Back at the grindstone, but still enjoying the slow take-up of business activity in the post Xmas lull. That enjoyment extends to getting back to blogging, which had a respite over the last three weeks. One I think was well and truly necessary after a hectic, and somewhat unproductive 2007. A little harsh, I suspect, but at least experience has benefitted, if not the bank balance. Here’s hoping the latest changes on the income front are for the better.
There’s been a few….very few…. issues of import, a couple of which I’ve touched earlier, but a couple sprang to attention before me today in the harried rush to make the daily commute I’m now reduced to. First one, and surprisingly for me, is the US Presidential race, or rather rat-race. I’d call it a circus, but circuses are meant to be entertaining. US politics is worse than our own because of it’s seemingly endless nature. I’d prefer to call it a rat-race because only a rat ever wins. That observation aside, I’m amazed by the popularity of Barack Obama in a country with a strong history of racism. Equally, I wonder just how prophetic Phillip Adams’ column today might be. Oh yes, there will be several dozen Adams’ antipathists who’ll claim it’s just Phat Phil being his usual senseless sensationalist self, but when you look at the history of the US political scene, and the relevance of firearm-weilding loonies to it, there’s possibly something in what Adams has to say. Were I Barack Obama, I’d probably have those thoughts at least in the back of my mind.
And then there’s Senator John McCain on the ‘lets-have-another-crack” trail. ‘Older than dirt’ McCain claims, and at 71 he’s at least 25 years closer to dying in his sleep than any other Presidential candidate. He says he can take on Obama for the Republicans, yet continues to claim allegiance to the current Bush administration foray into ignominious history through it’s as yet unproven ‘surge strategy’ in Iraq. Coming up to five years of conflict in that sorry, benighted nation instigated by a failed US empirical foreign policy and we still hear the proponents of that action talking about ‘winning’ in Iraq. Surely even a majority on the Republican side must be wondering about the political, if not economic benefits of withdrawing from a war which threatens to bankrupt the US economy in the longer term? At the risk of appearing ‘ageist’ as well, isn’t 71 just a little old to be looking at running the world’s largest economy for at least four years? I think it has to be time for a return to more rational foreign policies and introspective views on economic matters, which only a Democratic victory in the Presidential race seems likely to provide. Can the world cope with another US President who thinks winning a stalemated five year old war is still possible? Probably not.
On economic matters at home, it’s amusing to see Wayne Swan summonsing Treasury and regulatory wigs to a conference in Brisbane, while berating the ANZ for looking to recover income losses incurred in October-November 2007. It’s amusing because when in Opposition, such claims by the then Howard government would have been attacked by Swan as poor economic management on that government’s behalf. Now it’s bank-bashing because the Bank’s are just downright greedy folks, don’t ya know! I’d urge anyone with an interest in the real facts to take a look at the 90 day swap rates in November last year. You’ll see daily rates approaching 7.4%. Even today the 90 day rate exceeds 7%. Why is that such a drama? Because the cash rate – the one created by the RBA as the basis for negotiable transactions – sits at 6.75%. Some say it’s artifically low in accordance with demand. It’s that rate disparity which the Banks are attempting to recover now. The NAB’s rise of 12 basis points and today’s ANZ increase of 20bp simply represents the losses each incurred. It’s erroneous to claim these rises will boost the profit margins of these institutions, when losses equating to 60pb have been incurred in some cases. I also think it’s disingenuous of Swan to claim the Banks owe borrowers and government suitable explanations for these rate rises. Blind Freddie knows the only people any shareholder-backed business owes allegiance to is those shareholders. As for explanations, ask Treasury, Wayne. You claimed you’d be making greater use of it’s resources.
But still, such claims in politics are all about deflection, aren’t they? Better to point and say “look at that!” than have the people see what’s really happening. If there’s anything ‘older than dirt’ in politics, it’s that particular game, no matter where in the world you’re watching it played.