It’s Wednesday and I am reverting to my usual pattern of discussing a few items in less detailed form and including some music to lighten the load. Today we consider the apology that the RBA governor issued to mortgage holders that the central bank duped. We also consider the question of what is ‘normal’ in a pandemic. And more.
It’s Wednesday, and before we get to the music segment, I document some developments in the banking system which are not receiving much press at the moment. I refer to the fact that the rate hikes now being implemented by most central banks are not just allowing the commercial banks to widen spreads between deposit and lending rates which will generate significant windfall profits for the banks and their shareholders. The increasing interest rates are also delivering massive cash injections to the banks who hold reserve accounts at the central banks. Why? Because the quantitative easing programs from the past have resulted in a massive buildup of excess reserves which are liabilities for the central banks. They are paying support returns on those reserve, which are scaled against the rising policy target rates. So the payments have escalated significantly and delivering a massive corporate welfare boost to the banks while the same interest rate rises are causing hardship to borrowers, especially those on low incomes. And amazing redistribution of income towards the ‘champagne socialists’ all via our central banks.
There is no doubt that the on-going pandemic has left a trail of economic problems including major supply constraints, the growing problem of long Covid and other issues that are challenging policy makers. They have been exacerbated by the behaviour of OPEC+ and the Ukraine situation. We now have a period of inflation, real wage cuts and most central banks doing their best to make matters worse. However, we now have a phenomenon that goes like this. In the UK, everything ‘bad’ that arises is apparently because of Brexit even if the trends were there before the move or the problems are being shared across all countries. I imagine even if the English cricket team loses it is because of Brexit. This phenomenon has generalised however. Now, we have the claim that all bad economic news is because governments ‘followed’ MMT or something akin to it. Those who are insecure about MMT because it does better at explaining the real world than the mainstream theories are the same as the Remainers who predicted that the British economy would crash badly in 2017 and then every year after that. To soothe their worried souls they consider any ‘bad’ news to be because of ‘MMT’ or in the case of Britain because of Brexit. Neither proposition has any foundation.
It’s Wednesday and so we have a few brief items relating to monetary policy and property scandals before a final music offering to calm our nerves.
It’s Wednesday and we have some snippets that really just make way for the music feature. Today, I consider the recent inversion of the US yield curve, which is typically a sign that recession is around the corner. We also learn that while most people are being hit with rising prices and flat wages, the banks are recording record net interest income as a result of their non-competitive, cartel like behaviour. And we wonder how more silly can the Swedish central bank prize in economics become. And then, after all that, we have the music feature to rescue the day.
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.
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.
It’s Wednesday and I am now ensconced in Kyoto, Japan for the months ahead. I will report on various aspects of that experience as time passes. Today, I reflect on a debate that is going on in Australia about the situation facing live musicians. Should promoters be able to employ them for poverty wages including ‘nothing’ while still profiting or should they be forced to pay the musicians a living wage. You can guess where I sit in the debate.
Today, I am skipping my Japanese language class and heading to the airport. I am taking up a position at Kyoto University under a JSPS Invitational Fellowship. I am working with the team in the Resilience Unit there on a project studying the design of fiscal policy for building national resilience using Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) principles. Resilience is an important part of the degrowth and deep adaptation agenda and I will spend some months there working on with other researchers. The – Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) is ‘Japan’s sole independent funding agency dedicated to the advancement of science’ and is overseen by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. I am very privileged to receive one of the invitations. So from tomorrow I will be in Kyoto and depending on commitments my blog posts might be a little less regular although I think I will be able to continue the usual output. Now, it is time to put my Tuesday languages class into action – along with Google translate! Some travelling music follows.
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.