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Ageing, Social Security, and the Intergenerational Debate – Part 3

I am now using Friday’s blog space to provide draft versions of the Modern Monetary Theory textbook that I am writing with my colleague and friend Randy Wray. We expect to publish the text sometime early in 2014. Comments are always welcome. Remember this is a textbook aimed at undergraduate students and so the writing will be different from my usual blog free-for-all. Note also that the text I post is just the work I am doing by way of the first draft so the material posted will not represent the complete text. Further it will change once the two of us have edited it.

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Ageing, Social Security, and the Intergenerational Debate – Part 2

I am now using Friday’s blog space to provide draft versions of the Modern Monetary Theory textbook that I am writing with my colleague and friend Randy Wray. We expect to publish the text sometime early in 2014. Comments are always welcome. Remember this is a textbook aimed at undergraduate students and so the writing will be different from my usual blog free-for-all. Note also that the text I post is just the work I am doing by way of the first draft so the material posted will not represent the complete text. Further it will change once the two of us have edited it.

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Ageing, Social Security, and the Intergenerational Debate – Part 1

Today, I am writing material for our textbook, given that we are pushing to get it finished before the end of the year and there is one macroeconomics class already using the trial draft version. In that context, we are having to keep feeding material to the lecturers and students to keep up with their schedule. So that is why I am departing from my usual practice of Friday textbook writing. I have also had a disrupted day, having earlier presented a workshop on professional ethics and responsibilities to a group of postgraduate students. And besides, today is September 11 and so it is our duty to honour the victims of the Pinochet coup in Chile, which occurred on that Tuesday morning in 1973. At least 60,000 people perished under the oppression of the right-wing junta that illegally seized control of that democratic nation with US support.

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Australia – the Fourth Intergenerational Myth Report

The Australian government will release the Fourth Intergenerational Report today with much fanfare, scaremongering and lies. Our boofhead Treasurer has been doing the rounds of the media outlets giving his evangelical sales pitch on how scary the future is unless we cut the fiscal deficit now and get the balance back in surplus as soon as possible. These intergenerational reports are really a confection of lies, half-truths interspersed with irrelevancies and sometimes some interesting facts. There is very little economics in these reports. What parades as economic analysis is just the usual neo-liberal mainstream nonsense that currency-issuing governments have run out of money and fiscal deficits are dangerous. The Treasurer is selling the Report on the grounds of “intergenerational theft” (the classic anti-fiscal deficit argument about mortgaging our future grand children’s future). Apparently, this justifies large cuts to the fiscal deficit now in order to turn it into a surplus so that our future generations are left with no debt. The real intergenerational theft though is embodied in a current fiscal strategy that leaves around 45 per cent of our teenagers unemployed, underemployed or NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) and hacks into public infrastructure provision as a strategy to create fiscal surpluses now. With private spending subdued at present and the external sector also draining expenditure from the economy relative to its income, trying to impose fiscal austerity now in the name of defending future prosperity is a grand lie and will ensure that the future prosperity is undermined.

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Intergenerational fairness improved by fiscal deficits

There was an interesting article in the UK Guardian today (August 6, 2014) – Debt and housing costs make young worse off than past generations – which reported on the so-called ‘intergenerational fairness index’ published by the – Intergenerational Foundation, which is a UK-based organisation which “researches fairness between generations” and believes that “government policy must be fair to all”. The – 2013 Edition – is the most most recent published version of the index. The UK Guardian journalist has the most recent index, which has not yet been publicly released (probably in London later today). The points I wish to make are not dependent on knowing the detail of the 2014 result. My concern is about principles and basic neo-liberal macroeconomic myths that are embedded in an otherwise reasonable exercise. A case of progressives shooting themselves in the foot again!

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A bad day for informed debate in Australia

The title gives the game away – Hope all that’s left as growth slows to crawl. It was written by Ross Gittins, the Sydney Morning Herald’s economics editor. Hope is all we have because this thing we call the economy is beyond us and not something we can control. That is the mainstream conceptualisation of the economy as some sort of deity which we just have to offer our sacrifices to and hope for the best. Australia is weathering a renewed burst of deficit terrorism. The media is running stories every day at present about the need to make massive cuts to federal spending and how taxes have to rise to “repair” the budget. The way the issue is being framed by the media is asinine in the extreme. Worse is the fact that the media is refusing to offer a balance to the issue. There is no debate. Mindless TV presenters and journalists are just pumping out “press releases” from partisan think-tanks without the slightest reflection about whether the underlying assumptions are correct. A bad day for informed debate.

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Another intergenerational report – another waste of time

Today I have had the misfortune of reading the latest Australian Government Intergenerational Report, which is really a confection of lies, half-truths interspersed with irrelevancies and sometimes some interesting facts. Why an educated nation tolerates this rubbish is beyond me. The media has been making a meal of the latest report and all the doom merchants – those deficit terrorists – a claiming we have to get into surplus as soon as possible. They seem to be ignoring that we are still embroiled in a major economic crisis requiring on-going fiscal support. But more importantly, they haven’t a clue what their policy proposals actually would mean in a modern monetary economy where external deficits are typical and the private sector overall is desiring to increase their saving. Anyway, read on … its all downhill.

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Direct public job creation now being debated

In Sunday’s New York Times, the Room for Debate series focused on one of my favourite topics – Should Public-Sector Jobs Come First?. The debate turns out to be very disappointing because even the so-called progressive offerings fall short of advocating an effective solution to the jobs crisis. Only one implies an understanding that the policy design proposed should not be compromised by an errant understanding of the way the fiat monetary system operates. Proposals that assume there is a financial constraint on government will almost certainly be second-rate. The debate could have been energised had the NYT sought expert opinion from those that are developing and implementing large public sector employment programs.

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In the spirit of debate … my reply Part 3

The debate seems to be slowing down which means this might be my last response although we will see. But in general the debate has raised a lot of interesting perspectives and I hope it has stimulated interested parties to read more of our work. I also think that while (as in any debate) “battle lines” appear to be drawn, I repeat my initial point some days ago. Steve and I saw this as a chance to focus on the common enemy – the mainstream (neoclassical) macroeconomics. That (failed) paradigm has nothing to say about the world we live in. The work of Steve and the modern monetary theory I work on both have lots to say and should not be seen as being mutually exclusive. Indeed, Steve operates in what we call the horizontal dimension of modern money.

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The myths of the ageing society debate

I am catching up on the mountains of things I have to read. It is a pointless task – the pile rises faster than my eyes can process it. But I try. There was an article in the June 25, 2009 edition of The Economist entitled A slow-burning fuse, which carried the by-line “Age is creeping up on the world, and any moment now it will begin to show. The consequences will be scary”. It definitely might be scary getting old but the discussion that needs to be had is nothing remotely like the discussion that dominates the current policy debate about the ageing society.

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Debates in modern monetary macro …

Yesterday, regular commentator JKH wrote a very long comment where he/she challenged some of the statements and logic that modern monetary theorists including myself have been making. While I don’t want to elevate one comment to any special status – all comments are good and add to the debate in some way – this particular comment does make statements that many readers will find themselves asking. In that sense it is illustrative of more general principles, points etc and so today’s blog provides a detailed answer to JKH and tries to make it clear where the differences lie. Some of these differences are at the level of nuance but others are more fundamental.

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Democracy, accountability and more intergenerational nonsense

Since last week’s Federal Budget was released there has been an hysterical response from the Opposition, the media and the Government in reply. Claims of forecast errors, forecast manipulation and more have been in our faces every day. The temporary Opposition Leader even suggested that we need a new independent body – the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) to discipline government and stop it lying about the medium term forecasts and its economic policies. The comical side of this very sad week has been provided by the Shadow Treasurer’s struggle with averages. It was so hilarious that I am actually enjoying his attempts to sound as if he knows anything about macroeconomics. He doesn’t but that doesn’t stop him. But overall, once again I think the debate reflects a poor understanding of how the economy works.

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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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When a huge pack of lies is barely enough

Today I read another appalling beat-up from the researchers at Société Générale. The fabrications and poor analysis contained in the Report should instigate class actions from their subscribers for grossly misleading them in their investment decisions. But the real problem is that the financial journalists seem content to function as meagre mouthpieces for this hysteria – to use their columns to spread it widely without the slightest introspection or critical scrutiny. The result is that the public are continually confronted with outrageous propositions – which carry not even a skerrick of truth. They then form fallacious perspectives about public policy that ultimately undermine their own welfare. The lies are all presented as being “iron clad laws” and “inevitabilities” and “fundamental truths”. But as I learned as a youngster – lies are lies.

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Saturday Quiz – April 10, 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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The historical beginning of the MMT team – from the archives

It is Wednesday, so only some snippets, although as it turns out the blog post is quite long. I am also travelling a lot today. I have recently come across the complete archive of the PKT Discussion List, which was an E-mail listserv in the early 1990s that brought Warren Mosler, Randy Wray and myself together. In this blog post, I provide some of the interchanges that formed the basis of our subsequent partnership in developing MMT to where it is today. The discussion below is incomplete because I have not yet pieced all the archive together in a coherent way (it is quite fragmented in the form I currently have it in). But I think it might be interesting for you to see what was being said back in the 1990s. There will be more on this another day. No music today (ran out of time) but, tonight, my band is playing in Melbourne (see below) and live music is always better than YouTube videos anyway.

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UK productivity slump is a demand-side problem

I have recently had discussions with a PhD student of mine who was interested in exploring the cyclical link between productivity growth and the economic cycle in the context of the intergenerational debate about ageing and the challenge to improve the former. The issue is that sound finance – the mainstream macroeconomics approach – constructs the rising dependency ratio as a problem of government financial resources (not being able to afford health care and pensions) and prescribes fiscal austerity on the pretext that the government needs to save money to pay for these future imposts. Meanwhile, the real challenge of the rising dependency is that the next generation will have to be more productive than the last to maintain real standards of living and if austerity undermines productivity growth then it just exacerbates the ageing problem. My contention has always been the latter. That governments should use their fiscal capacity now to make sure there is a first-class education and training system in a growth environment to prepare us for the future when more people will have passed the usual concept of working age. This question also is hot at the moment in the Brexit debate in Britain and in this blog post I offer some empirical analysis to clear away some of the myths that the Remainers have been spreading.

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German external investment model a failure

I read an interesting research report recently – Exportweltmeister: The Low Returns on Germany’s Capital Exports – published by the London-based Centre of Economic Policy Research (CEPR) in July 2019. It tells us a lot about the dysfunctional nature of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and Germany’s role within it, in particular. Germany has been running persistent and very large external surpluses for some years now in violation of EU rules. It also suppresses domestic demand by its punitive labour market policies and persistent fiscal surpluses. At the same time as these strategies have resulted in the massive degradation of essential infrastructure (roads, buildings, bridges etc), Germany has been exporting its massive savings in the form of international investments (FDI, equity, etc). The evidence is now in that the returns on those investments have been poor, which amounts to a comprehensive rejection of many of the shibboleths that German politicians and their industrialists hold and use as frames to bully other nations

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The Weekend Quiz – July 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 Job Guarantee misinformation campaign – UBI style

Apparently the British Left is “fizzing with ideas for a smarter economy” according to the UK Guardian article (May 12, 2019) – The zeitgeist has shifted. Now the left is fizzing with ideas for a smarter economy – written by Will Hutton. I can’t say I sensed an outbreak of fizz. But in the colloquial language from where I come from, the term fizzer means “Something that promised excitement but instead was a disappointment”, Yes, Hutton’s fizzers include promoting the insights of a long-standing (pun intended) critic of employment guarantees, who prefers people to be propped up as consumption units by a UBI, and, yes, surely, if Hutton is involved, reversing the “tragedy” of the democratic choice the British people made to exit the EU. Apparently, “Remain” is the “great progressive social force of the moment” and if Britain was to leave the EU it would “stand in the way of any of it ever being implemented”, where “it” refers to all these ‘left’ fizzers. It is hard getting one’s head around this logic. A restoration of democracy and sovereignty apparently disables the elected government from using its currency-issuing capacity to deliver a progressive program aimed at advancing well-being. But, staying in a corporatist cabal which has embodied neoliberalism in the core legal structure of its existence and allows corporations to sue governments which threaten their profits and is unaccountable to the people is the exemplar of progression. This stuff is in the world of the pixies!

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