Not too long ago a thread on a popular subreddit called AskReddit had European users submit questions about the United States that they couldn’t comprehend–hence its title.
I didn’t come across the original thread (although I do enjoy Reddit and I’m on it every day). Instead, I somehow stumbled upon this video of Evan, an American living in England where he’s answering many of these questions from his perspective:
To be honest, many of the answers weren’t all that wrong or biased. But others just outright showed how much of a liberal/borderline Socialist the guy is, and I was appalled that he thought his perspective was THE definitive view held by Americans in general.
That’s where this post comes in: I’ll be commenting both on those answers of his I considered too ludicrous to be taken seriously by anyone with common sense, and on others where I thought he was spot on. Let’s get to it!
(Oh but before I do, I wanted to let you know that I’m not addressing each and every point he touched on, just the ones I thought were most relevant to this blog and you, my readers.)
Why taxes aren’t automatically added to things at the store/before checkout
I can see how this can be frustrating and I wish our tax codes were simpler to where as soon as we saw the price of an item at the store (or on an online listing), it had its tax included. This way, we only see one price and don’t have to do more math in our heads to get close to a final amount.
(For example, where I live, the tax is ~7%. So yes, for something [a non-food item] that costs $10 I’ll have to pay $10.07. This isn’t difficult at all. Living here for so long has taught me to simply get good at doing math in my head more often so I don’t whine about this. But sometimes it can nevertheless be surprising to have a certain amount in your head and then realize you forgot to add a couple hundred dollars to account for a different tax amount than the one you had calculated. C’est la vie!)
In his answer, Evan correctly explains that certain regions (and also certain kinds of products, but he omits that bit) have different taxes. He states that companies that want to advertise, for example, in the tri-state area of Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Delaware can’t promote one price on their freeways because of all the interstate traffic that’d be misled by seeing one price there and a different one in person. Moreover, it’d be very difficult for this company to advertise three different prices on their billboards–one for each state.
All this comes down to money, of course. But he didn’t go deeper than that, unfortunately.
Yes, socialists think that greed is behind everything, and there might be a minor element of that, but the truth is that all states, counties, and cities (yes, they each all have their own tax rates and some get even more granular than that!) all have varying wants and needs, and we shouldn’t have to pay more in state X to compensate for state Y’s needs!
So there you have it. We don’t see taxes originally added onto things because each region sets their own taxes and it’d be impossible to advertise the same price to different individuals.
“Ask your doctor about THIS DRUG” ads
Yes, this one is terrible, and the pharmaceutical industry has such a STRONG hold on lobbyists that this trend might never go away. Evan correctly adds that we as Americans hate them, too!
But because of greed (I’ll grant you that one here), these will likely persist until the end of times because, as he states, Big Pharma has found it easier to advertise to regular people so they go ask their doctor for that certain drug so they can get it legally prescribed to them. The other thing Big Pharma does is compensate not only doctors (with anything from money, to experiences and freebies) so they “recommend” a certain drug to their patients, but also lobbyists so they can keep doing this.
This is all very shady, and that’s why patients need to be more responsible and do their research so they’re not relying on a company’s marketing or a potential biased doctor’s advice.
This one is a tough one to tackle because it seems like there isn’t a way to make everyone happy. It’s not as black and white.
Evan opines that it’s odd that a first-world country has such a big problem with sick days. Those who work in restaurants have a hard time with this in particular because they’re mandated to come to work, pretty much no matter what’s going on.
Sure enough, he shares that when he was working for a restaurant, it was too expensive for him to miss work so… he’d just come in sick. And also that New Jersey has recently instituted a mandatory 40 hours of sick leave for all employers regardless of size.
The reason why I said this one was tricky and a difficult issue to please everyone on is because while New Jersey’s five days may seem fair to some, it still won’t seem enough for others (like Evan).
Which is why I argue it’s best for companies themselves to tackle this head on according to what they can afford instead of being at the mercy of their state government’ regulations. At the companies I’ve worked at I’d get anywhere from one to three weeks of paid sick leave each year. I believe my husband currently gets one week (maybe two?) per year from his employer.
But what if someone never gets sick and those days don’t roll over to the next year? What if they want to take sick days off for other reasons towards the end of the year (when they expire)? Now there’s a waste of sick days because people can’t take them at their own discretion.
As a Capitalist, I believe that when a company can reasonably decide for itself how best to manage its operations, it can create more opportunities for its employees. So no, neither the states nor the federal government should require businesses to give away several weeks of sick leave: that employer can be very easy to replace and not having them working for an extended period of time can hurt the company. That’s why I’m against most government-regulated enterprises: they limit opportunity, growth, and resources.
And while we’re at it, that’s also a reason why I don’t support giving parents months and months of maternity/paternity leave: Taking such a long leaves of absence from work can negatively affect not only the parent (who’ll somehow have deluded themselves into thinking that their skills will be relevant after months, a year, or two years of inactivity in the workplace!), but also the employer (who’ll have to accommodate a potentially obsolete employee).
Paying for ambulances
First of all, I’d argue that paying for an ambulance service is fair. Paying exorbitant amounts for it is NOT.
This is another one that I think greed has created: People get away with things because others will let them. This short video touches on this issue:
John Stossel points out that in 35 states, laws block new businesses from operating unless they get their competitors’ permission. One such law prevents Phillip Truesdell from operating ambulances in Kentucky.
Along those lines, I believe that ambulances, just like a doctor or medicines, are things that should be paid for. But some ambulances and helicopter services somehow get away with charging arms and legs or the equivalent of entire mortgages for their services, which is insane. BUT! They get away with it because most people let them. (You can opt out of their services, by the way.)
At some point during his discussion Evan alleged that “hopefully once we get Universal Health Care,” paying for ambulances will be a thing of the past. I don’t know WHERE he got this because it makes NO sense for me to have to pay for someone else’s ambulance expenses. Universal Health Care isn’t free, bud, and it creates more problems than it solves.
Having to do your own tax returns… because apparently “the IRS knows how much you make” and can therefore be trusted to “take out” the right amount.
Whoever asked this question hilariously missed the point, so it didn’t surprise me that liberal Evan didn’t explain why because it wouldn’t fit his narrow-minded agenda.
What he says this boils down to is companies like TurboTax and H&R Block, who strongly lobby for “their right” to be the exclusive providers of tax preparation software for Americans. So, basically greed again.
But here are some things that people like that commenter and Evan forget about:
- No one knows me better than myself. And no one knows my family’s finances better than myself. Not just because I proudly do our finances, but also because I’m a responsible adult and I’m in charge of managing many aspects of our home, incl. our taxes. As such, I not only know how much we make, but also what forms to fill out and what deductions and credits to apply for. Don’t tell me what I do or don’t need or why! Which brings me to my next point:
- Do you really thing the IRS can be trusted to return money to you OR to “take out the right amount”? Can it also, for instance, be trusted to keep track of what you did around your home during the year (say in the form of energy efficient remodels and expenses, to list just one example) and then return the respective amount?
- Say you overpaid in taxes last year and you’re now owed a refund. Do you absolutely trust the government to say, “Oops! We did it again! Turns out you don’t owe us more money: We owe YOU some instead! Haha here you go!” I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t. And that’s a major gripe with Conservatives: The government shouldn’t be trusted for many things because the people can do (and has done) a better job of taking care of business, so to speak. This one brings me to my final point:
- People don’t have to depend on TurboTax or H&R Block. In my opinion and limited experience with them, I’ve come to see them as thieves, plain and simple: Not only because they do always cost money even though their service isn’t worthwhile, but also because I never got any refunds through their software. Instead, people can hire a trusty accountant (and I highly recommend this if you have a business or more complicated tax situations) or do the work themselves, which is what we do!
- In fact, we use Free Fillable Forms (<< Not sponsored but I do try to do my part and mention it every year b/c we’re big fans), which also lets us electronically file not only our 1040s, but also any additional forms we need, related to investments, credits, interest payments, etc.
So no, thanks, Evan, and Europe: We’re fine doing NOT trusting the government for simple tasks that we’re better off handling ourselves.
How much to tip?
For this one he mostly focuses on restaurants not providing a living wage and leaving workers to depend on tips for their existence. I think this is unfair as well, not going to lie.
However, we’re also not going to demand that people tip bad or no service because we actually NEVER tip bad or no service.
I’d like to write a post about this later on but here’s basically what it boils down to us:
- If a duty is part of your JOB, that’s your baseline and we don’t tip. Say you brought us our drinks but forgot to refill them? No tip. Or say you brought us our food but forgot to ask how it is or check in on any issues we may have? No tip. Or you brought us the check before we were even finished (which essentially screams, “I’m done serving you!”)? No tip! WHY? Because if you have such a hard time actually serving patrons, then we ask that you let us know and we can do the work ourselves. We never mind having to go get our food or drinks. This goes along with why we don’t tip most valet drivers, (human) towel dispensers at hotels, luggage carriers, or greeters, etc. If you do merely an OK job, no tip for you.
- If you do the minimum, you get 20%. If you refilled our drinks and asked us what our food was like or worked hard to exceed expectations, you’ll get at least 20%. We’ve tipped 25% in the past for this very reason, too. We’re also not against tipping stylists and the like for a job well-done. (Which in my mind includes staying quiet so you focus on my hair.)
So we really don’t care to tip for non-service; it’s not fair. You don’t serve, you don’t get paid (more).
people Socialists fail to see that student debt can be UNAVOIDABLE. OMG, how? Well: you work hard, you get scholarships, and you pick better majors. Simple!
Evan pretty much goes into how the US will at some point “join the rest of Western Civilization” in educating people, as if FREE college was the only way to do that. But here’s where his Liberal views shine because that’s just not true.
Don’t get me wrong: I DESPISE what lenders can get away with it when it comes to student loans. But just like with restaurants and ambulances, they do it because they can; people let them. The solution isn’t to get rid of student loans because that simply moves the loan from one borrower or payer (the person who took out the loan) to another payer (the people around him who have no reason to take on that loan). This doesn’t make sense.
We believe the solution has to do more with making universities and employers more accountable for their claims that a college education or a college degree is mandatory for success or to work in specific fields. Once they have more skin in the game and have to pay, at least partly, for pointless degrees and those who took them, then they may begin lowering their own unreasonably high fees (which, again, they get away with because we let them!) and decide how best to spend their money based on their own ROI.
So you think that Master’s in Gender Studies can contribute as much to society (and pay you back as quickly) as that Bachelor’s in Computer Science? Let the market decide: The former won’t get hired anywhere for more than $20/hour and the latter can make six figures each year–millions in their lifetime–and contribute much more to the economy. Now whose journey would you rather finance knowing the latter can also pay you back in a fraction of the time? Not the Gender Studies SJW’s, huh? Might as well get rid of that degree while you’re at it, too.
In short: The people should NOT be responsible for a person’s higher education. Not to mention many use their loans for non-school-related expenses and yet some still try to fight for their “right” to free education. What kind of crap is that?!
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After a few more questions, Evan ends his video by arguing that America has many great things that others don’t, and that it also has many freedoms (together with several limitations) that other countries also have (minus those limitations). I don’t know what kind of lifestyle he’s living but this is a country where people are SO free to do as they please, it’s amazing. It’s a safe, cutting-edge nation that sits at the top of many key rankings. Though it’s easy to lament (at least jokingly) some of its shortcomings (and every country has their own), it’s even easier to see the endless privileges we enjoy by living here.
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What things about the United States don’t YOU understand or wish would change? Which did you agree or disagree with Evan on? Sound off in the comments!