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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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Intergenerational Report – the past is catching up with the government and the game is up

It’s Wednesday, and I have been filming most of the day some of the material that will appear in the next set of course material offered by – MMTed. We hope to offer some new courses later in September. But progress is slow (see below). Today, I provide some brief comments on my response to the Federal government’s latest – 2021 Intergenerational Report – which is one of the ridiculous, smokescreen-creating exercises that allow the government to avoid political responsibility for its fiscal surplus obsession. They come out every five years and are usually jam-packed with scaremongering about unsustainable fiscal deficits and the need for spending cuts. The only difference this time is that the damage caused by the years of following the austerity path – to health care, to aged care, to skills development, etc, have changed our attitudes. We have also seen that the government can spend what it likes without taxes going up and without bond markets declaring the government insolvent. We have now lived with large deficits as a result of the pandemic and the game is up on the deficits are bad and the sky will crash down story line. Our changing view on what we now demand from the Government is reflected in this latest effort.

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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 Weekend Quiz – February 12-13, 2022 – 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 22-23, 2022 – 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 Japanese denial story – Part 2

Here is Part 2 of my analysis of the claim that Japan is not a good demonstration of what happens when macroeconomic policies are pushed beyond their usual limits. I have long argued that trying to apply a mainstream macroeconomics (New Keynesian) framework to the Japanese situation yields nonsensical predictions about rising interest rates, accelerating inflation, rising bond yields and government insolvency. Nothing like that scenario has emerged since Japan has introduced economic policies that ran counter to the mainstream consensus since the 1990s. Japan demonstrates key Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) principles and those that seek to deny that are really forced to invent a parallel-universe version of MMT to make their case. That version is meaningless. In Part 2, we extend that analysis to consider trade transactions, the fear of inflation, and the argument that the current generation are selfishly leaving their children higher tax burdens while we party on.

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They never wrote about it, talked about it, and, did quite the opposite – yet they knew it all along!

During the GFC, a new phenomenon emerged – the ‘We knew it all along’ syndrome, which was characterised my several mainstream New Keynesian macroeconomists coming out and claiming that some of the insights provided by Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) economists were banal and that their own theoretical framework already accommodates them. The pandemic has brought a further rush of the ‘We knew it all along’ syndrome. Apparently, mainstream macroeconomics is perfectly capable of explaining the fiscal reality the world has found itself in and there is no need to MMT, which, by assertion, is saying nothing new. These sorts of statements are not coming from Facebook or Twitter heroes who might have done a few units in economics or even acquired a degree in the discipline. They are coming from senior professors in the academy. The curious thing, which really lifts their cover, is that if you examine the academic literature you won’t find much reference to these sorts of ‘insights’ at all. What you find, and what students are taught, are a completely different set of propositions with respect to fiscal policy. So if they ‘knew it all along’ why didn’t they ever write about it? Why is their published academic work replete with conclusions that run contrary to the conclusions MMT economists make? You know the answer. These ‘knew it all along’ characters have just been caught out by the poor empirical performance of their paradigm and now they are trying to salvage their reputations and position by trying to blur history. They really should be sacked.

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