If you buy groceries, you know that prices are high. And if you read the paper, you’ve probably heard that prices are high because of, well, “inflation,” and “shocks to the supply chain,” and other language you understand, but don’t quite understand. One article told me that economists see pandemic-related spending meant to stabilize the economy as a factor, along with war-impacted supply chains and steps taken by the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates —all of which may be true, but still doesn’t really help me see why four sticks of butter now cost $8. Not to mention that the same piece talks matter of factly about “upward pressure on wages,” which sounds like people who need to buy butter are getting paid more, but I’m pretty sure the language is telling me I’m supposed to be against it.
Nine years ago, on December 17, 2014, jubilation swept the through the city of Havana when Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro announced that they would normalize US-Cuban relations, after 55 years of hostility. Church bells rang, cars honked their horns, and people hugged each other in the streets. Today, the mood in the city is one of desperation. The economy is spiraling downward, and US policy is exacerbating the growing humanitarian crisis. President Donald Trump’s tough economic sanctions drastically reduced Cuba’s foreign exchange earnings, and President Joe Biden has left most of those sanctions in place.
Thousands of Argentines demonstrated, this Wednesday December 20, “against the economic austerity measures” implemented by Javier Milei’s government. The day was marked by high tension early on, following a major police operation carried out at the main entrances to the city of Buenos Aires. The Minister of Security, Patricia Bullrich, announced that she would debut her “anti-picketing protocol”, presented last Friday December 15, and threatened that they would not allow the demonstration to take place. However, the call to mobilization managed to overcome the fear that the government tried to install.
Austin - In his November 7, 2023 New York Times newsletter, the economist Paul Krugman asks a good, albeit belated, question: Why did so many economists get the inflation outlook wrong? After all, the near-consensus among mainstream economists in recent years was that inflation would persist – and even accelerate – and that this justified substantial interest-rate hikes by the US Federal Reserve. Yet the quasi-inflation of 2021-22 proved transitory. Krugman poses his question with impeccable diplomacy, professing “respect” for three authors of a September 2022 paper published by the Brookings Institution (which was then promoted by Harvard University’s Jason Furman) projecting that it would take at least two years of unemployment at 6.5% to bring inflation back to the Fed’s self-imposed 2% target.
In the aftermath of pandemic relief programs such as increased unemployment and nutrition benefits, greater rental assistance and the child tax credit — policies which the Biden administration allowed to expire in 2021 — Americans faced the largest one-year increase of poverty on record. According to a report from the Census Bureau published on Sept. 12, the sharpest increase in poverty affected children, as child poverty more than doubled from a record low of 5.2 percent to now 12.4 percent. This was indicated by the Supplemental Poverty Measure, which “factors in the impact of government assistance and geographical differences in the cost of living.”
In the wake of an unabated housing crisis and soaring rents, working class sections in Austria have intensified their campaign demanding long-term rent freeze and reforms in the country’s rental law. In its petition, the Communist Party of Austria (KPO) demanded the Austrian People’s Party (OVP)-Greens-led federal government to freeze rents at the current levels until 2029. The Communist Youth of Austria (KJO) endorsed this demand. Groups including the Austrian Tenants’ Association and the Austrian Trade Union Confederation (ÖGB) have also called for a freeze on rents. According to reports, persistently high inflation and a rising Consumer Price Index (CPI) led to a continuous increase in rental prices across the country.
So what we were going to talk about is really the Third World debt crisis, the new Third World debt crisis. How similar and how different is it from the one that hit the Third World back in the 1980s? What has been the specific contribution, if any, of the pandemic and the war? And what is the future of the Third World, given that in addition to all the other calamities, it is now hit with this debt crisis? Now, last time we started with a list of seven questions and we only got through the first two. So let me just go through the seven questions and then we will begin with the third question. So the first question was, what was the genesis of the 1980s debt crisis?
The contradictions of China-bashing in the United States begin with how often it is flat-out untrue. The Wall Street Journal reports that the “Chinese spy” balloon that President Joe Biden shot down with immense patriotic fanfare in February 2023 did not in fact transmit pictures or anything else to China. White House economists have been trying to excuse persistent U.S. inflation saying it is a global problem and inflation is worse elsewhere in the world. China’s inflation rate is 0.7 percent year-on-year. Financial media outlets stress how China’s GDP growth rate is lower than it used to be. China now estimates that its 2023 GDP growth will be 5 to 5.5 percent.
Corporate profits have been the biggest contributor to inflation in Europe since 2021. This is according to a study published by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). “Rising corporate profits account for almost half the increase in Europe’s inflation over the past two years as companies increased prices by more than spiking costs of imported energy”, wrote IMF economists this June. The IMF said “companies may have to accept a smaller profit share if inflation is to remain on track to reach the European Central Bank’s 2-percent target in 2025”. IMF economists Niels-Jakob Hansen, Frederik Toscani, and Jing Zhou detailed their findings in a research paper, “Euro Area Inflation after the Pandemic and Energy Shock: Import Prices, Profits and Wages”.
Today we are joined by Anne Pettifor to discuss an urgent issue of our time, that of the third world debt crisis. As we record this, this is the topic of the Summit on New Global Financing Pact called by Emmanuel Macron in Paris. And we couldn’t find a more authoritative guest for this show. Anne Pettifor does not really need any introduction, and I’m only going to give one to remind ourselves of the range of her contributions. She’s a prolific writer on issues relating to debt, finance and development, and is also an activist and has intervened in politics to great effect.
The political class in Germany is stunned by the findings of a YouGov poll published on Friday that 20% of voters would give their vote to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), making it the second-strongest party behind the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) (28%) and ahead of center-left Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) (19%). There is no mistaking that it is a political earthquake. Given Germany’s proportional representative system — which is unlike the US or the UK where, too, politics is fractious but is protected by the first-past-the-pole voting system — it is reasonable to estimate that the current “traffic-light” coalition between the SPD, the Greens (who polled 15%) and the neo-liberal Free Democrats or FDP (7%) no longer has a mandate to rule, after only one and a half years in office.
We at the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) are outraged by the pronouncement of President Bola Tinubu removing the "fuel subsidy' without due consultations with critical stake holders or without putting in place palliative measures to cushion the harsh effects of the ‘subsidy removal’. Within hours of his pronouncement, the nation went into a tailspin due to a combination of service shut downs and product price hike, in some places representing over 300 per cent price adjustment. By his insensitive decision, President Tinubu on his inauguration day brought tears and sorrow to millions of Nigerians instead of hope. He equally devalued the quality of their lives by over 300 per cent and counting.
Multimillionaire food-writer Jamie Oliver has some advice for the one in five households, including 9.3 million adults and 4 million children currently experiencing food insecurity in the UK: check out his £1 Wonder website for ‘thrifty tips, helpful hacks and delicious recipes that won’t blow the budget’. Mind you, the energy costs are not included, access to white goods like a freezer is assumed, and you will need to put aside 2 hours and 40 minutes to cook your spag-bol. Even the BBC are at it with a page on their website dedicated to £1 meals. Like many other personalised responses to the spiraling cost-of-living crisis focused entirely on money-saving frugality, Oliver and the BBC miss the bigger picture behind food inequality across the country.
Inflation was slow throughout the second half of 2022. Yet you wouldn’t know this from newspaper headlines, statements from “experts,” or the statements and actions of the Federal Reserve. It was only in January of 2023, when the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for December 2022 was released showing an actual (very small) decline in prices for the month, that there began to be a general recognition that the relatively high rate of inflation of late 2021 and the first half of 2022 had abated. The December 2022 decline of one-tenth of 1% was later revised upward to an increase of one-tenth of 1%, but this tiny increase still brought attention to the easing of inflation.