Public Service

Never let a good crisis go to waste

Never let a good crisis go to waste. Democrats have been doing their utmost to show partisanship during coronavirus. Instead of trying to help their fellow citizens, they see it better to throw in some irrelevant nice to haves which will do nothing to help Americans fight the economic impacts of coronavirus as bargaining chips.

Here are 20 examples.

  1. Corporate pay statistics by race and race statistics for all corporate boards at companies receiving assistance.
  2. Corporate board diversity targets
  3. Bailing out all current debt of postal service
  4. Required early voting
  5. Required same-day voter registration
  6. $10,000 bailout for student loans
  7. For companies accepting assistance, 1/3 of board members must be chosen by workers
  8. Provisions on official time for union collective bargaining
  9. Full offset of airline emissions by 2025
  10. Greenhouse gas statistics for individual flights
  11. Retirement plans for community newspaper employees
  12. $15 minimum wage at companies receiving assistance
  13. Permanent paid leave at companies receiving assistance
  14. hiding the citizenship status of College Students from the Census Bureau
  15. expanded wind & solar tax credits
  16. $100,000,000 for NASA’s environmental restoration group

While it is fair game to question the contents of a $1.8 trillion rescue package, none of the above will help Americans combat coronavirus. So the Dems have upped it to $2.5 trillion to include the above, including $1.5k in aid per individual; as much as $7.5k for a family of 5.

We suppose when the central bank has committed to endless QE, what does an extra $700bn on top of $1.8 trillion matter?

Should Main St bailout a Wall St that squandered cash on equity buybacks through excessive debt issuance?

Image result for boeing

Boeing was lopped two notches from A- to BBB (two notches above junk) by Standard & Poors overnight.  The diagnosis was:

“Cash flow and credit ratios will likely be much weaker than we had expected for the next two years. We now expect free cash flow to be an outflow of $11 billion-$12 billion in 2020 and an inflow of $13 billion-$14 billion in 2021. This compares to our previous expectation of positive $2 billion in 2020 and $22 billion in 2021.

The significant difference is due to an absence of MAX predelivery payments (PDP) into 2021, higher and more front-loaded cash compensation to airlines, additional cash costs related to the production halt (including supplier support), and lower MAX production rates and deliveries than previously expected.

We are also now expecting weaker cash flow from the rest of the business due to cuts to 787 production (including lower PDPs), delays to the first 777-9 delivery, and lower cash flows at the defense and aftermarket segments.

This results in higher debt levels in 2020 (with balance sheet debt peaking at more than $46 billion, including the debt from the Embraer joint venture) and a weaker improvement in 2021, with funds from operations (FFO) to debt in 2020 now likely to be only about 5% (previous expectation was 29%) and about 30% in 2021 (previous expectation was 75%). This forecast remains highly uncertain with the potential for increased downside from the coronavirus.”

As we pointed out earlier this week, Boeing is trading in a negative equity position. The question is should Main St be responsible for bailing out Wall St for blowing its dough on $10s of billions on buybacks. It appears Boeing is seeking a short term plug from the government after drawing down $9.5bn of committed credit lines from the banks. Of course, it is sold as saving jobs during coronavirus but this is just incompetence.

Oh, don’t get me started on Tesla. A frozen economy against a debt monster that just started to scrape some profits together.

Surely lightning can’t strike twice, RBA?

The video posted here is of then Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson who steered the US financial system through the GFC. He is speaking to the Financial Services Committee in 2009. Perhaps the most important quote was the one that world central banks failed to heed –

Our next task is to address the problems in the financial system through a reform program that fixes our outdated financial regulatory structure and that provides strong measures to address other flaws and excesses.

Central banks across the globe honestly believe in fairytales to think they have learnt the lessons of 2008 or 2000 for that matter. Sadly they continue to use the only tool they possess – a hammer – which would be great if every problem they encountered was actually a nail.

When will people realise that had central banks practised prudent monetary policy over the past 20 years, they would possess the ammunition to be able to effectively steer the economy through Coronavirus? Everything the RBA and government are deploying is too little and too late. They never ran proper crisis scenarios and are now scrambling to cobble together an ill-contrived strategy wasting $10s of billions in the process all at our expense.

Central banks only have one role – to support markets with consistently sound monetary policy that creates confidence in the marketplace. Not run around like headless chooks and make knee-jerk responses and follow other central banks off a cliff like lemmings to disguise their own incompetency. The willful negligence displayed by our monetary authorities needs to be recognised. The RBA has got the economy trapped in a housing bubble of their own creation.

So when the RBA talks about, “Australia’s financial system is resilient and it is well placed to deal with the effects of the coronavirus” it couldn’t be further from the truth.

While it is true to say that Australia is relatively more healthy than other economies in terms of the percentage of GDP in national debt, the problem is we rely on the health of our foreign neighbours. 37.5% of our exports go to China. What is the first thing that will happen when our trading partners suffer economic weakness at home? Nations that exercise common sense will look to push domestic production and supply so as to boost their local economies. It is a natural process.

Sadly the RBA, APRA and ASIC have been too busy convincing us that climate change was a priority rather than getting businesses to focus on sensible commercially viable shareholder-friendly strategies. Some groups like the AMA have been encouraged to parade their climate alarmist virtues on breakfast TV.

Unfortunately, instead of focusing on fireproofing our establishments from ruthless cutthroat overseas competitors, our businesses and commerce chambers waste time on chasing equality and diversity targets instead of striving to just be the “best in class”.

Sure, we may have certain raw materials (that the lunatic Greens and Extinction Rebellion protestors will do their best to shut down) that China or other nations will rely on, our service sector weighted economy will be crushed. Almost $250bn, a fifth of our GDP, derives from exports.

Just look at Australian business investment as a % of GDP dwindle at 1994 lows. Mining, engineering, machinery and even building investment are nowhere.

That means our ridiculously high level of personal debt will become a problem. It stands at 180% of GDP as recorded by the RBA on p.7 of its Chart Pack. Most of this debt is linked to housing. Housing prices should crater should coronavirus not be solved in short order. Delinquencies will surge. Families that are funding a mortgage with two incomes may end up being forced to do in with one. Then we cut our gym memberships, Foxtel and stop buying coffee from our local cafe. It is the chain reaction we need to be wary of.

That will work wonders for banks with 60-70% mortgage exposure and precious little equity to offset any ructions in housing prices. If you thought Japan was bad after its bubble collapsed – you ain’t seen nothing yet. By the time this is over we could well see Australian banks begging for bailouts. Note that cutting interest rates further kills interest rate spreads and smacks the dollar which hikes the cost of wholesale funding which these banks heavily rely on.

Yet our RBA knows that it must choose the lesser of two evils. It needs to keep the bubble inflated at all costs because the blood that would come from bank failure is just not worth contemplating. Maybe if they had listened to Hank Paulson they might have been able to hold their heads high rather than showing off, the fool’s version of glory.

Milton Friedman once said,

The power to determine the quantity of money… is too important, too pervasive, to be exercised by a few people, however public-spirited, if there is any feasible alternative. There is no need for such arbitrary power… Any system which gives so much power and so much discretion to a few men, [so] that mistakes – excusable or not – can have such far-reaching effects, is a bad system. It is a bad system to believers in freedom just because it gives a few men such power without any effective check by the body politic – this is the key political argument against an independent central bank.

How right he was. When the economy tanks, await the RBA and government pointing fingers at each other when both failed to avert the coming crisis which had been so bleeding obvious for so long.

Batten down your hatches.

Colonialism and Comcars

Image result for robert menzies car

Senator Mattias Cormann has admitted he was behind the decision to change the colour of our government Comcars – which ferry politicians around – from white to dark grey in order to remove any remnants of our colonial past, which in his words were “a better reflection of a modern, forward-looking Australia.” Forget the fact that most government cars were painted black, including Sir Robert Menzies’ Bentley (above). Might have been better to channel the founder of the Liberal Party as inspiration instead some woke nonsense. Or just let the drivers, who need to clean and maintain the vehicles, choose. 

Seriously though, what % of Australians have ever thought that our white Comcars harked to a colonial past? Best put it to a plebiscite and waste more time. 

Dark Grey? Isn’t that a gloomy hue? Should Aussies prepare for dark days ahead? Truth be told the colour is probably quite representative of where our economy is heading, even without coronavirus.

Interestingly, according to car insurer youi,

Our accident frequency research reveals that dark coloured cars are more likely to be in an accident than lighter coloured cars, likely because they are less visible to other drivers on the road. Grey coloured cars topped the list, followed by black and charcoal.

Who says that politicians don’t make sacrifices for us?

If we study where the proportion of cars coloured in colonial white is highest, perhaps parliament should be spending up big on a reeducation program in Tasmania for their unconscious colonialism. youi claimed,

Tasmania has the highest percentage of white cars at 33.80% versus the national average of 30.45% (silver 19.4%, blue 11.29%)

White cars seem to be connected to toxic masculinity too. Best run a campaign on unconscious sexism if youi is to be believed.

Compared to females, white is more popular for males relative to other colours (34.34% for males, 26.46% for females)

Take it a step further and question how much more Cormann could have done to reduce the racist footprints of colonialism.

Why are we buying cars from a maker that powered the Nazi Luftwaffe, SS and Wehrmacht, based in a nation that at the time was hell-bent on world domination and genocide? If we went for Lexus or Toyota we’d be buying cars built by a country that was also determined to colonize The Pacific. Jaguars or Range Rovers would be off the list, even though the Indians now own the brands. Rolls-Royce & Bentley are German-owned. Italians were colonialists. Maserati, Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo banned. The French? Colonialists. Renault and Peugeot-Citroen are out. The Spanish? Colonialists. No SEATs, although that is owned by the Germans. America? Someone is bound to raise an issue with their CIA operative endorsed post-war military hegemony. So no Caddies, Fords or GM cars, especially after the axing of the Holden brand. China? Buying Haval or Great Wall cars would at the very least cut down on the overall cost of Comcars, especially with the generous 10-yr unlimited kilometre extended warranty.  That is how we cut the budget deficit. 

Maybe we should just buy Volvos. Maybe that way we could appeal to be supporting the home team of climate activist, Greta Thunberg to shore up the youth vote while acknowledging that the Viking hordes of 1000 years ago was far back enough in history to upset anyone today. If we’re lucky, the Swedish Riksbank may consider buying our sovereign debt again

Seriously, haven’t our pollies got anything better to do than conjure up such illogical nonsense like this? Given we’re at this level of discourse, perhaps walking, cycling or public transport would be a better bet for our lawmakers. At the very least it would put them in touch with how commoners live.

Jo Nova tears strips off the BoM

Jo Nova has published a thought-provoking piece on the Bureau of Meteorology.

For generations, it was a Guinness Book of Records type thing. Now it’s gone.
In 1924 Marble Bar set a world record of the most consecutive days of 100 °F (37.8 °C) or above, during an incredible period of 160 days starting in 1923. It was legend — but thanks to the genius homogenized adjustments, we now find out all along it was wrong. It’s another ACORN triumph, rewriting history, extinguishing the hot days of days long gone. The experts at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) have reanalyzed the temperatures from 4000 km away and nine decades in the future and apparently it wasn’t that hot…

…But never fear, the brilliant minds of the BoM are correcting past mistakes with secret methods they cannot explain to mere mortals outside the sacred guild of weather druids. Luckily for us, the new super-sensitive small box electronic gizmos that record one-second spikes of warmth from passing trucks and radiated heat from tarmac and walls is The Truth Hallelujah Brother. In another ten years, the climate of Marble Bar circa 1924 will be so much cooler. I bet the dead will be delighted. I can’t imagine why the BoM didn’t issue a press release to let the world know that Australia now doesn’t hold the longest hottest record which now goes to Death Valley.”

The rest of the article can be found here. We need a Royal Commission into BoM.

On the face of it, if the BoM is to be regarded as the hall monitor for our government to set climate policy prescriptions against, shouldn’t taxpayers and our lawmakers be entitled to 100% transparency of how BoM derives its predictions? And no, it shouldn’t be a question of we mere peons not being of sufficient intellect to be able to interpret it.

There should be standards that can face proper scrutiny and are comparable to other global meteorological bodies. If BoM’s methodology is superior, why isn’t it sharing it with the world and beating its chest to make us revere it even more? Isn’t that how we save the planet by promoting our own as the best in class that others should follow? As it stands, ASX listed companies aren’t allowed to audit their own accounts so why is BoM allowed to escape independent scrutiny of its publicly funded procedures? Given 85% of the BoM is in senior management, we might be justified in asking further questions as to whether other factors are at play.

Nothing to be proud about

Biz Ivest

Flipping through the latest RBA Chart Pack, it is no surprise that business investment keeps sliding off a cliff. As a % of GDP, it has slid from a peak of 18% off the short-term trough of 14% (GFC) to 11%, which now puts it at 1994 levels. It proves the old adage that businesses don’t invest because interest rates are low, they invest because they have confidence in the cycle.

Our government should be looking at this with alarm bells. It doesn’t take too much imagination to work out that political instability has played its part.

Australia was once regarded as the vanguard of political stability in the region which made it a sensible investment choice for domestic and international investors as a place to do business. There was a comfort in knowing that there wouldn’t be revolving door prime ministers and flip flops on policy positions. After all, much business investment takes years to get to the production stage.

The Howard years saw our business investment surge. Sensible fiscal policy was a feature too. While Rudd can be forgiven for GFC causing a slump in business investment it resumed until political instability put the mocker on business confidence.

We have been running deficits ever since and cranking up the national debt (we wrote about it here) because it is clear we don’t have sensible free-market conditions to self sustain direct investment at anywhere the levels we need.

Instead, we kowtow to radical activists who try to stop investment in projects like Adani and conduct illegal secondary boycotts on businesses like Greyhound Australia and Siemens without repercussions.

Whether coal is evil or not is irrelevant. The problem is such activism, which is further supported by ideologically corrupted government environmental departments – that push their own agenda on granting approvals – doesn’t endear domestic industries or foreigners to invest in us. These are dangerous precedents. All of this tokenism when we only need look at the realities of what will happen down the line.

Don’t take our word for it. Even our domestic businesses are leaving.

Thanks to Australia’s ridiculous energy prices, Aussie company Bluescope confirmed the expansion of capacity in Ohio. In Feb 2019, the company CEO said, “much cheaper energy in the United States is a major driver of the company’s preparedness to invest in a $1 billion expansion in Ohio.”

In 2017, Tomago Aluminium reported, “We have to grow to be competitive and to be ahead of the curve, but when the spot price went to $14,000 [per megawatt hour] we had to take that load off. It’s just not sustainable. You can’t smelt at that price. We have had to curtail or modulate the load [on occasions] or we get hammered by the price…We cannot continue to keep paying those prices. We have to find a solution. The prices are crippling”

Aust Manuf.png

Unfortunately, 28 years of unfettered economic expansion has made us complacent. We think this economical miracle has no off-ramp.

None of this is remotely surprising.

Can we honestly say that the impact of higher electricity prices hasn’t been a factor in pushing away investment in engineering and manufacturing? So this mad push for renewables will not alleviate this pressure. Germany is the perfect beta-test crash dummy. It predicted flat prices. They doubled from those forecasts.

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Yet our political class is playing with fire.

We never thought Australia was realistically going to have a surplus when it was announced. Secretly there must be a sigh of relief in Treasury that the impacts of the bushfires and coronavirus will provide a convenient scapegoat to miss those targets under the premise of ‘doing the right thing.’  And no that does not mean the government is glad those two catastrophes have happened from a humanistic approach.

We need proper reforms. We need to ditch these notions of political correctness in public policy. We are as unimaginative as many other governments around the world. Living on a low-interest rate fuelled debt bomb. Kicking the can down the road simply does not work. Why aren’t politicians convicting their cases with evidence rather than folding to ideological positions held by fringe dwellers on Twitter?

When we visited Israel on a business delegation in 2018, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu uttered the only 4 words that mattered for investors – “we want your business.” The innovation nation knows what it is good at and is prepared to back it to the hilt.

It would be so nice if our government spent some time in Israel to discover that we have it all wrong. Because we are only storing up a rude awakening. When our economy does suffer from the eventual ramifications of all of that lack of investment, the public will be howling that they can’t pay their mortgages, that they can’t get decent jobs and they can’t keep the lights on. None of that would have been necessary if they had been more open to business.

The ultimate result will be that we’ll put ourselves deeper into debt to fund some monster infrastructure projects that will provide short term relief, not long term solutions.

The foreign investors that could have helped had we treated them in a more dignified fashion will just buy our assets at fire-sale prices instead. Then we’ll have another moment to howl at the moon.

That will be the true price of our complacency. Experience is a hard teacher. You get the test first and the lesson afterwards.

Rattlesnakes are rattling

Always fun to see how politicians on the same side eviscerate each other on policy and character.

It was no different with the GOP when Trump was hammering “low energy Jeb” and “Little Marco.” In 2016. Ted Cruz even challenged Trump to a “Mano a Mano” debate such was the divide.

The problem for the Democrats is if the DNC stiffs Bernie Sanders again, his supporters will stay away in November and one has to question whether he will rush to endorse Bloomberg as he reluctantly did with Hillary Clinton.

The funny thing is that in today’s world financial market players rely on over regulation to squeeze the smaller guys out. Get politicians to make the costs of onerous compliance so high that the larger firms gain the spoils.

So Bernie would be doing the financial firms as big a favor as Bloomberg and his “crooked mates” on Wall St by putting more red tape in place. So much for helping out the poor and oppressed.