Thinking about macroeconomics with Anneliese Dodds

Thinking about macroeconomics with Anneliese Dodds

While writing, Responsible Opposition, about Sir Kier Starmer’s 1st speech of the year, I pointed out that Anneliese Dodds would be giving the Mais Lecture, which had been previewed in the Financial Times (paywall). They said that she will,

 …  call for a ‘responsible fiscal framework’ based on ‘pragmatism, not dogmatism’  … [and] … signal … that the Labour party is backing away from the hard-left economic policies of former leader Jeremy Corbyn, seeking instead to fight the Conservatives on economic competence and protecting the UK’s recovery from the damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chris Giles – Financial Times

The speech has now been delivered and I heard/watched it live. The first thing to say is that I do not consider this to be a repudiation of late stage Corbynomics.

I needed help to work out what was said, it was a very low key speech, certainly not in the style of a UCATT shop steward, more in the style of one of the academics from the cast of Inspector Morse. There was no emphasis and so we need to work out what’s important and what is just said in passing. Stephen Bush points out the unusual nexus of welcome from James Meadway & Chris Giles, he writes,

… [ the speech] attracted a glowing write-up from the FT’s influential economics editor Chris Giles and an approving tweet from James Meadway, the adviser who more than anyone bar John McDonnell himself shaped the Labour Party’s economic strategy under Corbyn

Stephen bush – New Statesman

Meadway’s tweet was trolled by Richard Murphy, who was one of the authors of Corbyn’s original Corbynomics manifesto and is a supporter of modern monetary theory (MMT), but Labour stepped away from these monetary & fiscal policy  ideas after 2016.

I found the speech underwhelming, almost academic in its tone, which given the host may have been appropriate. I am certainly of the view that it is not a step away from or a rejection of McDonnel’s policies. If anything, the call for a ‘responsible fiscal framework’ based on ‘pragmatism, not dogmatism’ is an attack on Osborne and the politics of austerity and his remaining fans in the Tory party. She praised the independence of the Bank of England, but this has had its problems; it failed in 2008 and it was politicians that rescued the economy and the argument for its independence is based on the argument that politicians and their electors can’t be trusted to make the right decisions. If those decisions are painful, why should they? Independence is a way of baking in neo-liberalism. She was clear however that monetary policy is not enough to build a successful macroeconomy.

Over-relying on monetary policy levers for economic growth – as the UK has arguably done for the past decade – can lead to undesirable outcomes. Without accompanying fiscal action, low interest rates and gargantuan quantitative easing programmes can exacerbate inequality and concentrate economic gains in the hands of those who were already asset-rich, at the expense of those who rely on income from their labour. Risky indebtedness, especially combined with a highly unequal distribution of assets, can exacerbate inequality.

Anneliese Dodds

She spoke on fiscal policy; did she repeat McDonnel’s Golden rule? If she did, she qualified it by saying that borrowing to invest is only available because of the low interest rates. I have two things to say, firstly, I thought interest rates are a policy instrument, so if a government which is a currency sovereign wants them low, then low they are! Secondly, defining what is current account expenditure is not simple. Why is the education budget not considered an investment in human capital?

Is this as good as it gets? We are to be grateful that a Labour Shadow Chancellor still intends to borrow to invest and that monetarism is no longer part of Labour’s macro-economic tool kit.

On the upside she mentioned wealth inequality and aggregate low wages as constraints to growth but no mention of remediation which would be an effective wealth tax, a better minimum wage, reformed procurement policies and labour law reform. She also mentioned critically the growth in value of unproductive assets, such as art and wine; but surely this is the result of quantitative easing and a side effect of the increasing marginal propensity to save by the rich, again addressable by a wealth tax.

She announced a series of technical changes to the budget management process, all of which are good, but not particularly left wing and so likely to be nicked by the Tories. These consist of ensuring equality & carbon impact analyses on the budget and spending plans and placing a longer term time frame on the budget together with using more very long term bonds.

I also noted that while it seems that Labour is committed to a high wage, high skill economy, our reticence to talk about the means by which we select the short and medium term winners is not talked about; under Corbyn’s leadership, the new National Investment Bank was to be the instrument for seeding innovation and new jobs, but the means of funding it, and the way in which loans and grant were to be allocated remains unclear.

I submitted a question on this i.e. selecting industrial and innovation winners, which the moderator, Prof. Barbara Casu put as her first question; if Anneliese Dodds had wanted to talk in detail, this would have been in the speech, it wasn’t and her answer to Professor Casu’s question added no clarity.

It was a very technocratic speech, delivered in a technocratic style, presumably designed not to frighten the horses. It was a rejection of both modern monetary theory (MMT) and fiscal consolidation but not a manifesto for socialism.

ooOOOoo

The speech was introduced by the Dean of Faculty at CASS, Paulo Volpin, and the questions moderated by the Professor of Banking, Barbara Casu. Both would seem have been initially educated in Italy, I hope that the new immigration rules post Brexit will allow others to follow their route and come to the UK to teach.

I have written previously about Corbynomics on this blog and also on MMT on my bliog, and on my wiki, and on QMT in my obituary on David Graeber, on the blog. …

Fiscal credibility, ptui!

Yesterday, I went to a meeting on Brexit, Free-movement and immigration; conversation in the bar afterwards segued from, “why did a Corbyn led PLP argue to abstain on the Tories Immigration Act?” via a  post match analysis of Lewisham Deptford’s Brexit/Anti-Brexit meeting to consider the radicalism of Labour’s 2017 Manifesto and the development of macro economic policy since then; it doesn’t do so well when compared with the Corbynomics of 2015. One of the key developments since then has been the development of Labour’s Fiscal Credibility Rule, which promises to only borrow to invest.

To those who think this is smart, I ask why so-called current account spending on education is not seen as “investing” in Human Capital, but this is not it’s main problem.

However, I awoke this morning to see one of Richard Murphy’s tweets where he is contending with Jonathan Portes & Simon Wren Lewis, the rule’s author’s it would seem. It got a little testy. Anyway, here’s Richard, detoxifying, or not the twitter spat, and making the point that the Fiscal Credibility Rule is not based on Modern Monetary Theory. because it acknowledges the monetary constraint, and not the real world one. Murphy refers to his earlier piece, A challenge to Simon Wren-Lewis on modern monetary theory and Labour’s fiscal credibility rule in which he critiques the Fiscal Credibility Rule. My precis of his position is that the rule is based on a neo-classical approach, fundamentally legitimises austerity and fetishises debt reduction. I had a look for the Portes/Wren Lewis original position and assume that “Issues in the design of fiscal policy rules” is it.

My research took me to this, which Bill Mitchell claims to be his last words on the Fiscal Credibility Rule, the article contains the following powerful line,

The problem is that this reinforces the narrative that deficits and public debt are in some way ‘bad’ and as I note below this will not turn out well.

One of the problem’s exposed by Bill Mitchell’s article is that it suggests that the Fiscal Credibility Rule is a bit like Lord Buckethead’s nuclear deterrent policy, it only works if the secret is kept, in this case that Labour does not believe that the Fiscal Credibility Rule is a necessary macro-economic constraint even if the economists that wrote it do so.

ooOOOoo

To some extent, this article is just a reading list, there’s not so much of me in it., but I have promised myself a precis of Chapter 7/8 of Fazi and Mitchell’s Reclaiming the State, which is a relatively simple and short exposition of MMT. …

Money Tree

Dianne it seems got here finance numbers mixed up when stating that a Labour Government will recruit another 10,000 policeman but the short answer to how a Labour Government will pay for its programmes, is that they’ll grow the economy and thus increase taxes collected, they’ll borrow for infrastructure, they’ll print money for liquidity they’ll collect more taxes from the rich and close tax loopholes to ensure the rich and that companies pay their share. …

Beyond People’s QE

Beyond People’s QE

A day or two ago, Alex Little, published a blog post called ‘Lessons for Corbyn in “Lerner’s Law”’. Lerner’s law suggests that using your opponents language limits your ability to make the argument. Little quotes Bill Mitchell, the inventor of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) as to how Labour’s leadership in articulating the Darling Plan and its successors talk about balancing the budget and fixing the deficit concede the argument to the Tories. Little’s article also points at Lerner’s economic theories, described as “functional finance” and points at the wikipedia article on it. He argues that by describing the proposed pump priming as PQE, and accepting that when growth takes off, the government may transition to bond financing, by even accepting that we need to live within our means, the theory and benefits from the a more overt radical financing will be lost. …

Labour’s next leader, economics, defence and the mandate

Labour’s next leader, economics, defence and the mandate

In the dying days of Labour’s Leadership selection, the key issues remain those of economics & strategy, but also unfortunately now one of mandate.

The debate on economics has come to be between Cooper and Corbyn. Demanding credibility is not an economic policy and so we can ignore Kendall & Burnham. I summarise the other’s two positions below and conclude that Corbyn’s economic manifesto is not just a shopping list of desirable reforms, they are a single set of reinforcing measures to fix and rebuild the economy so it works in the interests of the majority of people.

This was meant to be a short blog, emphasising the economy and virtuously circular, self reinforcing nature of Corbyn’s programme, but I also take the opportunity to look at the defence and foreign policy debate and conclude with some comments on the election process itself and Labour’s future.

I am glad I voted for Jeremy Corbyn, but I am not a Corbynista, I am Real Labour. …

About Shadow Chancellors

While this looks like a technical spat over issues of macroeconomic monetary policy, with Chris Leslie, Labour’s stand in Shadow Chancellor arguing classical monetarist i.e. Thatcherite economics, its also about who benefits in terms of policy and for three people, about career advancement.

Leslie said: “Printing money and ending Bank of England independence would push up inflation, lending rates, squeeze out money for schools and hospitals and mean spending more on debt servicing. Higher inflation and a higher cost of living would hit those on the lowest incomes, the poorest people who couldn’t afford those goods and services. The very people we should be standing up for would pay the price – the poor and vulnerable.”

In an interview with The Independent, Mr Leslie issued a wake-up call to Labour members to reject what he called a “starry-eyed, hard left” economic strategy, amid growing signs that Mr Corbyn could pull off a shock victory next month. Notice – no model of cause… the huge discovery over the last seven years is that printing money doesn’t cause inflation and with interest rates at an all time historic low, now is the time to borrow long term to invest in the future. Leslie is as on most of his economics very wrong on this.

He got another bite of the cherry in the New Statesman, where he focuses on QE, and it’s consequent interest payments (there aren’t any) and the independence of the Bank of the Bank of England which for some reason he holds up as a great reform. There’s no doubt about it – the Labour Party has reached a fork in the road and on 12 September the fate of the progressive centre-left in Britain will be sealed. There are millions whose living standards and working conditions depend on Labour winning government in 2020 to fight for power, wealth and opportunity in the hands of the many not the few. The independence of the Bank and the foundation of the Office of Budget Responsibility are both anti-democratic reforms, reducing the power of the elected Chancellor and the House of Commons. The ideology behind these reforms is that these decisions are too important to be taken by politicians, and I’d like to remind Leslie of Mervyn King, the then Governor of the Bank’s behaviour in both 2008 and 2010.

Chris Dillow performs a technical analysis of the proposition, critically pointing out that with the current levels of unemployment and underemployment, it’s highly unlikely that anything would be inflationary. It’s widely agreed that Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity is due in large part to the mediocrity of the alternatives. As if to demonstrate this, Chris Leslie – Shadow Chancellor – claims that Corbynomics would be inflationary. This isn’t wholly unreasonable. A money-financed fiscal expansion – which is all “people’s QE” is – would increase employment and aggregate demand.

Richard Murphy, a Corbyn advisor and author of taxresearch.org.uk opposes Leslie in the most robust terms, in this press version of his radio interview, The author of the economic plan set out by Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn has defended “Corbynomics” in the face of an attack by the shadow chancellor, Chris Leslie. Richard Murphy, the fair tax expert recruited by Corbyn to draft his economic policy, deepened divisions on the left by saying “Leslie has got this completely wrong.” The article states that when challenged on Leslie’s point about high inflation, Murphy said: “Any system of people’s QE would be turned off if we got to a situation of high wages and full employment, but we are so far from that at the moment that we have to tackle the low-wage economy and the lack of productivity in the UK by creating new investment, which is the foundation for new prosperity.”

I have heard Chris Leslie speak, and these issues are at the crux of the debate, but it still surprises me to find Labour people using the economics of the ’80s to understand today’s problems; this isn’t the first time he’s spoken this way. QE clearly doesn’t cause inflation, because we have one and not the other. He’s another of Harriet Harman’s partisan decisions taken as interim leader, the job’s beyond him, and he’ll be gone if they reintroduce elections to the shadow cabinet.

Finally if the choice of Shadow Chancellor is between Murphy, Leslie and Rachel Reeves, it’s just another reason for voting for Jeremy Corbyn.

Mind you, Murphy is not an MP and so cannot serve as Shadow Chancellor, Chief Commissioner of HMRC anyone?

ooOOOoo

This was originally published as a storify and reposted in Oct 2018 as this blog article. …

Storify

My Storify

Storify shit canned their free service at the beginning of 2018, I saved them and have loaded them into this web site. The ticked have been converted, placed in the blog with a tag, storify.

Here’s is the index

  1. This will not end well
  2. Brexit goes to Parliament
  3. Big Data and the populist right
  4. Big time pocket vulnerabilities ✔
  5. The Death Agony of Social Democracy
  6. Oops
  7. The Mash on Brexit ✔
  8. Bigdata, big money and democracy ✔
  9. Wannacrypt ✔
  10. More that unites us.html ✔
  11. On Immigration ✔
  12. Get Well Soon ✔
  13. Corbynomics Again ✔
  14. Social Media and the General Election ✔
  15. No safe space
  16. Queen’s Speech & Digital Liberty
  17. Corbyn & Digital Politics
  18. Really, a better privacy law
  19. Tidemill Gardens
  20. The Crisis in Catalonia
  21. Follow (Leave EU’s) money 
  22. Labour and Rent Controls
  23. The end of the road from Falkirk
  24. Mega City
  25. Election day in Deptford
  26. Labour’s London Conference
  27. No more secrets for you
  28. Europe’s winding road to Copyright Reform
  29. Lewisham Labour, defending services and democracy
  30. Digital Question Time
  31. Vicky Foxcroft_Labour for Deptford
  32. What the wealthy want
  33. We’re all in this together!
  34. Strength and Weakness in leadership ✔
  35. Labour’s Manifesto ✔
  36. Ed does foreign
  37. Hustings in Deptford
  38. Bye Bye?
  39. An absence of politics.html
  40. About shadow chancellors
  41. The next evolution of Capitalism ✔
  42. Entryism ✔
  43. It’s still the economy stupid ✔
  44. Labour’s Leadership Economics Part Deux
  45. An insight into the Sharing Economy
  46. Will they accept the mandate? ✔
  47. Hard cases make bad law
  48. Software safe for all ✔
  49. The best advice available ✔
  50. Don’t bomb Syria
  51. For those who don’t study history
  52. He’s not the messiah, he’s a very… ✔
  53. A stitch (up) in time…. ✔
  54. Beyond Factionalism, although not today ✔
  55. Liberty can’t exist in the dark ✔
  56. More on the future of capitalism ✔
  57. Racism in culture and politics ✔
  58. It’s not just Google ✔
  59. About Boris & Probity ✔
  60. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Economics ✔
  61. Labour & Anti-semitism. Not!.html
  62. Has the earth moved? ✔
  63. The rule of law
  64. Referendum Reprise ✔
  65. Labour’s Leadership Lost ✔
  66. Trot Hunting
  67. Taking into account time served.html
  68. Snooping may not be legal.html
  69. Where do UKIP’s votes come from_.html
 …