Just got back from some meetings concerning the threatened cuts to local services over here. The mood amongst the workers here is increasingly angry, angry that the banks and fat cats got us into this mess, angry that the government magically found money to bail out the fat cats and angry that now working people who didn’t get us into this mess are taking the hit for this mess. With an election thrown into the mix I expect the next couple of months running up to the election to start getting rather heated, and regardless of which Party forms the next UK Government I can only see working class discontent increasing. At the moment pretty much every workplace here is gearing up for mass strike action; its not a question of if anymore but a question of when.
I imagine Bermuda is also going to face increasing discontent too, with continuing fallout from the Budget and now the takeover of the Bank of Butterfield by CIBC making for a potent mix of Bermudian nationalism and anger from both business and workers.
So, how do we start cleaning up this mess? That’s the all important question here and I don’t claim to have the answers. What I would suggest however are the following measures:
1) Capping of ALL Government salaries, including both civil servants and Ministers, at $100k (and no double Ministry salaries).
2) Immediate suspension of all Government consultants, including the new ones such as the $800k consultancy fee for reforming the municipalities.
3a) Reduction of the payroll tax for all workers earning under $80k to 5%.
3b) Reduction of the payroll tax for all workers earning between $80-100k to 10%.
3c) Increase the payroll tax by 0.1% per every $1000 above $100k (so 1% per $10k; 5% per $50k, etc.).
4) 50% increase of all sin taxes (tobacco, alcohol, regular gasoline*). [*Exemptions on gasoline increases for all car-owners with a child under the age of ten or people with physical mobility disabilities; no increases to diesel.]
5) Introduce an inheritance tax – I do not believe one exists at the moment, but if there is one increase it – where there is no tax on inheritance below $100k, but a 0.1% tax per $1000 above $100k.
6) Calculate and enforce a living/minimum wage for Bermuda – I would suggest $17.50 per hour as a good starting figure, but it shouldn’t be hard to calculate for our staticians.
7) Reduce the cost of foriegn currency transactions by 33% of its level in 2009.
The money saved and generated through the above to be ring-fenced and used to finance free public transportation, free FutureCare for all citizens over the age of 65 and the creation of an unemployment fund able to provide legitimately unemployed with a minimum of $375 per week.
Furthermore, steps should be initiated to democratise the formation of all government budgets on a departmental basis. All government workers should be involved in full participation in budget creation, with total budget approval to be the call of a workers council composed of delegates from every Government section; increases in efficiency to be translated into reduced working hours but not wage reductions.
I’m sure there are plenty other good ideas, and I certainly haven’t sat down and carefully calculated whether the money saved and generated through the above measures will be sufficient, but I certainly think they would be better than the official proposals.