A few totally unrelated numbers in which I’m guessing at least one will cause a “Wow!” reaction:
10 — seconds between buses at stops on the rapid transit system in Bogota, Colombia. The system transports nearly 40,000 passengers per hour — or about 1.6 million per day
244,000 — decline in Japan’s population last year, a record. The country’s population could fall from the current 127 million to 87 million by 2060 (with almost 40% of those residents being age 65 or older)
1 — number of people killed by police in Iceland’s history. The incident took place in December after a man in a Reykjavik apartment complex began firing at officers
74% — share of the world’s skyscrapers completed last year that were in Asian countries. Asia is home to 45% of the tallest buildings in the world
One of the more positive recent federal developments was the signal that pending free trade agreements may be resurrected. Such deals are in place with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, with approval of the South Korea pact a logical place to start to boost a number of U.S. industries. The National Center for Policy Analysis offers:
The trade pact between the United States and South Korea, which would eliminate about 95 percent of tariffs on industrial and consumer goods within five years, has the usual advantages in promoting job-creating exports. It would help domestic industries involved in telecommunications, technology, pharmaceuticals, farming and financial services gain access to an important market, say USA Today.
Even American manufacturing, a usual source of opposition to these types of deals, should have reasons to like this one.
South Korea is a highly developed and educated nation with average wages approaching those in the United States and environmental standards that, in some cases, are more stringent.
What’s more, U.S. manufacturing, after decades of technology-driven productivity gains and related job losses, is highly competitive and showing signs of a rebound.
In large part this is a result of exports, which are healthy even as domestic consumption lags.
Another argument for the trade deal with South Korea is not economic but geopolitical. A vibrant and prosperous South Korea is a check against the ambitions of the bizarre and belligerent regime to its north, says USA Today.
Who knows, this pact could be a harbinger of things to come, as an overly indebted U.S. economy begins to focus more on investment and savings, and sees trade with fast-growing emerging nations in Asia and Latin America as something to support, not fear. In any case, ratification of the South Korea deal should be high on the Senate’s agenda for 2011.
If tax rates can in fact be said to influence where companies locate and invest, the U.S. has a problem. As our economy becomes increasingly global our combined (federal and provincial/state) income tax rate is higher than every other country in the world, except Japan. Both presidential candidates have recognized the need to do something. Sen. John McCain proposes a significant reduction of the current 35% federal rate to 25%. Although coupled with other proposals and not nearly as definite or assertive, Sen. Barack Obama also indicated he is open to lowering the rates.
The U.S. can’t afford to ignore what most other industrialized countries have already figured out: the corporate income tax rates affect investment. This year China dropped its rate from 33% to 25%; and Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea, which already had much lower rates than the U.S., dropped theirs even more. And it is not just in Asia. The adjustments swept Europe with Germany, Italy, the U.K. and Spain all making rate reductions. It is truly a global thing. Other countries that are part of the wave of cuts: Turkey, Bulgaria, Israel, South Africa and Colombia.
So with so much talk of change in other contexts, it is important to point out that it is also time for a change to our corporate tax rate. A full listing of the corporate rates in nations belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, along with other revealing information on this subject is available from the Tax Foundation.