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Tag Archives: government
Posted: February 22, 2017 at 4:44 am
Though states often pledge to fund public schools with taxes levied on lotteries and casinos, that money tends to get funneled elsewhere.
In 2008, after years of political squabbling over whether Maryland should host casino gambling, the question came up before voters in a referendum. The state government and the gambling industry lobbied hard for the votes, pledging that taxes levied on the gambling establishments would go to public education. TV commercials promised that casinos would bring hundreds of millions of dollars directly into our schools, and warned that if Maryland missed this opportunity, those stacks of cash would instead benefit students in the bordering casino-friendly states of West Virginia and Delaware.
The referendum passed. In 2012, after the most expensive political campaign in Maryland’s history, a ballot question expanding gambling to table games also passed, narrowly. Maryland now has six casinos, including the Horseshoe Casino in downtown Baltimore, which opened in 2014. In the last seven years, these facilities have welcomed tens of millions of visitors and generated around $4.5 billion in profits. That has translated into $1.7 billion in funds for education, including $200 million from Horseshoe.
Yet Baltimores schools are in dire straits: Last month, city schools CEO Sonja Santelises announced that, due to a $130 million budget deficit, she is considering laying off more than 1,000 workers, including teachers.
That same week, the Baltimore Sun reported that the casino money the state had promised for public schools is instead being siphoned to pay for other government expenses, such as salaries and roadwork. As a result, Maryland schools have received the same amount of money they would have without the casino tax. And Baltimore schools have received less state money than they did before the casino opened.
The casino pitch that Maryland voters went for in 2008 is one that was honed over decades, as one by one states agreed to host the gambling industry. Its been a big turnaround for an industry that was all but banned nationwide in the early 20th century. Though Nevada legalized casinos in 1931, most states began to allow them in the 1990s. The promise of reaping economic benefits has driven the trend: Statistics from the American Gaming Association show that casinos bring thousands of jobs to host communities, and they also have a multiplier effect, in which new businesses then open in the surrounding area. This is particularly helpful, says Erik Balsbaugh, the associations VP of public affairs, for struggling post-industrial cities like Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and Springfield, Massachusetts.
To win support, casino boosters often emphasized that a percentage of these benefits from lotteries and casinos would be funneled directly into public education. They countered fears of gambling with this emotional reference, says Patrick Pierce, a professor at Saint Marys College in Indiana who has studied the topic. Americans, at least on a symbolic level, place a great deal of emphasis on public education.
The tactic did the trick: Today, you can play the lottery and/or bet at a casino in most states.
Experts on gambling and state funding say that Maryland is only one of dozens of states taking gambling revenue meant for education and using it for other purposes.
In almost every case states either earmark the funds for education but then decrease the general fund appropriations for education by a similar amount, or, in more cases, they simply put the money in the general fund, says Denise Runge, a dean at the University of Alaska Anchorage and editor of Resorting to Casinos: The Mississippi Gambling Industry.
In the first year of operation, taxes from lotteries generally do go toward education, according to a study Pierce co-authored that looked at the period 1966 to 1990. You saw an initial bump in education spending by about $50 per capita, he says. But after a number of years, the practice of using the money for other expenses became commonplace. After eight or nine years, says Pierce, states with lotteries were spending less on education than states that didnt have the lottery tax.
State lawmakers welcome the lotteries and casinos for this very reason: The tax revenue gives them the flexibility to fund other programs or even cut other taxes. If youre a state legislator and youre telling citizens that you supported gambling because it improves childrens education, and then you used the money someplace else, you did a bait and switch, says Pierce.
And politicians become dependent on the moneysomething the gambling industry understands well. Pierce notes, for instance, that while Nevada is famous for its casinos, it doesnt have a state lotterycasino operators dont want the competition. The industrys pull with Nevada lawmakers is a major reason why we havent seen an effective push to put a lottery in place, he says.
Earl Grinols, an economics professor at Baylor University, says this relationship between government and gambling amounts to crony capitalism, in which the industry and state politicians stand to gain from each otherand do. The public system should be designed so that it leads people to do the right thing, he says. When you set up a system in which the gambling industry and state government have interests in common, you do the opposite. You create a system that encourages back-room deals.
But not all gambling-sourced school funds are fated to disappear: The exception are scholarships like Georgias Hope Scholarship program, which provides merit-based funding to students pursuing an undergraduate degree. The program didnt exist before Georgias lottery, which began in 1992, and so wasnt financed through a general fund that could be monkeyed with.
Every dollar from the lottery that comes in for the Hope Scholarship program goes to that program, says Ross Rubenstein, a Georgia State professor who studies lotteries and education funding. Whats more, Georgias model spurred states such as Tennessee, South Carolina, and Florida to create similar lottery-funded scholarship programs.
Still, because these scholarships are merit- rather than need-based, they often benefit middle- and upper-income students rather than their poorer counterparts. Thats particularly problematic, because virtually every study on lotteries shows that lower-income households spend a larger amount of their earnings on lotteries or casino gambling than higher income households. Youre redistributing wealth from poor people to wealthier people, says Pierce. (Rubenstein notes that Georgia also straightforwardly distributes lottery money for pre-kindergarten programs. Benefits for pre-K are a little more even across income groups, he says.)
Politicians also like taxes from casinos and lotteries because theyre voluntary: However regressive these taxes are, no one has to pay them. As a result, theyre less likely to complain to state legislators about them. But this also makes these revenue streams unstable.
Runge of the University of Alaska notes that over time, casinos tend to make less money, as general interest drops off. Baltimores Horseshoe Casino, for instance, has seen a 14.5 percent decrease in its revenue in the past year. Rubenstein says theres a similar trend with lotteries. Everyone wants to play them when they are first available, he says, but then many people start to realize theyre not going to win, or they get bored with the games. So even if public schools were benefiting from these taxes, the revenue stream is not reliable.
The key, then, is not to reform this flawed system, but to scrap it for a better one. Pierce wants politiciansstate governors in particularto have the courage to tell constituents that taxes from stable sources, such as income or sales, are needed for education. And then they need to actually raise taxes.
If everyone really wants to support our schools, we need to make a public commitment to them, says Pierce. The way to do that is not through gambling.
Posted: at 4:43 am
There may therefore be a need to broaden the tax base and take a hard look at parts of the economy where the government is not getting its proper due.
Dealing with the trade in illegal cigarettes, for example, would be an easy place to start. It has cost the fiscus an estimated R4bn to R5bn in lost revenue each year, and about R24bn in the past five years.
Costing on average about R12 per pack and in some cases as little as R7 (compared to about R35 for the most popular brand on the market), it should be no surprise that the illegal trade is flourishing and accounts for a staggering 24% of the South African market. Growth in illicit trade can only serve to erode the tax base.
So, why does this matter? Some would argue that the legitimate tobacco sectors loss to illicit traders is no big deal. The production and sale of illegal cigarettes, however, is not a victimless crime. Not only does the government lose out on substantial revenues that could be used to deliver vital public services, but the proceeds from the sale of illegal cigarettes are often used to fund drug smuggling, human trafficking and other crimes that blight communities.
Some smugglers even have links to terrorism. Combined, this “double whammy” of tax losses and increased crime (which requires yet more expenditure on police to tackle it) is having serious consequences in SA.
In theory, correcting this should be relatively easy. Tobacco products are manufactured or imported in a limited range of brands and excise is levied at a specific rate per thousand cigarettes (R662), due for collection at the point of manufacture or import into the country.
An embossed diamond marking on the bottom of the pack is intended to provide a physical indication that tax has been paid.
Read the rest here:
Posted: at 4:40 am
The federal Liberals have defeated a Conservative anti-racism motion so they can pass their own version, which condemns Islamophobia.
Conservative MP David Andersons motion to condemn all forms of systemic racism, religious intolerance, and discrimination failed in a vote of 165-126 in the House of Commons, after Liberal MPs, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, voted against it.
The Tories introduced their own anti-racism motion in response to Liberal MP Iqra Khalids M-103, which calls on the government to condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination and to study the issue at the heritage committee and make recommendations. For procedural reasons, the Liberal motion will not be voted on until April.
Heritage Minister Mlanie Joly said Tuesday that hate crimes against Muslims have more than doubled since 2012 and reiterated the governments support for Ms. Khalids motion.
The term Islamophobia is extremely important as it is discrimination against the Muslim community, Ms. Joly told reporters after the vote.
The Conservatives have expressed concerns that Islamophobia is not defined in Ms. Khalids motion and said it could stifle freedom of speech, including criticisms of Islam. They also say its more inclusive to treat all religions equally, despite the fact that the House of Commons already unanimously condemned all forms of Islamophobia in an NDP motion last fall, although it wasnt a recorded vote.
Mr. Andersons motion, which mirrors in large part that of the Liberals, condemns all forms of systemic racism, religious intolerance, and discrimination of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, and other religious communities, but does not specifically mention Islamophobia.
It also states that Canadian society is not immune to the climate of hate and fear exemplified by the recent and senseless violent acts at a Quebec City mosque, referring to last months deadly attack on a Quebec City mosque that left six men dead.
Liberal MP Frank Baylis, who introduced an e-petition last year on which Ms. Khalids motion is based, said if the Conservative version passed, the Liberal one would be considered moot. Both motions make similar recommendations, including that the heritage committee study the issue and develop a whole-of-government approach to reducing or eliminating discrimination, collect data to contextualize hate-crime reports and report back to the Commons within eight months.
The NDP, Bloc Qubcois and the Green Partys Elizabeth May supported the Conservative motion, although the New Democrats say theyll also support the Liberal one. Of the nine sitting Conservative MPs running for leader, only Michael Chong has said he will support M-103.
Representatives from the Canadian Muslim Forum, a non-profit organization established in 1993 to represent the Muslim community on public policy issues, urged parliamentarians to pass the Liberal version of the motion, calling it very courageous.
We are a community under siege, said Samer Majzoub, the forums president.
He said the Conservatives reaction has, directly or indirectly, created waves of Islamophobia all over the country.
This motion, unfortunately came as trying to delegitimize the M-103, and trying really to degrade this motion, Mr. Majzoub told reporters Tuesday before the vote.
Conservative MP Grard Deltell said he disagrees with the characterization that the Conservative motion would have delegitimized M-103.
But, he said, We respect their liberty of speaking, and we respect also the liberty of religion. This is what our motion was all about. And unfortunately, the Liberals decided to vote against.
On Thursday, the Ontario legislature will vote on Liberal MPP Nathalie Des Rosierss motion, which denounces attacks, threats of violence and hate crimes against Muslims and condemns all forms of Islamophobia.
Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Browns office said he will vote in favour of the motion and has instructed his caucus to do the same.
With a report from Les Perreaux
Follow Laura Stone on Twitter: @l_stone
Posted: at 4:34 am
NASSAU, The Bahamas, Monday February 20, 2017 A brute force approach in The Bahamas by the Perry Christie administration to rake in millions of dollars owed from outstanding tax revenue is paying off $15 million every month to be exact, says Financial Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Simon Wilson.
But he says that is just the tip of the iceberg, as the Government goes after delinquent taxpayers to recover arrears in excess of $600 million.
On average, this effort has yielded $15 million a month. Our target is $400 millionin two yearsin incremental revenue without adjusting [tax] rates. We believe thats quite achievable, Wilson said.
Weve listened to our advisers who suggested taking a more aggressive stance. Their target is two times that. And that $15 million is only on New Providence, he continued, adding that the crackdown would soon extend to businesses in Abaco, Grand Bahama and Eleuthera.
The initiative launched last November pressures businesses to pay up arrears in four key areas Value Added Tax (VAT), Business Licence fees, Real Property Tax and Customs duties.
Wilson told the recent State of the Economy 2017 forum hosted by the Chamber of Commerce that theDepartment of Inland Revenuehadzeroed in on 800 entities importing/selling more than $30,000 worth of goods per year without businesses licenses.
He pointed to 24,000 properties in New Providence whose owners had not placed them on the roll for Real Property Tax increases.
In addition, the Government has also netted a significant number of shippers allowing goods to come in without proper business licences and names.
Acknowledging there was some resistance from some quarters, Wilson said the crackdown was the best approach to avert new or increased taxes as the Government attempts to boost its annual revenues by around four to five percentage points of gross domestic product (GDP).
The obvious way to get there is increasing tax rates or finding new taxes, he said. Weve taken a new approach because the system is sufficient to achieve this by being more aggressive on tax compliance.
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Posted: at 4:34 am
Amnesty International has heavily criticised the federal government’s policy of offshore detention of asylum seekers in a report released Wednesday which analysed human rights abuses in 159 countries.
In the report, the activist group claimed that Australia “maintained its abusive offshore immigration processing regime” on Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.
It also highlighted what it called the government’s “refusal” to honour an offer with New Zealand to annually resettle 150 refugees from Nauru and Manus Island.
“The Australian government’s policy of ‘processing’ refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru involved a deliberate and systematic regime of neglect and cruelty, designed to inflict suffering: the system amounted to torture under international law,” the report said.
“It minimised protection and maximised harm and was constructed to prevent some of the world’s most vulnerable people from seeking safety in Australia.”
The report marked the second consecutive year the activist group had criticised the federal government on this issue.
The same report released in 2016 labelled the practice of offshore processing as “shameful” and “one of the worst in the world”.
Tim O’Connor, spokesperson for the Refugee Council of Australia, said it was alarming the way the Australian government was treating people seeking asylum.
“It’s an enormous concern to Australia, it’s costing tax payers billions of dollars and it’s destroying the futures of many innocent people.”
Mr O’Connor said Australia’s current policies were undermining an effective global approach to managing human displacement.
“We’re wasting billions of dollars harming people, locking them up on Nauru and Manus, locking them up in Australia’s detention centres, keeping people here in limbo in temporary protection.
“Meanwhile that money should be utilised to support countries of first asylum so that when people flee from Syria or the Rohingya flee from Burma – because of extreme violence in those countries that’s being perpetuated against those people – that they can live with dignity.”
The report also accused the justice system of continuing to fail Indigenous people, particularly children, with high rates of incarceration, reports of abuse and deaths in custody.
It said Indigenous children were 24 times more likely to be detained than non-Indigenous children.
Amnesty’s national director Claire Mallinson said “that’s an issue the whole of Australia should be shocked about”.
The report found that despite the recommendation by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child that the international minimum age of criminal responsibility should be 12, the age was 10 throughout Australia.
Mrs Mallinson said nearly three quarters of them were Indigenous children.
“So we’re calling on the Australian government, the Prime Minister in particular, to make this a priority area.”
The report referenced leaked footage last year that exposed abuse and other ill-treatment of children in juvenile detention in the Northern Territory.
“And we are calling on the government that when the royal commission into the horrors that we saw at Don Dale is finally released in August, that that will be the springboard to a national plan,” Mrs Mallinson said.
On a global scale, the Amnesty report painted 2016 as a year in which “unrelenting misery and fear” was brought down on innocents by governments and armed groups.
“Large parts of Syria’s most populous city, Aleppo, were pounded to dust by air strikes and street battles, while the cruel onslaught against civilians in Yemen continued,” it said.
“From the worsening plight of the Rohingya people in Myanmar to mass unlawful killings in South Sudan, from the vicious crackdowns on dissenting voices in Turkey and Bahrain, to the rise of hate speech across large parts of Europe and the USA, the world in 2016 became a darker and more unstable place.”
Amnesty also chastised UN member states over what it called their failure at September’s summit for refugees and migrants.
“While world leaders failed to rise to the challenge, 75,000 refugees remained trapped in a desert no man’s land between Syria and Jordan.”
The report also panned US President Donald Trump, claiming his rhetoric during last year’s election campaign was “divisive” and “poisonous”.
“His election followed a campaign during which he frequently made deeply divisive statements marked by misogyny and xenophobia, and pledged to roll back established civil liberties and introduce policies which would be profoundly inimical to human rights,” the report said.
The report also accused former US President Barack Obama of leaving a legacy of “grievous failures to uphold human rights”.
Posted: at 4:25 am
By Olivia Richter | 18 hours ago
There have been few events in world history that have successfully connected people from all around the planet regardless of country or culture. In 1969, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first human beings to set foot on the moon, the world watched in awe of the scientific and technological feat that so closely resembled a miracle.
The moon is a constant for every human being; no matter where you live, you look to the same moon as the seven billion other inhabitants of Earth. On July 20, 1969, everyone was united in the unprecedented, incredible space adventure of three American astronauts. At that time, the United States was far ahead in the international space race, and we intended to keep it that way.
Over many decades and eleven presidents, we have grown less and less involved in our efforts to understand and explore space. Today, many people argue that NASA is dying; some believe it is not worthy of any further government funding.
Our slowed exploration in comparison to other nations like China and Russia has taken away our old and proud status as the most committed space pioneers. American astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson explained, In America, contrary to our self-image, we are no longer leaders but simply players. Weve moved backward just by standing still. It is time we start moving again.
I dont believe that winning the so-called space race should be the real reason why the United States should increase its funding for NASA and get back its motivation to explore space. The true reason lies within the spirit of the United States.
This is not easily explained as a matter-of-fact concept, like saying that it would be good for our economy or that it would create jobs (although research points that way). The mystery of space is heavily ingrained in our popular culture through timeless films and television shows like Star Wars and Star Trek, and more recent blockbusters like Passengers, Gravity, The Martian and Interstellar.
Space is just inherently cool, reaching across cultural and personal lines and infatuating us all with its mystery. That may not be a good enough reason to pour more money into the U.S. space program, but the passion and the spirit of adventure that the U.S. prides itself on should be considered a great reason for space exploration.
Though you may not need reminding, the United States is in a huge amount of debt. Increasing the funding of NASA may seem like an extra or a want, not a need, that we just cant afford right now. In the fiscal year 2015, only .47 percent of the US budget went to NASA, the lowest it has ever been since 1960.
These cuts are counterproductive. Even though they save money in the budget, spending more on a program like NASA and enabling it to flourish stimulates the economy, improves upon our technological abilities and creates jobs for Americans.
When NASAs Discovery space shuttle was retired in 2011, an estimated 4,600 jobs were lost. The work that NASA does has even improved the success of other businesses. Many private companies have gained immense success by working with products developed by NASA including the very popular Tempurpedic mattress, which is made using the memory foam technology NASA originally created for its astronauts during space travel.
NASA and its groundbreaking work represents good old-fashioned American innovation. The folks that work there are the pioneers of the smartphones in our pockets and the GPS systems that get us where we want to go, along with countless other technological advancements that today seem so commonplace. Space travel, though many would argue to be the most exciting part, is only a piece of the work that NASA does in advancing science and technology.
The next frontier that astronauts look to explore is Mars. NASA is developing the technology and advanced spacecrafts to send human beings farther into our solar system than ever before. The goal now is to successfully get the first human being to Mars.
Perhaps in our lifetimes, we will huddle around the television like our relatives did in 1969 to watch the first human being set foot on the surface of the red planet. NASAs work is well worth our funding. Not only is it good for our economy and good for our technology, it is good for the American spirit of adventure and connectedness. Something, I daresay, we could use more of these days.
Olivia Richter is a junior in the School of Communication and a columnist for The Eagle.
Posted: at 4:18 am
Strange, but in the final editing of my book, which is much concerned with the American conservative movement, I cannot find a single mention of the alt-right. I dont know what the alt-right is, or anyone in it. Perhaps it supplants the New Right which was more aggressive than the Old Right?
Ive never liked the term right; it reinforces the mythology that conservatism is even remotely aligned with fascism and Nazism. Such regimes, in their expansive power, have more in common with the Big Government of so-called progressives. And nationalism is inconclusive; FDR was no shrinking violet, and it was JFK who urged what you can do for your country.
Jake Turx is a correspondent for Brooklyn-based Ami Magazine. The orthodox Jewish reporter is one of many little-known journalists now permitted to participate in White House press briefings and news conferences. This is an affirmative action program hugely disfavored by the mainstream media. Thats because its real diversity.
Heres the background: Over last weekend vandals toppled headstones at the Chesed Shel Emeth Society cemetery in St. Louis. Recently there were reports of bomb threats to 48 Jewish centers. These reportsprompted Mr. Turx (pen name) to ask President Donald Trump what Turx thought was a friendly softball question about the president addressing anti-Semitism.
In response, it would have been both desirable and appropriate, and expedient, for President Trump to condemn anti-Semitism and racial and religious hatred. He should have done so, then. Instead President Trump called the question repulsive and insulting; but he might have added demeaning. (A) The presidents generic is not to reply to an attack, not yield even one inch to an unacceptable premise. (B) The presidents specific is that associating him in any way with anti-Semitism is outrageous. (C) The president saw the question premised on the political correctness of Jewish victimhood, and the thing Jews in the U.S. are victims of, is political correctness.
President Trump likely (and incorrectly) felt that responding properly would dignify the rap against him and his team and perhaps even be patronizing. He likely wanted to avoid a headline like Trump Denies Anti-Semitism or Trump Finally Condemns Hate. But his rhetorical diversion to the Electoral College convinced conspiracists the president had a sinister agenda. He supposedly did not want to disillusion his presumed anti-Semitic base.
I am the least anti-Semitic person that youve ever seen in your entire life, President Trump responded. His inelegant syntax, Bill Buckley would say, enabled CNN talking heads to conclude, as they did, that if President Trump is the least, then he is somewhat anti-Semitic. That may not qualify as Fake News; it is Fake Analysis.
The controversy has its roots in the relentless character assassination of candidate and now President Trump. First, there was the canard that he is an anti-Semite. That became implausible given, for example, his love for his daughter and his proximity to his son-in-law, both Orthodox Jews who raise Trumps grandchildren in that rigorous observance. In much greater detail I explained this and more to a vitriolic Trump hater who happens to be Jewish; he responded, But some Jews supported Hitler. There seems the inevitable comparison of Trump to Hitler, encouraged by CNN, which keeps replaying that neo-Nazi creep, who has almost no following, chanting Heil Trump.
Candidate Trump might not hate Jews, Trumps detractors said, but Trumps campaign is full of dog whistles because his campaign ads were coded to appeal to anti-Semites. That became implausible since only the liberal Jewish complainers deciphered the code. In reality, the only dog whistle to the anti-Semites is each time President Trump appoints to a major position someone who happens to be Jewish.
But if you accept the premise that Trump and his team are evil, the explanation is always ominous, and that helps explain the reaction on January 27, when the White House issued President Trumps statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The statement inexplicably and inexcusably failed to mention the Jewish victims; it was worse than insensitive. It sounded like Barack Obama; had President Obama issued the same statement, I would have criticized it.
Trumps adversaries had a theory: Presidential Senior Counselor Steve Bannon is a historical revisionist. Allegedly Bannon aligned with the alt-right and its anti-Semites who want to minimize the extermination of Jews.
It turns out the author of the statement was Boris Epshteyn, an assistant to President Trump. Epshteyn was born in in 1982 in Moscow, then in the Soviet Union; in 1993 he emigrated to the U.S. In 1979, when I visited communist-ruled Leningrad (St. Petersburg), the Red hosts insisted on a cemetery commemoration for the quarter of the citys population killed by the Nazis. The communists played down the genocide of Jews. If you visited Auschwitz when the communists controlled Poland, the exhibit and tour guide alluded to the victims Polish opponents of the Nazis, communists, gypsies, and, almost parenthetically, Jews; in fact, Jews were overwhelmingly the carnage at what evolved from a concentration camp into a death camp. After Poland became free of communism, the Auschwitz exhibit and guides properly emphasized that Auschwitz was dedicated overwhelmingly to the annihilation of Jews. In other words, it was the communists the Left that minimized the Holocaust.
Perhaps before 11-year-old Epshteyn emigrated to the U.S., the Soviet education system had inculcated the party line World War II, not the Holocaust. In any case, Boris Epshteyn is no anti-Semitic lackey. Like many Jews from the former Soviet Union, Epshteyn is proud of his Judaism and his political conservatism.
For leftists born into a Jewish family, anti-Semitism is not about people who hate Jews. Its about people that the Jewish leftists hate, notably President Trump and, guilt by association, his advisers.
Rabbi Marvin Heir of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles prayed at the Trump swearing-in. A few days ago a reporter asked Heir about President Trumps failure to condemn anti-Semitism. Rabbi Heir replied that the president would pick the time and place. And so it was yesterday, at the end of a tour of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, that President Trump said the venue showed why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms.
About reports of increased anti-Semitism, he said, The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.
After reporting this, CNN interviewed one Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect. My question to him: Do you think Anne Frank was murdered because of a lack of mutual respect?
Asked on CNN if he was satisfied with Trumps condemnation of anti-Semitism, Goldstein said absolutely not. To prove his good faith, Goldstein emphasized, Trump must fire Steve Bannon, supposedly (and with no evidence) an anti-Semite. Trump used to complain that in repudiating hatred and prejudice, he could never satisfy his critics. And Goldstein proved Trump correct.
So who is Steven Goldstein? Like Boris Epshteyn, Goldstein lived in New Jersey; both started in politics with former Sen. Frank Lautenberg. Thats where the resemblance ends. Goldstein epitomizes the Dark State of philanthropy, using tax-free dollars for political polemics. Goldsteins Anne Frank Center is a progressive voice for social justice, fighting hatred of refugees and immigrants, anti-Semitism, sexism, racism, Islam phobia, homophobia, transphobia Did Goldstein leave anything out? Is the legacy of Anne Frank now reduced to this potpourri of political correctness?
Steven Goldstein reminds me of a variation of a current cartoon. A man says, Women and gays should have no rights. Jews are pigs. Goldstein, gay and Jewish, would likely reply, You must be one of those alt-right creeps behind Donald Trump! The man might respond, No, actually these are my religious beliefs. Im a devout Muslim. And Goldstein, who presumes to judge Trump and demands that Bannon be fired, would likely respond, I apologize. I hope you dont think Im Islamophobic!
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Posted: at 4:09 am
The Singapore economy seems to have entered a new normal of low and slow growth. There are more out-of-work residents and, last year, those jobless for at least 25 weeks took longer to find work as compared with the previous year. Business sentiment has softened and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have quite understandably been more adversely affected than multinational corporations (MNCs).
The cause of such a subdued economy is more structural than cyclical in nature as the Government has painstakingly engineered a productivity-driven revamp of the labour market, but old habits die hard and it takes time to change human resource management and work behaviour.
Meanwhile, in the Budget statement on Monday, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat made clear the Government’s intent to lend financial support to seven broad strategies tabled by the Committee for the Future Economy(CFE) to improve the longer-term resilience of Singapore’s highly open city-state economy. This is taking place amid a challenging external environment of rising protectionism against global trade, disruptive change due to rapid technological progress, and heightened geopolitical tension.
BUDGET’S THREE PRONGS This year’s Budget can be said to have three prongs: ease companies’ and workers’ shorter-term pains and hardships, build capacity for the longer term so the economy can adapt and stay competitive, and further commit to keeping society inclusive and caring.
ST ILLUSTRATION : MANNY FRANCISCO
With companies finding it hard to cope with higher business costs due to wages, rentals, government fees and charges, the Budget sought to ease hardship for companies suffering due to a cyclical downturn in their sector by, among other things, deferring foreign- worker levy hikes, enhancing and extending the corporate income tax (CIT) rebate for the years of assessment 2017 and 2018.
The Budget also includes help and incentives to cushion firms, especially SMEs, going through painful sectoral transformation. The schemes include Wage Credit amounting to $600 million, of which 70 per cent will be for SMEs; extension of Special Employment Credit amounting to $300 million that will benefit 370,000 workers, and the continuation of the SME Working Capital Loan scheme for the next two years.
In terms of capacity building and skills upgrading, the Government has committed up to $600 million in capital for a new International Partnership Fund with Global Innovation Alliance for Singaporeans to gain overseas experiences, build networks and collaborate with their counterparts.
It is reassuring to see consistent effort to address income disparity despite it having become more difficult to find the financial resources to do so, given lower economic growth. Last year, the Gini Coefficient – a measure of income inequality – fell to 0.402 from 0.458 due to the redistributive effect of government transfers. Income disparity in Singapore has fallen to a decade low, partly due to slower growth in incomes at the top. But what is worth noting is that generous funds for the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) scheme, heavy subsidies for public housing, especially for households in one- and two-room flats, and subsidised childcare for lower-income households can be sustained only if the economy continues to grow. And higher wages can be justified only by higher worker productivity and production management efficiency.
Mr Heng followed tradition in emphasising the need to manage Singapore’s precious resources prudently. He also said “growing our economy is the first and foremost important step to increasing our revenues sustainably”, and such revenue is critical to implementing the CFE strategies.
Despite the uncertain outlook, ministries’ expenditures are 5.2 per cent higher than in the financial year of 2016 – up an estimated $3.7 billion. Together with higher infrastructure spending to expand the mass rapid transit system and construct Changi Airport’s Terminal 5, it means that the overall budget surplus in the financial year of 2017 is estimated to be $1.9 billion or 0.4 per cent of GDP – much smaller than the $5.2 billion or 1.3 per cent of the GDP in the previous financial year.
Budget 2017 does provide strong financial resources amounting to $2.4 billion over the next four years to implement the seven broad, mutually reinforcing strategies of the CFE Report, which, unlike the reports of previous review committees, is best viewed as a “work in progress”.
It is unrealistic to expect the seven strategies of the CFE to depart radically from past strategies unless one is of the view that the direction of the past was wrong.
It is also unwise to expect the CFE, which sat for just 12 months, to come up with detailed policy recommendations without evidence-based assessments of public policies – especially given the recent fluid state of globalisation, potential disruptive change brought about by technology, regional infrastructure developments and ongoing geopolitical realignment.
For those who hope to see more specific policy recommendations, perhaps under CFE version 2.0, going forward, we can expect ministries and statutory boards to “review, formulate and implement” detailed policies to deepen the skills of Singaporeans, increase internationalisation of local companies and identify clusters for creating new sources of growth for the economy, as some older clusters may have matured. Efforts to further narrow income disparity as measured by the Gini Coefficient will remain high on the agenda.
Taken together, this year’s Budget statement and the CFE Vision Statement are significant as the former lends financial support to enable the latter’s vision of a government that is “coordinated, inclusive and responsive”, three words used in the CFE report executive summary.
The Government has clearly recognised the danger of failing to coordinate policies and has, since 2011, made changes in how policies are to be funded. These include the funding of public housing, healthcare, transport and education in ways that reflect continuity and consistency.
The CFE has also declared, albeit cautiously, that collective efforts by all stakeholders will allow the Singaporean economy to grow by 2 to 3 per cent per year on average over the next 10 years.That is clearly lower than the more ambitious 3 to 5 per cent growth per year on average, which was articulated by the 2010 Economic Strategies Committee.
Yet, even at the lower GDP growth target range, the Singapore economy must expand by 25 per cent in 10 years from now. That would require the Government to be responsive when the external environment turns favourable and nimble enough to seize opportunities to grow well above the upper range of the CFE growth target to make up for GDP growth falling below the lower end of the target range during global downturns.
QUESTIONS ON THE FUTURE After 50 years of economic growth that far exceeded expectations, Singapore now has to aim higher to reap dividends for the future and that takes courage. The Government has long employed a strategy of picking and hosting winners in manufacturing clusters such as electronics, oil refinery, chemical engineering, and pharmaceutical and life sciences. These clusters are now integral components of the manufacturing sector, with spillover effects on service sectors.
Mr Philip Yeo, former chairman of the Economic Development Board, has a 5-5-5 rule on how “every industry struggles through its first five years, grows and stabilises in the next five and then matures in the last five”. Some of the future clusters envisaged by him for Singapore could well include robotics, artificial intelligence, digital science, big data centres and driverless transport.
As we look a decade ahead, what we need to forge is a consensus on the broad direction for the economy and the strategies to bring that about, and secure buy-in from a majority of stakeholders. For that to happen, unpopular issues need to be tackled and conventional wisdom challenged. We may well need to revisit Singapore’s growth potential, reshape its economic structure, rethink the sustainability of current welfare policies and review its openness to the foreign workforce with a clear-eyed assessment of the optimal population mix over the longer term.
Here are the questions that we believe need to be grappled with as we contemplate the future of the Singapore economy:
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