Metaphors abound around the global financial crisis. The Government says we’re facing a global tsunami, and we can’t swim against that sort of tide. We’re in a ship in stormy waters battling the elements. In the wake of Victoria’s bushfires, it’s surprising that the ‘firestorm’ metaphor has not much been used.
In today’s Australian George Megalogenis heads his well-balanced piece Leader’s bounty kept ship afloat. Michael Stutchbury, in an even-handed video clip We’re in recession avoided metaphors, but in McCrann on Australia’s recession, Terry McCrann, so prone to exaggerated language, couldn’t resist. He has the global economy “slowing to a walk”, the Australian economy in a “twilight zone” between the good things and the bad things, and accuses the Reserve Bank and the Government of “over-egging the pudding”. His piece was nonetheless reasonable. [more]
In The Age Peter Martin writes his usual fair appraisal in Economy slides into reverse, a motoring metaphor. Michelle Grattan in a piece An economy on the brink, the ‘edge of cliff’ metaphor quickly morphs to a motoring one as she predicts a “bumpy ride ahead for Labor as it attempts to steer the economy through the crisis.” In the same piece, Tim Colebatch uses the Opposition’s pejorative ‘cash splash’ slogan, ends with a visual metaphor mixed with a mechanical one: “It's ugly, and there is no lever anyone can pull to stop it getting much uglier yet”. But what delighted Malcolm Turnbull was not that reality, but Colebatch’s paragraph: “Did Labor's cash splash work? Well, you judge. Household spending rose $1.2 billion in the quarter, household saving rose $9.5 billion. Debate over.”
Most commentary in Murdoch and Fairfax papers is reasonably balanced as is the editorial in The Australian It's pointless to panic. It concludes with a metaphorical flourish: “Yesterday, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd warned that Australia cannot swim against the global economic tide. True enough. But as a beach-going people, we know that the tide turns, that rips don't run forever, and that the way to survive in rough water is not to panic.” The optimistic Age editorial uses a distorted boxing metaphor in its subheading (look down the page) Economy down but not out unless we give in to fear.
Generally the commentary on yesterday’s ABS National Accounts acknowledged that Australia is in or close to recession, that arguing about the technicality is pointless, and that the downturn will worsen. Most commentators acknowledged that global forces were the cause, that Australia is considerably better off than all other comparable countries, and that the monetary and fiscal measures taken by the Reserve Bank and the Government have ameliorated the effect of the global recession. Just one, Tim Colebatch, was adamant that as spending rose only $1.2 billion in the quarter, while household saving rose $9.5 billion, the Government’s fiscal stimulus package had failed – debate over. Why saving is a sign of failure is not explained. Everyone knows that money saved is money that can be spent later. So to use a medical metaphor, instead of the package acting like a large once-off bolus – a single dose in the last three weeks of the December quarter, it is more likely to act as a continuous infusion, which as savings are converted to spending, will be reflected in the next quarter’s figures.
If you’re interested in reading any more on this overworked subject, check today’s editorial in Crikey, Bernard Keane’s amusing piece Data, recession, Turnbull and a load of old experts and Glenn Dyer's Housing up as Rudd cash splash continues to ripple and This "recession" is built on rubbery figures that dissects the 'savings' issue.
Turnbull is insistent that Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan don’t know what they’re doing, are panicking, have made poor economic decisions, have made a bad situation much worse, are running up another Labor debt that our children will have to pay off, and that he has the answers if only the Government would listen. He has few supporters of his view among the commentators. But buoyed by figures that he feels give weight to his rhetoric, and not averse to mixing his metaphors, Turnbull insists that if he was captain he would keep his "ammunition in the locker" while he steers the ship of state through rough seas, confident that with him at the helm, "we won’t get too wet".
My preference is for Captain Rudd to continue to vigorously respond to the economic storm and keep the ship afloat. I don’t want ‘wait and see’ Admiral Turnbull standing on the poop deck while the ship founders shouting to his drowning passengers 'Don’t panic, you’ll be OK; I still have ammunition in the locker'.