It is Wednesday and just a collection of snippets today. I am trying to finish a major piece of work and so that is what I am mostly doing today. And learning to program Geojson formats in R, so I can overcome the decision by Google to abandon their fusion table facility, which my research centre has relied on for some years to display map layers. And I have some press interviews to deal with. But today we consider the claim by the Financial Times editorial the other day that “Radical reforms are required to forge a society that will work for all”. It was an extraordinary statement from an institution like the FT to make for a start. But it reflects the desperation that is abroad right now – across all our nations – as the virus/lockdown story continues to worsen and the uncertainty grows. But I also think we should be careful not to adopt the view that everything is going to change as a result of this crisis. The elites are a plucky bunch, not the least because they have money and can buy military capacity. Changing the essential nature of neoliberalism, even if what has been displayed by all the state intervention in the last few months exposes all the myths that have been used to hide that essential nature, is harder than we might imagine. I think hard-edged class struggle is needed rather than middle-class talkfests that outline the latest gee-whiz reform proposals. The latter has been the story of the Europhile progressives for two decades or so as the Eurozone mess has unfolded. It hasn’t got them very far.
Today is Wednesday and I have been tied up a lot with various meetings – all on-line these days. I don’t enjoy them as much as face-to-face, given that I spent a considerable part of each day in front of my computer or with my head in books and so the human contact is a welcome variation. But needs must, as they say. Anyway, just a few snippets today, being Wednesday. I can say that in between all this Zooming and writing, I have now nearly put together a complete on-line learning system which I am now trialling. This will be the support platform for – MMTed – which I hope to make operational sometime in the coming months. One of the issues that I touched on yesterday, which is now starting to crawl out of the slime, is the “what will happen to all the debt when the crisis is over” story. And, it is not just a narrative being promoted by the Right or the conservatives. The Federal Labour Party spokespersons and those hanging around the edges have started to push the narrative. As the Prime Minister told us the other day in relation to the people who are panic buying “Stop it! It’s Ridiculous!” I think he was actually talking about those (morons) who are starting the deficit hysteria before the deficits have even actually risen much. For their own health, I urge them to “stop it”. Imagine how apoplectic they are all going to be once the deficit goes to 10 per cent or more and the RBA is buying up all the debt. My god.
Today is Wednesday which means it is my short blog post day. I have been travelling a lot today. By the way, there are still some things which cannot be attended to via the Internet, Zoom or otherwise. As I continue to calculate various things along the way to my 10-point or something plan which I hope to have final by next Monday. But with limited time today as I dodge and weave to avoid the virus, I have been reading a lot of the research literature about modelling epidemics. It is quite interesting and nurtures my penchant for modelling, estimation, numerical forecasting etc. But it has helped me understand the reason governments are now inflicting massive economic damage on our nations in the name of ‘flattening the curve’. I cannot say I know much about all this. But I know more than I did a week ago. Knowledge is good. And, generally, you get that from the scientific research literature rather than blogs and Twitter. I exclude economics (unless it is about MMT) from that recommendation. Back with my unemployment modelling tomorrow.
A fairly short post today (Wednesday oblige!). So just some snippets. Today, the Australian Bureau of Statistics published the latest – Retail Trade, Australia, Preliminary, February 2020 – which was the first release of a “suite of new products for Australian retail turnover”. The new offering is designed to more accurately and immediately pick up the “economic impact of coronavirus”. This release is preliminary and gives us more current data to that which is published in the upcoming April Retail Trade, Australia. The news is not good, as you might expect. Retail trade rose by 0.4 per cent in February 2020, as food purchases rose but all other spending categories fell. So the result is driven by the ridiculous panic hoarding behaviour that is now common. I went to a supermarket last night on the way home to get a few items (like some oats for muesli) and the shelves were nearly empty across a wide range of products. It makes no sense. Even if we are to be locked down, the Government has said shopping will be allowed. But in other sectors of the economy major impacts are being felt. All by band’s gigs in Melbourne have been cancelled and Virgin (who I fly with mostly) have cancelled all international flights until at least the end of June and many domestic flights. Life is changing dramatically. And this would be a great time to introduce a Job Guarantee for artists and musicians. Further, I report on some statistical events in West Africa that have far-reaching implications for how nations interact with multilateral agencies such as the IMF or the World Bank.
I am travelling for most of today after a rather (exhausting) speaking tour of Europe and the UK. I met a lot of people, gave an (awful) lot of presentations and I thank all the organisers who helped set up the meetings. Special thanks to Tristan (Paris), the GIMMS team (UK), Kevin (Dublin), and all the other people who helped make the tour work. I will be back in Europe in June-July. On Thursday, I will be provide some information about the new book that Thomas Fazi and I are working on as the sequel to our last book – Reclaiming the State: A Progressive Vision of Sovereignty for a Post-Neoliberal World (Pluto Books, September 2017). Tomorrow, I will be providing some final remarks to cover the material that we did not get to in last Saturday’s London MMT Masterclass.
No blog post today as I am travelling and catching up after travel, depending which time zone you might be in. I am now starting my latest European and UK tour and will be appearing at a number of events and functions over the next three weeks. I am leaving a nation with elevated (very) levels of temperature (43 degrees Thursday, 39 today), out of control bushfires creating permanent changes in our fauna, flora and social settlements (many of these will not recover), and an extended drought. I am heading to a place that is normally snowbound this time of year, but as of today (February 1), there is no snow on the ground and temperatures are still above zero. I understand variance, but, the extremes are becoming more noticable as the years pass. And, I will enter the UK, as an independent nation for the first time in 47 years. I think that is something to be happy about, although I understand that a signficant proportion of the British population are not happy about it. But that is the nature of our political systems.
It is Wednesday and I have a long trip by plane and road to Victoria where I am speaking at a major business conference in the mountains outside of Melbourne tomorrow morning. So only a few things today that I have been thinking about. Remember the 2010 film – Inside Job – which documented how my profession had become corrupted by the financial services sector into producing, allegedly, independent research reports extolling the virtues of deregulation etc and not admitting they were being paid for by the beneficiaries of the propaganda masquerading as research. It shows how corruption runs deep in the economics profession to accompany the incompetence that mainstream macroeconomists display. Well, I have been following an unfolding story about how Uber has decided to draw on that corrupt tendency for their own gains. It is not a pretty story. And then we have the so-called social media trend of cancel culture which is meant to be about matters of principles but leave the proponents caught up in a rather dirty pool of hypocrisy.
Wednesday snippets follow. Tax the rich! That has become a misguided progressive Left mantra. The intention is to maintain public services including health, education and income support which are core issues for progressives. But then the neoliberal indoctrination that has infested this group intervenes. They seem to think the government needs the money of those with lots of it before it can provide essential and progressive public services and fight the climate emergency. They support political parties that set as their primary macroeconomic target the achievement of a bigger fiscal surplus than the conservatives at a time when there are more than 13.5 per cent of available and willing labour resources not working (either unemployed or underemployed) and households are carrying record levels of (unsustainable) debt. And these parties keep losing elections – it is a global phenomena, most recently observed in Britain. One of the reasons we need to tax the rich is to deal with their (grossly) disproportionate impact on carbon emissions. That is one of many reasons. But you should never include among those reasons a need by government for their cash in order to facilitate spending. Any progressive who articulates that argument is just reiterating neoliberal frames.
Wednesday blog post – so only a few snippets including some discussion about Germany’s latest extreme outcome – a record fiscal surplus, which the Ministry of Finance is claiming is responsible. Judged by the fact that the economy has ground to a halt and there is a massive infrastructure deficit in the country as a result of a systematic starving of capital expenditure by the government, one has to ask: are they joking! The surplus was, in part, the result of the German government not spending allocated public investment funds because there are insufficient skilled public servants on tap to manage the projects. So the government has hacked into skilled employment first, then it finds that there are not enough qualified officials left to oversee essential projects. So capital formation contracts and the allocated funds go unspent. So, the Government records a surplus and cheers while bridges, roads, hospitals, IT infrastructure, transport infrastructure decays further. Modern day Germany – ridiculous.
I decided that I would run the CFA Franc series in three consecutive parts to maintain continuity and allow me to edit the final manuscript which Pluto Press will use to finalise the book by Fanny Pigeaud and Ndongo Samba Sylla. That meant that my usual Wednesday snippets sort of blog post didn’t happen this week. So, given that I have to travel for several hours today, Thursday becomes Wednesday and I just want to write a few comments about the current crisis in Australia (from the perspective of someone who has done considerable research for the United Firefighters Union here over many years) and also announce the details of the first MMTed Masterclass to be held in central London in February. I will be in Adelaide for the sustainability conference and other commitments over the next few days.