The visible hand in economics

Archive for October 2008

So National’s redundancy package is out. It is different to my initial impression and slightly different to the Labour package.

As well as randomly asking banks to be generous National said it was increasing the accommodation allowance for people who are made unemployed and also increase working for families for people who are made unemployed – both temporarily.

Again, I don’t agree with temporary stimulus measures, as our high household borrowing levels suggest that we aren’t really suffering from “demand deficiency” IMO.

But how to the scheme compare? Well they cost (about) the same, but the Labour package is less targeted on those who will be struggling. The Labour scheme makes more sense as a long-run adjustment (which it is not) the National scheme makes more sense as a temporary stimulus methinks. However, the Labour scheme seems simpler – which means that it will probably distribute the funds more efficiently. I guess it ultimately depends on where you think any stimulus should go in the face of a recesssion – what you believe is equitable.

These are my first impressions, what do you guys think?

Update:  Kiwiblog gives an excellent breakdown (here).

So Labour is making it that people who lose their jobs during the economic downturn can get the benefit straight away – and over the first 13 weeks no-one will take account of their spouses income (ht the Standard).

Tell you the truth, this sounds a lot better than the scheme National are indicating they will put in place I suspect National is going to put in place – it is less distortionary and actually targets those who are in trouble. Of course, the reason it sounds better is because they are doing less – I still don’t think it is particularly constructive policy.

My only question is, why have no stand-down period during a recession and a stand-down period outside of a recession? Personally I think the two should be consistent. I buy CPW’s argument that a greater proportion of the unemployed are “unfortunate” during a recession and so we want to be lighter on them at such a time – however, again I am torn by the fact that I’m not sure whether society wants the UB as a security net, or as a guaranteed minimum income for people. The way we treat it will differ in each case – and until we are CLEAR about what we have it for, we will continue with inconsistent policy.

Personally, I would make all benefits means tested (taking into account the liquidity of a persons assets) but have them turn up as soon as you are fired (I’m not sure about when you leave a job – I’ll have to think about that one).  Update:  Why has no-one tried to argue this – it is supposed to be contensious.  I blame Friday 😛

Lets see what Nationals actual plan today is – then we can “compare”.

So you’ve probabaly read with great interest Matt’s post on the NZ election political quiz. I also noticed that the same quiz has a verison for the US presidential election so I thought it might be fun for us to repeat the exercise.

You may be surprised by the results:)

Agnitio: Obama (79%), Nader (72%), McCain (72%).

Agnitio Comment: Given I voted for Obama (I also hold US citizenship) I’m not surprised by this. I’m also not particularily surprised I have a high rating with McCain given I generally lean a little to the right economically.

Goonix: Barr (73%), McCain (59%), Nader (53%), the other candidate (53>x>38%), Obama (38%)

Goonix Comment: Consistent with my results of the NZ version of the quiz. There is no way I could vote for the economic policies of either major parties’ candidates (especially Obama). Similarly, I could never vote for the archaic social policies of the Republicans, or their pro-war stance (one which Obama seems to be pretty keen on now too). But I still can’t believe Barr is standing as the Libertarian candidate and is anti-choice!

Matt:Nader (68%), McCain (63%), McKinney (60%), Barr (60%), Obama (60%)

Matt Comment: Although my results were in a narrow band the politicians did very differently in the individual components I choose. Overall, this gives me the impression that US politicians are inconsistent “between-issues” at least in my little slice of reality. Thank goodness I live in Aotearoa – where politician’s inconsistency is equally spread between all the facets of governance 😉

According to figures out yesterday, New Zealand corp has greatly increased its spending overseas over the past year.  In part this seems crazy since we have been in a recession over the past nine months – however, there are reasons:

  1. Our exchange rate fell (assuming demand is inelastic – or is not passed on through intermediaries),
  2. The price of imports (specifically food, petrol, and intermediate goods like fertilizer) has risen,
  3. Businesses wanted to invest before our dollar fell below “fair-value”,
  4. Higher prices for our exports have made imports more affordable.

Note that the first two reasons solely drive the increase in prices – while the later two work through greater volumes of imports.  When the terms of trade numbers are out we will be able to see which bit dominates 😉

Furthermore, our recession over the first half of the year was the result of a “temporary” shock – through petrol prices and drought.  As a result of this, people in New Zealand will increase borrowing in order to “smooth” consumption over time – as the goods aren’t here, this involves borrowing to buy goods from overseas.

With the price and availability of credit now rising, and the exchange rate below fair value, I would expect import values to start declining – what do you guys think?

The Fed lopped 50 basis points off its cash rate, taking it to 1%.  With real interest rates already well in negative territory I’m not sure this sort of action is really necessary – maybe they want to stabilise consumer confidence or something of the like.

Anyway, our concern here is New Zealand – so what did it do?  The TWI went up to 59 from a low of 56 – the $US/$NZ got to $0.59 from a low around $0.54, so it helped to stabilise the FREE-FALL in our currency lately (just before I’ve gone on holiday).  Oil prices also bounced back – but still lie at the “relatively” low level of $67US a barrel.  For New Zealand this might imply some stability in our commodity prices – this is an essential issue so we can only hope!

All this is a sign that the market has initially taken the rate cut well, with the DOW now up 1200 points from its low about 36 hours ago (*).  If this lasts, then we could finally be in for a time of stabilisation – if it doesn’t, who knows 😛

All I know is that the Fed will print as much money as it can to prevent a “Great Depression”, ignoring the future consequences.  I will aim to discuss this more next week.

For those of you who missed the magic, before the credit crisis we were worried about a property crisis.  In the midsts of this madness Matt Nolan was itnerveiwed by Paul Henry on breakfast.  I was bored so I thought I would track down this video and relive the magic.  At Matt’s gesturing I’m posting the link on the blog so that we can “make fun of how wrong I was (as house prices are already down 5.8% on a year ago) :P”

So here it is

I don’t claim to know much about the proprty market,so instead I’ll make fun of his hair, watch the video to see Matt’s long (OK it’s not THAT long…) flowing mane of hair, then click below the flap to see Matt’s photo from the Infometrics website to see what he looks like these days


Read the rest of this entry »

Greenpeace’s environmental plan has just been released and it says pretty much what you’d expect: be more sustainable. The thing about it that intrigues me is the presence of an emissions trading system, efficiency standards for all energy consuming appliances and legally binding targets for renewable energy usage.

The point of trading systems is to internalise the costs of emissions in the most efficient way by allocating the costs through a market mechanism. Why would you then try to second guess the market by forcing emissions standards and renewable energy targets on people? Read the rest of this entry »

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