Monday, April 19, 2010

Maybe The American Revolution Wasn't Such a Good Idea

Thought I would pass this along, as it bears repeating, verbatim:

From the Sacramento Bee, April 15th

Viewpoints: Europe tax model delivers much more
Buzz up!
By Steven Hill
Special to The Bee
Published: Thursday, Apr. 15, 2010 - 12:00 am | Page 17A

Most Americans seem to regard April 15 – the day income tax returns are due to the Internal Revenue Service – as a recurring tragedy akin to a biblical plague. Particularly this year, with U.S. government deficits soaring, everyone from the tea baggers to Fox News and Senate Republicans are sounding the alarm about a return to "big government."

Ex-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani even stated recently that President Barack Obama was moving us toward – gasp – European socialism.

Europe frequently plays the punching bag role during these moments because there is a perception that the poor Europeans are overtaxed serfs. But a closer look reveals that this is a myth that prevents Americans from understanding the vast shortcomings of our own system.

A few years ago, an American acquaintance of mine who lives in Sweden told me that, quite by chance, he and his Swedish wife were in New York City and ended up sharing a limousine to the theater district with a southern senator and his wife. This senator, a conservative, anti-tax Democrat, asked my acquaintance about Sweden and swaggeringly commented about "all those taxes the Swedes pay."

To which this American replied, "The problem with Americans and their taxes is that we get nothing for them." He then told the senator about the comprehensive services and benefits that Swedes receive.

"If Americans knew what Swedes receive for their taxes, we would probably riot," he told the senator. The rest of the ride to the theater district was unsurprisingly quiet.

The fact is, in return for their taxes, Europeans are receiving a generous support system for families and individuals for which Americans must pay exorbitantly, out-of-pocket, if we are to receive it at all. That includes quality health care for every single person, the average cost of which is about half of what Americans pay, even as various studies show that Europeans achieve healthier results.

That's not all. In return for their taxes, Europeans also receive affordable child care, a decent retirement pension, free or inexpensive university education, job retraining, paid sick leave, paid parental leave, ample vacations, affordable housing, senior care, efficient mass transportation and more.

To get the same level of benefits as Europeans, most Americans fork out a ton of money in out-of-pocket payments, in addition to taxes.

While 47 million Americans don't have any health insurance, many who do are paying escalating premiums and deductibles. Indeed, Anthem Blue Cross announced that its premiums will increase by up to 40 percent.

But all Europeans receive health care in return for a modest amount deducted from their paychecks.

Friends have told me they are saving nearly $100,000 for their children's college education, and most young Americans graduate with tens of thousands of dollars in debt. But European children attend for free, or nearly so (depending on the country).

Child care in the United States costs more than $12,000 annually for a family with two children. In Europe it costs about one-sixth that amount – and the quality is far superior.

Millions of Americans are stuffing as much as possible into their IRAs and 401(k)s because Social Security provides only about half the retirement income needed. The more generous European retirement system provides 75 percent to 85 percent of retirement income, depending on the country. Either way, you pay.

Americans' private spending on old-age care is nearly three times higher per capita than in Europe because Americans must self-finance a significant share of their own senior care. Americans also tend to pay more in local and state taxes, as well as property taxes. Americans also pay hidden taxes, such as $300 billion annually in federal tax breaks to businesses that provide health benefits to their employees.

When you sum up the total balance sheet, it turns out we Americans pay out just as much as Europeans – but receive a lot less for our money.

Unfortunately, these sorts of complexities are not calculated into simplistic analyses like Forbes' annual Tax Misery Index, a "study" that shows European nations as the most miserable and the low-tax United States as happy as a clam – right next to Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

In this economically competitive age, these kinds of services increasingly are necessary to ensure healthy, happy and productive families and workers. Europeans have these supports, but most Americans do not – unless you pay a ton out-of-pocket.

Or unless you are a member of Congress, which of course provides European-level support for members and their families.

That's something to keep in mind on April 15. Happy Tax Day.

Read more:


Mr. Charleston said...

Preaching to the chior here JJ. Amen.

Doug said...

If European countries can do all of that with their own share of corrupt politicians and back-dealing capitalists, then their system must be inherently better, n'est-ce pas?

jadedj said...

Mr. C---Aren't we all. I have no illusions that I am going to enlighten, or change the other bunch. I've lived long enough to figure that one out. But when I read something such as this article, I just want to shout it's so damned obvious that even morans (sic) ought to be able to comprehend it.

Doug---Crooks with compassion? As George Carlin was wont to say, our crooks (U.S.)(corporations/government), don't give a fuck about you.

mo.stoneskin said...

I tend to feel like an overtaxed serf most of the time, not feeling like I get value for my taxes, and I'm generally fed up of our big government and "European socialism" but, at the end of the day I do love the NHS.

Punch said...

Thanks for the post. It is refreshing to read a rational view of the world. So much is just hate and rabel rousin'.

The Plashing Vole said...

You're absolutely right. The closer a European country is to the US model (e.g. Britain and Ireland), the worse it is, and these countries are still pretty good.

Heaven on earth, for me, is Scandinavia. Did you know that Norway didn't privatise its oil industry, but has steadily put away most of the money to spend on public services once the wells have run dry?

The difference is that most Europeans see their governments as collectively providing services, whereas Americans see government as an oppressive force, despite having had a revolution and the most democratic system around - elections at all levels etc.

Still, Canada looks pretty good, eh?

the walking man said...

When our system is broken down enough (again) to see food riots (again) in this country maybe then when the system is rebuilt for the fourth or fifth time the "capitalists" will get it right.

intelliwench said...

I don't understand why those folks are so against socialism -- wasn't that Jesus fella they so admire a pretty big socialist, back before socialism was cool?

Kulkuri said...

We have a form of Socialism in this country. It's Corporate Socialism, when times are good they keep the profits and when times are bad the government bails them out. That's after having handed them billions(or is it up to trillions) in tax breaks and subsidies just so they'll do business here or giving them money to do business overseas(like millions to McDonalds to open shops in other countries, or to the Doughboy to sell his "Popping Fresh" shit overseas to name a couple).

That's the reason I've hated paying taxes, there's too little return for me and my tax money is going to the wrong places, those that don't need it, the Uber-Rich and the Corporations. That's also the reason I haven't worked much in the last 10-12yrs. Screwed myself as now my SS check is smaller, but at least I didn't subsidize the fucking rich bastards.

Chimp said...

Americans in most case have no idea what “socialized” means. What the Europeans do with the people’s tax money is what we should be getting. Instead, for our tax money, we get two major wars, a bunch of small wars, weapons of mass destruction, fat healthy and well-cared for congressmen and other government employees, government surveillance equipment, major tax breaks for the wealthiest individuals and largest corporations, body scanners and the bail-out of big business when they fail on purpose.

Poor socialized Europeans get peace of mind, health, one-month vacations, great retirement pay, etc…

I feel so sorry for the Europeans.

jadedj said...

mo.---Envy is my name.

Punch---Glad it eases your pain a bit, bro.

Plashing---Speaking of oppressive forces...the U.S. armament budget is another waste of funds that could be used for social services, but God Almighty we have to be the world policemen...besides, we love killing, and carrying expensive big sticks.

I should have gone to Canada in the sixties instead of being the good little John Wayne wannabe.

walking man---As long as there is a profit to be made.

intell---What the deuce do you mean introducing logic and truth into the discussion?

jadedj said...

Kulkuri---All of which of course valids this article, methinks.

Chimp---Yeah but we have some neat smart bombs and nuclear weapons, you know.

Chimp said...

Yeah, but I heard those smart bombs are pretty dumb, unlless they meant to kill the wedding party????