This week the National Party Business Review released their annual rich list. This celebration of ridiculous amounts of cash was picked up on and heralded by all of the major media outlets. Far be it from us to miss out on envious clickbait, today MyThinks will feature profiles of some of the richest and, therefore, most awesome New Zealanders.
- Henry Beals-E’baub ($2.7 billion): Mr. Beals-E’baub made his money in the aged care industry by charging a premium rate to the elderly to live in his complexes. He has a unique way of doing business. He has his elderly tenants to give him their life savings by signing a contract with which he makes them believe they own the property, when in actual fact he owns the property and they are just renting. Although this has caused issues during will readings in recent years, the practice has remained and made Mr. Beals-E’baub billions.
- Sir David Fox ($1.75 billion): Sir David made his money by investing in the property market. Has several thousand under-developed rentals in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Has also made extra millions buying up companies that remove black mould from his own rentals.
- Sir Reginald Satan ($1.3 billion): President of the New Zealand Old White Boys’ Network, Sir Reginald became the first margarine billionaire. His products are sold all over the world – particularly in California where they play a major role in lubricating foliage in the hills which are then set alight so Sir Reginald’s property development company can then develop the burnt hills into suburbs filled with plush holiday mansions that are snapped up by other rich-listers.
- Duncan Lucifer-Barret ($375 million): Mr. Lucifer-Barret made the majority of his fortune following the global financial crisis of 2008 when most of the world’s wealth became concentrated in the accounts of just a few thousand people around the globe.
- Barry Weasel ($315 million): Mr. Weasel became well-known in the early 80s following a scandal where his company – MoneyCorp – collapsed owing billions of dollars to investors only to set up three weeks later in exactly the same offices with exactly the same staff under the name MoneyCorps.
- Harold Rat Jnr. ($212 million): Mr. Rat, or Big Harry, made his millions after being born into wealth and doing nothing else. Big Harry’s father – also known as Big Harry – was also big and very, very rich.
- Dame Sylvia Ferrit ($2 million): Dame Sylvia has hardly any money but we thought we better put her on the list because she looks quite lovely in a pant-suit.
Just a handful of people who, by the nature of their wealth, are better human beings than you.
With the recent release of the OECD report into inequality, My Thinks thought it imperative we delve further into this and get some clarification on neoliberal economics. Emeritus Professor Archibald Ineruditus, head of the Ayn Rand College at the University of George W Bush in Texas, has studied classic neoliberalism since it’s inception following a meeting between William Randolph Hurst and Satan, the Prince of Darkness, at the birth of Rupert Murdoch in the 1930s. Professor Ineruditus joined our interviewer by internet phone from his palatial home in the leafy suburbs of Austin.
My Thinks: Thanks for joining us professor.
Professor: My pleasure.
My Thinks: Let’s get straight into it. Do you feel, in the wake of the release of the OECD report into inequality, that classic neoliberalism is on the way out?
Professor: Great first question Mr Thinks. Like all neoliberal theorists, I’m actually going to answer a different question by saying the weather in Austin is fine, thanks for asking.
My Thinks: If I could ask you again, do you think that neoliberalism has had its day and western democracies are going to start bringing in other, more egalitarian forms of economic management.
Professor: Oh no. We have to remember that all western governments, be they Republican or Democrat, Tory or Labour, or whatever you have in New Zealand, are all totally funded by monies obtained from very rich people. Normal people and poor people don’t have the kind of money they can splash about on paying for political party membership. It’s a well-known fact.
My Thinks: You’ve been studying classic neoliberalism for years now. What would you say is its strongest feature?
Professor: Well… over my many years of study I would say definitely the strongest point of neoliberalism is its comprehensiveness. Everybody benefits. From those running the multinationals right through to the people who own the multinationals.
My Thinks: Is there anyone who doesn’t benefit.
Professor: Because of the trickle down effect, everybody benefits. The extra growth created from those higher income earners reinvesting their tax cuts into housing and their superannuation funds or other tax-free investment opportunities really does mean that the whole economy does really, really well.
My Thinks: How?
Professor: It’s hard to quantify in terms of actual money, but certainly there is a vibe that trickles down. I’ve been many, many poor people standing outside in the rain looking with excitement at my house and where I live (Thanks to the many grants I get from various think-tanks and business lobby groups I have certainly benefited from the trickle down effect in a monetary way). Anyway, when this vibe is pretty all-encompassing.
My Thinks: If you were to sum up neoliberalism as a list of key elements, what would they be?
Professor: Oh, excellent. You read the list of questions I emailed. The first tenant of neoliberalism is user-pays. All government services are user pays for every single citizen. If you use it, you pay. The only legitimate exception to this would be those people who are able to structure their finances in such a way as to appear poor despite owning several million dollars worth of stuff.
My Thinks: What else?
Professor: Just quickly. Small hands-off government. If we have too much red-tape and bureaucracy that will stifle growth. Private business will be given absolute freedom to develop and run themselves as they see fit. Public services, such as health, education and social services, will be micro-managed with the paper fist of bureaucracy. If we paid tax, that would be our tax dollars being wasted.
My Thinks: So trickle down, user pays and small government. Is there anything else that you would say defines neoliberalism.
Professor: Yes. It’s important to ignore any scientific or empirical evidence that proves your entire life’s work is a complete joke. If I was to accept any research into, say, the economic impacts of climate change or inequality, then I would have to reject all the hard work I have done for my wealthy benefactors since the 1980s. I would be utterly discredited and I would probably have to sell all my Harley Davidsons.
My Thinks: Really?
Professor: Yes. I own a fleet of Harley Davidsons. That’s why neoliberalism is so important to the economy, growth and the future of the world.
My Thinks: So you absolutely reject the OECD’s findings that inequality is actually hurting growth in economies who’ve adopted neoliberalism.
Professor: Totally. Anyway, everybody knows the OECD is full of hippies and anything they say is a joke.
My Thinks: Except when you’re using data that supports your theories?
My Thinks: Once again, thanks for speaking with us this morning professor.
Professor: Thank you Mr Thinks.
Hello and welcome…
It would be remiss of me not to do what everyone else in the world is doing over the course of this week so here goes…
A lot of people must be looking back at 2009 and thinking, like I am, where the hell did that go. This year seems to have flown by much quicker than usual. Or is it the fact that I’m getting old? Does time pass quicker the older you get? If I think back to my childhood the years seemed to go on forever, weeks and months melding into each other like one long hot summer. Anyway, that’s enough of the Stand by Me crap. On with what I was going to say.
It’s good to see that the capitalists of this world still think the sun shines out of their arses despite the complete and abject failure of their way of doing things.
Oooo, ooo, Mr. Obama… Mr. Obama… I’ve got a good idea!! Me, me! Look I know that in the last couple of years that things haven’t been going quite right. In fact, technically speaking, when you crunch the numbers, they’ve been going quite wrong by quite a lot – mainly because I’ve been trying to make ridiculous amounts of money by effectively gambling on things I didn’t really understand but pretended I did.. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that if you give me MORE money, and when I say give I mean lend, if you lend me more money I can do some more guessing and gambling and I can make it all better. And once it’s all better, then I can pay you back. Good ay?
6 months later….
Oh, yeah, hi Mr. Obama… look I know that we made some number of billions profit this year despite having to ask you for some readies to tide us over but we really can’t afford to pay you back just yet. But I am good for it, I really am. It’s just that we need that money to do a bit more guessing and gambling. See, we’ve made $60 billion in the last six months, but if you let us keep going with the loan, if we can keep doing what we are doing – and remember we are the experts in the field, we know what we are doing – if we can keep going then that $60 billion could turn into $63 billion or maybe even $65 billion. That would be like an extra $5 billion that you didn’t have before man. Where did it come from? Well… um… I don’t really know. I just checked the balance at the end of the day and it had gone up a bit. No, it’s not like actual money you can hold in your hand, like a $2 note or anything. No no, this is an on-line bank balance. Well, yes, I suppose it could go back down just like it’s been going up, but I doubt that very much. After all, we play the markets like this all the time so we have experience and know how that allow us to be extremely confident in ourselves and what we are doing. No, I don’t have any qualifications other than a diploma I got from a technical college in Halifax. No, that diploma isn’t in finance – it’s in something called book labelling… it’s like book-keeping but instead of accounting for the ebb and flow of cash through the books, I’m am qualified for making sure all the books are correctly named. How did I get into the finance industry? I knew a guy in college who told me I was quite good on computers and adding up and he suggested I become a day trader. The rest is history.
Of course, that’s not to say that ALL of those people still involved in the financial institution that nearly bought the world to its knees (but thanks to some quick cash from those people who actually pay taxes, they can continue on their merry way) have no idea what they are doing. Indeed, I’m sure that most people who take huge daily risks with money that doesn’t belong to them in situations they can barely understand, know completely what they are doing.
I am being incredibly sarcastic here. I doubt whether anyone on Wall Street really fully understands anything about the institution they’ve created. All they really care about is making money – and lots of it. And before you go all funny and start suggesting I’m a communist, or, God forbid, ‘against us’, think of it this way… where does the money come from? If I’ve clicked my mouse to complete a trade, then later that day I sell making money, the only thing changing is a number on a computer screen. Where is the cold, hard cash – the tangible thing that I can hold in my hand that shows I’ve actually done something useful.
If I go out to a market and buy a carrot for 9 cents and later that day sell it for 10 cents, I’ve made a penny. I also have a 10 cent piece in my hand that I can show people and say – look at me, I’m worth 10 cents. Yesterday I was worth only 9.
The thing that really sticks in my mind from this year is the amount of profit these US companies made in the months following their bailout by Obama. For example, AIG made $1.82 billion in the second quarter of 09. This after getting nearly $200 billion in loans. I suppose, technically speaking, these loans have to be paid back by AIG, but all they’re doing is shuffling things around and selling them off to do this. They’re not really changing the root cause of all the financial market malarkey that has occurred in the last couple of years (oh, and in the late 90s, and in the late 80s, and in the 1970s, and so on and so on and so on).
People are driven by wanting to make as much money as they possibly can with little regard to whose money it is that’s actually helping them do this. When human nature is involved, you can’t have a totally unregulated situation in the marketplace, no matter how many times they tell you to let the market provide. Look what it provided last year (oh, and in the late 90s, and in the late 80s, and in the 1970s, and so on and so on and so on) – complete meltdown because those in charge of the money-go-round all got off at the same time. Dicks.
Oh well… I’m sure they’ll do better next time (I’m picking it to be around 2018).
Happy new year!!
This week the government – led by the benevolent National Party of New Zealand and their little shoulder parrot the ACT Party – sponsored the delivery of a report on how the country can bridge the ever-increasing wage/salary gap with Australia.
Having read the above you must be thinking, “How very benevolent indeed. Imagine thinking of the worker in this scenario.”
The point I have to make at this juncture is – Bollocks.
To understand by point let us why the report exists in the first place… About a year ago in little old New Zealand there was an election. This election was won by the National Party after they created coalition agreements with ACT and the Maori Party. Traditionally National are a right / centre right party – this means they are like the Republicans in the US – except for the extreme nonsensical gibberish about Money, Jesus and 9/11.
In terms of coalition partners, ACT are slightly more right of National and therefore obvious drinking partners. ACT stands for the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers. Ironically enough, the leaders of this party probably don’t pay any tax thanks to creative accounting. I’m not implying they are breaking the law, I’m implying that they are creative with their accounting. Things like trust funds for family homes, cars and putting things in the wife’s name. This creativity means a reduction in taxation imposed upon them by the Inland Revenue people. As part of their coalition deal with National, ACT demanded a review of things led by Dr. Don Brash, a former head of the National Party himself and a notable proponent of the low tax, low spend government that ACT so lovingly puts forward.
New Zealand has had a long history of low productivity compared to Australia. Over the years our wage gap has remained for years and this sees many New Zealanders eyeing up the sandy Ozzy shores to make a new live. And being just 3 hours away on the plane it’s very easy to return to see the family now and again. In recent years escaping the financial talons of a student loan has also been a great motivator.
Having done some backgrounding of the issue we can now move on to Dr. Brash’s report recommendations. If you can remember back to the 80s when hair was big and shoulder pads even bigger, many policies adopted by governments around the world were very much focused on cutting government spending in a variety of ways including rationalisation of health, education and welfare spending, selling off of state assets to the private sector and lowering personal income tax while lifting the level of consumption tax. Dr. Brash’s report brings us back to those heady days. He called for, among other things, cuts in government spending, cuts in income tax, lifting consumption tax, selling of assets, and cuts to the minimum wage – the argument being that the private sector is able to offer far more efficiencies to the taxpayer than the government-run organisations, and over time these changes will increase productivity and close the wage gap between New Zealand and Australia.
Again, I make my point – Bollocks.
I’m not an economist or a statistician. I don’t pretend to know everything there is to know about GDP or tax law. I am not a world leader in the sale of assets. I am, however, a wage/salary earner. If you want to increase my productivity, if you want to make me more efficient than I have ever been, then you reward me for my efforts. This seems, on the face of it, a very, very, extremely, very simple solution.
The minimum hourly wage in Australia is $A14.31 ($NZ18.32), whereas here in New Zealand it is a mere $12.50 – and Brash says this should be cut. I must be an idiot because I would have thought that if you cut the minimum wage and I can earn 50% more for doing the same job in Australia, then I’m going to move there… aren’t I???
Cutting health and education spending is not going to work either. Having a sicker, stupider workforce is unlikely to lift production or wages. I admit that this is flippancy at its extreme, but there is some foundation there. Brash and his report buddies are asking for more private sector involvement in the provisioning of health and education. The idea is that competition will cut government spending levels. This is good I suppose… but the private sector is not the great liberator of spending Brash thinks it is, and they don’t always run things better than the government. Just look at the state of ridiculousness at the end of last year where companies like AIG, Lehmann Bros and so on couldn’t do their jobs properly because they didn’t know how the system they operated in worked.
Who’s to say the same collapse wouldn’t happen if the education or health system were privatised? Once you get money involved in things then maximising profit and returning dividends to shareholders becomes the motivation, not delivering a public service and ultimately those services, and the consumers of those services, suffer.
Brash and his rich little cronies should get their wallets out of their arses and try and live on $12.5o an hour with 6 kids to feed. He never will though and therefore he will never really understand what it’s like in the real world. It’s all numbers to them. Numbers can be made smaller. Unfortunately, and this is the case for all economic arguments, people aren’t numbers.
So again I say: Bollocks. You can’t build a bridge between two things if you begin by cutting away at the coastline on one side.
Brash, you’re a dick, and you always will be (this is slightly inflammatory so I must qualify the word ‘dick’ by adding the word ‘alleged’ to it. So, Brash you are an alleged dick, you nerd).
Until next time. Word.
I was thinking about a few subjects to meander through this time…
Should I talk about the New Zealand Geographic Board recommending the city of Wanganui be spelt the same way as the river running through it: with a small ‘h’ following the capital W. That is, the area called Whanganui by the people who’ve lived there for the last few centuries could be spelt as such in the future. An important side note to this is that the city’s residents have voted against that move in a referendum AND that all (not just some, but all) of the people I’ve seen on the news objecting to this, including the his esteemed worshit the mayor Michael Laws, have been white. The objectioning has been so ardent also. Why object to spelling something in the traditional way? Unless of course you need an excuse to be racist…
That dabbling of the toe of opinion into the icy lagoon of racism brings me to the current “campaign” against Obama’s health plan. A lot of the placards seem to be saying President Obama’s plans to let every US citizen (except the illegals – anywhere up to 20 million inhabitants) have access to some kind of healthcare is communist or fascist. Communism is where the state controls everything on behalf of the people. Sounds like a good idea but generally it gets hijacked by the likes of Stalin or Mao who end up killing loads of people who disagree with their version of it. Of course, this is completely different to a capitalist democracy seen in the US where people are elected to the Senate or the House of Representatives so that they can make change completely independently of any company willing to “donate” thousands of dollars to trusts run by their families.
This is, as usual, a generalisation. I’m sure there are loads of capitalists in Washington D.C. who don’t take any money from people working on behalf of companies. Also, since when was capitalism a better model than socialism, communism or fascism? At least with socialism the government is trying to look after the people rather than letting the markets decide (remember when Lehmann Bros “decided” to pay Richard Fuld $300 million in the years leading up to the collapse for his strong leadership and excellent decision making). Comparing Obama to Hitler is not going to make your point very well. It’s like trying to get Christians to convert to Islam by telling them Jesus was a lesbian. Pretending to believe in the 2nd amendment by walking around these protests with an Ak-47 strapped to your dick isn’t going to win you any friends either you idiot.
Anyway, those two small issues aside…
This week the process has begun. We are now officially going through IVF. When I say ‘officially’ I mean the procedures have started and when I say ‘we’ I mean Mrs. Boon. As I’ve said previously during my other two blogs on the subject, my part in this process is important but is about as invasive as scratching the tip of your nose gently when it’s slightly itchy. I’ve also talked about the guilt factor that can develop from this and the fact I wish I could be doing more – and by doing more I mean having things done to me. But in IVF it seems not to be the way for the man to endure these moments associated with artificial insemination. Helping and supporting is our job.
The very first procedure Mrs. Boon went through in our – hopefully not too long – IVF journey involved her joining a research project looking into the effects of a uterus wash of lipiodol on increasing the chances of pregnancy. For those unversed… Lipiodol is a poppyseed oil that is used as a contrast medium. A contrast medium is one that, when pumped into veins or tubes shows up on x-rays allowing physicians to see blockages and the like. In women it is used to see if there is anything holding things up in the fallopian tubes. As with previous accidental breakthroughs like penicillin or coca-cola, it’s been discovered this flushing may actually enhance the prospectss of a successful pregnancy. So Mrs. Boon offered to go into a New Zealand study investigating this phenomenon.
When she said yes to taking part she had a 50/50 chance of either being in the control group, who would not have had the flushing, or being in the group who did. When the researcher opened the envelope last week she was pleased (although this may be a bit of an understatement) to hear she was not in the control group and was going to receive the lipiodol. Once again, as if I needed any more proof of how amazing my wife is, she selflessly puts her body forward so researchers can develop better and more successful methods of IVF for other couples.
I must also mention at this point that yesterday, the day of the lipiodol wash, was our 5th wedding anniversary.
So next week we head into the hospital to learn how to inject her with hormones that bring on a menopausal state. I am fast running out of superlatives to describe the overwhelming sense of awe I have for my wife and her willingness to undertake such a vast range of actions to bring our baby into the world. I only hope that one day I can return the love.
See yous later.