Still a Foolish Tax

The EU’s usurious digital tax on international tech companies that they had proposed has met with sufficient resistance from low-tax member nations—Ireland and several northern European nations—that France and Germany, the drivers of the proposal, have offered a modified version.  This new effort would

  • limit the tax to a 3% levy on online advertising revenues rather than all online revenues
  • effectively exempt Amazon, AirBnB, and Spotify—a sop to non-EU administrations, especially Trump
  • run until 2025

The beef underlying this drive to tax techs centers on tech firms paying less tax than putatively traditional firms on their EU earnings.

What’s So Hard?

Great Britain is agonizing over how to deal with the People’s Republic of China’s Huawei Technologies Co and the latter’s desire to supply the nation’s 5G mobile network.  On the matter of Huawei’s having supplied the predecessor 4G network, Great Britain thinks it had arrived at “an understanding” with Huawei concerning the latter’s behavior vis-à-vis the installed 4G—which, astonishingly, allowed Huawei to monitor “aspects” of 4G tech.  Britain’s MI6 head, Alex Younger, seems to be the chief agonizer.

5G will by and large be based on Chinese technology, chiefly with Huawei. We need to decide whether we are comfortable with the ownership of these platforms in the case where our allies take quite a definite position…This is not straightforward[.]

Another Free Trade Deal

As Ashley Tellis, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, pointed out, a free trade deal with “Taiwan” would be a Good Thing.  Indeed, that would be a good start, but it really would be better to sign a free trade deal with the Republic of China rather than with an island.

He also pointed out that such a trade deal would go a long way toward easing, if not stopping, the People’s Republic of China’s effort to diplomatically isolate the RoC.

Accordingly, a free-trade agreement would demonstrate American solidarity with Taiwan is just a bit ironic given the thrust of Tellis’ piece.

Second Thoughts?

The New York City city council has decided to hold a series of hearings on the just concluded Amazon HQ2 deal cut with the city.  The council’s beef is the secretive nature of the negotiations between amazon.com and the folks purporting to represent the city.

Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, Economic Development Corp President James Patchett, and Amazon executives have been invited to the hearings, which will take place during the next few months, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s office said Thursday.

There’s nothing wrong with the negotiations themselves being done behind closed doors; that’s the only place “frank and open” discussions can occur.

Paying for Groceries

A farm bill is wending its way through Congress, finally, as the House and Senate have agreed to a common version.  What’s in this version?  Good question.

Lawmakers for months have been deeply divided over the farm bill, which funds crop insurance and farm subsidies, as well as programs to help low-income people pay for groceries.

But these…lawmakers…won’t talk publicly about the details of their compromise.

A Judge’s Ruling on Female Genital Mutilation

Charges related to female genital mutilation were dismissed last week against Detroit doctor Jumana Nagarwala, who has a history of performing such “surgeries.”  Federal District Judge Bernard Friedman, of the Eastern District of Michigan, ruled that Congress had overstepped its authority in passing a law banning this FGM.

Sadly, the judge was right.  That law, passed in 1996, was done under our Constitution’s Commerce Clause, which authorizes Congress to regulate interstate commerce (along with trade with foreign nations and with the Indian Tribes).

However, Friedman wrote,

There Goes the Neighborhood

The EU has decided to put a lid on the cost of phone calls.

The European Parliament has approved new telecommunications rules that will cap prices of intra-EU phone calls….

And those Parliamentarians are proud of themselves for this.  MEP Constanze Krehl, who speaks for the German Social Democratic Party on matters related to telecommunications:

It was high time to cap the sometimes outrageous prices for international calls in the EU[.]

Just like rent controls, though, this will serve only to stifle maintenance and improvement.  Quality will lag and eventually go outright downhill as the cost of providing the service eats more and more into the revenue—now maxed out—gained from providing it.

A Thought on Amazon’s Choices

Amazon.com has made its selection (-s, plural as it turns out) for its alternate corporate headquarters: Arlington County, VA’s Crystal City and New York’s Long Island City, with a booby consolation prize—or a scrap bone—tossed to Nashville, TN.

I have a couple of thoughts about this.

San Antonio, in Texas, had misgivings and declined to play Amazon’s game.

“Blindly giving away the farm isn’t our style,” wrote San Antonio officials in an open letter to Mr Bezos.

Others openly groveled and kissed the ground on which Amazon officials walked when those worthies deigned visit.

Right Answer, Wrong Dissent

The Washington State Supreme Court issued a ruling favorable to the State’s charter schools last Thursday.  The question before the court was whether those charter schools were violating the State’s constitution by receiving funding from the State’s lottery facilities.  Writing for the court, Justice Mary Yu wrote in plain words,

Charter schools are not rendered unconstitutional just because they do not operate identically to common school[.]

She expanded on that in addressing the plaintiffs’ argument that the charter schools lacked voter control, holding that, as The Seattle Times paraphrased her,

Trade and the People’s Republic of China

The Wall Street Journal wrote in its Thursday edition that the US was “refusing” to resume trade negotiations with the PRC until the latter made a formal offer to us.  That’s a bit of a misnomer, though, since there’s nothing about which to negotiate until the PRC makes an offer.  Absent that, any discussion about trade would be just idle musings over an afternoon tea, a whiling away of some time between more important things.

A couple of other things jumped out at me in that article, too.