china land dispute state parks land value tax

Suicide blast over land row kills China family
property speculation

Institute for Fiscal Studies backs land value tax

Money and land drive people to awful extremes, but if each of us got some money from our region’s land, then the motive behind speculation would be met morally. We trim, blend, and append three 2012 articles from: (1) BBC, Jan 23, on suicide; (2) Truthout, Jan 25, on parks by J. Hightower; and (3) Guardian, Feb 2, on a tax by P. Inman.

by BBC, by Jim Hightower, and by Phillip Inman

Five people were killed in China when a man set off explosives strapped to his body during a New Year family meal. The incident was triggered by a land dispute. The man, named Liao, went to his cousin's house in Lianyuan City and blew himself up. He and four of his relatives died, and six other people were injured. Liao and his cousin had some disputes over land use.

Liao had been working in the city and had returned to the village for the Lunar New Year festivities.

Land disputes are a common source of tension in rural China, leading to tens of thousands of protests every year. But this type of violence is rare. Last year -- however -- a series of bombs were detonated in the eastern city of Fuzhou.

To see the whole article, click here .

JJS: When land is up for grabs, not only can private individuals lose it but so can the general public.

Governors and legislators are cutting off funds (and shutting off access) to one of the most popular assets owned by the people: state parks.

More than 6,600 of these jewels draw some 700 million visitors a year to their grand vistas, historic sites, abundant wildlife, majestic forests, cascading waters, expansive beaches, nature trails, campgrounds, educational centers and lodges. For the middle class and the poor who can't jet off to luxury resorts for a getaway for vacation, these spaces offer a form of great value that each of us literally "owns", knitting us together as a community and nation.

Yet state officials have been closing many parks, slashing hours and services at others, or simply handing the public's asset to profiteering corporations. Idaho's governor has proposed eliminating the entire parks department; California shut the gates of a fourth of the state's parks last year; officials in Arizona and Florida intend to privatize their parks; Washington state has cut off most of its park funding; and Ohio has okayed oil drilling in its parks to replace state financing.

In my state of Texas, last year the gang of GOP hucksters who control our state government pulled off a huge heist, covering it up with an equally huge boast: "We balanced our budget. Not by raising taxes but by setting priorities and cutting government spending," bragged the gang leader, Gov. Rick "Oops" Perry. How'd they fill the $27 billion shortfall that they themselves had created by their previous budgetary mismanagement? By “stealing” money from already poorly funded programs -- from education to parks -- that ordinary Texans count on.

But that was only part of the robbery. A state sales tax on sporting goods, dedicated by law to help finance the people's parks, will generate about $236 million this year and next. But the governor and his legislative henchmen raided this pile of revenue, filching two-thirds of it for the state's general fund so they could claim that they "balanced our budget (without) raising taxes."

To replenish some of the tax money taken by The Perry Gang, the head of parks for the Great State of Texas is now engaged in a shocking spectacle: public begging. In a video played at 11 December press conferences in state parks across Texas, the chief of a major state agency is reduced to shaking a tin cup, pleading for $4.6 million in donations. "Please act now to help keep our state parks open for all Texans to enjoy," he beseeches.

These right-wing politicians howl that they want to shrink government -- but they are the shrunken ones, and the narrowness of their vision is diminishing what it means to be American.

To see the whole article, click here .

JJS: The writer above says the solution is to tax the rich. Yet it is government spending that creates the rich. Rather than try to tax rich downstream, governments could save a bundle and not enrich them upstream.

Further, governments would be in better financial shape if economies were not such roller coaster rides, periodically entering recessions. The way to stabilize the economy is to discourage speculation in the most basic asset -- land. And the way to do that is to recover the socially-generated value of land while de-taxing the useful output of people, such as businesses and buildings.

This geonomic tax shift is a reform a high-powered agency calls for.

Amid a flurry of microeconomic reform proposals, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has thrown its weight behind OECD proposals for a shift away from income taxes to consumption and wealth taxes.

In particular, the IFS said: "Replacing business rates with a land value tax would remove a damaging bias against property-intensive production."

The IFS's recognition of the property problem is welcome.

Across the western world there is a mania for investing in unproductive property. There is a case to be made that property speculation -- seen in some circles as a bona fide job that deserves respect -- is a way not to do any real work; but let's leave that to one side.

The last property bubble, which precipitated the financial crash, has entirely failed to diminish the appetite for making gains on property speculation as a substitute for making gains from working.

For 30 years wages have stood still. But no matter, we can speculate on property to increase our income.

This is not the fault of homeowners. Faced with an employer who refuses to pay higher wages, workers have little option than to borrow and what better than land as the main supporting asset?

There is no tax on the main home or its sale. There is only 100% gain. For higher rate taxpayers, the buy-to-let option is also lightly taxed compared to income tax (40% versus 28% for capital gains tax).

The OECD has proposed cutting income taxes and business taxes across its developed world membership and introducing a land value tax (LVT) to end this obsession with property and encourage paid work.

An LVT would take money out of the property market every year rather than just when transactions occur. Stamp duty could be abolished and inheritance tax as well, especially as the UK has already pushed the threshold so high that middle income groups don't pay and the rich can avoid it. Council tax would go, along with business rates.

The left has traditionally objected to any reduction in the role played by income tax and corporation tax. A highly redistributive income tax and a big levy on corporates is the way to make the new phenomenon of super-high-salaried staff (relatively unknown 40 years ago) and their capital-owning cousins pay for welfare services, they believe.

Yet rich landowners would pay the most land value tax.

While the holy grail of LVT supporters is to abolish all other taxes, the OECD merely recommends a shift in emphasis. The shift would allow some simplification, though simplification is not the point. It is to make work pay without sacrificing the welfare state.

Liberal Democrats plan to raise the personal allowance threshold to £10,000. They should switch to an LVT. Almost anyone with a mansion can void the current charges on its sale. An LVT is unavoidable.

To see the whole article, click here .

JJS: The English press is so good on this issue, can the English people and leaders be far behind?

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Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .

Also see:

Protesters riot in China city over land sale
www.progress.org/2011/riotchin.htm

State-Owned Bidders Fuel China's Land Boom
www.progress.org/2010/texas.htm

Living Longer to Avoid Taxes
www.progress.org/2010/downtown.htm

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