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Inflation has probably peaked in Australia – yes, it was a transient episode

Given yesterday’s extensive National Accounts analysis replaced my usual Wednesday blog post, I am using today to discuss a range of issues and provide a musical interlude into your lives for peace. Yesterday’s bad National Accounts data release took the headlines away from another data release from the ABS yesterday – the monthly CPI data results. Inflation is falling in Australia and has probably peaked. The RBA still thinks it is going to hike rates a few more times. As more data comes out, their cover (justifications) are evaporating by the day and it is becoming obvious that they are pushing rates up because they want to reclaim the territory as the ‘boss’ of macroeconomic policy irrespective of the costs and hardships they impose on lower-income Australian families. Shocking really. I also look at the new RadioMMT show which launched last week. And the debate about Covid continues but the evidence is being distorted badly by those who continue to claim it was all a conspiracy to bring us to heel. And then some music.

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Australian National Accounts – GDP growth in decline, expect unemployment to rise – courtesy RBA sabotage

The Australian Bureau of Statistics released the latest – Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product, December 2022 – today (March 1, 2023), which shows that the Australian economy grew by 0.5 per cent in the December-quarter 2022 and by 2.7 per cent over the 12 months. This is a significant decline in growth, which is now insufficient to prevent unemployment from rising over the coming period. Growth is being driven largely by continued (but moderating) growth in household spending. This was augmented by the strong rebound in the Terms of Trade (commodity prices), which helped net exports make a positive growth contribution. There was growth in employee compensation (the wage measure from the national accounts) of 3.2 per cent but that was largely due to administrative decisions (for example, minimum wage increases) that impacted in this quarter rather than being the result of market pressures. Households are now saving less relative to their disposable income in an effort to maintain consumption growth in the face of rising interest rates and temporary inflationary pressures. I expect growth to decline further and we will be left with rising unemployment and declining household wealth as a result of the RBA’s poor judgement.

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Abandoning the euro would have essentially zero negative income effects for the vast majority of Member States

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.

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RBA appeal to NAIRU authority is a fraud

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.

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Real wages in Australia continue to plunge but the RBA still falsely claims that wage pressure justifies interest rate hikes

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.

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Degrowth, food loss and food waste – Part 7

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.

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Australian labour market – contracts for second consecutive month – where is the Treasurer?

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!

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RBA governor thinks massive bank profits are good while he wants unemployment to rise

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.

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Degrowth, food and agriculture – Part 6

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.

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