Yesterday (November 29, 2023), the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released the latest – Monthly Consumer Price Index Indicator – for October 2023, which showed a sharp drop in inflation. This release resolves some of the uncertainty that arose when the September-quarter data came out last month, which showed a slight uptick. I analysed that data release in this blog post – Slight rise in Australian inflation rate driven by factors that do not justify further rate hikes (October 25, 2023) and concluded that the slight rise was not a sign of excess spending and would soon resolve. Today’s figures are the closest we have to what is actually going on at the moment and show that the inflation fell from an annual rate of 5.6 per cent in September 2023 to 4.9 per cent in October. The trajectory is firmly downwards. As I show below, the only components of the CPI that are rising are either due to external factors that the RBA has no control over and are ephemeral, or, are being caused by the RBA rate rises themselves. The RBA boss was in Hong Kong this week trying to justify the rate hikes by saying that Australian households are coping well. Her analysis is partial and ignores the massive distributional differences arising from the interest rate increases. Justifying the unjustifiable!
Today, I consider the latest development in the entrenchment of neoliberalism in the Australian policy sector, specifically, the latest decision by the Treasurer to excise his powers under Section 11 of the Reserve Bank Act 1959, which allowed the Treasurer to overrule RBA policy decisions if they considered them not to be in the national interest. This power was considered an essential aspect of a working democracy, where the elected member of parliament had responsibility for economic policy decisions that impacted on millions of people. The latest evolution will further see macroeconomic policy depoliticised and placed in the hands of a small cabal of mainstream economists who regularly advocate policies that serve special corporate interests and leave millions unemployed. I also provide a video from a TV show I appeared on in Tokyo the other day. Then some lovely guitar music. It’s Wednesday after all!
Last Wednesday (November 22, 2023), the Tory government in Britain released their fiscal update known as the – Autumn Statement 2023 – which basically sets the course of fiscal policy in the UK for the period ahead. The Tories continue their appalling record. But they have also locked Labor into an austerity mindset. Meanwhile, neither party resonates with the sentiments expressed by the people if the latest Ipsos survey is representative of that sentiment. The British people face a Hobson’s choice!
Episode 6 in our new Manga series – The Smith Family and their Adventures with Money – is now available. Have a bit of fun with it and circulate it to those who you think will benefit …
Last week (November 15, 2023), the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the latest – Wage Price Index, Australia – for the September-quarter 2023, which shows that the aggregate wage index rose by 1.3 per cent over the quarter (up 0.5 points) and 4 per cent over the 12 months (up 0.3 points). The ABS noted this was a “record” increase in relation to the history of this time series, which began in 1997. The RBA and all the economists who want interest rates higher (mostly because the financial market institutions they represent profit from higher rates) are now claiming that the higher wages growth is evidence of a domestic inflation problem and higher unemployment is needed to force wages down. The problem is that the nominal wages growth is still well below the inflation rate (which is falling) and while productivity growth is weak, the decline in real wages is still larger than the decline in productivity growth. That combination, which I explain in detail below, signifies that corporations are failing to invest the massive profits they have been earning and are also taking advantage of the current situation to push up profit mark-ups. A system that then forces tens of thousands of workers out of employment to deal with that problem is void of any decency or rationale.
It’s Wednesday, and today I discuss a recently published analysis that has found that Australian privatised electricity network companies are recording massive supernormal profits because the government has been to slack in its regulatory oversight. Electricity prices have been a major driver of the current inflationary episode and we now have analysis that shows where the problem lies. The preferred solution is for governments to renationalise the industry, but in lieu of that, they should at least force the companies to obey the relevant laws. And we then can listen to a soundtrack I heard while watching a movie between Tokyo and Sydney on Monday.
This is my last Report from Kyoto for 2023. I will be returning to my work there in 2024 and there are still lots of things to report on. I seem to discover more as I learn more, which is always a good thing. Anyway, our bikes are back in storage, our cases packed and by the time this comes out I will be back down South with mixed feelings about that. Life goes on though. Stay tuned for the Kyoto Report 2024 series – starting sometime next year.
My time in Japan this year has come to an end (sob). It is back home for me and I will have to wait until next year before I return. At any rate, today I have no time to write a post so you will have to be content listening to the music I have ready for the flight.
Episode 5 in our new weekly Manga series – The Smith Family and their Adventures with Money – is now available. Have a bit of fun with it and circulate it to those who you think will benefit …