G’day, mates! (Just practicing.)

This may be old news to you (it’s via Dylan Matthews on July 18, writing on Ezra Klein’s blog at WaPo), but I’ve been traveling and Doing Actual Things with Real People In Real Life, and am just getting caught up on the extensive backlog of missives to the Palace.  So apologies if you’ve seen this, but I just have to shout to the rooftops that WE ARE NUMBER SEVENTEEN!!!  USA!!!  USA!!! 

A few observations.

Italians and Spaniards, whose countries have been experiencing economic devastation on a much greater scale than the U.S., are wealthier than Americans.  And they have universal healthcare.

The citizens of Israel, to which the U.S. taxpayer bestows much largess, are wealthier than Americans.  Israelis also enjoy universal healthcare.

Australians are kicking everyone’s asses in the median wealth department, whilst enjoying universal healthcare.  Incidentally, voting in Australia is compulsory, and the Prime Minister, Julia Eileen Gillard, is an open atheist…and a woman.  (Me likee.)

Apropos of absolutely nothing, the top marginal income tax rates in these countries were (2009 data):

  • Australia:  45%
  • Israel:  46%
  • Italy:  43%
  • Spain:  43%
  • United States:  35%

G’day, mates!

[h/t nubs]

This entry was posted in economics, USA by Iris Vander Pluym. Bookmark the permalink.

About Iris Vander Pluym

Iris Vander Pluym is an artist and activist in NYC (West Village), and an unapologetic, godless, feminist lefty. Raised to believe Nice Girls™ do not discuss politics, sex or religion, it turns out those are pretty much the only topics she ever wants to talk about.

7 thoughts on “G’day, mates! (Just practicing.)

  1. It’s common for other people to describe Julia Gillard as an “atheist”, but I think “agnostic” is more appropriate. While I understand that a Prime Minister has to compromise, she seems to go out of her way to avoid supporting same sex marriage. (If for some reason our next election involved voting between Barack Obama and Julia Gillard, I would vote for Gillard, but in this particular matter even Obama’s feeble gestures towards marriage equality have been better.)

    Julia Gillard’s major accomplishment as PM has been a carbon tax and trading scheme that seems a lot like Obamacare: a pathetic compromise that is now being attacked by the right-wing party that used to be in favour of it.

    Also, the current Government involved a deal with several independents, including Andrew Wilkie, whose support hinged on trialling a change to gambling on poker machines. This deal has now been scrapped. Andrew Wilkie supports some odd things, but his only error here was to take policy seriously, when everyone else in Parliament is “playing the game”.

    We do hear a lot about people waiting years to get surgery, but as long as you don’t die first, socialised medicine will fix you up. I’m afraid I’m one of those rich scum paying about US$1,300 per year for private health insurance including hospital cover.

    Tax laws here mean that a freelancer like me has to function as a business. I fill out a Business Activity Statement every quarter, and pay a small amount of my profit to the tax office. The BAS is a one-page form, and takes about 15 minutes to complete, including making the payment. Like all adults, I also do my income tax once a year. Maybe we’re over-regulated and scaring off job-creating entrepreneurs like Mitt Romney? I can’t tell.

    While things could always be better, we seem to have relatively sane taxation, public education and medicine, and Julia Gillard has edged those in the right direction. However, for serious leadership, try Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, Prime Minister of Iceland.

  2. Thanks for all of that, Anthill. I hope my quip about Gillard did not come off as a paean to her majestic superiority and competence as a leader: it was intended to provide a stark contrast with the sorry state of affairs in the U.S. Although we have a constitutional prohibition on any religious test for office, we have a de facto one, and women in power are vastly outnumbered by men.

    While you do seem to have relatively sane taxation, public education and medicine, we do not.

    We do hear a lot about people waiting years to get surgery, but as long as you don’t die first, socialised medicine will fix you up.

    By contrast, the working poor here (approx. 50,000,000 ppl) wait forever to get surgery, because they have no insurance whatsoever. They finally go to hospitals, if at all, when they are in dire straights, and their meager assets are wiped out by medical bills. At least in your case, wait times are a problem with a (long term) solution: invest in more healthcare providers and facilities. Supplement or forgive medical school debt, issue tax credits, whatever.

    I’m afraid I’m one of those rich scum paying about US$1,300 per year for private health insurance including hospital cover.

    That’s more like the monthly cost for comparable coverage here, although it is typically subsidized in part by one’s employer—provided one’s employer offers medical coverage at all, and in the wake of the Great Recession fewer and fewer do. If you lose your job, you are “allowed” to pay the whole premium yourself for a year or two (it varies by state), but obviously very few people in those circumstances can afford it.

    Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir — and the people of Iceland who held their leaders accountable — are an inspiration. They provide the template for what a real threat to the global order looks like, which is of course the reason U.S. citizens hear nary a peep about them.

    • No question, most of our “right wing” is about level with your “left wing”. From here, I can see Barack Obama on the right, and several European leaders in the distance to the left. Of course, it’s even better when a country has enough political diversity and nuance to avoid a two-party system. Our current coalition of the Australian Labor Party with a few independents is rare. It is to Julia Gillard’s credit that she managed to form it, even given my previous complaints about how she treated Andrew Wilkie.

      I’m afraid I don’t know why Australian private health insurance is cheaper than yours by an order of magnitude. We spend less on treatment than the US does, and it must be competitive with public care (however slow), and some things are always paid publicly (you can’t escape the socialised medicine, even if you want to). Even those three influences wouldn’t seem to explain it all.

      Incidentally, while Olympic Games spectacles mostly just disgust me, I give the London 2012 organisers credit for declaring to the world that the NHS is a vital part of the national psyche. (It appeared after James Bond and the Queen parachuted into the stadium, but before Mary Poppins defeated Voldemort). Residents of the UK may whinge about the “National ‘Elf”, but woe betide any foreigner who does the same.

      Some workplaces here offer additional benefits (“free medical and dental”) to encourage people to work there, as you describe. However, I’ve never heard of someone staying in an intolerable job to keep their medical benefits, while your system seems designed to encourage that, and also incentivises employers to fire sick people.

      Overall though, I think that your health costs are beyond the comprehension of most Australians, including me. Remember this if you’re trying to explain why being forced to buy your own insurance is going to be such a mess. The same goes for the “college fund” – a phrase I see in American media, but is just alien over here. We have to pay for University, but the Government loans the money at effectively no interest. Most people I went to University with have student loan debt, but that’s because it makes economic sense to pay off your car and house first.

      Paying off your house? Yes, that’s where we messed up. Someone sold us the notion that the “Australian dream” includes owning a house. As a result, many people, on gaining employment for the first time, promptly take out a large mortgage on an extravagant property. What if we come to dislike our jobs, or get better offers elsewhere? Too bad – if the housing market is down, we can’t afford to sell. Also, our huge houses consume vast amounts of energy to build, heat and cool. Reducing our greenhouse gas emissions per capita will not be easy.

  3. I’ve never heard of someone staying in an intolerable job to keep their medical benefits, while your system seems designed to encourage that, and also incentivises employers to fire sick people.

    Staying in an intolerable job is bad enough, but how about staying in an intolerable marriage? People do it just to have affordable healthcare, for themselves or their kids. If dog forbid anyone has a chronic illness, it’s more than enough of a disincentive to divorce, even under the worst of circumstances. Hell, the main reason I married my ex was for healthcare: his, not mine. I had a job with good benefits; he did not. We had bought a house together, and if anything had happened to him healthwise, like an accident or a serious illness, we could quite easily lose it.

    But whether the U.S. healthcare system is “designed” for one purpose or another is another matter. It is my opinion that its only purpose is profit. Any significant health impacts are collateral benefits.

    Large mortgages on extravagant properties are not sustainable, by pretty much any definition of “sustainable.” How much space does one really need to be happy? How much stuff? I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, with my own room, big closets, an attic, a shed, a two car garage. It was a modest home by today’s McMansion standards. When I moved to NYC with nothing more than a backpack’s worth of my belongings, I learned the answers to those questions. How much space does one really need to be happy? As it turns out, not all that much. How much stuff? Not very much stuff at all. Someone wise once said “you don’t own your stuff, your stuff owns you.” If anyone reading here is disinclined to believe the truth of this statement, I have one word for you: move.

    • One of the things I noeictd in the fury of web commenting after Gillard was elected by the Federal Labor Parliamentary Party as leader to replace Rudd was that so many Australians have no idea about their country’s electoral and voting system.There were comments like ‘We voted for Rudd not Gillard’ or ‘A woman can’t handle this sort of job’ and etc. You get the drift.I have been concerned for some decades now about the slow Americanisation of voting perceptions in this country. We still vote for a representative not a figurehead. Sadly that is being lost in some warped belief that we have a head of state popular election. We don’t.We DO have an electoral boundary system that gives voters the chance to vote for candidates running for election within each electorate.In no way does a voter in Australia vote for the leader of a political party unless that voter happens to be in the electorate for which he/she is the sitting member.Regardless of the uneducated opinions spouted by commenters, we still vote on a two party preferred system. Mind you, in this country (as in the US and, for that matter in the UK) the Liberal Party and the Labor Party are two sides of the coin called the Australian Business Party.The parliamentary representatives elected are elected on a Party platform. Sure, some air head people vote because he/she looks good, dresses well, kisses more babies or opens a library or two. But by and large the policies of the Party hold sway in elections.What I would hate to see (and I have seen the beginnings of it in an increasingly organised fashion) is that the representative elected is chosen for religious belief and their fervent pledge to use that belief as a guiding light in their job as a representative.I am pleased that Gillard has said she doesn’t believe in god or gods. Well done Gillard! It should be of no consequence whatsoever in her ability to do her job. Most politicians keep their beliefs under wraps except for people like Abbott, Costello, Howard and the various small religiously oriented political parties.While Australia’s formal separation of church and state isn’t as strongly worded and entrenched as in the US, there is Sect. 16 of our Constitution that indicates such separation. Religion has garnered so much clout by inveigling its way into what should be secular politics, especially in the 21st Century that it is quite depressing for those of us who don’t believe in the supernatural be it a ghost, a sky fairy or whatever.Paul of Newcastle’s ironic comment should give the ACL pause. Using religion to push a political agenda is inappropriate however much the evangelicals try it on.

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