I have been resisting writing about the US health care fiasco because frankly the whole debate is a fiasco and demonstrates the ability of mainstream economics to obscure a widespread understanding of how the monetary system operates and the opportunities that system provides a currency-issuing government. But I have had more E-mails on this topic over the last few weeks than most other issues (bar EMU). Most readers want some analysis from a Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) perspective and so here it is. If only to stop the E-mails.
The events continue to get more strange in the Eurozone by the day. Yesterday, Portugal was downgraded, which will worsen their situation, despite the rating agency claiming that the fiscal austerity plan in place was credible. Tomorrow, European leaders meet in Brussels but the German leader doesn’t even want the crisis on the agenda. The Germans only want to discuss imposing even tougher restrictions on the ability of governments to govern in the interest of their citizens. It is like a B-grade horror movie script. But all the intrigues that are playing out in the Eurozone at present demonstrate (albeit tragically so) the dynamics that led to the collapse of the fixed exchange rate system (the Bretton Woods arrangement). Same old story – bullies and the bullied. It means the only viable solution is to abandon the EMU as soon as possible and restore some sanity … and democracy.
I am currently researching the way in which the labour market functions to discipline the inflationary process has fundamentally changed over the last 20 years as underemployment has risen. I will have more to say on that at another time as the work advances. But today it led me into considering research that demonstrates that different employment protection (higher dismissal costs etc) standards across the EMU have been instrumental in explaining the differentials in unemployment that are now evident. So nations with more protection have fared better in the crisis than nations which more vigorously pursued the neo-liberal flexibility agenda (that is, creating rising proportions of precarious employment). This type of research puts the debate now raging in the Eurozone that nations have to adjust by drastically cutting wages and conditions into a different light.
Today I wasted 20 minutes reading about the end of the World. But before I did that I read some so-called progressive literature that was calling on the UK government in tomorrow night’s budget to seek a balanced budget. You say what? That’s right, what goes for progressive thought these days is what used to be the exemplar of fiscal conservativism not so long ago. While the current crisis exposed most of the myths that mainstream economists have promoted for years it seems that progressives are not seizing the day but trying to sound more reasonable (read: right-wing conservative) than the conservatives. The crisis has also pushed all these opinionated loonies like Niall Ferguson into prominence. Its getting pretty lonely out here …. wherever I am (and don’t say the left word)! (<= joke).
… and we are stuck in the middle. In some US states they are rationing street lighting because they have run out of “money” even though the electricity generators have spare capacity. Hospitals are cutting services even though there are plenty of bandages idle. In the US, the federal government is now crowing about its “historical” health care victory which imposes new taxes now and no new spending until 2014 – it is still enduring the impact of a deep recession – some victory. Private spending remains very weak in most economies and fiscal interventions dominate the modest growth in aggregate demand that we are witnessing in some countries. In almost all countries unemployment has risen sharply and will persist at higher levels for some years to come. So what does my profession say … the fiscal cuts need to be even bigger because growth is slower and the deficits are “worse” than expected. So clowns to the left, jokers to the right … or whatever.
Here are the answers with discussion for yesterday’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.
Welcome to the billy blog Saturday quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention over the last seven days. See how you go with the following five questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
My RSS feed and E-mails have brought some shockers in the last few days from the financial markets – official bulletins from banks that don’t make any sense at all (US about to default-type arguments); hysterical Austrian school logic (from a large player in the Asian markets) and news commentary from a so-called business insider magazine. The latter should immediately close its doors and declare they are not competent to comment on matters relating to banking. Coincidentally, I also received several E-mails in the last few days asking me to comment on the particular Austrian document noted above that has been circulating within financial markets recently. I deal with that later in the post. Anyway, apart from my main research and other writing activities this blog stuff is “all in a day’s work” – Friday March 19, 2010.
There is currently an international cacophony being created by economists, politicians, political commentators and any-one else that thinks they have something to say which goes like this: China’s export orientation and its “manipulation” of the renminbi to stop it appreciating is damaging World demand and plunging the Western world into unsustainable debt levels and persistent unemployment. The simple retort is: the commentators have it all backwards and are ignoring the policy options that the Western world has but which policy makers will not fully utilise. But it is an interesting debate and the institutional attachment to the debate is not necessarily predictable as you will see.
The title of the blog is a little misleading but was too good not to use. I get to that five-year forecast (2010-2015) later in the blog but the first part is material that sets the scene. Yes, I am writing about deficits and debts … again! But new nuances come out in the public debate which need to be addressed. The conservative assault on government support for their economies at present is multi-dimensioned and is being pushed along by two main journalistic approaches. The manic Fox new-type approach which I realise is influential but is so patent and ridiculous that I don’t care to comment on it often. Then we have the approach adopted by journalists in so-called credible media outlets such as the UK Guardian. They dress their deficit terrorism up in arguments that the middle classes, who think they are far above Fox new rabble intellectually, will find convincing. But when you bring both approaches down to basics – rubbish = rubbish.