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The path out of the low wage trap is limited by fiscal austerity

During my postgraduate study years I read a 1954 article by American economist Clark Kerr entitled – The Balkanization of Labor Markets – which attacked the mainstream labour market views that there was mobility within labour markets such that poverty arising from low-pay was a function of workers’ preferences for low education and more leisure (that is, unemployment). As such, there was no reason for the government to intervene to improve wages or job security. Kerr’s thesis was that there was not a ‘single’ labour market accessible to all, where individual mobility would result from personal investment in education and skill development. Instead, he argued that the US labour market was “segmented” by institutional arrangements, which trapped some demographic cohorts into low-pay and insecure jobs. Poverty could arise from these traps. The idea morphed into the segmented labour market literature of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The applications were mostly Anglo because in non-Anglo countries there appeared to be more resistance to institutional arrangements that undermined the chance for workers to enjoy job security with decent pay. However, in recent years (decade) the trend towards precarious work where certain groups (women, youth, migrants) are trapped in low pay and frequent spells of unemployment has spread, with devastating consequences. The largest European economies – Germany and France – are now bedevilled with this issue and with a bias towards fiscal austerity, the path for workers out of the trap is limited.

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The latest scam from the European Commission – the ‘roadmap’ – Part 2

This is the second part of my two-part series analysing the latest offering from the European Commission on Eurozone ‘reform’. Today, I consider the two ‘concrete’ proposals to emerge from last week’s – Completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union – policy package. The two ‘concrete’ proposals are: Creation of a European Monetary Fund to absorb the intergovernmental European Stability Fund and the integration of the Fiscal Compact into the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Neither are reforms worth considering. In general, they reflect a desire by the European Commission to further extend its control and to make it harder for Member States to act unilaterally. Given these are the only two actual action plans that the European Commission has proposed in its latest salvo to extend the monetary union, one has to conclude that there is little chance that anything progressive will come out of this process. And, that should inform the Europhile Left that they are on the wrong horse. They seem to have a blind faith that pressure will eventually force the European Commission to come up with policies and structures that would deliver progressive outcomes. That faith is delusional. It would be better for the Europhile Left to come to terms with that reality and get behind progressive movements that seek to restore national (currency) sovereignty, which will allow the current Member States to restore full employment and start rebuilding some prosperity.

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The latest scam from the European Commission – the ‘roadmap’ – Part 1

Scam merchants come in many forms. We keep getting ‘official’ requests fir bank details from E-mails that wouldn’t pass a primary school spelling or grammar bee. Creeps prey on old people to rip them off in ‘essential’ house repairs that are neither essential or actually repaired once the money changes hands. Fake charity impersonation is another. The sad and lonely regularly get duped on dating and romance WWW sites. Employers often pay below legal wages and conditions. Banksters fake loan documents and push credit onto the ill-prepared and vulnerable. The ratings agencies corruptly provide AAA ratings for money. And it goes on. And then we have the European Commission. This is one hell of a scam agency. They regularly conduct expensive ‘reviews’ or whatever, hosting meetings with fine food and wine for the Euro in-crowd, and swan around Europe between fine hotels on generous expense accounts. Out of all this come ‘grand statements’ full of motherhood statements, such as the 2005 “Priority” statement: A deeper and fairer economic and monetary union. Then we had the 2015 – The Five Presidents’ Report: Completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union – which inspired zero confidence that anything was about to change. Reform proposals come out of Europe on a regular basis but none get to grips with the problem – the euro itself! And the latest scam from the European Commission is their self-named roadmap for – Completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union – policy package. Scams come in many forms. This is one of them. The really sad part is the Europhile Left think that the latest statement is a mostly a ‘step forward’ and that there is hope. Sorry. One word. Germany. This is Part 1 of a two-part blog analysing the latest ‘proposals’ from the European Commission.

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British Tories reject the ‘free market’ neoliberal myth

The conservatives in the British Labour Party are obviously worried. The UK Guardian article (December 2, 2017) – Labour faces subversion by Momentum and far left, says Roy Hattersley – reports the claim by former Deputy leader, Roy Hattersley that British Labour is “facing the biggest crisis in its history” because left-wingers are engaged “in a systematic takeover of the party”. Gosh. Sounds shocking. A traditionally left-wing political party slowly wresting it back to mission after being hijacked by the right-wing, neoliberal Blairites. That sounds like Armageddon. The Blairites tried to kill off Jeremy Corbyn several times as they continued to undermine him in the public eye and bleated about how he was going to destroy the Labour Party. They then fell silent when he nearly delivered the Party government in the recent national election and saved many of their jobs. Now, with a by-election in Watford, the conservatives are back to it although it has to be said that Hattersley cannot be called a Blairite. He represents the pre-Blairite right-wingers who backed Dennis Healey as he imposed Monetarist ideology on the Party in the mid-1970s. And this article came out soon after the Tory government announced a major ‘socialist’-style industrial plan. In its press release (November 27, 2017) – Government unveils Industrial Strategy to boost productivity and earning power of people across the UK we learn that the Tories are finally understanding that it can actually improve the fortunes of British workers by abandoning the failed neoliberal, ‘free market’ narrative and recognising, instead, the central role to be played by the nation state in advancing well-being and economic fortune.

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The EMU reform ruse – Part 3

This is the third part of my mini-series which have been evaluating one so-called progressive reform approach to the Eurozone disaster. Part 2 provided essential background, given that one of the proposals being circulated by progressives involves the weaker Eurozone nations re-establishing their own currencies and then pegging them against the Euro. I showed that attempts to maintain any form of fixed parities among the core European states has been chaotic and led to breakdown. Along the way, the weaker trading nations were subject to austerity biases and elevated levels of unemployment. Given the scope of the topic, it will take me two more parts to finalise the discussion. In this part and the final part 4 I will discuss the second proposal from German academic Fritz Sharpf, which appears to have gained some traction with the Europhile Left, much to my disappointment. Here we commence the analysis of Sharpf’s “Two-tiered European Community” proposal.

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The EMU reform ruse – Part 1

On October 31, 2017, my blog – Europhile Left deluded if it thinks reform process will produce functional outcomes – countered some of the nonsense coming out of Europe (from the so-called progressive side) that the Eurozone hadn’t failed when judged by it bias towards mass unemployment and increasing precariousness of its citizens. I particularly noted the terrible record in terms of youth unemployment and NEETs. Yesterday’s blog – Massive Eurozone infrastructure deficit requires urgent redress – documented how much damage the austerity bias of the Eurozone has caused to essential productive infrastructure – human and physical and the ridiculous underinvestment by governments locked into mindless Stability and Growth Pact (and its recent derivatives) rules. Unphased, the Europhiles keep telling me that reform processes are underway and that we need to be patient. That the glorious vision outlined in the October 1990 European Commission Report – One Market, One Money Report, which, apparently outlined a vision of domestic-demand driven convergence bliss for the Economic and Monetary Union. I analysed that Report in detail in my 2015 book – Eurozone Dystopia: Groupthink and Denial on a Grand Scale – and have to say that anyone who holds it out as a plan for the future must have been reading a different report or affected by heavy drugs. Today, I am considering recent reform proposals put forward by German academic Fritz Sharpf, who considers the neoliberal Eurozone experiment has failed but can be resurrected without abandoning the essential mechanics of the monetary union. Tomorrow, I will start to consider a so-called progressive proposal that breaks the EMU into two tiers – a Northern hard currency zone and a ‘Southern’ zone where nations reintroduce their own currencies, but peg them against the euro with ECB support. It will not surprise regular readers to know that I disagree with Sharpf’s reform agenda.

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Massive Eurozone infrastructure deficit requires urgent redress

The latest – EIB Investment Report 2017/2018 – published last week by the European Investment Bank tells anyone who cares to take those Europhile Rose Coloured Glasses off for just a second how deep the failure of the European policy making structures are and how long the negative impacts of those failures will resonate. This is the true ‘burden for our (their) grand kids’ sort of stuff. In claiming they had to run tight fiscal policy biased towards surpluses to avoid forcing the future generations to carry an unfair burden, these European policy makers and leaders have done exactly the opposite, as predicted – they have created an appalling future for their youth and their children to follow. The whole European monetary experiment is a failure and is beyond reform. It needs to be scrapped, national sovereignty restored and people within their own countries left, through democratic institutions to determine how the public sector operates in their best interests. The Troika technocrats should be led out to pasture. And, to the Europhile Left: take of your rose coloured glasses.

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Automation and full employment – back to the 1960s

On August 19, 1964, the then US President Lyndon B. Johnson established the – National Commission on Technology, Automation, and Economic Progress. He established the Commission in response to growing concern during the deep 1960-61 recession that the unemployment had been created by the pace of technological change. Ring a bell! He wanted to an inquiry to explore this issue and come up with recommendations on how to deal with the possibility that automation was wiping out jobs and the future would be bleak. Before the Commission had reported, the Federal government had reversed its fiscal austerity and the resulting stimulus had driven the unemployment back down to relatively low levels. The Commission noted that unemployment was largely the result of inadequate total spending and that the Government had the tools at its disposal to eliminate it. They considered that there would be workers (low-skill etc) who would suffer more displacement from technology than those with more skill etc, but that ultimately even those workers would be able to get jobs if the public deficit was large enough. In this regard, they eschewed pointless training programs that did not provide immediate access to jobs. Instead, they recommended (among other things) the introduction of a Job Guarantee (Public Service Employment) financed by the Federal government but administered at all levels of government. It would pay the Federal minimum wage and be available on demand. This is the preferred Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) approach and rejects solutions that rely on the provision of a basic income guarantee to resolve the problems created by unemployment.

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What matters about the Paradise Papers

A cursory glance at the World’s leading tax havens illustrates the hypocrisy of politicians getting wound up about the revelations in the recently released Paradise Papers and the Panama Papers before them. Many of the havens are within the direct legislative jurisdiction of nations such as the US (which is itself a tax haven) and the UK, for example. And we should not forget that Luxembourg, Switzerland are key European homes of tax avoidance. Remember that the current President of the European Commission “spent years in his previous role as Luxembourg’s prime minister secretly blocking EU efforts to tackle tax avoidance by multinational corporations” (Source) ably supported by the Netherlands, another nation engaged in the practice. If the politicians were truly worried about this issue they could do something about it directly with the stroke of a legislative pen. Britain could, for example, eliminate Jersey, the Isle of Man, and its Overseas Territories from this corporate scam. The US could do similarly. The EU could bring in new rules to stop Luxembourg. But they don’t stop it, which tells you everything. But, the problem of tax avoidance and evasion is not fiscal. Progressives get stuck on that point. It is largely irrelevant. The real issues are inequality, power and macroeconomic stability. That is what this blog is about.

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British mainstream media spreading dangerous MMT ideas

The British newspaper, The Independent seems to be getting in beds with Commies lately. The evidence I elicit is the recent article (November 4, 2017) – Actually the magic money tree does exist, according to modern monetary theory – by a journalist Youssef El-Gingihy. It gives oxygen to the views of an Australian economist, one William Mitchell who espouses what is known as Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) – yes, you got it in one – another crackpot economic approach that fails to recognise that most professional economists reject it, which means it must be wrong. Right! More than two thousand people have shared the article, which means the socialist cancer is being spread by these Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) fanatics. One commentator thought it was a “rearly stupid article”. Don’t worry about the spelling error. The opinion is what mattered and it was dead-centre true. Mitchell must be one of the most stupid economists ever. Like his MMT mates who seem to be tweeting and being retweeted in ever increasing frequencies these days, which just goes to show that people can be indoctrinated to believe anything. Some comments were made on the article, which just reflected what anybody who knows anything about economics would say – you know – government spending will ultimately cause “hyperinflation” – everybody knows that. Further, one insightful commentator noted that because Britain is not at war there is “no justification to rack up big debts” – everybody knows that. Mitchell obviously wants the government to rack up huge debts, although he doesn’t actually say that. But if the government does run deficits it will obviously intend “to soft-default on debts through inflation” which will then mean “the markets will smash the pound”. Everybody knows that too. For me, I couldn’t get any traction in the comments section – most commentators seemed to be supportive of this mad professor’s crazy ideas – so I decided to E-mail him. I didn’t get any satisfaction from that either. He is obviously a commie in disguise. He said something about Chartalism. I think that was just a typo in his reply – probably he was trying to say that he was a charlatan. What is the world coming to!

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