If the status quo is so good why would we vote out the incumbents?


Almost everywhere we look, we’re told by the political class how good our lot is. Our blessed Aussie PM told us, “It has never been a better time to be an Australian.” Boosted asset prices, low unemployment and tepid inflation gives the illusion of real wealth for everyone. As an electorate, if all of that were true, why wouldn’t we be going out of our way to make sure the status quo gets voted back in with similar if not greater majorities? As it stands, more and more incumbent parties are hanging on by their finger nails, being forced to create alliances to stay in power rather than stick to the principles their parties were founded on. The irony is that these grand coalitions are formed on the tenets of ignorant ‘un-populism.’

The latest election cycle shows us that a growing number of people aren’t buying mediocrity. They’re sick of incumbent politicians ignoring them. The current crop of leaders seem to think that being less worse than the opposition is a virtue to be proud of. Yet poverty levels continue to rise and wealth is not trickling down to the masses. Even rising state entitlements have a finite life and the electorate knows it. Being married to the government is not seen as a desirable strategy long term. Deficits keep rising and look increasingly hard to pay down.

Searching through the St Louis Fed database, civilian employment under Obama managed to grow 2.5% on pre-crash levels. So the US loaded up on $9 trillion in short term debt to create 4 million net new jobs. That works out at $2.25 million per worker. Hardly an achievement. Yet despite that economic growth has dithered at the lowest post recession rates ever. As much as we might want to celebrate record low unemployment these are not proud statistics. The quality of jobs keeps going down. $8.4 trillion of this federal debt load needs to be refinanced inside 4 years. $12.3 trillion inside 10 years. While politicians can call the average voter stupid, the daily struggles of the average punter shows how out of touch the law makers are. This was the grand mistake made by Clinton. While she hung out with her elite mates at $1,000 plate dinners in Democrat strongholds in LA, NY and Chicago expecting a coronation, Trump hit the little people and had crowds flocking to see him.

While Trump’s trade tariffs seem daft on the face of it, it was done for the forgotten people who voted for him. He is not concerned about the consequences. That’s the point. So much of his platform appears abhorrent but he is the only politician in danger of being raked over coals for keeping his promises. That’s why he was elected. The status quo had failed to deliver over decades. 80% of the population didn’t benefit from the asset bubble post GFC. The 1% took 42% of those gains. The average Joe and Joanne see this. While they might not fully comprehend it they know enough to see their situation is not much better.

Take a look at Trudeau’s India debacle. Apart from the embarrassing wardrobe saga, the bigger problems came when he blamed the Indians for letting a known terrorist attend a state dinner. The Indians, unsurprisingly, were most unhappy at the accusation. Many look to Trudeau as the posterchild of the left, pushing peoplekind. Telling Canadians that he will convert returning ISIS fighters with haiku poetry, podcasts and comparing them to Italian migrants at the end of WW2 is utterly preposterous to his constituents. Telling his veterans they’re asking for too much flies in the face of love of one’s country. No wonder his popularity continues to dive. His speech to the UN – where he rattled off how Canada was ticking all the UN diversity boxes – was only a quarter full. Not even his own liberal mates rallied to show unity in numbers. It was telling that virtue signalling is all about appearing to do good rather than doing it.  Yet the day before Trudeau presented, Trump spoke of America First and the audience was packed. They might have hated every word that dripped from his tongue but they didn’t miss it for the world. It is hard talk. Not carefully prepared politically correct nonsense.

Take the recent European elections. Germany gave Merkel the worst ever performance of the CDU post WW2. The SPD was even worse. The anti-immigrant AfD stormed to 16%. Is it any wonder that when Merkel’s misguided altruism  showed up on Election Day even she finally conceded we have a problem with “no go zones”. Some may wish to look at the Merkel miracle of growth and low unemployment but the public service in Germany has exploded from 9% pre 2008 crash to 16% today. Not private sector growth but public sector.

The Italian election showed over 60% of the vote went to eurosceptic parties. While volatility has always been a feature of Italian politics, this results showed the discontent underbelly of Italy which has seen poverty jump 50% to one third of the population since Lehman collapsed. While M5S said it wouldn’t form a coalition, all bets are off if it tied up with League. There are plenty of overlaps on the party platforms but the M5S would have to insist on the PM role. The EU would go into a tailspin on such news.

Austria voted in a wunderkind who put the right wing anti immigrant FPO in charge of immigration. Holland saw Wilders claw more seats. Nationalist Marine LePen in France doubled the number of seats ever attained by the Front National. Even Macron is changing his spots looking to introduce national service and take a harder line against migrant crime.

Whether the real statistics of migrant crime are wholly accurate or not is beside the point. It is increasingly seen as an election issue and more EU countries have had enough. They feel their lot is getting worse and view forking out billions in aid for people to settle here is pennies out of their pocket. If the stats are as the government sugar coats them to be in terms of the prevailing prosperity surely the citizens would overwhelmingly back them. Sadly the opposite is true meaning politicians aren’t selling their “compassion” effectively. Too many examples of gagging the police and muzzling the press have surfaced.

That is the thing. If the economy was rosy and bullish and more people felt secure there is a likelihood they would look at the immigration debate in a more positive light. All they see now is millions flocking to Europe as poverty is on the rise and the economy is on the back foot at ground zero. European EU-28 GDP hasn’t grown since Q4 2015. Despite a quadrupling of ECB assets net jobs created post GFC numbers 4 million, labour force participation remains below the peak. However we should not forget that Romania and Bulgaria joined in Jan 2007 and Croatia in 2013 which would add (at a 50% employment ratio) c.20mn meaning that employment in the EU on a like for like basis as a whole is down 16mn jobs ceteris paribus. Even if only Croatia was included then net jobs creation in EU-28 would be a paltry 2mn, or a smidgen above 1%. Anemic.

Yet the political class still doesn’t seem to be learning, especially the EU. Poland and Hungary have formed a pact to reject proposed quotas on migrants. The EU has failed to address the most important question. The wishes of the migrants themselves. It is one thing for the EU to appeal to voters as saving asylum seekers from war torn lands (when 80% are economic migrants by the EU’s own numbers), it is another to forcibly send them to countries that flat out don’t want them. Ask for a show of hands of asylum seekers looking to stay in Germany or head off to Hungary to settle and the likelihood is 100:0. Trying to make Hungarians or Poles feel guilty for being incompassionate is a price they’re clearly willing to pay with losing EU membership. Would we take kindly to a neighbor telling us how to arrange our furniture in the living room or sign a petition to prevent us building extensions even though it is not even in their way? Of course not. Still wagging fingers in disapproval is only likely to steel their resolve.

Flip to the Southern Hemisphere and Australian politics is also exposing the sordid state of the swamp. 5 PMs in 10 years. Now the Deputy PM has had to resign to the back bench and in a last ditched effort to claim some sort of moral high ground with the staffer he was having an affair with. He claimed he would still look after her even though a paternity test might show the kid wasn’t his. What a grub and a slap in the face for his partner to imply she may have been promiscuous. Once again the popularity of the incumbent parties in Australia continues to sink to all time lows. The Labor Party looks to have the next election in the bag but even then the popularity of the opposition leader is woefully tiny.

While the world seems to be in this state of blissful tranquility on the outside, we needn’t probe too deep before seeing how bad things continue to be on the inside. The little people may not have any financial fire power but at the ballot box they have an equal opportunity to stuff those that aren’t listening. Once again Italy shows us it wants change. Call it populism if you must but it is truly a reflection of just how bad things really are and how little ammunition to deal with any future crises remains. The little people are raising their voices. Best heed their words. It is the same reason why as zero chance as Trump looks in 2020, don’t bet against another 4 years in the White House. If the Dems hope that celebrities that talk of #METOO and gun control (all the while they attend Oscars semi-naked and collect their millions doing action films full of explosions and automatic weapons fire) will sway them to a return to the swamp they’re sorely mistaken.

National Bloody Nuisance


If anyone is surprised about the cost blowouts of the National Broadband Network (NBN)  they must have been hibernating. For as much as $91,000 to connect one home this sum would probably cover one’s fixed line, mobile, internet, wifi and FOXTEL subscription for life. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that in this day and age of ‘health & safety’ that to put in underground optic fibre requires 8 people – 5 to supervise, 2 females with traffic paddle pops and one bloke in the ditch with a shovel. Then multiply by 100s of thousands. The economics could be written in crayon such is the elementary nature of the formula.

I recall listening to talk back radio around the time NBN was launched when the sunshades at schools program was underway. Not a word of a lie, the government was shelling out near as makes no difference $1mn per school. Dozens of builders were calling in to say they could erect these structures with all of the concrete, steel poles, roofing materials and labour for 1/10th the cost. So digging holes and inserting optic fibre which will rapidly become redundant across a country with such massive distances between places was only ever going to be a white elephant.

Yet as ever governments are only too happy to cost things on the back of an envelope and tell us all of the rosy scenarios as to how it will come in on budget. If the taxpayer asks for clarity on the math, they are conveniently fobbed off. It is not unreasonable for taxpayers to want to receive full disclosure on how things are to be funded. If a CEO told his shareholders to take a hike when they requested the costings of major capex spending they’d be summarily fired. Every citizen has the right to transparency. Yet why is it the South Australian government celebrates clearly failed renewable policy with an extra $600m bill quickly drawn up on a Friday night? Instead of accountability we are told to use electricity more sparingly (even paid to stay off the grid).

So the NBN is another abject failure. Better to admit defeat and cauterize the gaping wound than to keep filling it with more limited taxpayer funds. At least Turnbull can blame the former government on implementing it in the first place, just as the incoming government can blame him for the disaster that is the $50bn submarines programme which is already running intro huge production issues before the design is even completed. We deserve better.

When will the media get a life?


When will the mainstream media get a proper life? Now Melania Trump’s fashion is supposedly revealing the true secrets of the inner circle. While The Guardian focus on her swatting the President’s hand or wearing pumps to help hurricane victims and a Missoni dress they completely overlook that the UN has passed a resolution on sanctions over North Korea that even Russia & China have agree to. Isn’t it funny that maybe all the pressure that The Donald has put on the world community by not acting like the weakling that was his predecessor on foreign policy has got the world smartening up its act. Someone made criticism of his exit from the Paris Accord the other day. Isn’t this a stroke of genius? It is effectively the reverse of NATO funding. If European governments are willing to fill in for America’s lack of compliance on climate change by burning more of their own taxpayer’s money, let them. America First aided and abetted by Europe’s political class. Besides where is the noise made over the other 3 huge polluters (China, Russia & India) whose climate commitments are nothing short of action sometime in the undefined future. Yep, Trump derangement syndrome.

As a parting message to the liberals, I happen to think Melania has wonderful dress sense. From the pussy-bow at the second debate, the stunning inauguration outfit to a Missoni dress. If the petty media coverage now comes down to FLOTUS rebelling in the wardrobe as a way to signal that the President’s package maybe smaller than he’d like to portray then you’re getting to a point where you will comfortably assure he is returned to a second term. Interesting how journalists these days think being a potty mouth will increase ‘hits’…then again catering to those that love to patronize is it any wonder? Those who can’t be bothered to look objectively at anything he may do that is actually worthy of praise. Indeed if he was as reckless and unhinged as made out, wouldn’t he have already attacked North Korea? Surely a much more effective way to show the size of one’s genitalia.

Tesla – zero emissions and zero registrations


An eagle eyed reader spotted this article in the South China Morning Post today showing that private EV registrations in Hong Kong fell to ZERO in April 2017 from 2,964 in March. The SCMP noted; “Since the April 1 introduction of the first registration tax on EVs, vehicle prices have shot up by 50 to 80 per cent, depending on the model, with tax relief now capped at HK$97,500. A Tesla S was HK$570,000 (under the new tax regime, the price is more than HK$900,000)…the domination of Tesla means zero-emissions motoring in Hong Kong has been largely an elitist activity.” HK is 6% of Tesla’s global volume yet the share price is pricing in blue sky.

Yet more evidence that Tesla product can’t stand on its own without massive subsidies. In previous Tesla dispatches the argument has been the car is an ostentatious fashion accessory to show the world one’s commitment to climate change but only if the price is right.

Are the Aussie major banks as greedy as made out?


One would imagine that Turnbull and Morrison would consult the Treasury or the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) to get a feel for the true state of bank greediness. Of course as a political point scorer it is an easy one because Aussie mortgage debt stress is so high and any relief that absolves their own accountability is a plus. Turnbull doesn’t worry about reality and given his supposed business acumen saw no need to consult the banks. Just Mug them in a back alley. Then wonder why they say in response to the proposed tax slug why employees, customers and shareholders will suffer in some way or another. Any conservative government knows that nearly all financial institutions operate for shareholders over customers. In a round about way customers can always choose to switch institutions if they find a better deal. Market forces keep some level of competition but the above chart shows that the return to shareholders for the evil major banks is at 24 yr lows. Profitability is well off the highs. So shareholders aren’t getting the spoils they are accused of. Of course low interest rate environments place extra pressure on net interest margins and they too are hovering at post GFC lows. Never mind. When trying to arrest disastrous polling Turnbull will happily put himself ahead of country. Even if it means dynamiting the tracks of the one sector that greases the wheels of the economy.

Pathetic – that’s the best they’ve got?


Talk about the boy (girl) who cried wolf. I’m not sure why Rachel Maddow bothered to create a storm over him paying $38mn in 2005.  Go back to sleep. If she had an expose over evasion that would be something. Once again, people will switch off to click bait which promises everything and delivers nothing. So much for a gotcha moment. Maddow just kicked an own goal. Ahh the politics of envy. One question for Maddow – does she claim every tax deduction she’s entitled to? Given the White House released before she did took the wind from her sales leaving her story as powerful as an asthmatic blowing through a straw

Trump’s tax returns – the biggest danger


MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow claims to have President Trump’s tax returns. Apart from the legality of such leaks, the question remains whether he’s done anything illegal. If he’s used every legal loophole to his advantage to AVOID taxes then good on him. If he’s abused the sysyem and EVADED taxes then that is a problem and the law should be applied appropriately. The question is what level of detail has Maddow got? A couple of pages of his ‘1040’ or his entire filings? I would imagine his tax filings are complex enough littered with tax loss carry forwards, write-offs, deductions and so on.

The risk is binary.

If he is only shown to have avoided tax then it will be a non issue and the Democrats will bury themselves deeper in the politics of envy. Voters didn’t care much for the original leak during the election campaign.

If Trump is charged with tax fraud and impeached be careful what you wish for. The amount of market chatter I hear from the same pundits who said he had no chance of winning the White House are the ones believing his tax cuts aren’t yet priced in.  That was priced in a while back but such are global markets clinging to any hope things don’t fall apart that deposing the one person that is fueling it will cause massive risk on.

For all of the hero status Maddow expects to garner she may end up doing the greatest disservice. That doesn’t condone illegal activity rather exposing what happens when the inevitable Chinese whisper problems rear up because we’re all US tax code experts.