesn’t provide, right? That, you know, private citizens and business entities, non-government entities provide those types of services. So money is simply a tool to mobilize resources, and it is created by government. And all money is created by our government, either directly through Treasury spending or indirectly through bank lending. The money comes from our government, private banks create money through lending. It’s not Solana’s a savings account that’s financing Jeremie’s mortgage. That’s not the way it works. I know that’s the way it’s taught, but that’s not the way it works. It’s literally a bank deciding that Solana is credit worthy enough for us to expand the money supply, so she can buy a house for her family. Right? I’m sorry? No, Jeremie is credit worthy. Because Solana already got her house, she got all the savings, right? So Jeremie is credit worthy enough to for us to expand the money supply money supply, so he can buy this home? For his family? Right? So what does that mean? When banks aren’t lending to Black folks and women and people of color, it means that we are not benefiting from the expansion of the money supply, which means our money supply is almost staying stagnant. And we can see that’s why we have actually slipped behind what we’re like, behind where we were in the 90s. Right. And so I know, I’m all over the place here. But again, all money is created by government. It is, rightly understood, a public good. It is something our government creates for our society, we have to see it as such. Otherwise, we’re going to be just confused as we try to solve a range of problems that we have to solve.
Jeremie Greer 23:09
So you’re telling me Jamie Diamond doesn’t create our money? Absolutely not.
Demond Drummer 23:13
Absolutely not. We the People. Yes, we the people, through our government delegate the authority for Jamie Dimon to create money.
Jeremie Greer 23:21
Got it. So like, help, let’s let’s break that down a little bit. Like how it happens, right? Like, so the government creates the money. Somehow it gets to me and Solana to you, even to Jamie Diamond. Somehow it gets out to us. Like how does, how’s that worked? Like
Demond Drummer 23:40
Right so, we’ve all heard of the Federal Reserve you know, back when I was coming up in high school was like Alan Greenspan, I was taught in high school. He’s the most powerful man. Yeah, and Alan Greenspan, right. But the Federal Reserve is America’s a bank. Literally, by all public banking, it is the original public.
Jeremie Greer 24:01
This is Hamilton, right? This is like, you know, the dancing and then you know, this is the creation of the of the public central bank.
Demond Drummer 24:09
They talked about everything, but anyway, well, yeah. Songs are catchy as hell, but it’s like all the history is just terrible. But, uh, but um, so we have a central bank that creates our money, right? So even when our federal government you know, during Covid during the pandemic, we just like invented trillions of dollars out of thin air.
Solana Rice 24:33
Yeah. Do you mean we’re actually like, create like, when you say creating money, we’re like printing it right? We’re like, doo doo doo we’re turning the crank.
Demond Drummer 24:42
Oh, no, it’s like so we hear we hear people saying printing money, right? It’s actually just the proper verb is creating. Right? Because it’s literally it’s not printed. Right? It’s literally created. It’s it’s the Federal Reserve, who’s like literally kind of managing the entire ledger, right?
Jeremie Greer 25:01
They hit, they hit enter on the keyboard, and it creates the money.
Demond Drummer 25:04
Type in some zeros. 000. Done. Right. And so the Federal Reserve, you know, creates money and and the Treasury and again, I listen, I don’t know the technical so this is this is why I love having this conversation. I just recently understood money is public right? Like I still try to get my head around what that means. The next level of analysis is because we have to know this, y’all if we intend to be in government, if we intend to, you know that the thing is, you know, that scene from I know, you’ll like pop culture references, right? But, but, you know, that scene and Batman, The Dark Knight, where the Joker says, I’m like a car, a dog chasing a car: I wouldn’t know what to do with it if I caught it. Remember that? Yeah, he’s just explained that he says running around. Yeah, I think similarly, I think it’s incumbent upon us who do not feel currently that we have any power in government have know that government is not accountable to us, that it’s up to us to really do our research and our homework to understand how our government works, particularly in the way that it creates money and how that whole system operates. Because once in power, we got to know what to do. Right. Right. So I think the next level analysis that I’m looking at is okay, well is where is the computer? Right? Right. So bodies, like, how does that work? And who says what, and, and how does that happen? Right? Um, but but just generally speaking, all money originates at the Federal Reserve, right? Some of the money goes to the Treasury, and that’s public spending. Right. And money goes to the private banking system.
Jeremie Greer 26:46
For like public benefits when you go to the Treasury, you know, it’s like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Defense, Section Eight of this, and then the other goes to banks to lend right?
Demond Drummer 27:00
Yes, that’s right. And generally speaking, yeah, it’s like those two buckets. Right. So everything starts with the Fed. And it either goes into the private banking system, the financial system, or to the US Treasury. That means, I mean, generally speaking, those are the two big buckets that it falls into. And one thing that we talk about at PolicyLink is that, you know, we’re throwing down on the Treasury stuff, we’ve been in that world for a long time, but increasingly, we’re gonna be throwing down on the vast majority of dollar
Jeremie Greer 27:28
What’s the difference? Like what’s, what’s the difference in amount of money goes out in those two ways?
Demond Drummer 27:33
It’s like 9 to 1. 9 to 1.
Jeremie Greer 27:36
9 to 1 to the banks?
Demond Drummer 27:38
Yes, to the banks. The majority of the money in circulation, the majority of money being created, is financial sector. So think about that. This is why equity in lending matters. This is why regulation of private banks matters. This is why creation of public banks with the right rulesets matter. Right?
Solana Rice 27:59
But what are these banks doing with all this money? Like what when they when they get the money, then what they say okay, now you can buy a house and I’m gonna loan you this money, like what do they do with the money?
Demond Drummer 28:11
Well, look what happened during the pandemic. We had record unemployment and astronomical growth in the stock market. Right? So you know, one person who I read Bob Hawke and has this great book Robert Hockett, Money from Nothing. The title is, is I think, will turn almost everybody off, particularly Black folks. This is like we focus like, What’s he talking about? I almost fell out. Yeah, talk about money, and where it comes from? And this is a military guy, right. And all they do the military has managed budgets, right? Believe I believe it or not, they actually have a whole finance court. It’s like, saying, we’re spending too much, you know, we don’t have enough money to keep running these drills, like they have uncovered was boggles my mind. Right? And, but, but he he literally said, you know, Covid really showed how inefficient and how, how poor and how bad of a job these private banks do, particularly these large, hyper-consolidated conglomerate banks, do in getting money out into our society. Right. So they’re basically free money from the government. And then they get, um, they get up they get interest income off of lending it out. Right? Right. Generally speaking, I know that’s not somebody who’s gonna say, Oh, you didn’t explain that. Right. But y’all know what I’m saying. Right? It’s, it’s, you have the authority to lend out to create money by lending, and you can exercise exercise a tax on that loan. So you’re getting profit, off of doing public work.
Solana Rice 29:56
They loan to everybody, right? They loan to individuals, but they also loan to institutions and they also loan to like cities and states and okay.
Demond Drummer 30:04
Jeremie Greer 30:05
They decide who they loan to. Yeah, so this nine to one is like one, the one is being allocated through a democratic process, right? You may or may like it or not, but like people get elected, they run for Congress, the Congress appropriates the money, the administration that we vote for disperses the money. That’s the one dollar.
Demond Drummer 30:34
Jeremie Greer 30:35
Right, the $9 is a bunch of bankers, deciding what cities they loan to what people they loan to what businesses they loan to what like they like, that’s the nine. So that’s the scenario like nine of our you know, the nine to one scenario is like most of the money, a vast majority of money is going out and distributed by people that are not democratically accountable to anybody.
Demond Drummer 31:03
Mm hmm. That’s right.
Solana Rice 31:05
And haven’t really had a really great track record with people of color.
Jeremie Greer 31:10
No, yes. There’s a banking. Yeah. Yeah, there’s a Fair Lending Act and all that that was supposed to address that right. Yeah.
Demond Drummer 31:20
What’s interesting here is, I mean, you’re exactly right about accountability. Right. It’s wild, because not only are they not accountable, they’re increasingly all based in like, what Charlotte, North Carolina, right or New York, right? It were precisely in the same situation that the farmers in North Dakota found themselves in. When they created the Public Bank of North Dakota, Wall Street was not the New York banks were not lending to farmers in North Dakota. So they create their own public bank, man. And guess what that public bank is it’s an amazing history. That public bank is who states are the state, the counties and the cities. I mean, munincipalities borrow from to build schools. That public bank is who North Dakota students borrow their student loan, get their student loans from. That public bank got PPP money out to people, like very efficiently, right, because it was accountable and was designed for the people of North Dakota. That public bank enabled North Dakota that’s actually have increased in the employment rate. Right? During Covid. Right. Um, meanwhile, the rest of us out here with these, like Bank of America, Chase, I’m naming names, you can edit them now, because we’re trying to do is be there.
Jeremie Greer 32:44
We’re gonna talk about those dudes. No, no, no, fuck them.
Demond Drummer 32:47
We’re out here with these big banks, and you just know who they are cool. They have these local branches, but they’re not they don’t give a rat’s behind about, you know, localities. And so they’re here just chasing the highest dollar and highest return. And unfortunately, we have this terrible situation where even America’s largest banks don’t even want to invest here anymore. Right. And we actually have the entire our entire economy, the direction of our entire economy is being dictated by the decisions of what is and is not short term profitable to JP Morgan, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and it just makes Goldman Sachs, right, it just absolutely makes no sense. Now, again, and again, you know, part of getting our heads around this is first seeing the bigger picture. And I think you’re right, money is public money is a public good. There is no such thing as private money, pull it out and look at it. Right. Like, it has the United States iconography all over it. Right? It is literally trying to replicate it. Make a copy of it. You. Right, right. You don’t pay your taxes, and they come in for the money. But that’s not money. Right. Right. Don’t pay your student loans. Let’s try it we’ll come for, you know.
Solana Rice 34:13
But Demond, why do we like why do we stand for these banks being in the middle of our government and our money? Like what? Why? Why?
Jeremie Greer 34:29
Right. And especially specially we as Black and brown people who, basically so here’s all public money is money, it’s coming out. To her point, you’re like, we’re standing for this when when they get it, they won’t lend any money to us. They when they do lend money to us, they say well, you can only do it and live in these neighborhoods and run these types of businesses. Or you can only you know, get a loan to go to these types of schools like they did. There’s all these strings attached to it when it comes comes to us. Like, why are we? Why should we stand for this? Because it seems like, you know, if it’s all money’s public, it seems like government-funded discrimination when they allow it to play out that way.
Demond Drummer 35:15
Absolutely. Government-enabled extraction and getting cut out of the of our economy, like literally. It’s, um, and I think this is issue number one. You know, they always I think we would have, I think been successful if folks campaign and Black districts talking about this, and not just and not only criminal justice reform, right, like, I think it’s criminal justice reform. Yes. And this conversation right here, which is, this is how we can get cut into our economy. This is actually how we create a new economy — an equitable economy. Right. And it’s, it’s fundamentally a question of power. And I get sad about LibGen, because we’re having this conversation, and I love it.
Jeremie Greer 36:09
Well, I want I want to do that question about power. Because, you know, we’re in this situation, and we just, you know, we just heard a clip of like, these reams of like, politician after politician talking about the deficit and the debt and like, we can’t afford these things, creating this, you know, using our kind of narrow understanding of how money works, when like, you earn it, and you spend it, and then using that as a way to create this kind of scarcity narrative that tells us that we can’t have the things that we need. Like, yes, we, it’d be nice to have universal health care, but we just can’t afford it like. And what I would love to hear you talk a bit about is like, how those narratives — they’re false — but how they drive this situation, how they drive this kind of cycle of oppression, where in the end, it’s like, if we can’t afford everything, then it becomes a justification for why Black people don’t have health care; why Black people don’t have housing; why, you know, why we can’t let immigrant people into our country. Like it becomes this narrative that drives all the racist shit that we see in our country. I’d love to hear you talk a bit about that.
Demond Drummer 37:23
Right, no. So I know, a lot of mentioned economics as a belief system. Right. And, and how that resonated with her. And it resonates with me, because it’s this idea that we have to what was it PAYGO when the Democrats took over the House in 2018?
Jeremie Greer 37:45
Yeah, that’s just, you know, people new pod. No, that’s like a congressional rule that was created that basically you can’t create new spending unless you pay for it through some either budget cut or increase in tax. That’s PAYGO. Go ahead.
Demond Drummer 38:00
And so in the fact that this was like, a topline issue for Democrats, as they took over the House of Representatives in 2018. Mind you, mind you, it just to let you know how far we’ve come, to your question, Jeremie, this whole way of understanding the national debt, deficit spending, PAYGO, etc, is all part of a, of a rhetorical and ideological project to constrain our government’s ability to get things done for us. This is about falsely asserting and, and and literally enforcing an oppressive narrative of scarcity. Picking and choosing literally a rule, not a law, a rule to rob Peter to pay Paul like who, like. I came up saying that’s a terrible way to conduct your affairs is to rob Peter to pay Paul, that’s not a way you do it. You should find a better way but that’s the rule that we’ve set, you know, um, but this is all a far right wing mindset and worldview that was sold to the American public by the likes of Ronald Reagan. And later Bill Clinton. And later George W. Bush. And later Barack Obama. Right. Definitely Donald Trump. And a little bit of Joe Biden you know, and and a whole bunch of Democrats. So before let’s just park that real quick. Let’s land that. We are operating, Democrats in the US, unsurprisingly, are operating off of a far right wing worldview when it comes to economics. And there is no path to liberation from a racist far right wing economic worldview.
Jeremie Greer 39:54
Solana Rice 39:55
Period. Full stop.
Jeremie Greer 39:56
Right. So when I hear when I hear someone say we can’t afford this, what you’re saying is, you don’t want Black people to be healthy. You don’t want Black people to have health care. You don’t want Black people to have this, you don’t want Black people to have that. Because the reality is, we can do all that stuff.
Demond Drummer 40:16
America has always been able to afford what it decides to do.
Jeremie Greer 40:21
Demond Drummer 40:23
Right. And, and, you know, what I learned at New Consensus, a think tank that that I co founded, was that this idea of “afford” is just “the ability to accomplish.” That’s like literally what the word means. Can we accomplish it? And so this is why back to religion in the Bible, and this is why it took me forever to finish my master’s in religion, I can’t tell you where it says it. But I know the Bible says the love of money is the root of all evil. Think about that. The love of money, the idolatry of this thing that humans create, to get things done in our society, holding that thing up as the ends of all Earth and the ends of human existence. And this is the thing that we organize our whole society around. No, it’s just a tool to get things done. And so when you trap an entire federal budget of the most powerful institution on the face of this earth — the US government — on no new money unless you cut a tax, or you know, you raise taxes or cut spending, and you’re just moving limited finite dollars around. That is how you really hamstring a very powerful institution. And think about it. They never say there’s not enough money to give a tax cut, we can come to this. It’s the same thing y’all. A $2 billion tax cut is the same exact thing as $2 billion in spending. Now, I know it doesn’t sound like it is. But think about that. If it doesn’t sound like that’s not the same. If it doesn’t sound the same. It’s because we have this moral idea of the tax cut is given mother fuckers they money back and $2 billion is giving muhfuckas who don’t deserve no money money. But that’s not what’s going on. Right? That’s really not that’s not the way to think it. That’s actually that’s a moral frame that has been sold to us. That ain’t true. What they say ain’t necessarily so you know, that’s not the witness, from a budgetary perspective, but from an accounting perspective, is the exact same thing. The question then becomes, which one gets the most done in our society? Does a tax cut to the richest families a $2 billion $2 trillion tax cut to the richest families, does that get things done in our economy? Or does $2 trillion of additional spending to build highways, bridges, provide health care, better schools? That’s actually the analysis. What gets the most done for the American people. And if you do it the wrong way, you jack up your economy. That’s exactly what we’re seeing today.
Solana Rice 42:59
But don’t, can’t we do both though? Can’t we tax folks with a lot of wealth and we can invest?
Demond Drummer 43:05
Absolutely. Yes. But those two are two different things.
Solana Rice 43:09
Demond Drummer 43:09
And you don’t need one to do the other. Yeah. So what we’re doing is, we are relaunching our equitable economy portfolio around this fundamental concept. PolicyLink has always had its hand in economic policy — state, local, federal right. And so we are relaunching and revising and actually deepening the equitable economy portfolio around these insights, leveraging our experience and relationships and existing insights and just going harder on these on these matters. So economic policy (state, local, federal) — key emphasis on federal, because it is simply unfair to set up a situation where local organizers, local actors, local advocates, and local policymakers have to solve for bad federal policy on the ground. That’s absurd. Federal government must be a partner in building equitable communities and growing an equitable economy. And federal government has a huge role to play in that work, and it is simply unfair, illogical, to force the conversation just be a local matter or state matter. So we’re excited that’s what we’re doing with the equitable economy portfolio. Stay tuned.
Solana Rice 44:22
Yeah, can’t wait to follow along.
Jeremie Greer 44:24
Well, thanks Demond for joining us man. Thanks for imparting this wisdom about money on us and we look forward to seeing you in the future, man. Peace.
Demond Drummer 44:35
All right, holler.
Omar Little 44:38
Yo, banker. Cash me out, yo. Boy, you want a hit on that body? You best hop to.
Marlo Stanfield 44:47
That’s my money.
Omar Little 44:50
Man, money ain’t got no owners. Only spenders.
Jeremie Greer 44:54
One, Demond’s dope. But two, you know, I’m not as ruthless but I try to live my life by the philosophy of Omar. And what we know like he said, it is exactly what Demond said: ain’t no owners, just spenders. Nobody owns this money. We all own it. Right? No one owns it directly. And what what really captured me in this conversation with Demond is that we should be able to dictate how the money is distributed throughout our economy. And what’s happening is today, and that night, that $1 to $9 ratio just blows my mind; that $9 is going out into the circulation. And the people that are determining how is distributed are bankers, who have demonstrated no love ever for Black people, for immigrant people, for indigenous people; and have actually built profit-driven business models to extract resources from those people. And that that’s who we’re trusting to distribute the money, and then only $1 goes out through the way in which we have some democratic say in, which is the other point through Congress.
Solana Rice 46:23
And I just, I really want to put a fine point on this, when we are out in the streets, when we go to our city hall, when we go to any public meeting, and we are saying, You need to distribute our Recovery Act dollars equitably, and you need to distribute our American Rescue Plan dollars, equitably, we are talking about $1 to $9. Every time you say go fix my potholes, go like I want new streetlights. We are talking about fighting over that $1. Yeah. And I love what Demond was saying is that if this this nation, and this government is powerful, if we are if we are that dog chasing that car, we need to know just how powerful our government is and our collective ability to govern and decide and distribute the money. We have we know that the that the banks have no love, no cares. No fucks. No, no fucks. And it’s only our government that has had to say, look, y’all come on, we’re gonna have this Community Reinvestment Act. You got you got to lend to some Black folks, you got to lend to some people of color. Come on fair lending. Come on, come on, come on, come on. So how about we just stop trying to regulate those banks — that $9 that’s in circulation — and just say like, Hey, it’s our money, we don’t actually need y’all.
Jeremie Greer 48:08
Well, and like, either way we can either did the actually, the beauty of it is, is that it’s the money is created by the government. And through both avenues, whether it’s the $1, or the nine, one, the government has ability to change the ratio, right, they can send more money out because it could be five to five, it could be seven to two to three, it they could choose to do that. And they could also tell the banks, this is what you’re going to do with our money. You’re gonna start lending to some Black folks, you’re going to start investing in neighborhoods through the cities to provide that the streetlights, basic community services to people. They can actually do that is just as the mindset our government chooses not to. And they choose not to, because our politicians — and he named a bunch of ’em — Democrats and Republicans have chosen to prioritize the needs of those, those bankers over over our lives. And you know, we’ve seen this like, even in the recovery. So I’ve been around I mentioned before I’ve been through, I’ve been alive for these wars. I’ve been alive for for two, just as a professional, government bailouts of banks.
Solana Rice 49:32
Jeremie Greer 49:33
Once because of the mortgage crisis. And again, here, because of Covid. That was a government providing resources, no strings attached, to banks, so that they could so that they could continue to make profit, at the same time telling folks that like, well, you know, we’d like you to have some childcare but you know, we just can’t really afford it. Because you know we got to pay some mysterious debt in the future that, as Demond said, is just a bunch of bullshit.
Solana Rice 50:06
That’s yeah, and it’s absolutely a myth. There are several myths that just hold us captive. One is that while the money is not in our control. Two, that the banks know how to use it more efficiently and effectively. That is not, that is not necessarily true.
Jeremie Greer 50:24
Not at all true.
Solana Rice 50:24
And as a matter of fact, when they, when they say, when they’re doing their risk evaluation, they say, Oh, it’s too risky to build that affordable housing, I can’t, Ican’t give you money.
Jeremie Greer 50:36
These are the dudes that almost crashed the economy in 2008, [and] we’re supposed to believe that they know best.
Solana Rice 50:42
So there are a whole lot of myths that we are carrying around that enables this system to work. And I think for the listeners, we have to start doing an assessment of ourselves. How are we being held captive by our money myths? How can we support each other in reclaiming our economic imagination? Like what would it look like if the banks didn’t control $9 that were going into our communities and our state’s and our and our governments. And we have to understand that this is by design. And if we actually are in the driver’s seat of this really powerful economy, we better know exactly where the money reside, because that’s how we get all of the things that we actually need: health care, housing, jobs.
Jeremie Greer 51:36
All the things.
Solana Rice 51:37
I am so excited about exploring and uncovering all the money myths that that folks are holding. Yeah, till next time, y’all.
Jeremie Greer 51:46
Kendra Bozarth 51:50
Thanks for listening. For more information, check out our list of episode resources and visit us at liberationinagenerationaction.org. Shout out to our producer, Jacob Bronstein; audio editor, Nino Fernandez; communications director, me, Kendra Bozarth; the design team at TrimTab; and the whole squad at LibGen Action. Like what you heard? Help us make some noise by telling two friends about the Racism Is Profitable podcast. Until next time, y’all. Peace!
Transcribed by https://otter.ai