Archive for April, 2011|Monthly archive page
Apparently a mistake on the shipping label caused the computer to take a detour to England. The package looks like it might clear customs on Monday, but somehow in the interim, the laws of gravity may have changed. The package, which originally weighed about 6 pounds looks like it may be down to about a pound now. One might also almost think that the computer may have left its box somewhere in England.
If that is the case, Lenovo tells me that it will take a couple weeks to order a new computer from China.
What makes this process most frustrating is a standard feature of modern capitalism, perhaps inspired by Franz Kafka. Lenovo seems the contracted out much of the repair work to IBM, who seems to have contracted out different aspects of the process to other companies. It takes me on the average four telephone calls to different people until I reached somebody who can expedite my case to the next level. At this point, I have to make the next four phone calls until I reached somebody who understands how to move it up another level.
Unbeknownst to me, my computer ended up somewhere in England, just before I have to leave town to address a delegation of Chinese visitors.
Up till now, I have had great luck with my computer. When I had a problem, I could send it back overnight, have it repaired the next day and have it come back on the following day. This time I only needed to repair a latch on the computer. I sent the computer back on Monday morning. I followed its movement to Lexington, Kentucky, where it got stuck. I was advised not to worry he was about to move again to nearby Memphis, where it was to be repaired.
UPS finally agreed to do a search for my computer. Later, they discovered that it was sitting in England. My computer then flew back to Lexington, Kentucky, not far from Memphis. My problem was that now on my problem was that now it had to pass through customs, where, UPS told me that it could take as much as a couple weeks to clear.
When I called Lenovo requesting a loaner, I got escalated up a couple levels to where I was told that the agent could do nothing more but to send a memo to somebody who was otherwise unreachable, and who would contact me sometime next week.
Arthur Laffer is always good for a laugh. Sensitive to the heavy burden borne by readers of the Wall Street Journal, he bemoans the fact that the rich must employ so many people to find or develop tax loopholes. His remedy is to allow the rich to avoid taxes on capital income altogether with the flat tax.
Laffer, Arthur. 2011. “The 30-Cent Tax Premium: Tax compliance employs more workers than Wal-Mart, UPS, McDonald’s, IBM and Citigroup combined.” Wall Street Journal (18 April).
John Ketch was the famous hangman, long-dead at the time, but John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, the authors of the Cato’s Letters published this call for the punishment of the banksters who perpetrated the disastrous South Sea Bubble. Sadly, the bankers went unpunished, beginning a long tradition.
Justice is not dead in the United States. Barry Bonds is convicted of his high crime. Our country is protected from Bradley Manning. And besides, Martha Stewart served time. The real culprits go free. Instead, the people will pay the price, while financial profits soar.
I met with the students on my second day at the University, along with my outstanding translator, who was there for me that every session, sometimes translating me into Spanish, and sometimes including my hosts into English for me. As the letter I posted yesterday suggested, they were all familiar with books of mine. They asked questions that showed a political awareness that would have been unlikely in a US, setting. Part of the interest in talking with me, was a desire to know how to respond to a transformation of the country that is underway. In addition to the impending free trade agreement with the United States and the arrangement for three military bases, the government is planning a massive reform, a word that should make any right-minded person tremble.
I hope to write about my experience, but here is a letter to give an impression of my reception. I will be forever grateful for my encounter with these wonderful people.
Our flight from San Francisco went to Houston, where we had to wait a considerable time because of delays. I happened to speak to several people were going to Bogotá for major petroleum industry conference regarding. They regarded Columbia as an important new frontier for petrochemicals.
We arrived in Bogotá where our hosts took us to an elaborate five-star hotel, where they put us up in an apartment rather than an ordinary hotel room. The hotel is a gigantic five-story complex, which probably covers two city blocks with a very large courtyard in the center, complete with a church. Blanche was told that foreign service officers used to stay here very frequently, but not so much anymore. Not surprising, quite a few of the people here are wearing apparel that show an affiliation with petrochemical industries.
We went to the University the next day to meet with the president and vice president, then went to a small auditorium, where the faculty, who already some of my books, posed questions to me. It was a very pleasant experience, except that in the course of our discussions, I learned that the country has no new petroleum deposits. Instead, the petroleum industry will use more intensive methods of extracting the remaining hydrocarbons. Continue reading
With all the hubbub about the need to cut taxes, I haven’t seen much attention to the subject of fees. Fees are an excellent way of gouging extra money from the public. Airlines, knowing that people shop by price, advertise low prices and then pile on the fees. Banks make enormous profits from fees. During a recent stay at the Hilton Hotel in New York, I discovered that the cost of printing out a boarding pass was several dollars and that the charge for Wi-Fi in the lobby was separate for the $15 daily charge for the Internet in our room.
In the public sector, government can generate revenue from taxes or from fees. For example, governments can make up for shortfalls in revenue, in part, by becoming more conscientious about getting tickets for driving or parking infractions. Visits to parks or museums become more expensive.
Privatization offers an indirect method for generating fees. The privatization of the public road saves the government money for maintenance, but the public then covers the cost, as well as profits for the operator, by charging fees. In addition, the public has to endure the inconvenience of stopping and waiting to pay their fees.
Fee-based government seems to be a far more fiscally regressive method than the traditional fee-based government. In addition, these do not seem to generate the same degree of public resistance.
I am leaving for Bogotá tomorrow. The Colombia School of Engineering is holding a three-day conference/seminar on my work. They are generously flying Blanche and myself, to spend a week there. I’ve never had an opportunity like this before.