Its seems the conservative economics press is going through a hard time as it tries to wrest itself from its past litany of errors of judgement, backing the wrong horse, whatever. The latest example is The Economist Magazine, which ran a Leader Article over the weekend (September 25, 2021) = The mess Merkel leaves behind. It eviscerates the Merkel period for leaving Germany with a legacy that will cause headaches for future leaders and for the German people. This runs counter to the usual stuff the Magazine has offered about the soundness of Germany over many years as a bastion of stability and good financial management. It also provides a dose of reality to the raft of ridiculous glowing assessments of the Merkel years. In my view, she has overseen a government that has undermined its own prosperity, deliberately disobeyed the very rules it enforces on other nations in the Eurozone, and bullied leaders of other nations to enact dreadful policy shifts that have impoverished defenceless citizens. It is a cause of celebration that she is going not because we laud her work, quite the opposite. One failure less in public office.
It’s Wednesday and so not much blog writing today. I have a few writing commitments to finalise in the coming few weeks and I need some time to do that. So today I provide some working notes and analysis of the data on UK Zero-hour contracts after I updated my dataset today. Some advertising of upcoming events follows and then some great guitar playing. A typical Wednesday at my blog it seems.
Last Saturday, September 11, we observed the anniversary of a terrible terrorist act, inflicted on a free people with a democratically-elected government by multinational conspiratorial forces. The terrorist attack happened on a Tuesday. It resulted in the death of thousands of innocent people and the offenders have never been brought to justice. We should etch that day – Tuesday, September 11, 1973 – in our consciences, especially if you are an American, British or Australian citizen, given the culpability of our respective governments in that despicable coup d’etat. Today, a bit of a different blog post as I remember this historical event and the way it undermined progressive thought for years. The type of economic policies introduced by Pinochet on advice from the ‘Chicago Boys’ became the standard approach for even the traditional social democratic parties in the 1980s and beyond. We still haven’t abandoned the macroeconomic ideology that accompanies this approach. And Chile, 1973, was the live laboratory. Yes, the Blairites and the Delors-types and the American Democrats, etc don’t chuck inconvenient people out of planes in the ocean to get rid of them like Pinochet did on a daily basis, but the macroeconomics invoked is not that different.
Australia is now locked into a new phase of the pandemic where NSW is in danger of allowing the virus to run free throughout the population due to the incompetence of the conservative state government. For the duration of the pandemic up until now, the NSW government has been lecturing the other states (mostly run by Labor governments) about how they had a superior health system (health is organised along state/territory lines in Australia) and how they valued freedom more than the dictatorial Labor states that go into lockdown very quickly if a case threatens. It turns out NSW has just been lucky to now and the latest outbreak has revealed their ‘freedom first’ approach is a false freedom. Sydney has been locked down for weeks now and cases are still rising and it seems the contact tracers have lost control. But the hubris from the NSW government has really exposed a much deeper malaise that has been evident for years now as a result of the way neoliberalism has reconfigured the public sector and the role of government. The pandemic is just exposes the erosion of government capacity to provide public services and infrastructure and deal with public emergencies. That is one of the important revelations to come out of the pandemic.
Just when we were meant to be waving our national flags, standing to attention at the medal ceremonies and enjoying the Olympic Games from our various states of lockdown or in my case (day 12) quarantine, Professor Scott Baum sends me his latest guest blog telling us how bad the Games are. What a spoilsport (sorry). So, today, Scott from Griffith University, who has been one of my regular research colleagues over a long period of time, brings the wet blanket to wreck our fun, and just as Victoria (where I am holed up in quarantine at present) comes out of lockdown. Over to Scott …
It is a public holiday today on the East coast of Australia and given I am part of the public I have decided it will be a blog holiday too. The truth is that I am travelling a lot today and will drop into the football in Sydney on the way. I will be back tomorrow.
I am tied up most of today in Sydney and so am handing over the blog responsibilities to our regular guest blogger, Professor Scott Baum from Griffith University who has been one of my regular research colleagues over a long period of time. Today he is writing about the impact the Australian Government’s COVID income supplement has had on financial stress and the need for continued support for our mot vulnerable households. Over to Scott who shows clearly that the persistence of poverty is a government choice …
Last night, the Federal Treasurer released the annual ‘fiscal statement’ (aka ‘The Budget’) and everyone is jumping up and down at the size of the spending proposed. Yes, the deficit and debt hysteria has been abandoned for the time being – but only because this is an election year (presumably). This is an announcement government (with little action) and the actual bigger spending initiatives are not next year but in the hazy forward years which means we can largely disregard them. Further, what most commentators are ignoring is that the Government is proposing a record fiscal contraction next year (2021-22) and is relying on (unrealistic) growth in household consumption expenditure over a period they project real wages will fall. If their projections are to be believed then household debt will rise significantly beyond its already record levels. But I don’t believe the projections anyway. In terms of my wish list, the fiscal strategy fails – no funding for carbon retrenchment, little for social housing, nothing for higher education and lots of handouts for their business mates who will pocket the funds and pay themselves very well in the process.
When the British Office of National Statistics published the January 2021 trade figures in March, the first after Brexit was finalised, they showed a 42 per cent decline in UK exports to the European Union. Exports fell by £5.6 billion and imports fell by 28.8 per cent or £6.6 billion. it was the worst monthly drop since records were first published on a monthly basis in 1997. The Remain crowd went berserk and the ‘I told you so’ chorus was raucous. I wonder where there voice has gone now the February 2021 trade figures show a 46 per cent rise in UK exports to the UK. Boats and trucks are carrying goods to the EU from Britain still. We shouldn’t take the monthly data too seriously, especially as it has been complicated by the transition arrangements and COVID. There will be costs from the change in border arrangements. But the predictions of doom are proving to be wildly inaccurate. I have my flame suit standing by.
On March 25, 2021, a member of the US House of Represenatives “introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives this week condemning Modern Monetary Theory, recognizing that its implementation would lead to higher deficits and inflation”, while a “companion bill” was introduced into the US Senate (Source). The full text of the proposed legislation is available – HERE. The Bill is full of factual errors. But I thought the most significant aspect is the ‘authorities’ they call upon for justification. A parade of mainstream economists and progressive economists are quoted to give support for the Bill. And I haven’t seen one disclaimer from those mentioned disassociating themselves from some of the wild inferences that the Bill makes. They have allowed themselves to be co-opted by their silence in this rather tawdry and dishonest exercise. That is not surprising at all.