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Archive for August, 2011

Money Runners for Marx

On Bloomberg today is a piece by George Magnus, senior economic advisor at UBS, on the relevance of Marxian ideas. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-08-29/give-marx-a-chance-to-save-the-world-economy-commentary-by-george-magnus.html Policy makers struggling to understand the barrage of financial panics, protests and other ills afflicting the world would do well to study the works of a long-dead economist: Karl Marx. The sooner they recognize […]

Jack Layton and the Politics of Anger

My wife and I (and our dog Charlie) attended Jack Layton’s memorial service in downtown Toronto yesterday along with thousands of other mourners. It was a moving, emotional, soulful and remarkable ceremony, a testament to a fabulous human being’s honourable political legacy and his fundamental decency as a person. It’s tragic that just when Jack […]

Hurricane Trichet Hits Jackson Hole

After watching Jack Layton’s state funeral, I noticed that Jean-Claude Trichet’s speech from Jackson Hole is online. The European Central Bank president does not seem to get it. Far from acknowledging that last month’s interest-rate hike was premature, he touts “price stability.” His main theme is that the economic divergence between Eurozone countries is comparable […]

So the BC HST Was Defeated. Now What?

Earlier today, Elections BC announced the much anticipated HST referendum results. British Columbians have voted to scrap the HST. The best part about having the results is that now we can move on from the narrow issue of what type of sales tax is better and focus our energies on some of the bigger issues […]

Is There a Student Debt Bubble?

A recent article in The Atlantic looks at student debt in the United States and suggests there may be a student debt bubble. Written by the authors of the recent book, Higher Education?, the article points out that “college loans are nearing the $1 trillion mark, more than what all households owe on their credit cards.” The article also […]

Recession Ahead?

TD Economics yesterday released a rather gloomy report, putting the odds of a US recession at 40%, and arguing that that Canadian economy is more vulnerable to recession than it was in 2008.  It highlights reduced capacity for governments to respond given that interest rates are already very low, and given that household and government […]

Tuition Has Increased 41% Since 1998

A recent cbc.ca article reports on plans by Quebec student groups to protest  planned tuition hikes by the Charest government. Over a five-year period, Quebec’s Liberal government plans to increase tuition by roughly 75 percent. The article notes that tuition levels in Quebec are currently among the lowest in Canada. But as I’ve blogged about […]

R.I.P. Jack Layton

Many have written eloquently about yesterday’s tragic news. I share the sentiments that Greg was quick to express and am inspired by Jack’s letter to Canadians. Allow me to recall a post I wrote more than four years ago entitled, “Prime Minister Layton?” Back then, most people thought that idea was pretty far-fetched. In fact, […]

The Macro-Economics of Financing Employment Insurance

The federal government has launched consultations on EI premium setting. This provides the opportunity to shift from a very ad hoc system to one that is more fair to workers, and more economically rational. The current worker premium is $1.78 per $100 of insured earnings  and the employer premium is $2.49 per $100, adding to […]

The Double Whammy of Defunding Universities

As I’ve blogged about here, federal funding for post-secondary education (PSE) in Canada is decreasing.  Between 1985-1986 and 2007-2008, annual federal cash transfers to Ontario for PSE (in constant 2007 dollars) decreased from roughly $1.4 billion to just under $1 billion. (Yet, during that same period, PSE enrolment in Ontario increased by more than 60 percent). And as I’ve written about […]

The Racialised Impact of Tuition Fees

Mainstream policy wonks often claim that tuition fees and rising levels of student debt in Canada are relatively inconsequential. They argue that though the costs of higher education for students (and sometimes their families) are increasing, so is post-secondary enrollment, meaning that raising the cost of post-secondary education clearly doesn’t block access. While enrollment is indeed […]

Outlook Darkens as Budget Debate Begins

Allow me to indulge myself just this once. Almost exactly one month ago I wrote a post arguing that the Bank of Canada was being too optimistic about our economic prospects in the July Monetary Policy Report . Today, both the Governor (and Finance Minister Flaherty) conceded to the House of Commons Finance Committee that […]

On Balancing the Budget

Andrew Watt has written an especially cogent piece on why the balanced budget rule proposed for the Euro area by Merkel and Sarkozy is a very, very bad idea. It also makes relevant reading for Canadians. Andrew points out (1) that fiscal rules have to take into account overall balances and that the public sector […]

Mythologies: Money and Hyperinflation

In an earlier post, Marc Lee mentioned in passing the German hyperinflation episode of the 1920s. It’s remarkable that this event still holds such sway over the popular imagination despite other more recent instances of hyperinflation. Certainly, the imagery is powerful: German citizens pushing wheelbarrows full of worthless paper money around for everyday purchases, banknotes […]

Remembering Gideon Rosenbluth

Below is the text of the obituary for Gideon Rosenbluth, a renowned progressive economist and inspiration to us at the PEF, and a past president of the Canadian Economics Association. **** Gideon Rosenbluth January 23, 1921 ­ August 8, 2011 Gideon Rosenbluth died suddenly in Vancouver while swimming with a friend on a sunny day. […]

2011 Academic Ranking of World Universities

The 2011 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) was released on Monday. Because it’s compiled by Shanghai Jiaotong University, it’s commonly known as “the Shanghai ranking.”  As I recently blogged about here,  the methodologies used in global university rankings typically advantage English-language universities. This year’s Shanghai ranking confirms this: 20 of the Top 25 universities in the ARWU are located […]

The Hidden Impact of Rising PSE Costs for Students

Over the past several decades in Canada, tuition rates and student debt levels have both increased substantially. Yet, I am not aware of much research seeking to assess either how exactly this impacts students, or how precisely students are making ends meet. A recent article in the Huffington Post–though not focused on Canada–sheds some light on […]

Concordia’s “Culture of Contempt”

In June of this year, a report was released on governance at Concordia University. Entitled Strengthening Governance at Concordia: A Collective Challenge, the report can be accessed here: www.concordia.ca/vpirsg/documents/EGRC-REPORT.pdf. The 39-page report was written by the External Governance Review Committee, a three-person committee chaired by none other than Bernard J. Shapiro (Canada’s first Ethics Commissioner). The report […]

Auto Labour Costs and Auto Industry Recovery

I was recently invited to speak to the annual management briefing conference sponsored in Michigan by the Center for Automotive Research, a fine outfit which does the best research work in the continent on auto employment, workers, and skills.  My slides are available here. My panel was addressing the current UAW negotiations with the Detroit […]

Market Mayhem

The wild swings in the North American financial markets this week serve as yet another reminder of the weakness of  any linkage between levels and changes in financial asset values and levels and changes in real economic variables. This is apparent for both bonds and equities. In the case of the US and Canada, the rise […]

MMT: What it Means for Canada

Arun Dubois’ blog post yesterday on Modern Monetary Theory has prompted me to write my own take on the subject.  For those interested, an interesting thumbnail sketch of MMT, essentially functional finance augmented by a full understanding of monetary operations, is explained here. While MMT deals with the details of monetary and fiscal matters, the […]

No Retreat, No Surrender: Time For Progressives to Explode Deficit/Monetary Myths

Friends, I’m concerned. I fear that too often, we on the left retreat when we should attack, surrender when we should vanquish.  What do I speak of?  Well, I am concerned that too many of us are willing to play in the frame, the box, the straighjacket of modern discourse about fiscal and monetary policy.  […]

Canada’s Breadbasket and the Food Casino

There’s been no shortage of new content on our blog this week. But I write to highlight a couple of interesting reads from other blogs. On The Globe and Mail blog, Andrew Hepburn (formerly of Sprott Asset Management) has a very good op-ed about financial speculation in food commodities. On the CCPA’s Behind the Numbers […]

Thoughts on “Why not print money?”

Richard Gilbert’s “Why not print money?” in the Globe’s Economy Lab toys with more radical monetary intervention as a response to the crisis. Desperate times, they say, call for desperate measures. The title (which was perhaps not Gilbert’s at all) is more provocative than the article itself, which is mostly about tolerating higher inflation that […]

Japanizing the World Economy

This guest post is from PEF members Marc Lavoie and Mario Seccareccia, both of whom are full professors of economics at the University of Ottawa. The “Japanization” of the World Economy Over the last twenty years, the Japanese economy underwent a long period of economic stagnation that some economists have characterized as a protracted “balance-sheet […]

Stimulus vs Public Investment

A column by Stiglitz in the Financial Times makes what I think is an important point. The current debate over fiscal policy for the US, Europe and Canada is often characterized in the media as one between advocates of  higher deficits from Keynesian style stimulus measures,  and advocates of lower deficits through public sector austerity.  […]

Tea Party North

Last week, Travis noted Terry Corcoran’s strained argument that over-regulation of banks is what ails the global economy. Terry’s next column went even further off the deep end, endorsing the hard-money libertarianism of gold bugs like Eric Sprott. Today’s column is a full-blown defence of the US Tea Party. I have the following response to […]

C. D. Howe’s Overnight Moves Need Work

Less than a month ago, the C. D. Howe Institute released Michael Parkin’s paper, “Overnight Moves: The Bank of Canada Should Start to Raise Interest Rates Now.” The next day, its Monetary Policy Council called on the Bank to increase the overnight interest rate. This call was terrible. The following week, Statistics Canada reported June’s […]

About those “unfunded liabilities”

When it comes to the Canada Pension Plan, a major talking point from the right is that the CPP has “unfunded liabilities”, with the implication that is not affordable and financially unsustainable. This is nonsense, a scare tactic based on an accounting fiction that counts only future expenditures but does not count future revenues. For […]

The New Phase of the Crisis

The Great Recession was followed by an anaemic recovery in the advanced economies, which threatens to be followed by a double dip or worse now that the  fiscal stimulus measures of 2009 and 2010 have been succeeded by austerity programs. Now we face a new financial crisis, or at least a stock market correction of […]