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The Weekend Quiz – September 30-October 1, 2017 – answers and discussion

Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’s Quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.

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Running trains faster but leaving more people on the platform is nonsense

Earlier in the week I was in Britain. Walking around the streets of Brighton, for example, was a stark reminder of how a wealthy nation can leave large numbers of people behind in terms of material well-being, opportunity and, if you study the faces of the people, hope. I am used to seeing poverty and mental illness on the streets of the US cities but in Brighton, England it very visible now as Britain has struggled under the yoke of austerity. Swathes of people living from day to day without hope under the current policy structures, damaging themselves through visible alcohol and substance abuse, cold from lack of shelter and adequate clothing, and the rest of it. And then a little diversion around the City area of London, where the overcoats the men wear cost upwards of £2,000 and the faces are full of intent. Two worlds really. I was thinking about those recent experiences when I read the latest release from the IMF (September 20, 2017) – Growth That Reaches Everyone: Facts, Factors, Tools. Their analysis continues the slow move of the IMF to acknowledging, not only the reality the world faces, but also, by implication, the massive costs that this institution has inflicted on poor people around the world.

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Addressing claims that global financial markets are all powerful

The United Nations Trade and Development Report 2017 was published last week and carried the sub-title “Beyond Austerity: Towards a Global New Deal”. It is amazing that 9 years after the crisis emerged we are still discussing austerity and its on-going damaging consequences. Effectively the crisis interrupted the neoliberal agenda to increase the incomes shares of the elites at the expense of the workers, with growth being a secondary consideration if at all. Austerity was the means by which the elites could resume this push and used all sorts of depoliticised arguments to make it look as though there was really no choice. They have been spectacularly successful in their quest. More shame to the rest of us who have stood by and blithely accepted the agenda and, to make matters worse, become mouthpieces of the myths that the neoliberals have constructed to give ‘authority’ to their savage attacks on public purpose. So social democratic politicians lead the austerity charge. Citizens stand around in pubs and cafes mouthing neoliberal nonsense about fiscal deficits etc without the slightest evidence that they know what they are talking about. UNCTAD report on all this in the latest Report. It is a sorry tale and requires a massive return of collective action and as they say – a “global New Deal”.

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Gross Flows analysis of Australian labour market – some improvement – August 2017

Today, I am writing from the Brighton, UK and today the first event of the British part of our Reclaim the State tour is to be held. See below for details. Last week, I attended the first International Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) conference, which although there have been many MMT-focused workshops or conferences in the past, was truly a gathering of the clan. The large number who attended (over 200 I believe) shows we are making progress. There is a snowball rolling and it will inevitably get bigger. The only danger of these focused events is that the ‘group’ can easily get trapped into thinking that the views expressed are the norm, which is the first step towards Groupthink. They are clearly not the norm and further work is required, but the fact that we can hold such a large conference focused exclusively on MMT is a significant step forward. I will write more about the MMT conference another day. Today, I want to focus on some statistics analysis – I had time on the plane journey across the Atlantic (Kansas City to London) to delve into the latest Gross Flows data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Gross flows analysis provides a different way of viewing the labour force data and often reveals some interesting trends that are hidden in the net analysis of labour market data.

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When intra-governmental relations became absurd – the US-Fed Accord – Part 3

I am writing this while waiting for a train at Victoria Station (London), which will take me to Brighton for tomorrow’s presentation at the British Labour Party Conference. The last several days I was in Kansas City for the inaugural International Modern Monetary Theory Conference, which attracted more than 200 participants and was going well when I left it on Saturday. A great step forward. I believe there will be video for all sessions available soon just in case you were unable to watch the live stream. Today’s blog completes my little history of the US Treasury Federal Reserve Accord, which really marked a turning point (for the worse) in the way macroeconomic policy was conducted in the US. In Part 1, I explained how from the inception (1913), the newly created Federal Reserve Bank, America’s central bank, was required by the US Treasury Department to purchase Treasury bonds in such volumes that would ensure the yields on long-term bonds were stable and low. There was growing unease with this arrangement among the conservative central bankers and, in 1935, the arrangement was altered somewhat to require the bank to only purchase debt in the secondary markets. But the change had little effective impact. The yields stayed low as was the intent. Further, all the prognistications that the conservatives raised about inflation and other maladies also did not emerge (which anyone who knew anything would have expected anyway). In Part 2, I traced the increased tensions between the central bank FOMC and the Treasury, which in part was exacerbated by the slight spike in inflation that accompanied the spending associated with the prosecution of the Korean War in the early 1950s. The tension manifested into open disagreement about the FOMC’s desire to raise interest rates and end the pegged yield arrangement with the Treasury. In Part 3, we discuss the culmination of that tension and disagreement and examine some of the less known and underlying forces that were fermenting the central bank desire for rebellion.

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The Weekend Quiz – September 23-24, 2017 – answers and discussion

Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’s Quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.

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When intra-governmental relations turned sour – the US-Fed Accord – Part 2

In Part 1 of this mini-series – When relations within government were sensible – the US-Fed Accord – Part 1 – I examined the pre-1951 agreement between the US Treasury department and the US Federal Reserve Bank, which saw the bank effectively fund the US Treasury. The nature of that relationship, which began when the central bank was formed in 1913, changed in 1935 when the legislators voluntarily chose to change the capacity of the currency issuer to buy unlimited amounts of US Treasury debt directly to one of only being able to purchase the debt in the secondary markets once issued. But the effect was the same. The central bank could control the yields at any segment of the bond maturity curve at its will. The shift in 1935 was the result of conservative forces that were intent on derailing the government’s capacity to use the consolidated central bank/treasury to efficiently advance well-being. They wanted political constraints placed on the Treasury, such that it would have to issue debt to the non-government sector before it could spend, which they knew was an arrangement (similar to formal debt ceilings) that could be used to pressure the government towards austerity. By the time the Korean War ensued, these conservative forces were winning the political debate and big changes were to come, which would limit the fiscal capacity of the US government to this very day. The result has been an inefficient fiscal process prone to capture by conservatives and certainly not one that a progressive would consider to be sensible. I analyse that shift post-1942 in this blog, which is Part 2 in the series. In Part 3, we pull the story together and reveal what was really going on.

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Travelling all day today …

I am travelling all of today to the US for the MMT Conference in Kansas City which begins on Thursday. I hope to see some of you at the conference which will be a major development in our program of work and advocacy. From there I am onto London for the British Labour Party Conference presentation (Monday) and the book launch of my latest book (with Thomas Fazi) Reclaiming the State: A Progressive Vision of Sovereignty for a Post-Neoliberal World (Tuesday – see below for free ticket access). For details of all the events associated with my speaking tour in the next fortnight see below.

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