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Prosperity of Australian households going south, while Keir Starmer praises Margaret Thatcher

I am covering a few topics today, given that I used yesterday’s post space to analyse the national accounts release. There is a further point I wish to make about the latest national accounts data. A focus on real household disposable income shows the full extent of the impacts of monetary policy (rate hikes) and fiscal policy (tax bracket creep) on household prosperity. The Australian government is overseeing one of the largest falls in household prosperity in recent history aided and abetted by the RBA. And the only thing the Treasurer has announced this week is his intention to alter the RBA Act to rescind his power to change monetary policy if it acts against the national interest. Meanwhile, the British Labour Party leader was out there praising Margaret Thatcher and equating her shock therapy to his own purges within the Labour Party of anything that resembles a progressive voice. After all that, I have some spiritual jazz for our listening pleasure.

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Australian national accounts – growth falls to 0.2 per cent in September – and only because of fiscal support measures

Today (December 6, 2023), the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the latest – Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product, September 2023 – which shows that the Australian economy grew by just 0.2 per cent in the September-quarter 2023 and by 2.1 per cent over the 12 months. If we extend the September result out over the year then GDP will grow by 0.8 per cent, well below the rate required to keep unemployment from rising. GDP per capita fell by 0.5 per cent and Real net national disposable income fell by 0.6 per cent – a measure of how far material living standards declined. Households cut back further on consumption expenditure growth while at the same time saving less relative to their disposable income in the face of rising interest rates and temporary inflationary pressures. Temporary fiscal policy measures (to ease cost-of-living pressures) were the difference between poor growth and no growth at all.

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British House of Lords inquiry into the Bank of England’s performance is a confusing array of contrary notions

On November 27, 2023, the Economic Affairs Committee of the British House of Lords completed their inquiry into the question – Bank of England: how is independence working? – by releasing their 1st Report after taking evidence for several months – Making an independent Bank of England work better. The report is interesting because it contains a confusing array of contrary notions. On the one hand, the witnesses to the Inquiry claimed it was “Groupthink” in operation that prevented the Bank from raising rates earlier and that it was obvious the inflationary pressures were traditional excess spending driven by excessive monetary supply growth (classic Monetarism). That assessment is contested by the alternative, which I adhere to, that the inflationary pressures were supply driven and not amenable to interest rate shifts. And the Groupthink arises because these economists consider interest rate changes would solve the inflation irrespective of the contributing factors. While the Report is sympathetic to the mainstream view as above, it then launches into a critique of the mainstream forecasting approaches. A confusing array of notions.

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Inflation falling sharply in Australia while the RBA still is out there threatening rate rises

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!

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Changes to RBA Act will further entrench the depoliticisation of economic policy and reduce democratic accountability

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!

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UK Autumn Statement is appalling and ties the hands of Labour – the voters face a Hobson’s choice

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!

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