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Salary caps on CEOs?

In today’s Melbourne Age there was a headline that attracted my attention – Hurling invective at CEOs over salaries is a bit rich. The writer from the conservative Institute of Public Affairs was reacting to a speech made by the President of the ACTU this week who proposed a salary cap on executives. The writer, Chris Berg claimed this was just whipping up some “traditional class conflict”. He asked: “who seriously believes that the level of CEO pay in Australia had anything to do with the subprime crisis that set off this whole mess?” Well, I for one think that the growth in executive pay was linked to the crisis. Here is the point.

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A sad little sojourn to Britain …

I have been doing work on international trends in unemployment today and spent some time on the UK economy. Of-course, Britain is in the news at present because its polity is melting down rapidly. We have been laughing a bit I am sure about the so-called rorts scandal, especially the story about the ducks not liking their island anyway. I laughed anyway. I also applauded the skilled research that tracked the island down on Google Earth. Anyway, the rorts scandal is a sideshow in a much bigger problem that is unfolding in Britain at present. Its labour market is in free fall!

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Debt and deficits again!

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.

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A response to (green) critics – finale (for now)!

Well the conservatives are scrapping between themselves, which is just as well because it might derail their drivel campaign about the trillion (whatever!) dollar debt wave that we are about to drown under. Me, I will surf it out with my longboard and enjoy the experience! Anyway, seems Mike wants to end our little engagement which is fine because tomorrow I will be talking about “R we or R we not”. National Accounts are out at 11.30. So this blog summarises where I think we are at. Remember that it started with the blog – Neoliberals invade The Greens! and the space theme continued with Mike conjuring up the Mitchell Strikes Back and today The return of Mitchell. Whatever, it is more clear than ever that the conservative macroeconomics has The Greens in its grip – sadly.

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A response to (green) critics … Part 2

I was going to write about retail sales and company profits data today but the short story is that retail sales continue to defy the predictions (stimulus packages work). I ran a regression model today to generate a (reasonable) forecasting model of retail sales behaviour up to the point the stimulus packages were announced (November 2008) and then projected out to April 2009 and compared the dynamic trend with the actual data. Every data point since November 2008 is above the trend (which is why the ABS has abandoned its trend series for the time being). But it does tell you that the Australian economy is withstanding the world downturn. We will know more on Wednesday, when the national accounts (GDP) data comes out. Anyway, there has been more engagement with the “other side” or should I say “another side” today and I guess I should respond to that. And so the saga continues for another day.

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A response to (green) critics … Part 1

In the days following my blog – Neo-liberals invade The Greens – I have had some interesting responses. Mostly they have been negative and personal but some have been positive and constructively trying to develop the debate. My blog was not an attack on green values – far from it. But it did pinpoint major macroeconomic failings with the current official policy of The Australian Greens which I consider need to be remedied in order to render the other excellent components of their platform viable. I would also note that it is very dangerous to start critiquing a theoretical argument if you really do not understand the basis of the argument. Here is some thoughts in this regard.

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Employment guarantees enter the social inclusion debate

The Social Inclusion Research Paper series are slowly emerging. Professor Tony Vinson (Sydney University) was commissioned to write six papers on the topic and they are available HERE. In the paper on Jobless Families in Australia, he considers a range of strategies which have been advanced to reduce chronic joblessness which has wrecked families across Australia since the neo-liberal attack on full employment began in the mid-1970s. I was pleased to see him mention the Job Guarantee. This is what he said.

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Social inclusion principles – another failed vision

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.

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Neo-liberals invade The Greens!

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.

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Life-time employment and employment guarantees

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.

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A new agenda for our union movement

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.

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A sad place – a $58 billion deficit and soaring unemployment!

I must have just woken from a bad dream. Did I read this week that the Australian Government will record a deficit of $A58 billion or 4.9 per cent of GDP but are forecasting unemployment will rise from its present parlous level of 5.4 per cent to 8.5 per cent by the middle of 2012? It must be a joke. If it is serious then this lot deserve to be a one-term government not that I have any hope that the alternative (conservative or green) would do any better. They are all caught up in this neo-liberal straitjacket which has been increasingly tightened over the last 30 years and now ensures that our national government will not use its economic policy capacity responsibly. Our current Federal Government not only continues to abandon full employment but is also abandoning the unemployed. What a place!

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The deficit and debt debate

The ABC News Online business reporter Michael Janda ran this Opinion piece – Economists tackle the deficit and debt debate today. He interviews three economists – myself, Steve Keen (University of Western Sydney) and Stephen Kirchner (Centre of Independent Studies). The discussion is interesting because it demonstrates how the journalists modify what you say to mean something slightly different (no accusation here that it was designed to skew meaning though) and generates the statistic that two out of three economists do not understand how the modern monetary economy works.

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Flat Earth theory returns – budget aftermath

Imagine the time when it was the mainstream view that the Earth was flat, representing an infinite plane. The view largely died at around 3 BC but there are still some characters out there who worry about falling off the South Pole. After all the Nile River runs for thousands of kilometres and drops barely a few feet over that distance which doesn’t fit well with convexity does it?

The current budget period seems to have revitalised the theory – albeit in a different form but just as ingenious. Flat Earth Theory (FET) … say it out aloud! … has morphed into DET. This new branch of FET is now dominating the media. Overnight Generation Y are Generation DET. Young children are now viewing their parents differently – wondering why their greedy, selfish and profligate elders are going to destroy their futures. Experts are coming and going on our national TV and radio warning that we are about to fall over the edge! Well I am staying grounded! Here is the reason why.

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The Budget (what else) and a parrot or two

Tonight is federal budget night – which presents the most comprehensive picture of where the Government is going with fiscal policy and the Treasury’s estimate of how the economy is travelling. So for a macroeconomist like me it is a biggest night in the annual calendar. But I am more interested in parrots and spotted owls at the moment. What? Yes, I guess it is escapism … to avoid the hysterical public debate that has surrounded this budget. The economic falsehoods, the outright lies, the duplicity and the all of that. But I cannot escape it because I have a newspaper opinion piece to write on the Budget by 20:00 tonight. So, given that, here is my take on the budget and then …. I can get back to the birds!

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The size of the deficit should not be the focus

I read the headline – Aussies don’t understand deficits: MP – in the Canberra Times with interest and after reading the article I returned to the on-going conversation I have with myself – why have we all been so stupid to have been so duped by the neo-liberal agenda? Almost all the public debate about the Federal Budget tomorrow is a total non sequitur. It bears no relation to the important questions that the Budget process has to deal with. Somehow, we are all sidelined by a rhetoric and a focus that conveniently diverts us away from these real issues and, instead, transfixes us on a piece of fiction. But a convenient fiction which maintains the relative power elites and perpetuates disadvantage. I understand all of that … but I still can’t get my head around why we have allowed ourselves to be so conned.

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Employment guarantees in developing countries

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.

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Where the crisis means death!

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.

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A surprise every day … employment rises!

Everyday brings surprises as a social science researcher. Today I was gearing myself up for the lunchtime current affairs radio onslaught from the budget nazis – “see unemployment is still rising and stimulus doesn’t work” – that sort of thing. But then at 11.30 (or just after) I looked up today’s Labour Force data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and was … to say the least … surprised. Here is what I was expecting – the labour participation rate would fall a little and unemployment to continue rising. I expected full-time employment to fall and perhaps part-time employment to rise a little but for total employment overall to fall. However, given three other pieces of information, two of which were released yesterday, I was thinking that all these “bad movements” would be fairly moderate in size. So a surprise indeed but … we should be careful before we get too carried away.

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