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Naked Keynesianism

New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman occasionally brushes up against an understanding of how the macroeconomy works. Some people actually have said to me that he does get it but chooses for political purposes not to disclose a full understanding of the basic principles of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). Well in his most recent column – We’re Not Greece – published May 13, 2010, I think you can conclude that when left to his own devices he doesn’t have a clue about what is really happening in the macroeconomy. So today, we are exposing his mainstream (neo-classical) keynesian nakedness – he is now naked and without clothes.

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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?

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Taxpayers do not fund anything

At times some document from the past is discovered that no-one much has read or paid any attention to but which offers fundamental insights into the options facing governments operating a monetary system based on a fiat currency. We have available now one such document which I will discuss in some detail. The essential insight can be summarised by the title of the blog – taxpayers do not fund anything. So when you hear commentators and politicians and the like use terms like “taxpayers’ funds are being mis-spent” etc, you can immediately conclude they do not understand how the monetary system functions. At that point, it is advisable to ignore what they have to say – given it is likely to be erroneous as a result of the initial false premises. The problem is that the public policy debate is largely based on these false premises. As a result, the policy positions that emerge are typically inferior and in many cases extremely damaging to the fortunes of the disadvantaged.

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When former politicians and bureaucrats get bored with golf …

What do you get when a bunch of former politicians who have an inflated sense of self-importance and cannot stay out of the public glare? Well one answer is nonsense. The related answer is the so-called Pew-Peterson Commission report Red Ink Rising, which was released in December 2009 with the by-line “A Call to Action to Stem the Mounting Federal Debt”. And with the Copenhagen climate change talks being the big public interest story of the week it was only a matter of time before soon goon started mapping the public debt-hysteria debate into the climate change debate to bring home the message to all of us that we are doomed unless we do something drastic. Its been quite a day down here!

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Building bank reserves is not inflationary

Today I am working in Dubbo, which is in the western region of NSW and getting into the remote parts of the state. There is a great beauty to enjoy in remote Australia which often passes people by. My field trip is in relation to continuing work I am doing with indigenous communities in this region. I will report on this work in due course. But today’s blog continues the theme I developed yesterday on bank reserves. In yesterday’s blog – Building bank reserves will not expand credit – I examined the dynamics of bank reserves but left a few issues on hold because I ran out of time. One issue is the possible impact of expanding bank reserves on inflation. This is in part central to the mainstream hysteria at present about the likely legacies of the monetary policy response to the crisis. The conclusion is that everyone can relax – the only problem with the monetary policy response is that it will be ineffective and more fiscal policy effort is required.

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Direct public job creation now being debated

In Sunday’s New York Times, the Room for Debate series focused on one of my favourite topics – Should Public-Sector Jobs Come First?. The debate turns out to be very disappointing because even the so-called progressive offerings fall short of advocating an effective solution to the jobs crisis. Only one implies an understanding that the policy design proposed should not be compromised by an errant understanding of the way the fiat monetary system operates. Proposals that assume there is a financial constraint on government will almost certainly be second-rate. The debate could have been energised had the NYT sought expert opinion from those that are developing and implementing large public sector employment programs.

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The enemies from within

A few years ago, a senior federal parliamentarian came to Newcastle one weekend to discuss macroeconomic policy with me. He might have saved the trip given his unwillingness to modify his neo-liberal views, which dominate all sides of politics here (including The Greens). But at one point I said that his party could not keep assuming that the left would remain loyal in the face of continued privatisation proposals and their obsession with achieving bigger budget surpluses than the conservatives. His response was “where else are they going to go” – the ultimate in disdain. The story has overtones on a daily basis when you realise that the so-called and often self-styled “progressive” side of the macroeconomic debate demonstrate their lack of understanding of how the monetary system operates and parade policy proposals that not only undermine any notion of full employment but also concede the main game to the conservatives.

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Progressive movements bound to stall

I was going to write about manufacturing today in the light the Campaign for America’s Future staging of Building the New Economy conference in Washington DC today. I started investigating what it was about. It raises a lot of issues what a progressive position should constitute. However, I got way laid by other things which were also interesting and will leave my blog about the demise of manufacturing for another day. But what this conference demonstrates to me is that we have a long way to go before we get a united progressive understanding of the way the modern monetary system works. And until we have that understanding, no real progress will be made reforming the economy. We will always be trading off tax cuts for spending increases and all that sort of mainstream mumbleconomics and feeling defensive any time a deficit arises. And then today, I started reading the latest report from the IMF …

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IMF agreements pro-cyclical in low income countries

I am researching a new book project at present. I plan with a (development economist) colleague to outline a new development agenda for low income countries. The imposition of neo-liberal policy agenda has artificially and immorally constrained development in the poorest nations. This paradigm is in denial of the opportunities forthcoming to a sovereign government to expand employment and national well-being. We intend to outline a modern monetary approach to economic development as a rival development paradigm. As part of this project, I was reading a research report released last week by the Centre of Economic Policy Research (Washington). The report shows that around 75 per cent of IMF agreements in the current downturn are pro-cyclical. That is we learn what we have always known – the IMF should not be allowed out without supervision.

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If we don’t, it won’t and won’t need to …

The New York Times Editorial on October 2 was bitter-sweet – Wanted: Leadership on Jobs. Bitter because of the topic. Sweet because a leading newspaper is finally focusing on real issues in this crisis. It followed a devastating month of labour force data in the US which should be the clarion call for immediate intervention and a ramping up of budget deficits. Although Australia has not deteriorated as much as the US, our labour market is in a parlous state and, in my view, justifies a third stimulus package.

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Typists go home … UK runs out of money!

I read the headline in the UK press this morning – UK can’t afford another fiscal rescue – as a sure sign that all current and future keyboard operators within the UK Government had resolutely decided to refuse to enter a number in any government spending account from now on. This clearly would make it hard for the Government to continue spending given that a sovereign government like in the UK just spends by crediting private bank accounts and only a typist or two is needed to make that happen any time the government desires. I wondered what the Government had done to their operational staff that they would take such drastic action. So I started out to investigate what seemed to be a major yet fascinating industrial relations dispute between a government and its typists.

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Fiscal rules going mad …

Several readers have asked me about fiscal rules and I have been promising to write about them for some time now. I was finally goaded into action by the current German rush to madness which will see them constitutionally outlaw deficits. When I saw the news that the German government was pushing constitutional change along these lines I thought good – the Eurozone will be dead soon enough and perhaps a better aligned fiscal and monetary system will emerge. Fiscal rules can take lots of different shapes all of which entrench chronic unemployment and poverty. The only fiscal approach that is applicable to a sovereign government operating within a fiat monetary system is one that ensures full employment is achieved and sustained. Anyway, here is an introduction to the mean-spirited and wrong-headed world of fiscal rules.

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Fiscal sustainability 101 – Part 2

This is Part 2 of my little mini-series on what we might conceive fiscal sustainability to be. In Part 1 we considered a current debate on the National Journal, which is a US discussion site where experts are invited to debate a topic over a period of days. By breaking the different perspectives that have been presented to the discussion, we can easily see where the public gets its misconceived ideas from about the workings of public deficits and the dynamics of the monetary system – its leaders. My aim in this 3-part series is to further advance an understanding of how a fiat monetary system operates so that readers of this blog (growing in numbers) can then become leaders in their own right and provide some re-education on these crucial concepts. So read on for Part 2.

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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 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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The Weekend Quiz – July 25-26, 2020 – answers and discussion

Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’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.

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The Australian government is increasingly buying up its own debt – not a taxpayer in sight

In the wake of the $A60 billion bungle, the Australian government has turned its attention to creating smokescreens. Yesterday (May 25, 2020), the Treasurer released a statement – Temporary changes to continuous disclosure provisions for companies and officers – which effectively allows corporations to withold information from the public and investors about the state of…
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Eurozone 2020. Don’t mention the War!

I guess I cannot avoid commenting on the European Commission’s recently released (February 5, 2020) – Economic governance review – which, allegedly, “seeks to assess how effective the economic surveillance framework has been in achieving three key objectives: ensuring sustainable government finances and economic growth, as well as avoiding macroeconomic imbalances; … promoting convergence in Member States’ economic performance.” The short answer is that the framework has failed on all fronts. The Member State fiscal situations are always mostly teetering on the edge of insolvency and only the ECB has been bailing them out; macroeconomic imbalances that really matter, such as the on-going illegal German external surpluses persist, and divergence is the Eurozone norm. Why? Another simple answer: because the architecture of the currency union is deeply flawed and biases the economies to crisis and makes them vulnerable, in an existential sense, to fluctuations in global activity. Why would they have done that? Answer: the triumph of neoliberal ideology over reason.

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The Weekend Quiz – February 1-2, 2020 – answers and discussion

Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’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.

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The Weekend Quiz – September 21-22, 2019 – answers and discussion

Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’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.

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