The Weekend Quiz – February 24-25, 2018

Welcome to The Weekend Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention or not to the blogs I post. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
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    Posted in Saturday quiz | 2 Comments

    Welcome to the ‘homeless’ working poor – a new neoliberal KPI

    In advanced nations, poverty used to be a thing of old age, once income had stopped due to retirement and savings depleted. Old-aged pension systems were intended as Welfare States emerged to prevent that fall into poverty. The pension systems reduced the incidence of extreme poverty and the full employment era that followed the Second World War, where governments committed to using their fiscal capacities (spending and taxation) to ensure there were sufficient jobs for all, allowed workers to improve incomes and saving. Research in the early 1970s (particularly from the US, where the pension systems were less generous and working conditions less regulated) started to disclose the incidence of the ‘working poor’. In more recent times, the concept of the working poor has spread from the US to most advanced nations. In this modern era of renewed real wage repression, rising energy costs and housing costs, workers are not only facing increased risk of poverty but also of homelessness. Welcome to Australia – the nation with the second highest median wealth per adult in the world. Yesterday (February 21, 2018), the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released the – Wage Price Index, Australia – for the December-quarter 2017. Private sector wages growth was 1.9 per cent in the December-quarter continuing the seven consecutive quarters of record low growth. However, with the annual inflation rate running at 1.9 per cent, real wages growth was static. And with real wages growth lagging badly behind productivity growth, the wage share in national income is now around record low levels. This represents a major rip-off for workers. The flat wages trend is also intensifying the pre-crisis dynamics, which saw private sector credit rather than real wages drive growth in consumption spending. And now, the latest data shows that workers are experiencing increased homeless. It is not just a problem of the ‘working poor’ now. Welcome to the ‘homeless’ working poor – a new neoliberal KPI.
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      Posted in Future of Work, Labour costs | 10 Comments

      The ‘tax the rich’ call bestows unwarranted importance on them

      It is Wednesday, so only a few snippets only today, while I am working on six lectures I have to give in Helsinki over the next two weeks. The first of those lectures will be a public event. And looking at the weather I am about to undergo around a 45 degree Celsius turnaround from where I am today in Australia to where I will be next week! That is what happens when you go to Finland in the early part of the year. Anyway, here are some items of interest I hope.
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        Posted in Music, Reclaim the State | 9 Comments

        There is no European citizen – cultures and narratives diverge in the Eurozone

        I have noted before that when someone asks me where I come from I immediately (and innately) respond Australia. If questioned further I might tell them I grew up in Melbourne, Victoria. Sure enough, I am a Victorian (with some of the cultural attachments that that denotes) but that affiliation is weak compared to my nationality. That doesn’t make me a xenophobe or a nationalist. It just says I am culturally from that geographic area. If I ask my friends from Italy, Spain, France, the UK, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Finland, Norway, etc the same question, they will answer they are from those nations. They never immediately respond by saying they are European. I can get them to say they are European but that is not their innate cultural association. The point is that there is really no such thing as a European citizen. They are all citizens of their individual Member States with little shared culture and quite diverse histories (not to mention languages etc). An interesting study came out from European economics think tank Bruegel last week (February 15, 2018) – Tales from a crisis: diverging narratives of the euro area – highlights the consequences of these differences and concludes that it makes “for an extremely challenging context within which to conduct a uniform monetary policy across different countries”. I would add economic policy in general to that assessment.
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          Posted in Eurozone, Framing and Language | 14 Comments

          Censorship, the central bank independence ruse and Groupthink

          A few things came up late last week which demonstrate the neoliberal Groupthink is alive an well at the highest levels of policy in Australia (and elsewhere). First, there was a story that a report from an Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) journalist on the Australian government’s corporate tax cuts was withdrawn after publication by the ABC after receiving several complaints from senior government ministers including the Treasurer and the Prime Minister. The story was not even radical. The journalist who I have had dealings with is a neoliberal herself when it comes to understanding macroeconomics. Second, one of the claims that the neoliberals make is that central banks are now firmly independent and not part of the political process. This is all part of the depoliticisation process whereby governments absolve themselves of political responsibility for policies that harm the citizens by appealing to ‘independent’ external authorities (such as the IMF, or central banks). Well we know that the claim about central bank independence is not true both in terms of the way the monetary system operates but also in the conduct of various central bankers over the last few decades. Last week, the Reserve Bank of Australia governor once again demonstrated how politically independent he is NOT by invoking key mainstream neoliberal myths about deficits and grandchildren. And then an old hack and largely failed British Labour politicians got in on the act. The Groupthink is powerful but becoming increasingly desperate under the increasing pressure from citizens for more accountability.
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            Posted in Central banking, Fiscal Statements, Framing and Language, RBA decisions, Reclaim the State | 17 Comments

            The Weekend Quiz – February 17-18, 2018 – 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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              Posted in Saturday quiz | 8 Comments

              The Weekend Quiz – February 17-18, 2018

              Welcome to The Weekend Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention or not to the blogs I post. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
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                Posted in Saturday quiz | 8 Comments

                Australian labour market weakened a bit at the start of 2018

                The latest labour force data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics – Labour Force data – for January 2018 shows that the Australian labour market labour market weakened a bit at the start of 2018. Employment growth was again very modest in January 2018 and participation fell. The fall in unemployment was due to the fall in the participation rate as employment growth failed to keep up with the underlying population growth. The teenage labour market, however, improved marginally on the back of the rise in part-time work. The deficit in full employment growth for this cohort remains stark. Further, underemployment rose sharply as did the broad labour underutilisation rate for the second consecutive month, signifying that the Australian labour market still is a fair distance away form full employment. Overall, my assessment is that the Australian labour market has a lot of slack remaining. It is not close to full employment yet.
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                  Posted in Labour Force | Leave a comment

                  Here is a new argument for the Remainers – should be a winner

                  Here are a couple of Wednesday snippets on my (alleged) no blog post day. I have a great tip for the Remainers in Britian who are struggling to make any sense in their quest to hang on to the European dream (nightmare!). It is not a new argument but it has resurfaced in the US recently. Apparently, “the top US intelligence official” (words have meaning and intelligence usually means having some brain power) has told the US Congress that “the ballooning national debt … posed a ‘dire threat’ to … national security”. He told the Congress that the “fiscal crisis … truly undermines our ability to ensure our national security”. Truly used to mean something also. So here’s the thing all you so-called British Remainers. This will top your claims that Brexit will increase the rate of cancer in the UK. Just start raving on about threats to national security. A sure winner. It is the argument you introduce when you have run out of any semblance of an argument. Meanwhile, we now know that the British government, while in the EU, helped the right-wing forces (including the CIA) to kill the democracy in Chile in 1973, in what should be considered one of the more disgusting historical episodes. But then Salvatore Allende was clearly a threat to national security. What with all those Chileans that were improving their material standards of living under Allende and all!
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                    Posted in Economics | 30 Comments

                    Employers lying about the flat wages growth in Australia

                    Last Friday (February 8, 2018), the Reserve Bank of Australia issued its latest – Statement on Monetary Policy – February 2018 – which in its own words “sets out the Bank’s assessment of current economic conditions, both domestic and international, along with the outlook for Australian inflation and output growth.” Of interest to me (apart from all of it) was the discussion of domestic economic conditions, in particular the discussion concerning wages growth. Workers around the world are struggling to gain any semblance of decent (if any) wages growth, are facing real wage cuts, and seeing national income redistributed to profits (even as investment ratios fall). They are observing increasing gaps between real wages growth and productivity growth, which means the workers’ share of output gains is falling. With sluggish investment ratios, it isn’t rocket science to realise that the redistributed national income is being pumped into the financial markets casino, which delivers little or no productive benefit to society and provide for continued economic instability. It is clear that major shifts have to occur in wage setting mechanisms to redress these imbalances. That should be a major focus of progressive activists. It is a global problem.
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                      Posted in Labour costs, RBA decisions, Reclaim the State | 2 Comments