Odd bits from USA in run up to the Era of Trump.
1). Military spending for the last year, 2015. (International Peace Research Institute. Stockholm)
Of course we know USA is tops with $596 Bil, 2. China $215 Bil, 3. Saudi $87 (pop. 30 million) 4. Russia $ 66 Bil, 5. UK $55 Bil, 6. India $52 , then France, Japan, Germany. The USA spend has risen in 2016 and is greater than the combined total of countries 2 to 10. The Arms Industry is a massive part of the USA economy. Recent comments on UK sales to Saudi highlight the sale of cluster bombs. These bombs contain 147 “bomblets” which scatter in every direction when the cluster bomb is activated. The bomblets then explore when they hit anything. The Only justification for the manufacture and sale of such dreadful yokes Is purely the generation of Profits.
2). A new word has come into use in the field of economics. “Austericide”, it’s a combination of Austerity and Suicide and was used to refer to what’s happened in Brazil when the parliament recently passed an act to put a Limit on how much the Gov’t can spend over the next 20 years! This massive commitment to ongoing Austerity is considered Suicidal for the welfare of the large majority of Brazil’s population.
3). Paid Maternity/Paternity Leave. In the developed world we take for granted that parents have a legal entitlement in this area, Except if you live in the world’s largest economy USA where there is no Legal entitlement. A review of USA’s 60 largest corporations show that 31 do not grant employees any paid leave. Such leave is considered a Benefit, the others grant it with a variety of conditions applied depending on whether you are biological parents, adopting or in the ranks of the lower paid! They get granted less paid time off. For a country which claims such commitment to family values it doesn’t translated into real commitment.
IKEA just hit the headlines in this area, it has granted its 13,000 USA employees 18 weeks of paid leave, no strings attached. Fair play to them; by the way the Legal entitlement in Ikea’s home country is 68 weeks!
4). Trumpism? Republicans are traditionally committed to small Gov’t with minimum regulations and have a strong belief in the Free Hand of the Market. They are the party most supported by business, understandably. Trump is already causing huge confusion in the Rep ranks. He and his Gov’t will interfere with the Free Hand! He’s committed to naming and shaming and by tax legislation punishing USA companies who take jobs out of USA ! The number 1 reason USA companies take jobs out of the country is to Maximise Profits and now by Trump regulations this will be controlled by Big Gov’t.
By other proposed manipulations of the USA tax code he hopes to force corporations to bring jobs back to America. Such a move will definitely increase the price Americans will have to pay for sox, jox, shoes, shirts iPhones etc etc. Companies will naturally (well natural in USA) try to minimise wage rates to limit the extent by which they’ll have to hike their prices, therefore the average worker has little or no chance of higher wages in the Trump Era but will be faced with higher prices. Interesting times ahead.
Odd bits from USA in run up to the Era of Trump.
What kind of organization would you like to work in?
In 1971 John Rawls, USA political philosopher, asked a very simple question; what kind of society would you like to live in? However, what made this one of the most significant and important questions asked on this subject in the 20th century was the interesting condition which Rawls attached to it.
We must consider our answer behind “a veil of ignorance”. By that he meant that we will not know our position or condition in the society we are considering. Will we be black, white or coloured; male, female, gay; intelligent or severely challenged; able bodied or handicapped; part of a normal family or a severely dysfunctional one; with or without siblings; rural or urban dweller. In other words, you have no idea whatsoever as to your future position. Rawls came up with a couple of basic principles which have been much debated and written about, but they concerned themselves with political laws and civil institutions.
I believe we should ask a similar question with regard to where we spend most of our waking hours;, what kind of organization do you want to work in? And of course the same condition as Rawl’s ”veil of ignorance” should be applied. In this instance, we will not know if we will be a highly skilled operator or a janitor; a smart accountant or the office messenger; a company director or a union shop steward; have a full-time contract or a zero hours contract; have paid sick leave and maternity leave or neither.
To address and discuss both of the above questions no special skills or qualifications are needed; just the ability to think and express your opinion and of course a sense of what is fair and just will probably result in you having more supporters for your point of view. Good luck and maybe lets know what you think.
The Electoral College is made up of electors who cast the vote of each state according to which candidate receives the most votes. These electors are usually state official or people deeply involved with the candidates. They cast their vote in accordance with the votes cast by the citizens in that particular state. There is no law in most states which says they must but common sense prevails. In all states except 2 its a winner takes all vote; all the electoral votes for a state goes to whoever gets the highest percentage. In Nebraska and Maine they use a proportional representation system which results candidates sharing the electoral votes.(Seems a fairer approach)
Number of electoral votes is 538 which is the sum of Congress members, 435 Representatives, 100 Senators and 3 given to District of Columbia. They are apportioned according to the number of Congress seats allocated to each state which is adjusted after each census in an attempt to ensure the number of citizens per Congress member is “about the same”.
There are anomalies in the number of electoral votes per state. On average each state is awarded an electoral vote for every 543,668 citizens, but in Wyoming where there are 3 electoral votes giving 177,556 citizens per electoral votes. So if you live in Wyoming your vote has over 3 times the clout of the average.
A more significant difficulty I see with the electoral college is system is that the President & VP are not really elected nationally but state by state. This can mean that many, probably the majority, of states are “spectator states”. Certain states are assured of being won by one party of the other and therefore the candidates do not have to spend much time or money campaigning in these states. All the effort goes into influencing the votes in “swing states”. So if you’re not living in a state with lots of electoral votes or in a swing state you may not see much og the candidates in the run up to the election.
The election, since 1845, takes place on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. In 1845 there were a couple of dozen states, a population of less than 5 million spread over a huge area with limited communication and slow transportation. Sunday was ruled out as a possible date since so many folk attended church then. Monday could be a problem getting to a voting station if you had bible classes late on Sunday. Wednesday was problematic since it was market day in may areas and so on and so on. Also to avoided clashing with All Saints Day (now commonly known as Halloween) it was pushed out to the Tuesday following the first Monday !
The electoral college establishment dates back to about 1786, when there were only 13 states. Those involved I setting it up were very learned men but relatively inexperienced in national politics; they had only managed to get freedom from Britain 10 years earlier after their war of Independence. With all the changes which have taken place in the last 200 years, it seems remarkable that the system of choosing a leader who holds so much power has not been revamped. The entire USA democratic system is now manipulated largely by lobbyists, Big Money and Corporations. A revamp of the entire system is long overdue.
A recent look at UK welfare fraud surprised lots of folks; in fact a survey last year in UK showed that folks thought over 20% of the welfare budget was claimed fraudulently. The Government’s own monitoring over the years puts the figure at less than 1% (0.7%). It’s still a lot of dosh, £1.3 Billion and fiddling is wrong. Period. But looking at the big picture, HMRC reckons that the difference between the taxes it should receive and what it collects is more than £30 Billion! Its referred to as the “Tax Gap”. There are arguments on whether the Gap is as high as £30 Bil, but the most conservative figures still show the Tax Gap is always much higher than welfare fraud, at “best” only 5 times, at “worst” 25 times .
Some £5 Billion of that outstanding tax is avoided through cleverly devised schemes which may be within the letter of the, only just, but certainly not within the spirit of the law. Whatever way you look at it there are a lot of folk not doing the right thing.
What’s the situation in Ireland? It has been strongly suggested to me that the Irish fiddle their welfare entitlements much more than the British, so I rose to the bait and did a bit of looking.
Total Welfare budget in2015 Ireland was $19.6 Billion ($ equals Euro on my PC!) The last year a breakdown is available is 2014 which shows Welfare over payments amounted to $124 Million, which is a very similar % to the UK figure, it’s less than 1%.
Of this $124 Mil, 5% ($6 mil) was staff mistakes, 42% ($52 mil) fraud, 40% ($49 mil) “mistakes” changed recipient’s circumstances. The Dep’t successfully recovered $86 mil out of the $124 Mil, meaning we “completely lost” 38 Mil. That’s a lot of dosh in anyone’s books. There is no acceptable face to fiddling, be it welfare or taxes, but at least I reckon the welfare fiddles are spent in the local economy whereas the tax fiddles often finish up banked offshore or spent somewhere other than in the local economy,
And once again we are much more like our UK neighbours in the area of tax dodging . The Irish Revenue also have a “Tax Gap”. Some of the well documented areas of Government Revenue losses are. (Figures from Irish Retail section of IBEC)
- Illegal Cigs $526 Mil…Diesel Laundering $155 Mil… Counterfeit Goods $62 Mil. Total $742 Million.
- The Revenue are persistent but in Aug 2016, they finally gave up chasing several folk and announced that it was “writing off” $260 Mil of outstanding taxes.
- The Quarterly List of Defaulters shows that some of our wealthiest do their best to avoid paying their fair share. Each Quarter the Revenue recover between $18 & 20 Million from Defaulters, that’s $77/80 Mil annually, and that’s only the ones they catch!
- The Defaulters are usually/ naturally high earners and “respected” members of the community, Accountants, Medical consultants, Company directors, Builders and even well-known popular entertainers. (Paddy Cole $834,000)There are loads more smaller amounts. Here are some recent Quarterly Totals, up to 31.12.2015, $17 Mil… Up to 31.03.2016, $25 Mil… Up to 31.06.2016, $17.5 Mil.
- Here are a couple of examples of large settlements in 1st Qtr 2016. James Daly, Cork, Accountant, $4 Mil. Oliver Barry, entertainment organiser, $2.2 Mil. Ml Murphy, Builder $7 Mil. Kevin Cronin, Med Consultant $534,000. James Farrell, Coy Director, $1.4 Mil. HM Yachts, Cork, $$924,000.
- There is demonstrably a bias (unfairly in my opinion) against the less well off in our community, a very recent example was a Headline stating $185,000 Welfare Fraud recovered by CAB (Criminal Assets Bureau). However, in the body of the article it mentioned that CAB also chased down $6,600,000 (35 times as much) in Unpaid Taxes….Which do you think should have been in the Headline?
In a developed country the majority of the citizens look to and expect the Gov’t to provide a range of basic services, such as Education, primary, secondary & tertiary, Policing & Prisons, Clean Water & Clean Air, a Road Network, Hospitals etc. Where they decide to “farm out” / privatise some services they continue to have some regulatory responsibilities or supervisory function to play. Without such regulatory functions private companies may become very selective in how they provide services which have been entrusted to them. EG. there may be little profit in running a regular bus service to outlying towns such as Spiddle or Glenties for a profit maximising private transport company.
To fulfil this wide range of responsibilities the Gov’t obviously needs money,preferably a regular predictable revenue stream. It raises this revenue in a variety of means such taxation, direct & indirect, Income Tax, Corporation Tax, VAT, Capital Gains Tax, Stamp Duty & Social Insurance Contributions. The total amount raised is usually expressed as a % of the country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product). This % figure enables us to gauge year on year whether the Gov’t’s revenue and expenditure is increasing or decreasing as the GDP rises or falls. Unfortunately certain services need to be provided at a level which is not influenced by the rise or fall of our GDP, policing and schools are two obvious examples. How the Gov’t handles or mishandles this problem is for another discussion.
Another use of this information which expresses revenue as a % of GDP is that it enables us to compare ourselves with other countries irrespective of their size vis a vis Ireland. However for Ireland to get a % which is usefully comparable we have to do a little “massaging” of the figures due to the abnormally large amounts of money “passing through” our economy without paying much if any tax and without generating real economic activity in the form of local jobs. EG. Aircraft Leasing, Property speculating Venture Funds, I could add Apple, they certainly pay little or no tax and relative to the Billions of sales booked through Ireland their 6,000 employees is disproportionately small.
In summary, Ireland uses a Hybrid GDP figure which is calculated by the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council and it is this figure which I will use to express revenue & expenditure as a %, of GDP. This Hybrid figure gives a higher % than if we used our “oddly inflated” GDP figure.
The point I wish to make is that the Gov’t can only provide Public Services from the revenue it receives and unfortunately as we will see below, we cannot expect the range or quality of Public Services that are available in other European countries simply because our Gov’t has not got the money. The % figures given are Revenue as % of GDP and are Gov’t projections for next 5 years (the actual figures for the last 2 years were fairly similar) The figure in brackets after Ireland’s % is the UK %.
EU Area Average: 46%, Ireland 33% (37%).
Since late 1990s in terms of how we managed our economy we drifted “closer to Boston and further away from Berlin”. We went for low taxes. i.e.. low Gov’t revenue and a corresponding low level of good quality Public Services. As a comparison outside EU the USA % has just recently broken 30%. So there you have it. In my opinion we are very entitled to be unhappy with our Public Services and should be agitating every what way for the changes necessary to enable us to enjoy a truly European range of Public Services.
The old argument that if we add costs to doing business in Ireland we will become uncompetitive doesn’t really hold water. Watch this space for a look at how some other EU countries who pay much higher taxes than Ireland remain internationally very competitive.
Harvard is reckoned to have the largest bursary/endowment of any university. 2015 valuation was $35.7 Billion, yes Billion and its in the news because over the last 5 years its 11 “money managers” collected $242 Million, mostly bonuses related to performance. Obviously to earn a bonus you need to exceed your target, and conveniently these 11 managers were heavily involved in setting their own targets ! When compared with other similar universities their targets were abnormally low. The Harvard money managers averaged 11% pa, beating their easy target of 10%.
However other universities had targets around 12% and on average they achieved 13.5% pa, so whatever way you look at it the Harvard money managers got paid heaps for a very mediocre performance. Heaps is the right term because of all the universities they were the highest paid!
Just as an aside 1) the cost of attending Harvard on their website is between $65 & $70,000 Per Year. 2) Harvard, like other universities(regarded as “non-profits”) do not pay any taxes, no property taxes, no capital gains taxes. So Harvard’s endowment of $35.7 Billion will probably earn another $3.5/$4.0 Billion next year and pay no tax! I hear the American national anthem playing in the background !