Saturday Quiz – April 4, 2015 – 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 – April 4, 2015

    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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      Friday lay day – worst sustained British productivity performance since 1948

      Its the Friday lay day blog and a public holiday to boot. So not much today. I wrote earlier in the week a blog about the latest British employment data – Employment growth in the UK but of dubious quality. It was part of a series of blogs I have written documenting the gap between the political hubris coming from the Conservatives about how successful their austerity strategy has been and the reality on the ground. Yes, Britain is growing in the sense that real GDP growth is no longer negative. But in this environment of weak growth the essential conditions for longer term prosperity are being eroded. On Wednesday this week, more information came out to support this hypothesis. The British Office of National Statistics (ONS) published the latest – Labour Productivity, Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2014 – Release – which showed that “labour productivity fell by 0.2% in the fourth quarter of 2014″ and is the worst sustained performance since 1948 (no growth in the last seven years). Some claim to success. I remind readers that rising material standards of living in any nation rely on productivity growth. Without it societies with ageing populations are headed for mediocrity or worse.
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        Posted in Friday | 23 Comments

        Welfare generosity increases commitment to work

        In Australia successive governments (Labor and conservative) have refused to lift the unemployment benefit in line with inflation. As a result the real benefit has fallen dramatically and the unemployment benefit recipients now live well below the accepted poverty line. There have also been attacks on those who live on single parent pensions, disability pensions and other forms of income support associated with disadvantage and dislocation from the labour market. In the US, the Congress cut entitlements to unemployment benefits long before the damage from the crisis was over. In Britain, both sides of politics talk tough about cutting welfare benefits and the Conservatives has indicated that it will cut benefits significantly to force people to find employment. In the Eurozone, massive damage is being inflicted on the most disadvantaged workers as the austerity mavens hack into welfare payments. All these policy ventures are informed by the intellectually bankrupt profession that I belong to. In universities around the world, mainstream economists prattle on about ‘corner solutions’, which in English means that the provision of income support associated with unemployment subsidises the same and leads to less search effort and welfare dependency. The claim is that if benefits are cut people will search for jobs and ‘fiscal stress’ will be relieved. There is a sanctimonious moralism about it all as well buttressed by terminology such as “lifters and leaners”, “dole bludgers”, “job snobs”, “cruisers” as if those in disadvantage without work have chosen that state as a deliberate strategy to bludge on the rest of the population. The problem for all of this is that the credible research comes to the exact opposite conclusion: employment commitment is highest where the generosity of the welfare state is the highest. The neo-liberals need to go suck that for a while.
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          Posted in Unemployment Benefits | 40 Comments

          Employment growth in the UK but of dubious quality

          I am always amused when conservative politicians make claims like they created so many thousands or millions of jobs while in government. Typically, in Opposition they will claim that governments do not create any jobs, which justifies them introducing pro-business policies and imposing austerity. That ‘free market’ position soon changes when they are trying to take credit for growth. With an election in the offing in the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister is demonstrating one of these shifts in causality. He told the BBC in an interview (March 30, 2015) – Election 2015: Cameron pledges ‘1,000 jobs a day’ if re-elected – that his government had “created a thousand jobs a day” and would continue to do so if re-elected. But there is clearly more to this claim that a 1000 net jobs per day.
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            Posted in UK Economy | 7 Comments

            Wage rises are required – real wages must grow in line with productivity

            There was an interesting article in the UK Guardian last weekend (March 29, 2015) – Why falling inflation is a false pretext for keeping wages low – which examined wage trends in the UK and the validity of the argument that “Falling inflation now provides employers with a pretext for keeping wage settlements low”. Employer groups never support wage increases and are continually trying to suppress real wages growth below productivity growth so that they can enjoy a greater share of national income. As part of my research to discover the nature of the ideological shift accompanying the emergence of Monetarism as the dominant policy paradigm I have been examining wage distributions. This is part of a book I will complete next year (fingers crossed) on the demise of the political left. In this blog we examine the shifting relationship between labour productivity growth and real wages growth since 1960. The results are illuminating and open up a broad research front about which I will write more as time passes.
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              Posted in Economics, Eurozone, Labour costs, UK Economy, US economy | 11 Comments

              ECB should start funding government infrastructure and cash handouts

              I was a signatory to a letter published in the Financial Times on Thursday (March 26, 2015) – Better ways to boost eurozone economy and employment – which called for a major fiscal stimulus from the European Central Bank (given it is the only body in the Eurozone that can introduce such a stimulus). The fiscal stimulus would take the form of a cash injection using the ECB’s currency monopoly powers. A co-signatory was Robert Skidelsky, Emeritus Professor, Warwick University, renowned Keynesian historian and Keynes’ biographer. Amazingly, Skidelsky wrote an article in the UK Guardian two days before the FT Letter was published (March 24, 2015) – Fiscal virtue and fiscal vice – macroeconomics at a crossroads – which would appear to contradict the policy proposal we advocated in the FT Letter. The Guardian article is surrender-monkey territory and I disagree with most of it. It puts the progressive case on the back foot. What the hell is going on?
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                Posted in Economics, Eurozone | 37 Comments

                Saturday Quiz – March 28, 2015 – 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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                  Posted in Saturday quiz | 6 Comments

                  Saturday Quiz – March 28, 2015

                  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 – why not just subcontract out democracy!

                    Its the Friday lay day blog – and we will be brief today. There was a proposal aired in the ABC’s The Drum series (March 26, 2015) by an ABC finance journalist suggesting that – Maybe we need to subcontract the budget process. My response was “why don’t we just subcontract out democracy to a dictator and be done with it”!
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                      Posted in Friday | 9 Comments