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Archive for October 8th, 2010

Even though he’s allowing the budget to grow twice as fast as inflation, some people seem to think the new U.K. Prime Minster is a fiscal conservative. I’m skeptical. Not only is spending rising much too fast (there are promises of more restraint in the future, but I’ll believe it when it happens), but Cameron and the Tory/Liberal coalition government are increasing the value-added tax and increasing the capital gains tax. Perhaps worst of all, they are leaving in place the new 50 percent tax rate that former Labor Prime Minister Gordon Brown imposed in hopes that class-warfare policy would help him get elected. But as this Daily Telegraph story suggests, it is quite likely that the higher tax rate will lose revenue as productive people escape to Switzerland and other jurisdictions not influenced by the politics of hate and envy.
One-in-four hedge fund employees has already left London to move to Switzerland, which is said to have a more stable tax regime, according to consultancy Kinetic partners. Calculations by the company claim the UK could have already forgone about £500m in tax revenues, based on the 1,000 or so hedge fund managers it says have already left the country. …High-profile departures this year include Alan Howard, founder of Brevan Howard, and Mike Platt, founder of BlueCrest Capital.
This story shows both the power of the Laffer Curve and the importance of tax competition. The greedy politicians in England doubtlessly resent the “brain drain” to Switzerland. Like their U.S. counterparts, politicians view taxpayers as serfs who are supposed to blindly produce more income for the ruling class to expropriate and redistribute.
 
While I’m obviously not a big fan of British fiscal policy, America is worse in one important way. At least British taxpayers have the liberty to leave without being raped by the U.K. tax authority. Once they leave the United Kingdom and make their home in Switzerland, they are no longer British taxpayers. Americans who want to move, by contrast, are unable to escape the punitive internal revenue code. Indeed, the United States is one of the few nations in the world to have exit taxes, an odious approach generally associated with loathsome regimes such as the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.

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Here’s a story I got from the Advice Goddess twitter feed. It seems airlines are upset that federal air marshals almost always grab first class seats. This isn’t good for airlines, since it uses up seats that they need for paying customers. It’s not good for security since the main threat in on-board explosives carried by terrorists who want to sit over the wings. And it’s not good for Dan Mitchell since it means he’s less likely to get upgraded when the good seats are occupied by bureaucrats. Since I’m waiting for a flight to Australia, you can guess which upsets me the most. Here’s a blurb from the Wall Street Journal story.
To protect the nation’s air travelers, federal air marshals deployed after the 2001 terrorist attacks try to travel incognito, often in pairs, and choose flights identified with the potential to fall under threat. And they almost always fly first class—something some airlines would like to change. With cockpit doors fortified and a history of attackers choosing coach seats, some airline executives and security experts question whether the first-class practice is really necessary—or even a good idea. It could weaken security by isolating marshals or making them easier for terrorists to identify, airline executives say. With more threats in the coach cabin now, first-class clustering may not make as much security sense. Security experts say bombers are a bigger threat today than knife-wielding attackers trying to get through secure cockpit doors, and Transportation Security Administration checkpoints are heavily focused on explosives, whether hidden in shoes, liquids or under clothes. Some believe bombers try to target areas over the wing—a structurally critical location and also the site of fuel storage—to cause the most damage to the aircraft. …By law, airlines must provide seats to marshals at no cost in any cabin requested. With first-class and business-class seats in particular, the revenue loss to airlines can be substantial because they can’t sell last-minute tickets or upgrades, and travelers sometimes get bumped to the back or lose out on upgrade opportunities. When travelers do get bumped, airlines are barred from divulging why the first-class seat was unexpectedly taken away.

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Here’s a chart from Veronique de Rugy’s new article in The American. Amazing how the problem becomes obvious when you look at real numbers and don’t get trapped into using “baseline” math (as I explain in my latest video).

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The new unemployment data has been released and it’s not a pretty picture. Literally and figuratively. This image is all we need to know about the success of President Obama’s big-government policies. The lower line is from a White House report in early 2009 and it shows the level of unemployment the Administration said we would have if the so-called stimulus was adopted. The darker dots show the actual monthly unemployment rate. At what point will the beltway politicians concede that making government bigger is not a recipe for prosperity?

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. The Obama White House imposed an $800-billion plus faux stimulus on the economy (actually more than $1 trillion if additional interest costs are included). They’ve also passed all sorts of additional legislation, most of which have been referred to as jobs bills. Yet the unemployment situation is stagnant and the economy is far weaker than is normally the case when pulling out of a downturn.

But don’t worry, Nancy Pelosi said that unemployment benefits are stimulative!

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