ITS TOUGH ON EVERYONE
Forbes magazine in February published its annual list of billionaires and found
membership in this exclusive club fell by 21 to 476, the third year of decline.
Whatís more, many of those on the list saw their fortunes dwindle. Microsoft
co-founder Bill Gates, who leads the list for the ninth consecutive year, has
a net worth of only $40.7 billion, down 23 percent from the previous year. Warren
Buffett remains second on the list, but felt a 13 percent drop in worth to $30.5
billion. German retailers Theo and Karl Albrecht come in third again with a combined
net worth of $25.6 billion, down from $26.8 billion.
Overall, the combined wealth of the worldís top 10 billionaires fell by
more than $100 billion from $1.54 trillion to $1.4 trillion.
MEN, WOMEN WAGE GAP SHRINKS
While menís wages have failed to keep up with even the low rate of inflation,
womenís earnings have continued to grow. These raises have closed the gap
between menís and womenís wages to the narrowest on record, resuming
a trend that had stagnated for almost a decade, government figures show.
The median full-time female worker received a five percent raise in her weekly
pay last year, while the median pay for men (half made more, half made less)
rose only 1.3 percent. The inflation rate was about two percent.
Womenís pay still lags menís in virtually every sector of the economy.
Full-time female workers made 77.5 percent of what their male counterparts did
last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the previous eight
years, the inequality worsened slightly, to 76 percent in 2001 from 77.1 percent
ONLINE SALES TAX DEBATE COULD BE MUCH ADO ABOUT LITTLE
The debate over charging tax on Internet sales has drawn considerable publicity
recently in light of efforts by several states to propose a simplified uniform
tax code to stimulate collection of online sales taxes.
Online retailing analysts, however, say the flurry of activity is more political
than economical. That is because many of the biggest traditional merchants including
Sears Roebuck, Gap and Circuit City Stores have been collecting taxes from online
sales for some time, while holdouts Amazon.com, eBay and Dell Computer seem unlikely
to start collecting sales tax anytime soon.
Analysts say online sales taxes from these new converts are likely to yield little
more than $30 million this year, which would not amount to much as it is split
up among the nationís 7,500 or so state and local tax jurisdictions.