The Weekend Quiz – October 21-22, 2017 – 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 – October 21-22, 2017

    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 | 6 Comments

      Australian labour market delivers more jobs growth but still no trend emerging

      The latest labour force data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics – Labour Force data – for September 2017 shows that total employment growth was positive but weaker than last month with most of the action coming via part-time employment. However, total hours worked continued to rise, which suggests that employers are offering extra hours to existing jobs. Unemployment declined with a constant labour force participation rate, which says that employment growth was slightly stronger than the underlying population growth – a good sign. Labour underutilisation overall (underemployment and unemployment) was at 13.6 per cent summing to 1,814 thousand persons, which tells you that there is still considerable slack in the labour market. The teenage labour market showed modest improvement but remains in a poor state. Overall, my assessment from last month remains – it still to early to conclude that the uncertainty of the last few years is giving way to sustained growth.
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        Posted in Labour Force | 2 Comments

        British productivity slump – all down to George Osborne’s austerity obsession

        Apparently, whenever some poor economic news is published about the United Kingdom, journalists have to weave in their on-going gripe about the outpouring of democracy in June last year that saw the Brexit vote to leave successful. Its hysterical really. The most recent example is from the otherwise sensible Aditya Chakrabortty from the UK Guardian (October 17, 2017) – Who’s to blame for Brexit’s fantasy politics? The experts, of course. The story has nothing much to do with the June 2016 Referendum but more about massive forecasting failures of the Office of Budget Responsibility. But somehow the story opines about the lies told about Brexit and a fiscal “bloodbath” – the latter being the description for the fact that the fiscal deficit is likely to increase a little as a result of a slower than expected economic growth outcome. The UK Guardian continually writes about these two obsessions – the first that Brexit will be a disaster and the second that the fiscal position of the British government is in jeopardy and will undermine the capacity of the government to defend the economy if a major downturn comes along (as a result of the ‘Brexit disaster’). The narratives are interlinked – Brexit is bad, it will cause deficits to rise which are bad, and the government will be powerless as a result of the rising deficits to stop the bad consequences of Brexit – which is a big bad. All propositions are largely nonsense. Brexit will be bad if the British government continues to implement neoliberal policy. Rising deficits do not alter the spending capacity of government. And as a currency-issuing government, Britain can always arrest a recession, if there is political will. The fact is that the OBR forecast errors are just part of the neoliberal lie. And the productivity growth slump the OBR has now ‘discovered’ predates the Brexit referendum by years and is all down to the misplaced austerity imposed by George Osborne in June 2010. But it is disappointing to read this sort of stuff being repeated by so-called progressive commentator. There is clearly more work to be done via education.
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          Posted in Britain, UK Economy | 28 Comments

          Three recent interviews – transcripts and video

          Today, I have translated two interviews I did while I was in Europe recently. The original interviews were in Spanish. The first interview was with Andrés Villena Oliver for CTXT and was published in the Spanish newspaper Público. It was conducted at Ecooo in Madrid on September 28, 2017. The the second interview was with journalist Marta Luengo Garcés from the progressive newspaper El Salto Diaro. It was conducted at the Principe Pio Hotel in Madrid on September 29, 2017. You can get a feel for the concerns of the progressive journalists in Spain by the type of questions they asked me. I have also included the video of an interview I did yesterday (October 16, 2017) with Steve Grumbine of the Real Progressives. That should keep readers more than busy until tomorrow.
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            Posted in Demise of the Left, Economics, Eurozone, Fiscal Statements, Job Guarantee | 9 Comments

            Wolfgang Schäuble is gone but his disastrous legacy will continue

            History is often made by single, very powerful individuals acting on their own mission according to their own calling. Many of these individuals are seemingly immune to the reality around them and try to recreate their own reality – sometimes succeeding to advance the well-being of those around them and beyond, but, usually, they just leave the main stage after creating havoc. I could name names. But only one name is relevant for today’s blog – Wolfgang Schäuble, the former CDU German Minister for Finance. Schäuble resigned that role after the recent German elections and is now being feted by the mainstream press as some sort of visionary who kept the Eurozone together through his disciplined thinking and his resistance to populist ideas that would have broken the discipline imposed on Member States by the European Finance Ministers. History tells us differently. He has overseen a disastrous period in European history where its major step towards political and economic integration in the 1990s has delivered dysfunctional and divergent outcomes for the Member States. Some countries (Greece) has been ruined by the policies he championed while others are in serious trouble. Further, despite him claiming the monetary union has been successful, the fact is that the Eurozone is still together only because the ECB has been effectively violating the no bailout articles of the Treaty of Lisbon via its various quantitative easing programs since May 2010. Should it stayed within the ‘law’ of the union, then several nations would have been forced into insolvency between 2010 and 2012. The problem is that while Schäuble is now gone from the political stage, his disastrous legacy will continue.
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              Posted in Eurozone | 20 Comments

              The Weekend Quiz – October 14-15, 2017 – 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 | 2 Comments

                The Weekend Quiz – October 14-15, 2017

                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.
                Read the rest of this entry »

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                  Posted in Saturday quiz | 3 Comments

                  Retail sales dive in Australia – neoliberal contradictions now obvious

                  This neoliberal era has a habit of getting ahead of itself and exposing its internal contradictions. In fact, the Capitalist system, as Marx, Keynes and others have demonstrated, it inherently inconsistent. The imposition of neoliberalism has only heightened those inconsistencies and made it more likely that we will move beyond this period in the foreseeable future (fingers crosssed). Last week, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the latest Retail Sales data for August 2017. The data shows that Australia experienced its second consecutive negative month and the August contraction was the largest since 2012. The sharp decline in retail sales is no surprise. Wages growth is flat and in some sectors (retail and hospitality) employers are cutting weekend penalty rates. At the same time, household consumption has been maintained by record levels of household debt – exposing families to bankruptcy risk should interest rates rise. Further, energy companies are gouging prices to record huge profit spikes, which is exacerbating the real wage cuts. The decline in retail sales suggests that households are finally responding to this array of negative data. It doesn’t augur well at all. Corporate greed eventually undermines itself.
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                    Posted in Economics, Labour costs | 5 Comments

                    US labour market – hit by two hurricanes but improvement suggested

                    On September 1, 2017, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their latest labour market data – Employment Situation Summary – September 2017 – which showed that total non-farm employment from the payroll survey fell by 33,000 in September, which reflected the impact of the two hurricanes that have ravaged southern US states in the survey period. The Labour Force Survey data showed that employment rose by 906 thousand in September and the labour force rose by 575 thousand. Thus, the BLS estimated that unemployment fell by 331 thousand and the official unemployment rate fell by 0.2 points to 4.22 per cent. There is still a large jobs deficit remaining and other indicators suggest the labour market is still below where it was prior to the crisis. Further, the bias towards low-pay and below-average pay jobs continues and the fortunes of university graduates has declined relative to other cohorts in the labour force.
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                      Posted in Labour Force, US economy | 1 Comment