In the fight for equality, discussing the creation of fair taxation systems is a necessity. In developed nations, it often seems that the middle classes bear the heaviest tax burden. Meanwhile, top earners and corporations can use tax loopholes and investment schemes to lower their tax bill. The tax discussion must start in earnest if we want to close the wealth gap and protect people on low incomes.
#Davos2019 – Taxation Is a Non-Issue
The tax discussion appears to be way down the list of priorities among business and political leaders. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, only one tax discussion took place as pointed out in thes NOW THIS video.
Poverty Is on the Rise in Developed Countries
In countries like Ireland, Britain, and America, food poverty and homelessness are on the rise. Politicians emphasize that increasing the top tax bracket is of little use. As a consequence, mid-income earners carry a disproportional share of the tax burden. Although income tax rates may appear acceptable, hidden taxes such as VAT on everyday products like fuel have a real and direct impact on the spending power of middle-income earners.
Taxes combined with low wages have driven many people from their homes or made them reliant on charities such as food banks. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, governments introduce austerity measures, curbing spending on public services. Judging from the yellow vest protests in France and beyond, creating a fair taxation system is a core necessity.
Share Your Thoughts on a Fair Taxation System
Please share your thoughts on this issue in the comment box below. What has your own experience been? Are you paying too much or not enough taxes? Is is worth raising the top tax rate? How could your government make the taxation system fairer?
As the World Economic Forum in Davos draws to a close, and illustrious political and business power brokers leave the snowy town, one wonders where this leaves the rest of us. Although some NGOs also made representations, only a handful of small anti-globalisation protests took place. Have people suddenly got the answer to the question why is socialism bad and decided to stay away?
In recent times, socialism has become a dirty word, one associated with an unruly far left. Is this tarnish justified? Let’s look at the dictionary definitions of socialism and pitch it against the capitalism-definition.
Reading this definition, one wonders, what’s wrong with socialism? What’s wrong with equality? What’s wrong with sharing equally in a country’s money? Staunch capitalists will cite examples of countless failed socialist regimes and emphasize that socialism simply doesn’t work.
The current upheaval in Venezuela is a prime example of what divides the right and the left. While the US supports and recognizes the opposition leader and calls Maduro out as a undemocratic socialist leader, Maduro supports blame economic sanctions for the dire state of the Venezuelan economy.
How Did Socialism Get Such a Bad Name?
Capitalists don’t like the restrictions socialism places on economies. Instead, they propagate free market rules designed for growth and economic freedom. Needless to say, they also like low tax rates.
Perhaps one ought to take a brief look back at the history of socialism to understand how this political philosophy came about in the first instance. What’s more, it’s important to understand that socialism has many different applications.
The examples in the video illustrate the vast differences in the application of the socialist model. It appears that the nations combining capitalism and socialism like Denmark and Sweden have been the most successful in promoting economic growth while also ensuring a decent degree of equality.
The USA and Europe illustrate the workings of capitalism, although some countries incorporate elements of socialism into their political system. Countries like Sweden have excellent public services to cater to those who may not be able to afford private healthcare or education.
The 2008 Financial Crisis – Capitalism Goes Socialist
After the 2008 global recession, countless financial institutions required state financial support in what appears to be a contradiction in terms.
If you wear your socialist hat for a moment, you’d have to ask yourself how financial institutions arrived at asking for and taking government bailouts. While sticking to strictly capitalist principles when profitable, the banks suddenly put on a socialist hat and gladly took the cash.
Many governments feared the mayhem that may have been associated with the collapse of the banking sector and jumped in to help without delay. Who footed the bill? The taxpayer, stupid!
The Basic Principles of Socialism v Capitalism in Brief
So, how do the two systems impact on the everyday workings of a society?
government or Co-ops
individuals or Businesses
determined by people or companies
higher taxes for public services
lower taxes to stimulate economic growth
government ensures greater equality
less competition, higher prices
more competition, lower prices
substantial government investment
limited government spending
slower economic growth
equality and better public services
stronger economic growth
This is a simplistic view of capitalism and socialism. The real impact also depends on world economic factors, political stability, and international relations. Moreover, most economies combine the two political philosophies, each creating and implementing its own socialism&capitalism cocktail.
Socialism – Good or Bad?
In theory, socialist principles are worthwhile. Unfortunately, its pure application is nigh unachievable.
Capitalism – Good or Bad?
One only needs to bring to mind the ever-widening wealth gap to grasp the very serious and catastrophic downsides of pure capitalism. Only one year ago, the Guardian reported that 42 individuals held the same amount of wealth as 3.7 billion of the world’s poorest people.
Socialism v Capitalism
Socialism and capitalism are wide open to abuse. In its principles, socialism promotes equality and fairness – something that no one can argue with.
Smartly combining capitalism and socialism appears to be the best way to provide citizens with a decent standard of living while promoting economic growth.
In the wake of sometimes violent protests and clashes with police during the yellow vest demonstrations in Paris and beyond, French women have created a separate movement. The women yellow vests or #femmes #giletsjaunes are pursuing the same issues but distancing themselves from the use of violence that has cast shadows over the #giletsjaunes movement.
Women Yellow Vests
Apart from taking to the Streets of Paris, Toulouse, Caen, Lyon, and beyond, French women have come together on social media to campaign for a variety of issues. What is different about the #femmes #giletsjaunes is that the movement is strictly non-violent. The power of the women’s conviction is impressive.
In the run-up to the first march, the women didn’t fear getting caught up in riots and clashes with the police. To date, the #femmes #giletsjaunes demonstrations took place without any major incidents.
The issues at the heart of this movement are the same: lower taxes and the resignation of the government. In a show of strength and determination, the protestors wanted to emphasize the weight of their conviction and object to the French government’s denunciation of the #giletsjaunes protestors as troublemakers. Holding up placards stating “Je suis ta mère”, “Je suis ta collègue”, “Je suis ta sœur” the #femmes #giletsjaunes sought to steer clear off any violent confrontations while also re-emphasizing the original #giletsjaunes demands.
On Twitter, LaPlumeLibre explained:
How Did the Women Yellow Vest Protest Come About?
According to a Le Média report, the Paris gathering had been organised through the #femmes #giletsjaunes Facebook page with the venue and time only publicised one hour prior to assembly. The objective was simple: to freely express their demands while avoiding violent clashes at all cost.
At the Place de la Bastille, women of all ages, some with their children, sang the Marseillaise before marching toward la Place de la Republique. A group of men formed a security line in support. One woman explained her attendance to a reporter:
“We are no longer free, there’s no freedom left.”
Another woman described how police and security forces appeared to want to hit the #giletsjaunes. However, she emphasized that the #femmes #giletsjaunes were not afraid but hoped no violence would taint their peaceful protest.
At lunchtime, police officers arrived to prevent the women from making their way through Paris. Having chosen to form the frontline of the demonstration to dissuade police from the use of violence, a handful of women suffered the ill-effects of teargas. One woman picked up a batton lost in battle by a security service officer but decided to return it to him. She even asked if she had accidentally hurt him when handing it back.
Despite some tensions caused by a heavy police presence, the atmosphere throughout the march was one of strength and calm. The women sang songs, among them children and women with disabilities. Drivers trying to make their way through the protests, blew their horns in support.
Speaking to a reporter from Le Média, one woman wearing a yellow hard hat and holding a yellow balloon out of the window of her car explained her reason for supporting the #femmes #giletsjaunes.
(We would like) ”Macron to do whatever is necessary to give less money to those who don’t need it and give it back to the people with middle incomes who want to spend it themselves.”
The women’s claim for lower taxes is entirely justified as they make up more than half of the French workforce. Thus, they bear the brunt of the injustice.
Attending the women yellow vests march, one woman walking alongside her grandparents explained how the movement spans across age, religion, and social background.
The middle income earners have been struggling to make ends meet for quite some time now. Exempt from receiving any state aid, they carry a heavy tax burden while also having to spend on basics like rent, utilities, healthcare, food, and education. Even couples and families with two incomes are struggling to put a roof over their head.
In that sense, the fuel tax that sparked the creation of the #giletsjaunes movement was the straw that broke the camels back.
Not Just Yellow Vests – Liberty Caps Too
Apart from yellow vests, some women also wore a bonnet Phrygian, a liberty cap, associated with the French revolution and a well-known symbol of the French resistance. The cap originates in Roman times when it became associated with the liberation of slaves.
Back in 1798, it was French women who marched, holding up the Cahiers de doléances (notebook of grievances). For the first time, French people felt they had a voice. Historians today believe that the Cahiers played a significant role in the lead up to the French revolution.
This revolutionary spirit of French women has now re-manifested in the #femmes #giletsjaunes movement.
Monsieur le Président take note, the women yellow vests – #femmes #giletsjaunes – are here to stay and may spark another groundbreaking revolution.
The Yellow Vest Movement Is Spreading
Not just French people have worn #giletsjaunes. Anti-austerity and anti-inequality protestors have adopted the yellow vests as a symbol, demanding lower taxes for the working poor and a narrowing of the stark wealth gap.
Yellow vest protests have taken place across Europe and in Canada.
The women yellow vest have inspired a clearer and non-violent approach, thus adding conviction and strength. No doubt, the anti-austerity movement will take courage and find fresh resolve in the fight for equality.
Unlike their British counterparts, Irish politicians have – by and large – chosen consensus politics to deal with Brexit.
As we face into another week of certain turmoil at Westminster, the pro May-deal wing of the Tory party has been urging MPs to put the interests and greater good of the nation before personal ambition. In the wake of a rake of point-scoring and mud-slinging matches within both the Tory and Labour Parties, few expect Teresa May to achieve the results she’s been pushing for.
As for the DUP, well, Arlene Foster and co have chosen to ignore the voices of business leaders along with the population’s pro-remain result. Instead, the party remains firmly rooted in Unionism, continuing to condemn the backstop as the ultimate red flag. The party’s unique position of power – gifted by the Prime Minister by way of an unnecessary election – has allowed the DUP to play a greater, than appropriate, role in the Brexit negotiations.
No Sign of Consensus Politics in the UK
Throughout the history of politics, parties have often formed cross-party alliances to formulate an approach to major issues. Perhaps, if Labour and the Conservatives had agreed to deal with Brexit by means of consensus politics, the current mess could have been prevented. But consensus politics is hard to come by in Westminster. Although murmurings of cross-party initiatives in the House of Commons emerge rather frequently, no significant consensus grouping has come forth. On the contrary, both the Tory and Labour party are at loggerheads – hence the turmoil.
The Main Political Parties in Ireland have opted for Consensus Politics
Politicians in Ireland have taken an entirely different approach. The minority government lead by Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael party is propped up by a deal done with Fianna Fail. Historically, the two parties may not be politically very different, however, a coalition between them remains unthinkable.
After the election in 2016, Fine Gael was unable to form a government. After lengthy discussions, the party entered a confidence and supply arrangement with Fianna Fail, the main opposition party. Having agreed on major policy issues, the two parties undertook to collaborate especially in view of upcoming Brexit negotiations.
This confidence and supply arrangement was renewed late last year. In essence, Fianna Fail promised not to topple the government to strengthen Ireland’s stance in the Brexit negotiations.
Even Sinn Fein, a party politically a million miles apart from Leo Varadkar’s government, has sought to strengthen and encourage the government in the Brexit negotiations rather than drilling holes in its approach to it. The remaining representatives, a mix of independents and small parties, have also played a supportive rather than destructive role where Brexit issues were concerned.
Healing Divisions by Means of Census Politics
The divisions in Britain are stark and ubiquitous. This is a society in dire need of healing. But if the government and opposition continue squabbling to score points, it is hard to see how British society could leave its own fragmentation behind.
Manufacturing Consent – The Political Economy of The Mass Media by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky was first published in 1988 and remains one of the most significant books on the collaboration between politics and the media. Although today’s media landscape boasts a whole host of additional platforms, the principles remain the same. This is a Manufacturing Consent Summary.
Despite the commonly-held perception of journalistic independence, freedom of the press, and journalistic integrity, Herman and Chomsky shed light on the collaboration between the corporate media and governments. Stories are selected to manufacture consent, produce advertising revenue, drive political agendas, and enrich powerful media corporations.
30-Year Publication Anniversary
To mark the 30th anniversary of its publication, Aljazeera recently broadcast a documentary about this must-read book. To understand the basic concept and learn about the principles at work, take a look at this short Manufacturing Consent summary.
But the Aljazeera documentary doesn’t simply celebrate the brilliance of this book. Instead, its makers interviewed three renowned “non-mainstream” journalists to discuss its value, longevity, and premise.
One of them, Amira Haas, a journalist working in Gaza for the past 30 years, cast doubt on the public’s willingness to seek out information. Although the internet has made it possible for people in many countries to access facts, she believes that many people choose not to. In that sense, she considers Manufacturing Consent – although scathing – to deliver too optimistic a view.
During the documentary, Noam Chomsky himself stressed the new-found accessibility of information through the internet. For seekers of factual information, the internet has proven invaluable despite the emergence of fake news and ever-expanding media corporations.
From Manufacturing Consent to Manufacturing Dissent
Looking at today’s world politics and media, one would have to wonder whether today’s powers are manufacturing dissent instead. The rise of right-wing politics and the obvious polarisation between opposing factions suggests as much. Is today’s aim to divide and conquer, to drive a sharper wedge between the poor and the poor, so that cannot unite and rise up against greedy cash powers?
Are we to see more anti austerity protests around the globe now that the #yellowvests / #giletjaune protests in France have yielded some results? In many parts of the world, the fallout of the 2008 financial crisis has been shouldered by the working poor. Governments introduced austerity measures to bring countries back to prosperity. Meanwhile, the banks’ fortunes were quickly turned around through public finance bailouts without financial institutions feeling any significant pain.
In countries like the UK, Ireland, and France, this has led to significant financial hardship among ordinary people. Increased taxes, benefit cuts, and a lack of state spending on essential services have driven thousands of people into poverty. In the UK, foodbanks have never been busier, and, both in Ireland and the UK, homelessness continues to cost lives.
The recent #yellowvestprotests in Paris have provided insight into the frustration felt among ordinary people, not just in France but likewise in the UK, Ireland, the US, and beyond. So, are we to see more anti austerity protests?
What Are the #YellowVests Demanding?
In recent weeks, the anti austerity protestors took to the streets of Paris to voice their anger about a 20 percent hike on diesel. But their demands don’t stop there. People in France are seeking a redistribution of wealth, including raising the minimum wage, social security payments, and pensions. In the true spirit of liberté, égalité, fraternité, the protestors are deeply frustrated by the elitism of the establishment and President Macron himself.
After weeks of violent clashes, Emanuel Macron yesterday addressed the nation.
For opponents of austerity measures, Macron’s concessions will ease some frustrations. But are the Paris anti austerity protests going to mobilise people who share the same anger across the globe?
Rhetoric matters and so does the narrative in political and media circles. Hateful words incite and spread hatred, divisive words beget division, and abusive words create abuse. The power of your words cannot be overstated.
Especially if you’re in power or count among the social influencers. Polarising language polarises societies. So don’t call me a snowflake if I want you to use politically correct language. After all, we do not want to MARGINALISE anyone.
The power of your words can cast people aside and treat them with disdain.
In recent days, Saudi Arabia has been in the headlines because of its government’s suspected killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. This is a welcome development as the spotlight reaches further, highlighting the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Perhaps Kashoggi’s violent death will make Saudi Arabia’s Western allies rethink their support for its brutal role in the civil war.
Although the UN along with aid agencies working on the ground in Yemen have been drawing attention to the horrific plight of Yemeni civilians, the international community has been slow to react. Both the US and UK have continued trading with Saudi Arabia despite the countries brutal response to the uprising.
In April 2018, the UN Secretary-General made the following remark to a donor conference in Geneva:
“Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. As the conflict enters its fourth year, more than 22 million people – three-quarters of the population – need humanitarian aid and protection.”
Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres
Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen – The Statistics
The civilian population has been bearing the brunt of the bloody civil war. At this point, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen has escalated, leaving millions of people at risk of starvation and death.
This is the video that the UN released in March 2018:
22 million (75 per cent) are in need of humanitarian aid
60 per cent are lacking food
Less than half of all healthcare facilities are operating
56 per cent of people do not have regular access to medical help
Nearly three-quarters of the population lacks clean drinking water
Nearly three million women and children are malnourished
Food prices have increased by 98 per cent
These statistics were published in March 2018. Since then, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen has worsened considerably.
Yemen May Face Worst Famine in 100 years – UN Spokesperson warns
Irish journalist, Orla Guerin, who is based in Cairo, compiled a news report for the BBC. Returning to sites she visited two years ago, she says the humanitarian crisis in Yemen has got a lot worse.
In the course of the report, the BBC reporter also spoke to UN spokesperson, Lise Grande.
International Response to the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen
Civilians in Yemen have asked the international community to act, yet so far, this has, indeed, been an ignored humanitarian crisis. Many countries across the globe continue to export arms to Saudi Arabia. Imposing an arms embargo appears to be out of the question despite Saudi Arabia’s brutal response to the uprising.
In the wake of the death of Jamal Khashoggi, politicians across the globe have suggested imposing sanctions on Saudi Arabia. However, little political will seems to exist, and the Saudis have warned of rising oil prices should the international community impose such sanctions.
Donald Trump made it clear that he wouldn’t like to stop trading with Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia Appears to Admit to “Interrogation Gone Wrong”
We await the international community’s response to breaking news suggesting that Saudi Arabia is preparing to admit that the journalist died as a result of an “interrogation gone wrong”. (source CNN).
It remains to be seen whether the brutal death of Jamal Khashoggi will provoke an international response – one that the death and suffering of millions of Yemeni civilians failed to produce.
Like millions of others, I was delighted to follow the Thai cave rescue of the boys’ football team and coach. Obviously, people do care, but what about the 21 children who die every minute of every day according to Unicef stats? #ChildrenDeserveBetter. The child mortality stats worldwide are appaling.
Appalling Unicef Child Mortality Statistics
Unicef’s report on child mortality makes for grim reading. 29’000 children under five die each day, that’s 21 per minute. What’s worse, these children die from predominantly preventable causes like pneumonia, malaria, lack of oxygen during birth, and other treatable causes. 6 out of the 11 million children who die each year could be saved using simple, easily available means like antibiotics, vaccines, nutritional supplements, bed nets treated with insecticides, and improved breastfeeding and family healthcare facilities.
Two-thirds of these child deaths occur in just 10 countries. Sub-Saharan children are most at risk, while neonatal deaths are most common in South Asia. Unicef, in collaboration with other NGOs and the World Health Organisation, has targeted the following areas to lower the child mortality rates:
Health and Nutrition Interventions: Increase in vaccination rates, the supply of micronutrient supplements, providing insecticide-treated bed nets for the prevention of malaria, promoting breastfeeding
Health Access and Education: 80 per cent of children die at home, having never been seen by a medical professional. The provision of basic medical care, supplies, and education could reduce child mortality by as much as 40 per cent.
Clean Water and Sanitation: Water-borne diseases like cholera and Guinea worm remain a major killer. Unicef is working with charities and governments across the globe to provide clean water supplies and adequate sanitation.
Crisis Responses: Global children’s charities like Save the Children provide emergency aid in war zones and natural disaster areas to cut child mortality rates.
Deaths Among Migrant Children
The UN Migration Agency estimates the number of child deaths since 2014 to be 1’200, although many believe that the real number to be considerably higher, seeing as 12.5 per cent of migrants are aged below 18. Fleeing from war zones like Syria or Yemen, children face considerable risks on their way.
The Most Dangerous Countries for Children
An article published in the New York Times in December 2017 reveals the most dangerous countries for children:
Afghanistan: According to Unicef, the use of “indiscriminate improvised explosive devices” is seen as the major cause of child deaths in war-torn Afghanistan. Children are caught in the crossfire. During the first month of 2017, an estimated 700 children were killed.
Uganda: Troops fighting against the Lord’s Resistance Army have been accused of subjecting young girls to sexual exploitation and rape.
Central African Republic: Unicef has reported that 150’000 people were forced to flee their homes, with children becoming victims of abduction or rape. Some children are also forcefully recruited by armed groups.
Congo: An estimated 850’000 children have been forced from their homes, Unicef reports.
Nigeria and Cameron: 135 children were used as suicide bombers by Boko Haram.
Iraq: According to the New York Times, children are being used as human shields by ISIS.
Syria: Unicef has reported that 2017 was the deadliest year for children in Syria. Over 900 lost their lives, while survivors witness horrendous violence and suffer unspeakable trauma.
Rohingya Kids: 60 per cent of Rohingya refugees are believed to be children, many of them unaccompanied. Witnesses describe how babies were snatched from mothers and many children forced to flee on their own to escape violence.
South Sudan: According to Unicef, 19’000 children were recruited as child soldiers, with 2’300 losing their lives.
Somalia: Children are forced to join armed groups.
Yemen: Unicef figures reveal that an estimated 5’000 children were killed or injured, while 11 million are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. Desperate families often choose to sell children into marriage or to serve as child soldiers.
Ukraine: After four years of intense conflict, 220’000 children are at risk from explosives and mines.
Middle East: According to Aljazeera, over 350 children are in Israeli prisons, where many believe they suffer maltreatment. This year, Israeli forces have already arrested 353 while placing more than 100 under house arrest.
Children At Risk All Across the Globe
Apart from the stark realities of child mortality, children face risks in all societies across the globe. Child abuse, violence against children, child marriage, family separation, child abduction, and child poverty are only some of the dangers kids are exposed to. Every child has the right to grow up in safety and it is our responsibility to uphold the rights of children around the world.