Cuts could increase the deficit

6th December, 2009

The Observer asked a small group of people to comment in advance of next Wednesday’s Pre-Budget Report. This from yours truly:

“Public debt will rise higher if government slashes spending, and recovery will elude us. Unemployment has high costs, but productive government spending, unlike private spending, pays for itself by creating jobs that generate tax revenues and cut welfare benefits.

Will the bond markets revolt and raise interest rates? No, because the markets apply common sense, as they did when Britain exited the exchange rate mechanism. Despite a rise in government debt from 40% to about 70% of GDP, and the extension of the Bank of England’s balance sheet by £200bn, bond markets have been positive – only too grateful for a safe haven in turbulent times. Confidence in sterling will only return when the economy recovers, and only then. Without public investment compensating for the collapse in private investment, there is little hope of recovery or confidence.”

Faux optimism & flawed economics

December 1st, 2009

There was much huffing and puffing by the cheerleaders for premature economic recovery when the Office for National Statistics revealed that the UK was still in recession last week. These same ‘pied pipers’ tried to discredit the ONS’s previous factual announcements. Now the CBI has reported an ‘unexpected’ dip in sales in the service sector and then there was a ‘surprise’ dip in manufacturing during November.

No surprise to those of us living in the real world – with no vested interest in talking up stocks and shares.

And no surprise to those of us watching thousands of jobs disappear as companies as varied as Borders, First Quench (Threshers and other drinks outlets) and General Motors in Luton – cut back, or close down.

And no surprise to the millions of workers whose compensation has fallen for five straight quarters on an annual basis.  I am grateful to Graham Turner of GFC Economics for the chart below – and strongly recommend his latest book ‘No Way to Run an Economy’

Ignore the scaremongers..Watch out for the truly scary.

I have been travelling again, this time to visit my frail and elderly mother in South Africa. I was there for President Zuma’s first ‘State of the Union’ Address, and will write more about the country of my birth in the next post. In the meantime wanted to add this piece – on economic optimism in the US – written last week for the Huff Post, with apologies for the delay in adding it to the site.

9th June 2009.

“As a banker noted recently, there is no constituency for pessimism. Americans, he suggested, believe in optimism as a human right. This bright buoyancy is one of this nation’s greatest strengths, lapped up by jaded Europeans.

But it was optimism that also enabled Americans to max out on credit cards and other forms of borrowing — in the mistaken belief that debts are always payable — sometime in the future.

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