>Shiny, Happy, Taxed People

>Can paying taxes make you happy? This columnist seems to think so. He looked at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s global happiness survey and noticed that the world’s top 10 happiest people also pay some of the world’s highest taxes. He observes:

Northern Europeans pay some of the highest taxes in the world. Danes pay about two-thirds of their income in taxes. Why be so happy about that? It all comes down to what you get in return.

The Encyclopedia of the Nations notes that Denmark was one of the first countries in the world to establish efficient social services with the introduction of relief for the sick, unemployed and aged.

It says social welfare programs include health insurance, health and hospital services, insurance for occupational injuries, unemployment insurance and employment exchange services. There’s also old age and disability pensions, rehabilitation and nursing homes, family welfare subsidies, general public welfare and payments for military accidents. Moreover, maternity benefits are payable up to 52 weeks.

Simply, you pay for what you get. Taxes in the U.S. have taken on a pejorative association because, well, we are never really quite sure of what we get in return for paying them, other than the world’s biggest military.

Healthcare and other such social services aren’t built into our system. That means we have to worry more about paying for things ourselves. Worrying doesn’t equate to happiness.

Well, that’s certainly interesting. I can already hear the howls of protest from the folks over at Tennessee Free: “I’m quite certain taxes won’t make me happier, you Socialist! You go ahead and pay them if you want!” I love that argument. Taxes only work if everyone pays them, you dufuses.

As the article observes, America is the world’s richest nation, yet we don’t even rank in the top 10 of happiness. So apparently money can’t buy happiness, after all.

I still jokingly refer to Norway as “the promised land,” after seeing their healthcare system first-hand last year and learning about how they handle resources like oil. It certainly would be nice to not have to worry about things like paying for healthcare, childcare, and education.

I do think the author is correct in that because so much is not built into our system, people ramp up the whine factor where taxes are concerned. The anti-tax crowd acts like a bunch of spoiled children, selectively decrying where “their” money goes. Social services like welfare, food stamps and public housing–things that take “their” money and give it to “those people” (read: poor, usually brown) are always a waste, in their view. They don’t benefit from it directly, or if they do (see Joe The Plumber, Welfare Queen), they pretend they haven’t because this flies in the face of the iconic “rugged individualist” we so admire.

Military spending is never a waste, and the more the better, which I never understood. But what about the gazillion other things our taxes pay for: public schools, roads, dams, inspecting and protecting the food supply, national parks, forests and wildlife refuges, disaster relief after hurricanes and earthquakes, mail delivery, keeping shipping channels and harbors open, the interstate highway system that keeps us connected … all of these things work so seamlessly most of the time that they are easily ignored. You forget who built and maintained that road you drove to work on, unless you drove over a pothole, in which case you probably cursed it..

Heh. Try driving down some of the roads in Costa Rica then, buddy.

Anyway, if people in countries like Norway and Denmark see how they benefit personally from taxation when they go to the doctor, take their kids to school, get a free college education, care for their aging parents, etc., I wonder if Americans would, too. And I wonder if this isn’t what scares the crap out of Republicans fighting “socialized medicine” tooth and nail: they aren’t afraid it would fail, but rather that it would work, too well.

Something to think about.

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