Can The Most Powerful Woman in the World Save Capitalism?

HOSTS Adam & Thomas|28 April, 2021

Meet your hosts

  • Adam

    Adam is the funniest and most successful comedian in his family. He broke onto the comedy scene as a RAW comedy national finalist before selling out solo shows at two Adelaide Fringe festivals. He’s performed stand-up to crowds all over Australia as well as enjoying stints on radio with SAFM and most recently as a host of the Ice Bath on Triple M. Father of two and owner of pets, he may finally be an adult… almost.
  • Thomas

    Thomas, the economist, is the brains of the outfit. He studied economics and game-theory at the University of Queensland and cut his teeth as an economist at the Reserve Bank of Australia. He now runs his own economics consultancy, with a particular focus on the property market. He lives with his wife and two kids in the hills outside Byron Bay.

Who actually is the most powerful woman in the world (Hint: it’s not Beyonce), and what’s she going to do with that power? What was the anger that brought Trump into power, and how are the economic levers being used to ward off another Trump? And if this war gets out of hand, what the outlook for share prices?


If you’ve got a question for Thomas… or Adam… then go ahead and send them to

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Adam Keily: [00:00:51] Hello and welcome to comedian versus economist. We demystify the world of money and help you get a handle on the bigger picture. My name's Adam and I'm joined, as always by my little older brother and real life economist, Thomas. Hi, Thomas. [00:01:04][12.5]

Thomas Keily: [00:01:04] Yeah, G'day Adam. How are we going? [00:01:06][1.0]

Adam Keily: [00:01:06] I'm good, thanks. Uh, look, as always on the show, we love getting your questions, emails, comments, feedback. You can email us any time or head up the website, . Let us know what you think. Better still, if you'd like to, why not go and leave us a review on iTunes wherever you're listening to your podcast that helps us in the charts and worked out exactly how that helps us. But it does help, I'm sure. So if you wouldn't mind doing that, that'd be amazing. Thomas, this week we are asking the question, can the most powerful woman in the world save capitalism? That's a big question. [00:01:45][38.7]

Thomas Keily: [00:01:46] Yeah, I think we're building a reputation for tackling the big questions. [00:01:49][3.4]

Adam Keily: [00:01:52] Well, I've got a question, I guess, to start with before we get into that, which is who is the most powerful woman in the world? What are we talking? Is it Beyonce or is it in my circle? It's probably either Emma from the Wiggles or Blooey. Yeah, but I'm guessing it's not. Emma Old from the Wiggles does have a plan to save capitalism. [00:02:15][23.2]

Adam Keily: [00:02:16] But that's not [00:02:17][0.6]

Adam Keily: [00:02:18] what we're talking about tonight. [00:02:19][0.9]

Thomas Keily: [00:02:21] We're talking about Janet Yellen. Now, this name might not be known to some people, but it's definitely a name that should be on the radar. And you'll definitely be hearing more from her as the year rolls out. But Janet Yellen is the new treasury secretary appointed by Biden in the Biden administration. Before that, she was the chair of the Federal Reserve 2014 to 2018. So, yeah, and the first woman to hold effectively the two most powerful jobs in the country. [00:02:52][31.3]

Adam Keily: [00:02:53] Yeah, well, I'm just looking at I had had to Google most powerful women. According to Forbes, in 2020, Angela Merkel is the most powerful woman in the world. Australia representative number 45 with Gina Rinehart in there, which is this positive one place above the queen of England, actually, who came in at forty six. So I don't know what the queen is going to do these days. Obviously losing a touch. There you go. All right. So Janet Yellen, why what's she going to do to save capitalism? What's wrong with capitalism? The an of blissfully unaware of it? We're in pretty good shape. Uh, no, no. [00:03:30][36.9]

Thomas Keily: [00:03:30] The planet's dying. I don't know if you've [00:03:32][1.1]

Adam Keily: [00:03:32] heard about that yet where people are now talking about moving to Mars. I mean, we do this song about. [00:03:38][6.0]

Thomas Keily: [00:03:42] Yeah. I mean, so saving capitalism. That's a very broad brush. I mean. Yes, but definitely there is there's a real pivot with the Biden administration and with Janet Yellen taking the helm of the Treasury to at least at the moment, they're paying very good lip service to change the fundamental order of quite a few things and then changing the course of the American economy and quite a deep way and sort of restructuring sort of what the economy is and what it's trying to do. And I think we'll look back at twenty, twenty, twenty one as a bit of a, you know, paradigm shift in the way economics as a discipline. Even Stephen is thinking about these questions. So maybe I'll read you a quote, one of the first speeches she did. This is where this quote comes from. So she opens up and says, you know, America's great. We're better than all the other countries, yada, yada standard. [00:04:36][54.4]

Adam Keily: [00:04:37] The obligatory opening to any American speech is just a formality, really. That big tick now crack on with the actual content. So she says [00:04:48][10.5]

Thomas Keily: [00:04:48] over the years, new problems developed that were not properly addressed in the push to grow our economies. We neglected our environment as we embrace new technologies. We didn't do enough to prepare our workers and our education systems for the changes underway. While we embrace trade as an engine for growth, we neglected those who did not benefit. And in the most recent period, when we might have adopted policies at home to face these issues and join with our allies to address issues abroad, we isolated ourselves and retreated from the international order that we created. Over the last four years, we have seen first hand what happens when America steps back from the global stage. America first must never mean America alone. Pretty powerful. Yeah, so not pulling any punches there. [00:05:31][43.0]

Adam Keily: [00:05:32] It sounds, sounds, kind of sounds pretty socialist like it's [00:05:35][2.8]

Thomas Keily: [00:05:37] I think, I think it says a lot about where we're at in the scheme of things that we interpret that as being socialist or communist. [00:05:44][6.6]

Adam Keily: [00:05:45] I mean that's my interpretation. I would I wouldn't put too much too much stock into into how I. [00:05:50][5.2]

Thomas Keily: [00:05:50] I interpret your political economies a little bit rusty. [00:05:53][3.4]

Adam Keily: [00:05:54] I've noticed I'll do my best. [00:05:56][2.3]

Thomas Keily: [00:05:57] Yeah, but I mean, is this coming immediately after Trump? I mean, it's like the sort of the capitalist socialist left right sort of framework for thinking about the about political economy is it is a two dimensional spectrum. It's very limited and it doesn't really capture all the nuance that we've seen. So Trump was really interesting in the sense that Trump was portrayed himself as a working class voter. He he got into the presidency in 2016 on the back of a strong working class vote in middle America, in Rust Belt America in particular. But, you know, he's not working class. His policies were definitely not working class, if anything, that were sort of pro capital. So in that sort of capital labor spectrum, it's sort of hard to know where to place Trump and sort of hard to know where to place Yellen here, given that sense, like, yeah, we're talking about protecting the environment, that that was a problem. But we're not talking about, you know, nowhere in the speech does she go on to say that that workers should seize the factors of production and overthrow the capital class like that. You know, she's not going there. [00:07:00][62.2]

Adam Keily: [00:07:00] Yeah, and in fairness to Trump, he just promised to make America great again. He didn't say for who. So I'm sure he made America great again. For some people, probably the top one percent thought it's fantastic. So, yeah, [00:07:16][15.9]

Thomas Keily: [00:07:17] I mean, I think this is really and this is why I think it's interesting. So the first that she points to the neglected environment, like I said, that's huge. I think that sort of saying we're putting the environment front and center with the Biden administration. We're now going after sort of we're going to spend green. We're going to try and green the economy. We're going to get back into the international orders. We're trying to lead the world's attempts to address climate change. So that's that's a huge change. And then they're going to spend to do it. And the context is really important here, too, because this is coming after the spending binge that that was that was 20, 20, a huge cash splash that went that lasted all through twenty twenty. And that came on that was started by Trump. And this is why it opens the way for a new Democratic administration to spend pretty freely. Because, you know, if the purse strings have been really tight and the budgets were close to surplus, to come in with a huge spending agenda that was going to fix the environment, fix workers, you know, all of these things that they're promising to do, it would it wouldn't have passed because everyone was too shy about opening up the wallets because it leads to hyperinflation and all of this. But the door was open, the cat was out of the box, and the public had already embraced the idea that in a crisis we can spend and it's legitimate to if there's a crisis, to spend and spend big. [00:08:40][83.2]

Adam Keily: [00:08:41] So are we saying that this is going to be more money printing, more QE, or is this just because I thought we were going to that I thought we were writing all that back in a bit. And now you're saying, no, no, we've got the green light now. Everyone's got the green light to spend, spend, spend. Is that still money printing or is this more traditional spending? [00:09:01][20.4]

Thomas Keily: [00:09:02] Um, I think I think I think money printing is going to feature in it. I definitely think it's going to feature, particularly with we're talking about preparing workers. So there does seem to be a very clear consensus emerging in the developed world right now that we're going to run. The economy's hot until we get unemployment down in Australia. Phil Lowe was talking about into the four point somethin's, we're going to run the economy much hotter than we would have previously because we want to see unemployment get down and we're really going to focus on unemployment now. So that does involve involve spending. The other thing that the Obama administration is talking about is also increasing that, increasing the tax take the undoing some of the tax cuts that Trump brought in, the corporate tax cuts only partially, not fully. So not not fully unwinding what Trump brought in, but they also are now talking about creating a global tax floor. And one of the big problems is it sort of doesn't really matter what your corporate tax rate is at home. If your corporations are reporting zero income because it's all being routed through offshore companies in the Cayman Islands or whatever, and this is a huge problem. So, you know, America is now talking about trying to push for a global tax floor and the IMF is now behind this, which is sort of pretty radical as well, the IMF. [00:10:20][78.6]

Adam Keily: [00:10:21] So you're saying everyone in the world, every government in the world is going to agree on a corporate tax rate? [00:10:27][5.8]

Thomas Keily: [00:10:27] No, I don't think I don't think it would work. [00:10:29][2.3]

Adam Keily: [00:10:30] Like, what do you mean by global tax floor? Like, you know, as opposed to a ceiling, not a lot of broken tax system where we're going to make sure tax is flawed globally. Um, yeah, because why aren't these jurisdictions like the Cayman Islands or anywhere else just. Nah, we're good. We like a lot of the money flowing through here. We're not going to participate. [00:10:54][24.5]

Thomas Keily: [00:10:55] I don't think you can force countries to do that. And I think it would sort of would. I don't. I don't. Yeah, it is a tax law question. I don't know, maybe one of the listeners might have some better ideas how the mechanics of this would work. I think it would sort of be more on your domestic companies saying, like, if your if your parent company is registered in the Cayman Islands, you're just paying a flat 50 percent tax until you give us a reason not to, you know, so it might it might be something more like that, like we're not going to pay, but [00:11:23][28.0]

Adam Keily: [00:11:23] if their income zero, then they'll happily pay up. I'll tell you what, I'll pay 90 percent, right? Yeah. If you like. This is the problem, kick it a bit extra from my personal stash. Yeah. [00:11:34][11.2]

Thomas Keily: [00:11:35] Yeah, I'm sure. I'm sure it's a difficult problem. I'm sure it's not it is not an easy solution. But I also also don't think it's an impossible problem. [00:11:42][7.9]

Adam Keily: [00:11:43] See, the, by the way, if you do have some insight into Thomas's tax law problem. So this is big talk then. So neglected in our environment, we didn't do enough to prepare our workers. [00:11:58][14.3]

Thomas Keily: [00:12:00] And that's, I think, really one of the key ones. And so I think the Democrats in 2016 got blindsided by the working class vote for Trump. And I think they were a little bit complacent with feeling like, you know, traditionally the Democrats are the, um, are working class party. So I think there will be complacent about that. They deserve that. We're entitled to that vote, perhaps. But what was happening in Middle America, particularly Rust Belt America, was that, you know, people were really struggling like with the globalization that had opened up and the offshoring of a lot of industries, particularly to China, um, that gutted certain sectors of of of America. And as all the jobs went offshore and they weren't being replaced with anything and what happened is that communities were becoming completely hollowed out and then that got pretty nasty. Gnarly. So they talked about, uh, depths of despair, the, um, either through suicide, drug and alcohol abuse or opioid abuse as a huge opioid epidemic. And in those regions, those deaths of despair were rising, were spiking through the 2010s. Yeah. As as as people saw their communities hollowed out and lost work and so on. And so people people were literally dying because of of the way that the economy had failed them or that was the perception anyway. And yeah. And sort of between 2010 and 2020, if you were a white working class men in America, your life expectancy went down. [00:13:36][96.2]

Adam Keily: [00:13:37] Well, not really. [00:13:38][1.2]

Thomas Keily: [00:13:39] Yeah. Yeah. Working-class areas like not having a bachelor's degree. [00:13:43][3.5]

Adam Keily: [00:13:44] Yeah. Like when [00:13:45][0.7]

Thomas Keily: [00:13:45] you're not working-class, [00:13:46][0.9]

Adam Keily: [00:13:48] not that's that's a pretty staggering stat in this day and age when everything else is, everything should be life expectancy generally should be always going up. Yeah. Like with technological advancements, medical improvements, better care, better health care. We should that's there's no excuse for that. [00:14:05][17.2]

Thomas Keily: [00:14:05] Yeah. Should be, should be going up a developed economy. It should be going up. There is absolutely no excuse for life expectancy to be going down. If you had a B.A. degree or more education, your life expectancy was going up, it was trending upwards, which is what you'd expect. But yeah, if you if you didn't have a degree, then it was going down. And so that was that's a terrible result. For America, as you know, one of the leaders of the most advanced global economy, it's a terrible result. It looks really bad. And people were obviously at the coalface of this. You know, in those communities that were getting hollowed out, people were genuinely angry and didn't feel like they were being listened to. And I think one of the key moments from twenty-sixteen, if people remember, was when Hillary Clinton said, oh, there's the people who support Trump, something racist and something and a bunch of people we just label is deplorable. And I think and that and that just came off as super insensitive. Like, you know, I saw an interview with a woman who had lost her husband and her son and is now and is now upset and wants the economy to change. And for that, she's now been called a racist and deplorable. Yeah, right. And so Trump was it was a very smart political operator. And I think he saw that anger and he tapped into that anger. And when he said Make America great again, that was what he's really speaking to. It's like, let's make America a country where your life expectancy is going up with your economic prospects are improving. [00:15:39][94.2]

Adam Keily: [00:15:40] And did it did it start to turn around at all in his time or did it just continue? Was that just they were all just words? [00:15:46][5.8]

Thomas Keily: [00:15:47] Yeah, I don't I don't have the don. A hand on that, I don't know, I haven't I haven't heard anyone saying that really shifted all of that because there was some talk of sort of, you know, bringing trade, bringing work back from China and offshore. But like the horse had kind of bolted in a way as companies had just had to reorganize themselves to rely on cheap labor in Asia. In the developing world, you really need a coordinated top down approach to revitalizing entire industries. It's not something that that companies are going to do without the right incentives in place. [00:16:22][34.8]

Adam Keily: [00:16:23] All right. Why don't we why don't we just pause there for a second? We will take a quick break from our sponsor and come back with more on this discussion after this. [00:16:32][8.9]

Thomas Keily: [00:16:33] Banking with Virgin money has never been more rewarding earn rewards on your everyday spending and pay zero monthly fees with the Virgin Money Go transaction account and with points, perks and epic experiences tailored to you, you can manage your money easily on the go smash the savings goals, get money for it and be rewarded for it. Back to your own beat virgin money terms and conditions and monthly criteria apply. Now let's get into the show. [00:16:59][25.9]

Adam Keily: [00:17:01] You're on comedian versus economist and Thomas, we're talking about Janet Yellen, and she's really taking the Democrats now in a new political direction. Is that fair to say? [00:17:11][9.9]

Thomas Keily: [00:17:11] I think that's right. I mean, whether she's how much she's in charge. But I think the Democrats are definitely moving in a different direction. And I think she lays this out with with this quote where she's talking about, you know, we can't we've neglected those who were left behind. We neglected those who did not benefit from the global trade. Or I think she's talking directly to the people who voted for Trump in 2016, to the workers who were left behind. And I think the Democrats now acknowledge that there was real anger there and there was cause for that anger. And that can't be ignored anymore. I think what she's laying out here is a plan is an announcement, and we're going to tackle this head on and we're going to spend to do it. [00:17:48][37.5]

Adam Keily: [00:17:49] I mean, it could just be politics, right? Like it could [00:17:51][2.3]

Thomas Keily: [00:17:52] it could be empty rhetoric. Yeah, it could fluff [00:17:54][2.5]

Adam Keily: [00:17:55] again from politicians. That wouldn't be. And there is some precedent for that. [00:17:58][3.3]

Thomas Keily: [00:17:59] Yes. Yes. They do have a bit of a reputation for that. [00:18:02][3.0]

Adam Keily: [00:18:02] In fairness, they've already won the election. So at least there's that they're in they don't need to be they're not trying to win votes the current exact exact moment in time. [00:18:11][9.4]

Thomas Keily: [00:18:12] And they're spending like crazy is like kind of the point. [00:18:14][2.8]

Adam Keily: [00:18:15] Everyone spending like crazy, the whole world spending like crazy. [00:18:17][2.2]

Thomas Keily: [00:18:17] That's true. That's true. [00:18:18][1.0]

Adam Keily: [00:18:18] That's true. So it's not exactly bold when you announce we're going to spend the cash, we're going to print money and we're going to spend it on all the things. And people aren't now any more like, oh, well, that's interesting. It was like, yeah, well the everyone's spending you should do. Yeah, yeah. [00:18:36][18.0]

Thomas Keily: [00:18:37] I think there's a bit of that. But I think the you see it in the in the in a sort of speech like this, you also see it in the kind of things that went into the Biden's latest stimulus package. Yeah. I think I mean, it's not I don't think it's totally empty rhetoric. I think we'll see how far it goes. And I think how this is thing with money when you got free money is most problems are easy because political problems are difficult because there's generally a loser. You know, look at the carbon tax story in Australia that was that got sort of scuttled because there were companies that were going to lose. There was a loser to that in that story. They were going to they were going to have to pay more tax. And so they pushed back and fought hard against that. If you got free money, there's no losers in that story. Mean, so to say, like we're going to spend heaps and heaps of money on the environment, but we're not going to touch you know, we're not going to ask companies to rein in their pollution or anything like that. And it's like, OK, so who's who's got a problem with that as a policy? And like, yeah, you spend as much as you want, whatever. [00:19:37][60.0]

Adam Keily: [00:19:37] Well, be if you are in the coal mine or something, you'd be a bit like, let's see where this is going. Like looks like a rocket does derailer. Oh well you're just going to build some massive solar plants. Oh that's that's sounds positive. Well just keep running a car factory. Yeah. You guys are good. Yeah. Yeah. [00:19:59][21.4]

Thomas Keily: [00:20:00] I mean I think the coal industry knows the writing's on the wall. I don't think that's any sort of any doubt about that any more. [00:20:06][6.2]

Adam Keily: [00:20:06] There are still although we've talked a lot about the US then and you know, this is obviously the Democrats are in the US taking things in a different direction. But what does that mean for Australia? [00:20:18][11.4]

Thomas Keily: [00:20:18] I think Australia is going going to go down this very similar, similar trajectory. You feel low. RBA already sort of laying out a similar agenda in terms of unemployment, saying it's not I'm not even going to look at raising interest rates until we get unemployment with a four in front of it. So I saying, look, I'm very happy to run things hot until we get unemployment down. Whether that has the backing of Treasury, definitely not. We're still conservatives in government in Australia. So they're definitely not talking talk like Janet Yellen is, but I think will come once we get to the election and free money is going to be very hard to turn turn away from. And I think there will be if, you know, as more awareness of this sort of agenda grows, I think there will be a clamoring for. Targeted spending on these things as well, targeting spending that directly helps citizens and in the era of free money, we've talked about all the nuances of that one woman, covid MMT. It's in that introductory season that we did. So it's not you know, it's not totally just free consequence free money, but. [00:21:25][67.0]

Adam Keily: [00:21:25] Well, I mean, it does. Everyone keeps qualifying it like that and saying this is not without consequence, but no one's really wanting to say what the consequences will be. And everyone seems to be the reasons for printing more money. Are they just getting flimsier and flimsy? Like it's just like, oh, well, now now that the floodgates are open, you can just be like, well, we need some more money for this thing. And it was like, well, we certainly do. Let's print some money. Like, it's big. It's becoming easier to rationalize the free money, isn't it? [00:21:56][30.3]

Thomas Keily: [00:21:56] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Definitely, definitely. I mean, mostly that, you know, we looked under the bed and the boogeyman we thought was there just wasn't there. So we've been printing money for over a decade now. Central banks across the world have been undershooting their targets for a decade. So the inflation, we couldn't even get inflation in a target band of two to three percent, let alone hyper inflation. So that big boogeyman that we were scared of, it has just been shown to not exist. And it still can happen, but it needs certain conditions to be met. One of those is, you know, massive expansion in the money supply, but that's only one of them and it needs another other another. A few other things to line up before that leads to, you know, runaway inflation. And we haven't we don't have those things at the moment. So there are going to be consequences. This is you know, this is another quote from economists you're got to love. There's going to be consequences, but we don't know what they are yet. [00:22:52][55.6]

Adam Keily: [00:22:54] We know there's going to be consequences. [00:22:56][1.6]

Thomas Keily: [00:22:57] Just can't tell you what they are. Yeah, I have [00:23:01][4.1]

Adam Keily: [00:23:02] a very good theory about why and where, you know, we have some very sad analysis. Once these consequences come to bear, we would definitely really tell you what happened. This is that's literally how economics works. All right, so this is our interest rates are staying low, inflation staying manageable. This sounds bullish for the markets. Yeah, this sounds like do we investing in green stuff now, or do we just kind of just keep investing in whatever we want. What's the what's the play [00:23:39][37.0]

Thomas Keily: [00:23:39] purely the back of an idea that the developed world is going to run their economies hot synchronistically all at the same time. You've got to think that's bullish for share markets, for asset markets. The world over really like it's kind of hard to see a loser from that in the short term. You know, businesses are already talking about business confidence in Australia is at record highs, like they're much more pumped than they've ever been. Forward orders are through the roof capex. They get their investment intentions a record right up there. So, yeah, it's already quite look quite a bullish outlook for the economy before we even start factoring in some kind of paradigm shift in the economic consensus, which is which is, I think, what we're witnessing. [00:24:30][51.0]

Adam Keily: [00:24:31] Right. Well, what we're really saying, that hasn't happened yet. This is all sort of still in the very embryonic stages of, you know, this is new policy coming in. That's new. It's a new direction. And so we haven't really seen the fruits of any of this at the moment. It's still just talk, right? [00:24:47][15.6]

Thomas Keily: [00:24:47] I mean. I mean. [00:24:47][0.5]

Adam Keily: [00:24:48] Yeah, yeah. Or does the talk then factor into everyone's predictions? [00:24:51][3.4]

Thomas Keily: [00:24:52] And there's a bit of that. There's a lot of money coming into the system. There's a lot of money already in the system. There's a lot of money in the pipeline. It's not it's not just talk now. We can't say it's just talk. And some of that has has gone into fuel, the whole that covid created. So it's a little bit hard to know where we're at relative to them because we had the baseline shifted with covid. So all their reference points are out. So there's a little bit hard to know where we stand in that sense. [00:25:19][27.3]

Adam Keily: [00:25:20] How do you explain the big dip in crypto then over the past week or so that we've seen causal reasons? And that's the most intelligent thing you hear about crypto this week because of reasons. Yes. To first-rate. Right. So this where this may or may not have an impact on the crypto. [00:25:44][24.2]

Thomas Keily: [00:25:45] Well, theoretically, it should be bullish for crypto if. You know, if crypto is an alternative to Fiat, you know, a lot of assumptions go into that premise, but and, you know, maybe it's totally overcooked and overhyped already. Possibly. I mean, those coins through the roof sound. I'm happy. [00:26:06][21.6]

Adam Keily: [00:26:08] Yeah. All right. Let's wrap it up there. I just did want to get a quick script I mentioned in, because I know you love it. Thank you, Thomas, for your insights once again. Don't forget, you can email us at Or head over to the website and find the contact form their and also make sure you check out all the other great podcasts we've got from equity mates. Media at the moment get started investing equity mates investing podcast, meet pay love and of course, you're in good company. Thank you very much for your company. And we look forward to catching again next time. If anything in this episode has raised concerns for you or someone you know support is available, please call Lifeline on 131114. [00:26:08][0.0]


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