Public loses $37 billion to private landowners every year

Sang Architects, Auckland multi residential Remuera101We are being robbed. Constantly robbed. And it is the expense of the earners who catch two buses to work early in the morning for a low paid job. We can work out that the public is losing at least $37 billion a year to private landowners. This should more than replace income tax.

There are 1,771,200 private dwellings in New Zealand (Stats NZ) The mean house price rose from $395,530 in April 2014 to $466,665 in 1 July 2011 (Quotable Values)

That is in just under three years the mean house price rose $71,135. Almost all of this was privately captured as capital gain.

So let’s multiply these two figures to get the total of privately captured capital gains on those private residences and we get $126 billion.

This is for a period of just under three years, two months short of three years. So yearly the amount of capital gain is now one third of 34/36 of $126b, or one third of $119 billion = $40 billion. A very tiny fraction of it will have been captured by local authorities in rates. Almost none will have been captured by central government.

The rates revenue of all local authorities in 2013 was $4.5 billion. Suppose two thirds of this was land value (a high figure – more like the Auckland ratio), then local authorities revenue due to taxing of land value would be $3 billion. But if the ratio is lower, then it would be as low as $2billion a year.

So $40 billion figure gets reduced by somewhere between $2 and $3 billion and we have lost in public revenue at least $37 billion a year through failing to capture capital gains, or failing to impose full land rentals, which is essentially the same.

To put this in perspective, the GDP of the country is $227billion in the year to March 2014.

The revenue from income tax is $29.8 billion and the total revenue from taxes $72.5 b. Expenses were $73.1 billion in the last budget.

So $37 billion is being pocketed by private property owners every year when the value has been created by the wider public. This money rightfully belongs to the public. (Compare this: Labour's Capital Gains Tax would yield only $1b a year "in time" and the Greens Capital Gains Tax would yield $4.5 b/ year "in time")

On the other hand, the government has confiscated $30b of our earnings through income tax and taken nearly $18 billion from our expenditure in GST, making everything less affordable. No wonder there is poverty in New Zealand. No wonder there is inequality.

dairy-farm-for-saleBut revenue from land rental would not be the government’s only income. We should be charging rent for the monopoly use of all natural resources, not just land. The principle that we should pay for what we hold or take but not for what we do or make means that we should pay taxes on our monopoly use of the rest of the commons. What is the commons? Everything that occurs naturally or is part of the social or cultural capital – water, fish, forests, electromagnetic spectrum, minerals, oil, gas, as well as the monopoly use of the infrastructure. The latter includes taxes on use of airports, hydroelectric power stations, ports, and so on. It also includes use of the commons for emission of pollutions. The biosphere is used for emissions of greenhouse gases and the rivers, lakes, and seas cleanse the pollutants from farms. We already tax tobacco, alcohol and gambling and would continue to do this.

address_withheld_negotiation_100189170163421799Lifting the tax burden from the productive sector by taking off income taxes, GST, corporate tax and interest revenue taxes would allow productivity but, given the burden of resource taxes, the pattern of productivity would be very different. It would look more like a post fossil fuel economy.

Would the revenue be sufficient to run a country? We currently spend $73.1 billion. (Budget 2014-5). So we would need a further $36 billion. Karl Fitzgerald in his Australian study worked out the other resource tax revenue and managed to match the current revenue. There is no doubt we could too.
I am reminded of a quote from Henry George, author of Progress and Poverty, who said "For this robbery is not like the robbery of a horse or a sum of money, that ceases with the act. It is a fresh and continuous robbery, that goes on every day and every hour. It is not from the produce of the past that rent is drawn; it is from the produce of the present. It is a toll levied upon labor constantly and continuously. Every blow of the hammer, every stroke of the pick, every thrust of the shuttle, every throb of the steam engine pay it tribute. It levies upon the earnings of the men who, deep underground, risk their lives, and of those who over white surges hang to reeling masts; it claims the just reward of the capitalist and the fruits of the inventor's patient effort; it takes little children from play and from school, and compels them to work before their bones are hard or their muscles are firm; it robs the shivering of warmth; the hungry, of food; the sick, of medicine; the anxious, of peace. It debases, and embrutes, and embitters."

From interest to reciprocity, savings pools are a great innovation.

Among all our discussion of currency and tax changes at national level we must never lose sight of the good things happening at local level. For it is at the level of neighbourhood that we all exist. It is at community level where our comfort comes from. It is from the ground up that initiatives and innovations happen. New Zealand has a unique innovation here.

It is at local level where we can take action to restore local economic resilience and maximise our chances of survival after a major bank failure and economic crisis. Nicole Foss has reminded us yet again that the system must crash. “When the music stops there is only one chair for every 100 dancers”.

Money-tabooIn August 2014 I had the privilege of attending the annual hui of the Living Economies Educational Trust. Among the local resilience initiatives being taken are green dollars, timebanks and now savings pools. It is the savings pools that I want to talk about here.

A savings pool is a family sized group of people (4 to 30 people) who get together regularly for the mutual financial purposes. It is a cross between a purchasing cooperative, a support group and a pawn shop. There is not a scrap of interest paid to anyone.

So how does it work? Members meet at someone’s home monthly. They discuss what they will contribute to the group’s shared pool. It might range from $10 to $200 a month, but where the membership is say 10, the group’s monthly savings can quickly range from $100 upwards. Before long you have a sum of, say, $3000.

But you don’t want this money languishing in the bank. You want it out amongst your members doing good. The members volunteer in turn what their financial needs are. Perhaps three in the group have financial needs. Susan draws attention to her credit card debt, Jim is desperate for a new car so he can get to work and a Rosy needs to pay a dental bill. The group then pays attention to those three needs. They figure they can work out how someone can take Jim to work for a while and decide to pay off Susan’s credit card. Without having to pay interest, Susan can put more into the pool each month.

Susan’s promise is to pay $50 a month to pay the pool back, plus another $50 as reciprocation (equal give and take) towards her future pool account. She pays a total of $100 a month now. Or else she could pay $50 a month for double the period. Her choice.

In savings pools trust is important but there is a saying "Trust in God but tie up your camel". Tying up your camel entails prudent purchasing agreements. Collateral is usually necessary. e.g. if I want $1000 from the group to pay off my credit card debt and I have a $5000 car, the group can own my car and I enter into a purchasing agreement with the pool to buy back my car for $1000. That way the pool is more like a special kind of pawn shop. The car should be insured. The whole group reviews their next month’s contribution, and the result is a bigger fund. Since they don’t know Rosy well they meet in her house next time. As trust builds and the social capital of the group grows, they realise Rosy should be next in line for a contribution from the pool as her teeth really are causing her trouble. Maybe there is enough in the pool to meet her needs now.

Rosy offers some appropriate property for sale and purchase, plus an equivalent savings/contribution to the pool. Money, Colorful words hang on rope by wooden peg The accounting spreadsheet is available for them all to see. They add up what they will have at each month in the future, aware of some of the future demands on the use of the funds.

When Jim’s turn comes around for a car the pool has $5000 with which to buy a car. The car belongs to the pool. Jim uses it and pays off $100 a month. But as before he also has to put in another $100 a month so that others can have access to his money during the period he pays it off. If $100 a month is all he can afford then the term could be extended for two years. That is reciprocity in action. So instead of paying it off in one year Jim takes two years. At the end of the two years ownership transfers to Jim. He has paid off $5000 plus he has put another $5000 in the pool. When he has paid off his $500 and contributed another $5000, he can withdraw the second $5000 if he wants as it is his money. Meanwhile for all that time it has been at work for the pool’s benefit.

So you see not only has the group lent without interest but nobody gains from being a borrower without paying an equal amount back to the pool. Reciprocity replaces interest.

There are now at least 22 savings pools in New Zealand and membership is growing fast. Several people are now available to help new groups form. They do this by running a game (it's more fun than monopoly) where they are each given an identity (e.g. a retired couple with no mortgage or a solo mother with part time work) Each person is then handed a crisis/opportunity card saying what happened that month for them (unexpected expense they can’t meet or an inheritance or ‘no change’). Then they role play what might happen within the group. At the end of the game people are itching to start their own savings pools.

These groups work particularly well if they start with a group who already know each other. It is also good if you have a cross section – those with extra money they want to protect in case of an economic crisis and those whose finances are more precarious. If a person dies or moves away their money can be withdrawn, together with their savings points (amount of money multiplied by the number of months they have had it in there) and passed to their heirs.

You need a person who will be a good recorder.

I have been to several of these events. Enthusiastic members of existing pools tell us of the celebration and joy when a credit card is paid off. One group had a party where they ceremoniously cut up the card.

The first financial threat is a global downturn causing major economic contraction and loss of ability to service mortgages. The second is bank insolvency where depositors (unsecured creditors of the bank) find their accounts have been frozen overnight and wake up with a "haircut". In crises the solvency of banks depends on the elimination of debt and calling in non performing loans (mortgage foreclosures and asset seizures).

Savings pools already own all assets not yet paid for. Contributions will tend to dry but but the pool community remains. Loss of liquidity results in temporary paralysis of the system, but no loss of its real underpinnings

The assets of savings pools or more strictly Buyers Clubs in New Zealand are now growing at between 75-100% a year. In other words they are nearly doubling every year. If you would like to find out how it all started have a look at the 15 min video done by its founder Bryan Innes here.

For more information go to the Living Economies website where you can read more and see a typical agreement.

To start one in your area contact either Peter Luiten, Bryan Innes, Phil Stevens or Helen Dew. Or leave your information here

High time the universities changed their teaching on money creation

It’s disturbing when university professors tell lies about the money creation process. I thought universities were supposed to be repositories of knowledge and their statutory duty was to pass on knowledge. And when they fail in that duty and pass on myths to their students who then go on to hold jobs in banking, media and all the related jobs, how much greater the crime? And when journalists pick up untruths from the academics and their graduates, how can a society learn the truth?

Some years ago I was contemplating spending my remaining years suing a university for inaccurate teaching about money creation. I was enraged that a trusted societal institution should fail so profoundly in its statutory duties when the consequences were so enormous and profound. But I chose instead to co-found the New Economics Party and I don’t regret it.

Every now and then Professor Steve Keen from Sydney has a sparring match with Paul Krugman, the former Nobel Prize winner in economics and columnist for the New York Times. The publishing of a paper by three Bank of England economists – Michael McLeay, Amar Radia and Ryland Thomas – dispelling myths about money creation would have set it off again. They were so keen, they even did a youtube video filmed in the gold vaults of the bank. Writing on his debtdeflation blogspot, Keen said he eagerly awaited Krugman’s reaction to Threadneedle Street’s paper. He is not expecting university lecturers to change their lectures any time soon.

As for me I am a bit embarrassed that the first chapters of my book Healthy Money Healthy Planet – Developing Sustainability through New Money Systems pbl Craig Potton 2005 refer to “fractional reserve banking” and the “money multiplier effect” which, according to both the Bank of England and to Michael Kumhof and Jaromir Benes of the IMF are just plain wrong. I wish I could change it.

So how is money created? Well I actually wrote both versions of money creation in my book and the second one is right. I must have confused many readers and apologise.

The Bank of England paper dispels two myths. It says:

“Whenever a bank makes a loan, it simultaneously creates a matching deposit in the borrower’s bank account, thereby creating new money. The reality of how money is created today differs from the description found in some economics textbooks:

• Rather than banks receiving deposits when households save and then lending them out, bank lending creates deposits.

• In normal times, the central bank does not fix the amount of money in circulation, nor is central bank money ‘multiplied up’ into more loans and deposits.”

They say “This article explains how, rather than banks lending out deposits that are placed with them, the act of lending creates deposits — the reverse of the sequence typically described in textbooks.”

It’s a lovely clear paper, accessible and readable. The two videos with it are filmed against the unforgettable and authoritative background of gold nuggets in the vaults in the Bank of England, a clear statement in itself. It describes how some money is created by buying assets, outlines the constraints on bank lending and reminds us the way money is destroyed is by paying back loans. It says clearly “Banks do not act simply as intermediaries, lending out deposits that savers place with them”.

Knowing that commercial banks create most of the broad money supply and that savings takes money out of the total in circulation, I have always been suspicious of comments of bank economists, journalists and politicians who urge more savings. So here is a quote on saving that I like. “When households choose to save more money in bank accounts, those deposits come simply at the expense of deposits that would have otherwise gone to companies in payment for goods and services. Saving does not by itself increase the deposits or ‘funds available’ for banks to lend.” I like it. It makes sense.

So are universities the right place to start? I am not sure. It is logical enough to argue they train society’s professional economists and influence journalists and politicians. But it may also be useful to focus on educating journalists to be suspicious of academics in economics. After all do other disciplines have websites and books similar to “Unlearning Economics” and “Sack the Economists” and jokes about not letting facts get in the way of a good theory?

This blog is not about solutions. It is about getting the facts about banking and money creation right in the first place. When solving problems you have to start with facts not myths. And whether you are a Social Creditor, Positive Money adherent, New Economics Party member or anything else you will have your solutions to public money creation. This is not the forum to debate solutions.

Well so what should we all do? Any of these would be a start.

1. Send the paper’s link to top politicians through whatever media you fancy, be it twitter, facebook, email or snailmail.

2. Get active in any organisation or group that tells it like it is.

3. Have a look at a student’s economic textbook and write to the university who prescribed it pointing out the authoritative paper and urging they teach facts not myths.

4. Ring up any radio station that perpetuates the myth of intermediation pointing out it is wrong.

5. Join with others in this campaign.

6. Offer to help the New Economics Party

7. If you are a student, then organise petitions to your academic staff and changing the textbooks.

Deliberating in public “would have a chilling effect on free discussion”, say MPs

Last year we went to the trouble of collecting nearly 900 signatures for a petition. When I was finally informed that it was going to be discussed on a Thursday by the appropriate Select Committee, I said "Good, I will come". "Oh, no," said the secretary, "this is not an open session". Having been involved in local government where meetings are almost always in the open I was gobsmacked.

Well the petition was turned down and we are none the wiser as to why. We don't know what arguments were put forward or used in objection, we don't know anything – only that they invited a submission from the Reserve Bank because they sent us this recently, together with their final report.

NZ Parliment After discovering this behind doors policy, I wrote to the Speaker, saying that Parliament had legislated to require local authorities have their meetings in public (give or take a couple of exceptions) 22 years ago. Why did they now expect the same standards of open government from themselves?

The Speaker wrote an excellent letter back and invited us to submit to the Select Committee on Standing Orders. We did this and before long they invited us to give evidence. We got a reasonable hearing.

But a few months later when I asked what the result was, the secretary gave me a link to the committee's report and lo and behold there was nothing about having Select Committees in open session. Again we have no idea what the arguments were and who argued which way.

The only part of Parliament we see is the tribal raruraru in the House and it is an embarrassment to notice there are school children in the gallery watching it all. The Westminster System certainly shows its ugly side.

But Select Committees, they tell us, are the most constructive part of Parliament. So why can't the public see them cooperating and deliberating? Why do they close their doors? What have they got to hide?

No wonder so many are turned off Parliament and don't vote. All parties seem as bad as each other at the moment.

And today the advice from the Clerk of the House was posted on Parliament's website. "No", she said. "While I agree that it would be useful for the public to see the constructive discussions that occur in closed meetings, the nature of these discussions would be likely to change if they were conducted in public, or they would take place outside the committee room. In particular, opening proceedings would affect the provision of free and frank advice, have a chilling effect on free discussion and political negotiation amongst members, and increase the likelihood of lobbying."

Well that was what one MP told us when we went there. Oh how dreadful seeing them being constructive. Oh how surprising seeing them negotiate. Well it makes one wonder what is so different about being an MP when councillors at local level can deliberate in public with the media and the public present. The latter is democracy we trust, the former is a closet democracy.

And it seems the MPs followed the Clerk's report, because that is how they decided. And no one will ever know if one of them didn't agree. If this is the effect of the adversarial imperative of the Westminster system it is not serving well and it is time our adversarial system was reformed.

Letter to a budding politician concerned about inequality and climate change

Letter to Miriam Pierard, Miriam I listened to your radio interview with Wallace Chapman and I was very impressed.

Yes, the top issues of our time are climate change and inequality. You say you are concerned to find answers. Great news.

Gosh Miriam I have been looking to solutions to the environmental crisis for decades. I was a candidate for the Values Party in 1975. And we were saying in those days that the GDP wasn’t necessarily an indicator of progress, because we had noticed inequality then – and unemployment and deprivation. And it is still worshipped forty years later.

Late in 2012 we had a 40 year reunion of New Zealand Values Party activists. We reflected on progress and it was quite sobering. Inequality had got worse and the environment had deteriorated to the situation where our very habitat is threatened with climate change and all the storms, flood, drought and food insecurity it brings.

A year before that reunion I had helped co-found the New Economics Party. Whereas most of the Values Party seniors said they were frustrated within the Green Party, I said I wasn’t at all because I was actively engaged in finding solutions and believed I had come to understand two of the big solutions.

I know I have. The very money system we have is structured so that the money supply has to grow, debt has to grow and the economy has to grow. So when it comes to climate change talks, after all the dire warnings from increasingly alarmed scientists, we usually watch helplessly while official delegates back away, claiming that the economy mustn’t be harmed and economic growth cannot be jeopardised. “Balance” is the cry… and they come up with some puny version of what is needed.

The structural problem we have here is this. We have a monetary system where if the economy doesn’t grow, it collapses. That is how it is designed. You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t scenario. So it’s not a great choice – runaway climate change if we do nothing or economic collapse if we do something that will halt it.

So I had finally found the cause of the growth imperative. It was the money system whereby we allow banks to create money as interest bearing debt. The negative consequences would all follow. It had taken me till 2004 to realise this.

But finding the cause(s) of inequality? It has come to me in various forms over the last few years. But now it is crystal clear. The earth has a finite supply of land and natural resources – land, water, fish, electromagnetic spectrum and so on. We all can’t occupy the same piece of land. Some land is more valuable than other land. Land is given its value by the desirability of its surroundings. So those who claim monopoly use of the best land must compensate the others for the privilege. In other words pay a full rental on the land to the public purse and then let this revenue be shared with all, perhaps as a Citizens Dividend or for health and education and other government services. Add to this the rental on the monopoly use of fish stock, water, coal, oil, minerals and you get government revenue.

If we don’t charge a rent on the monopoly use of natural resources, the consequence is asset inequality and this leads to income inequality. You are always going to derive income from monopolising resources like land.

I had also realised this land issue must be solved at the same time as the money issue. When I was starting to understand the money system and advocating for money spent into existence without interest (the Reserve Bank issues its coins this way) it became clear that interest-free money would cause a rise in the price of property. That really meant a rise in the price of land. We would have a land bubble. (that is why economists wouldn’t ever agree to zero interest money; they knew the bubble consequences).

But the land bubbles only happen because freehold land originally meant land “free of rent”. Apart from a small amount as the land proportion of our rates, there is no price on the holding of land. We can see that in Auckland as speculators buy valuable sections or old houses, and sit on them while the area develops and the price rises. Without doing anything at all the land speculators get an unearned windfall gain. (And a Capital Gains Tax won’t solve it, but I won’t go into that now).

Those who have freehold land should pay the public a full rental. Any valuer will tell you they can work out the rental value of any piece of land, it’s easy. And it should be reviewed annually, otherwise there are unpleasant hikes upwards.

But is this another tax? No, it is a replacement tax. Since there is no logic in income tax because there is plenty of labour we should get rid of that. Labour and entrepreneurship are valuable and we should encourage them. GST is regressive and income tax illogical.

Now I won’t go on any more, except to say if you are seriously concerned about inequality and climate change I encourage you and your party to focus your energies on economics. Other wonderful results follow from understanding these two issues. It’s the money system. It’s the tax system.

Few economists can tell you much about how money is created and, as two economists from the IMF and three from the Bank of England have recently embarked on a campaign to teach the economics profession about bank created credit. They say the textbooks are wrong.

However politicians worth their salt will also be aware that it is political suicide to favour a third tax on land. People will protest they pay their rates and they pay their mortgage so why should they pay another? Quite right. Actually the bank is getting the money that rightfully belongs to government. It’s a challenge.

Look I don’t know how this could all be implemented without shocking the economy. I have worked out one solution. I am not sure it is right. But I do know that somehow, someone must be politically creative, politically determined and wise enough to win the public over and finally address climate change and inequality at the root. Nothing else will suffice. Artificial bandaid solutions can’t work because they don’t get to the root of the problem.

As a woman in her seventies addressing a clever young budding politician I wish you the very best and hope that you can help make a better world for my grandchildren. Meanwhile I will keep doing what I do.

Financial analyst and former oildrum editor joins New Economics Party as spokesperson

Top Financial Analyst to join New Economics Party

Friday, 1 August 14

The New Economics Party has just added top financial analyst Nicole Foss to its group as spokesperson on the global economy.

“We are delighted to welcome Nicole, Senior Editor of The Automatic Earth website to our team” said party co-leader Deirdre Kent. “Nicole, a Canadian has recently arrived to live in Motueka and is in demand as an international speaker on finance, energy and resilience,” she said.

Nicole is former Editor of The Oil Drum Canada (canada.theoildrum.com). She used to be a Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for energy Studies in the UK and used to run the Agri-Energy Producers' Association of Ontario in Canada. Her formal background is in science and law.

Nicole says she aligns with the New Economics Party idea that the global financial crisis is far from over. “The recent credit bubble was the biggest ponzi scheme the world has ever experienced and it’s not yet unwound.” The bailouts now add up to at least $4.6 trillion or $4,600,000,000,000. Foss says the bubble is leading us into a very long and painful depression.

The New Economics Party http://neweconomics.net.nz is not contesting this election.

For further comment phone Deirdre Kent 06 364 7779 or 021 728 852 or Nicole Foss 022 312 5120

Petition asking for a Parliamentary Enquiry on Bank Stability declined

Our petition on Bank Stability Dismissed 31 July 2014

The New Economics Party is disappointed that their 877 strong petition asking for a Parliamentary Enquiry on bank stability has been declined.

Spokesperson Deirdre Kent said they were not just disappointed with the outcome (which was expected) but also by the process where the Select Committee met behind closed doors.

“There is so much at stake with banks playing in the derivatives casino, that the issue should be taken more seriously. The public is being kept in the dark as to what is going on internationally in the credit blowout. Their reply suggesting that they had it all in hand was by no means reassuring yet they have gone to the trouble of setting up a system whereby ordinary depositors will have their accounts confiscated in the event of a bank collapse.”

Ms Kent said “I don’t remember the Reserve Bank predicting the Global Financial Crisis, so why should we have faith in them now?

“The fact that the Select Committee meets behind closed doors is a big worry. We weren’t invited to give oral evidence, we didn’t get to eyeball them and we don’t know which politician said what. When Parliament has legislated 22 years ago for local authorities to have all their meetings in public without a good excuse, they continue to meet in behind closed doors. Such a process is unfair, undemocratic and not in line with their stated policy of open government.”

For further comment phone Deirdre Kent 06 364 7779 or 021 728 852