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Government budgets bear no relation to household budgets

Today (December 19, 2012), the economics editor for the Sydney Morning Herald (Ross Gittins) wrote an Op Ed piece – It’s the weak recovery that worries, not surplus – which urged his readers to reorient their thinking about the Federal government’s obsession with achieving a budget surplus in the coming year. In that sense, it was welcome article from an influential journalist. But closer reading demonstrates that the writer is straddling the line between comprehension and myth-perpetuation. Many readers have asked me to pin-point the strengths and weaknesses of the article for their own edification. So lets proceed. The key point is that the budgets of currency-issuing national governments bear no relation to household budgets. If we do not jettison that myth then very little progress can be made on the more complex parts of the narrative that leads to the conclusion that such a government can never run out of money and all the negative consequences that are alleged to necessarily follow the use of budget deficits (higher interest rates, inflation, eventual insolvency) are lies, which aim to perpetuate a dominant paradigm rather than advance the welfare of all of us.

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