Belgian politics, a tragic joke.

I am sad. I am angry. What to say? The problem is not that I have nothing to write, the problem is I find it hard to organize my thoughts right now, while all kinds of emotions roll trough me. Mostly sadness and anger.

I was shocked when the Paris attacks took place, I am baffled every time a terrorist bomb goes off somewhere in the world. Let’s not be hypocrite, Arab countries are bombed on a daily basis by so-called ‘believers’, and thus are muslims the biggest victims of those who believe of themselves they represent Allah’s will.

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Brussels after the 22nd March 2016 bombings

But now these bombings came dangerously close. Close to my family, close to my friends, close to the people I love. In that way maybe I am a hypocrite too, for my sadness and anger never were as big as now after the Brussels bombings. It truly shattered my dream of a loving and peaceful society, my belief in an utopia where everybody would living along and help each other. Where the strong would help the weak, the rich would help the poor. Not that I am against a certain measure of inequality, the chance to become prosperous is an incentive for people to work harder and become successful, but there are limits. My libertarian conviction says everybody should be free, but one’s freedom ends when it might infringe the basic rights of another being.

Meanwhile, in Belgium, politicians are falling over each other, a true stampede got started to race from one homage to the victims to the next one. It is so important for them to show they care. But what they effectively did in the past decades belies their true motivation. Where were they when it became clear there would be problems in the future for our community?

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The control of the failing media

The media also have a big responsibility in this. Just like society in general, everything needed to become ‘ready for consumption’. Research journalism is on the brink of death. Better to bring shocking stories without much investigative effort, and bombard the public with little facts. The more shocking the better. But spending money to really investigate and find out crooked facts is too much asked for our media.

Under pressure of the public more and more facts come to the surface. It seems the bombings might have been stopped in time. Mistake upon mistake has been amassed. Missed opportunities to arrest the terrorists, miscommunication, bad management, incompetence, laziness, protection of own interests, etcetera.. By the people that swore they would protect us if we gave them our vote.

It would be too easy to blame the security forces. The are vastly understaffed, and enormously underfunded. Responsible jobs were given to candidates with the most political support, to the ones that would comply without much fuss with funding cuts, to the ones that would execute the will of their political masters without a second thought. Not to the ones with the most competences and best suited for the job.

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Philippe Moureaux, former mayor of Molenbeek

Philippe Moureaux, former mayor of Molenbeek during 20 years (he has been seating in the city council for 40 years) made a string of declarations in the past days and weeks. He declared that the ‘incarceration in prison of Salah Abdeslam (the terrorist from Paris that got caught but who grew up in Molenbeek) was the reason of his radicalization’. He declared  Salah Abdeslam was a harmless ‘amateur’. After the Paris bombings the minister for Security and Internal Affairs Jan Jambon declared he would ‘clean Molenbeek of all extremist elements’. Mr. Moureaux accused Mr. Jambon of being a ‘nazi’. Today Mr. Moureaux gave a press conference where he admitted ‘he might have been too cautious regarding the social mix’ in his former city. It seems to me it is the exact opposite. But these are a politicians’ words, often meaning the exact opposite of what is said.

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Bart Somers, mayor of Mechelen

A school principal was recently suspended because he failed to notify the authorities soon enough about the radicalization of one of his students, notably Bilal Hadfi who blew up himself later on in Paris. The police of the city of Mechelen, a stone’s throw away from Brussels, received information that could have led the security forces to the hiding place of Salah Abdeslam in december 2015. Police officers declared the chief of police withheld that information and did not inform the national authorities. Today on a press conference the chief of police of Mechelen declared that mistakes have been made, but that it was a lower echelon that made the mistake and not him. Whenever in the past there was a city to blame, the mayor of Mechelen, Bart Somers, did not refrain to point out his management of his city should be an example for all Belgian cities. Right now Mr. Somers stays mute, and his political appointee in function as chief of police tries to assure us he has no responsibility for this fuck-up. In contrast nobody in this case will be suspended, the Brussels school principal didn’t do his job, but our politicians did.

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“Belgian infrastructure: Tunnels – Nuclear Plants – Back Doors (loopholes)”

Belgium has become the laughingstock of the world, it is clear from the outside the political system is rotten and corrupt. Politicians have failed to tackle the problems that not only soothsayers could discern in the future, they have made cuts after cuts in our judicial and security force while raising the taxes and their own salaries. Politicians were more busy with appointing their family, relatives and their political supporters, with taxing people, going for the fast and quick gains by imposing tax after tax on the population, and with assuring their financial future by concocting secret tax rulings – against the laws of equal rights – to exempt multinationals and the wealthy from taxes, so they could look forward to a nice job in the board of directors of some big company. Luc Coene, the former director of the Belgian National Bank, recently literally stated that “the average Belgian was not hurt yet by the tax level in Belgium, so there was no taboo on imposing more taxes”. Nice statement in a country that groans under the highest tax level in the whole world. I suppose he sees his own upper class of the wealthy as being ‘average’, and of course there will never be any pain for them at whatever level the lower people are taxed.

If you, politicians, want to make a real homage to the victims of the bombings, step down, disband the parliament, form a temporary government of competent technocrats to bridge the transition, and let the people – assisted by unbiassed intellectuals – write a new constitution and legislation for our country. With no place for corruption, where politicians would be held accountable for their promises and decisions, and where love, peace, freedom and equality would be the basis for the new legislation. And where the new legislation would not merely be the protection of past rights and the legalization of the feudal system for the 1 percent. Meanwhile you will be persecuted for the many decades of your lies, your mistakes, your incompetence, your nepotism, your money-making schemes, in short: because of your failing to protect and serve the people as you pledged to do.

We need a revolution. Bloodless, peaceful, but a complete change.

lemmy terroristsAnd for you terrorist believers in that god you call Allah but where other believers in Him strongly disagree, I have bad news: you lose. And there are no virgins left in heaven, only a hell to burn in eternity.

Love ❤️, yann.

REVOLUTION!!!!

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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBx2Y5HhplI)

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

Das Vierte Reich?

das vierte reich
THE FOURTH EMPIRE

I know it is not very politically correct to ventilate these kind of thoughts, but I must admit that I already have these thoughts since many years… I do not resent nor condemn the current generation of Germans as being responsible for the things their country did in the past, even if I do know that even now, these days, many older homes in Germany, especially in the South, have pictures of the Führer hanging on the wall as was told to me by a former girlfriend who is an ambulant nurse for elder people in the German South country.

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“One empire – one people – one Euro”

But since ten years or so I have a fantasy that the ‘old German class’ of Aryans were about to reach their goal without bloodshed by forming and dominating the European Union. I admit it started as a far-fetched fantasy, but these days I get the worrying feeling this fantasy of mine is not just a bad dream but slowly becoming a horrifying reality.

What to say about a country that caused so many deaths, that staged two consecutive wars just because they thought it was their birthright to do so, which exterminated so many innocent people, amongst them a great deal of children, just because for them they were of the wrong race, the wrong religion, or just ‘different’, knowing that country never had to pay back its debts by causing so much harm and suffering? Germany never paid a dime in war reparations to the countries and people they harmed for their own misplaced glory.

Modified poster of Merkel’s election campaign: “My empire Europe”

And now this same country is the country that hammers on the condition that Greece fully has to pay back its debts. For the German leaders this is a sine qua non for Greece to stay member of the Eurozone. Admittedly Greece incurred those debts by mismanagement, by corruption, by a deficient administrative system. So much of the misery is provoked by the former political leaders of Greece.

But the common people of Greece are more innocent for the past policies of their politicians than the hordes of Germans before and during the Second World War who were jumping up and down to raise their right arm in the Hitler-salute as high as they could. The Greek political system did not lead to war, nor did it cause people to be gassed for their race, religion nor ideas. And still the Greek people have to suffer more for the mess their politicians made than the nazis suffered for the holocaust and deaths they caused.

MerkelnazieuroWhere is the logic? Where is the humility of a country with a horrifying past like Germany? Why is Germany so adamant in making the Greek people suffer? What is their hidden agenda? I might sound like getting paranoia, but seen from a distance, this ethical discrepancy does not seem acceptable any more if you look into the recent European history.

I do not believe our leaders are serving us, the common people any more. I do not believe politicians worry about us, the common people any more. I do not believe justice is unbiassed towards us, the common people any more. I do believe we need a peaceful revolution in our countries, where laws should be rewritten to restore equality, where politicians should be accountable for their words and deeds, and where freedom is a basic right that is respected.

angela merkelnAnd Germany? Maybe they should start paying the Greek debt they are so keen to insist on. The debts Greece made with our financial institutions who wanted to cash-in big gains, but were bailed out by our governments by the taxpayers – OUR – money so the banks could get richer.

anonymous government has failed youWe are Anonymous

We are legion

We do not forgive

We do not forget.

Expect us.

Love ❤️, yann.

Thank you Greece!

819298_1280x720Now the votes have been cast, and the Greek people clearly have rebuffed the austerity measures imposed on them by the troika, the dust of the avalanche caused by this purest form of democracy is slowly settling. European politicians are running around like headless chickens trying to pretend nothing major has happened, and many have changed their discourse 180° opposed to what they declared in the days before the Greek referendum.

“…and when you grow up, Angela, destroy Europe!” – A. Hitler embracing Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany.

Now more and more governments of the European Union say major debt relief should be a possibility for Greece, except for Germany’s conservative powers, led by Angela Merkel. This is very remarkable, knowing that the “Wirtschaftswunder” (economic miracle) of post-war Germany only happened because of the total debt relief given to Germany after the war.

Looking a bit further in the past we can establish that Germany never paid a dime of reparations to any country after their defeat in WW I. In fact, the severe and exorbitant demands of the victorious nations in the Treaty of Versailles were a direct reason for the rise of Hitler and the break out of the second world war.

Angela Merkel personifying Adolf Hitler, the way more and more Europeans see her

So we can conclude Germany never paid back its debts, not a single dime of it, but are now the ones imposing stringent measures on Greece and are the ones refusing any debt relief for Greece. German conservative politicians are the ones that are threatening the unity of the European Union, and are leading this Union into economic recession. Maybe Germany should be the country to leave the EU?

I have always been a strong advocate for the idea of a unified Europe, where borders cease to exist, where people are treated on an equal basis, where the people’s voice is the single strongest power in the Union. But politicians have hijacked this idea for their own greed, advancing the interests of corporations and financial institutions to the detriment of its inhabitants. All they proudly have to show us are realizations in the same order of magnitude as: “look at us, we managed to standardize the cellular phone chargers!”. Now, instead of having a drawer filled with different models of phone chargers, we have a full drawer with the same phone chargers, while the 1% get richer, and the normal people get poorer every day.

Mark Twain fool peopleTo Germany: today is at last payday. To Europe: NO THANK YOU anymore!

Love ❤️, yann

 

Greece: please vote NO!

Poster calling people to vote “NO” in the upcoming referendum on July 5th 2015

Whenever we watch, read or hear the news these days it is impossible not to see, read or hear something about Greece, the oldest democracy in the world. I do not want to find an explanation for the current Greek crisis, but there are some things I see, just as everybody can see them. And they are not very positive. Certainly not for the Greek people.

Poverty is at an unimaginable high, youth unemployment is soaring with more than 60% (!), and those taking the hardest hits are the elderly, the young people, the simple families, the workers. That makes me wonder what our politicians are all bickering about, when millions of children, women and men slide down towards total poverty at a hallucinating rate. Whatever your political conviction, if you have a heart you cannot ignore what is happening right now inside the European Union.

Mr. Dijsselbloem – Chairman of the Eurogroup. Yet another socialist politician who realized his real friends are corporations and their money.

Politicians of both sides, the Greek government on one side, the ‘Troïka’ (European Commission, European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) on the other, are hitting the public with bolder and bolder statements, it looks more like a contest between mountain gorilla’s about the supremacy over the flock. And lots of what is told is just Ballyhoo to get us on their side, never mind the truth. Because the truth still is that millions of Europeans are suffering right now because of our politicians ineptitude to find a human solution for this crisis.

The ECB and EU are fast to point out they already spent billions and billions on the Greek economy. What the public is not aware of is that indeed, the ECB invested millions in the Greek economy, but it never benefited for more than 90% of these vast sums to invest in its economy. It starts to become a tiring and boring story, but the winners are again our banks. How come? Well, in the past the banks bought bonds from the Greek State, and as the Greek rating was low, the interest margins were very high. Now Greece is heading towards a total collapse, the EU and ECB decided to buy back these bonds from the banks who wanted to make nice – but risky – profits in the recent past.

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Solidarity soup kitchens are a normal appearance in Greece’s cities nowadays.

In short: our financial institutions wanted to earn good money by buying risky bonds, and when the risks of a collapse of Greece became too high, Europe bought these bonds from the banks (don’t worry, they got a nice deal) with our money, that we paid as taxpayers throughout Europe. So now our banks got out of the danger zone – yes, exactly those we spent billions on in a not-so-distant past because of the junk-bonds in their portfolio – and again our money we worked for was abused to buy these bonds. Stating that the ECB invested all those billions in the Greek economy is thus far from the truth. AND now the Greek people have to pay back these bonds to the ECB, bonds the financial institutions bought in the first place as risk-capital to make nice profits.

It is true, Greece has a long history of corruption, where taxes were often not collected, Greece has a humongous bureaucracy incomparable with any other European country, and there are so many more problems to be addressed without delay. But imposing higher taxes on pensions and increasing the TVA, just as the Troika demands, victimizes those who are in need today and strikes them with poverty. This is not in any way acceptable for me, as an European, and as a human being.

anonymous government has failed youOur politicians should stop their strategic and tactical games, interfering with the democratic process of a country where the people chose the government they wanted, and do what they are paid and chosen for: to help the ones in need, to solve the growing problems and to serve the people of Europe. But I guess this is not figuring on their agenda since they joined politics.

Love ❤️, yann.

 

p.s.: for those wanting some more detailed info, below is a list of recent quotes of renown economists and political analysts about the Greek crisis.

Joseph Stiglitz (Nobel laureate in economics): “I can think of no depression, ever, that has been so deliberate and had such catastrophic consequences. It is startling that the Troika has refused to accept responsibility for any of this or admit how bad its forecasts and models have been. But what is even more surprising is that Europe’s leaders have not learned”.

Martin Guzman (Columbia University): “The disparity between what the Troika thought would happen and what has emerged has been striking — and not because Greece didn’t do what it was supposed to do, but because it did, and the models were very, ver flawed”.

Peter Morici (University of Maryland): “Neither Germany’s finance minister, nor any other European government or competent private institution, has tabled a credible analysis demonstrating how more austerity and labor-market reforms (read more layoffs and wage cuts) will instigate growth and not result in even bigger losses for bondholders down the road. Another round of austerity would only further pummel the Greek economy, and impose economic deprivation that European leaders should be ashamed to engineer.”

Vicky Pryce (chief economic advisor at the Centre for Economics and Business Research): “The rescue that took place in the banking sector was really more of a rescue of northern European financial institutions that had exposed themselves to Greece. The concern about this particular debt is that all it did is it transferred this large burden to the Greeks.”

Paul Krugman (Nobel laureate in economics): “The Troika clearly did a reverse Corleone — they made Tsipras an offer he can’t accept, and presumably did this knowingly. So the ultimatum was, in effect, a move to replace the Greek government. And even if you don’t like Syriza, that has to be disturbing for anyone who believes in European ideals.”

Mark Weisbrot (co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research): “The confrontation between the new Greek government and the European authorities is the first time since the Great Recession that voters have successfully been able to challenge the Troika’s previously unaccountable power. Their policies have been widely unpopular in Europe, but this is the first government that is really forcing them to change. So European authorities continue to take steps to undermine the Greek economy and government, hoping to get rid of the government and get a new one that will do what they want”

Larry Summers (former US Treasury Secretary): “Greece is a failed state in waiting. Greeks have imposed more austerity on themselves than any industrialized country has suffered since the Depression.”

Flag_of_Greece

Where is our money!!??!!

What we already knew since quite a long time, has been reconfirmed by the latest OECD-report published on the 14th of April 2015: Belgium has the honor to be the absolute number one of all OECD member states regarding tax burden on labour.

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OECD member states (dark blue)

The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) counts 34 member states and was founded in 1961 to stimulate economic progress and world trade. Most member states have high-income economies and are regarded as ‘developed countries’, whatever that means. Every so often the OECD produces comparative studies about its member states.

Belgium is the only state where the tax burden on labour is higher than 50%. Still it has amassed in the past decade a public debt larger than 100% of its Gross National Product. True, the Belgian citizens get a lot for their hard-earned money that is left to their politicians’ care. Belgium counts a bit more than 11 million citizens, making it about the same magnitude as London or New York.

Of course Belgian has the greatest educational system of the ‘civilized’ world. Poverty is almost non-existent, old people are pampered in modern elderly care, and medical services are top shelf. The roads are plentiful and state of the art equipped with the most advanced technologies, and public transport is abundant and cheap. Justice is fast and just, the laws are clear and unbreakable. Sorry, I’m just being sarcastic… None of these statements could be further from truth.

Schools are chronically understaffed, their buildings outdated and some classes happen in rooms unfit for the purpose because of bad heating, crumbling ceilings, old furniture and dangerous electric lines and plumbing. Some schools had to place containers to take in the growing number of students in the past, and these are still in use more than ten years later. The school system is severely understaffed. Every year again we can observe the price of our underfunded schooling system when parents can be seen camping outside schools during a week to be the first to get a ticket earning them the right to enroll their children later on in that school, as the system is on a first-come-first-served basis.

disappearance_of_poverty_265465Talking about poverty and schools, more than 2000 young people are registered as students at a Belgian university while being homeless, on a total of a little bit more than 200,000 students, meaning that 1 in 100 students doesn’t have a roof over it’s head. They manage to get along by sleeping on the couch of a friend, or by spending their nights under the streetlights. Nothing much is done about this forgotten group that clearly wants to climb out of misery by studying against all odds and despite the hardship of their existence.

The streets of the bigger Belgian cities count too many beggars and homeless people. The state could not care less, except letting the police arrest them from time to time without any structural view of a solution for those people. If it wasn’t for some private organisations taking care of them with the limited resources they manage to raise via private funding, those living under the poverty line would be off worse. And even then many in need are not reached, between them a lot of children. One child in five is said to be living in poverty, where their parent(s) does not have sufficient income. In the past years poverty in Belgium has risen by 30%. Nothing much about them is done by the politicians.

More and more elderly people end up in poverty, for there is a great demand for but not enough elderly care, like affordable elderly homes and sufficient social and medical services. Yearly elderly assistants are protesting in the streets of Brussels because they are understaffed and funds are cut every year over again. Nothing much is done for them by the state.

As more and more medical services converted to private undertakings, where the making of profit is the first and foremost goal of these ventures, costs have steadily risen. When being included in the hospital the front desk asks new patients if they are covered by an extra medical insurance. If not, all services are provided at the prices dictated by the government. If they are, then the patients are charged with excessive surpluses for a room, and the bills for the consulting doctors are three- to fivefold the normal charges. Forgetting that those extra charges will have to be paid collectively by the people taking out a medical insurance, making it impossible for every one to afford such an insurance. But understaffed clinics are rife, and social workers and elderly assistants are joined in their protest by nurses. Still nothing much is done by the politicians.

The Belgian roads count the most traffic jams in the whole European Union, gladly overtaking The Netherlands who held that dubious honor in the past. In a country that encompasses a mere 300 kilometers at it’s longest point, mornings with 150 kilometers of simultaneous traffic jams are not uncommon. The public transport system is a little disaster, yearly budget cuts are rampant and trains often do not run on schedule. Getting around the country with trains, busses and trams is an adventure in itself and a sure way to provide a daily excuse to your boss for your tardiness at work. Nothing much about that is done by the politicians.

Belgian justice is… surprise!: heavily understaffed. A murderer caught red handed can spend more than three years in jail before appearing before court, some divorcing couples have juridical fights during more than ten years, and financial fraud cases are usually delayed with great priority for more than 15 years until barred. New laws are voted every day by 500 members of parliament, often contradicting previous ones, adding to the confusion needed for politicians, multinationals and the one percent to find the necessary loopholes to conduct their business in all legality. Many cases in front of courts are dismissed because of procedural errors, because the specialists in law – being the judges – cannot find their way in the labyrinth any more. Of course judges and legal staff are often protesting. Nothing much about it is done by the politicians.

polyp_cartoon_charity_aid_trade_exploitation_sweatshop_cash_crops_wealth_poverty_mediaSo where is all that money going? Could it be that having a government with prime minister, ministers, secretaries of state, members of parliament, political appointees, staff, parliament buildings, etc.. for less than 2 million people is a bit too much? You thought that Belgium counted more than 11 million citizens? It does. Only the Belgians have 6 fully working parliaments and governments, each with their powers, often overlapping each other. Added to that a purely representative royal family costing the Belgians millions a year, for they have right now officially two kings and two queens. In 2014 they boasted three queens! Each with their rightful endowment in accordance to their title. Plus the rest of the royal family who’s not supposed to work for a living, even when not in line for succession of the throne, thus needs a yearly budget.

Of course the politicians are working hard. Too bad the people being robbed of their income are not getting much return for their money. Last year the politicians proudly announced they found a solution to a poignant problem burdening their voters: couples finding no agreement for the names of their newborn children will now give both their names to their kids. What an advancement for the people! I think that when parents cannot come to an acceptable agreement about the last names of their babies, they should abstain from fucking and having children in the first place! Especially in view of the many problems in the future they will have to come to an agreement about the education of their kids.

Meanwhile the Belgian public is slowly molded into believing they really need those F-35 jet fighters. The cost is negligible, a mere 5 billions (projected) for the protection of this grand nation with 40 pieces of nuclear capable fighters. Because they need to be capable of carrying nuclear weapons. Belgium doesn’t have them, the USA did not stock them on the air force base of Kleine Brogel, but still they really need them. In case of war with IS, Al Qaeda, China or a soon-to-be-made but yet unknown new enemy. Those 5 billions are sufficient to eradicate all poverty in the whole Kingdom of Belgium three times over, but hey, those people are no real players on the political nor commercial market, and they do not represent a true commercial value for multinationals, so why should they invest that much in them when this offering to the Americans could gain a nice political appointment with NATO or something in the future?

Nothing much about it is done by the Belgians…

Well, that is not quite true, Belgians often choose one of the three following options. Most just endure the hardships and let them be robbed of the biggest part of their income (I did not yet mention that the 50-plus percent only takes into account the tax burden on labour, but there is also TVA, different levies, and a whole range of taxes bringing the total to 67% of the income being taxed by the state). They abide by the rules, by the newly imposed taxes because they believe the politicians when they tell the people they are working unselfishly hard for the profit of the citizens. And they allow the politicians to set them up between each other, brothers against sisters, left against right, workers against owners, natives against immigrants, Christians against Muslims, so that their leaders have their hands free to conduct their dark schemes behind the curtains. Protests between those people are tame, and ineffective.

Other Belgians realize ‘the American Dream’ by joining the one percent. Most of them purely by inheritance, some by working hard, getting a brown upper lip or sore vagina, and all by bending the rules and finding loopholes in the law.

Slowly a non-negligible group of Belgians decided to leave the country and find their luck elsewhere. In 2013 more Belgians have left the country than immigrants entered the country. The drama is that those Belgians leaving the country are often well educated, have bigger financial reserves, or consist of young people hence providing a good working force abroad. Their leaving numbers are often replaced by refugees, people in need, and persecuted minorities. A cultural enrichment for every country, but still needing a big investment before they can take part in the economic life of their new homeland. While those leaving take all the years Belgium invested in their education with them abroad.

Belgian politicians of every affiliation, shame on you!

Love, yann ❤️

The God of the Black Hole (AKA Belgian Treasury) appeased?

download (1)In their struggle to keep the electorate happy, politicians shun no means to reach that goal. Lying and deceiving are the standard ways to put the citizens on the wrong foot. What effectively is done about real problems is not the issue, perception is everything.

Last week the Belgian Minister of Finance launched a new proposal to tax the rich. Belgium has been in a kind of uproar since the appointment of the current government because – just like all the legislatures before them – they raised taxes for the ordinary people. These are protesting the fact that no contribution is made by the big companies and the rich, which are – as we know now – exempted from taxes via ‘rulings’ offered by politicians via the Belgian IRS. These rulings were kept secret from the general public for a long time, but after ‘LuxLeaks’, the leaking of documents about tax exemptions for companies and the rich in the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg, reporters found out that Belgium also offers special treatments to those who have too much money to pay.

Tax-RichUnions in Belgium have taken a categorical stance against extra taxes for the working people while the rich do not contribute. Neither do they pay any taxes, but that is beside the point in this plea. The slightest disagreement with the government nowadays leads to actions by the unions, just because they do not appreciate the way the government is taxing the less-than-rich (except the unions, but they are rich).

corporation_cartoon_talk_things_outFortunately we have politicians to solve the problem, or rather to change our perception of the problem. The Minister of Finance declared that a withholding tax of 25% would be imposed on all foreign funds held by Belgian citizens. The Cayman Islands being a renowned tax haven for shady wealth, the tax was promptly baptized ‘Cayman tax’. The latest estimate of the wealth parked in foreign tax havens by our reverent Minister was in the order of 60 billion euros. The cautious estimate of specialists in this matter is the quadruple of that sum. But hey, you can’t be too strict on those people having to immigrate their money to get some yields less-than-rich can’t get.

Mark Twain fool peopleWe are talking about a ‘withholding tax’, that means that interests and dividends are taxed, not the original sum. The government is pleased that the new tax will enable them to make a ritual sacrifice to the God of the Black Hole of Belgian Treasury of 460 million euros per year, to start in 2016. I do not know on what yield those numbers are based, but I can only guess that the actual yields achieved by those 60 billions are far higher than 4% (the average yield when renting out property in Belgium). When I calculate with the minimal 4% yield (by interests and dividends), a taxation of 25% on those gains would result in 600 million euros of taxes. So somewhere the line already 140 million euros have disappeared even if we calculate with the cautious prognosis of 4% yield achieved by investing those 60 billions. Count on politicians to make money disappear even before they can put their hands on it!

The sum of 460 million represents 0.0077% of the total wealth parked off shore by Belgians (as estimated by the brave Minister).  Does the revolutionary Minister believe the Belgian public opinion will be appeased by the ‘bloodshed’ his new ‘Cayman tax’ will cause within the ranks of the wealthy? He does, and in the end, I fear I have to admit he will be right…

Keep on smiling! ? 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 ❤️