Change Tax Policy and Control Banks for Affordable Housing, says New Economics Party

Change Tax Policy and Control Banks for Affordable Housing, says New Economics Party January 31, 2013 Change Tax Policy and Control Banks for Affordable Housing, says New Economics Party To get affordable housing we need a tax policy which favours investment in productive enterprises not housing, says the New Economics Party. “If we don’t control capital coming into New Zealand and then don’t stop it going into housing through our tax policy, it's no wonder we have a housing bubble in Auckland”, said Deirdre Kent, spokesperson for the New Economics Party. “And if we let the banks lend 100% on housing, we are asking for trouble.” Freeing up land and changing the Resource Management Act is not working, she said. “Banks are pushing money onto buyers and we effectively have a bubble which will eventually collapse. Wealthy Chinese are buying here to get their money out of China where they are clamping down on corruption. A lot goes into real estate. No progress will be made towards affordable housing until land tenure is separated from buildings, according to the New Economics Party. Spokesperson Deirdre Kent said “Until we (move from income tax to imposing a full ground rent) impose a full ground rent - which can replace income tax as a source of revenue for Government - we won’t get any progress. “ She said that when homeowners just have to pay the price of the building, the price of the home is halved. “In Auckland where land is on average 60% of the property price, the price would drop even further if a full ground rent was imposed.” “When property prices rise, it is almost solely because the price of land rises. Generally, the price of the house doesn’t rise. When the public captures the windfall from rising land prices instead of the banks and the private owners house prices will be finally contained,” she said. She said some Auckland leasehold land fetched a ground rent of 5% at auction and this money should really be public money because it is the public who has paid for the services to that land in roads, schools, sewers and businesses. “Others have recently been proposing solutions to affordable housing but they are just tinkering around the edges.” For further comment phone Deirdre Kent 06 364 7779 or 021 728 852.    

Review of Creating Sustainable Societies– The Rebirth of Democracy and Local Economies by John Boik 2012

Review of Creating Sustainable Societies– The Rebirth of Democracy and Local Economies by John Boik 2012 John Boik, a cancer biologist from Los Angeles, is courageous and original. He faces the big issues of our time– financial, environmental, economic, social, and even technological threats – and presents a blueprint to solve them by opt-in grassroots solutions. Boik’s ideas are idealistic and refreshing and some of them have a practical appeal. A who’s who of the complementary currency and democracy movements commend the book and Bernard Lietaer wrote the preface. Boik advocates a token exchange system, a principled business model and collaborative governance and applies democratic principles to each. He envisages a network of principled businesses and a network of policy makers. His blueprint could have a profound effect on national systems and whole populations. He describes an approach and technology that would allow citizens to voluntarily cooperate at the metro level in demonstrating new, sustainable financial, economic, and governance systems. The proposal for democratic self-governance can be demonstrated in a pilot scheme in a small group in one city. If it is as successful he hopes that the idea spreads quickly to every metro area in the U.S. and to cities in many other countries. He expects that the ideas on which it is based would start to influence state and national politics. The book contains an excellent section on writing legislation, where he applies decision making processes of open source software development and his knowledge of genetics, with each round being more sophisticated than the last. Though he advocates pilot schemes he is probably aware that top down solutions are part of the mix and when these solutions are creative and benign they are very powerful. One of the problems with reinventing society is that so few include resource-based taxation in their agenda. The current political process has a lot going for it and we should retain what is effective. The process by which a new policy comes into being is first by public advocacy, controversy and finally by legislation? While Boik understands the growing role of the Internet in shaping public opinion, he doesn’t mention the role of the media in this matter. Elegant and simple legislative solutions always trump a patch-on solution. Politics at its best can be the most creative enterprise of all. The right policies send signals to businesses and avoids the artificiality of exceptions and of picking winners. Boik is an American in an American society. While some states have referenda, the US doesn’t have proportional representation. Geoffrey Palmer’s introduction of Select Committees was a huge advance in democracy. This is not yet, I believe, emulated in the US. While New Zealand has much further to go in achieving better democracy, we at least are a small country and can constantly refine and improve what we have.  500 people actively participated in rewriting the constitution of Iceland, a country with only 350,000 people. His idea of a local currency is the Token and he believes some should be diverted into investment and some into loans. However, the feasibilility of this idea will depend on the scale of the currency and maybe he underestimates its potential size. Of course we should use democratic means to choose which business to invest in. Some publicly owned banks are doing this already to some degree. Here again the role of legislation is underestimated. Good legislation will bring good investment decisions, just as well designed currencies will. He acknowledges that housing accounts for 42% of consumer spending and that his proposed Tokens won’t help much with this. Plaudits for his stimulating and original suggestion of how to change the world and rescue us just in time from total environmental and economic collapse. Consistent with his philosophy is publishing the book free as a pdf and allowing anyone to publish a hard copy of the book as long as they give 50% to the Principled Societies Project.) An excellent short animated video, the first of four is now on the website associated with thisbook at http://www.principledsocietiesproject.org/local-financial-system-animation/.   Review by Deirdre Kent deirdre.kent@gmail.com

George Monbiot advocates land tax in Guardian article

George Monbiot argues for land tax It came as a bolt from the blue. Monbiot wrote an article for the Guardian in which he explains why land tax must be implemented. http://www.monbiot.com/2013/01/21/a-telling-silence/. But for those UK Georgists who have been trying to persuade Monbiot for years it is due reward, since high profile advocacy moves debate along. Monbiot says the loudest silence is about property taxes, that the Sultan of Brunei pays only £32 a month more for his pleasure dome in Kensington Palace Gardens than some of the poorest people in the same borough. He also quotes from Winston Churchill  “Roads are made, streets are made, services are improved, electric light turns night into day, water is brought from reservoirs a hundred miles off in the mountains – and all the while the landlord sits still. Every one of those improvements is effected by the labor and cost of other people and the taxpayers. To not one of those improvements does the land monopolist, as a land monopolist, contribute, and yet by every one of them the value of his land is enhanced. He renders no service to the community, he contributes nothing to the general welfare, he contributes nothing to the process from which his own enrichment is derived. … the unearned increment on the land is reaped by the land monopolist in exact proportion, not to the service, but to the disservice done.”

Michael Lewis on Iceland, Ireland and Greece is worth reading

Review of Boomerang, the Biggest Bust by Michael Lewis. Penguin Books 2011 I didn’t read Michael Lewis’s The Big Short, or Liar’s Poker about the dark art of investment banking, but this one is surely immensely readable. Lewis is a ‘financial catastrophe tourist’, travelling to Iceland, Greece and Germany interviewing key people in each country’s unique version of the Global Financial Crisis. He obtains interviews with significant players – Prime Ministers, ministers of finance, officials in treasury, hedge fund managers, traders, economists. In Greece he interviewed the head monks of an ancient monastery which had played a such key role in the indebting of Greece. If you can ignore the fact that the writer is an economist who is still believes that banks just lend depositors’ money rather than create the credit (understandable when you realise how hopelessly captured universities are these days by the banks), you will enjoy this romp through the financial stupidity outlining how Greece, Ireland and Iceland got into such trouble. I read the chapter on Iceland twice because there is a move to bring the leader of the protestors Hordur Torfason to New Zealand. Torfason will explain how in 2011 Iceland arrested nine bankers together with the Prime Minister who allowed the madness to take place on his watch by privatising the banks, freeing up trade and lowering taxes. Lewis says “From 2003 to 2007, while the value of the U.S. Stockmarket was doubling, the value of the Icelandic stock market multiplied nine times. Reykjavik real estate prices tripled.” When the bubble burst, Iceland’s 300,000 citizens found they bore some kind of responsibility for the $100 billion in banking losses. The debt was 850% of their GDP. Lewis has a nice way of writing mixing the factual stuff with well painted personal profiles and vivid stories. Warning: If you want to read this book in a public place, people will think you are reading porn. The sensual cover features wine glasses and a prostrate woman in a tight gold dress.      

Neil Barofsky’s Bailout shows why banks have become bigger, now too big to jail

Happy festive season to all! I have had the privilege of reading Bailout by Neil Barofsky over the holiday and of course didn’t we all hang on to the news over the New Year period when the fiscal cliff was the big topic?  The next one will be the big one, the debt ceiling. Surely this will be when the IMF intervenes and brings in the Chicago Plan Revisited? These policies would stop banks creating money, avoid public and private debt and solve the debt problem forever. What a major leap forward that would be! The next few months will be huge. Back to Neil Barofsky. The subtitle of his book tells heaps – An Inside Account of how Washington Abandoned Main Street while rescuing Wall Street. Barofsky was a young lawyer from New York appointed to be Special Inspector General of TARP, the fund that bailed out troubled banks, AIG (“We found the placement of the interests of the too-big-to-fail financial institution and their executives above those of the taxpayers funding their bailouts”) and auto manufacturing companies. It was supposed to help troubled home owners with underwater loans too. His job was to prevent fraud and protect the taxpayer. This man is a very brave individual. Constantly warned by Washington insiders that he must be always thinking about his next job (with the implication he must go easy on the big banks), Barofsky goes right ahead and does his job without fear. Secretary of Treasury under Bush is headed by Hank Paulson, former CEO of Goldman Sachs was obstructive and difficult, but when Obama appointed Tim Geithner, former President of the Reserve Bank of New York, he found himself ignored and was bundled out the door quickly on many occasions. Treasury was obstructive and he found he had to communicate with legislators and use the mediator before they took any notice of him. He said there was little change between the Paulson and Geithner regimes. At the end of it all the banks are now bigger and more dangerous. Ultimately only a small fraction ($1.4 billion at the time he stepped down) of the $50 billion allocated to help homeowners was spent, while the fund expended to prop up the financial system – as Barofsky discloses – totalled $4.7 trillion. After his two year grind in Washington Barofsky was offered a post at a university and is now using twitter to teach others online. I am delighted to say I have now made contact this way. And of course we have had the HBSC being fined $1.9 billion for money laundering but they were too big to jail. As the New York Times editorialised on Dec 11
"It is a dark day for the rule of law. Federal and state authorities have chosen not to indict HSBC, the London-based bank, on charges of vast and prolonged money laundering, for fear that criminal prosecution would topple the bank and, in the process, endanger the financial system. They also have not charged any top HSBC banker in the case, though it boggles the mind that a bank could launder money as HSBC did without anyone in a position of authority making culpable decisions.

Clearly, the government has bought into the notion that too big to fail is too big to jail"