Diigo Links

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Lucky Country



I've been in several arguments with Australian residents (mostly immigrants such as myself) who feel compelled to complain about the amount of taxes they pay in Australia. I find this particularly ironic coming from people from developing nations like Pakistan and India and devoluting(sic) nations like the US.


It's one thing to complain about the complexity of tax law, or the number of different taxes paid by business, or to complain in some specific way about the way the taxes are spent. But to complain blindly, while living in one of only 4 major cities in Australia, I would characterize as under-informed, unobservant, and unappreciative.

On Good Friday, a public holiday, my elder daughter quite suddenly started crying, writhing in pain and grabbing at her ear. A quick look in the book-of-all-baby-knowledge showed her symptoms were textbook ear infection. This requires a prompt visit to a doctor and probably a script for antibiotics. We weighed our options:

1. Take her to the nearest emergency room (of which we have at least three to chose from within a 15min drive, and a fourth at a children's hospital).
2. Call our family practice and see if we could get a home visit by the on-call doctor.

We chose #2. We made a simple phone call. And had I called to order a pizza 10 minutes prior to calling the doctor, it still would not have arrived until after he'd left. I'm 100% serious, and it would have cost more. The house-call was covered by Medicare.

The timing was exceptional, and the on-call doctor admitted it was a bit of a fluke that he got there that quickly. But I've lived here for just short of a decade now and have consistently been impressed by the level of health care, the cost and the ease and availability. I'm totally willing to give 10% of my income over to maintain this level of service for me, my family and the broader community.

And this is where I get very frustrated with America-facing politicians who are trying to disassemble Medicare in favor of an HMO-style self-funded, self-centric, self-serving US model. And I get so aggravated with the aspriational, self-funded, self-centric, self-serving immigrants who are voting for those self-funded, self-centric, self-serving politicians for self-funding, self-centric, self-serving reasons. In the bigger picture, there's no amount of income that is going to make your life better if the people around you are sick, broken, and hopeless (such as is the case for large swaths of the populations in places like Washington DC, Detroit, Moscow, Mumbai, Sao Paulo, etc.). I would rather be poor in Sydney than middle-class in any of those locations. And being that I'm not poor, I count myself as very lucky and fairly satisfied with what's happening with roughly 40% of my income.

Don't get me wrong. We are still looking for improvement in the way tax is collected and spent. We're looking for improvement in the way the all too many levels of Australian government conducts business. And particularly with regards to natural resource management, we're looking for some thoughtful farsighted leadership. But all in all, the milk and the honey are still here.

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