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Listen to my latest short radio interviews on recent economic events–including July US Jobs Report, Sanctions & Fate of $US, Euro Currency Collapse, UK Economic Crisis, Democrat Party strategy in November midterms, OPEC Oil, US Inflation & the Fed

1. Critical Hour Radio (Jobs Report, Sanctions & Fate $, Currency Collapse & UK economy)

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1zuCEqj-W42CjXQYrtQst1ctUf39JROwn/view

2. Political Misfits Radio (Dem Party Strategy, OPEC Output Hike, Fracking & Inflation)

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1z-bCSUdtgKsMCv8eXV7MOnDWd9sP2lA5/view

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Listen to my July 29 Alternative Visions show (55min.) unpacking the results of 2nd Quarter US GDP and my take on the debate whether recession is here or not. Of course it is, notwithstanding official politicos spin to the contrary. Explaining the two definitions of recession & why they always have converged.

TO LISTEN GO TO:
https://alternativevisions.podbean.com/e/alternative-visions-us-2nd%c2%a0quarter-gdp-is-recession-here-what-s-a-recession/

Listen to my 3 short (15min.) radio interviews on US, global economy, sanctions, and related economic issues recorded just before yesterday’s Fed rate hike and today’s US GDP numbers. (Interviews on both Fed rate hike & US GDP 2nd Quarter release to follow soon)

TO LISTEN GO TO:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/15wGCFxvSS1EQ-aXzilabV8D7w2pKsdoY/view

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1tgvEkjpu4pcOnqu7yJbG941H9IPHgCc7/view

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1nWRrQvLqa7y8MD3GAhCWvTQBUW8pr3x0/view

Listen to my Alternative Visions radio show of Friday, July 15, 2022, where the topic of discussion is what’s the impact of the rising US dollar on surging global inflation and recession? How is it the US ‘exports’ both inflation and recession to the rest of the world? What’s the future of a weakening US global economic empire as a US dollar driven global currency crisis emerges?

To Listen GO TO:

https://alternativevisions.podbean.com/e/alternative-visions-1658248367/

SHOW ANNOUNCEMENT

Dr. Rasmus takes up the theme of US global economic empire is in decline and examines that in relation to the role of the US dollar and other US dominated economic institutions like the IMF, SWIFT international payments system, and other institutions of empire. Both short run and long run trends for the dollar and empire are discussed, and likely moves toward more independence from the US empire by economies like the BRICS (and others now joining it) and what that means for the $ and the empire. The show then reviews recent US CPI and PPI inflation numbers of the past week and Fed rate hikes accelerating. US GDP and its components are considered, as well as GDP, inflation, Currency instability, and interest rate developments underway in China, Europe, Japan, and emerging markets. Show concludes with brief discussion of potential financial liquidity crises erupting as inflation and recessions deepen globally, and what markets this might appear

Listen to my Friday, July 8 Alternative Visions radio show where I discuss in depth Biden’s various inflation control proposals and reveal them as just PR. Only real inflation strategy planned by Dems is to let Fed hike rates until it precipitates recession, to destroy consumer Demand, as a solution to what is almost all Supply-Side inflation due to international supply chain problems and corporate price gouging. Also friday’s show discusses Friday’s latest US jobs report for June and explains why the numbers are not what they seem and will soon worsen further as jobs–a lagging indicator–catch up with the slowdown and recession in the US economy by year end.

TO LISTEN GO TO:

https://alternativevisions.podbean.com/e/alternative-visions-biden-s-phony-inflation-initiatives-june-jobs-report/

Interview of Friday, July 2
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1HAvkiDfdxrVLmfKpJCNbKGML9uF5OnLZ/view

Interview of Tuesday, June 28

https://drive.google.com/file/d/19J_-6lT3iF104yMQzi_ZOfsyjgH3t_gz/view

Periodically, my readers ask where my views ‘fit’ in the spectrum of left–and even Marxist–economists and economics. The following is my reply to a reader inquiring to that point. Specifically, the inquiry asked how my views differ from those of Michael Hudson, Michael Roberts, and Richard Wolff–as well as where my views fit in relation to Marx’s economics and what’s called Heterodox economics.

Dr. RASMUS REPLY:

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I have a somewhat different take on Hudson, Roberts, and Wolff, while recognizing they all make important contributions on the left to the critique of contemporary US capitalism.

That said, to elaborate on my prior comments on the three:

Hudson is very good on critiquing finance capital but should reformulate his useful critique of global finance capital into a more coherent critique of contemporary US imperialism. For that, however, he’d have to move closer to a Marxist economic analysis, restating his contributions to the role of finance capital to imperialism in the 21st century. Hudson’s a version of ‘Left Minskyanism’ (like Steve Keen and others). Hudson also has little to say about the working class and how capitalism is intensifying worker exploitation at the level of labor markets. That’s probably because he has few experiences or roots in the working class itself. Should he restate and integrate his views on finance capital more in relation to working class experience and US imperialism it would improve his critique of Capital, which is still too one dimensional. However, should he do that I think he’d cut off some of his consulting contacts which he enjoys doing. As for his ‘debt jubilee’ idea, as he now formulates it, it is politically a non starter and makes him appear as hopelessly utopian (not unlike Utopian Socialists that Marx critiqued). That said, I agree the debt question needs to be better addressed by Marxists. Debt is one of late, contemporary capitalism’s devices to keep itself going, as well as a means to expand exploitation of labor more efficiently. Debt is also a contradiction for capital, a weakness of capitalism driving it toward more frequent financial crises. And one must distinguish debt in relation to worker households, business debt, and govt debt. They’re different but interrelated, especially when crises occur. Finally, debt magnitude alone is not the problem; it’s the ability to finance (pay for) it when crises depress cash flow (by households, business or govts) and thus prevent the servicing of that debt. That’s when debt crises erupt. Finally, that means Hudson’s debt jubilee is class neutral, which is a mistake. Do we really want to wipe out all capitalist investors’ speculative debt? Is it the same as working class household debt or even local government debt? In short, Hudson’s ‘debt jubilee’ needs a more class analysis and recommendation.

As for Roberts, he does good work too. His blog is worth reading if you can get by his almost fetish preoccupation with Marx’s unpublished proposition of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall as the primary, almost sole, cause of short term capitalist business cycle crises. Roberts is an example of the limits of much of anglo-american marxist economic analysis, which doesn’t understand finance capital in the current era and how it is destabilizing their own system.  The reason for his failure to understand this is that rigid interpretation of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall proposition found in Marx’s unpublished volumes of Capital. Roberts thinks that’s the prime driver of capitalist crises, including depressions. I don’t. Nor do I agree we’re in a ‘long depression’ era. We’re in a very volatile era of capitalist minimal growth periods and frequent economic downturns. That’s not a depression. But he distorts the idea of depression to fit his data that shows a clear slowing of real asset investment since 2000 (i.e. capital accumulation slowdown), which I agree is occurring. However we differ as to why. His explanation again is the falling rate of profit tendency which I don’t think is the answer. That answer is more complex. But he tends toward that falling rate single causal explanation. The falling rate tendency was never accepted by Marx as the primary driver of capitalist business cycles (which Roberts suggests). In fact, it had nothing to do with short term business cycle fluctuations, whether recessions, great recessions, or depressions. It was more a long run supply side explanation for capitalism’s inevitable trajectory toward breakdown.

Roberts, Kliman and other anglo-american ‘marxists’ are inferior in their analysis of current capitalism compared to some of the Europeans and Chinese who are more willing to acknowledge global 21st century capital has changed from Marx’s mid-19th century, especially in the area of finance capital and technological change.

In reply to where I stand in relation to these three (who all do make useful, though partial, contributions to analysis) you might want to read my forthcoming lengthy article in the Beijing, World Review of Political Economy later this year entitled: ‘The Changing Character of Late Capitalist Exploitation in Production and Exchange’, where I look at the implications of Artificial Intelligence and other next generation technologies on exploitation of the working class and capitalist evolution, as well as in the piece on what Marx called ‘secondary exploitation’ (exploitation via exchange relations)

I do not have the same optimistic view of producers coops, workers self-management, etc. that Richard Wolff has.  While it’s good to educate workers they are more important to capitalists than capitalists are to them, and that they could run their businesses in a socialist economy, to employ producers coops as a means of defeating capitalism and getting to socialism is misleading at best.  Coops are tolerated by capitalism (in Europe but not in US). They’ll let workers dabble in it, in insignificant sectors but never allow it to expand. Where coops work (e.g. Spain) it’s because the capitalists tolerate it. We should be proposing political strategies to contend for the institutions of capitalist state power. That’s the only road to change. To use Marx’s terminology: political relations must first change before economic relations in production can do so. There’s no short cuts. Capitalists can and will prevent coops from evolving into a threat–especially US capitalists. It will take an independent new party for real change, not producer coops. That ‘organizational question’ is the only real question before the left today. Nothing will really change without it being resolved first. But Wolff doesn’t sufficiently address that question (nor Roberts or Hudson at all). That’s because he’s a lifelong academic and has no experience or background in the working class to draw upon, I believe. That’s true also for Hudson. I’m not sure of Roberts, who appears to have come out of some corporate financial background.

As for my own work, I started out as a labor economist–after spending 15 years in the union movement at the grass roots level (not some staff job as an organizer, rep, local elected officer, negotiator, strike coordinator, etc.  I then spent 19 years in tech companies analyzing markets & technology evolution. Only then, at age 60 did I enter academia and, like yourself, as an adjunct (by choice to enable time to write), for the past 15 yrs.(during which I helped organize St. Marys college and negotiate its first contract + did a 3 yr. stint as national VP for national Writers Union, UAW 1989)  I keep contacts with union former acquaintances in various unions. I evolved into a macro economist along the way, and then a macro analyst increasingly focused on finance capital and its role in American imperialism.

I respect the work of the late Keynesian, Hyman Minsky (as does Hudson, who I’d call a ‘left Minskyan’). There’s much in Keynes’ original works still of value and relevance. As for Marx, he’s still very much fundamental. The system still runs on labor exploitation at its core. But Marx’s economics needs to be brought into the 21st century. Mid-19th century European (and esp. English) capitalism was undeveloped in terms of money, banking, and finance compared to today. Anglo-American Marxists like Roberts, Kliman and other are content to just repeat mid-19th century Marx as stated, as if capitalism stopped evolving ever since. They prefer to select quotes and passages from Marx and then fit them into today’s capitalist world. Like fitting square pegs in round holes. They’re more marxist philologists than economists.

If you want to follow the evolution of my own economic views, I suggest first my 2010 book, ‘Epic Recession: Prelude to Depression’ (Pluto press or available my blog). The first half of that book is a theoretical critique of Keynes, Minsky, and others; the second half is an economic history analysis of the 2008-10 crash, including the mutual role of financial and real asset cycles behind the crash.

A further view of my take on European contemporary imperialism is my 2015 book, ‘Looting Greece: A New Financial Imperialism Emerges’, Clarity Press (emphasis on the imperialism and specifically how financial imperialism works in Europe as an extension of Hobson-Hilferding-Lenin’s views on ‘Imperialism’ at early 20th century.

My 2016 book, ‘Systemic Fragility in the Global Economy‘ (Clarity 2017) entire second half is a review and critique of Economic theory from Smith and the classicalists to Marx, to the post-Marx neoclassical attack on Marx, to Keynes (in the original not the bastardized versions of Keynes), contemporary ‘mechanical’ marxists (as I call them) to Minsky. That book’s last chapter concludes with my own theoretical views at the time (5 yrs ago) integrating financial cycles and real cycles analyses.  It’s an extension and innovation on views of Keynes, Minsky, and Marx, concluding with a first pass at an equation representing ‘fragility’ in the global capitalist system in the 21st century-where fragility is a term that represents likelihood of a financial instability event.

My 2018 book, ‘Central Bankers at the End of Their Ropes‘ is a critique of both theory and practices of capitalist central banks–i.e. of monetary theory and ‘monetarism’ in theory. It traces the history of central banks and monetary theory from the formation of the Federal Reserve in 1913 to present and includes other major central banks in Europe, China, etc. A prequel describing the evolution of central banks from 1780 to 1913, and US depressions along the way, is my 2020 book, ‘Alexander Hamilton and the Origins of the Fed‘, Lexington books.

My forthcoming World review of Political Economy article noted above is a foray into explaining (and expanding) Marxist exploitation theory in light of the last 4 decades of capitalist evolution in general, and specifically where that’s going in the wake of widespread implementation of Artificial Intelligence, 5G, cybersecurity, cloud computing, etc. technologies. Finally, I’ll address some of the themes further in my forthcoming book, ‘The Viral Economy and Its Consequences‘. It’s both a further economic theory analysis as well as an analysis of US economic policy evolution in the most recent stage of Neoliberalism, and thus a continuation of that historical policy evolution of Neoliberalism since 1980 and Reaganomics, as described in my 2020 book, ‘The Scourge of Neoliberalism: US Economic Policy from Reagan to Trump‘, Clarity, 2020.

Well, there you have my own perspectives and how they differ theoretically from the works of Hudson, Roberts, and Wolff. I’m probably more a ‘political’ economist than they, who is deeply critical of bourgeois economics (which is mostly ideology) but which deserves attention where it’s not ideology. I’m more focused on capitalist economic policy and its evolution, not just theory. In theory I believe Keynes, Minsky and others–not just Marx–have made worthwhile contributions to understanding capitalism. I’m also more focused on the American Empire and imperialism than the three (Hudson, Roberts, even Wolff) and why it’s the greatest danger as the US empire weakens and its current neocon-capitalist-political elites strike out more aggressively to try to restore their hegemony.  I’m also more concerned with the changes of capitalist technologies today and their impact on the working class and unions (what Marx would call ‘forces of production’).

Most marxist economists today would probably not call me a marxist economist since I’m not reluctant to critique Marx where his views need further development after 150 years; nor critiquing Lenin since his views on Imperialism require upgrading as well. Today’s Marxist economists would probably call me a revisionist (when in fact all I intend is to not become a marxist philologist–or ‘mechanical’ marxist–like them). Marx’s Capital can’t be treated as a bible, where every passage or proposition is considered fixed and eternally true exactly as stated. That’s to turn Marx’s economics into a form of ideology.

Economically, I’m somewhere well left of Minsky and his epigones like Keen and Hudson on the one hand, and closer to European marxists like Heinrich and some Chinese, than to Anglo-American traditional immutable Marxism. I’m not really a heterodox economist either, whose analyses is ‘all over the block’ as they say, tend toward single issue analyses, and much of which is at the service of Identity politics, the latter of which I personally reject as a scourge on the American left.

Hope that helps clarify your query as to where I stand in terms of economic theory and differ re. the three others (Hudson, Roberts, Wolff), who all do good work in their own limited way and are worth reading but who are but precursors to a more accurate and complete analysis of 21st century capitalism and imperialism.

Jack Rasmus7-2-22

1. On G7 Meeting & New Sanctions

https://drive.google.com/file/d/19J_-6lT3iF104yMQzi_ZOfsyjgH3t_gz/view

2. On Fed Rates & Coming Recession

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1U4nI4q79z3FPzBiENCqr8ZWrX-j_aIz9/view

3. On Current US Inflation

https://drive.google.com/file/d/15zmb7gQgcYmTrReizujgg-MEvUOzMgiz/view

Biden and the other G7 leaders are meeting in the Bavarian Alps this week. Apart from proclaiming they’ll never give up supporting Zelensky and Ukraine, G7 leaders announced they were planning two new sanctions on Russia.

Like most of the previous six phases of sanctions the purpose of the latest is to deprive Russia of revenues from exports. So far sanctions haven’t been all that successful in that regard, at least in the shorter term. While the USA has banned Russian oil and gas imports to the USA, those amounts and their respective revenue impact on total Russian export revenue is insignificant. Moreover, the ban on Russian oil exports to Europe do not begin until December 2022, while there’s no ban on Russian natural gas imports whatsoever. So little net impact on Russian energy export revenues from Europe either.

The sanctions on oil & gas Russian exports to Europe have been quite minimal to date. Meanwhile, Russia’s exports to China, India and rest of the world have been rising. As have global energy prices in general.  With accelerating global prices for oil and gas, and an increase in Russian energy exports to India, China and elsewhere, Russia’s revenues have been actually rising.

This rising revenue despite sanctions has presented something of a conundrum for Biden and the G7. The whole idea of sanctions is to dramatically reduce Russian revenues, not simply volume of exports! Sanctions thus far have had the opposite effect of what was intended—Russian energy revenues have risen not fallen.

So the G7 in Bavaria have come up with two more schemes to try to reduce Russian export revenues. But the thin mountain air must be affecting their thinking. The two new schemes are among the most desperate and economically absurd sanction ideas spawned thus far.

1. Ban Russian Gold Exports to Europe

The first absurd proposal being bandied about in Bavaria is to get Europe to agree to ban Russian gold exports to Europe.

The thinking is Russian revenues from gold constitute Russia’s second largest export revenue source, but at $20 billion a year gold sales revenue is still well below Russia’s oil export revenue of around $90 billion (before sanctions). Most of the Russian gold exports goes to the gold exchange in London where it’s ‘sold’ by Russia in exchange for other currencies. The G7 thinks denying Russia access to the London gold exchange will result in a big dent in its total export revenues and ability to obtain other currencies with which to purchase other needed imports for its economy. But there are problems with the G7’s proposed ban on Russia gold exports.

First, Russia could just as well sell its gold elsewhere in the world. It doesn’t have to sell it to the Europeans at the London exchange. Other major global buyers of Russian gold are Turkey, Qatar, India and other middle eastern markets. Gold prices have been rising globally, as inflation has driven up oil, gas, and other industrial and agricultural commodities. Gold is an asset that tends to rise in price with rising general price levels, which are now accelerating worldwide. With inflation, other countries will more than gladly buy up the Europeans’ share of Russian gold. Some may even then sell the gold back to the Europeans—at a marked up higher price of course.

The Demand for Russian gold will simply shift, from Europe to elsewhere. Russian gold export revenues will thus not fall on net; in fact, may possibly even rise as gold prices continue to rise with inflation–ironically in large part due to other sanctions in general.

Second, gold is an asset that provides a hedge against inflation. It may be that Biden can get the G7 leaders and their governments (and central banks) to boycott buying Russian gold. But what’s to stop individual investors in Europe from buying Russian gold in offshore markets, when it’s presently such an attractive asset? Will Biden extend sanctions on all the individual Europeans who simply shift their purchases of Russian gold from the London Gold Exchange to the gold exchanges in Turkey, Qatar and elsewhere?

2. Price Cap Russian Oil Exports to Europe

This is an even sillier proposal. Here’s the logic of how the price cap is supposed to work. Theoretically, Europe would all agree to buy Russian oil exports over the next six months but only at a deeply discounted price that all of Europe would agree on. In other words, set a ‘price cap’ at a level well below world market prices that are currently determined by supply in global oil spot markets. The lower price is supposed to cut Russian revenues from the oil exports to Europe—i.e. reduce revenues, the prime goal of all sanctions. The idea was first suggested by Janet Yellen, the US Secretary of the Treasury. That’s the Janet Yellen who told the world in February 2022 that inflation was temporary, remember!

Getting all of the G7 to agree to a price cap still requires getting the rest of Europe as well as Japan, So. Korea and others to agree to that price capt as well.   But isn’t Europe supposed to stop buying all Russian oil imports by end of 2022 per previous sanctions they’ve agreed to? Who believes the Europeans can agree to a price cap on Russian oil and implement that cap in three months (July-September)–and then for just three months more (October-December)? Europe can’t do anything in three months, or even six. Maybe the US and EU aren’t all that confident they can implement a full ban on Russian oil exports by December?

But even this isn’t the most absurd aspect of the ‘price cap’ proposal.

Assuming Biden could get all the G7 to convince all of Europe’s 27 nations on a super discounted price, there’s still the ‘small problem’ of what Russia’s response might be to all that. The G7’s faulty logic is the deep discounted price Europe is only willing to pay for the oil would be at a price much lower than even the 30% discount that Russia is now selling oil to India, China and elsewhere. The G7 presumably would offer to buy Russian oil only at a 50% discount off current world prices maybe? That would put pressure, as the G7 argument goes, on Russian oil sales to India etc. The Indians would then demand Russia oil prices at the G7 lower 50% discount price. Russia would realize further reduced revenues from oil lower prices to India, China, the rest of the world as well as to G7 and Europe.

This is a proposal so ridiculous it’s almost embarrassing. The problem with the G7 ‘price cap’ idea is there’s no reason why Russia would want to sell any oil whatsoever to Europe at the G7’s deeply discounted price cap level.

First, why should it when Europe says it plans to phase out all Russian oil by December anyway? Second, Russia has shown it is not concerned with reducing natural gas export revenues to Europe. It’s already cut cubic gas exports to Europe by one-third as part of its own economic response to Europe’s agreement with US sanctions on Russia and it’s warned Europe of another third soon.  Economic warfare cuts both ways. So what’s to stop Russia from just cutting off all oil exports to Europe—and well before December? Third, Russia would have to be pretty dumb to agree to sell oil to Europe at the latter’s ‘price cap’ level which would be well below Russia’s already 30% discount oil price sales to India? It knows the likely knock on effect that would follow. India as a long term oil customer is far more important to Russia than Europe which says it’s ending as a customer in just six months.  Finally, Russia knows if it cuts off all oil exports to Europe, it would just change the market flow of global oil, not reduce it. Russia would sell more to other countries, which might then just re-export it back to Europe in turn.

In short, the error with the G7 price cap idea is it assumes that buyers (Europe) can set the price for oil in what is a global sellers market! G7 may think they can stand market fundamentals on their head and make it work, but they are wrong.  No amount of G7 wishful thinking can make Demand determine Supply in today’s global energy markets, where broken and restructuring supply chains, sanctions, and war are the main determinants of price.

Both the proposal to ban Russian gold exports to Europe and the proposal to manipulate oil demand to reduce its global market price—and thereby deprive Russia of revenues—are ideas that reflect more the desperation of the US and G7 to find some way to make sanctions on Russia work in the short run when thus far they aren’t working very well, if at all.

The short run objective of sanctions–i.e. to reduce Russian export revenues–has not been working but the two latest desperate ideas won’t work any better.

Historians will wonder years from now why the US and its most dependent allies in tow—the G7 countries—embarked upon a scope of sanctions on Russia so soon after Covid’s deep negative impacts on global supply chains and domestic product and labor markets. Global markets, trade and financial flows were seriously disrupted by the Covid experience of 2020-21. And they had not recovered by January 2022 when US sanctions on Russia were escalated. Before global supply chains could heal, the US and its G7 allies embarked on sanctions that further disrupted and restructured those same supply chains while simultaneously setting off chronic global inflation that ravaged their domestic economies as well. History will show, it was all not well thought out.

Even less thought out, however, are the more recent G7 proposals to ban Russian gold and engineer a price cap on global oil—the latter in effect a fantasy that by somehow manipulating a region’s (Europe) oil Demand it could set global oil prices in general and thus over-ride Supply as the driver of oil price and revenues.

It makes one wonder about the qualifications of the current generation of world leaders (led by Biden and the US) playing with the geopolitical world order. And wonder even more about their even less understanding of the consequences of their economic actions on the world economy.

Dr. Jack Rasmus

copyright June 28, 2022

Watch my free-wheeling, hour long YouTube interview with hosts, Jason Myles and Pascal Roberts, of ‘This Is Revolution’ folks in Oakland, CA, on Thursday, June 23, 2022 on topic of ‘Inflation and the Cost of Living Crisis’.

Go to YouTube at: https://twitter.com/i/broadcasts/1YqJDqpLDDaxV

(Note: first 10 minutes of show is a fund raising interview with another guest)