Today’s Australian Bureau of Statistics release of its latest data – Labour Force, Australia, November 2019 – confirms, as if we need confirmation, that the Australian economy is in a weak state with a very tepid labour market performance being recorded for November 2020. The culprit – the Australian government – which is starving spending by its obsessive pursuit of a fiscal surplus. Employment growth was positive this month but almost all of it was part-time. Unemployment fell slightly The broad labour underutilisation (unemployment plus underemployment) is at 13.5 per cent and has been stuck around that level for months. There is no dynamic – policy or otherwise – present, which will see this massive pool of available labour brought back into productive use anytime soon. That alone, is a indictment of failed policy. The unemployment rate is 0.7 percentage points above what even the central bank considers to the level where inflationary pressures might be sourced from the labour market. The Government is thus deliberately inducing deflationary tendencies into the economy and it is the workers that are bearing the brunt. My overall assessment is that the Australian labour market remains a considerable distance from full employment. This persistence in labour wastage indicates that the policy settings are too tight (biased to austerity) and deliberately reducing growth and income generation. There is clear room for some serious fiscal policy expansion at present. The Federal government is willfully undermining our economy with its irresponsible policy position.
Just a few snippets for Wednesday. The post British General Election wash-up continues and the urban Remainers who support Labour are now coming out of their holes to speak forth on why it all went wrong. There is lots of regret but little real reflection and responsibility is being exhibited. And, it is now a fair proposition to argue, that given it was this group that so distorted Labour Party policy and drove the ‘optics’, that they they should now just shut up and do some serious review of their own positions and why they lacked understanding and foresight. Some are proclaiming it was the toxity of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) for the Left that was somehow involved. One cannot get more desperate than that. But mostly it was their disdain for those less educated and less privileged that sealed the deal. You cannot continually label people fools and racists and claim they were so ill-informed that within a few days of the Referendum result that they were clearly experiencing ‘Bregret’ and expect them to play ball with the cosmopolitan dream. Especially when that dream had created such havoc in areas where the majority of Labour MP represented and had voted Leave. We found out how much Bregret there was last Thursday.
This morning on the national radio, the Australian Treasurer was explaining to the nation the issues presented in the December – Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) – which is a half-yearly review of the fiscal statement presented in the May each year (mostly) and was released to the public yesterday (December 16, 2019). I will get into some of the detail presently. But every statement that the Treasurer made, every sentence, was a classic example of fake knowledge being touted as verity. The interview lasted a few minutes and nothing the Treasurer said was correct. It is clear that we live in a fictional world where some of the most important influences on our lives are so misunderstood in reality yet ‘understood’ in this fictional world that the economists, the elites, the serving politicians, and us perpetuate. I have always been perplexed by the dichotomy between our human ingenuity in some areas and our dumbness and ignorance in other areas. And I clearly understand we cannot know everything. But on matters economics, if I survey people, I am astounded at how much they claim to ‘know’ – words such as Zimbabwe, hyperinflation, and the rest of the myths – come of their lips with ease as if they are knowledge. It is a quite extraordinary situation.
In the last few days, since the British General Election last Thursday, I have seen the rising denial of so-called progressives trying to come up with all sorts of excuses for Labour’s devastating defeat. I have seen various aggregations of the votes presented on Twitter and elsewhere attempting to claim that, in fact, the vote was a vote for Remain rather than Brexit. The line being spun is that the Tories do not have a mandate to implement Brexit, that the strong majority of British voters want to remain in the European Union and that, and that Labour’s defeat was about other things. Other things certainly impacted – such as the UK Guardian’s relentless and ridiculous campaign against Jeremy Corbyn which gave air to the anti-semitism ruse. And, the continued passive insurgency within the Parliamentary Labour Party from the Blairites who could not move beyond the past. And, the neoliberal framing that John McDonnell insisted on using to disseminate his economic plan, as a result of being advised poorly by a bunch of economists who couldn’t even get their studid Fiscal Credibility Rule right (given they had to change it at the last minute when it was obvious to all that it would fail). And John McDonnell himself, who told the British people in the months leading up to the election that he would support Remain. And the Deputy leader, who should have been expelled long ago from the Party. And those who conspired to ditch Chris Williamson for the most spurious reasons and thus cost Labour the seat of Derby North. And on it goes. But the result that transpired has been staring the Labour party in the face since the June 2016 Referendum and the Party chose to ignore the warnings. And the so-called progressive apparatchiks, economists and others, who were advising the Labour Party, not only told the Party leaders to ignore the warnings but actively set about vilifying those on the Left, including yours truly, every chance they could. The egg is … as they say!
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.
Welcome to The Weekend Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention or not to the blog posts that I post. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
As many mainstream macroeconomics try to reinvent themselves after their reputations were trashed during and in the aftermath of the GFC, some are still trying to stay relevant by recycling the usual trash about deficits, public debt and bond yields that defines the New Keynesian orthodoxy in macroeconomics. That approach has been emphatically exposed as fake knowledge by the fact that none of the predictions that can be derived from that framework have proven to be accurate. On December 9, 2019, the UK Guardian took a rest from imputing anti-semitist motives to Jeremy Corbyn and published a sort of dinosauric-type article from Kenneth Rogoff – Public borrowing is cheap but ramping up debt is not without risk. Yes, the same character that claimed during the crisis that there was a public debt threshold of 90 per cent of GDP, beyond which, governments would face insolvency. When it was discovered the spreadsheet they had used to come up with that conclusion had been incompetently (or fraudulently) manipulated and that the actual data did not show anything of the sort, Rogoff should have slunked off and shut his mouth forever. But that is not the way these characters operate. Memory is short. Their position as an agent for their elites is well paid. And so they keep recycling the nonsense. Eventually, their influence will decline. But as Max Planck noted in 1948 “Die Wahrheit triumphiert nie, ihre Gegner sterben nur aus”, which has been reduced to ‘science advances one funeral at a time’, which is not a verbatim translation but an accurate depiction of how change is slow to come to the academy.
It is Wednesday and I am travelling a lot today. So just a collection of short snippets today that I have collected over the last week or so. First, the British election is tomorrow and the Tories have been successful in confining the focus to Brexit. My view on the EU and Britain’s decision to exit is well known. Labour should have been leading that process given the majority of their elected MPS come from Leave majority seats. Instead, they gave out a mixed message, with many senior Labour politicians claiming they would vote remain in another referendum. This is despite both major parties guaranteeing to the people in June 2016 that they would implement the vote to leave. The information we have at present is that that position on Brexit is probably going to cost them office. Which means the Tories survive when they should not but finish the Brexit process which they should. Then Labour will have to reinvent itself to take advantage of the renewed sovereignty that Brexit will bring. To do that it has to expunge its ranks of the neoliberals. One other matters, Leonard Cohen’s last album was released recently. We hear a song from it.
There was an IMF paper released in April 2018 – The Aggregate and Distributional Effects of Financial Globalization: Evidence from Macro and Sectoral Data – that had a long title but a fairly succinct message. It indicates that the IMF is still in a sort of schizoid process where the evidential base has built up so against the political voice and practice that the IMF has indulged itself as a front-line neoliberal attack dog that elements in its research division are breaking ranks and revealing interesting information. In part, the Brexit debate in Britain has been characterised by economists supporting the Remain argument claiming that free capital flows within Europe (and Britain) are the vehicle for strong output growth and better living standards. They claim that when Britain leaves the EU global capital flows will be more restricted in and out of Britain and that will be damaging. It is really just a rehearsal of the standard mainstream economic claims found in monetary, trade and macroeconomics textbooks. What the IMF paper does is provide what they call a “fresh look at the at the aggregate and distributional effects of policies to liberalize international capital flows” and the researchers find that, “financial globalization … have led on average to limited output gains while contributing to significant increases in inequality”. That is, the pie hasn’t really grown much as a result of all these free trade moves but a growing share is being taken by an increasingly wealthier few. And workers are the losers.
On Friday (December 6, 2019), the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their latest labour market data – Employment Situation Summary – November 2019 – which reveals a labour market that that is still adding jobs. The November performance was very strong in quantitative terms. The payroll employment change was well above the year’s average and the official unemployment rate remains at very low (relative) levels. The employment-population ratio is steady indicating that the labour market is producing jobs growth in line with population growth. The Broad labour underutilisation ratio (U-6) remains high (but fell in November by 0.1 points) even though the official unemployment is now hovering around levels not seen since the late 1960s. The worry is that the jobs being added represent a significant hollowing out of jobs in the median wage area (the so-called ‘middle-class’ jobs), which is reinforcing the polarisation in the income distribution and rising inequality. There is no hint, yet in the data, that a recession is coming any time soon.