4 min read

A new silent health crisis

Prolonged lockdowns may be having longer-term health consequences; the secret sauce of predicting inflation; life's getting better; and the world's biggest property crisis is centred in China.
Cartoon showing Dan Andrews locking down Victoria.
Victoria set a world record for lockdowns. But at what cost? Source.

1—A new silent health crisis

"For 14 of the past 15 weeks, England and Wales have averaged around 1,000 extra deaths each week, none of which are due to Covid.

If the current trajectory continues, the number of non-Covid excess deaths will soon outstrip deaths from the virus this year – and be even more deadly than the omicron wave."

No one knows for sure why it's happening but COVID restrictions in 2020-21 might be somewhat responsible:

"We are beginning to see the deaths that result from delay and deferment of treatment for other conditions, like cancer and heart disease, and from those associated with poverty and deprivation.

These come through more slowly – if cancer is not treated promptly, patients don't die immediately but do die in greater numbers more quickly than would otherwise be the case."

It'll be interesting to compare the data for Australia when they become relevant. Some states, such as Western Australia, were locked down for just 12 days and then lived largely free lives during the pandemic (travel excluded). In Victoria the lockdowns lasted for over 260 days – a world record.

You can read Sarah Knapton's full article here (~5 minutes).

2—Statistically indistinguishable from zero

That's the effect the new US Inflation Reduction Act will have on inflation, according to a recent University of Pennsylvania study. But former US Secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers thinks it still matters a great deal:

"I don't think its principal effect is going to be reducing inflation. But I do think it is going to serve some vital national interests in terms of protecting the environment, expanding health care, and making our tax system work better. Through that process, it is going to reduce inflation."

On predicting the current inflation back in 2021, Summers said:

"The secret sauce of economics is arithmetic. After I did the arithmetic, it looked to me like the amount of water we were putting in the bathtub was far bigger than the capacity of the bathtub. But I didn't know exactly what the capacity of the bathtub would be. I thought there might be various kinds of bottlenecks. But even if all that went well, I thought we were overstimulating the economy. So I forecasted that we'd have excessive inflation."

Do read (or listen) to the full interview between Bari Weiss and Larry Summers here (~11 minutes).

3—Life's getting better

Although some more recent data would be nice!

4—World's biggest property crisis

"China, Australia's top trading partner, is trapped in its worst property slump. August is the 12th straight month Chinese home sales have fallen as prices slump.

Hundreds of thousands have joined a mortgage boycott, an ­extraordinary act of defiance in Xi Jinping's stability-obsessed people's republic."

So writes Will Glasgow in The Australian, who tells the story of a 32-year-old Chinese man who "bought in 2017, right at the top of the market", and is now trying to sell it at "almost half of what he paid only five years ago... [but] even at this price, nobody wants to buy it".

But China's woes run deeper than just property. The private sector is struggling, and entire industry chains are being maintained solely by the government. Infrastructure and health spending is up, but it's largely policy-driven:

"Beijing's 21 million people need to get a test every three days to keep the QR codes on their phones green, allowing them to enter shops, parks and other public places. The tests are paid by the state – a mighty revenue stream for China's Covid-test manufacturers."

It's hard to see China staging any kind of recovery until it gets past Xi Jinping's "dynamic zero-Covid" policy, which must be making it a nightmare to get anything done.

You can read Glasgow's full article here (~6 minutes).

5—Further reading...

📉 China's "mortgage interest rates could drop to a record low over the next month".

💸 "China will waive the 23 interest-free loans for 17 African countries that had matured by the end of 2021."

🍁 Forget regular old inflation, in Canada tip-flation has also taken hold: "A survey conducted by Restaurants Canada in April 2022 found that when dining out at a table service restaurant, 44 per cent of 1500 Canadians surveyed said their tips are higher compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic."

🚀 "Japan is considering the deployment of 1,000 long-range cruise missiles to improve its counter-strike capabilities against China."

👩‍🌾 From The Economist (paywall): "Last week wheat futures in Chicago, for delivery in December, dropped to $7.70 per bushel, far below the $12.79 they reached three months earlier and back to their level in February. Corn is also back to its pre-war price. Meanwhile, palm oil, found in thousands of dishes from ice cream to instant noodles, has dropped not only back to its pre-war price, but to below it."

🏡 "American companies are on pace to reshore, or return to the U.S., nearly 350,000 jobs this year... the highest number on record since the group began tracking the data in 2010."

🕵️‍♀️ Twitter's former head of security claimed the platform "has major security problems that pose a threat to its own users' personal information, to company shareholders, to national security, and to democracy".