Friday, October 31, 2003

Examining recent changes in income distribution in Australia
"Tis paper analyses recently released ABS data on the distribution of income which allows, for the first time, estimates to be made of the distribution of income in 2000-01 and how it has changed since the mid-1990s. It is now possible to examine how inequality has changed since 1994-95 and since the election of the Howard Government in 1995-96. The estimates indicate that while real disposable incomes increased across the distribution, income inequality has also increased since 1994-95, particularly between 1996-97 and 1999-2000.
· ABS Data [Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales(PDF file)]
· Books without sales and taxes ... [TownOnline ]
Literary Land
The British Library is asking bibliophiles to adopt a book and save it for the nation.
· Adoption [Telegraph (UK)]

Masters v Peasants: Information is Power
Each year the Congressional Research Search (CRS) publishes approximately 1,000 reports of which the public may have access to several hundred. In an interesting change of policy, Secrecy News reports that access to selected reports previously provided via the websites of two members of Congress, Rep. Mark Green (R-WI) and Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT), has been terminated.
· Public Access to CRS Reports Temporarily Curtailed? [Congressional Research Search ]
· Computing at the Speed of Light [Reuters ]

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Florida's Corporate Tax Loophole

Sydney P. Freedberg of the St. Petersburg Times has a piece studying Florida's corporate income tax and those large companies that don't pay any, including Verizon and Carnival Corp. In fact, 98 percent of the estimated 1.5-million businesses in Florida paid nothing (last year). And many of those that did pay found ways to reduce their tax bills. At a time when Florida is scraping for every dollar to improve education, build roads and prisons and buy prescription drugs for the poor.
· Florida's corporate income tax is all but dead [SPTimes ]

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Politics Without Romance
Bureaucracies grow with no limit and no regard to promised functions. Pork-barrel dominates legislatures, tax systems are loophole systems. Public choice does little more than incorporate a rediscovery of this wisdom and its implications into economic analyses of modern politics.
· Wisdom [CIS ]
Taxman warns the rich: hardball time for dodgers
The high-wealth individuals taskforce - targeting about 650 people associated with about 15,000 entities - required some "higher risk taxpayers" to lodge expanded tax returns and others to provide financial statements.
· Risks [SMH ]
· Thanks From Corporate Tax Dodgers [TomPaine ]
· Avoidance Issues [Tom Paine]
· Three great Abrahamic traditions [CommonDreams ]
We're all in the money, but mind the gap
The rising tide has lifted everyone's boat though the rich have enjoyed extra buoyancy ...
· Gap Widened Noticeably [SMH ]

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Surviving on $11.80 an hour
They have been dubbed the working poor - close to 2 million Australian employees struggling to live on the official minimum wage of $11.80 an hour.
Now a trade union has launched a wide-ranging campaign to highlight the plight of workers left behind during the wages rush of the last decade.

· Bread struggle [SMH ]

Monday, October 27, 2003

Land of the Free? After South Korea ...
Press freedom in Australia has taken a battering in the past 12 months, according to the latest world rankings published by the international media monitoring organisation, Reporters Without Borders.
Australia plummeted from 12th place in the 2002 index of press freedom, Czechs and Slovaks moved to 12th place this year, to 50th this year, behind New Zealand in 17th, Britain (27th), the United States (31st) and South Korea (49th).

· Media restrictions given a black mark [SMH ]
Landlord class
Should the housing boom turn to bust, bankrupting some debt-laden property investors in the process, they will have one thing going for them. Renting an apartment is relatively cheap at the moment.
· Housing [SMH ]
False security banking on two incomes to keep the family out of debt

How surprising that the good sense shown by most Australian families in choosing to leave slack in the system to make time for their children may also be providing some with greater economic security.
· Families [ SMH]

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Political Diamond Quiz
You and I are told increasingly that we have to choose between a left or a right. There is only an up or down: up to man's age-old dream -- the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order -- or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. And regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.
· Separation of Powers and a system of Checks and Balances [Friesian ]
· Advance produces some mixture of gains and losses, benefits and harms. [TechCentral ]
Competition is the bane of the political classes
Over on the Adam Smith Institute blog, Madsen Pirie makes an excellent point about the joys of borders and the competition they bring:

In the US I like to cross state lines to go for the lower sales taxes and duties. It is reckoned that 'leakage' (cross border shopping) will be a significant factor if there is a 3 percentage point tax differential. And it's not only competition in sales and purchase taxes which works. I love French food and wine, and the priority they are given, but I don't feel the same way about their income tax and social insurance. The Danes do pickled fish on rye bread superbly, but there's no way I want to pay Danish taxes. I enjoy the Swedish forests and lakes, but not their government.

· Borders [AdamSmith ]
· Capital gains [Telegraph(UK) ]

Breaking the law
Glenn Reynolds, Professor of Law, has written a thoughtful article:
There are too many laws — many of them contradictory or obscure — for any person to actually avoid breaking the law completely. (My Criminal Law professor, when I was a law student, announced to us that we were all felons on the first day of class. There were too many felonies on the books for us not to be: Oral sex in Georgia? Oops!) And given that many laws are dumb, actually following all of them would probably bring society to a standstill, just as Air Traffic Controllers and pilots can make air travel grind to a halt by meticulously following every safety rule without exception.
The other problem is that law is like anything else: when the supply outstrips the demand, its value falls. If law were restricted to things like rape, robbery, and murder, its prestige would be higher. When we make felonies out of trivial crimes, though, the law loses prestige. As the old bumper stickers about the 55 mile-per-hour speed limit used to say: It’s not a good idea. It’s just the law.

· Instawisdom [ MSNBC]
Journalists overpaid? Nonsense!
Journalists are woefully underpaid. Financially, the profession cannot attract or retain the brightest university graduates. The average starting salary for a new J-school grad is $26,000, according to the annual survey done by the University of Georgia's Grady Collegr. Even the true believers, those motivated by the higher principles of journalism, are too often forced out by paychecks that can't be stretched to meet costs of living in our nation's pricier cities.
· But you can only abuse people so much [Tim Porter]

Friday, October 24, 2003

The Case for Unraveling: Win - Lose horizon
Descendent of the royal charter monopoly companies of the 17th and 18th centuries and emergent in its present legal form on the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, the modern multinational corporation pulses with this ancestral DNA which guides the thoughts, words and actions of its CEO and Board of Directors.
· Early American presidents [ CommonDreams]

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Crooks may clean millions through pokies
Claims that millions of dollars are being laundered through poker machines in Sydney clubs are being investigated by the Department of Gaming and Racing.
· Laundering [SMH ]

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Sweet Reward: Taxing Times of Known World
He had never considered writing fiction full time before. Mr. Jones was the author of an acclaimed collection of short stories and the winner of a $50,000 literary prize, but he was also the son of an illiterate and impoverished mother. As a young man he lived briefly in a homeless shelter and learned to view a steady paycheck the same way that a drowning man might view a lifeline.
To think about being a writer was to think that I had the whole world, and I really didn't, and I knew I didn't," said Mr. Jones, 53, who spent nearly two decades proofreading and summarizing news items for Tax Notes, a trade magazine, before he was laid off in January 2002.
But he decided to dive into his first novel without much of a safety net. To his astonishment, his tale of a black slave owner, an aching and lyrical exploration of moral complexities, has become a literary sensation since its publication in August. Janet Maslin in The New York Times called that novel, "The Known World" (Amistad/HarperCollins), stunning. Jonathan Yardley of The Washington Post hailed it as the best new American fiction to cross his desk in years.

· As a drowning man might view a lifeline [NY Times]

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

The big baby-boom generation is starting to retire. Its oldest members are about 57 and will be 65 in 2011. There simply aren’t enough workers behind them in the labor supply pipeline to fill their jobs. Employers will have to try to retain older workers in some capacity or lure retired workers back into the work force. Companies that have treated their workers badly or engaged in even the subtlest forms of age discrimination will regret it. So will companies that just ignore the problem.
Who the hell do all these smug and self-satisfied baby boomers think is going to buy their already overpriced houses?

· Not If [NYTimes ]
· Australian Housing affordability [OLO - Russ Grayson]
· Australia's affordable housing crisis [OLO - Peter Verwer]
An Eight-Year-Old's Dream for Peace
The Moscow Ballet announced the winner of "My Dream for Peace," its national literary contest for children in grades K-6. Alexander Ivan Hess, 8, of Ebro, Florida -- who was adopted from a Ukrainian orphanage -- wrote about the opportunities peace can bring to children in his essay entitled, "My Dream".
I am Alexander Ivan Hess. When Moma and Papa were growing up there was a Cold War. American and Russian people were not friends. That war is over. I was born in Ukraine. I lived in Detsky Dom. I waited and waited for a family to come and get me. I cried and cried because I was afraid that my friends would leave with families then I would be there alone.
Finally my family came from America to get me and my little brother. If there was still a war, this would never happen. I even have a special dog named Shurik. He is from Moscow. If we were at war, I would not know Shurik.
My dream is that children around the world can be friends and have families who love them. I hope all wars will end so my dream can come true.

Alexander will be flown with a parent to Orlando, Florida, receiving hotel accommodations, dinner for two and other prizes. He will appear in a walk-on role in a Moscow Ballet production of Swan Lake along with the professional cast of top Russian artists. The contest's theme of Peace and Harmony is the subject of the 2003 tour of the Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker.
Inspiration Point: Wars arise from a failure to understand one another's humanness. Instead of summit meetings, why not have families meet for a picnic and get to know each other while the children play together?"
-His Holiness the Dalai Lama (via Gianna)
What Alabama's Low-Tax Mania Can Teach the Rest of the Country
The budget ax is swinging in Alabama, and the carnage is piling up. High Hopes, a program that offers after-school tutoring to students who fail the high school graduation exam, is being slashed. And up to 1,500 poor children and adults with Down syndrome, autism and other disabilities will not be able to attend a state-supported special-needs camp.
The cuts are reaching down to core government functions. The court system is laying off 500 of 1,600 workers, from clerk's office employees to probation officers. The health department is losing investigators who track tuberculosis, and sharply reducing restaurant inspections.

· Lessons [NYTImes ]
Overcapacity Stalls New Jobs
· Taxing Economy [ NYTimes]
· Crackdown on Tax Cheats Not Working, Panel Says [ NYTimes]

Monday, October 20, 2003

· Nation reflects EU-wide disparity when it comes to women's pay
[Prague Post]
Best Practice GuideStar to Build Charity Registry
GuideStar, familiar to many reporters and researchers as a source of information on non-profit organizations, has been awarded a federal grant "to develop a one-step registration system that will save charities millions of dollars and permit more efficient state oversight." This sounds like good news, even if it will take two years to complete. (Thanks to Scoop & Jim Wilkerson for the pointer.)
· Charity Begins Virtually [BusinessWire ]
The State Opposition leader, John Brogden, has called on the Carr Government to go further in extending GST relief to clubs, as the sparring on the fairness of the controversial pokies tax.
· Pokies [ SMH]

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Deflation 2004AD Reserve Mon(k)ey
Prime Minister John Howard has warned people against taking out big mortgages amid fears that the housing bubble will burst soon and predictions of higher interest rates within months.
Investors can write off rental losses against tax and since 1999 pay tax on only half the capital gain when they sell. That, along with historically low interest rates and relaxed lending practices have encouraged the investment surge.

· What A Mess Come May 2004 [Age, The]
Ding to a New Study?!
Tall people earn considerably more money throughout their lives than their shorter co-workers, with each inch adding about $789 a year in pay, according to a new study. If this is true, I should make a killing! Hmmmm..... At 6'3, I disagree, while Bill Gates is smiling all the way to his huge Library Room
· Height does matters for career success [Yahoo ]
Poverty Brackets
Whether you are in a poverty trap on $21,000 or a $31,000 [income] family paying very high effective marginal tax rates, or someone on $65,000 who has worked hard, got through uni and got into a decent professional job, maybe in the public service, and you are paying a top marginal tax rate, these are all disincentive effects that are a long-term problem for the Australian economy.
· Disincentives [SMH ]

Friday, October 17, 2003

Our lives begin to end when we become silent about things that matter.
Martin Luther King

The Two-Income Trap: Going broke over Lattes
Today's two-income family has 75 percent more earnings, inflation adjusted, than their parents had a generation ago. The reason, of course, is because today's average family has two people in the workforce, instead of one. But this year, more children will live through their parents' bankruptcy than their parents' divorce.
What they discovered shocked even themselves: the effort to keep the kids in a good school district when one parent is laid-off is the main factor driving Americans into bankruptcy court, not all those trips to the Niketown store.

· Foreclosures: Silent Shame [Salon ]
· Wealthy bosses have good reason to worry [SMH ]
Partnerships, Community and Local Governance
Papers include: Limits to Local Governance: Lessons From the UK (Professor Mike Geddes, University of Warwick), Partnerships and Local Governance: Some Lessons from European Innovations (Professor Mark Considine, Centre for Public Policy, University of Melbourne) and Enhancing Diversity: Managing Partnerships with the State (Professor Paul Smyth and Dr Tim Reddel, University of Queensland)
· International Perspectives and Australian Experiences [ UNIMelbourne]
Why Delaware is a Corporation Magnet
According to a forthcoming study that attempts to explain why public companies choose to incorporate where they do, very few California public companies choose to incorporate in California. Stephen Bainbridge asks "Why doesn't California retain incorporations?"
Delaware's strength is its wealth of published judicial decisions applying its corporate law to real world factual situations. Even the clearest statute is of limited use to a practitioner, as the real world is infinitely more varied than any statute. It's only by applying a statute to the real world over time that the statute takes on a life, assumes certain habits, develops a personality and, in a word, becomes predictable.

· Why California is more unpopular with public companies headquartered in California [CorpLawBlog ]
Research council studies fuel tax
A branch of the National Research Council has begun a study of whether fuel taxes are the best way to pay for the nation's highways. The Transportation Research Board study comes as Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, is pushing to raise more money for highway work nationwide. Young, chairman of the U.S. House Transportation Committee, has suggested a number of alternatives, including an increase in the gasoline tax that provides the bulk of federal highway money. The federal gasoline tax is 18.3 cents per gallon. Alaska's is 8 cents per gallon, the lowest in the nation. The average for states is 22.
· Options [Peninsula Clarion]

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Australian roulette
Property developers are not known for their revolutionary dialectic. So when a successful member of this supra-entrepreneurial group predicted, at a dinner held by one of the nation's top legal firms, that Australia was about to go the way of France in 1789 I took notice. "Income disparities are so out of whack in this country it will be the French Revolution all over again," he said. I waited for the smirk. It never came.
If the wealthy are worried it is little wonder that even a conservative government is legislating in response to community concern over stratospheric corporate incomes.

· Wealthy bosses have good reason to worry
[SMH ]
Face it, I'll never be rich: My surname is just loaded with Irony
Why do migrants still believe in the rags-to-riches fairy tale? In this final extract from his explosive new book, Michael Moore explains why the corporate bosses will never let the new world dream become a reality
· Less is Moore [The Guardian(UK)]
Grover Norquist is indeed influential in the White House
The Americans for Tax Reform is a significant tax policy group; I'm hoping Norquist is an aberration and not the norm. Norquist should apologize or resign.
· Self Interest [Tax Policy]
Pro Activism
Some people believe that social movements are fueled by misery—that communities only start standing up for themselves when things get really bad. It's an appealing thought in difficult times. However, fear is historically a lousy engine of solidarity. Progress and optimism go hand in hand. When people are hopeful about the future, they are inclined to demand positive change.
But if the misery theory is wrong, so is the belief that activism dies when the going gets tough. Few progressives doubt that the past two years have been the most politically trying in recent memory. Nevertheless, union members, globalization activists, immigrant rights advocates and anti-war groups have persevered. This fall, just when we need some good news, those of us concerned with social and economic justice can see a remarkable number of our efforts bear fruit.

· Fruits []

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Robin Hood
Make those who are well-off and corporations pay their fair share, and do what we responsibly can with that money to relieve the squeeze on the middle class.
· Taxes [Fox ]
· Tough Tax Decisions [LA Times]

Vaclav Havel The Soul of a Nation
Just recently friends of mine sent me a couple of photographs of Aung San Suu Kyi. The nonviolent struggle of this woman for her fellow citizens' freedom dwells in my soul as a stark reminder of our struggles against totalitarian regimes in Central and Eastern Europe.
Thousands of human lives have been destroyed, scores of gifted people have been exiled or incarcerated and deep mistrust has been sown among the various ethnic groups. Human society is, however, a mysterious creature, and it serves no good to trust its public face at any one moment. Thousands of people welcomed Suu Kyi on her tours, proving that the Burmese nation is neither subjugated nor pessimistic and faithless. Hidden beneath the mask of apathy, there is an unsuspected energy and a great human, moral and spiritual charge. Detaining and repressing people cannot change the soul of a nation. It may dampen it and disguise the reality outwardly, but history has repeatedly taught us the lesson that change often arrives unexpectedly.

· To talk about change is not enough, change must happen [WashingtonPost ]

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Tax Audit
The Australian Taxation Office is stepping up its audit program of large corporations and wealthy individuals. A paper by Deloitte Tax Partner and Managing Director of Deloitte Lawyers, Michael Bersten, looks at how to prepare a strategy in dealing with an ATO audit.
· Bersten [Deloitte ]

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Waking up to strange bedfellows
To me politics is not a religion, it is about making things work in the way that I think makes sense.
Life at the pragmatic centre is hardly boring. It is a very challenging place to be. It is an open place, a marketplace where good ideas are appreciated. Laurence, Latham and Coombs had good ideas this past week, so good that I don't want to make a single knit picky point about any of it except to thank them for their contributions to our wonderful public life.

· Tonight I will get into bed with some trepidation [Webdiary: Harry Heidelberg]
Taxing the fat of the land only likely to thin out some more wallets
Better to cut the costs of obesity through prevention than make people "pay" for it, writes Rachael Oakes-Ash.
· Fat Chance [SMH]

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Boys-will-be- boys
We learn that several prominent figures in history were either involved in duels or had narrow misses. Abraham Lincoln nearly had to slash at a tax auditor with a saber because he claimed in print that the man smelled badly.
· Taxing Odour [SFGate ]

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Tax Atack
The tax debate this week suggests it will be the majority of working families, not the outcasts who are underemployed, who will have first call on the budget. That's the politics of affluence.
· Election [Australian]

Friday, October 03, 2003

Deflation 2004AD High pay, low rates too little for real estate rise
Spiralling housing prices over the past decade have risen much higher than is justified by lower interest rates and rising incomes, a new report has found, suggesting Australian home prices are dangerously over-inflated.
· Deflation [ SMH]
· Debt is Good [SMH ]
Battlers' friend Latham flays top earners
The shadow treasurer, Mark Latham, has attacked million-dollar executive salaries, saying they undermine Australia's economic performance.
Don't expect too much on tax
Mark Latham's speech
Coetzee Wins Nobel
Once again snubbing the winless Dutch, the Nobel Prize for Literature has gone to South African J.M. Coetzee, published in the U.S. by Viking Penguin. The Swedish Academy characterizes the two-time Booker winner as a writer who in innumerable guises portrays the surprising involvement of the outsider.

Edward Said - Outsider
Edward Said inspired admiration, even if you disagreed with his politics. He lived in the world as an exile, a condition from which he drew strength. Exile, as a metaphorical state, was something we all should aspire to, Said contended, since it gives one an outsider's perspective on the world. He was a theoretician who hated theory because he loved people. A true public intellectual, he would say, possesses not just access to the media but a public (constituency would be his term) to which he or she is accountable. Ground yourself in the world.
· Exile [Village Voice 10/01/03]

Thursday, October 02, 2003

As any householder with a mortgage knows, any mug can pay off the mortgage by selling the house but unless the reduction in interest expense is greater than the cost of renting, the household will have to generate more income to finance its accommodation costs.

Bracketing Tax
Australians paying the top tax rate are set to be the target for tax cuts in the lead-up to the next election, with both major parties now saying they deserve relief.
Labor, as part of its review of tax policy, is understood to be already looking at ways to ease the burden on the significant number of wage earners moving into the top bracket.

· Cutting Edge [ SMH]
· Tax Cuts [NewsTroves ]
· Real Lucky Duckies Still A Lot Luckier Than You [Great Taxing Blog]

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Kushner: Of Art And Taxes
Playwright Tony Kushner on the responsibility of artists in challenging time: You can't find any important work of American art, in theater or anywhere else, that doesn't have a very powerful political dimension. [But] whatever you do with your day job—and writing plays is what I do—is no replacement for activism, which is a necessary part of being a citizen in a democracy.
· Axis of Optimism [Seattle Weekly 09/24/03]
· Why is consumer power a myth? Here are three reasons [CommonDreams]