Its the Friday lay day blog. I was travelling back from the South coast of NSW one Sunday a few years ago after giving a talk to a workshop on regional development. We stopped for a break in South Sydney where there was a street fair going on – the normal run-of-the-mill affair. It was centred in the main street of the electorate where Scott Morrison was (and remains) the Member of the Federal House of Representatives. He had a stall at the fair, touting his policies – then as the Opposition spokesperson for immigration. His helpers were nasty types who were raving on about illegal boat people and what Morrison would do to them once they won the next election. They did win it, and he did do it to them. As he shifts his ministerial portfolio from immigration to become the Minister for Social Services, it is worth recalling what his record has been in his last job. Julian Burnside captures it beautifully in his article last Tuesday (December 23, 2014) – Morrison’s calculated cruelty is his legacy – although the sociopathy revealed is anything but beautiful. But there is worse to come.
It is my Friday lay day and that means brevity, even if that is a relative concept. I have received several E-mails lately about claims that Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) economists are zealots who overstate their case and are nothing much more than Keynesians with some fancy jargon. It is lovely how complete strangers feel it is their place to write abusive E-mails to you as if you are some sort of inanimate object. But that is not the point here. Several of these E-mails noted that a prominent Australian economist had largely dismissed MMT, despite his progressive leanings, because “it doesn’t change the basic equation that, in the long run, public expenditure is paid for by taxes”. Apparently, this criticism was made in the context of the Russian problems at present, which I may or may not deal with in another blog, depending on whether I get time to research a few things. The Russian situation is not central to my research at present and I do not have a lot of time to really delve into it. But what about this “long run” failing of MMT?
Its the Friday lay day blog. I could write a lot on the next story but consistent with my plan to not write much blog text on a Friday I will refrain. But the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia disgraced himself yesterday by claiming that the unemployment and underemployment rate were about “where the central bank expected them to be” and that there was no case to be made for easing monetary policy. I wonder where that leaves the bank in relation to its legislative charter as outlined in the – Reserve Bank Act 1959. Further, under the so-called charter of central bank independence, since when has it been appropriate for the Governor of the RBA to lecture the Treasury on the state of fiscal policy? Of course, the so-called independence is just a sham.
Its the Friday lay day. I thought I would share a few home truths with you that various people have alerted me to over the last week. Some interesting video viewing, while I get on with other things that have pressing deadlines. It has been quite a week in Australia. The national accounts showed we are barely growing in volume terms but in doing so our real net national disposable income growth has been negative for the last two quarters (a recession) with clear impacts of public austerity now evident. The Australian Treasurer claimed the national accounts vindicated their austerity position. Like a lot of politicians these days he trying to sell the impossible claim that cutting spending increases growth. In his case, he is also trying to tell the population that negative income growth is a positive thing and rising unemployment is a signal of policy success. Hockey claimed on the news this morning that “we have a terrific budget story to tell”. It is a strange politics.
Its Friday and I am writing a short blog only. A lot of people I meet find it hard to understand what a cost is in economics. They are too accounting oriented, in the sense that think a dollar sign on a piece of paper (such as a fiscal statement) represents a cost. In some contexts, it is sensible to think about dollars but when considering what a government should do, the only thing that really matters is the real resource cost. That may be calibrated in dollar terms but is not a monetary amount. In walking around three large Italian cities in the last week (Florence, Rome and Milan) I saw a lot of idle resources. The real costs of this idleness are massive – lost production, lost real income, lost lives. I saw many people not working and many others trying to scratch out an income selling trinkets on street corners. I also saw rubbish and urban decay everywhere such that the urban amenity was severely diminished. I didn’t see a shortage of productive jobs that could be done to improve the civic (public) parts of Italian life. But no-one was doing them. Why? The potential jobs were latent only because there was no-one willing to pay the idle workers to perform these productive tasks. That happens when there is a shortage of spending and has nothing to do with structural parameters.
Friday lay day sees me in Florence, Italy. The G20 waste of time and real resources meeting in Brisbane is now over and the World leaders have departed or are swanning around Australia on goodwill tours aka trough sampling (as in pig snouts at the). Our conservative government deeply embarrassed itself and its electoral appeal with a petulant display of parochialism. Instead of outlining a vision for the world’s future and Australia’s place in it, our political leadership chose to focus on their internal policy disappointments (that the democratic process here is not allowing them to proceed with – all aimed at attacking the poorest members of our society). At the same time they were vigorously trying to stop climate change discussions featuring on the agenda. Pathetic really. This small-time austerity mindset was perfectly captured by The Shovel this week.
Friday lay day – short blog – good – its going to be a very hot day here in Newcastle, NSW today. Today a brief reflection on the latest scandal/crisis to hit the Australian university sector. The Fairfax media this week published the results of their investigation into so-called Essay Mills – Universities in damage control after widespread cheating revealed. It appears that non-English speaking students in our universities have been purchasing tailor written essays from an organisation in Sydney and using them as assessable items to gain progress in their degree programs. What can be done about that?
Its my Friday no blog day yet a brief discussion of this week’s US mid-term elections cannot be resisted. In the spirit of the lay day, I will just have a little stretching and warm up type blog though. What the F*&#! The largest economy with the biggest weapons has just voted into majority positions in both houses of their parliament a bunch of crazies, who are only slightly crazier than the alternatives they might have chosen. Although in many cases, the crazies were voted in uncontested.
Its my Friday lay day blog – a short blog today about music at work. Building on yesterday’s blog – Self-imposed corporate regulations control workers but choke productivity – which told the story of an increasing imposition of productivity choking workplace rules and procedures that capitalists use to control their workers. A classic manifestation of these workplace changes has been the increased use of open-plan offices (abandoning private offices) and so-called hot desking. This is a very alienating environment for workers and research has shown that if workers have access to music while they work that they choose, they get through the day in better shape. Cue the turntable! Pablo Moses on. Start typing.
The weeks go by quickly when you have fun and its my Friday lay day blog again, which brings some relief because I don’t feel quite as squeezed for time. Denmark seems to know a thing or two that other governments do not. They clearly stood their ground after the population failed to ratify the Maastricht Treaty and forced the European Council to create a special appendix exempting the nation from having to adopt the euro as their currency. Staying out of the Eurozone was very wise. This week, we learned that unlike other governments such as the Australian government, which is legislating to jail any citizen who goes to fight for various Muslim fighting units in and around Syria, Denmark’s approach is to offer them a job to restore their sense of hope in the Danish society and avoid a sense of alienation and social exclusion.