MSM suckered on super tax concessions

I had a piece in The Guardian a couple of days ago (it’s over the fold) looking at the was the mainstream print and electronic media (mis)handled the debate over the decision to reduce tax concessions on earnings of superannuation balances in excess of $3m. The weight of argument was strongly on the government’s side, and the media commentariat seemed to have conceded that. But the finance lobby has hit back with a series of utterly ludicrous arguments which have nonetheless been given headline treatment, not only by Murdoch but by Nine and the ABC. The main points are

  • The government hasn’t yet worked out how the policy will apply to the handful of people still on defined benefits schemes (they would need to be getting a pension of at least $150000/yr to be affected).
  • While it only affects 0.5 per cent of the population now, if the threshold isn’t indexed for the next 50 years, it will be five times as many (2.5 per cent)
  • Some people might be taxed on assets that have appreciated in value

What explains the breathless coverage of absurd talking points like this. Sadly, it’s the same stuff bloggers have been complaining about for decades. Political journalists love conflict and don’t have a clue about policy. That hasn’t changed and isn’t likely to.

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Some hope on global heating

I spend a lot of my time thinking about global heating, where it’s often hard to be optimistic about the future. But there are some bright spots. In particular, there’s a good chance that 2023 will be the year that coal use finally begins a sustained decline, and relatedly the year the carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation start to fall.

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Anti-presentism = anti-wokeism ?

Last year, I wrote a couple of posts defending historical presentism, that is, the view that we should examine events and actors in history (at least in modern history) in the light of our current concerns, rather than treating them as exempt from any standards except those that prevailed (in the dominant class) at the time.

Those posts referred to controversies within the history profession. Unsurprisingly, given the current state of the US, they have now been embroiled in the culture wars. Rightwing critics of wokeism have now added presentism to the list of evils against which they are fighting, along with critical race theory, cancel culture and so on.

This creates a dilemma for anti-presentists. Do they welcome political support, even if it comes from rightwing culture warriors? That’s a natural thing to do, but it implies a lot of baggage. Once you identify as “anti-woke”, you’re committed to racism, misogyny, science denial, book-banning and, ultimately, fascism.

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Digital hoarding

Yesterday, I dug into the deepest nest of folders on my MacBook Pro to find a paper I wrote on a 512K Mac in 1987, for a magazine that no longer exists and isn’t (AFAICT) digitally archived. The file must have made transitions from “hard floppies” to removable 44Mb drives (remember them?) to hard drive to SSD and then, when that filled up, to my iCloud backup.

Today, I read about “digital hoarding“. Count me in!

Whatever the psychological causes, it’s hard to imagine negative real-world consequences from storing files. And it’s easier to search for stuff when you need it than to spend a lot of time filing. I used to sort my email, but now I just delete 90 per cent as it comes in, and archive the rest every couple of years.

In the physical world, I’m the opposite. I’m hopelessly untidy, but I follow Marie Kondo in throwing out anything that no longer sparks joy, and in trying to avoid acquiring stuff I don’t need. Being free of paper has been a huge boon in this respect.