The Tale of Two Countries: Taxes

It’s interesting to see the difference in the way that Canadians see taxes versus Americans. Simple things such as snow plowing services are a non-issue in Canada, paid for with taxes, while in the northern U.S. cities, snowplowing is a political football. Let’s be clear though; in the free market system, even Adam Smith (the father of Capitalism) supported taxes for public services.

Taxes are supposed to be for the public provisioning of public goods & services. The evolution of Capitalism has included the privatization of public goods, which is problematic in its own rite, but it’s still taxes that pay for them.

For example, both Americans and Canadians think that national defense is a public service that is needed, and that all people benefit from. National defense is paid for almost entirely with taxes. In the United States, cutting defense spending would be tantamount to treason.

In America, people don’t want their taxes raised for everything from snowplowing to clean water. Just about anything is fair game on the political football field when it comes to tax increases. At the same time, Americans will expect their roads to be plowed, and drinking water to be safe; for free, of course; even though Adam Smith, the American demigod of Capitalism said that no taxes is a really bad idea.

In Canada, the staunchest conservative in the backwoods of the Alberta Oil Sands will only have their universal healthcare pried from their cold, dead hands. In the winter time, not only do people expect to have their street plowed, but usually their sidewalks too. When Canadians complain of taxes, it seems that it’s not for or against public services, but usually because of some type of political corruption, real or imagined.

In America, no one really cares about political corruption. In Canada, a former Senator is on trial for milking taxpayers of $90,000. The U.S. blows $90,000 by lunchtime everyday, and there are no trials. If children go hungry in Canada, it’s a national scandal. When children go hungry int he United States, it’s balancing the budget.

The fundamental difference in attitudes toward taxes in the U.S. versus Canada seems to be this: Canadians want (and usually get) value for their tax dollar. Americans do not enjoy many benefits for their tax dollar, and haven’t since the great expansion period of 1948 to the 1960s.

The hardcore conservative in Canada doesn’t want to give up his/her free healthcare, because they know that their tax dollars pay for it. They like their sidewalks plowed because they know that their tax dollars pay for it. In America, tax dollars pay for bank bailouts and congressional raises, at the expense of clean water and decent roads.

So should Americans be mad at higher taxes? Should Americans think Canada is “socialist” because actual taxes are used for actual public services? Or should Americans be mad that their tax money isn’t being used for the provisioning of public goods & services that benefit everyone in society?

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