Last week's Fun Online Poll was possibly the least conclusive result I have ever had. The question was "What's the Latin for 'You let the bastards grind you down'?" (so's we can club together and have it engraved on a watch to give to Asil Nadir). Sixteen people (included me) voted "I have no idea" and a few people left suggestions as follows:
James D: nolite nothis permittere/sinere vos terere
James D: nolite facere terant vos nothi
Hektor: nothis permittuisti te terere
Derek: noli nothis permittere te terere
Derek: illegitimi carborundum permittis
Thanks for that, but I've no idea which one is best. Make up your own minds.
This week's Fun Online Poll is nice and easy: "What motivates NIMBYs?"
Cast your vote here or use the widget in the sidebar.
Tuesday, 31 August 2010
Last week's Fun Online Poll was possibly the least conclusive result I have ever had. The question was "What's the Latin for 'You let the bastards grind you down'?" (so's we can club together and have it engraved on a watch to give to Asil Nadir). Sixteen people (included me) voted "I have no idea" and a few people left suggestions as follows:
From the BBC:
Big cash incentives should be offered to people living in areas of England where developers want to build new homes, a think tank suggests.
Instead of the current system where council planners decide whether to back new projects, the Policy Exchange says local residents should be balloted. It says such changes would lead to more young people being able to afford to buy their own homes instead of renting...
I'm not aware that NIMBYs, who by definition nearly all own a house themselves, were forced to "compensate" owners of existing houses when theirs were built, so like all land 'ownership' this is yet more privatised tax collection - a regressive transfer of wealth from the younger generation and the construction industry (and owners of undeveloped land) to existing home owners.
Of course, with Land Value Tax, you get automatic compensation if new developments depress the rental value of existing buildings because your tax bill would go down, but this idea* is Land Value Tax turned on its head.
* Which is only one suggestion in the full report (pdf). Some of the ideas seem quite sensible, some are same old, same old. And the report makes the usual error of looking at the headline figure for Housing Benefit without realising that two-thirds of this is merely a transfer from one branch of government (the Department of Work & Pensions) to other branches of government (local authorities and Housing Associations) and does not net off the rents paid by social tenants (so the net cash cost to the taxpayer is negligible). It's the one-third of Housing Benefit paid to 'private' landlords, many of whom own ex-council housing which represents a real cost to the taxpayer.
Monday, 30 August 2010
Near Leipzig, 30 July 2010: Zwei Kühe haben auf der Autobahn 14 bei Leipzig in der Nacht zu Freitag einen schweren Unfall mit einem Toten und mehreren Verletzten verursacht.
Nach Polizeiangaben war ein 46-jähriger Autofahrer mit einer auf der Fahrbahn stehenden Kuh zusammengestoßen. Bei der Kollision wurde er so schwer verletzt, dass er noch an der Unfallstelle starb. Kurz danach fuhren weitere Autos in die Unfallstelle und in eine zweite dort stehende Kuh.
Two cows escaped and get onto the motorway, where they were struck by cars. One driver died of his injuries and several people were injured.
Obersteiermark, 6 August 2010: Am Donnerstag gegen 12:45 wurde erneut eine Familie beim Wandern in der Obersteiermark von Weidekühen attackiert. Die beiden Erwachsenen waren mit ihren zwei Kindern und ihrem Hund auf der Turacherhöhe unterwegs, als plötzlich die Kühe auf die 41-jähige Frau zurannten und sie umwarfen.
Die Kühe traten mehrmals auf die am Boden liegende Frau, bis es schließlich ihrem Lebensgefährten gelang sie hochzuziehen, woraufhin die Kühe von ihr abließen. Die Frau erlitt Prellungen und Blutergüsse, sowie Abschürfungen.
A family of four with a dog were walking in the countryside. Cows attacked the woman and knocked her over. The cows kicked her several times before her partner managed to rescue her.
Obersteiermark 6 August 2010: Aus nächster Nähe hat am Mittwoch im Hochschwabgebiet die Angestellte Eva D. aus Hart bei Graz mitansehen müssen, wie ein Stier und sechs Kühe ihren Ehemann Günter niedertrampelten und ihn derart massiv verletzten, dass er jetzt für drei Monate arbeitsunfähig ist. Die "Krone" sprach mit der Ehefrau, die vom Besitzer der Herde fordert: "Stellen Sie doch eine Warntafel für Hundebesitzer auf!"
Woman watched in horror as a bull and six cows attacked and trampled her husband, who was seriously injured and will be off work for three months. The woman said that farmers should put up warning signs for dog owners.
Near Zürich, 8 August 2010: In Wetzikon im Zürcher Oberland ist ein Landwirt von einem Stier mit den Hörnern angegriffen und schwer verletzt worden. Der Mann wurde mit einem Helikopter der Rega ins Spital geflogen. Der Stier wurde getötet.
Der 54-jährige Landwirt wollte den Muni am Samstagabend im Stall festbinden, als das Tier plötzlich mit den Hörnern nach ihm stiess, wie die Kantonspolizei Zürich am Sonntag mitteilte. Der Bauer wurde am Oberschenkel schwer verletzt; eine zweite Verletzung fügte ihm der Stier am Oberkörper zu.
Farmer wanted to tie up bull in his stall, but the bull used his horns to attack and seriously injure the farmer in thigh and upper body. Farmer flow to hospital by helicopter.
Brandeburg, 10 August 2010: Auf ihrer Flucht verursachte sie einen Verkehrsunfall mit einer Fahrradfahrerin. Die Radlerin wurde dabei verletzt und musste in einem Krankenhaus ambulant behandelt werden.
Nachdem alle Versuche, die Kuh einzufangen, fehlgeschlagen waren, gab der Tierhalter das Einverständnis, die Kuh zur Gefahrenabwehr zu töten. Das Tier wurde von Polizeibeamten durch mehrere Schüsse zwar niedergestreckt aber nicht völlig erlegt. Ein Fleischer, der befreundete Nachbar des Tierhalters, erlöste die Kuh letztendlich von ihren Qualen.
Escaped cow injured cyclist, who was treated as out-patient. Attempts to catch the cow failed and so police shot the cow several times but did not kill her. A butcher finished off the job.
Switzerland, 17 August 2010: Tierschützer wollen wieder mehr Hörner sehen. Deshalb organisierten sie einen Spaziergang einer behornten Kuh durch die Zürcher Innenstadt. Bei den Bauern löst die Aktion Kopfschütteln aus.
Animal rights activists want farmers to stop removing horns from cows. Farmers puzzled by the stupidity of this idea.
Steiermark, 18 August 2010: Der Deutsche war alleine unterwegs, daher gab es keine Zeugen des Vorfalls und auch der Verletzte konnte dazu zunächst nicht näher befragt werden. Wie es von der Polizei hieß, war der Pensionist kurz vor 12 Uhr auf der Alm im Gemeindegebiet von Pruggern vermutlich von einer Kuh attackiert und zu Boden gestoßen worden.
Dem 68-Jährigen gelang es trotz seiner Verletzungen - Serienrippenbrüchen, Prellungen und Hautabschürfungen - zu einer Almhütte zu flüchten, wo er von einem Hüttenwirt erstversorgt wurde.
Der Verletzte wurde anschließend vom Rettungshubschrauber ins Krankenhaus Schladming geflogen und in stationäre Behandlung genommen. Der Angriff war der mittlerweile dritte dieser Art seit Anfang August in der Obersteiermark.
68-year old German tourist was on his own when he was attacked so there are no witnesses and he is not in a it state to be asked questions. Despite his injuries, broken ribs, bruising and abrasions, he managed to find help. He was taken to hospital by helicopter. This is the third such attack in Obersteiermark this month.
Schwaben, 19 August 2010: Als ein 67-jähriger Landwirt am Mittwoch, gegen 21.30 Uhr, seine Kälber auf der Weide in der Dewanger Straße kontrollieren wollte, wurde er von einem Jungtier zu Boden gestoßen und attackiert. Hierdurch erlitt der Landwirt Rippenfrakturen und musste in Ostalbklinikum eingeliefert werden.
67 year old farmer wanted to take calves to pasture. One of them attacked the farmer and knocked him down. The farmer suffered rib fractures and was taken to hospital.
Tyrol, 20 August 2010: Ein 77-jähriger Altbauer aus dem Stubaital ist am Donnerstagabend von einer Kuh attackiert und schwer verletzt worden. Er wurde erst Stunden nach der Attacke gefunden. Jetzt liegt er auf der Intensivstation im Bezirkskrankenhaus Hall.
Der Landwirt war auf einer Weide mit Holzspaltarbeiten beschäftigt, als er plötzlich von einer Kuh angegriffen wurde. Der 77-jährige blieb nach dem Angriff eine lange Zeit bewusstlos liegen. Erst als es schon dunkel war, konnte sich der Bauer zum rund 500 Meter entfernten Campingplatz Volderau schleppen.
Dort fanden ihn die Wirtsleute gegen 23.00 Uhr benommen und stark blutend auf einer Bank vor ihrem Lokal sitzend.
77-year old semi-retired farmer was working in his fields when he was suddenly attacked by cow(s). He was unconscious for hours and he did not managed to drag himself to a nearby campsite until after dark. He was found heavily bleeding sitting on a bench. He is in intensive care in hospital.
Steiermark, 25 August 2010: Das Rindvieh sprang laut Polizei plötzlich mitten auf die Fahrbahn, ein 58-jähriger Motorradlenker konnte nicht mehr ausweichen und krachte in das Tier.
Der Biker aus Monschau in Deutschland stürzte und musste mit dem Rettungshubschrauber ins Krankenhaus Schladming geflogen werden. Am Mittwoch konnte der 58-Jährige das Spital wieder verlassen. Auch der Kalbin geht es gut. "Sie hat nur einige Schrammen abbekommen", berichtete eine Polizistin. Das Motorrad wurde allerdings stark beschädigt.
Calf jumped into path of motorcycle and biker could not take evasive action in time. Biker seriously injured and taken to hospital by helicopter. He left hospital within a few days. The calf was only lightly injured but the motorcycle was badly damaged.
Carinthia, 27 August 2010: Mutter ringt nach Kuh-Attacke mit dem Tod. Vor den Augen ihrer vierjährigen Zwillinge wurde die Landwirtin aus Bach von Kälber führenden Kühen angefallen. Der Hund war dabei der Auslöser gewesen.
Farmer is fighting for her life after being attacked by cows in front of her four-year old twins. The attack was triggered by her dog.
UPDATE: more detailed version of events here. The cows were with their calved. The farmer was badly injured in the chest and taken to hospital by helicopter. Her daughter was also injured.
See also round ups for June and July.
Sunday, 29 August 2010
Here are my suggestions on how we can raise the £465 billion required to cover my spending plans:
1. It's always useful to look at current tax receipts, taken from Table C4 of the most recent Public Sector Finances Databank (I'm using the version dated 23 August 2010). Total tax receipts in three broad categories were as follows:
a) Taxes on business activity (income tax, NIC, VAT, corporation tax) = £340 billion.
b) Taxes on land, buildings, wealth generally (Business Rates & Council Tax = £49 billion, plus other bits and pieces like Stamp Duty, £8 billion, Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax, Insurance Premium Tax, £2 to £3 billion each) = £68 billion.
c) Duties in the narrower sense (mainly petrol duty & car licence, £32 billion, but also booze, fags, gambling etc) = £72 billion.
2. Category (c) is easiest. I'd leave these as they are for the time being. I would get rid of VAT (and adjust duties up accordingly) and legalise/tax most currently illegal drugs, which would get receipts up to about £100 billion. Car licence fees would be significantly reduced and fuel duties increased to match.
3. Category (a) is easy as well, just get rid of them in their entirety, apart from:
i. A 1% tax on the retail price of new goods to cover refuse collection costs = £5 billion.
ii. Public sector pensions in excess of the Citizen's Pension rate of £140 per week would be taxed at 50% and private pensions that have received income tax relief on the way in would be taxed at 20%/40%, receipts = £30 billion.
iii. Banks won't be liable to taxes on profits or salaries, but they have a privileged position, so each individual bank will pay a bank levy of 2% per annum on the higher of UK sited financial assets (mortgages etc) and deposits from UK depositors in govt. guaranteed accounts. Bank balance sheets would rapidly shrink to a bare minimum of about £1,500 billion, so I'll pencil in another £30 billion for that. BTW, this is a heck of a lot less than what banks have been paying in corporation tax, PAYE, irrecoverable VAT etc.
4. That means we have to raise £300 billion from Category (b). I don't like all these fiddly transaction taxes, so I'll replace the lot with a flat tax on the value of land and buildings, averaged out on actual selling prices between 2005 and 2010 per square yard in each postcode sector so that it's more like Land Value Tax.
I accept that this is not the purist view, but as long as selling prices of buildings in future exceed their rebuild cost, or the selling price of bare land exceeds £nil, it would be, by definition, less than a 100% Land Value Tax and so not economically damaging. Remember that any tax or subsidy to land and buildings will first fall on or benefit the land value element before it affects the cost or value of the buildings thereon. If in any postcode sector the averaged out selling price of buildings falls below their rebuild cost, then of course the tax will have to be adjusted down in those sectors.
The magic fag packet says that if the value of the land and buildings that you currently own is less than six times your annual income, you'll be better off; if it is more than seven times, you might be a tad worse off. But with income tax etc. gone, the economy will grow a lot quicker, so after a couple of years, most people will be better off. And to those who say "Why should I pay rent for my 'own' land?" I reply, "If you don't want to, then there's somebody else who will be happy to do so."
PS, I did a chart showing the cumulative distribution of UK homes by value here, and explained how the tax interacts with the Citizen's Income scheme (about half of total spending)i.e. for people in median homes, the tax and the CI net off to more or less nothing. And for those in the upper decile, there's an extra bonus in that there'll be education vouchers to reduce the cost of sending your kids to private school.
5. There are two ways of raising £300 billion from land values - either a flat rate of (say) 6% without exemptions or discounts, or a higher rate of (say) 8% with a mass of discounts for e.g. recent purchasers in negative equity, pensioners, low income households.
It's not for me to say who's most 'deserving' of such discounts, so what I'd do is have a flat national rate of (say) 8% but local councils (whose job it will be to collect the tax) would only have to hand over three-quarters of this, so they have the freedom (subject to democratic pressure from local voters) to decide how much of this they will actually collect and spend on playgrounds, schools, health care, care for the elderly, white elephants; and how much is used to grant exemptions and discounts: at its simplest, local councils could just exempt pensioner households (about a quarter of all households) entirely, and have done with it.
We'll see all sorts of interesting tussles here, and it will to some extent turn NIMBYism on its head.
Here are my spending plans:
Core functions of state (defence, law and order, legal system, fire brigade, refuse collection, road maintenance etc) = £75 billion
Debt repayments and paying off existing public sector pensions = £50 billion
Citizen's Income scheme, plus a bit extra for disability (from here) = £250 billion
Education vouchers: £3,000 per year for school age children = £30 billion
Health vouchers to cover bare minimum medical costs/private medical insurance = £60 billion
Total = £465 billion.
For the Faux Libertarians, anything more than £75 billion is "too high" of course, but it's a lot less than the current government's spending plans of £669 billion, of which about £150 billion is deficit spending. The point is that 'the state' (that's all of us by the way, not just 'the government') does generate a surplus or a profit. It's just a question of whether we allow that surplus to be collected privately by landowners or whether we spend it on stuff that benefits all of us.
The last two items may seem a tad stingy, as the total current budget for those two areas is £205 billion. A large part of the cost pointless bureaucracy of course, but in my tax proposals, I am leaving local councils another £100 billion of wiggle room. If people really want more to be spent on schools and hospitals, then local councils will be able to do so.
Spotted by Mrs Erdleigh in The Daily Mail:
Trigger the Friesian was only a day old when his farmer aimed his shotgun at him - and because he did not want any more males he intended to kill the baby calf. But neighbour Shaun Layton stepped in, saved his life and now Trigger is 6ft 5in - and still growing! Weighing in at nearly 1.2 tonnes and measuring a staggering 14ft from nose to tail, Trigger is set to move into the record books...
"He is very good natured, a big softie really. But we have had him castrated and de-horned or he could easily kill someone. He's our family pet. We go and see him twice a day, feed him and give him his cattle cake. It's something I enjoy - you can just play around with him and it's quite relaxing. I can unwind with Trigger just like some people do if they go angling. We trim his tail and he loves being brushed. A few of the local farmers come and see him because his size and they can't believe it. Lots of people come up to see him - he's a bit of a local attraction now.'
Saturday, 28 August 2010
A fellow Citizen's Income advocate asked me for a few sources of info on the cash cost of the existing Welfare State. I shall post the 2009-10 figures here post here for future reference:
1. The Department of Work & Pensions pays out benefits & pensions of £148 billion and has running costs of £9 billion, page 89 of their departmental report. That's GB only so stick on 3% = £5 billion for NI.
2. HM Revenue & Customs pays out £12 billion in Child Benefit and Child Trust Fund, page 42 of their annual report and trust statement, as well as £27 billion in Tax Credits (page 124. The admin costs of Child Benefit are less than 1% of what is paid out (Hansard) but the cost of administering Tax Credits is about 3%, i.e. another £1 billion.
3. One universal entitlement that many people overlook is the personal allowance for income tax. HM Revenue & Customs' ready reckoner says that the value of this benefit is £52 billion. The personal allowance is inherently redistributive from higher to lower earners, because for a given required tax take, having a zero tax rate on the first chunk of income means that the remaining income is taxed at higher rates.
4. There's no official figure for the value of the exemption for earnings under the earnings threshold for National Insurance, which is a bit lower than the income tax personal allowance, but the saving is higher (total NIC is 23.8% of wages but basic rate income tax is only 20%, so let's call it £40 billion for sake of argument.
The Citizen's Income purists say that we wouldn't need a personal allowance with universal benefits, and it certainly makes the maths a lot easier. I'm a moderate so I don't see the harm in allowing people to waive their CI entitlement and have a correspondingly high personal allowance*, but hey.
5. There are lots of other bits and pieces, like student grants, tax breaks for pensions (about another £40 billion) but let's ignore those for simplicity. I'd get rid of the tax breaks for pensions, but I'd scrap higher rate income tax as well, for example, so that doesn't go into this equation.
That gives you a total budget of £295 billion or thereabouts, of which about £15 billion is severe disability related stuff, which I think we ought to leave as it is.
You also need to know is the population of the UK by age bands:
0 - 17 years = 13 million
18 - 24 years = 6 million
25 - 64 years = 33 million
65 years and older = 10 million
You then think up a figure for your Citizen's Income and do a bit of multiplying. Here's my suggestion:
0 - 17 years, 13 million x £35/week = £23.7 billion
18 - 24 years, 6 million x £52.50/week = £16.4 billion
25 - 64 years, 33 million x £70/week = £120.4 billion
65 years and older, 10 million x £140/week = £73.0 billion
Total = £233.6 billion.
Stick on 1% for admin costs, and we're looking at a saving of up to £45 billion per annum.
We'll have to use some of that saving for transitional measures (like DWP redundancy costs) and for building a lot more social housing (I'd scrap Housing Benefit for private tenants, it's a waste of money), and of course there are a million UK pensioners who live abroad, some pensioners are entitled to more than £140 a week anyway, and I've ignored the fact that women currently get a state pension when they are 60.
And so on and so forth, yadda, yadda, but we're still looking at a reasonable overall cash saving, not to mention the overall economic and social benefits of all this.
* If they scrapped the personal allowance and gave everybody £70/week instead or £52.50/week for younger adults, that's equivalent to increasing the tax-free personal allowance to £11,773 for people 25 and over and to £8,830 for people aged 18 - 24 (assuming basic rate tax and Employee's NIC stay at 31%). Under current rules, the state pension is taxable income, so it's easier to imagine that pensioners get a tax-free state pension and very small personal allowance to use against other income.
Friday, 27 August 2010
Just sayin', is all.
Sam and Dave tried to smuggle in a truck driver's gear change at the end of the middle eight in "Soul Man", but it's still easily recognisable. A semi tone up at 2 minutes 9 seconds in:
Uncle Tom, dismissing LVT over at HousePriceCrash:
The socialist solution to land issues, though attractive in theory, has been tried many times, and has always failed. Never forget that in the 20th century, more people starved to death as a consequence of socialist land reforms, than died in all the wars put together.
The second sentence is almost certainly correct, but irrelevant. I responded to the first as follows:
1. [Evidence shows that] the state should not take control of means of productions (whether through ownership or, in a Western European context, through regulation or INCOME TAX).
2. The collective farms failed because they were badly run and no incentive to individuals working on them to increase production.
3. What Russia & China did, in limited fashion, was rent off small holdings to individuals, who were allowed to sell their crops. Surprise, surprise, these small holdings were infinitely more productive than the collective farms.
4. What the quasi-socialist EU does is dish out subsidies simply for owning land, these do not increase food production one iota (if anything they push it down), they merely reward land ownership and push up rents and prices.
5. There is no economic difference between a small holder renting a field from the state [or from a landlord, for that matter] or paying land tax (which would be considerably less than £50 per acre per annum for UK farmland) in exchange for the state guaranteeing exclusive possession.
6. From the point of view of somebody who wants to go into farming, he will be a lot more motivated to do it properly if he just pays £50/acre per year LVT and has no income tax on his profits than if he has to borrow a lot of money from the bank to pay mortgage interest of rather more than £50/acre [or pay rent to a private landlord] AND has to pay INCOME TAX on top of that.
From The Metro:
Kate Ogg and her husband, David, were told to say their goodbyes to Jamie when he was born prematurely at 27 weeks, weighing just 2.2lb (1kg). His twin sister, Emily, survived but Jamie was declared dead by the doctor who delivered him after 20 minutes trying to get him to breathe. But after two hours of being spoken to, cuddled and held, he began showing signs of life. Then, after being given breast milk on his mother's finger, he began breathing regularly.
Mrs Ogg has now told how vital 'skin-on-skin' care can be. She said on Australian TV: 'After just five minutes, I felt him move as if he were startled, then he started gasping more and more regularly. A short time later he opened his eyes. It was a miracle.'
From NY Mag:
It was time for White to leave [Lehman Brothers]. [Dick] Fuld stood up and came around to the other side of his desk to shake White's hand. He put his hand out, then pulled it back. "Nah, f*ck that," he said. "Give me a hug. I need a hug."
Before White knew it, Fuld, the man whose gruff, brutish manner had given him the nickname "the Gorilla," was embracing him. Then, White said, Fuld started crying. "Kevin, you're the first person to say thank you to me."
When his cheeks were dry, White asked Fuld if he'd be joining Barclays. "F*ck that," Fuld said. "I'm not going to Barclays. F*ck that."
It's got the lot:
1. Quote some 'report' by a fakecharity (Barnardo's wailing about "social segregation in the schools system").
2. Bung in a counter-quote from a right wring think tank that makes them sound peevish and petty. ("This approach is, to my mind, a kind of social engineering based on animosity to middle-class parents. You need to leave schools free to choose their own curriculum to target remedial measures.")
3. Round off with this, which is the worrying bit:
A Department for Education spokesman said: "The attainment gap in English schools is too wide and far too many students from disadvantaged backgrounds are in weaker schools. That is why we are implementing a comprehensive programme to make opportunity more equal. We are introducing a pupil premium; reforming the admissions system to make it simpler and fairer and getting the best teachers in the most disadvantaged areas."
So we're back to the
good bad old days, barely three months after the new government came in, promising to be a bit better than the last lot.
Thursday, 26 August 2010
I ran this week's Fun Online Poll purely out of general interest, prompted in part by Barry George winning the first round in his 'battle for compensation' - when poor old Jill Dando was murdered, most people I asked could remember exactly where they were when they heard about it.
I don't know why it affected people like this - probably because she was such a nice person that nobody would have expected her to be murdered. But either it didn't affect people that much or memories have faded: the actual responses were:
Can you remember where you were when you heard that Jill Dando had been murdered?
No - 59%
Yes - 18%
Who was Jill Dando? - 23%
Thanks to everybody who took part.
This whole Asil Nadir returning from exile to face the music story is another one of those puzzlers.
Why on earth did he do it? Has he managed to convince himself of his own innocence, finally done a deal with the Serious Fraud Office, or is it the result of some behind the scenes machinations - maybe Northern Cyprus wants to merge with Free Cyprus again and thus smuggle itself into the EU (as a precursor to Turkey joining, who knows?) and maybe the UK, as a major EU member made this one of the pre-conditions?
There's always skullduggery with these things, such as Scotland releasing Al McGrahey on 'compassionate grounds' rather than admitting that it has something to do with an oil deal with Libya; or such as the USA's long running campaign to persuade Swiss banks to hand over private information, to which Switzerland responded by suddenly arresting Roman Polanski - who'd owned a house there for years - and offering him up as a sacrificial lamb.
Rather mysteriously, the plan to extradite him was shelved again a few weeks before the Swiss banks finally caved in and handed over what the USA wanted.
So that's the next Fun Online Poll: "What's the Latin for 'You let the bastards grind you down'"?. It'd be great fun to get it engraved on a watch and send it to him in prison to match his other one (which is actually mentioned in Hansard, column 21).
Answers here or use the widget in the sidebar.
From the US Census Bureau, annual new home sales in recent years were as follows (Excel):
2006 - 1,051,000
2007 - 776,000
2008 - 485,000
2009 - 375,000
The population of the USA is five times that of the UK, so rather surprisingly, even at the height of the boom in 2006, they were only building as many homes per capita as in the UK. Or, assuming three people per household, the US housing stock was only increasing by one per cent a year.
Heck knows what excuses the US NIMBYs use(d) to keep new construction down to such a low level. And yes, there are such people.
From The Daily Mail:
England is now the most overcrowded country (1) in Europe... Officials said that by next year England will have 402.1 people for every square kilometre, overtaking the figure of 398.5 in Holland and 355.2 in Belgium... (2)
Recent EU figures have shown that Britain accounted for nearly a third of the total increase in population across the whole of Europe last year (3), with 412,000 extra people in this country in 2009.
Whitehall has also acknowledged that 100,000 new homes will be required each year for the next 25 years to cope with the growth of population as a direct result of immigration. (4)
The figures have underlined concerns over the effects of rising population on transport and housing (5), and on both cities and countryside, as numbers rise towards the officially predicted level of 70 million by 2029.
James Clappison, Tory MP for Hertsmere, said: 'Population density of such a level is an issue which politicians must address. Immigration is the major driver of population increase.' (6)
Two can play at that game:
1) 'The most overcrowded' is a tautology at best.
2) As I've said before: "From Wiki, UK population 61 million, surface area 94,526 sq miles = 645/sq mile (249/sq km). Not spectularly high, so they strip out S, NI and W and look at England only. From Wiki, population 51 million, surface area 50,346 sq miles = 1,000/sq mile (391/sq km).
But why don't we go one further and strip out Greater London? English population (excl. GL) 43.5 million, surface area 49,727 sq miles = 874/sq mile (342/sq km). That gets us down to well below The Netherlands and only a quarter of Malta's density."
Conversely, Greater London has a population density of 10,596/sq mile. If a high population density were such a terrible thing, then nobody would want to live there, would they?
3) Which underlines the point that it's net immigration from outside the EU that's behind this, which is entirely self-inflicted.
4) I cheerfully agree that Labour were letting in far too many of the wrong sort of people, but, being The Daily Mail, they merrily ignore another factor that is just as important: increases in life expectancy.
The UK population pyramid at the ONS shows the number of people aged 60 or under going up from 46 million to 52 million between 1971 and 2029, which is a compound annual increase of 0.2% [=(52/46)^(1/58). The number of people aged over 60 goes up from 10 million to 19 million over the same period, a compound annual increase of 1.1% [=(19/10)^(1/58)].
And how much housing would we need to build to accommodate an extra 9 million people in 58 years? Call it 1.5 old folk per home = 6 million homes, which is just over 100,000 per year.
5) What 'pressure on transport'? Seeing how many bus or train drivers are fairly recent immigrants, we'd be in a bigger mess if they all left.
As to 'pressure on housing', see (4). Is building 100,000 new homes, i.e. expanding our housing stock by 0.3% every year (=100,000/27,000,000) really that terrible, seeing as it'll be recent immigrants doing a lot of the actual work?
Even if we leave the floodgates open (which I do not recommend) and have to build 200,000 homes a year (for the immigrants and to accommodate for the additional old folk), that's an increase of 0.6% a year, against compound annual increase in overall population of 0.4% per year between 1971 and 2029 [=(71/56)^(1/58)], big deal.
6) No it's not. See (4).
UPDATE: Adam Collyer dissects a similarly hysterical article in The Torygraph, illustrated with some bonus Top A-Level Totty.
The City AM writes up a review of the Irish banking system by the new governor of their central bank, concluding thusly:
What is most startling in Honohan’s report is his refusal to blame the international financial crisis for Ireland’s problems. It would have happened anyway, the straight-talking central banker says, and the collapse of Lehman Brothers in autumn 2008 only exacerbated the Irish banks’ funding problems.
The end of Honohon’s report sums up this chapter in Ireland’s history: “The Celtic Tiger period represented a solid convergence of Ireland to the frontier. But it ended in 2000, to be succeeded by an old-fashioned property bubble.”
At least its central bank governor is under no delusion of what caused the crisis. It took a decade to grow, it may take a decade to unwind.
Spotted by Pensions Minister Former Tory at the BBC:
A man suffered a broken collarbone when he was struck by a low-flying swan and knocked off his motorbike in Worcestershire. The incident happened in Crossway Green, in Stourport-on-Severn, shortly after 1145 BST. West Midlands Ambulance Service said it treated the motorcyclist for his injuries at the scene. He was then taken to hospital for further assessment and treatment, an ambulance service spokeswoman said.
FT goes on to ask:
How did the cows procure this result? It may suggest - to adopt the wording of BBC and tabloid journalism - that there's not only a medium of exchange which cows have and is acceptable to swans, but also communication between the species. We developed unmanned aircraft, the cows trained kamikaze swans.
As a biker, I'm keen to understand new risks and this, frankly, is a concern. Is war declared on two-wheelers?
The short answer would appear to be "Yes":
Austria, 17 July 2009: Motorcyclist and pillion rider badly injured after hitting cow. Cow died at the scene.
Not much of a result from the cow's point of view, so they changed their tactics:
Lower Saxony, 24 May 2010: Motorcyclist slowed down when passing escaped cow at the side of the road. The cow charged him, knocked him off his motorcycle and then gave him a good kicking. Cow not captured until days later.
Austria, 23 August 2010: Cow stood in the way of a motorcyclist who couldn't brake in time. Cow lightly injured, motorcyclist taken to hospital by helicopter.
Wednesday, 25 August 2010
Unusually, I'll say 'fair play' to this lot. The story from The Daily Mail has all the hall marks of classic selfish NIMBYism:
For generations, Cow Field has been enjoyed by families and dog walkers. But when it went up for auction there were fears that the beauty spot would be bought by developers for a housing estate... The field, in Whaley Bridge on the edge of the Peak District, has been eyed by builders for decades, and in 1995 a planning application for more than 30 homes was narrowly rejected.
Here's Whaley Bridge in context: about eight miles outside the M60, surrounded by fields for miles around but handily it has its own railway station, about 45 minutes from central Manchester:The twist in this tale is that they put their hands in their own pockets and bought the field for its agricultural value of £122,000, which is sort-of-free-market NIMBY-ism (although in a truly free market without third parties being able to enforce planning restrictions, that field would have been worth five or ten times as much).
Which raises an interesting question: there are about 50 million acres of undeveloped/farmland (including The Hallowed Greenbelt) in the UK (i.e. 85% - 90% of the surface area), so why don't the NIMBYs (about 90% of the adult population*), just chip in £5,000 or £10,000 each; buy up the whole lot, slap mutually enforceable restrictive covenants on it all and thereby guarantee the permanent decline of the UK and the UK economy for all eternity?
Think about it: there'd never be another new road, railway, airport, housing estate, factory, sewage works or power station!
What's not to like?
* UPDATE, OK, somewhere between 57% and 83% according to the FT of three years ago. But a vast majority. It doesn't change the logic.
If I understand this article correctly, the US economy is run on even more Home-Owner-Ist lines than in the UK:
Pimco's Bill Gross says there will be no housing-led recovery (1) in the US without Government support (2).
The veteran bond investor (3) says mortgage yields could rise as much as 4% if housing agencies such as Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are put into private hands, stalling the recovery.
"Ninety-five percent of existing mortgage creation over the past 12 months were government-guaranteed (4). The private market was nowhere to be found because they charged too much (5)," he says, "Having grown accustomed to a housing market aided and abetted by Uncle Sam, the habit cannot be broken by going cold turkey into the camp of private lending. The cost would be enormous in terms of yields - 300-400bp higher than currently offered, crippling any hopes of a housing-led revival to the economy."
Instead, Gross proposes the Government remains involved in mortgage provisions, by combing all housing agencies into one body.
"Taxpayers would be protected through tight regulation (6), adequate down payments, and an insurance fund bolstered by a 50-75bp fee attached to each and every mortgage," he says, "The private market, to my mind, had really lost its claim as the most efficient and judicious arbiter in this particular case."
1) How on earth can price inflation in the perceived value of one particular class of government protected quasi-monopolies lead to a 'recovery'? What about reducing regulations, taxes; improving educational standards etc?
2) Blue Socialism.
3) Fair play. If he has a lot of money invested in long dated bonds, he doesn't want their value to drop (which is what happens when interest rates rise). There again, if he knows what he's doing, he could sell his bonds now and then and wait until prices fall/yields rise. Hmm.
4) Ninety-five per cent? In the land of 'free markets'? Are they mad? See also (2).
5) Or should that be "The private market was nowhere to be found because the state-sponsored banks charged too little"?
6) Yeah, right.
Tuesday, 24 August 2010
Mark has made many posts on the evils of VAT and its attractions for HMRC, but there is one particular evil that HMRC must love: it makes all VAT-rated businesses into unpaid tax collectors. The genius of the system is, for the taxman is that assessing the VAT the business has to pay is easy to check, just tot up all the VAT they've charged their customers.
However, the difficult bit, and the bit where HMRC have no incentive to lift a finger to help you, is assessing the VAT that you can claim back, which involves a huge amount of time sorting and entering purchase invoices, which tend to be far more numerous than sales invoices. This is a huge hidden expense, especially to small businesses just above the tax threshold.
If you are unlucky enough to try and make a living in the construction industry, HMRC has a special hell for you, called CIS. Based on the well-known fact that all builders are crooks, the CIS scheme forces building contractors not only to collect and hand over the income tax of their employees, but also of their subcontractors. Nor do they make this easy. Each subcontractor has to be "verified" using the sort of user-hostile computer system that everyone who deals with civil service IT knows about and dreads.
It's worse than that. There are plenty of sub-contractors who aren't registered for gross payment (subtext: HM Revenue & Customs doesn't trust them to declare their income and pay over the income tax) but who are VAT-registered. If such a sub-contractor does £1,000's worth of work and puts in an invoice for £1,000 net plus £175 VAT, the main contractor deducts 20% quasi-income tax from the £1,000 but still adds on the VAT and pays him £975 cash.
This process will become even sillier next year when the standard rate of VAT increases to 20% as mandated by the EU, when such a sub-contractor will render an invoice for net £1,000 and receive £1,000 cash, but main contractor has the hassle of deducting £200 quasi-income tax and paying that over to HMRC using one set of forms; and the hassle of reclaiming the £200 VAT via its own VAT returns (unless the main contractor is exempt); and the sub-contractor has the hassle of keeping all the vouchers showing the £200 quasi-income tax withheld to offset against his own income tax or PAYE liabilities; and the hassle of completing VAT-returns and paying over the £200's worth of VAT.
Even ignoring the hassle involved (and spiteful penalties for non-compliance, late payment etc), if HM Revenue & Customs don't trust sub-contractors to pay over their income tax (they may well have a point), what makes them think that they will pay over their VAT?
Via The Daily Mail (inevitably):
From yesterday's Evening Standard:
House prices along the newly opened East London line are soaring amid booming demand for homes in previously isolated parts of the capital...
The line opened in May after two years of construction. Directories and search group 192.com found that property values are higher around most East London line stations than they were two years ago.
The biggest rises came around the stations at New Cross and New Cross Gate in SE14 where the average price of a house is now more than 22 per cent higher than it was in 2008...
A question for those who oppose subsidies in principle (which I do, as a rule): are the improvements to the East London line not an implicit subsidy to people who happen to own land and buildings in the areas near the stations?
From the FT:
... With regard to compensation, many affected residents feel that the "preferred [High Speed 2] route" has been chosen precisely because the government believes it can minimise pay-outs on the simple premise that the fewer the number of houses deemed to be affected, the less will have to be disbursed.
They contrast this extensively rural "preferred route" with the route chosen for High Speed One (formerly the Channel Tunnel Rail Link). The latter was built almost entirely along its length directly beside high-capacity transport corridors – the A2, M2 and M20 – which generate a correspondingly high level of noise.
The same criterion was not applied to the choice of route for HS2. The effects of 225 miles per hour trains almost every two minutes will be far more acute in a rural setting rather than adjacent to a busy motorway...
Marilyn Fletcher, Great Missenden, Bucks.
Also from the FT:
Sir, John Kay's article On guard against the robber barons of the Rhine (Comment, August 18) was clever in the tactful way it raised important questions. Are the hedge funds toll collectors or value creators? One feature of the toll collectors of the Rhine was that the travellers had no choice but to use the Rhine and pay up.
Hedge funds may be the ultimate "heads I win big, tails I do OK" contract for the manager. But we don't have to use hedge funds, so we can't call them robber barons...
Martin White, Chairman, UK Shareholders' Association.
Correct - hedge funds may well fleece their investors, but nobody is forced to invest in them, so AFAIAC, they are neither toll collectors nor robber barons.
But it's a useful analogy...
The first letter turns all logic on its head. The area between London and Birmingham is nigh uninhabited anyway, so if you just drew any old straight line, only a few hundred buildings would need to be demolished. But all things being equal, is it not better to put a few curves in so that only a few dozen need to be demolished? Isn't it reasonable of the government to try and minimise disruption - for its own sake and to minimise compensation claims?
The idea of running the line along the M40 motorway (or using the old Great Central Railway) is not entirely without merit, but again, this goes closer to existing towns and villages (which in turn have grown up around the junctions), so it would require thousands, rather than hundreds or dozens of buildings to be demolished.
So I think we can dismiss the first letter as special pleading - what the lady wants is extra 'compensation' from the people who want to travel from A to B. Using the analogy in the first letter, put yourself in the position of somebody who wants to travel from A to B - what do you call people who demand money from you along the way?
Toll collectors, robber barons or even highwaymen? I'd hardly call them 'value creators'.
From The Metro:
Pedro Muriel was tackled by the raging beast during a bullfight at the Malagueta bullring in Malaga. Some might say the attack was karma, after the purple spandex-clad man had harpooned the bull with pointed sticks, known as banderillas. Muriel was gored on the inside of his thigh but luckily escaped without serious injuries after the attack.
All very disappointing, from the bull's point of view. And just as disappointing for any bovine who saw that headline and pictures and bothered to read the full article.
Monday, 23 August 2010
The map above shows the course of HS2 passing Brackley on a 15m high viaduct. Predictably, the inhabitants of Brackley are up in arms. However, it is not all the NIMBYism you might expect. A few residents have realised that, were Brackley given a station on the new line, everyone in the town would benefit by a rise in property values that is not just due to the bubble.
Of course Brackley used to have a station, and the building still survives, but for some reason the DfT have decided not to follow the route of the old Great Central Railway (visible curving along the edge of Brackey in the map above) in favour of the 15m high viaduct mentioned earlier. The Green Party suspects this is gold plating by the DfT and I for one would not be surprised.
Perhaps, with the financial squeeze on all government departments, the DfT might be persuaded to look at cheaper alternatives, like reusing more of the railway lines we already have, be they in use or disused.
At my post HM Revenue & Customs Table 16.1 (2009), H asked the following question:
How do you deal with the transition period? The losers would need time to adjust and it would be thought unjust if a lot of residential properties had to be put on the market simultaneously.
1. The number of losers would be relatively small, and would be largely recent first time buyers who are pushed into negative equity and the 'asset rich, income poor' (i.e. pensioners).
2. There's an important tweak that I didn't mention. The 7% rate would be a national rate, calculated using a flat formula for the whole of the UK (or each constituent nation) but local councils would only be obliged to hand over (say) 80% of what they could collect to central government (to pay for core functions, Citizen's Income/Pension and school/education vouchers).
3. Councils would be free to collect that last 20% and spend it on stuff (like free care for the elderly) or they would be allowed to waive up to 20% of the total tax that they could theoretically collect. So no doubt right wing councils will cap pensioners' LVT bills at £3,000 or something (so that it's no different to Council Tax or Domestic Rates in Northern Ireland); left-wing councils will introduce a 'Homestead exemption' so that pensioners only have to pay the excess of their LVT bill over a fixed amount of £10,000; and politically neutral councils might give pensioners 75% discounts (or whatever).
4. Recent purchasers in negative equity are not really an issue either. The harsh view is "it serves them right - it was their own decision to take on the mortgage". The more pragmatic view is, rather than allow people to avoid that debt by declaring themselves bankrupt, if they wanted to move, the government would just take on the excess bit of the mortgage and net it off with the £300+ billion that the banks owe the government anyway (and which they are unlikely to ever pay back), and allow those people to pay it off interest free over a much longer time scale (or whatever). Of course this is to some extent 'socialising losses', but that's what Home-Owner-Ism is all about, big deal.
5. For sure, there might be more people wanting to sell than there are now, but only to the extent that people want to buy, thus we'd get rid off the ridiculous stand off highlighted by The Daily Mail, by allowing the markets to set the clearing price (rather than trying to subsidise the gap). Maybe the number of annual sales/purchases would double and, for a year or two, go back to its 2007 peak of about a million a year - nothing we can't cope with.
6. Assuming that those who don't want to pay the tax are trying to trade down (thus freeing up cash), there'd be no harm in councils allowing people to defer payment for six months or a year and allowing them to pay off the arrears from the equity released*.
To cut a long story, you just apply commonsense.
* To put this in context, if you sell an upper quintile property, Stamp Duty Land Tax of 3% or more is due when you sell, as well as possibly Capital Gains Tax. So this is no big deal either.
That's a surprisingly clear cut result on a very high turnout (thanks to everybody who took part):
Have you donated (or will you donate) to charities collecting money for the Pakistan flood relief thingy?
No - 86%
Yes - 9%
Other, please specify - 4%
Some of the comments over at the poll are very un-PC, so I couldn't possible repeat them here: in second place is Disgruntled Yorkshireman and the gold medal goes to Henry Morgan.
In the context of nothing in particular, something else crossed my mind at the weekend - I'm too young to remember JFK being shot, but I vidily remember Kim from reception walking through the tax department to announce that Jill Dando had been murdered.
So that's this week's Fun Online Poll: Can you remember where you were when you heard that Jill Dando had been murdered?
Vote here or use the widget in the sidebar.
From the BBC:
More than 300 former Woolworths stores are still empty a year and a half after the chain collapsed. The Local Data Company, which provides information on the retail sector, says this represents some 40% of the once-national chain..
PS, can anybody explain this joke: "Wooden spoons are great. You can either use them to prepare food. Or, if you can't be bothered with that, just write a number on one and walk into a pub…"?
Sunday, 22 August 2010
I'd always assumed that Mexican drug smugglers used boats to ferry the stuff to the UK.
Apparently not. According to the News of the World, Mexican smugglers take the difficult overland route across at least a dozen US states and Canada, and then load it onto boats in Newfoundland:
From The Daily Mail:
A furious Iain Duncan Smith told Chancellor George Osborne to ‘show more respect’ in an explosive row over plans to slash Britain’s £180 billion welfare bill [Half of this is old-age benefits, of course]. The two men hurled insults at each other when Work and Pensions Secretary Mr Duncan Smith accused the Treasury of trying to block his crusade to end the scandal of welfare dependency...
Mr Osborne is understood to have defended his officials, hitting back: ‘If you come up with proposals that work, they will be treated with respect.’... The confrontation came after the Treasury was told Mr Duncan Smith’s reforms would initially mean a huge increase in the welfare bill – not a cut.
He wants to spend an extra £3 billion on a new benefits system to ensure that people in work are always better off than those who do not work. Mr Duncan Smith says his plan will save tens of billions of pounds – but it could be years before it pays dividends. Mr Osborne gave Mr Duncan Smith an ultimatum: ‘Find £10 billion of welfare cuts – or I won’t give you £3 billion for your new scheme.’
1. One thing that IDS and I can firmly agree on is that marginal deduction rates for welfare claimants/below average earners are far too high - rates of anywhere between 70% and 100% once PAYE is taken into account (i.e. they keep between 30p and 0p for every £1 they earn). One of the advantages of a Citizen's Income scheme is that you are always better off working, as you would get the CI regardless; there would be no means-testing, but you would have PAYE deducted from all your income - there would be no (artificial) distinction between taking money away in tax and taking money away via means testing.
2. Greater minds than mine have calculated that the revenue maximising income tax rate on lower earners is about 60%, which by definition must also be the expenditure minimising rate of benefit withdrawal. Assuming that Employer's NIC is economically borne by employees (about 11% of the wage bill above an exempt threshold), the expenditure minimising PAYE rate to be applied to CI claimants must be about 50% (I'd always go for a lower rate, but that's another topic), which can easily be dealt with via the PAYE system using K-codes.
3. Seeing as the administration and running costs of the DWP are about £10 billion a year with at least another £5 billion lost to fraud and error, doing the means testing via PAYE would enable us to save the bulk of this (so that's the required £10 billion savings in the bag).
4. The big presentational disadvantage of a Citizen's Income is that one government department (the DWP) would be handing out larger sums of money, but the extra revenue - the additional income tax paid by people who otherwise would have stayed on the dole - would be collected by another government department (HM Revenue & Customs).
5. With a bit of willing, this can easily be accounted for - all you to do is work out the difference between the higher PAYE collected (using a K-code) and the PAYE that would have been collected anyway - the difference is treated, for statistical purposes as negative benefits, so would count as a reduction in DWP expenditure rather than an increase in tax revenues. This would understate the overall cost saving (i.e. it would not include the extra corporation tax or VAT generated by CI claimants who are working, which is probably half as much again), but it's a good place to start.
6. Luckily, this is not a new concept. From page 124 of HMRC's 2009-10 accounts and trust statement (pdf)"To be consistent with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s classification rules and international practice" HMRC already sub-divide Tax Credits into negative income tax and benefit expenditure; you just have to turn this on its head and split up PAYE received from welfare claimants with K-codes into income tax and negative benefits.
But I'm not sure that IDS is aware of this statistical nicety, and much less whether he can explain it to anybody else, let alone whether he can get his opponents to agree and what the best sort of formula is. Until and unless he wins this argument he is more or less stymied.
Saturday, 21 August 2010
HMRC publish a table showing the price declared for Stamp Duty Land Tax on private residential property purchases/sales in the UK, which we can manipulate (using the mid-figures of the ranges) to show the distribution of property values (at 2009 prices).
In other words, the median purchase price was just under £150,000 (as we'd expect, a bit less than the mathematical average given by the Nationwide for Q4 2009 of £162,116). The 80th percentile is about £220,000 and the 90th percentile is about £320,000:
In other words, putting pensioner households to one side for a moment*, if we replaced the entire tax system (apart from fuel, tobacco & alcohol duties etc) on a fiscally neutral basis with a flat tax of 7% on total residential property values (or 14% on site-only values, or about 70% on site only rental values) and trebled Business Rates (VAT and corporation tax would be scrapped of course - when I say 'entire tax system', I mean 'entire tax system'), it is nonsense to claim that people wouldn't be able to afford it.
Those figures relate to privately owned residential property (so we can conveniently ignore the one fifth of households who live in social housing, army barracks, prisons etc), the net tax bill (once you net off their Citizen's Income**) payable by a median household would be about £2,500; the net tax bill payable by an 80th percentile household would be about £7,000 and the net tax bill payable by a 90th percentile household would be about £14,000.
For sure, this doesn't deal with the highest earning ten per cent of the population/the most expensive ten per cent of homes, but if we scrap income tax and so on, they'll be able to look after themselves (or not, as the case may be), I'm not too worried about them, they are not going to starve or anything.
* I have a cunning plan to sort out The Poor Widow Bogey once and for all, which will be revealed later.
** Assume an average working age household includes 1.5 adults @ £70 per week and 0.75 children or young adults @ £30 or £50 per week = £8,000-odd per annum, which for convenience we can net off with that household's Land Value Tax bill.
From the BBC:
"Government is all about taking difficult decisions. It's about balancing the benefits to the nation as a whole, to the economy, with the burdens that individuals and communities will suffer. And the challenge is to get the route which causes the least possible damage for the maximum possible benefit.
Now that can never mean that nobody suffers. Our job is to make sure that we fairly compensate those who are disadvantaged by the decisions taken."
Friday, 20 August 2010
Another one from Shania Twain, "You win my love", which is the third truck driver's gear-change song I have featured from her Greatest Hits compilation.
It all lumbers along pleasantly enough until about two and half minutes in, at which stage they could have drawn a halt to the proceedings or faded it out or something, but nope. They tack on short but delightful guitar solo, an uninspiring middle eight and another verse, at the end of which (at 3 minutes 29 seconds in), something terrible happens and they merrily finish off the song a whole tone higher:
Spotted by Snowdon in ASH's Essential Information on Smoking In Cars:
Why opening a window won't help: Opening a window does not reduce the levels of secondhand smoke in a car to a safe level as the smoke simply blows back into the vehicle, often lingering for hours.
Bonus points to the first person who lights up in a car and tells the inevitable smokophobe "There's no point opening a window, the smoke will just blow back in and linger for hours."
Responding to yesterday's frankly disappointing crop in the Daily Mail, Ross pointed out that "The totty usually gets into the Friday editions so there's hope yet."
Good call! I'm pleased to advise that Ross now has posted the link to this year's Top A-Level Totty.
From the BBC:
BBC television presenter Ray Gosling is to be charged with wasting police time after claiming on air that he smothered his terminally ill lover. He was arrested on suspicion of murder and freed on bail after the broadcast.
The CPS said he had been summonsed to appear before Nottingham magistrates on 14 September.
The summons alleges that he "caused wasteful employment of the police by knowingly making to Bill Turnbull a false report tending to show that an offence had been committed. Contrary to sec 5 (2) of the Criminal Law Act 1967".
Absolutely bizarre. Unlike e.g. a bored young woman who goes to the police to allege rape, which has to be investigated and wastes oodles of police time and well as causing terrible distress to the suspect (see JuliaM for a compendium of these stories), all that Ray G did was to announce, on air*, that he had once hastened somebody's death.
Maybe he did, maybe he didn't, but shouldn't the CPS or the police (or whoever it was decided to arrest him) have applied some thought to this question first before barging in and making complete idiots of themselves?
Can we charge them with wasting their own time, Ray G's time and our money?
* Had Ray G actually walked up to the front desk of a police station and claimed, untruthfully, to have killed somebody, then that would have clearly been wasting police time.
Here's one I prepared earlier:
From the BBC:
People dependent on drugs and alcohol who refuse treatment could have their welfare benefits withdrawn under plans being considered by the Home Office. The idea is in a consultation paper on the government's drug strategy for England, Wales and Scotland. The proposals also suggest that addicts on benefits should not be required to seek work while receiving treatment...
Seeing as these "treatment awareness programmes" (their words, not mine) are very expensive (but don't work), I can see this one going horribly wrong (or horribly right from the point of view of all the fakeprivatecompanies providing the "treatment awareness programmes") - if you're on benefits and don't want the hassle of looking for a job, or, Heaven forfend, actually finding one (which, under current rules might make you worse off), you just cheerfully admit to being a bit of an alky, sign up to some crappy pointless weekly sessionawareness, and hey ho, all your problems are solved.
By the end of the article, one particular bansturbator is on the brink of orgasm:
Minister for Crime Prevention James Brokenshire said: "The drugs market is changing and we need to adapt current laws to allow us to act more quickly. The temporary ban allows us to act straight away to stop new substances gaining a foothold in the market and help us tackle unscrupulous drug dealers trying to get round the law by peddling dangerous chemicals to young people."
Suffice to say, as half the 'blogosphere already does, replacing the entire Welfare State with a Citizen's Income/low-ish tax-withdrawal rate and the full legalisation of all drugs (subject to regulation and taxes, just like fags and booze) will sort out the bulk of all this at little or even negative cost to the taxpayer.
Snowdon (aka Velvet Glove, Iron Fist) has tracked down the origin of the claim that secondhand smoke in a car is 27 times more toxic than in the home and concludes thusly:
We could use the same set of figures to make the claim that there is nearly as little secondhand smoke in a smoky car (92µg/m3) as in a completely smoke-free house (87.8µg/m3) and, even then, only while the cigarette is burning. After that, a smoky car is less smoky than a smokefree house!
... Nevertheless, I owe ASH and the Faculty of Public Health an apology. I accused them of falling for someone else's bogus figure. In fact, they came with their own.
From the BBC:
Being frightened of falling over is likely to increase an old person's risk of having a fall, researchers have found. The link remained even when they were not actually at a high risk, the study in the British Medical Journal found.
That really is just messing with people's minds, isn't it? Are old people supposed to convince themselves that they are not frightened of falling? What if they grow reckless and then have a fall? Who's to blame then? What about somebody who's never worried about falling anyway? Will they get overconfident?
PS, the article features rent-a-quotes from fakecharity Age UK, but does not conclude with a government spokesman saying that "More will be done" so it's possible that we can take the article at face value. It doesn't appear to be shroud waving or anything (but we will see).
Thursday, 19 August 2010
Walking along the High St yesterday, I saw yet another closing down sale.
It reminded me of this poster, which dates from Victorian times, before do-gooding had been nationalised. While the advice is as valid today as it ever was, it occurred to me that the poster could just as well be re-worded "I grew on cash - I grew on credit", the successful businessman having funded the expansion of his business through retained profits and the unsuccessful one having funded it through borrowing from the banks. Debt is so much part of our culture now, that I doubt many people give a second thought to how many businesses have been pushed over the edge by interest payments on the money they have borrowed.
The Daily Mail traditionally celebrates each year's A-Level results with a template whine about how they've become even easier and more meaningless than the year before (which is probably true, by the same token, whoever rehashes the template whine can probably do it in their sleep by now) and accompany it with a picture of some top A-Level totty just to brighten things up.
For my part, I find this year's top A-Level totty selection just a bit too anodyne:
... is a commenter over at The Guardian who understands the maths of all this better than most. I have cut and pasted his last comment wholesale (subject to correcting a couple of typo's), all of which slots in neatly with the MW reform manifesto:
I linked to this blog post a few days back in relation to welfare reform.
The same system could work for pensions & pensioner benefits as well. You've hit the nail square on the head by mentioning that the State pension is indeed taxable. The manner in which this is dealt with by the tax office is to reduce the tax free personal allowance by the pension amount.
Now if we were to roll up all of these benefits & the basic state pension (plus a little bit more because it's ridiculously low at present) to a single payment of £150/week (or £7,800 a year) and reduce the tax free personal allowance by this much (next year £7,475) [this would give] a negative code (or K Code as they are known).
This code is then given to any personal pension providers to deduct tax at source. When operating a K code a maximum of 50% can be deducted. The only real tweaks needed would be to change the tax system itself to contain this universal taper rule. Tax payable in any given year would be the lower of [non-state income + state pension* x tax rate] OR [non-state income x 50%].
This basically adds in an element of means testing to universal payments and is far less complex than actually means testing. It's two very simple calculations and the amount payable is the lower result. Now if we wanted to get really ambitious we could throw in the pensioners council tax bill to the tax code as well**.
In order to effectively pull this off NI and income tax would need to be merged into single rates (basic 31% higher 41% under current rules although you could make additional tweaks).
The biggest problem with the current shower we have in parliament is their own personal ego trips. You don't get any unified thinking about how different systems can be tweaked and merged to give better outcomes at the same costs or similar outcomes at a lower cost. We've seen it already with Pickles and the other one arguing over whose responsibility something was (I forget what because it was oh so interesting ... honest)
You don't have to CUT benefits to save money, you don't even have to SAVE money from DWP, merely implement a system which recoups it via taxation.
* Re what Scott Wright says in the comments, it might or might not be implied that the personal allowance is deducted from this figure first before tax is calculated (I haven't made up my mind about that myself).
If yes, then the pension and personal allowance just cancel out and by and large, the tax deducted from private pension would be normal tax rate and not 50%. If not, then we'd have a 50% on a the first chunk of private pension income, which would then be at normal tax rates for higher pensions - this may seem daft, but it would enable the citizen's pension to be rather more generous on a fiscally neutral basis. And don't forget that for many pensioners, the marginal tax rate is about 100% because of the way the Pensions Credit works. Anything has got to be better than a 100% tax rate!
** Bonus points for that idea - this dovetails nicely with my cunning plan to replace Council Tax, TV licence fee etc. with Land Value Tax - if you don't think you can afford to pay the full LVT where you live, you can just ask for it to be collected via the PAYE system (so there's an automatic abatement for lower earners), so that's this whole 'ability to pay' nonsense dealt with at a stroke of the pen. And then we can start replacing income tax with LVT etc.
He's launched another full on counter-attack on LVT. I typed a lengthy comment which wouldn't register, so I'll post it here for future reference:
"The third proposal is to go over to a system of LVT. Proponents of this see it as an easy answer to all our problems. Others see it as land nationalisation."
LVT is not an answer to "all" our economic problems - some are simply insoluble and we have to learn to live with them.
And it is not 'nationalisation', it is a straight user charge for the benefits you receive from the state in your capacity as 'landowner' - in any event, isn't income tax 'nationalisation'?
"The full scheme replaces some taxes with a rental charge on all property payable to the state. It is therefore a more penal tax on all those who have already bought freehold interests in property, and may still be paying off the bank loan or mortgage, as their freehold effectively is taken away from them as the state becomes their landlord."
Sure, so let's have discounts or reductions for recent purchasers whose house falls to a lower value than what they paid. Even with a full-on LVT to replace all other taxes (income tax, VAT, National Insurance, corporation tax), people who bought ten or more years ago would still be sitting on a capital gain.
And if this tax is 'penal', then is not income tax even more so?
"I have never seen a satisfactory explanation of how the transition would be handled fairly, given the huge numbers of property claims that underpin the banking system and the current pattern of widely spread property ownership. "
Others have already made their own suggestions for the transition (all of which we can incorporate), to which I would add:
1. HMLR already holds enough info on selling prices, locations and plot sizes to be able to determine land values within a tolerable margin of error.
2. For a start, let's replace all existing land or wealth related taxes with a flat tax on site only land values. On a fiscally neutral basis, replacing Council Tax, Business Rates, Stamp Duty, Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax, Insurance Premium Tax and the TV licence fee in their entirety would require a 1% flat tax on total buildings values (like Domestic Rates in Northern Ireland) or even better, a 2% tax on site-only land values (i.e. value of bricks and mortar is deducted for valuation purposes). Preferably averaged out over postcode sectors or whatever.
3. From there on in, you just increase the rate every year and use the revenues in a just and equitable manner...
If it hits recent purchasers - give them discounts.
If it hits high earners in big houses - get rid of higher rate tax.
If it hits lower earners - double the personal allowance or cap their bill at a certain percentage of their income (this overlaps with AVI's suggestion above)
If it hits pensioners - then double the basic state pension or give them discounts or deferment option.
If it hits landlords - get rid of Capital Gains Tax to give them an easy exit (oh, we already did that, see above!)
Provided the averaged out buying/selling prices of buildings in any postcode sector does not dip below their depreciated rebuild cost, then the tax is not 'too high' by definition.
4. One group would be clear winners from this, and that is businesses - instead of businesses and their employees having to hand over about half the wealth they generate (in VAT*, National Insurance, income tax, corporation tax and Business Rates) the total tax generated from businesses and commercially used land and buildings would go down by about two-thirds, and the UK would be a veritable magnet for inwards investment. Hurray! What's not to like?
5. As to 'property values underpinning banking system', aren't wildly inflated land values and a heavy tax burden on businesses how we got into this current mess? Isn't that something worth avoiding in future?
* Obviously, we'd have to leave the EU first, but that would be A Good Thing in an of itself.
Story and must-watch video over at BBC, also available on YouTube with Spanish commentary:
NOW That's what I call a bull fight!
Spotted by Roy D, seconded by Breaker.
Sobers steps up to the oche again on Killer arguments against LVT, not (61):
1. [Land Value Tax] IS the nationalisation of land because the State gets to decide what the value of the land is, which is related to what use the land is put to. Thus if the State decides your land would be more productive (and therefore more valuable) in use X rather than use Y (which is what the 'owner' wishes to do) then it will levy LVT on use X, thus providing a hefty nudge to the landowner that they had better either start doing X, or sell up to someone who will.
a) Complete in a hundred words or less: "Income tax, VAT etc are not 'nationalisation' of effort and enterprise because..."
b) Who says that 'the State' decides to what use land is put? People decide that, it is people who can afford to have a house built who want to have a house built; it is NIMBYs who decide that new houses shouldn't be built; it is households and businesses who need sewage works, rubbish dumps, power stations, roads, airports; and it is NIMBYs who insist that there is no need for these things.
c) The democratically elected 'State' is merely the arbiter between all these competing interests which makes the final decision. If there were no demand for new housing in an area (e.g. on top of a cliff which is crumbling into the sea), then 'the State' can grant planning permission as much as it likes, that housing won't get built and the value of that land will not increase.
d) And who says that 'the State' decides what the value of land is? Under current rules, it very much does (by restricting or granting planning permission; by improving local amenities or not, as the case may be). But the market value is decided by, er, the markets. Any sensible LVT system would be based on actual selling prices or actual rental values, in the same way as a sensible flat income tax system would be based on actual profits or actual incomes.
2. Equally the 'benefit' a householder gains from a new amenity that is built locally (say a new railway is built (which would be decided by the State of course) and as a result of a new station close by house prices rise due to better access to London) is entirely illusionary until the house is sold. Thus you can be living in your house quite happily, paying your LVT at whatever rate, earning X, and BANG! A new station arrives, your house is worth 25% more. Your LVT goes up in proportion. Do you get any extra cash to pay it? No. Have you had any actual physical benefit from the 25% rise in your house price? No.
a) Again, 'the State' would only allow a new station to be built if there is demand for it, and who demands it? The households and businesses in the area where the station is to be built. They are of course perfectly entitled to campaign against a new station being built if they so wish, and I suppose they are also perfectly entitled to campaign for a local railway station, school or hospital to be shut down if they think that the reduction in their tax bill would more than compensate for the loss of these amenities.
b) Do they get 'any extra cash to pay it? Yes of course - businesses have a wider pool of potential customers and employees, so their profits go up. People living in the area have shorter commute times to work, so either they can work longer hours (and earn more) or they have more leisure time (so they can do DIY instead of paying for somebody else to do it).
c) Why would they demand it if they got no 'actual physical benefit' from it? If Sobers were correct, then we would observe that rents (and hence house prices) were no higher in places that are well served by rail or buses or indeed roads (which is quite clearly not the case, by his own admission). Or do tenants have the right to reduce their rents by that element of value of the house's proximity to a railway station? Do home buyers have the right to reduce the purchase price by the embedded value of the proximity to the railway station?
Nope. So under a full-on LVT system, the additional tax would be no more than the sum total of all these extra benefits (we already have 'land value tax' of course, it is inescapable, it is just that under current rules, the tax is collected privately rather than publicly).
d) If proper capitalism is about 'risk and reward', why should homeowners be entitled to the upside (the increase in amenity, rental or capital values) when the station is built, but be compensated for any downsides (some houses will inevitably be affected if a new railway is built)? A tenant has to bear the risk that his rents will go up; and somebody who loses his job because of the Home-Owner-Ist induced recession is out of pocket by tens of thousands of pounds a year; is it so terrible for a homeowner to bear the risk of paying an extra thousand pounds or two a year if the area becomes more desireabe?
3. Until you sell your house you get nothing. So surely it would make more sense to tax the capital gain when the house is sold, than the nominal rise in value? Why should a householder be forced to pay more, because of a development that they have no say in whether it happens or not, and they get no cash benefit from (until they sell up)?
Nope. Benefits accrue to the people living in an area as soon as the station is opened. Admittedly, some will benefit more than others, but such is life - if you don't use the station, then sell your house to somebody who will = efficient use of scarce resources. Capital gains tax is an inherently bad and distortionary tax, as is Stamp Duty Land Tax, as it discourages efficient use or allocation of anything to which it applies.
4. As far as I'm concerned the whole basis of private property ownership is that you hold the land to the exclusion of all others, and are totally able to choose (without outside pressure) what you do with said land. (And yes I realise we have planning restrictions in this country - I regard them as anti private property ownership as well).
a) Sure, of course you 'hold it to the exclusion of all others' by definition (and there is no dispute that this is A Good Thing). But who guarantees this? 'The State', which is a 'thin blue line' or referee between all these competing interests. And what underpins this? The fact that 99 % of the population respect these laws, customs, traditions (and 70% are themselves owner-occupiers, so it is a mutually beneficial arrangement).
b) Seeing as exclusive occupation of land is a purely private benefit to the occupant with a concomitant burden on everybody else, it is a zero sum game with the gains being privatised and the costs and burdens being socialised, why not have a tax system that evens this out, rather than a tax system that actively discourages effort and enterprise?
c) In any event, aren't we always told that 'Britain is a crowded island' and isn't price-rationing the best form of rationing?
5. The whole basis of your LVT argument is that private property is guaranteed by the State therefore we should tax land to fund said State. I can see no logical reason why the State should be funded by any one particular method above all others - it is reasonable for the State to be funded from income taxes, value added taxes, import duties, indeed any of the taxation methods available.
a) I never said 'private property' in general or in the wider sense, and in fact I oppose taxation of the most private and personal property of all - your own skills, effort and initiative. Or the taxation of any other physical goods, like cars or lawnmowers because this is merely a disguised tax on the value of the output of the car or lawnmower manufacturer, i.e. it is disguised income tax.
b) In practice, the State does not and cannot protect your exclusive possession of your car - that's why they are fitted with locks and immobilisers and covered by insurance. The State cannot protect exclusive possession of your iPod or purse or wallet - if they are lost or stolen, then they are gone.
c) I have always said that the least bad kind of taxes are user charges on 'State protected quasi-monopolies', being primarily land ownership, but also radio spectrum, landing slots at airports, cherished number plates etc.
d) All the other taxes which Sobers mentions are taxes on private property and/or the free exchange of goods and services, none of which are provided or guaranteed or created in any way by 'the State' or society in general. And they have huge 'dead weight costs' - these taxes make us not just individually poorer but collectively poorer (even ignoring the losses incurred when the State wastes a large part of the revenue raised), unlike LVT which has (in practice) no dead weight costs at all.
e) And what's this nonsense about 'funding the State'? The State is merely there to provide core functions, provide low-cost mass insurance/subsidise merit goods and pay out universal benefits (the categories overlap). Some of these things cost hard cash and should be paid for first; what's left over can be dished out as a Citizen's Income/Citizen's Pension or used to repay the National Debt (or whatever).
What's wrong with rendering what is Cæsar's unto Cæsar, and letting every individual keep what he or she has created for him- or herself? (That's not a rhetorical question, by the way).