5 April 2020
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Be objective you twits!

My brush with twitter has made me very despondent about the objectivity of my fellow twits — or is tweeters? — and the positive out of this is it has made me ponder my own objectivity! The trigger was the fact that I’ve written two ‘anti-Bill Shorten’ stories this week and one twit or tweeter asked why I was crusading against Bill?

I’ve copped this line of inquiry from Trump fans, whenever I have criticised his unusual ways, and that’s despite the fact that my powers of objectivity have at times recognised some of his achievements that have helped stocks and profits go higher, and made the US grow faster. He even seems adept at dealing with crazies like Kim Jong Un!

That surely is deserving of some objective praise, but it seems my fellow tweeters — let’s not be nasty and call them twits — can’t give up on their subjectivity when they are driven by some tribal desire to not allow others to have views foreign to theirs, especially if they cut Donald any slack.

At the moment there is a backlash towards political correctness, and it has led to Pauline Hanson to claim there is now something that she is concerned about called white racism, and while I think we whities should be able to cope after years of being on top of the social heap, the objective me says increasingly powerful minorities can become as bad and as one-eyed as the bums that treated them badly when they were a weak minority.

Woody Allen taught me this in 1971 when he released the political satire called Bananas. This was a $2 million budget film, which made $11.8 million at the box office. Small bananas compared to his 1979 movie — Manhattan — which cost $9 million to make but brought in close to $40 million, however his earlier effort was more memorable, at least for me as a commentator.

The storyline was about Fielding Mellish, a hapless product-testing New Yorker desperately attempting to impress a young and attractive social activist named Nancy. Mellish travels to the ‘revolting’ country of San Marcos and falls in with resistance fighters but he was never a convincing participant.

Enough on the film, the takeout for me was when the revolutionary leader eventually overthrows the dictator and his first announcement to his beloved followers, who have risked their lives for their collective success, and to the people of San Marcos, who had been freed from their hated dictator, was that every citizen now had to wear their underwear on the outside of their clothing!

The irony was the freedom fighter of today is the dictator of tomorrow and that lesson has never left me. I think a lot about this when I see twitters’ tribes go to war on a daily basis and when really smart people in the media seem as addicted to their own untested views. And it makes me ponder just how smart they are?

Human beings can be biased as a way of life. This weekend footie tribes will go to ‘war’ at the MCG, Allianz Stadium and others and these people are understandably one-eyed, but people like me should be better than that when we look at politics and economics. I know some commentators are always right and ‘right’, while other are always left and ‘right’ in their own minds but I do try to be different for credibility reasons.

I read or listen to these biased ‘experts’ on the basis that they might teach me something I have not considered, because I like to think that I can bring as much info and objective analysis to the table as possible for my followers/readers/viewers/listeners.

This week I covered two stories on Switzer Daily that involved Bill and my daily selection of columns is always driven by my assessment of which is the most important hip pocket story in the news in the popular press. Bill-related stories were more important this week and to some observers this made me look like I was on a crusade against the guy.

The Monday story was linked to a book by former ABC journo, Peter Mares, who was calling for a property tax on the lucky baby boomer home owners and maybe some lucky/older Gen X property players, who have been ‘gifted’ huge capital gains in the past five years, and others who have been collecting valuation gains for decades.

To be objective, my sub editor, who does the headlines, seized upon my reference to Bill’s provocative property policies and how they could be made even more draconian if Mares’ property tax was taken on board by left-leaning pollies. This new tax idea is supported by the same Aussies who have cheered Bill’s assault on negative gearing and the halving of the capital gains tax discount.

Personally, I don’t like these taxes and argue that they would really slug property investors when they come to sell their homes. Also, I believe just about every existing home that comes up for sale after Bill becomes PM, which I expect will happen, will potentially sell for a lower price. Why? A lot less investors with borrowed funds, intending to use negative gearing, will be showing up to auctions and open houses.

Objectively, less buyers implies lower prices, in most cases. My personal preference is less important than the fact my hopefully objective economic analysis of the implication of a policy proposal, tells voters what Bill’s tax rule changes might mean for the future sale prices on their homes.

The whole country is rightfully outraged about financial institutions being deceptive or not forthcoming about policies that hoodwinked their clients, but the same tests have to be applied to politicians bearing good-sounding policies, which might have some serious negatives for the unsuspecting.

To expose these unseen effects has to be my objective job.

I’m not saying Bill’s policies are bad for everyone, but they will hit the hip pockets of a lot of people who might have their retirement plans linked to their real estate, and these people need to know what a new policy could mean for them.

The next Bill story was directly connected to the PM Scott Morrison’s call for a Parliamentary Inquiry into Bill’s decision to stop self-funded retirees receiving tax refunds from their investments in stocks that pay dividends with franking credits.

Once again I can see why a future government wanting to find money to pay for policies could opt to drop this seemingly generous tax rebate idea.

However, it has been a part of the tax rules for years, and many retirees who were told by Paul Keating, like the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld, “No pension for you!” simply did their homework and bought stocks that paid dividends. They did this to make sure they would have enough income to live a decent life in retirement, and effectively to stay off the pension.

One ex-teacher who came up to me at a recent conference said he would lose $10,000 out of $60,000 a year, which is a big 17% hit to his and his wife’s lifestyle!

He also told me that he and his CFMEU son are having some hot arguments about this policy at the moment.

When he and others asked me what they could do to stop Bill’s policy proposal becoming a reality, I told them to assemble their kids and the relatives who might share in their wealth one day and tell them that Bill is shrinking their inheritance! He could also be sending many back on the pension and others to live with their kids!

Objectively, that might be the price for Labor’s better policy mix but that is only speculation at this stage. And even if it is, those affected need someone to warn them about the implications of these policy proposals.

I’m not saying Bill’s property and retiree tax changes are bad generally, but they are specifically bad for those affected, which might number more than expected.

The reality is that most respected tax experts objectively say that we need a 15% GST, just like the Kiwis, and it should be on most goods and services, like most indirect taxes in the best tax regimes.

Such a change would have to come with substantial drops in income tax and with added transfer payments to lower income Aussies who would be hard hit by a bigger GST.

However, some social policy experts objectively worry about who will be hit by such a widely-based tax. These ‘experts’ objectively worry about those who would be slugged by a GST, just as I worry about those who could suffer income losses at the hands of Bill.

Bill’s policies and my GST policy are not examples of objective truth because we have not got universal acceptance by science. Economics is a social science and biased by the underlying assumptions. Ultimately we need a sophisticated cost-benefit analysis to know whether the good effects of controversial policies will really outnumber the bad ones, but politicians seldom search for this kind of thing because they don’t think there are enough votes in it!

And that’s the ‘objective truth’ based on centuries of political history but I don’t know if the twits or tweeters will buy my argument. Let’s see.

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