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Martin Vennard | 16:31 UK time, Wednesday, 31 October 2007

We're off air now, but keep sending your messages and we'll post them.

The programme came live from Phoenix, Arizona, and we got lots of messages about the two subjects we covered.

We started discussing if the rich should pay more taxes.

In our second hour we moved on to the value of water. With global warming and population growth, is water the new oil?


Chris called in from Namibia to describe how difficult life was there because of the lack of water. She asked the Governor of Arizona, Janet Napolitano, whether Arizona recycled water and whether they used desalination plants. Governor Napolitano said they did.

Nick Nuttall from the UN's environmental programme joined us to say that many people did cooperate over the provision of water, such as the Israelis and Palestinians.

John in Australia got up very early to speak to us by phone and say that Australia had finally received a wake up call about managing water demand - recognising water has value, pricing it accordingly, allowing trade in water entitlements, etc - and things had improved.


Gay, who is visiting Arizona from New Jersey, said that charging for water by the amount used would cut its consumption, but some in the audience said this already happened.

Greg asked whether there were any financial incentives for people to turn their lawns back into desert-type land. Governor Napolitano said there was no state funds for such a move. Another audience member said the use of dual-flush toilets should be encouraged.

Kevin, in the audience, said they have an excellent water management system in Arizona, but they need a safe "cushion" of water supply above usage. He said restrictions should be placed on usage.

Sheryl in the audience said that if you want to use more water you should have to pay for it. Samuel asked whether global warming would affect Phoenix's water supply.


Steve in Virginia sparked a debate by asking:

Why would people want to live in Phoenix? I've been there several times, and have some relatives there, but it's just absolutely oppressively hot. You can actually see the heat distort the air, like if you were grilling food.

Susanne said she had moved to Phoenix from Vermont in the 1970s and she had never shovelled heat there, which got a big round of applause.

Dave wrote:

I would like to point out that Arizona water policy is evolving for the better. This year it became legal for residents to recycle their gray water on plants outdoors. A number of us are already doing it.

Vicki writes:

Having lived in Santa Fe NM where Stage II water restrictions were in effect I was amazed when I moved to Arizona that there were not restrictions (this being the desert and all).

Richard in Tempe writes

I see many communities waste a good deal of water. Especially this time of year when most communities install winter rye grass lawns. Is there any restrictions or any restrictions on the legislative table to restrict this activity as well as future developments in Arizona?

Soraya says:

Arizona is generally backward when it comes to earth-friendliness and environmental responsibility. There are cities such as Anthem that don't even offer home recycling pick up.

JD in Tempe wrote

Water prices are very low here in Arizona, and a price signal would be the best way to improve conservation. Of course, we have to provide drinking water at low cost to our residents, but large quantities of potable water are being used for landscaping, etc.

Devin in Phoenix

Just as you see people thinking about conservation as oil prices rise, you will see that with water if price controls are lifted on a finite resource. Let scarcity, not just policy, determine how people use it.


Why is it so hard to find Grey Water systems for residents in Arizona? Especially in the desert, I think we should All be watering our landscaping with grey water systems.

Howard, from Australia, who is in China

In Australia about 40% of water supply is lost through leaks and damaged pipes and less than 5% of purified water is drunk. So there are huge shifts needed in public behaviour to manage and better use current water supplies.

Steve in Detroit wrote in to say:

I am from the Great Lake State, and the lakes are at record lows already. They increased the water flow into the Chicago River some years ago to keep the Mississippi flowing for barge traffic, and this only hastened the lower levels.

Ros kicked off the programme by describing the beautiful view from KJZZ in Phoenix and explaining that the US's second richest man, Warren Buffet, pays less tax than his secretary.

We heard from businesswoman Sheryl in Phoenix who said she was proud to earn a descent amount and pay taxes, but that the middle-classes were paying too much taxes. She said a flat tax of around 35 per cent would be appropriate.

The next speaker agreed with her, but Kevin said he was against such a plan.

Carlos in Venezuela said he was dissatisfied with level of taxes and services in his country. Bob's email, which you can see below, took the debate too Phonenix's development. Aimee said you had to decide the role of government to decide what level of taxes you pay. Sheryl agreed.

Samuel, 21, said he thought US taxes were being wasted on the war in Iraq, while Brooks in Portland called to say that some American people were now avoiding paying taxes by registering their companies as corporations, giving themselves low salaries, then paying themselves the rest as dividends.

The debate moved round to whether poor people were receiving too much help.

Teresa in Denmark called to say that her country had a very different system from that in the US, with people paying about 50 per cent of their income in taxes. She said Denmark had far fewer poor people than in the UK.

Christiane in Scottsville, Ariziona, called to say there was no law saying you had to pay taxes, but she thought that it was ridiculous to say rich people should be paying lower taxes than other people.


A flat tax is a great idea. But who really thinks that people in power (who tend to be wealthy) would approve a practice that costs them money? They are rich for a reason and they are not giving up that reason.

Emilio in Pittsburgh
The problem of "encouraging" those with great wealth to pay a fair share is not to change the tax rates, nor impose a new type of tax. It is the loopholes which creep into the laws. By means of loopholes, those who can afford tax planning can pay less tax than those living under the poverty line.

Daniel in Prescott Arizona

Has Warren Buffett not considered that the moral duty of the successful is not to ask government to steal more money from the rich, but for the rich to voluntarily give more to the less fortunate through charities?

Lubna in Baghdad wrote:
Two of my dearest friends, Ian and Hayley, live in Phoenix-Arizona! I'm not sure whether Ian and Hayley will be in the place where WHYS is broadcasting from! Ian and Hayley, if you guys are with Ros and the WHYS team, then I just wanna say hi.

John in Salem, Oregon, wrote:

The rich feel they are entitled to pay lower taxes because of their success, the politicians feel they deserve donations from the rich for keeping their taxes low and average Americans feel lucky when they get a refund after paying the taxes the rich should have paid.

Mina in Carmel, Calfornia

I want you to discuss how many americans between the age of 20 and 40 who get federal money because they are on disability. She says they are capable of working, but are taking advantage of the system when the people who really need it can get it.

Alison in Idaho

Unless everyone is paying the same percentage of their income, it can never be considered fair. In my opinion, we should not even have income taxes. We should be depending more on sales tax. If you're spending more, you should be paying more.

Tim wrote to us to say:

Buffett takes a (comparatively) low salary. The vast majority of his income is from dividends. Those dividends pay a 15% tax rate, this is true. However, before those dividends are paid, the corporation itself has already paid tax on the profits. Buffett's actual tax rate on the profits he receives is more like 50% than 17%.

Micheal in Phoenix posted this comment at KJZZ dot org:
Our country gets up in arms about our tax rates and thinks that we shouldn't go down the road of other countries that pay between 45-60% in tax. I feel sure that if we add up our health care premiums, school and university tuition and fees, and special bonds and levies we would probably find that we pay an equivalent or greater sum. The man in Dubai is referring to Goods and Services Tax or GST. It is a very interesting prospect.

Andrew in Australia wrote to us:

Of course the rich should pay more tax, it is only reasonable to expect this. I specifically mean tax on income earnings from business or investments. There is a joke which says that is the difference between the rich and the poor, the poor pay more tax and this is so true.

Miguel in Mexico:

If you tax cash, you will certainly tax more on regular people. Rich people dont earn money, they dont actually have money, they just control everything in sight.


More taxes imply that the rich should pay more taxes than the middle class and the poor rather than the same percentage of taxes as every other class group pays. It's not "more" taxes its equal the taxes.

Bridget send this comment to Ros, who can't understand why US hotel rooms don't have one big, ceiling light:

We don't usually have one big light in our hotel rooms. I'm not sure why, officially, but from my perspective, it's nice to be able to read in bed without a bright light overhead, directly in your line of vision.

Dwight says:
Warren should instead ask his staff if they would like to spilt the 15.7% he isn’t paying in taxes. He will increase the buying power of his employees and in turn that money will end up being collected as sales tax.

While Steve rights:

Kind of ironic that I make a pretty good income here in the US, I pay a lot of taxes, probably about $35,000 a year on all levels (federal, state, social security, medicare) and I went into a grocery store and they had signs saying that they had flu shots available. I asked about them, and they said you had to be on medicaid to get them.


Wealthy Americans pay more than their fair share of income tax. IRS figures for 2003 showed that a third of all taxes are paid by 1% of US workers. Two thirds of all income tax comes out of the pockets of the wealthiest 10% of Americans. And 25% of US workers accounted for 84% of all taxes.

Bob in Lynnwood, WA:

I go down to the Phoenix area every year during spring training to visit my father who lives in Sun City. I am amazed at how much urban blight there is in areas that were developed 20-30 years ago. It is such a waste of land and resources to take ranches, farms and cotton fields and plow them under asphalt.

Andrew in Australia

Of course the rich should pay more tax, it is only reasonable to expect this. I specifically mean tax on income earnings from business or investments. There is a joke which says that is the difference between the rich and the poor, the poor pay more tax and this is so true.

Miguel in Mexico

If you tax cash, you will certainly tax more on regular people. Rich people dont earn money, they dont actually have money, they just control everything in sight.


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