Keeping your employees’ taxes

image credit:Jinx via Flickr (cc)

I have written before about the “economic development” tool which allows employers to keep the taxes paid by their employees.  Now I find that Good Jobs First has compiled a report showing that over 2700 companies in 16 states have got this kind of deal. The report includes a spreadsheet detailing the 3750 cases. Turns out that Illinois is far from the worst offender, gifting just $35 million of employees’ tax money, compared to $89 million in Indiana.

Thanks to David Cay Johnston via Reuters. Johnston says that these direct subsidies are considered necessary because states are already exempting such corporations from most real estate, income, and other taxes.  Altho he doesn’t mention it, states are also typically paying for worker training and infrastructure improvements.

 

Securitizing the banksters, with cameras and contracts

Image credit: J D Abolins via Flickr (cc)Just in case there was any doubt, Pam Martens in Counterpunch gives us a report on the Lower Manhattan Security Coordination Center, where feeds from sophisticated spy cameras are integrated to essentially track anyone and everyone on the streets who might interest our supervisors. What’s news here, tho I suppose I already suspected it, is that partners in this operation are not just the NYPD, but also “the same firms under investigation in 50 states for mortgage and foreclosure fraud and widely credited with causing the Nation’s economic collapse.”  Presumably they have added some of the proceeds of their crimes to the $150 million public money that’s been used for this project.
It’s difficult to believe that Chicago doesn’t have something similar.
Meanwhile, and I suppose it’s more relevant to us here, the CTA will be paying up to $58,000/month, plus commission, to Goldman Sachs and other “financial advisors.” The Authority assures us such amounts “are comparatively very small compared to the billions of dollars in much-needed funding CTA would secure” if such commissions are paid. “Funding” more likely means “loans” or “new ways of packaging existing streams of money” rather than any actual additional resources or capture of land value which transit could create.

End of the Statistical Abstract

Statistical abstract spines on a shelf
image credit: DIY Librarian via Flickr (cc)

Back in the old days, pre-Internet, the Statistical Abstract of the United States was usually the first place I’d look for any US data that the feds were likely to collect or review.  I could cite it with confidence that most readers would also have access to it, and it included source citations if more detail was needed. In the Internet age, it continued as a convenient resource, posted annually on the Census Bureau’s web site.

I had missed the news (was it even reported in the dominant media?) that the 2012 Abstract will be the last.   If the federal budget must be cut, then I suppose this is one way to do it, but it seems that our rulers could have found a better way.

Apparently a guide to sources will remain, at least for the time being.

Gold vs. “real money”

Gold Mine
image credit: Kake Pugh via flickr (cc)

The basic function of money is as a medium of exchange.  Inevitably, a secondary function arises as a measure of value. Money can be paper, precious metals, shells, whatever people in a particular time and place use as a medium of exchange.  There’s no reason that it would need to have “intrinsic” value. If  people use U S currency to buy and sell, then it is “real money.”

So is gold “real money?” I don’t think so. Just about nobody uses it as a medium of exchange. Historically, gold coins have sometimes been used but for ordinary people silver, copper, or base metal fiat-type money would be much more common.

Certainly fiat money can depreciate, usually does, and for us in the U S that has been and will almost certainly continue to be the trend.  And gold might be a good investment, in the sense that it will be exhangeable in the future for more real wealth than it is now, or at least more in comparison to other kinds of investments available to ordinary people. Of course, gold can depreciate too, if large new deposits are discovered or folks decide they really don’t want gold after all.  Which isn’t to say that either of these things will happen any time soon.

Anyone who wishes to resurrect the “gold standard” might want to read the late Peter Bernstein’s “Power of Gold,” or some other history books. Somehow we end up electing people who don’t put a high priority on keeping the dollar strong (or at least, not too much weaker).  If that’s a problem, then maybe we should be electing other people, or finding ways to reduce the power of those who purchase elections. Making the U S dollar convertible into a fixed amount of gold is not going to bring prosperity, or even prevent further disruption. There are plenty of examples of economic collapse under a gold standard.

It might, however, benefit those who own gold, or gold mining stocks.

Somebody please disagree with me, or I will assume all of the above to be true.

Drug prohibition coordinates politicians and “gangs”

Pilsen
image credit: Rosalyn Davis via Flickr (cc)

David Bernstein and Noah Isackson have a pretty good article in Chicago Magazine, Gangs and Politicians in Chicago: An Unholy Alliance. Focusing mainly on Alderman but also including State and Federal legislators, they assert that “gangs” provide the money, votes, and workers that enable officials to attain and retain their office.  In exchange, the governments these legislators control provide funds and favors.

Isackson and Bernstein stop short of suggesting how to repair this problem, but reading thru the article it’s clear that the main way these “gangs” prosper is thru unauthorized distribution of drugs.  And one of the main favors aldermen provide is assistance in avoiding “law enforcement” efforts to arrest them. End the drug prohibition, most of the “gangs'” income will end, and candidates will no longer get “gang” money.  They’ll have to rely on crooked lawyers, lobbyists, etc.

Some of the drug money, of course, has gone into real estate, with “gang” members able to get favors such as rezoning and inspection waivers. A land value tax, by constraining real estate speculation, would be of assistance here.

 

Another successful politician endorses land value tax

Nick Boles
image from Financial Times

Nick Boles

MP for Grantham and Stamford. New-intake MP and a key moderniser. Former Policy Exchange director and one of the Notting Hill set. Deemed close to the leadership. Tipped for bigger things

I assume this means he’s successful, British political terminology being rather unfamiliar to me. What’s really important is that

Nick Boles, The MP for Grantham and Stamford says a Land Value Tax should be introduced and use the proceeds to cut National Insurance – permanently.

He doesn’t want to do it exactly how I would want to do it, because he seems to want to exclude owner-occupied residential land and farmland, without limitation.  But the important thing is, he’s a successful politician, he gets elected, and he appears to want to move toward a sound economy. I’m just some guy with a blog.

I also don’t know how all this relates to the British custom of building homes on rented land far more commonly than Americans do. But it seems to be his top priority.

Source: FT via GN

2014 Business Report

image credit: Ged Carroll via Flickr (cc)

I used to be in the forecasting business; still am in a way.  So here’s a forecast:  Look for financial difficulties in the next few years at Sandisk, Yankees Entertainment and Sports (YES) Network, Louisville Arena Authority, and Harmony Oaks housing development in New Orleans. What kind of difficulties and when?

I don’t exactly know.  Sandisk has apparently survived sixteen years of Goldman Sachs help, and the smart parasite does not kill its host too quickly. Maybe not all four; in fact maybe these four have been selected for survival.

Outrageous assessments

3710 N. Kenmore
Image of 3710 N. Kenmore from Cook County Assessor

Gary Lucido writes of a small parcel at 3710 N. Kenmore, offered at $9.9 million ($4950/sq ft) after failing to sell when offered at lower prices. While the price seems outrageous, the property is very close to Wrigley Field and could be used for a billboard or rooftop viewing platform. We know that the former use has commanded $350,000/year on a nearby building, which seems to justify a multi-million-dollar asking price.

So we have a parcel worth, let us say, five million dollars.  What are the taxes? Continue reading Outrageous assessments

Karl Marx at the Tea Party

K Marx
photo credit: jtriefn via flickr (cc)

As the national debt finds its support in the public revenue, which must cover the yearly payments for interest, etc., the modern system of taxation was the necessary complement of the system of national loans. The loans enable the government to meet extraordinary expenses, without the tax-payers feeling it immediately, but they necessitate, as a consequence, increased taxes. On the other hand, the raising of taxation caused by the accumulation of debts contracted one after another, compels the government always to have recourse to new loans for new extraordinary expenses. Modern fiscality, whose pivot is formed by taxes on the most necessary means of subsistence (thereby increasing their price), thus contains within itself the germ of automatic progression. Over-taxation is not an incident, but rather a principle. In Holland, therefore, where this system was first inaugurated, the great patriot, De Witt, has in his “Maxims” extolled it as the best system for making the wage-labourer submissive, frugal, industrious, and overburdened with labour. The destructive influence that it exercises on the condition of the wage-labourer concerns us less however, here, than the forcible expropriation, resulting from it, of peasants, artisans, and in a word, all elements of the lower middle-class.

— K Marx, Capital, Part VIII Chapter XXXI (source)

So Karl objects to public debts, sees them requiring high taxes as a way to keep the workers docile and the lower middle-class poor. What part of this do the Tea-Partiers disagree with?