Wry & Dry

Stimulus. Worse than a bullet in the head? Home schooling.

Stimulus

Stimulus.  Such a tricky word.  To Wry & Dry, and doubtless many Readers, stimulus refers to, err, activity that causes an emotional or physical response in humans.

But in the arid world of economists, where a single digit change in an arcane forecast can cause unbounded excitement, stimulus describes boosts to an economy by governments.

Cartoon stimulus

Out of respect for sensitive Readers, Wry & Dry will take the path less travelled, and focus on economic stimulus, especially relating to undertakings by governments to stimulate their economies in the face of CV-19 downturns.  Using percent of GDP as a convenient measure across countries of different sizes, research has found that Australia has taken podium position for the highest direct fiscal stimulus (i.e. cash handouts).

 Chart stimulus

But Germany (which has a big balance sheet) and Italy (which doesn't, so is using that of the European Central Bank) are splashing loans and loan guarantees with similar enthusiasm to what the Victorian government did via the generous Victorian Economic Development Corporation in the late 1980s and early 1990s [1].

Wry & Dry would rather be the Bundesbank than the Bank of Italy.

[1] The VEDC was a venture capital fund set up and funded by the Cain/ Kirner governments.  It handed out money to anyone who had no idea but with a seemingly bright idea, as it were.  It was the final nail in the coffin of a visionary but economically inept government that had such scandals as the collapse of the State Bank of Victoria to its name.  The change of government (a 6% 2PP swing) brought in the unsubtle Jeff Kennett to clean up the mess.

Worse than a bullet in the head?

Wry & Dry can think of but a few things worse than a bullet in the head.  Perhaps forced to watch an episode of any reality television show.  Or a dinner date with Princess Meghan. Or strap hanging on a peak hour Melbourne train with a hairy, unwashed and malodorous armpit thrust Wry & Dry-faceward.

No, a bullet in the head is about as bad as it gets.

Unless you are I've-Got-It-Worse-Than-Lincoln-Trump.  I-G-I-W-T-L-Trump said on Sunday that he had been treated worse than any President, including President Lincoln.

Cartton lincoln trump

I-G-I-W-T-L-Trump had perhaps forgotten that Abe Lincoln's last visit to the theatre ended badly.  Or perhaps he didn't know. 

Readers will know that the dogs bark, but the caravan moves on [2].  But, entertainingly, I-G-I-W-T-L-Trump will keep yapping.  Wry & Dry feels confident that he will insult CV-19 into submission.

[2]  An old Arabic proverb.

Home schooling

It's a funny thing about surveys about men and women.  They often come up with amazing data that suggests either or both sexes are lying about misunderstanding reality. 

Consider that, according to a survey published yesterday in the New York Times, 45% of men say that they do most of the home schooling in these CV-19 times.  Only 3% of women agree.  Good grief.

Here is the data:

Chart home schooling

What is the reality?  Well, gentlemen, the news is bad.  A significant amount of research shows that men often over-estimate the amount of house-work and child-care they do.  And this is probably the case here, too. [3]

Cartoon WFH men and women

Of course, as men are the weaker sex, with smaller brains, we find it difficult to manage both recalling all the data about housework/childcare and the data about time spent on the couch watching replays of sports played in the 1990s.

[3]  There is also endless research that men boast about overestimate a number of other key statistics.  Such as their height.

The thin end of the wedge

The French, Spanish and Italian language equivalents of "The thin end of the wedge," or "A Bennite solution" will be flying around the comfortable offices of more recent Brussels' incarnations of real Sir Humphreys [4].

The reason is Tuesday's ruling by the German Constitutional Court on the legality of the European Central Bank's massive bond buying programme (to keep interest rates low, especially for Italian bonds), as far as the Bundesbank (Germany's central bank) putting in its share.

Readers will recall that last week Wry & Dry was the only quality Australian journal to mention the upcoming judgment and its possible ramifications, especially for indebted Italy and Greece.  And hence readers will be the only ones concerned, or otherwise, that the Italian and Greek governments are not going to be happy campers. 

In what Wry & Dry will call an explosive judgement, the German Constitutional Court ruled that the ECB had exceeded its legal mandate and “manifestly” breached the principle of 'proportionality' with mass bond purchases, now topping €2.2 trillion and set to rise dramatically.

The court said that the ECB had strayed from the monetary realm into broad economic policy-making. Tut, tut.

There's a bit more to this than meets Wry & Dry's eye.  Of course.

For now, this is an amazing reassertion of German sovereignty.  At the very least, the Bundesbank is banned, for now, from continuing so-called Quantitative Easing (QE).  And more generally, it will have massive repercussions for the 'European ideal'.  

[4] The cunning and hapless civil servant in the television series Yes Prime Minister, brilliantly portrayed by the late Nigel Hawthorne.  Readers may wish to revisit some Yes Prime Minister highlights here 

Nice work.  If you can get it.

Elon Musk, the entrepreneurial founder of Tesla, the company that revolutionised electricity-powered vehicles, has just achieved the threshold for a part of his 'moonshot' compensation reward.  The electric-car maker’s average trailing market capitalisation over six months topped $100 billion at the close of trading on Tuesday.

This means he gets 1.69 million options in Tesla, which he can exercise at $350.02.  As the stock is worth $768, the options have a value of $706m.

Nice work.  If you can get it. 

PS.  Yesterday Tesla suspended production at its plant in Shanghai.  The production halt means that Tesla isn’t making any cars worldwide. Its other vehicle-assembly plant in Fremont, California, has been idled since March 23

Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory

Or why the National Party has more crazies than just Barnaby.

It is probably of no great importance to Readers that there is soon to be a by-election in the federal seat of Eden-Monaro.  The incumbent Labor member, who just scraped home at the last election, has quit because of ill health.  NSW State Nationals leader and Deputy Premier John Barilaro wanted the seat, but was warned off by his federal counterparts. 

Readers will know that Barilaro's supreme idiocy and egotism is on a par with Barnaby Joyce.  Having him in the Federal coalition would be a delight to Wry & Dry, cartoonists and the Labor Party.

cartoon preselection

The Liberals putative candidate was Liberal State MP Andrew Constance. But as soon as Constance announced his candidacy, in a fit of petulance Barilaro texted Federal Nationals Leader Michael McCormack, accusing McCormack of disloyalty in not supporting him (i.e. Barilaro) in the seat.  The text was leaked, likely by Barilaro, who doesn't like Constance in any case.  Constance then stands down within 24 hours of standing up.

Political Self Immolation 101 passed with distinction.  Nice work, Nats.  Just destroyed the best shot a government has of winning a seat in a by-election since 1920 [5].

[5] When pro-Irish MP Hugh Mahon lost his seat.  Mahon's only claim to fame is he is the only person to be expelled from the Australian Parliament, for making "seditious and disloyal utterances" about the British Empire.  

Civil disobedience

Astute Readers read between the lines in last week's Wry & Dry.  The article on dystopia was a gentle reminder to Readers that it was time to take the path less travelled [6].  Government impositions were and are becoming pernicious. 

Pleasingly some folk in PSWRV [7] are now beginning to take the path less travelled.  Wry & Dry has noticed an increasing outbreak of lock-down-civil-disobedience.  There are more cars on the roads, more people on Wry & Dry's morning tram, and the queues at that benchmark of male mental health retail respite, Bunnings, are lengthening. 

And so Victorian Readers will get a sense that Chairman Dan [8] is losing control.  Hitherto, Wry & Dry has been impressed with how Chairman Dan has been managing the CV-19 problems.  And now Readers will have noticed that it is not Chairman Dan who is managing when things go wrong - it is the Health Minister.  No surprises there, any political leader will take the fame and pass the blame. 

Which brings Wry & Dry to the CV-19 data.  The curve has been flattened.  Smart people know that it's about suppression, not elimination of CV-19.  Of course, there will be outbreaks.  But the lock-down has given breathing space for the health system to be much better prepared.  Readers know the debilitating affect that the lock-down is having.  It's not only on livelihoods, but mental health.  And so there are increasing outbreaks of civil disobedience.

Wry & Dry's concern is that Chairman Dan is a stubborn standout in keeping schools closed, notwithstanding the contrary view from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (of which Victoria's CMO is a member).  The problem is, of course, that Chairman Dan will have to ask permission of his largest supporter base. 

Cartoon victoria education

But, really, really, how many parents have to go nutzo before Chairman Dan gets moving.  How will disadvantaged students (by language, by socio-economic circumstances, by isolation, etc) catch up?  Victorian students are already underperformers when tested against international peers (e.g. as tested by PISA).

Time for Chairman Dan to act on getting schools to re-open with the same alacrity he did on... level-crossing removals. 

[6]  Readers should read Robert Frost's magnificent poem: The Road Not Taken.
[7]  Peoples' Socialist Workers Republic of Victoria.
[8]  Premier of PSWRV.

They-the-People of Roosha..

..are losing confidence in Tsar Vlad.  His approval ratings have dropped to their lowest in 20 years, according to the country’s leading independent pollster, the Levada Center.

Cartoon russian roulette

Tsar Vlad's approval rating sank to 59 percent in April, a four-point drop from the previous month and an 11-point drop from October. It was a far cry from the nearly 90 percent approval he enjoyed after Roosha annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

They-the-People of the Yoo-Ess-Ay...

...are losing confidence in Virus-What-Virus-Trump.  On a nation-wide basis, Sleepy Joe Biden has a 5.3 percentage point lead over V-W-V-Trump in presidential polling.  

However, Readers know that figure is not as important as where the votes are.  Sleepy Joe needs to win the key states that secured V-W-V-Trump victory in 2016.  Those 'swing' states are Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.  And perhaps Florida. 

In these Sleepy Joe is also 5% points ahead in these.

Wry & Dry suggests that V-W-V-Trump would happily swap his position for Tsar Vlad's.  And wouldn't be just about the approval ratings.  V-W-V-Trump would just think of the happiness that control of the media would bring.  And then he would move on to erection of Trump statues.      

Buffett sells out

Sigh.  Only two weeks ago, when writing of Virgin's collapse, Wry & Dry drew to Readers' attention Warren Buffet's view on investing in airlines (i.e. a stupid decision).  Wry & Dry chose not to mention that in 2016 he invested some $7.5 billion in four US airlines.

Well, the not-so-sage-of-Omaha has just sold out, for massive losses.

And the March quarter mess didn't end there.  Berkshire Hathaway, his investment company, lost some $50 billion.  But his cash pile rose to $137.3 billion.    

Snippets from all over 

1.  American new jobless claims fall

American new jobless claims fell to 3.2m last week, down from 3.85m.  The total of new claims since American lock-downs is now 33.5m

Wry & Dry comments:  The good news, if there is any, is that it's the fifth consecutive week of falls in new claims.

2.  A smaller EU

In its first estimate since lock-downs were put into place, the European Commission said the EU will contract by 7.5% in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic brings the worst economic shock since the Great Depression in the 1930s

Wry & Dry comments: Northern EU countries will recover next year.  The peoples further south will pay for the sins of their fathers.

3.  Rates unchanged

The RBA left Australia's key interest rates unchanged.

Wry & Dry comments:  A Goldilocks outcome.   

4.  Australian new car sales record crash 

New car sales suffered their biggest monthly drop on record in April.  Sales dropped 49 per cent versus the same period last year.

Wry & Dry comments:  This was the largest decrease since the data was first recorded in 1991.  And it's probably worse than that, as demonstration models are included in sales.   But even allowing for that modest manipulation (this is the car sales industry, after all) it's not as bad as in the UK, where new car sales in April fell 97%.

5.  The first big American retailer to fall

J. Crew, the American mass-market clothing company whose preppy-with-a-twist products were worn by Michelle Obama and appeared at New York Fashion Week, filed for bankruptcy protection on Monday.  

Wry & Dry comments:  Great marketing moments:  J. Crew made the leap to household name in October 2008 when Mrs. Obama, as her husband was then the Democratic candidate for president, appeared on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.  This was just days after it had been revealed that Sarah Palin, the Republican candidate for vice president, had been given a costly wardrobe makeover. “I want to ask you about your wardrobe,” Mr. Leno said to Mrs. Obama. “I’m guessing about 60 grand? Sixty, 70 thousand for that outfit?”

“Actually, this is a J. Crew ensemble,” Mrs. Obama replied, referring to her $148 yellow pencil skirt, $148 yellow and brown print tank top and $118 matching yellow cardigan. 

All unrehearsed?  Fashionista Readers can rate the then-upcoming First Lady's outfit.  And clearly she's discussing fishing with Mr Leno...

Michelle Obama appeared Oct. 27 on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.”  

And, to soothe your troubled mind ...

Miscellany 

Last words ...

“Abe Lincoln is all smiles." 

 -  V-W-V-Trump, when comparing himself to Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln has been dead since 1865.

A lightly salted absurdity ...

Deepak, Wry & Dry's Uber driver ... 

... grinned broadly as Wry & Dry flung open the door of the jalopy.

“And?” Wry & Dry cried.

“They are here!”

After the usual pleasantries that are customary for men to share about that awkward subject of birth, (which is virtually nothing) other than the mother’s well-being, Wry & Dry asked, “what are the twins names?”.

“Sachin and Savita,” Deepak cried happily.

“That’s nice,” said Wry & Dry, slightly confused. Wry & Dry consulted quickly with his hippocampus. He was sure the twins were of the fairer gender, adding to the already densely populated x-chromosomal pond in which Deepak dwelt. But these things are of a delicate nature, was it impolite to question the gender of someone’s progeny, Wry & Dry ruminated.

“Don’t you see?” cried Deepak, coming to Wry & Dry’s rescue.

“They were meant to be girls, but a mix up, and I now I have a son!” Deepak said proudly.

“And another daughter,” Wry & Dry pointed out carefully.

“Well yes, there is that. And as you have often said Mr. Wry & Dry, daughters look after their fathers in their dotage,” said Deepak.

“Absolutely,” cried Wry & Dry, maybe too optimistically as he thought of his own daughters currently occupied in more stimulating ventures on the opposite side of the globe.

“Is Sachin a family name? Perhaps in memory of Anjali’s father?” Wry & Dry asked, changing the subject quickly from the depressing thoughts of advancing years.

“Maybe, one can’t be sure exactly. There was rather an embarrassing incident in the hospital,” said Deepak matter-of-factly.

“Usually these things are cut and dry, aren’t they?” Wry & Dry pressed.

“Not in the Crocodile's case, you know she has three husbands. But it would seem that there may have been a fourth someone or another.  Anjali needed some blood products in the hospital and you know how organised she is. No surprise, she had all her father's and mother’s blood types written down to make the process quicker.”

“And..” Wry & Dry said, barely containing his excitement.

“Well, there is no way that Anjali’s father is Anjali’s father. Blood types don’t lie apparently. There was a mismatch it would seem.”

“And what did the Crocodile say?”

“She didn’t, she went white and passed out when the doctors came into explain. When she came around, the Crocodile was adamant there was some mistake. But according to a second test, there is no mistake! Anjali has sent of a DNA swab to some genetics lab in Switzerland. And now the Crocodile and Anjali are not talking.”

“Not surprising and rather awkward really,” said Wry & Dry thinking of all the possibilities that such testing could reveal.

“I’ll say," responded Deepak. 

“And I’ll say... one thing Deepak, keep away from the vindaloo for at least 6 months! Look at the trouble the last lot caused.”

Deepak giggled as Wry & Dry clambered out.

“And the Crocodile, what do I do with her?” Deepak called loudly as he pulled away.

But it was too late, Wry & Dry was out of earshot happily considering the meaning of life and whether it is indeed better to be or not to be.  But then from wherever you came, perhaps it doesn’t matter.  

  - from the quill of Mrs Wry & Dry. 

Cheers

Anthony