MBW 686: Everybody Wants to Kick a Goose

Beep boop - this is a robot. A new show has been posted to TWiT…

What are your thoughts about today’s show? We’d love to hear from you!

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The discussion around taxes and housing was awesome (except it could have used more Lory Gil). Show subjects should be a guideline and not a written in stone rule. If talking about Apple gets you into the weeds on something somewhat tangential, I say go for it!

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I like Alex, but I m tired of his defending corporations from accusations of not paying their taxes just because they comply with the laws that they paid for. They should pay more, but we don’t have the money to pay the politicians to change make the tax system more fair.

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Hey @Lory - I like Apple News+ too. (Not as well as I liked Texture though.)

While I don’t necessarily disagree, you should direct your outrage at the politicians enabling corporations to pay less than they should. If I had the options to pay less, I would. A VAT might do the trick.

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Sure… but when the company spends millions to literally bribe government officials to pass laws so they don’t have to pay a tax, outrage is allowed. Now again this is legal… but :wink:

The housing thing fits very much with the idea that Apple has execs all over the company who have worked in the places they live around campus including Cupertino to stop rezoning and other things that would be real fixes to a housing crisis. This is not just an Apple thing though.

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I think @BryanLucas’ point was that no matter what we think, say, or do, politicians pass what their corporate donors want. Without that countervailing force from them, the politicians would be less disinclined to heed the populace. The options of politicians for whom to vote is at least as constrained by similar means, as well.

That said, particularly in the case of tech, as critical as it is that civic norms and social moorings affect a stable and level playing field, legislation and enforcement, particularly for technologists, should never take precedence over the imperative that innovation empower users, both individually and collectively, beyond the point that regulation can coalesce to address, which is why it is all the more frustrating to hear argumentation revolve around politics first and classism second rather than technology’s impact upon classism first and class mobility’s impact on politics second. Technologists must enable liberty and facilitate autonomy first and foremost, in my view, but instead, maximally captivating users (both wittingly as with gaming and app addiction and unwittingly as with shadow profiling and surveillance capitalism) as means to profit has taken priority, and hearing Alex parrot blame-the-victim, corporate maximalist talking points strikes me as a stunning abdication of the opportunity and indeed responsibility I find should be incumbent upon a technology-focused show on a technically oriented network like TWiT. Having said that, his airing that elite/elitist echelon’s mentality publicly is a vital opportunity to register critique against it, so I thank TWiT the network for airing what I had expected would be cut from the show, having watched the livestream.

The corporatist left hand doesn’t know (or care) what the market right hand is doing: landlords jack rents to whatever the market will bear and Western culture considers that sacrosanct market science, even after it’s reached a point of crisis so dire that even their own employees can barely eke out the means to attend to daily office duties, let alone the infrastructure and support personnel required for the smooth functioning of their operations.

The rhetoric that Apple doesn’t pay their fair share or all that it’s required to is directionally correct in their intentionally withholding funds from tax liability by keeping it out of the country; the counter-argument that it’s technically legal is a rhetorical fig-leaf that IMO says more about those mounting it than it could ever hope to contribute to any ostensible debate over the issue. Alex even had the gall later to gouge critics for discouraging corporate charity, after chiding us that it should be laws that require such funds. We’ve passed the legislation; they’re defying it; we’re supposed to not blame them but instead pass more laws through a captive legislature hostile to our interests? Who do you think created and maintains the loopholes being exploited already? Obviously, the average voter meant to ensure actual corporate accountability would be impossible[/sarcasm].

The one point I agree with Alex on is that the space dedicated to cars is obscene, but his corporate fueled fantasies of terraforming and “blank-slate” design plinths aren’t just unsustainable, but unjust, IMO, in their childish insistence that working with government is beneath them and that democratic impingement upon wealth sullies its potential. While transforming existing cities is much less expedient than just running away, it’s also, IMO, craven and arrogant as can be. Similarly to how I see digital fiefdom in software design, I see the same impulses from actual fiefdoms of history reborn in dreams of privatizing public infrastructure anew—all while casting security and privacy to the winds.

I concede Alex’s point that everything’s much more complex than knee-jerk political virtue signaling would have everyone believe, but I also fault him for failing to embrace that complexity in his flights of fancy as to blue-sky corporatist solutions. I would also caution against such argumentation being used as a gate-keeping cudgel. As to his analogy to the fires in commenting on civic complexity, San Diego’s utility proves everything PG&E neglected, and in fact is deploying quick-kill sensors capable of powering off failed lines before they even hit the ground to ignite fires. These problems are not insurmountable. The whole point of politics, and especially democratic politics, is to marshall the will of the people for the public good regardless of whether or not market and other capital incentives reach the threshhold for private individuals in control of such resources as are responsible for outcomes affecting the populace in profound systemic ways, intentionally or otherwise.

Alex talked out of both sides of his mouth, back-to-back even, in faulting local red tape against a shed behind his house on the one hand then decrying NIMBY-ism on the other—and just after having dismissed rent control as proven a failure for affordable housing! You can’t have it both ways: you can’t say hands-off the market give us the right incentives on the one hand, then trash NIMBY-ism and rent control on the other: the whole point of civic measures, including rent control, is to correct market failures on housing. It goes to show you how entrenched the market mythos is in America that the knee-jerk response to correcting market failures is to make the market happy! It’s that same mentality ensuring civic coffers cannot comprehensively address all of the attendant needs to housing in a coherent way, like cities are supposed to [be able to] do.

As for the retort that they’ll take their toys and go to a new home, that’s what Apple, like virtually every other corporation, is already effectively doing by floating revenue offshore. I also invite Alex and his ilk to consider the consequences of continued stratification only made more brittle and severe by sequestering those the system rewards most at a physiological, infrastructural level.

Also, on battery replacements Andy mentioned, I have to agree against Lori: Apple retail employees’ job, no less than everyone at Apple, is to do right by the customer, which, yes, does include selling new items when that customer is in the market for one, and it serves that individual customer’s best interests, but no more than a battery alone a device makes does a spent one justify a new device; to the extent retailers’ job is customer service, this is only all the truer. Apple’s not hurting for money; don’t confuse Wall Street’s breathing down Apple’s neck for “growth” with existential threat of bankruptcy if sales fall.

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this was probably the most enjoyable MBW show of all time for me.
to listen to the different aspects wrt town planning and taxes from afar ? Awesome viewing to be honest.
And then Alex’s “layman” explanation of how internet streaming works wrt bandwidth and compression was both eye-opening and informative. My concern is that if Uncle Leo was the mediator he would have cut off Alex midstream like he always does btw and we would have missed out on the insightfulness that we received.

I truly enjoyed this episode and if had have gone for another hour or even more i would not have cared because it was such a joy to watch.

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agree. i posted my thoughts below. I like “tangental” if it’s enjoyable and enjoyable it was !!

I too enjoyed when the conversation got into the weeds about city planning, housing,
the role of corporations, etc. Since many of you seem to be on the same page, I have to recommend an extremely fascinating and insightful book on the topic that just came out. It’s the culmination of more than a decade of insight of a civil engineer and city planner who started to actually run the math on the standard modern American development pattern and realized it was making our cities functionally insolvent. It very clearly lays out how bad the problem is, and identifies a ton of ways we can start to move back in the right direction (hint, not huge bet-the-farm megaprojects). And it does so all without giving you the political buzz-words that allow to peg the author’s politics. I can’t rec this book highly enough for anyone who enjoyed this conversation.

Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Restore American Prosperity by Charles Marhon

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Sounds like a guest for Triangulation, to me.

Edit: I’ve submitted the recommendation to the Triangulation guest suggestions thread with a link to @cuad’s above post and the author’s website.

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Great idea @philodygmn ! I have thought about that a few times when Leo and Co. meander their way into this conversation, but never actually followed through.

I think Alex’s intent was to push back against the pretty constant narrative that corporations are not paying their taxes. Apple does pay all its taxes. There is a narrative that seems to direct the outrage of corporations not “paying their fair share” (without usually defining what is fair) at the individual corporation when that outrage is more rightly directed at the corporate tax system itself and the lawmakers that create it.

We, as a society, use taxes to encourage and discourage behavior. Tax breaks for electric vehicles and solar panels on house because we want to reduce pollution and carbon output or the mortgage interest deduction that EVERY HOMEOWNER gets an advantage from to encourage home ownership because it’s seen as an economic engine to create jobs and increase local tax revenue through property taxes. We also encourage donation to charitable causes by the existence of non-profits (which is a tax status). There is a difference between using taxes to encourage or discourage behavior and using taxes to mandate or penalize behavior.

If we want corporations to pay more taxes than they are legally required to, then we either affect the tax code to remove the opportunities used to pay less taxes or come up with something companies perceive as a benefit worth paying for. I don’t think we get anywhere by blaming a company for not donating money to the federal and local governments instead of charities or non-profit groups.

Also, tax code is incredibly complex and there are multiple levels of it – local, state, and federal. Making changes at one level can greatly affect the other (see above reference about federal mortgage interest deduction encouraging home-ownership which directly impacts local property tax revenue) AND has to constructed in such a way to apply to any citizen or company so that it also works as intended for the next Apple or Google as well as the current ones, so SIMPLY requiring, for example, companies over a particular revenue is an incredibly complicated debate and implementation in which every possible potential loophole has to be thought of and evaluated with all stakeholders (citizens, states, the federal government, the neighborhood, the town, the next neighborhood over, etc.) because there’s going to be some kind of impact.

As for Andy and Alex taking over the conversation – this is the same issue that we see on TWiT and every other show where there is a mix of in-studio hosts and hosts on skype. Also, ironically, Andy probably has the highest latency to the studio by the fact of his location across the country. The people sitting together have 0 latency so they’re already starting to speak when the remote host (to them) starts talking. In the studio, this is going to translate to people getting talked over. If Alex and Andy were in-studio with Micah, the same thing would have happened except thing would have happened except they’d also been able to visually see that Micah and Karsten wanted to go to break.

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I’m a CPA with over 35 years experience preparing corporate tax returns. I was going add my two-cents to this discussion yesterday but was afraid I would say something I’d regret later. And I didn’t want to take the time required to write a post as well-crafted as yours. So now I can just say: “You took the words right out off my keyboard.”

P.S. Major changes were made to the corporate tax code to 1) repatriate funds earned overseas, which brought in a LOT tax revenue and 2) to make our corporate income tax rates more in line with the rest of the world.

P.S.S. Even when corporations pay taxes they don’t pay taxes - they pass the cost on to their customers or it reduces the return to the shareholders, which you probably are one if you have a 401(k), an IRA, or brokerage account.

P.S.S.S Capitalism sucks, just not as much as any other system.

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I’m sure that was the only point Alex sought to make, which demonstrates how myopic and indefensible his positions are. I agree it’s a petty narrative he counters; my disagreement with his is in the substantive arguments they dismiss in the process.

You seem to think it illegitimate to use tax if it effectively mandates or penalizes behavior, but it is money itself which does that; law is the people’s leverage upon it, through which tax cannot be levied upon non-existent activity, that which corporations occasion (beyond that, municipalities may issue bonds, but that effectively impacts the citizenry’s liberties marginally by comparison).

The tax code’s loopholes already defy the point of the legislature in a democratic society, @alexhoward, against the illegitimacy of which interplay amongst regulatory strata is no warrant. Again I caution against complexity being used as a gate-keeping cudgel; yes, it’s not a simple case of taking down individual bad actors, but taken down they must be, as well, regardless of whether or not the people have already prevailed upon the legislature to reign them in effectively. In forestalling that you only further endanger the system by impeding remedy by the same means need for it was inflicted.

First you lecture against failing to seal law and tie the hands of malefactors acting in corporate behest ensuring bureaucratic obfuscation of the people’s will, then turn around and demean remand upon law to conscript what you imagine would have otherwise been donated: not only is it sickeningly naive and glib to float corporate donations comparable to taxation, but hypocritical to both blame the victim public and expect a mythical goodwill alternative to silence them. It is not incorrect to label Apple, along with most other corporations, negligent in its tax obligations when a tiny minority of its revenue is subject to law only so porous thanks to the machinations of its benefactors.

Pass-through greed cannot excuse the greed itself. Particularly in the case of housing, cost of goods is less elusive to civic control, marginalizing your arguments on that subject. What’s more unwise than driving away corporations is capitulating to them. Let it not be forgotten that corporations and private profiteering are not the only means to production.

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While I don’t disagree with your point about who we should be angry with, I still agree that Alex’s defense of corporations went overboard and caused him to come off as a shill.

I don’t agree with almost anything you are saying but damn you sure write pretty. Honestly…how do you do that?

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It seems you may not have found your way to disagreeing with any of what I’ve said.

I dont want to come off as insensitive but I really get annoyed by Andy repeatedly saying his pitty me quote of “I am a freelance journalist in a rapidly crumbling industry.” I get it… and I empithize with him when I heard it the first time. But as someone who recently did a career change because the old career was consumed by new. I learned something new, humbled myself to new people (some half my age) and built a new career… all the while never making it a pitty me. Repeatedly using MBW as a bullhorn to his personal lifes issues is a buzzkill.