housing

Vacant homes in Japan hit 8.46m

8.46m homes or 13.6% of all dwellings are vacant in Japan in 2018. This is up 3.2% on 2017 according to the Housing & Land Survey. CM wrote about the population exodus from regional areas in Japan in this report.

Vacancy rates in Wakayama, Tokushima, and Kagoshima prefectures stand at 18.8%, 18.6%, and 18.4% respectively, areas suffering population exodus. Tokyo, Kanazawa (Yokohama), Okinawa and Saitama, all experiencing net migration inflows, have the lowest rates of unoccupied houses.

Yubari City in Hokkaido has a campaign poster – “No money but love.

Yubari is notable for five things. First, it is the region that produces Japan’s most expensive melons, the type you see beautifully encased in a satin-lined pine box with a price label of US$200. Second, it had to declare bankruptcy in 2007. Third, its population has fallen from 117,000 in the 1960s to around 21,000 in the 1990s to less than 8,900 today, falling 19% in the last 5 years alone. Fourth, the average age of the city’s residents is set to hit 65 by 2020. Fifth, taxable income continues to fall with estimates that government coffers will swell by a woozy 25% of the levels seen 20 years ago.

Not a good sign for the regional economies. Japan has a stall speed warning and the government plans to fix it are painfully inadequate.

Ryde Council declares a Climate Emergency

The real purpose of a local council is to dispose of household waste, keep local parks tidy and ensure toilet paper is installed in public lavatories. Outside of that, there is little local residents require from local councils other than on-street parking permits or onerous red tape when seeking housing renovation approvals. Maybe maintain the local library.

It was reported yesterday that the Ryde Council declared a “climate emergency“. As we can quickly work out, this is nothing more than joining the global Extinction Rebellion style virtue signalling with zero substance. Will Ryde ratepayers be asked to sponsor Greta Thunberg or Al Gore to lecture the council on climate matters?

Referring to the Annual Report 2018 financials section one can see that it spends on what it terms “Environmental Programs” a grand sum of $547,000, down from $556,000 the previous year. To put that in context of budget expenditure, this climate fearing council spends, wait for it, 0.34% of the total annual revenue. Put your money where your mouth is Ryde! Unfortunately, that was down from a slightly less pithy fraction.  Nonetheless, it grandstanded with,

This includes a commitment to divest its investment portfolio from fossil fuel-aligned financial institutions, supporting renewable and clean energy solutions and becoming one of the first councils to phase out single-use plastics.

Was this requested by ratepayers? Sadly the council will never be able to phase out single-use plastics as the overwhelming majority of household waste is disposed of in single-use plastic bags because the supermarkets caved in allowing residents to reuse plastic shopping bags.

CM shudders to think how huge the investment portfolio of Ryde Council could be? Yet why pick on financial institutions? It sounds as if it believes it carries the might of some massive sovereign wealth fund that can rattle the cages of capitalism via its activism! It is unlikely that even if it sold those investments ‘at market’ that the present liquidity would absorb it in a heartbeat.

In the “Our Vision for Ryde 2028” piece, “climate” is mentioned 7 times. “Emergency” is mentioned zero times. “Sustainable” 18 times. “Environment” 20 times. Run of the mill council stuff. Many of the ‘environment’ words are not actually related to climate in any way. Still, for a 2019 document, where was the climate emergency?

The same report cites under the heading of ‘Climate Change‘, with absolutely no proof to substantiate it,

Over the coming decade, natural hazards such as heatwaves, increased overnight temperatures and increased “hot” days during the year, as well as the frequency of extreme rainfall events and high-intensity storms are expected to accelerate as the climate changes.”

In a never-ending push to make the local council more relevant, Mayor Jerome Laxale profile of the Annual Report proudly notes, “He also initiated Council’s entry into social media, its partnership with Australia’s Racism it stops with me! campaign led a national push against changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.”

Racism? 19.2% of Ryde’s population is of Chinese ethnicity according to the Census 2016. As a migrant city, 48.5% were born in Australia. So by definition, 51.5% weren’t. Stands to reason that the mayor is chasing a problem that probably doesn’t exist. 12.5% were born in China (excluding HK or Taiwan) which is 4x the NSW average, 3.9% born in Korea (5x the NSW average), 3.6% born in India (2x the NSW average), HK born at 2.4% (4x NSW average).

Did Ryde really require this leftist mayor to push against changes to the Racial Discrimination Act? Was it a burning issue where the majority were born outside the country? Do ratepayers that fork our $83.4m of rates each year want Laxale to focus on this nonsense?

This is just additional part of the growing trend of radicalised councils acting outside of their remits Remember the two councils (Yarra and Darebin) in Melbourne who went out of their way to ask their own activist groups to rig polls to cancel Australia Day. Forgetting the 220,000 residents across the two cities, a handful of people who were bound to give the desired response were targeted. Even then it wasn’t a slam dunk. One mayor said they made the decision because their constituents are too ignorant of history so they were going to educate them without their opinion. When breaking down the composition of the councillors in these two cities it wasn’t a surprise. Both Greens led with a smattering of Labor, Socialist and left-leaning independents. The perfect cocktail for the totalitarian.

Just like those Melbourne local councils banning Australia Day, we now have Ryde looking to join the likes of Newcastle and the Inner West which think they are the axe on climate change based on what one Clr Christopher Gordon said,

We have scientists telling that us in the next 20 years, we’ll be facing even more extreme climate problems as rising sea levels are estimated to displace tens of millions of people around the world.

This isn’t self researched conviction but flopping to the cause of activists and their echo chamber. Merely rattling off their empty rhetoric which has in the overwhelming majority of cases found to be false.

Perhaps if Clr Gordon called up those evil fossil-fuel aligned financial institutions he would quickly work out they are still lending to new property sites on the shoreline and that climate refugees are as has long been the case, a figment of their imagination.

The voices of local councils have always been largely irrelevant. Now they are merely an irritant.

Slam it then copy it

We shouldn’t expect less in the final week before an election, but Labor Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen has come out slamming PM Scott Morrison’s first home buyer subsidy but promising to copy it anyway. Are these really the financial stewards we need running the country?

Either slam it for the bad plan that it is and reject it or endorse it because he has costed it. Sadly Bowen has done neither. Yet more profligacy from the confetti brigade.

No, ScoMo!

For a Conservative party to push a subsidy of up to 20% of the value of a property for first time home buyers shows how bereft of policy it is. When Vic Premier Daniel Andrews raised a similar plan in March 2017 CM trashed it.

Think about it. Home prices have started to fall in major capitals because of a lack of demand thanks to astronomical prices and tapped out borrowers. This is before the Royal Commission puts the brakes on lending.

Why provide a subsidy to first home buyers toward the top of a bubble? It is not the role of the taxpayer to subsidize nor insure the downside risk in the event of the owner going into negative equity. What happened to free market economics?

What will this 20% subsidy do? If a couple go house hunting with a budget of $800,000, they will be able to shoot for a $1mn property. It might end up being the same property, pushed up by the desperate buyer thanks to the subsidy creating a false sense of security. So the reality is the taxpayer and the homeowner may end up in the red the day they move in. What a policy!!

Has ScoMo just called the top of the property market?

Drinking the UnKool-Aid

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It appears President Trump has been bullying the US Federal Reserve to drop rates by 1% and get them to reopen the spigots on QE. What he is failing to grasp is that businesses invest because they see a cycle, not because interest rates fall.

Trump tweeted,

China is adding great stimulus to its economy while at the same time keeping interest rates low. Our Federal Reserve has incessantly lifted interest rates, even though inflation is very low, and instituted a very big dose of quantitative tightening. We have the potential to go…up like a rocket if we did some lowering of rates, like one point, and some quantitative easing. Yes, we are doing very well at 3.2% GDP, but with our wonderfully low inflation, we could be setting major records &, at the same time, make our National Debt start to look small!

This is a frightening proposal. Rates are at 2.25~2.50%. Although it masks a more important reality. Can Trump avoid a market calamity ahead of the next election? The real engine of the economy is slowing.

Despite the headline US GDP print of 3.2%, consumer spending and business investment slumped to the lowest levels under his presidency. Business investment spending was dominated by “intellectual capital” (soft) which is a pretty hard metric to put a reliable number next to. Equipment and structures (hard) contribution to business investment was near as makes no difference zero. Personal consumption of durable goods slumped to their lowest reading since 2011. Wholesale inventories (ex-autos/petroleum) surged ahead of sales.

Trump might argue China is adding stimulus. He is right. China’s Aggregate Financing (approximately system Credit growth less government borrowings) jumped 2.860 billion yuan, or $427 billion – during the 31 days of March ($13.8bn/day or $5.0 Trillion annualised (a Japanese GDP)). This was 55% above estimates and a full 80% ahead of March 2018. This pump priming added 8% to the Chinese stock indices but since then the market has been rolling off.

The world does not need more debt to be inflated away to get us out of the current mess we are in. A recession is inevitable. To put it into context, the world, since GFC, has added $140 trillion in debt for a grand total of $20 trillion in global GDP growth. That is right. $7 of debt only got us $1 of GDP. So if the Fed acquiesces President Trump he will probably get even worse metrics.

Then again perhaps we can take the words of a venture capitalist, Chamath Palihapitiya, who said on CNBC that “central banks have created an environment where major downturns and expansions are almost impossible.” It is statements like this that almost guarantee that central banks have lost control. Central banks have one role – ensure that markets maintain “confidence”. Powell’s latest move to cut rates after such a shallow peak tells us that “confidence” is waning. 

The irony in “They’re all yours, Sanctuary Cities”

Will Trump’s tactics to expose the hypocrisy of sanctuary cities work? Democrats remain stubborn over funding border security. In his view, if sanctuary cities are all publicly open arms about accepting illegals then they should be happy to welcome busloads of them. The great irony of these virtue-signalling Democrat controlled cities is that they’re upset that this reality may dawn, although publicly stating they’ll be welcome. The greater irony is that a growing number of illegal immigrants are choosing to move OUT of sanctuary cities. In 2007, 7.7mn (63.1%) lived in the 20 largest metros to 6.5mn (60.7%) in 2016 according to Pew. During that time 1.5m illegal immigrants were deported (12.2mn ->10.7mn).

Despite one’s views of illegal immigration and the use of people as political pawns, ICE has just released its 2018 statistics. The numbers are staggering.

ICE’s 2018 annual report notes the following situation at the border:

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) has continued to use resources as effectively and efficiently as possible to enforce the nation’s immigration laws.

In FY2018, ERO arrested 158,581 aliens, 90% of whom had criminal convictions (66%), pending criminal charges (21%), or previously issued final orders (3%). The overall arrest figure represents an 11% increase over FY2017.

  • 2015: 101,800
  • 2016: 110,104
  • 2017: 143,470
  • 2018: 158,581

The number of individuals detained by ERO is driven by enforcement actions taken by ICE and apprehensions made by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). In FY2018, 396,448 people were initially booked into an ICE detention facility, an increase of 22.5% over FY2017.  Book-ins to detention resulting from CBP arrests increased by 32% over the previous year, illustrating a surge in illegal border crossings.

  • 2015: 307,342
  • 2016: 352,882
  • 2017: 323,591
  • 2018: 396,448

In FY2018, ERO removed 256,086 illegal aliens, reflecting an increase of 13% over FY2017. The majority of removals (57%) were convicted criminals. Additionally, 5,914 of the removed illegal aliens were classified as either known or suspected gang members or terrorists, which is a 9% increase over FY2017.

  • 2015: 235,413
  • 2016: 240,255
  • 2017: 226,119
  • 2018: 256,086

Here are some of the reasons for arrest – both criminal convictions and charges – for 2017 (2018):

  • Driving under the influence : 80,547 (80,730)
  • Dangerous drugs: 76,503 (76,585)
  • Immigration violation:  62,517 (63,166)
  • Assault: 48,454 (50,753)
  • Larceny: 20,356 (20,340)
  • Burglary: 12,836 (12,663)
  • Fraud: 12,398 (12,862)
  • Illegal weapon possession: 11,173 (11,766)
  • Sex offences: 6,664 (6,888)
  • Stolen Vehicles: 6,174 (6,261)
  • Forgery: 5,210 (5,158)
  • Homicide: 1,886 (2,028)
  • Kidnapping: 2,027 (2,085)
  • Prostitution racketeering: 1,572 (1,739)

Since the initial surge at the Southwest border (SWB) in FY2014, there has been a significant increase in the arrival of both family units (FMUAs) and unaccompanied alien children (UACs). In FY2018, approximately 50,000 UACs and 107,000 aliens processed as FMUAs were apprehended at the SWB by the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP). These numbers represent a marked increase from FY2017 when approximately 41,000 UACs and 75,000 FMUA were apprehended by USBP.

While USBP routinely turns FMUA apprehensions over to ICE for removal proceedings, ICE is severely limited by various laws and judicial actions from detaining family units through the completion of removal proceedings. For UAC apprehensions, DHS is responsible for the transfer of custody to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) within 72 hours, absent exceptional circumstances. HHS is similarly limited in their ability to detain UACs through the pendency of their removal proceedings. When these UACs are released by HHS or FMUA are released from DHS custody, they are placed onto the non-detained docket, which currently has more than 2,641,589 cases and results in decisions not being rendered for many years. Further, even when removal orders are issued, very few aliens from the non-detained docket comply with these orders and instead join an ever-growing list of 565,892 fugitive aliens.”

Switching to compassionate grounds, who wants to see screaming kids? No-one. Locked in cages? Even less. Separated? Well, there is a good reason for that. When even the likes of left-leaning HuffPo admitted in December 2014 that 80% of women and girls are sexually assaulted while trying to make it across the border there is a good reason to question the proof of identity of the supposed parents. Even if 90% of parent/children pairs are legit, what of the 10% that aren’t? Do ICE risk it? Australia had an experience of a mother from Nepal (a democracy not at war) who deliberately poured boiling water on her infant to expedite processing on the mainland. Are these the values of people we should provide refuge to? We should not forget that many people make the journey knowing ALL the risks that confront them yet still attempt it despite the warnings.

To emphasize the danger of lax screening,  multiple kids were found dead after being abandoned once across the border as their usefulness as a golden ticket on compassionate grounds was expended. If that isn’t some of the worst forms of child abuse then what is? Moreover, these people are hardly the type that decent Americans would want to embrace with open arms!

In Jan 2016 WaPo noted, “The Office of Refugee Resettlement, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, failed to do proper background checks of adults who claimed the children…several Guatemalan teens were found in a dilapidated trailer park near Marion, Ohio, where they were being held captive in squalid conditions by traffickers and forced to work“. So slave labour to repay human traffickers? Let’s encourage more to attempt the crossing?

Then ICE has the trouble of finding the parents/guardians (sponsors) already living (often) illegally to collect their unaccompanied children at pre-arranged court hearings. The media went into a frenzy saying that ICE had lost the records. The truth came out in Feb 2016 that,

“The head of ICE’s removal operations, Thomas Homan, told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that 7,643 immigrants who arrived as children were sent home between the 2012 and 2015 budget years…More than 171,000 children, mostly from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, were arrested at the border during that same time…The number of children caught crossing the border illegally spiked in 2014 [see impacts in NY Times graphic] and the Obama administration promised that those who were not eligible for protection in the United States would be swiftly sent home… And with an immigration court backlog of more than 474,000 pending cases, some cases can take years to move through the court system…

…about 40% of immigrants are no shows at court…Finding immigrant children with outstanding deportation orders is also complicated by the fact that they often are no longer at the addresses provided to the government.”We are out looking,” Homan said. “But they are hard to find. A lot of these folks who don’t show up in court, we don’t know where they’re at.”

The pictures of kids in concentration camp style cages were from 2014. Yet don’t let that get put in the way of a narrative to show the nationalist tendencies of the current administration.

While we can express outrage at the treatment of illegal immigrants at the border, the tougher laws have started to resonate with Ana Garcia Carias, wife of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who said, Stay in the country and let’s look for solutions to support you. She visited the border and said that she didn’t recommend her citizens go to the US undocumented.

In summary, Americans want their borders safe. Rasmussen Reports notes that most citizens do not want to abolish ICE. The polling firm noted,

only 25% of Likely U.S. Voters favour getting rid of ICE whose duties include border control. Fifty-five percent (55%) are opposed…Sixty-nine percent (69%) of Republicans and 53% of voters not affiliated with either major political party oppose getting rid of ICE. Democrats agree by a narrower 44% to 36% margin.”

AS CM always says, if people don’t like the laws, then move to change them. Trump’s tactics are unorthodox but will expose the hypocrisy of those that push forward the idea of protecting illegal immigrants.

Poverty, poverty on the wall, the French aren’t even the worst of all

PovEU

Why are we surprised at the yellow vest uprising across France? Poverty/risk of social exclusion across Europe has continued to spiral upwards since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). There were 78mn living below the poverty line in 2007. At last count, Eurostat notes that number was 118mn  (23.5% of the European population). In the Europe 2020 strategy, the plan is to reduce that by 20 million.  37.5mn (7.5%) are living in severe material deprivation (SMD) , up from 32mn in 2007.

The SMD rate represents the proportion of people who cannot afford at least four of the nine following items:

  • having arrears on mortgage or rent payments, utility bills, hire purchase installments or other loan payments;
  • being able to afford one week’s annual holiday away from home;
  • being able to afford a meal with meat, chicken, fish (or vegetarian equivalent) every second day;
  • being able to face unexpected financial expenses;
  • being able to buy a telephone (including mobile phone);
  • being able to buy a colour television;
  • being able to buy a washing machine;
  • being able to buy a car;
  • being able to afford heating to keep the house warm.

The French are merely venting what is happening across the EU. The EU could argue that at 18% poverty, the French should be happy compared to other nation states. Europeans aren’t racist to want a halt to mass economic migration when they are the ones financially struggling as it is. Making economic or compassionate arguments aren’t resonating as they feel the problems first hand.

Is it a surprise that the UK, at 22.2% poverty, wanted out of the EU project to take back sovereign control? Project Fear might be forecasting Armageddon for a No Deal Brexit but being inside the EU has hardly helped lift Brits from under a rock. Why would anyone wish to push for a worse deal that turns the UK into a colony?

Why is anyone surprised that there has been a sustainable shift toward populist political parties across Europe? Austria, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Hungary, Sweden, Germany…the list goes on. Even France should not forget that Front National’s Marine LePen got 35% of the vote, twice the level ever achieved. Is is a shock to see her polling above Macron?

The success and growth of EU-skeptic parties across Europe will only get bigger. The mob is unhappy. Macron may have won on a wave of euphoria as a fresh face but he has failed to deliver. He may have suspended the fuel tax hikes, but the people are still on the street in greater numbers. He has merely stirred the hornet’s nest. Perhaps UK PM Theresa May should take a look at the table above and realise that her deal will only cause the UK to rise up. At the moment sanity prevails, and when it comes in the shape of Jeremy Corbyn that is perhaps a sign in itself.