US tax code evidence of narrow thinking
The United States just passed a tax code and it “trumps” the tax impositions that sparked the 18th-century French revolution.
The 2016 wave of populism that created this presidency has handed the greatest gift in American history to the fewer than 1 per cent, many of whom will see a huge increase in their savings, while a couple of trillion dollars of resultant debt will ride on the backs of future generations of the not so wealthy and poor Americans.
While we ponder over the obvious effects that will ripple to Bermuda’s shores, it comes at the same time as we have become lodged in a quandary where the country and its legislature have asserted its position on the issue of same-sex marriage outside of the legal framework of its three larger trade groups — Britain, America and Canada.
Not to suggest that Bermuda should be bound by the Americas or Britain, but that it has sparked discussions of independence in diverse circles adds to the drama of the times.
Assuming America will not break down into civil anarchy or war over the tax break for the rich, a few years down the road Bermuda will be fighting harder to retain its value as an offshore financial haven. No one is expecting taxes to cause a complete meltdown, but at a time when we are looking for growth, any sign of potential shrinkage is, at the very least, foreboding.
The song You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me Lucille comes to mind, as certain veiled threats are hurled across the Atlantic inviting us to leave Britain over the same-same marriage overturn. Understandably, Britain is not looking to maintain liabilities as it ponders its own cost of leaving the European Union. Could this dance over same-sex marriage be used as a disguise to hide its own budget-trimming exercise, which would seek to transform Bermuda into a paying customer rather than overseas territory?
The days of the Empire are long gone, the days of abject plunder are over, the islands are no longer a military outpost, or a commodity, and have become more of a responsibility from which one suspects Britain and other European powers would rather divest.
The recent responses to the hurricanes are big indicators of the connection, commitment and attitudes between the little islands and their larger counterparts, inclusive of the United States.
I have long advocated that a new format of internationalism is needed, which will elevate the citizenry of smaller territories, bringing them nearer to par with persons of larger jurisdictions. It will also help to guide a new format for relationships between larger and smaller nations to accommodate seamless and borderless educational opportunities for the young, with easier, cross-border work and business opportunities.
This, in part, is what the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement was intending. The idea of globalism through hemispheric co-operation needs to be the message on the lips of all the leaders of smaller nations, not isolationism or simple nationalist rhetoric, which is baseless for our times.
This idea of regionalism should not be an imposition of the larger nations, but rather a demand from the smaller nations in the name of human rights and equality.
The new tax code along with the dismissiveness towards Nafta by the present US administration is a narrow focus — not global or, even, regional — implying “to each its own”, “you better take care of yourself because I am only concerned about me” approach to the world.
As it stands, difficult times ahead threaten the smaller islands and Bermuda, who are being ignored by the larger nations and may find it more difficult to achieve a sustainable place in the global market.
China, on the other hand, is building international networks, positioning themselves as the leader of the new international order. Ultimately, we may all find our keep on the “Silk Road”.
Independence, flags, national songs and marching bands with brightly coloured uniforms and national pride, while important, are not a panacea. Access to global markets, an educated public, open and transparent government, with a culture of anti-corruption, with a free vibrant press and an independent judiciary are more so the essentials for survival.
We as a country will need to value those properties because investment and prosperity are dependent on them.
In the meantime, Bermuda owes no apology for what it as a country and jurisdiction have every right to decide.
It may occur to us one day that while religion is a choice, the key principle is, we should have no choice but to respect the right to belief or disbelief. Thomas Jefferson got it right when they finally adopted the notion “In God, we trust” but accepted the nation had no jurisdiction to define what that belief in God meant.
Hence the nation was founded on the principle of freedom and as we mature we will also learn how to construct the legislative tools that facilitate freedom for all.
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