Category Archives: The dismal science

TransPacific Partnership: Fast Track to Financial Instability

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama said he would submit a bill to Congress that would grant him the fast track authority to finalize the TransPacific Partnership (TPP)—a trade pact with Pacific Rim countries such as Japan, Malaysia, Peru, and Chile.  While free trade has brought benefits in the past, tariffs in the world economy are at an all time low and new deals like the TPP offer few new gains in terms of growth and jobs for the American people. And the TPP in particular comes at unacceptably high cost.

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Why is It Hard to Land a Well-Paid Job After Losing One?

Yves here. I sometimes run posts from orthodox economic sites as exercise in critical thinking, or to remind readers of what passes for research in economics, since economic work is treated with undue reverence in policy circles.

Here, the issue at hand is why people who have well paid jobs take a while to land another one, of course assuming that they manage to land well. The analysis by the author is not bad, save its rather frightening level of abstraction. But take a good look at his summary of conventional assumptions about how job-finding and wage-setting for the unemployed is supposed to work.

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What Thomas Piketty and Larry Summers Don’t Tell You About Income Inequality

In a new paper for the Institute For New Economic Thinking’s Working Group on the Political Economy of Distribution, economist Lance Taylor and his colleagues examine income inequality using new tools and models that give us a more nuanced — and frightening —picture than we’ve had before.  Their simulation models show how so-called “reasonable” modifications like modest tax increases on the wealthy and boosting low wages are not going to be enough to stem the disproportionate tide of income rushing toward the rich. Taylor’s research challenges the approaches of American policy makers, the assumptions of traditional economists, and some of the conclusions drawn by Thomas Piketty and Larry Summers. Bottom line: We’re not yet talking about the kinds of major changes needed to keep us from becoming a Downton Abbey society.

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Will the Cavalry Ride Over the Hill in Time for Greece?

We’ve cautioned readers that Greece is in a very weak bargaining position relative to its financial overlords in the Troika. As much as Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis is making sound, logical arguments and presenting proposals that if anything are too accommodating, despite initial cool reactions, many of Greece’s soi disant partners are diehard neoliberals and/or are politically constrained. Varoufakis is approaching them as if they can deal in good faith, when their idea of “good faith” comes from a punitive parallel universe.

Three important meetings today will provide a better sense of whether Greece is gaining any political ground in its uphill battle to roll back austerity.

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Can Fast Food Afford a $15 Minimum Wage Without Cutting Jobs?

Yves here. One of the oft-made assertions is that increasing wages in low-wage positions will lead to job losses. But in many industries, direct labor is a not all that large a proportion of total product cost. And with corporate profits at record highs, the immediate impact would normally be to trim profit levels, which have risen to be such a high proportion of GDP as to be deemed by Warren Buffet as well higher than sustainable levels.

Moreover, as this Real News Network segment points out, businesses that pay only minimum wage or barely above it have lots of turnover. That is costly in terms of managerial time. Having a minimum wage that was more like a living wage would reduce employee churn, offsetting some of the cost of the pay increase. Costco has demonstrated that this approach works. It pays more than other discount retailers, and not only does it have less turnover, but it enjoys another gain: less inventory shrinkage, which is often due to theft by employees.

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Greece Shows the Limits of Austerity in the Eurozone. What Now?

Mario Seccareccia, professor of economics at the University of Ottawa, has been outspoken in his warnings that austerity policies have the potential to smash economies and spread untold human misery. He has challenged deficit hawks and emphasized the need for strong government investment in things like jobs, education, health care, and infrastructure if economies are to prosper. Here he talks about why what happened to Greece was entirely predictable, why the Greeks were right to reject austerity in the recent election, and what challenges the country faces in forging a sustainable path forward with the left-wing Syriza party at the helm.

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How Much Success is Syriza Likely to Have in Ending Austerity?

While the election results in Greece have sent shockwaves through European technocratic elites and have rattled investors, it is not clear how successful Syriza will be in getting big enough changes implemented in Eurozone policies and its own bailout terms to end the humanitarian crisis, rather than just create the sort of bounce off the bottom growth that analysts like to depict as progress. Indeed, once you walk though the likely bargaining positions of the various parties, there is little reason to be optimistic on Syriza’s behalf.

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Announcing (Actually, Confirming) Our Focus on the CBO’s Dubious Models and Political Bias

We’ve been writing about abuses of power and process at the Congressional Budget Office and will be ramping up our coverage further now that ranking member Bernie Sanders has a new team at the Budget Committee, which among other things supervises the CBO. And the CBO is going to be the subject of a major political fight over how it prepares its estimates of the economic and fiscal impact of pending legislation. As we’ll discuss below, Republicans plan to mandate that the CBO use something called dynamic scoring, which has the effect of making tax cuts look far more beneficial to the economy than they are, by effectively claiming that tax cuts boost growth, which then boosts tax receipts. It would effectively institutionalize the Laffer curve, which has been widely and repeatedly debunked. As troubling as this development is, there’s already a lot not to like in how the CBO operates.

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Bill Black: The Triumph of Radical Right Economics in Greece – At the Hands of “Socialists”

In my January 18, 2015 column, I explained that German Prime Minister Angela Merkel’s sweetest triumph was successfully extorting George Papandreou, Greece’s Prime Minister, head of the Greek Socialist Movemnt (PASOK), and President of the Socialist International, to inflict austerity and a war on workers’ wages on the Greek people.

In this column I explain how radically right-wing the Papandreou Plan was and the completeness with which it embraced rather than resisted the troika’s theoclassical nostrums that forced Greece, Italy, and Spain into gratuitous second Great Depressions. In Greece’s case, the Merkel Great Depression has proven more severe and longer in duration than the Great Depression of 80 years ago. The EC’s Economic Adjustment Programme for Greece description of the Papandreou Plan was accurate. The Greek leaders “strongly own and support the [austerity] programme policies and objectives.”

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