Written Oct 16th
Raising interest rates will do little to address underlying economic issues, says visiting US economist Professor Michael Hudson. “The market factoring in 7 interest rates rises spells danger for the Australian economic miracle” warns Professor Hudson.

“Governments must use tax policy rather than monetary policy to address asset bubbles. Burdening the whole economy with land price overheads penalises manufacturing by pricing the products of Australian labor out of global markets.”

“Higher interest rates will provide a windfall for arbitrageurs to borrow at about 1% abroad and lend to Australia at 3.25%. This inflow into the A$ will bid up the exchange rate. This will make Australian exports more expensive, slowing new manufacturing investment and employment while eating into export revenues across the board.”

Prof. Hudson says that “this is the same phenomenon that is happening in Canada. It represents a sacrifice of the real economy of production and consumption to the financial sector.”

“Raising interest rates will hurt government finances in three ways,” Prof. Hudson explains. “First, the government will have to pay more money to bondholders. Second, mortgagees also will see their interest payments rise. This will reduce the income they have to spend on goods and services. Markets will shrink, and so will tax revenues. Finally, the rising exchange rate will reduce business profits, reducing corporate revenue.”

“If the government really wants to slow the property bubble, the appropriate tool is fiscal policy. All they need to do is apply a windfall gains tax. This is like the excess profits tax that countries passed in times past.”

“The beneficiaries of higher interest rates are the banks, not labor and industry. Giving tax preferences to the FIRE sector (finance, insurance and real estate) rather than to industry and consumers limits the ability of economic growth to benefit most Australians. By cutting the capital gains tax below taxes on wages and business profits, the government is encouraging speculation, benefiting wealth and raising the price of property against labor. This means that consumers need to go deeper and deeper into debt to afford rising land and housing prices.”

“Rising interest rates accentuate the housing affordability crisis by rewarding speculators with negative gearing write offs whilst penalising first home owners.”

“Limiting asset bubble policy to raising interest rates makes billions of dollars for bankers in the carry trade, whilst penalising the manufacturing and export sector. Governor Stevens aggressive commentary on the likely prospect of rising interest rates shows his policy conundrum. He has indicated that speculators can make a gain on the rising A$ against foreign currencies ­and falling government bond prices. This seems a circuitous way to counter the price rise inhousing. He should look at keeping a lid on land prices via the use of a Land Tax. This tool should be incorporated into the RBA’s powers. Then it can be properly implemented without the limitations of political lobbying.”

In addition, Prof. Hudson observed, “The Treasurer’s announcement earlier this week that the government will expand its guaranteeing of mortgages shows that it has learnt little from America’s experience. Giving a public guarantee runs the danger that banks will simply give their loan officers bonuses on the number of mortgages they can write, without much care as to whether the borrowers can pay their debts or not, because the government will bail out bad loans.”

“This gives bankers the confidence to make as many loans as they want because the tax payer can always bail them out. The bonuses to bankers will continue as they load the economy down with debt. That is what Alan Greenspan called wealth creation.”

“The everyday person has been conned into believing that borrowing more and more money is the best way to get wealthy. This is the first time in history that going deeper and deeper into debt is seen as wealth creation” stated Professor Michael Hudson, touring the country warning on the epidemic of re-inflating asset bubbles.