TAX, SOCIETY & CULTURE

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Krings et al on tax levels, scalar dumping, and democratic preferences

Published Aug 04, 2019 - Follow author Allison: - Permalink

Professors Amy Krings, Dana Kornberg, and Erin Lane recently published Organizing Under Austerity: How Residents’ Concerns Became the Flint Water Crisis, Critical Sociology 45 (4-5), pp. 583-597 [gated]. The article examines the politics of austerity, of interest to tax researchers for lots of reasons but perhaps especially for the expression it gives to the connection between tax levels and democratic preferences through the phenomenon of scalar dumping. Here is the abstract:

What might it take for politically marginalized residents to challenge cuts in public spending that threaten to harm their health and wellbeing? Specifically, how did residents of Flint, Michigan contribute to the decision of an austerity regime, which was not accountable to them, to spend millions to switch to a safe water source? Relying on evidence from key interviews and newspaper accounts, we examine the influence and limitations of residents and grassroots groups during the 18-month period between April 2014 and October 2015 when the city drew its water from the Flint River. We find that citizen complaints alone were not sufficiently able to convince city officials or national media of widespread illness caused by the water. However, their efforts resulted in partnerships with researchers whose evidence bolstered their claims, thus inspiring a large contribution from a local foundation to support the switch to a clean water source. Thus, before the crisis gained national media attention, and despite significant constraints, residents’ sustained organization—coupled with scientific evidence that credentialed local claims—motivated the return to the Detroit water system. The Flint case suggests that residents seeking redress under severe austerity conditions may require partnerships with external scientific elites.
As to scalar dumping, the paper explains that:
A central feature of neoliberal governance in the United States has been the production of austerity conditions in cities. Jamie Peck (2012) has described how urban austerity regimes emerge through processes of scalar dumping, whereby financial responsibility for public goods is passed down from national to state and local governments. The logical priority that scalar dumping sets in motion is clear: cash-strapped cities must either raise revenue through taxes, fees, or service costs for public goods or they must cut spending. Scalar dumping disproportionately strains cities like Flint, which have already suffered severely because of deindustrialization, residential abandonment, aging infrastructure, high poverty rates, and racial segregation. Thus, although a city’s municipal budget is shaped by a range of economic factors beyond the control of city leaders, financial hardships tend to be borne by residents. 
When cities fail to be self-sufficient, officials may employ legal tools such as emergency management laws to label budget shortfalls as financial “emergencies.” This characterization can provide justification for punitive intervention—including democratic curtailment coupled with cuts to public services—by higher levels of government (state, national, or international). Thus, austerity is indeed a “politically imposed condition”. Additionally, by characterizing the city as experiencing a fiscal emergency, policies that entail additional public spending are removed from contention and effectively blocked from the political agenda. And by focusing on the short-term alleviation of fiscal problems, longer-term structural problems—such as the loss of revenue due to a declining tax base, decreases in state revenue sharing, and growing unemployment—are cast outside the sphere of public debate. [internal citations omitted]
The authors explain that “social action is necessary to counter the dangerous effects of austerity policies,” but note that “the possibilities for democratic influence have been severely curtailed. Additionally, as environmental regulatory rules are relaxed, 'the operating principle is that toxic chemicals are presumed innocent of harming human health unless proven guilty.'” They conclude by noting that the emergency management system that led to Flint's water crisis remains in place, and quote Clare McClintock of the Democracy Defense League that “This is a new model of governance that is dangerous and unacceptable. And it’s spreading to a town near you.”

Tagged as: activism austerity civil society governance scholarship tax policy u.s.

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The power to tax

Published Sep 05, 2014 - Follow author Allison: - Permalink

The start of a new semester means the return to fundamentals in taxation for me, which always begins with a discussion of the power to tax. Yesterday I asked my students: could Queen Elizabeth say hey Canadians, I notice you still have my face on your dollar and you've got a nice surplus shaping up; over here in England it's all austerity and program cuts. Mind helping out a bit? General consensus: she might as a legal matter be able to tax Canadians to help the Brits out, but she won't. Hmmm. During the discussion a student informed me that Canadians pay more for monarchical services than the Brits do. Well, sharing is caring.

Relatedly and on a more scholarly note, a recent twitter conversation brought me to a chapter in a book on socio-legal tax research (thanks to Martin Hearson for starting that conversation and Judith Freedman for making this recommendation). The book is called Taxation: a Fieldwork Research Handbook, edited by Lynne Oats, and the chapter I had my eye on today is entitled Tea Parties, Tax, and Power, by Rebecca Boden. Boden writes:

History...points to a longstanding power relationship between rulers and those they rule that is articulated through tax regimes. States, whether feudal or modern, need money to operate, to pursue their various programmes, from war to welfare, As citizens may be unwilling to relinquish their money voluntarily, the state must have powers to require payment, with sanctions for non-compliance. By the same token, this power is held in balance in democracies by the principle of consent, exercised through representation. Ultimately, taxpayers give their consent to be dominated and have their money taken away from them.
This contingent nature of the state's powers in taxation - taxation by "consent"- chimes with Foucault's notion that power can never be absolute (Foucault 1977). No, Foucault argues, is power only hierarchical or structural, rather it works in a capillary fashion. As such, the analysis of such power relationships is central to the critical tax project - only by viewing tax structures, policies, and practice through the prism of power relationships that change them can we understand how and why they are constituted and what their effects are likely to be.
There is much more in the chapter to reflect upon, but I found this intro intriguing. In my view a lot of mischief takes place in the subtle--maybe you missed it--transition from the use of the word "citizen" to the use of the word "taxpayer." This is a transition all too many scholars make without even noticing it, yet it masks a world of ideology and assumption that frame and define how we think about tax today.

The power to define the taxpayer permeates contemporary tax policy discussion. The question of who can tax whom is one that could or should involve theory but while the scholars talk it over, reality plays out in economic might. In an intro to tax policy principles that I recently prepared for my tax policy course, I wrote:
Perhaps because taxation has been so connected to state-building, most scholars closely associate the act of taxation with the state. Some even go so far as to argue that taxation is a fundamental right belonging to the state as sovereign, often citing Thomas Hobbes for the proposition that “[t]hese are the rights which make the essence of sovereignty … the power of raising money”. None have offered theoretical grounds for the claim that states are in fact holders of rights, however.
We observe throughout history that states exercise powers (mostly through military and economic might), and only declare rights for themselves upon successful domination (such as in constitutions and charters). This observation leads to the likelihood that taxation is not anyone’s right but rather it is a constructed reality, coming about solely by and through human experience. This would explain why so much has to be done to both justify as a matter of theory - and entrench as a matter of custom - the state’s authority to tax.
We don't have to work too hard to think of a few examples where defining the taxpayer is an exercise in claiming authority, which fundamentally depends on power. FATCA is an obvious one; anti-inversions, BEPS, and the OECD common reporting standard are less obviously but equally so.

With FATCA, the US is using its sheer economic clout to get the whole world involved in chasing what it deems to be "US persons" for their tax tribute, without any discussion about whether the state's unilateral conferring of citizenship constitutes consent to (permanent and worldwide) taxation. Indeed, it continues to erect ever-higher barriers to shedding that status, without a single policy discussion at any level of government about the merits of this action. Those who think not can be expected to resist per Foucault, or, if it suits your taste better, Locke:
[People] therefore in society having property, they have such a right to the goods, which by the law of the community are their's, that no body hath a right to take their substance or any part of it from them, without their own consent: without this they have no property at all; for I have truly no property in that, which another can by right take from me, when he pleases, against my consent.
At the OECD, the common reporting standard, ostensibly modeled on FATCA but in fundamental principles not at all like FATCA, is all about making sure the "right" government gets the info it needs to exert its power over "its" taxpayers. Same idea: a state claims the authority to tax people that live within its territory, but other states have the power to thwart that exercise. (Different in fundamentals than FATCA for two reasons: (1) finding implied consent to tax is a given for residents of a state and (2) the OECD is not currently suggesting countries use economic sanctions to force others to cooperate).

The anti-inversion and BEPs issues are similarly about exerting power over a "taxpayer." Despite bemoaning their apparent helplessness in preventing corporate US persons becoming corporate non-US persons, US lawmakers clearly claim the authority to intervene and they likely have the power, too. But, this involves erecting higher and higher walls to keep the "taxpayers" inside. Internationally, discussions about the global problem of multinational tax dodging focus on the failure of the state to tax corporate persons that come in to the jurisdiction to do business. At the OECD, the BEPS project is very much about who belongs to who, so we can decide what belongs to who. Source and residence as tax concepts have always been about power and they have always been explained with ideas about authority and consent.

Globally, discussions about both corporate and personal income taxation are being forced to focus more and more on unanswered questions about the power to tax, and the issues of authority and consent that are raised when power is exerted and when it is resisted. The full Boden chapter is thus definitely recommended reading and I'm working my way through the rest of the book, which looks promising in several respects. More to come on this subject.




Tagged as: corporate tax FATCA institutions jurisdiction power scholarship Tax law tax policy

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Ireland: Oasis for American multinationals, desert for Irish workers

Published Jan 16, 2014 - Follow author Allison: - Permalink

From last Sunday's NY times, opinion write Fintan O'Toole discusses life in Ireland, after it first gorged on a panoply of tax reforms meant to lure in multinationals, and then starved under austerity under financial crisis. Of note:

...Ireland has two economies: a global one dominated by American high-tech companies, and a domestic one in which most Irish workers have to make their living. The first is indeed booming. Not least because of those low corporate taxes, large global corporations find Dublin convivial for reasons other than its pubs and night life. The sheer scale of Ireland’s dependence on this kind of investment for its exports can be judged by the fact that Irish gross domestic product took a serious hit in 2013 when Viagra (which is made by Pfizer in County Cork) went off patent in Europe. Broadly speaking, however, the global side of the Irish economy has remained robust. 
But home is where the heartache is: in the domestic economy outside the gated community of high-tech multinationals. Outside Dublin, property prices are still falling. Wages for most workers have dropped sharply. Unemployment remains very high at 12.8 percent — and that figure would be higher if not for emigration. There’s always been a simple way to measure how well Ireland is doing: Go to the ports and airports after the Christmas vacation and count the young people waving goodbye to their parents as they head off to the United States, Canada, Australia or Britain, where they have gone to find work and opportunity. 
...[People in Ireland] are not convinced that the cruel scale of the punishment was necessary or that the nasty medicine has, in fact, worked. 
Behind both of these propositions looms the great contradiction in the supposed success story of Irish austerity. It was austerity only for citizens. Running parallel to all the cuts in public spending and all the calls for fiscal responsibility has been a program of spending so lavish that it makes a drunken sailor look stingy. 
The converse proposition is that when it comes to contributing to the mechanisms of the state--rule of law, infrastructure, educated workforce, etc etc, which fully support those multinational gated communities--the state looks primarily to workers to do the bulk of the heavy lifting, in the form of personal income taxes (41% at the top) and consumption taxes (23% on most goods). But Ireland is not alone in this political decision.

The story of feasts for corporations, famine for workers is a familiar one, and the trade off is supposed to be the positive externalities corporations bring. In other words, the political tradeoff that politicians think they are making goes as follows: we can give up our tax on corporate income if that lures more corporations into our jurisdictions which then hire our workers, whom we can then tax on their incomes and then again on their consumption, to pay for luring in more corporations, in a virtuous cycle. O'Toole's column strongly suggests that the externalities are not anywhere near what was expected or would be needed to continue the virtuous cycle.

The problem for the state is that the owners of corporate capital have received their benefit up front, but when they do not produce their side of the equation in exchange, there is no way for government to demand a refund.

Thus we can add Ireland's story to the multiple examples that exist in various iterations of it around the world, including for example the constant intra- and inter-state fights to lure in manufacturers, filmmakers, and sports teams. Maybe governments should be thinking about adding a carve-back clause to the fiscal bargain that creates oases for bargain-seeking multinationals, which would disgorge untaxed profits when it is clear a party to a tax incentive-fueled deal is not bringing what they said they would or could.

Tagged as: austerity budget corporate tax deficits fairness globalization

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The Boundaries of Tax Justice

Published Apr 22, 2013 - Follow author Allison: - Permalink

I posted a draft of this paper on SSRN some time ago but neglected to post it here, so here it is. I argue that because governments chase wage-earners and consumers doggedly while selectively overlooking or ignoring other taxpayers, the imposition of income taxation as it is practised by states today is fundamentally unjust. Abstract:

The story of our time may be the awakening of society to an epidemic of global tax dodging by the world’s elites. Citizens, watchdog groups, and even government officials are puzzled, frustrated, and sometimes outraged by the phenomenon, wondering where the nation-state lost its way in regulating its people and its resources, and why it is standing by, apparently helplessly, as its tax base erodes while austerity measures undermine the welfare state. This paper demonstrates that the sequence of tax base erosion-austerity-welfare state erosion is a story about a crisis of tax justice. It does so by revisiting how Canada's historic Royal Commission on Taxation, in its search for guiding principles for tax reform, turned to tax justice as the central component for any tax system. It shows why nations have consistently failed to meet these guiding principles, instead taxing the easy-to-tax more or less comprehensively, the hard-to-tax more or less randomly, and the impossible-to-tax not at all. It demonstrates that the result is that no state today imposes taxation justly: instead, taxation as exercised around the world today is overwhelmingly characterized by arbitrariness and injustice. The paper concludes that if governments cannot or will not pursue justice in taxation, they have at minimum a duty to explain to society why this goal is no longer worthy of pursuit.
This paper includes a discussion of who should be considered a "taxpayer" by a state. I argue that citizenship-based taxation is unjust from both a human and statist perspective, and I therefore make the case for residence-based taxation. As always, comments are welcome.

Tagged as: austerity fairness rule of law scholarship tax culture tax policy

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Anti-austerity Protestors in Portugal: "Screw the troika, we want our lives back"

Published Mar 06, 2013 - Follow author Allison: - Permalink

Austerity is spreading across the globe like a bad virus, despite the vehement opposition of the general population. In Portugal, thousands of demonstrators have held marches across the country in protest. From Al Jazeera:
Tens of thousands of people filled a Lisbon boulevard during Saturday's protests and headed to the finance ministry carrying placards saying "Screw the troika, we want our lives back". 
The troika is a reference to the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, the lenders behind the country's financial bailout. 
Many protesters were singing a 40-year-old song linked to a 1974 popular uprising known as the Carnation Revolution. 
Portugal is expected to suffer a third straight year of recession in 2013, with a two percent contraction. The overall jobless rate has grown to a record 17.6 percent. The marches were powered mostly by young people among whom unemployment is close to 40 percent.
 ...After several years of tax increases and welfare cuts, austerity is poised to deepen as the government looks for another $5.2bn to cut over the next two years. The national health service, education, pensioners and government workers are likely to be the hardest hit. The government is locked into debt-cutting measures in return for the $102bn financial rescue set up in 2011.  
More tax hikes and spending cuts are on the way for Portugal: when it comes to the IMF, you must pay your debts regardless of the consequences. That was always the IMF way of course, but when austerity plus regressive taxation was being imposed on impoverished countries with disastrous social and economic results, the global North didn't seem too bothered by it. One protestor in Lisbon is quoted as saying, "This government has left the people on bread and water, selling off state assets for peanuts to pay back debts that were contracted by corrupt politicians to benefit bankers." That scenario is lifted straight out of the IMF's playbook throughout Africa in the 1990s.

Tagged as: activism austerity civil society governance IMF protests tax culture

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Fix the Debt: bipartisans fooling some of the people all of the time (a primer on the solidarity of the 1%)

Published Feb 24, 2013 - Follow author Allison: - Permalink

Gaius Publius is upset with bipartisan support for Fix the Debt, and points out the class-based solidarity of the rich (which of course aligns interests both within and beyond the nation state in ways that appear unprecedented to us today, but remind us of how things were during the last gilded age). He says:
Most left-side commenters paint "Fix the Debt" — the well-funded campaign to scare Americans into believing the debt is not only going to destroy us all, but that massive cuts to Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid are the only way to "fix" the "problem" — as a billionaire-led, CEO-led operation to kill (or at least seriously maim) the social programs by delivering one blow after another. But Fix the Debt is also a bipartisan operation.
This is about bipartisanship — real bipartisanship, bipartisanship in the bad way. 
...The real divide in this country is not Left versus Right — it's the Rich versus the Rest. It's the horizontal division between the people taking all the money they can, and those they're taking it from.
Among the rich, there's a widely-agreed center position — more for us, less for everyone else on the planet.
GP directs us to research done by watchdog group SourceWatch: a Fix the Debt portal, where they say:
The Campaign to Fix the Debt is the latest incarnation of a decades-long effort by former Nixon man turned Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson to slash earned benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare under the guise of fixing the nation's "debt problem." Through this special report -- and in partnership with The Nation magazine -- the Center for Media and Democracy exposes the funding, the leaders, the partner groups, and phony state "chapters" of this $60 million "astroturf supergroup," whose goal is to achieve a grand bargain on austerity by July 4, 2013.
SourceWatch lays out the various supporters and their bipartisan credentials, corporate ties and conflicts of interest; most have transitioned at least once from politician to lobbyist and/or vice versa, and big pharma, big oil, big finance, and the health insurance industry are all well-represented.  This is a delightful romp through the revolving door of democracy, American style.

GP says many (or most) of these individuals also have big-time conflicts of interest, as documented by Source Watch; they stand to benefit personally if what is now public becomes private and for-profit. They are all simple rent seekers, in other words, and the national debt is their trojan horse (or is it a rabbit).  This is not (or should not be) news, yet time and time again we see that you can fool some of the people all of the time...and, per George W. Bush,  "those are the ones you want to concentrate on.”

For an absolutely terrifying view of what that kind of concentrating looks like, GP ends with this video (which I can't even get all the way through so I can't tell you how it ends). The sheer number of rhetorical games played in the first 15 seconds alone is enough for me; when they get to the dancing I just want to weep.





Tagged as: 1% austerity lobbying rhetoric

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IMF Admits More Mistakes

Published Jan 10, 2013 - Follow author Allison: - Permalink

Doesn't the title sum it up nicely.  From Delusional Economics, by way of NC:
[T]he latest research from the IMF and statements from their chief economist ... appears to suggest that they simply didn't know what they were doing.
Consider it a mea culpa submerged in a deep pool of calculus and regression analysis: The International Monetary Fund's top economist today acknowledged that the fund blew its forecasts for Greece and other European economies because it did not fully understand how government austerity efforts would undermine economic growth.
The new and highly technical paper looks again at the issue of fiscal multipliers – the impact that a rise or fall in government spending or tax collection has on a country's economic output.
….
"Forecasters significantly underestimated the increase in unemployment and the decline in domestic demand associated with fiscal consolidation," Blanchard and co-author Daniel Leigh, a fund economist, wrote in the paper.
That somewhat dry conclusion sums up what amounts to a tempest in econometric circles. The fund has been accused of intentionally underestimating the effects of austerity in Greece to make its programs palatable, at least on paper; fund officials have argued that it was its European partners, particularly Germany, who insisted on deeper, faster cuts. The evolving research on multipliers may have helped shift the tone of the debate in countries like Spain and Portugal, where a slower pace of deficit control has been advocated.
...the IMF teams appear to have taken non-dynamic estimates of the outcomes of their programs under the assumption that even the most radical cuts to the government sector would always deliver a net economic positive.
See that?  They just assumed that tax cuts always lead to economic growth.  Even though their own research told them the assumption was false.

That assumption may be presiding over the unwinding of society on a global basis. It's certainly delivering a lot of pain and suffering along the way.

Tagged as: untagged

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Eight Corporate Subsidies in the Fiscal Cliff Bill

Published Jan 02, 2013 - Follow author Allison: - Permalink

Matt Stoller at NC points out the ubiquitous presence of corporate lobbying when it comes to tax policy:
Throughout the months of November and December, a steady stream of corporate CEOs flowed in and out of the White House to discuss the impending fiscal cliff. Many of them, such as Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, would then publicly come out and talk about how modest increases of tax rates on the wealthy were reasonable in order to deal with the deficit problem. What wasn't mentioned is what these leaders wanted, which is what's known as "tax extenders", or roughly $205B of tax breaks for corporations.  ... few political operatives have bothered to pay attention to this part of the bill. But it is critical to understanding what is going on.
...Most tax credits drop straight to the bottom line – it's why companies like Enron considered its tax compliance section a "profit center". A few hundred billion dollars of tax expenditures is a major carrot to offer. Surely, a modest hike in income taxes for people who make more than $400k in income and stupid enough not to take that money in capital gain would be worth trading off for the few hundred billion dollars in corporate pork. This is what the fiscal cliff is about – who gets the money. And by leaving out the corporate sector, nearly anyone who talks about this debate is leaving out a key negotiating partner.
Stoller points out "eight corporate subsidies in the fiscal cliff bill that you haven't heard of":

  • NASCAR - welfare for racetrack builders, about $43M per year
  • Railroads - welfare for track maintenance, 165M/yr.   Stoller says "It's unclear why private businesses should be compensated for their costs of doing business." 
  • Film producers - we're used to that brand of welfare here, aren't we.  Stoller calls this provision "a relatively straightforward subsidy to Hollywood studios."
  • mining companies – mine safety welfare.  Stoller:  "Taxpayers shouldn't have to bribe mining companies to not kill their workers."  
  • Goldman Sachs –  welfare for HQ building, via tax exempt financing in the New York Liberty Zone, which amounted to "little more than a subsidy for fancy Manhattan apartments and office towers for Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Corp." The whole free zone thing is ludicrous in general but it seems particularly preposterous in Manhattan.
  • Offshore financing – a subpart F giveaway, Stoller says it "basically allows American corporations such as banks and manufactures to engage in certain lending practices and not pay taxes on income earned from it." No wonder then it gets support from the likes of GE, my favorite tax dodger.  I like how Stoller points out that this particular form of welfare has its own trade association, ad reminds us yet again that lobbying pays: "Steve Elmendorf, super-lobbyist, has been paid $80,000 in 2012 alone to lobby on the "Active Financing Working Group.""
  • Foreign subsidiaries -another subpart F rule, this time essentially ignoring payments between related CFCs, which Stoller explains "allows US multinationals to not pay taxes on income earned by companies they own abroad." 
  • R&D & capital expenditures – both are well subsidised in the US, Stoller calls them "well-known corporate boondoggles." There are of course arguments for both, but it does seem rather silly to pretend that businesses must capitalize things and then keep giving them accelerated dereciation schedules that basically allow them to expense everything.
Stoller links to a number of his sources including a JCT repot that scored these expenditures.  There are no doubt many more expenditures in the bill.  Most, and perhaps all, could have been safely disposed of without bringing on the austerity bomb that we are meant to fear had we gone over the cliff. But that is tax politics in a system driven and dominated by lobbying.




Tagged as: lobbying tax policy u.s.

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Is the Hobbit a Public Good? If no, why am I paying for it with taxpayer $$?

Published Dec 12, 2012 - Follow author Allison: - Permalink

Hard on the heels of the story about why states are broke comes another example in the ongoing parade of horribles that is the global film tax incentive race to the bottom. Is the Hobbit a public good? If not, it's hard to understand why New Zealand gave its producers $120 million and changed its labor laws to prevent collective-bargaining, among other moves designed to keep production in New Zealand. This is a film that is expected to generate $3 billion in proceeds: they obviously don't require subsidies or labor suppression efforts in order to turn a profit. 

How many steps lie between the denial of labor rights in New Zealand to the appalling conditions and loss of life in Bangladesh? Not many. And why should a state ever be involved in driving its people down that road to serfdom?

Joe Karagnis has an account of the subsidies and legal reforms: To save regular earth, kill Hobbit subsidies. He says:
Film money is the hottest of hot investment money, fast in and fast out. Production is very mobile, and studios have become adept at extracting subsidies from governments for a few trinkets and promises of jobs.
Translation: film production acts just like capital. Countries (and states) compete for it, and it flows to the most welcome jurisdiction. That probably means tax incentives though there are lots of reasons to believe tax incentives aren't enough--investors need rule of law, good physical and financial infrastructure, competent workforce, etc. Really, what companies want is:
  • a highly educated workforce
  • that can't organize or demand high wages
  • a well organized legal system that protects contracts and property rights
  • but only (or mainly) of multinationals
  • a well-organized financial system that protects the investment from currency/inflationary etc pressures
  • but only if multinationals don't have to support it with taxes
Karagnis demonstrates the global spread of the problem: 
in the US ... state and local subsidies rocketed from US$2m in 2003 to about US$1.5b in 2012. Film subsidies are epidemic in Europe, where countries compete to attract and retain productions. And it has been a major part of New Zealand's cultural and industrial policy, where more than US$400m has been invested in The Lord of the Rings, Avatar and a handful of other productions over the past decade. 
But competitive subsidies are the quintessential sucker's game, in which winning is losing.
And a part of the story I just don't get at all:
For keeping Warner Bros happy, Prime Minister John Key - a former Merrill Lynch currency trader - got a replica magic Hobbit sword from President Obama...
This is puzzling and ridiculous (not to mention kind of embarrassing on both sides). The race to the bottom in film incentives is just another form of offshoring. Of course, it spreads US culture which is apparently viewed by someone that matters as the more important objective. My view: it is well past time for a little austerity for the film industry.

Tagged as: austerity culture exports film tax incentives lobbying

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Speaking of austerity: Surprise for Quebec's Universities

Published Dec 07, 2012 - Follow author Allison: - Permalink

Just in time for the holidays: the Quebec government has announced it will cut another $140 million from University budgets this year; schools will have to come up with the cuts by April--yes, in 4 months. That's on top of the rolled-back tuition increases, which represented about another $40 million. This is not a good surprise. It's especially harsh when the PQ is raising taxes all over the place and we all know into whose pockets some outlandish proportion of our taxes go. From the Montreal Gazette:

the PQ repeatedly promised to maintain funding to universities for this year despite cancelling the strongly opposed tuition hike that was to have gone into effect this fall. Universities have been waiting for compensation for about $40 million in lost revenues from the aborted increase.
The student protesters see this as an unintended consequence of their success:

Even the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ), which has suggested that universities are more mismanaged than underfunded, was shocked with what president Martine Desjardins called a “hasty” decision. 
“We talked about a redistribution of money, but we never wanted to see university budgets cut,” said Desjardins. “We’re shocked. We fear it’s services to students that will be cut, that students will have to pay the price again.”
I doubt the students alone will pay the price, but the juxtaposition of widespread & rampant corruption, steadily increasing taxes, and steadily increasing cuts to education reads like a serious governance crisis.


Tagged as: budget deficits education institutions Quebec social contract tax culture

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