The Australian Government has now released its so-called Social inclusion principles which are apparently intended “to guide individuals, business and community organisations, and government on how to take a socially inclusive approach to their activities”. I couldn’t find a commitment to full employment among the principles. Pity about that. Another strategy that is rich in rhetoric but squibs the essential nature of the problem. My advice: scrap the plan and start again.
It is interesting when a local journalist exploits the work of a foreign journalist to perpetuate neo-liberal myths about the way the modern monetary economy works without any critical scrutiny of the underlying ideas that he is mimicking. So we have one US journalist reiterating the views of a so-called “top US policy maker” without critical scrutiny then being copied a few days later by a senior Australian journalist who also doesn’t bother to question whether the underlying economics being fed to his readers makes any sense at all. Pretty poor really – the power of the conservative press!
Some readers have asked me to comment on the economic policy of The Australian Greens and how it sits with the other major political parties. I base this assessment on what appears to be the policy statement which was current as at November 2008. There is not a single reference to employment, unemployment or full employment as key economic goals. Moreover, there is as much neo-liberal macroeconomics in the document as you would find in the papers espousing the approach of the main parties. And worse still … if The Greens actually tried to implement some of their macroeconomics principles then they would undermine most of their other major policy goals. So there is no joy to be found in this place for a progressive who understands how the modern monetary system operates.
In the Sydney Morning Herald print edition today (later found in the Tapei Times there was an interesting article – Japan pays a price for lifetime jobs about the way the Japanese are coping with the recession. The story documents the Japanese life-time employment approach which explains why that country can have lower unemployment rates even though its economy is contracting fast. However, once you think about his scheme you realise that it is not without problems. The sentiment and collective will is admirable. But there is a superior buffer stock approach available which also embraces these social values but delivers better outcomes overall – I call it the Job Guarantee.
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.
Since last week’s Federal Budget was released there has been an hysterical response from the Opposition, the media and the Government in reply. Claims of forecast errors, forecast manipulation and more have been in our faces every day. The temporary Opposition Leader even suggested that we need a new independent body – the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) to discipline government and stop it lying about the medium term forecasts and its economic policies. The comical side of this very sad week has been provided by the Shadow Treasurer’s struggle with averages. It was so hilarious that I am actually enjoying his attempts to sound as if he knows anything about macroeconomics. He doesn’t but that doesn’t stop him. But overall, once again I think the debate reflects a poor understanding of how the economy works.
Today the ABS published its Average Weekly Earnings, Australia data which gives us some information about how workers are faring in the recession from the perspective of their wage returns. It also allows us to compare the trajectory of wage movements over this downturn (so far) against the 1991 downturn. Some interesting results emerge from that comparison.
Yesterday we had the rather unusual situation of the Treasury Head presenting a robust defence of his Department’s work after various commentators have suggested the forward estimates were flaky to say the least. Overall, it is an amazing exercise given that the issue is about how quickly the federal budget balance will return to surplus. So instead of a robust debate about why the Government is allowing unemployment to blow out and long-term unemployment to become entrenched again, all the hot air is about how quickly the federal government can start trashing the saving capacity of the private sector again. You get some feel for how low brow the debate actually is out there in expert media commentary and interview land by reading the ABC 7.30 Report transcript from last night when the presenter tried to question the Opposition Treasury spokesperson. It was as bad as it gets.
Some readers have written in and asked about whether Norway behaves like a modern monetary economy after they read the New York Times article titled Thriving Norway Provides an Economics Lesson. The short answer is yes but this is a case that raises interesting issues about the way the government and non-government sectors interact and how sustained economic growth and high employment can be accompanied by a budget surplus. Yes, it is possible but atypical. In this blog I provide the explanation. We also encounter some very dodgy manipulation of data to push an ideological line! Not good.
I was in Sydney today doing various things (see below). It was an interesting day but this morning’s activity gave me some hope that there are community leaders out there who want to fight back and jettison the neo-liberal garbage that is constraining their ability to deliver social equity and job security for their members. My input to the discussion was to tie this in to the macroeconomic debate. These macroeconomic matters – which I write hundreds of thousands of words every year about – really lie at the heart of the problems facing low wage workers and the unemployed. Unless we successfully counter the orthodoxy then tinkering around the edges will be all that we can do. I realise the macroeconomic concepts are difficult to talk about in an accessible way. I also realise that the neo-liberal orthodoxy has been incredibly successful in inculcating notions that the Federal budget is akin to a household budget. Readers of this blog will know it can never be that way. So the challenge for our community leaders is to develop a macro narrative which can permeate the public debate and slowly redefine how we see government; what goals we want the government to pursue (full employment) and how they do business with employers. That is an interesting challenge and I like things like that.