Sunday, November 2, 2014

the consultation

According to a report by Oxfam which warned that inequality between rich and poor is spiraling out of control, the number of dollar billionaires in the world has more than doubled to 1,645 since the financial crisis of 2008.

Despite the austerity affecting ordinary people around the globe in the wake of the recession, the richest 85 billionaires saw their fortunes increase by a total of around $240bn over the past year. Research earlier this year found these 85 people had access to wealth equal to that of half the world’s population.

If the world’s billionaires were taxed at a rate of just 1.5% on their wealth over $1bn, it would raise $74bn a year - enough to get every child into school and deliver health services in all of the world’s poorest countries. The report is titled, Even it Up: Time To End Extreme Inequality.

Oxfam’s chief executive Mark Goldring said: “Inequality is one of the defining problems of our age. In a world where hundreds of millions of people are living without access to clean drinking water and without enough food to feed their families, a small elite have more money than they could spend in several lifetimes. The consequences of extreme inequality are harmful to everyone. It robs millions of people of better life chances and fuels crime, corruption and even violent conflict. Put simply, it is holding back efforts to end poverty."

Oxfam challenged governments to follow a seven-point plan to rein in inequality:

1. Clamp down on tax dodging.
2. Invest in universal free healthcare and education.
3. Introduce equal pay legislation.
4. Agree to a global goal to tackle inequality.
5. Introduce minimum wages and move towards a living wage for all workers.
6. Shift the burden of taxation from labor and consumption towards capital and wealth.
7. Provide adequate safety nets for the poor, including a minimum income guarantee.

While I prefer not to be skeptical..
Do you think we have leaders capable of introducing these ideas?

Meanwhile I hope you like the new illustration. Any suggestions for captions or story ideas are welcome.


Should Fish More said...

Pretty easy question to We thought the current President, Obama, might. Disappointed we were, as yoda might say. His questions 1-7 are all out of the reach of our current administration, let alone what is to follow in the next 8 years.
As to your wonderful picture. I see a couple imps under the table supporting things, perhaps what they are about to do? On the shelves behind I see a microscope, something that could be imagined as a Celsius tube, volumes of what are probably chemistry or alchemy tomes. File cabinets of the grandmother's experiments, cataloged by an index system. And....a Southwestern native american, hopi-type vase in the wrong colors. But nevermind that.
The grandmother has just proposed they do something, an experiment perhaps. The girl is leaning forward, anticipating the fun of it all.
Anyway, what do you expect somebody on walkabout to contribute, wisdom? Fugggedaboutit.......

MRMacrum said...

Humans are creatures of habit. Repeating historical mistakes is one of our habits. As they have done so many times in the past umpteen thousand years, the unwashed masses eventually rise up and cast the money lenders, the speculators, the political leaders out of their lives. Unfortunately what always follows is a vacuum and it takes years for us to get it back together. Rise and Fall. I just do not understand how this lesson is so conveniently lost on those with the purse strings.

marja-leena said...

Great list from Oxfam but I am sceptical that current administrations car a hoot while they sell our resources to foreign corporations with little or no royalties and taxes to keep up even exiting social services. They need to look at Norway and the other Nordic and North EU countries that, though not perfect, are far more advanced.

Grandma is playing a magical game with granddaughter in a most magical setting! Beautiful work again, Susan.

Rob-bear said...

Governments following the seven-point plan? It's far more likely that Crow could make those kinds of changes ;ong before any politician. UGH!

What do you call a boat load of politicians at the bottom of the sea? A good start. (Crow should follow up on that.)

Blessings and Bear hugs, susan.

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

Answer to 1st question: No
Answer to 2nd question: Yes, another lovely illustration (and those dopey alien dragons are beginning to look a bit more confident and comfortable, having perhaps realised we are much more stupid than they first thought). However... returning to Question 1, I note that Oxfam's chief executive has been getting paid well over £100,000 per year (like many others, see: Doesn't sound like working in the charity sector to me... There is an element of scam in even the most respected charities. I have a pal who works as a consultant for charities in Africa and admits himself and most consultants are getting huge fees while the charity workers on the ground get peanuts (or nothing other than expenses). I would be less cynical if most managers in the charity sector were not living in plush homes and banking many times the average wage each year. Many people make big profits out of "not for profit" charities.

susan said...

Yeah, we made the mistake of voting for him too. The best part of his presidency came and went that late afternoon in Chicago at Grant Park. As for the next 8 years or more, I shudder to imagine.

Thanks for taking the time to look so closely at the picture. Your interpretation is fascinating and I apologize for mis-coloring the Hopi vase.

Hope you're having a wonderful time. Happy trails.

susan said...

You're so right, MRM. There are any number of books that describe the rise and fall of civilizations - not least the big one by Arnold Toynbee. Unfortunately, these have never been taught in high school history or civics classes and are much less likely to be considered for lesson plans now. Maybe next time..

susan said...

It seems 'austerity' is the only game in town these days, doesn't it? I consider the list as an interesting, if unworkable, group of suggestions. One thing I've always thought about the governments of the Nordic countries is that they have always been more aware of the people's needs - perhaps it's the climate and the long dark.

Once again I'm delighted you like the picture and your game idea. There will be more to follow.

susan said...

You're right about that, Rob. Crow certainly could do better, but those of us who pay attention to his wisdom are few.

We like the joke.

Best wishes!

Sean Jeating said...

Andrew wrote it.
Rob-Bear made me chuckle.
It's become a fine painting.
No more suggestions . . . so far . . . these days . . .

susan said...

Andrew, I have to agree the answer to the first question is no, actually a big NO. There still seem to be some people who think their governments are 'of, by, and for the people'. That hasn't been true for a long time when there's money and cushy jobs waiting for those who have performed their acting duties well. What's a US president for, but to make the speeches while somebody else makes the policy?

As far as the big charities go the scandals about how much money is collected compared to how much goes to help people in need are pretty well generally known by now. By those of us who've read the reports, that is. Just yesterday we read about the American Red Cross sending empty trucks to disaster areas for the photo ops. It's beyond disgusting.

Nevertheless, I'm glad you like the picture. My alien dragons are definitely directing a lot of the action in these new illustrations. There are more to come.

susan said...

Andrew did indeed!
Rob's joke made me chuckle too. It's all too true.
I'm glad you like it :)
Did you remember the original sketch for this one, Sean?

Sean Jeating said...

Yes, I did and do. :)

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan
Oxfam is a great group with revenues to day of $700 million euros but 30% still goes to fund raising and for admin. I do agree tax leakage to tax havens tops the list. But by using a system of Imputation for dividends, opportunities are extended to more potential investors, as a tax credits/refund applies where personal income is low. More importantly it encourages companies to pay the full tax in the country where they reside. The effect at the bottom end of taxpayers would be increases returns by about 40%, an incentive for more to participate and to reduce inequality.
The good news is there is growing recognition the rising inequality in countries are producing the worst economic results, so eventually the tide will turn as both capital and income levels sink. What is needed is more imaginative and well informed workable practical solutions, but countries will need to standardize across borders and be willing to roll up the shirt sleeves so to speak.
Lovely colours and detail in your delightful picture as usual
Best wishes

Ol'Buzzard said...

I am reading the Discovery of Witches trilogy by Deborah Harkness and your painting is how I picture the witch Diana Bishop as a young girl in the magic house with her aunts Sara and Em.
I always love your art - each picture speaks a story.
the Ol'Buzzard

susan said...

Hi Lindsay
Oxfam has had a wonderful reputation for doing good work over the years. It's unfortunate that charitable organizations all over the world have largely fallen to some kind of corporate control - an example of which I mentioned in my comment to Andrew.
The system of imputation used in Australia to calculate dividends owed sounds like a great idea that could help to implement better financial results for governments and the governed. It would be better for everyone if these measure were used but I'm very concerned about the tendency of politicians to be more concerned for their own personal fortunes rather than their responsibilities to their constituencies.
Once again, I'm delighted to know you like the latest picture.
Best wishes

susan said...

You couldn't have mentioned Deborah Harkness's books in a better place at a better time, OB. I hadn't heard of her before but when I read your comment I went to read the Amazon reviews (not enough to wreck the surprise) and ordered all three. They sound like great fun.

Glad to know you like the pictures.

susan said...

Good :) There's another on the board
as the practice runs continue.

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan
Oxfam still punches above its weight from its humble beginnings in Oxford, UK in 1942, when its first meetings were in a local church.
But where the big money is, is in tax lost, which could be used by governments for much needed public works, health and education. Tax avoidance has reached a massive scale, so that if you solve the leakage problem to any degree then the Oxfam wish list would simply disappear or becomes irrelevant. You don’t need new taxes or grand schemes to try and tax wealth and so forth, which are impractical but rather for tax to follow common accounting principles which are universally understood and accepted.
The good news is there are as many governments now super keen to get their hands on all of that lost tax as there are corporate players avoiding it. In Australia as reported in the AFR our tax commissioner is leading an international consortium to pool resources / information to ensure the tax is properly collected. Some of the stuff is still legal, in relation to contrived transfer pricing involving household names, such as Google although I would argue these practices are against the spirit of the law, but hopefully soon we will see some resolution.
Best wishes

Lydia said...

No, Susan, I do not think the world's leaders will jump on those ideas, any more than they will actually commit to stopping global warming where it is now (which is at an irreversible state, but better at this stage than further down the line).

As for the drawing, oh how I love your mind. I was so depressed by the Oxfam stats and really needed the smile and lift your drawing gave me. I don't know why but my eye caught that curtain drifting in the breeze over on the left and a more gentle movement in the curtains on the right. There is something about that to tell in the story, whatever it may be! This is a gem.

susan said...

Hi Lindsay
It's good to know Oxfam is still doing so well after all this time.
I was very interested to read your report about national governments getting more serious about their plans for collecting taxes. That's not a plan I've heard of previously, although I have read about wealthy Americans giving up their citizenship to live in countries with low rates. Corporations and banks still seem to be mostly off the hook. Perhaps I'm too generally cynical about governments (I did live in the US for most of 35 years and that will do it) but if there does turn out to be a major change I will be glad to hear about it.
Best wishes again, my friend.

susan said...

Hi Lydia, I just looked at the post-election map to see almost the entirety of the US is red now. I don't know if it's any more depressing than having a president who, over the course of six years, never closed Guantanamo, presided over the vast expansion of the NSA, bombed and droned thousands more people in the ME, gave in to the pressure of the medical insurance companies, and has brought us a new Cold War. Leaders such as him and his ilk (the one in Canada, for example) aren't going to change their tack soon. I wish I was wrong.

I'm delighted to know you noticed the curtains. Perhaps a fresh breeze is blowing gently in a place not too far away, eh? The story grows picture by picture :)

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Read or listen to info here
and search through some of these documents
Best wishes

susan said...

Hi Lindsay
That was very interesting. I've long known that Luxembourg is a tax haven along with (more recently) the Isle of Man and the Caymans. Back in the days when ownership of a Swiss bank account was something of a standard joke with little meaning for regular people, none of this seemed very serious. The rich of that time appeared to be few and most of us in the western world at least were fairly comfortable. Now we have austerity and what amounts to international financial warfare.

While there may be investigations going on now - a good thing, indeed - the big problem still to be overcome is that there is all sorts of leeway given to corporations and finance groups by government officials who make deals for their own long term gain, ie Juncker.

You may have already seen this Guardian article. It's a good one too.

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan
I hadn’t seen that article which is another good one as you say.
In the US alone it is estimated from known data if small business (the Lifeblood of any economy) owners were obliged to pick up the full tab for all of this offshore tax avoidance by multinationals, they would each have had to pay an estimated $3,206 in additional taxes each year.
The leakage is costing citizens the equivalent of thousands of dollars per person in lost revenue in the US alone, but it doesn’t appear to attract the criticisms warranted nor was tax restructuring on the agenda at the recent elections. As I said earlier an imputation system would highlight the non-availability of franking credits by companies and put the spotlight on the fact multinationals are not paying tax!! –at the expense of small business owners and citizens. All of these people have a vote!! What a pity more don’t become more vocal.
Incidentally London has the highest rate of billionaires per capita in the world – also the hub for financial activity. But how much tax are these guys avoiding?
Best wishes

susan said...

Hi Lindsay,
I agree with you absolutely that an imputation system of tax collection would help a lot. As we well know it's become common practice for multinational corporations to avoid paying taxes in any way they can. While there are many people in the US who understand that things are wrong with the way business is done, most have no idea what that might be. In a two party system where both parties agree on the fundamentals of satisfying wealthy donors, they tend to campaign for public support based on issues that are contentious but essentially trivial - whether gay people should marry, abortion as a choice, immigration, religious freedom, et al. These are subjects that in a sane society could be easily resolved by the Golden Rule rather than being used as issues to deter people from considering the real problems. The other thing is that even when a good and noble hearted politician gets elected s/he is unable to form a coalition of like-minded statesmen. You might enjoy reading this article by Charles Hugh Smith about the meaning of the recent mid-term election results.
I'm sure Australia has problems you're familiar with (Canada does too), but after spending nearly 35 years in the US I can't help but remain focused on a place where much of the current trouble in the world originates. It makes me very sad to say I would be very surprised to see the US take the lead in reining in the excesses of the multinationals.
All best wishes

ps: For extra reading interest the Bradblog has been following US voter fraud for a number of years. This was widely discussed after the GW Bush election in 2000 but has fallen off the public radar even as the excesses have become more egregious.

Steve Emery said...

I haven't visited in a while (mostly spending time at my pastel table in the garage...) and I see you DID decide to do watercolors of some of your recent wonderful drawings. I am so glad to see them! I will be back some evening soon to comment in more detail about them - so much to love and admire in these! Steve

susan said...

Hi Steve,
It's great to see you again. I'm happy to know you not only remembered the sketches - some of which are making their way here - but that you like the finished paintings. Slow but sure gets things done.
All best wishes

L'Adelaide said...

blogger is being nice tonight so i wanted to say hello. no is my answer on the question unfortunately... i think it is innate for humans to be greedy if they get the chance, a bit like monkeys not wanting to share the bananas if given half a chance NOT to. don't you think? i'd like to think things could be more fair and when i see what's happening in places like west africa, so much need, so little true assistance, it sickens me. but i have no answers coming to my meager mind..

this is such a wonderful painting.... i love the old woman and the little girl. definitely a wise wild woman and perhaps a young girl in training to find her own wild nature? what a delight is that ...

i cannot continue but wanted to say hello... i've been unable to do much online or on my computer, to be more precise, but it's forcing me to do other things that may lead to a more healthy lifestyle in the long run. i do miss it tho... much love to you. xox

L'Adelaide said...

i was reading your great comments and saw this. it just disgusts me and any faith i ever had in humanity.... we all must just do our parts the best we can, give as we can, cultivate a generous heart, it all goes without saying i suppose... and forget any government is going to do anyone any good. most especially the one that takes my tax dollars!

you said: Just yesterday we read about the American Red Cross sending empty trucks to disaster areas for the photo ops.


L'Adelaide said...

forgot something... ;)

i'm intrigued by the view out the right-hand window... hmmm.... methinks she's a very artistic, wise woman... who is fun-loving and has a broom behind the magic bookcase, right? yeah, thought so... xxxxxxxx

susan said...

Hello, my friend. I'm glad to hear blogger was behaving for you when you visited. I too prefer not to think that humans are innately greedy, but appearances in many cases would seem to indicate we often are. My friend, Lindsay, who also left some thoughts about this issue belongs to a church in Australia whose members have adopted a small town in Africa that they've been helping for years by building a school and assisting in other ways. I think that the most we can accomplish is what we can do as individuals and in small groups.

It's good to know you like the picture. What's most enjoyable for me has been in creating a few characters that allow people to envision their own story ideas. Yours is good.

susan said...

Yes, you're right that she's a wise woman. Scientist/alchemist, perhaps?

Steve Emery said...

I was looking at this painting again this evening, and particularly enjoying the different color schemes you used on different items (much the way man made objects are in real life). For instance, the curtain in the doorway vs. the wallpaper around the window on the left. And, as I hope I remarked when I saw the black and white drawing, I love the dragon leg table and the lamp. Most of all, I like the sense of a conversation about to start. The painting feels full of that.

susan said...

My plan with this one was to make the place appear comfortable but kind of thrown together too. The underlying story I'm imagining takes place in a future where great changes have occurred, one where science and natural magic are in co-development. While I'm not certain the story itself will ever be written, I'm happy to know you've intuited some of the intention provided by my visual clues. Yes, the conversation has begun.