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Political Eh-conomy: There is no good value

A piece in the Financial Times from several days ago has finally pushed me to scribble down a few initial thoughts on value – a topic I been thinking about more and more. Titled “The attack of the rentier killers”, the article argues that the wealthy who hold and receive income from assets will fight low interest rates and rising inflation tooth and nail because it lowers the value of their assets. Paul Krugman has recently picked up on this topic as well, while the notion that only sustained low interest rates can “euthanize” a dangerous, politically-motivated rentier class (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Problematic sources of recent real wage growth

The past 18 months have seen real wages increase in Canada. (Yes, I double-checked.) Indeed, real wages have gone through two distinct phases of growth since the financial crisis hit the global economy in 2007. This may be surprising as we have been accustomed to hearing about the stagnation of real wages and the “decoupling” of wages from productivity gains over the decades preceding the crisis.

These real wage gains, however, are not that surprising once we take a look at the behaviour of inflation since the crisis. Stephen Gordon has taken a look at this over at Maclean’s (Read more…)

Political Eh-conomy: Myths of central banking

The Bank of Canada has been in the news lately – or, more precisely, the news has been full of other well-placed people telling our central bankers what to do. In an interview on CTV this past weekend, Jim Flaherty made comments (later retracted) that Canada’s central bank will be pressured to raise interest rates sooner rather than later. On Tuesday, the influential, pro-business Conference Board of Canada also came out with some advice. A Globe and Mail editorial written its chief economist suggested, somewhat surprisingly, that the Bank should target a higher level of inflation, up to 4% from (Read more…)

Political Eh-conomy: Legislating a real raise: Minimum wages and real earnings growth

In a recent post titled, “What happened to the distribution of real earnings during the recession?”, Stephen Gordon presents a graphs that shows some significant growth in real (adjust for inflation) earnings in Canada between 2007 and 2012. In addition, plotting average annual growth rates in real earnings against the distribution of earnings, the graph has a U shape. That is, the growth rates of real earnings are higher for those at or near the bottom and those at or near the top of the earnings distribution, with a “hollowed-out” middle.

Figure 1. Stephen Gordon’s graph showing a (Read more…)

Writings of J. Todd Ring: The rise of Bitcoin: and the challenge to the global domination of big money

The following article was written on October 25. I wanted to read it over once more before publishing it, then got busy with other things and forgot about it. In the roughly six weeks that have passed since the writing of this article, the Bitcoin prices have gone from roughly $200 to over $700. There […]

The Progressive Economics Forum: Inflation Slump Validates Low Interest Rates

Today, Statistics Canada reported inflation of 1.1% for August, even lower than June and July. But even at this anemic level, inflation is eating up three-quarters of wage gains. The Labour Force Survey indicates that Canada’s average hourly wage rose by only 1.5% between August 2012 and August 2013.

Subdued inflation and the weak job market both argue for the Bank of Canada to keep interest rates low. The rationale to hike interest rates would be to quell inflation, which is little more than half of the central bank’s 2% target.

The rationale for low interest rates is (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Inflation Eats Up Three-Quarters of Wage Gains

Today, Statistics Canada reported an annual inflation rate of 1.3% for July. By comparison, it reports that the average hourly wage rose by 1.8% between July 2012 and July 2013.

In other words, even anemic inflation is eating up nearly three-quarters of wage increases. On average, Canadian workers have eked out only a 0.5% improvement in purchasing power over the past year.

Low inflation and the weak job market both argue for the Bank of Canada to keep interest rates low. The rationale to hike interest rates would be to quell inflation, which is already under control (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Inflation Eats Up More Than Half of Wage Gains

Today, Statistics Canada reported an inflation rate of 1.2% for June, validating the Bank of Canada’s recent decision to keep interest rates low for the foreseeable future. The rationale to raise interest rates would be to curb inflation, which is already under control and well below the central bank’s 2% target.

But even at 1.2%, inflation eats up more than half of wage gains over the past year. The Labour Force Survey indicated that the average hourly wage rose by just 2.2% between June 2012 and June 2013.

Governments should be trying to foster a wage-led recovery (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Inflation Collapse Confounds Monetary Hawks

Statistics Canada reported today that inflation collapsed to just 0.4% in April. The Bank of Canada’s core inflation rate, which excludes volatile items, fell to 1.1%.

Continued low inflation does not provide a rationale to raise interest rates. Perhaps for that reason, Canadian monetary hawks have shifted their rationale for higher interest rates.

In 2011, the C. D. Howe Institute released a paper entitled Overnight Moves: The Bank of Canada Should Start to Raise Interest Rates Now. It argued:

If more ‘no-change’ decisions are made by the Bank of Canada regarding its policy interest rate, inflation expectations might (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Polozogistics: Nine Thoughts About the Choice of the New Bank of Canada Governor

 

1. He’s Number Two: Stephen Poloz was widely acknowledged in economic and political circles as the second-best choice for the top job at the Bank of Canada. So the surprise was not that he was chosen. The surprise was, Why Not Tiff Macklem? Will someone please find out and tell the rest of us?

2. Doctrinaire [or not?] on Inflation Targeting: He thinks it’s “sacrosanct.” Having studied with monetary policy guru David Laidler at the University of Western Ontario, and been part of the Bank of Canada team that brought inflation targeting to a neighbourhood near (Read more…)

The Progressive Economics Forum: Margaret Thatcher’s Economic Legacy

Here is my take from today’s Economy Lab in the Globe.

To expand a bit on alternatives, my take is that the neo liberal turn at the end of the 1970s was one possible response to the stagflation crisis, which found mainstream Keynesian economics wanting.

Left Keynesians such as Kalecki had long recognized that full employment capitalism with strong unions could lead to low profits, low growth and inflation, and the argument vis a vis the UK was advanced by Marxists such as Glyn and Sutcliffe.

The answer – as in the Meidner Plan in Sweden and the Alternative Economic

. . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: Margaret Thatcher’s Economic Legacy

calgaryliberal.com: Alberta Liberal and Federal Liberal Cooperation? Lets Go.

I was talking to one of my friends around the the university the other day and I brought up Raj Sherman’s interview in the Calgary Herald on some form of cooperation between the two Liberal parties in Alberta. It was an off-hand comment and I didn’t really expect a conversation to come of it. He [...]

BigCityLib Strikes Back: Post Penny Inflation Spike?

Economists say no,  but as I drink my McD’s coffee this morning at the community centre, I must say I’ve been noticing a lot of “rounding up”, and not too much in the way of “rounding down”.

Writings of J. Todd Ring: Rising prices, falling wages, and the emerging economic trends: Currency wars, hyper-inflation, currency devaluation, and how to prepare for the coming storm

120% of the wealth created since the economic crisis began in 2007 has gone to the top 1% – meaning, the bottom 99% have fallen and have lost real income to the richest 1%. (Turn off “the news” and watch the Keiser Report for the real facts, or see Gerald Celente or Michael Hudson.) 20% [...]

The Progressive Economics Forum: Mark Carney’s tenure and the state of monetary policy

Mark Carney’s tenure as Governor of the Bank of Canada overlaps some challenging economy history. Appointed in early 2008 just as the US housing bubble was popping, Carney took the helm in time for a financial crisis that brought the global economy to its knees. We are still living that history in terms of a [...] . . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: Mark Carney’s tenure and the state of monetary policy

The Progressive Economics Forum: Prices Decline Yet Again

Statistics Canada reported today that, for a third consecutive month, consumer prices declined and the inflation rate fell below 2%. In July, the inflation rate was 1.3% and the Bank of Canada’s core rate was 1.7%.

Gasoline and natural gas prices, which have been lower this summer than last, dragged down the overall Consumer Price Index. However, there is little indication of inflationary pressure anywhere.

Even those categories with the largest price increases were in line with the Bank of Canada’s 2% target. Food prices and household expenses rose 2.1% over the past year. The inflation rate

. . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: Prices Decline Yet Again

The Progressive Economics Forum: Saskatchewan’s Rising Cost of Living

Today’s Consumer Price Index provides further evidence of Saskatchewan’s rising cost of living. Among the provinces, Saskatchewan is tied for the second-highest annual inflation rate: 2.0%.

Consumer prices decreased in June from May in nine provinces (all except Alberta). But Saskatchewan was tied for the smallest monthly price decline: -0.3%.

Compared to the rest of Canada, Saskatchewan residents experienced nearly the largest increase in the cost of living over the past year and received a relatively small break last month.

The provincial government’s proposed labour law changes threaten to weaken the ability of workers to collectively bargain

The Progressive Economics Forum: CPI Deflates Case for Rate Hike

Today’s report that the national inflation rate fell to 1.2% in May deflates calls for higher interest rates to reduce inflation. The central bank’s core rate was 1.8%, also below the 2% target.

The other argument for an interest-rate hike was to moderate mortgage lending and the housing market. However, the federal government’s move to reign in mortgage lending through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation removes the pressure for the Bank of Canada to do so through monetary policy.

An important reason to keep interest rates low is to avoid upward pressure on the Canadian dollar, which

The Progressive Economics Forum: Inflation On Target; Exchange Rate Off Target

Today, Statistics Canada reported an annual inflation rate of 2%, precisely in line with the Bank of Canada’s target. With inflation under control and renewed risks to the global economy, there is little rationale for the central bank to raise interest rates anytime soon.

In fact, the Bank of Canada should now be more concerned about the exchange rate than the inflation rate. Recent debate about Dutch disease highlights the Canadian dollar’s overvaluation.

While the loonie trades for about 98 U.S. cents on financial markets, the OECD calculates that its real purchasing power is equivalent to only 76 U.

. . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: Inflation On Target; Exchange Rate Off Target

The Progressive Economics Forum: Quebec Tuition: Between a Rock and Hard Place?

In the context of student protests over Quebec tuition fees, my friend Luan Ngo has just written a very informative blog post on Quebec’s fiscal situation.

While I encourage readers to read his full post, I do want to use the present space to make mention of three important points he makes:

-On a per capita basis, Quebec spends more on government programs than most other Canadian provinces.

-Residents of Quebec pay more personal incomes taxes than any other province.

-Quebec’s debt-to-GDP ratio is significantly higher than that any other Canadian province.

He argues that, in light of the

. . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: Quebec Tuition: Between a Rock and Hard Place?

The Progressive Economics Forum: Deflating the Monetary Hawks

Canada’s business press has recently been filled with speculation that the Bank of Canada may soon hike interest rates based on its somewhat more optimistic economic outlook. But today’s Consumer Price Index report indicates that there is no need to raise interest rates. Statistics Canada reported that both headline and core inflation fell to 1.9% in March, slightly below the central bank’s 2% target.

Higher interest rates are not warranted to combat already low inflation, but could derail Canada’s fragile economic recovery by increasing borrowing costs and driving up the overvalued loonie. The latest OECD data on purchasing power

. . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: Deflating the Monetary Hawks

The Progressive Economics Forum: Inflation Central

Statistics Canada reported today that consumer prices edged up by 0.1% in February on a seasonally-adjusted basis, bringing the annual inflation rate to 2.6% and the core inflation rate to 2.3%. These rates are within the Bank of Canada’s target range and should allow it to keep interest rates low, which would be appropriate given Canada’s stalled labour market.

The Labour Force Survey indicates that the average hourly wage rose at an annual rate of 2.0% to February. Working Canadians are not keeping up with the cost of living.

While the national totals changed little in

. . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: Inflation Central

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Susan Riley brilliantly slams the message that austerity is necessary for everybody but those who already have the most: Is anyone else getting tired of being lectured about austerity by wealthy consultants in expensive suits who charge $1,500 a day for their advice and have comfortable government pensions, besides?

And do we really need another warning about saving for old age – instead of frittering away money on escalating tuition for our children; or scrambling to compensate for unexpected job loss, or medical expenses – from disapproving cabinet ministers with fat salaries and

. . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

The Progressive Economics Forum: Inflation and Drummond

Statistics Canada reported today that consumer prices jumped in January (by 0.4% or 0.5% seasonally-adjusted), offsetting the drop in December. As a result, the annual inflation rate is now 2.5% and the Bank of Canada’s core inflation rate is 2.1%.

Monetary Policy

Both measures are well within the central bank’s target range, which should allow it to keep interest rates low and perhaps reduce them further if unemployment continues to rise. Since the last inflation report, the US Federal Reserve has pledged to keep its target rate near zero through 2014, providing a further argument for

. . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: Inflation and Drummond

The Progressive Economics Forum: Recalculating inflation: billions in savings for governments and employers paid for by workers and pensioners

The top story in the Globe and Mail today reports on something I warned about a year ago: Statistics Canada is making changes to the way it calculates the Consumer Price Index.

At that time I suspected changes to calculations of the CPI would be introduced as part of the renewal of the inflation target with the Bank of Canada, and they were clearly planning it at the time, but wanted to keep it under wraps.

While these changes may seem like obscure “refinements”, they could eventually lead to billions of dollars in lower payments from the federal and

. . . → Read More: The Progressive Economics Forum: Recalculating inflation: billions in savings for governments and employers paid for by workers and pensioners