This is my Friday lay day blog where brevity is the aim. There was an article in the UK Guardian yesterday (May 21, 2015) – Fight to save the Greek pension takes centre stage in Brussels and Athens – which described the personal consequences of the pernicious austerity for recipients of state pensions in Greece. The State Pension system is one of the beachheads in the current struggle between Syriza and the Troika. The latter want further cuts to the entitlements provided to retirees as part of their demolition of living standards in Greece. The former are resisting but are on the path to oblivion given they will not be able to honour their electoral mandate to introduce stimulus policies while remaining in the Eurozone. But I was triggered to examine the latest data on pensions given the popular perception that Greeks get life too easy.
Its the Friday lay day blog and here are some snippets from the week. The Hellenic Statistical Authority (EL.STAT) released the latest – Quarterly National Accounts ( 1st Quarter 2015 ) – on May 13, 2015. After all the claims that austerity was working and the Greek economy was growing again, we now learn that Greece is back in recession, having recorded two successive quarters of negative real GDP growth. Whatever way one spins it, the policy framework employed by the Eurozone is a failure. The national accounts data released by Eurostat which coincided with the Greek release – GDP up by 0.4% in the euro area and the EU28 – also shows that the German economy slowed considerably in the first-quarter 2015 and Finland, one of the fiercest supporters of austerity entered official recession. The Finnish response was they had to cut public spending harder because they would be in breach of the Stability and Growth Pact rules relating to size of the deficit and the volume outstanding public debt. These nations are so caught up in neo-liberal Groupthink that they cannot see how ridiculous their policies and supporting dialogue have become.
Its my Friday lay day blog. I try to devote the major part of Fridays to writing other things (some book projects I am working on and some journal articles and other things). That is the logic of the lay day. I cut the time I devote to the blog in half (down to around 1 hour) in recognition of that logic. Today, I was examining the recent population data from Latvia to see what the latest trends were. Most countries would not judge success by the number of its population that leaves, especially when the departing souls are among the young and talented. But the so-called Latvian ‘miracle’ does just that. When the Latvian government aided and abetted by the IMF and the EU stooges imposed the harshest austerity of all on the people and real GDP growth followed, the neo-liberals were beside themselves with joy. Austerity works they screamed. Well not for the 10 per cent of the population who left. And now, the peak of the ‘miracle’ appears to be over as growth slows and the residual of a privatised, socially damaged society remains. I wouldn’t be holding out this little nation as a success story. More like a disaster if the reality is to be correctly appraised.
Its my Friday lay day blog. Every day now, the Euro news is dominated with the machinations regarding Greece. As it should be I suppose, given the scale of the tragedy in place. It might have escaped the attention of some but Eurostat released its latest labour force report yesterday (April 30, 2015) – Euro area unemployment rate at 11.3% – which told us that despite all this talk of a Eurozone recovery, the unemployment remains at 11.3 per cent in March 2015 (no change on February 2015) and only 0.4 per cent lower than a year ago (March 2014). The Greek unemployment rate remains at 25.7 per cent (as at January 2015) and more than 50 per cent of 15-24 year olds are unemployed. But the worst news I saw this week related to the results of a survey of Greek people about the current situation. It tells me that things are very desperate indeed.
Its my Friday lay day blog where I just wander around in the time I allocate to writing this blog. The venality of neo-liberal governments is never far from the surface. The more successful ones manage to mostly hide the nasty stuff they get up to from the general public or assuage public concern via their spin doctors. Sometimes, an outrageous decision breaks out of the cocoon of spin and demonstrates the sheer bastardry of the political elites. That happened in Australia over the last week when it was announced that the Australian government was providing $A4 million to the University of Western Australia to set up a new think tank under the influence of a Dane Bjørn Lomborg – who has been described as a “sceptical environmentalist” (Source). Our Prime Minister has favourably quoted Lomborg’s work in his own work and is the Australian leader who abandoned the carbon tax and thinks continued use of “coal is good for humanity” (Source).
Its my Friday lay day blog. Today I have been recording interviews about Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) , which will eventually become part of our MMT Educational Resources site on the Internet that will be linked to the MMT textbook that we are finalising in the coming months. It is actuall quite hard trying to talk to a camera. But we completed the first session today and I will put up a taste of the material when it is edited and produced. We will get better at it as we gain more experience in video production techniques. It took my mind of the policy debate going on in Australia at the moment about the best way to reduce the fiscal deficit. No commentator (other than a few like myself) have the temerity to ask: Why are we actually aiming to reduce the fiscal deficit when there is more than 15 per cent of available workers underutilised in some way or another (unemployed or underemployed). That would be like sacrilege to the kool-aid drinkers within the neo-liberal policy Groupthink. Either side of politics is just locked into a debate about the ‘best’ way to accomplish the task. You expect such cant from the conservatives. But Australia is also being let down by our so-called progressive organisations. It is a world-wide disease – the ‘left’ (which is more right than the right used to be) are infested with neo-liberal macroeconomics that they cannot see how compromised their positions have become in the public debate. The filming this morning took my mind of that dilemma.
Its the Friday lay day blog. Lay day means rest, sometimes. The Greek government paid €450 million back to the IMF bloodsuckers yesterday which apparently calmed markets (Source). How can a so-called bankrupt country afford to pay that sort of cash? Well it can by causing more unemployment and poverty. The Government is trying to appease the Troika (IMF, ECB and the European Union) so that they will given them more cash in the coming weeks. Appeasement is an appropriate word here. Just as in the historical context, it means going along with something evil that will ultimately backfire and cause more grief. But then according to the US economist James Galbraith, in his latest apology (April 7, 2015), Syriza is – The Real Thing: An Anti-austerity European Government. Funny about that. Unless it is flying below all perception, Syriza seems trapped by an anti-democratic force that is intent on squeezing any notion of abandoning austerity from its agenda. And, try to square Galbraith’s claims against the insights provided by Alain Badiou and Stathis Kouvelakis in this interchange (April 3, 2015) – Dangerous Days Ahead.
Its the Friday lay day blog and a public holiday to boot. So not much today. I wrote earlier in the week a blog about the latest British employment data – Employment growth in the UK but of dubious quality. It was part of a series of blogs I have written documenting the gap between the political hubris coming from the Conservatives about how successful their austerity strategy has been and the reality on the ground. Yes, Britain is growing in the sense that real GDP growth is no longer negative. But in this environment of weak growth the essential conditions for longer term prosperity are being eroded. On Wednesday this week, more information came out to support this hypothesis. The British Office of National Statistics (ONS) published the latest – Labour Productivity, Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2014 – Release – which showed that “labour productivity fell by 0.2% in the fourth quarter of 2014” and is the worst sustained performance since 1948 (no growth in the last seven years). Some claim to success. I remind readers that rising material standards of living in any nation rely on productivity growth. Without it societies with ageing populations are headed for mediocrity or worse.
Its the Friday lay day blog – and we will be brief today. There was a proposal aired in the ABC’s The Drum series (March 26, 2015) by an ABC finance journalist suggesting that – Maybe we need to subcontract the budget process. My response was “why don’t we just subcontract out democracy to a dictator and be done with it”!
Its my Friday lay day blog. The aim is to write less here and more elsewhere. I don’t always succeed. Today I have a day full of meetings. One was with the Australian Productivity Council about the viability of establishing a majority-Australian owned motor car industry. I will have more to say about this on another day but the idea is interesting if not compelling. I noted the faked fake is a fake (‘Fingergate’). The tension in Brussels is rising and the position appears to be unchanged. The hardliners lecturing Greece about the need for more reforms. The Greeks claiming they will not reimpose austerity even though they currently are. And it is all leading in one of two directions – capitulation of exit. But closer to homefor a while. The press are zeroing in of the offensive barbs about Holocausts and Goebbels that our Prime Minister keeps using to slur his political opponents, which really, despite all the mock shock and hurt from the recipients, only serve to slur the deliverer and make him look like an idiot. But his other ‘foot-in-the-mouth’ moment came on March 10, 2015, when the Prime Minister, in an attempt to make himself look tough to shore up his waning political support, claimed that indigenous Australians were making “lifestyle choices” by residing in remote communities and live on income support. He was supporting the West Australian state government’s decision to ‘close’ down 150 remote communities and force the residents into larger settlements to ‘save money’. The policy is wrong at the most elemental level and reveals not only an ignorance about economics but also a total lack of understanding of the cultural and anthropological history of our nation.