I am back from the US now and have been reading a lot about how Ireland is poised to show all of us deficit supporters the “what for”. The crazies (the Flat Earthers or deficit terrorists) are now starting to suggest that the recent Irish national accounts results for the first quarter 2010 are the sign that the austerity drive has made Ireland more competitive and that an export-led growth era is emerging. You always have to be careful when using official data to conclude anything. The reality is that the national accounts data show that the Irish economy is still declining domestically and this is causing the labour market to deteriorate even further. The growth that is being observed is generating income that is being expatriated to foreigners. So not only is the Irish economy sacrificing real goods and services to increase exports but then the benefits of that sacrifice are being sent abroad to foreigners. If that is an example of how austerity benefits the local population then it just shows how impoverished the conception held by the crazies is. Ireland remains a good example of what happens when you withdraw public spending support for an economy facing a major collapse in private spending.
The G-20 held its annual Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting in South Korea over the weekend. It was amazing to see just how comprehensive the impact of the deficit terrorists has been on the way in which the G-20 has shifted its views on the way to deal with the on-going economic crisis. The G20 communique released today clearly illustrates that the G-20 group have been won over by the terrorists and are now supporting austerity measures. This is another one of the amazing reversals in the public debate that are now becoming regular events. All of the reversals are making it harder for governments to do what we elect them to do – use their policy tools to advance public purpose. The increasing constraints that governments are voluntarily accepting to satisfy the demands of amorphous groups such as the “bond markets” impinge on the democratic rights of every citizen. We expect our governments will act in the best interests of the nation. Sadly they are no longer doing that because they have fallen prey of the deficit terrorists. We have a new term for this – democratic repression.
I trawl the financial and economics news from all and sundry, write and think economics all day most days, get embroiled in the technical and political arguments about monetary systems and labour market dynamics, and ideological battles and all this energy is constructed and conducted at the “level of the debate”. But the debate at that level is largely irrelevant and we get sidetracked by it. So can sovereign governments do this or that? But my interest in unemployment and inequality started when I was young and was particularly honed during my student days in the late 1970s in Melbourne when I realised that governments were deliberately imposing joblessness on my fellow citizens by retreating under pressure applied by the ideological attacks of the emerging neo-liberals. I realised then that underneath all this monetary talk are people who suffer and get left behind. And so we have to keep reminding ourselves – what the hell is all this really about?
All the recent Eurozone attention has been focused on Greece because they are the first EMU nation that the bond markets took an exception too although the other, immediately vulnerable southern nations are starting to feel the pinge. Meanwhile, Ireland, which along with the Baltic non-Euro states, were the first nations to implement harsh austerity programs (tax increases, public spending cuts), has stayed under the radar. The line I read often is that the Irish are more easy-going than the Latins and will accept the harshness with a smile. I wonder about that. But Ireland might soon be back on the main screen because despite all the IMF and EU predictions about the adjustment path that would accompany the austerity (things would get better relatively quickly), things have become worse. Just as Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) would predict. And when you analyse the data in more detail, they are looking a lot worse than Greece. This also just exposes that the problem is the deficit and debt ratios but the fundamental design of the Euro system and the fiscal rules it forces onto member states.
Today, I thought I would provide some background to the Euro crisis to advance some understanding of why the conservatives in Europe are advocating highly destructive solutions to their crisis. So I went back to some notes that I have accumulated over the years to try to put the sort of nonsensical fiscal rules that are now being proposed by very influential German economists into some sort of context. What you will see is that the context doesn’t in any way help to justify the rules. They are crazy by any reasonable assessment. But at least you will see them in a wider context. I hope.
The ECB is embarking on a major construction project to erect new building at the east end of Frankfurt, which will be completed on current plans by the end of 2013. It will replace the old wholesale market which supplied fruit and vegetables to Frankfurt and surrounds. One suspects the health of the citizens was better served in this former land use. I wonder what they will do with the new building when the Eurozone collapses. Perhaps it could be a nice retirement village for the executives who will be looking for something to do.
Another day passes and lots more reading done. Some of it interesting but a significant amount of it tedious even enraging. I hum my mantras as I read to stay calm. But among the things I read there were some stand outs – not all of which I will have time to write about today. But this news report – Estonia Wants Stricter Euro Budget Rules – came in overnight, which caught my eye. Further examination, revealed how skewed policy priorities have become over the course of this economic crisis. The most costly things for an economy are ignored and aspirations that will impose future costs are promoted. Driving this policy agenda (madness) are the false messages that the IMF continually put out which spread a mélange of lies and non-sequiturs across the policy debate. I came up with a fiscal consolidation plan myself today as a result. I will disclose it later.
New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman occasionally brushes up against an understanding of how the macroeconomy works. Some people actually have said to me that he does get it but chooses for political purposes not to disclose a full understanding of the basic principles of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). Well in his most recent column – We’re Not Greece – published May 13, 2010, I think you can conclude that when left to his own devices he doesn’t have a clue about what is really happening in the macroeconomy. So today, we are exposing his mainstream (neo-classical) keynesian nakedness – he is now naked and without clothes.
Last Wednesday (May 5, 2010) I wrote that Bailouts will not save the Eurozone in response to the miserable plan put forward to take the Greek government out of the bond markets for a period. Yesterday they announced a major ramping up of the credit line they are offering which is more characteristic of a fiscal rescue than anything else. However, it amounts to the blind leading the blind. The euro funds to finance the credit line are coming from the same countries that are in trouble. There are no new net financial euro assets entering the system as a consequence of this €750bn bailout plan and, ultimately, that is what is required to ease the recession and restore growth. The restoration of growth will also ease their budget issues. But this is Europe we are talking about. Despite the nice cars and bicycles they make, they are not a very decisive lot and their institutional structures are hamstrung by an arrogant sclerosis that pervades their polity and corporate world.
Three people are dead in Athens as the people turn ugly against an even uglier ideological push against their welfare. The EMU is now facing an untenable future. Senior policy makers within the EU are now lecturing the UK about the need for harsh fiscal measures following the election. And the UK goes to the polls today and the polls are suggesting “sweeping gains” for the conservatives who are unfit to govern and will drive their economy even further backwards if elected. All of this is unnecessary. All of it a reflection of a failed ideology trying to re-assert itself. The upshot will be that the Eurozone will wallow in crisis for years to come and the rest of us are taking policy positions that will lead to the next crisis – if not a double-dip recession later this year.