I Read It So You Don’t Have To: ‘The Deficit Myth’

We’ve been thinking about the government’s finances all wrong

Matthew McFarlane
Published in
6 min readJun 28, 2021


Photo Illustration: Save As/Medium

I Read It So You Don’t Have To is a series that gives you the TL;DR on a business book you want to read — but don’t have time to.

What did I read?

The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People’s Economy by Stephanie Kelton

So who’s this Stephanie Kelton?

Stephanie Kelton is a professor of economics and public policy at Stony Brook University. She is a former chief economist on the U.S. Senate Budget Committee (Democratic Staff), and is a leading expert on Modern monetary theory (MMT), a macroeconomic framework about federal government spending.

Give me the 30-second sell.

There’s a longstanding myth that’s holding back the U.S. economy, keeping millions unemployed, and paralyzing us in the face of once-in-a-generation challenges. Yet this myth is considered dogma by most economists and policy wonks, as well as practically every politician in Congress, on both the left and the right.

It goes something like this: budget deficits are bad, the national debt is a huge problem, and balanced budgets are nearly always desirable. And if we don’t get our deficits under control, the country will be in dire straits — broke, deeply in debt to geopolitical foes, and carrying a huge tax burden our grandchildren will have to pay off.

Sound familiar?

The Deficit Myth is Stephanie Kelton’s attempt to set the macroeconomic record straight. It’s a concise, accessible introduction to Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), a different way of thinking about our economy that flips the script on traditional arguments about government deficits.

Basically, Kelton argues that we’ve been thinking about the government’s finances all wrong. What we need to understand is that while citizens, companies, and even state and local governments are currency users, the federal government is a currency issuer. And that is a very big difference from which flow several paradigm-changing…



Matthew McFarlane
Writer for

Reader, writer, content provider. Fan of hand-made guitars, racket-based sports, and houseplants. You can find me in St. Louie.