Tuesday , October 27 2020
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Bill Mitchell

Bill Mitchell

Bill Mitchell is a Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), at the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia. He is also a professional musician and plays guitar with the Melbourne Reggae-Dub band – Pressure Drop. The band was popular around the live music scene in Melbourne in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The band reformed in late 2010.

Articles by Bill Mitchell

US claimants recovery stalls

1 day ago

Today, I celebrate – my home town of Melbourne has recorded zero new infections for the first time since June 9, 2020 and zero deaths. But things are not so hot elsewhere in the world. As the US labour market started to rebound over the summer, I stopped updating my analysis of the claimants data horror story that had earlier demonstrated how sharp the decline in March and April had been. But I have still been monitoring it on a weekly basis and the information we are now getting from the US Department of Labor’s weekly data releases are indicating that as the virus escalates, seemingly out of control, the labour market recovery has all but stalled and a reasonable prediction would be that it will deteriorate somewhat if the infection rate leads to tighter restrictions (which it should). A

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The Weekend Quiz – October 24-25, 2020 – answers and discussion

3 days ago

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.

Here are the answers with discussion for yesterday’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

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The Weekend Quiz – October 24-25, 2020

4 days ago

Welcome to The Weekend Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention or not to the blog posts that I post. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.

1. Only one of the following propositions is possible for a nation over any given period (with all balances expressed as a per cent of GDP):An external deficit accompanied by a public surplus of equal size and the private domestic sector saving overall.An external deficit accompanied by a public surplus of equal size and the private domestic sector dis-saving overall.An external deficit accompanied by a larger public surplus and the private domestic sector saving overall.2. If in attempting to estimate the cyclical component of a government fiscal

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Forget the record deficits and public debt – focus on what the net spending is doing to advance well-being

5 days ago

Yesterday (October 21, 2020), the British Office of National Statistics (ONS) released the latest – Public sector finances, UK: September 2020 – which, predictably tells us that government borrowing was “£28.4 billion more than in September 2019 and the third-highest borrowing in any month since records began in 1993” and that the public debt ratio has risen to “103.5% of … GDP … this was the highest debt to GDP ratio since … 1960.” Shock horror. While I yawn. The financial media went to town on the data. The Financial Times article (October 22, 2020) – UK government borrowing reaches record in first half of fiscal year – claimed the second wave that is now sweeping the northern hemisphere “have dampened hopes” that the stimulus “could be quickly scaled back” which has “fuelled concerns

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Video – An economy that guarantees health and wellbeing for all

6 days ago

Today, on my blog-light day, I have a video of a recent event where I spoke (with other speakers being John Quiggin and Noel Pearson). The event was in conjunction with the Public Health Association of Australia’s annual conference and we are discussing the interface between health and the economy and the right to work and income security. It was an interesting and very civilised discussion. And when you are through watching that, we also have a ‘provocation’ to consider and then some jazz. All the interests of advancing humanity!

Public Health Association, Australia Event – October 14, 2020
Here is the full video of an event I spoke at last Wednesday. The topic was ‘An economy that guarantees health and wellbeing for all: the right to work and income security’.
The speakers were John

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Australian labour market continues to go backwards as government sits idly by

7 days ago

On Tuesday (October 20, 2020), the ABS released the latest data for – Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages in Australia, Week ending 3 October 2020 – which gives us the most up-to-date picture of how the labour market is coping with the on-going restrictions. Last week, the ABS released the monthly labour force survey data which covered the period up until September 14. Today’s data gives us an extra two weeks of information to gauge what is happening. It also provides us more accurate estimates of the impact of the harsh Stage 4 restrictions that have been imposed in Victoria to address the Second Wave of the coronavirus. Those restrictions were eased last weekend after the government has brought the outbreak under control. So hopefully, today’s data will signal just about the trough before the

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The long-term unemployed are not an inflation constraint in a recovery

8 days ago

I gave some advice to a politician last week who had read some MMT literature that he said indicated that using the Job Guarantee reduces inflationary pressures in a recovery relative to a situation where a nation had an unemployment buffer stock. I was surprised by the question because the assertions didn’t appear congruent with the facts. It appeared to be rehearsing and endorsing the standard neoliberal supply-side agenda that defined the so-called ‘activation’ approach to unemployment, which militated against job creation programs in favour of training initiatives – the full employability rather than the full employment mindset. The fact is that long-term unemployment always lags behind the overall unemployment movements given it takes time for people to work their way through the

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The Weekend Quiz – October 17-18, 2020 – answers and discussion

10 days ago

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.

Here are the answers with discussion for yesterday’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

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The Weekend Quiz – October 17-18, 2020

11 days ago

Welcome to The Weekend Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention or not to the blog posts that I post. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.

1. Under current public sector debt-issuance arrangements (where sovereign governments match their deficits with issues of debt), the government and the private domestic sector cannot simultaneously spend less than they earn.True False2. The estimates provided by institutions such as the OECD and the IMF of the size of the automatic stabilisers are typically biased downwards.True False3. Governments concerned with their public debt ratio should encourage growth because the ratio will fall once economic growth resumes.TrueFalse

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Australian labour market – recovery over and more fiscal stimulus is needed

12 days ago

The latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics – Labour Force, Australia, October 2020 – released today (October 15, 2020) shows that the recovery has stalled on the back of the Stage 4 restrictions in Victoria as that state dealt with the second virus wave. However, Tasmania and the Northern Territory also experienced employment losses in September 2020 and that is in part due to the locked internal borders that remain throughout Australia. Employment growth declined by 29.5 thousand but the rise in unemployment was only 11.3 thousand because the participation rate fell by 0.1 points. So, hidden unemployment rose (the slack sitting outside the official labour force). If we take a broader view of the labour underutilisation rate, underemployment rose by 0.1 points to 11.3 per

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Podcast – Biden and Trump, climate crisis, US healthcare, UBI

13 days ago

Its Wednesday and as usual I am not writing much here. Further, I have many commitments today (see one of them below). So we just have some information for you plus a podcast I did recently. And, finally, some Bob and Johnny for our music segment.

Cheese and Macro – Juxtapositions with Bill Mitchell Podcast

I recently recorded an interview with Steve Grumbine who leads the fabulous team at Real Progressives in the US, who tirelessly work to promote Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), effort that I am eternally grateful for.
We talked about a lot of things and the edited version captures the scope of the conversation.
You can access the discussion – HERE.
Thanks to Steve who stayed up late to fit into our global dispersion.
It is the first time I have been in the same picture as Biden and

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When disaster strikes the poorest nations, the IMF guarantees to make it worse

14 days ago

When a nation or region is experiencing the worst crisis the IMF always comes to the party and makes it worse. The latest evidence from those who study the detail of IMF interventions across the globe have found that the IMF has imposed harsh conditionalities (healthcare spending cuts, cuts to jobless assistance, cuts to public service wages and employment) in 76 out of the 91 loans it has extended to nations in peril as a result of the pandemic. On the other hand, data show that the wealth of billionaires has scaled new heights between April 2020 to July 2020 – a 42.4 per cent increase in their total wealth. If all that doesn’t tell us that the neoliberal system has overextended it indecency and rebellion is required then what else would? The point is that when disaster strikes the

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Governments should use their fiscal capacity to ensure our youth always can find a job

15 days ago

In my monthly labour market updates for Australia, I always examine the teenage labour market. Not much media coverage is given to that cohort in this context. But as our societies age and require our younger workers to be more productive than their parents to maintain material living standards (even though we should be reappraising what is an environmentally feasible benchmark to maintain), how we deal with school-to-work transitions, vocational training, university education is a major issue. The fact that governments all around the world have been prepared to impose massive costs on the younger generation as they obsessively pursue fiscal surpluses is one of the scandals of the period and will have long-term consequences for society. Recent Australian research evidence, which is

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The Weekend Quiz – October 10-11, 2020 – answers and discussion

17 days ago

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.

Here are the answers with discussion for yesterday’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

Read More »

The Weekend Quiz – October 10-11, 2020

18 days ago

Welcome to The Weekend Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention or not to the blog posts that I post. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.

1. Nation A is running a small current account deficit and its private domestic sector is saving overall. Nation B has a smaller external deficit (relative to its GDP) but its private domestic sector is balancing its spending and income. The governments in both Nations have to be running deficits. TrueFalseNot enough information to answer2. One consequence (perhaps an advantage) of the government issuing bonds to the non-government sector to match its deficit over the alternative of not issuing any new debt, is that the non-government sector is

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Australia – Treasurer’s fiscal statement 2020-21 – abandons nation building

19 days ago

Here is some analysis of Tuesday’s Fiscal Statement from the Australian Treasurer. It was touted as the most important fiscal statement in 100 years (or something like that). What we got was a supply-side statement about markets creating jobs, massive tax cuts for high income earners and virtually nothing for the lowest paid. There was very little about the climate crisis. There was a lot of talk about jobs, jobs, jobs but no direct job creation. And the Government’s own estimates suggest that unemployment will remain at elevated levels through 2023 which means that the scale of the fiscal intervention is grossly inadequate. I see very little good in this fiscal strategy and a lot of bad. There are many commentaries available in the mainstream media which cover specifics and so I am just

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A conversation about MMT

20 days ago

Its Wednesday and my blog light day. The Australian Federal government unveiled their grand fiscal statement (aka Budget) last night. I am pretty tied up today and need some time to read the papers and data accompanying the release. As a result I will reserve my commentary until tomorrow. But if one word would suffice then my conclusion is – pathetic. More words would tell you that there is nothing visionary about this statement or strategy. There is lots of cash lollies for people – well not much for the lower-paid and plenty for the top-end-of-town but no longer term investment strategy which would address the other crisis humanity is facing other than the health, unemployment and poverty crises – and I refer to the climate crisis. I also do not support the tax cuts which hand over big

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Tracing the roots of progressive views on the duty to work – Part 7

21 days ago

This is Part 7 of my on-going examination of the concept of ‘duty to work’ and how it was associated with the related idea of a ‘right to work’. Today, I go back in history (again) to discuss a literature that influenced the evolution of my own early advocacy of a Job Guarantee. We see how I considered developments in the early C19th which established very clearly the responsibility of the government to act as an ’employer of last resort’ could be integrated with the buffer stock literature (which analysed the use of commodity buffer systems) in C20th to provide a coherent buffer stock full employment capacity in our modern economies. In Part, this establishes where the Job Guarantee idea, that is now central to Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) came from – at least, in terms of my early

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US labour market – floundering now despite modest gains

22 days ago

On October 2, 2020, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their latest labour market data – Employment Situation Summary – September 2020 – which shows that while employment continued to grow, the rebound has moderated significantly. Further, the unemployment rate fell by 0.5 points to 7.9 per cent but only because the participation rate fell by 0.3 points, which saw less workers in the labour force. If the participation rate had not fallen, then there would have been only a marginal improvement in the unemployment situation. The sources of that participation decline are not disclosed. The problem facing the US is that the lack of economic support from the Federal government means that the huge pool of unemployment will take years to reduce and the damage will accumulate. How

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The Weekend Quiz – October 3-4, 2020 – answers and discussion

24 days ago

Here are the answers with discussion for yesterday’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.

Question 1:

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) teaches us that a sovereign government does not have to issue debt to finance its spending. But the more public debt it voluntarily issues:
(a) the less is the volume of investment funds in the non-government sector that can be used for other investments.
(b) the greater is non-government wealth held in the form of

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The Weekend Quiz – October 3-4, 2020

25 days ago

Welcome to The Weekend Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention or not to the blog posts that I post. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.

1. Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) teaches us that a sovereign government does not have to issue debt to finance its spending. But the more public debt it voluntarily issues:the less is the volume of investment funds in the non-government sector that can be used for other investments.the greater is non-government wealth held in the form of public debt.the more difficult it is for banks to attract deposits to initiate loans from.2. A fiscal surplus indicates that the national government is:trying to slow the economy down and contain inflation.trying to

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Tax cuts are unlikely to work at present and are less effective than government spending increases

26 days ago

As governments grapple with the dissonance that the pandemic is causing them – realising that their old mainstream economics narratives are not going to cut it any more but still reluctant to admit that and pass onto a new phase of creative policy making – we are observing these contradictions in both statements about fiscal policy and monetary policy. The Australian government, for example, is convinced tax cuts are required but have observed that recent tax cuts, before the pandemic hardly stimulated any spending. Further research from the US is demonstrating that payments to households under the – Coronavirus Aid and Economic Security (CARES) Act – may not have resulting in the spending boost that was modelled as part of the policy design. And then on the monetary policy front, central

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Podcast – Unemployment, Surpluses and Investment

27 days ago

Its Wednesday so a shorter blog post today with an interview I recently did with financial market educational professionals, the i3 (Investment Innovation Institute) where I cover a range of topics of current interest from an Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) perspective. Then we get down with some very cool music. And that is it. And I turned off the debate today in the US after 5 or so minutes and wondered what the hell that nation has become. None of the contenders is electable would be my conclusion.

Podcast – Unemployment, Surpluses and Investment
I have been doing a lot of interviews, workshops, and podcasts in the last 6 months without travelling much at all. It is a very weird experience interacting with the rest of the world from lockdown.
Here is a recent podcast that the team at i3

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Tracing the roots of progressive views on the duty to work – Part 6

28 days ago

This is Part 6 of my on-going examination of the concept of ‘duty to work’ and how it was associated with the related idea of a ‘right to work’. Neoliberalism has broken the nexus between the ‘right to work’ responsibilities that the state assumed in the social democratic period and the ‘duty to work’ responsibilities that are imposed on workers in return for income support. That break abandons the binding reciprocity that enriched our societies and has spawned a solid argument for a basic income. But the solution to the problem is to reinstate the link between opportunity to work and the societal benefits of work, especially as it enhances the material well-being of the least advantaged. In this part, I explore that theme.

The earlier parts in this series are:
1. Tracing the roots of

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The inner Groupthink camp is breaking up – paradigm shift continues

29 days ago

Last week, there were some rather significant shifts in the public discourse surrounding macroeconomic policy and challenges made to the orthodox economics taboos that have been used to prevent governments from acting in the best interest of the citizens. First, the Australian treasurer broke away from the government’s previous obsession with fiscal surplus pursuit to announce that for the foreseeable future it was only going to concentrate on jobs and growth. In his statement, he basically refuted all the mainstream macroeconomic claims about fiscal deficits – higher interest rates, lower private investment, lower growth, lower private sector confidence etc. There is really nothing left of the mainstream position now and any politician or economist that tries to resurrect the ‘debt and

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The Weekend Quiz – September 26-27, 2020 – answers and discussion

September 26, 2020

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.

Question 1:

Imagine we forecast real GDP growth for a nation to grow by 0.8 per cent in 2021 and 1.1 per cent in 2022. We also predict that the unemployment rate would fall from 11.7 per cent in 2021 to 11.4 per cent in 2022. Additionally, average annual growth in labour productivity has been running at just over 1 per cent per annum (GDP per hours worked).

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The Weekend Quiz – September 26-27, 2020

September 25, 2020

Welcome to The Weekend Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention or not to the blog posts that I post. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.

1. Imagine we forecast real GDP growth for a nation to grow by 0.8 per cent in 2021 and 1.1 per cent in 2022. We also predict that the unemployment rate would fall from 11.7 per cent in 2021 to 11.4 per cent in 2022. Additionally, average annual growth in labour productivity has been running at just over 1 per cent per annum (GDP per hours worked). If average weekly hours worked remains constant over 2022, then the implication of our forecasts is that we think the labour force of this nation in 2022 will:

grow by 0.2 per cent.shrink by 0.2

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Latest employment data in Australia continues sorry tale and what I would do about it

September 24, 2020

On Tuesday (September 22, 2020), the ABS released the latest data for – Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages in Australia, Week ending 5 September 2020 – which gives us the most up-to-date picture of how the labour market is coping with the on-going restrictions. This data provides more accurate estimates of the impact of the harsh Stage 4 restrictions that have been imposed in Victoria to address the Second Wave of the coronavirus. Overall, payroll employment has fallen by 0.9 points since July 25, 2020, when the lockdowns began in earnest. Unsurprisingly, payroll employment fell in the six-week period ending September 5, 2020 in Victoria by 2.8 points. Employment has also fallen in NSW by 0.5 points in the last 6 weeks. The Victorian case is about lockdown. NSW is in decline because of failed

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More analysis from the coronavirus dataset

September 23, 2020

Today is Wednesday and after several meetings and preparing for a workshop tonight I am powering away on some writing deadlines for academic-type articles etc. But, on Monday, I didn’t have time to finish the discussion on the pandemic trade-off between saving lives and protecting our material prosperity, particularly the future prosperity of the younger generations. And, just as it always is the case, the unfinished parts of the story I provided was picked up by a rather harsh critic. I chose not to make the comment public because while one of the points made was valid in part (as above), the general tenor was not a view I choose to publicise or give credence to. So today I will elaborate a little more because it also provides a lesson in data analysis, which many people would not really

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Ex German Finance minister deliberately misses the point about the ECB

September 22, 2020

The German daily business newspaper Handelsblatt published an interesting article last week (September 17, 2020) –
Schäuble fordert Debatte über lockere Geldpolitik der EZB – which said that the former German Finance Minister and now President of the Bundestag was calling for a debate on the ECBs ‘loose’ monetary policy. He has circulated a letter and a discussion paper among the new discussion group within the Bundestag, created after the German Constitutional Court had ruled adversely in relation to the ECBs public asset purchase programs. The letter criticises the low interest rate policy of the ECB and the various asset purchase programs conducted by the ECB. It appears to be in denial with the state of affairs across Europe, which are heading catastrophic territory with the second

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