On April Fools Day (the first day of April in the United States) I like to play a prank or make some jokes. This year, in the midst of war, my enthusiasm for humor is muted. Yet as senseless killings go on around the world, one cannot fall into despair - for look at the continuing industrious activity of Georgists. The movement for economic justice continues to advance, to win new attention, to face challenges, and to illustrate the power of justice-based fiscal reform. Our reports in this month's Georgist News highlight only a few of the many activities going on all over our world, to bring about a just society where there is no cause for terrorism, no cause for war, no cause for poverty. The challenges are steep but we're not backing away.
Please send in your reports, news, and opinions, to share with other readers. Deadline for the May issue: April 23.
You can always reach the Georgist News at firstname.lastname@example.org
CONTENTS: (to return here just click the headline)
Joshua Vincent, Director of the Center for the Study of Economics, reports:
GN Comments: More and more cities are seeking, and obtaining, permission to try the two-rate property tax. Roanoke is located in the heart of the beautiful Shenandoah Valley and has great economic potential. By using a two-rate property tax, Roanoke's citizens can enjoy new prosperity without any new bureaucracies or costly government programs.
The one-word version of this story is - help! Here is the longer version, from Oregon activist Jeff Smith:
Oregonians have a chance to win a fundamental reform endorsed by dozens of groups worldwide. We got a bill introduced to let Oregon localities shift the property tax from buildings to sites; such a shift would end the tax penalty for improving one's home while spurring speculators to put their locations to best use. Using central urban land efficiently means not having to use suburban open space at all. Using centers more intensively means more riders for mass trransit, less traffic congestion, less smog, less oily runoff, more suburban habitat. It means more affordable housing, more construction jobs, etc. It's a tax reform that has worked wherever tried.
Rep Jackie Dingfelder (D) introduced the proposed constitutional amendment, HJR 30. Rep Lane Shetterly (R), Chair of the Finance Committee, is co-sponsor. With his support in this Republican-dominated legislature, we actually have a chance of getting this bill out of the legislature and onto the ballot where a majority of voters must approve it. To help transform our local pattern of settlement, please urge Oregon representatives and senators to support HJR 30 to let localities shift the property tax, testify at its hearing, and spread the word.
To read HJR 30, visit http://pub.das.state.or.us/LEG_BILLS/PDFs/HJR30.pdf
Rich Nymoen provides this follow-up to last month's news report on prospects for land value taxation in Minnesota:
A hearing in the House Tax Committee will probably be held in early April, and a Senate hearing 2-3 weeks after that. Mark Haveman, who authored an LVT (land value taxation) study for MN Planning in 2000, will be testifying. Other testimony is expected from representatives of ISAIAH (a congregation-based organizing group), the MN Center for Environmental Advocacy, and the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability. Hopes are high if it passes the legislature, as the new state Commissioner of Revenue, Dan Salomone, was a former colleague of Mr. Haveman and a one-time student of Mason Gaffney.
The text of the bill and its status can be accessed below. http://www.leg.state.mn.us/leg/legis.asp
Godfrey Dunkley in the Republic of South Africa makes this unhappy report:
I have the bill in electronic form for anyone who would like a copy by email.
The main point of concern, on first glance, is that the bill kills the best system of rating in the world. 70% of RSA has been on Site Value Rating, 20% on Composite Rating (what many of you know as the two rate system), and only 10% on Total Value or Improved Value Rating.
See 10. 1. a below, taken directly from the final draft, already passed by the Cabinet.
"10. (1) A rate levied on property must be - " (a) a rate based on the improved value of the property shown on the current valuation roll of a municipality; or"
As if this is not bad enough, by the influence of "overseas experts", they have been able to further distort justice by the following clause:
"(b) a flat rate for property within a specified valuation band, provided that band is below a prescribed valuation limit.
"10. (2) The amount of a flat rate in terms of subsection (1) (b) may not exceed the amount that would otherwise have been payable on properties in the lower end of the valuation band had the rate been levied in terms of subsection (1)(a)."
If they decide to have a band above say R1,000,000 then those cottages that have recently been sold for varying amounts between R3M and R7M for their land value only, will pay the same amount as a property worth say R1,000,500 with a land value of about R250,000. [This from] a government committed to bringing about economic justice and uplifting the poor!
I believe that students of the Lincoln Foundation have played a significant roll in brainwashing our government.
GN Comments: You can reach Godfrey Dunkley at email@example.com
Sue Walton says:
Some of the topics to be discussed: Natural Resource Wars in the 21st Century; Seeing the Cat - How we educate at the Henry George Schools & Institute. There will also be a session on Fundraising. In the next 50 years, 41 trillion dollars will be donated to non-profit organizations through estates - perhaps we can capture part of this.
Great way to get to Bridgeport - use Amtrak. Buy one full fare; the second fare is half off and the third fare is free. Tickets must be purchased by 4/30 for travel by 8/28. The website is: http://www.amtrak.com/
The conference dates are July 16-20, 2003.
An exciting report from David Giesen:
Camp Hank is a Georgist holiday getaway, only it's not just for Georgists; indeed, it's really about bringing the Georgist perspective to the wider public via engaging outdoor experiences and theater entertainment.
Sporting an off-the-grid solar power system, and permaculture sensibilities, this California Sierra foothills resort offers forest trekking opportunities, flat and whitewater recreation, and a big range of the typical camp activities. And it all comes with subtle but cumulative Georgist philosophy embedded in the activities.
Adult programming includes hosting politicos and non-profits for low-cost planning vacations. Think of it as the Bohemian Club with truly populist intentions: hijinks amidst Nature's splendors, all intended to make the cat apparent to everyone.
It's 27 acres adjacent to 700,000-acre national forest land. It's Gold Rush country. It's an intentional project open to other Georgists' ambitions, so speak up.
For a first year brochure, contact David Giesen at Camp Hank Chautauqua, PO Box 645, Georgetown, CA 95634 or call 415-948-4265 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
In the March issue of the Georgist News, which you can find at www.georgist.com, we expressed surprise and frustration that some so-called economists still claim the property tax to be "regressive." In reply, here are notes from three Georgist News readers:
If the taxing powers were switched, and the federal government were supported mainly by property taxes (or land taxes!) and cities and school districts had to rely only on local income taxes, it would be easy to prove that income taxes were regressive! This would follow because impoverished communities would still need to hire competent school teachers at reasonable wages, but this would require a very high income tax rate on their residents.
Conversely, a town of millionaires could support a fine school system with an income tax rate of only 1%.
The "Who Pays" study actually shows that, despite the higher property tax rates in poorer communities, property taxes in Missouri amount to just over 2% of income in all major income groups except for families earning more than $200,000, who pay less. So it is only mildly regressive as currently collected. So it does follow that replacing local property taxes by state income taxes would improve progressivity. However, these results do NOT support the careless inference that progressivity would increase if we lowered property taxes and replaced them with other local revenue sources.
Re "goodjobsfirst.org" and its tax study, believe me, Bob McIntyre has been told, and told, and told, but his ideas were cast in bronze many years ago, and he just goes into denial on this one. This is tragic because he is basically a "good guy," with the interests of working Americans at heart. He also gets a lot of ink, and could do a lot of good: if only...
The myth continues for two very good reasons:
1. The servants of moneyed and landed interests, including almost all economists, industriously disseminate the lie that "rich" means "high income" and "poor" means "low income." Accordingly, the "progressiveness" of taxes is almost always wrongly measured by taxes paid as a fraction of income, not as a fraction of wealth. In fact, of course, wealth and poverty can only correctly be measured by assets or net worth, never by income. The claim that income is the measure of personal wealth is logically equivalent to a claim that speed is the measure of distance.
Because the elderly typically have paid-for real estate assets worth many times their annual incomes, claiming that wealth is measured by income rather than wealth allows liars to also falsely claim that property taxes are regressive. Thus, by lying about what personal wealth is, the servants of the wealthy are able to direct naive people's attention away from their patrons' exorbitant privileges and the derisory taxes they pay to obtain them. It is a pity that economists - especially of the right-wing variety - who so often cite Adam Smith, seem so seldom to have read him:
"The expense of government to the individuals of a great nation is like the expense of management to the joint tenants of a great estate, who are all obliged to contribute in proportion to their respective interests in the estate. In the observation or neglect of this maxim consists what is called the equality or inequality of taxation." - Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations
2. In many cases, those who pretend to measure the progressivity of taxes make little or no effort to account accurately for how the burdens of those taxes are shifted. This problem is aggravated in the case of property taxes because they typically tax two opposite things: improvement value (what the landowner contributes to the wealth of the community), and land value (what the community contributes to the wealth of the landowner). In order to sustain the lie that property taxes are regressive, soi-disant economists typically pretend that tenants pay all of the cost of their landlords' property taxes - that the entire burden is shifted from the landlord onto the tenant. In fact, of course, tenants (who tend to have much less personal wealth than resident owners, let alone landlords) actually pay almost no property tax at all, because the land value portion (which is less than linearly related to tenant wealth) of the property tax burden is borne solely by the landlord, while the improvement value portion is shared according to the relevant elasticities - and improvement value is more than linearly related to tenant wealth.
GN Comments: Many thanks for all responses.
An announcement from the Geonomy Society:
Merry Equinox! This world works in wondrous ways. Did you know…
Check out these stories and more in the spring issue of The Geonomist at www.progress.org/geonomy/geonom114.htm
Tell a friend, even a list of them.
The Fourth Annual Global Conference On Environmental Taxation will be held June 5-7, 2003, in Sydney, Australia.
As leaders and pioneers in the movement for environmental taxation policies, Georgists will be presenting many of the papers at this major event. At last year's conference, Bill Batt and Jeff Smith gave well-received talks; this year conference attendees will hear from such Georgists as Tony Vickers, Karl Williams, and - back by popular demand - Bill Batt and Jeff Smith.
For further information on the conference, including abstracts of the presentations, visit http://www.law.mq.edu.au/eti/index.htm
Since 1997, the Banneker Center for Economic Justice has been publishing an alternative daily news web site for Georgists and all persons interested in current events, economic justice, politics and fairness. The web site is called The Progress Report and is available at www.progress.org
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For it isn't enough to talk about peace. One must believe it. And it isn't
enough to believe in it. One must work at it.
- Eleanor Roosevelt
Don't agonize. Organize.
- Florence Kennedy
Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in
ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. And the
more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled
- Etty Hillesum
The Georgist News is an email newsletter, sent free of charge. Its purpose is to keep you updated on the latest news, world events, projects, and initiatives of relevance to people who, like Henry George, seek a world free from special privilege and free from the causes of poverty.
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