Tag Archives: freedom

God Bless America

Stars and Stripes flags flutter proudly, high above perfectly manicured lawns.

A few firecrackers spit, as the barbecues sizzle.

White picket fences gleam in the summer sun.

It’s the 4th July in Connecticut, an affluent state just north of New York, and Americans are revelling in their Independence Day holiday weekend.

We enjoy our own BBQ and generous celebration, thanks to good friends Michael and Amanda Warren. Originally from the north of England, but now assimilated Americans after living here for almost 25 years, and bringing up their 3 children in the land of the free.

Later, we watch the “Macy’s 4th July music and fireworks concert” live on TV. A dazzling pyrotechnic display dances over the Hudson River, as a succession of musicians laud their mighty country.

Afterwards, we watch The American Sniper on TV. Based on the real life of Chris Kyle, Bradley Cooper plays the fiercely patriotic Navy Seal, who joins up after watching 9/11 and knowing that being a rodeo cowboy does not give him what he craves.

In 4 tours of Iraq, he kills more than 150 “insurgents” in their own country and becomes known as the legend.  A huge bounty is put on his head by the Iraqis.

Back home between tours of duty, he struggles to come to terms with leading a normal life with his wife and young children, when he could be in the war zone protecting his comrades and everyone in his home country.

Barack Obama is nearing the end of his second term of office. The Democrats’ natural instinct is to recoil from fighting wars overseas, after the disastrous Iraqi conflict undertaken by the Bush Republican administration.

But the new ISIS threat increases by the day.

The United States of America is at a crossroads. Does it continue to be the world’s policeman and, like Bradley Cooper, remain proud to fight on foreign soil for freedom at home, behind the white picket fences?

Or is that exactly why the developed world is terrorised today by an organisation that makes Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda look like boy scouts?

How will USA and the world look next 4th July, I wonder…….

 

Pension Freedom Day – and the politics of choice

Today is Pension Freedom Day. Hooray.

For decades the options for those with Defined Contribution personal pension schemes (compared with those lucky people with Defined Benefit aka Final Salary schemes) has been limited.

You could cash in your pension pot, after a lifetime of working, and buy an annuity for the rest of your natural days. You would then have a secure, fixed income. That income would be less if you wanted it to increase each year in line with inflation, or if you wanted your surviving spouse to receive a continuing proportion, for example.

There are other nuances but essentially the downsides of an annuity are that the insurance company benefits if you snuff it before the actuarial tables say you will, and the taxation implications were always punitive. Not attractive, as I wrote in an earlier article.

But from today, you have much greater choice and flexibility over your pension fund (after reaching 55).

So I give a rousing three cheers to George Osborne and this Conservative government. And I’m not ashamed to shout it from the rafters.

It’s my money. I’ve worked damned hard – well, ok, those 6 years in Bermuda weren’t all that demanding – all my working life, and I deserve the right to make my own choices about what to do with it.

Retire Sign Shows Finish Work And Message Stock Photo

In broader terms, this is a metaphor for capitalism v socialism. The political right want to decrease taxation – personal, to maximise the disposable income in your pocket each month, so that you can decide where best to spend it; corporate, to encourage businesses to invest in people and physical assets. And yes, to make a profit, which should NOT be a dirty word.

The political left believe in increasing taxation to maximise taxes because they want to spend more on public services. Because they know better than us what we need. The Nanny State.

I know which philosophy I prefer. Capitalism – with a social conscience, of course. Socialism doesn’t work, in economic terms. It scares away the wealth creators, discourages inward investment and inevitably causes a downward economic spiral.

I know how I’m voting on May 7th. But if Messrs Miliband and Balls win – with or without the help of a rainbow coalition – at least I’ll be able to buy a car with my meagre pension pot, and drive off to another country. Before they change the rules again.