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Wee gripe: “lagging indicator”

Written By: - Date published: 1:48 pm, July 18th, 2009 - 51 comments
Categories: economy - Tags:

John Key, sunny grin in place, says the recession’s all but over. Admits that unemployment will continue to climb (barring a miricle like, say, his government getting off its arse) until mid-2010. But he’s ‘relaxed’ about that. Says unemployment is just a “lagging indicator”.

Easy to say when you’re on $393,000 a year and have a few mil under the mattress. Dude just doesn’t get that he’s talking about real families sinking (deeper) into poverty, with all the consequences (crime, poor education, poor health, suicide) that go with that.

51 comments on “Wee gripe: “lagging indicator” ”

  1. Tim Ellis 1

    Slow news day eh zetetic? What next, your cheese scone recipes?

    • IrishBill 1.1

      Fuck off and write your own blog then.

      • Doug 1.1.1

        Touchy “Irish Bill” Very Touchy.

      • Tim Ellis 1.1.2

        Come on, IB. The telling part is “Easy to say when you’re on $393,000 a year and have a few mil under the mattress.”

        This post is just another attempt to take a swipe at John Key with little substance.

        • ak

          That’s right Timmy – there’s no substance to mass unemployment. Those of us who worked in the social services during the nineties reckon it was a cakewalk. Tears from adults are such a trifling lark eh Tim? And what do all those studies and stats prove – pffffft just more numbers, 1200 a week, schmelvehundred a week.

          Tell you what though Tim, not all of us have your wonderful way with words: and seeing as how you’re so proud of not being an “anonymous” blogger ‘n all, and seeing as how most of our clients don’t have computers ‘n stuff (losers seem to spend it all on food and suchlike!) and won’t ever see your insightful and compassionate comments, would you mind posting your address on this blog so that we can send people round to your place for advice? Thanks in anticipation Tim.

          • Tim Ellis

            Okay, ak. I will bite.

            What are you doing to create employment or save jobs, or look after those who have lost their jobs?

            • Draco T Bastard

              Trying to show people that capitalism sux and that the economic theory that we’ve been using for the last 3 centuries is, in it’s most basic assumptions, wrong.

            • Tim Ellis

              So not a lot then, Draco.

            • Draco T Bastard

              Better than defending the present failure.

            • Zetetic

              Draco’s not the PM, Tim.

              PM’s got a responsiblity to the people of NZ to ensure the govt is enabling sustainable, high living standards. Best way to do that is high employment. Key doesn’t give a crap.

        • stormspiral

          ‘…just another attempt to take a swipe at John Key with little substance’.

          I don’t think ‘little substance’ would make a very good weapon, Tim. LOL

          But cheese scones might be nice. To cook and eat; not to throw around. I have a very good recipe.

    • MikeG 1.2

      Tim – what recipes have you got to get us out of recession. The NACT govt doesn’t even appear to be in the kitchen yet, it’s just leafing through the glossy recipe books unable to make a decision about the main course.

      • QoT 1.2.1

        Oh fuck, let’s not even go there. Roger Douglas’ “Recipe for Growing the Economic Cake” press release STILL gives me nightmares.

      • mike 1.2.2

        “The NACT govt doesn’t even appear to be in the kitchen yet”

        Still trying to fix the fucker after labour moved out. Pantry is bare and the oven is broke but once we get the gas back on look out…

  2. gingercrush 2

    I like the gripes. I don’t agree with any of them but they’re interesting and they’ve got a decent amount of comments.

  3. BLiP 3

    Yes, don’t you just love that Goober grin all over the face of the Prime Minister. Meanwhile, back in the real world, this week has seen:

    another iconic New Zealand company (Canterbury) bites the dust

    another finance company’s (Cleggs) directors face criminal charges

    another finance comany (Strategic) cannot repay its investors

    our foreign owned banks are found owe you and me over a billions dollars

    the economy gets an international credit rating downgrade

    over capacity in the dairy industry threatens deflation

    Japan’s economy moves into actual deflation for at least the next two years

    Australian owned Transpacific Industries gets out the begging bowl

    Australian export prices “fall off a cliff” – down more than 20 percent for the quarter

    Australia’s largest investment bank (Macquaries) starts falling to pieces

    the Bank of America reports a net 5.5 percent drop in income

    the US Citigroup costs for bad loans for the last quarter was $US12 billion

    another major US player (CIT Group) starts falling to pieces

    the largest US conglomerate (GE) reports a 47% drop in profits for the quarter

    American Express imposes an arbitrary pay cut on its 6,000 UK staff

    British Airways plunders 33 million pounds from its pension fund to stay alive

    Lloyds sacks another 1200 workers, the total for the year now 8.200 jobs gone

    and, confidence in the world economy drops for the first time in four months.

    I suppose in John Key’s mind these are all “lagging indicators” as well.

    • Pascal's bookie 3.1

      Yeah, he’s quite relaxed about that.

      • BLiP 3.1.1

        Any more relaxed and the prick would be dead – Mr Floppy in more than one way, for sure. He’s actually been looking more vacant-eyed since getting back from his Island Tour, I wonder if he’s developed a taste for the kava.

        • So Bored

          If Jonkey has seen BLiPs list he will be too busy running off to his brokers and taking short positions on foreign exchange and future put options on key companies. Any tips on the horses BLiP?

          • BLiP

            Hehehe – yeah mate, only trouble is the horse I like to follow like to follow other horses.

  4. Bill 4

    Interesting wee piece titled Stimulus Arithmetic talking of the US situation but perfectly applicable to NZ.

    The guts of the argument runs that it takes a 2% increase in GDP to reduce unemployment by 1% and that every $1 of additional spending will increase GDP by $1.50 while every $1 of tax cuts will only increase GDP by 90c or less.

    In other words it becomes quite simple to calculate the level of spending or the size of tax cuts required to boost GDP by amounts that will reduce unemployment.

    I don’t know the source of the underlying %ages, but find the argument worthwhile to the extent that it provides a concrete base for discussion beyond the ‘invest’ and ‘tax cut’ dichotomy.

    • jarbury 4.1

      I remember reading about the US stimulus package in a fair bit of detail when they were coming up with it. Quite interesting how the whole “return on money spent” could be calculated quite effectively. It was useful to compare the level of effectiveness of various ways to provide stimulus.

      From memory, the most effective means was through social security vouchers – which forced people to spend the funds they were given through the vouchers. The next most effective means were increases in benefit levels. After that came stuff like investing in infrastructure…. and so on. I think one of the least effective means was tax cuts – and particularly lump sum payments.

  5. stormspiral 5

    Source doesn’t matter. The linear figures could be right. Trouble is, linear arithmetic measures nothing but linear values, and no way is the world like that. The butterfly flutters its wings in Brazil, and the weather changes in NZ. Everything is connected to everything else.

    Paradox: Give more money to the rich to help the poor. Does that sound right? Does it make any sense at all?

    Well it could be sensible if we knew the rich would spend it on job creation. It’s a rehash of Muldoon’s mantra about the ‘trickle-down effect’ I know of no demonstrable success stories. The US bankers have already paid themselves $US18B (approximate figure) in personal bonuses out of the taxpayer funded $US700B bailout. .

    And why oh why would anybody want to repeat the mistakes of the past?

    Also, what makes you think those figures are ‘perfectly applicable to NZ’, or anywhere else? They are after all only a set of theoretical calculations. Linear has nothing to do with the real world.

    I think also that the same methodoligy could be applied to the opposite: give money to the poor so they can create more jobs. No? Yes. The poor would spend more money on things like food, which would create more demand and therefore more jobs, not to mention a little bit of justice along the way.

    If you ever have the energy, try looking at quantum maths and chaos theory, then try throwing in an imaginary number or two, or a strange attractor. I am serious. You do need a bit of calculus to do it, of course, but it’s much more interesting than linear arithmetic, and much more accurate at organic predictions.

    • Bill 5.1

      For clarity, I guess I should have said that the theory is applicable. If the basic premise is correct (and I’m not arguing it is…I simply found it to be an interesting take on matters) then I’d assume the same figures apply regardless of which country you are looking at.

      Of course the world is more complex than the theoretical tools we develop and deploy to help our understanding. But sometimes the theories ‘work’ even when they are based on demonstratively wrong ideas…eg you can calculate your geographical coordinates by employing calculations that stem from the idea that the world is stationary and the universe revolves around it.

      So the simple linear theory and the ‘rule of thumb’ figures may work insofar as they have been ‘close enough as will do’ when retrospectively held against a complex economic reality.

      But I wouldn’t know if that’s the case here. Perhaps others have come across the theory before and so can offer more substantive comment than me?

      • stormspiral 5.1.1

        “But I wouldn’t know if that’s the case here. Perhaps others have come across the theory before and so can offer more substantive comment than me?”

        Sorry. I did jump on you a bit, and you are right about linear models being useful. But they are no better than estimates. They can’t be because they cannot take into account the myriad variables, whereas the more advanced calcs can fine them down somewhat, but even they cannot come up with answers to the mathematical classic problems such as squaring the circle, or finding the square root of -1, though with powerful enough computers they can give it a fair go, with rather strange results.

        But my point about shifting the focus from rich to poor is a valid one, and (linear) mathematically feasible.

  6. John Key actually worked hard for those millions of dollars under his mattress.

    • stormspiral 6.1

      He certainly did. He was and is a professional gambler. Buying and selling currency Not exactly a job engendering occupation; nor production orientated.

      Way back when, we used to call men like him ‘wide boys’. He fits, including the plausible manner and fixed smile that somehow never seems to reach his eyes.

  7. tsmithfield 7

    Unemployment could be solved overnight.

    Do away with the minimum wage. Do away with the unemployment benefit. Let the market decide wages. Wages can go up and down depending on the firms ability to pay and their need to retain staff.

    I don’t expect people here to like this sort of solution one little bit. However, could anyone argue that it wouldn’t result in a very quick elimination of most unemployment?

    • RedLogix 7.1

      No that’s not ‘eliminating unemployment’, it’s called slavery.

      I understand perfectly that Tories still hanker for the good old days of servants, serfs an impoverished class of people you can abuse to your flinty heart’s content… but at least you could try to call things by their proper name.

      • stormspiral 7.1.1

        haha. And I thought he was providing a way to eliminate the people who are unemployed. Same thing, I suppose.

    • Quoth the Raven 7.2

      tsmithfield – I think Prof. Roderick Long, a free market advocate puts things best when he says:

      So in this case: when government passes laws giving group A unjust privileges over group B, and then passes another law giving B some protection against A, then repealing the second law without repealing the first amounts to increasing A’s unjust privilege over B. Of course a free society would have neither the first nor the second law, but repealing them in the wrong order can actually decrease rather than increase liberty.

      and then a quote from Carson:

      [S]ince the state’s intervention, directly or indirectly, has been in the interests of the plutocracy, it matters a great deal which functions of the state should be axed first. The first to go should be those forms of intervention in the market that subsidize economic centralization and the concentration of wealth, reduce the bargaining power of labor, and ensure monopoly returns to the owners of land and capital. The last to go should be those government functions that make the system of class exploitation marginally bearable for labor. In the words of Thomas Knapp of the Democratic Freedom Caucus, that means cutting welfare from the top down, and taxes from the bottom up.

      I don’t think you really have a full grasp of free market ideology. You have to be consistent and understand the consequences of reform. You’re blithely proposing market solutions without grasping the bigger picture of the plutocratic system.

    • Draco T Bastard 7.3

      It wouldn’t do anything for unemployment except possibly increase it.

      And, why are businesses allowed to pay less than cost price for something? Minimum wage is set far below the cost of supplying labour.

  8. AntonyB-Auckland 8

    I am in Act now actually support Libertarianz.

    I think this website is a service to NZ, increasing of our understanding and intelligence.

    The moral and caring, could look at Libertarianz.org.nz, apply a bit of thought and then understand this is the fairest and smart way to advance the country.

    I challenge anyone who cares and is working for the left to keep true to your values and then study free markets. I did not take me long and would not take you.

  9. Antony-Auckland 9

    I am in Act now actually support Libertarianz.

    I think this website is a service to NZ, increasing of our understanding and intelligence.

    The moral and caring, could look at Libertarianz.org.nz, apply a bit of thought and then understand this is the fairest and smart way to advance the country.

    I challenge anyone who cares and is working for the left to keep true to your values and then study free markets. I did not take me long and would not take you.

  10. tsmithfield 10

    It seems to me that for many of you your socialism only goes so far. As I understand it, socialism argues for equity for all. However, when it comes to employment/unemployment, for many socialists, the principles of equity don’t seem to hold up. Consider two scenarios:

    Scenario one:
    A business becomes unprofitable due to an economic downturn. Some staff are laid off to reduce wage costs.

    Result: Some people keep their current pay. Some people get far less on the dole.
    An unequitable situation.

    Scenario two:
    A business becomes profitable due to an economic downturn. Instead of cutting staff to decrease costs, the same costs are achieved by everyone sharing equally in a cut in salaries.

    Result: All people keep their jobs. All people share equally in the reduction of salaries. An equitable solution.

    I predict that those from a socialist type of background would immediately abandon their principles of equity for all when it comes to choosing between these two scenarios. I guess I will find out from the replies I get.

    • Bill 10.1

      In scenario 1, so what if the business is unprofitable? Gohere for another solution to the problem. An equitable one. Also encompasses foreclosures etc which you might find interesting. Otherwise go in about 20 paras for the employment/ production solutions.

      In scenario 2. Same solution as in above link.

    • Quoth the Raven 10.2

      tsmithfield – Socialism needn’t be equalitarian. There is a difference between equalitarian and egalitarian. Socialism is egalitarian. I’m sure many socialists are equalitarian, but historically and contemporarally there’s nothing to “socialism” that requires it to be equalitarian.

    • Draco T Bastard 10.3

      Are prices also going down in Scenario 2?

      Because if they aren’t then it’s likely that people are being asked to work for less than the cost of living.

      PS. Prices are still going up in this recession and wages are being cut.

  11. r0b 11

    Good heavens, an interesting comment from tsmithfield, mark the calendar someone!

    I think you’d find that a true Socialist would come up with:
    Scenario three:
    Workers collective takes over the business and fires the bosses to reduce wage costs.

    But even we wimpy Social Democrats aren’t limited by your two scenarios:
    Scenario four:
    Workers and bosses get together and jointly negotiate a solution (which might be some variant of 1 or 2 or it might be something else).

    What, you don’t like me inventing new scenarios? OK then. In an ideal world, if all bosses were angels then I think you’re right that Scenario 2 is more “Socialist”. However in the real world where some bosses are devils, Scenario 2 can become a tool to exploit workers and strip them of hard earned pay and conditions. Scenario 2 can’t be trusted unless the workers themselves are involved in the decision making.

    • Draco T Bastard 11.1

      Which would require that they see the books and have a say in how much the bosses and owners are paid.

  12. The Pepper Block Kid 12

    I assume in scenario two you left the ‘un’ off unprofitable, TS.

    The wage cut solution proposed is not equitable. It is the socialisation of the losses, but to be equitable it would require the socialisation of profits as well. Retool your scenario that way and you’ll probably enjoy some support.

    And I think your assumption that socialism equals equity is way off the mark. There is a wide variety of thought and ideas on the left (and on the right, of course). I’m pretty sure the nearest the world has come to an experiment in that kind of equity was in Kampuchea. Didn’t end too well, as I recall.

    Modern socialism is difficult to define, but most Labour/Social Democratic parties in the West advocate a mixed model; an acceptance of capitalism with a strong social balance.

    That model seems to be acceptable to the Nats, as well. At least, it is what Mr Floppy promised at election time. Whether Bill English is on board is another matter.

  13. tsmithfield 13

    Quite agree with the socialisation of profits. If wages can be cut during a recession, then they should also rise when things are going well.

  14. tsmithfield 14

    Further to my previous comments, my opening comment about doing away with the unemployment benefit etc was intended to be provactive to engender some discussion.

    The point I am trying to make is that the reason for unemployment is that the job market and wage structure is too inflexible.

    What I would favour is a floating minimum wage on a job category basis. This could rise and fall depending on economic conditions affecting each sector. This would allow employers scope to reduce wage costs when the general conditions become difficult.

    On the converse, when conditions are good, employees will be paid more. So things should even out over time.

    Of course, employers would not be bound to pay the minimum, and may choose to pay more to attract staff.

    This solution would be equitable and help preserve jobs.

    It should be possible to do this with information that currently available in both the public and private sector.

    • Bill 14.1

      Why not allow…nay, insist, that the rate of profit is to rise and fall according to market conditions and that it is the rate of profit rather than the income of workers that takes the first hit during hard times?

      Companies that are putting through redundancies are often not losing money, merely making money at a slower rate. In such scenarios, redundancy should not be allowed to be an option. Profit margin and shareholder return should suffer first and foremost; not workers and their families.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 14.2

      Why did the business become unprofitable?
      Was it because it could not provide the service properly or was badly managed in the first place?
      Or was it because no one could afford its services owing to wages being poor, the government contracting its spending (taking away the local multiplier effects)failing the invest in the local area and those on benefits losing the last of their discretionary spending?

      Blaming it all on wages seems rather simplistic. I fact low wages may well have been the economic problem in the first place.

      • stormspiral 14.2.1

        Right on, Zaph and Bill. At least equitable pain for equitable gain. There’s a lot of confusion about equality and equitability.

    • Quoth the Raven 14.3

      tsmithfield – You’re quite happy to reform labour regulations, but you don’t seem to understand that, like I tried to point out in my first comment, it won’t make the market work better for people unless free market principles are applied more widely. I don’t think we need minimum wage laws, but if we got rid of it now there would be terrible consequences for most workers. We don’t have a properly functioning labour market. The bargaining power of labour is weak becaue we have a state enforced system of unequal exchange. Removing minimum wage laws will not change that. The capitalists need unemployment to weaken the bargaining power of labour. More quotes because others are much better at arguing than me:

      “Although individualists envision a society based on private property, we oppose the economic relationships of capitalism, whose supporters misuse words like private enterprise and free markets to justify a system of monopoly ownership in land and the means of production which allows some to skim off part or even most of the wealth produced by the labour of others. Such a system exists only because it is protected by the armed power of government, which secures title to unjustly acquired and held land, monopolises the supply of credit and money, and criminalises attempts by workers to take full ownership of the means of production they use to create wealth. This state intervention in economic transactions makes it impossible for most workers to become truly independent of the predation of capitalists, banks, and landlords. Individualists argue that without the state to enforce the rules of the capitalist economy, workers would not allow themselves to be exploited by these thieves and capitalism would not be able to exist . . .

      and Tucker:

      “If the men who oppose wages — that is, the purchase and sale of labour — were capable of analysing their thought and feelings, they would see that what really excites their anger is not the fact that labour is bought and sold, but the fact that one class of men are dependent for their living upon the sale of their labour, while another class of men are relieved of the necessity of labour by being legally privileged to sell something that is not labour, and that, but for the privilege, would be enjoyed by all gratuitously. And to such a state of things I am as much opposed as any one. But the minute you remove privilege, the class that now enjoy it will be forced to sell their labour, and then, when there will be nothing but labour with which to buy labour, the distinction between wage-payers and wage-receivers will be wiped out, and every man will be a labourer exchanging with fellow-labourers. Not to abolish wages, but to make every man dependent upon wages and secure to every man his whole wages is the aim of Anarchistic Socialism. What Anarchistic Socialism aims to abolish is usury. It does not want to deprive labour of its reward; it wants to deprive capital of its reward. It does not hold that labour should not be sold; it holds that capital should not be hired at usury.”

    • Draco T Bastard 14.4

      The point I am trying to make is that the reason for unemployment is that the job market and wage structure is too inflexible.

      I always found economic history to be far more interesting than economic theory. This is because it showed the effects of that economic theory and it was never right. There was always unemployment even when there was no minimum wage. Increasing supply has not resulted in increased demand etc etc.

      Modern free-market economics, which is what we’ve been held in thrall of for three centuries, is wrong. The evidence is there but nobody wants to look. It’s going to take a lot to bring it down although I’m sure that the seeds of it’s destruction exists in it’s ever increasing need of growth. The world is not infinite as we are finding out with anthropogenic induced climate change.

  15. stormspiral 15

    TS said

    ‘What I would favour is a floating minimum wage on a job category basis. This could rise and fall depending on economic conditions affecting each sector. This would allow employers scope to reduce wage costs when the general conditions become difficult.’

    There’s truth here, but setting a minimum wage based on job category would be both inequitable and fiendishly difficult because it would mean sorting out which jobs were worth what. And of course the present minimum wage would be totally unacceptable. It’s a recipe for poverty. The average wage could be a realistic benchmark, with everybody taking a raw percentage cut of all their pay earned that is over the benchmark. Thus, dignity could be preserved, and equity achieved, because everybody would be contributing according to their individual ability.

    ‘On the converse, when conditions are good, employees will be paid more. So things should even out over time.’

    Presumably, employers would be required to increase wages as conditions improved. Otherwise a lot of those paycuts could well become permanent, and the more it happened, the more it would happen.

    ‘Of course, employers would not be bound to pay the minimum, and could choose to pay more to attract staff.
    This solution would be equitable and help preserve jobs.’

    As long as employers’ power was constrained to make it equitable. Also, employers themselves would take paycuts, in line with those of their employees, not on a raw percentage basis, but on the same linear percentage formula as their employees were required to take.

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