Saturday Quiz – July 11, 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 – Surrendering to the Recession Cult

    Its my Friday lay day blog and I have been working on various things today. But for this little blog I am still trying to work out an impression of what is going on in Greece and the Brussels. There is little uncertainty on the Troika side although the various elements of that position are still nuanced. The sheer antagonism of the Baltic States towards Greece is a newly revealed element which is interesting. If their logic prevails then it really is a race to the bottom unless the nation is Germany. Representing the desired benchmark by massive mediocrity if not near disaster (as in Latvia, Lithuania etc) seems to be the new normal in EU debates. Spare the thought. The Baltics should be joining Greece in a solidarity pact to oppose austerity and seek fundamental changes to the EU Treaties instead of siding with the Troika’s death wish for Greece. But there is quite a bit of uncertainty in trying to guage the Greek position. One is led to the most obvious, simple and consistent interpretations of that position – that Syriza is a fractured coalition and those currently in positions of authority (Prime Minister etc) are surrender monkeys who have miscalculated dramatically. But that would tell us that they are so acting with such venality towards their people as to be almost an unbelievable narrative. Looking deeper into the plot doesn’t provide anything consistent, just dead ends and speculation. We are close to finding out though.
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      Posted in Eurozone, Friday | 39 Comments

      Australian labour market – weak employment growth, rising unemployment

      Today’s release of the – Labour Force data – for June 2015 by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that the Australian labour market marked time this month with employment growth positive but weak and unemployment edging up slightly as a consequence. The data continues the repeating pattern over the last 24 months or so where employment growth zig-zags around the zero line and is weak at best. The unemployment rate rose slightly to 6 per cent, which was where we were a year ago. Underemployment remains high. Teenagers gained some full-time work but lost a near equivalent number of part-time jobs (probably a good net outcome). In general, the teenage labour market remains in a parlous state and requires an urgent policy intervention. While the press is claiming the latest data is a were “positive”, we can only conclude that if mediocrity has become our benchmark. Far from showing “the economy is in reasonable shape”, the data continues to confirm that the economy is incapable of generating sufficient employment growth to dent the huge unemployment pool, much less start reducing underemployment.
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        A Greek exit is not rocket science

        Last Wednesday (July 1, 2015), the ABC radio presenter, Phillip Adams, in a wide ranging interview about the upcoming referendum in Greece and the prospects for the nation, asked the then Greek Finance Minister: “My jokes about printing drachmas in the cellars, remain jokes?” The then Finance Minister replied: “Of course they do … we don’t have a capacity … because … Maybe you don’t know that. But when Greece entered the euro in the year 2000 … one of the things we had to do was to get rid of all our printing presses … in order to impress on the world that this is not a temporary phenomenon … that we mean this to be forever … we smashed the printing presses, so we have no printing presses”. The interchange occurred at the 49:46 minute mark in the – following program. In my research for my Eurozone book, which was published in May this year, I studied in some detail how the euro was introduced, how it is disseminated, how the notes are printed and the coins minted and how nations in other contexts had introduced their own currencies. When I heard that interview I wondered why the then Greek Finance Minister would want to mislead the Australian listeners, even though interviews like this are no longer geographically restricted and that he was clearly intent on convincing the world, a few days before the referendum, that Syriza was committed to the euro and exit was not an option. Earlier in the week, I had railed against the lies and misinformation coming out of the EU leadership. The boot was on the other foot in this case. But it also raises questions of how an exit might occur in the event that Syriza actually stand up for its electoral mandate (anti-austerity) and refuse to agree to any further austerity. I doubt they will do that but hope springs eternal.
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          Posted in Eurozone | 27 Comments

          Greece should not accept any further austerity – full stop!

          In the lead up to last weekend’s Greek referendum there was an extraordinary flurry of opinion pieces in newspapers around the World which sought to blame Greece for its own situation. Among the most ridiculous of these articles was the one which appeared in the British Independent (July 1, 2015) – Get off your high horses, lefties – Big Government, not ‘austerity’, has brought Greece to its knees . Apparently, left-wing views dominate the shelves of any mainstream bookstore in the UK and represent the mainstream economic opinion. It raises the question of which planet the writer is on! The writer also claimed that Syriza is just another leftie political party in Greece, in a long tradition of such parties, committed to “economic statism and hyperinterventionism”. And the current crisis is actually the result of decisions taken in the 1980s to build “up a huge client state” rather than surrendering the currency sovereignty in 2001. This blog explains that the Greek problem is one of insufficient spending. The fiscal deficit has to rise to stimulate growth. This problem emerged in 2008-09 and is largely due to the fiscal austerity that was imposed on the nation by the Troika. It might have crony-deals and all the rest of it, but that is not what brought the economy to its depressed state. That state is all down to human intervention from outside of Greece in the form of austerity. Greece should not accept any further austerity – full stop!
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            Posted in Economics, Eurozone | 9 Comments

            The ECB has to maintain ELA to Greek banks

            Despite the shamelessly dishonest press barrage from the conservative owners of the highly concentrated Greek media (the ‘oligarchs’) to vote YES; despite many articles popping up in world newspapers about how the Greeks are to blame for their own problems because they overspend and undertaxed; despite the lies coming from other European leaders about what the vote was about (it was not about leaving the Euro but rather about whether the Greek people wanted further failed austerity); despite the ridiculous claims of the German SDP about “bridges being burned” (that party should change its name because it is a disgrace to the social democratic tradition) – despite all of that and heaps more, the Greek people voted overwhelmingly NO to reject austerity as a viable policy model for their country. This is a case of democracy coming head to head with the dominant political-economic ideology within which the Greek nation is situated – the Eurozone. It also demonstrates the flaws of the democratic process – the people have voted for an end to austerity but also consistently tell opinion polls they want to remain in the Eurozone, a monetary system that is built on austerity. They voted yesterday to reject the very basis of the monetary system they want to stay in – which tells us they don’t really understand the nature of the system and therefore how informed is the NO vote.
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              Posted in Eurozone | 32 Comments

              Saturday Quiz – July 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 – July 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 – The five presidents of the Eurozone remain firmly in denial

                  Its the Friday lay day blog again and I am in a rush. Under the smokescreen of all the Greek drama that has played out on the World stage over the last week the bosses of the Eurozone released their – Completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union – (June 22, 2015), aka the Five Presidents’ report. I read it this morning. And I am glad its Friday and I can keep to my promise of not writing much here and more elsewhere (book projects). Otherwise, the blog might have ended up full of the so-called expletives given the way these Euro Groupthink morons treat the citizens of Europe. Apparently, the euro is a big success! In the land of the fairies.
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                    Posted in Friday | 15 Comments

                    Europe’s US imported nightmare

                    I note the US have been rather quietly urging the EU to resolve the so-called ‘Greek crisis’, which I really think is a euro-crisis, even though its current epicentre is in Greece. What the Americans are doing beyond the purview of the public gaze is anyone’s guess but we can be sure it is interventionist, self-interested and probably not helpful to the well-being of ordinary Europeans including Greeks. The US influence over Europe has, in fact, culminated in the crisis, even if that realisation is not understood by many. I have just finished reading a book by the French journalist/publisher and politician – Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber – who died in 2006. The book – Le Défi Américain (The American Challenge) was very popular when it was published in 1967. It initially was a major hit in France and later was translated widely. It helped me understand how the US intellectual tradition has at critical times in Europe’s modern history been so definitive.
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                      Posted in Economics, Eurozone, US economy | 16 Comments