Friday, December 29, 2017

Cruising the Web

Writing at CBC News, one Canadian writer, Aaron Wudrick, worries about how the GOP tax reforms could harm Canada.
Previously, Canada could boast about lower business taxes: the Canadian average combined federal-provincial rate of 26.7 per cent, compared favourably to an American average combined federal-state rate of 39.1 per cent. That advantage is now history: with passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the new average American rate is just 26 per cent.
Well, yeah. That was the argument about why we needed to lower our corporate tax rates. But the Canadian Prime Minister doesn't seem to understand that argument.
Worse still, the Trudeau government is heading in the opposite direction on taxes generally: while it recently resurrected a promise to lower taxes for small business, the general rate is unchanged. It has promised a national carbon tax in 2018, scheduled a payroll tax hike beginning in 2019 to pay for higher Canada Pension Plan contributions, and even introduced an automatic tax escalator on alcohol.

While the government did cut income taxes last year, one study suggested that the average Canadian family was actually paying an additional $840 in taxes. With spending slated to jump a whopping 21 per cent by the end of the Trudeau government's third year in power, there's little appetite in Ottawa these days for big tax cuts.

Faced with the new American reality, this is cause for concern. Why invest in Canada and pay higher taxes when you can invest next door and pay less? This is especially true when competing for foreign investment.
It's nice to see the argument for American tax reform and regulatory relief made by our economic competitors - maybe then it will have a little bit more weight for Americans to understand why these reforms will benefit the American economy in the end.

And it's not just Canada, Joseph C. Sternberg reports in the WSJ that Europe is getting worried about how American tax reform will affect them. They're not used to the U.S. having lower corporate rates than they do.
European leaders gripe about Ireland’s 12.5% corporate rate. But they tolerate it because Ireland’s small size limits its capacity to draw business away from big countries such as France, Germany, Italy and Spain, whose tax rates approach or even exceed 30%. The same holds for the EU’s less-affluent formerly communist member states, whose statutory rates generally max out at 22%.

No EU rule outright prohibits a large member country from cutting its corporate rates, but in practice these states haven’t needed to consider such steps, because their size offered a form of comparative advantage that offset their high taxes. Britain, with a top rate of 17%, positioned itself as the main big-economy exception, an outlier as with most other matters European.

But being the big dog in Europe is no defense when the world’s largest and most dynamic economy is slashing its tax rates. A 21% federal rate in the U.S. will be impossible to ignore, given the incentives it creates for European companies to invest in America instead of at home. That’s the main conclusion of a report released last week by Germany’s Center for European Economic Research, and lest anyone in Berlin miss the point, the title of the press release was blunt: “Germany Loses Out in U.S. Tax Reform.”

Intriguingly, that assessment and others like it rely on estimates not just of the behavior of American companies—Google and Facebook are the names that most often come up in global tax debates—but also of the response from European companies to U.S. tax reform. As American accountants and tax lawyers sharpen their pencils, German executives will start asking themselves: Why build our next factory in Germany, with a 31% statutory corporate rate, more-onerous labor regulations and an aging population, when America beckons with a 21% rate, better demographics and the world’s largest market?
As Stenberg writes, this is a major shock to the European system.
Most European tax-setting starts from the premise that the tax base is fixed, and the only thing that matters is that each national government get its “fair” share. The primary purpose of taxation, European officials seem to believe, is funding a heavily redistributive welfare state, never mind the consequences for growth.

Washington’s new approach couldn’t be more different. The U.S. reform acknowledges that tax incentives matter for investment, job creation and economic growth. One implication of America’s reform is that if Europe wants to have anything left to redistribute in this newly competitive world, it’s going to have to start paying attention to growth incentives.
If European countries start to follow the American model and lower tax rates as well as lessening the regulatory burden, we could see a burgeoning of economic growth across the world. And that would be to everyone's benefit.

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Here's an interesting finding. Hiking the minimum wage in a state can decrease job opportunities for women. And California, as it often does, should serve as an example that other states shouldn't follow.
However, not every Californian is living a relaxing and lavish lifestyle. The state’s poverty rate for women, 14.1 percent, is the 21st highest in the nation, and 35 percent of female-headed households in the state live in poverty. The challenge is that many women tend to work in low-skilled and low-wage jobs compared men.

California lawmakers, in an effort to help many women and other low-wage workers, thought they struck gold by raising the minimum wage, but it may be fool’s gold.

On January 1, 2018, the state’s minimum wage will increase from $10.50 to $11.00 an hour for companies with over 25 employees and from $10 to $10.50 for those with 25 or fewer. The minimum wage will rise each year until 2022, when large companies will be forced to pay $15 an hour. By 2023, all companies will face the $15 minimum wage. Some cities and municipalities plan to implement rate hikes that are even higher — $13.25 in Los Angeles, Malibu, and Santa Monica — than what the law stipulates for them to be next year.

These minimum-wage increases may appear to be a shortcut to bigger paychecks, but for many they are a straight path to pink slips. The Employment Policies Institute projects that raising the minimum wage to $15 in 2022 will lead to the loss of 398,228 jobs, because employers cannot absorb this increased cost of labor.

Job losses will likely be concentrated in two industries with the largest shares of low-wage workers: agriculture, forestry, and fishing, and accommodation and food services. Workers in these industries will say goodbye to nearly 11 percent and 10 percent, respectively, of job opportunities.

The effect of the increased minimum wage will be especially pronounced in accommodations and food services, which will shed 123,000 low-wage jobs. Retail-trade workers will also be laid off in masse, losing 77,000 jobs. These are industries that heavily employ women.
What would really help such workers is a growing economy and the opportunity to take jobs, even though they might be low-wage jobs with they start out so that low-skilled employees can gain experience and skills. If people are dropped from jobs because of an increase in the minimum wage, how are they going to build up those skills so that they can be prepared for better jobs?

Meanwhile, Steve Eder has an article in the New York Times, of all places, about how over-regulation is hurting businesses. He looks at the thousands of regulations that impact produce growers.
This is life on the farm — and at businesses of all sorts. With thick rule books laying out food safety procedures, compliance costs in the tens of thousands of dollars and ever-changing standards from the government and industry groups, local produce growers are a textbook example of what many business owners describe as regulatory fatigue.

Over the past five decades, Mr. Ten Eyck said, there has been an unending layering of new rules and regulations on his farm of over 300 acres, as more government agencies have taken an interest in nearly every aspect of growing food, and those agencies already involved have become even more so.

Now, a new rule is going into effect that will significantly expand the oversight of one regulator, the Food and Drug Administration, at the farm. And aside from the government, major retailers like Costco and Walmart mandate extensive food-safety planning and audits for their suppliers, all at a cost.

“If it isn’t pest poisons and pesticides, then it is food safety,” said Mr. Ten Eyck, suggesting that one rule maker seemingly tries to outdo the last. “And they come in waves.”

On a back wall in the apple packinghouse, there are 13 clipboards with various logs — first-aid monitoring, pest control, visitor sign-in sheets and more — required for food safety audits. There are about another dozen thick binders and manuals in the farm office for navigating rules and regulations on such things as migrant and seasonal worker protections.

Researchers at the Mercatus Center, a conservative-leaning economic think tank at George Mason University, say apple orchards are facing a growing federal regulatory burden. Quantifying that burden is difficult, but using a computer algorithm that analyzes regulations through keyword searches, researchers from the center’s RegData Project estimated the federal regulatory code contains 12,000 restrictions and rules on orchards, up from about 9,500, or an increase of 26 percent, from a decade ago.

Many of those rules apply to other businesses as well, and some restrict the actions of government regulators, not the orchard owners. Using the Mercatus Center data, and screening for such exceptions, The New York Times identified at least 17 federal regulations with about 5,000 restrictions and rules that were relevant to orchards....

Many farmers, including Mr. Ten Eyck, acknowledge that not all regulations are bad. They often have led to ample benefits, including a safer food supply and better working conditions. Last year, an official with the Environmental Protection Agency was welcomed at Indian Ladder Farms, where she promoted new standards to protect farmworkers.

The grievances relate largely to the sheer amount of time and money that it takes to comply, and what farmers see as a disconnect between them — the rule followers — and the rule makers, who Mr. Ten Eyck describes as “people looking at a computer screen dreaming up stuff.”

“The intentions are not bad,” he said. “It is just that one layer after another gets to be — trying to top the people before them.”
That's the key - "the intentions are not bad." Thus said every lawmaker and regulator since time immemorial. But it's important to look at the effects of the regulation not just the intentions. As Milton Friedman said,
“One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.”
Read the rest of the article and then marvel that anyone stays in business or enters into businesses in the first place.

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The American Legislative Exchange Council reports
on the states' pension funds are facing a nightmare since they're so dangerously underfunded.
It notes that the unfunded liabilities of state and local pension plans jumped $433 billion in the last year to more than $6 trillion.

Let that number sink in for a moment: It's one-third the size of the U.S. economy, equal to "a whopping $18,676 for every man, woman, and child, or nearly $50,000 for every household in America," as The Daily Signal notes.

It's a massive amount of money, in short. All because state officials and politicians never had the gumption to tell public-employee unions "no" when they asked for even more. So their gilded pension plans will soon start bankrupting states, such as Illinois and Connecticut, which now can't pay their pensions.

Politicians for years made backroom deals that taxpayers weren't privy to, giving away the store to buy labor peace and to keep their own political careers going. Taxpayers were on the hook, but never had a place at the bargaining table.
One day voters will wake up and find out that there is no money in their state's budget for any discretionary spending because too much is going toward playing the pensions of workers who are retired. There won't be any money left over for present-day workers, much less their future pensions. I find this one of the greatest unreported stories in the country.
axpayers around the nation will soon start to get nasty surprises as their politicians inform them that they owe this money, and by law can't avoid paying it. They'll be hit by major tax increases to pay for retired bureaucrats.

States have gone down this path to fiscal ruin based on the idea that, if things get bad enough, Washington, D.C., will bail them out. That would be a huge mistake, because it would only invite more of the same irresponsible behavior.

But they need to remember: Washington has its own fiscal nightmare, called entitlements. Social Security and Medicare are currently underfunded by an estimated $57 trillion.
Check out this map to see what your state's unfunded pension liabilities are.

John Hinderaker points to an Associated Press story naming the NFL player protests as the top sports story of the year. Ugh! What all these journalists can't seem to understand is that people enjoy sports without politics and polemics.
For a great many liberals, the only important thing is race, and therefore sports stories are important only to the extent that they can be twisted into racial narratives. I’m so old, I can remember when everyone thought sports were a powerful force for racial integration and mutual respect. Actually, in those days, they were. But, courtesy of liberals, those times are gone.
I don't even like seeing politicians pointed out in the crowd at sporting events, even if they're ones I voted for. I just wish that sports and entertainment could be a safe zone from all the nastiness that is our politics today. It's one thing for celebrities to talk about the issues they care about and their political beliefs in their private lives. That is certainly their rights as Americans. I can approve or disagree as I wish. But I'd just like to keep it out of the games. It used to be that some athletes would stand with their hand over their hearts during the national anthem and some would just stand there. I didn't pay attention to who did what and I didn't care. But suddenly it became a method of protesting police violence to sit out or kneel during the anthem. I still don't see the connection, especially by a guy who paid tribute to Fidel Castro while blasting the U.S. But then it became a way to protest Trump and then it morphed into some sort of protest against something that wasn't clear. And along the way, it all became just irritating. It wasn't doing anything about the initial cause - ending police violence. Using their megaphones to meet with police and the affected communities to try to create some sort of rapprochement that could lead to everyone better understanding each other would have been a much better use of their celebrity megaphone. But instead fans tuning into a game get our noses rubbed in their political posturing. And that was just annoying, rather than persuasive. So, no. That wasn't the biggest sports story of the year. It was just the media inflating a poorly-thought out protest movement.

Christina Hoff Sommers turns her attention to all the sexual assault accusations against famous people. As she warns, we need to be careful not to go overboard in fighting back against predatory behavior.

The Week reports on a survey done by the NY Times asking men about their behavior in the workplace. As they report the results, I just wonder what the responses would be if they had also surveyed women. This is all the story says about what women do.
In separate, smaller surveys, women were only somewhat less likely than men to admit to harassing behavior, even though men, in polls and in formal complaints, are far less likely to say they’ve been sexually harassed. It could be that men and women see the same behavior in different ways.
Ya think?

For example, 19% of the men surveyed said that they had told sexual stories or jokes that "some might consider offensive." 16% have made remarks that some might consider sexist or offensive. Well, considering how sensitive some people are, I'm surprised that even more people didn't say they had done this. But how many women have made remarks about how stupid or insensitive or clueless men are? When I've been together with women over my lifetime, we regularly make those sorts of remarks even in front of men. I well remember talking with a bunch of middle-school teachers during the Anita Hill hearings with her allegation that Clarence Thomas had made a joke about a pubic hair on his soda can. One of the male teachers said, "If that is sexual harassment, then you ladies have harassed me every day." And we all laughed because we knew that it was true. When people get together and they're joking around, someone often makes a sexually-based joke. That sort of behavior shouldn't even be lumped in with behavior such as
"Made uninvited attempts to stroke, fondle or kiss someone?

Offered or implied rewards if someone engaged in sexual behavior? Or treated someone badly if he or she didn’t?"
Those last two had 1 and 2% admitting to it. Of course, who knows how honest anyone was in answering this survey. I can't imagine that all the men who have admittedly sexually harassed someone admitting to it on a survey even it is an online survey.

The survey does find that a lot more blue-collar than white-collar workers admit to such behaviors. And 43% of the men said that they don't think their immediate supervisor makes reasonable efforts to stop sexual harassment. So perhaps some employee training is needed. Employers need to make sure that they have policies in place to protect workers. But don't start making any sort of behavior that has the least bit of a sexual overtone grounds for threatening someone's job. I worry that every employer will go overboard with zero-tolerance policies and we'll end up with the sort of ridiculous situations we have now in schools with their zero-tolerance approach to violence that sees elementary school kids get suspended if they chew their pop tart into the shape of a gun and point it at a classmate. Or, as Christina Hoff Sommers warns, if we descend into a moral panic, we will actually harm the ability of women to succeed in the workplace if employers are going to be worried about meeting with them or even hire them.

But now we know that everything will be fine since celebrity glitterati will wear black to the Golden Globes to highlight sexual misconduct problems in Hollywood. First the women announced plans and now the men are announcing that they'll wear black - as if most men weren't going to wear black tuxedos anyway. I guess they can now slap on a black shirt and that will be fine to signal their virtue. I wonder now if there will be so much pressure for everyone to wear black.

Soon it will be like Kramer refusing to wearing an AIDS ribbon if you dare to not wear black to the Golden Globes.

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Oh, Buzzfeed - how typical of you to have this list entry "37 Things White People Need To Stop Ruining In 2018." Because, it's apparently not racist when you make fun of white people. Are getting the clicks that worth it to you?