belgische-vlag-achtergronden-met-een-geschilderde-vlag-van-belgieThe Belgian government has been warned by the European Council that Belgium might end up, as first ever country in the European Union, under stricter financial control by the European authorities. Not even Greece nor Portugal have yet fallen under this procedure, so this should rightly be a great honor for Belgium. If the current situation stays unchanged the structural effort to ease the already huge deficit in Belgium would remain at 0.5 pct. in 2015 and 2016, while Europe demands a structural effort of at least 1.2 pct. The total amount of the Belgian State deficit is around 106 pct. of the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Right at this moment the Belgian government is in conclave about alleviating the deficit, but it has not yet taken the first hurdle, since it has been quarreling for a full week about the amount needed to be saved by expense cuts and/or tax raises. Some political parties say they only need to find 1.2 billion euro, some claim it is closer to 2.2 billion, and others suggest it might be more.

'Do you mind if I join you, guys?'

The tax burden on Belgian citizens is the highest in the world, higher than in the Scandinavian countries which are known for their high taxes, but unfortunately the benefits for the Belgian population are meagre in comparison to those Scandinavian countries. One could expect higher taxes would yield higher benefits, but one look at the Belgian road system, at the funding of education, at the level of support for the elderly, at the crumbling system of health care, at the mess in the energy supply (Belgians pay way more for energy than the neighboring countries while green energy is sparse) will convince every observer of the bankruptcy of the system. One might ask what is done with all that money taken from its citizens?

More and more Belgians are leaving the country, just like I did, and logically the first ones to leave are those able to leave easily. Those are young graduates, highly educated citizens, retired people, and the ones who can afford it. Exactly those needed most by a country to keep its economy running at full speed. In 2013 the exodus of Belgian nationals exceeded the return of nationals to the country, for the first time in modern history since World War 2. But not the richest ones, not the one percent, they are eager to join Belgium whatever their nationality. They manage to arrange secret deals with politicians and tax authorities, called ‘rulings’, which greatly exempt them from taxes for fear they would flee the country. Just like the biggest companies – often multinationals – have secret rulings with the Belgian tax authorities. It is estimated that the total amount of money not earned by those rulings with the top 80 companies (but there are more with rulings) amounts to 16 billion euros each year. The total tax income generated by all companies in Belgium is no more than 14 billion euros. So more money is exempted than earned in this country.

EU-VC-Geld(It is a misconception to think that the one percent generate labor, and thus income for the masses. The usual logic is that rich people spend more, but in reality this spending is not unlimited. Do people that are 100 times richer than average own one hundred cars? Do they wear one hundred times more trousers than average? Do they eat a hundred times more than the average person? The drama of nowadays is that capital is not generating labor (and thus income for the masses) any more, but capital yields much more capital by not investing it in labor by building new factories or setting up new businesses. Thomas Piketty, a renown French professor (math and economics) who worked at MIT in Massachussets, clearly explains this fenomenon in his book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” in which he describes the growing economic inequality in the world. The book was a bestseller, especially amongst politicians. For his work Mr. Piketty was offered the highest French order, the ‘Légion d’Honneur’ in january 2015, but he rejected it because “it is not the government’s role to decide who is honourable”. A nice short video to watch is a TED Talks-presentation by Nick Hanauer, a billionaire himself, about job creation and economic inequality:

So now Belgium, as many other Western countries, is on the brink of some pitchfork uprising of the masses. The people cannot take it any more. It is not about creating a communist society, a capitalistic system needs richer people and middel class people to function, but within limits. Added to this is an always present corruption at the highest political levels. Politicians ‘serve’ in one or another government, in Belgium they have a panoply of governments to choose from. Six, to be exact. Six independent governments with each their own powers and administrations, serving a total population 11.2 million people (2013). A bit bigger than New York’s population of 8.5 million in 2014, which is served by ONE city council… And let’s not forget the added opportunity for Belgian politicians to ‘retire’ to a highly paid job as member of the European Parliament.

60The corrupt system is sustained by the omni-present nepotism in Belgian politics. Many parliamentarians are sons, daughters or close family members of former high-level politicians, and often public tenders are given to family members. Political functions are commonly cumulated with representative functions and honorary functions in the private sector, like a seat on the board of directors of a multinational, which demands a once-a-year presence but a rich remuneration, and consequential conflicts of interest. Belgian politicians are equally eager to please foreign powers, for that might be their ticket to a powerful job after the expiration of their political career. The USA is a very rewarding country to please, it might yield a powerful job as secretary-general of NATO. There is also the example of former prime minister Yves Leterme whose removal from Belgian politics looked more like an escape, just to end up as deputy secretary-general of OECD in Paris, to hop over a few years later to the job of secretary-general of International IDEA (International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance) in Stockholm, Sweden. Not bad for a politician who has almost literally been thrown out by the population!mike-twohy-and-if-nepotism-exists-my-brothers-will-root-it-out-cartoon

A different problem is the current state of affairs concerning immigrants in Belgium. Due to decades of negligence and short-term electoral advantages politicians neglected the influx of illegal immigrants, and forebore to provide the legally present minorities with enough chances to integrate in Belgian society by providing jobs and by encouraging them to integrate. Brussels is rightly looked upon as the terrorist capital of the world. The most wanted terrorist in Europe, Mr. Salah Abdeslam, managed to hide out for Belgian security forces during more than four months hiding less than 300 meters from his parental home, while a part of the neighborhood was aware of his presence. This is the result of an alienated and even hostile generation of descendants of immigrants, mixed up with new extremist elements that managed to take a leisurely stroll inside the European capital under the radar of underpaid and understaffed security forces.

The threat by extremists in Belgium, evidenced by the dual bomb attacks in Brussels today 22nd March 2016, is a welcome distraction for Belgian politicians. The death toll, the sustained threat, the fears instilled by it in the hearts of the citizens, all these elements enable the politicians to hide their corruption and mismanagement in the past decades that led to this now. And to continue to pretend they are there to save us, and our salvation lies in their hands so we must trust them.

2016-01-05-1451989005-1518671-R1_RealRevolutionBut it is time for Belgian citizens to ask serious questions. Where is all our money going? Why is the yield on these outrageous taxes so low in comparison to other countries? Why is the Belgian government – or better: the Belgian governmentS – not able to protect its citizens with a normal degree of respect of privacy and liberty? Why is it deemed normal that families rule Belgian politics? Why is it an established Belgian political culture to ‘promote’ politicians towards high-power or highly remunerated private functions outside their political career? Why is there a dual system of taxes that is kept secret for the public, endorsed by the very people that were nominated by those same people to serve their interests? Why do politicians not have to answer before justice for the serious wrongs they did during their careers when taking decisions with grave impact, especially those where it is clear money was embezzled or the population was mislead on purpose? Why has Brussels become the world capital of terrorism? In spite of the massive amounts of our hard-earned money we have to pay each year to please the Belgian State.

So I might say: it is time for a revolution! Not a bloody revolution, please. But people all over Belgium should go out in the streets, sit down on the sidewalks and refuse to work, all businesses should close, the government should be made to resign, the parliament should be sent home. A new constitution should be written and voted. Not by politicians, and surely not by the 1 percent. That would again be a legal consolidation of the feudal rights of the few against the masses, in the same spirit as all constitutions in Europe were written in the 19th century by the 1 percent at the time to safeguard their privileges while maintaining an air of democracy to appease the population. But a new constitution written by and written for the masses. Where every one has the same rights independent of wealth, where nepotism is excluded, where politicians are held indefinitely accountable for their misleading and mismanagement, where freedom, peace and love for every one that respects our values should be the sole basis whereupon our society should be built.


Love ❤️, yann.

anonymous government has failed you

Vote for the one percent!

ss-110919-class-warfare-04.ss_fullAny casual observer can make some irrefutable conclusions about the evolution of the distribution of wealth on earth. Over the past decades the rich grew richer, and the poor grew poorer. An Oxfam International report dating from beginning 2014 (“Working for the few”) states that one percent of the world’s population owns half of the wealth available in the world. The 85 richest people in the world own as much as the 3,5 billion poorest. Eighty-five people! You could fill a bus with them..

What lots of people don’t realize is that the constitution was not made to protect them. When new ‘democracies’ were formed, the new constitutions and laws were just a means to regulate and legalize the wrongful systems of the past. Americans grow up with the myth of a bunch of wise and altruistic Founding Fathers writing a new constitution, where the rights and liberties of all were guaranteed by the State. Few Americans made some basic research about who those Founding Fathers really were. Without exceptions they were lawyers, big landowners, rich industrials or leading politicians. No ‘normal’ citizens, representative for the majority of the population, were present nor consulted during the writing of the American Constitution.

The Founding Fathers of the U.S. Constitution

The second myth is the assumption that the Constitution was written for all, giving everybody equal rights. Some elementary knowledge of the history of the United States shows us this is far from truth. In the earliest days only white Caucasian males who could prove property ownership received a vote. Gradually, between 1792 an 1856, the property qualifications for white men were abolished, as each individual State could establish its own voting rights. Only in 1869 the Fifteenth Amendment prohibited government from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen’s “race, color, or previous condition of servitude”. But still on gender..

women's rightsWomen’ suffrage was only established by the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 (!). A right where many feminists in those days were opposed to, for they rightfully pointed out that voting rights for their men had done little to improve their living conditions. So they said women’s suffrage was pointless and the energy of the feminist movement was better used to achieve other goals towards gender equality.

What happened in the United States was exactly what happened in other democracies, e.g. in Europe, at a slower or faster pace. It can be irrefutably proven that constitutions and laws were originally written by the one percent, for the one percent. All they needed to achieve was the protection of their rights, their wealth, their properties and their legacies.

With the proceeding of time, and with growing pressure of the 99%, laws were introduced protecting more and more of their rights. But all it meant was a building of slowly established rights for those 99% on a foundation made of privileges for the 1%. While some allowances were granted, the one percent made sure nothing would threaten their rights, wealth, properties or legacies.

Sign outside of jungle hut reads: Jones, Jones and Jones Practitioners in Jungle law.In Belgium politicians found an ingenious system to protect themselves and their benefactors: they made a jungle out of the constitution, the laws, the amendments, the directives, etc.. No one has enough time and intellectual power to find a path trough this maze made on purpose. For lower citizens, the laws are very clear. They are sentenced with no fuss. For those with money and influence, they can afford shrewd lawyers who find without exception judicial errors made by the court and investigators. These judicial errors were not made on purpose, but just because the judges and investigators – whom we perceive as being specialists in their field of work – cannot be knowledgeable of all contradictions and finer details included in the different laws and amendments. And so again the rich walk, while the less-than-rich pay for their crimes.

social-spending-cuts-cartoonDuring the last three decades we have seen a steady growth of taxes imposed on Belgian citizens, whatever the ruling parties present in the government. Despite the Belgian taxes being notorious for being the highest in the world (if you take into account personal taxes, municipal taxes, business taxes, VAT, excise duties, surcharges, etc..) The reasons the politicians give sound like an old vinyl record hanging and repeating itself: “the former government left us with a mess”, “we need to heighten taxes otherwise many people will lose their jobs”, “extra taxes need to be imposed to safeguard our pension funds”, etc.. And the citizens rant and rave, but in the end they obediently pay their taxes.

6a0120a69a468c970c019b01f9f2d7970dMeanwhile more and more schemes perpetrated by politicians and government officials are exposed. Multinationals were exempted from taxes and rich people secretly got special low tax rates, all in a ‘legal’ manner. In critical violation with article 10 of the Belgian Constitution that states that every citizen is equal for the law. The exemptions of taxes ‘legally’ granted for the 60 biggest companies in Belgium (there are many more, but for this example only the 60 biggest are taken into account) amount to a sum greater than the total revenues for the State by taxing the remaining businesses. In most cases these ones are small to medium companies, often family businesses. Yet again the not-so-rich pay while the rich get away with it.

The endless bickering between North and South Belgium fueled by politicians

How do politicians achieve the conservation of the rights for the one percent? The trick is as old as humanity, and Philippus II of Macedonia (4th century BC) is often quoted: “divide et impera”, or divide and conquer. Population groups are set up against each other. Left against right, natives against immigrants, workers against independents, black against white, Christians against Muslims, etcetera. If everything is too peaceful politicians stir the pot and subtly point out to citizens the possible ‘threat’ of others to their acquired privileges. Meanwhile the politicians sit together as good friends in their back rooms outside the eye of the public, drinking champagne and smoking cigars while splitting the gains between them. For the worries that divide their followers are no obstacle to them to do some friendly business between them.

Will something ever change? I don’t know. The only solution I see is a peaceful revolution. I emphasize the word ‘peaceful’ for I am opposed to violence, and violence is no solution for the problems the people face and causes more harm than good. First it would be a good thing if people set their differences aside, and deny the politicians their tested ways to drive a wedge between them. Secondarily it would be a good signal, and it could even be a devastating signal, if voters refused to show up at the ballot stations in great numbers. Belgium knows, as one of the few ‘democratic’ countries in the world, compulsory voting. During the last elections in 2014 almost 20% of the voters did not show up, a fact held back by politicians and media from the general public. If those numbers would grow over 50%, I do not think that any politician can call himself a true representative of the people any more. And the funds for the political parties would dwindle, for every vote a political party gets yields 1,75€ party financing by the State.

IAmNotWinningWeAreChangingTheRulesBut I fear that people will continue to bicker between themselves over trivial issues, leaving politicians in power to make laws that suit them, thus extending their power and the protection of their wealth against the masses. That was the main cause for my decision to leave Belgium: to deny the State my share of taxes, which ‘took’ about two thirds of my income away to fill the black hole of the Belgian national debt and helped to fund the privileges of the 1%. And on top of it the lethargy of the Belgian population to end those unfair (and unnecessary) practises, whatever reasons politicians are keen to give to defend their State-backed theft of its own citizens, disillusioned me.

I would like to end this post with a quote by Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis (USA), who said, “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, but we cannot have both”.

Love, Yann ❤️