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A Budget that reduces growth and increases joblessness – for no sound reason

Last night, the Federal Government brought down the – 2013-14 Budget – claiming it was a responsible response to the circumstances it faced (declining world growth, declining terms of trade and persistently high exchange rate) and that it emphasised growth and jobs. Neither claim is remotely correct. It is a pro-cyclical budget – that is, a contractionary budget that builds on the contractionary fiscal shift in 2012-13, which by its own arithmetic reduces growth and causes the unemployment rate to rise. It will damage employment growth and increase poverty rates. It reflects a failure to acknowledge the state of the economy (4 per cent output gap) and to implement the correct counter-cyclical fiscal response (a significant rise in the projected budget deficit). It might have some education and disability spending in it. But even in those areas the spending is inadequate and, in the case of education, based on a neo-liberal view that the federal government should be funding the private schools, which, in general, educate the children from wealthy and high-income families. Overall, a destructive fiscal plan given the state of the economy.

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The Fantasy Budget 2013-14

This is my Fantasy Budget 2013-14, which will be part of Crikey’s Budget coverage leading up to the delivery of the Federal Budget on May 14, 2013. This blog is relatively short and more or less within the constraints I was given with respect to words. I have added a section on the sectoral balances for clarity and some more detail about cuts.

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MMT Fiscal Principles

This is a background blog which will support the release of my Fantasy Budget 2013-14, which will be part of Crikey’s Budget coverage leading up to the delivery of the Federal Budget on May 14, 2013. This blog provides some general principles that should govern the design of a budget.

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Investing in a Job Guarantee – how much?

This is a background blog which will support the release of my Fantasy Budget 2013-14, which will be part of Crikey’s Budget coverage leading up to the delivery of the Federal Budget on May 14, 2013. This blog will provide a detailed analysis of the investment the federal government would have to make to introduce a Job Guarantee. You will see how surprisingly small that investment is.

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What is a Job Guarantee?

This is a background blog which will support the release of my Fantasy Budget 2013-14, which will be part of Crikey’s Budget coverage leading up to the delivery of the Federal Budget on May 14, 2013. The topic of this blog is the concept of employment guarantees as the base-level public policy supporting a return to full employment in Australia. We introduce the specific proposal – the Job Guarantee. In the next background blog we will see how much the Australian government needs to invest to make this policy improvement possible.

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The Australian labour market – 815 thousand jobs from full employment

This is a short background blog which will support the release of my Fantasy Budget 2013-14, which will be part of Crikey’s Budget coverage leading up to the delivery of the Federal Budget on May 14, 2013. The topic of this blog is the state of the Australian labour market and is an overview of the detailed monthly reports I provide to coincide with the release of the Labour Force data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. To review these monthly reports please see the blogs under the – Labour Force – category.

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Daily macroeconomic income losses from unemployment

This is a short background blog which will support the release of my Fantasy Budget 2013-14, which will be part of Crikey’s Budget coverage leading up to the delivery of the Federal Budget on May 14, 2013. The topic of this blog is the estimated losses arising from persistent unemployment. Most people fail to associate on a daily basis how much the economy (and hence individuals and their families) forgoes in terms of lost output and income as a result of the government refusing to use its non-inflationary fiscal capacity to create employment.

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Australia output gap – not close to full capacity

A national media organisation (Crikey) invited me to be one of their Fantasy Budget providers this year and this is a background blog to the preparation of my Fantasy Budget 2013-14 for Australia, which I will publish next Monday. In this blog I consider the state of the Australian economy in terms of output gaps. The Australian government is keen to claim that the economy is operating close to or at trend real output – sometimes the Prime Minister or Treasurer – and senior Treasury officials, will replace the descriptor “trend output” with “full employment”. They make that claim to justify imposing fiscal austerity on the economy, which is expressed by their most recent goal to achieve a budget surplus in the current year. They have been pursuing that strategy for several budgets now after taking appropriate steps in 2008 to allow the budget deficit to rise significantly to head off the looming disaster associated with the global financial crisis. While the stimulus was not large enough at the time it did save the economy from the type of chronic recession that most of the advanced world remains stuck in. But, once recovery was established, the conservative ideology returned and the fiscal stimulus was withdrawn too quickly and an austerity plan implemented. At the time, it was clear that they would fail to achieve a surplus because in attempting to do so they undermined the recovery, and, their tax revenue growth. Other international events (a slowing of the terms of trade and an overvalued dollar) have compounded their poorly crafted fiscal strategy. The reality is that the Australian economy is now performing well below trend and the divergence is increasing. The labour market is also producing grossly inferior outcomes and we are clearly a hundreds of thousands of jobs short of what a reasonable definition of full employment would require. The budget deficit is too small not too large and the direction of policy in the coming year should be expansionary not contractionary.

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The indecent inconsistency of the neo-liberals

Last weekend, the Australian government announced a major new funding initiative for farmers. The so-called – Farm Finance Program – will handout millions to farmers who are struggling to make ends meet. Whenever I see these special assistance packages being handed out to the rural sector, which is politically well-organised, I reflect on the plight of the unemployed. With unemployment rising in Australia as the economy goes into reverse on the back of failing private demand and deliberately imposed fiscal cutbacks, the decision to hand out economic largesse to the farmers wreaks of inconsistency. The unemployed have diminishing chances of getting a job at present and the income support provided by government is well below the poverty line. That poverty gap is increasing and the Government refuses to increase the benefit claiming fiscal incapacity. They also say they are jobs focused, despite employment growth being flat. The comparison of the vastly different way the government treats farmers relative to unemployed highlights, once again, that the way we construct a problem significantly affects the way we seek to solve it. The neo-liberal era has intensified these inconsistencies which have undermined the capacity of public policy to achieve its purpose – to improve the welfare of the citizens. The research question is: Why do we tolerate such inconsistent ways of thinking about policy problems and their solutions?

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