Weekly salon 20/1

1. Trump’s trade deal will make us collateral damage

Kevin Rudd’s AFR article Trade deal will not stop US and China drifting apart gives us the lowdown. From the URL his heading was probably Trade war truce a symbol of the US unhinged. Seems Trump banged on for an hour about incoherent nonsense at the announcement while the head Chinese trade negotiator stood patiently by.

Rudd says intellectual property theft will be criminalised in China for the first time. Good in principle, but you will need to make your case in Chinese courts.

There are advances in other areas, says Rudd, but the second part of the trade deal:

    mandated [a] $US200 billion increase in Chinese imports from America over two years, using 2017 as the benchmark. Given that the US exported a total of $US127 billion to China in 2017, this is a mind-boggling number. And the increase is projected to be sustained until 2025! This is mercantilism writ large.

    It gets worse. The $US200 billion gets subdivided into $US77 billion in US manufactures; $US32 billion in agriculture; $US52 billion in energy; and $37 billion in the services sector. This begins to sound like the production targets contained in Stalin’s five-year plans for the old Soviet Union.

The ABC report says the optics of the deal could help Trump politically. Get a look at these graphs:

    “In volume terms, China is now the number one export market for a wide range of Australian food and ag products: wool, cotton, wine, barley, beef, sheepmeat, dairy, almonds, citrus, table grapes and rock lobsters.”


According to Zachary Karabell at Politico The US-China Trade Deal Was Not Even a Modest Win. The goal appears to be “to fracture the economic relationship with China permanently, and succeeding in hobbling the U.S.-China economic entwinement”. It can only be deemed a success if it “demonstrably strengthens the United States going forward” and the evidence for that is lacking.

Karabell says the deal gets the relationship basically back to where it was under Obama. Nouriel Roubini says Trump Will Make China Great Again.

2. The past lives on within us

Rachel Perkins, film maker and daughter of Charlie, makes the case for a treaty process with Indigenous peoples in her final Boyer Lecture. I don’t think I’ve heard a more articulate account of the Aboriginal experience of the British invasion, and how the trauma of what happened continues to affect the internal and external experience of the genocidal takeover of the land.

As it happened, on the same day Phillip Adams ran a repeat of his long-form interview with Henry Reynolds. When Reynolds started to write about Aboriginal history he was told by a senior historian that there was nothing much to write about.

When we grow up we’ll do something about Australia Day. We will also commemorate Aboriginal heroes who fought the invader and recognise Aboriginal history either in a special section of the Australia Museum, or in a separate institution.

3. Mercator map misleads

I came across an article about Trump’s ridiculous brain f**t about buying Greenland. It has this map of the real size of countries compared to the Mercator projection:

Greenland is minuscule, but the real shockers were Russia/Siberia, Canada, and even the US and China.

There is an alternating version at Wikipedia.

4. Prospects for world economic growth

Jim O’Neill at Project Syndicate asks Has the World Economy Reached Peak Growth?

He thinks demographic reality will catch up with Europe, Japan and China as the population ages. The US is unlikely to exceed 2%. Russia and Brazil would need a commodities boom, which is unlikely.

That leaves India and the whole continent of Africa, which is about equivalent to India in population terms.

So it looks as though, short of a significant jump in productivity, things will probably muddle on.

He doesn’t mention climate change with attendant disasters, stranded assets, social and economic disruption. If you feel up to it, John Davidson has just sent me a link to:

    A new report from McKinsey Global Institute [which, for example,] looks at the risk of extreme heat in India along with eight other case studies of the potential physical risks of climate change over the next three decades, from the future of the food supply in Africa to the economic impact of rising sea levels and devalued houses in Florida.

See Climate change won’t result in a new normal but in constant, horrifying new disasters:

[Source Photo: NASA]

5. Trump impeachment

I should mention that the US is likely to be disrupted in the next two weeks because of Trump impeachment.

The ABC has looked at the five possible outcomes. two are already ruled out, but really there is only one. The Senate will go through the motions, but the votes aren’t there in the Senate for impeachment.

However, the proceedings will be like a court, so Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren will be diverted from campaigning, possibly for a couple of weeks. They can’t bring in phones or lap tops, so they’ll all have to sit and listen.

However, I assume Trump will be tweeting like a bird, because he doesn’t need to show.

6. The US according to Stiglitz

In The Truth About the Trump Economy Joseph Stiglitz finds that the top 1% are doing well, the top 0.1% are doing brilliantly, but for most people the place is a bit of a dump and getting worse.

Life expectancy and morbidity are good indicators of the health and wealth of the nation:

    To get a good reading on a country’s economic health, start by looking at the health of its citizens. If they are happy and prosperous, they will be healthy and live longer. Among developed countries, America sits at the bottom in this regard. US life expectancy, already relatively low, fell in each of the first two years of Trump’s presidency, and in 2017, midlife mortality reached its highest rate since World War II. This is not a surprise, because no president has worked harder to make sure that more Americans lack health insurance. Millions have lost their coverage, and the uninsured rate has risen, in just two years, from 10.9% to 13.7%.

    One reason for declining life expectancy in America is what Anne Case and Nobel laureate economist Angus Deaton call deaths of despair, caused by alcohol, drug overdoses, and suicide. In 2017 (the most recent year for which good data are available), such deaths stood at almost four times their 1999 level. (Emphasis added)

The only time he has seen the like was Russia after it got rid of communism. Also:

The growth under Trump, such as it is:

    is not environmentally sustainable – and even less so thanks to the Trump administration’s gutting of regulations that have passed stringent cost-benefit analyses. The air will be less breathable, the water less drinkable, and the planet more subject to climate change. In fact, losses related to climate change have already reached new highs in the US, which has suffered more property damage than any other country – reaching some 1.5% of GDP in 2017.

So he concludes:

    Trump’s brand is uncertainty, volatility, and prevarication, whereas trust, stability, and confidence are essential for growth. So is equality, according to the International Monetary Fund.

7. Here in Oz

John Davidson has just sent around a link Australia has slightly fewer billionaires, but their wealth is still increasing says Oxfam:

    Australia’s rich keep getting richer, with the top 1 per cent of Australians having more than double the wealth of the entire bottom 50 per cent — or more than 12.5 million people – according to Oxfam.


    Oxfam Australia chief executive Lyn Morgain said the top 1 per cent of Australians, just 250,000 people, owned nearly $US1.6 trillion — equating to 22.2 per cent of the nation’s wealth.

    “This concentration of wealth in the hands of the super-rich is occurring while the share of wealth of the bottom half of our community has decreased over the last decade and workers’ wages continue to stagnate in Australia,” she said.


    the wealth of Australian billionaires, who are mostly men, grew by an average of $US460 million from 2018 to 2019.

Poor fellow my country.


    Oxfam said taxing an additional 0.5 per cent of the wealth of the richest 1 per cent over the next 10 years is equal to investments needed to create 117 million jobs in education, health, elderly care and other sectors to close care deficits.

19 thoughts on “Weekly salon 20/1”

  1. The Senate will go through the motions, but the votes aren’t there in the Senate for impeachment.

    Being pedantic, the Senate votes aren’t there for removal.
    Donald John Trump
    is impeached and remains impeached forever (same as William Jefferson Clinton).
    [H/T Ms Pelosi]

  2. So the equatorial countries can’t use Mercartor to “big themselves up”. Hats off to Brazil, most of Africa, Niugini, Timor Leste etc.

    Is Greenland for sale, Brian?
    How extraordinary!!

    Good on Oxfam.
    “Taxing the wealth of the richest one percent”. Country by country? I mean, the richest 1% of Australians, have far greater wealth than the richest 1% of Timorese for example. I suppose most taxes are administered and extracted within nations.

    Which Australian taxes act “like” a wealth tax?

    * Capital Gains Tax
    * Land Tax charged on land not occupied by the owner (with no tax on the least valuable land)
    * Inheritance taxes: ABOLISHED – thanks, Mr Bjelke-Petersen of revered memory
    * Stamp Duty on property sales – but it’s at a flat rate, isn’t it?
    * Import Duty on “luxury goods” e.g. expensive motor cars
    * Local Govt rates? But again, the rate is flat (fixed percentage of the rateable value)

    Much to ponder just in that topic.
    Thanks, Brian.

  3. Ambi: The problem with most of those wealth taxes is that they reduce the capacity of retirees to finance themselves for the last part of their lives.
    May be fair in some cases but, as Bill Shorten found out it is easy for taxes on the wealthy aged to make all the elderly to be convinced that they are being attacked even when it is not true.

  4. Secretary Clinton has apparently done a documentary in which she attacks Senator B. Sanders.

    I have some questions.
    1. How did Secretary Clinton fare when she was a Party nominee for Pres.?
    2. Is she now one of those retired pollies that Malcolm Turnbull termed “miserable ghosts”? (And is he?)
    3. Does Secretary Clinton have any “history” with Senator Sanders?
    4. Is Senator Sanders a deocratic socialist, and if so, what does that mean?

    Meanwhile, here are some recent comments from two American political apparatchiks (from “The Guardian” online):

    While we will never gratuitously attack Clinton to ingratiate ourselves to her critics, we cannot sit back while the Democratic party establishment tries to minimize and tear down the mass movement Sanders has helped build. That includes the Obamas, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Joe Biden and other Democratic leaders who over the past two decades have proven unable (or unwilling) to stem a rising and emboldened right wing in America, while they continue to peddle the fiction that Sanders and his voters are “too far left”. It is long past time for a progressive overhaul of the entire party, and it would better for our country and our future if Democratic leaders encouraged the Sanders movement rather than try to erase it.

    – Peter and Leela Daou

  5. Fair points, John; but I think one of the main problems with Mr Shorten’s proposed restrictions on benefits of ‘franking credits’ were that it became clear there were some older Aussies who were neither wealthy (in assets) or on high incomes, whose incomes would drop.

    I know Labor said no pensioner would be worse off…. but there is a section of retirees on modest incomes, who are NOT full aged-pensioners, because they receive income derived from superannuation savings. Often super funds invest in shares bearing franking credits. As do some people who hold shares outside super.

    And because of the Keating Govt efforts on compulsory super, and subsequent Coaltion and Labor Govts’ enthusiasm to “get folk off the aged pension and onto private income drawn from an independent nest egg”: this section of older folk is destined (and by Govt policy designed) to increase.

    BTW, I agree that some nervous nellies who weren’t going to be affected by the Labor policy may have been needlessly scared about it. (I’m referring to those who WOULD have had lower incomes; we can be sure that thousands of phone calls to financial advisors were being made….)

  6. there were some older Aussies who were neither wealthy (in assets) or on high incomes, whose incomes would drop.

    Only if they were getting a “refund” of tax they hadn’t paid (i.e. if they were rorting the system, albeit with the government’s acquiescence).

  7. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve asked Jumpy for a real world example of a libertarian political structure. (Still haven’t received one BTW.)
    However, from a comment on Professor Quiggin’s blog I found that when General Pinochet assumed his duties as supreme leader of Chile he changed the constitution to one which included libertarian principles. (Don’t ask for details, this is the limit of my knowledge ATM)
    I raise the matter now because this constitution has been so successful that the populace have demanded its removal. It will be replaced with one yet to be written.
    So now, whenever Mr J shouts “Venezuela!” we can confidently respond “Chile!”.

  8. We’ve been having real heat and humidity, plus some rain, so growth of shrubs and grass is going wild. My fitbit tells me I’m doing 20,000 plus a day on average, and I must say at night’s I’m a bit buggered. Have to work today, and also some tomorrow.

    Last night we watched Roger Federer and local boy John Millman slug it out. The match ended around 11:55 our time – five sets, Federer won the ‘super tie break’ (first to 10) in the fifth set 10-8 after being down 4-8. Actually not a very enjoyable match, because the Fed was off his game.

    Any way, between times I’m working on an a Climate clippings to assemble some comment on a welter of important items.

    I saw my optometrist yesterday. My vision has improved markedly with the torture honey treatment, although she can’t see any change physically in my eyes.

  9. Absolutely glorious rain throughout Queensland at present.
    Didn’t even need a cyclone for it.

  10. Jumpy: “Absolutely glorious rain throughout Queensland at present.
    Didn’t even need a cyclone for it.
    Nice to have you say something i can agree with for a change.

    • Absolutely glorious rain throughout Queensland at present

    Not literally true, some places have missed, but there is a fair bit of rain about.

  11. All the political excitement in Australia and the US, is drawing a lot of media attention. Meanwhile, the Coronavirus is quickly getting a grip but not getting too much press. Apparently it is pneumonia-like in its symptoms, the elderly are more vulnerable and because it is a virus antibiotic treatments don’t help much.
    Here is an interesting site that gives a world picture of the areas affected by the virus. I think there is a lag because the Australian cases are not yet recorded. See:

  12. Since my post at 1:17, the world count has increased to nearly 1800 reported, up from around 1150. That might just be reporting lag but it does add a note of caution to the tale.

  13. Trump is the world’s greatest climate and environmental denier, so it seems fair that he gets a mention in this forum.
    His Republican trial is presently underway and there is/was a strong chance that Republicans will not allow witnesses at that trial. But on Sunday night (US time) the NYT, citing John Bolton’s coming book, claims that Trump ordered that Ukraine aid to be paused until there was an investigation into the Bidens. The news here is that Bolton is corroborating what has been widely understood but denied by the Republicans. Now the Democrats have been clear that they wanted witnesses to be part of the trial, and in particular, John Bolton.
    Now it appears that Bolton will deliver his position in a (March) book titled “The Room Where it Happened” unless called as a witness earlier. It would be very hard for the Republicans to deny witnesses in the trial. Those witnesses could include Mulvaney and many others.
    If that happens, and they tell the truth, the outcome for Trump becomes very uncertain indeed.
    I think this is a big deal. If Trump gets toppled then we are saved from a wannabe dictator. But then it becomes President Pence, and his integrity has been questioned, being linked into the Ukraine affair already.

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