My last post talked about the gap between the macroeconomic narrative in the UK media (‘mediamacro’) and macroeconomic facts. The gap is created or encouraged to a considerable extent by narratives employed by the political right. So how might that change, to let reality back in?
As with other things, Labour under Miliband had the right idea but did not follow it through. They talked about a ‘cost of living’ crisis, but in doing so they implicitly suggested this was some unfortunate by-product of a strong economy. The aim should be to redefine a strong economy as one that delivers solid real wage growth.
To do so makes perfect sense in current circumstances, when we have just had a policy-induced large depreciation in sterling. GDP measures the output produced in the economy, but not how much people in that economy can buy. Welfare depends on the latter, not the former.
It also makes sense if real wages have fallen because workers have priced themselves into jobs, by in effect discouraging firms to invest in labour saving machinery. Boasts that employment is at record levels make no sense in that situation, because high employment comes from lower wages rather than from additional output. 
I have stressed in the past (including my last post) how weak recent UK performance has been by historical standards. But a favourite trick of the government is to make international comparisons, of GDP rather than the more appropriate GDP per head. So how does our economy look if we focus, more appropriately as I argue above, on international comparisons of real wage growth?
Luckily the ILO and Geoff Tily have already done the spade work. Here is a chart for all countries, with blue denoting OECD countries.
International comparison of average real wage growth since the crisis
Source: Geoff Tily, ILO.
Among OECD countries the answer is striking: only Greece has seen real wages falls greater than the UK. The UK is second best among the OECD at achieving a decline in real wages! Geoff looks at data from 2008, but a quick check suggests the result holds good if we start in 2010 instead.
The data in this comparison only goes to 2015. You could, rightly, argue that 2016 was a better year for the UK, but then you would have to address what will happen to real wages this year and next.  You could argue that this poor performance was a consequence of the 2008 depreciation (which had lagged effects): again you would be right, but the Brexit depreciation which is not yet in these figures is just as large.
Either way this data provides strong evidence of just how terrible UK economic performance has been over the last several years.  What is more, unlike GDP, it is data that directly relates to the experience of ordinary people. But as Miliband found out, to quote this data is not enough. What you need to do is start proclaiming that the UK economy under a Conservative Chancellor has performed worse than any other OECD economy besides Greece. Just that, no caveats, no qualifications, no ‘cost of living’ label. Only that way will you begin to shift the narrative that we have a strong economy.
 If you are worried that this might help justify calls to reduce immigration, fear not. What they show is that policymakers failed to create an adequate level of aggregate demand: another consequence of austerity.