To avoid Detroit’s Fate Chicago looks at Revenue Generation from Speed Cameras

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 11th, 2013

Week in Review

The City of Detroit bankruptcy shows how the massive costs of a city’s public sector are strangling these cities.  Promises of generous pensions for a long retirement and free health insurance up until you die are just promises these cities can’t pay for.  So some (like Detroit) raised their tax rates so high that people left the city in droves.  Further reducing the tax base.  While other cities turn to other revenue generating schemes (see Speeders were plentiful in camera test run by David Kidwell and Bill Ruthhart posted 8/12/2013 on the Chicago Tribune).

As Mayor Rahm Emanuel rolls out his long-delayed speed camera plan, new numbers his office released suggest that drivers who speed in Chicago could rack up way more in fines than a cash-starved City Hall initially projected.

The mayor had hoped to bring in $30 million this year. But results from a monthlong test of the automated camera system indicate the city could reap well into the hundreds of millions of dollars in the program’s first year.

City transportation officials argue that estimate is overblown, but the test period statistics the mayor’s office released Friday reinvigorated critics who argue that the program is more of a cash grab than the child safety measure Emanuel sold it as…

City transportation officials put estimated first-year revenues at $40 million to $60 million, arguing that several factors will cut down on the number of tickets actually issued.

For starters, they argue that it’s incorrect to estimate revenues based on the test program. They suggest the money will never reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars because of a number of factors. The most important: the fast learning curve of Chicago drivers…

Ald. Leslie Hairston, 5th, who voted against the speed camera program, said the number of speeders captured on the test cameras supports her insistence that the main motivation is to generate more city revenue.

“I guess this is just going to be a city for wealthy people, that’s where we’re headed,” she said…

The speed camera rollout was scheduled for closer to the start of the year, but it was delayed after City Hall came under scrutiny following Tribune reports of an alleged bribery scandal involving its 10-year-old red light camera program.

Making the streets safer for children is a noble goal.  But like their red light camera program it’s all about the Benjamins.  The money.  And they love cameras because they can rake in the money without having to put more costly public sector workers (i.e., cops) onto the streets.  That is, they’re outsourcing these costly union jobs to machines.  To minimize their labor costs.  Just like corporations try to minimize their labor costs.  Because union workers are very, very expensive.

But like every government revenue policy they’ve overstated the expected revenue from these cameras.  Just like a higher cigarette tax rate reduces cigarette tax revenue.  Taxes, and these revenue cameras, change human behavior.  Actually achieving the stated purpose for them (better health if people don’t smoke and safer streets if speeders are punished).  Which means though they have a burst of revenue in the beginning it will eventually taper away.  Requiring a new revenue generating scheme.  And then another one to replace that one.  And so on.  On and on.  Forever and forever.  Instead of doing the simpler thing.  And the thing that would work best.  Forever and forever.  Just stop spending so much.

If the public sector union enjoyed pensions and health care benefits like they do in the private sector there would be no Detroits going bankrupt.  Because there would be no generational theft.  These workers would provide their own pensions—401(k)s—and pay a much larger portion of their health care expense.  And they would work into their Sixties (or more) like the rest of America.  Instead of retiring in their 40s or 50s.  To enjoy a retirement that in some cases lasts longer than their working career.  This would solve the budget problems of the big cities.  Instead of passing it on to future taxpayers who were not included in those generous contract negotiations that they find themselves stuck paying for.


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Argentina adds 15% Tax on all Out of Country Credit Purchases

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 2nd, 2012

Week in Review

Argentina has a problem.  They have depreciated their currency so much that no one wants to hold on to it.  And they are taking aggressive measures to that end (see Argentine tax agents to track all credit card buys by MICHAEL WARREN, Associated Press, posted 8/31/2012 on Yahoo! News).

Argentina just made it more expensive for its people to use credit cards outside the country, and more dangerous for cardholders who aren’t paying all the taxes they should.

One measure published in Friday’s official bulletin adds a 15 percent tax every time people make a purchase outside the country using a card issued by an Argentine bank. Another requires the banks to report every credit card purchase, home or abroad, to the tax agency.

The moves target Argentines who have discovered that by using credit cards outside the country, they can get around increasingly tight currency controls and shelter their money from soaring inflation. Purchases outside Argentina using peso-denominated cards soared 48 percent in June compared to the year before, obligating the central bank to send $289 million out of the country in just one month. Overall capital flight soared to $23 billion in 2011.

Argentina likes to print money.  Which means Argentine pesos don’t hold their value.  If you don’t spend them this week they will buy less next week.  So Argentines don’t want to hold on to them for long.  They’d rather buy stuff while the buying is good (before their pesos loose too much of their purchasing power).  Or quickly exchange their pesos for a currency that holds its value longer.  Like U.S. dollars.  And out of country credit purchases help Argentines minimize the effects of runaway inflation on their earnings.   But when Argentine banks have to settle these international accounts it takes a lot of a depreciated currency to do that.  Hence the soaring capital flight.

If printing so much money causes so many problems why do they print so much money?  Because Argentina governments like to use class warfare.  They like to tax the rich.  And give to the poor.  As well as pay for a lot of big government projects to employ highly compensated union workers.  All to help their shirtless.  Their descamisados.  The poor laborers who work so hard that they must remove their shirts.  But they have so little because of the evil rich people running companies.  And their foreign investors.  So the Argentines gear their whole economic system to favor the unions. And the descamisados.

Argentines don’t have to declare their income unless they are salaried and make more than $20,000 a year or are self-employed and make more than $30,000, so many register with the tax authorities as if they make less than the limit, dealing in cash and trying to keep their income and purchases off the books.

But Argentina also taxes accumulated wealth, giving the government license to scrutinize people’s private property to an extent that foreigners are ill-accustomed to. People whose incomes don’t match their lifestyles can find themselves closed out of the financial system until they come clean.

Since November 2011, Argentina’s government has sought to stem capital flight by closing down nearly every avenue people have to legally trade their inflationary pesos for U.S. dollars. The black-market peso price has spiked as a result, trading now at 6.37 pesos to the dollar, compared to the official rate of 4.65. That 37 percent gap represents what people with undeclared pesos have to lose in order to convert their cash to dollars inside Argentina.

Credit cards, meanwhile, are paid at the official rate, and many cardholders have figured out ways to use them to avoid this loss. The 15 percent tax raises the effective cost of purchases to 5.35, reducing the gap by nearly half.

Of course if you try to implement massive transfers of wealth those with wealth will do everything within their power to keep what is theirs.  So the government has to do everything within their power to let as few as possible to escape their wealth-destroying policies.  Hence the clampdown on out of country credit card purchases.  While the government clamps down it’s the simple workers who ultimate suffer.  The descamisados.  For it is their savings that are made worthless over time.  Making their retirement more difficult.  And less enjoyable.

Argentina has pursued the same polices since Juan Peron in the Forties and Fifties.  And little has changed over time.  Other than a great debt default.  Meanwhile their neighbor, Chile, is doing quite well.  Thanks to a different set of economic policies implemented by a dictator.  Who had help from a great economist.  Milton Friedman.  Who worked with the brilliant Chilean economists known as the Chicago Boys.  Who did things very un-Argentina-like.  And how did that work out for their retirees?  Suffice it to say their pension plan is a better model than the U.S. Social Security program.

Argentina is a great country.  Filled with people just waiting to exploit their human capital.  And the only thing in their way are the bad policies of their government.  Which must be so frustrating for Argentineans.  Because they could explode their economy if only they were allowed to.  And the only thing preventing them are the class warfare policies of their government.  As the class warfare polices of so many previous governments have denied previous generations lives of comfort and plenty.  Lives that were just out of reach.  Of the middle class.  And the descamisados.


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Higher Labor Costs are squeezing Margins for Chinese Export Manufacturers

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 4th, 2012

Week in Review

China is still able to exploit their cheap labor to maintain a healthy export market.  But for how long (see China exports may stay strong despite weak Europe by Zhou Xin and Nick Edwards posted 3/1/2012 on Reuters)?

An estimated 200 million jobs — a quarter of China’s workforce — are directly dependent upon the external sector, hiking the political risks of an export slowdown to a leadership hypersensitive to any hint of social instability that might threaten the one-party rule of the Communist Party…

Ye Dingsong is an exporter who has relied on sales to Europe, but his primary headache is pricing, not falling orders.

“There are orders, but the problem is that it’s hard to get good prices. European buyers have become sensitive to prices, but costs are rising quickly so I have to ask for higher prices,” said Ye, the owner of Dadong Shoes in Wenzhou.

His shoe factory, which at its peak employed more than 100 people, currently has only half as many after workers walked out for better wages elsewhere when Ye said he could manage only a 10 percent rise…

Wenzhou exported 265 million pairs of shoes to the EU last year, roughly one pair for every two EU residents, according to data from the local customs office. But total sales were just $1.6 billion, or $6.04 per pair, meaning margins are very narrow even as a starter’s monthly wage can easily exceed 2,000 yuan ($320).

Ye is one of the many exporters Beijing is trying to help through tough times with tax rebates and easier bank credit.

The state capitalists in America look to China with awe and admiration.  They would love to expand state control of the economy in America to the level in China.  So they, too, can produce those magnificent GDP growth rates.  Which they think they can do.  With a union work force.  Even with the high wages and generous benefits of union workers.  Which, of course, they cannot do.  For the only thing maintaining China’s export market is that cheap labor.  Which is far below the union wages and benefits in America. 

In America a Chinese type state capitalism will not result in higher GDP growth rates.  Only in higher wages and benefits for union workers.  Along with a collapsing GDP growth rate.  Thanks to an uncompetitive American work force becoming even more uncompetitive.

But even in Communist China they are having problems keeping their labor cheap.  But they will do everything they can.  Including brutal state oppression.  And Keynesian economic policies.  Urging businesses to borrow money and expand production.  Even in the face of rising prices.  Which one day will lead to falling sales.  Leaving the Chinese with some nasty asset bubbles in their economy.  The kind the Japanese had in the Nineties.  And the kind the U.S. just recently had in the housing market.  Both bubbles popped.  And a horrible deflation set in to undo all the Keynesian mischief that caused the bubbles in the first place.

There is no way for the Americans to do what the Chinese are doing.  Unless the state capitalists do like the Chinese.  And outlaw all unions.  And that’s about as likely to happen as Keynesian economics policies actually working without causing inflation and asset bubbles.


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President Obama Represents only those Americans who can Help him to Reelection

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 25th, 2011

Week in Review

President Obama gives up on white working-class voters.  He’d rather just represent poor minorities and the college-educated.  People he likes.  Unlike those white working-class voters.  Apparently (see Obama campaign abandons white working-class voters in favor of minorities and the educated by Daily Mail Reporter posted 11/28/2011 on Mail Online).

President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign will be the first in modern political history to abandon white working-class voters, strategists claim.

For decades, Democrats have been losing more and more blue collar whites. Their alienation helped lead to the massive Republican wave in 2010, when the GOP wooed 30 percent more of them than the Democrats could.

Democratic strategists say President Obama is focusing his attention, instead, on poor black and Hispanic voters and educated white professionals.

‘All pretense of trying to win a majority of the white working class has been effectively jettisoned in favor of cementing a center-left coalition made up, on the one hand, of voters who have gotten ahead on the basis of educational attainment… and a second, substantial constituency of lower-income voters who are disproportionately African-American and Hispanic,’ longtime political reporter Thomas B. Edsall wrote in an opinion piece in the New York Times.

‘The 2012 approach treats white voters without college degrees as an unattainable cohort,’ he writes later.

LBJ declared war on poverty in the Sixties.  He was going to meet it, fight it and destroy it with his Great Society.  He lost.  For President Obama’s key to reelection is LBJ’s failure.  Poor black and Hispanic voters.  Which means either throwing money at poverty doesn’t work.  Or Democrats keep poor people poor to help them win elections.

White working people are apparently too dumb to know what’s best for them.  Except those in unions.  Because they still vote Democrat.  Which either means white union workers are smarter than white nonunion workers.  Or that white union workers have another reason for voting Democrat.  Such as the political protection they get in exchange for all those union dues that make it into Democrat coffers.

College educated whites?  That means the young and dumb who are in college.  Who don’t know any better and vote Democrat because Democrats are cooler.  They like to party, do drugs and have consequence-free sex.  And the arrogant and condescending.  College professors.  Those in the media.  And crony capitalists.  Those who skate through life not so much on their ability.  But who they know.  And they know well their Democrat friends.  Who can send federal money their way in exchange for all those political contributions that make it into Democrat coffers.

So apparently Barack Obama represents those who can best help him to reelection.  And not all Americans.  Funny.  Because Obama said there were no blue states.  And no red states.  Just purple states.  Which you get when you mix red and blue.  Meaning that he was going to represent all people.  He has either since changed his mind.  Or he was lying.


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Nancy Pelosi Hates Nonunion Workers because She Can’t Collect Tribute from Them Like She Can from Union Workers

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 6th, 2011

Week in Review

Nancy Pelosi believes there is such a thing as a bad job.  And I’m not talking about flipping burgers.  I’m talking about building jet planes.  Normally good.  As jet planes dominate U.S. exports.  But these jobs are only good jobs when they are in Seattle.  Not in nonunion South Carolina (see Pelosi Vs. Boeing — And Jobs posted 11/1/2011 on

“Do you think it’s right that Boeing has to close down that plant in South Carolina because it’s nonunion?” asked host Maria Bartiromo.

Pelosi’s quick answer was “yes.”

Pelosi said she preferred the plant in the right-to-work state would unionize; failing that, the National Labor Relations Board is right to shut down the plant where Boeing hopes to build its Dreamliner passenger aircraft.

So instead of adding jobs to the economy Ms. Pelosi would prefer these people collect unemployment checks.  Why?

Union representation must be forced on them so they can be forced to pay union dues, a big chunk of which is funneled into Democratic campaign coffers. Over the past two years, the [International Association of Machinists] donated $1.98 million to Democratic candidates and $34,000 to Republicans.

Similarly, the trillion dollars in wasted stimulus and other legislation have gone mostly to projects using union workers, in particular teacher and construction unions. Stimulus money has also gone to failing but politically connected firms like Solyndra, whose major investors are big Democratic donors.

Nancy and her Democrat colleagues are greedy.  And pine for the days when people like them ruled over others.  Simply by being born into the nobility.  With democracy putting the kibosh on aristocracy they have come up with this clever ruse to put taxpayer dollars into their pockets.

They still steal it.  But not directly.  They give it to someone else.  Who then gives some of it back to them.  If this sounds familiar you may have seen this in the movies.  We call it ‘money laundering’.  She calls it tribute.  The proper respect paid to her privileged class.

This is what it’s all about in the Democrat party.  The money.  So when you hear them talk about creating jobs and stimulating the economy it’s what we call in politics ‘lying’.

They just want the money.  And could care less whether or not they create a job.  If you disagree answer me this.  After 5 years of Pelosi/Obama and all of that stimulus, where are the jobs?


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