Archive for May, 2018

Banks, Capital Markets, and Institutional Investors as Providers of Long-Term Finance

Felipe Rezende | May 29, 2018

This is the second in a series of blog posts on financing infrastructure assets.

From 1990 to 2012, the stock of global financial assets increased from $56 trillion to $225 trillion. In 2012, it included a $50 trillion stock market, $47 trillion public debt securities market, $42 trillion in financial institution bonds outstanding, $11 trillion in non-financial corporate bonds, and $62 trillion in non-securitized loans and $13 trillion in securitized loans outstanding (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Stock of Global Financial Assets (USD trillion)

Source: Lund et al. 2013, p. 2

From 2007 to 2012, government debt securities increased by 47 percent (Figure 1) while financial depth rose to 355 percent of global GDP in 2007 from 120 percent in 1980 (Lund et al. 2013: 2). In spite of a massive increase in the stock of global financial assets—equivalent to 302 percent between 1990 and 2012—“[m]ost of the increase in financial depth prior to the crisis was due to financial system leverage and equity valuations” (Lund et al. 2013: 2). Yet the world needs more and better infrastructure, and redirecting finance towards sustainable infrastructure will require a major shift in policy coordination with various stakeholders. For instance, Standard & Poor’s estimated that “institutional investors could provide as much as $200 billion per year—or $3.2 trillion by ­­­2030—for infrastructure financing” (Standard & Poor’s 2014: 2). But “if the right levers are pulled, there is potential to increase investment from private institutional investors by ~$1.2 trillion per year” (Bielenberg et al. 2016: 28). Thus, the problem is not necessarily one of funding but how to direct the finance created by the financial system towards productivity-enhancing investments. continue reading…

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The Job Guarantee and the Economics of Fear: A Response to Robert Samuelson

Pavlina Tcherneva | May 25, 2018

The Job Guarantee is finally getting the public debate it deserves and criticism is expected. Building on several decades of research, the Levy Institute’s latest proposal analyzes the program’s economic impact and advances a blueprint for its implementation. Critics have taken note and are (thus far) restating the usual concerns, but with a notably alarmist tone.

The latest, courtesy of the Washington Post’Robert Samuelson, warns that the Job Guarantee would be 1) an expensive big-government takeover, 2) unproductive and impossible to manage, 3) dangerously disruptive to the private sector, and 4) inflationary.

Samuelson wants us to be afraid—very afraid—of big government. But he forgets that we already have big government—one that devotes hundreds of billions of dollars, time, resources, and administrative effort to deal with all the economic and social costs of unemployment, underemployment, and poverty.

Unemployment is already paid for. In this context, the program does not increase the government’s costs—it reduces them—while also cutting costs to households and firms and creating real actual benefits by supporting families, communities, and the economy. As David Dayen points out, whether we can afford the Job Guarantee is not up for debate.

Will the Job Guarantee create impossible-to-manage make-work projects? This is a fear that James Galbraith—a self-proclaimed former skeptic of the Job Guarantee—calls “an admission of impotence and a call for preemptive surrender.” Kate Aronoff recalls that New Deal projects were often derided as boondoggles. Still, they rebuilt communities, the economy, and people’s lives, while leaving a lasting legacy.

The Job Guarantee is subjected to a unique double standard for managerial efficiency. We never hear objections to going to war, “nation building,” or bailing out the financial sector on the grounds that these efforts would be an “administrative nightmare.” And yet our proposal to put our underutilized labor force to productive use, by using much of the existing institutional infrastructure in the nonprofit and state and local government sectors is dismissed as an impossibly difficult task.

The claim that the Job Guarantee is unproductive misses another basic point: unemployment is inherently unproductive. What is the productivity of an unemployed person and her family struggling to make ends meet, compared to her productivity when she is employed in a public service job with decent pay? continue reading…

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On the Costs of Doing Without a Job Guarantee

Michael Stephens | May 1, 2018

Pavlina Tcherneva — who, along with L. Randall Wray, Flavia Dantas, Scott Fullwiler, and Stephanie Kelton, authored this report estimating the economic impact of a job guarantee proposal (the Public Service Employment program) — was interviewed by Bloomberg’s Joe Weisenthal and Julia Chatterley about the purposes and costs of the plan.

This recently released policy note by L. Randall Wray also takes on some of the criticisms raised by the interviewers, in addition to seeking a consensus among the job guarantee proposals emanating from progressive think-tanks.

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