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Saturday Quiz – August 14, 2010 – 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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When facts get in the way of the story

Every day now as the Australian federal election day approaches (August 21) the calls for fiscal austerity increase and the justifications become further removed from reality. I note The Greens, who are held out as our only hope are still running their neo-liberal line that budgets should be balanced over the cycle (see Neo-liberals invade The Greens! for more discussion on that). But the US political scene is even more moribund than ours if that is possible. Even the progressives are claiming there is a fiscal crisis. The facts speak otherwise.

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Saturday Quiz – August 7, 2010 – 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 31, 2010 – 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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OECD – GIGO Part 2

The OECD is held out by policy makers and commentators as an “independent” authority on economic modelling. The journalists love to report the latest OECD paper or report as if it means something. Most of these commentators only mimic the accompanying OECD press release and bring no independent scrutiny of their own to their writing. Government officials and politicians also quote OECD findings as if they are an authority. The reality is that the OECD is an ideological unit in the neo-liberal war on public policy and full employment. They employ all sorts of so-called sophisticated models that only the cogniscenti can understand to justify outrageous claims about how policy should be conducted. In an earlier blog – The OECD is at it again! – I explained how the OECD had bullied governments around the world into abandoning full employment. Now they are providing the “authority” to justify the claims being made by the austerity proponents that cutting public deficits at a time when private spending is still very weak will be beneficial. The report I discuss in this blog is just another addition to the litany of lying, deceptive reports that the OECD publish. These reports have no authority – they are just GIGO – garbage in, garbage out!

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Modern monetary theory and inflation – Part 1

It regularly comes up in the comments section that Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) lacks a concern for inflation. That somehow we ignore the inflation risk. One of the surprising aspects of the public debate as the current economic crisis unfolded was the repetitive concern that people had about inflation. There concerns echoed at the same time as the real economy in almost every nation collapsed, capacity utilisation rates were going down below 70 per cent and more in most nations and unemployment was sky-rocketing. But still the inflation anxiety was regularly being voiced. These commentators could not believe that rising budget deficits or a significant build-up of bank reserves do not inevitably cause inflation. The fact is that in voicing those concerns just tells me they never really understand how the monetary system operates. Further in suggesting the MMT lacks a concern for inflation those making these statements belie their own lack of research. Full employment and price stability is at the heart of MMT. The body of theory and policy applications that stem from that theory integrate the notion of a nominal anchor as a core element. That is what this blog is about.

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The BIS is part of the problem

It is now 2.15 am in Boston on a Thursday morning (16:15 Thursday afternoon in Australia East Coast). I always try to stay on Australian time when I make these short trips. It is hard while you are away but easier to adjust back when you get home. No real jet lag. Yesterday (Wednesday) I gave a Teach-In on the concept of fiscal sustainability to an interesting group of participants ranging from those with an active role in the financial markets to those with more general business interests. The participants came from all around as far as I can gather – many from New York which is a fair hike for a single day workshop. The discussion that followed my presentation was very interesting and while the concerns reflected the usual issues – solvency, exchange rates, intergenerational issues – the standard of debate was civilised. I don’t know how many Warren and I convinced to probe deeper but I hope we planted some seeds of doubt in the minds of the audience that the mainstream macroeconomics position is wrong and therefore untenable. After the Teach-In I read the BIS Annual Report 2009/10 – which signalled to me that they are now firmly part of the problem that we face when dealing with the task outlining fiscally sustainable policy positions.

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A total lack of leadership

Tonight (Tuesday Boston time as I write) my very kind and gracious host took me to an early evening Ringo Starr and his All Starrs concert down on the waterfront. I never knew so many Beatles fans from the 1960s had survived the boredom. They were out in force tonight as he sang Yellow Submarine and other pop relics. The highlight of the evening was Edgar Winter (who is one of his all starrs) featuring on Frankenstein which he made a hit in 1972. But where do all these Beatles fans go during the day! Scary. And by the way, Rick Derringer who was in the original Edgar Winter Band was also in Ringo’s band tonight playing some nice guitar (if you like Gibson-motivated pop – I don’t). My host decided to call it an early night and I left with him – while Warren and his partner bopped on. A neat exit you might say! But Ringo at least provided some leadership – poppy and pretty soppy at that. But much better than our leaders of government are providing if the recent G20 declaration is anything to go by. They have just ceded leadership to the IMF – that unelected rabble. Stay tuned for things to get worse.

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Ignorance leads to bad policy

Today (and yesterday – being Tuesday in Australia now) I have been travelling. If you grow up and live in Australia everywhere except the local beach is a long way away. Sometimes it would be very convenient to just to be able to buzz up to San Francisco from LA or from New York to Washington or from Brussel to Paris. Australians never enjoy that sort of proximity. So travel is part of our growing up. I am used to it but hate it. Anyway, it always allows me to catch up on reading (especially fiction), listen to a lot of music and write a lot. Today’s blog focuses on recent events in Australia but the truth is that the principles raised are universal. You hear the same debates and responses all across the globe. The theme today is how ignorance leads to bad policy – my usual theme. But I am a persistent type and I am observing (via my blog statistics) that as I pursue this repetitive strategy – grinding it out every day – more and more people are coming to the site and many (most) are probably staying (IP address analysis). I have managed to keep the gold bugs at bay – they target easier victories – and the standard of debate is generally high. So my role is to keep offering it up and watching the numbers grow. I am in Boston now and will be talking about fiscal sustainability to hedge fund managers and bankers. Penetrating their world is a good thing. And then on Thursday, I board the jet and retrace my tracks – but then I will be close to the beach again. You mostly can’t have it both ways.

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Something is seriously wrong

The Toronto G-20 leaders’ meeting is being held this weekend (June 26-27, 2010) and one expects it will endorse the position taken at the recent G-20 annual Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting in South Korea. The communiqué released from that meeting illustrates how influential the deficit terrorists have become. At the Pittsburgh meeting of the G-20 leaders in September 2009 the communiqué talked about the sufficiency and quality of jobs. Six months later they had abandoned that call and are now preaching higher unemployment and increased poverty via austerity packages imposed on fragile communities. This is in the context of dramatic increases in global poverty rates in 2009 due to income losses associated with entrenched unemployment. Then I note that the recently released 2010 World Wealth Report shows that the world’s rich got richer during the 2009 recession. The only reasonable conclusion is that something is seriously wrong in the world we have constructed.

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The OECDs perverted view of fiscal policy

It is interesting how the big neo-liberal economic organisations like the IMF and the OECD are trying to re-assert their intellectual authority on the policy debate again after being unable to provide any meaningful insights into the cause of the global crisis or its immediate remedies. They were relatively quiet in the early days of the crisis and the IMF even issued an apology, albeit a conditional one. It is clear that the policies the OECD and the IMF have promoted over the last decades have not helped those in poorer nations solve poverty and have also maintained persistently high levels of labour underutilisation across most advanced economies. It is also clear that the economic policies these agencies have been promoting for years were instrumental in creating the conditions that ultimately led to the collapse in 2007. Now they are emerging, unashamed, and touting even more destructive policy frameworks.

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Amazing reversals … democratic repression

The G-20 held its annual Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting in South Korea over the weekend. It was amazing to see just how comprehensive the impact of the deficit terrorists has been on the way in which the G-20 has shifted its views on the way to deal with the on-going economic crisis. The G20 communique released today clearly illustrates that the G-20 group have been won over by the terrorists and are now supporting austerity measures. This is another one of the amazing reversals in the public debate that are now becoming regular events. All of the reversals are making it harder for governments to do what we elect them to do – use their policy tools to advance public purpose. The increasing constraints that governments are voluntarily accepting to satisfy the demands of amorphous groups such as the “bond markets” impinge on the democratic rights of every citizen. We expect our governments will act in the best interests of the nation. Sadly they are no longer doing that because they have fallen prey of the deficit terrorists. We have a new term for this – democratic repression.

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Saturday Quiz – May 29, 2010 – 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 – May 15, 2010 – 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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It will only take 6 months

I followed the attacks on pro-Israeli New York Times war monger Thomas Friedman some years ago, which centred on his support for the invasion of Iraq and his repeated prognosis that it would only take 6 months to decide the fate of the conflict. The six months never really materialised and by 2007 he was arguing, just as vehemently as he argued for war, for US disengagement because the strategy had failed. He was imbued with the WMD mania that was used by the US, Australian and UK governments to “justify” the unjustifiable despite them knowing there were no such dangers. So he is a guy who obviously knows what he is talking about! In his latest column he tries his hand at economics with a similar intellectual arrogance and lack of judgement that he brought to the Iraq issue.

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Saturday Quiz – May 8, 2010 – 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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Washington Teach-In Counter Conference

The Fiscal Sustainability Teach-In and Counter-Conference was held at George Washington University in Washington D.C. today (Wednesday US time that is – April 28, 2010). It 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 today in Washington D.C. While that event will also talk about “fiscal sustainability”, the reality is that it will merely rehearse the standard and erroneous neo-liberal objections to government activity in the economy. The objections are underpinned by religious-moral constructions dressed up as economic reasoning.

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Are capital controls the answer?

Given I am currently in Washington DC, I thought a local story would be appropriate for today’s blog. In February 2010, the IMF published a Staff Paper which reversed its long-standing position on capital controls. Staring at the hard evidence that nations, which had imposed constraints on surging capital inflows to attenuate the negative economic impacts, fared better in the recent global financial crisis, the IMF has acknowledged that their previous position based on free trade back by total liberalisation of cross-border financial flows was unsustainable. They now argue that controls on capital inflows can be effective if well designed and safeguard an economy from the costs of speculative attacks. Some progressives are calling this a revolution. I am less convinced. From a Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) perspective, I would solve the problem by placing total bans on speculative flows that do not back real production (for example, that reduce foreign exchange exposure in cross-border trade). But this is another example of the zealous position that has been long-advocated and implemented by the IMF has failed to safeguard national economies from the destructive forces released by the increasing financialisation of the global economy.

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Understanding central bank operations

I have arrived in Washington now and it is late Monday. I am staying on local Newcastle time because for a short-trip it is easier to avoid jet lag that way. So I started work today at around 20:00 Washington time and will finish close to dawn. I think I will play Night Shift on You Tube to keep me company through the night … err day (Australian time). On the plane coming over, among other things, I read a paper written a couple of years ago by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York about the way in which monetary policy can be “divorced” from bank reserves. It is a useful paper at the operational level because it brings out a number of important points about bank reserves and the way central banks can manipulate them or ignore them. That is what this blog is about.

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