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The Weekend Quiz – July 25-26, 2020

Welcome to The Weekend Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention or not to the blog posts that I post. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.

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    RBA governor denying history and evidence to make political points

    Today, the Australian Treasurer is out in force telling us that the fiscal situation is dire and that they have to start making cutbacks. Meanwhile in the real world, the unemployment rate continues to rise, businesses continue to fail, and the lowest paid workers, are being forced to continue working in dangerous health situations because they cannot ‘afford’ to stay at home like the better paid workers and protect their health. Its doesn’t bear scrutiny. My research centre released an updated report this week that also bears on the situation. The current fiscal stimulus is probably, at least $A100 billion short of where it should be, yet the government is announcing cuts. It will not turn out well. Meanwhile, across town, the Reserve Bank governor has been trying to deny the RBA has the currency capacity to allow the Treasury to keep spending without issuing debt. Already, the Labor party are making political points out of the rising public debt, which just makes them unelectable really, rather than savvy. The RBA governor’s intervention also just proved he is prepared to deny history and evidence to make political points, which had the other consequence of demonstrating how lacking in ‘independence’ the central bank is from the political process. And so it goes on.

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      MMTed Q&A – Episode 8

      Here is Episode 8 in our weekly MMTed Q&A series. In this episode, my special guest was Warren Mosler. We talked about the difference between issuing bonds and overt monetary financing, and issues related to those concepts and practices. And when your done with that you can enjoy some great Latin Jazz from the Monterey Peninsular – from 1959 (a good vintage).

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        An old central banker trying to come to terms with MMT – not quite getting there

        Last week (July 14, 2020), a former deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), Stephen Grenville wrote an article – Modern Monetary Theory and mainstream economics converging. The title suggests a gathering of minds between two paradigms – the degenerative mainstream macroeconomics and the emerging Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). I wouldn’t represent what is happening in that way. Convergence implies a harmonious process. The reality is that some of the mainstream economists have realised that their approach is deeply flawed and events over many years have demonstrated those flaws, while ratifying the empirical content of central MMT propositions. Our position has been consistent over 25 years. Now, the mainstream is fracturing and economists are trying to save face and remain relevant by suggesting, in various ways, that they knew all of the MMT insights all along, or variants on that theme. They didn’t. They were deeply opposed and hostile to key MMT insights that are now becoming widely acknowledged as correct. In trying to maintain this image of convergence, Stephen Grenville’s article, while quite insightful in many ways, misleads his readership and mispresents key MMT elements.

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          Latest Australian payroll data suggests employment damage from shutdown is worse than thought

          The evidence that is mounting is allowing researchers to better assess the damage that is emerging from the way in which we are dealing with the coronavirus. One of the important questions that will determine the future trajectory of our economy relates to how many workplaces have disappeared altogether as a result of the businesses disappearing forever as a result of the flow-on impacts of the compulsory lockdown. Last week (July 14, 2020), the Australian Bureau of Statistics released their latest employment data taken from Australian Tax Office data – Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages in Australia, Week ending 27 June 2020. They have slowed the release cycle on this data (for reasons they have not disclosed), so it is a month since I have analysed it. The latest data covers the period up to June 27, 2020. The monthly labour force data released last Thursday for June 2020, covers a period that ends around June 12, 2020, so the payroll data provides a more recent snapshot of the state of affairs – an extra three weeks. As the enforced restrictions were eased, payroll employment recovered somewhat and by the end of June is now 5.7 per cent below the March 14, 2020 levels. It appears though that, while part-time work has recovered, full-time work continues to decline. Examining the age profiles of the recovery demonstrates that prime age workers have not enjoyed a commensurate recovery. The two observations are linked and are suggestive of the impacts of the initial damage have now permeated the supply chain and employment losses are spreading outside areas initially most impacted by the lockdown. So my prediction in March that many businesses will disappear because the fiscal support by the government was inadequate and poorly targetted in terms of protecting jobs is looking like being validated by subsequent data. But it now seems that the recovery in employment will be protracted given how many jobs have been lost to date and the renewed lockdowns in Victoria. A much larger fiscal intervention is required and it has to be directed at workers rather than firms and support direct job creation.

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            The Weekend Quiz – July 18-19, 2020 – 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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              The Weekend Quiz – July 18-19, 2020

              Welcome to The Weekend Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention or not to the blog posts that I post. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.

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                Australia labour market – one step forward up a gigantic mountain

                The Australian labour market recovered somewhat as the governments eased the lockdown restrictions in the service sector. The latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics – Labour Force, Australia, June 2020 – released today (June 18, 2020) shows that employment rose by 1.7 per cent. However, participation also rose as job opportunities increased, and the labour force change outstripped the employment increase, which meant that unemployment rose by 69,300 thousand. The rise in employment was totally accounted for by part-time jobs growth, which is a worrying sign. The decline in full-time employment signals that some businesses are closing or others are restructuring their workforces towards more precarious work. The official unemployment rate of 7.4 per cent continues to underestimate the actual impact given that the labour force is still 384 thousand lower than it was in March 2020. Adding those ‘hidden unemployed’ workers back to the underutilisation rate suggests that 22 per cent of the available labour supply is not working in one way or another (unemployment, hidden unemployment, and underemployment). Any government that oversees that sort of disaster has failed in their basic responsibilities to society. It must increase its fiscal stimulus and target it towards large-scale job creation.

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                  MMTed Q&A – Episode 7

                  Here is Episode 7 in our weekly MMTed Q&A series. This is the third- and final part of my discussion on the Job Guarantee with Dr Pavlina Tcherneva and in this episode we discuss the applicability of Job Guarantee to nations that have both fiscal and external deficits and are exposed to international currency markets. While such a nation faces somewhat different pressures from their external sector, the point remains that if they have their own currency, they can always ensure that all the available productive resources at their disposal can be fully employed. The catch is that that level of activity may not deliver a high standard of material prosperity. We discuss examples such as Indonesia, Pakistan, South Africa and Argentina.

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                    Governments are now in an ideological bind

                    Today’s blog post is a draft for another deadline I have this week, this time writing for a European publication on the state of affairs in the Eurozone. I have four major pieces of work to finalise this week so, as in yesterday, I am using this time to progress those goals. For many regular readers it will be nothing new. But, putting the arguments together in this way might just provide some different angles for people who haven’t thought about things in this way before. Regular transmission will resume on Thursday (probably).

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