The British government has descended into high farce. It is rather embarassing to watch adults behave in the way they have conducted themselves in the last longtime. I also note that the usual suspects are out in force claiming (spuriously) that the economic turmoil that has beset Britain demonstrates categorically that Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is deeply flawed and the real world is now teaching us that we should be discarded into the dustbin of history – or rather disgrace. These characters, which include so-called progressives think that hard core fiscal rules, like the British Labour Party took into the last election would have saved the day for Britain. I guess they are now mates with the IMF, who in their latest fiscal monitor – Fiscal Monitor – overnight (published October 12, 2022) – called for fiscal restraint. Also, central bankers who met in Washington over the last few days decided they had become the elected and accountable government making gratuitous threats that if fiscal policy wasn’t turned to austerity, they would punish citizens with further interest rate hikes. It is actually hard to find anything of sense in the current economic debate. It is despairing really.
On July 21, 2022, the Bank of Japan issued this – Statement on Monetary Policy – which outlined that it would continue to use its capacities to implement ‘Yield curve control’, whereby the “Bank will apply a negative interest rate of minus 0.1 percent to the Policy-Rate Balances in current accounts held by financial institutions at the Bank” and “will purchase a necessary amount of Japanese government bonds (JGBs) without setting an upper limit so that 10-year JGB yields will remain at around zero percent”. Further, the Statement noted that “the Bank will offer to purchase 10-year JGBs at 0.25 percent every business day through fixed-rate purchase operations, unless it is highly likely that no bids will be submitted”. The only dissenter on an 8 to 1 vote, wanted even more easing of monetary policy! The BOJ has been implementing its yield curve control since March 2021. In the light of global trends in central banking, the Bank of Japan’s decisions are a standout and show how a sophisticated understanding of the monetary economy coupled with a desire by the Government to improve the lives of ordinary citizens expose the fictions of mainstream economics, which dominates policy making elsewhere.
It’s Wednesday and overnight there has been a Twitter storm, which like most of these Tweet Crazes, is about nothing at all and only serves to embarrass the Tweeters, not that they are aware of the humiliation. I refer to the statements made overnight by the Bank of England boss who reiterated press releases the day before in saying the Bank would not continue to prop up pension funds who had mismanaged their assets. The Twitterati seemingly didn’t really get the point. And while we are on central banking, the former IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard was interviewed in the last few days (I won’t link to it) claiming in relation to the US economy that “the path to avoiding a recession is narrow because the economy is still overheating”. He then concluded that the Federal Reserve Bank “is no longer behind the curve but still has work to do to deal with stubborn underlying inflation pressures”. He thought the Federal Reserve’s funds rate (its policy rate) would go higher than 5 per cent. Planet Not Earth. To keep us on the straight and narrow after those contributions to public discourse, we end today with some piano music. Always a good idea to stay calm and reflective.
Well things are going to get messier with the decision yesterday by the OPEC+ cartel to significantly reduce the oil supply and push up prices. On the one hand, when OPEC was first formed and pushed prices up, while there was significant disruption to oil-dependent nations, the substitution that followed (home oil heating abandoned, larger cars replaced by smaller cars, etc) was ultimately beneficial. So given that we need less cars on roads and less kms travelled by cars, one might consider the move to be fine. But given the way the central banks and treasury departments around the world are behaving at present, the short term impacts of the OPEC+ decision will be very damaging. How citizens endure whatever extra inflationary pressures that might emerge will depend on the fiscal and monetary policy responses. We have two diametrically opposed models: the one that most nations are following (hikes and austerity) versus the Japanese approach. I explain the difference below and predict that the latter will deliver much better outcomes for the people.
It’s Wednesday where I examine in short a few items that came to my attention in the last week and then retreat into the music segment. Yesterday, the Reserve Bank of Australia raised interest rates for the sixth time since May 2022. This time the increase was 0.25 per cent and the current cash rate target is 2.6 per cent. The below-expected increment has been hailed as the first central bank to ‘turn’. It tells me the RBA is now scared it has gone too far in its ridiculous show of power. It is also obvious that spending is not really responding yet to the RBA move which means that they have no real idea of what the impact of their shift in rates has been. That is the problem with relying on monetary policy as a counter-stabilising tool – it works (if at all) with long lags and by the time you see any impact it might be too late.
The global press is full of stories lately about how central banks are taking big losses and risking solvency and then analysing the dire consequences of government bailouts of the said banks. All preposterous nonsense of course. It would be like daily news stories about the threat of ships falling off the edge of the earth. But then we know better than that. But in the economic commentariat there are plenty of flat earthers for sure. Some day, humanity (if it survives) will look back on this period and wonder how their predecessors could have been so ignorant of basic logic and facts. What a stupid bunch those 2022 humans really were.
It’s Wednesday and as usual I just present some short snippets that have attracted my attention this week and other things that distract me from economics. Today, we don’t talk about the British royalty at all – the events this week were from another world really. But what is not from another world is the continual nonsense being spoken and written about this inflationary period and how central banks and treasuries have to tighten up to ‘beat it’. Talk about anachronism. And once we have discussed those things, I offer some soothing music to reduce the state of angst.
I remember a conversation I had when I was picked up hitch hiking to Melbourne from where I was living down the coast. It was during the 1970s inflationary period, which had morphed into stagflation as a result of deliberate government policy to create unemployment and discipline the wage-price spiral. The driver was a manual worker and during a conversation about the state of the economy (I was studying economics at the time) he said “the government should care about employment because at least then everyone has a job even if prices are rising”. That conversation stuck with me because it summed up what research shows in more sophisticated ways – the costs of inflation are minimal when compared to the devastating costs of unemployment. At present, our policy makers are unwilling to recognise that reality because it is not them that bear the costs.
It’s Wednesday and today we discuss the latest inflationary expectations data from the US, which tells me that my assessment that this episode will be a transitory phenomenon, diametric to the experience of the 1979s, was sound, despite the flack I have received over the last several months. The data is now showing consistent, cross-month declines in expected inflation and the latest CPI shows an easing of the general CPI pressure. AS the supply chains return to something like pre-pandemic capacities, then the easing will continue. It is too early to say that this period of elevated CPI rises is over but it sure looks like it and wages have barely moved. Once we get our heads around that I provide some information about an interesting ‘golf’ experiment and finish with some great keyboard playing.
The Eurozone is currently in a period of ‘temporary’ hiatus – by which I mean that to deal with the obvious system-ending implications of the pandemic (increasing fiscal deficits etc) the European Commission invoked the special clauses to suspend the application of the fiscal rules outlined in the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) and related Excessive Deficit Mechanism procedures and the European Central Bank introduced an even larger bond-buying program to ensure the resulting deficits would be funded without bond yields rising. Result: fiscal deficits rose well beyond the SGP limit of 3 per cent in 2020 and have remained at elevated levels relative to the rules in 2021. The overall Eurozone deficit is 4.7 per cent of GDP and 11 of the 19 Member States remain in ‘violation’ of the Excessive Deficit Mechansim should that be reinvoked. It is clear that unless the ECB continues funding the deficits across the union (even though it claims otherwise), then the European Commission will tempt disaster if it tries to reassert the Excessive Deficit Mechansim. Already so-called ‘reform’ proposals are emerging and many more will come in the months ahead. The first major effort from the IMF is really just more of the same and fails to deal with the dysfunction at the design level of the monetary union. The proposals so far are just advocating putting band-aids over the mess – and they are weak bandages at best. But how this dilemma is resolved will be interesting for sure.