Monday, May 12, 2014

Welcome to the 'no surprises no new taxes' Belle Époque down under ...

Thomas Piketty is all the rage these days, though in recent times, the pond's acquaintance with the dismal art is more by way of reading reviews than reading texts.

Still, this quote by way of Paul Krugman's review in the NYRB, Why We're in a New Gilded Age (outside the paywall at the moment) hit home:

“The experience of France in the Belle Époque proves, if proof were needed, that no hypocrisy is too great when economic and financial elites are obliged to defend their interest.”

As did the mention of Australia in The New Yorker in John Cassidety's Piketty's Inequality Story in Six Charts (who said that ABC news had a monopoly on a running joke about graphs and charts?):

Of course reading the Krugman wasn't without its sorrows:

The international gold standard for such surveys is the annual survey conducted once a year by the Census Bureau. The Federal Reserve also conducts a triennial survey of the distribution of wealth.

That'd be the triennial survey conducted once every three years, and how pleasing to know that the annual survey conducted once a year isn't conducted biannually or even biennially ...

But never mind the point is clear enough:

The experience in Australia in the John Howard years proves, if proof were needed, that no hypocrisy is too great when economic and financial elites are obliged to defend their interests.

And now Pinocchio and his cigar smoking henchmen stand poised to carry on that noble droit du seigneur tradition of screwing anything in sight, at least if it's anything they can get away with ...

Yep, Tony Abbott, after three years of nattering negativity is primed with jus primae noctis duties, with the latest folly grand promises of $40 billion - or perhaps $80 billion spent on roads - who knows, think of a number and PP double it - in a style that would make Hitler go green with autobahn envy.

The Abbott government will spend a huge $80 billion on new roads, with the states and private sector, in what Joe Hockey has described as the biggest increase in funding in our history. 
As he prepares to hand down his first budget on Tuesday, the Treasurer has confirmed the government will up spending on road infrastructure to be funded by a change in the fuel excise. 
“Over the next six years we are going to spend in excess of $40 billion on roads and that will be matched by the states and the private sector with an additional $42 billion,” Mr Hockey told Channel Nine this morning. 
“So it is a massive amount of money,” he said. 
“Think about it, every time you spend $1 billion it’s like building a brand new major teaching hospital.” Without going into the detail of an increase on the fuel tax, frozen at 38.1 per cent by former Prime Minister John Howard, the Treasurer insisted the massive roads construction effort will create work. (here)

Yes, think about it every time you have to get out the cash to pay a visit to the hospital or your doctor.

No mention of course of  cost benefit analysis. It was left to others to point out the sort of drag that the emperor is wearing these days, as you can read in Tony Abbott's grand infrastructure plan may be an expensive road to nowhere:

The Productivity Commission’s draft report in March to the Abbott government said the way things had been done in the past has resulted in “poor value for money”. 
 “There are many examples in Australia of poor project selection leading to highly inefficient outcomes. In such cases, investment in public infrastructure is a drain on the economy and tends to lower productivity and crowd out more efficient projects,” that report said. 
 In other words, if you do the press release first and the business case later, it can totally backfire, and potentially have exactly the opposite economic impact to the one the government is seeking. 
And here’s the rub. That’s exactly what the Abbott government has done. It has pledged billions of dollars to projects before any business case had been done and is giving some of them even more money in this budget, again without a business case.

And so on.

Yet the cigar puffer used to routinely berate the Labor party for its failures in the area of CBA's, while all the clowns had a go at the NBN, and its usefulness.

As Taylor pointed out later in that piece, the best way to relieve congestion is by way of public transport. And if you don't believe that, spend a little time in gridlock in the LA freeway system, with a huge number of roads routinely reducing motorists to a crawl - to the point where even Californians have started spending a little money on public transport.

And then there's the logic. Allegedly we're in the grip of the direst budget emergency of all time, a crisis of mammoth proportions.

So the government lets loose a recurring, inflationary tax, and then pisses all that revenue - and more - against the wall in an epic spending spree on roads, and the special interest group they're pandering to says it's not enough, while berating the government for taxing the beneficiaries?

What's that you say? 5 Reasons Young People are Not Buying Cars or getting their drivers license ...

Young people value mobile phones over cars ...

...a new research paper on the rise of urban rail systems argues that mobile phones are more important to young people than cars, and they'd rather take public transport so they can use their phones.

Never mind. Old farts, old dinosaur cigar smokers with the future vision of a gnat.

It turns out that the cost of the NBN is just a piddle in a bucket up against the delusional Napoleonic grandeur of these kings of the two lane blacktop. You see there's nothing like holding a "stop-go" sign on a freeway expansion to really stake out Australia's territory as a sophisticated, clever country.

With this sort of fanciful and vain boasting abroad, naturally the facilitators, apologists, knob polishers and hagiographers are out and about in some fair force this Monday.

The pond almost feels sorry for them. Talk about really hard work. These knobs take a lot of polishing, and even using Brasso, it's hard to get them shiny.

It might work for metal, but buggered if it helps Tony Abbott and the cigar puffer.

So let's see how they're doing, these knob polishers as they wait with trepidation the big reveal. One thing's absolutely guaranteed, Paul "Magic Water Man" Sheehan will be quick out of the gate:

Say what? Barking, howling at the moon mad? Well he does believe in transubstantiation ...

Relax, if you read that trolling, click-baiting headline, Sheehan's just having a lend of you, as he did with all those mug punters who raced off to imbibe the magic water.

You see, Abbott's not crazy in a clinical way, or even crazy in a political way, he's crazy brave, like all those valiant neocon warriors who swim against the tide and make sure the new age of inequality will endure for all time:

Whether Abbott is the mad monk his critics portray, or the man who became Prime Minister because he had guts, will be borne out by the big bet he has made. Like all prime ministers who introduce an austerity budget he is betting that a majority of the electorate will see that hard decisions on the economy, with its ageing population, need to be made, and made now, and to act otherwise is the greater hypocrisy.

Gutz! He's a man who takes the ball up the gutz, no hypocrite he.

So who does Sheehan turn to for his objective, insightful analysis?

To buttress the case for bravery I turn to Tony Shepherd, who chaired the National Commission of Audit on federal expenditures and income.

Oh Piketty, dear Piketty, the eastern suburbs mafia is on the job. Put it another way: To buttress the case for Genghis Khan'  bravery, I turned to his special paid  henchman ...

(Shepherd) did not accept criticisms that the commission of audit – and by implication the likely federal budget – place too much responsibility on the poor to cut costs. 

Well he would say that, wouldn't he? What else would he say? Regurgitating the specious nonsense that Shepherd delivered in his report now passes for insight? Do go on:

“We certainly tried to protect the lowest 20 per cent. We’ve tried to look after them. Many of our recommendations hit high-income earners and business.”

And if you repeat that sort of porky often enough, some mug punters will believe you. Here's hoping it works for them when they head off to the doctor on their brand new motorways in their brand new Mercs ...

Meanwhile, the past masters of the art of celebrating the crazy brave, the reptiles at the lizard Oz, are out and about in force, slavering at the bit at the thought of all the slashing and the burning and the merging and the wasted letter heads and the sackings and the mayhem:

So what should the Labor party do?

Stand up and act crazy brave? Whip up a lathering frenzy of nattering negativity, of the sort that Abbott did for years, thereby reducing politics to three word slogans and lies and hypocrisy? Challenge the no taxes, no surprises hypocrisy?

Of course not:

Yes, they should just roll over, and with a bit of luck Troy and Tony Abbott will scratch their tummies and if they keep on being good little doggies and urinate in the right places out of doors, they won't get whacked over the head with a rolled-up copy of The Australian, they'll get patted on the head by Troy and Tony for being obliging pups ...

Thanks Troy, we really needed an example of the facilitators and the panderers and the knob polishers in action, just to prove Piketty's thesis ...

Luckily the pond has an alternative explanation.

Lizard people.

Now everyone who's spent a little time on the full to overflowing intertubes knows that the reptilians - you might know them as reptoids or draconians - have taken over the planet, and thanks to the finest minds in Rupert Murdoch's media empire, we now know it for a fact.

In dead of night, they landed in the NT, then snuck down to Canberra to do their work, and now their puppet, jolly Joe Hockey, is delivering a budget for them.

Naturally you'll find some irrational people out there who'll dispute this notion, and prefer the thesis advanced by David Rowe, more Rowe here:

With the greatest respect, the pond must insist that Mr Rowe is wrong.

Lizard people love a good cigar and a fine red while wreaking their havoc, which might range from torturing pensioners to ensuring expensive health care for the poor to ensuring the planet is ruined by climate change to making sure students can't afford to study the science to maiming dogs. And here's the evidence, which the pond exclusively obtained from secret files put together by the finest minds in Rupert Murdoch's media empire:

Crazy brave these reptiles? Or crazy cruel, as Thomas Piketty might say? Your choice ...


  1. Enter Tony Shepherd, preaching austerity after running a million over budget in his Commission of Audit. I suppose the Grange and cigars are a bit dearer now that the lobbyists have had to go underground since ICAC.

    He (Shepherd) did not accept criticisms that the commission of audit – and by implication the likely federal budget – place too much responsibility on the poor to cut costs.

    I'd hardly have expected it, but Shepherd knows his Wilde. From The Importance of Being Earnest, I think it was Algernon who commented, "If the poor cannot set a good moral example, what on earth is the use of them?"

    Thanks for the link to Paul Krugman, which I'll catch up with. I'm still in awe with the way he helped Clinton blow a hole through all this sanctimonious Republican tripe 20 years ago, bringing the budget back to sanity after a decade of Reaganomics. Bad luck Dubya had to take it all back to bankrupting the government, but I think that's the tory aim these days.

    1. Oh, and one further thing I can't resist given the Hockey-Cormann cigar-smoking episode. From Kipling and so appropriate to this government's attitudes.
      "A woman is only a woman. But a good cigar is a smoke."

  2. "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies."

    Groucho Marx

    1. Politics is also the art of 'look over there'... Surely it must be a coincidence that the royal commission into 'get Gillard' is hearing evidence from Ralph Blewitt today, while up in Qld the royal commission into 'get Rudd' is also hearing evidence from the major players. These commissions appear to headed, respectively, by a Howard High Court appointee and a former Brandis colleague. The timing of both is impeccable.

    2. Yes, and what does the digital page of the lizard Oz lead with today? Budget speculation, budget fever? Wrong, but hey that's how you get to win the cigar ...

  3. Some more priceless First Dog...

    1. G force - my kids used to love this. (Maybe should be G4S Force?)

    2. Shit - I thought this was a First Dog joke, but no.

      "Australian Border Force (ABF) will begin operating in July next year and will act as the nation's single frontline enforcement agency."

  4. Bob Ellis is an embarrassment. No one can take him seriously any more, even though he still has a few cogent points to make. (eg. 'The Stupidity of Joe Hockey' at Independent Australia). His ridiculous exaggerations "persecuting cripples"; "forcing the unemployed into prostitution" etc. His childish 'predictions', (Hockey cannot survive this week) and his lamentable threats to sue all and sundry all but make him unreadable.

    He's become the Bolt of the left.

    Sad to see the deterioration of a once worthy talent.

    1. Agreed, usually Ellis articles are pointless wish-pieces. Like Bolt's, after you read one, you think, "well, he would say that, wouldn't he?"

      Whenever I see a bunch of excited tweets suggesting I read his latest prediction, I'll just respond with (in proper social media fashion): "be;dr"

    2. Senility is a terrible thing, but then the pond long ago came to the conclusion that Ellis was the victim of premature senility, or perhaps the SDA upbringing that so scarred him mentally. I mean if you head up to the Blue Mountains during the Cuban missile crisis, like as not you'd probably head to Antarctica with Abbott's mob in charge. But what good would that do you?

  5. Lizard People?

    "This is what the data shows: when the economic élites support a given policy change, it has about a one-in-two chance of being enacted. (The exact estimated probability is forty-five per cent.) When the élites oppose a given measure, its chances of becoming law are less than one in five. (The exact estimate is eighteen per cent.)"

  6. Let's see how selling the Mint to a Bank goes. Isn't this a bit like selling the henhouse to the fox?

    I'll give 'em $10 for one of those nice waferer-things with the white minty stuff surrounded by dark chocolate.

    1. The greedy foxes already got hold of the henhouse in the 1970's with this:

      What greedy thing owns foxes?

  7. Gonna buy a van with a PA and drive round and round State Circle for the next couple years, playing yodel hits until the Tories' little skulls go pop.

    1. The Mars Attacks solution! Love it.

      Well Adam Packer, you win the cigar today, which we believe was rolled between jolly Joe's virgin thighs ...


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