Saturday, March 28, 2009

You Aint Seen Nuthin' Yet

Property tax increases are in the news once again. This time it's Barrington, RI where the citizens have finally said enough! The ire has been directed at Vision Appraisal who did the revaluation last year.

The fact is that even with perfect appraisals, the distribution of the tax burden will always be unfair to large groups of owners. And that's because individuals can get as much as a 100% tax increase while the law limits the total tax levy increase to 4.75% this year. And if you look at the data you will find that as most people get increases greater than 4.75%, thousands of people will pay lower taxes.

So the anger and outrage will continue.

But to quote Al Jolsen, "You aint seen nuthin yet".

Try to imagine what will happen after the next revaluation when people get lower assessments yet still see higher tax bills. And make no mistake, this will happen. Why? Because values don't change uniformly whether markets are on the way up or on the way down and there are always people who will get higher tax bills to make up for the ones who get lower tax bills.

Some neighborhoods will drop in value less than others and these owners will get the larger tax increases while the other owners will get smaller increases and thousands will even get decreases. If the multi million dollar home values fall more than the more modest homes, the owners of the more modest homes will be the ones to take up the burden with higher taxes. No one knows for sure which houses will go up or down the most. It's a crap shoot and it's the way we've been doing it for years. One thing is sure however, there will be wide variations in the changes, and the outrage will be even greater.

This is a system that continues to utilize the flawed model of taxing property values over time, that has taken our economy for a joy ride for decades, but the ride is over.

On our website you can see the impact of revaluations in Cranston, West Warwick, and North Kingstown after recent revaluations and compare those traditional taxes with the taxes produced by the RIGHT plan. The differences are striking.

We believe it is a much better way to pay for local government. Fair taxes for new owners, dependable revenue for towns, limits on increases for all existing owners. Visit

Friday, March 13, 2009

Have Capitalists Killed Capitalism?

Capitalism: "An economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned and development is proportionate to the accumulation and reinvestment of profits gained in a free market."

It might be said that the goal of any economic system is the production of goods and services which a population values and wants. If those products are priced fairly the consuming public will purchase them, the producers will make profits which can then be used to grow their businesses, hire more people and expand the economy, creating more wealth, and so on...

So what just happened?

Maybe we lost site of the goal: to produce products which have value for the consuming public. It seems the more ethically challenged of Wall Street and our financial markets thought they had achieved the alchemist's dream; they found a way to create something out of nothing, which they then sold at a profit. And this is how they did it.

They convinced gullible and/or naive buyers that the rising home prices will continue and that market values are no different than real money, just like money in a bank. These buyers then borrowed on that so called "market value", often more than they could afford to pay back, believing that if they got into financial trouble, they could always sell their homes at a higher price, and come away with a profit.

(NB. The only time the market value is real is when a willing buyer buys from a willing seller. That agreed upon price is generally considered "market value". )

The predators in the financial and banking industries then took these mortgages, bundled them together so that they were impossible to analyze and price fairly, then sold them as 'investments', taking their cut of course, thus creating wealth for themselves without actually producing anything of true value. They even gave them important sounding names like - Mortgage Backed Securities, Credit Default Swaps etc.

The goal was no longer the production of products or services to produce a profit; it now was only the creation of capital, money, for their own benefit. That nothing useful was produced in the process was of no importance. Gordon Gekko lives. For the cinematically challenged, Gordon Gecko, in the movie "Wall Street" pronounced "Greed is good!"

And worse still, it was based on an illusion, a Ponzi scheme - the idea that the market value of anything is no different than real money, instead of what it actually is; a best guess, a hope, a gamble. We have built our financial markets on illusions, a gamble and we are now suffering the consequences of that pipe dream. We've been "Madoffed". (The illusion, the market price of property, also serves as the basis for funding local government. Property taxes based on market prices are responsible for the incredibly unfair distribution of the property tax burden after every revaluation. )

I hope we can return to our original goals - making high quality things and providing high quality services that people want and can afford. The profits will follow.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The economy, what else?

It seems to me that the government is using an indirect approach to fix our ailing economy. If the infusions of cash to failing banks and lending institutions do make it possible for them to lend money, then to whom do they lend it? Businesses that have no business? Retailers who have no customers? If the consumer stops consuming, everything grinds to a halt, credit or no credit.

Maybe consumers could be given a percentage off of certain retail purchases for say, a year. They could submit sales receipts (automated at the register) to the federal government who would immediately reimburse consumers directly, instead of giving the trillions to the businesses who have been so badly run in the first place.

This direct action will have immediate effects, would quickly stimulate business activity and unstick the economy. For example, the total retail and food services expenditures (excluding autos and parts) in 2006 was $3.9 Trillion dollars. An instant 10% rebate would cost about $390 Billion. Sounds like a better option than giving $390 Billion to AIG, GM, Bank America.

Maybe its just me.