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Deep adaptation, degrowth and MMT – Part 2

This is Part 2 of a series on Deep Adaptation and MMT that I am writing. The first part – Deep Adaptation – Part 1 (August 22, 2022) – introduced the concept. I have recently written about the coming together of a number of crises which I consider to be all linked and part of the end of normal business as we have known it. See – The global poly crisis is the culmination of the absurdity of neoliberalism (July 18, 2022). Thinking about the social aspects of that conjunction of crises, we understand that advancing material prosperity is still a goal that we should seek to achieve for millions of the globe’s citizens, who live in abject poverty with little food and housing security. But then, when we consider the ecological dimension we see immediately how the social goals have to be solved within a constrained envelope of overall material deprivation. The question then is how can we move forward towards achieving that duality. There are various propositions out there – Green New Deals, Green Growth, etc. I think they are all flawed and that proponents tend to become captured by the power relations that have created the current mess. That is where I think the concept of Deep Adaptation comes into play. Which brings me to a starting point in understanding where these institutionalised ‘green’ conservations have lost their way. Today, I am writing about growth and degrowth, because there are a lot of misunderstandings out there about this apparent conflict.

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Australian national accounts – wage share at record low while corporate profits boom – this is not right!

The Australian Bureau of Statistics released the latest – Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product, June 2022 – today (September 7, 2022), which shows that the Australian economy grew by 0.9 per cent in the June-quarter 2022 and by 3.3 per cent over the 12 months to the end of June 2022. Growth is being driven by a combination of household spending (which has not yet succumbed to the cost of living squeeze exacerbated by the ridiculous interest rate rises) and a booming export sector (on the back of strong terms of trade). The problem is that while the on-going productivity growth has provided scope for non-inflationary real wage rises, real wages are going backwards. The problem is that business are pocketing these productivity gains as profits. The wage share fell further to a record low of 48.5 per cent which is a shocking testimony of the way the wages system is penalising workers. That needs to stop and the government should do something about it.

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US labour market showing further signs of slowdown

Last Friday (September 3, 2022), the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their latest labour market data – Employment Situation Summary – September 2022 – which reported a total payroll employment rise of only 315,000 jobs (a major slowdown) and an official unemployment rate rose 0.2 points to 3.7 per cent. The participation rate also rose (somewhat reversing last month’s decline) and the broad labour underutilisation rate (U6) rose by 0.3 points, largely due to the rise in unemployment. The other interesting aspect of this data is that real wages continued to decline in all industry sectors – they have systematically fallen each month since March 2022. I note some commentators are trying to claim that wage pressures are now pushing inflation. That conclusion is untenable given the data. The US labour market is still producing employment but it is hardly booming. Further, most of the net jobs created since the pandemic have gone to workers in occupatinos that pay above-median earnings.

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The Weekend Quiz – September 3-4, 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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Business investment in retreat for the second successive quarter

The Australian Bureau of Statistics released the latest version of – Private New Capital Expenditure and Expected Expenditure, Australia – today (May 26, 2022), which is part of several releases leading up to the publication of the June-quarter National Accounts next Wednesday. Today’s business investment data shows that private new capital expenditure in Australia fell by 0.3 per cent in the March quarter but was up by 2.2 per cent on the year. This is the second successive quarter in which business investment has fallen and it is likely the September-quarter will also record a contraction, which will all but wipe out the positive annualised result. This is the Australian business community at work – they are enjoying massive cuts to real wages for their workforces, record levels of profits, a rising profit share – and their investment performance is pathetic. There is some tension in the data though – as the expectation series indicates business investment growth over the next 12 months. I think that is overly optimistic given that household expenditure is likely to slow down with the rising interest rates and high energy prices really squeezing low-income families. One of the challenges facing the new Federal government is to somehow convince the business community to change their behaviour in this respect. Good luck with that. The way that the business sector has hijacked the ‘Jobs and Skills Summit’ agenda to turn it into a justification for more skilled migration – which will further dampen wages growth, push up unemployment, and further strain the almost impossible rental and home market – is evident that they are not for changing. And, if the new Treasurer keeps harping on about the $A1 trillion debt and the need to cut the fiscal deficit we will sink into recession.

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