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Maybe Modern Monetary Theory is an answer to the COVID-19 economic crisis (rerun)

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U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi returns to her office while walking through Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol after a vote April 23, 2020 in Washington, DC.

The Congressional Budget Office says the national deficit could triple this year. Win McNamee/Getty Images

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Hey smarties! We’re on a break for the holidays, so we’re revisiting some favorite episodes from 2020. We want to say a big thank you for being part of the Make Me Smart family this year — every voicemail, question and donation makes a huge difference. None of us is as smart as all of us, and we couldn’t do this show without you. There’s still time to help us raise $500,000 for Marketplace before the end of the year! Donate here. Thanks, happy holidays and we’ll see you in the new year!

Depends on if you think debt matters. For an individual, a household or even a generation, sure it does. But what about a nation?

It’s a question that’s become even more urgent as the federal government passes one multibillion-dollar aid package after another and the Fed pumps billions more into the economy. The Congressional Budget Office has more than tripled its original projected 2020 budget deficit to $3.5 trillion.

And while that number might make a deficit hawk’s feathers fall off, Modern Monetary Theory says it’s actually just not as big of a deal as it sounds. Better instead to spend massively to fight off economic collapse and pervasive problems from health care to climate change.

We’ve been teasing this episode for a while, and we finally got the MMT expert on to talk about it. Stephanie Kelton is a professor of economics and public policy at Stony Brook University, and she served as an adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. Her new book, “The Deficit Myth” is out June 9.

Today Kelton walks us through how MMT works, why it’s not as counter-intuitive as it sounds and where the will is at the Capitol to actually utilize it. Plus, we’ll hear from listeners dealing with the ripple effects of this crisis on child care and health care, and an epidemiologist weighs in on the limitations of digital contact tracing.

When you’re done listening, tell your Echo device to “Make Me Smart” for our Alexa explainers, and don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter! Here’s the latest issue.

Here are links to what we talked about today:

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