News Limited is still (mis)leading the way on the deficit-debt attacks. In another appalling piece of misrepresentation and erroneous reasoning, The Australian ran a story from its economics chief, Michael Stutchbury today entitled Now comes time to pay the piper. This newspaper has really excelled in recent months in the lengths it has gone to mislead and lie to its readers on matters relating to the macroeconomy and the conduct of fiscal policy. There will be a piper to pay – that I agree – but it will be because the federal budget deficit is not large enough right now rather than because it is too high.
I mentioned yesterday that I would reflect on the ACTU Jobs Summit, which was held in Sydney on Monday. I was one of the invited speakers. You can download notes of my talk HERE. The revolving door idea has been on my mind a lot over the last decade or even earlier. The revolving door idea – that open door between key institutions such as unions, welfare agencies and the like and government – relates to how political struggle manifests. The revolving door is a process which increasingly sees organisations and institutions that started out to defend the rights of the poor and the workers become co-opted into the discourse of the day to the detriment of their own charters. That is what this blog is about.
In Deficits saved the world you read that a Nobel Prize winner not previously associated with Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is starting to come round. The article by Paul Krugman highlights some of the basic elements of the sort of macroeconomics that I have been writing about for years and which forms the basis of this blog. It shows definitively the point I make about the macro balances – that a government surplus will squeeze the non-government sector into deficit and vice versa. It also addresses the current policy debate which is getting swamped a bit by idiots who are saying that fiscal policy is not working and should be constrained to get the government budget back into surplus.
The monthly wait for the Labour Force data is over and we now know that how all the confusing messages coming from various indicators in the last few weeks are playing out in the labour market. Today’s data suggests that the labour market is starting to now turn for the worse. While today’s 5.8 per cent headline unemployment rate was less than the prediction by most economists (5.9 per cent), employment growth has fallen 3 out of the last 4 months and the in last month this descent quickened. The broader rate of labour underutilisation (sum of unemployment plus underemployment) is now worse at a comparable point in the cycle than it was in 1991 or 1982. That is a sign that things are sick and the employment growth slowdown is a sign that the situation will become sicker.
The euphoria over a 0.4 quarterly growth figure which translate into annualised GDP growth being at least 2.5 per cent less than would be required to keep the unemployment rate from rising should be attenuated by the fact that National Accounts data is very slow to come out. The picture it paints which conditions our current expectations and debates is old – at least 3 months old by definition. And it is sobering when amidst all the self-congratulation and applause for our strong export performance that newer data has come out today which suggests that GDP growth is probably now negative although we won’t find that out for three more months. Meanwhile the debt and deficits argument continues in the public debate. Here is an update.
Continuing the developing country theme of Friday and in response to a comment from a reader I decided to write a short blog on the applicability of employment guarantees to poorer nations. They have particular issues which means that a Job Guarantee scheme has to be carefully designed. But with the experience of several countries and extensive research and evaluation of these schemes, I conclude that the employment guarantee approach to income security is broadly applicable. Most of the arguments against providing a buffer stock of jobs to insulate the workers against the fluctuations of the private economy are based on false neo-liberal arguments about national government budget constraints. Once you get over that sort of fallacious reasoning, then there are real issues left to confront and overcome. This is now an important part of my academic work and a very interesting part to say the least.
Today I have been working on a project for the Asian Development Bank concerning regional development and macroeconomic risk management in the Central Asian countries (all the “stans” plus a few others). I have also been reading a lot of the development economics literature lately, which is generally a place that the neo-liberal troglodytes really run amok. It certainly focuses one’s attention. In the advanced countries the media focuses on our own losses. In Australia, a lot is written about superannuation losses. And journalists, who largely ignored the fact that during the boom we still had around 10 per cent of our willing workers without enough work – wasted and excluded, are once again talking about unemployment. But overall, the public debate is not at all focused on how the current economic crisis is damaging the weakest of the weak in far off lands and killing people.