21 September 2022

Well it has been a slow couple of weeks. Julie’s parents left for the US on Monday and now we get ready for our next round of visitors as my older sister and her husband come for a week. We are really keeping our fingers crossed that the weather forecast changes. I have had to message my sister a couple of different times reminder her to bring rain coats and umbrellas! It looks like it is going to start raining the day she arrives in Switzerland and not stop until she goes home. I guess there is some good with that. Just like the rest of Europe we REALLY need the water to bring the lakes back up to speed.

Summer is really over. You can see a lot of fresh snow on the mountains from our balcony. The temperatures down low are dropping into the low 50’s mid 40’s at night. So this week I also put away the air conditioner for the year. I laughed last year when Julie said that is what she wanted for her Anniversary. I laughed because we did not use it once last year. We almost never turned it on during the day, but since June that thing has run every night. I have to admit I enjoyed it as well this summer. It was much nicer sleeping in a chilled room. There is one other benefit to putting the air conditioner to sleep for the winter. Since the output hose is not in a window I do not have to worry about spiders coming in. Every night I have to go through the bedroom looking for those multi-legged creatures, or Julie will find one and then the neighbors think I am killing my wife.

We are still fighting the system in regards to telecommunications. The only thing I can say is these companies SUCK world wide so why should Switzerland be any different. We are trying to switch companies from UPC to Sunrise. Now the weird part is they are the SAME company. About two years ago Sunrise bought UPC. We have been pretty happy, but Sunrise was offering some good deals to switch over; so we finally decided to do it. Now I had already tried this once, but since Julie is the main person on the account, they would not let me make the switch. We had to wait until SHE could spend a day on the phone. :). It went about like I thought it would, but she finally got everything done. Monday was supposed to be the change over. I tried putting my new SIM card in the phone, but it would not work. So I had to call and get help. On a side note: Sunrise does it make it easier than UPC for those of us that are language challenged. I only had to wait 45 minutes to get an English speaker vs the HOURS I have had to wait with UPC.

It turned out that none of the transfers had taken place. We started with the internet connection. We wound up with no internet or cable for about 9 hours that day, but those two finally did come back. The cell phones nothing. So on Tuesday I called first thing. It turned out that even though Julie verified who she was by facial recognition, and sending a copy of her passport AND Swiss ID they still required a piece of paper. Of course no one bothered to tell us this. We had to visit a Sunrise store, and Julie had to offer up all her documents again, and then sign a piece of paper that we authorized the SAME BLASTED COMPANY to simply change what we can determine is absolutely NOTHING. Our bills have been coming from Sunrise for over a year now; so we cannot figure out what that piece of paper actually did. Now we have to wait another week for the cell phones to be able to switch, but at least we will have 5G connections when that happens.

Since there has not been a lot going on, I thought I would keep you up on Swiss politics, because it is referendum week AGAIN. This is the third round of referendum voting this year. I think there is one more, but I am not sure about that. This round is particularly confusing to those of us not expert in the Swiss manner of doing things. There are four questions up for vote, but in reality only three. Two of the questions are tied to each other and BOTH of them have to pass or neither become law. The tied together questions all pertain to the Swiss pension (Social Security). There is another question regarding tax withholding (this one I will really need a tax accountant to explain, but I will do my best). The final question is one that seems to come up at least once per year if nor more frequent. It is another Factory Farming Initiative.

PENSION System votes

There are two questions here, but they are tied together. If one fails both fail. The first question: Should the Value Added Tax (VAT) be raised from 7.7 to 8.1 percent? If passed this will add 12.4 billion CHF to the pension fund in the next 10 years. The second question: Should the retirement age for women be raised to 65 to make it equal to men? Showing how patriarchal Switzerland has been, women have had a lower retirement age ever since the pension system was put in place.

Just as in the REST OF THE WORLD. The Swiss Pension plan is a giant legal Ponzi scheme. It requires current workers to help pay for those already retired. Just as in the rest of the world, the system is being taxed as baby boomers continue to retire and there are fewer workers to replace them. In the US, we used to talk about a “lock box” on social security. That lock box is the bank accounts and the funds in that account continue to dwindle every year. Switzerland has the same issue, and these two things are proposed to extend how long the system stays solvent.

The opponents to these proposals have good arguments as well. The first argument is that the system is solvent now. Why raise taxes before it is needed? The other argument says that women in Switzerland already get the short end of the stick. Passing this just makes it worse as women will lose 26,000 CHF on average and they already get 33% less in pension than men do.

Witholding Tax

This is the one I really do not understand, but from reading about the proposal I think it is just another example of people trying to get out of paying their fair share of taxes. Right now there is temporary tax that is put in place on investments, life insurance, and gambling winnings. This tax is also charged to entrepreneurs and most importantly the Crypto Bros. Once the final taxes are filed. Any over payment is refunded to the tax payer. This usually amounts to a pretty significant sum because the maximum tax rate for individuals is 11.5%!!! In most cases the total tax rate is still only about 25%. In Switzerland, you only get one tax bill. It comes from the local government, but it includes local, canton, and federal taxes. The referendum question is to stop this temporary tax and just rely on the end of year tax filing.

Opponents say that cutting out this temporary tax will ensure that people will not pay their fair share. They argue that Switzerland does not have regulatory system in place to ensure that everyone in this situation is reporting fully. The current system is more likely to ensure that everyone reports fully because they will get a lot of money back at the end of the year.

Proponents of getting rid of the tax say that this tax is hurting Swiss businesses, and has a bad impact on the overall economy. The proponents claim that the state is actually losing revenue from many businesses, because they are paying the dividends to workers outside of Switzerland therefore cutting the business taxes by reducing profits.

Honestly I really need to have the accountant in the family look at this one. It just doesn’t make any sense to me. On the surface I agree with the Opponents, but it is probably a good thing I cannot vote here, because I honestly do not understand it enough to be able to make a decision. Of course, that probably also holds true for the majority of people that CAN vote. 🙂

Factory farming

This is at least the 2nd time a factory farming referendum has come to a vote. This bill will include “THE PROTECTION OF THE DIGNITY OF FARM ANIMALS SUCH AS CATTLE, CHICKENS OR PIGS IN THE CONSTITUTION” and then ban factory farming. Factory farming is identified as NOT meeting the minimum standards in regards to size of pens and capacity in regards to the number of animals. The kicker to this bill is that it also impacts all animal products imported.

Opponents of this question say that animals world wide are receiving better treatment each and every year, and that especially here in Switzerland the care for animals is some of the best in the world. This will put a huge burden on the already struggling farmers here in Switzerland. Not to mention the fact that if this passes all imports will immediately cease unless the importer has the documentation in place to show the animal care meets Switzerland’s standards. People talk about inflation. If this passes the cost of food will SKYROCKET here. Switzerland relies heavily on imports. They do not produce enough to feed themselves.

Proponents of this bill simply come back to the fact that all animals should be given proper care, enough exercise, and they should be kept in smaller groups and humanely killed. Honestly, who can argue with that?

I do not know if any of these will pass. Just like everyone else, I find out Sunday evening.

In one final and stunning move, the Swiss Government gave the proverbial finger to the left wing members in the country. About a year ago, a referendum passed to allow the government to buy a new fleet of fighter jets. The decision came down to the F-35. Since this is a US company, immediately the protests started, and the opponents vowed to come with another referendum to STOP the purchase. Well the opponents got enough signatures to force another vote. This barely passed the last time, and the government was afraid the purchase would fall through. So they sped up the contract signing, and signed the contract last week, before the referendum could be certified. So in another year or two, the F-35’s will be flying over the Alps.

Talk to you next week!

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