No taxation without consternation?
The amicable woman behind the desk swiped my credit card and with my $75 copay I received another view of the great fallacy of American capitalist propaganda.
In Belgium’s universal healthcare system I paid 65 euros for a similar service, then two weeks later had 63 euros deposited back into my account by my health insurance, under which a full year cost less than half of what I pay per month now. But I don’t want to talk about how America pays more money for less care than anyone else. That’s been done.
No, instead of talking about the Republican’s last disgrace, let’s talk about their next one: taxes.
After all, that is Right’s attack line. “Sure healthcare’s affordable there, but you paid so much more in taxes.” I thought about that as I took one of the open chairs, upholstered as usual in an unfortunate camel color. Yes, I did pay higher taxes in Belgium, but I’m going to resist the desire to list the benefits I gained from them. Again, already well done elsewhere.
Because there’s something else going on, and sadly, it makes perfect sense. Vendors charge as much as consumers are willing to pay, which depends on what’s in their bank accounts. In the US we get a higher percentage of our paychecks into our accounts, and the prices go up. Then the bill comes due for all the services we want but haven’t paid for.
Most ironic analogy? It’s like we’re paying taxes before making our deductions. That is, we pay our cost of living from our gross income, instead of our net. Then we pay for a (semi)functional system after the fact and wind up broke.
I just spent a few tortured minutes comparing the cost of living in my hometown to various beautiful European and Canadian cities, then did the same for New York since people like to talk about that place. I got data like this:
Consumer prices in Vancouver are 19.82% lower than in Oakland, 29.91% lower than NY
Rent prices in Paris are 46.60% lower than in Oakland, 57.33% lower than NY
Restaurant prices in Madrid are 29.99% lower than in Oakland, 38.92% lower than NY
Groceries prices in London are 34.07% lower than in Oakland, 39.77% lower than NY
Local Purchasing Power in Berlin is 21.40% higher than in Oakland, 11.55% higher than NY
Try it for yourself. The Bay Area is particularly expensive and Cost of Living is a complicated thing, but it seems clear to me that we in the US have been bamboozled into believing that not paying taxes saves us money, when it doesn’t. Especially not if we then want healthcare, education, roads, etc (not to mention the entertainment of bombing everywhere and giving festively massive tax cuts to extremely profitable oil companies). And paying taxes? We call it “government stealing my money!” Europeans call it “investing in our society.”
It’s all a bit dire, and I was feeling that squirmy feeling inside, the worm of fear for (and of) my country. Good timing for the next nice lady in scrubs to come tell me my test came back negative. Which is a positive. Everything’s all mixed up these days, but I’ll give thanks for what we have and work for what we don’t. And the sun is still shining. Happy tax season, everyone!