Hard News by Russell Brown


Slumpy Cashflow

Yesterday's news of a slump in consumer confidence as measured by the Westpac survey drew many and varied responses from readers of the Herald website, some of which made more sense than others.

The story itself quoted Westpac's economist on the difference between the present slump and the last time confidence dropped sharply, in 1998. That being: in 2008, we enjoy historically strong employment and terms of trade, and very sound government accounts. We seem relatively well protected from global financial problems.

On the other hand, anyone who does the shopping knows what's happening to food prices -- I've done a double-take at the number on the till a few times lately. There are people who have lost their savings, and people sitting on potentially very unhappy property investments. They'll try and reap more from rents to make up for a lack of capital gain, and something will have to give. It looks like we're back to residential overcrowding, in Auckland, at least.

Ironically, our household was in quite good shape in the late 90s. That was when, after five years' saving, we borrowed money and bought our house, for $40,000 less than the original list price. Interest rates were high and there had been a long, hot summer of slow house sales.

We're looking okay this year too (and a lot better than a couple of years ago), although I'm self-employed now, and more exposed to a downturn in the advertising market. I don't think I can work any harder than I am now. Renewing the mortgage will be dispiriting, but we expected that. And we did just buy a new TV.

What do you all think? Are people just spooked, or are there really hard times ahead?

Meanwhile, in other crisis news, No Right Turn has more coverage of Paul Hutchison's sudden interest in absinthe as the new scourge of youth -- now that party pills are off the market. I/S points out that "all absinthe does is make you drunk", largely because it has little or no thujone in it now. I'd debate that thujone has no psychoactive properties, though. These guys seemed to get pretty high on their wormwood hash. For, like, months. But that's not the same thing at all.

And, finally, thanks to Brendon Li at Samsung for noticing and swiftly undertaking to sort out my Mum's problems redeeming an offer to claim her free DVD player. Nice work. If you can't use your blog to help out your Mum, then what use is Web 2.0, really?

Anyway, now is the time for my usual belated invitation for y'all to vote for us in the Netguide People's Choice Web Awards. I figure, if you're minded, you could enter publicaddress.net for Best Blog Site, and Public Address System (publicaddress.net/system) for Best New site, Relaunch, Innovation. Tell a friend.

And finally, Pete Darlington came out of the digital hat for the MarchFest prize pack. Pete is not a stranger to me, but I can assure you, the draw was purely random. Thanks to our other Nelson readers -- nice to know you're there.

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