Hey, First Post Of the Year From Me
I’ve been busy watching a few silly movies on FetchTV in between the seasonal obligations. It’s pretty cool watching on FetchTV because it saves the on the trip to the video store if nothing else and it sure beats buying more media. I’ve been stuck in the bad habit of buying stuff because I still have the carry-over from the ear when DVDs were actually worth something. It was ever so brief, but they were important for a good half a decade there until Blu-Ray came along and scotched that little bubble.
My New Years resolution last year was that I shouldn’t just buy more media, but a) sometimes it is easier to just buy the box set and b) sometimes it’s better to own than rent and c) it’s impossible to stick to arbitrary rules meant that I bought my fair share of stuff. It’s a bit of a worry if you can’t remember if you’ve bought something or simply watched it on a rented bit of media, but if I think I’m going to go, “you have to watch this scene!?” or “you just have to hear this guitar solo!” then it’s better to own this stuff.
Still, it’s weird having a pile of this media that grew to be irrelevant so quickly. At least with LPs and CDs, there’s an argument to be made that mp3s are a their best worse than either LPs or CDs, and that moving on to just data on hard disks isn’t really an improvement in your listening pleasure. Besides which, you can squeeze a hello of a lot more out of LPs and CDs by having better speakers and amplifiers. Video is different.
With 4k TV looming in the not too distant future, even the marvelous Blu-Ray 1080p format is going to look pretty outdated in the next few years. I’m sure there’s 8k and 16k TVs beyond that, and without an NBN pumping at last 50mbps it’s going to be difficult to run the IPTV services on 4k and up download services, so maybe buying media won’t become totally extinct. Let me just say, 4k is gorgeous. You’re going to want this much more than the time you went from SD PAL or NTSC to HDTV. (That being said, I do seriously wonder if there’s any joy in seeing 4k TV footage of Kanye West or Miley Cyrus twerking.)
Getting Bad Advice
The news this week that’s been most grating has been this business of Maurice Newman proclaiming that climate science on global warming is delusional.
In an opinion piece in The Australian newspaper, Maurice Newman, the Prime Minister’s pick as head of his Business Advisory Council, claimed high energy costs caused by the carbon tax and the renewable energy target, introduced by the Howard government, had eroded Australia’s competitiveness. Under Labor and the Greens, Australia had been taken ”hostage” by ”climate change madness”, Mr Newman wrote.
It’s really no big deal except for the fact that it’s wrong and willfully wrong, and that he is slated to offer up advice to the Prime Minister based on this kind of idiotic denialism. If nothing else, it shows Tony Abbott still thinks the science on this is ‘complete crap’. What’s even weirder is that because the first 100days of Tony Abbott’s time in office was ‘complete crap’, we’re not surprised in the least bit find that his business advisor is a highly motivated climate change denialist.
Can We Please Stop With The Government Debt Hysteria?
This one came in from Skarp last week but I’ve been a bit preoccupied. Paul Sheehan – he of the rather squeaky voice and reflexively right-leaning views – wrote this rather tawdry column.
At 12.30 on Tuesday, Hockey, who has also been the stand-out thespian of the new federal parliament, will unveil the real horror, dysfunction and narcissism of Kevin Rudd’s contribution to Australian political history, disably assisted by Julia Gillard. Hockey will release the mid-year economic and fiscal outlook, known in the trade as MYEFO, which will show a budget deficit much worse than Labor led us to believe, probably close to $50 billion, debt obligations much higher than Labor led us to believe, and unfunded liabilities that are so irresponsibly crushing the government will have to walk away from many of them. The most monumental folly is the National Broadband Network, whose economic rationale was worked out on a piece of paper by Rudd. The scheme subsequently created by former communications minister Stephen Conroy would cost more than $70 billion and never recover its cost of capital. The Abbott government will have to start again.
The way that paragraph is written, you’d think that the sky was going to cave in. Fortunately, professor Steve Keen had this article as a retort:
I’m not going to debate (or defend) Kevin Rudd’s personality, but getting this hysterical over a $50 billion deficit in a $1.5 trillion economy? Oh come on: that is slightly less than 3 per cent of GDP (the precise GDP figure is $1.525 trillion, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics). Comparable figures for some of our trading partners are 5.5 per cent for the USA, 6 per cent for the UK, and 10 per cent for Japan. Australia’s deficit for 2013 is almost 50 per cent below the expected average for the OECD of 4.8 per cent of GDP.
Of course, finding that out doesn’t require a trip overseas: all you have to do is search the web. But what a trip overseas might alert Sheehan to is the economic performance of the rest of the planet – and especially of those parts of it that, as he does, make the size of the government deficit the only stick by which economic performance is measured.
The rest of the article is Keen dismantling Sheehan’s stated position that all this debt is somehow crippling and wrong.Austerity i a terrible thing; not to mention the fact that it doesn’t work.
You sort of wonder how people like Paul Sheehan keep jobs as columnists. It’s like he gets paid not for his thinking and critical faculties – which on the whole seem faulty anyway – but for how hard his blowhard entries blow. And they really blow. Sheehan’s symptomatic of what’s making the media market worse in this era. You just can’t trust what any of these sloppy commentators write. but somehow they’re up there with a public soapbox on the SMH masthead spreading his kind of nonsense. I mean really! Why do they have to give ‘equal time’ to stupidity and misinformation?
But back to Keen’s take home message about Government debt:
I would far rather see governments acknowledging the problem of private debt, and doing something concrete to reduce it – since the financial sector should never have been allowed to create much of that debt in the first place. But as a second best policy, government spending should buffer the impact of the decline in private sector deleveraging. To do otherwise is to turn a serious recession into a genuine Depression – as Europe has done.
Behind the veneer of apparent fiscal prudence, that is what hysterical articles like Sheehan’s are encouraging – in utter denial both of the actual cause of the crisis and, more importantly for a journalist, in ignorance of what even casual empiricism shows has been the actual impact of austerity.
That, just about sums it all up.