Saturday, October 06, 2012

Russel Norman says "fuck the poor" with his economic illiteracy UPDATED

It's a big "fuck you" to people on low to middle incomes with savings, because he wants to devalue the New Zealand dollar.  Not because there is a major flight in capital from NZ$ holdings, but because he thinks the NZ$ in overvalued.

Russel Norman knows that the money you hold should be worth less.

Not you, not the millions of people who buy and sell NZ$ and in NZ$ every day, but Russel Norman and the Green Party.

He wants the Reserve Bank to print money to devalue the dollars you have in your wallet or bank account.  

It means that the vast bulk of New Zealanders, especially those on low to middle incomes, with small savings, will have part of their own money TAKEN by stealth by the state.  

They know what it means.  It means an overseas holiday is a lot less affordable.  It means a new laptop, car, books, clothes, TV, mobile phone all become more expensive.  

It means petrol goes up, but the Greens kind of like that, as you should be driving less says transport spokesperson Julie-Anne Genter.  Of course it puts up the price of moving freight as well, and flying domestically.

However, whilst devaluation increases the price of imports, the way Russel wants to do it will increase prices across the board.

It is a recipe for more inflation.  

Yet he wants to increase the availability of credit by reducing interest rates, meaning businesses and consumers can borrow more, and so promoting more demand (after all this is what QE does) so hiking up inflation more and more.

You see, the standard response to inflation of the Reserve Bank is to increase interest rates, but Russel Norman would reduce interest rates.

He wants "new tools for managing asset bubbles", yet would be pouring petrol on property bubbles by allowing loose credit and allowing people to borrow more.

His claim is that this will help the productive sector, because exporters will suddenly get a boost because they will be able to undercut foreign competitors.  This is true, on the face of it.  Devaluations do that, but they also increase the price of inputs into production.  Fuel being the obvious one.  Tourism would become cheaper, for foreigners visiting New Zealand.  However, Air NZ wouldn't be able to take advantage of as much of that as its competitors as two of its biggest long run costs - fuel and the capital cost of aircraft, would rise.  

Yet, Norman ignores the consequences of his approach to devaluation, which would be to generate inflation.  With domestic costs soaring, exporters would find their competitiveness would be entirely wasted as they couldn't spend their renewed returns quickly enough to offset inflation, they couldn't save them (with interest rates on savings below inflation - as they are in the UK, US and Japan today) and would be less and less able to afford imports.

His ignorance is breathtaking.  He says that printing money so that the government can engage in..

"Buying Christchurch earthquake recovery bonds will reduce the need for the Government to borrow offshore. Currently, about 60 percent of all Government borrowing is from offshore.

"Buying overseas assets to restore the EQC's Natural Disaster Fund will prepare us better for any future natural disasters."

So he will print money, for the government to borrow from the Reserve Bank, creating inflation, saving the government from borrowing from those with actual money, by debasing the savings of NZers.  Then, having devalued the NZ$ he proposes using it to buy assets from overseas which will suddenly cost more.

He claims that the UK, US, Japan and the European Union (presumably he means the European Central Bank, as there are 11 currencies in the European Union) engaged in quantitative easing (money printing) to boost their export sectors, which is utter nonsense.  It has been an exercise in trying to stimulate demand in stagnant economies.  After 15 years, Japan remains stagnant, whereas the US has small hiccups of demand that quickly subside.  However, in all these cases the effect has not been to substantially devalue currencies relative to major trading partners (nor was it designed to).

He thinks that the NZ$ has a high value because of speculators, yet he himself wants to speculate with the money held by every New Zealander, by debasing it.

The average New Zealander isn't as ignorant as Russel, because they know that when the NZ$ drops, they lose, unless they have earnings in foreign currencies (which few do).

So the losers are the poor and middle income New Zealanders.  They can't readily open foreign currency bank accounts, buy foreign shares or equities and rescue their savings from the thieving politicians and central bankers out to take it from them.

The rich will bail out of Russel Norman's vision for the NZ$.  They can afford to. 

The poor would have to swallow it.   Give up on the overseas trip.  Give up on buying a laptop or a kindle.  Watch while their savings earn nothing in the bank, and lose value in real terms - just like they did when Post Office accounts offered 2% when inflation was 12% under Rob Muldoon.   

Of course foreigners buying New Zealand made goods and services would do well, because the products would be cheaper.  In fact, a holiday to New Zealand would be so much cheaper.   However, they aren't exactly poor now are they?

The Green vision for monetary policy is simple:

- Take money from NZers' savings through devaluation (who pay more for imports from everywhere) - transfer it to foreigners buying NZ goods and services (who pay less for imports from NZ) and NZers who make money from foreigners buying NZ goods and services using foreign currencies.

- Take money from NZers who are savers and transfer to those who are borrowers (through low interest rates).

- Fuel a new property bubble as NZers use cheap credit to enter the property market as a hedge against inflation, and fuel a new sharemarket bubble as the same happens (fleeing savings accounts as a hedge against inflation, and foreigners buy NZ shares because they are cheap).

- Fuel hyperinflation, as the debased currency puts up import prices and the flood of cheap credit overheats demand.

The people who are hurt the most from devaluation and inflation are the poor.  More money printing will make it worse.   This inflationary spiral can only end by:

- Hiking interest rates as happened in the late 1980s, effectively reversing the "gains" for exporters and businesses by pushing their borrowing costs through the roof, sending thousands bankrupt and bursting the property bubble;

- Banning inflation, Muldoon style, creating shortages - (former) east Germany style

- Abandoning the NZ$.

In all of those scenarios, the people who lose the most are those who are least able to leave the country or shift their savings elsewhere.

Hyperinflation, debasement of savings, makes the Green Party's claim to give a damn about poverty almost laughable.

UPDATED:  Of course The Standard embraces it, tribal like, because they see money printing as some sort of anti "neo-liberalism" project.  (yes, anyone opposing the left just want to eat the poor).  The intellectualism in this post is astonishing "I look forward to John Key, when he gets back from fellating Mickey Mouse" showing how asinine the debate is.

The status quo in the Western world, including all US Administrations since Reagan and UK since Thatcher, has been Milton Friedman's monetarism.  That is to progressively increase the money supply regulated by interest rates set by a state central bank to manage inflation.

Hayek opposed this, Rand opposed this, Murray Rothbard opposed this. Alan Greenspan once did, and then embraced Friedman's view. Detlev Schlichter opposes it now.

A fundamental cause of the global financial crisis is the continual state issuing of new credit and new money, so that it isn't savings being reinvested, but money created from..... nothing.

Monetarism, as it is called, attempts to manage the inevitable inflation arising from this (lowering the value of the medium of exchange by producing more of it inevitably means prices rise), but ignores asset price inflation.  The property and sharemarket bubbles caused by malinvestment are ignored.

It has failed.

QE has been the Keynesian response in Japan, the US, the UK and the Eurozone.  The mass destruction of value due to these bubbles popping has been filled by massive money printing, yet it has not resulted in a sustained kickstart to demand for simple reasons.  One is that the banks, which were the conduit of the cheap credit, have been told to increase reserves, so are filling up their reserves with freshly created cash and banks have also tightened up credit enormously, because they were told to not undertake anymore bad lending.  The other is that there is a lack of confidence in the economic fundamentals.   It is why gold prices have soared, as a safe haven.

It wasn't undertaken to improve export competitiveness.  It has demonstrably failed to boost Japan's economy.  It has created minor blips in the US economy, and nothing more.

For the Standard to say that having a consistently high dollar is about speculators making money from New Zealand is demonstrable ignorance.  To think that, say cutting the value of the NZ$ by 25%, is good for the working poor (when it will raise prices of petrol, electrical goods, overseas holidays and any imported books, clothes), is bizarre.

However, socialists have long thought thieving from the mass of the population through debasing the currency was an easy path to spending more money on what they think is good for them.  Easier to implement than a straight out tax, and easier for all of the elite to evade, by shifting their own savings away from the debased currency, leaving the average people robbed.

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