Monday, May 6, 2013

why focus on inflation when there is little evidence of a inflationary trend while there are abundant statistics revealing just how bad things are for both the unemployed and the underemployed.

One of the official goals of central bank monetary policy is supposed to be low employment fostered through what is known as an expansionary policy by lowering interest rates with the hope that low credit rates will encourage businesses to expand their operations by way of capital investment in hard assets or capital expenditures of some sort and new hirings. We've had this policy in place for quite some time now, and yet employment really hasn't improved one iota. If anything it’s merely gotten worse along with - because of the incentive of low interest rates -  an astounding increase in personal debt to the unseemly tune of a 165% income to debt ratio.
While some businesses are moderately expanding their operations, they do not seem to be increasing employment. Instead, they are either retaining cash and letting it grow - Carney’s so-called hoarding ‘dead money’ - or off shoring/third-partying employment at lower wage standards. Using low interest rates to try to control both inflation* and encourage employment, in other words, simply isn’t working.
But why focus on inflation at all when there is little evidence of any sort of inflationary trend while there are abundant statistics revealing just how bad things are for both the unemployed and the underemployed.** The focus should clearly be on increasing employment, but since low interest rates appear not to be working, printing money to monetize our national debt is just about the only worthwhile option left for a central bank to consider, and just about every central bank in the developed world is doing just that with the exception of Canada. Why not Canada?  Because of a neurotic, ideological fear of inflation that might be generated by a larger money supply - too much money chasing too few goods and thereby raising prices and potentially distorting the price of some financial assets. We are ruled by true believers.
But with that twisted caveat in mind and bearing in mind that this would constitute only a technical solution, not the genuine transformation we really need, printing money for a determinant period of time is still a good choice; for it would allow the government to spend with a bit of comfort in order to build, say, infrastructure and other employment generating programs that both stimulate the economy and employ people as well as potentially lower the Canadian dollar and thereby increase exports.
The problem is that strategy is a political choice, one that would require an intelligent government interested in generating employment rather than imposing wage-suppression and sustaining asset stability.* But the new head of the Bank of Canada apparently plans on maintaining the same old failing monetary policies of his predecessor and his CEO, Flaherty, by privileging inflation over employment as a primary policy direction - albeit a mandated policy but one that nevertheless serves only the neoliberal investor class, not ordinary Canadians. This narrow, misguided perspective is no doubt the reason Stephen Poloz has been chosen as the new Governor.
‘Growth’ and ‘inflation’ are prominent in the news stories about the new Governor with a wish to increase employment nowhere to be found. He’ll get along just fine with Steve and Jim.
* Inflation is an enemy of neoliberalism for two reasons: it erodes the monetary value of already held assets such as bonds and creates pressure to increase wages. Quantitative easing of any sort is a no no under our strict neoliberal regime, though I would not be surprised to see it applied to private sector financial organizations should they need bailing out of some sort.

**  For example, "the number of temporary workers in Canada hit a record two million last year, according to Statistics Canada. That amounts to 13.6 per cent of the work force compared with 11.3 per cent in 1997, when such record-keeping began.
And since the recession, temporary work has grown at more than triple the pace than permanent employment – up 14.2 per cent for temp work between 2009 and 2012, versus 3.8 per cent for permanent workers."

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Why are governments addicted to neoliberal #austerity?

The key to deficit reduction is not austerity - reducing government spending by cutting programs and personnel - but good old-fashioned employment. Stanford’s argument is in the Krugman reformist, Keynesian tradition. He doesn't seek a transformation, merely a technical economic readjustment, but, given our failure to transform capitalism so far - which can be brought about, in any case, only with a political strategy, not mere economic tinkering - it has value within the framework of a capitalist reality - a stopgap of sorts. 
As I've said many times in that context:
Without employment, no income; without income, no spending; without spending, no demand; without demand, no production; without production, no economy.
And thus no tax revenue to pay down the deficit. Frighteningly simple, especially when one realizes that government itself instead of firing people could be employing them and establishing employment programs in an effort to stimulate the economy when the private sector is failing to do so during these stagnating times.
Still, the question remains: why is it that so many governments continue to drink the austerity koolaid when it is so evident from countless global examples that it simply doesn't work? Because of course, as the main partner in corporatocracies, they serve their corporate brethren and their plutocratic masters. Austerity always privileges this investor class, and, while it may seem counter-intuitive, recessions, as Robert Pollin has suggested, actually benefit this class*. Ontario is no exception in its allegiance to the financial sector - after all Bay Street isn't in Boise -  especially since it necessarily controls so much of Ontario’s industrial economy too. As long as industrial economic activity is fulled by debt/credit, the financial sector and its capital will be in control.
We should nevertheless be grateful, I suppose, that the Ontario Liberals chose to ignore Don Drummond’s highly dubious classic neoliberal recommendations. Who knows the horrors they might have wrought.

* In the eyes of the investor class, austerity presumably generates confidence by working to maintain government solvency and asset value, especially long-term government bonds, by way of keeping inflation in check through reduced spending. Thus Canada’s neoliberal fiscal policy complements the Bank of Canada’s monetary policy of low interest rates, which also keep inflation in check. This is important to the investor class because government is of course the final guarantor of the plutocrats’ investments and their banking institutions. The outsourcing of government services if they happen at all under austerity is only an incidental benefit as is increased neoliberal freedom in the “marketplace,” for spending, whether intended by the policy or not, is also seriously inhibited in the general economy..

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Maybe its time to begin thinking about withdrawing our patronage from all retailers and services that offshore labour

"Yes, the Conservatives are focused on what they call the economy. But their economy is a ruthless, inhuman task-master. It demands that the very profitable Royal Bank be even more profitable. It demands that 45 highly trained people lose their jobs. It demands that Canada’s visa system allow all of this to happen. The government serves this economy faithfully. Whom does this economy serve?"      - Thomas Walkom, Toronto Star
Maybe its time to begin thinking about withdrawing our patronage from all retailers and services that offshore labour - including perhaps even call centres, which are the most inefficient offshore labour* of all. That might be hard to do, but choices can be made on the scale of evil, even though it’s true, as Phil Soubliere once told me, the lesser of two evils is still evil.

One could also continue to educate one’s family, neigbours, and friends about the exploitative practices that lie behind their shiny new mobile phone or computer, their wonderfully au courant clothing, their expansive new internet service, and their friendly neighbourhood bank. I find, however, that most people, wanting to get on with their necessitated drudge lives, could care less. Yes, of course you’re right, my dear fellow, but what can I do about it? So good luck with that. Maybe your mother will listen.
*English is indeed the language of business and global commerce thanks to U.S. imperial control of global finance, but the cultural differences, the nuances, the subtexts, the connotations, the rhythms among English language speakers are significant when it comes to communication efficiency - which is what a call centre should be all about. An English-speaking German really doesn’t speak the same language as an Indian or Texan. This is why offshoring call centres in the interest of profit and wage cost cutting is a failed business practice. It frequently if not always alienates clients.  The neoliberal habit of displacing domestic workers is also of course in and of itself morally reprehensible.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Continuing our way to aggregated no growth economy

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Change will not come from government and this policy or that - only from extra-congressional, extra-parliamentary strategies.

Here is a two-part interview with Stephanie Seguino, who, though focusing squarely on income inequality and its racial and gender implications, is not a revolutionary transformer of capitalism but a technical reformer in the Krugman Keynesian tradition. Like  Krugman, she advocates closely monitored public spending as a way to stimulate the economy. An interesting argument - especially on how profoundly youth, blacks, Hispanics and single mothers are disparagingly affected by income inequality resulting from the 2008 crisis - but one, alas, that simply asks for better management, not change to the very system itself. It remains clear that change will not come from government and this policy or that -  only from extra-congressional, extra-parliamentary strategies.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The issue is not #capitalism under new management, but the transformation of #capitalism itself. #neoliberalism #cdnecon

More and more I tend to agree with George Monbiot that it is not neoliberalism in and of itself as an ideology or economic theory that is the root cause of our economic/political/social woes, but the ruling oligarchy’s alibiing use of that model to further their own wealth no matter the harm that results from that quest. (Is it any wonder they’re called “the feral rich.”) The distinction is important because it shifts the strategic focus to the plutocratic investor class itself and in turn their banking, regulatory, and corporate institutions - their agents of destruction -  which are served of course by compliant governments everywhere and nowhere more so than right here in Canada. Our banks are now “too big too fail.” This is, sad to say,  the point to which the financialization of the Canadian economy has descended: 80% of  financial assets are held in these institutions. Be prepared for the socializing of bank debt down the road now that the framework's in place; that is, you'll pay for any bailouts.

More and more too I find myself in agreement with both Greg Albo and Leo Panitch, who have argued persuasively that progressives groups here (including the Council of Canadians) and elsewhere are very big on tactics and “micro-politics” but woefully lacking in overall strategy and considerations of  long-term consequences. I would add to their basic argument that the self-interest of the progressive groups each with its own agenda determined largely by their executives - as is the case with political parties - will no doubt continue to inhibit any collectivizing co-operative movement towards a larger, focused pragmatic goal of institutionalizing social democratic controls.

For a brief moment, there was a ray hope with the establishment of CommonCauses, but apparently all they wish to do is replicate the actions of other progressive groups and to replace the Harper Regime. The issue of course is much larger than that simplistic goal. The issue is not capitalism under new management, but the transformation of capitalism itself. Else all is lost.

Is it hopeless? Perhaps not. Perhaps all that is required is patience, As Richard Wolff has said, "As has happened often in human history, what provokes change is less any clear vision of where we go next and more the intolerability of where we are. Capitalism is no longer "delivering the goods" for most people. The circle of its beneficiaries grows smaller and richer and more out of touch with the mass of people than ever."

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Inform your "fiscally conservative" friends please of this astounding failure

#neoliberalism Under Flaherty the #cdnecon since 2006 has been a debt-fuelled financialized one only with little real production, productivity, or significantly increased employment to drive demand. Credit card debt has gone from $35.6 billion in February 2006 to $77.4 in February 2012, a staggering 117% increase.  

Mortgage debt has gone from $672.5 billion to $1111.8 billion in February 2012, an eye-popping 65.3%. And these figures do not account for the past 12 month period, in which we already know personal debt has substantially increased even more.  The personal debt to income ratio is 165% - which ought to be an embarrassment to all Canadians not just the so-called Finance Minister.

 Why has Flaherty remained credible to the mainstream media? Because he's enabling them to make record profits, we know why he has to the financial community, especially since all his private sector economic consultants are from the banking sector. And of course it is these same consultants to whom the press turns for its stories. They're both inside the neoliberal bubble.

Yes, I'm repeating myself.