Take some pride in paying your taxes (someday)

I didn’t postdoc in the US. When it came time to move to the next stage Mr and Mrs Juniorprof packed up and headed to the Great White North and landed in glorious Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Quebecois taught me many lessons (but not much French, unfortunately). The most important, non scientific, lesson I learned was that taxes are not a bad thing — in fact, they can be a great source of pride.You see, Quebecers get taxed, about 33% on income and an extra 15% on all purchases. Sounds terrible right.  Not really.  

You see, you get something for those taxes.  You get free, high quality health care.  You get excellent access to education.  You get an outstanding public transport system.  You get immigrants that have free access to social programs that help them integrate into society.  You get 1 year maternity leave (and dudes you get some paternity leave too)!!! 

I, like most Americans, used to want to hold onto most of my cash flow to spend on some crap that I’d throw away in 3 weeks.  Something terrible happened to me in Quebec that changed my mind forever.  I had a nearly crippling back injury — in the weight room, most likely, so no worker comp or accident insurance.  I got top quality health care (for free — didn’t pay a cent) and today you’d never know a thing happened to me (unless you saw me play basketball before and after).  If I’d have had this same injury in the US with my crappy postdoc health insurance I also would have received excellent health care but it almost certainly would have spelled financial ruin for Mr and Mrs Juniorprof.  You see, surgery and hospital stays and lengthy rehabilitation costs a good deal of money even if you have insurance here in the US and I would have paid, through the nose, to be able to use one of my legs again.

Back to the point.  Even though Quebecers pay so many taxes they are proud of the system they have because it makes their lives less stressful and it improves the quality of life of the people they work, play and drink wine with.  I believe that we can feel the same way here in the US but it takes strong leadership from the top to make it happen.  Unfortunately, we do not have such leadership.  You see, even within my own family, people who know damn well what would have happened to us financially with my little injury, they still want nothing to do with paying more taxes to offer a national health care system.  Why?  A complete and total lack of leadership on the part of our national leaders. 

So, here goes… I WANT TO PAY MORE TAXES!! but you gotta put those taxes to work for the average American. I look forward to the day when I will get the same health care, for free, that my students, postdocs, our wonderful janitor, the dude that plants those pretty flowers outside the building and the guy that sorts through our recycling bin for cans-for-cash gets.  I’m looking forward to having a female grad student or postdoc that gets pregnant and spends a year at home with her new baby.  I would fucking love to take a bus to and from the bar so I don’t have to spend an hour looking for a damn cab at the end of the night.  Let’s get some leadership in Washington so that everyone can understand that higher taxes can make us proud of our nation.  Personally, I think Obama can do it, but I’m open to anyone that can make it happen. I just hope it happens before complete financial ruin sets in. 

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10 responses to “Take some pride in paying your taxes (someday)

  1. I completely agree.

    Having also lived in both the US and Canada, my one wish would be that each society could learn from the other. The Canadian social safety net improves its citizen’s quality of life immensely. Sadly, Americans never look to Canada for potential answers to their problems. Instead the American debate over social services and taxes remains an ideological one. This is true of the right and the left. Just look at this Editorial piece in today’s NYTimes (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/31/opinion/31mon4.html). The situation in Canada completely contradicts the main point of the article. Yes America, you can build an equitable society and the melting pot is not an excuse.

    I wish that every American could live abroad for at least half a year and experience these different social organizations first hand, maybe then we would address the potential solutions to our American problems rationally.

  2. It seems in american society children are taught that taxes are BAD as soon as they are handed a sippy-cup. I ask myself often where that indoctrination came from… No really people, you all want to drive on roads, and have great schools… you get what you pay for!!!

  3. JP,
    To many of us, what you say makes total sense. I have held essentially identical views for years.
    To the PP-christened right-wing-wackaloon-douchemonkeys though, what you say might as well be the precis version of Dal Kapital and The Communist Manifesto rolled into one.
    The idea that social responsibility is an integral part of any successful capitalist system is, to millions of idiots here, a totally freaking foreign concept (pun not intended albeit appropriate).

  4. I completely agree! The idea that paying more taxes would help society (and yourself) as a whole seems completely foreign to most people.

    Then again, the extra taxes would have to go towards things that most people want (eg. schools, healthcare, etc.) than what most people do not want (eg. Iraq war).

  5. Anonymoustache, You are correct; however, this can change if we get some leadership that is willing to do the hard work to make the case to these people that their way of thinking is not grounded in fact. I think that Obama has demonstrated that he has the will and the patience to do it. I am not aware of another national politician who is interested in doing this difficult job. I believe people are ready to hear the case made and I think they will be receptive.

  6. AP, Thanks for the link. Great stuff. I agree that it would be fantastic to get more Americans to spend some time abroad. My time in your hometown changed me completely and for the better. There is much to be said about walking in the shoes of another to understand the error of your previous ways.

  7. Being British I like paying taxes. I think they are a good thing. Two examples, of taxes being a good thing.

    A health story similar to yours:

    In Britain my Mum had a colonectomy she got very good care and it was all free. In the US, about 5 years later I had to have exactly the same surgery. The bill came with cost of $12,000. Fortunately being a faculty member I had excellent state health insurance so I didn’t have to pay. My Mum had no idea of the cost of her surgery, so I decided that the UK government should send out a bill and stamp on it “PAID FOR BY YOUR GOVERNMENT FROM YOUR TAXES”.

    The other story is about good use of city taxes. About three years ago, the city resurfaced my road. They intend to do every city street. My neighbor complained about the waste of tax money but could not answer what he wanted our taxes to go to instead.

  8. Uh, the economy of Quebec and, for that matter, its population growth are completely stagnant. Connection?

  9. Quebec economic growth is at about 2%, not the best. Population growth among natives is stagnant (or negative) but there is growth among immigrants. Hopefully you realize that Quebec has a long and painful history of social struggle against English (British and language) oppression. This is the primary source of Quebec’s longstanding problems with keeping up with general Canadian growth. After living there I feel that Quebec has done a great job of balancing it desire to maintain its history while dealing with integrating into a nation that is so different from itself. So, no, I see no connection to taxation.

  10. Pingback: Where to get some good deals on lab stuff « JUNIORPROF

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