The Taxing Question of Land

Directed by Yoni Higsmith

2014

Film Review

The Taxing Question of Land is a British documentary about Land Value Taxation (LVT), a concept first proposed by American Henry George in 1879 (see Progress and Poverty: a Suppressed Economic Classic).

The filmmakers use simple cartoon infographics to argue that LVT is an ideal solution to a global debt-based economic crisis, especially as nothing else has worked. I tend to agree, provided LVT is combined with a return to sovereign money.* So long as bankers retain the power to create money out of thin air, they will always tilt any taxation scheme in their own favor.

The basic definition of Land Value Taxation is a tax that captures a percentage of land value on an annual basis to cover public expenditures. In his 1879 book Progress and Poverty, Henry George’s main argument for Land Value Taxation is that it restores the Commons. This film focuses mainly on secondary arguments that revolve around fairness and economic equality.

The filmmakers point out that a property’s increasing value nearly always depends on its proximity to public services (ie schools, water mains, sewers, roads, public transport) paid for by taxpayers – making it utterly reasonable that taxpayers should claim a share of this increased land value. They describe LVT as a “tax shift,” rather than a new tax, as it would reduce and/or eliminate most other taxes.

The also argue

• That unlike income, corporate and sales taxes, LVT wouldn’t suppress production and jobs.
• That intelligently implemented LVT would eliminate the need for government borrowing (and debt) because it would raise sufficient revenue to cover all government services.
• That LVT would eliminate tax avoidance because unlike other wealth, land is impossible way to hide.
• It offers and fair and painless way to reduce wealth inequality as the rich start to share the cost of paying for public services.

They go on to list a number of jurisdictions (New South Wales, Hong Kong, Estonia, Singapore, Taiwan, Pennsylvania and Mexicali) that have significantly reduced other taxes by establishing an LVT.

LVT is also unique in its bipartisan appeal. In Britain, it has adherents belonging to the Greens, Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative Party. Conservatives like it because it simplifies the tax system.


*In a sovereign money system, the public (as opposed to private banks) maintains the sole right of issuing and regulating money. See An IMF Proposal to Ban Banks from Creating Money

stuartbramhall:

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I’ve always found it ironic that Medicare bans coverage for the most common ailments of old age: namely hearing, vision and dental problems.

Increasingly elderly people simply do without hearing aids, glasses and dental care because of the cost. I find this incredibly sad because hearing and vision problems cause social isolation in the elderly, which significantly increases depression and suicide ideation. Whereas dental abscesses often lead to serious medical problems that are usually far more expensive to treat.

Bravo for Grayson.

Originally posted on Aware & Fair:

Rep. Alan Grayson (FL-D) wants to repeal Medicare’s ban on providing coverage for seniors when it comes to their vision, hearing and dental health needs.

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Not Business Usual

Directed by Lawrence Le Lam, Rik Klingle-Watt (2014)

Film Review

Not Business as Usual challenges the maxim promoted by neoliberal economist Milton Friedman that corporations have no social obligation beyond providing a short term financial return to their shareholders. It traces the rise of “conscious capitalism” and the “B corporation,” which started from a 1989 Colorado meeting of the founders of various socially responsible corporations, including Patagonia, the Body Shop and Ben and Jerry’s.

The goal of the B corporation is to introduce social responsibility to capitalism. Thus far 20 states have introduced regulations for chartering B corporations, and 18 are working on pending legislation. Criteria for becoming a B corporation include responsible environmental practices, demonstrated commitment to the community and fair treatment of employees. According to the film, a B corporation commits to high environmental and employment standards along the entire supply chain. Thus a B corporation selling eco- apparel commits that the contractor producing the garments isn’t ruthlessly exploiting workers or discharging harmful chemicals into Bangladeshi waterways.

The documentary highlights a number of B corporations whose activism has resulted in groundbreaking changes in their communities and, in some cases, the third world. I was particularly intrigued by a B corporation called Lunapads. Lunapads has introduced low cost, washable menstrual pads to 120,000 women in the third world. In Uganda and other African countries, teenage girls typical skip school during their period when they lack access to affordable menstrual pads. In addition to keeping teenage girls in school (and unmarried), local manufacture of Afropads has created hundreds of local jobs.

Can the “Conscious Capitalism” Movement Save Capitalism?

The filmmakers contend the “conscious capitalism” movement will save the capitalist economic system. They argue that consumer pressure will eventually force all corporations to become more socially responsible – insisting consumers are demanding more socially responsible products and are happy to pay more for them.

I find a number of fallacies in this argument. In the first place, it’s only middle class consumers who are “demanding” ethical products, a middle class that is rapidly vanishing in most of the industrialized world. Minimum wage workers who are a paycheck away from the street have no choice but to opt for the cheapest clothes, foods and household goods they can find.

Secondly the present economic and environmental crisis is driven by powerful monopolies, particularly in the banking and defense industry. The thought of banking monopolies like Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan suddenly transforming themselves into B corporations is ludicrous. At present the main obstacle preventing entrepreneurs from forming B corporations is the unwillingness of Wall Street banks to provide start-up funding.

Thirdly while the social activism of individual B corporations is extremely laudable, I question the criteria used for measuring community responsibility. Surely a B corporation that’s truly committed to their community wouldn’t be seeking out “ethical” apparel contractors in Bangladesh. Surely they would be bringing these jobs back home to their local region.

The irony here is that many of the entrepreneurs who started the “conscious capitalism” movement made their fortunes by selling up to multinationals who clearly don’t share their vision. Ben and Jerry’s sold up to Anglo-Dutch food giant Unilever in 2000, and in 2006 the Body Shop agreed to a takeover by l’Oreal.

We have approached our local Body Shop outlet numerous times about supporting local environmental issues (ie fracking, fecal runoff from dairy farms). Claiming “corporate-wide policy,” they won’t even permit us put a poster in their front window.

stuartbramhall:

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French investigative journalist Thierry Meyssan reports that for the last 17 months Israel has been engaged in secret negotiations with Saudi Arabia. Extremely high-level delegations have met five times – in India, Italy and the Czech Republic. It’s all part of a US plan to create a “Common Arab Defense Force,”  under the auspices of the Arab League, but under Israeli command. This “Force” is already in operation in Yemen, where Israeli pilots fly Saudi bombers within the framework of an Arab Coalition whose headquarters have been installed by the Israelis in Somaliland.

Talk about strange bedfellows. No wonder Obama and Netanyahu want to keep this secret.

Originally posted on RIELPOLITIK:

Source – voltairenet.org

– The reponse by Tel-Aviv and Riyadh to the US-Iran negotiations can be found in the extension of Saudi financing of the war against Gaza in 2008 – the alliance between a colonial state and an obscurantist monarchy. While the Near East is preparing for a ten-year change in the rules of the game, Thierry Meyssan reveals here the contents of the secret negotiations between Tel-Aviv and Riyadh.

No-one in the Middle East seems to be aware that the secret agreements which should be signed on the 30th June 2015 by Washington and Teheran – on the fringe of the multilateral agreements concerning nuclear power – will probably set the rules of the game for the next ten years.

These agreements arrive at a moment when the United States have become the world’s first producers of petrol, ahead of Saudi Arabia and Russia. Consequently they do not…

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Cutting Edge: Confessions of an Undercover Cop

Channel 4 (2011)

Film Review

This documentary is about a member of Britain’s National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) who served as an undercover operative inside the British environmental and antifascist movement between 2002-2009. Mark Kennedy was recruited for the elite NPOIU while working as an undercover narcotics officer. Following three weeks of specialized training, he assumed the role of a vegan anarchist named Mark Stone. For seven years, he reported daily to an NPOIU cover officer with information he had gleaned about fellow activists and their protest campaigns.

The NPOIU justification for infiltrating the environmental movement was to ensure the police response was “proportional” to the size of environmental protests. However over time Kennedy realized their true goal was to minimize the effectiveness of the environmental movement. As a result, he became increasingly conflicted about the role he played in undermining activists who seemed to have a genuine social function.

London’s massive March 2003 demonstration against the Iraq War was one of the first protests he infiltrated. Over time Kennedy, who was living under the cover name of Mark Stone, was admitted to the inner circle of the environmental movement. By 2005, he was assuming major responsibility for managing logistics for the 2005 G8 protest at Glen Eagles and the attempted shutdown (in 2006) of the Drax Power Station.

He also began a four year relationship with a female activist, in clear violation of NPOIU policy. According to police officials interviewed in the film, his cover officer had to know about the affair and should have terminated the assignment. It appears Kennedy’s superiors allowed the affair to continue for four years owing to the high quality of the information he was providing.

In 2005, he was suspended after riot cops beat him up during a protest, leading to an investigation on a possible charge of assaulting a police officer. After three months, he was suddenly recalled to duty to infiltrate the Spanish antifascist movement. Spain had contacted NPOIU requesting their assistance.

The NPOIU was forced to remove Kennedy from his undercover role in 2009, when information he provided led to police preventively arresting 30 protestors planning a civil disobedience at Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station. It became patently obvious Kennedy had narked on them when he was the only participant to have his charges dropped.

The NPOIU extracted him by floating the cover story he was moving to the US. After two weeks, he returned to Britain to be reassigned and was told the Metropolitan Police no longer had any use for his particular skills. He resigned, effectively ending a twenty year career.

When he tried to resume his relationship with his activist girlfriend, she happened to find a passport issued under his real name and outed him to the rest of the group – who outed him to the media.

The film concludes by raising important ethical questions about Kennedy’s undercover activity. Such as why the British police feel justified in preventing environmental protestors from executing their democratic rights. And how they justify spending millions of dollars spying on activists when Kennedy’s seven year mission failed to result in a single conviction.

stuartbramhall:

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Interesting that EU officials are still predicting Greece will exit the euro – most likely through insurrection.

Originally posted on RIELPOLITIK:

Source – zerohedge.com

– Earlier this week, in an FT op-ed, Eurointelligence’s Wolfgang Münchau said that in his estimation, an EMU exit remains the most likely outcome for Greece. The reason, Münchau explained, is that “[Greek PM Alexis] Tsipras ended up with another very lousy bailout deal. And this one suffers from the same fundamental flaws as its predecessors.” Münchau went on to describe, in vivid detail, how he believes a Grexit would unfold:

My own most likely Grexit scenario is a different one yet again. Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, hinted at this in his interview with the Financial Times last week when he said that he felt “something revolutionary” in the air. He is on to something. The most probable scenario for me is Grexit through insurrection.

Whether he knew it when he penned those words or not, Münchau’s vision for Greece nearly unfolded…

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The Weight of Chains

Boris Malagurski (2010)

Film Review

The deliberate demonization of the Serbian people by the Clinton administration has been a special interest ever since I cared for Serbian PTSD victims in the mid-nineties. At the time there were rumors the US was after oil in the Caspian basin. Until I saw this documentary, I was unaware of the bloodthirsty ruthlessness of US policy in Yugoslavia. Nor that Clinton, like his successors George W Bush and Barack Obama, was guilty of war crimes. The film also sheds important light on current US policy in Ukraine.

The Weight of Chains is about the deliberate break-up of Yugoslavia in the 80s and 90s to enable its transformation into a US colony, like Iraq and Afghanistan. The cover story blaming Serbian barbarism for the conflagration in Bosnia and Kosovo was pure fabrication by the Clinton administration and US media.

Under Marshall Tito (1943-1980), Yugoslavia enjoyed an ethnically diverse society in which Muslim Turks, Croatians, Serbians, Hungarians, Albanians and other ethnic minorities lived side by side and intermarried. It was a very prosperous nation, thanks to a mixed economy that combined central economic planning with private enterprise, worker cooperatives and a generous welfare state. Tito, who stubbornly resisted Russian pressure to join the Soviet bloc, was one of the founders of the non-aligned movement.*

Enter the NED

Shortly after Tito’s death in 1980, President Reagan signed a secret memorandum declaring his intention to transform Yugoslavia into a “market economy” (translation: US colony for Wall Street investors). The first salvo in this campaign was to send in the CIA-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED), to finance pro-US opposition groups, journalists, trade unionists and the G17. The latter was a group of World Bank economists who seized control of the Yugoslavian economy by inducing corrupt officials to enter into unpayable loans. By the late 1980s, the G17 had imposed deep cuts on all social services and forced 1,100 industries into bankruptcy. Those that weren’t totally wiped out were sold to foreign investors at rock bottom prices.

Thanks to these austerity cuts, by 1990 Yugoslavia’s unemployment rate had soared to 20%. When the government appealed to the US for debt relief, Bush senior cut off all aid to Yugoslavia. Under US pressure, the IMF only agreed to fund right wing ultranationalist groups in six autonomous regions (Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Bosnia) – provided they declared independence from Yugoslavia. The Bush senior administration also illegally supplied arms to Croatian fascists who would seize control of Croatia and the Muslim Bosniaks who controlled Bosnia.

Accordingly Slovenia and Croatia declared independence in 1992 and Bosnia in 1992.

US-Inspired Ethnic Cleansing

Despite constant denunciation of the Serbian people (as fascist thugs) by the Clinton administration and Senator Joe Biden, the real culprits were fascist American thugs. In 1995, the Clinton administration financed and armed the Croatian government to carry out the largest act of ethnic cleansing in history in the Serbian enclave of Krajinia. Thanks to the American-inspired Operation Storm, 2,000 Serbs were killed and 250,000 were driven from their homes over a period of 84 hours. One of my patients, whose sister was massacred during Operation Storm, only survived because his Muslim neighbors hid him and his children from the Croatian army.

The Weight of Chains also deconstructs the alleged Serb atrocities committed at Srebrenica (where equal numbers of Serbs and Muslims died), which the US would use to justify NATO intervention.

Enter Osama bin Laden

Following Serbian independence, Clinton armed and trained the terrorist Kosovo Liberation Army,** with the assistance of Osama bin Laden and heroin-trafficking Mujahideen from Afghanistan. The President’s chief motivation was to further destabilize Serbia to open it up to US investment.

When Slobodan Milosevic refused to sign a peace agreement accepting US occupation of Serbia, Clinton committed further violations of international law by using NATO aircraft to bomb Serbian civilians and deliberately target civilian infrastructure that included power grids, schools, hospitals and water filtration plants.

Enter George Soros

Following Milosevic’s surrender in June 1999, the World Bank immediately sent in an army of World Bank lawyers to privatize Serbia’s most valuable state-owned assets. Soros and his cronies were particularly keen on getting the Trercha mining interest into western hands, with its rich coal, copper, zinc, cadmium, gold and silver resources.

The film concludes by examining the dire economic consequences (ie massive debt, industry closure and joblessness) for Eastern European countries whose business elites opt to join the EU and NATO. For example, the EU forced the Czech Republic to close their sugar industry because it was more profitable to import Cuban sugar. While the French destroyed the Hungarian vineyards by dumping cheap wine into their market, forcing Hungarian wine growers to sell their vineyards to English investors at bargain basement prices. After Slovenia joined the EU in 2004, they experienced massive layoffs after most of their factories were privatized and moved overseas. In 2009, Croatia (like Greece) was forced to start selling their islands to pay off their debt.

*The Non-Aligned Movement is a group of states which aren’t formally aligned with or against any specific power bloc.
**Kosovo is a disputed territory within Serbia in which ethnic Albanians make up 80-90% of the population.