Poverty

Juncker focuses on the wrong climate

There is an irony to EC President Jean-Claude Juncker promising to spend €1 in €4 of the EU budget on climate mitigation. Worse he used 16yo Swedish climate school strike activist Greta Thunberg as the pawn to justify it. €1 trillion will be spent annually through 2027. It is for their future after all!

Last week CM debated a former client who tried to justify teachers using WMO data in their studies of teenage students on climate. WMO is a part of the U.N. which has been embroiled in so much data manipulation, scandal, lack of governance, unethical conduct and conflicts of interest as to beggar belief. So kids are being indoctrinated if the scholastic standard is the WMO.

Has Juncker considered how his climate plan will alleviate stubborn poverty and anemic economic growth?

EU poverty or risk of exclusion in 2017 stood at 22.4%. So 1 in 4 EU-28 member state citizens are struggling. In Greece it remains high at 35%. In 2007 poverty in the EU-28 was 16%. Even poster child Germany has gone from 16% to 19% in the same period. Macron’s yellow vests are protesting at 17.1% poverty vs 13% in 2007. In 2007 there were 78mn at risk of social exclusion. In 2017 there were 114mn.

The U.N. has called for “no poverty” in 15 years. The EU subscribes to this nonsense. While poverty may have drifted from the post GFC peak of 24.8% in the eurozone, 36mn extra people are unable to afford to heat their homes, afford a colour TV or eat meat, fish or chicken once every two days. These are the EU metrics on poverty. So how does spending €1 trillion per annum to mitigate climate change sit with a growing number of constituents dying to see blazing sunshine bask upon their economic climate?

Retail electricity prices across Europe are up 23% in the last decade. In Germany +39%. Spain +47%, Portugal +50%. Sweden +76%. France +40%. This is what happens when a growing amount of renewables are thrust on the grid. The countries with far lower renewables targets, like Hungary, have seen electricity prices fall. Who’d have thunk?

EU GDP growth has been slowing for the last 5 quarters and expected to slow to 1.1% in the coming quarter.

The EU claimed a 6.6% unemployment rate in Dec 2018. An update is expected on March 1. Is that number realistic if the poverty rate remains so high or is it a reflection of low paying rubbish job opportunities? Greek unemployment is north of 18% and Spain at 15%. Part time employment has grown to 20% from 15% over the last decade. In the Netherlands almost 50% of work is part time.

December 2018 EU industrial production fell 4.2%YoY. Ireland fell back 19.8% and Spain -6.7%. Hardly positive readings.

So instead of promising teenagers a green future, Juncker would find it far more sensible to focus on alleviating the chronic youth unemployment in Europe which remains around 19%. At least Thunberg is likely to skip the unemployment queue by landing a cushy EU job when she graduates unlike her fellow Swedish schoolmates who will face 18% unemployment.

What’s the point of listening to kids pleas to save the planet when the unelected overpaid bureaucracy in Brussels won’t even be able to provide them with a sustainable career to enjoy it? No doubt the kids will realize this folly when they grow up in the real world.

Debunking Modern Monetary Theory (MMT)

Corp Profit

While the Dow & S&P500 indices grind back higher thanks to the US Fed chickening out on a rate rise in because the economy can’t handle it, many people still overlook the fact that core US profitability has tracked sideways since 2012. 6 years of next to nada. Sure one can boost profits by adding back unrealistic  “inventory adjustments” but the reality is plain and simple. If you search for inventory adjusted earnings they’re still marginally growing but there in lies the point. Real profits aren’t.

Record buybacks fueled by cheap debt is the cause for ‘flattered’ earnings. No growth in E  just falls in S.  EPS growth can look spectacular if you ignore 50% of US corporates have BBB credit ratings or worse.

The latest lexicon is “modern monetary theory” (MMT). The idea that the central banks just manipulate markets in perpetuity. Austerity is no longer needed. Central banks print money and extinguish debts the same way. Seriously why bother with taxation? The question is if it is meant to be a sure winner, why aren’t we all living in 5 bedroom mansions with a Mercedes Benz and a Porsche in the driveway? Why not a helicopter?

Logically if central banks can buy our way out of this debt ridden hellhole, why is growth so anemic? Why is European GDP being cut back? Why is German industrial production at its worst level since 2009? Why does Salvini want to jail the Italian central bankers? Why does the Yellow Vest movement in France carry on for its 15th consecutive week? If MMT works why would the EU care if the UK leaves with No Deal? MMT can solve everything for unelected bureaucrats in theory. Even £39bn can be printed

Last year the US Fed announced it had stopped reporting its balance sheet activity. In 2006 it stopped reporting M3 money supply. Curious timing when inside 2 years the world was flung into the worst recession since 1929. Transparency is now a danger for authorities.

The question boils down to one of basic sanity. All assets are priced relative to others. It’s why an identical house with a view in a nice neighborhood trades at a relatively higher price than one in a outer suburban back lot. The market attributes extra value even if the actual dwelling is a carbon copy. It is why currencies in banana republics trade by appointment and inflation remains astronomical. Investors don’t trust their ability to repay debts unless given extremely favorable terms. Market forces at work.

To put the shoe on the other foot, if all countries adopted MMT why bother buying bonds for retirement? The interest is merely backed by a printing press. Best consume 100% and save zero. The government has moved beyond moral hazard and hopes no one will notice

Take a look at Japan. It has $10 trillion in outstanding debt which is 2x its economy. The Bank of Japan owns 60% of that paper bought through a printing press. The market for JGBs is so manipulated that several Japanese mega banks have handed back their trading licenses because it has become worthless to be on that exchange. The BoJ thinks it can make whatever prices it chooses. The ultimate aim is to convert all of the outstanding debt into a zero coupon perpetual bond with a minor ‘administration’ fee in order to assign some value to it. To the layman, a zero coupon perpetual means you get no interest on the money you lend and the borrower is technically never required to pay the borrowed amount back. Such loans are made by parents to their children, not central banks to politicians (although one could be forgiven to think their behaviour is child like).

Yet the backdrop remains the same. Consumers are tapped out in many countries. Lulled by a low interest rates forever mentality, even minute rises to stem inflation (real is different to reported) hurt. My credit card company constantly sends emails to offer to transfer balances at 9% as opposed to the 20% they can charge if I don’t pay in full.

APRA recently relented on interest only mortgages after demanding it be tightened to prevent a housing bubble getting bigger. Now mortgage holders hope the RBA cuts rates to ease their pain.

Like most new fads, MMT can’t remove the ultimate dilemma that Milton Friedman told us half a century ago. Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon. One can’t hope that putting money in the hands of everyone can be sustainable.

The one lesson that we should have learnt from GFC was that living at the expense of the future has rapidly diminishing returns. All we did was double down on that stupidity.

Do we think it normal that Sydney house prices  trade at levels the Japanese property bubble did in the late 1980s? Do we realize that we hold as much mortgage debt than Japanese banks did for a population 5x our size? Do we think that our banks are adequately stress tested? When an economy like ours has avoided recession for a quarter century, it builds complacency.

MMT is nothing more than a figment of the imagination. It preys on the idea that we won’t notice if we can’t see it. Unfortunately behind the scenes, the real economy can’t sustain the distortions. The French make the best modern day example of  a growing number of Main Streeters struggling  to make ends meet.

Central banks monkeying around with MMT smacks of all the same hubris of the past. It is experimental at best and reckless at worst. Markets can be manipulated for as long as confidence can be sustained. Lose the market’s trust and all of a sudden no amount of modern day jargon  can overcome what economists have known for millennia.

If you flood a global economy with cash at 5x the rate the economy can feasibly grow then it will ultimately require bigger and bigger hits to get the same bang before the jig is up. It’s a Ponzi scheme. Bernie Madoff got 120 years jail. Why not the central bankers?

So what is the best asset out there? Gold. It can’t be printed. It requires effort to discover it and dig it out of the ground. Of course the barbouros relic deserves to be consigned to the dustbin of history. If that were so Fort Knox might as well leave the gate open. The more it is hated only makes this contrarian investor want it more.

Why Ocasio-Cortez is the most powerful weapon in the Dem’s arsenal

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 5 minute “if I was a bad guy” routine in the House Oversight & Reform Committee went viral. 19m views. Such is the love of selective editing by the media that the video seemed to completely absolve her of the ridiculous Green New Deal plan which incidentally was pulled from her own website. She looked totally on message. However…

…Sadly, the unedited follow up saw the IFS Chairman Bradley A. Smith correct the record of the misleading questioning of AOC. She’s only 29 and on the fast track of learning the ugly world of politics.

The Democrats, as CM has said before, are missing a huge opportunity. She is a media darling. Instead of dragging her inside the tent and weaponizing her huge and growing following (especially millennials) with the pre-rehearsed party platform, Pelosi snubbed her from the Climate Change Panel and dismissed AOC’s manifesto as a “Green Dream.” Talk about eating your own kind. Better to have AOC on the panel to keep a leash on her media circle.

The longer they allow AOC to go off uncocked without the safety on, there will become a point where she passes the point of no return. The Democrats will lose probably their best asset. The longer she stays isolated, the more damage she will end up doing to the core of the party.

The Democrats need to show a united face in 2020. When lead candidate Kamala Harris endorses AOC’s plan without reading it, it only looks like a case of friendly fire. Is that what voters want to see? Expediency?

AOC is causing ructions. If the 70yo+ old guard party elites within the Democratic Party continue to treat her like a dotty 29yo, they’ll turn the weapon of their own making on themselves. That’s great news if you’re Republican.

How hardcore are you really?

Once again the pill testing argument will rear it’s ugly head after 14 Australia Day revelers were hospitalized at two events, the HTID and Electric Gardens concerts. 6 remain in critical condition. At what point will we hand responsibility over to ‘legal’ adults?

If voting age party-goers are caught with ‘illegal’ substances then charge them accordingly. If people don’t like the law then put action behind a proposal to change it. Despite police sniffer dogs, people smuggled in drugs in condoms and ziplock bags presumably hidden in the nether regions. Coffee grounds were used to throw off the scent.

The real question is if one is hospitalized, why should tax payers pick up the tab for their selfish, reckless behaviour? Would it be a deterrent to let them know that any medical treatment (likely expensive) would not be covered by the state? Put measures in place to ensure the bill is paid for out of future income tax or lowered dole payments. Then let these adults work out the risk reward ratio of taking illicit drugs. Instead of having OD survivors tell horrid tales, they might talk of the financial penalties that followed which have made life considerably tougher than going cold turkey.

If you take illegal pills, don’t say we didn’t warn you. Let’s see how hardcore you really are.” That should be the slogan. Flash up the average cost of an OD treatment on the big screens.

Down and out in Davos

Davos is likely to be unlike any gone before it. Lucky for the globalist elitists who like to rug up in mink collar lined Moncler down jackets, Trump won’t be there to verbal them over their blatant double standards. Ironically the fact he isn’t going is more evidence of their inability to self reflect rather than the other way around. Trump is hardly an eloquent mouthpiece at the best of times but his words and stance around nationalism resonate far wider than the €200 Chateau Briande chewing wealthy will be prepared to admit at Davos.

France. As the Gilets Jaune (Yellow Vest) movement rolls into week 9, where has the media been reporting it? Macron would normally attend the Davos mob as “the poster child” but he can’t because of the domestic situation. Should he show up to hug his globalist chums, the chaos at home would exacerbate. This is no small matter for the proponents of world government. We shouldn’t forget Marine LePen is polling higher than Macron. Nor should we overlook the fact she won 35% of the 2nd round vote, twice the level ever seen in the anti-EU Front National’s history.

Germany isn’t much better. Although Frau Merkel will be in Davos. Despite stepping down from the rotting carcass her policies have turned her party into, she’ll be fawned over at the matriarch. Deutschland, the paragon of the EU’s economic chest beating, saw industrial production plunge 4.7% in November, its worst showing since the GFC. The fastest rising party in Germany, the anti-immigrant AfD, whose chairman was bashed to within an inch of his life, plans to be far more open about jettisoning the EU going forward. Yet more anti-globalist forces at the gate.

Italy has felt the wrath of EU meddling in ratifying its latest budget. Despite 60% of the country voting in eurosceptic parties last year, the EU is still pushing its weight around via the ECB. Italians are far from pleased with Brussels. Many of her banks in the south are carrying nose bleed territory bad debts which make them technically insolvent. Italians want out.

Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic have openly rejected globalism and any shaming from the Bullies from Brussels has only led to bigger majorities handed to them by their citizens.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has made it clear that illegal immigration is not for them, no matter how much UN global compacts or EU directives want to encourage it. Why else would he appoint a member of the anti-immigrant FPO as the minister for that portfolio?

PM Rutte of The Netherlands lost seats in the last election, mainly to Geert Wilders’ anti immigrant PVV. The socialist parties were all but annihilated.

UK PM Theresa May is looking on shaky ground to pass her version of Brexit through the Commons. Even Jaguar’s woes in China are supposedly the fault of Brexit. Even the iconic brand’s UK sales are up 76% since 2013. Surely it’s macroeconomic headwinds not leaving the EU that is driving this. Despite all the scare stories from the BoE, the people aren’t buying it. The UK has its highest ever petition signed to get parliament to vote for “No Deal”. So much for the expert’s advice!?

There is a groundswell movement the establishment continues to ignore. Famous economists giving fire side chats to out of touch journalists don’t convince the people who aren’t living these utopian dreams espoused from Davos.

Davos seems a bit like an Oscars gathering. The audience they are appealing to are increasingly looking the other way and tuning out. It matters not whether some believe we need to show more compassion and embrace global cooperation. The people in charge of selling it could not muck up the messaging and execution of said plans if they had a mandate to do so.

Davos 2019 may well see its proclamations become little more than rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. We’ve been so overdue an economic correction and the little bigoted people increasingly trying to protect their own interests are already telling us they’re knee deep in recession already. At the same time they’re sick of their leaders legislating against them for supposed intolerance.

Maybe France is the globalist canary in the coal mine. Macron’s police force is already being asked to step it up a notch against the protestors. He need be wary of the police switching sides which would be a cataclysmic blow for globalism. Bring it on.

Write Ocasio-Cortez off at your peril

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez might be the New Democrat piñata for a band of Republican supporters but beware. While it is true she is weak on facts, how economics works and a whole other range of political topics, she has 1.9mn followers on Twitter, more than Nany Pelosi. If she gets the right sort of campaign team behind her she could become a serious threat to the GOP and incumbent Democrats alike.

She didn’t really have any dollars to fight her nomination on the NY Dem ticket but she booted the 14 year incumbent Joe Crowley and won the 2018 mid term with 80% of the vote. Hardly something achieved by a complete fool, wouldn’t you say?

Think about it. She’s a millennial. She’s deeply socialist, pro climate change and all the pet causes of her generation. The latest shrill surrounding her dancing while at college is frankly pathetic. Who cares?

CM was critical of those who bashed Republicans over a lack of intelligence. It was a key part of why people refrained from openly supporting Trump in the lead up to the 2016 election. The polls and mainstream media all pointed to a Clinton coronation and were rudely shocked when the opposite happened. The ballot box is all that matters. The irony of Paddy Power paying out those who bet on a Clinton win. That’s how badly so many got it wrong. They completely missed the mood.

Pelosi and Feinstein are 78 and 85 years old respectively. Ocasio-Cortez is not even 30. We can already see the incumbent Democrats become uncomfortable as the younger generation wants to take the party hard left. Ocasio-Cortez’s pulling power is evident. Media attention is never far away.

Don’t forget she turned on Senator Kirsten Gillibrand after her resounding  nomination win saying, “Unsurprising, but disappointing that @SenGillibrand didn’t even bother to talk to nor consider me before endorsing…You‘d think a progressive leader would at least be interested in how a no-corporate money Bronx Latina triggered the 1st NY-14 primary in 14 years on prog issues. 

Republican supporters who troll her Twitter feeds only enhance her bidding. They lift her profile and if anything only cause more millennials to rush to her defence. Her retweets are up there with Trump who has 30x more followers. Don’t dismiss it. Trump’s rise to POTUS came from Democrats and mainstream media coverage that reported on pointless trivialities so far removed from what voters were screaming for.

If AO-C gets a good team behind her she will be a force to be reckoned with. As is so often the case with people so easily dismissed is that she becomes a sleeper. She can only improve how to come across more intelligently. She ticks plenty of identity boxes in a world that seems to place greater emphasis on diversity and inclusion.

She maybe new to the game but it will be interesting how the incumbent Democrats deal with her. Will they try to suppress her or mold her into a dynamo? Her storming of Pelosi’s office alongside environmental activists suggests that maybe the old guard Democrats try to keep a lid on her but sadly they lack time and adaption to new age technology on their side which Ocasio-Cortez has in spades.

Write her off at your peril.

What do the Yellow Vests want? Frexit is one demand

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Here is the Gilets Jaunes’ (yellow vests) List of Demands. Note Frexit is one of them! CM wholeheartedly agrees on the stance on education and barring lobby groups from political circles. Note the demands with respect to banning migratory flows of those who cannot integrate with French values. Where have we heard this before?

President Macron should hope he has an invisible cloak in his wardrobe. So much for more globalism. Yet another sign of a European member state demanding nationalist interests be put before federal EU rule.

Will the mainstream media objectively report on the growing number of nations wanting to put themselves first? Or will they spin the story that the demands from nations like France are somehow different to that of the abhorrent views held by the monster in the Oval Office?

Economy/Work

  • A constitutional cap on taxes – at 25%
  • Increase of 40% in the basic pension and social welfare
  • Increase hiring in public sector to re-establish public services
  • Massive construction projects to house 5 million homeless, and severe penalties for mayors/prefectures that leave people on the streets
  • Break up the ‘too-big-to-fail’ banks, re-separate regular banking from investment banking
  • Cancel debts accrued through usurious rates of interest

Politics

  • Constitutional amendments to protect the people’s interests, including binding referenda
  • The barring of lobby groups and vested interests from political decision-making
  • Frexit: Leave the EU to regain our economic, monetary and political sovereignty (In other words, respect the 2005 referendum result, when France voted against the EU Constitution Treaty, which was then renamed the Lisbon Treaty, and the French people ignored)
  • Clampdown on tax evasion by the ultra-rich
  • The immediate cessation of privatization, and the re-nationalization of public goods like motorways, airports, rail, etc
  • Remove all ideology from the ministry of education, ending all destructive education techniques
  • Quadruple the budget for law and order and put time-limits on judicial procedures. Make access to the justice system available for all
  • Break up media monopolies and end their interference in politics. Make media accessible to citizens and guarantee a plurality of opinions. End editorial propaganda
  • Guarantee citizens’ liberty by including in the constitution a complete prohibition on state interference in their decisions concerning education, health and family matters

Health/Environment

  • No more ‘planned obsolescence’ – Mandate guarantee from producers that their products will last 10 years, and that spare parts will be available during that period
  • Ban plastic bottles and other polluting packaging
  • Weaken the influence of big pharma on health in general and hospitals in particular
  • Ban on GMO crops, carcinogenic pesticides, endocrine disruptors and monocrops
  • Re-industrialize France (thereby reducing imports and thus pollution)

Foreign Affairs

  • End France’s participation in foreign wars of aggression, and exit from NATO
  • Cease pillaging and interfering – politically and militarily – in ‘Francafrique’, which keeps Africa poor. Immediately repatriate all French soldiers. Establish relations with African states on an equal peer-to-peer basis
  • Prevent migratory flows that cannot be accommodated or integrated, given the profound civilizational crisis we are experiencing
  • Scrupulously respect international law and the treaties we have signed.