The rising future burden on our kids

The public debate is constantly distorted by claims that cannot be substantiated. One such claim is that the current period of budget deficits is building a stock of future claims on the well-being of the future generation – our kids. Accordingly, the neo-liberal deficit terrorists claim that the best thing we can do for the future generation is to avoid running deficits. My view is that we have been imposing a huge future burden on our children but this would be larger if we tried to run surpluses now. In fact, the years of surpluses exacted a huge toll on our children’s prospects that they will have to endure for years to come.

Read more

SBS Insight program tonight – The Battlers

This afternoon I am off to Brisbane to appear in tonight’s SBS TV Insight Program, which is focusing on unemployment. The program airs live from 19:30 tonight on SBS One. The on-site location for tonight’s show is Logan City, which is south of Brisbane on the way to the Gold Coast. In the work I did with Scott Baum at Griffith University earlier this year developing an Employment Vulnerability index, we identified the Logan City area as having a concentration suburbs which we considered to be at high risk of job loss. So SBS decided to conduct a ground level exploration of the sorts of considerations that expose a region to job loss and to develop narratives that inform us of how people in battling areas cope with economic downturn. While the topic is depressing it is excellent that one of our national TV broadcasters is actually elevating it to national importance.

Read more

Would the Job Guarantee be coercive?

I was a speaker at the Sydney Greens Forum yesterday and today I am on a panel with Bob Brown at the Greens National Conference in Adelaide. Regular readers will know that in the past months we have been engaging with the Greens after I wrote – Neo-liberals invade the Greens. The initial reaction towards me was hostility but that soon gave way to a more reasoned engagement which I have found to be extremely beneficial. That is why I accepted invitations to speak at their functions. While there is a long way to go in fully articulating a modern monetary paradigm within the context of the generally sophisticated social and environment policy that The Greens have already developed I think the possibilities are now there. One issue that does emerge in my discussions is that of whether a person should have to work under a Job Guarantee approach to full employment. That is, should the Job Guarantee be compulsory?

Read more

The world is going insane I think

The world seems to be going more insane every time I check. I have this naive belief that we bother to elect governments because we understand they can do things (as a collective) that we cannot do very easily (as individuals). I also assume we all think our elected governments will broadly use their fiscal powers to pursue an agenda that will advance public purpose – that is, seek ways to improve our standard of living and ensure all citizens participate in the bounty that the economic system generates (including sharing the losses when it doesn’t so generate). Of-course, I know that our polities basically govern to keep themselves in power. But there is the occasional election. Anyway, recent events suggest that governments seem to be able to construct popularity by taking actions that do us harm.

Read more

Why don’t mainstream economists get modern money if it is right?

Today, I am in Sydney giving a talk at the ACTU Jobs Summit and pretty short of time. I was also motivated by the Temporary Leader of the Opposition who announced on his Twitter site yesterday that his dog, Mellie had just updated her Blog. Yes Malcolm’s dogs blog keeps us up to date with all their goings on including watching the Tour de France. So if he can do it so can I except I don’t like pets. So I thought I would introduce a Guest Blogger spot so that whenever someone I know, who doesn’t want to create their own infrastructure has something interesting to say, they will be able to say it. So today’s guest blogger is Victor Quirk. This is what he has to say. I’ll be back tomorrow.

Read more

D for debt bomb; D for drivel …

I had to double-check over the weekend whether I had actually read an article in the Fairfax press – Alarming debt bomb is ticking – given that my flu-ridden state was playing havoc with the clarity of my eyesight. Upon checking today, I concluded that I had read it. It is one of those articles that uninformed readers will consider erudite given the technical language it uses but which in fact is so misinformed at a theoretical level that it is has to be considered pure propaganda. It is sad that this sort of techno-mumbo-jumbo nonsense gets any space in our leading daily newspapers. I would rather more cartoons or brain teasers if they are struggling to fill their pages. Even an advertisement about the latest skin cream that not only eliminates wrinkles but also increases the reliability of the left-hander at Nobby’s would be better (Nobby’s = surf break)!

Read more

The labour market is turning … down!

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.

Read more

Compact with Retrenched Workers – not a job in sight!

Current problem: jet lag. I keep saying to myself – 1 day for every time-zone. I have a week to go! Today I have been in Brisbane discussing the Functional Economic Regions geography which I have created to improve spatial analysis in Australia. The new geography is now being used by other social scientists because it represents an improvement on the standard geographical boundaries that ABS uses to disseminate regional data. I might write a blog about this one day although it is very technical and rather dry. But life as a researcher is “10 per cent inspiration and 90 per cent perspiration” although for me the 10 might be a little lower! After all I am a stupid modern monetary theorist! But today’s blog is about the Compact with Retrenched Workers – the latest policy joke emanating from Canberra.

Read more

California IOUs are not currency … but they could be!

I seem to be stuck in the US at the moment – blog-wise. I can assure you I escaped their shores at the weekend and am now freezing in Newcastle, NSW. But I still have reading left over from hanging around US book shops last week. One story that is very interesting at the moment is the plan by the Californian State Government to begin issuing IOUs (reserved warrants) because it has “run out of cash”. As far as I can work out the IOUs will not become a second currency (alongside the USD) but one simple extra announcement by the State would be enough to allow California to be sovereign in their IOUs. What do you suppose that extra complication might be?

Read more

Obama … doomed to fail

Well I am now back in Newcastle and in the last two weeks the ocean has slumped from a cold 19 celsius to a freezing 16. See what happens when you turn your back. I think the sharks like the cold water less though. At least that is what I am telling myself as I read another surfer (on the south coast) was mauled last week. Anyway, my casual travel reading also saw me read the July edition of the Harper’s Magazine which had two very interesting articles about developments in the US, which ultimately have global implications. In recent months, I have been becoming more pessimistic about the idea that the current global economic crisis will represent a major change in ideology, away from free market neo-liberalism towards a more sustainable and fairer social democratic policy structure. The articles reinforce that pessimism.

Read more

Income or employment guarantees?

While I am still reflecting on the UNDP workshop I participated at earlier this week in New York, another issue which came up repeatedly during the workshop is the on-going dispute between those who advocate income guarantees against those (such as me) who advocate employment guarantees. I didn’t cover this dispute at all in yesterday’s blog – Bad luck if you are poor!. When you start digging into the claims made by the income guarantee lobby you realise that most of their case is built on a failure to understand how a modern monetary economy works. For those who understand the opportunities available to a government which issues a sovereign currency, then the attractiveness of income guarantees disappears (in my opinion). So this blog documents some of this debate.

Read more

Fact and fiction … NSW Budget

I wrote this for the Fairfax press early this morning before a 10km run around the Vondelpark in the heart of Amsterdam – in cold pouring rain. They call it high summer. Anyway, the opinion piece was confined to 500 words. I could have said a lot more but you can extrapolate each line accordingly. I also did an ABC radio interview hiding under a tree in the park – the juxtaposition of talking to Sydney about the NSW Government’s failure to deliver adequate services and being among the wonderful urban amenities (for example, public transport and bike paths) and public spaces provided by the Dutch was not lost on me. Pity public spending can’t fix the lousy weather over here. Anyway, now I am off to work for the day over here. Part 3 of the fiscal sustainability series coming next – for Wednesday.

Read more

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.

Read more

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!

Read more

R we or R we not …

Today the ABS released the March quarter National Accounts data which showed that the Australian economy is actually resisting the global slowdown although barely. The results allowed all and sundry to pronounce that Australia had escaped recession, despite there being no acceptable definition of what actually constitutes a recession. For now then we do not have a recession based on the national accounts benchmark – two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth. But I hardly think this is the end of it. And if we take a labour market definition of recession which researchers such as me think is a better approach because unemployment is a personal experience that allow us to feel the movements in the cycle – then we are already in recession. That is what this blog is about – R we or R we not!

Read more

More neo-liberal atrocities from the Fourth Estate

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!

Read more

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.

Read more

Treasury boss defending the wrong thing!

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more
Back To Top