Daily Archives: September 17, 2019

What’s Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax worth?

By Isabel V. Sawhill and Christopher Pulliam – On both sides of the Atlantic, economic inequality has rocketed up the political agenda and inspired a new wave of populism. Wealth inequality is high and rising in the UK and staggeringly so in the US. The top 1% of American households now have more wealth than the bottom 90%. In the UK, the top 10% holds over half the wealth. The richest 400 individuals in the US average a net worth of $7.2 billion.

How did we get to this point? As Thomas Piketty, in his book Capital, famously argued, a capitalist economy left to its own devices will tend to produce not just inequality but ever-rising inequality of wealth – and the income derived from wealth. The main reason is because the returns earned on assets such as stocks and bonds normally exceed the growth of wages.

Imagine an economy with one capitalist and one wage earner. If the annual rate of return to financial assets is, say, 3%, but wages are only growing by 2%, more and more income ends up in the hands of the capitalist. Wealth then begets more wealth as the capitalist, not needing to spend all of his added income, adds to his existing wealth and reaps ever-growing income from that wealth. Unless a war or other shock destroys his wealth (think depression or the devastation in Europe after the Second World War), or government decides to tax it away, we end up with the rise in wealth inequality that we are now seeing in many rich countries – the US in particular.

There is something deeply disturbing about Piketty’s work. If one takes his thesis seriously, it means that the inequality of wealth and its corollary, income inequality, along with their continued growth, is the new normal. They are baked into a capitalist economy.

Of course, some financial capital gets invested in productive assets that help the economy grow. But productive investment and growth have slowed in recent decades, making it hard to argue that the rise in wealth at the top has benefited everyone. In the meantime, the accumulation of wealth in high-income households is one reason that income inequality is rising so sharply at the very top. While the richest 20% of US households, which benefit from a lot of human capital but not a lot of wealth, saw their market incomes rise by 96% between 1979 and 2016, the top 1% – which receives far more of their income from wealth – saw their incomes rise by a staggering 219%.

In short, growing wealth inequality spawns growing income inequality, so if we care about the latter, we cannot focus only on redistributing income. We need to tackle the accumulation of wealth as well.

What to do? Senator Elizabeth Warren, a serious contender for the US presidency, has proposed a wealth tax. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

Want to pay less tax? Improve your firm’s internal reporting
By Marty Daks – When companies engage in the great American pastime known as tax avoidance, many parse the Internal Revenue Code for loopholes to reduce their effective tax rate. But research suggests they should also scrutinize the quality of their internal reporting.

Internal information quality (IIQ), a term coined by Chicago Booth’s John Gallemore and University of North Carolina’s Eva Labro, encompasses computer reporting systems and any other resources that a company devotes to ensuring the quality and ease of access of information within a firm. The elements that constitute IIQ have been largely overlooked in tax-avoidance literature—perhaps because they are usually not observable, and are difficult for academics to measure.

Gallemore and Labro argue companies should pay more attention to these issues, which they define in terms of the accessibility, usefulness, reliability, accuracy, quantity, and signal-to-noise ratio of the data and knowledge within an organization. Their findings suggest that firms with high IIQ tend to enjoy lower effective tax rates and, all else being equal, a smaller tax bite.

Gallemore and Labro employed four publicly available variables, using data from 1994 to 2010, to rate firms’ IIQ: the speed at which management released an earnings announcement after its fiscal year closed, the accuracy of management’s earnings forecasts, the absence of material weaknesses in internal controls, and the lack of restatements due to errors.

The researchers used these measures to identify companies that released earnings more rapidly and forecasted them more accurately, and had fewer Section 404 citations and restatements due to errors. They assigned these firms higher IIQ ratings.

High-IIQ firms, they find, tend to exhibit some positive traits, including centralized and standardized business transaction processing, more-efficient reporting practices, and the ability to share data across business units and geographical locations. more>

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Updates from Siemens

Spaceport America Cup Student Competition Soars to 30,000 Feet, Now with Siemens Software Partnering
Siemens commitment to workforce development
By Chris Penny – Siemens Digital Industries Software’s academic partnering staff recently attended the Spaceport America Cup (SA Cup) for the first time as a sponsor. We are very excited to be working with these teams to provide software and training grants to help team excel in the design and manufacturing of their rockets. Leigh Anderson from the global academic team and Chris Penny from the US academic team met with virtually every team of 120 teams from 14 countries, and Chris gave two workshops on Siemens software featuring demonstrations in STAR-CCM+ for aerodynamic analysis.

We selected this competition to sponsor due to the sophistication of the student challenge, the opportunity to engage with and support these students, and the high level of industry support (many of which use Siemens software).

A great example of how this competition prepares students for the workforce could be seen when James Ferrese (University of Washington) who led the development of an advanced plasma actuator payload obtained on-the-spot job offers from Raytheon and Northrup Grumman after their design presentation. more>

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Updates from Adobe

A Catalogue of Imaginary Beings
By Serena Fox – Imagine a world of monumental mythical beings dressed in surreal costumes: people made of mountains, city streets, rough-sawn logs, or plumes of steam; people who wear houses, bird wings, crystalline geodes, or even the moon.

That was the vision of collage artist Johanna Goodman in 2015 when she embarked on A Catalogue of Imaginary Beings, a personal project inspired by magical realism, surrealism, and symbolism that explores the role of the individual in fashion, history, and the artistic imagination. Four years later, the project has grown into a series of moret than 350 playful and strangely iconic images, and has led to a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship, commissions from National Geographic and the New York Metropolitan Transport Authority, and ad campaigns ranging from skateboards to West Elm home furnishings.

“I keep thinking it’s run its course, but it hasn’t,” says Goodman. “I have not run out of ideas, and I keep getting more interest from the outside world.”

A diverse artist, Goodman works in paint, ink, and digital collage, and she brings more than 20 years’ experience in editorial illustration and portraiture to the project. A lifelong freelancer based in Nyack, New York, she creates illustrations for newspapers and magazines, book covers, hotel chains, and product advertising. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, Time, Rolling Stone, Le Monde, the Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The Imaginary Beings are her current passion.

The basic concept is straightforward: a single figure—defined by head, arms, and feet—dressed in unusual objects and placed in a surreal setting. But the resulting images are both humorous and oddly archetypal and statuesque, like pop-culture totems.

Goodman takes photographs of everyday objects and landscapes, cuts them into pieces, and arranges them to “clothe” her characters in bizarre and beautiful outfits. She plays with cumbersome proportions, favors out-of-context facial expressions, and adds innocuous items like iPhones or coffee cups as if they were talismans. more>

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