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Illustration: John Spooner

I am not a fan of the Attorney-General, Senator George Brandis. He’s a politician with a slender grasp of matters such as fairness and accuracy, as he demonstrated last year when he branded me publicly as an enemy of press freedom.

I defended myself at the time, and don’t need to do it again here. The sad truth is few politicians have much regard for fairness and accuracy. Exaggeration and distortion are much more useful on the hustings. What’s more concerning is that Brandis, who constantly applauds himself for his championship of press freedom, appears not to understand it at all.

Witness his bizarre defence of section 35P of the newly minted National Security Legislation Amendment Act (No. 1). That’s the section that makes it an offence, punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment, to “disclose information” about a so-called special intelligence operation.

A question of trust: Attorney-General George Brandis urged members of the Press Club to trust the Coalition. Photo: Andrew Meares

On Q&A on Monday night, Brandis announced the law was not aimed at journalists. But, asked Tony Jones, if a journalist reported what a whistleblower had disclosed, would they fall under the law

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Here, verbatim, is Brandis’ convoluted reply:”If it’s a whistleblower, the whistleblower protection laws still apply. If it’s a journalist covering what a whistleblower has disclosed, then the journalist wouldn’t fall within the reach of the section, because the relevant conduct is the conduct constituting the disclosure; so if the event is already disclosed by someone else and a journalist merely reports that which has already been disclosed, as it was by Snowden, then the provision would not apply.”

Well, for a start, as the Attorney-General must know, there is no chance at all that the whistleblower protection laws would apply to anyone disclosing information about an intelligence operation (let alone a “special” intelligence operation) to the media. Not a chance.

Second, most whistleblowers do not act openly, as Edward Snowden did. They approach the media, seeking confidentiality. The first public disclosure of the information is by a journalist, either quoting a confidential source, or publishing a document supplied by that source.

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Press Freedom: George Brandis is talking plain rubbish

Illustration: michaelmucci.com

October 2014 will go down as the month in which the federal Parliament made some of its greatest ever inroads into freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Ironically, this occurred only weeks after our politicians extolled the virtues of these freedoms in the debate over section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

It is disturbing that our political leaders have moved so quickly from this to anti-terror measures that impose lengthy jail terms for journalists and others who speak about matters of public importance. It reveals a shallow adherence to freedom of speech, and an unwelcome, authoritarian streakon behalf of the government and the opposition when it comes to restricting democratic freedoms.

Most of the attention has focused on section 35P of the first anti-terrorism bill passed on October 1. This provision says: “A person commits an offence if the person discloses information and the information relates to a special intelligence operation.” The penalty is jail of up to five years, or 10 years if, for example, the disclosure prejudices a special intelligence operation.

As Attorney General George Brandis has said, section 35P “applies generally to all citizens”. It does not discriminate between people who seek to harm our security by revealing secret information, and journalists and whistleblowers who shine a spotlight on government wrongdoing, incompetence or even the death of an Australian citizen at the hands of an intelligence officer.

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It is not easy for journalists to know whether they are complying with this law. Special intelligence operations are by their nature covert, and the information that cannot be disclosed covers these operations and anything that “relates to” them. This means that the ban extends to other, connected operations by ASIO and agencies such as the Australian Federal Police.

All this can create doubt in the mind of a journalist about whether they can publish a story. They may decide not to do so on the basis that it is better to be safe than sorry. Governments and agencies can exploit this zone of uncertainty by warning off journalists so as to prevent the publication of compromising information.

Brandis has defended section 35P by saying that it is not intended to apply to journalists. If this is the case, it is easy to fix the provision. He should sponsor an amendment that exempts the disclosure of information that is part of a media report in the public interest.

Instead, the Attorney General will direct federal prosecutors to consult with him on any charges laid against journalists. He has said that prosecutions against journalists will only proceed with his consent.

Continue reading here:
Anti-terror laws undermine democracy

LETTERS

Headed for a “shirt-front”: President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Has the world ever encountered such a pair as Abbott and Putin (“Australians were murdered … I am going to shirt-front Mr Putin”, October 14)? They seem to be a unique breed of testosto-Illuminati those who are mysteriously inspired by their testosterone. I think that truly, once they sort through their posturing, they’ll realise how deep their affection is for each other. Bring on the G20 bromance of 2014.

Catherine HoskinPennant Hills

Many Australians would probably be happy for Tony Abbott to confront Vladimir Putin about the loss of life of passengers on flight MH17, but talk of “shirt-fronting” isn’t the talk we expect of a leader, let alone a prime minister. Grow up Abbott. Speak and represent us appropriately.

Illustration: John Shakespeare

Paul Parramore Sawtell

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Russian-backed rebels murdered 38 Australians. The Prime Minister’s tough words about Putin were inspirational and showed great leadership. But where is the tough talk from the other world leaders who lost so many in the MH17 tragedy? The Russian President must be laughing at their weakness. Full marks also to the Opposition Leader for refusing to meet Vladimir Putin.

Phil Johnson Dee Why

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Tony Abbott and Vladimir Putin were made for each other



Finding Freedom 209 – Step Illustration

By: FindingFreedomMedia

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Finding Freedom 209 – Step Illustration – Video

The leaders of Australia’s biggest companies and foreign multinationals, including Apple, Google and coal miner Glencore, are expected to be hauled in front of a parliamentary inquiry into tax avoidance.

The Senate voted on Thursday to establish the inquiry after the release of a report revealed by Fairfax Media on Monday that found almost one-third of the nation’s largest companies are paying less than 10 in the dollar in corporate tax.

It estimated up to $80 billion could have been forgone by the AustralianTax Office over the past decade due to the complex tax-minimisation strategies employed by the biggest 200 sharemarket-listed companies.

Illustration: Ron Tandberg.

The inquiry by the Senate Economics References Committee will be conducted in the shadow of the G20 leader’s summit in Brisbane in November, where Treasurer Joe Hockey has vowed to lead an assault on corporate tax avoidance by multinationals.

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It will seek to unpick the increasingly complex web of foreign tax havens used to keep profits out of the clutches of the Tax Office and is expected to call bank chiefs, miners and media executives.

It will also consider whether the ATO is equipped for the task of tracking the estimated $270 billion that flows between Australian companies and their foreign subsidiaries.

Representatives of business, including the Corporate Tax Association, have rubbished the tax report Who Pays For Our Common Wealth?insisting there are legitimate reasons for a company’s effective tax rate to fall below the statutory 30 per cent.

The report found James Hardie had paid on average $0 in company tax in Australia over a decade, while Sydney Airport and Echo Entertainment owner of Sydney’s Star Casino paid 5 in the dollar or less.

More:
Corporate tax dodgers put on notice

LETTERS

“It is not for the Australian Tax Office to ‘man up’ as there needs to be a legislative power for it to do so.” Photo: Jeffrey Chan

It is no wonder that 60 per cent of the ASX 200 companies use tax havens (“Big business ‘shirks’ fair share of tax load”, September 29). They are simply following the example set by Australia’s $100 billion Future Fund. This fund invests overseas using 47 tax haven entities it owns, and three it does not own 50 all up.

The Future Fund pays no Australian income tax, just GST and FBT. Joe Hockey has stated that the Future Fund is following its own environmental, social and governance (ESG) guidelines, and is operating within the framework of the principle of sovereign immunity (the state cannot commit a legal wrong). The government’s concerns with multinationals using tax havens appears to be a case of “do as I say, don’t do as I do”. Sovereign funds are not of a higher moral order than an ordinary corporation.

Bill Johnstone Marrickville

Illustration: michaelmucci.com

I’ve tried to believe that sacking workers improves a company’s “productivity”. That flogging public assets to private profit makers will improve their “efficiency”. That it’s fair for executive salary growth to have outstripped mine by a factor of 30-plus. That because my tax now funds the profit-making projects of “private contractors, commercial-in-confidence”, rather than public works, it’s none of my business how it’s spent. I’ve tried to believe that my little boat will rise on the tide of collective growth even as it trickles down and forms a bigger slice of cake for all. If I ask how the free market can grant James Packer’s casino a 50-year, publicly underwritten profit-or-compo safety net but can’t even guarantee how many casual hours I’ll be rostered on tomorrow, I’m told I’m “economically illiterate”, a leaner, entitled, playing class warfare. Tax? Last year, the ATO found resources enough to bill me an extra $600, annual salary of $55,000. Guess illiterate me stuffed the sums on the back of my envelope at the kitchen table.

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Don’t want the economists running my country any more, please. Isn’t working. Isn’t fair. Isn’t Australian.

Jack Robertson Birchgrove

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Advance Australia on unfair tax sidesteps

Sep 142014

Devastating effect: 43 per cent of seabirds have ingested plastic.

Illegal dumping is a primary source of rubbish on Australian beaches, according to the world’s largest survey of coastal rubbish.

The survey, carried out over three years by the CSIRO, Earthwatch Australia, TeachWild and petroleum giant Shell, dispels the idea that the rubbish on Australian beaches is due to ocean currents bringing the world’s rubbish to our shores.

“The majority of coastal debris in Australia is from Australian sources, not the high seas,” the report says.

Illustration: Matt Golding.

“Consumer behaviour and illegal dumping are primary causes of marine debris in Australia.”

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The survey was conducted at sites approximately every 100 kilometres along the Australian coastline. Students, teachers, scientists and Shell employees were enlisted to conduct the surveys.

The surveys found that about three quarters of the rubbish along the cost is plastic, and that local measures such as the South Australian bottle refund program can be effective to stop plastic pollution reaching the water.

“When we compared the ratio of beverage containers to beverage container lids across states in the clean-up data, South Australia came out with a much higher ratio of lids to containers in the clean-up data than any other state,” the report says.

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We're trashing our beaches: CSIRO

Devastating effect: 43 per cent of seabirds have ingested plastic.

Illegal dumping is a primary source of rubbish on Australian beaches, according to the world’s largest survey of coastal rubbish.

The survey, carried out over three years by the CSIRO, Earthwatch Australia, TeachWild and petroleum giant Shell, dispels the idea that the rubbish on Australian beaches is due to ocean currents bringing the world’s rubbish to our shores.

“The majority of coastal debris in Australia is from Australian sources, not the high seas,” the report says.

Illustration: Matt Golding.

“Consumer behaviour and illegal dumping are primary causes of marine debris in Australia.”

Advertisement

The survey was conducted at sites approximately every 100 kilometres along the Australian coastline. Students, teachers, scientists and Shell employees were enlisted to conduct the surveys.

The surveys found that about three quarters of the rubbish along the cost is plastic, and that local measures such as the South Australian bottle refund program can be effective to stop plastic pollution reaching the water.

“When we compared the ratio of beverage containers to beverage container lids across states in the clean-up data, South Australia came out with a much higher ratio of lids to containers in the clean-up data than any other state,” the report says.

More:
Dumping is trashing Australian beaches, says CSIRO report

Illustration: WIRED

Someone out there likes anonymous money.

In only a month, the little-known bitcoin alternative known as Darkcoin has rocketed nearly tenfold in valuefrom around 75 cents a coin to almost seven dollars. Its selling point: Darkcoin offers far greater anonymity than bitcoin, mixing up users transactions so that its incredibly difficult to trace a payment to a person. And though few have yet to accept that more-anonymous coin for actual goods and services, the promise of Darkcoins privacy features seems to have sparked a miniature boom. Its one of the fastest growing among the wave of cryptocurrencies thats followed bitcoins success, with the total value of its combined coins topping out at nearly $30 million.

Darkcoin, supporters argue, serves a real privacy need. Despite its reputation for being more anonymous than traditional money, the bitcoin network actually allows anyone to see every transaction on a public accounting ledger known as the blockchain. Users often have to take extra steps, like mixing their coins in a laundry service, to prevent those addresses from being tied to their identity by any government or corporation that wants to snoop.

Darkcoin adds an extra layer of privacy by automatically combining any transaction its users make with those of two other usersa feature it calls Darksendso that anyone analyzing the blockchain has a harder time figuring out where a particular users money ended up. A large community believes that the way bitcoins blockchain is designed is a problem, says Evan Duffield, the 32-year old Arizona-based software developer who launched Darkcoin in January. Darkcoin has this anonymity aspect to it, which is attractive to a lot of people.

Darkcoins exchange rate with the dollar and market cap over the last month. Credit: Coinmarketcap.com

Darkcoins uncanny growth, of course, may also be fueled by speculators who see an opportunity to jump on a hot commodity. And given how wildly its appreciated in its short life, theres no guarantee it wont crash just as fast.

But Darkcoins price increases may also be linked to real changes in its features, says Kristov Atlas, a bitcoin consultant and Darkcoin fan. He argues that its value comes in part from its unique properties as a payment system, not just as an investment vehicle. The currencys first big price jump occurred in late April, for instance, when its Darksend privacy trick was initially switched on for real transactions. Its not purely a speculative bubble, Atlas says. Theres some solid indications the market price is currently based on the fundamental value of the coin.

Darkcoins price may in fact be manipulated by investors, says Allen Price, a trader in the bitcoin alternatives known as altcoins. But he says its already outlasted his expectation that its price growth was caused by a pump-and-dump scam. I had sort of smugly stood to the side waiting for the big, inevitable crash with an I told you so ready, says Price. But no crash ever really came, and its been kind of an ongoing success for investors.

Much of the currencys more recent price increase, says Duffield, may stem from its system of financially rewarding users whose machines serve as the coordinators of its Darksend transactions. Anyone can become make their computer into one of those coordinators, which Duffield calls master nodes, by proving that theyve paid a thousand darkcoins. In exchange, they reap ten percent of all new coins added to the Darkcoin network, which are distributed among the master nodes as an incentive for their work. Duffield says Darkcoiners seeking those rewards created 170 master nodes in the last month, tying up 170,000 darkcoins, a number that significantly decreased the currencys supply and has likely helped raise its price.

Original post:

Darkcoin, the Shadowy Cousin of Bitcoin, Is Booming

Illustration: michaelmucci.com

Thanks to ABC1′s Q&A last Monday, we’re in an even more confused state about the government’s free speech program. There was Attorney-General George Brandis appropriating an inordinate amount of time to tell viewers that section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act was throttling free speech and that it should be repealed ”in its current form”.

Brandis said: ”In a free country, people should have the right to say things that other people find insulting or offensive or wounding” – and that applies to making nasty remarks based on someone’s race or ethnicity.

So that seemed fairly clear, until the Q&A panel got onto the topic of Chinese buyers snapping up all the best housing. Brandis said: ”I’m always uncomfortable with the idea of picking on one racial group and saying, well, they’re the problem.”

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He may well be uncomfortable, but that didn’t mean he wants the law to get involved.

Yet if the man who is engineering this legislative change feels unsettled about people picking on particular racial groups, maybe that should be a tiny warning.

Two days after Q&A the Attorney-General gave a doorstop interview in Melbourne where he complained about an ALP leaflet circulating in the South Australian election that attacked a Liberal candidate, Carolyn Habib.

He said the flyer showed Habib in silhouette against a bullet-riddled wall with the caption ”don’t trust Habib”. This, he thundered, was ”a thinly veiled racist slur”.

The slurs may not be so thinly veiled once s.18C ”in its current form” is ditched. Be careful what you wish for, George.

The rest is here:
The free speech tongue-twister



How To Use Excel To Gain SEO Insights
How to use an Excel spreadsheet to gain SEO Insights By SEO Synovation an Innovative Search Marketing Optimisation company. Presented by http://www.seosynovation.com . Various SEO efforts have various affects on web analytical metrics. This presentation gives you an insight of how to use Excel and graphically improve the presentation of SEO actions plans and how they affect the business. An extraction from your website analytic data would include traffic volumes, number of conversions that led to a certain amount of revenue for your chosen keyword. Another set of data would detail the ranking positions for the selected keyword during the same period. Construct your Excel spreadsheet in this way. In week 1 there was an SEO exercise to create an improvement in keyword rankings by SEO of on page elements and SEO link building. This had an almost immediate effect by moving the website from the top of the third page (position 20) to the bottom of the second page (position 18). However there no impact of Traffic volumes and Revenue for weeks 1 to 4 which we shall call SEO Action A In the Excel table focus on the ranking positions and traffic volumes are you will see two distinct jumps — in week 2 and in week 5. In the chart for traffic, conversions and revenue the only jump you see is in week 5. This illustration proves that different SEO actions have impacts on different metrics. See SEO http SEO action A focused upon on page Meta tags and link building. See http://www.seosynovation.com

By: Vincent Sandford

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How To Use Excel To Gain SEO Insights – Video



The Fall Of English France 1449-53 – David Nicolle
ll4.me The Fall Of English France 1449-53 – David Nicolle For the overwhelming majority of people outside the French-speaking world the Hundred Years War consisted of a sequence of major English victories, above all Crcy, Poitiers and Agincourt. The only significant victor or 'hero' on the French side was Joan of Arc, and she ended up being burned at the stake. Yet somehow the war ended in a French victory and with England's martial energies being turned against itself in the Wars of the Roses. This book is intended to provide some balance. It will describe the campaign that brought the Hundred Years War to a close, with English possessions being confined to Calais and the Channel Islands. It will also explain how the somewhat unprepossessing and unmartial King Charles VII of France succeeded where his predecessors had failed. The campaign consisted of more than battles, of course, but it was marked by two major victories – at Formigny in 1450 and at Castillon in 1453. Formigny is of special interest because it saw French cavalry defeat English archers, in effect a reversal of Crcy, Poitiers and Agincourt, and could be interpreted as one of the last 'medieval' battles. Castillon is of interest because it was a victory of gunpowder artillery in fixed positions over a traditional medieval assault by mixed infantry and cavalry, and thus could be interpreted as one of the first 'modern' battles.Author: Nicolle, David Publisher: Osprey Publishing Illustration: Y Language: ENG …From:JodiBeaudonViews:0 0ratingsTime:00:10More inPeople Blogs

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The Fall Of English France 1449-53 – David Nicolle – Video

Illustration by Gabriel Ivan Orendain-Necochea

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Don’t think about a third party, we don’t need any more talking heads

JAPAN APRIL MACHINE ORDERS RISE 5.7% VS EST. OF 1.6% GAIN

Illustration by Andy J. Miller

Widespread U.S. unhappiness with the government would seem to call for a blockbuster election, such as the one we had exactly a century ago, when both candidates offered sweeping plans for public renewal.

An election fought over such visions makes more sense than our current jobs-growth donnybrook. The president has far more control over the federal government than over the economy. The 1912 election even provides a template for contention, with one candidate urging a Hamiltonian platform of reform through big government, and the other supporting (at least in the campaign) a progressive libertarianism.

Today, just 19 percent of Americans say they trust the government most of the time or more. Only 41 percent agree that the government is really run for the benefit of all the people.

President Barack Obama was elected in 2008 as a reformer who connected the recession with the absence of sensible oversight that can occur when special interests put their thumb on the scale. Two years later, the Tea Party rode a similar surge of anti-governmental anger fueled by the financial bailout and health-care reform or, as Sarah Palin put it, the collusion of big government and big business and big finance to the detriment of all the rest.

This unhappiness mirrors the mood in 1912, when a swath of the U.S. also believed that special interests had subsumed the state. Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt were Progressives who railed against the shaping of our legislation in the interest of special bodies of capital and those who organize their use (Wilsons words) and politicians serving the great special interests of privilege (Roosevelts words). More than 75 percent of the U.S. votes cast in 1912 went to Wilson or Roosevelt or the Socialist Eugene V. Debs. The Republican candidate, William Howard Taft, received less than a quarter of the votes.

The election was the culmination of a wave of reform in the late 19th century, fueled by the malfeasance of politicians such as Boss Tweed. His archenemy, Samuel J. Tilden, ran on the 1876 Democratic ticket pledging to fight the corrupt centralism that had infected States and municipalities with the contagion of misrule, and locked fast the prosperity of an industrious people in the paralysis of hard times. For Tilden-era reformers, government would be fixed if civil-service reform replaced bad people with good people.

By the late 19th century, reformers came to blame the whole system, not just individual politicians. Muckrakers, such as Lincoln Steffens, uncovered the business leaders who funded the political machines. The transport magnate Robert Snyder, for example, paid $250,000 to St. Louis legislators in return for a traction franchise that he rapidly resold for $1.25 million. Corporate chieftains were rumored to run the U.S. Senate, as depicted in a splendidly vicious 1889 Puck cartoon. Some fad- like reforms sought more democracy, such as the referendum and judicial recall powers, and some involved less, such as replacing elected mayors with professional city managers.

Today, antipathy toward Wall Streets political clout and the bailout gets mixed together with essentially unrelated claims of other financial-sector misbehavior, such as credit- card fees. A century ago, hostility toward bribery and influence was also combined with resentment of other corporate misdeeds, such as Jay Goulds stock-market manipulations and Andrew Carnegies strike-breaking at the Homestead mill. Ida Tarbell lavished poisonous ink on John D. Rockefeller and his Standard Oil Co., which used its alliance with the railroads to shut out rivals.

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Obama vs. Romney: The Battle of the Century

Illustration by Alexander Ho for TIME

Yesterday, President Obama announced a long-awaited proposal to cut corporate taxes in America, which U.S. businesses complain are much too high by international standards. The proposed reform is intended to prevent companies from shifting operations and earnings to tax havens (paging Mitt Romney!) and instead encourage companies to bring them back into the U.S., where they could create jobs and growth.

What’s being missed in all this is that the corporate tax debate and the jobs debate are two separate things. Here’s why.

America has the second highest corporate tax rate in the rich world. But most American businesses don’t pay it. The President is suggesting that the corporate tax rate drop from 35% to 28%. But as my colleague Fareed Zakaria wrote a few months back in Time, few of the biggest U.S. businesses are paying that rate right now; indeed, most are paying much less – 115 of the companies in the S & P 500 paid less than 20% in tax over the last five years. And 39 firms paid less than 10%.

(MORE: The Corporate Tax Rate Is Lowest in Decades; Is Business Paying Its Fair Share?)

That gets at the key issue: Fundamentally, lower taxes aren’t the reason that businesses choose to invest, or not, in a certain country. As Warren Buffett told me when I interviewed him late last year, “The idea that American business is at a big disadvantage against the rest of the world because of corporate taxes is baloney in my view. In the 50s and 60s, corporate taxes were 52%, and we were making all kinds of [job] gains.”

True enough. In fact, you can see more and more evidence for the fact that business doesn’t locate in a particular country just because it’s cheaper to do so. Consider the recently released Harvard Business School study looking at insourcing and outsourcing decisions among 10,000 alumnae who are running American businesses. The key reason for outsourcing wasn’t labor cost, but a combination of cost, proximity to market, and (most importantly) better worker skill sets abroad. In order for America to create jobs at home, we need to do the heavy lifting to reform education and develop workers who can do the sort of jobs businesses need them to do. (On that score, I applaud the way the President is trying to link educational reform with the bolstering of American manufacturing.)

(MORE: The Street Fighter: This Man is Busting Wall St.)

This goes to the final point, which is why companies are holding such a huge wad of foreign profits abroad to begin with – $1.5 trillion by some estimates. You can make a case that they simply don’t want to be taxed at 35%. But there’s no reason to think that under our current complicated tax structure, they couldn’t find ways around that, as they do with U.S. earnings.

Even more to the point: As Buffett says, nobody ever stopped investing because of high taxes. Companies stop investing because they don’t fundamentally believe in the growth opportunities in a market. I agree with Buffett that you can’t allow U.S. firms to repatriate foreign profits tax-free; it creates moral hazard. But it would be interesting to see how much of that money would flow back into the U.S. if the rate was 20%, or 12.5%, as it is in Ireland. It would tell us a lot, not only about corporate America’s belief (or lack thereof) in shared sacrifice, but also about their belief (or lack thereof) in the U.S. economy.

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Why Lower Corporate Taxes Won't Create More Jobs



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