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What is fiscal sustainability? Washington presentation

I am travelling today and have a full schedule ahead and haven’t much time to write anything. But it just happens that the multimedia presentations and documentation for the Fiscal Sustainability Teach-Ins and Counter-Conference which was held at the George Washington University, Washington DC on Wednesday, April 28, 2010 have just been made available by the team which organised the event. The Teach-In was a grass roots exercised designed to counter the conference organised by the arch deficit-terrorists at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which was also held on April 28 in Washington D.C. – just across town from our event. While that event also chose to focus on “fiscal sustainability”, the reality is that it will merely rehearsed the standard and erroneous neo-liberal objections to government activity in the economy. Given my time constraints today I thought it was serendipitous that this material became available overnight. So the following blog provides access to video and all the documentation for my session. Very special thanks to Selise and Lambert (and their team) for taking the time to document and prepare all this material.

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Fiscal sustainability and ratio fever

I have returned from the US after participating at the Fiscal Sustainability Teach-In and Counter Conference held in Washington D.C. last week. It was a good event and has stimulated a host of follow-up blogs from the activists who promoted the event. On the way home, I read the most recent report from Citi Group (who were saved from bankruptcy by public funds – they were among the first to have their hands out) which is predicting major sovereign defaults. It was clear that Citi Group was advocating very harsh fiscal austerity measures. How often have you heard the statement that the current economic crisis is evidence that “we are living beyond our means” and that the policy austerity that has to be introduced to “pay back the debt” is an inevitable consequence of our proliflacy – both individual and national?

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The Fiscal Sustainability Teach-In and Counter-Conference

In Washington D.C. next Wednesday (April 28, 2010) there will be two separate events where the focus will be on fiscal sustainability. The first event sponsored by a billionaire former Wall Street mogul under the aegis of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation (PGPF) promises to bring the Top leaders to Washington. It will feature a big cast well-known US entities (former central bank bosses; former treasury officials and more). It will be well-publicised and a glossy affair – full of self-importance. It will categorically fail to address any meaningful notion of fiscal sustainability. Instead it will be rehearse a mish-mash of neo-liberal and religious-moral constructions dressed up as economic reasoning. It will provide a disservice to the citizens of the US and beyond. The other event will be smaller and run on a shoe-string. The grass roots The Fiscal Sustainability Teach-In and Counter-Conference is open to all and will actually involve researchers who understand how the monetary system operates. Like all grass roots movements it requires support. I hope you can provide support commensurate with your circumstances.

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Fiscal sustainability 101 – Part 3

In this blog I will complete my analysis of the concept of fiscal sustainability by bringing together the discussion developed in Part 1 and Part 2 into some general principles. The aim is to provide a blueprint to cut through the deceptions and smokescreens that are used to deny fiscal activism and leave economies wallowing in persistently high levels of unemployment. So read on.

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Fiscal sustainability 101 – Part 2

This is Part 2 of my little mini-series on what we might conceive fiscal sustainability to be. In Part 1 we considered a current debate on the National Journal, which is a US discussion site where experts are invited to debate a topic over a period of days. By breaking the different perspectives that have been presented to the discussion, we can easily see where the public gets its misconceived ideas from about the workings of public deficits and the dynamics of the monetary system – its leaders. My aim in this 3-part series is to further advance an understanding of how a fiat monetary system operates so that readers of this blog (growing in numbers) can then become leaders in their own right and provide some re-education on these crucial concepts. So read on for Part 2.

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Fiscal sustainability 101 – Part 1

Greetings from Amsterdam where I am spending the next few days talking about what drives spatial changes in unemployment at a Tinbergen Institute regional science workshop. The spatial econometric work that I am outlining tomorrow provides the conceptual framework for the construction of the Employment Vulnerability Index, which received a lot of press earlier in the year. But while I was flying over here I thought about the concept of fiscal sustainability which is now getting a lot of press. So this is the first of a multi-part series on what constitutes a sustainable fiscal policy. Its that time again. Time to debrief!

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The Weekend Quiz – February 8-9, 2020 – 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 – January 25-26, 2020 – 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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European Union – business as usual as the madness continues

At the weekend, the German Social Democratic Party elected a new leadership from the Left of the Party, in the hope of resurrecting their disastrous political standings (Source), In rejecting the other main contender, current Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, the decision has apparently threatened the GroKo (Große Koalition), the coalition between Merkel’s CDU/CSU union and the SPD, which, arguably, has been the reason for the declining fortunes of the SPD. They have, in effect, abandoned their charter and become part of the neoliberal, austerity machine. The new leadership rejects the basis for the GroKo. At present, the SPD is only marginally ahead of the far-right AfD with the Union and Greens ahead of them. The same political dislocations are happening throughout Europe although the antagonism to the neoliberal austerity orthodoxy is more manifesting in chaos than a defined direction away from the major political parties (Britain is currently a good example of that). Meanwhile, the orthodoxy continues in the European Commission and in its – Autumn 2019 Economic Forecast: A challenging road ahead – they are requiring the majority of Member States to inflict more austerity on their nations even though a recession is looming. That is, business as usual as the madness continues.

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The Weekend Quiz – November 23-24, 2019 – 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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What is the problem with rising dependency ratios in Japan – Part 1?

Later this week I will be in Japan for a series of presentations and meetings with a broad spectrum of Japanese politics. The various hosts of the events which I will confirm in Wednesday’s blog post are all committed to advancing an MMT understanding in Japan and ending the hold that ‘sound finance’ has on the public policy debates and regularly lead to poorly contrived policy shifts (such as the recent sales tax hike) in pursuit of lower fiscal deficits. As part of my preparation for my presentations I have been studying various aspects of the Japanese situation so that I can address the issues with a solid evidence base. One of the recurring themes put forward by the ‘sound finance’ lobby (which includes much of the economics profession both inside and outside of Japan) is that its ‘challenging’ demography demands that the Government move to surplus to ‘save up’ to avoid the impending fiscal disaster associated with a rising dependency ratio. This issue is not confined to Japan, of course. It is just that Japan’s demography is a little further down the ageing road than other nations. But while rising dependency ratios matter and need attention, the construction of the problem by the ‘sound finance’ lobby misses the point completely and their ‘solution’ to their ‘non problem’ only serves to exacerbate the real problem. That is what today’s blog post is about. In Part 2, I will elaborate more on the nature of the productivity challenge and some of the options that have been suggested to deal with it.

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The Weekend Quiz – October 12-13, 2019 – 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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Germany to play smokes and mirrors again

Germany is proposing some more smokes and mirrors so that it can maintain its position as the exemplar of fiscal responsibility by obeying its ‘Debt brake’ yet inject significant deficit spending into its recessed economy, which is starved of public infrastructure spending. They are proposing to set up new institutions which will be funded by government-guaranteed debt and spend billions into the economy while ensuring these transactions do not show up on the official fiscal books of the German government. The only financial constraint these new agencies will be bound by are the European Commission’s Stability and Growth Pact rules. But because the allowable spending difference between the ‘Debt brake’ and the SGP is huge (but still well below what is needed to redress the years of austerity and infrastructure degradation) and so will provide a much-needed stimulus to the ailing German economy. Meanwhile, the Germans will tell the world how thrifty they are and how they obey their own rules. And then they can say that all other Member States should also stick to the rules. Meanwhile, the smoke and mirrors are going hammer and tong to create spending growth that bears no resemblance to the allowable growth under the Debt brake. The Debt brake then is just a sham. The upside is that needed public spending will enter the economy which tells us that the Debt brake should never have been introduced in the first place. Such is life in the EU – a daily circus.

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Of course governments will be fiscally stretched if they define large surpluses as the norm

Wednesday and a short blog post. I regularly work for unions as an expert analyst/witness in their struggles to achieve wage justice with employers who are intent on paying as little as possible. Often these are private employers but at the moment I am helping a union with their campaign to win a reasonable wage increase against a state government. The logic deployed by the government in relation to their fiscal affairs and their wage setting behaviour is a classic demonstration of how neoliberalism has distorted any sense of reason and created self-fulfilling problems. So today, I will just introduce this issue – given how fascinating it is.

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As you were Greece – remain in permanent depression – commitments are commitments!

I thought the most interesting aspect of last weekend’s Greek election was the post election response of the European Commission. I had thought prior to the election, when it was obvious that Syriza would lose office to the New Democracy Party, that the European Commission would perhaps turn a blind eye for a time to the new Greek government and allow them to break some of the ridiculous fiscal shackles that the Greek colony is enduring. Just like the Commission ignored the rule breaking by the Spanish conservative government in the lead-up to the December 2015 general election to ensure the Government could stimulate the economy and restore growth and retain office. I was wrong. Spain is not yet a colony. Greece is. It is to be spared no quarter by the sociopaths. Within hours of gaining office, the New Democracy leaders were confronted with news from the Eurogroup President, Mario Centeno – “Commitments are commitments” – the fiscal surpluses will continue and the “strict budget targets that were agreed” will not be relaxed (Source). As you were Greece – remain in permanent depression.

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How social democratic parties erect the plank and then walk it – Part 2

In Part I, I considered an Australian-based attack on MMT from a Labour Party stooge. In this Part, I shift to Britain to address the recent article by a Northern Labour MP – Jonathan Reynolds – who is apparently, if his arrogance is to be believed, making himself the Labour Party spokesperson on matters economic. For the title of his recent article (June 4, 2019) was, afterall – Why Labour doesn’t support Modern Monetary Theory – which begs the question as to who actually doesn’t support MMT – all of Labour? Party? Politicians? Members? Who? I know of hundreds if not thousands of Labour Party members that are fully supportive of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). So who is he talking about? The overriding issue that I introduced in Part 1 was that it is crazy for progressive politicians to use neoliberal frames, language and concepts when discussing their economic policy ambitions. Not only has the track record of the mainstream approach has been so poor but wallowing in these frames etc leads the so-called progressive side of politics to become trapped in the neoliberal tradition. The Reynolds article is no exception and if his view is widespread within British Labour then it will have a problematic future.

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Some MMT considerations for an independent Scotland – Part 2

This is the second and final part of my series on Scotland as I prepare for a visit to Edinburgh and Glasgow this week. You can see the details from my – Events Page – and I urge interested readers to support the events that are run by activists. I will be talking about issues pertaining to the monetary arrangements that might accompany a move to Scottish independence. I have noted in the past that this is a controversial issue in itself that is also made more divisive because it has become intertwined with the vexed issue of EU membership. In Part 2 I provide a detailed critique of the so-called ‘six tests’ that the Scottish Growth Commission put forward as being determining factors as to when Scotland could move off the pound. I find the tests to be just neoliberal artifacts designed to keep Scotland on the pound indefinitely and thus curb any real independence. I also consider issues such as EU membership. And I provide some historical details of the way a monetary union might dissolve.

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The Weekend Quiz – April 27-28, 2019 – 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 – April 20-21, 2019 – 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 – April 13-14, 2019 – 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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