Mayday! Mayday! The skies were meant to fall in … what happened?

The British Office for National Statistics, which although recently revamped continues to have the most user-unfriendly home page and dissemination service of all the national statistical agencies, published the latest – Retail Sales in Great Britain: July 2016 – data last week (August 18, 2016). It looked good to me. In the past week or so there has been a stream of data coming out of Britain or about Britain, which also looks good to me. What the hell is going on? The skies over Britain were meant to have fallen in by now. Unemployment was meant to be going through the roof or was the roof meant to collapse first. All manner of despair was meant to be visiting the shores of Britain after the June 23 vote to get out of the dysfunctional European Union. The reality is that things are looking okay there. Skies are intact and quite blue I believe which has boosted the confidence of British consumers. Tourism is booming. Unemployment is falling or at least those claiming unemployment benefits. One investment bank put out a briefing last month with a Mayday! Mayday! warning that unemployment was about to rise dramatically. Who has been sacked for that piece of public misinformation. George Osborne, remember him, said in mid-June that British public finances were about to collapse and an immediate, emergency fiscal response would be needed. Days have passed – things are looking ok. Eurozone nations should take note! Ignore the neo-liberal scare mongering. Follow Britain’s lead in abandoning the ridiculous notion that there is something special about ‘Europe’. Eurozone nations should get out of the currency union as soon as possible.

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    Posted in Britain, Eurozone, UK Economy | 13 Comments

    Modern Monetary Theory – what is new about it? – Part 2 (long)

    In yesterday’s Part 1 of this two-part blog – Modern Monetary Theory – what is new about it? – I introduced the idea that a major new contribution of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) to economic theory was in its treatment of inflation and the Phillips curve. This is part of a keynote presentation I will be giving at the International Post Keynesian Conference – which will be held at the University of Missouri – Kansas City between September 15-18, 2016. The keynote presentation is scheduled for Friday, September 16 at 17:00. The topic of my keynote presentation will ‘What is new about MMT?’ and will challenge several critics from both the neo-liberal mainstream and from within the Post Keynesian family that, indeed, there is nothing new about MMT – they knew it all along! I contest that when they say this they are lying and doing so to cover up the inadequacies of their own failed analytical frameworks whether they be mainstream or Post Keynesian.
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      Posted in Debriefing 101, Economics | 11 Comments

      Modern Monetary Theory – what is new about it?

      In a few weeks I am off to the US to present a keynote talk at the – International Post Keynesian Conference – which will be held at the University of Missouri – Kansas City between September 15-18, 2016. I will also be giving some additional talks in Kansas City during that week if you are around and interested. The keynote presentation is scheduled for Friday, September 16 at 17:00. The topic of my keynote presentation will ‘What is new about MMT?’ and will challenge several critics from both the neo-liberal mainstream and from within the Post Keynesian family that, indeed, there is nothing new about MMT – they knew it all along! Well the truth of it is that these characters clearly didn’t previously know or understand a lot of key insights that MMT now offers. No matter how hard they try to reinvent what they knew, the facts are obvious. MMT makes some novel contributions to our knowledge base and shows why a lot of so-called mainstream macroeconomic theory that parades as ‘knowledge’ is, in fact, non-knowledge. This blog and the second-part will provide some notes on the paper I am writing (with my colleague Martin Watts) on this topic.

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        Posted in Debriefing 101, Economics | 34 Comments

        The Weekend Quiz – August 20-21, 2016 – 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 | 1 Comment

          The Weekend Quiz – August 20-21, 2016

          Welcome to The Weekend Quiz, which used to be known as the Saturday Quiz! The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention over the last seven days. 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 | 3 Comments

            Australian labour market – the part-time employment nation

            Last month’s Australian labour force data showed what a part-time employment nation we were becoming. The latest labour force data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics – Labour Force data – for July 2016 shows that trend to be intensifying with modest employment growth and collapsing full-time employment growth. With more than 86 per cent of total net jobs created over the last 12 months being part-time, it is clear that Australia is becoming a nation of part-time employment growth with all the attendant negative consequences. The teenage labour market remains in a poor state and requires urgent policy intervention. Overall, with weak private investment now on-going, the Australian labour market is looking in pretty dismal shape and the recently elected Federal government should have introduced a rather sizeable fiscal stimulus immediately upon re-election to provide some fiscal leadership to the nation. This should have included a large-scale public sector job creation program which would ensure teenagers regained the jobs that have been lost due to the fiscal drag over the last several years. There are no signs that our polity understands any of that.
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              Posted in Labour Force | 17 Comments

              Australia – stagnant wages growth continues

              The Australian Bureau of Statistics published the latest – Wage Price Index, Australia – for the June-quarter 2016 today. Annual private sector wages growth remained steady at 2.0 per cent (0.5 per cent for the quarter), which is the third consecutive month that the annual growth in wages has recorded its lowest level since the data series began in the December-quarter 1997. In the 2015-16 fiscal statement (aka ‘The Budget’), the Government assumed wages growth for 2015-16 would be 2.5 per cent rising to 2.75 over 2016-17. On current trends, that is highly unlikely to occur, which means the forward estimates for taxation revenue are already falling short and the fiscal deficit will be larger than assumed. Depending on how we measure inflation, the annual wages growth translates into only a modest real wage rise since January 2016 for Australian workers. More importantly, real wages are growing well below trend productivity growth and Real Unit Labour Costs (RULC) continue to fall. This means that the gap between real wages growth and productivity growth continues to widen as the wage share in national income falls (and the profit share rises). The flat wages trend is intensifying the pre-crisis dynamics, which saw private sector credit rather than real wages drive growth in consumption spending. The lessons have not been learned.
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                Posted in Labour costs, UK Economy, US economy | 6 Comments

                Why Uber is not a progressive development

                A few weeks ago, I was waiting for a flight at the airport and during a conversation with a person who often travels the same route and schedule that I use on a regular basis (we are now sort of ‘fellow travellers’ and share stories of delays, diverted flights etc), he asked me whether I use Uber. My reply was in the negative – I do not use the service and do not think it is a positive labour market development. He then said something like “but it is a flexible service and drivers can choose their hours”. To which I said something like “flexibility is just the latest buzz word for low-pay, casualised employment” except Uber takes that trend even further in the direction of capital. Uber is a replay of old models of worker exploitation jazzed up in Silicon Valley hype to appear to be ‘cool’. The ‘gig economy’ just layers additional disadvantages for workers and takes us back to the days following slavery. Progressive should avoid using the service for many reasons. There are also other issues relating to the commodification of our lives that also apply to services like Uber. Interestingly, a few weeks after that interchange, the Financial Times published an article (August 11, 2016) – Uber hitches a ride with car finance schemes – which reinforced my views on the scheme. And just yesterday (August 15, 2016), there was a very terse Letter to the Financial Times about this article – An economic model from the feudal age – which summarises why progressives should boycott this type of labour market trend.
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                  Posted in Economics | 22 Comments

                  Seattle workers better off after significant minimum wage rise

                  I recently wrote about minimum wage principles in relation to a progressive manifesto and the desire to reduce income inequality, which has risen sharply in the neo-liberal era where mainstream ‘free market’ economics has been the dominant narrative. Please see – Reducing income inequality – for that discussion. That blog considered some evidence that refutes the mainstream economics mantra that implementing minimum wages undermines the employment opportunities for low-wage workers. The standard lie that is rammed down the throats of economics students is that whenever governments impose minimum wages the market retaliates and minimum wage workers are worse off as a result. There are layers of erroneous concepts embedded in that orthodoxy, which I have dealt with many times before. But a significant point is that the real world is doing a good job to expose the lies of the ‘competitive’ model without recourse to any deep theoretical debates about whether ‘marginal productivity’ can be identified (it cannot), or whether the labour demand curve is downward sloping (it isn’t), which also includes a debate about whether productivity declines with extra employment (it doesn’t!). An interesting research paper released July 2016 by researchers at the The Seattle Minimum Wage Study Team based at the University of Washington in Seattle – Report on the Impact of Seattle’s Minimum Wage Ordinance on Wages, Workers, Jobs, and Establishments Through 2015 – provides further evidence to contest the veracity of the mainstream economics myths.
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                    Posted in Labour costs, US economy | 8 Comments

                    The Weekend Quiz – August 13-14, 2016

                    Welcome to The Weekend Quiz, which used to be known as the Saturday Quiz! The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention over the last seven days. 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 | 1 Comment