A world in economic crisis

Will the UK turnaround faster than elsewhere?

Posted in Australia, Australian Reserve Bank, Cap and Tax, Gough Whitlam, stagflation by Aussie on August 20, 2011

The BBC reports that there has been a very big drop in Government borrowings in the present year. The financial position is being helped by two things: (1) the levy on bank balance sheets and (2) a significant drop in public sector borrowings.

It is my contention (and yes it is just theory not necessarily fact), that when the Public Sector have the lion’s share of the investment dollar, that the private sector suffers. This is because the Investment pie is limited,  which means any increase in Public Sector borrowings reduces the amount of investment dollars available for the private sector. When the private sector is not able to borrow money to expand this leads to a contraction of the economy as the private sector will not be able to employ more people, or it has to let staff go in order to meet other debt requirements.

In other words, what I am contending is that Government Stimulus action does not work because it takes investment money out of the private sector, which means that the economy is disrputed. What I am arguing here is that the “stimulus” money does not come from tax receipts but from further public sector borrowing. In other words, Government action does not impact in a favourable way within the economy and it actually makes matters worse, not better.

My theory is not based upon the current experience, but upon the experience of the late 1960s, early to mid 1970s when there was global stagflation. Most economists address the stagflation by referring to the oil price shocks, however, I see this as a miniscule reason for the stagflation. There were two price shocks, one around or prior to 1972 and other during the Iran Revolution. In recent years we have experienced more oil shocks for a variety of reasons, but Saudi Arabia has actually pumped out more oil to keep the market smooth. The price of oil is really not as important as some believe, because we do not have any real control over the prices that the cartel (an oligopoly) agree to charge for their output.

One thing that was common in that period, in Australia, the USA and in the UK was that each country had a government that was into prolifigate spending. In the USA it started under LBJ, and Nixon had to try and rein in the spending, followed by Carter, another profligate spendder. In Australia it started at the end of the 1960s when McMahon was Prime Minister, followed by the prolifigate spending of the Whitlam era. In the UK it was the Wilson years of profligate spending. It is my view that the stagflation arose because of the difficulty of providing investment dollars to the private sector because the money available for investment was being swallowed up by the public sector.

During that same period, especially here in Australia, we had rising inflation, strikes and demands for higher wages which were granted because the ALP were in charge, followed by a further rise in inflation. Even though this looks simplistic, by 1974 the stagflation was actually quite evident, and these factors explain why it was a wage-price inflation which was fuelling the problems within the economy. By the end of 1975, and beginning of 1976, here in Australia most jobs had dried up, especially with regard to the requirement for newcomers in the field of accountancy (there were no jobs available for the majority of graduates). This was the point where we had the beginning of the Fraser government which also led to a wages freeze being implemented. (Nixon also imposed a wages freeze).

The turnaround in Australia occurred only when public sector borrowings began to drop and the budget was balanced or was turned into a surplus. Here in Australia this was a gradual process because we went from the Fraser government to the Hawke-Keating government when public sector borrowing got out of hand once again. Note: under Keating as Treasurer there were extremely high interest rates which were very, very painful for mortgagees.  We got through those extremely high interest rates, which were greater than 17% before they began to fall again. Credit card borrowing interest rates were above 20%.  Under the Howard government the Federal Budget went from deficit to surplus, but that has been frittered away by the KRUDD-Dullard governments.

So long as the rise in wages is kept under control, that is, it is related to a shortage of skills and not from some annual or bi-annual increases, then inflation itself is more or less kept under control. The way in which the Reserve Bank has been handling any inflation has been to increase interest rates, but in the present conditions the policy of the Reserve Bank which is to operate through interest rates alone can be quite harmful. The uncertainty that exists today has led to consumers holding off their major and minor purchases as long as possible.

We are yet to see the impact of the proposed carbon-dioxide tax. I have no doubt that the imposition of such a tax will have devastating consequences upon the economy. It will not bring about prosperity. It will cause massive increases in some commodities (which the government model has not predicted), and this is because a number of unknown factors have not been included in any modelling. Take for example the cost of refrigerant for supermarkets. This is something that will be taxed. Can you see how the price of frozen items will rise? Can you see how that will impact upon the cost of meat and dairy products?

As we continue to head towards stagflation, the last thing we need is this particular tax which will cause a massive downturn in the economy. (again this is theory, but so is any model that claims an opposite scenario).

Public sector borrowing eats into the investment dollars, which in turn leads to a decrease in private sector borrowing and expansion within the private sector. The end result of this cycle is that business is not in a postion to continue to hire. At the same time taxes on employment also hold back businesses from permanent hiring. Most businesses have to keep below a certain staff level in order to avoid the higher taxation costs. A reduction or the dropping of such taxes would increase the levels of employment.

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2 Responses

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  1. integrity1st said, on August 20, 2011 at 11:31 am

    hi aussie. I wonder if I am still a subscriber since I feel like I haven’t seen any posts from you in a while. can you check, or does the fact I got this mean I’m still subscribed?

  2. Aussie said, on August 20, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    You have not seen posts because I have not written many 🙂


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