Tax me to help us

This is not my typical post. I came across the following rather interesting news story on the BBC website and thought of sharing it with the readers of this blog. What are your thoughts? 

Rich Germans demand higher taxes

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8321967.stm

A group of rich Germans has launched a petition calling for the government to make wealthy people pay higher taxes.

The group say they have more money than they need, and the extra revenue could fund economic and social programmes to aid Germany’s economic recovery.

Germany could raise 100bn euros (£91bn) if the richest people paid a 5% wealth tax for two years, they say.

The petition has 44 signatories so far, and will be presented to newly re-elected Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The group say the financial crisis is leading to an increase in unemployment, poverty and social inequality.

Simply donating money to deal with the problems is not enough, they want a change in the whole approach.

“The path out of the crisis must be paved with massive investment in ecology, education and social justice,” they say in the petition.

Those who had “made a fortune through inheritance, hard work, hard-working, successful entrepreneurship, or investment” should contribute by paying more to alleviate the crisis.

The man behind the petition, Dieter Lehmkuhl, told Berlin’s Tagesspiegel that there were 2.2 million people in Germany with a fortune of more than 500,000 euros.

If they all paid the tax for two years, Germany could raise 100bn euros to fund ecological programmes, education and social projects, said the retired doctor and heir to a brewery.

Signatory Peter Vollmer told AFP news agency he was supporting the proposal because he had inherited “a lot of money I do not need”.

He said the tax would be “a viable and socially acceptable way out of the flagrant budget crisis”.

The group held a demonstration in Berlin on Wednesday to draw attention to their plans, throwing fake banknotes into the air.

Mr Vollmer said it was “really strange that so few people came”.

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What do the people of the world think? – Part I

BBC World Service Poll in conjunction with Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland conducted  13,575 in-home or telephone interviews across a total of 21 countries between 21 November 2008 and 1 February 2009.

The poll asked if the individual’s view of a countries’ influence was “mainly positive”, “mainly negative” or “neutral?” The question was asked about 16 countries. 9 out of 16 countries had a net positive influence and 7 had a net negative influence per the poll (see graph below).

world-poll-2009

 

Some highlights based on the article and the poll results:

Rank 1: Germany

 Germany leads the rankings with 46 points net positive (61 positive vs. 15 negative). I can’t help but be amazed by the change in Germany’s fortune — very few at the end of WWII in 1945 would have thought that approx. 60 years later, the world population will view Germany as the most positive influence in the world!

 Germany has achieved this stellar ranking through deep economic, social and political engagements with the rest of the world, especially within EU. Angela Merkel comes across as a conscientious leader of a hard working nation: Germany has the highest export earnings of all countries. Secondly, the defanging of Germany since World War II has surely helped Germany since there has been none of the military mis-adventures like those that affect USA and other powerful nations.

Rank 2: Canada

Canada, with a net positive of 43 (57 positive and 14 negative) at # 2 is not a surprise though Canada is surely a soft power and most people, I suspect, who voted positive for Canada do so for the position it takes on various issues rather than what Canada does since, in my opinion, it doesn’t do as much as it can.

Rank 3: United Kingdom

With a net positive of 39 points (58 positive vs. 19 negative) United Kingdom is surely a surprise for me.  May be with the departure of Tony Blair people are disassociating UK from the USA, however, I do not see material difference in UK’s global policies in the one year since his departure. Gordon Brown played a crucial role in stabilizing the EU economy, at least temporarily, but if that is helping UK’s score, that is too generous an assessment since it is the same man who was singing the virtues of unbridled free markets like a canary all the way up until the advent of this recession. It can very well be the fact that UK is the magnet for all workers from other EU countries that is helping its score but whatever the case may be, I surely believe that UK can do more and the 3rd ranking is too high.

Rank 7: India

India comes in at 7th rank and has 6 points net positive (38 positive vs. 32 negative). While India is still looked upon as projecting positive influence it is a decrease of 5 net positive points when compared to last year (41 positive vs. 30 negative). The biggest change, per the report, has been in European countries, to quote, ” This is largely driven by sharp increases in negative views in European countries – France (35% to 50%), Germany (34% to 54%), Italy (30% to 43%), and Spain (35% to 47%) – as well as China (30% to 44%).”

I believe the nuclear deal with the US, the Mumbai bombing — perversely affecting the victim in a negative way, and a potential backlash against off-shoring — a business practice that affects jobs in richer countries more — at a time of economic uncertainty might be the factors driving the negative trend in Europe. The Indian leadership should be careful to not appear too undecisive in the name of non-alignment and pick up good and important causes at home and abroad to change this trend.