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Europhile Left deluded if it thinks reform process will produce functional outcomes

A recent twitter exchange with some Europhiles who believe that it is better to wait for some, as yet unspecified, incremental reform process for the Eurozone rather than precipitate exit and the restoration of currency sovereignty was summed up for me by one of the tweets from Andrew Watt. In trying to defend the abandonment of sovereignty and make a case for continuing with the so-called reform dialogue, he wrote (October 27, 2017): “Unemployment in “periphery” was v hi before €. Fell rapidly. Then rose sharply, has now fallen somewhat. So picture very mixed.” I found that a deeply offensive claim to make and responded: “It is not a mixed picture at all. Youth unemployment has never been as high. Greek unemployment was never > 12%. Now > 20% indefinitely.” I also attached a graph (see over). I think this little exchange captures the essence of the delusion among many in the Left that we document in our new book – Reclaiming the State: A Progressive Vision of Sovereignty for a Post-Neoliberal World (Pluto Books, 2017). The Europhiles maintain a blind faith in what they claim to be a reform process, which when carried through will reduce some of the acknowledged shortcomings (I would say disastrously terminal design flaws). They don’t put any time dimension on this ‘process’ but claim it is an on-going dialogue and we should sit tight and wait for it to deliver. Apparently waiting for ‘pigs to fly’ is a better strategy than dealing with the basic problems that this failed system has created. I think otherwise. The human disaster that the Eurozone has created impacts daily on peoples’ lives. It is entrenching long-term costs where a whole generation of Europeans has been denied the chance to work. That will reverberate for the rest of their lives and create dysfunctional outcomes no matter what ‘reforms’ are introduced. The damage is already done and remedies are desperately needed now. The so-called ‘reforms’ to date have been pathetic (think: banking union) and do not redress the flawed design. And to put a finer point on it: Germany will never allow sufficient changes to be made to render the EMU a functioning and effective federation. The Europhile Left is deluded if it thinks otherwise.

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US growth performance hides very disturbing regional trends

Last Friday (October 27, 2017), the US Bureau of Economic Analysis published their latest national accounts data – Gross Domestic Product: Third Quarter 2017 (Advance Estimate), which tells us that annual real GDP growth rate was 3 per cent in the September-quarter 2017, slightly down on the 3.1 per cent recorded in the June-quarter. As this is only the “Advance estimate” (based on incomplete data) there is every likelihood that the figure will be revised when the “second estimate” is published on November 29, 2017. The US result was driven, in part, by a continued (but slowing) contribution from personal consumption expenditure which coincided with record levels of household indebtedness. How long consumption expenditure can be kept growing as the debt levels rise is a relevant question. At some point, the whole show will come to a stop as it did in 2008 and that will impact negatively on private investment expenditure as well, which has just started to show signs of recovery. Governments haven’t learned that relying on personal consumption expenditure for economic growth in an environment of flat wages growth means that household debt will rise quickly and reach unsustainable levels. How harsh the correction will be is as yet unclear. But when it comes, the US government will need to increase its discretionary fiscal deficit to stimulate confidence among business firms and get growth back on track.

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The Weekend Quiz – October 28-29, 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 the mainstream Left gets lost down its Europhile hole

Thomas Fazi and I recently published an Op Ed in Social Europe (October 20, 2017) – Everything You Know About Neoliberalism Is Wrong, which is a precis of the main arguments in our new book Reclaiming the State: A Progressive Vision of Sovereignty for a Post-Neoliberal World (Pluto Books, 2017). It seems that our message resonates with a lot of people. And, inasmuch as it is deeply critical of the extant Left position on ‘internationalism’ who continually seem to live in terror of those amorphous financial markets just waiting for a chance to send a nation state bankrupt, it seems to have also upset some who I consider to be the ‘lost’ mainstream Left. One such critic accuses us of using a “presumptuous title” but he is seemingly unable to capture the pop culture irony that is inherent in the choice. Just a bit of fun Andrew. Since when is comedy presumptuous? But failing to grasp the subtlety of the title is just the start. Things go downhill from there.

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The ‘infinite-horizon fiscal gap’ is just an infinity of nonsense – try measuring that!

The ‘infinite-horizon fiscal gap’ is just an infinity of nonsense. That is, if such a level of ridiculousness can be measured, which it cannot. So suffice to say a pretty large dose of nonsense. Certainly nothing to take seriously. Anyone who sprouts this nonsense declares themselves unqualified to discuss notions of sovereignty and the capacities of a currency-issuing state. But while some mainstream economists are firmly stuck in their Groupthink-riddled stupors with their ‘infinite-horizon fiscal gap’ calculations producing ever increasing (scaremungous) $ sums that the US government is allegedly unable to ever pay, the movers and shakers of the political scene, such as the Koch Brothers in the US, feel no compunction to stick with a consistent line attacking fiscal deficits. A few years ago they were predicting mayhem and insolvency just like the stupified academics. How things change when some dollars are up for grabs even if the fiscal deficit has to rise to transfer that largesse to the non-government sector. Then it is look the other way on the deficit and send us the cash. Sickening.

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The sham of ECB independence

One of the major claims the founders of the EMU made was that by creating an independent ECB – by which they meant ‘independent’ of the influence from the Member States or other EU bodies (such as the Eurogroup) – they were laying the foundations of financial stability and disciplining the fiscal policy of the Member States. This so-called independence was embodied in the – Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union – where Article 123 prevents the ECB from giving “overdraft facilities or any other type of credit facility” to the Member State governments (and other EU bodies); Article 124 prohibits any Member State government (and other EU bodies) from having “privileged access” to the financial institutions; and Article 125 prohibits the ECB from assuming any liabilities or “commitments” of the Member State governments (etc) – the famous ‘no bailout’ clause. But a recent report from the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) – Open doors for forces of finance – (published October 3, 2017) – suggests that the ECB feigns independence and is in fact captive of the largest profit-seeking financial institutions that sit on its advisory groups. In other words, the ECB has become a vehicle to advance private return and avoid regulative imposts when the TFEU outlines an entirely different role for the bank.

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Time to nationalise superannuation in Australia – even conservatives think so!

In our new book, Reclaiming the State: A Progressive Vision of Sovereignty for a Post-Neoliberal World (Pluto Books, 2017) – Thomas Fazi and I argue that that reversal of many of the neoliberal changes that governments have agreed to over the last three or more decades is not only possible but desirable. While many of our proposals exploit the legislative power that a democratic government clearly possesses (such as reregulating banking etc), other proposals directly rely on the currency-issuing capacity of the government. One such proposal is to create national pension funds (or superannuation funds in the Australian terminology), which provide an efficient and secure vehicle for workers to channel savings while working to improve their retirement prospects later in life. This idea runs counter of the neoliberal myth, which claimed that the ‘market’ would be a better vehicle for creating institutions to manage workers’ saving and maximise pension entitlements. In Australia, we are now witnessing the indecent greed and major rip-off of workers that the ‘market’ solution has delivered. Even one of the architects of privatised superannuation schemes, the former conservative Treasurer Peter Costello is seeing the folly of his work. In the UK Guardian article (October 13, 2017) – Peter Costello calls for nationalisation of superannuation – we learn that the former treasurer believes that “Australia’s collective $2.3 trillion pension pot would be better invested by a government agency”. The natives are getting restless!

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The Weekend Quiz – October 21-22, 2017 – answers and discussion

Here are the answers with discussion for yesterday’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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