Columns

Tax axe falls again

Barbara GLOUDON

Friday, April 25, 2014    

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HERE we go one more time. The people are not happy. They are running up and down to express disaffection with taxes and hard times. It's not so long ago that the minister of finance was optimistic enough to pledge "No new taxes" only to find that water more than flour and we have to go back to basics to stem the water tide threatening the flour. We have to beat the bushes again to meet our obligations which has made some people very vex indeed.

The thorn in the flesh is the new tax on withdrawals — of even a little bit that we take out of the bank. The people don't like it at all. Up to last week or so things appeared fairly calm, but now the dark clouds have begun gathering in that quick way which we can go from calm to storm, and all because of the tax axe.

The tension has been rising quite steadily and people are heard mumbling in town and country alike. Some say, on paper, it's not so bad. Others say, "Don't let me catch you saying such things". There is no point trying to reason it out, because the pressure is building up so quickly. Philosophy is no comfort say the people. They don't want to know if America pays taxes. They don't want to know that if you default on taxes in America, you can miss plenty Christmases or other nice-time seasons languishing in jail until you pay up. They are not afraid of the tax axe up there; it is a fact of life and there is nothing they can do about it.

Meanwhile, we are not interested in arguments about balancing the national books or the grim truth that the IMF is not interested in tears. So, here we go again. Antagonism is building against the new tax measures. People have begun making jokes about a serious matter, which is one sign that there could be some rocky times ahead. It is said that we "tek bad sinting mek laugh", but the Government should know by now not to be taken in when we start telling jokes. Some people with old memories will recall the 80s, when Mr Seaga, then minster of finance, brought in the back tax axe to bring in line those who felt that taxes were not to be paid. People took it for a joke; but in the long run, there was no laughing. In times past, announcement of unwanted taxes resulted in blockades being rolled out, demonstrations and other ugly things happened. Mercifully, up to now, we've seen none of that. This is a new age, we burn digital tyres now.

As the holiday weekend came to a close, there were reports of increased activity online as numbers of "concerned citizens" have taken to Facebook and Twitter to show their disapproval of the withdrawal tax. Quite unknown citizens groups posted their flood of protests. The complainers are faceless, disembodied even, shouting from cyberspace. But the fact that they are "in the ether", doesn't mean that the disaffection is going to be any less. No taking to the streets, just bombardment via keyboard. One report spoke of a whole organisation of angry taxpayers, or at least we assume that they will be paying. There were calls for the Cabinet to be reshuffled now; replacing Dr Phillips with an unnamed guardian angel who will let the annoying tax disappear. But it doesn't work that way, does it? It will be interesting to watch and wonder where it is going to lead.

Where is the money to come from? It is not only the IMF which is interested in how we trim the budget. People are not even ready to argue the issue. They don't like taxes, and they don't care for axes. So, what now? Nobody I know has any empathy for times past when you would hear talk of how people bore hardships bravely. We are not interested, but the stories are still there. I have one to tell you. It is about a family in a rural parish. There were nine children in all, six boys and three girls. Dad missing, mother left to hold the family together. She scraped and scrimped, recycling and selling cast-off clothing which she made look like new again. Six pairs of feet and three pairs of shoes between them. The boys took turns deciding who would go to school in shoes on some days, while others waited their turn. You couldn't say that they were all barefoot, could you? There was no one in the family too young to work for a living, but they were never excused from school. They didn't have textbooks, but they had good friends who would let them copy out the lessons for homework. They worked hard. They didn't beg. They didn't 'tief'. The happy ending to this story is that they all succeeded, and today are well-off, to say the least.

Once upon a time, such a story would be told and retold. Now, when it is fashionable to live beyond means, to trus' the shoes, even if you can't pay back, that's quite different from yesterday. So, if the tax axe comes down, nobody is going to listen to you about patriotism and pride in country. We just have to wait and follow the story... online.

A PIECE OF ADVICE TO PARENTS: Make sure that when you invest your 'likkle' savings in sending your offspring to be trained in one of the new exciting occupations, that he or she is really equipped for the task. The new trend is digital media arts. Sounds very good. There are youngsters ready to get carried away with promises of fame and fortune. You can punch this and click that, but not everyone has the artistic imagination or focused patience which is vital to reap success. Parents, ask questions. Make sure your child and you can pick sense out of nonsense.

ANOTHER GET REAL SITUATION: When will the Mount Diablo story come to a proper conclusion? It is tantalising to see the roadways tracked out along hillsides while you sit in traffic waiting for the road to clear. Hoping for the trucks not to break down or the buses to run off the road, while all dreams of getting to the north coast in time to make a little money, go flat and stale. Isn't it about time that the plans for putting Diablo to rest get moving to the finish line. Promises have been made, but we can't live on promises alone. Please, let's get it over with and be done. We need the road.

gloudonb@yahoo.com

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