Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tax stops Usain Bolt from bothering more with Britain

It was telling that in a live BBC interview during the Olympics that Usain Bolt said that he would love to spend more time in the UK, but the tax laws make it not worth his while.

The Taxpayer's Alliance explains why:

Under current rules, athletes competing in the UK are liable to pay tax on their winnings in addition to paying levies on any of their passive income such as marketing, sponsorship and image rights deals. Athletes often have to pay a 50 per cent tax rate on their appearance fee as well as a proportion of their total worldwide earnings. 

No wonder he can't be bothered.

Of course, neither the supposedly "pro low tax" Conservative Party, nor the Liberal Democrat or "opposition in name only" Labour Party agreed with him, largely because all three parties have been embarking on a cannibalistic feeding frenzy on tax for months. How did he compete in the Olympics then? Simple. The UK Government was told it had to suspend these provisions for the extent of the Olympics: The International Olympic Committee insisted that HMRC suspended its normal tax regime for those competing in the London 2012 Olympics. London simply wouldn’t have been able to host the Games otherwise. And the Government has also said that tax breaks will be available to the Commonwealth Games and those taking part in the 2017 World Athletics Championships in London. They've all been claiming how moral it is for people to pay taxes, and how tax avoidance (i.e. legally acting in ways to not pay more tax than you are required to) is immoral. It's been a Marxist orgy of claims that tax avoidance "costs the UK" money, when what is actually meant is that it costs the government - when in fact people with more of their own money tend to invest it or spend it, benefiting them and the people who gain the investment or sell them goods and services. The classical Marxist bogey of tax avoidance is the stereotype of some rich businessman sitting in a suit with a cigar laughing as he appears to do nothing whilst gaining more and more money. He's probably a banker, or someone who earned lots of money in ways that are "not honourable" to socialists (remember earning a six-figure sum as a politician or unionist is ok though). Usain Bolt doesn't fit that stereotype. He's loved by millions of fans. Nobody dare utter a criticism of him or the substantial earnings he gets from promotional deals. See it is ok to make money running fast and being attached to ad campaigns, but not to run an advertising company, or manage his investments, or own a hotel he stays at. Yet the political silence of this issue is palpable. Clearly the tax laws as they stand not only deter the UK from hosting athletics events (when they get hosted they do so with exemptions), but stop people from living and working in the UK as athletes. It is completely self defeating, it means there is less money in the economy and indeed if Bolt lived in the UK and paid no income tax, the UK would still be better off. This is a man who wouldn't be claiming public housing or welfare benefits, he would be almost certainly never using the NHS (when he can afford private healthcare) and would be paying plenty of VAT on his consumption (and fuel tax and air passenger duty on travelling) to cover a decent contribution to defence, law and order and other state spending. However, to argue that, Red Ed Miliband, his new sycophants in the Liberal Democrats and the sellout Conservatives would have to admit that, actually, most wealthy people don't cost the state very much at all. They pay their own way, pay for their own housing, education, health care, pensions and by and large only have a role for the state in defence, law and order and the provision of roads. Because, you see, the underlying reason for the clamour for tax is to take from the rich to give to everyone else. Now if you were Usain Bolt, earning for a relatively short period of your life, enormous sums of money for promotional campaigns, why would you decide that middle class and low income British deserve to get half of all your earnings, when you can stick to Jamaica?

Friday, August 10, 2012

The positive legacy of the London 2012 Olympics

Now I was quite curmudgeonly about the Olympics in advance, for reasons I've already written about.  That being the economic disaster they are proving and will prove to be, and the overweening authoritarianism both written into legislation and enforced by the Police, indeed, such reasons continue to pop up, such as the man arrested by Police for not appearing to enjoy the event he was watching (he has Parkinsons' Disease).   

Kiwiwit has a good post about reasons to dislike the games as well.  

In almost sickening cliche terms there is constant talk of "legacy" from the Olympics.  Part of this is attributed to the construction of venues, although these will be grossly underutilised and the stadium itself is likely to be leased at below a return on capital to some soccer club.   Part of it comes from handing over the athletes' village as new housing, some of which is the awful cliche "affordable housing" (I didn't know I lived in unaffordable housing - except it would be before long if I lost my job).  Part of it is the claim that the record British medals' haul will inspire lazy kids to take up sports.  It might do a little, but that tends to be over exagerrated.

Yet for all these negatives, there is a single overwhelmingly fantastic element to the Olympics.

It is a display and celebration of personal achievement.

People who to a man and woman, tried their hardest, spent months or years training and practicing and giving it their commitment to pursue their own goals.  

They are not altruists.  The medals were not won so that Britain could feel great.  They were not won to boost the economy or to encourage others to take up the sport.  

They were won by people who wanted to win as their individual achievement - including those in teams.  It was a desire to be the best.

This in a world where the word "elite" is taken as a sneer that success comes only from privilege, this in a world where individual success in so many fields is taken as a chance to demand a pound of flesh for everyone else.  A world where those who make things happens by applying their mind and energy to ideas are simply seen as obliged to carry everyone else along with themselves.  A world where so many see those as succeed as hosts to suck the blood from.  

Further to this has been the unashamed joy of those winning, with justified personal pride that their own effort and skill have paid off.  However, also delightful has been the joy of many of those who did not get gold.  Why?  Because they gave it their all, they blamed nobody else for not getting gold, if they did blame someone it was themselves.   Total responsibility for their actions and result.   This one year after London was beset by riots from those expressing the antithesis of this.  Nihilistic parasites destroying, invading, stealing, blaming it on the Police, blaming it on society, blaming it on the government, when their motivation was a combination of euphoria from destruction and personal gain directly at the expense of others.  

Yet those celebrating and enjoying the Olympics have not just been those competing and their team mates, families and coaches, but the spectators both in person and on television.  Much of that has been a patriotic joy at seeing British men and women succeed, particularly as the story of so many of them is one of coming from an average background, deciding to pick a sport, finding they do well and wanting to do better.   However, it isn't just some blind nationalism.  Usain Bolt's success has captured the imagination of millions, many of whom have no connection to Jamaica.  Michael Phelps likewise.   Indeed one of the great points noticed by many athletes have been the spectators, predominantly British, cheering on the winners, regardless of nationality.

This celebration of success, achievement, personal, is overwhelmingly positive.  

It's been noted that this is the antithesis of the recent celebrity culture of attention seeking of non-achievers.  The world that of the likes of Piers Morgan, who dared slam Team GB athletes who stood on the podium with gold medals and didn't sing "God Save the Queen".  This overpaid unachieving tabloid media hack whose life has been to invade the privacy of others to sell pap populist bullshit almost epitomises the leadership of the attention seeking vacuousness of mass culture, most notably seen in the nobodies called the Kardashians.

Gold medal athletes are so far above and beyond parasites like Morgan that they shouldn't give him the oxygen of their attention.

Meanwhile, almost a complete sideshow during this time has been the politics of it all.  Those who themselves want to suck popularity and publicity from the achievement of others and gloat or point score around the games - or rather, those who gleefully spent other people's money for the event under the cover of, at best, non-evidence based wishful thinking about the benefits of the games.

So, if the one thing that is taken away from the games is a sense of joy, awe and respect for those who achieved the pinnacle of their chosen sports, then that IS the positive legacy.  A legacy that shows children and adults that people can achieve great things if they show determination, discipline and responsibility.   A legacy that also shows that for most athletes, achievement is not seen in medals, but in getting to personal bests, participating with world champions with the chance of success, and almost none of them blame others for not getting gold. 

It is an antidote to the culture of equality worship, the years of opposition to competitive sports, the idea that someone succeeding "makes the losers feel bad", that those who succeed must always bear in mind the effect of their success on those who don't.

This corrosive attitude that those who succeed shouldn't celebrate their achievement, and that there should be celebration of those who come last may have a place in encouraging young children (or the intellectually disabled) to try things and learn to get better, has permeated its way into cultures with a "tall poppy syndrome".  It's perhaps New Zealand's worst cultural trait - the willingness to sneer and think someone who is proud of having done well and keeps doing well "thinks he is better than the rest of us".  So what if he is, he's probably right.

Usain Bolt shows the antithesis of this attitude. "Fastest man in the world" who knows he is, is glad he is, and is unashamed about it, and millions of people share the joy of seeing him do just that. He did not think for a moment to give his team mate Yohan Blake a chance to "be equal" by getting a Gold Medal, and Blake would never have wanted him to.

The Olympics doesn't see the competition getting retarded or limited just to allow someone else to have a chance at winning.

As such, despite it being a grand taxpayer funded display of state celebration (which it is, and which more than a few countries use it for), it is an antidote to the culture of our times.

Who of the Marxists who demand that the people at the lowest level jobs in businesses be considered the creators of the true wealth of those businesses would stand up and say "Usain Bolt didn't do that" because there were others who washed his laundry, drove him to the venue, cooked his meals or made his shoes.

Did the people in the factories in Asia producing his running gear win his gold medal?  No.

Indeed the BBC tried desperately hard to push a Marxist criticism of the games on Newsnight a few nights ago, claiming some Team GB medals came from "elite sports" that only the wealthy could pursue, and the Olympics were "out of reach" because so many sports were not mass events.  The argument is so absurd as to be barely worthy of a response, when the Olympics is full of track and field events, team ball events, swimming and others that are accessible.  How many children get inspired by Usain Bolt running like a champion?  The Marxist MP Dianne Abbott talked of a lack of ethnic diversity among those benefiting from the games, denying the remarkably multi-ethnic backgrounds of the medallist (and indeed both her and the BBC's hypothesis were swatted down within 24 hours when Jade Jones (from a small Welsh village) and Nicola Adams (from Leeds of Afro-Caribbean descent) won gold for taekwondo and boxing respectively.

So the equality bullies, the people who always want to point out how unfair life is because not everyone everywhere can win gold, not everyone everywhere can get the time or money to become elite athletes, have been overwhelmed by a tide of enthusiasm, warmth and joy from those who DO succeed.

That, despite all that has been wrong about these Olympics, is quite beautiful.

Finally, to almost epitomise this sheer joy and delight at success, is one of my favourite moments from the Olympics.  The absolutely unalloyed expression of love, pride and emotion from Bert le Clos.  This interview was on the BBC minutes after his son, Chad le Clos, won the 200m butterfly in swimming  beating his hero Michael Phelps.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Naughty Brisbane Metro

Don't joke about the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The owners and staff of Brisbane Metro (and Melbourne mX) will be first up against the wall if the world revolution comes embracing the Juche idea...

The use of language is astonishing and has to put most journalists to shame.   I've highlighted a few choice pieces.  I doubt very much if this event will go down in history for longer than about a week, but what is more astonishing is that someone picked up on this either online or in Australia to get the apparatchiks at the KCNA fired up over it.  North Korea's internet presence is progressively growing.


Naughty Brisbane Metro Challenges Olympic Spirit: KCNA Commentary Pyongyang, August 7 (KCNA)

The Australian newspaper Brisbane Metro behaved so sordid as to describe the DPRK as "Naughty Korea" when carrying the news of London Olympics standings. 

This is a bullying act little short of insulting the Olympic spirit of solidarity, friendship and progress and politicizing sports. Media are obliged to lead the public in today's highly-civilized world where mental and cultural level of mankind is being displayed at the highest level. 

Brisbane Metro deserves criticism for what it has done. The paper behaved so foolish as to use the London Olympics that has caught the world interest for degrading itself. 

The paper hardly known in the world must have thought of making its existence known to the world by joining other media in reporting the Olympic news. Then it should have presented its right appearance to the world. 

Editors of the paper were so incompetent as to tarnish the reputation of the paper by themselves by producing the article like that. There is a saying "A straw may show which way the wind blows". A single article may exhibit the level of the paper. 

Many people were unanimous in denouncing the small paper for defaming the mental and moral aspects of the players of the DPRK who earned recognition from several appreciative world famous media. Even hostile forces toward the DPRK heaped praises on its players' successful performance at the London Olympics, saying that "Korea whirlwind" sweeps the world. The Australian paper cooked up the way of moneymaking, challenging the authority of the dignified sovereign state. The paper deserves a trifle sum of dirty money. 

As already known, it was reported that a lot of petty thieves sneaked into the London Olympics together with tourists. Players fight to the finish in the stadium, but those petty thieves demonstrate their "skills" outside the stadium. The paper Brisbane Metro is little different from those petty thieves. In a word, the paper discredited itself. How pitiful it is. 

The Brisbane Metro will remain as a symbol of rogue paper for its misdeed to be cursed long in Olympic history. The infamy is the self-product of the naughty paper Brisbane Metro which dared challenge the spirit of Olympic, common desire and unanimous will of mankind. 

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Don't come to London - it will be too busy

They didn't, so it isn't.

The economic story of the Olympics is increasingly damning as it has become abundantly clear to many businesses in London that the net effect has been to scare off tourists from the city and to scare away the locals. The first thing that is noticed is that the public transport system and the roads are quieter than usual. The expected huge delays and overcrowding haven’t happened, in fact it is the other way round. On Monday I retimed my own commute to deal with the expected chaos, but on Tuesday found it quiet. It’s busy around Olympic venues yes, and there was awful weekend traffic in no small order because of the cycling road race both closing a whole series of roads and encouraging hundreds of thousands to head that way to watch.  Otherwise it’s grim for businesses (but a delight to walk around).

 Look at these figures

- 50% reduction in foreign visitors to London in July 2012 compared to July 2011 (European Tour Operators’ Association) 
- 4.5% reduction in retail footfall in the West End in July 2012 compared to July 2011
 - 2.6% reduction in retail footfall in the East End (where the games are) in the first few days of the Olympics compared to last year 
- 25% reduction in visitors to the British Museum in July 2012 compared to July 2011 
- Traffic counts in central London are down 17% on previous weeks 
- Major retailer NeXT estimates sales are down 10% in its central London shops.
-  The Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association estimates business is down 20-40%.

In short, it has been pretty much what I and others predicted. The Olympics deters as many as it attracts, as many presume prices will be inflated (and they were) and everything will be too busy. However, given that government agencies such as Transport for London have been constantly telling Londoners to make different plans and businesses were told to encourage people to work from home, take leave or avoid unnecessary travel, it shouldn’t be a surprise. People have done what they were told. 

However, politicians are in denial. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that such figures were nonsense saying that “restaurants, theatres and even cabbies who are out of pocket today will reap benefits for years to come.” according to the Evening Standard.  Yet how come the media can't find businesses outside the mall adjacent to the site that are doing well?  He's touting the obvious manufactured claim of his bureaucrats that "businesses who marketed well are doing well", yet how does he realistically think this can make up for the reduced visitor numbers?  Having taken taxes from all of these businesses to pay for these games and told many businesses to effectively cut travel to London or staff commuting in London, how dare he tell off the people who are paying for the games without the credit for it.

In a parallel story, traders at Greenwich market reported a 60% decline in trading, even though the market is located between the nearest Docklands Light Railway station and the Olympics venue, because of a huge barrier placed on the road to shepherd people from public transport to the venue. It has since been removed.
Of course a small business that takes risks based on a government funded project is always going to be taking a gamble, it doesn't help that Transport for London is still telling motorists to avoid Greenwich altogether and warning people of overcrowding stations in the area.

This follows rude prick and Sports Minister Hugh Robertson saying that businesses had “years” to plan, as if a restaurant in the West End can somehow woo hundreds of thousands of people that have been put off by constant taxpayer funded warnings to stay away. The Prime Minister continues to spout the empty delusion that the Games will generate £13 billion of benefits for the economy. 

Of course not one politician will come out and say the obvious. Hosting the Olympics never made economic sense. The Blair Government had advice at the time that said this. However Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Ken Livingstone and their minions, and since then David Cameron, Nick Clegg, George Osborne and Boris Johnson, have all gone along with this delusion. The money for the games came from taxpayers. The majority of whom don’t live in London so will have seen no net benefit at all. If the businesses that were meant to benefit, by and large don’t, then you’ve been wrong. You’ve all gambled away £9 billion of other people’s money on a fun party. 

Yes the Olympic Games are a great time, and offer fantastic spectacles of people truly achieving their best through effort and training. Yes it’s nice for Team GB athletes to compete on home soil, but if you asked them if it was worth £9 billion of other people’s money for just that, I doubt they would agree. 

However, don’t bother pretending they are an “investment”. Don’t pretend that there are real economic benefits for anyone, beyond the construction companies for the facilities you paid for with other people’s money. London is already one of the world’s most popular tourist destination, it has no shortage of visitors. It was inevitable that a city as crowded and congested as London would need to chase some people away to allow others to come in.   The same thing happened in Sydney.   A study by James Giesecke and John Madden of Monash University indicated that the Sydney games generated a net loss of A$2.1 billion in economic activity.

Well done. 

Now first prize for the UK politician who stands up, after the OIympics I expect, and says “it wasn’t worth it”. 

and no, unlike the grumpy failed politician Gore Vidal, I don't get that much pleasure from "I told you so" when so much money has been wasted.

Second prize if someone simply pointed out that if London wants more visitors, allowing its busiest airport and only hub airport to build a third runway, a project the airport's Spanish owner is able to fully finance itself, would have been a far more effective and enduring way of attracting visitors that building a stadium that still doesn’t have a long term user. 

However, Olympics are a bigger spectacle and far more exciting than a permanent piece of infrastructure, especially when the latter is opposed by hoards of angry environmentalists (the ones who can't and wont protest the extra runway a month being built in China for new airports) and NIMBYs (who wish that 60 year old airport would go away so their property values would go up).

Which is why the government shouldn't be involved with either!

Meanwhile, DO come to London.  There are massive discounts at hotels, flights are cheap and it's easy to get around, and there are sales on if you avoid the crowded Stratford Westfield Mall (and why would you come to London to go to a mall full of eastenders on school holidays?).