Can we really say the US economy is in recovery?

The latest US Federal Reserve Bank Bulletin – (Volume 100, No. 4) was released on September 4, 2014 and – Changes in U.S. Family Finances from 2010 to 2013: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances provides a very deep insight into what has been going in America over the period since 2010 with some comparative data from 2007-2010. So we get a glimpse of what happened during the crisis period in family incomes and wealth holdings (by a number of different characteristics) and then see what has transpired during the so-called ‘recovery’. The results will lead you to question the extent to which using the term ‘recovery’ is meaningful. In the growth period 2010-13, only the top 3 per cent of the income distribution have enjoyed real income gains whereas the bottom 40 per cent have seen major real cuts. A similar story relates to changes in family wealth. The reality is the highest income earners are capturing the real income growth at the significant expense of the rest notwithstanding the overal decline in unemployment. It is a recipe for disaster – an increasingly unequal society where some cohorts have virtually no chance for upward mobility.
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    Posted in US economy | 8 Comments

    Our poster child keeps exposing the myths

    A regular occurrence is the prediction of doom for Japan. Some minor upturn in Japanese government bond yields or a movement in some other irrelevant financial statistic relating to the Japanese public sector sends the financial press into apoplexy. But the Japanese economy continues to defy all these prophecies from the neo-liberal zealots and eventually they will be dismissed by the broader public as the education process continues. The latest dramas surround the massive purchases of Japanese Government Bonds (JGBs) by the Bank of Japan. The fact is that the Bank of Japan is currently exposing the myths of the mainstream position even if it would not see it that way. Our post child just keeps giving us real life examples to substantiate the views presented in Modern Monetary Theory (MMT).
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      Posted in Eurozone, Japan | 13 Comments

      Myths regarding sovereign funds

      There was an article in the Australian edition of the UK Guardian last week (September 4, 2014) – Oil tax: Norway could teach Australia a thing or two about managing wealth – which demonstrates the myths that pervade the public debate about fiscal policy and monetary systems. This particular myth relates to the opportunities that so-called sovereign funds offer currency-issuing governments and the calibration of national assets as something being
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        Posted in Economics | 6 Comments

        Saturday Quiz – September 6, 2014 – 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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          Saturday Quiz – September 6, 2014

          Welcome to the Billy Blog Saturday Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention over the last seven days. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
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            Posted in Saturday quiz | 1 Comment

            Friday lay day

            Its my Friday Lay Day blog, which means I don’t really write one. I am working on an Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) volume for my publisher, Edward Elgar, which will document, to date, the key literature that I consider to be foundational to the development of what we now call MMT. I am putting the literature together and writing an extended introduction explaining how each contribution fits into the jigsaw. I am starting with Marx (of-course)! But today, I also take a moment to briefly reflect on an article that apppeared in the German Der Spiegel (September 3, 2014) – France and Friends: Merkel Increasingly Isolated on Austerity. I will follow up on this next week in more detail. The reflection is really just a segue for one of my favourite songs …
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              Posted in Eurozone, Friday | 14 Comments

              Neo-liberal capture of the policy making process in Europe

              Mainstream macroeconomics has mounted a range of arguments over the years to argue against any discretionary involvement by governments or regulators in the economy. The claim is always that the ‘market’ will self regulate and weed out bad players and produce the best outcomes with the least resources each period of activity. Various fancy terms are introduced into textbooks that make these arguments seem to have scientific weight. In narratives, there is often claims that left-wing groups blurred as trade unions have too much influence on political processes, particularly when a non-conservative party is in power. Rarely, is there any discussion of the way governments (of all political persuasions) become captured by the financial and industrial capitalist elites and become meagre conduits for capitalist rule. The west talks a lot about democratic rights and freedoms and people dutifully wander off at appointed times and cast votes which by the end of the day usually result in a government being elected. But they rarely realise that lying behind all of that flim-flam is rule by capital. There is very little democracy in advanced nations. We might turf out one party and elect another but the domination of capital persists and the lobbyists just duchess and bully a new political machine. The European Union takes this violation of democratic rights to new heights.
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                Posted in Economics, Eurozone | 7 Comments

                Australian national accounts – weak and getting weaker

                When the first-quarter National Accounts data came out for Australia I noted that despite the relatively strong growth recorded in that period, the Australian economy was in a fragile state and the contemporary indicators (given that the real GDP data is 3 months old by the time it is published) were indicating that the economy would slow significantly in the June-quarter. Today’s Australian Bureau of Statistics – Australian National Accounts – for the June-quarter 2014, confirms that prediction. Real GDP growth grew by 0.5 per cent down from 1.1 per cent in the June-quarter 2013. The annualised growth rate of 3.1 per cent is being held up by the strong June-quarter growth but something around 2 per cent per annum looking forward is a more realistic assessment of where the economy is at present. The external sector is now a negative influence on growth as is the government sector. In this quarter, there was a large inventory adjustment (up) which was the difference between positive and negative growth overall. That short of inventory swing will not continue. With export prices plummetting due to a glut in iron ore shipments to China, the external sector will continue to be a drag. Fiscal austerity is set to worse, which means that the data paints a fairly gloomy picture for the Australian economy for the rest of this year at least.
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                  Posted in National Accounts | 7 Comments

                  Same old story – poor getting poorer and more indebted and the rich …

                  I have started to research the idea of the disappearing or shrinking middle class as part of a book project (for 2015) I am amassing materials for. The idea is simple but the conceptualisation and demarcation of the idea is rather complex. The hypothesis is that Capitalism is now striking at the income and wealth segment that has helped give it stability (which in this sense relates to not having a revolution rather than eliminating major economic cycles and mass unemployment). Marx said that religion was the opiate of the masses that kept them in line whereas in modern times it is mass consumption and credit that seems to keep the middle class in line. The rise in income and wealth inequality over the last 3 decades under the watch of neo-liberalism is obvious and initially showed up as a widening 90/10 gap (the numbers being deciles in the relevant distribution). But as the lowest income groups were marginalised, the dynamic moved on and started hollowing out the middle deciles. Real wages have lagged well behind productivity growth and mass unemployment is infiltrating the middle-income cohorts who typically have superior education, which has insulated them from job loss. The US Census Bureau provides excellent data on – Wealth and Asset Ownership, which allows us to trace the trends in household net worth and debt in the US in some detail. This blog just documents some of the characteristics of those distributions – it is preliminary work for me but of interest nonetheless.
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                    Posted in US economy | 14 Comments

                    Large-scale employment guarantee scheme in India improving over time

                    Today I am reflecting on employment guarantees. I ran into a mate in a computer shop in Melbourne yesterday, totally by accident. He happens to be one of the big players in the job services sector – the unemployment industry. We exchanged our usual pleasantries and then we got angry together about the government policies – the usual interaction. Then I said well what we need is all you guys and the related charities (such as the Brotherhood of St Laurence, the Smith Family) and other groups (such as Greenpeace, Amnesty International etc) all getting out of their comfort zones and agreeing that being angry is stupid and that action is required. These are the people who lobby government. Academics only create ideas and write them out. I suggested that these groups use their significant public profiles to organise a coalition of support for the Job Guarantee and really push it hard – if only to expose the denials and failures of the orthodoxy that besets us all. Anyway, that conversation just happened to dove-tail with an article I read last week about employment guarantees in practice that I found interesting and which was exposing the deniers for what they are – ideological sycophants. That is what this blog is about.
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                      Posted in Economics, Job Guarantee | 6 Comments