If you cast your mind back to the peak of the GFC, when people were actually talking about the dissolution of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), a.k.a. the Eurozone, or more specifically, a unilateral exit by Greece or Italy, we were told by the ‘experts’ that it would be catastrophic. Over and over, headlines shouted at us how disastrous it would be if the Eurozone failed. Well, guess what, even pro-Euro researchers have come to the conclusion that the effects of collapsing the monetary union would be minimal, to say the least. And when we dig into their analysis a bit deeper, using technical knowledge, the results are even more devastating for the pro-Euro camp. Mostly, using techniques that give pro-Europe narratives the best chance of delivering supportive empirical results, they find mostly impacts that are not statistically different from zero, of an abandonment of the common currency and a return to currency sovereignty for the 20 Member States. I haven’t seen any attention given to this in the mainstream media or from those pro-Euro Tweeters that tweet away with all sorts of nonsense about how good the common currency has been. But then that would be a bridge to far for them I guess.
The mainstream press is now seeing through the Reserve Bank of Australia’s behaviour, which I take as a sign of progress. For example, there was an article on the ABC News Site yesterday – Reserve Bank accused of ‘economic gaslighting’ as wages growth misses forecasts, again. I noted yesterday that the latest evidence contradicts the RBA’s claims that wages are growing too fast and provide it with a rationale for further interest rate increases, despite the inflation rate falling over the last several months, and real wages declining by more than has ever been recorded. Last week, the RBA Governor and his staff appeared before a parliamentary committee to justify thee rate hikes. We learn a lot from the session – none of it good. The basic conclusion is that the RBA thinks they can hoodwink our politicians into believing that their is a ‘technical authority’ based in statistics for their actions, when in fact, no such authority exists.
The RBA governor has consistently sought refuge in claims that wage pressures in Australia are building and justify the central bank rate hikes – 9 consecutive increases since May 2022. The RBA has chosen to seriously mislead the Australian public on this issue and when confronted with publicly-available data that justifies that conclusion they claim they have unpublished data that shows a wages problem that is pushing inflation. They won’t publish that data, just as they won’t tell us what their secret meetings with bank traders a few weeks were about, except we saw profit taking from the banks increase immediately after the meetings. Today (February 22, 2023), the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the latest – Wage Price Index, Australia – for the December-quarter, which shows that the aggregate wage index rose by 0.8 per cent over the quarter and 3.3 per cent over the 12 months. Last week, we learned that employment growth had declined for the second consecutive month, while real wages continue to contract. Says a lot about mainstream employment theory that predicts real wage cuts will increase employment. This is the seventh consecutive quarter that real wages have fallen. There can be no sustained acceleration in the inflation rate arising from wages growth under these circumstances. Further with the gap between productivity growth and the declining real wages increasing, the massive redistribution of national income away from wages to profits continues. The business sector, as a whole, thinks it is clever to always oppose wages growth and the banks love that because they can foist more debt onto households to maintain their consumption expenditure. None of this offers workers a better future. Further, the conduct of the RBA in this environment is contributing to the damage that workers are enduring. While corporations continue to gouge profits, the RBA, like the schoolyard bully, has singled out some of the most disadvantaged workers in our society (low income earners paying of housing loans) and using them in their relentless push of mainstream ideology. This is a huge problem.
Last Monday, I wrote about the global need for us to abandon meat production for food, and, instead take up plant-based diets. Many people interpreted that argument as a personal attack on their dietary freedom, which indicates they fell into a fallacy of composition trap and declined to see the global issue. As part of my series on the Degrowth agenda, the other aspect about food which is important is that we have a propensity to produce too much food and distribute what we produce unfairly. I will deal with the distributional issues in another post. Today, I want to talk about the over-abundance of food in nations which means too much land, water and other resources is devoted to its production with commensurate negative environmental consequences. One manifestation of that phenomenon is food loss and food waste, which are different terms for the segment of the food supply chain where wastage occurs. If we are serious about dealing with the environmental disaster then we have to eliminate or dramatically reduce wastage. This will require significant investments in some nations to improve storage etc and a dramatic change in other nations in terms of attitudes to aesthetics, packaging, and more.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released of the latest labour force data today (February 16, 2023) – Labour Force, Australia – for January 2023. My overall assessment is that the labour market is now in decline after two consecutive months of employment loss. In January 2023, total employment fell by 11,500 (-0.1 per cent) with full-time employment falling by 43.3 thousand, while part-time employment increased by 31.8 thousand. Participation also fell further to 66.5 per cent and we saw unemployment rise significantly (by 21,900 persons). Workers are being squeezed by two forces: the demand for labour is declining at the same time as the supply is increasing as a result of the relaxation of border restrictions and increased migration. The underlying (‘What-if’) unemployment rate is closer to 5.6 per cent rather than the official rate of 3.7 per cent, which indicates the labour market still has slack. There are still 1,398 thousand Australian workers without work in one way or another (officially unemployed or underemployed). Overall, the RBA deliberate strategy to force unemployment onto workers and deprive them of income is working. Shameful!
It’s Wednesday and a lot is going on. The RBA governor appeared before the Commonwealth Senate Estimates Committee today and demonstrated what a troglodyte he is, defending massive bank profits and deliberately trying to cause unemployment. Meanwhile, US data shows that inflation has peaked and is now falling. The pace of the deceleration is picking up. Meanwhile – MMTed – is active and our 4-week course began today (see details below) and we are helping a new radio show to launch next week – Radio MMT. And we cannot go a Wednesday without some great music. All in a day.
This is Part 6 of a series on Deep Adaptation, Degrowth and MMT that I am steadily writing. I have previously written in this series that there will need to be a major change in the composition of output and the patterns of consumption if we are to progress towards a sustainable future. It will take more than cutting material production and consumption. We have to make some fundamental shifts in the way we think about materiality. The topic today is about consumption but a specific form – our food and diets. Some readers might know that there has been a long-standing debate across the globe on whether a vegetarian/vegan diet is a more sustainable path to follow than the traditional meat-eating diet. Any notion that the ‘meat’ industry is environmentally damaging is vehemently resisted by the big food corporations. Like anything that challenges the profit-seeking corporations there is a massive smokescreen of misinformation created to prevent any fundamental change. New research, however, makes it clear that we can achieve substantial reductions in carbon emissions by abandoning meat products in our diets and the gains are disproportionately biased towards the richest nations. I have long argued that I find a fundamental contradiction in those who espouse green credentials and advocate dramatic behavioural shifts to deal with climate change while a the same time eating meat products. The recent research supports that argument. So Greenies, give up the steaks and the chickens and get on your bikes and head to the greengrocer and start cooking plants.
I have finally moved my blog and integrated in within my long-standing home page. The new blog address is – https://www.billmitchell.org/blog – although the old address will work forever. However, I do urge you to update your bookmarks to the new address.
There are regular interventions from commentators over time who repeat the same thing over and over – usually some prophesy that a currency (for example, the Yen or the USD) will collapse soon, and life goes on until they come out with the same predictions, which never turn out. The mainstream media loves to give these characters a platform because the headlines are sensational and I guess that sells ‘units’ for the companies. The latest I saw was from Mr. Roubini in the Financial Times, who has been predicting the collapse of the USD regularly. Time to give him a miss I think. A related topic of hysteria that ordinary folks seem to get agitated about but clearly don’t understand even the first principles involved is the old canard – central bank losses. This gets a little more abstract for most relative to the Roubini-type currency collapse headlines but the mainstream press still manage to whip up a doom scenario that somehow the central bank is about to go broke and governments will have to bail them out and taxes and debt will rise, and, somehow, ultimately, our grandchildren will find themselves in penury trying to pay back the debts our current governments ran up. A recent Bank of International Settlements Bulletin article (No. 68)- Why are central banks reporting losses? Does it matter? (released February 7, 2023) – bears on this issue. Conclusion: nothing to see here.
Yesterday, the Reserve Bank of Australia lifted the interest rate target for the ninth consecutive time (they didn’t meet in January) claiming that they had to do this to stop inflation accelerating and restoring price stability. Except inflation already peaked in the March-quarter 2022 as a result of the driving factors abating. Further, none of the major driving factors are remotely sensitive to domestic interest rate movements. The RBA’s excuse is that there are dangerous domestic demand pressures that need to be curtailed. Except the evidence for that claim is lacking. Most of the demand measures are in retreat. So what gives? Well there is a massive income redistributing being engineered by the RBA from poor to rich and if they keep going unemployment will certainly rise, in part, because the lame Australian government is claiming it has to engage in fiscal restraint to ensure the RBA doesn’t hike rates even more than they are. It would be comical if it wasn’t damaging the prosperity and solvency of tens of thousands of the most vulnerable Australians. Disgraceful.