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Taxes and Americans

Americans and their weird, weird attitude to taxes has always been completely baffling to me and my social democratic tax-friendly mind. It makes absolutely no sense to me that you would, for example, choose to finance your health care through insurance companies; and I consider it deeply elitist and evil to send the rich kids to private school and let the poor fend for themselves with a suboptimal education. And don't get me started on the fees for universities.

But after a week and a bit in California, I think I have acquired a deeper insight into the American mind and soul.

It is not evil dissolved in the drinking water. In fact, Americans show themselves perfectly able to understand the principles at the heart of a tax-based big government economy. When driving.

The enormous highways and freeways and whathaveyous would never function if drivers were not willing to sacrifice their own immediate interest for another's (in the knowledge that the other would adhere to the social contract and do the same for them in their turn) -- which is exactly what a social democratic tax system is. In fact, I was surprised and very impressed by how socialist Americans were in their driving.

But. I have found out how taxes became a dirty word. After just about a week I was so fed up with them, in fact, that I was almost ready to embrace Ayn Rand's insanity myself.

It is all about the VAT: they don't include it in the prices. And, adding insult to injury, it varies from county to county. In fact, to add idiocy to the insult and injury, this latter fact is often presented as one of the reasons why the tax should not be included in the prices. (Which makes no sense at all! After all, the people selling the coffee know (or should know) the tax in the county they are in, but all the people buying the coffee might not! Seriously: who thought this up?)

At any rate, the result is that the list of prices for, say, a cup of coffee or delicious blueberry pancakes will look sane and friendly. §2.50, say. But the true price will be something thoroughly annoying, like §2.73, leaving your pocket full of stupid, jingly, useless tiny coins.

The way taxes are presented in the US therefore make them a constant source of small scale annoyance (say, like a drop of water drip-drip-dripping on your forehead) which in the end amounts to an eternally visible, aggravating and painful complication of life. You would hate them, too.

It's as if you would get your gross salary paid out, just so you could look at it before the tax man showed up to take it away. It presents taxes as an evil addition to the economy, rather than a natural and almost invisible part of it (which is the impression the Norwegian tax system has created in me, at least).
Are, Tor, Knut, Finn Arne, Ulf, Hanna Maja likes this


Anders K.,  09.08.12 17:44

It's as if you would get your gross salary paid out, just so you could look at it before the tax man showed up to take it away.

Up until not long ago, that was actually the case in the States. (I tried to find out exactly when, but the law allowing salary tax deduction is more of a math problem than a text, and therefore cannot be read.) During the 1930s and 1940s, the US government made a ridiculous amount of infomercials telling people not to go to casinos or pubs on payday, but instead set their cash aside for tax day. Conveniently placed a week or two later. So the next logical question is of course: Was the private prison industry behind this, or what?
Camilla, Arne likes this
Camilla,  09.08.12 20:39

explains everything.
Travel reports
Last edited by
Camilla, 08.08.12 22:22