Watch Live: A New New Deal and the Job Guarantee

Michael Stephens | October 27, 2017

Today at the New School, L. Randall Wray and Stephanie Kelton take part in a public workshop organized by the National Jobs for All Coalition that is focused on developing a “A New ‘New Deal’ for NYC and the USA.”

Wray and Kelton will be sharing initial findings from an upcoming Levy Institute project that proposes a universal job guarantee for the United States. The program would create nearly 20 million jobs that pay $15 per hour plus benefits, raising national output by over $500 billion annually, stimulating the private sector to create more than 3 million additional jobs. Using standard simulation models, the study finds that impacts on inflation would be negligible, while state and local government budgets would improve by $60 billion annually and as many as 14 million children would be pulled out of poverty.

The entire event begins at 5pm today. You can follow it live here:

The schedule for the two-day event can be found here.

Comments


Applications Open for the Levy Institute M.S. and New One-Year M.A.

Michael Stephens | October 17, 2017

The Levy Institute is accepting applications to the M.S. and M.A. in Economic Theory and Policy for Fall 2018.

The new, one-year M.A.* joins the two-year M.S. in offering students an alternative to mainstream programs in economics and finance. Our graduate curriculum is rooted in the Institute’s distinctive research program, including macroeconomic theory and policy analysis, the development and exploration of alternative measures of economic well-being and poverty, and continuing efforts to extend the work of Distinguished Scholars Hyman Minsky and Wynne Godley.

Students can specialize in one of the Institute’s five research areas:

  • Macroeconomic Theory, Policy, and Modeling
  • Employment and Labor Markets
  • Monetary Policy and Financial Structure
  • Distribution of Income, Wealth, and Well-Being
  • Gender Equality and the Economy

You can find out more about these programs at the new graduate website:

The application deadline for early decision is November 15th; regular decision is January 15th.

Interested students can join upcoming online information sessions run by program faculty:

October 19th, 7:00pm (EST) with Jan Kregel, Director of the Institute’s Master’s Program (sign up here)

November 3rd, 9:00am (EST) with Ajit Zacharias, Director of the Institute’s Distribution of Income and Wealth Program (sign up here)

A previous session with Director of Applied Micromodeling Thomas Masterson can be viewed here at the Levy Institute Graduate Programs Facebook page.

And don’t miss the work that Levy M.S. students and recent graduates have done at The Minskys.

* The M.A. is currently open only to US citizens and permanent residents — the M.S. accepts international students.

Comments


IMF Provides Cover for Europe’s Dysfunctional Currency Union

Jörg Bibow | September 20, 2017

The Council on Foreign Relations’ Brad W. Setser has produced a couple of interesting blogposts on Germany’s fiscal policies of late. The first one, titled “Germany Cannot Quit Fiscal Consolidation,” was published at the end of August. On September 18th, the second one appeared, titled “The Global Cost of the Eurozone’s 2012 Fiscal Coordination Failure.”

The latter is more limited in scope and draws heavily on a recent report by the Banque de France. Setser elaborates on the rather obvious point that the eurozone’s attempt at fiscal austerity in the years 2011–13, when the currency union experienced the second leg of its double-dip recession, was counterproductively harsh:

The consolidation observed between 2011 and 2013, based on the overall change in the primary structural balance of general government, is now estimated by the European Commission at almost 2.9% of potential GDP…the fiscal effort was 1.5 percentage points of GDP in 2012. (Banque de France 2017)

Corroborating the Banque de France’s analysis, Setser points out correctly that there was no sound economic case for Germany to embark on austerity just at the time when it also demanded this form of self-sacrifice, in the name of the “credibility” of the euro regime, from its euro partners. If anything, Germany should have continued with at least mildly expansionary fiscal policy to keep the eurozone’s recovery on track and enable its internal rebalancing. Setser chides the Banque de France for not mentioning that France, too, could have somewhat lessened and delayed its own fiscal tightening to support the regional growth momentum at a critical time.

It is certainly very interesting that the Banque the France today finds the courage to present an argument that implies a severe critique of Germany’s fiscal folly. Perhaps it felt inspired by the fresh spirit of the republic’s new president. Perhaps open debate will also help official Europe to finally catch up with the realities of truly enormous collateral damages caused by its flawed policy doctrines of “growth-friendly” austerity and structural reform. As it stands, the eurozone is at high risk to repeat past mistakes as soon as its current stream of good luck runs out.

The more recent blogpost also echoes Setser’s main concern analyzed in the earlier blogpost of late August: global rebalancing. continue reading…

Comments


Event: Strategizing a New New Deal

Michael Stephens | September 8, 2017

If you’re in the vicinity of New York City at the end of October, Levy scholars Randall Wray and Stephanie Kelton are taking part in a public meeting organized by the National Jobs for All Coalition. The meeting is part of a series of public events focused on the legacy of New Deal.

Wray and Kelton will be participating in a panel on the job guarantee — “Political and Economic Prospects for Achieving a Federal and a New York City Job Guarantee” — alongside Philip Harvey and Darrick Hamilton (who was recently recognized by Politico for his work on the job guarantee).

The event is hosted at the New School (Oct. 27) and Columbia Law School (Oct. 28). You can download the flyer and program here. For registration and other details, see here.

Comments


The “German Problem” Is Not a Problem for Anyone to Worry About. Or Is It?

Jörg Bibow | July 19, 2017

It took a very long time. Too long. But just in time for the recent G20 meeting in Hamburg on July 7-8, The Economist’s cover page story featured Germany’s persistent current account surpluses as the world community’ new “German problem”; supposedly an issue of foremost interest to the G20. In fact, Germany has run up current account surpluses exceeding 4 percent of GDP in each and every year since 2004. For the last couple of years Germany’s surpluses even exceeded 8 percent of GDP. Running at over 250 billion euros annually, Germany is the world champion in what is often portrayed as a global competition by the German media and body politic, and not without pride. At close to 300 billion US dollars last year, China’s surplus of 200 billion dollars only came in as a distant second.

Just as with Germany’s, China’s external surpluses had started to skyrocket at the time of the global boom of the 2000s. It reached a peak at over 400 billion in 2008, amounting to close to 10 percent of China’s GDP at the time. Since then China’s current account surplus has roughly halved and amounts to less than 2 percent of China’s GDP today.

At least in that regard, China is a good global citizen. Reducing and containing “global (current account) imbalances” has indeed been one of the agreed upon objectives of the G20 from the time the group of leading countries took fresh prominence in the context of the global crisis. At the 2009 Pittsburgh summit, the G20 leaders conceived the group’s “Framework for Strong, Sustainable, and Balanced Growth.” While other countries have generally significantly reduced their current account deficits or surpluses, respectively, since the crisis, Germany is the conspicuous outlier as the country’s current account surplus has leaped into its unchallenged lead position of today.

The Economist was rather late in pointing this out so prominently on its cover page just prior to the G20 Hamburg summit. Perhaps it is too hard today to miss the writing on the wall that is a signature piece in Donald Trump’s “America first” strategy to global issues. The US president may get some of the details wrong about Germany’s trade and may also be wrong in bringing a sharp bilateral angle to the matter. But, globally, the situation is simply undeniable: Germany is the world champion of large and persistent current account surpluses. The country is in continuous breach of the “rules of the game” without showing any signs of discomfort about an “achievement” that much of the country even takes pride in. continue reading…

Comments


Why Macron Should Not (and Cannot) Follow the German Model

Jörg Bibow | June 2, 2017

The Economist‘s analysis of Germany’s job market miracle of the past ten years offered in “What the German economic model can teach Emmanuel Macron” is more balanced than the usual accounts one hears in Germany itself. Germans are in love with the idea that structural reform of their labor market and persistent budgetary austerity were solely responsible for the German economy’s superior performance in recent years. The Economist highlights that Germany was fortunate enough to embark on its route for national salvation – the decisive lowering of its labor costs relative to its European partners – at a time when the world economy and global trade were booming, when China was craving German capital goods, and German companies were restoring their special relationship with a region reemerging from behind the iron curtain. No doubt France and its struggling euro partners are facing a far less benign regional and global environment today.

The Economist would have done well to remind us that despite enjoying a more favorable economic context, Germany became known at the time as “the sick man of Europe/the euro.” Between 1996 and 2006, Germany managed to almost persistently suffocate domestic demand to such an extent that the economy was growing, if barely, on exports alone: the background to Germany’s 8.5 percent-of-GDP current account surplus today. As for France, the bar is much higher today, not only because of stagnant export markets, but also for the fact that France is a far more closed economy than Germany. In other words, there is more to suffocate in terms of domestic demand, but less to gain in terms of exports. In short, the chances of France getting seriously sick by mimicking Germany are very high indeed.

Also, if Europe’s second-largest economy were to embark on the deflationary path earlier trodden by Germany, bear in mind here that the European Central Bank is already in a quagmire. After overcoming many obstacles, legal and intellectual, the bank is applying its full weaponry today in trying to move Eurozone inflation back closer to its 2 percent price stability norm – while facing the prospect of soon running out of ammunition in terms of the fast-shrinking German public debt available for purchase on the market.

And this directs the attention to the true challenge that France and Europe are facing today: German public debt is shrinking fast because Germany runs a sizeable budget surplus. Quite obviously – as the vast imbalance between private saving and investment reveals, which is closely related to the surge in inequality in Germany –this is only made possible by the fact that Germany runs a massive external surplus: the counterparts to which are current account deficits and rising debts of other countries. The upshot of all this is that France and Europe have a zero chance to rebalance for as long as Europe’s largest economy refuses to rebalance too; which means that Germany’s evangelized, but greatly distorted, narrative of its own success will need some fine-tuning too.

For the sake of Europe, let us hope that Angela Merkel’s newfound wisdom that “we Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands” means that Germany is finally getting ready for a decisive course change to its own economic affairs. Failure to do so, leaving France out in the cold under Emmanuel Macron, would bring Marine Le Pen back into the limelight much sooner than in five years’ time.

Comments


On the Concert of Interests and Unlearning the Lessons of the 1930s

Michael Stephens | April 20, 2017

Jan Kregel opened this year’s Minsky Conference (which just wrapped up yesterday) with a reminder that the broader public challenges we face today are still in many ways an echo of those that faced the nation in 1930s. What follows is an abridged version of those remarks:

This year’s conference takes place in an increasingly charged and divisive economic and political atmosphere. Sharp differences in approach are present within the new administration, within the majority party, and even within the opposition. It is a rather different environment than the one envisaged when planning for the Conference started last September. I had originally proposed as a title “The New Administration meets the New Normal: Economic Policy for Secular Stagnation.” It was an obvious attempt to hedge our bets on the outcome of the election. After the election the first adjustment to the title was “Can the New Mercantilism Displace the New Normal: Economic Policy under the New Administration.” As you can see the final title eventually adopted the elocution proposed at the presidential Inauguration.

My intention was not to elicit recollection of the “America First” committee’s support of isolation from the emerging European conflict in the 1930s. It was rather to recall that the phrase was first used, to my knowledge, by Franklin Roosevelt during his first election campaign.

Herbert Hoover had resolutely refrained from direct government support for the growing masses of the unemployed (although support was more than most give him credit for) for fear of interfering with the operation of the market mechanism in producing recovery from what was presumed to be a temporary cyclical downturn: “Recovery was just around the corner.” When this did not occur as expected the blame was laid on foreign financial and political events eroding confidence.

For Roosevelt, Hoover’s policy implied that “farmers and workers must wait for general recovery until some miracle occurs by which the factory wheels revolve again” but “No one knows the formula for this miracle.” Instead he argued in favor of direct measures to “restore prosperity here in this country by re-establishing the purchasing power of half the people of the country … In this respect, I am for America first.”

Instead of the miracle of a spontaneous market recovery, Roosevelt promised to take action to defend the condition of the “forgotten man” by offering him a “new deal” to protect from the ravages of bankers and industrialists. The simple substitution of “America Great” for “new deal” suggests an important similarity between the rhetoric and the target audience of the two campaigns.

It is instructive that in both cases the election was won with promises, creating a belief that appropriate actions would be forthcoming. We know from history how Roosevelt proceeded by experimentation, by trial and error, of what at the time were considered audacious, radical policies.

The question before us today is how the experimentation of the new administration may be directed to fulfill campaign promises. continue reading…

Comments


India’s Unexplored “Bill of Rights”: A Tool for Gender-Sensitive Public Policy

Lekha Chakraborty | March 3, 2017

The Justice Verma Committee submitted its report on January 23, 2013. In addition to recommendations for reforming laws related to sexual violence, harassment, and trafficking, it provided a comprehensive framework for gender justice through a proposed “Bill of Rights.” The Verma Committee’s recommendations are still waiting to be transformed into public policy.

We must not forget that this document represents an intense 30 days of work in response to a brutal gang rape of a young student in the heart of the nation’s capital in a public transport vehicle in the late evening of December 16, 2012. She was returning home with her friend after watching “Life of Pi.”

The power of this report is the acknowledgment (in the very first line of the report) that this brutal event represents a “failure of governance to provide a safe and dignified environment for the women of India, who are constantly exposed to sexual violence.” The acknowledgement is a clarion call for government policies to ensure dignity, safe mobility, and security for women.

“Bill of Rights”

The Bill of Rights is a proposed charter that would set out the rights guaranteed to women under the Constitution of India, against the backdrop of India’s commitment to international conventions. These rights are articulated as the right to life, security, and bodily integrity; democratic and civil rights; the right to equality and non-discrimination; the right to secured spaces; the right to special protections (for the elderly and disabled); and the right to special protection for women in distress.

The beauty of this Bill of Rights is that, unlike public policy approaches in which women facing differing challenges and circumstances are all treated the same, a careful analysis of heterogeneity is captured in these five dimensions (in this context, it is noteworthy that the Committee’s work is informed by Amartya Sen’s “capabilities approach”). Conceptually, the Bill of Rights lays out an analytical framework for gender budgeting to be conducted in the realm of “internal security.” When translating the Bill of Rights into policy, we need to examine existing budgets through a “gender lens” and rectify the deprivations thereby revealed.

Gender Issues in Public Policy

After every Union Budget, questions arise as to “what’s in it for women?”, but these debates have been largely been confined to just the rise and fall in allocations. The “rule of law” is a public good. The purpose of this post is to highlight this significant policy document—lying largely unexplored and with its recommendations mostly untouched—on women’s rights in India. Though the Verma Committee report was constituted to recommend “amendments to the Criminal Law so as to provide for quicker trial and enhanced punishment for criminals accused of committing sexual assault against women,” it is written in a broader context than just analyzing the legal codes.

The mere existence of the best-designed democratic institutions does not guarantee success: as noted by the Verma Committee report, even perfect laws would remain ineffective without the “individual virtuosity” of the human agency necessary for implementing the laws. Similarly, although gender budgeting—a silent revolution that integrates gender consciousness into fiscal policy frameworks—has been applied in the case of a few public expenditure budgets, it has remained sporadic and ineffective, in part due to insufficient capacity-building among the bureaucracy and a lack of accountability mechanisms.

Will the Fifteenth Finance Commission Integrate Gender?

In a co-operative federalism, it is high time that the Finance Commission “own” and integrate the gender concerns articulated in the Verma Committee’s proposed “Bill of Rights”—either in formula-based unconditional grants with a gender indicator/index as one of the criteria (just as a “climate change” variable appeared in the formula of the Fourteenth Finance Commission in sharing the divisible tax pool with the States), or as specific-purpose grants to the States to engage in meaningful gender-budgeting fiscal policy practices at the subnational level. This idea has been analyzed in my papers published by the IMF (2016) and the Levy Economics Institute (2016; 2014; 2010).

The Bill of Rights framed in the Justice Verma Committee Report can form the foundation for gender budgeting in a “law and order” context. Gender budgeting in criminal justice is a public good and needs effective planning and financing strategies, but it has so far been limited to the creation of the “Nirbhaya Fund” (designed to fund new schemes for the safety and security for women, with an initial allocation of Rs. 1,000 crores), which has been unused since 2013.

Comments


“America First” and Financial Stability: 26th Minsky Conference

Michael Stephens | February 16, 2017

REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN:

April 18–19, 2017

Levy Economics Institute of Bard College
Blithewood
Annandale-on-Hudson, New York 12504

The 2017 Minsky Conference will address the implications of the new administration’s “America First” policies, focusing on the outlook for trade, taxation, fiscal, and financial regulation measures to generate domestic investments capable of moving the growth rate beyond the “new normal” established in the aftermath of the Great Recession, without jeopardizing financial stability. It will also seek to assess the impact of different financing schemes on both infrastructure investment and the return of central bank monetary policies to more neutral interest rates. Since these new policy proposals will have a global impact, the conference will focus on their implication for the performance of European and Latin American economies.

Register here.

The preliminary program and list of participants is below the fold: continue reading…

Comments


L. Randall Wray on MMT and Positive Money

Michael Stephens |

Comments