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Shorter hours or layoffs?

I did a radio interview on the ABC Drive program this afternoon about different attitudes that Europeans and Americans have to dealing with recession, specifically in terms of the decision to offer shorter hours or use layoffs to trim the labour force as sales decline. While the solidaristic European model is preferred, both call into question what the national government should be doing.

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    A Koala Notes currency?

    Can a city or state become a sovereign nation? We know what a sovereign nation is – one that has the capacity to issue its own currency and oblige its residents to pay their taxes in that currency. We also know that a state or city is thus not a sovereign nation because it uses the currency of the sovereign nation it “lives within”. So a state or a city is financially constrained in much the same way as a household. In that context, spending has to be financed either from higher taxes or debt issues which clearly places some limits on what programs a city or state can pursue. Further, a city can go bankrupt (become insolvent) in the local currency whereas a sovereign government cannot. So how might cities solve their infrastructure and social needs when they are so constrained?

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      A simple personal calling card economy

      Some readers have asked me to provide a simplified explanation of how the modern monetary economy works which is devoid of all the jargon that economists hide within. As part of another earlier blog, I did present a simple fiscal game which provides all the essential insights you require to understand how a modern monetary economy actually operates. Like all models it is stylisation. But there is nothing that I could add by way of complexity that would change the fundamental conclusions and understandings. So to make the model easier to find for reference purposes later on I an presenting it again as a stand-alone blog. Read on!

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        National budgets are not constrained!

        I received a call from a journalist at the Financial Review today asking how the Federal government could afford to run labour market programs given that it might suffer a substantial revenue loss if it cuts back net migration. I told him that irrespective of what happens to net migration and any losses to tax revenue that that might bring (should they cut it back), the Government will always be able to fund any labour market program if it thought that was the best use of its funds. It brings to mind a new theme in this period of turmoil – how can the government keep its programs going while at the same time bailing out all and sundry? Answer: easy, just keep funding them. The national government is not financially constrained and the size of its budget is nothing that can be determined independent of the shortfall of aggregate demand.

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          More journalistic nonsense!

          I am awarding this week’s worst piece of economics journalism to an article that appeared in Saturday’s Australian newspaper and was written by high-profile economics correspondent George Megalogenis. The article makes a sequence of statements that cannot be supported by any credible macroeconomic theory. Why do journalists write things that they do not seem to understand? Anyway, in case any of my readers happened to waste their time reading this article I offer the following clean-up job. Yes, its that time again. Time to debrief.

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            Saturday Quiz – March 28, 2009

            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 five questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.

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              Minimum wages 101

              The issue of minimum wage adjustments always invokes a lot of debate and invokes the usual (boring) reactions from employer groups and conservative economists. Their narrative is always the same: you cannot have a minimum wage rise because it will cause unemployment among the low-skill ranks of the workforce. If you believed their logic, then there never would be a minimum wage rise. The reality is that there is no evidence available to support these notions and lots of evidence to refute it. The new problem is that the current Federal government is now aligning with the conservatives and using the same defective logic to oppose any reasonable rise in the minimum wage. Its that time again. Time to debrief.

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                The US detox lunancy

                The US Government has come up with its latest plan to solve the financial crisis which has now well and truly become a real (GDP and employment) crisis. While the initial reaction from the financial markets is generally favourable (and why wouldn’t it be), if you appraise it from the perspective of modern monetary theory and impose an equity bias then you conclude: (a) it will represent a major redistribution of nominal wealth to the already wealthy; and (b) it probably won’t help reduce unemployment because it is not tackling the real problem.

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                  Back to school for the US President!

                  The US President appeared on the US commercial television show 60 minutes program on March 22. He was talking about about the AIG debacle, the economy, and his first challenges in his new job. His responses to questions about the economy though were positively scary. The most powerful man in the World and he doesn’t understand how the modern monetary economy works. Very scary indeed.

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                    Labour market now tanking!

                    Today CofFEE released our latest quarterly labour market indicators (CLMI) which are hours-based measures (see below) that I have developed to more accurately measure the state of the labour market. The data shows that the impact of the global economic crisis is now manifesting in the Australian labour market with a marked deterioration in conditions in the February 2009 quarter. Total labour underutilisation in February has jumped to 11.2 per cent, up from 9.7 per cent in the November 2008 quarter. Things are heading south.

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