What part of accounting don’t they get?

Well last night’s Australian federal budget was a total disgrace. Which means I am either crazy or the most of the rest of the commentators are because they are all hailing it as wonderful piece of policy. Lately, I have increasingly been reading this claim that governments have to conduct “fully-funded spending” as some sort of icon of fiscal responsibility. The Australian treasurer said it repeatedly in his speech and in his following press interviews. Whenever I read or hear that idea I say quietly: What part of accounting don’t they get?

Read more

Federal budget 2010-11 – a sad document

Tonight the Federal Treasurer delivered his third budget and it was a disappointing effort. The worst line in his speech was “Best of all, the unemployment rate is expected to fall further from 5.3 per cent today to 4¾ per cent by mid-2012, around the level consistent with full employment”. So their aspirations are that low. There was also nonsensical statements about the government not being able to afford to “invest in skills, infrastructure, renewable energy and hospitals” unless new tax measures were found. There is also some stupid fiscal rules introduced which will not stand scrutiny if Europe melts down and a new crisis emerges. The following is a 550-word Op Ed commentary I wrote for the local Fairfax press. The word limit and the audience constrain what I have to say and how I said it.

Read more

Life in Europe – another day, another (futile) bailout

Last Wednesday (May 5, 2010) I wrote that Bailouts will not save the Eurozone in response to the miserable plan put forward to take the Greek government out of the bond markets for a period. Yesterday they announced a major ramping up of the credit line they are offering which is more characteristic of a fiscal rescue than anything else. However, it amounts to the blind leading the blind. The euro funds to finance the credit line are coming from the same countries that are in trouble. There are no new net financial euro assets entering the system as a consequence of this €750bn bailout plan and, ultimately, that is what is required to ease the recession and restore growth. The restoration of growth will also ease their budget issues. But this is Europe we are talking about. Despite the nice cars and bicycles they make, they are not a very decisive lot and their institutional structures are hamstrung by an arrogant sclerosis that pervades their polity and corporate world.

Read more

It will only take 6 months

I followed the attacks on pro-Israeli New York Times war monger Thomas Friedman some years ago, which centred on his support for the invasion of Iraq and his repeated prognosis that it would only take 6 months to decide the fate of the conflict. The six months never really materialised and by 2007 he was arguing, just as vehemently as he argued for war, for US disengagement because the strategy had failed. He was imbued with the WMD mania that was used by the US, Australian and UK governments to “justify” the unjustifiable despite them knowing there were no such dangers. So he is a guy who obviously knows what he is talking about! In his latest column he tries his hand at economics with a similar intellectual arrogance and lack of judgement that he brought to the Iraq issue.

Read more

Saturday Quiz – May 8, 2010 – answers and discussion

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.

Read more

Saturday Quiz – May 8, 2010

Welcome to the billy blog Saturday quiz. So comrades – 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.

Read more

Teaching macroeconomics students the facts

Yesterday, I was walking over to the library and I ran into an old colleague who has been dragooned back into teaching macroeconomics on a casual basis. The person was telling me that they were dreading taking the class next week because the topic was banking and the relationship between reserves and the money supply. Accordingly, the person said the chapter in the textbook specified by the lecturer-in-charge was about the money multiplier. The person I met is familiar and sympathetic to Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and posed the question “how can I do it?”. My answer was that students deserved better and that the lecture should develop the multiplier from a critical perspective so that students know about it but realise how far-fetched it is as a depiction of how the banking system actually operates.

Read more

People are now dying as the deficit terrorists ramp up their attacks

Three people are dead in Athens as the people turn ugly against an even uglier ideological push against their welfare. The EMU is now facing an untenable future. Senior policy makers within the EU are now lecturing the UK about the need for harsh fiscal measures following the election. And the UK goes to the polls today and the polls are suggesting “sweeping gains” for the conservatives who are unfit to govern and will drive their economy even further backwards if elected. All of this is unnecessary. All of it a reflection of a failed ideology trying to re-assert itself. The upshot will be that the Eurozone will wallow in crisis for years to come and the rest of us are taking policy positions that will lead to the next crisis – if not a double-dip recession later this year.

Read more

Bailouts will not save the Eurozone

We are back onto Greece again today as the crisis deepens. Overnight Spain is appearing to be under bond market pressure and the Germans are calling for even harsher fiscal rules to be applied to keep member states “solvent”. The point is that none of the remedies being proposed will ultimately work. What is needed in the Eurozone is a major boost to aggregate demand. However, the policy direction is to further undermine spending in the member economies as austerity measures are being imposed throughout. This foolish reverence of the Stability and Growth Pact will worsen things. The problem in the EMU is that the basic design of its monetary system is flawed and the accompanying fiscal rules only accentuate those design flaws. None of the remedies being proposed by Euro leaders will work and the bailouts will not save the Eurozone. It has to fundamentally redesign its system or disband.

Read more

RBA decision exemplifies a deep macro policy imbalance

Today, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) announced that its policy rate will rise by 0.25 per cent to 4.5 per cent. This will push mortgage rates well above 7 per cent. Every time the RBA lifts its rate by 0.25 per cent, the average mortgage holder is $A46 a month worse off. Since this tightening cycle began in October 2009 there have been 6 such rises which makes the average mortgage holder $A276 per month worse off than they were in September 2009. Most will be even worse off given that the commercial banks have been gouging larger proportional increases over this period. The decision also comes in the same week that the Final Report of the Australia’s Future Tax System Review was released. The Government has rejected certain recommendations from that Review which were aimed at providing a fiscal redress to the tightening housing market and by implication reducing the need for monetary policy tightening. What this tells me is that the neo-liberal economic policy dominance that pushed the world into the current crisis remains firmly in place. The result will be entrenched labour underutilisation, rising housing stress and ultimately another economic crisis. Maybe the next crisis will see the demise of this nonsensical approach to macroeconomic policy making.

Read more
Back To Top