Investment company Berkshire Hathaway Inc boss Warren Buffett has no love lost for the Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) which is becoming popular as deficit financing among politicians who look at it as an alternative to borrowing or raising taxes to support government spending.
"I'm not a fan of MMT – not at all," the billionaire investor said in a telephone interview, to Bloomberg adding that the deficit spending could risk "spiralling" inflation. "We don't need to get into danger zones, and we don't know precisely where they are," Bloomberg quoted him as saying.
Buffett joins an impressive array of critics including Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, BlackRock Inc CEO Larry Fink and DoubleLine Capital's Jeffrey Gundlach that has called MMT "complete nonsense". Powell has said the concept of MMT is "just wrong" in being used to justify a "massive socialist programme."
The main argument of MMT is that any country that prints its own currency can't go broke, so a country like the US has a lot more room to deficit spend than normally thought, especially given the low interest rates. Economists who support MMT contend that because the US borrows in its own currency, it can print dollars to cover its obligations, and can't go broke. Adherents to MMT include progressive Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has floated increased deficit spending to address climate change, according to the Bloomberg report. Stephanie Kelton, who advised Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders' 2016 US presidential campaign, is also a votary of MMT. Notably, Sanders has announced his bid for 2020 Democratic presidential election candidacy.
In 2011 Buffett described as "asinine" the opposition to raising the debt ceiling. He reiterated his views on Friday, contending that it's a mistake to fight over the ceiling. "It's just ridiculous to be able to use the debt ceiling as a weapon in terms of other fights," Buffett said on Friday. "The problem with having a debt ceiling is that it can be used for extraordinary mischief or, in effect, the blocking of government." Still, he said, it would be unwise to have the ratio of debt to gross domestic product grow consistently, he said.
Jeffrey Gundlach, the co-founder of DoubleLine Capital, joined the growing list of MMT critics who have been become vocal. MMT is "complete nonsense" that's being used to justify a "massive socialist programme", Gundlach said on Tuesday in a podcast. "The problem with that is it's a completely fallacious argument," Gundlach said, adding that MMT could lead to a "significant boycott" of long-term bonds. "This argument is ridiculous," he said. "It sounds good for a first-grader. What happens when the economy turns down?"
The Los Angeles-based fund manager also blamed US President Donald Trump for the "shocking" growth in the US debt burden. He noted the "incredible increase" in corporate and government debt, with federal deficits only poised to grow. Gundlach spoke a month after the Treasury Department said total US public debt had climbed to a record above $22 trillion.
The greenback has climbed over 6 per cent in the past year, gaining against all of its Group-of-10 peers and foiling bearish Wall Street forecasts. Hedge funds and speculators have held a net long position in the dollar since June, according to Commodity Futures Trading Commission data.