News & Commentary

Emma Alberici, an ABC economics journalist damned for doing her job

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Yes. You are tired of writers with nothing but mean things to write about the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Here’s the thing: writers are tired of writing them, too. Of course, I imagine those writers who have for so long held that the nation should not waste its money on fancy things like culture and news enjoy writing it still. Only the butcher’s dog could feel more joy than a writer at The Australian let loose upon the bones of Emma Alberici. Me? I’d prefer a good state broadcaster to a really good moan.

But. Moan we must. Last week, Alberici, the ABC’s chief economics correspondent, behaved like an economics correspondent. She sought opinions and evidence to respond to a question routinely asked in all Western economies of the present: what would occur if large firms paid less tax? Her written answer was not, “I just have a lot of feelings”, although this is how some guy from Deloitte and another guy from Deloitte read it over at the AFR. Her answer was: empirical evidence indicates that greater tax concessions to large firms are unlikely to produce benefits to everyday people.

Well, slap my arse and call me Red October. Where does this fanatic get off with her whole “here is what many people believe to be the case on corporate taxation” caper? At the point that Malcolm Trumble is moved to publicly question her competence, apparently.

A journalist employed to write on economics deserves no punishment for not failing at that job.

Alberici was not questioning his. Instead, she questioned a declaration. Everyday people have heard that tax cuts to large firms will be to their benefit quite a bit. To assess this claim is not to assess Trumbo, hardly the first guy in the West these past 40 years to insist that companies will always reward the workers if spared the awful bother of paying for roads and things like the rest of us do.

It is my view that Turnbull was about to do damage to this long defence of market-friendly policy. Then, the ABC stepped in and reprimanded its employee for addressing a matter addressed every day across the West. They saved Turnbull. They saved a particular economic view from its inevitable extinction in Australia. Maybe for two or three years.

Alberici wrote two pieces. One was an account of tax paid by the nation’s largest companies. This has been amended since publication. These amendments, as reported last night on the ABC’s Media Watch, were made to “moderate the tone”.

Some facts, claimed host Paul Barry, required revision—a claim which Alberici, quoted on air, contests. “But facts were not the only issue with her news story,” says Barry. Jeez, ABC. JEEZ. BARRY. Could we have one week’s break from this spectacle of dread?

Barry says the amended article is now free of “gratuitous swipes”. He then offers an example of such a swipe. Finance company Goldman Sachs, he reports, was described therein as, “the great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” I know that sentence. I’ve been shitty that I didn’t write it for years. Media Watch was either unaware or unconcerned that this rococo diss is not Alberici’s but that of US journalist, Matt Tiabbi. Either way, Alberici plainly offered the quote as a quote, and not as her opinion. In its future fearless excursions toward the truth, Media Watch might care to do the same.

Alberici concluded, using empirical evidence and the advice of several analysts, that tax cuts to big business will not produce better wages or more jobs.

Another Alberici article, its record preserved here on the Wayback Machine archive, was removed entirely. Barry justifies this decision as an independent one. He claims that the ABC did not succumb to political pressure, notwithstanding its public, and reportedly private, exertion by the Prime Minister.

This second Alberici article is the attempt to investigate the claim that tax cuts to large companies are beneficial to workers. The correspondent concludes, using empirical evidence and the advice of several analysts, that these tax cuts to big business will not produce better wages or more jobs. The Media Watch claim here is that Alberici, fringe analyst given to bloody squid metaphor, was offering analysis in violation of guidelines. Barry does allow that those guidelines have been criticised from within the organisation. He’s such a reasonable chap, he suggests that it may be time for a policy review. Let us all beg for more like Rational Barry.

No. Let us ask what in the name of cheese the ABC editorial department—a bunker I imagine to be filled with clammy bureaucrats screaming “fair and balanced” because the shredder just won’t muffle the sound of dying hope anymore—was doing when it allowed the appointment of an economics correspondent at all. (Least of all, Emma “Occupy” Alberici, a dissenter known to keep close company with a blood red squid.)

If the ABC is bound by its own rules to offer no economics analysis by staff, it must permit no staff member to communicate much that is economic at all. Here’s the thing about the “science” of economics: it is never science. It is always analysis.

Not much can be said about a national economy that is not also analysis. The analysis may remain unseen, even to the broadcaster or writer delivering it. And if you think that it is impossible to hold economic views without truly acknowledging these as views, you’re yet to know Stan Grant.

Grant’s show on ABC News 24, is most remarkable for its title. Matter of Fact could not be more misleading. Grant believes himself to be objective and he believes objectivity to be the kind of economic thinking that Alberici was led to identify as a form of economic thinking. On February 7, Grant tackled the same question as Alberici: the effect of company tax cuts on everyday Australians.

Sure, Grant did this with a panel. Then again, Alberici did not offer her now censored view alone. She sought advice from centrist others. Grant, in fact, was a little more daring with his choice of a “leftist” guest. Professor John Quiggin, an economist who considers Paul Krugman and Thomas Piketty to be basically “socialist”.

Which is every bit as “socialist” as Alberici. Which is every bit as “socialist” as US President Franklin D Roosevelt. I mean, my god. The stupidity of ascribing an economic view to a single author or party. The duplicity of an organisation that permits Grant to write that we are “richer than our forebears could have imagined” (yeah, nah) but sees only poverty and bias in the analysis of Alberici.

An idea deserves no special protection simply because a party has claimed it as their own. A journalist employed to write on economics deserves no punishment for not failing at that job. In time, we will agree: the ABC does not deserve our support. A organisation that depends on our tax might wish to rethink who pays it. It won’t be corporations.

Alberici is not the radical. It’s the ABC that has lost its balance, just like glorious capitalism. To permit only that analysis which pleases those already in power is not just folly. It’s extremism.

[box]Emma Alberici’s selfie with Communications Minister Mitch Fifield via Twitter [/box]

73 responses to “Emma Alberici, an ABC economics journalist damned for doing her job

  1. While I disagree with whole slabs of this article and particularly its complete inability to sensibly distinguish between “analysis” and “opinion”, I forgive everything due to its uncannily accurate description of me as a clammy bureaucrat desperately trying to muffle the sounds of my dying hope. That alone saves it from the shredder.

    1. Alan, if you can sensibly distinguish Uhlmann’s “analysis” from Albirici’s “opinion”, then go to it. If not, perhaps keep your smug superiority to yourself.

      1. Still. The joke about the shredder was funny.
        I do agree though, Marty. A thing only emerges as “opinion” if it outside those parameters acceptable to the powerful.
        If the ABC were balanced, we would not merely hear, see and read positions that reflect, overwhelmingly, the two major parties. (There are exceptions, which I will not mention, because I am afraid that if I say that I like anything, I will draw attention to it as “opinionated.)
        Time for a Marxist on Q and A, for example.
        As for opinion. My god. the interview with Clinton. Not one of her claims about Russia et al were challenged. Claims without evidence affirmed over and again and not one moment in this blockbuster which addressed the everyday lives of US voters. They all voted because they hated women, apparently. Such an elitist and opinionated exchange. With no regard for why people become infatuated with nativist rightists.
        This is an important discussion to have in our own nation. Why do people turn to these figures? If we talk about it, maybe we can produce a good result. But, no. It’s the opinion that “people need to be better” most often seen in debate or interview. Even on 7.30. The things that have happened in our lives these past decades are rarely addressed. It is the well-to-do talking to the well-to-do and here comes Alberici actually trying to address: will you have a better chance of getting a job under this (broadly discredited, even by the effing IMF at the last Davos) and she is being ideological or opinionated.
        Jeez. Everyone in the world is criticising the financialised practice of large corporations who DO NOT innovate or open up jobs when they get tax breaks. Critique of the neoliberal era happens everywhere. It is the dominant view, such that even large liberal organisations such as the IMF are forced to publicly reject it. (They won’t. But they do say it is bad.)
        It is astounding to me that this is seen as bias and not a review of dominant thought. I am a boring person who reads economic texts. I guess I am at that age, now. The things we saw presented were completely in line with contemporary thinking and that they happened to be opposed to government policy is actually irrelevant.
        There are many ways of thinking about the world and the nation that need not refer to our major parties. If “balance” is just representing their views and seeing everything within that context, this is a very narrow conversation. As though the ALP will meaningfully challenge neoliberal organisation.

        1. “As though the ALP will meaningfully challenge neoliberal organisation.”

          Or pretty much anything that might upset the middle class status quo.

        2. My first job out of school was as a draftsman, producing drawings that described objects in detail so they could be manufactured and worked on. The first thing I was taught was that the more perspectives you have of something the better you will be able to describe it and the easier it will be for others to understand. And yet, in government we employ the very stupid assumption that the dominant party gets to impose its singular perspective on everyone and everything.

          Little wonder the planet is a frigging mess.,

          And you are right Helen, that Clinton interview was a crock of septic, steaming crap.

          1. Was it not the effing worst?
            “Oh, Hillary. How could a qualified genius like you be rejected by the hordes? It must have been Russia?!”
            “Yes, Sarah. I am perfect and was rejected by Putin. Who is a sexist.”
            Just no analysis at ALL of the US election. It was a total handjob. I was appalled. Why not just run a half hour ad for the Secretary’s (equally terrible) book?
            No questions about her hawkishness. None about her association with Wall Street. Nothing at all about the diminished economic conditions of voters. War. Finance. The real lives and real labour of everyday people? Why talk about any of that. It was a tedious hour of gloating feminism for the one per cent. Which is not feminism. It is privileged ruling class nonsense from which I learned nothing save for the fact that Sarah Ferguson has completely forgotten what life is like for most of us and the ABC is very comfortable with her perspective.
            Can they really not know that mos of us are doing it tough and do not really care if a centi-millionaire like Hillary experiences sexism from another centi-millionaire?
            Just such bollocks. Just such rich person bollocks. But this is the way, now.

        3. Dear Helen.
          I arrived in Australia in 1971 as a well-educated politically thinking individual, and there were three that immediately amazed me: no political analysis in the major newspapers, but simply ruling class opinion obfuscating ‘news’ for the people (very succesfully over the years), secondly the so-called ALP, which looked like to espouse opinions to the right of Djenghis Khan (since continental European Labour parties meant for me socialist thinking), and thirdly the amazing fear of/objection to the term ‘socialist’. Since that time, with some small interventions in the 70s-80s, this country has moved, beginning with Howard, towards the abyss of total rule by the rich.
          The refreshing attempt of Emma Alborici (who had a long experience of West-European politics) to offer a clear and balanced analysis about a topic, which no-one in this country- except sane political economic thinkers (among which I count you, myself and some nice people, who are not all socialists, but just are bored and sick of stupid remarks) even thinks about as open to total obfuscation- seemed to offer some light at the end of the tunnel. And then came the amazing reaction, where a PM and his Govt. simply silences critical thought. This is getting close to fascism (like Howard in his time lay the ground for a sickening racist nationalism). For those of us who lived under occupations during WWII, it is seriously scary.
          It indicates that we can forget hoping the ABC ever getting close to impartial and honest political presentations (that is also quite obvious in the Breakfast ‘show’, in the compilation of the Q&A ‘balanced’ forums under that ‘even-handed’ Tony Jones, in the yawningly boring Virginia Trioli chairing the #MeToo forum as the latest ridiculous talkfest for the alt-right). I am afraid it is all going downwards.
          I think your idea to have a Marxist on Q&A, apart from being ‘pie in the sky’ will over time be seen as a political offence against the State.
          I should say that I was hoping that for once something would be awakened by Emma’s article,but she was not for nothing sacked with LateLine (though hardly left-wing). It is absolutely right that what she was trying to offer is common fare in Western European economies, and accepted as fact in Davos, and Piketty is regarded as a middle of the road analyst. I think the whole so-called class of political Australian journalists should be send to the gulag of Scandinavia to learn not to shudder about daring to use words like ‘socialism’, nationalisation, price control, workplace councils etc. (and those are just social democratic capitalist countries, which have never heard of negative gearing, capital gains, company-or wealthy-tax reductions as a mean to increase jobs, because everone assumes that profits/dividends/wealth are taxed to the hilt because that pays for social services, education,infrastructures, an equal pension for all etc).
          I think that even having a Marxist with something to say or teach on university campuses (I used to be one of them) is perhaps already an oddity, not to speak of someone, who knows what we mean by the means of production, because the power over the means of mental production in this country is as total as it is in the USA.
          Thank you for your continual courageous attempts to educate the masses!

          1. Hm. I gotta say that from a distance, Europe is pretty much in the lav, too. Far right parties abound. Merkel got Greece by the nuts. The continent is run by the troika (European Commission, European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund) and since this age of neolibrealism, the place has gone loopy.
            Having one currency/monetary policy and various taxation/fiscal policies was a terrible idea. Which was an opinion offered by many economists before the Maastricht Treaty was signed. I think Varoufakis explains it thus: imagine Tasmania goes broke and Canberra decides to put it on a loan it can never pay back, then forces it to impose austerity conditions on all its poorest citizens. That is what happened in Europe.
            So, no, I can’t agree that people listen to progressive economists there, because it’s a monumental mess full of shuttered towns and racists. An actual real life Nazi party now holds positions in German parliament.
            I don’t think the problem is that we are Australian. As bad as this nation can be, we would do well to remember the heroism of unions, everyday economists, in the past. I am proud as punch when thinking of the Eureka Stockade. I am damn proud that Menzies was unsuccessful in banning communism. I get a little teary when I think of our Black Power movement, full of such brilliant people, and then I look at their grandchildren now organising a resistance movement. I became very sappy here in Melbourne on January 26 as these babies told it how it was.
            This documentary on our union movement in the 1970s by Pat Fiske might make you feel a little more hopeful Mia.
            We got some stuff, here. We just need to revive it.

  2. No qualifications in journalism allows one to be a journalist. Same in politics.

    Not so much in respected occupations, like economics, cause it shows…

    1. economists where invented to make astrologers seem credible. How many economists called the last financial collapse, despite the warning bells being rung loud enough to wake even humble tradesmen like myself? I can think of 3, and Quiggen and Krugman are not on the list.

      That aside as a general comment I think the ABC under Rupert’s apprentice has whored its integrity and the issue under discussion is just doing the business in the back seat, on a public street, in broad daylight.

      1. Ann Pettifor, Steve Keen and Michael Hudson did.
        I believe Richard D Wolff and Michael Roberts?
        So heterodox and Marxian economists.

    2. “…Respected occupations, like economics …” On What planet would that be? It seems to have no consideration of behavioural analysis, which is absolutely required to make even a half-way decent guess. It simply does not do the job it purports to exist to do.

      1. No. Economists do make many assumptions about behaviour. Your classical liberal assumes that capitalism is the natural extension of human nature. Your Keynesian absolutely takes crowd behaviour into account. Your Marxist says the mode of production (how the survival of a society is organised, AKA an economy) creates patterns of behaviour. And, there’s a whole load of behavioural economists.
        The problem with most economists, in my view, is that they do not tie the political or the social to the economy at all. Which is toxic, and a bit silly.
        (FWIW, I am a true loony. I.e. Marxist.)

  3. You do know who John Quiggin is, and what his views are, yeah? Because there’s no shortage of copy with his name on it out there (placing him well to the left of Krugman, fwiw).

    1. HI, Maree. Not sure if you are having a wink, here, with the ultra-feminism. If not: the bloke is Mitch Fifield. The picture is relevant (and captioned) as he is one of the political figures who has upbraided Alberici.

  4. One has only to look at our parliament.
    Elected people without qualification try to run the country into the ground. The government is attempting to muzzle free press.
    The fake news presented by the prime minister that corporate tax cuts will advance the average Australian is clearly in the interest of business and not the people.

  5. Undoubtedly, Quiggin can defend himself (better than I can). But compare:

    Razer: “Professor John Quiggin, an economist who considers Paul Krugman and Thomas Piketty to be basically “socialist”.”

    with the citation she gives for this assertion:

    Quiggin: While not explicitly socialist (Krugman’s blog is called The Conscience of a Liberal) these economists have focused attention on issues of inequality and unemployment, and on progressive policy responses.”


    1. Hi. I think you see critique of the professor where there is none.
      To say that something is “not especially socialist” in an article describing socialism (although, actually describing a social democratic form) is still to say it is socialist. I am not incorrect. (I do dispute that Krugman, who throughout 2016 and to the present champions DSGE and Hillary Clinton is in any way left. He is an culturally progressive neoliberal.)
      As I am certain you are aware, the professor is not given to socialist views , they only appear so in the minds of free market maniacs.
      His is a moderate view, moderate, like Alberici’s. I included mention of him here in an article about perceived bias to remind readers that those we may call socialist are no more socialist than Thomas Piketty.

  6. Thank you Helen. Your opinion is well put and well analysed. So was Alberici’s. The difference appears to be that the forum for which you write is content to allow the punter to make of your article what they will. The ABC on the other hand (perhaps more so under Guthrie?) is acting as censor and attempting to influence public thought and opinion for its own purposes. The difficult is in determining what they see as their own purposes. Be worried folks, be very, very worried and voice your concerns loud and clear. Assaults on democracy, free speech and individualism are becoming commonplace and I for one do not want to be subject to social-engineering of this nature.

  7. The argument is whether tax cuts will lead to wage increases. Let’s have a bit of empiricism and ask big business just how much they will increase employee wages (and which employees will get what percentage of that increase) in return for the tax cut.

    1. That is not empirical evidence. That is a questionnaire for hypothetical behaviour.
      Empirical evidence is the substance of the thing that Alberici wrote. In looking at Western nations that had decreased tax to corporations, it was found that over time, this did not result in greater benefits to workers.
      Why, by the way, are you so prepared to trust corporations? They answer will be, “yes of course”. The reality is that companies need to grow profits in order to stay in business. Every wage diminishes profit. What on earth would the incentive be to employ anybody? Why would any company sacrifice a dividend payment for a mere worker?
      This is not a moral judgement, by the way. We all have to make decisions about money. And if the best decision is: I would rather not pay workers (or tax) if I don’t have to and that option is available to you, that is the option you will take. Especially in business.

  8. I’ve always thought Emma Alberici to be excellent. I miss Lateline , but am not in the least surprised by the biased, piddle weak ABC cabal’s actions.

    After all group-think and biased news are their forte.

  9. An awful lot of apple v orange comparisons in Emma’s article and some use of “damn statistics”. Not saying it’s the wrong conclusion but it seems pretty clear to me that Emma started with her conclusion and set about finding the “facts” and opinions that fitted.

    One example – Saul and Emma’s point about Canada vs Australia investment rates. They dwell exclusively on a comparative measurement being proof positive of their POV but manage to skip the inescapable takeout that investment in Canada is always higher in this graph.

    Add to it the surrounding reporting by ABC when this first came out which was clearly pushing a particular POV and quite erroneous in some of it’s more hysterical commentary. They later apologised for not understanding what profit was vs income butl it was a lot later and a lot quieter.

    So are the facts wrong? Possibly yes, possibly no but they are clearly chosen to support a particular POV and as such it’s quite reasonable for people who disagree to say so. And strongly if they believe if it is likely to mislead people in a serious discussion.

    And is Emma biased? I’d have to say based on my listening/watching over the years that she is much more likely to be left of centre than right of centre in her beliefs. Is that a hanging offense. Probably not but it doesn’t mean it hasn’t played a part in the way the articles were framed.

    1. Not sure you actually made a point there. Surely comparative is the correct method here, as Canada has a good 50% higher population and its GDP pc is about the same. And yet direct foreign investment in Canada, from the quick whip-around I did, is actually in the same ball park as Australia. In fact, for 2016 and 2017 it looks to me as if the Australian number was marginally higher.

      I think you should admit your own bias when you’re accusing others of it.

      1. Yep, nup. That point wasn’t about GDP. And my main point was that people’s bias has a great deal to do with how they frame an argument particularly when it is economic-based which is subjective at best – as my economics professor said in Year 1, it’s not a science – so plenty of room to play.

        So I’m pretty sure you totally missed the main point in my comment but that’s OK as some people prefer not to engage in open and objective analysis which is always difficult if you have you head somewhere dark and warm…

        As to my own bias, of course I have one. Several in fact. However I love the ABC and SBS but am still able to be aware of many of it’s constituents bringing their own biases to work and to realise that this ultimately undermines it’s value to Australia as it becomes increasingly more like our more conservative media and just talks in a bubble.

  10. I am waiting for the shining truth to be revealed by Turdball or any of his ilk…crickets…..of note is the hilarious claim by the hack in the Financial review that said corporations didnt pay tax because they didnt make a profit, how many LOLZ can one write.? if profit minimisation by a thousand means wasnt their expertise. I mean just send the profit offshore to the parent company and hey presto…we didnt make any profit here in Astraya,oh shame. This is a dark day for Australian journalism (another one) and the censorship is a major definition of fascism.

    1. I knows folks is dumb where I come from soz howz that there’s companies make no profits but can still dividends to share holders?

      And if those companies are making no profits what the hell are they paying multimillion dollars salaries and bonus to the CEOs for?

      And aren’t the boards that approve of the salaries and bonus for the CEOs remiss for granting bonuses when performance is such that the companies make no profit?

      And after years of making no profits how come they are still even business?

      Just askin’.

  11. Right-wing playbook, Rule 1: When you can’t attack the ideas attack the woman instead.
    To any rational person this type of critique shows the attacker has lost. In chess the rules prevent you from making a move which will make you lose, not so in politics.

  12. Back in January MYOB CEO Tim Reed claimed a reduction in the corporate tax rate to 25% would allow him to hire at least 50 additional software developers in Australia (AFR 22 Jan 18 p1). By my calculations, the net tax savings – of a 25 percent nominal tax rate (based on the 2016 annual report in which year MYOB actually paid the ATO only $5.4 million on profits of $74 million – $14 million in tax liability being deferred), amounts to just over $820,000 or just $16,400 a year for each of those 50 programmers. The Federal minimum wage is over $36,000. Maybe it is also time to call out all these tax reduction hucksters for what they really are – leeches on public revenue.

    1. ‘Leeches on public revenue… how much does taxpayers’ money does the ABC get to spend every year? $1.2 billion? Less Alberici’s cut.

      1. I am happy to pay for contributions like Alberici’s. We all should be. Even if you feel her “conclusion” (if you can call “this tax break thing doesn’t seem to trickle down to ordinary people” a conclusion and not a statement of observed fact) is wrong, you can respect the attempt (successful, I’d say) to get us understanding a complex thing like a national economy.
        That’s a true public service. And one that private enterprise could find no way to offer. Don’t think corporate advertisers would like the truth being told, much.
        It’s a shame the ABC has developed an aversion to it.

    1. The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it.

  13. I read the ABC’s guidelines on analysis and opinion. Essentially, they are a somewhat tortuous attempt to make a distinction that is virtually impossible to determine. They admit that the line is hard to draw, and that most commentary is a weave. Paul Barry’s bald statement that ‘ABC staff are not allowed to voice opinion’ – as he waved a copy of the guidelines – is way too simplistic a reading of them. There are quite nuanced rules for ABC current affairs staff, and they allow for some interpretation and leeway. That said, I couldn’t see much opinion in the Alberici piece. It’s full of facts and figures and the one piece of real polemic is, as you say, a quote from someone else. Someone needs to do Barry’s job for him and call him out.

    1. I really cannot find a way to explain his attribution to Alberici of the “blood funnel” comment. To use an example of the broadly expressed disenchantment with corporations is to use an example. I’d say the true problem here is not that Alberici said such a thing (which she did not, Barry ought to clarify) but that the company in question was Goldman Sachs.
      Our Prime Minister happened to be the local chair and MD of Goldman Sachs.

  14. I enjoyed your analysis and ripostes! To the list of dominant thinkers and writers in current economic thought, perhaps that of Joseph Stiglitz should be added.

    1. Stiglitz is fine. I particularly like the way he gives it to the World Bank. He is also accessible and even though this piece ended up in Vanity Fair, it helped a protest movement find its slogan.
      For me, it’s Michael Roberts (who I’ve just started looking at, really) and Richard Wolff, for living Marxist economists.
      Heterodox economists can be so useful, too. I recommend for you Mark Blyth, Ann Pettifor, Steve Keen and certainly a spot of Michael Hudson. Killing the Host is a great account of financialisation.
      Could I also suggest Volume 1 of Capital? think chapter 25 is the one that made me think “gee, this guy knew some stuff”. I cannot really say I have read Volume 2 as equation cause me to fall asleep. Chapters 13 and 14 in Volume 3 are good, though. Or, you could cheat and read The Grundrisse.
      Varoufakis is very useful. And Keynes was not a thicko. Very boring to read, though. Karl Polanyi is also super boring as a writer, but The Great Transformation is such an important book.
      Basically, I will have a little look at anyone who concedes that capitalism is not something that can achieve “balance”. It depends where you go from there. Yo could be one of those folks who says “well, we’ll just keep balancing it” or you could go nuts and say, “Well, we need something that is not capitalism, then”. I’m one of those, I reckon. Chiefly because I see capitalism as a system that is opposed to human flourishing. Also because I am impressionable and convinced by Marx’s argument that it is going to fall over at some point.
      Happy reading and YouTubing and podcast listening. And hang around here, because when I unleash my plan to force the world’s keenest economic minds to make understanding easy for the rest of us, I may do it here.

      1. Many thanks Helen for all you have offered here.

        May I suggest at least a passing nod to JK Galbraith, who gave us the magnificent quote re trickle-down economics: “If you feed enough oats to the horse, some will pass through to feed the sparrows”. I’ve just read his ‘The Affluent Society’ (1958) in which his main theme is that mainstream economic thought is derived from 19th century poverty, whereas once a society becomes affluent it can afford not to be brutal and it no longer needs to ‘increase production’ at all costs. Along the way, he excoriates Western over-consumption – and that was in 1958 – he would die were he alive today!

      2. Add Philip Mirowski. Powerhouse of historical knowledge and analytical acuity, pugilist, occasional conspiracy theorist and brilliant lecturer who occasionally shouts at audiences and says ‘shall I say that again?’ to wake thump to a point that might cause a few brain circuits to need rewiring.

  15. Thanks for all those links, especially to the now censored articles Helen. I shall be sure to post them on all the social media outlets I can, in a (probably futile) effort to bring attention to this question being brushed under the carpet – again.

    1. It’s the gig, Emma. Got to make it link-rich these days. No excuse for not searching for source documents.
      I am also old enough to remember what a pain in the bum it was to find things in libraries. This is easier than microfiche.

  16. Good on you, Helen. Somebody has to stand up for Alberici. What she exposed is just what everyone not in a boardroom has been saying for several years, and has been amply demonstrated in Britain, the US and Canada to name just a few. I was truly shocked by ABC management’s behaviour, both over Alberici’s articles and the filing cabinets. Although I have to say, this is exactly the sort of thing I believe Guthrie was shoe-horned in for.

  17. Emma Alberici was deliberately hung out to dry. The “Government” of this censorious Prime Minister has used its power of appointment to appoint to the key management position a person with no knowledge of television, but a brief to strip the ABC of its capacity to give us unbiased and informed information. It has stripped the ABC of funding in an attempt to emasculate its capacity to criticise the “government” (no capital this time!). Turnbull & co want a nice ineffective national broadcaster before they dismember it completely.

    The ABC management is complicit in this strategy by its treatment of Alberici, one of the ABC’s most intelligent employees. The sooner we get rid of Turnbull and his pals, together with the current ABC Board and management, the better.

  18. This is the most vivid and well-thought-out forum I’ve seen in many a year. I am involved in the aid area, particularly in Afghanistan where Trump’s Mother of All Bombs was dropped supposedly to kill insurgent Taliban. I have it on good authority that the reason the bomb was dropped was no such thing – 90 + people died, feeble total for Afghanistan, who can do just as many with one car bomb, disguised as an ambulance getting through to emergency – no, according to people in Nangarhar Province where the bomb dropped, it was done to reveal the mineral profile of them thar hills. When Trump succeeded in being elected, Ghani rang to congratulate him and Trump said ‘We’ll have to sit down and talk lithium some time.’ When the political machinations of the world so nakedly exploit those whose lives and fortunes they are supposed to be helping to rebuild, the world is going to hell in a handbasket and neocapitalism with it.

  19. Fantastic piece Helen.
    Paul Barry needs more kicks up the backside like the one you’ve delivered.
    The ABC management is becoming a total joke instead of a bit of one.
    The “the filing cabinet” fiasco was pitifully handled by a bunch inexperienced journos and a cowed and timorous bunch of managers.
    A great story in the national interest was obliterated.
    You’re right about economics being analysis and opinion not science ffs.

  20. This Minister Fifield is a drongo he needs to be sacked, he bleeds the tax payer with his incompetence. Take note the MD of ABC is also a Puppet and had been hand picked by the Libs to carry out their dirty work and to suppress accountability of this Government. Its disgraceful.

  21. Now that Helen has become expert in economics; presumably from studying Lenin’s NEP (New Economic Plan), we should put the simple proposition that reducing company tax will produce better wages or more jobs to a thought test.

    More profit in the hands of companies will either be used for investment, dividends to shareholders or remuneration for employees (the CEO and directors being the princes of employees). More investment might mean more jobs (maybe not in Oz), more dividends might mean more spending and investment elsewhere (could be more jobs), and more remuneration for employees (higher wages or bigger goodies for the Gail Kellys and Alan Joyces or Armed Dafurs). Notice how I have used a Diversity of typical great sucking tubes at the top of our corporate mates club.

    So overall, less company tax might ‘tend’ to produce more jobs and more wages (maybe not HIGHER wages for the proles).

    CONVERSELY, greater company taxes (less profit in the hands of companies) might logically ‘tend’ to reduce jobs and wages.

    If one argues that the level of company tax is neutral for wages and jobs, then we should wack it up to 60, 70% and solve all our budget problems in one hit. How about it Helen? Want to try running that with Crikey’s economic experts?

    1. You have just described a conservative version of the New Deal, which moderate scholars believe to be the antidote for the Great Depression. Although, the high marginal rate was 94%, I believe.
      Look, mate. You can waggle your finger and say that I am a silly little so-and-so who understands nothing about macroeconomics as you and other experts do. You can overlook the entire shape of the twentieth century. You can rest on nothing but some hastily gathered facts and champion Hayek all you wish. The analysis is in and even Alan Greenspan has said that his Randian understanding of an economy was wrong.
      Call me stupid. Hey, you might be right. I may have no business at all trying to understand current economic theory and I would be better to leave it in the hands of “realistic” chaps like you.
      Still. Generous concessions to those who accumulate the most wealth has not resulted over these past 40 years to better conditions for citizens of the West. Nor of those from the Global South. You can call me a dill. What you can’t do is convince people living in diminishing circumstances that things are just getting better and better. Unfortunately, people’s sense of reality will tend to get in the way of your old argument, one rejected even by the IMF.

      1. Well said Helen. I do like the passion you put into the case, and at the risk of patronising…you are not a dill, just a bit short on facts and analysis.

        I am not an advocate of unfettered capitalism; indeed I believe in an expanding prosperous middle class which means a safety net for those unable to participate in economic activity, or whose productivity can never earn them enough to have a decent minimum standard of living.

        There are several dogs which were let off the leash in the last 25 years; that hard dog to keep on the porch William Jefferson Clinton initiated the demise of the Glass-Steagal Act which FDR made law to separate Savings Banks from Merchant Banks from Insurance Companies – to wall up the mom&pop savings and loan institutions from the speculative merchant banks like the Goldman Sachs and Lehmans etc, and insurance companies from insuring speculative assets.

        Bill Clinton issued a ‘retrospective’ waiver for such an Insurance Company takeover by a Merchant Bank after such blatant attempt to break Glass-Stegal. You can Google this, but my recall is that some Wall streeters had a very close relationship with the Clintons in the last 2 years of WJC’s presidency, and of course Bill pardoned some FBI indicted criminal in the last hours of his presidency and same made his way to Israel via Hillary’s senate slush fund.

        So idiot George W. Bush followed up with a full destruction of Glass-Stegal and set the scene for the sub-prime AAA rated shite to be created by Wall Streets great sucking tubes, sold around the world by same great sucking tubes, rated by Ratings Agencies paid by great sucking tubes and all financed by access to mom&pop’s pension funds and free money issued by the great Greenspan.

        Like Mountbatten after Indian partition, Ayn Rand’s banker admitted that he ‘f**ked up’ in 2008. In fact I was flying back from the USA (business class of course) in November 2008 and a small piece appeared on the front page of the Wall St Journal with Alan’s mea culpa. (go look it up)

        I remembered it because Lehman had collapsed a few weeks earlier, and a respected economist wrote again on the WSJ front page that it would take at least 10 years to recover from the great crash. Obama was elected the next day and in his 8 years of virtue signalling NO Wall Streeer went to jail and none in fact were even massacred by a ruined mom or pop with a 100 round assault rifle.

        In the Oz context, the dogs were let run by none other than worker’s heroes Hawke & Keating. The great Super system of compulsory saving allowed vast sums of mom&pops super to be played with by the Big Four Banks investment funds, sucking fees at 3-4 times the rate of similar overseas pension funds, and allowing unregulated rip-offs of the poor by extortionate credit card interest rates: building the Big Four into the best set of giant sucking tubes in the southern hemisphere.

        I am for rigorous enforcement and regulation of fraud and rip-offs in the Big Four. I hope the Royal Commission results in charges and jailing of the CEO’s and responsible officers of these giant sucking tubes and a special place in Hell for their mouthpieces, such as that another worker’s hero ……Anna Bligh…. and to keep political balance….. mandarin candidates like Andrew Robb.

        I must stop here Helen, but you get my drift.

        1. Looks like an attempt to redeem yourself after that crass opening salvo.
          Just take a look at your ‘argument’:
          “More profit in the hands of companies will either be used for investment, dividends to shareholders or remuneration for employees (the CEO and directors being the princes of employees). More investment might mean more jobs (maybe not in Oz), more dividends might mean more spending and investment elsewhere (could be more jobs), and more remuneration for employees (higher wages or bigger goodies for the Gail Kellys and Alan Joyces or Armed Dafurs). Notice how I have used a Diversity of typical great sucking tubes at the top of our corporate mates club.

          So overall, less company tax might ‘tend’ to produce more jobs and more wages (maybe not HIGHER wages for the proles).

          CONVERSELY, greater company taxes (less profit in the hands of companies) might logically ‘tend’ to reduce jobs and wages.”
          Well all this ‘might’ be – in some cloud cuckoo land where there are no tax havens, ponzi schemes, debt trading scams… where there are no food banks for full time workers on poverty pay rates with companies raking in billions and paying obscene ‘bonuses’ to their CEOs… where there are no governments run through the back door by media moguls and donor corporations… where those in the seats of power are actually focused on policy for the public good.
          And to suggest that someone who doesn’t buy into such an utterly naive account of the virtues of corporate tax cuts, based as it is on the most obvious vested interests, is a disciple of Lenin is …well …indicative of some fundamental disconnect with real people who have real intelligence.

          1. Let Helen speak for herself Jay. She is obviously a fan of Lenin but seemed to fall at the first hurdle of his NEP.

            And BTW, you obviously did not get my drift; I am against unfettered unregulated capitalism; and more against unfettered socialism which impoverishes everybody except the small elite protected by the police state which inevitably results.

        2. Jog on, Archie. Jay is permitted to speak in favour of a view, which happens to be mine, and he shares. He is not speaking for me, and, FFS, stop pretending to be some sort of chivalrous male feminist to redeem yourself after your very public insistence, twice now, that I am short on information. Unlike you, apparently, who knows the “truth”, which is that Alberici’s account is not the truth.
          Bollocks, frankly. For the nth time, the Alberici account, which was largely derived from moderate economists from storied institutions, is now a dominant analysis. Transfers from the everyday person to large corporations do not make everyday persons more likely to be employed. It’s not true when Trump says it. It’s not true when Turnbull says it. And you can tell yourself that I know nothing of the economic past or present if you like. Or, you could argue like a grownup and attack this assertion and not me.
          What are you attacking, then, if you support the mild idea that transfers to corporations do not produce good results? You’re just attacking me.
          Yes, I am not a qualified economist. But, I am certainly qualified to speak about media idiocy. I have a strong lay interest in economic thinking of the present. Clearly, this is a domain in which you believe yourself to excel. So, go start a Medium account then, or something. Show off your knowledge which exceeds mine by so much and tell the people what is really going on.
          Just quit it with the insults and the false concern. There are so many great people here really asking questions of themselves and each other, and here you are, some pork chop relic with your ad hominem nonsense. “You don’t know the facts” or “You are a known communist”. This advances nothing.
          EVERYONE ELSE. Thanks so much for playing. Your comments, your curiosity and your wisdom give me great hope that this nation is not overcome by willing ignorance. Even the critique here is fun. I would much rather be arguing with folks about where to place Professor Quiggin on a political spectrum or the topic of austerity than whether I have the qualification to provide media critique or not.
          You know what? Does it matter if I am “qualified”? Obviously, I am a vain person who believes herself to be widely read enough to speak on basic macroeconomic matters. But, even if not, even if I am as unqualified as many think Alberici to be (does it occur to you guys that being both reporter/analyst and professional economist is impossible; there are media employees for a reason, right? Our skill set is to be able to take big undifferentiated slabs of information and events and give you a portable look at them. It is not arrogant to do a job) this is not the point.
          The point is economic policy prescriptions and how we, and reporters, are able to critique these.
          FFS. It is the work of government to collect and distribute revenue. This is their primary task. It is the work of reporters, critics and analysts to offer accounts of this. When one of our number is prevented from offering Australians this account because it is not the account the government would prefer, we are stuffed.
          Again, you coming across like a self-appointed technocrat serves nothing but your own pleasure. This is obvious to Jay. And to many.
          I realise you feel bad and you’re back-pedalling. I do the same. Contrition is difficult. Realising you have been a bit of a twat takes a while. I do it, too. But, you know, these days I try not to hit “publish” so quickly. Maybe do the same.

          1. Backpedalling? Backpedalling my arse Helen. No point made in my pieces have you seriously refuted. My consistent position is that I favour a well regulated capitalism and am well aware of the abuses which have happened when such regulation is subverted. Subverted by worker’s heroes in the cases I cited.

            Since you opened up on 24FEB with a bit of ‘hey I am not an expert and you might know something’; I acknowledged that honestly with (dare I say) some grace….thanks for the kick in the groin in response.

            As far as Alberici goes….I never mentioned her….but since you raise her contribution….her piece was corrected by the ABC mainly because she trumpeted that big companies were making big profits and paying no company tax.

            If she understood the company tax in Australia, she would have known that it is a PROFITS tax, and prior year LOSSES are deductable from current year profits until they are eliminated. THEN a company pays Company tax.

            It is not a TURNOVER tax like your personal income tax where you have very few deductions and the bulk of your income is taxed.

            A company’s turnover LESS all the costs of materials, wages, depreciation and PRIOR YEAR UNDEDUCTED LOSSES becomes its current year PROFIT. If prior year losses are HUGE, and later year profits smaller, then it may pay no tax for several years as these losses are deducted until exhausted.

            Alberici should have known that, and claiming that Companies were sort of avoiding tax when they legitimately deduct prior year losses is just plain wrong.

            I suspect she (probably never having run a company – just a very petite sucking tube of Aunty’s funds) didn’t know the basics of company tax.

            So her first article was rubbish, and Paul Barry was right to highlight same in the interests of looking balanced in his critique of the media, by criticising a junior ABC luvvie.

          2. Archie, EA’s assertion about companies not paying tax may have been clumsily put, but your exposition shows that there is at least one issue to be addressed in the way corporations are taxed, and that is the overly generous capacity to carry forward losses, combined with their ability to move revenue off shore in inter party transactions. Added to this for resource companies who get the benefit of these concessions is the pathetic amount Aus extracts as a resource rent tax, notwithstanding state based royalties. No wonder punters feel ripped off. The headline tax rate is far removed from the effective tax rate in Aus, which on average, from memory is 20% or below. The cultural cringe has morphed into an economic cringe – forever grateful and paying them to do business here.

  22. Despite all the opposition and road blocks I hope you are able to continue with your particular blend of analysis and sharp comment. It makes a welcome antidote to the pap being presented to us by the Stan Grants, Sarah Fergusons, Tony Jones etc of the ABC TV world. However I thought the TV nadir was reached this week with Leigh Sales’ interview with Greg Norman. I can only hope that it made Malcolm Turnbull squirm as Greg Nornam took the credit for easing his path to Donald Trump’s door.

  23. The only value most politicians see in the great unwashed is votes. They don’t want us to know what they and their agencies do and are trying to make it illegal to find out. We’re spiraling towards a police state where the big end of town is A OK and the rest have to do the best we can with complex regulations and no information. How a poorly educated citizen can navigate our supposed welfare system is beyond me.

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