Thursday, March 2, 2017

American Living in Sweden Talks About Why He Does Not Mind Higher Taxes There

One thing that I could never understand about Americans would be their tendency to be deathly afraid of certain things, as if any concession is tantamount to the end of the world.

This was true, and still largely is true, of communism, although the focus has shifted considerably to socialism since the end of the Cold War. 

That was and is also true of being just one of many countries out there, because Americans will go to quite extraordinary lengths to single themselves out as different, as special, as unique. Sometimes, that is not a good thing, and I for one believe that Americans have long ago passed that particular boundary, yet still often go full throttle towards this self-deception. That is how we wind up with a demagogue as president, telling us on his inauguration day that from this point on, "it's going to be only America first. America first."

Another thing that puzzles me about Americans is their hatred for all things to do with the government, especially since they were the first in the modern world to create a system of government "of the people, by the people, and for the people" as President Abraham Lincoln described it. An elected government can serve as serious protection against other big institutions (particularly corporations these days) that could threaten the well-being of individuals, if government does not intercede.

Finally, another aspect of popular American thinking that has always perplexed me is their hatred for taxation. 

Now, don't get me wrong. I am not saying that I love paying taxes. Nobody does, right?

However, if I knew that taxes could get me some of the things that it gets for Europeans, for Australians, for Canadians, for Japanese, and people of other nations around the world, then perhaps I would not hate them all that much, and would just suck it up. After all, Europeans tend to have a single-payer, affordable universal healthcare system that frees them from worrying about what many Americans worry about, such as having to choose between patient care and/or maintaining one's lifestyle, perhaps keeping a job or one's home or many personal belongings. Europeans also have affordable childcare, as well as other benefits. They have far more time off that they are entitled to, including often at least four weeks paid vacation. Europeans who live close to cities benefit from great public transportation systems, as well. And most European nations have better, sounder environmental standards than we do here in the United States, with almost all of them having far more fuel efficient vehicles and consumption of far less energy than Americans tend to use, on average.

In short, Europeans get a lot more bang for their buck with the tax dollars that they pay every year. 

So, what do we Americans get? Well, most of our tax money goes towards supporting the military industrial complex, which has completely taken over. It has gotten so that Americans do not even question this anymore, and it is still questionable whether a majority of Americans would really doubt the wisdom of any given war breaking out. In the aftermath of the Iraq quagmire, it is true that Americans seem a little bit more hesitant. However, I would not put it past them to get all high and mighty again under the "right" circumstances, much like we did in the leadup to the Iraq invasion. After all, if Vietnam did not teach us much about long term humility and hesitancy to get involved in a difficult situation overseas, then what will?

Americans have somehow allowed their country to become both ridiculed and hated by much of the rest of the world. But when you have stupid leaders urging stupid and immoral wars, and when you elect people like Donald Trump into the highest office in the land, then maybe you deserve some of that ridicule, at least collectively. Frankly, I thought that George W. Bush was a huge embarrassment and blemish for the nation. But the election of Trump really takes the cake and lowers the bar not just lower, but so low as to be laughable for a country that still considers itself "the leader of the free world". Honestly, I am not even entirely certain that the United States still qualifies as a free land and, if so, it is unclear how much longer it will.

For now, taxes will continue to go towards the usual suspects under Trump. The military budget is increasing by 9 percent, as if the already bloated budget towards the military industrial complex needed this boost. And a great deal of money will also go towards supporting the corporate welfare system that is bankrupting this country.

What to do? I have mentioned already numerous times that I think the single biggest problem that this country is facing is it's superiority complex, which translates to a collective inability to recognize anything as legitimate or real when it happens outside of our sacred American borders. But we need to learn otherwise, we need to learn from the examples of other countries. That is why I am plugging this article from an American ex-pat living in Sweden, and speaking in frank terms about how much more beneficial he feels the taxes which he pays there go towards benefiting him in real, measurable, everyday terms, as opposed to the glory of supporting our American empire here. 

I'm an American living in Sweden. Here's why I came to embrace the higher taxes. by Tom Heberlein on April 8, 2016

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