The Minister of Finance replies to a plea to use monetary financing

Amanda Vickers of Waikanae wrote in March to the Minister of Finance and here is his reply.

16 April 2020

Amanda Vickers 

Dear Amanda

Thank you for your email on 27 March 2020 regarding the Large Scale Asset Purchases (LSAP) programme. In particular, I note your suggestion that the Reserve Bank of New Zealand buy bonds directly from the Treasury rather than using the secondary market.

On 23 March the Reserve Bank announced a LSAP programme of purchasing New Zealand Government bonds on the secondary market. This followed the Monetary Policy Committee’s decision that further monetary stimulus was needed to meet its inflation and employment objectives in the light of intensifying economic implications of the coronavirus. The programme will purchase up to $30 billion of New Zealand government bonds, across a range of maturities in the secondary market over the next 12 months.

The LSAP programme is designed to help the Bank meet its economic objectives of keeping inflation low and stable and supporting maximum sustainable employment. The Bank would normally do this by changing the Official Cash Rate (OCR). But the OCR is currently at an historic low of 0.25 percent, therefore it is using LSAP as another tool to lower interest rates.

While central banks have the option to purchase bonds directly from government treasuries, the Reserve Bank is currently making its purchases in the secondary market. Doing so can influence the bond markets to reduce longer term interest rates thereby reducing the cost of borrowing for households and businesses. It will also enable the sellers of assets to use the money they receive from the Reserve Bank to switch into other financial assets, such as new lending. These are effects that could not be achieved through the direct purchase of government bonds from the Treasury.

The Reserve Bank will continue to follow developments and has the option to take further action to support stability in New Zealand’s financial system – such as widening the asset classes that could be purchased under LSAP. Purchasing Government bonds directly from Treasury is one such option that could be taken up by the Monetary Policy Committee if it were deemed appropriate and consistent with financial system stability.

Thank you for your interest and taking the time to raise your views.

Yours sincerely

Hon Grant Robertson

Minister of Finance

 

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This is a better way to raise all those billions Grant!

Recently I wrote to the Minister of Finance the following letter. I have not had a reply or an acknowledgement of receipt to date (ten days later)

18 April, 2020

 

Hon Grant Robertson

Minister of Finance

Parliament Buildings

Wellington

 

Dear Grant,

In the middle of all the work you and your teams are doing, you and Adrian Orr are about to make a decision that will greatly affect the lives of New Zealanders for years to come. You have to decide how you will borrow a great many more billions (we understand Parliament has authorised up to a total of $52 billion) to fund necessary infrastructure and government support.

Those of us who have family including grandchildren and great grandchildren don’t want them as future taxpayers to be beholden to some massive overseas finance institution like the Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase or Goldman Sachs and paying interest and capital back year after year.

WE WANT YOU TO DO WHAT THE GOVERNOR OF THE BANK OF ENGLAND HAS JUST DONE – TO FUND IT, OR AT LEAST PART OF IT, BY MONETARY FINANCING. THAT MEANS THE RESERVE BANK BUYS BONDS DIRECTLY FROM TREASURY AT ZERO INTEREST.

See this article from the latest (18 April) Economist where Andrew Bailey changes his mind within four days and says “it is better to be right than be consistent”.

As you know with deficit spending there is no great hurry to pay the principle as the overdraft could just sit on the central bank’s balance sheet for as long as the Government wants.

We don’t believe it is necessary to wait until public opinion is strongly behind this move, but we are working hard to extend and strengthen the coalition of organisations and prominent economists behind this move.

The following organisations or individuals that support this move appear to include Social Credit, Positive Money, Living Economies Educational Trust, Bernard Hickey, Shamubeel Eaquab, Geoff Bertram and yesterday BERL Ganesh Nana said on Morning Report the following:-

Economist Ganesh Nana of BERL. Morning Report 16 April 2020. Second half of interview. 

“Government must underpin economic activity. Government is the backstop, both central and local government. It is important not to go down the austerity track. Government debt is not always bad there are ways we can borrow and we use and others have used the term “helicopter money”. Government can borrow from The Reserve Bank. It is literally borrowing from itself. I noticed that many in New Zealand have an allergy to government effectively printing money. It has consequences but it is an element that government should not only explore but utilise. There are implications of course – you are running down the value of those who have assets. The value of my mortgage free house might decline a bit. And you benefiting those who have mortgages and other debts. We should not close off all the options just because someone told us 30 years ago it was bad.”

Question: Could you please ask Treasury to estimate the difference in the cost of the two alternative measures and publish the outcome? We as the public need to know.

 

Sincerely

Deirdre Kent, author of Healthy Money Healthy Planet – Developing Sustainability through New Money Systems and The Big Shift – Redesigning Money, Tax, Welfare and Governance for the Next Economic System

 

 

 

 

 

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Rebooting the Economy for Justice and Sustainability

Here is my recipe for what Government must do to revive the economy after the coronavirus.

  1. Have a Debt Jubilee. Our private debt has been growing steadily, fuelled mostly by the housing bubble. It has been going up since the GFC in 2008 and recently flattened out. So how does private debt get relieved? By a one- off handout to all citizens. Australia after the GFC was the only country to not to go into a recession after the GFC, largely because it gave $1000 to all who had paid tax. The handout was reduced for those receiving higher salaries and those receiving $100,000 or more didn’t get one. In addition they doubled the handout to first home buyers. Those receiving it must pay off their debt with it as a first action. Of course this should go to everyone with a bank account not everyone who had paid tax the previous year as it clearly omits those who care for children without pay or who care for elderly.
  2. Because the virus has exposed the huge poverty and homelessness in New Zealand, it is critical to address the housing issue. So far we have had the wrong approach. The large gap between rich and poor is largely the result of “the getting on the housing ladder” phenomenon. Those who own houses have seen their net wealth increase because the price of houses rises. Recently the best way to invest money is to buy property. The price of houses rises due to a. The building of government infrastructure like railway, hospitals or schools. b. Local government infrastructure like roads, buses, sewage, water, underground rail. c. Natural features like rivers, elevation, lakes, climate. d. Commercial activity in the area. e. Neighbours building. In other words society as a whole is responsible for rises in house prices. The capital gains belong to society not the individual land owner. Of course the building value doesn’t increase it is actually the land value that increases. Land Value Tax is the obvious solution but the nearest thing we have now is the rates let’s look at that. Unfortunately if we have got into the practice of striking rates on the capital value of the house so we disincentivise building. So one of my first actions would be to legislate to require all councils to strike rates on land value alone (or unimproved value). This would also stop urban sprawl. I also think rates should be levied as a percentage of land value, and this should be raised at the same time as income tax and GST are phased out. GST is regressive and income tax is plain illogical. And you could reduce the cost of resource consents which would make it cheaper to build. While talk of a wealth tax is easily understood, it should be for using land and other natural resources not that acquired through entrepreneurship or hard work. This action would also divert investment towards useful businesses. Most investments in NZ now are property because our tax settings have encouraged it.
  3. The third thing I would do would be immediately would be to establish a public bank like the Bank of Dakota to fund infrastructure. Alternatively the Social Credit leader and many economists have talked about the Reserve Bank buying Government Bonds at zero interest from the Treasury. I am not sure which of these would be better.
  4. You may have thought that a UBI should have been first on my list. No, it’s not because if it is funded the wrong way it is disastrous. For example by putting up GST or income tax – wrong. UBI should be thought of as “sharing the rents”. People are getting back what they are entitled to. In other words our real wealth is our land, our water, our fisheries, our forests, the air. Those who monopolise more than their share should compensate the rest of society. Carbon taxes and pollution taxes fall into this category as well as land, which is the big one. But also tax on natural monopolies, like the monopoly to create the country’s money which the banks have.
  5. Legislate to allow councils to create a local currency with a circulation incentive. The law would also require the more well-off local people to back the currency with national currency and a committee to ensure there was no inflation. This currency is strictly for spending and is not a saving currency. It may be that government itself could issue this currency, since it would be simpler to alter all EFTPOS machines to accept two currencies and we are a small country.
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Why I no longer eat dairy

At first I was convinced by the whole organic milk argument and for years I had it delivered. I had been convinced by Sally Fallon, President and founder of the Weston A Price Foundation. l made my kefir from it and gulped it down as though there was no tomorrow, to  the consternation of my doctor daughter. Kay Baxter from the Koanga Institute sold us Sally Fallon’s book (and thank heaven I wasn’t attracted to the idea of eating a lot of raw offal, something the book was keen on). But the raw milk argument seemed logical at the time.

I also suffered from a congested nose most of the day and had to sniff something up my nose at night time to stop it from blocking. I also took a drug to prevent nighttime asthma. I also found I had low bone density. Mmm. Hold that thought.

Then at the beginning of 2019 I visited Dr Luke Wilson for a second opinion. I asked him how to reverse my heart disease and get off all these medications. He recommended I look up Dr Caldwell Esselstyn online and I there began my journey to Whole Food Plant Based eating and researching.

So I stopped the milk and replaced it with oat, soy or rice milk.

OK so here is why dairy is unsuitable:

  1. Milk is not actually designed for human consumption. It is designed to help a baby calf grow rapidly 650gm a day for 10-12 weeks before weaning.
  2. Dairy doesn’t prevent bone fractures. It is misleading propaganda of the dairy industry that it strengthens bones. Sadly the Ministry of Health, because New Zealand is so dependent on dairy exports, doesn’t do anything to correct this misinformation. So our public remains chronically misinformed. Animal products makes the body acidic and since the body needs to function healthily within a very narrow pH range when the pH gets too low the body looks around to find something to neutralise the acid. Well the bones have something useful for that purpose.  So the bones are depleted. One good description of the mechanism for this is from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine website. “Animal protein tends to leach calcium from the bones, leading to its excretion in the urine. Animal proteins are high in sulfur-containing amino acids, especially cystine and methionine. Sulfur is converted to sulfate, which tends to acidify the blood. During the process of neutralizing this acid, bone dissolves into the bloodstream and filters through the kidneys into the urine. Meats and eggs contain two to five times more of these sulfur-containing amino acids than are found in plant foods.
  3. Cheese is worst of all. In his book The Cheese Trap Dr Neal Barnard of Physicians for Responsible Medicine says that cheese is
    1. High in calories
    2. Food fat adds to body fat
    3. Fat slows metabolism
    4. No fibre in cheese to control appetite
    5. It is high in sodium and that means body soaks up water.

    As if this wasn’t enough, I know the nitrogen runoff from our dairy farms are polluting our rivers and growing cows to drink their milk involves methane emissions, not to mention the nitrous oxide that comes from the cow puddles.

    And I have read nutritionist T Colin Campbells’s work showing that casein is a good medium for cancer cells to grow. I know we have a great many cancer cells in our bodies at any one time and the issue is whether or not they will grow.

    Now I no longer need medications for blocked noses and although I missed blue vein cheese for a while, I now longer want dairy. Sometimes when I forget to take a little plant milk with me, I still succumb to a little cow’s milk in my tea, but most of the time I just have it without milk.

  4. A fourth reason is that dairy produces greenhouse gases. And it’s not a small amount either. The emissions from 13 dairy companies are now greater than the emissions from UK, the sixth biggest economy in the world. You can’t be an environmentalist without being a vegan.
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What’s in Meat and why I don’t eat it

8 slices of roast lamb, a lot of potatoes, parsnip and pumpkin roasted no doubt in animal fat and peas and carrots underneath. Bargain at $19.

Today I agreed to help a friend who couldn’t drive by buying her regular roast meal from a local shop and delivering it to her for her dinner. Knowing I was vegan she checked out if it was OK by me to do that for her. Yes it was.

But during the afternoon I felt a little uneasy and so I began to work out why I didn’t eat meat. So I did some online research and wrote the following–which I ended up not giving her because if she read it she might not get her money’s worth. Here it is, though I have probably left out heaps of reasons:

What’s in Meat and why I don’t eat it

Heme iron. Often described as being good because it is more easily absorbed than non heme iron, heme iron is actually now thought of as harmful because once ingested and absorbed, the body has no mechanism to remove excess iron. This causes oxidative stress and heme iron has been linked to metabolic syndrome, coronary heart disease, atherosclerosis, stroke, type2 diabetes, Alzheimers disease, arthritis, cancer and other serious medical conditions.

Neu5Gc. This may pose a significant health risk. The immune system recognises it as a foreign threat, producing antibodies to it and setting up chronic low grade inflammation. Neu5Gc has been linked to cancer as well as cardiovascular and other inflammatory diseases.

Endotoxins. Endotoxins are one of the most important bacterial components contributing to the inflammatory process. The high bacteria load in animal foods may trigger a surge of inflammation, which may be exacerbated by the presence of saturated animal fat.

Cholesterol  100 gm of lamb has 97 mg cholesterol. Your body makes enough cholesterol for you and you don’t need extra.

Saturated fat “Nutritionists agree an excess of saturated fat in the diet is the main cause of high blood cholesterol. 100 gm of cooked lean lamb has 10.3gm saturated fat” (quote from Beef and Lamb NZ)

Animal protein. According to the WHO an average woman needs 0.66 g of protein for every kg  body weight a day. So a 57g woman needs 25 gm protein. 100gm of cooked lamb has 25 g of protein. Protein is not the key to weight loss – it is actually one of the biggest factors behind the obesity epidemic. Animal protein is not the healthiest food we can eat. It is strongly associated with diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and cancer. Some scientists have suggested Westerners probably eat double the amount of protein needed.

Carnitine. When people digest meat a substance called TMAO (Trimethyl amine oxide) is formed in the body as a gut bacteria by-product. (The exception is when vegans eat meat because their gut bacteria is different, but this protection only lasts briefly if they continue meat.) People with higher levels of TMAO in their blood may have more than twice the risk of heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiovascular problems, compared with people who have lower levels. Other studies have found links between high TMAO levels and heart failure and chronic kidney disease. High levels of TMAO in the blood have been shown to be a powerful tool for predicting future heart attack, stroke and death risks.

Many or all these inflammatory agents damage the lining of your arteries. Atherosclerosis associated with high dietary intake of meat, fat, and carbohydrates remains the leading cause of mortality in the US. This condition results from progressive damage to the endothelial cells lining the vascular system, including the heart, leading to endothelial dysfunction. Moreover the endothelium can’t produce enough nitric oxide which relaxes the inner muscles of the blood vessels, causing them to widen, stay slippery and smooth and increase circulation. Once there is damage to the lining of the artery, cholesterol passing by sticks to it, forming unstable plaques. Artery disease affects the heart, kidneys, lungs, lymph system, back, brain, sexual organs. Blood has to get unimpeded to all the body.

Compounds containing sulphur-containing amino acids

This quote is from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine website. “Animal proteins are high in sulfur-containing amino acids, especially cystine and methionine. Sulfur is converted to sulfate, which tends to acidify the blood. During the process of neutralizing this acid, bone dissolves into the bloodstream and filters through the kidneys into the urine. Meats and eggs contain two to five times more of these sulfur-containing amino acids than are found in plant foods. Consuming meat leads to calcium loss which can lead to bone fractures”…” A 1994 report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that when animal proteins were eliminated from the diet, calcium losses were cut in half.”

Climate change While it is not so climate-damaging as beef, growing lamb produces more emissions per calorie or per gm of protein than growing ,any plant protein.

 

Sources. Websites of Health Heart Harvard, nutritionfacts.org, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Cleveland Clinic, Dr Garth Davis

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Is arthritis pain just a matter of luck as you get older?

So many people I know have arthritis. One says her toes are all misshapen gnarled and twisted from it, another told me I was lucky I didn’t have any arthritis pain and yet another told me about her sore shoulder and the fact that the other shoulder already had a joint replacement. My neighbour had a knee replacement last year and goodness knows how many people I know with hip replacements. And we oldies take it all for granted, as though none can be prevented. The hospital waiting lists are long and the cost to the country keeps growing.

Well I didn’t know whether to say it on any of those occasions, but my arthritis pain in my fingers, sternum disappeared very soon after  I adopted a fully plant based diet early last year. If I had no doubt they would say I was just lucky or it was just a coincidence.

I understood from something I had seen on youtube that the lumps don’t disappear, the better diet doesn’t reverse the damage that has already happened but at least I was getting no more pain. But also, ringing in my ears is always the rhythmic sentence that Dr Michael Klaper says so fast. “When we adopt a wholefood, plant-based diet  the obesity melts away, the arteries open up, the blood pressure comes down, the insulin reception clears out, the asthmatic lungs stop wheezing, the skin clears up and the joints stop hurting.”

So today I was curious to find if there were any appropriate scientific papers. I went to nutritionfacts.org. There was one that said those who ate more dairy products were more like to need hip replacement surgery. Then I went to the site of the Physicians Committee on Responsible Medicine and found one on the effect of fibre. “Those who consumed the highest amounts of fiber from the OAI and Framingham studies had a 30 percent and 61 percent lower risk for knee arthritis, respectively, compared with those who consumed the least. Researchers contribute the reduced risk to fiber’s role in lowering both BMI and inflammatory compounds in the blood”. (Not surprising when you realise that meat, dairy and eggs have absolutely no fibre.)

Then I did a google search on “osteoarthritis whole foods plant based” OK  –so it now looks as though there have been at least one study on the effect of a plant based diet on osteoarthritis. There is  one in 2019 published in an Arthritis journal lists all the anti-inflammatories and anti-oxidants in various plant foods which could explain the reason pain is reduced on a plant based diet and the disease doesn’t advance so fast. It concludes “A whole food plant-based diet (WFPBD) has been shown to reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis by reducing risk factors such as obesity, metabolic syndrome and Type II Diabetes.”

No doubt there will be more studies published.

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Meat and aviation industries use cute ways to measure emissions

When it comes to telling the public about their emissions, the aviation industry keeps telling us how much their efficiency has improved. That is they can fly further on a certain amount of fuel. But what they don’t tell us is that their capacity keeps increasing so much that overall their emissions increase. The planes are bigger, they have more routes and there are more planes flying.

The meat and dairy industries have been doing this too. When the scientists at FAO calculated the emissions from the livestock industry in 2006 and found them to be 18% of total global emissions, the industries didn’t take it lying down. Here is a piece from the GRAIN website (GRAIN is an international organisation of small farmers)

“The FAO was blasted by the meat industry after it released a report in 2006 putting livestock’s share of global GHG emissions at 18 per cent. “You wouldn’t believe how much we were attacked”, said Samuel Jutzi, director of the animal production and health division of the FAO.[22] The FAO soon buckled under the pressure and agreed to establish a partnership with the meat industry’s main lobby groups to jointly reassess emissions from livestock.[23] Both the partnership’s Steering Committee and its Technical Advisory Groups are dominated by representatives of meat companies, their lobby groups and scientists funded by meat and dairy companies.

As a result of the FAO’s partnership with industry, it has shifted its focus towards a narrow assessment of “emissions intensity”, in which GHG emissions are examined per unit of output (per kg of meat, litre of milk or unit of protein). Measured this way, animals that are intensively raised for maximum output of meat and milk—by a few million farmers mostly in the US, Europe, Brazil, New Zealand and a few other rich countries—have a lower “emissions intensity” than the animals of poor farmers, which are raised for many more uses and without access to the high protein feed, antibiotics, growth promoters and hormones used by intensive livestock industries. Poor farmers are thus said to suffer from an “emissions intensity gap” and should be pushed into what is termed “sustainable intensification” or, more broadly, “climate smart agriculture”.[24]

So like the aviation industry, for “emissions intensity” read “efficiency”. More efficient but more capacity for doing it!

Unfortunately the difference is that the meat and dairy industries have persuaded the FAO to do this too so we all get figures that are skewed and only a small proportion of the population is even aware that meat and dairy contribute to emissions, particularly big meat and big dairy.

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New Zealand’s agricultural emissions are high

Nearly half of New Zealand’s emissions are from livestock. A shocking 46.1% for the year 2012 as calculated by the Ministry for the Environment. (MfE). A large proportion of this comes from beef and to a less extent sheep. The MfE paper tells us tells us that in 2012 we had 6.4 m dairy cattle, 3.8m beef cattle, 3.1 m sheep and 1 m deer. So a total of 14.3m ruminant livestock.

So I read their paper calculating our emissions, or more accurately skimmed through it, reading the less technical parts of it as it is hundreds of pages long. I was looking for indications of what Global Warming Potential they were using for methane. It was only when I was reading a book by Richard Oppenlander that I saw the statement that methane is 72 times as powerful as carbon dioxide over a 20 year period and checked this out with Prof James Renwick of Victoria University. Yes he said that is the figure that scientists are taking now.

I finally discovered on a Stats NZ site that we do calculate our methane contribution with a GWP of 25 and once again questioned the climate science professor. He answered,

“Yes a GWP of 25 sounds right as they’ll be using GWP100. That’s still the standard under .the UNFCCC so is how we are required to report emissions (as I understand things), even though the science has clearly moved on to the two baskets approach. ”

But then I asked him if I was right to say the percentage contributed by agriculture would rise if methane GWP was 72, and he said no it would fall. So I was wrong, the headline above is misleading now and I will change it.

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New Zealanders eat 94.6kg of meat per capita according to Beef and Lamb NZ

On this topic there is nothing better than referring to Beef and Lamb New Zealand website itself from which I quote:-

How much red meat are Kiwis currently eating? Based on working estimates, New Zealanders currently eat (carcass weight equivalent) about: 17.2kg beef, 5kg lamb and 0.7kg mutton per capita. In addition, 23.9kg pork and 47.8kg chicken per capita (2017-18 BLNZ Ltd Economic Service) resulting in a total red meat intake 46.8kg (beef + lamb/mutton + pork)

In the last 10 years to 2017-18, per capita figures have changed:

  • Beef down 38%
  • Lamb down 45%
  • Mutton down 72%
  • Overall reduction of beef/lamb/mutton = 42%
  • Pork up 15%
  • Poultry up 40%
  • Overall reduction all meats = 0%

I find this interesting that even though we reduce our red meat, we are so obsessed with getting our protein from animals that we increase pork and poultry (note they don’t mention fish).

I also find interesting the fact that they have classified pork as red meat, which I don’t think is the public perception. I may be wrong.

So we each eat 46.8kg from red meat and 47.8 kg from chicken or 94.6kg meat.

I am not sure this tallies with the world figures quoted for our country. And all this without dairy consumption to add to our animal protein.

Clearly someone is eating my share!

 

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The chicken industry kills four chickens every second in New Zealand

The website of the Poultry Industry Association of NZ (PIANZ) says we kill 125 million birds a year. This tallies well with Stats NZ which gives 124 million,  – much the same. This works out at 238 chickens a minute or about four per second are killed day and night. And we would each eat 25 chickens a year.

But wait. PIANZ also states we each eat 20 chickens a year or 37.5 kg chicken. They are produced on 180 farms. That amounts to the meat on 750 drumsticks a year or about 2 a day.

So we presume the discrepancy is that some are exported or just that some are killed. It sounds like there are numerous deaths before they mature what with the forced feeding that makes  a third of them painfully lame in the last weeks. They double in weight so quickly that their legs can’t carry them.

The Poultry Industry is growing

Stats NZ also gives the figures for the growth of the poultry industry. There are figures for processed chicken meat for every quarter. Back in  the first quarter of 2011, we processed 21,427 chickens whereas the third quarter of 2019 we processed 30,950. It grew every quarter in that period. That is a 44% increase over those eight years.

Of course this is helped along the way by what they would call  “improvements in efficiency” as they now slaughter chickens between 34 and 42 days. This means you can raise nearly nine a year by replacing them.

So it seems chicken is becoming more and more popular. With fish, it is stealing the meat market away from red meat.

Most chicken is sold fresh with only about an eleventh of them sold frozen. Our main exporter is Tegel who in 2018 exported $89.6 million while making a total of $615m profits that year.

New Zealand has about 140 meat chicken farmers and 170 commercial egg farmers.  The four largest companies are TegelInghamsBrinks and Turks

Climate effects of Chicken

But what about their contribution to climate change? Because poultry have lower greenhouse gas emissions due to their lower enteric methane production rates than ruminant livestock species, many consider poultry to have an environmental advantage compared to many other animal protein sources.

Poore puts the greenhouse gas production per serving at about a sixth of that of beef, but it is still six times a big as a serving of beans. But I guess the problem is not per serving. It is the total. Six servings of chicken produce the same weight of GHGs as one of beef.

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