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Showing posts from November, 2014

Rosnick & Baker on The Wealth of American Households

By David Rosnick and Dean Baker

From the Abstract:
This paper presents data on the wealth of households by age cohort based on new data from the 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF). It shows that the upward redistribution of wealth continued between 2010 and 2013. As a result, most households had less wealth in 2013 than they did in 2010 and much less than in 1989, the first year examined. This is in spite of the fact that households were much less likely to have traditional defined-benefit pensions than in prior decades. Read rest here.

Economists Without Borders (Economistes Sans Frontières)

By Thomas Palley

Inspired by the work of Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières), I have recently started a project called Economists Without Borders (Economistes Sans Frontières). Its purpose is to inoculate the global economy against the virus of neoliberalism. Last week, I had two difficult “missions” to Vienna and Warsaw.

In Vienna, I confronted an outbreak of the neoliberal globalization – free trade strain of the virus. Without doubt, this is the most virulent and dangerous of all strains. People who get infected become blind to all evidence, deaf to all argument and prone to intellectual condescension. Massachusetts Avenue in Washington DC is a hot zone of infection. The bad news is that if you are over forty and infected it is doubtful you can be cured. However, younger patients have a chance of recovery. Here is the anti-viral I prescribed titled “The Theory of Global Imbalances: Mainstream Economics vs. Structural Keynesianism”.

In Warsaw, I confronted an outbrea…

Cooney & Vernengo on the Global Crisis of Capitalism

Professors Matias Vernengo and Paul Cooney discuss their analyses of the global economic crisis.

Amitava Dutt on Pluralism (or lack thereof) in Economics

The recent issue of ROPE is an excellent symposium on nature of pluralism (or lack thereof) in contemporary economics. This following article by Amitava Dutt is quite insightful.

From the abstract:
Recent debates about the nature and desirability of pluralism in economics suffer from a lack of clarity about the meaning of pluralism. This paper attempts to remedy some aspects of this problem by distinguishing between different dimensions of pluralism, that is, epistemological, ontological, methodological, normative and prescriptive dimensions. Although, in principle, these dimensions are distinct, they are difficult to keep apart because of the relations that exist in terms of choices made in the different dimensions. It is argued that the recognition of these distinctions and relations allows for a resolution of some of the debates about pluralism. Read rest here (subscription required), and for an introduction to the symposium by John Davis, see here (subscription required…

Tom Weisskopf on 50 Years of Radical Political Economy

From the abstract,
I examine first how radical political economy (RPE) has evolved over the last five decades, as the overall political climate in the United States has shifted increasingly to the right. I explore how this political shift, as well as new developments within mainstream economics, have altered the focus of much of RPE and the activities of many of its practitioners. I then offer suggestions to radical political economists as to the future orientation of RPE. Read rest here (subscription required).

And for other posts on the nature & evolution of radical political economy, see here & here.

Elizabeth Warren on Fed Appointments

Warren says that Obama should pick nominees for the Board of Governors vacancies that would "look out for Main Street, not big banks." More precisely:
"The five sitting governors have a variety of academic and industry experience, but not one came to the Fed with a meaningful background in overseeing or investigating big banks or any experience distinguishing between the greater risks posed by the biggest banks relative to community banks. By nominating people who have a strong track record in these areas and who have a demonstrated commitment to not backing down when they find problems, the administration can show that it is taking the Fed’s supervision problem seriously. Nominating Wall Street insiders for the Board of Governors would send the opposite message."  I have a few names in mind.

Did the New Deal help in the recovery?

I have posted on this before (e.g. here and here, but there is more). Here a short excerpt from Joshua Hausman dissertation, supervised by Barry Eichengreen and Brad DeLong. He suggests in this particular paper that the 1936 Veteran Bonus was essential for the expansion of consumption and growth in 1936. Table below show aggregate data. Note that most of the accelerated expansion is explained by consumption (one might add, investment is derived demand and follows the accelerator, but that's another discussion).
He says: "All this is not easily explained by factors other than the bonus. Monetary factors were if anything contractionary in 1936. Broad money supply growth slowed from 14 percent in 1935 to 11 percent in 1936. And in August 1936, the Federal Reserve raised reserve requirements."

Hausman correctly notices that monetary policy had little effect on the boom in 1936, which fits what Eccles thought about that, and also about the role of monetary policy in the 1937…

Eileen Appelbaum on Private Equity & Retirement Savings

By Eileen Appelbaum
The decline in worker pensions creates a challenge for private equity (PE) funds. The funds currently get about a quarter of their capital from public-sector pension funds and another 10 percent from private-sector pension funds. But defined benefit pension plans, once enjoyed by most private-sector workers, have been largely dismantled by corporations. And public-sector pension plans have come under attack in recent years as part of a larger effort by politicians in some states to weaken or destroy public-sector unions. Private equity is worried that the goose that lays the golden eggs it relies on is on the endangered species list. With the industry so dependent on workers' retirement savings, its future growth prospects are likely to be tied to its ability to tap the estimated $6.6 trillion in 401(k) accounts. Read rest here.

Banks pay fines, but nobody goes to jail

I posted on this before. The Department of Justice was prosecuting banks for rigging the foreign exchange markets, and now banks agreed to pay fines, more than a billion for Citigroup and J.P. Morgan-Chase.
Fines now have exceeded 200 billion as a result of illegal activities, but nobody yet went to jail. Impunity persists. Full story here.

Rethinking wage vs. profit-led growth theory with implications for policy analysis

By Thomas Palley

The distinction between wage-led and profit-led growth is a major feature of Post-Keynesian economics and it has triggered an extensive econometric literature aimed at identifying whether economies are wage or profit-led. That literature treats the economy’s character as exogenously given. This paper questions that assumption and shows an economy’s character is endogenous and subject to policy influence. This generates a Post-Keynesian analogue of the Lucas critique whereby the econometrically identified character of the economy depends on policy rather than being a natural characteristic. Over the past twenty years, policy has made economies appear more profit-led by lowering workers’ share of the wage bill and tax rates on shareholder income. Increasing workers’ wage bill share increases growth and capacity utilization regardless of whether the economy is wage-led, profit-led or conflictive. That speaks to making it the primary focus of policy efforts.

Read rest he…

The Global Crisis of Capitalism

Next Week in New York at the John Jay College

Money supply, inflation and velocity

Grading. Slow posting as a result. Reading lots of replies on the Triffin Dilemma (more on that later). Interestingly many students, following the textbook (Montiel's International Macroeconomics) suggest that printing dollars was a way of dealing with the dollar shortage problems of the 1950s, as if the Fed was concerned with international liquidity problems when deciding on monetary policy. At any rate, several also suggest that money printing leads to inflation (no qualifier, like the economy must be at full employment, or something like that). Figure below for recent times.
As can be seen the huge increase in money supply basically led to a reduction of the velocity of circulation. That's why inflation has been tame, and yes we are not at full employment (we rarely are). Back to grading.

James Galbraith on Effective Governance To Spur Innovation

The United States’ deep political polarization is blinding the nation from seeing what it takes to create an effective innovation economy.

UNCTAD report shows the size of austerity

The last Trade and Development Report has been published a while ago. As always, a must read. The graph below shows the change in real government spending and also compares the actual real government spending with long-term government spending growth. The report says: "on the whole, governments in developed countries adopted contractionary fiscal stances from mid-2010 to the end of 2013, when compared with the long-term trend." My only surprise was that France is not in the austerity group. The European periphery, and the US, are actually leading the austerity effort.

PS: In the US spending peaked in the 3rd quarter of 2009, and then it has been basically contracted ever since (here).

Unemployment down to 5.8 percent

Employment rose by 214,000 in October, and the unemployment rate fell to 5.8% according the last BLS report. The good news is that the labor force participation rate didn't change much since April.  Hence, the employment-population ratio edged up to 59.2 percent in October, as can be seen above. Yep, still really low.

Some thoughts on currency crises and overshooting

So I've been teaching an international finance class, after a long while I might add. The discussion of currency crises models I think is interesting, since it is very revealing of the mainstream assumptions about the long run. Typical discussion would imply that in the long run the Quantity Theory of Money (QTM) and Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) hold. PPP means simply that the exchange rate adjusts for differences between the domestic and foreign price levels. Hence, we have that S =P/P*, where the star indicates foreign variable. If in addition we believe with the QTM that the central bank (CB) controls prices by controlling the money supply, then the CB can control the exchange rate indirectly.

In the figure below the 45o line shows the equilibrium levels of the exchange rate (S) as the price level, which is related to the money supply. Now suppose that the central bank fixes the exchange rate at S1 (the graph is based on Dornbusch representation in his classic paper; for now …

Keynes is all you need

From BusinessWeek:
Is there a doctor in the house? The global economy is failing to thrive, and its caretakers are fumbling. Greece took its medicine as instructed and was rewarded with an unemployment rate of 26 percent. Portugal obeyed the budget rules; its citizens are looking for jobs in Angola and Mozambique because there are so few at home. Germans are feeling anemic despite their massive trade surplus. In the U.S., the income of a median household adjusted for inflation is 3 percent lower than at the worst point of the 2007-09 recession, according to Sentier Research. Whatever medicine is being doled out isn’t working. Citigroup (C) Chief Economist Willem Buiter recently described the Bank of England’s policy as “an intellectual potpourri of factoids, partial theories, empirical regularities without firm theoretical foundations, hunches, intuitions, and half-developed insights.” And that, he said, is better than things countries are trying elsewhere. Read rest here.

On the blogs

For Whom the Wall Fell? -- Branko Milanovic's analysis of the effects in Eastern Europe of the transition to capitalism. Not good, by the way. Few success stories, and mostly associated to commodity booms. Worth reading also his response to Andrei Shleifer's view that the transition was a success.

Trapped in a Recession -- C.P. Chandrasekhar discusses why we are back in a "situation where finance capital is back to profitability and is thriving but the real economy and the rest of the system is mired in recession." In one word, austerity.

Obituary: Frederic S. Lee (1949-2014) -- Tae-Hee Jo has published a nice obituary with more biographical detail than previous ones.

IMF Response to the Financial and Economic Crisis -- Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) report on the IMF's role during the Great Recession. They suggest that: "The IMF’s record in surveillance was mixed. Its calls for global fiscal stimulus in 2008–09 were timely and influential, but its endorse…

Foster and Yates on Piketty & The Crisis of Neoclassical Economics

Michael D. Yates kindly asked me to post a link to his new MR article, co-authored with John Bellamy Foster, on Piketty & the current state of mainstream economics; comments & feedback are welcomed.
Not since the Great Depression of the 1930s has it been so apparent that the core capitalist economies are experiencing secular stagnation, characterized by slow growth, rising unemployment and underemployment, and idle productive capacity. Consequently, mainstream economics is finally beginning to recognize the economic stagnation tendency that has long been a focus in these pages, although it has yet to develop a coherent analysis of the phenomenon. Accompanying the long-term decline in the growth trend has been an extraordinary increase in economic inequality, which one of us labeled “The Great Inequality,” and which has recently been dramatized by the publication of French economist Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Taken together, these two realities of de…

The IMF, Austerity and the Ebola Crisis in West Africa

Recently I posted (and here) on the relative persistence of IMF policies on the fiscal front. As noted by Rick Rowden, the IMF has, at least temproraily, lifted its ban on fiscal expansion in West Africa, as a result of the ebola crisis. Christine Lagarde, the Fund's Managing Director said: "It is very rare for the IMF to say that, but on this occasion I will say it: It is good to increase the fiscal deficit when it's a matter of curing the people, of taking the precautions to actually try to contain the disease. The IMF doesn't say that very often." No they don't. Rick explains in his Foreign Policy piece how the IMF has an impact on heath outcomes with its austerity policies. He says: "the harmful effects of IMF policies on health systems are not direct; it's not as if the IMF comes in and directly tells a country to spend less on public health. Instead it's a two-step process: First the IMF policy targets constrain overall national spending …