Only Planet

One Child, One Year, One Planet. A family of three traveling around the world...

You can contact us at werkingwells (at) gmail . com

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Not that there's anything wrong with that

Remember that classic Seinfeld episode where a reporter thinks that Jerry and George are gay because they faked a same-sex relationship? Only they find out who she really is, and that she plans to write about Jerry and George's relationship which catches them in a quandary. They want it known that they are not homosexual, but at the same time they don't want their denial to mean that they are homophobic, hence, the statement, "not that there's anything wrong with that!"

Charges of socialism and socialist are being lobbed around by the McCain/Palin campaigns in response to Obama's tax plan. In fact, during the third Presidential Debate, while discussing providing health care coverage to those who currently don't have it, McCain stated that it would be a fine thing to do if we wanted to be like Canada or Britain—said like they were democracy's bastard step-children. Those crazy, English-speaking, crap-buying, frumpy, dentally-challenged foreigners!

I've actually visited a number of socialist countries, and some communist ones as well. Countries like Norway, that have the highest literacy rate in the world, some of the lowest infant mortality rates, a universal health care system and cradle-to-grave social services. Walking down the streets in Oslo, there is plenty of commerce. People are out eating, making money, spending money and doing pretty much the same thing that we do here in Portland, except the weather is crappier.

Of course these things don't come free, which is where the socialism bit seems to rile up the American public: they get taxed a lot in Norway. Somewhere along the lines of 48% of income is taxed. Most Americans pay much less than the highest U.S. tax rate, which is currently 35%. Obama has proposed doing away with the tax cuts for high earners ($250,000+ a year) that Bush Jr. put in place during his first administration, which would put the rate at 39% rather than 35%. Yes, that's higher. And in today's stinky economy it would pinch even those who make that much—I guess. It's not like we've ever seen that much money in two years, let alone one.

Yet here is something to digest: historically in the United States, the highest tax rate on the top earners has come at one of the worst economic times and under the the most conservative of conservatives. Even the Freakonomics guys and the Economist are wondering where we stand in comparison to other countries with our tax rates?

But back to our visit to the lands of socialism—or worse, communism (which, given the McCain/Palin criteria, seems to be everywhere but America). We visited health clinics in Australia and New Zealand, shopped in hypermarts in London and Bangkok, had freedom to post our blog from everywhere, except Tibet—and only because we were writing critically about the Chinese while there--and accessed the Internet in every country we visited, and guess what: the planet didn't spin of its axis. People got up, worked (harder than Americans in some places, like Korea & Japan), shopped, ate out and generally seemed pretty sane. While we saw people who were desperately poor, and some with more money than God, what we mostly saw were a lot of folks in the middle. Kind of like a middle class. The same class we are losing in this country, year after year.

I remain stumped when I hear charges from politicians against raising taxes, or that having taxes is akin to socialism. I think of fairly non-partisan things like the police, the fire department, emergency dispatch services, teachers in public schools, medicare/medicaid, social security, stop signs, bridge repairs, and libraries and wonder, who pays for these things if we don't pay taxes? Do I really want to pay as I go whenever I need to call 911 to get the police at my door after a break-in? On the other hand, I understand my taxes are also paying for federal agencies to wiretap private citizens, detain and torture at Gitmo, and wage an unpopular war in Iraq. So if we really wanted to toss ism's around, I could probably find an appropriate label for these things--like, uh, maybe fascism? But when you look at the bottom line, doesn't having a funded government, even when you despise some of the things that government buys, bring a lot more advantages than problems for the general populace?

So, Canada, Britain, Germany, Norway, and the Netherlands, you socialist dens of equality and decency, some Americans will never adopt your compassionate, fair and somewhat cavalier ways. We will always desire to feed that insatiable appetite of our defense industry, needed to battle never-ending wars. We will happily watch as insurance companies deny their insured health care, so long as we know we're going to stay strong and healthy. We will even vote against our own interests time and time again, as a tailsman of our hope that someday, we too may be as rich and powerful as The Donald, or Oprah. Just remember, whether we spend like you or not, don't call us socialist--not that there's anything wrong with that!

P.S. Just wanted to pass along another blog you might enjoy if you find mine the least bit interesting. If I’m only half as spririted as these ladies when I’m 82, I’ll be happy.


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