Gordon Campbell on the Reserve Bank, the UN shortlist, and Trump

Can there really be there any link between the US presidential elections and yesterday’s RBNZ signals on interest rates and the NZ dollar? Well, maybe. And it would be this: the improving US economy is reportedly putting a tailwind behind the US dollar, and rendering the actions of our Reserve Bank virtually irrelevant. Not to mention putting a dent in the protest campaign of Donald Trump.

A steady stream of strengthening fundamentals are driving the U.S. dollar higher. Healthier data from jobs, consumer spending and housing have put a tailwind on the greenback.
Moreover, America’s economy is outperforming the weaker economies aboard. And this is setting a backdrop for improved prospects for another rate hike in the months ahead….And as the U.S. is expected to deliver a steady procession of healthier data over the next few months, this should spill-over to the dollar and keep most commodity prices on their backfoot.

Meaning: if the RBNZ cuts interest rates – or doesn’t – in the coming months, the result is going to be much the same: relative to the USD, our exchange rate is headed downwards, thereby raising import prices and lifting the rate of inflation most of which will be imported. None of which came through yesterday in the myopic concentration on the RBNZ actions and intentions. Similarly, it is taken for granted that this cocktail of rising prices will be good for ordinary New Zealanders, even though their wage rates have been virtually stagnant for the past 18 months.

Besides: if 70 cents in the dollar is judged “high” you have to ask: how much of a crutch do our exporters really need in order to compete on global markets, if enjoying a 30 per cent advantage against the US dollar is still felt to be an intolerably harsh burden for them to bear? And if we have to import inflation to get it near the RBNZ’s preferred 2% target, what does that say about the depressed, deflated state of the rest of the productive economy – you know, the bits that aren’t building houses, or waiting on tables (and making beds) for tourists in Queenstown ?

Just about the only good thing in this current economic scenario is that a recovering US economy – measured by job growth, increased retail spending – is going hand in hand with increasing approval poll ratings for President Obama. This has to be bad news for Donald Trump, and for the rest of the circus entourage now winding up the Republican convention in Cleveland. His apocalyptic message can only resonate widely if and when the US economy is tanking.

Overall, it hasn’t been a great week for the Orange Messiah, starting with his tentative “do I really want this guy?” unveiling of Indiana government Mike Pence as his running mate. Quite a team: a former reality TV star for President, and a former conservative radio DJ for Vice-President. Pence gives Trump two essential : access to Koch brothers campaign money, and credibility with evangelicals, who will relish having a fellow religious zealot only one heartbeat away from the Presidency. Especially when Trump appears willing to entirely outsource the actual work involved in running foreign policy and domestic programmes.

To be fair to Trump, that’s not a major innovation. George W. Bush also outsourced most of the decision-making in his presidency to Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. Pence however, is not in their league. In early April, I wrote about Pence in this column.

Just in case you thought Trump was the nutty extreme of American politics,there’s this situation in Indiana: Governor Mike Pence recently signed a bonkers anti-choice bill into law that will not only hold doctors liable if a woman has an abortion because of a fetus’s race, sex, or diagnosis of Down syndrome or any other disability, but also requires fetal remains to be cremated or buried, whether from an abortion or a miscarriage. Providers would likely pass the costs of these funerary services to patients. Plus, women seeking an abortion would need an ultrasound 18 hours before the procedure.

(As mentioned in that column, Pence’s actions inspired a genius form of telephone activism by Indiana women.) Still, it says something about the current state of the Republican Party that a Pence seemed to be the sanest person this week at the Cleveland convention.

There was radio talk-show host Laura Ingraham giving a Nazi salute onstage. There was the delegate who called for Hillary Clinton to be executed for treason. There was Trump himself saying that (under his presidential leadership) the Russians could invade the Baltic states and he wouldn’t necessarily come to the aid of America’s NATO allies. Apparently, It would depend on what they’d been doing for America lately.

None of which makes much difference to Trump’s supporters, and to opinion polling that still has him only three or four points behind Clinton. The fascinating history of white delusion on which Trump has based his self-pitying campaign has been well documented here and also here:

Even so… if concentrated doses of Donald Trump are bad for your mental health, its hard to imagine what prolonged exposure to Hillary Clinton will do to the American psyche over the coming months, either.

UN Secretary-General shortlist

Talking of showbiz politics, the democratic and transparent part of finding the next UN Secretary General is now over. Things have now returned as usual to the secretive, undemocratic forums in which this decision has always been made; namely, the Security Council. Today, its 15 members (permanent and temporary) carried out a secret straw poll and chose a shortlist.

The results, which will not be made public, will then be shared with governments sponsoring the candidates. The point is to urge candidates incapable of securing sufficient support to drop out of the race.

The initial debates have played to the strengths of U.N. insiders like including [UNDP chief Helen] Clark, António Guterres, who served as the U.N. high commissioner for refugees for ten years, and Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra, a former top U.N. official who oversaw logistics for the organization’s peacekeeping operations; these three have displayed a far deeper grasp of the issues before the U.N. than some of their challengers.

To that list of front-runners (Malcorra, Clark, Guterres) one has to add two further women : the Costa Rican diplomat Christina Figueres (who has made a strong late run) and the UNESCO boss, Irina Bokova.

Early informal news reports have Antonio Guterres as the top of the shortlist voting, and with Helen Clark falling short of the unrealistic New Zealand expectations Since this straw poll included all of the temporary Security Council members, there’s no definitive indicator of how the Big Five (the US, Russia, France, China and Britain) will finally vote. Still, choosing Guterres would put someone with a long background in refugee work at the helm of the UN. Not a bad outcome.

The Politics of Crazy

In 1992, Texas maverick millionaire Ross Perot made Willie Nelson’s “Crazy’ his presidential campaign theme song – partly as a defiant joke, and partly because he just wanted to dance with his wife to a song he liked. This year, it feels more literally true of the presidential contest… but no-one really needs an excuse to listen once again to the great Patsy Cline:

10 Comments on Gordon Campbell on the Reserve Bank, the UN shortlist, and Trump

  1. The fact the currency rigging is occurring and still we hear the made up causes named for the manipulations.
    The currency values are set by the global banking cartel, the excuses and reasons for their movements are invented and are mostly illogical and paradoxical.

  2. Its crazy stuff.
    Seeing the insanity of politics is the rising of sanity.
    Most of the politicians have weak and perverted characters that would better suit a group placement @ Alcatraz .
    Any “normalization” of their collective insanity would be harmful, so Lyndon Hood, or someone, should draft us up a warning.

  3. Even so… if concentrated doses of Donald Trump are bad for your mental health, its hard to imagine what prolonged exposure to Hillary Clinton will do to the American psyche over the coming months, either.

    Thank you for acknowledging this. It really is Hobsons Choice. HRC is frankly the most frightening POTUS candidate I have seen. I have little doubt she is mad enough to start a war with Russia.

  4. Wars are a collective manifestation of the unhealthy, hateful and fearful psyches (of HRC, Trump,Halliburton,the media and the likes).Minds are conditioned to accept the psychopathy of HRC and Trump as normal .
    Its global and we have the same thing in local candidates but it is easier to see and pin point in the usa – as it is easier to see others faults than our own.

  5. Hillary Clinton will most probably be elected as the next President of the US and yet, in New Zealand media, I see very little meaningful analysis of her policy, her ideology, or her past performance compared with what I frequently read or hear about her rival. Donald Trump’s candidacy can be, and frequently has been summarised within a handful of his ever-present themes – capriciousness, misguidedness, dishonesty, divisiveness, etc. We all know this already, the guy is revolting and makes all reasonable people sick to the stomach. But, that does not mean we deserve to be sheltered from genuine and meaningful reporting on the Democratic candidate. As recall, this is someone whose blatant complicity in corruption; flagrant, hysterical, repetitive & pathological lying; lust for imperialism and war; and life-long devotion to neo-liberalism at the expense of those who support her is limitless. I read about Trump, and I tend to be interested in what I read, but there’s very little reflection on his (better?) alternative.

    In my possibly ill-informed opinion, the world is going to be a scary and dangerous place no matter what the outcome, but for the love of god we should at the least expect some balanced reporting on what the more likely outcome will actually resemble. So, what will the world be like with Hillary Clinton as the Commander and Chief?

  6. Interesting comment on the ‘invasion’ of the Baltic states. Michael Moore’s latest movie “Who to Invade Next” shows that the Nordic region of Europe is home to some of the most progressive and successful cultures on earth, where, for one example, the Justice system proceeds on the basis of rehabilitation rather than retribution. This has evolved from a cultural understanding which is not only different from the American system but is anathema to their concept of the nature of humans. That comes to the heart of the several world views of Trump, Cheney, Cruz, and others. Seeking to obliterate a culture which shows their desperation at the knowledge that their ideology is no longer sustainable is not surprizing, really.

  7. Andrew Nichols: “Thank you for acknowledging this. It really is Hobsons Choice. HRC is frankly the most frightening POTUS candidate I have seen. I have little doubt she is mad enough to start a war with Russia.”

    Obama inherited a USA with an immediate past shaped by Cheney and his desire to promote war as the primary means of conducting foreign policy. It used to be war was a last resort, but not today. (Longer discussion on this needed, of course.) As such, Obama knew he must present this same war-mongering, and did in Afghanistan. Clinton will feel forced to adopt the same. No person can be elected President in USA today without being a war-monger.

  8. Troy K: “The currency values are set by the global banking cartel, the excuses and reasons for their movements are invented and are mostly illogical and paradoxical.”

    90-95% of currency transactions are rate speculation, rather than for the purpose of trade in goods, services, and personal communication. That surely means that the exchange rates are basically irrational except in the view of the speculators, which view is the accumulation of wealth into the hands of those most able to accumulate wealth, which today are those involved in the ‘FIRE’ economy (Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate), as Jane Kelsey has defined in her book, along with their traditional partners, the largest corporations.

  9. Mr Keller: Bankers set the currency values, they also set price of gold silver and platinum always have and as long as we remain ignorant and give our sovereignty over to them willingly through their self given control of creating and lending us money with interest, our economy (*finance, Insurance and Mort/real estate) will continue to operate as their shadow govt.They effectively have done this through misinformation from media agents like Fabian society’s Kelsey who easily hoodwinks and beguiles the masses.
    Banksters own the corporations, they are not “partners” but tools of banks trade monopolies , fabricated legal entities for profit created by these banksters.
    These same families of merchant bankers have for hundreds of years controlled and created wealth. Many misleading books called the ” fire economy ” have been written before the agent Kelsey’s mills and booney nz copy.
    The Crown is the Bank of England’s entity so your govt governing agent is as bankster as it gets.Why do you think Wall Street’s *insider trader Key is their front man playing “prime minister”.Its just as crazy as Trump and Hellery, why do we have a x banker Ruth Bound high up role in the ministry of social development when she obviously knows nothing about what “social development” even means.

    The bankers own Halliburton and the likes and make us through our ignorance, hate and fear manifest and subsidize their profitable wars .

    @ Steve We see the craziness of american politics but not our own, the fact is that it does not matter which corporate face( HCR) the corporation of the usa chooses. HCR is an “evil and selfish character” so is Trump neither is leadership material. All corporate candidates suck and any will do as they are told by those that run the corporation of the USA -the bankers already picked HCR.

  10. But the Clinton rationale (“It’s the economy, stupid”) may have lost currency, Gordon. Rebellion against the establishment seems to be motivating the yanks more than a wee bit of trickle-down, huh?

    Not so much the polls, but the political terrain that counts – the Electoral College – is what matters. Check out the view of that rarest of creatures, a leftist with a sense of humour: http://michaelmoore.com/trumpwillwin/

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