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Pieces Together May 2010

HOUSING MADNESS
"Charities are demanding an urgent rethink of government housing policy after a Guardian investigation found that almost half a million homes are lying empty in the UK enough to put a roof over the heads of a quarter of the families on council house waiting lists. The startling picture of neglect (we estimate that more than 450,000 properties have been empty for at least six months at a time when there is an acute housing shortage) was pieced together using information gathered from local councils under the Freedom of Information Act" (Guardian, 4 April).

TAX DODGERS INC.
"As you work on your taxes this month, here's something to raise your hackles: Some of the world's biggest, most profitable corporations enjoy a far lower tax rate than you do – that is, if they pay taxes at all. The most egregious example is General Electric. Last year the conglomerate generated $10.3 billion in pretax income, but ended up owing nothing to Uncle Sam. In fact, it recorded a tax benefit of $1.1 billion. Avoiding taxes is nothing new for General Electric. In 2008 its effective tax rate was 5.3%; in 2007 it was 15%. The marginal U.S. corporate rate is 35%” (Forbes.com, 1 April),

BUSINESS AS USUAL
"German carmaker Daimler has pleaded guilty to corruption in the US and will pay $185m (£121m) to settle the case. The charges relate to US Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission investigations into the company's global sales practices. Daimler, the owner of Mercedes-Benz, admitted to paying tens of millions of dollars of bribes to foreign government officials in at least 22 countries" (BBC News, 1 April).

THIS SPORTING LIFE
"Thousands of homeless people are being forced off the streets of South Africa to hide the scale of poverty there from World Cup fans. More than 800 tramps, beggars and street children have already been removed from Johannesburg and sent to remote settlements hundreds of miles away. And in Cape Town, where England face Algeria on June 18, up to 300 have been moved to Blikkiesdorp camp where 1,450 families are crammed in a settlement of tin huts designed for just 650 people. Johannesburg councillor Sipho Masigo was unrepentant. ‘Homelessness and begging are big problems in the city,’ he said. ‘You have to clean your house before you have guests. There is nothing wrong with that’" (Daily Mirror, 28 March).