Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Chinese warships off Christmas Island, the dreaming and middle class decline

Another snippets post.China warship

I see from the Lowy Institute blog, China makes statement as it sends naval ships off Australia's maritime approaches, that China recently sent three naval vessels to conduct combat simulations and other exercises in the Indian Ocean, somewhere between Indonesia and Christmas Island. Ouch!

The world changes and it pays, I think, to keep a longer term perspective. I have no immediate fear of a blow up with China, but surely the location of that first exercise cannot be totally coincidental. Boats anyone?

This one may sound a bit arcane, but this post on Aboriginal Art & Culture: an American eye, The Dilemma of “Dreaming”, looks at the problematic nature of the terms dreaming and dream time.Something of the same issues come up with the use and abuse of the term "elder."

It seems that Richard Branson is not at all impressed with QANTAS CEO Joyce. Meantime, the Chair and two external directors at department store David Jones have fallen on their swords. A fair bit of the commentary has linked the problems faced by Myers and David Jones to the decline of the Australian middle class on which they have both depended for sales. There is some truth in that.

On the declining middle class, I had dinner a week or so back with an old US friend and former client. She is an active Democrat, so I guess that she has a certain political bias. However, this element of the conversation was purely personal. Talking about the rise in university fees, she gave numbers that I cannot remember, she wondered how people were going to be able to afford university education for their kids. There are scholarships, but their relative significance is diminishing.

Unlike Australia where kids just won't leave home, most US kids focus on the schools they want regardless of location. Going away from home is part of the pattern. There are practical reasons for this, for income variations between graduates from different places are more pronounced than they are in this country. Here, traditionally, it hasn't really mattered, although this is changing.

My feeling is that the US costs of university education is becoming a real sleeper issue in political terms.

Well, that's all for this morning.   


Interesting follow up to the China story in today's Sydney Morning Herald, RAAF scrambles plane to observe Chinese naval exercise.


Anonymous said...

The middle class have brought it on themselves with their beggar-my-neighbour mentality. Guess what? You getting ahead means someone else falling behind. And shockingly, people having less income hurts the economic structures you rely on to get ahead. Karma's a bitch.

Evan said...

There was a recent post from The Onion along the lines of "This man was the first in his family to flush $126,000 down the toilet to pay for his university degree."

Jim Belshaw said...

Point noted, anon. But I'm not sure that your point is absolutely fair to the middle class.

Anonymous said...

Evan, my understanding of the US higher education system is that it is basically the same as ours - fees-wise? They are now carrying a similar burden of "pay as you earn but no worries if you don't" as our system. But if you're suggesting it is a farce, then I agree with you; see the "excess" NSW teachers we've hatched for example.

Anon, you need to get out more, or perhaps just grow up. Most upper/middle/lower class people I know don't give a stuff about their neighbours, never mind 'beggar-ing' them.

'Karma' is dogma; why not try thinking for yourself.


Jim Belshaw said...

Onion is satirical, of course. I hadn't hear of it, but it caught a friend once and almost caught me into taking something serious. Still, with the measured drop in returns on university education in the US, its possible!

Jim Belshaw said...

kvd, that was not my understanding of the US system. ie, it is not the same as ours. - and here -

I certainly don't want to go down the US route.

Anonymous said...

Jim, from that ill-written wiki article you cited:

In June 2010, the amount of student loan debt held by Americans exceeded the amount of credit card debt held by Americans. At that time, student loan debt totaled at least $830 billion, of which approximately 80% was federal student loan debt and 20% was private student loan debt. In October 2011, the total amount of money owed in student loan debt was said to exceed $1 trillion.


Most major types of federal student loans—except for PLUS loans for parents—are eligible for IBR. Income-based plans provide for payment of 15% of disposable income for up to 25 years, then the loan is forgiven.

Different terminology, same outcome. When will we get to the point of simply recognising that 'student loans' are basically a non-repayable source of higher education funding?

I'm all in favour of a uni education - so why don't we just pay for it instead of this accounting shell game?


Anonymous said...

Jim, I am certain we talked about the Aus equivalent farce within the last six months or so?

I seem to remember there was a proposal to 'monetise' our 'student loan portfolio' down to 8-12$bn from something over $20 - "to provide an adequate return for potential investors".

What a farce it all is. And the US position is absolutely no different.


Jim Belshaw said...

We did indeed talk about the Australian equivalent around six months ago, kvd. This is the ATO description of the Australian scheme -

The shift from HECS to HELP was indeed a shift towards a US model. However, there appear to be quite considerable present differences between the Australian and US models that reduce the impact on Australian students. I say appear because, as you note, that wikipedia article is badly written. One major difference, for example, is that you have to be earning $51,000+ before repayments kick in and then they go on a sliding scale as taxable income increases up to a maximum of 8% of taxable income. There is also an upper limit on the debt that you can incur. There is no interest on loan balances as such, although a CPI indexation fee applies.

Unlike what appears to be the US case, it is not possible to go bankrupt via the Australian system. No or low income, no pay. If you die, the loan is written off.

I should look in more detail at the differences in the design features between the two systems. But not now!

Anonymous said...

kvd your personal attacks only go to show how morally and intellectually bankrupt your position is. if you can't win the ball go for the man huh.

Anonymous said...

Anon, I assure you it is nothing personal. If Jim ever strung together a couple of platitudes and a cliche or two and pretended it 'thoughtful' I would not hesitiate to call him on it.

I am very fair minded in that I consider all idiots equal. And equal contempt for all is my motto :)


Jim Belshaw said...

I have and you have, kvd! And you have and I have, come to think of it. Still, play nicely in the sand pit. No sand throwing in other!s eyes!