Morning Briefing Milking the Taxpayer Cash Cow

The number of taxpayers in Germany's highest tax bracket has doubled since 2004. Three high-level VW executives are under investigation for market manipulation.

With his firing of FBI head James Comey, US President Donald Trump has exceeded his own previous high mark for capriciousness. Now even Republicans can’t shake the feeling that Trump has sought to silence an increasingly uncomfortable critic – that is, after Comey sought more funding for the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia. Trump’s move certainly won’t make his job any easier. Like wrestling with a great white, taking on the FBI is guaranteed to be a losing battle.

Politicians can’t stop talking about lowering taxes, but in reality the opposite has been happening for years. According to a recent statistic released by Germany’s Finance Ministry, some 3.9 million German citizens are currently in the highest tax bracket. Since 2004, the total number of tax payers paying a rate of 42 percent has doubled. It seems the real cash cow isn’t the super-rich but the skilled laborer.

SAP’s annual general meeting was a stormy affair. While 73-year-old Hasso Plattner still owns seven percent of the company, he faced icy headwinds yesterday. Plattner’s continued salary policy of paying millions to board members met with bitter resistance from shareholder representatives: only 50.49 percent voted for the actions of SAP’s supervisory board – hardly a vote of confidence. Plattner should see this result for what it is: A demand for a more measured approach.

G7 finance ministers and central bank heads will meet today in the Italian city of Bari to discuss the global economy. The simmering conflict over Germany’s trade surplus will likely flare up again, with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble back in the dock. But he shouldn’t be too worried – sometimes criticism is really a mark of distinction. If American exports were doing this well, Donald Trump wouldn’t be trying the surplus in the court of world finance – he would be celebrating it as a triumph!

VW just can’t get a break. According to filings by Germany’s financial regulator, federal prosecutors are investigating three VW managers for suspected market manipulation. Among them are the current head of VW’s supervisory board, Hans Dieter Pötsch, as well as CEO Matthias Müller. The background: In 2015 US authorities discovered VW had manipulated the emissions levels of diesel cars, causing the company’s stock to crash. At the time, shareholders were not well informed. It’s impossible to imagine the company’s then top managers having a clear conscience. Openness would have been golden in this case, but they chose to remain silent. Now their reputations are on the scrap heap.

Picture of the Day

Quelle: dpa
A gallery employee poses next to the “Division Bell” metal heads during a preview of the upcoming Pink Floyd exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
(Source: dpa)