May 30, 2021
Welcome to episode 78 of Activist #MMT. Today I talk with first-year MMT activist Katrina Pilver, about how she discovered the importance of economics and then MMT, and her unusually-intensive and -ambitious journey to learn MMT more deeply. Katrina and her partner own a soul food restaurant and ice cream truck in Connecticut, the former which they opened with her father-in-law in 2014.
After the Supreme Court made George Bush junior president in 2000, Katrina became disillusioned by politics. That changed upon the shock of witnessing Donald Trump become elected president in 2016. In June 2020, she watched a debate and discussion including T.I., Killer Mike, and Candace Owens (see screenshot at the bottom). it was there she got her first exposure to economics as a tool of politics – in other words, a tool to manipulate others out of power, in order to increase your own.
At the suggestion of Killer Mike, the first economist she looked into was Thomas Sowell. Sowell is an alumnus of the Chicago School of Economics and two of his primary influences are Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek. (Katrina and I spend several minutes gushing about Killer Mike, who I had the privilege to briefly interview at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. I was a state delegate for the Bernie Sanders campaign and he was a surrogate.)
Katrina eventually entered the term "economics" into a search engine for Podcasts. The first result that struck her was Pitchfork Economics with Nick Hanauer. While working long shifts at her restaurant (and no customers to disturb thanks to the health crisis), she binged on the podcast with a speaker in her apron pocket.
The first economist that appealed to Katrina was Paul Krugman. She felt he was different because he offered hope that nice things are indeed possible. (Nice things like healthcare, education, clean water, and a livable planet.) What she didn’t understand, however, was how these things were possible, and so she purchased Krugman's book Arguing with Zombies in order to figure it out. She was unsuccessful.
A later episode of Pitchfork Economics featured economist Stephanie Kelton. For the first time, Katrina felt not only hope, but actually understood herself exactly how it was possible to have nice things. She immediately of ordered Kelton's book, The Deficit Math, and while waiting for it to arrive, listened to every Kelton lecture she could find, all from her apron pocket. Stephanie Kelton's lectures and books served as the major turning point in Katrina's understanding. She has since consumed an extraordinary amount of content in the past several months, which is the major topic of today’s episode. You’ll find links to several of the sources from Katrina’s journey in the show notes.
Finally, Katrina and I met in a Facebook group called MMT for Newbies. It was created in early 2021, in response to its sister group, Intro to MMT, becoming extremely active (now with more than 6000 members) and perhaps less of an introductory group than it once was. (I’ve been a moderator of the Intro group since September 2020.) Both groups are excellent and if you’re on Facebook, I highly recommend you join both. MMT for Newbies is specifically for questions, and only approved, experienced, and patient MMTers are assigned to answer those questions. Links to both groups can be found in the show notes.
And now, onto my conversation with Katrina Pilver. This is part one of a two-part episode.