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- Billionaires should pay more tax
Billionaires should pay more tax
🐳 Frodo’s voyage | 🎂 Sweet 116th | 🤢 Maggie’s mystery dish
Elon Musk: couldn’t he get by on $2bn? Britta Pedersen-Pool/Getty
Billionaires should pay more tax
Elon Musk has a talent for “prompting questions about how we should order our world”, says Simon Kuper in the FT. Case in point is his recent threat to move Tesla from Delaware to “freedom-loving Texas”, after a Delaware judge ruled that he had to return his $55.8bn pay packet – likely the largest ever – because it was too big. It raises an important question: “How rich does anyone need to be?” More specifically, should countries raise taxes on billionaires? Not because they’re bad people – some probably are, others aren’t – and not out of jealousy. But “because that’s where the money is”.
Last year Forbes identified 2,640 billionaires in the world, up nearly 19-fold since 1987. And thanks to rampant tax-dodging, they pay lower effective income tax rates than average-wage earners. Many high-income folk – “bankers, lawyers, small-business owners” – oppose billionaire taxes, fearing they’d be targeted next. But these are the very people who would benefit from the levy, since they currently shoulder so much of the tax burden. Besides, leaving the likes of Musk with, say, $2bn is hardly the Bolshevik revolution. It might even do their descendants a favour – rich heirs often suffer from purposelessness, fecklessness, “family rifts over who gets what”, and “anxiety (often justified) that everyone wants to rip them off”. Taxing billionaires wouldn’t be difficult: relatively recent developments in banking transparency make it harder than ever to hide money. The reason states don’t do it is partly because the ultra-wealthy “have captured many political systems”. Which is yet another reason to reduce their riches.
Rowan Atkinson, for supposedly causing a nationwide slump in electric car sales. According to the Green Alliance think tank, the public perception of EVs has been significantly damaged by an article the actor wrote last year saying he felt “duped” about their environmental credentials. That’s total nonsense, says Allister Heath in The Daily Telegraph. The reason people aren’t buying EVs en masse is because “it doesn’t yet make sense”: they’re expensive, their range is too short, and there aren’t enough charging points.
Edie Ceccarelli, the oldest person in the US, who celebrated her 116th birthday on Sunday. As has become customary, says The Guardian, locals in the Californian town of Willits put on a parade for the supercentenarian’s big day, featuring the fire brigade, the rubbish truck and “a trio of moustachioed local musicians”. Ceccarelli has said the secret to her longevity is simple: “Have a couple of fingers of red wine with your dinner, and mind your own business.”
The British countryside, for being a “racist colonial” white space. Wildlife and Countryside Link, a group of charities that includes the RSPCA, WWF and National Trust, said in a submission to Parliament that the country’s green spaces are governed by “white British cultural values”, which prevent people from other ethnic backgrounds enjoying them.
A humpback whale in Maui. M Sweet/Getty
Frodo, a battle-scarred humpback whale who has completed the longest-known journey by any member of his species. The long-distance leviathan swam nearly 7,000 miles from the Mariana Islands in the Western Pacific to Sayulita, Mexico, smashing the previous record by almost 1,000 miles.
A finance worker in Hong Kong who sent nearly £20m to scammers after being tricked by a “deepfake” video call. The unnamed employee became suspicious when he received an email, purportedly from the company’s chief financial officer, explaining the need for a secret transaction, says CNN. But after a video call with what he thought were his co-workers – who were in fact all AI-generated deepfakes – he “put aside his doubts” and transferred the funds.
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THE TOWNHOUSE This Grade-II listed property in the Kent town of Faversham unfolds over three storeys and a sizeable cellar, with five double bedrooms, a double-gable roof and a weatherboard rear facade overlooking a courtyard garden. It benefits from original 15th-century sash windows, a Georgian fireplace, high timber skirtings and a delicate dado rail. Faversham station is a 10-minute walk, with trains to London in 70 minutes. £725,000.
Hardy with his second wife, Florence. Universal History Archive/Getty
The “modern Thomas Hardies” taking women for a ride
If I had to pick a “king of women”, says Zoe Strimpel in The Spectator, I would once have plumped for Thomas Hardy. The novelist and poet had an “outstanding capacity to take women’s interior lives seriously”; to see individual women as “distinct, intense and complex”. Whether it’s Eustacia Vye in The Return of the Native or his mournful poems about his first wife Emma’s death, these are “moving, emotionally astute portraits”. But as a new biography reveals, the “searing emotional intelligence, generosity and respect” with which he treated women on the page was not matched off it. He was a serial cheater, always “obsessed with ever-younger models”: when he was 64, he began an affair with – and later married – a 26-year-old typist named Florence Dugdale. She ended up moving into the Hardy household alongside Emma, the three of them living in an atmosphere of “nasty, swirling weirdness”.
It strikes me that in the post #MeToo era, there are Hardies everywhere. Women are routinely treated to the ministrations of men who profess to be “allies” and “ultra-aware of our issues”, but frequently turn out to be “emotionally cruel, erratic and self-absorbed”. I’ve been shocked at the alacrity with which the men of today can toggle between the “correct buzzwords” and the “harshest of sexual behaviour”. Perhaps the lesson is that men who have made a study of how to “understand, love and respect” women are the ones to steer clear of. Those for whom women remain an enigma may be the “more genuine, simpler, and less heart-breaking” option.
Hardy Women: Mothers, Sisters, Wives, Muses by Paula Byrne is available to buy here.
Thatcher: by no means a “kitchen goddess”. Peter Jordan/Popperfoto/Getty
Tinned salmon and Maggie’s “mystery starter”
The revelation that Rishi Sunak fasts for 36 hours every week might seem trifling, says Dominic Sandbrook in The Times, but “few things tell you more about a politician than what they eat or drink”. Margaret Thatcher presented herself as a “kitchen goddess” straight out of Good Housekeeping. In reality, she was a “workaholic who relied on frozen dinners prepared by her staff”. Dinner party guests were treated to her famous “mystery starter” – a combination of two packs of cream cheese, a teaspoon of curry powder and a tin of beef consommé. All “mixed together and topped with a black olive”.
Food has always been a “political prop”. Sir Robert Walpole made a point of “ostentatiously eating apples from his orchard while reading letters from his gamekeeper”, to demonstrate that he was a country squire and “not another metropolitan politician”. Harold Wilson went out of his way to distance himself from “grouse-guzzling Tories”. In 1962, he told the Daily Express he preferred beer to champagne, adding: “If I had the choice between smoked salmon and tinned salmon I’d have it tinned. With vinegar.” During his “mid-Nineties pomp”, Tony Blair announced that his favourite meal was fettucine with olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes and capers. “Very New Labour.” And back in 1991, John Major arranged to be photographed eating egg and chips at a roadside Happy Eater in Doncaster, to signal that he was “just like you and me”. He won the next election with the largest number of votes in British history.
“If history tells us anything, it’s that we never learn from history.”
American journalist Bob Herbert