Australia’s new central bank governor chooses to dissemble on fiscal issues

The new governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia (our central bank) gave a speech in Melbourne yesterday (November 15, 2016) – Buffers and Options to the annual dinner of the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA). CEDA is a seedy type of organisation that typically advances the neo-liberal agenda. Please read my blog – The CEDA Report – one of the worst ever – for more discussion on this point. But that is not the topic today. The new governor has already began his tenure in disappointing fashion. I discussed his first foray into public life in this role in the blog – First appearance by Australia’s new central bank governor disappointing. His latest public intervention suggests he is hardening this stance – perpetuating the myths that a currency-issuing government is dependent on bond markets for its spending capacity and that public borrowing puts a burden on future generations. While today’s blog is about Australia, the principles elucidated are universal.
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    Posted in Central banking, Fiscal Statements | 8 Comments

    When New is Old and just another exercise in denial

    There is now a so-called “New View of fiscal policy”, which, in fact, is not all that different to the “Old View” although the proponents are hell-bent on convincing us (and presumably themselves) otherwise. The iterative bumbling along of mainstream economists, dammed by reality but steeped in denial, continues. The latest iteration comes from the Chairman of the US Council of Economic Advisors, one Jason Furman, who was supervised in his doctoral studies by Greg Mankiw at Harvard. He is also “closely linked to Robert Rubin” a classic “Wall Street insider” who was Treasury secretary under Bill Clinton and a gung-ho deregulator with a seedy past (in January 2009, he was named by Marketwatch as one of the “10 most unethical people in business”). Please see – Being shamed and disgraced is not enough – for more on Rubin. Furman’s lineage is thus not good. Furman supports free trade, social security private accounts and Wal-Mart’s labour practices which allows it to offer such low prices (for junk!) (Source). Furman is part of the core ‘Democrat neo-liberal establishment’, which received its comeuppance in last week’s Presidential election. His views on fiscal policy should come as no surprise then.
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      Posted in Central banking, Economics, Fiscal Statements | 20 Comments

      Trump might do us a favour – expose the myth of central bank independence

      Prior to the ‘surprise’ victory of Donald Trump in last week’s US Presidential poll, there was an article (September 28, 2016) in the Financial Times – Trump is right to take aim at the ‘political’ Fed – arguing that Trump had “broken a cardinal rule in US presidential campaigning by openly questioning the effectiveness of the Federal Reserve”. In the Presidential debates, Trump had claimed that the US Federal Reserve banks had been “doing political things” as a result of their low interest rate policy and creating a “false economy”. The central bank governor responded by saying the bank did not take politics into account when changing monetary policy. Apparently, Trump was echoing conservative economists who think the low interest rates have pushed investors into riskier financial investments, which will crash if rates rise. It has to be said that history tells us that Republican party politicians regularly lambast the US central bank along conspiratorial lines (for example, 2011 Rick Perry’s “treasonous” allegations against Bernanke; George W Bush, Richard Nixon). What does it all mean? There was an interesting article in the Financial Times today (November 14, 2016) by Wolfgang Münchau – The end of the era of central bank independence – that claims the tide is shifting and more political interference in monetary policy is to be expected. My conclusion: if so, good. Democracy requires the elected polity takes responsibility for economic policy rather than an unelected, largely unaccountable, group of ‘economists’. But, I also add, the idea of central bank ‘independence’ is one of those neo-liberal myths that allow the elected polity to disassociate themselves from bad economic policy.
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        Posted in Central banking | 15 Comments

        The Weekend Quiz – November 12-13, 2016 – 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 – November 12-13, 2016

          Welcome to The Weekend Quiz, which used to be known as the Saturday Quiz! The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention or not to the blogs 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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            Using welfare systems to hide the problem of deindustrialisation

            There have been lots of E-mail requests overnight for commentary on the US election result. I think that space is pretty crowded at present – with Clinton supporters trying to reconstruct events to defray their responsibility (a denial strategy), in a similar vein to the Remainers in Britain in the early days after the Brexit vote. I expect to read learned columns in the New York Times and other establishment newspapers in the weeks ahead outlining, with all the gravity that is possible in the written word, how millions of Americans who voted for Trump are now regretting it. Same as in the UK. I expect to read a lot about racism and misogyny and various numbers wheeled out to show who voted for whom to prove this or that. The twitterverse has already gone crazy with this sort of ‘analysis’. Maybe later when I have had a chance to reflect on the actual data I might write something. But what part of “the people are sick of the establishment even though they don’t quite know what they are going to do about it and given the choices support those who will do little about it” is hard to understand. The neo-liberal lust has created a monster that they now cannot control. The highly concentrated mainstream media doesn’t call the shots as much as it did. The academic economists who preach fear of change but who people know from the GFC are a depreciated cohort without much insight at all are now ignored. That is how I am seeing it. A great chance for a new progressive element but also space for the worst of the right-wing to fill. A big contest is now there for ideas to play out. The only problem is that the mainstream ‘progressive’ forces (like the Democrats, British Labour Party, Socialist Parties, etc) have been so captured by the establishment that they have become the establishment – neo-liberal to the core. But today, I will write a bit about the abuse of Disability Support Pension schemes to hide unemployment and make austerity look less worse than it is.
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              Posted in Economics, Eurozone, UK Economy, US economy | 19 Comments

              Hyman Minsky was not a guiding light for MMT

              I am currently working on a book commissioned by Edward Elgar which will form an anthology of influential Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) literature – how it evolved – with a long introduction by me tying all this literature together. It has been a simmering project for the last 18 months and I haven’t mentioned it here until now. The first task was to assemble the literature and then the next task was that the publisher (EE) has to get copyright clearance from the original holders. The second process has taken some time and I have had to alter the proposed table of contents because we cannot get copyright clearance. The reason I mention this is that the work of Hyman Minsky is not among the literature I have selected as being influential in the intellectual development of MMT. That is not to say that some of his earlier work was of no interest. Quite the contrary. But when he makes statements that appear to be consistent with MMT propositions, he is, in my view, just channelling the likes of Abba Lerner and his functional finance. But later in his career, Minsky started to articulate ideas that were consistent with ‘sound finance’, which Lerner had opposed, and, which is anathema to MMT.
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                Posted in Debriefing 101 | 21 Comments

                The case against free trade – Part 2

                This blog continues my mini-series of free trade. In The case against free trade – Part 1 – I showed how the mainstream economics concept of ‘free trade’ is never attainable in reality and so what goes for ‘free trade’ is really a stacked deck of cards that has increasingly allowed large financial capital interests to rough ride over workers, consumers and undermine the democratic status of elected governments. The aim of this mini-series is to build a progressives case for opposition to moves to ‘free trade’ and instead adopt as a principle the concept of ‘fair trade’, as long as it doesn’t compromise the democratic legitimacy of the elected government. This is a further instalment to the manuscript I am currently finalising with co-author, Italian journalist Thomas Fazi. The book, which will hopefully be out soon, traces the way the Left fell prey to what we call the globalisation myth and formed the view that the state has become powerless (or severely constrained) in the face of the transnational movements of goods and services and capital flows. In Part 2, I consider the myth of the free market, the damage that ‘free trade’ causes and move towards a discussion of fair trade. I will complete the series in a third part soon.
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                  Posted in Demise of the Left, IMF | 6 Comments

                  US employment falls in October signalling increased weakness

                  After last month’s US Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data (for September) I assessed that – The US labour market is nowhere near full employment. This was in the context of overtly political (ideological) and ridiculous statements made by the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, who had claimed that the US economy had already returned to full employment. The current BLS data release – Employment Situation Summary – October 2016 – has not altered my view. It showed that total non-farm employment from the payroll survey rose by 161,000 and the unemployment rate remained “little changed” at 4.9 per cent. But from the perspective of the labour force survey (Current Population Survey), total employment fell by 43 thousand. See below for an explanation of that paradox. The point is that employment still remains well below the pre-GFC peak and the jobs that have been created in the recovery are biased towards low pay. In general, the problem is less job creation as quality of the work being created and the capacity of US workers to enjoy wage increases. There are also wide disparities among state unemployment rates.
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                    Posted in Labour Force, US economy | 1 Comment

                    The Weekend Quiz – November 5-6, 2016 – 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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                      Posted in Saturday quiz | 3 Comments