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Modest Inflation is Good for Workers – Bob Pollin

Will a large infrastructure plan create inflation? If inflation is linked to higher wages, that’s not bad for workers, says Pollin. Large increases in inflation have been linked to higher oil prices which are unlikely. What’s missing from the Biden plan is it doesn’t sufficiently address a just transition for fossil fuel workers. Bob Pollin joins theAnalysis.news with Paul Jay.

Transcript

Paul Jay

Hi, I’m Paul Jay, welcome to theAnalysis.news. Please don’t forget the donate button, the subscribe button, and all the buttons and we’ll be back in a second with Bob Pollin.

The Biden administration is trying to pass its $2.2 trillion infrastructure plan, although it’s been reported Biden is willing to cut that plan by 25 percent to make a deal with Republicans who warned of a new round of inflation. Some liberal economists, notably former Clinton and Obama adviser Larry Summers are also raising the alarm that trillions of dollars of government spending will be inflationary. The inflationary cautions are also being raised by well-known economic columnist Martin Wolf, writing in the Financial Times in March, “The likelihood, then, is that there’s going to be a huge expansion in spending and little in the way of additional taxation. Given the monetary expansions, too, the chances of an inflationary overshoot have substantially increased. If this happens in the U.S., worldwide spillovers are quite likely, not least in the UK. But in other high-income countries, too, household savings are high, fiscal deficits large, and monetary policy expansionary. The kindling needed to light an inflationary fire can be seen almost everywhere.” Further down, Wolf writes, “Above all, an inflationary overshoot will trigger a disinflationary response from central banks. That will mean much higher policy rates. That could lead to waves of default, far more pervasive than in the early 1980s when the big story was the debt crisis in developing countries. This time, the debt crisis could be almost everywhere, because there’s so much more debt.” Wolf concludes with, “Inflation has not come back. It may never do so. But the political and policy shifts we are seeing today after Covid, together with longer-term changes in the world economy, have raised the chances of an inflationary shock of some kind. Investors must take this possibility into account.”

Now joining us to discuss whether the inflation fears are justified, as Bob Pollin, he’s co-founder of Perry the Political Economy Research Institute in Amherst, Massachusetts, and author of the book he co-authored with Noam Chomsky titled Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal: The Political Economy Saving the Planet. Thanks very much for joining us again, Bob.

Bob Pollin

Thanks very much for having me on, Paul.

Paul Jay

So before we get into what Wolf and some other people are saying. I’ve done a couple of stories on this issue of is inflation really coming back and so on and some people are writing in saying maybe the overall inflation rate hasn’t gone up, but when I look at my cost of living, it’s gone up. So, talk a bit about the relationship of the cost that ordinary people feel and this overall still relatively low level of inflation.

Bob Pollin

Well, the thing that’s clearly gone up dramatically are oil prices and people experience that day to day and of course, the price of oil, petroleum is, you drive in the street and you see it posted. Four months ago, roughly speaking, it was $2 a gallon and now it’s roughly $3 or more depending on your community. So that’s definitely gone up and that’s what people are seeing and I think they’re incorporating that, but if you look at the overall, as you just said, overall consumer price index, which includes oil, that includes everything else. It has gone up, but it’s gone up very modestly. Whether it’s going to continue to go up remains to be seen. It’s possible that it could go up sharply. The main thing, pulling up overall inflation in the 1970s, referring to the experience, Martin Wolf was talking about, was oil prices. I don’t think oil prices are going to go up like they went up in the 1970s. They’re going to go up from where they were. In April 2020, oil prices were actually negative. You couldn’t give oil away. There was an oversupply. So, yes, of course, it’s gone up, but oil prices, in general, are still at a level lower than where they were before the global recession, but they’re not going to stay at a negative level, and not surprisingly, oil prices have gone up.

Paul Jay

For some reason, the price of used cars went up. I saw a number of like 10 percent for some reason and then the other thing people are saying is going to kick in over the next while is higher rents and people are starting to feel that because there’s been such a spike in housing prices.

Bob Pollin

Well, yes, I mean, rents are going to go up because of what’s happened to the housing market over the last year. People weren’t paying their rent. Now that we’re moving out of the recession, then, of course, the landlords want to get paid back. So you’re going to start to see some increases, on the other hand, over the long-term because of the glut in office space and we’re going to see a shakeout as to the extent to which offices are going to reopen. You’re most likely going to see conversion of at least some share of the office stock into housing stock, and that will dampen any inflationary forces within the housing market. So overall, I mean, other than oil prices, I don’t think that there’s any reason to expect some immediate sharp jolt in overall inflation.

Paul Jay

So then the real question is whether it’s $2 or $3 trillion or if all the plans that Biden’s talked about come to fruition, and I don’t know how likely that is because it does seem like he’s going to have to negotiate with the Republicans on a lot of it, but it might be $2 or $3 trillion. Will that be inflationary or not?

Bob Pollin

Well, we’ve already passed his so-called Rescue Plan, so that was $1.9 trillion and that has created a floor for the economy so that we aren’t collapsing anymore. You could call that inflationary. You could also call it a recovery. That’s positive. I mean, the other point, maybe we can get to more in a minute. We have to ask the question, is inflation always bad? At what point is inflation benign and at what point is it a negative factor? I mean, if you’re running an economy in a severe downturn and you have falling prices, that’s deflationary. We’ve eliminated inflation, but that’s not positive. So if an economy is recovering and we start to see prices rising to a relatively modest extent, that’s not problematic at all. Now, the Biden Rescue Plan passed, now we have the so-called Jobs Plan, which is an infrastructure plan, and the so-called Family Plan, which is Care economy. The dollar amounts of those are $4 trillion overall. They’re probably not going to pass in full and keep in mind that those are spread out over eight years. So the level of overall spending of those programs is in the range of one percent of GDP per year. The rescue plan was $2 trillion this year. So that was a much bigger kick. The other ones are not going to be that large so that whatever forces they’re going to exert in terms of moving the economy upward, it’s likely to be pretty modest. Biden is calling it a Jobs Plan. It’s really the infrastructure plan, but keep in mind, it’s also true that if an economy is recovering, there are more jobs and workers should get more bargaining power. That’s a positive. Well, if that means wages are going up, there could be some inflationary pressures, one percent or two percent, but that’s good. That means that workers are getting higher pay. So we have to sort it out. Overall inflation is not necessarily bad. It’s a lot better, relatively modest inflation is a lot better than severe deflation.

Paul Jay

Now, you hear among some workers this idea of what’s the point of higher wages if you just lose it to higher prices? Does it always work out that way?

Bob Pollin

Well, I mean, the general relationship that’s critical here is the relationship between wages and productivity growth. So if the amount you’re able to produce is also going up, let’s say your wages go up by three percent, and let’s say the amount you’re able to produce goes up by three percent. That means the pie is bigger, there are more wages, and actually then there’s still the same share of the pie that is going to go to the capitalists, to the bosses. When you may get some inflationary pressures is if the wage is going up faster than productivity. So you have a pie that isn’t growing as fast as the workers share. Now, we could also say that’s a positive because we’ve had 40 years of wage stagnation and we’ve had massive redistribution of income up to the rich so that having workers get a relatively bigger share of the overall pie is a positive. Now, businesses will try to protect themselves in that situation by raising prices. That’s where you get the inflation, but if workers’ wages are rising faster than the inflation, then the real wage, how much you are able to bring home, how much you’re able to buy is also going up.

Paul Jay

So that is the critical issue, the relative strength of labor to capital. Labor unionization has been going down, the effects of obviously cheap labor from China, and so on. Do you see some change in that? I mean, is there anything, any signs that the relative strength of organizing and labor might get stronger in the coming days?

Bob Pollin

Well, I certainly hope so. Again, we’ve been through 40 years of neoliberalism in which workers have gotten clobbered.  The average wage for a non-supervisory worker has not gone up in 40 years. I think that’s a fundamental thing that we have to keep in mind. It’s been recognized in kind of these very neutral terms. I mean, way back in the 1990s, you had Alan Greenspan, who was chair of the Fed, saying, well, why don’t we have any inflation, we have low unemployment, but why don’t we have any inflation? And he himself said, well, because workers are traumatized. That was his own term. I myself wrote some papers based on the traumatized worker effect. Janet Yellen, who was a member of the Fed in the 1990s, also recognize the same effect. She said workers are afraid to bargain up wages even at low unemployment, because they’re afraid, as you said, competition from China, other low wage countries, weak unions, and so forth.

So this is well understood and has been for decades. So that if we want to say we absolutely don’t want any inflation. Well, OK, then. Here are two things that you can insure yourself. You’ll never get inflation. Workers never get raises and we have a recession and we will have deflation. So obviously that’s not what we want. So inflation in the range of two, three, four percent is, generally speaking, going to be positive for the working class. It’s going to recognize their increased bargaining strength and lower unemployment. The only other major source of inflation historically in the U.S. and elsewhere has been oil price jolts, shocks, and we have had that again over the last six months. Relative, like I said a year ago, you had to pay people to take the oil. So, of course, the oil prices have gone up. The main thing is if we can control energy prices and that gets us on to the issues around Green New Deal and substituting out of fossil fuels, we can control energy prices, then we are not likely to have very sharp inflationary impacts.

Paul Jay

Yeah, in fact, more inflationary impact came from fossil fuel than wages because wages barely moved. Is that right?

Bob Pollin

Yeah, whatever increase in the overall consumer basket, the so-called consumer price index, that has gone up and it’s gone up modestly, but it has gone up, has been pulled up almost entirely by oil prices.

Paul Jay

And now with the pandemic, it’s a lot of supply chain stuff, too, which in theory is temporary.

Bob Pollin

Yeah, so again, what happened during the pandemic is, the oil producers stopped producing because they couldn’t sell any oil. Now they’re coming back and you had the one pipeline that was hacked. So you have these short-term supply shortages, just as the economy is coming back. So airlines, for example, couldn’t sell tickets. Now they’re filling up the flights again, so they have to buy oil. That’s what’s happening. So it’s pushing up the price. I just checked right before our interview, it’s still lower than it was before the pandemic. Oil prices.

Paul Jay

Let’s revisit some of the conversation we had last time about this Jobs Plan, which is also supposed to be a fossil fuel/climate plan. We talked last time when we saw the number of buildings that were being planned to be retrofitted, which was, I think a target of two million, which seemed extraordinarily low if they’re serious about all this. So it’s been a few weeks since we talked about this. Did you get a better sense of what Biden’s planning? Are there more teeth in the climate plan than we felt there was the last time we talked?

Bob Pollin

I don’t know. I’m fairly closely in touch with various groups in DC that are working on the progressive side, trying to push the so-called Thrive Agenda, which was introduced by Senator Markey (D-MA) and Representative Dingell (D-MI), which is the competitor to the Biden plan. The Thrive Agenda is basically structured along the same lines as Biden, but spending is 3x higher. It’s $1 trillion over 10 years, as opposed to $300 billion. It’s $1 trillion per year over 10 years ($10 trillion total) as opposed to the Biden proposal. Who knows where it’s going to land. I guess what’s critical when Biden cut back his proposal from $2.3 trillion to $1.7 trillion over the last few days, that was apparently an effort to bring along Senator Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat, who is claiming that we have to get Republicans. Republicans come back with $600 billion. So they’re coming back with a third of what Biden is proposing.

I’m certainly not an expert on the Washington poker game, but my guess is that Biden has made this proposal to the Republicans to prove to Senator Manchin that there’s no way you can make a deal with Republicans that is going to have any serious positive impact. So who knows where it’s going to end up? I myself wrote a study for West Virginia on a Green New Deal for West Virginia, demonstrated and I presented it to the Manchin staff, showed how actually, a very generous green new deal will benefit West Virginia almost more than any other state, especially because Senator Manchin is going to be able to bargain it up for his own state.

So we’re looking at a program that could generate about 40,000 jobs in the state and create a new industry or new infrastructure for generations to come, as opposed to clinging to a dying industry, coal. So who knows where it’s going to end up. I mean, the Markey-Dingell so-called Thrive Agenda has over one hundred members of Congress have endorsed it, including Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader. So we’ll see.

Paul Jay

Most of Wall Street and we’ve talked about this has not been so concerned about inflation. They don’t seem to really be – I shouldn’t say concerned – much of Wall Street seems quite in favor of the Biden plans of spending at those levels. When you look at articles warning of inflation, it’s pretty limited how much they’re warning about. I saw ING had sent a letter to their investors where they said, well, there might be enough inflation to cause interest rates to go up a little bit by the Fed, but it’s pretty modest stuff. What’s driving the Republicans here? It’s hard to believe they’re really afraid of inflation. Is it just because they’ve got to do something to fight the Democrats on?

Bob Pollin

First of all, the issues around inflation are almost totally misunderstood. Again, let me just emphasize, a positive inflation rate is not a bad thing unless you tell me why it’s increasing. A positive inflation rate that reflects rising wages for workers is good.

Paul Jay

Well, I guess the question is, is a positive inflation rate may be good for workers if it shows higher wages, but maybe it’s not so good for investors? So it kind of depends on what you’re reading.

Bob Pollin

Yeah. A relatively modest, say, two, three, four percent inflation rate, if it is reflecting very tight labor markets and rising wages, that’s good. Now, it is true that the bonds in an inflationary environment if you have a fixed interest rate and let’s say the interest rate is fixed at two percent and then you have a four percent inflation rate, well, the bondholder is going to be losing two percent. So, yeah, that’s bad for them. So that you will see the interest rates on bonds will go up, but, we can’t really expect the world to stay at interest rates at zero percent, one percent forever. This has never happened before in history. So, yeah, interest rates probably will go up modestly.

Paul Jay

Are the investors also concerned? Right now, if you’re really rich, you can borrow at rates that normal people can’t even imagine. You know, one percent or even less take that money and go buy into the stock market and they’re making a killing, but a little bit of a rise in interest rates may drop the stock market prices.

Bob Pollin

Also, not so bad, I mean, look what we’ve experienced. Keep in mind over the last year –this is historically unprecedented – you had this severe depression, in terms of severity and although not in terms of length, it was worse than the 1930s Great Depression, the drop in employment, and overall economic activity. Half the people in the U.S. labor market filed for unemployment claims over the last year. 50 percent. 50 percent of the labor market applied for unemployment insurance at some point over the last year. I mean, astounding. At the same time, the U.S. stock prices went up by 50 percent and that’s true all over the world. Overall, stock prices all over the world went up by 50, 60 percent. Unprecedented that you have a depression, but you have stock prices going up. Well, that can’t continue and we don’t want it to continue, and, yes, you’re exactly right as to why. Why did it happen? Well, because, yes, the central banks, the Fed, and the European Central Bank kept their policy rates at near zero. On top of that, they injected massive amounts of money into the financial markets. So what happened over the last year in the United States, the Fed injected four trillion dollars into propping up Wall Street, 20 percent of GDP.

Paul Jay

Yeah, they’re not worried about that being inflationary.

Bob Pollin

Yeah, really. So, the rules of the game, yes, they need to change. I mean, that you should have this situation where half of the people in the United States are facing unemployment over the course of the year, where wages haven’t gone up for 40 years, but the stock market is rising at an unprecedented rate. Well, yeah, I think we need to change that. So, yes, there will be some adjustment and the stock market, should in principle, if you read the old fashioned textbooks, stock markets should generally reflect conditions in the real economy, but there’s been an almost complete decoupling.

Paul Jay

So let’s argue from the other way. One, that, yes, there’s no real threat about inflation, because even if there is some, as you say, it’s not a bad thing if it reflects higher wages, but two, that this Biden plan isn’t nearly big enough, not in terms of economic stimulus and particularly not in terms of dealing with the climate problem.

Bob Pollin

So there are three Biden proposals and it gets confusing. There’s the “Rescue Plan” that’s already passed. That’s big. That was almost $2 trillion to be spent over this year. That’s been the thing that’s propping up the economy. Then there is the Jobs Plan, which is the Green New Deal or whatever version of it he’s got, and the Family Plan. Let’s put those two together. So roughly speaking, those two are at about $4 trillion, but they’re over the course of eight years, nine years. They’re at 1.5 percent of GDP. So these are significant positive steps, but they are not massive spending programs. Moreover, Biden is offering to raise taxes to pay for them. So whatever increase spending is going to result through these programs is going to be matched by contraction of spending through taxes going up for corporations. So these are not in any way massive scale types of interventions that are going to lead to excess spending in the economy that is going to be inflationary.

Paul Jay

But are they actually too small? Like if you discount the right-wing argument from the left is coming the argument that they’re not ambitious enough.

Bob Pollin

They’re not. Well, let’s focus on the part on climate. I’ve been in some pretty interesting discussions with various groups about this. The Biden proposal, by design isn’t even targeted at hitting its own emission reduction goals. Biden himself has said we want to get to a 50 percent reduction in emissions by 2030. In principle, you would therefore plan your clean energy and overall climate investment program to hit the target, but it doesn’t hit the target, it doesn’t come close to hitting the target. The only conceivable way that you could hit the target with the spending levels that is in the Biden plan is if you get massive additional spending from the private sector. The only way you get massive additional spending from the private sector is if you establish strong regulations like you said. To utilities, you must cut your emissions by five percent per year, compounded every year for 10 years or else, you know, you pay $100 million fine, you go to jail or something like that. Well, then you’ll get the mobilization of private funds. They haven’t done.

Paul Jay

All right. Let me just rephrase what you just said to make sure everybody gets this. Regulations that would force big utilities and I assume auto manufacturers and other sectors that are involved in a lot of use of carbon and fossil fuels through the regulation, they must transition to clean energy, thus, it makes it more profitable to invest in clean energy because you’re going to have forced purchasers here, right?

Bob Pollin

Yeah. So, if you don’t do that. If we just talk about Biden’s proposal and again, it’s fluid as to where it is, you’re roughly talking about maybe $100 billion a year in public money. That is not nothing. I don’t want to dismiss it altogether, but it isn’t close to what’s needed in order to hit Biden’s own emission reduction target. The only way that you can get from, say, $100 billion to $500 billion, which I think would be a rough amount that you would need in order to hit the target is to get the other $400 billion from the private sector. You could, but the private sector has to be motivated to put that level of spending into clean energy. Right now the oil companies are coming back. I just saw in Japan and Australia, they also have beautiful plans to get to zero emissions, but they just objected to the International Energy Agency’s program that says no more investment in fossil. We can’t invest in fossil fuels if we’re going to hit the emission reduction targets. They said no no no we want to keep investing in fossil fuels. So if you shift the private investing to clean energy as opposed to fossil fuels, yeah, the money is there. You just have to motivate the private investors to get there. You have to make it the law that you can invest in energy. You can make profits, but you have to do it by investing in clean energy.

Paul Jay

And to quote Bernie Sanders, then you have to take on the fossil fuel industry because they’re not very interested in that. Your plan.

Bob Pollin

No, they’re not. Yeah, I have a doctoral student writing his dissertation on why they’re not and you could ask the question, well, why can’t they just shift into clean energy instead of the fossil fuel industry themselves, invest in clean energy? Well, the reason is that they have a near-monopoly power in the fossil fuel industry that they wouldn’t have in clean energy. So they want to keep fossil fuels and they have a lot invested in it, and yeah, we have to take them on.

Paul Jay

I think that the fossil fuel industry is planning to do that in about 25 years, which is way too long a wait.

Bob Pollin

Well, they have nice commercials and all that, and yes, they are investing in clean energy, but to a very, very modest extent. They may be spending more on the TV commercials than they’re actually investing. That’s where we are, but, the Biden program is a positive step forward. It’s just not big enough.

Paul Jay

In the time frame, we have not to hit. I’m not sure when you’re saying the target Biden wants to hit. Is he, at least on paper, on board with not hitting more than 1.5ºC by 2030? Or is this the don’t hit 2ºC by 2050?

Bob Pollin

It’s net-zero emissions by 2050 and 50 percent cut by 2030, which is consistent with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change saying that’s what we need to do in order to be at 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels and to stabilize at 1.5ºC.

Paul Jay

Well, we’ve talked about this before, but we should revisit it because it gets repeated so often that I think it needs clarification. Net-zero doesn’t necessarily mean zero. Net-zero can be a lot of smoke and mirrors.

Bob Pollin

It can be tricky. That’s another big issue and concern I have with the Biden plan more generally. What’s the path through which we get to zero? If we’re talking about a lot of carbon capture technology, which is yes, that is central to the Biden plan, we’re still going to keep digging up oil and coal and natural gas, still burn it, but presumably in 10 or 20 years, we have this technology that knows how to capture it, store it underground or convert it into a liquid fuel again. That’s very problematic. Just at the level of technology, the technologies don’t exist, and then on top of that, yeah, if we have carbon capture, that means you can still emit CO2, but we’re going to assume that a lot of it is going to get captured and stored underground. So the positive way to capture carbon, the way that’s proven, is planting trees, reforestation, and organic agriculture to supplant industrial agriculture so that we don’t use nitrogen fertilizer and that the land is able to absorb CO2. So we don’t have to get to absolute zero because of these natural sources of CO2 absorption, but we should get pretty damn close to absolute zero.

Paul Jay

And just finally, Biden’s plan looks so good compared to Trump’s, which was not a plan, but if it’s not enough, then it doesn’t matter if it looks good next to Trump. One of the things that I know people are concerned about, and rightly so. Seventy-five million votes for Trump and a lot of those votes came from states that have high fossil fuel and big fossil fuel industries and resources, and we’ve talked about this before, but again, I think we’ve got to keep repeating it. I still am mystified why in all these trillion dollars of spending, there isn’t a clear-cut promise from the Biden administration to fossil fuel workers in all of these states that you won’t lose your level of wages. You’ll transition and we’ll make sure you get paid whatever you were getting paid working at your fossil fuel job. I still haven’t heard that view. Have you? 

Bob Pollin

It’s in there, at least at the level of rhetoric, it’s in there. No, it hasn’t been laid out. I’ve laid these out for various states, including most recently West Virginia, and yeah, that’s why we think we can at least have a conversation with Senator Manchin because we lay it out. We say, OK, this is how many fossil fuel workers you have in this state. If we have a 20-year transition, you’re going to have about a thousand per year that are going to be displaced and another thousand per year that actually are going to move into voluntary retirement. So for those thousand per year that are going to be displaced, yeah, you have to guarantee them a job. You have to guarantee their pension. You have to guarantee their wages being the same. You have to guarantee as needed that they’re going to have the retraining that they need and if they have to move, which we don’t want them to have to move, but if they do, you have to pay for their relocation. Then when you do all that, it’s actually minuscule. The budget effects are minuscule. If we think about coal, there are only sixty thousand people in the entire country employed in the coal industry. That’s less than half of filling up a big football stadium. You could give every single one a million dollars and it still wouldn’t make a dent in the federal budget. So, yes, a generous transition is central to any viable program. I think in West Virginia, maybe not myself, but the organizers that I’ve been in touch with are getting through, and that’s why the AFL-CIO leadership in West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are endorsing the programs that I worked on myself and the organizers have really been fighting for. So those are positive developments. Pennsylvania also has a lot of fracking workers, and to get the unions behind it is a major step forward.

Paul Jay

I don’t get why this isn’t front and center of Biden’s. Even his election campaign. I don’t get it, but with 2022 coming up, how can this not be at the point of the spear that this is what they’re going to do?

Bob Pollin

It should be. I mean, I’m trying I know these the various groups I’m working with. We have a study coming out from California in a couple of weeks and it is getting supported by unions, and, in a way, California, I think, really plays a central role because obviously it’s such a big economy and they have committed. Jerry Brown before him and now Newsom have committed to the IPCC targets, in fact, even more aggressive climate emission targets. They also have fairly significant fossil fuel activity, especially in one county, Kern County, and so they are going to have to implement a just transition program. I think once California does it, maybe it’ll have a really positive demonstration effect for the Democrats overall.

Paul Jay

I mean, the only answer I can give to my own question is that Biden just doesn’t want to have that level of war with the fossil fuel industry between, relying on carbon capture, which allows fossil fuel to carry on, as you say, and if you start this kind of talking the way you’re talking about a real just transition, that means you’re getting serious about regulating fossil fuels out. It puts them at war with the fossil fuel industry and like Sanders said, they don’t want to do that.

Bob Pollin

They’re going to have to if we are going to really do something about not destroying life on Earth as we know it, fossil fuels can’t be part of the equation. Again, if we think carbon capture is a beautiful technology, let’s say maybe it’s going to work in 20 or 30 years. We don’t have 30 years. If we’re talking about hitting a 50 percent emission reduction in nine years, 2030, why don’t we use the technologies that we know work? We know solar works. We know wind works. We know efficiency works. So let’s focus on those things and create a lot of jobs and yes, a transition that working people committed to the communities that are dependent on the fossil fuel industry, let’s transition them, and it’s really inexpensive. I mean, I’ve done it for the whole country. My estimate for the whole country was an average of $2 billion a year to give everyone this generous transition. $2 billion a year.

Paul Jay

$2 billion? That’s not even lunch money for the federal budget.

Bob Pollin

No, and these are generous transition funds.

Paul Jay

All right, thanks very much, Bob.

Bob Pollin

OK, thank you.

Paul Jay

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7 Comments

  1. Are you kidding me? Your masters are taking us down the Weimar road. Wake up. This is the destruction of the middle class.

    Afraid of a little reality, eh? No wonder the fake left is hemorrhaging supporters.

  2. I disagree that constant inflation, even modest, is in any way good for the average worker. Workers need savings — you’re not going to be able to shingle those roofs forever! In order combat inflation the worker is forced into the Wall Street casino in some form or another. Now we have a society that’s locked into vicious cycles of financialization, ponzis, quantitative easing to the moon, mandates for asset and real estate bubbles, etc.

  3. Inflation in the context discussed may or may not be problematic. Do “WE” care?

    Filling Paul’s gas tank got more expensive? Or, Paul’s only transportation option is owning a car? Which is why the auto industry had trolley and tram tracks pulled up off the roads in the first place so more drivers can move freely.

    Close down citizenry friendly dairies and get consumers to walk or go buy a car to get their milk and cream from investor backed supermarket chains with a dairy section? At least the regional daires came to customers homes to fill the milk box and retrieve the empties.

    What is for certain is that media news headlines and stories published on inflation are scenarios that appeal to emotion — not to an understanding of the REAL problem — and the news items only serve to distract attention from the major crisis facing the country which is the lack of “common good” economic democracy.

    While “egregious self serving” economic democracy is in fact enjoyed by the elite supremacy class in power in the country — it is callous, indifferent, and life threatening to everybody else — to the socalled 99 Percenters who don’t even have a single politician accessible, courageous enough, to FIGHT FOR “common good” economic democracy — FIGHT FOR milk box retention and free choice to “not own or drive an automobile” — let alone “forgive” impossible student debt that creditors glee in expectations “they will under the law recoup”. [Noam Chomsky]

    So it is that political democracy — real representative democracy — is not possible unless economic democracy comes first. Help those to understand who don’t “get it”. [Bernie Sanders in Europe would be considered a right-winger.]

    So why get emotional about inflation per se?

    One finds investor tension and nervousness for sure, but if only about 15 percent of investors own about 85 percent of all the stock in the market why then should the rest of us be in INFLATION SHOCK about their positions of wealth subject to fluctuations? [Richard D. Wolff]

    So inflation hysteria [and even (BLM) racism] isn’t anything more than just one of many symptoms of this glaring lack of “common good” economic democracy coast to coast — continent to continent.

    Take a good hit of economic democracy. See how better you feel, how skin color doesn’t even matter because everybody belongs, everybody feels good. Could it be — that’s why THEY do it in THEIR world where color appers not to matter so much by police? And for everybody else, economic democracy is simply under lock and key? Feudalism indeed [Michael Hudson].

  4. Mr Polin must be far removed from the experience of workers and the data regarding wages and prices to claim that “modest” inflation is good for workers. We don’t know what he means by “modest” other than to supply a qualifier by which he might later (after the damage has been done) claim, “that wasn’t modest”.
    That wages lag prices is a time honored maxim that is learned without acquiring alphabetical appendages to one’s name. Just be a wage-slave, as we were derisively called before the Civil War. If one is a pensioner, a social security or insurance beneficiary, he learns it even more punishingly. No loss of purchasing power is “modest” if one needs it to buy food, rent, or health-care.
    I am disappointed that Mr Polin could write such clap-trap.

  5. Pollin sees “inflation” as mild. We surmise it’s because Pollin is worth many millions/billions – another wealthy person who NEVER feels any rise in “inflation.”

    We would suggest that this site return to Dr. Michael Hudson who clearly explains how the rise inflation is devastating for average citizens.

    Notice Pollin says that “wages SHOULD go up.” Wrong. American wages haven’t moved upwards in many decades. Our wages WILL NOT INCREASE.

    We refer to Dr. Hudson once more.

    1. I believe Bob is saying that there are different forces that cause inflation, the price of oil being the most significant in the last few years. Inflation that is linked to higher wages is not so bad for workers. Bob says that wages have not risen for decades, but should. If it causes a small rise in inflation, that’s not so bad. Inflation caused by other forces, that rises faster than wages, of course, is bad for workers.

      1. Inflation “linked” to higher wages meant by Mr Polin as Paul Jay describes, is not worth the breath it takes to explain. It can only exist when workers have unions strong enough to enforce demands on employers. In the US, we have certainly not had that since the Taft-Hartley Act was passed in during HST’s presidency. Before then, there was WW2 to justify suppressing the power to strike, except in the case of the UMW under John L. Lewis. FDR was able to put Lewis down, as I recall.
        Inflation, today, comes from the printing of money by the Fed to prop up Wall Street and transfer our children’s futures to the MIC. This really has nothing to do with “linkage” of inflation to wage increases. Entirely irrelevant!

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