Showing posts with label economics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label economics. Show all posts

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Scott Morrison delivers - but it is not good economic news

This was then Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison in 2016 with blunt warning about a future recession and dip in living standards..... 

The Sydney Morning Herald, 25 August 2016: 

A generation of Australians has never known a recession or high unemployment but unless hard decisions are taken soon, there is a "terrible risk" complacency could end Australia's 25 consecutive years of economic growth, Treasurer Scott Morrison has warned. 

In the first of three "economic headland" speeches the Treasurer will deliver in the coming weeks, designed to set out the budgetary challenges facing the nation - and the government's vision for how to tackle them - Mr Morrison will argue that it should not take an economic crisis to trigger a wake-up call, or restart the economic reform process, so that Australia enjoys a prosperous future. 

In extracts of the speech seen by Fairfax Media, which will be delivered in Sydney on Thursday, Mr Morrison made a simple plea. 

"I do not want my kids to know what a recession is and everything that goes along with that," he will say. 

"I recognise that in the absence of a 'recession we have to have', or the threat of 'becoming a banana republic', achieving necessary change will be more frustrating and more difficult. 

But it is no less necessary, and achieving it this way is far better than the alternative."  

In addition, Mr Morrison will say that on the current settings, a generation of Australians are likely to never pay tax, setting up a new divide - the "taxed and taxed-nots", prompting the Treasurer to ask: "Are we still up to the challenge of doing what we need to do to ensure another 25 years of consecutive economic growth? 

"Do we really appreciate how quickly our economic success can turn, and are we as prepared as we can be to deal with it ... my greatest concern is that we end up answering these questions the hard way." 

This is Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in 2019 delivering 
a fall in living standards and what looks like the beginning of that recession.....

The Australian, 4 September 2019:

The Prime Minister said on Tuesday that the GDP figures would show that Australia is still doing better than many other developed economies.....

“Today’s growth figures will show over the year a softness … what we will see is that in a tough climate we are actually battling away quite well.

The Guardian, 4 September 2019:

Today the government has been madly attempting to spin the GDP figures as good. So let’s cut straight to the point – the figures are terrible and are among the worst we have seen this century. 

But what makes it worse is this government would have us believe they saw them coming. 

How bad are things? Today’s figures show the worst annual economic growth for 18 years. GDP per capita is now lower than it was a year ago, productivity is plunging and the economy is pretty much staying above water purely because of government spending and a drop in imports due to weak investment and household spending. 

And yet these are the figures the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, would have us believe are evidence of the “resilience of the Australian economy” and which the prime minister, Scott Morrison, said would “come as no surprise to me”. 

If this is how bad things get when the government says it is not being surprised, God help us if they ever get a shock. 

 That trend growth figure is the worst since March 2001. 

We have now had four consecutive quarters of trend growth below 0.5% – that hasn’t happened since the 1990s recession nearly 30 years ago. It is also the first time since the GFC that GDP per capita is lower than it was a year ago.... 

It was little wonder, in his press conference announcing the figures, that the treasurer quickly turned to talking about employment growth compared with the rest of the OECD, because there is not much to boast about on the whole economy side of things. 

Current growth has us in the bottom half of the OECD..... 

The figures also showed, despite the treasurer’s protestations, that living standards are continuing to decline. 

The treasurer suggested that “living standards continue to increase with real net national disposable income per capita rising 1% to be 2.7% higher through the year”. 

But that figure includes all income – both profits and wages. As such, when profits grow strongly due to big increases in export prices, then national income rises. But unless that flows through to households via wages growth, it is pretty meaningless to use it when talking about living standards. 

And we know that the big increase in income is coming from profits – primarily from the mining sector – and it is not flowing through to households. 

When we look at household disposable income we see that it fell not just in the June quarter but over the past year – down more than 1%. Household incomes per capita are currently at the same level they were in real terms in 2010. 

Today’s figures released by the ABS show the economy grew by 0.5% in the June quarter in seasonally adjusted terms and 0.4% in trend terms. Through the year the growth was a truly pathetic 1.4% seasonally adjusted and 1.5% in trend terms. 

Households of course know their living standards are falling, because they are showing it in how they spend their money. In the past year household consumption grew just 1.5% – again the worst result since the GFC..... 

But the treasurer, despite his talking up the figures, knows just how bad they actually are. He even noted that while profits in the mining sector rose 10.6% in the June quarter, in the non-mining sector they “actually fell 0.6%”. 

Because profits in the mining sector have grown so strongly and compensation to employees is growing so weakly, the share of national income going to workers has plunged. 

The last time the share of national income going to workers was this low, the Beatles had just toured Australia.....

Read the full article here.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 6 September 2019: 

“The crisis,” the [Reserve Bank] governor announced at a conference in 2017, “is really in real wage growth.”......

Instead of wages rising at more than 3 per cent a year, as they had in the five years to 2013, the average pay rise since has fallen to 2.2 per cent annually. 

After inflation, the average pay rise has been a scant 0.5 per cent.....

...without higher wages to pay for people’s groceries, medical care, homes and holidays, spending is weak and the economy enfeebled. 

Lowe has urged governments, state and federal, to lead the way, breaking their 2.5 per cent annual limits and paying workers more.

Then there is this headline demonstrating the folly of Liberal-National ideology......

Former failed advertising executive and Institute of Public Affairs adherent Scott Morrison clearly missing the point entirely.

Morrison, McCormack, Frydenberg & Co are hugging their projected budget surplus so tightly they are strangling the national economy.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Bully Boy Donald Trump has become a global threat to national economies

The picture is becoming clearer - Donald Trump is not just a political wildcard - he is a very real threat to the U.S. and the rest of the world.

Financial Review, 25 August 2019: 

A world of deepening political body-blows from Donald Trump to Brexit and Hong Kong are fast turning into genuine economic shocks that threaten to overwhelm central banks' powers, Reserve Bank of Australia governor Philip Lowe has warned. 

In a speech to a closed-door gathering of some of the world's most powerful monetary policymakers, Dr Lowe criticised the global rush to lower interest rates as ultimately counterproductive but acknowledged the lack of political stability was making the pressure difficult to resist. 

While Dr Lowe refrained from mentioning Donald Trump by name, he referred to Friday's tumultuous market turmoil unleashed by the President's extraordinary attacks on the US Federal Reserve boss, who he suggested may be a bigger "enemy" than Xi Jinping, and a bizarre demand that US companies withdraw from China. 

The President's tantrum against Fed chairman Jerome Powell stunned many participants at the annual three-day Jackson Hole symposium over the weekend. 

While the central bank and academic participants refused to criticise Mr Trump in public, in private conversations with The Australian Financial Review many were scathing. 

One who was prepared to voice his outrage, former Fed vice-president Stanley Fischer, seething at how few members of the central banking fraternity were prepared to challenge Mr Trump, told the forum the greatest threat to the international monetary system was the President. 

He was "trying to destroy the global trading system", Dr Fischer said...... 

On the global political turmoil that dominates headlines, Dr Lowe said it was prompting businesses to shun investment and could end up weighing on their hiring plans. 

By contrast, a return to political stability could unleash around the world "a very prosperous period as we catch up with delayed investment and a period of easing financial conditions". 

With the US-China trade war set to deepen, as well as ongoing doubts about other flash points, central banks around the world have cut interest rates in recent months. 

However, Dr Lowe cautioned that if every central bank acted in the same way, no country would enjoy the normal benefits that rate cuts provided via exchange rate depreciation. 

 Read the full article here

The Sydney Morning Herald, 25 August 2019: 

The Australian sharemarket is set to follow Wall Street sharply lower at the start of the week after fresh salvos in the trade war between the United States and China over the weekend. 

ASX SPI 200 futures point to a decline of 1.33 per cent, or 86 points, when trade opens on Monday morning extending Friday's slide in European and US markets.
“President Trump’s trade war escalated again on Friday…whacking US stocks sharply lower with a flow on to other sharemarkets likely to be seen early in the week ahead,” Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy and chief economist at AMP Capital, told clients. 

All major US stock indices slumped more than 2.4 per cent to end the week, led by the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index which tumbled 3 per cent. Major European markets such as the German DAX and French CAC also shed more than 1 per cent for the session. 

The steep falls were caused by an unexpected and sudden escalation in the trade conflict between the United States and China with both sides announcing tariff increases on the others imports on Friday......

“At this stage there is still no end in sight and so sharemarkets likely have to fall further to pressure Trump to solve the issue and de-escalate,” said AMP Capital’s Oliver. 

The resumption of trade in Chinese markets is also likely to be influential on the performance of Australian shares, dollar and bonds later on Monday.

Australian Stock Exchange close of trading, Monday 26 August 2019:

UPDATE, 26 August 2019: 

The Australian share market has been hammered, losing $24 billion after a dramatic escalation of trade hostilities between the US and China over the weekend. 

The benchmark ASX200 tumbled at the open but recouped some of its losses by close to finish the day down 1.27 per cent. 

The Australian dollar was also hit hard, falling below 67 US cents to its lowest point in a decade but recovered slightly to be buying 67.37 US cents shortly after 4pm.

Monday, 6 May 2019

Climate change policy scare campaign does the rounds again

A scary headline from 7 West Media and Kerry Stokes**….

Fossil fuel industry analyst and economist  Dr. Brian Fisher has issued another warning about what he apparently believes is the folly of tackling climate change……

The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 May 2019, p.1:

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is facing an explosive political row over his climate change policy as industry warns of rising costs and a new economic study predicts 167,000 fewer jobs by 2030 under the Labor plan.

Business groups backed the ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but said they deserved more detail given they would pay for the scheme, in a rebuke to Labor's claim it was "impossible" to model the costs of its policy on employers and the economy.

The new warning from economist Brian Fisher, which is hotly disputed by Labor and countered by other experts, marks a dramatic escalation in the political fight over the cost of taking action on climate change compared to the cost of inaction.

Dr Fisher concluded that the Labor emissions target would subtract at least 264 billion from gross national product by 2030 and as much as26 4billion from gross national product by 2030 and as much a s542 billion, depending on the rules for big companies to buy international carbon permits to meet their targets.

"Negative consequences for real wages and employment are projected under all scenarios, with a minimum 3 per cent reduction in real wages and 167,000 less jobs in 2030 compared to what otherwise would have occurred," he concluded.

"Labor's plan results in a cumulative GNP loss over the period from 2021 to 2030 that is over three times larger than that occurring under the Coalition policy. Turning to other results, the wholesale electricity price under Labor's climate policy is around 20 per cent higher than that resulting from the Coalition policy."

Labor has been bracing for Dr Fisher's report after weeks of conflicting claims over the cost of its policies.

But Australian National University professor Warwick McKibbin cautioned against some of the claims, telling the Herald two weeks ago that the impact of Labor's proposals would be a "small fraction" of the economy by 2030.

Professor McKibbin estimates the Coalition and Labor policies would subtract about 0.4 per cent from the economy by 2030.

The cumulative value of economic output has been broadly tipped to be about $30 trillion by 2030, which means Dr Fisher's worst-case scenario equates to less than 2 per cent of output over that period.

An earlier version of Dr Fisher's modelling triggered headlines of a "carbon cut apocalypse" in March but was questioned by other economists, who said he had assumed very high costs for renewable energy generation and the cost of reducing emissions.

ANU professor Frank Jotzo said in March that Dr Fisher's work had used "absurd cost assumptions" about emissions abatement.

Dr Fisher was the executive director of the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics for many years and conducted the modelling at his firm, BAEconomics. He said this was not commissioned or paid for by the government.
While heavily disputed, Mr Morrison is expected to use the results to mount an escalating campaign against Mr Shorten ahead of the May 18 poll….

Fisher gets called out….

Mirage News, 2 May 2019:

THE CLIMATE COUNCIL is calling on Brian Fisher to come clean about his links to the fossil fuel industry, following the release of his “independent” modelling looking at the cost of Labor’s climate policy.

“Mr Fisher has a history of working closely with fossil fuel industries. How can his research be ‘independent’?” asked the Climate Council’s Head of Research, Dr Martin Rice.

“Mr Fisher’s work has been at odds with credible economic literature which shows that strong action on climate change can be achieved at a modest price, while the costs of inaction are substantial,” said Dr Rice.

“We should be having a conversation about the escalating costs of climate change and the very real economic pain Australia will suffer for failing to act,” said Dr Rice.
“Since the Coalition has been in government, greenhouse gas emissions have gone up and up and up. Meanwhile, Australians are on the frontline of worsening extreme weather as the climate is changing,” he said.

“We urgently need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions There’s credible, independent research that finds Australia can drive down its emissions by more than 45% with minimal impact on the economy,” he said……

The first report in a nutshell….

Climate Council, 20 March 2019:

What’s the story?

Fossil fuel industry consultant Brian Fisher has released so-called “independent” modelling looking at the economic cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but his research is deeply flawed.

Who is Brian Fisher?

Brian Fisher is the fossil fuel industry’s go-to consultant. The industry has paid for much of Fisher’s so-called ‘research’.

Is the modelling credible?

No. Fisher’s report fails to consider the economic benefits for Australia from investing in renewable energy and new technologies as well as failing to quantify the costs of not acting to prevent climate change. 

Several of his findings are implausible. For example, his findings on electricity prices are contrary to a range of detailed Australian studies showing more renewable energy means lower wholesale electricity prices.

This is a distraction.

The Federal Government has a poor record on climate change and is running a scare campaign to distract from this. Since the Liberal National Party has been in government, pollution has gone up, electricity and gas prices have gone up and extreme weather events have worsened.

An explanation of how economic modelling is used….

The Guardian, 21 February 2019:

Whenever Australia starts to have a serious conversation about addressing climate change, headlines appear in newspapers of an economic apocalypse. This happened again in the Australian this week based on work by a long-standing economic modeller of climate policy, Brian Fisher.

So, what do economic modelling exercises tell us of the impact of reducing Australia’s contribution to global warming, and more importantly, what do they not? Should we cower in fear of action or embrace the inevitable change and manage the human and economic costs of transition?

Firstly, economic modelling results are not predictions. They are based on hypothetical future worlds. Economists try to capture the dynamics of economic systems in their models to understand the relative impact of different policy options. This means they are always wrong because economists can’t predict the future. 

Economic modellers are not the crystal ball gazers we read about in fantasy books……

This does not mean the economic models are not useful, it just means they should be used to test the relative impact of different policy options and not be presented as predictions of the future. They have a long history of overestimating the costs of environmental regulations because people and markets can innovate faster than they often expect.

Secondly, the way economic modelling results are presented is very important. Industry groups in particular like to attach themselves to particular results and scream that thousands of jobs will be lost, or wages will be slashed. This is designed to scare people into not acting on climate change by making them feel insecure in their lives. The headlines in the Australian did just this.

It is also dishonest because they also don’t clearly put the results in the context of the broader change in the economy. (David Gruen, one of Australia’s top economic officials gave a great speech about this in 2008 to illustrate how long this silliness has been going on.)

To illustrate my point, the economic impacts Fischer has projected for different emissions targets are in the same ballpark of those projected for work commissioned by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade a few years ago. This work also presented results in a similar way to the Australian. However, what is also showed is that the economy, jobs, income, etc continued to grow regardless. We keep getting richer and have more jobs, we just do so at a slightly slower rate.

Thirdly, because Australia exports a lot of coal and other emissions-intensive products to other countries, what they do matters an awful lot to the Australian economy. As other nations reduce emissions, demand for these products falls regardless of what we do. It has been established for some time that a significant part of the economic impacts of climate change on Australia comes from things we can’t control and this is generally presented in the results (see here for an example). While he does not report this, Brian Fisher knows this because he spearheaded economic analysis in the 1990s that was targeted at convincing Japan, one of our major coal markets, it would be too costly for them to reduce emissions.

Lastly, whenever these headlines are blasted across the papers one point is always lost: these results don’t include the cost of climate change itself. This summer, we have again seen a glimmer of what climate change will mean for Australia. Recent economic analysis indicates the benefits of limiting global warming far outweigh the cost of doing so, in one case by 70-1 (a good summary is here). (Again, this is something Fisher has considered in the past as he once said it would be cheaper to move people from the Pacific and put them in condos on the Gold Coast than act on climate change.)

So, as we head into another cycle of climate change politics in Canberra, beware the economic doomsayers and the threats from industry groups that credible action will be a “wrecking ball” to the economy. To be glib, no one said saving the Earth would be free. Acting on climate change will have costs but the costs of not acting will be far, far larger. Better that we come together and manage a fair and effective transition than continuing to delay and pay a much, much greater bill later…..

Dr Fisher feels the heat....

Fisher now accuses the Morrison Government of sitting on a second report modelling cost to the mining and resources sector of climate action, which was commissioned in the lead up to the federal election campaign and, which the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science confirms it has received.

Fisher appears to believe that this report to which he was a contributor will buttress his claims and silence his critics.

However, to date Morrison and Co have not released this report so two possiblities exist: (i) the report's conclusions tend to support Labor climate action policy or (ii) the report's conclusions are based on such flawed assumptions that it will be easily unpicked by genuinely independent experts.

* Mr Stokes is the Executive Chairman of Seven Group Holdings Limited, a company with a market-leading presence in the resources services sector in Australia and formerly in north east China and a significant investment in energy and also in media in Australia through Seven West Media. Mr Stokes has held this position since April 2010. He is also Chairman of Australian Capital Equity Pty Limited, which has substantial interests in media and entertainment, resources, energy, property, pastoral and industrial activities.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Scott Morrison and his cronies want to buy your vote ahead of the May 2019 Australian federal election

Despite there being a growing urgency to invest in the full range of climate change mitigation measures, in the face of evidence that it is going to take billions of dollars to step back from the developing environmental, social and economic disaster developing in the Murray-Darling Basin, regardless of constant cost cutting in the welfare sector leading to a fall in services for older Australians and those with disabilities, while all the while failing to confront a growing public debt which now stands at est. 679.5 billion, the Morrison Lib-Nats Coalition Government intends to try and buy votes ahead of the May 2019 federal election.

Brisbane Times, 28 January 2019:

The Morrison government is now more focused on protecting its electoral chances than the nation's finances with claims it is going on a pre-poll spending spree based on a short-term boost in tax collections.

Deloitte Access Economics said in a quarterly report out on Tuesday that Scott Morrison is looking to buy back disappointed voters, with the government sitting on $9.2 billion worth of tax cuts and handouts that were included in the December mid-year budget update but not announced.

Deloitte Access partner Chris Richardson said the government had promised $16 billion in extra spending and tax cuts in the past six months, the biggest short-term spend by a government since Kevin Rudd in 2009 in the depths of the global financial crisis.

He said with the budget in a reasonable condition on the back of strong global growth and a surge in company tax profits, the Morrison government had made a decision to woo back voters with taxpayers' cash.

"Of late, the government has been busily taking decisions that add to spending and cut taxes, thereby worsening the bottom line rather than repairing it," he said.
"After all, they've got the dollars to do it, they're behind in the polls and the election is just around the corner.

"That powerful combination of motive and opportunity means that the government's focus has shifted to shoring up its electoral standing rather than shoring up the nation's finances.", 24 January 2019;

Pensioners and some families could receive one-off cash payments from the Morrison government in a pre-election sweetener.

Senior advisers are looking at two one-off payments that could be included in the April 2 budget, the Australian Financial Review reported on Thursday.

If the government decides to go ahead with the plan, the payments could be distributed before the federal election, which is due by mid-May.

The first option is a one off handout to age pensioners and the second is a cash injection for families.

It’s believed the single payments would be aimed at luring those who won’t directly benefit from the Coalition’s $144 billion personal income tax cuts being phased in over the next six years.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

“Shit Life Syndrome” is sending Britons and Americans to an early grave…..

With Scott Morrison as the new prime minister, the Abbott-Turnbull era persistent attacks on the social fabric of the nation are bound to continue. Thus ensuring that Australians follow down the same path as Britain and America?
The Guardian, 18 August 2018:

Britain and America are in the midst of a barely reported public health crisis. They are experiencing not merely a slowdown in life expectancy, which in many other rich countries is continuing to lengthen, but the start of an alarming increase in death rates across all our populations, men and women alike. We are needlessly allowing our people to die early.

In Britain, life expectancy, which increased steadily for a century, slowed dramatically between 2010 and 2016. The rate of increase dropped by 90% for women and 76% for men, to 82.8 years and 79.1 years respectively. Now, death rates among older people have so much increased over the last two years – with expectations that this will continue – that two major insurance companies, Aviva and Legal and General, are releasing hundreds of millions of pounds they had been holding as reserves to pay annuities to pay to shareholders instead. Society, once again, affecting the citadels of high finance.

Trends in the US are more serious and foretell what is likely to happen in Britain without an urgent change in course. Death rates of people in midlife (between 25 and 64) are increasing across the racial and ethnic divide. It has long been known that the mortality rates of midlife American black and Hispanic people have been worse than the non-Hispanic white population, but last week the British Medical Journal 
published an important study re-examining the trends for all racial groups between 1999 and 2016.

The malaises that have plagued the black population are extending to the non-Hispanic, midlife white population. As the report states: “All cause mortality increased… among non-Hispanic whites.” Why? “Drug overdoses were the leading cause of increased mortality in midlife, but mortality also increased for alcohol-related conditions, suicides and organ diseases involving multiple body systems” (notably liver, heart diseases and cancers).

US doctors coined a phrase for this condition: “shit-life syndrome”. Poor working-age Americans of all races are locked in a cycle of poverty and neglect, amid wider affluence. They are ill educated and ill trained. The jobs available are drudge work paying the minimum wage, with minimal or no job security. They are trapped in poor neighbourhoods where the prospect of owning a home is a distant dream. There is little social housing, scant income support and contingent access to healthcare.

Finding meaning in life is close to impossible; the struggle to survive commands all intellectual and emotional resources. Yet turn on the TV or visit a middle-class shopping mall and a very different and unattainable world presents itself. Knowing that you are valueless, you resort to drugs, antidepressants and booze. You eat junk food and watch your ill-treated body balloon. It is not just poverty, but growing relative poverty in an era of rising inequality, with all its psychological
side-effects, that is the killer.

Shit-life syndrome captures the truth that the bald medical statistics have economic and social roots. Patients so depressed they are prescribed or seek opioids – or resort to alcohol – are suffering not so much from their demons but from the circumstances of their lives. They have a lot to be depressed about. They, and tens of millions like them teetering on the edge of the same condition, constitute Donald Trump’s electoral base, easily tempted by rhetoric that pins the blame on dark foreigners, while castigating countries such as Finland or Denmark, where the trends are so much better, as communist. In Britain, they were heavily represented among the swing voters who delivered Brexit.

Read the full article here.

NOTE: The last time the United States saw a prolonged life expectancy decrease due to natural causes was during the Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1917-1919 when life expectancy fell by twelve years. 

Friday, 13 July 2018

How Trump's corporate tax cuts played out in the US economy, 10 July 2018:

Evidence is now emerging of just how extraordinarily wasteful Donald Trump's trillion-dollar corporate tax cut has been as the results -- or lack thereof -- filter into the real US economy.

It's now well-established that the bulk of the tax cuts have gone into record-breaking share buybacks and increased dividends by US companies, with hundreds of billions of dollars flowing or set to flow back to investors. But not a lot of the rest is flowing into extra investment -- the raison d'etre of company tax cuts. New investment data shows US equipment investment fell in the first quarter of the year compared to the final quarter of 2017. How about wages, which are supposed to increase due to company tax cuts (at least according to Mathias Cormann)? In June, monthly wage growth in the US fell to 0.2% from 0.3% in March, lower than expected and leaving wage growth at 2.7% for the 2017-18 year. Inflation in the US was 2.8% for the year to May, suggesting US workers are actually going backwards after inflation.

US unemployment is at 4% (up a tad) — far below our own level of 5.5%. Like the Kiwis, the Americans can’t get wages to grow even with full employment — or even with tax cuts that have massively inflated the US deficit at a time of peak employment.

The fact that Trump and his GOP cronies have pushed the US budget deficit toward $1 trillion a year (remember when the Republicans were the party of fiscal restraint?) at a time of such strong employment also has implications for the stimulatory effect of such largesse. New research from the San Francisco Federal Reserve shows that fiscal stimulus is significantly weaker at times of expansion than during recessions, and that the Republican tax cuts will not meet what the paper terms the “overly optimistic” expectations of boosters. Instead of the boost to US GDP growth this year of about 1.3 percentage points estimated by the Congressional Budget Office and other forecasters, they write, “the true boost is more likely to be less than 1 percentage point,” with some studies pointing to as little as zero.....  

Read the full article here.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

In the same week Wall Street was finally spooked by the sheer weight of Donald Trump's inadequacies as the 45th US President.....

.....and the Dow Jones Index indicated that financiers and big business might be seriously worried about possibly higher than expected interest ratesrising national debt and the size of the US federal budget deficit Trump created in his first twelve months in office - he also rather unwisely performed in front of the cameras on the subject of treason.

YouTube, Time, 5 February 2018:

CNN, 5 February 2018:

 (CNN)President Donald Trump wasn't -- and, apparently, still isn't -- happy that Democrats in Congress didn't stand to applaud him in his State of the Union address last week.

"They were like death and un-American. Un-American. Somebody said, 'treasonous.' I mean, Yeah, I guess why not? Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean they certainly didn't seem to love our country that much."

So, here we are. Again.

Let's quickly define "treason," shall we?

"The offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign's family."

Trump loyalists will dismiss all of this as much ado over nothing. He was joking! He didn't even say that it was treasonous! He was just agreeing with people who said it was treasonous!

Fine. Also, wrong. And missing the point in a major way.

The point? It's this: Not standing during applause lines for the State of the Union isn't treasonous or un-American. Not even close.

If it was, all of the Republicans in that chamber are treasonous and un-American as well because when former President Barack Obama would tout his accomplishments in office -- as Trump was doing last Tuesday night -- lots and lots of Republican legislators would sit on their hands while the Democratic side of the aisle erupted in cheers. And so on and so forth for every president before him (and after).

The Washington Post, 6 February 2018:

This isn’t the first time Trump has used the T-word as president. Just last month, he accused FBI agent Peter Strzok of treason for sending negative text messages about him during the 2016 election to a lawyer at the FBI who he was having an affair with. “By the way, that’s a treasonous act,” the president told the Wall Street Journal. “What he tweeted to his lover is a treasonous act.”