Making Britain “Great again”

One of the more visible memes in the “Brexit” campaign, apart from the overt racism and lack of genuine empathy over immigration and the refugees, “make Britain great” and “take back control” was regularly heard and claimed.

Much like Trump in America, there is a notion that you can pull up the drawbridge, build a wall and everything will be OK. Well we are no longer in 1605 or 1776, global trade has stalled and will likely stay that way for the foreseeable future, 150-years of tinkering and artificially manipulating and imposing borders in the Middle East has lead to turmoil and the disruption of the lives of millions, and the deaths of tens of thousands.

It’s worth remembering what made Britain great, because if you don’t know where you’ve been, you can’t know where to go next. The foundation of modern Britain was created in the 16th and 17th century through trade and colonization. Almost all the wealthy families in the UK, the UK’s largest institutions can trace their wealth and power back to then.

What that really meant:

  • Enslaving millions of people in Africa and shipping them around the world
  • Helping to Colonize America, and in the process slaughtering millions of natives
  • Colonizing Australia  through the first effective industrial prison complex
  • During the 19th century, indenturing their own citizens in prison and workhouse like complexes in drive the so called “industrial revolution”
  • The forced separation of India and Pakistan which directly caused the deaths of 1-2 million people
  • Pillaging the world through it’s colonies of almost any natural resource that could become useful, starting with sugar, tea and tobacco, and continuing to this day with oil.
  • Being the joint protagonist in the world’s two biggest wars, leading to the deaths of tens of millions of ordinary people and soldiers.

So when Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson say let’s make Britain great again by taking back control, I don’t know what the fuck they mean.

Corrections:
6/24 19:30 changed enslaving to indentured which is what I meant
8/17 1:20 corrected 11-million to 1-2 million as per New Yorker article.

Commiserations are due

My namesake, TOM, didn’t win the Republican primary for South Carolina district 42. As always, you get what you vote for, and the voting numbers were pretty low.

The victor, Mann’s total vote district-wide was 1,245 while Cathcart’s was 770.

 

Mark Cathcart for SC House 42

If you arrived here looking for the website of Mark Cathcart, running for South Carolina House of Representatives, district 42, you’ve arrived in the right place.

Before you take the link over to the actual website of my namesake, full of the usual rhetoric, unsubstantiated claims, and factless assertions, have a read of this.

I emailed the other Mark, hence forward referred to as TOM(The Other Mark) and asked him for his position and action on one, relatively simple topic, Civil Forfiture.

For a candidate for State office, would he work to eliminate or seriously improve civil forfeiture in South Carolina? Reading his website, you’d think this should be a cornerstone of his campaign.

In December 2015, the Institute for Injustice gave South Carolina a D- (one of the worst) for the protection of property owners. The Police only need probably cause to seize property,Law enforcement agencies are not required to track or report their forfeitures, they keep 95% of forfeiture proceeds, with 75% going to police agencies, and 20% to prosecutors. Let’s remember, guilt not required, they can take and keep your stuff irrespective.

You’d think that someone who was campaigning on all these “issues” would be right on that, wouldn’t you?

  1. Over burdening government legislation
  2. Taxes, regulations and overextending laws are stifling our business community
  3. Unreasonable search and seizure, private property rights

Instead of being just-another-republican who preaches the same old rhetoric, ask TOM what he is going to do about South Carolina’s unfair, unjust civil forfeiture? If he isn’t going to do anything about that, he’s just looking to join the gravy train of politicians who while away their time, collect their salaries, and the daily allowance but don’t do much of anything but complain about Government overreach…

ps. If you are going to head over to his website anyway, ask him precisely where and how God gave Constitutional rights? As we all know, the constitution he so rightly swears to uphold, was in fact written and agreed by Men. The closest God came to giving constitutional rights were the 10 Commandments, by which TOM’s proclamation falls foul of the 4th commandment, taking God’s name in vain, to make something seem true, this obviously isn’t.

American Tax Avoidance and Panama

Remember though, as Bloomberg News said back in January, before the “Panama Papers” were known: The World’s Favorite New Tax Haven Is the United States.

Kudos to MSNBC for writing up the story of the (lack of) Americans discovered in the “Panama papers”.

The Wall Street Journal earlier pointed out that 617 intermediary companies that were listed in the papers that operate here in the USA, but no details will be available until sometime in May. So far the only American directly implicated is Marianna Olszewski a financial “pundit” from NY.

article-doc-9n7p3-3x3xJf8qEp7439795a58657c8166-790_636x382[1]As I remarked in my original post about the Panama Paper release, this is no reason for Americans to feel smug. The MSNBC spells out the reasons for that, importantly because for the most part:

  • Delaware, Nevada, along with the U.S. Virgin Islands, are known in particular for loose regulations and low taxes. You can park your money in America behind a dubious corporate facade, without going “offshore”. America rates third behind Switzerland and Hong Kong as a popular tax haven, and far higher than Panama, at 13th. When you here about those massive corporations with billions overseas, it’s not actually sitting in banks in 3rd world countries, it’s often in “tax avoidance” holding companies, who have their cash here in the USA. It’s all bookkeeping entries a rather than overseas.
  • US Tax rates are already super-low, contrary to what you hear from Presidential candidates. Super-rich Americans have less need to seek tax havens because they have less to lose.

Many small and large American and foreign companies help wealthy clients set up offshore shell corporations — that itself is not illegal, as long as the those they set them up for are not trying to hide criminal proceeds or dodge tax obligation.

Remember though, as Bloomberg News said back in January, before the “Panama Papers” were known: The World’s Favorite New Tax Haven Is the United States. Remember, for each dollar a corporation or wealthy individual doesn’t pay, it has to get made up somewhere. That either means someone else pays it, or services get cut.

Fran Hendys offshore blog has good coverage of tax related issues, it’s her specialist subject, where as I just angry more people can’t see what is going on.

Panama Papers, don’t be smug

_89082388_cfoiqttwsaadnoj[1]I woke up early yesterday, after a few minutes decided to read my phone, and there was the blow-up over the “Panama papers”. I read the BBC’s excellent “live” page which in twitter-timeline style was posting news and highlights as they uncovered details.

And then I went back to sleep. There wasn’t anything really new here, it just confirmed what many people already knew, third world dictators, power junkies and desperate wanna-live-forever celebrities were cheating on a massive scale.

Later in the day many of my politically minded friends posted links, articles and critiques on facebook and twitter. Ultimately the leak is a big deal as it takes away on of the key value propositions of this type of activity, secrecy. Without secrecy, the sorts of deals, services and tax avoidance is sort-of-meaningless.

What most ordinary people have overlooked, or turned a blind eye to is that they more than likely benefit from similar schemes. If you’ve used the services of, or bought stuff from IKEA, Pepsi, Starbucks, Microsoft, been to Walt Disney theme park, then you too have benefited or contributed to tax avoidance. Indeed, almost everyone orders from Amazon, and in many cases, doesn’t pay tax that they would have paid had they bought the self same product from a local store.If you bank with Barclays, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, JP Morgan, then yep, same thing.

“The World’s Favorite New Tax Haven Is the United States.” Why? Because even American law firms dedicated to protecting the financial assets of the world’s elite say the US is a perfectly effective tax haven”

What make the Panama papers different, is it gives the tax authorities around the world the chance to go after individuals. Thats much easier and much more interesting than going after these big tax avoiding companies. As always, it’s divide and conquer.

Not doubt entirely coincidentally, when I collected my mail yesterday, I got a full FACTA request/disclosure from my bank, FirstDirect, a subsidiary of HSBC. So, they can make it very difficult for me to maintain a bank account back in the UK, and will directly report to the US Inland Revenue Service, I on the other hand can do nothing about their deliberate tax avoidance, that the UK and US Tax authorities know all about.IMG_20160405_073140

Government US style

It’s clear that many Americans view “Big government” as a bad thing, it seems though that they are OK with lots of branches of small government, that is ineffective, costly and open to misuse, and often technology challenged.

Given the size of the USA, any government is going to be a big government. With over nearly 320-million people, and almost the largest country in geography in the world, most people clearly are clueless about the scale and the challenges of delivering services in what was the worlds most advanced country. Listen to this 10-second clip from NPR’s Morning Edition today, a piece by Frank Morris of KCUR on the FBI and Apple privacy debate.

Seems to be a pretty widely held view. I heard it on the way back from going to trade-in my state of Texas Drivers License for a state of Colorado Drivers License. I had to drive some 12-miles to Longmont CO, wait in line outside for 30-mins until it opened at 8a.m.; go in and explain to a clerk/assistant/helper what I was there to do, exchange my drivers license and trade-in my state of Texas car plates and register my vehicle with the State of Colorado.

I was helpfully told that I was in the wrong office to register my vehicle, and asked for the relevant ID etc. in order  to get my license. I was given a number of told to wait. When I was called, I spoke with a clerk who was helpful and polite, I glanced over at the desks of the other clerks, you could see from the windows on the PC terminals that they were using dated text mode applications. Credit card processing had to be done by hand, typing numbers in. Questions had to be spoken in English and answered in English, there were no touchpad or tablet interactions. I had to say, outloud, with little privacy my social security number, and after checking my eye sight, and paying I was told to go and wait again.

After a short wait, I was shown a printed version of the questions I was asked, the information I had given, and ask to sign “wholly” within a box at the bottom. If the signature wasn’t entirely in the box it would “invalidate” the application as it couldn’t be scanned in. That done, I went through the take a picture exercise, was given my documents back and told the new license would show up in the mail in 7-10 days.

I left some 70-minutes after arriving. Not bad I guess.

Compare that though to many other Western countries, and many emerging economies, and you get a different picture. Change address in the UK? It’s done online and free. Pictures, signatures and details are held securely centrally.

In the clip above, it’s claimed that the government can’t run USPS, healthcare or anything else. Yet, despite being severely constrained in the services it offers, the US Postal Service is actually pretty dam good, reasonably efficient and pretty cheap. Anyone who thinks that private companies, like FedEx, or UPS and some magic form of new state regulated and/or run service would do better simply isn’t thinking about or is clueless when it comes to understand that scale problem, and the investment needed.

The US Government doesn’t run Healthcare, it never has. It it funds the medicare and medicaid programs. Yes, the US dept. of Veterans Affairs does run medical care and benefits for veterans, given the US has been in a constant state of war of one form or another since 1940, and given the physically size and scale, it is again a pretty decent operation. A good friend of mine, Lee, actually is looking forward to the veterans benefits and healthcare  for the rest of his life. Yes, the VA has its’ problems.

But still, most Americans seem to think it’s better to deal with things “locally” even if that does mean inefficiency, a mistake prone system, lack of privacy, time wasting, out of date technology, duplication, cost and more.

Meanwhile, later this week I’ll be heading to Boulder County to office to register my car; right before I start looking for State of Colorado healthcare market place, trying to resolve the naming error on my City waste management account; filling my taxes with the US Revenue Services and the property taxes with a county in Texas…. and yeah, most Americans have the least amount of vacation time, work the longest hours, and get fewest paid benefits, and things like paid maternity leave. So, no problem waiting online then?