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."