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August 18, 2009

I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 02:07 PM * 102 comments

We all hear talk of the ruinous tax rates in Europe as opposed to the US. I mean, us poor oppressed Europeans are at least supposed to get something for the vast sums we give our socialist, corrupt and limp-wristed governments, of course, but they say we pay a lot.

So let’s lay it out, shall we? Nothing too revealing, of course, but maybe I could get some of you to dig back to your files from tax season and give me some representative percentages (no concrete numbers, please).

What I would be interested in knowing, if anyone wants to join my rough and ready survey, is the following:

  1. Effective tax rate: (g - n) / g
  2. Effective rate of taxes plus health costs: ((g - n) + (i + o))/g


  • g = gross pay
  • n = net pay after federal (or equivalent), state (or equivalent) and niggling little (e.g. FICA) taxes
  • i = health insurance costs
  • o = out of pocket health costs

It would also be interesting, if you wanted, to note the country and state you live in, the number of hours you work a week, and anything else that might be of interest to someone trying to get a feel for these things.

I will, of course, start. I’ll use the latest tax figures I have for the two tax regimes I’ve lived in in the recent past.

United Kingdom: (from my last full-year P60, for the tax year ended 5 April 2007†

  1. 17.9%
  2. 17.9% again, of course

I lived in Scotland* and worked 28 hours a week throughout that year. I visited my general practitioner once or twice on my own behalf, and about half a dozen times for the kids.

The Netherlands: (from my tax return for 2008)

  1. 12.2%, but this is unfair, because I get a 30% discount on my taxes for being a skilled worker recruited from abroad. A more realistic figure would be 17.4%
  2. 16.3%, adjusted to 21.5% if you’re not in my fairly rare position

I live in Noord-Holland* and worked 32 hours a week throughout that year, and had no major out of pocket medical expenses.

(It is hereby acknowledged that this kind of survey is rough, ready, inaccurate, non-representative, and downright statistically sinful. Excludes sales taxes (generally higher in Europe), local taxes, fuel taxes, and wear and tear on bike tires.)

† The British tax year runs from 6 April to 5 April. Just imagine how much fun that is.
* Not that either of these makes any difference, because neither the UK nor the Netherlands has an equivalent of state taxes

Comments on I'll show you mine if you'll show me yours:
#1 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 02:40 PM:

I should note that, since I file my taxes separately, these are "my" figures rather than "our" figures.

#2 ::: Paul Lalonde ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 02:41 PM:

Ah, a fun game to play while waiting for a compile. I live in Canada, and I have the good fortune to earn a sizable chunk of my income in the highest tax bracket (taxed at 41.5%). Even so:

1. 29.5%
2. 29.5% (which was up a few years ago to 31% or so, as I was paying for some expensive eye drugs that weren't yet covered)

I work 40-60 hours a week, and travel a lot. That 's the downside of my good fortune.

I don't begrudge the tax I pay - I can afford to, without affecting my standard of living. I know those taxes help provide not only our national and provincial infrastructure, but also universal healthcare - I value living in a community where my ability to pay allows those less able to have many of the same benefits I have.

#3 ::: Jon Baker ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 02:49 PM:

If you want to compare "health costs", what about the employer's payments for health insurance? It's a net zero sum, but does it mean $5K in income offset by $5K in health costs, or do you want it to not show up at all?

Also, under the current rules in the US, such money doesn't count as taxable income. Some other things are taxable for one thing but not the other. E.g., Social Security is paid as a percentage of income for work, but not for income earned by investments.\

The self-employed often are not part of a group for getting good health insurance rates, so have to pay, say, 2-3x what an employed person's employer would.

There are so many variables, it's hard to make an individual comparison that's meaningful.

#4 ::: Joseph M. ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 02:55 PM:

Abi, I have a question about the equations. The first makes sense to me: the tax rate is equal to the what I make but don't get to keep divided by what I make. For the second, however, I would think it would be ((g-n)+(i+o))/g; otherwise, you could see a lower effective tax rate when health care costs are included.

#5 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 02:56 PM:

I think your numbers are too low. Are you including VAT and "social charges"? (The French term for their equivalent of FICA; I don't know the Dutch term?)

Including employers contributions (to both FICA and health care) for last year:
About 25% for taxes.
About 35% with health care.

For a family of 4 at the median income for a family of 4.

#6 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 03:00 PM:

Jon Baker @3:

There are dozens of variables. Hundreds. Cost of employing people is a huge one, for more reasons than health care. I won't tell you about my vacation and sick leave entitlements, for instance.

In my case, my gross pay includes a contribution from my employer toward my purchase of health insurance. I included it in my gross, then watched it go out again in my health care expenses.

Also, under the current rules in the US, such money doesn't count as taxable income. Some other things are taxable for one thing but not the other. E.g., Social Security is paid as a percentage of income for work, but not for income earned by investments.

I'm interested in money in, money out, however it came and went. This is just to get a feel for what proportion gets spent on these two variables, the cost of government and the cost of health.

Note that it will vary by tax bracket, too, as well as other accounting details. Since my Dutch data point is likely to be the only one from this regime, you can see that I adjusted it because I have a rare deduction. I'd like to get a range of US results, so if any one is not representative, they can still give is a broad picture.

The self-employed often are not part of a group for getting good health insurance rates, so have to pay, say, 2-3x what an employed person's employer would.

If anyone self-employed wants to put numbers in, that might be a useful piece of additional information.

There are so many variables, it's hard to make an individual comparison that's meaningful.

Not in detail, but it gives us a shape of the landscape.

#7 ::: Paul Lalonde ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 03:00 PM:

Jon Baker @ 3: of course there's a lot of variables. But moving 5k of cost around will lead to a couple of percentage points of difference. I suspect that given the methodology of this straw poll, that will fall in the noise. It's still informative to see where the gaps lie.

One of the greatest assets (some) governments and (some) employers have in their battle to keep workers oppressed is the taboo against discussing compensation. They know the compensations of every employee, and use this knowledge in negotiations, while employees are encouraged to not even fully understand their *own* compensation, let alone have information about the compensation of their peers.

#8 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 03:04 PM:

SamChevre @5:

Social charges that go through the payroll, yes (there are several).

As I said, sales taxes/VAT and equivalents are excluded, as are local/city taxes.

If anyone is interested, Dutch VAT is 19%. Calculating that as a percentage of income is beyond the scope of what I'm looking to do.

#9 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 03:07 PM:


I'm not trying to be bothersome, but in France/Germany the social charges run 15-20% of pay. That's why I thought your numbers seem low.

Is there an employee/employer split, and all that shows on the paycheck is the employee portion (like US FICA?)

#10 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 03:09 PM:

Figures for 2008:

1. 5.53% (including all deductions etc. -- I'm not sure I did this entirely right, consider it an approximation)
2. 15%.

For this coming tax year, it'll be considerably more, because of the the Adventure With Swine Flu -- holding all other numbers steady, and assuming I don't incur any more out of pocket health costs this year, it'll be approximately 22.5%.

I'm a grad student, so I am not making the big bucks, and last year I had no major out of pocket health expenses. I live in the US.

#11 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 03:21 PM:

SamChevre @9:

I don't know, and I can't find it on Wikipedia's otherwise excellent Dutch tax articles. The references I find on the web tend to be quite vague. The best information I can find is 18.7%, but that's not a reliable source. But getting the equivalents for other countries may not be easy.

Rough and ready, remember? Shape of the landscape.

#12 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 03:21 PM:

Another US data point for tax year 2008

1) Effective tax rate: 16.7%
2) Effective tax + medical rate: 22%
2a) Effective tax + medical including dental: 23.5%

I am uninsured so all my medical, dental and vision expenses are out of pocket. During the period in question I had three different employers, one of whom had a different tax status than the other two, and my taxes are generally weird and complicated for reasons I won't get into, but the percentages look about right in my experience.

If I had purchased the non-subsidized insurance offered by one of those three employers for the time period I worked there, my 2a) percentage would have been 36.7% - and I only worked at that employer for four of twelve months.

I was going to calculate out what it would have cost me if I'd purchased and been covered by that employer's insurance plan for the full year, but that's an awful lot of math. (I do know the full premium for 12 months would have been more than twice what my actual out of pocket was, and 2008 was a relatively expensive health care year for me...)

#13 ::: Marko Kloos ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 03:22 PM:

Speaking as a former Euro-type (Germany), your comparison needs to measure full tax burden, not just income tax vis a vis health care costs: the 15-19% VAT in most EU countries, the gas tax (double the cost for a gallon of gas), much higher vehicle/motor taxes, the "social taxes" mentioned upstream in this comment thread, and lots of little and not-so-little tax bites here and there.

Yes, Germany (and most of Europe) has socialized health care, and more comprehensive entitlement programs than the U.S....but they also have a significantly higher overall tax burden, once you factor in all the ancillary taxes (like double- and triple-taxed gasoline.)

#14 ::: NYC_Geek ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 03:26 PM:

I live in one of the northern suburbs of NYC.

Raw tax rate: about 35%, state + local (but excluding property tax)
With medical costs: about 38%.

(To clarify a tad, my wife and I make a *lot* of money between us. It might only be 3%, but in cash terms, it's a lot of money. If it weren't for the fact that we both have generous employers, we'd be in deep, deep trouble.)

#15 ::: Joy ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 03:27 PM:

20% for taxes
33% for taxes and healthcare--this is just me but "me" paying a family premium, not an individual one. Also it has been a particularly bad year for me as far as medical expenses in that my insurance coverage got a lot worse at the same time that my gall bladder did.

#16 ::: Joyce Reynolds-Ward ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 03:29 PM:

(Scratches head).

This is for me only, not my spouse and various investments/savings, and I'm calculating it off of my latest pay stub.

I pay full rate on Social Security, which is 6% of my paycheck to date.

I pay a deferred Federal and state tax due to contributing a chunk of my paycheck to a 403(b)plan that won't be taxed until I start drawing from it, hopefully at retirement, hopefully at a lower rate.




That's a total of 17% in taxes, but again, about a third of that income is deferred for Federal and state tax purposes.

Medical--vision, dental and medical--is 25% of my paycheck, or would be if I didn't come in under my employer's pay cap (they contribute x amount per month, I pick up any difference, and we calculate the family coverage so that it stays under the cap).

#17 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 03:35 PM:

I'll have to haul out a paystub tonight.

My health care figures might be lower than average because I'm in a "high deductible" plan. But while my premiums are rather low, I put about $300 a month into a health savings plan.

Overall, I'd rather be back with Kaiser, who did a wonderful job checking my out after I had pains in my chest and left arm. (My heart was fine . . . the problem was probably due to walking my big muscular shepherd dog.)

#18 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 03:44 PM:

Found it: very useful site, the

7.2% of payroll.

#19 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 03:45 PM:

Found it: very useful site, the SSA

7.2% of payroll.

With the link fixed.

#20 ::: Nick ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 03:50 PM:

1. 27.3%
2. 33.4%

Estimates are based on payroll deductions from my most recent statement and on a wild-assed guess about my semi-monthly out-of-pocket medical expenses. I live in the Maryland suburbs of DC, and I work 40 hours a week at a salaried position that (I believe) puts my personal pay somewhere between the 80th and 90th percentile locally.

#21 ::: jim ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 03:54 PM:

a. 15.3%
b. 26.9%

This is for two people (joint return) 2008 in Virginia. Semiretired: pension (which doesn't attract FICA) plus both work part-time as adjuncts at a State University (one taught six courses over the year, one taught four). Fair amount of dental work which pushed up the out-of-pocket health costs.

#22 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 03:58 PM:

US, 2008 financial year.

Income tax rate: 25%
Income tax rate + medical rate: 25%

I don't know what my employer paid for my health insurance, but I paid almost nothing.

While the absence of other taxes from the accounting is an issue, I don't think it's exactly the issue that people are claiming. We could be interested in either
(a) the relationship between your nominal income and what you can actually buy, or,
(b) how expensive it is to employ people

(a) should include sales tax, but it should also include some of the other reasons that many things are more expensive in Europe, such as the more reasonable minimum wage.

(b) should include payroll taxes, US employer contributions to health insurance, employer 'social charges', and you could make a good case for including costs from differences in vacation leave and in termination provisions

All of these differences in cost come from differences in how the economy is regulated, and I don't see that it makes sense to worry about all the "tax" contributions and not the other costs.

I certainly wouldn't regard the selection of taxes to include as the most important argument against taking this thread as a primary source of reliable international economic data. :)

#23 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 04:14 PM:

Markos, this also does not include sales/use tax (9.25% in CA); property/parcel tax (ours was slightly over 2% of gross income last year -- had we not bought our house ten years ago and had it assessed then instead of now the property tax would be much higher -- the effect of Prop 13); local taxes of various sorts; capital gains tax (unless abi is including them as straight income); and various other taxes as well. There might be a difference, as you say, but I doubt it is as high as you say.

#24 ::: D ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 04:16 PM:

USA, for the 2008 tax year:

1. 16.3%
2. 17.2%

I'm actually somewhat surprised by that. I expected my insurance to cost more than it does (although my employer kicks in a good bit as well).

#25 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 04:27 PM:

Oh my god.

No one said there was going to be *math* on this exam!

This is the sort of thing I find much too taxing to contemplate at the end of a long day.

#26 ::: jim ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 04:31 PM:

Echo Pat Greene @23 on property taxes: mine are now a significant element of my budget, more than state income taxes and not much less than Federal.

#27 ::: Stevey-Boy ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 04:48 PM:

US, 40 hours/week

Tax 24%
Tax and health 30% (including dental and vision)

PA sales tax 6%

#28 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 05:06 PM:

My local/property taxes are negligible; they pretty much cover the cost of sewerage and garbage collection. The gemeente (=county), which also happens to be my village, gets a distribution from the central government for most of its budgetary needs (education being the big one, of course).

So you could say some of my income tax pays for the stuff that Americans' property tax does.

#29 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 05:21 PM:

Abi, I don't have a P60 to hand to check but I suspect it doesn't show employer's NI contributions, which are IIRC approx. 8% of gross salary. Now, as to whether they _should_ be included in this analysis I don't know, but we should at least be clear that they exist and aren't being counted...

#30 ::: Abby N ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 05:36 PM:

2007, my husband and I (early twenties, healthy, one full-time student, one under-employed recent graduate with no insurance and a substantial chunk of income from a family trust fund):

Taxes: 9.3% of our gross income.
Taxes + health care: I can't find firm records of what we spent in health care costs that year, but I estimate it totaled still under 10% of all income.

I believe that may qualify as "absurdly low". Damn. This was in NH, so no sales tax, and no state income tax (but we did pay state tax on the trust income). As well, we were renting, and thus not directly paying state or local property tax.

#31 ::: jim ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 05:39 PM:

Interestingly, my property taxes don't cover either sewerage or garbage collection. Sewer charges are included in the water bill (I pay for it coming and going) and garbage collection is a flat fee levied on single family houses only since the city doesn't collect garbage from commercial buildings or apartment houses (they have to contract privately).

It is very difficult to make cross-jurisdictional comparisons.

#32 ::: Tim Illingworth ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 05:58 PM:

† The British tax year runs from 6 April to 5 April.

That's March 25 Old Style (Lady Day IIRC).

#33 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 06:08 PM:

Hmm. Belgium, Walloon side. My 2008 figures are inaccurate, mainly because I worked a part-time (22.5 hours/week) job in the first half of the year in addition to freelancing, then became a full-time freelancer in July 2008.
The figures apply to the employee part of my income, no major medical expenses.*

1) 19%
2) 19%

In Belgium we have withholding tax (18% in my case - note how close that is to figures 1 and 2), so at the end of the fiscal year, many of us get tax refunds. My refund in past years has been roughly equivalent to a month's net salary.

However, rough estimates of (g-n)/g for freelancers stand at some 45-50%, because we pay for our own "social charges", which include pensions and health care. The 45-50% also includes other deductibles (utilities, office supplies, rent). I don't have a detailed report from my accountant yet so I don't know what the exact proportions are like.

I'm actually surprised at the figures, I thought they'd be higher. Will try to dig up 2006-2007 returns for a more accurate picture.
As has been mentioned in earlier comments, this doesn't reflect how expensive it is to hire people. In a casual conversation, my former boss once mentioned that my net income was roughly a third of the gross figures when employer contributions and social charges were taken into account. (I worked for an SME with some 20 employees.)

*Consulted a doctor a few times(copay: 2€ for the GP, 5€ for the specialist) and had a couple of fillings done (about 20€ each, IIRC). Biggest out-of-pocket medical expense: 140€ for elective procedure that lasts 5 years and earns itself out in 2 (compared with equivalent cost of medicines), assuming no adverse reactions.

#34 ::: Laurie ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 06:41 PM:

Read 'em and weep: dual-income, no kids, house almost paid off, and both making Silicon Valley salaries:

Tax rate (fed, state, fica, etc): 43%
Tax Rate & Insurance: 46%

Sales tax is 9.25%, and property tax is about 1.1% on the value of the house.

#35 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 06:46 PM:

US, New York (which has high state income tax), 35 hrs/week, 2008:

1. 28.36%
2. 33.84%

I have fairly good health insurance through my employer. Counting their 95% of the premiums as income and then health expenditure, the figures are:

1. 25.75%
2. 39.93%

I didn't run the numbers for 2007, but the health outlay percentage would have been higher since I paid for both a root canal and a new pair of glasses that year. (Dental and vision are not covered by my insurance.) 2006 was even higher, because I had a large out-of-pocket surgery bill after the surgeon turned out not to be on my insurance plan. The insurance paid for a little over 2/3, but I still had to lay out $11,000 of my own money. (Fortunately, the first surgery, in 2005, was fully covered. I don't--and didn't--have $80,000+)

#36 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 06:50 PM:

Jim@26 my property taxes don't cover either sewerage or garbage collection

Same here, though garbage is by container size, not a flat fee. Connection to the sewer system for new buildings is also not included in taxes: it's assessed in installments over 20 years or so.

#37 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 06:52 PM:

Germany, 2008, single, no children, 35h (=full time) work week plus average 3 hours a week overtime pay:

Net payroll tax (= payroll tax - tax return): 26%
Net payroll tax + Health insurance: 31.8%
Net payroll tax + Health insurance + OOP health expenses[*]: 32.8%
Net payroll tax + all mandatory social insurances [**]: 50%

[*] Includes half of the non-covered cost of getting a tooth implant.
[**] Health, elderly care, unemployment, pension.

#38 ::: Darryl Rosin ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 07:12 PM:


1. 23% on payslip, less with deductions. 30% with repayment of University fees, which is through the income tax system. Includes Public Health levy (Medicare).

2. Maybe 25%? Including Asprin, vitamins, first aid supplies and the occasional bit of acupuncture. Actually, the public system doesn;t include Dental and I have really really really bad teeth problems, so that should probably be several percent higher. I've been putting it off and thinking about traveling to Thailand.

All Federal taxes. 10% federal GST. State taxes are almost all levied on businesses (Stamp duty when you buy a house is the only one I can think of). Local taxes are not much more than utility fees levied on the unimproved property value.

Our tax year is the financial year which seems like the obvious place to start and finish.


#39 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 08:35 PM:

A quick and dirty check shows that state and federal income taxes, social security payments, and health insurance payments take a 30 percent bite of my income.* That isn't factoring in property taxes, fuel taxes, sales taxes, or any other tax that we pay. My health insurance covers my wife. That isn't counting co-payments (nasty word) any time we see a physician or dentist, or go in for a test or other procedure.

* I haven't checked my wife's, or her late mother's.

#40 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 08:41 PM:

Hope other Australians can be more help. I'm a bit distracted, and most of my records are difficult to find or get access to; also I'm in an odd situation recently, with a couple of bouts of Leave Without Pay when accumulated Sick, Annual and Long Service ran out during illness, and it can be hard to work out the value of healthcare used but unpaid by me (one prescription was $AU694 for 30 days supply x 6 mo, but I only paid $AU32 x 6 on PBS), also sometimes I've been treated as a private patient, others public, all in public hospitals with doctors either employed by the hospital (not government) or practicing privately using the public system, but here's an earlier post on general taxes.

Some official information from the Australian Taxation Office site, Individuals section (Federal level): Individual income tax rates (plus the Medicare levy of 1.5% of taxable income, which starts at $AU6,000 — doesn't cover dentistry).

At the State level, New South Wales Treasury, Office of State Revenue (via the NSW Government Directory).

And for Local Government, I'm in the City of Sydney, a smallish area around the original settlement, not nearly covering the 4-5 million inhabitants of the Greater Sydney metropolitan area. Council Rates & Charges are capped by State law, and are a combination of percentage of land value and separate charges for garbage collection and such. Water and sewerage is paid to separate regional Water Boards (currently Sydney Water, formerly Metropolitan Water, Sewerage & Drainage Board, initials still found moulded on older metal fittings).

Crossed-in-the-night: While this thread was aborning, I was putting a relevant post #99 in "Fighting fire with fire: an email forward" thread. Copied it below.

Tax comparisons are tricky. It's obvious and fairly simple to compare income tax rates, and fairly obviously and simply wrong.
Australia, New South Wales (Sydney)
As a home owner, I pay council rates and water rates (part of rent if I'm not). At a State government level, if I sold land or some other property there's Stamp Duty, an employer pays Payroll Tax, owning property other than my home makes me liable for Land Tax, but most people don't do these. State Sales Taxes, per se, have been replaced by the 10% Federal Good & Services Tax (GST, like VAT elsewhere). Leaving the Income Tax, and 1.5% Medicare Levy.

But there's a bunch of rebates and deductions in that. As a child-free widowed orphan, an employee with clerical-style duties, not a primary producer, I don't get carer or unemployed/low-income allowances ("welfare"), family tax rebates, or deductions for tools, special clothing, vehicles, fuel and such ("not welfare"). There's a bunch of landlord/lady deductions and rebates too (also "not welfare"). The one-third rebate of my ~$AU1,000pa private health insurance is taken at source by MBF ("couldn't possibly be welfare, after all, these people are paying private health insurance").

So working that out for Australia, and finding, then comparing, what's an equivalent person's amount in different systems, like the USA, Netherlands, UK and so on, is not that easy. Unfortunately, a lot of the comparisons I do see are done with an obvious bias towards showing one or another system is worse, rather than disinterestedly comparing the ratio of your earnings you give in tax and the kind of infrastructure and social support you benefit from in return.
[*] FICA?

#41 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 08:51 PM:

My federal income tax bite was about 25% last year.
The state of California took another 5 or 6% - it uses a different figure for taxable income, so I can't really compare them.
Currently I'm not signed up for insurance, so that gets added back to the paycheck - it would run about 8 to 10% of the net, looking at the numbers on the stub.

#42 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 08:59 PM:

I'm in New York. My health insurance covers Avram and me; Avram's income is nominal, so I'm not including it in these calculations. (For the record, NYC sales tax just went up to 8.875%, having been 8.375% through July. I rent my apartment, so property taxes aren't an issue.)

My company's health insurance is about half covered by the company and half out of my pocket. This includes regular medical and dental. We also have a flexible spending plan to cover non-insured costs like deductibles and prescriptions. My health insurance contribution and the flex spending contribution are pre-tax, so for the sake of the calculation, I'm adding those amounts to my take-home. I'm not counting the employer health insurance contribution as part of my gross or of "i". These numbers are based entirely on my taxable income and my outlay.

That said, I agree with Joseph M. that the second - in the second equation should be a +, and on that basis this is what I come up with:

(a) 26%
(b) 44%

I've had a fair amount of pricey dental work, optical and gynecological issues, and multiple prescriptions, plus these are New York doctors. Still, that's a lot to shell out.

If I factor out Avram's portion of the health coverage, the latter figure becomes 32%. If I throw the employer numbers back into the mix, I get (a) 35% and (b) 51% with Avram and 40% without.

This is back of the envelope number-crunching and I'm juggling so many balls that I could have gotten something wrong.

That we're living as comfortably as we do, all things considered (did I mention I have student loans I'm paying off on top of everything else?), can be attributed almost entirely to NYC rent stabilization.

#43 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 09:01 PM:

U.S., Washington State, 2007 figures:

1. 20.5%
2. 30.1%

This is for my family as a whole - my husband and I are equal partners in a small business, we have two children.
WA has no state income tax; sales tax in the range of 8-9% (depending on something; I haven't figured out what, exactly, even after 8.5 years here. I don't think it's a matter of arithmetic or geography; phase of the moon seems more likely...).

That includes catastrophic health insurance (oh so aptly named), out of pocket expenses for an expensive year (glasses, dental, various etc.).

If we'd have met the deductible on the catastrophic insurance due to some catastrophe, we could pay as much as everything we own and then some - the insurance covers 80% of anything over $5150. That goes up *really* quickly.

There is no meaningful way of counting the number of hours I work per week. Anywhere between "all waking hours" and "whenever it pleases me to work" (I have an extraordinarily good profession.)

#44 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 09:06 PM:

US citizen, living in an apartment in Southern California. Single. Standard forty-hour work week (except for when I worked some overtime in May, June, and July). Employed by a large engineering company. This is for 2008.

Methodology for finding net pay: take the YTD gross from my last paycheck of 2008, subtract out the YTD FICA taxes, then subtract out the federal and state taxes as calculated on my tax returns. If I've bungled something, this is where I've done it.

1. Effective tax rate: 27.7%
2. Effective tax rate plus health costs: 28.1%

Being young and healthy and stupid, I'm on the high-deductible health plan and don't really go in for regular check-ups like I should. (Ok, at all.) Even so, the price of the cheapie plan went up at the beginning of this year, which is offset by my taxes going down a little.

I don't know what my employer pays as their part of the health plan. I would imagine it's a lot more than I do.

Tim Illingworth @ 32:

You're right about Lady Day.

#45 ::: Joseph M. ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 09:13 PM:

Well, now that I'm home from work and have access to the appropriate paperwork:

taxes only: 28.5%
taxes plus health-type insurance: 29.9%

I'm including the short- and long-term disability insurance I carry, but not sales taxes. Also not included was the roughly half that my employer kicked in for my health and dental coverage.

Those numbers are for a late 20s single male with a reasonable job (salaried, so we'll call it 40 hours a week and ignore the outliers) and no interesting medical problems, living in Wisconsin.

#46 ::: Micah ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 10:21 PM:

1) 7.6%
2) 7.6% - Guess who can't afford healthcare in the US right now.

#47 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 10:22 PM:

Mmmm...wouldn't you need to include sales, value-added, and property taxes to make a fair comparison? There's states which have no income tax, but a very high sales tax.

#48 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 10:33 PM:

FWIW, California state sales tax is 7.25 percent and the LA county sales tax is 2.5 percent.

#49 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 10:56 PM:

Oregon, single, low-premium/high-deductible plan:

1: 31.2%
2: 31.5%

My premiums -- health, dental, vision -- are only $13.00 / paycheck.

My employer pays $168.00 and change for the coverage.

However . . . I'm putting aside $114.59 per payccheck into a health savings plan (correction to #17; my employer throws in a little).

I had to shell out about $800 this year for dental deductibles, which came from that savings account.

#50 ::: Charles ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 11:14 PM:

1 31.53846154
2 29.17948718

Australia. Paid a lot (but never enough). I think I need a better accountant.

This year I have been diagnosed with a (non-life-threatening but very annoying) chronic condition that will need treatment and medication for the rest of my life. And I am not in the slightest worried about drugs costs or medical expenses. I won't be denied treatment at any time for financial reasons. This is something worth paying for.

Also, the surfing is awesome.

#51 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2009, 11:23 PM:

EXPLICATION REQUEST: If "deductibles" =/= "co-pays", is a "deductible" a "co-pay" that is, somehow, from somewhere "deductible"? They both appear to be something you pay someone.
It appears co-pays are like our "gaps" between what's charged and what's either covered ab initio or refunded.

#52 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2009, 12:15 AM:

A co-pay is an amount that is not, nohow, ever covered. Usually it's small and per-visit. A deductible is the amount after which your insurance starts paying.

For instance, if I have a thousand-dollar deductible and a $15 co-pay, then every time I go to the doctor I pay $15. I also pay the first thousand dollars per year. Once I've paid that, the rest is on my insurance* except for any future co-pays.

Co-pays are most similar to the way a lot of countries treat prescription drugs.

*Often, insurance pays only a percentage of a procedure even once the deductible is met. For example, on a thousand-dollar procedure I'd pay the first fifteen dollars, and then 20% of the rest, with my insurance picking up the other 80%. My 20% is also sometimes called a co-pay.

#53 ::: Yarrow ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2009, 12:17 AM:

Don't have my tax rates easily to hand, but I do have another observation.

My employer (a public university in the U.S.) costs out the fringe benefits for full-time employees at 32.5% -- that is, if your paystub says you're getting $1,000 per week before taxes, the university is paying out $1,325 per week. The breakdown:

07.07% FICA
10.99% Retirement
13.39% Health, disability, and life insurance
00.48% Unemployment and workers' compensation
00.57% Tuition reimbursement

Other than the tuition reimbursement, most large U.S. institutions with defined-benefit retirement plans probably look fairly similar. (Institutions with 401(k) plans instead of defined-benefit plans probably don't spend as much on retirement -- that's their motivation for moving to 401(k).)

#54 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2009, 12:31 AM:

The deductible is the base portion of a medical bill that the patient has to pay before the insurance covers the remainder. Often once the deductible has been paid, the insurance covers all expenses above that amount for the plan year. I suppose the insurance wants the patient to have some skin in the game for some reason. Copayments are a portion of a medical bill, generally an office visit, that the patient is responsible for regardless of whether the deductible has been met or not. They're similar ideas but not interchangeable.

Then there are sometimes limits to the coverage above which you need to pay out of pocket. I'm close to my limit for my dental coverage, so once the crown I'm waiting for is put in, I'll need to pay the rest from my flex spending money and, since I think that won't be enough, whip out my checkbook. I set the flex spending at the amount I did because of teeth that needed fixing. I have no problem with spending all of it because it's a use-it-or-lose-it kind of thing, but I still haven't bought new the glasses and orthotics I should really have.

I meant copayments more than deductibles when I posted above, but I have a cold so my concentration is off. I think I have some deductible or other anyway, I've been to so many doctors this year it's all a blur by now. And in spite of all this, I'm basically healthy!

BTW, seeing the other figures popping up, either my math is way off or I'm getting robbed blind. I do feel my coverage is very good, though, so maybe I'm getting what I'm paying for.

#55 ::: Tom Burke ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2009, 12:42 AM:

Self employed here. Half the year in CA, half in VA.

FICA (social security) 15.3
Income 12.2
Health Insurance 4.5
OOP Medical / Dental 14
Total 46%

#56 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2009, 12:42 AM:

Yarrow, 53: where do you get your FICA percentage from? FICA as such (aka Social Security) is 6.2% of gross income payable by the employer and an equal 6.2% withheld from the employee's gross (up to the $102K limit). Then Medicare, which is frequently lumped into FICA proper in casual discussion, is 1.45% from the employer and 1.45% withheld from the employee (no annual limit, every dollar earned is taxed). So I'd have expected to see 6.2% or 7.45%, not 7.07%.

If you're self employed, you get to pay both halves, so you pony up 12.4% FICA and 2.9% Medicare on your earnings, lucky you!

Also, mmmm, defined-benefit pensions...

#57 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2009, 01:07 AM:

Mez @ 51:

Devin and Chris Quinones have already given you the definition, so I'll give you an example of the sorts of games they do for cost of the insurance, versus deductible and coverage.

A couple caveats: I was kind of lazy the last time the benefits update came around at work, so I didn't check what they may have been changing, and I don't have the exact numbers to hand. This example should be good enough for expository purposes. I'm not going to bother with all the little co-pays here and there; just assume that they're there for prescriptions and doctor's visits and such.

Through my company, I'm offered three plans from the insurer.

The first is the most expensive per month, and has the lowest deductible. You only have to pay a small amount in medical fees before they start paying money. Unfortunately, they don't actually fully cover costs from there on out. I don't remember the exact percentages, but they'll pick up something like 60–70% of the tab and stick you with the rest. This plan is pretty good if you expect to be making lots of little doctor's visits throughout the year, such as if you have kids.

The next plan costs a bit less, and it has a higher deductible. You have to pony up a few hundred dollars before they'll start paying for medical services. On the plus side, they'll cover something like 80% of the bills.

The final plan is the cheapest—only a few dollars per month. It's sometimes known as catastrophic insurance or, as I call it, "the cheapie plan". It has a high deductible, meaning that you have to blow through a thousand or two dollars of your own money before any insurance coverage kicks in. On the other hand, they cover 100% after that. This is the plan to choose if you're basically healthy, have a few thousand dollars stashed away, and are only worried about being hit by a meteor or an SUV driver yakking on their phone.

So right up front you're having to gamble on how much you're going to visit the doctor that year and try to figure out where that break-even point is for how much you're paying versus how much you're getting back. But the same plan that's good for lots of little, low-grade doctor's visits is less good for an expensive hospital visit. How nice. I also have no doubts that I'd still have to fight to have that 100% coverage applied to everything, or that there isn't something fun tucked away in the fine print somewhere.

I'd feel better if I didn't have to deal with this kind of crap.

#58 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2009, 01:41 AM:

I don't have good numbers for out of pocket stuff, but it seems like more and more. This year is probably going to run 3-5% of gross, but this year is bad $$ medically due to a baby that just arrived. (at home, healthy, and out of hospital birth. Unfortunately, only 1/2 covered by insurance, rather than the 80-100% in hospital.)

In WA, small business, 3 kids. Rough percentages:

Fed Income Tax: 2.5%
Non Health Deductions: (fica/medicare/health ins): 10.5%
Health Insurance: 7.3% + 3-5% out of pocket

so a: 10.5%
b: 20-22%

But, if you include the employer portion, health insurance is more than 2x as expensive as that looks. (as is the medicare and fica).

#59 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2009, 04:25 AM:

Paul Lalonde@7: One of the greatest assets (some) governments and (some) employers have in their battle to keep workers oppressed is the taboo against discussing compensation. They know the compensations of every employee, and use this knowledge in negotiations, while employees are encouraged to not even fully understand their *own* compensation, let alone have information about the compensation of their peers.

Yeah, well, the normal system for having and understanding that information is known as a "union", innit.

#60 ::: Yarrow ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2009, 04:44 AM:

where do you get your FICA percentage from? From my employer's web site. That is odd, isn't it?

#61 ::: Jeff Petersen ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2009, 05:55 AM:

I work as an independent contractor, so nothing's taken out of my paycheck when I get paid. I get it quarterly in large, painful lumps.

If I'm estimating this right:

1) 19.8% (for 2008)

2) about 23% (for 2008), but I also was only paying for insurance. I didn't incur any additional out-of-pocket expenses, because I never had any reason to see a doctor. Potentially, this could hit 26-27% (if I had enough OOP expenses to meet my yearly maximum). Of course, my plan doesn't include any dental or visual, so if something goes wrong there, it's possibly limitless.

Oh, wait. I actually forgot my state taxes. Up all those by about 1% or so.

#62 ::: AutumnHeart ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2009, 06:51 AM:

I'm in Australia, and work 40-50 hours a week. I have private health insurance, which covers things like new glasses at the optometrist, and lets me pick hospitals and so on should I need to.

Effective rate: 22.5%
Effective rate with health insurance: ~25%

#63 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2009, 09:16 AM:

Re 51, 52:

The proper term for the "some percent of everything" is co-insurance (if, like me, you are an insurance geek).

A typical good US plan--what I had through my employer--is $15 co-pay (for every doctor visit except preventative, so e.g. it's one copay for a pregnancy's worth of pre-natal visits), $500 deductible, 15% co-insurance, $2000 out-of-pocket max (so coinsurance only applies to bills up to about $10,000, and insurance pays at 100% thereafter). Confusingly, copays don't count toward out-of-pocket max.

#64 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2009, 09:44 AM:

(My math was probably wrong; I pulled up last year's tax return and took (g-n) to be federal and state taxes withheld, as noted on my W2 and 1099, minus the amount I got refunded. I took g to be the wages and income noted on said forms. I probably missed out some tax payments that way. My income tax bracket is 15%, nominally.)

#65 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2009, 09:45 AM:

Hi Abi

UK based full time employment, with less than half of my income in the top tax bracket:

(a) 32%
(b) 32%

I pay £8 a month for a daily medication (statins for cholesterol). It's worth noting that that's a token cost - whatever the medication (assuming it's NICE approved) that cost would be the same.

VAT here is 17.5% (was briefly dropped to 15% but returning soon); this is the equivalent of sales tax but is not applied to all items.

Property tax here is "stamp duty", and is 1% (3% if over 250k, 4% if over 500k) of the purchase price.

#66 ::: Paul Lalonde ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2009, 10:19 AM:

Adrian Smith @ 59: Yes, unions are the traditional answer. They work well when workers are easily interchangeable, and less well when the workers are highly specialized from one to another. Union busting is still a popular pass-time, sadly.

#67 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2009, 10:41 AM:

For a family of 3 in Illinois, USA, with 2 earners each working 40-45 hours a week, and 1 dependent child:

-without health care, about 27%
-with health care, about 38%, assuming all three of us pay our whole deductable & OOP for the year.
-33% if none of us pays any OOP in that year (unlikely with our health profiles).

#68 ::: Mikael Vejdemo Johansson ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2009, 10:55 AM:

I could only access the data for my latest German tax return - on which actual ruling is pending my handing in more paper work once I get back to the US and can ACCESS the extra paper work.

For that period, though, I was a PhD student on half salary and double work hours. And:

Effective tax rate: 8%
Effective tax-and-health rate: 19%
Effective tax-health-and-retirement rate: 30%

Which reminds me that I need to, at some point, file the paperwork to reclaim my retirement insurance from the German state and put it somewhere where it might even do me any good in 30-odd years time.

#69 ::: Joe Crow ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2009, 11:00 AM:

Massachusetts, USA.

a) 18%
b) 29%

I'm working about 35 hours a week, salary, at about 80% of the median household income for Mass. Supports me, wife, and 1 kid. I'm also doing part-time school, which is where I'm getting my health insurance from (no dental. I actually haven't been to the dentist in about 22 years). Wife and kid are on the MassHealth plan. We've got co-pays of $25 per visit, and my plan covers 80% of total cost of visit, which means every visit I end up paying another $25-$35 of the total after the fact. Kind of a pain in the ass, actually. MassHealth plan isn't nearly as much of a dickaround.

Mass has sales tax, about 5%, I think.

#70 ::: Stevey-Boy ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2009, 11:15 AM:

I am very upset to hear some peoples local taxes in the US cover garbage collection, and mine don't! I live in a single family home and have to pay a garbage company/bin. Outrageous. I also have to provide a post light, so no street lighting!

As for co-pays they can really add up for a family of 4.

#71 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2009, 11:28 AM:

A note on VAT (not the same as sales tax, exactly): In Germany it's 7 per cent for food, books, newspapers and art; 19 per cent for everything else. Both is slightly under the EU average and median for reduced/full rate.

#72 ::: Ewan ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2009, 12:36 PM:

New York state; family of 4.

Passing comments: SUNY has a fringe rate of 41.5% as the nominal cost to them of their contributions to stuff on my behalf; almost exactly half of that is allocated to health insurance. We moved the whole family over to my insurance this year with my move from Yale, as the costs are significantly lower than insuring through my wife's work and the benefits roughly comparable.

Agreed on the second equation having an erroneous minus sign.

Numbers pretty accurate, as my info for last year's taxes is on this same computer. Property tax would be higher than state tax - and as mentioned above, NY is a high tax state - but we built by choice in a high property-tax area as it is directly linked to school funding.

Tax 25.5%
Tax plus medical costs 34.7%.

That medical cost number is abnormally high in 2008 for a non-recurring reason; absent that the 'normal' second number would be ~28.4%, which looks right to me.

#73 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2009, 01:06 PM:

I seem to recall an article in the Economist a few years back showing that when you factored in federal, state, and local taxes, social security, etc., the US was not an especially low tax country.

One way to think about the cost of universal health care: The US spends massively more than any other country on our (first-rate but expensive) military. Giving everyone health insurance would really cut into our aircraft carrier and stealth bomber budget.

#74 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2009, 01:48 PM:

Paul Lalonde@66: Union busting is still a popular pass-time, sadly.

Doesn't help that the only time you hear about them is when they're fighting tooth and nail for unsustainable pensions and health benefits, I suppose.

#75 ::: Rachael HD ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2009, 02:15 PM:

My husband does the taxes, so I couldn't really answer the original question, but I would like to add that I am a 15 yr public school teacher and had to drop my family from our health insurance plan because my share of the premiums would have been about 1/3 of my salary. I figured going without food would have been worse for the kids than going without health insurance that we rarely use anyway. I suspect that the health insurance and health care industries are going to wake up and discover that having been pushed out the door, many of us find we don't miss the care. (We did buy a high deductible catastrophic plan mind.)

#76 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2009, 02:48 PM:

Adrian Smith @74:
Doesn't help that the only time you hear about them is when they're fighting tooth and nail for unsustainable pensions and health benefits, I suppose.

"Hear about them" being the operative phrase. Sigh.

#77 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2009, 03:17 PM:

You guys are right about that minus sign; I've fixed it.

#78 ::: H. Wessells ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2009, 03:44 PM:

NJ, work in NYC, family of 3 (filing joint return)

wages plus small business (minor loss in 2008)

32.7 %
federal, state, local property taxes & SS & Medicare & employee paid portion (one-fifth) of health insurance costs
would be around 42% if had to pay all heath insurance costs

no major out of pocket health care expenses in 2008
N.B. local taxes paid are more than 50 % of actual federal tax paid

#79 ::: Roy G. Ovrebo ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2009, 04:29 PM:

Norway; single man in good health; no dependents:

a) 27.3%
b) 27.3%

My marginal tax is 44.8 %, though, because I'm in a high tax bracket.

Norway has a VAT of 13% on food and 25% on nearly everything else (except books, Yay). Buying, owning and fueling a motor vehicle are taxed at very high, high, and very high rates respectively. Alcohol taxes are insane. No property tax where I live (yet), though there's some relatively small municipal service fees.

#80 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2009, 05:49 PM:

abi@76: "Hear about them" being the operative phrase. Sigh.

Well, I suspected it might be that ol' MSM pro-liberal bias at work, and I'm sure that any good they do slips under the radar, but is the unsustainability thing a lie? I'm thinking of the GM and CA public service unions in particular, they're the only ones I've seen people complaining about.

#81 ::: Jim Flannery ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2009, 02:46 AM:

Chris Quinones: Schedule SE, line 5 is a good place to find the 15.3% number, with the words "multiply by" in front of it.

California, part-time self employed:

a. 32.6%
b. 34.6% (out-of-pocket only; I can't get insurance, but I'm lucky)

#82 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2009, 05:57 AM:

Here in Scotland, last year (I'm using last years figures for reasons) I was paying:

14.6% ( pay as you earn tax)
8% (national insurance)

I have no idea how much I end up paying in VAT and the one or two other ways of getting money off you. NI is supposed to pay for some healthcare, unemployment benefit and one or two other things, I don't really know what.

#83 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2009, 08:25 AM:

Adrian Smith @80:

is the unsustainability thing a lie? I'm thinking of the GM and CA public service unions in particular, they're the only ones I've seen people complaining about.

I haven't followed those negotiations, I'm afraid. But it sounds part and parcel with what the UAW got hit with, even when they gave up contractually agreed rights. It's a Narrative, not a balanced evaluation.

What interests me is the lack of coverage that the other side of the equation gets. How often are the abusive actions of the management at Wal-Mart, Whole Foods and Starbuck's (to name a few notorious examples) cited as a single phenomenon outside of activist websites? When is the fundamental imbalance of power that distorts the labor marketplace an issue too?

When a culture of powerful corporate negotiating positions bankrupts employees one by one, it's just part of the wonderful engine of capitalism. When a group of workers take a position, it's Unions Pushing Unsustainable Positions and Bankrupting Corporate America.

#84 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2009, 09:49 AM:

Stevey-Boy @ 70, yeah, it's great isn't it? I pay city taxes, but live on a "private street" so the homeowners association, from homeowners dues, has to pay for streetlights, street paving, snow removal, tree maintenance, erosion control, etc. "Private street" seems to mean that the developer got away with paying the city less, in exchange for the city not supporting our neighborhood in any way.

It's a libertarian paradise. Every man for himself. The HOA is an ad-hoc mini-government that tries to keep things running, and we have to collect ad-hoc mini-taxes in the form of dues, which no one pays. We could sic lawyers on people, except that we have to pay lawyers -- so it's enforce collection, or keep the streetlights on.

It's frankly foundering right now and if the HOA dissolves, it really will be every man for himself -- and the street will literally crumble. (This is not hyperbole; it's beginning to crumble now because it needs repaving.) This is what happens when government is small enough to drown in a bathtub, and I don't like it.

I'm sorry, I started ranting.

#85 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2009, 12:56 PM:

abi/Adrian Smith: Let's not forget that some of the, "unsustainable" benefits were pushed on the unions by the companies, when the unions tried to make sustainable models.

I'm thinking, in particular, of "Detroit" killi6ng an an effort to prevent job portability/competition, killing off a union plan to have a dime (split 50/50) come out of everyone's hourly wage) and pooled to make a group insurance for everyone in the auto-supply chain.

The Big Three, in particular, hated it (they saw it as making it easier for skilled employees to get work in other companies/small shops; and so making it harder for them to keep control of auto manufacture). so they offered better plans, with more benefits, leading to the present problems with retirement benefits.

#86 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2009, 08:41 PM:

Caroline @84: Whew! Snow Crash society. Did Stephenson have more real examples than I realized? Thought he just caricatured & extrapolated inimical consequences of theory, rhetoric & historic examples.

#87 ::: kali ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2009, 11:40 PM:

@ #85

... well that explains why an assembly-line worker at GM (or something?) can get something like 90% of his regular pay for years. I was wondering how that happened. o.o

#88 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2009, 04:44 AM:

kali @87:
well that explains why an assembly-line worker at GM (or something?) can get something like 90% of his regular pay for years.

And there was this lady who got, like, millions from McDonalds because her coffee was hot!

Seriously. Links or don't make handwavy assertions like this, please. Particularly not on your first appearance on this blog.

#89 ::: Auke ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2009, 06:23 AM:

I'm afraid I can't look up my tax forms at the moment. What I can add to the debate is that in the Netherlands, you can apply for 'zorgtoeslag' (healthcare return). This means that when you earn less than E 32.502 per year (or E 47.880 when living together), the government will pay part of your insurance. This can be up to 40-50% of your basic health insurance costs, depending on your situation. (For more details see the Dutch Belastingdienst/Zorgtoeslag site.)

On a related note, I saw that is organizing a petition for Europeans where we can say that we are actually quite pleased with our public healthcare system. Avaaz promises to deliver the petition to 'wavering US senators', so they will know that European healthcare really isn't so bad as some might want them to believe.

#90 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2009, 07:08 AM:

Abi #88: Not that it adds much to this discussion, but a woman did not get "millions ... because her coffee was hot." The jury award of $2.86 million was reduced by the judge to $680,000 and later settled for less than that. Her coffee was not hot, it was unusually hot, hotter than it needed to be -- hot enough to cause significant 2nd and 3rd degree burns. She had originally sought $20,000 to cover medical expenses, which at that point totalled $11,000, but McDonalds offered only $800. That's when she sued. I would have, too.

Yes, the woman did something dumb, but not that uncommon, and the jury recognized her responsibility in the accident. A fairly clear summary can be found in, yes, Wikipedia (which is good for some things.)

I have a a personal interest in this case because someone once spilled a mug of coffee, fresh from the pot, on my lap while I was sitting, and it caused 2nd and 3rd degree burns and sent me to the hospital in shock. If the coffee had landed on my forearm, it probably would have only been 2nd degree burns, maybe not even that, but laps are (for most people) a bit more tender than forearms. As this happened at work on an Air Force base, no lawsuits ensued.

#91 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2009, 07:33 AM:

Not that it adds much to this discussion, but a woman did not get "millions ... because her coffee was hot."

And the reference to "handwavy assertions like this" might indicate that abi is perfectly aware of this, no?

Unfortunate patronising tone to adopt when you've managed to miss the point, IMO.

#92 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2009, 09:31 AM:

Adrian Smith @91: I didn't read a patronizing tone. Tracie states that she had a personal interest in the case, and it may be that she didn't want to let the myth go unchallenged, even when it was used sarcastically.

#93 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2009, 09:33 AM:

Tracie @90:

As Adrian noticed, I was using that particular summary of Stella Liebeck's experience as an example of a talking point that has left the real story almost completely behind.

I'm sorry that you got so badly burned. I've had 15% partial thickness burns on my legs (exploding bottle of stove fuel), and I know what a painful and damaging experience it is. I didn't intend to be a trigger bad memories with my snark.

(Adrian, go gently. People lose the ability to parse jokes when they're reminded of traumatic events.)

#94 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2009, 12:04 PM:

Tracie, #90: You can probably take it as given that most of the people here are aware of the basic facts of the case -- and won't dismiss them with "it doesn't matter what the FACTS are, it was just WRONG" either, the way someone on another forum I used to frequent did.

Still, the recap is appreciated; it's always good to have another reference point about what really happened in that instance.

#95 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2009, 01:28 PM:

Lee/Traceie/abi: With no intent to remind people of unpleasant things, she didn't do, "something stupid" (I've had this argument before, a lot, so I have the basic facts close to mind).

She was the passenger.
The car was stopped.
The coffee spilled when she opened the cup.
She had 2nd, and some 3rd, degree burns in her groin/thighs.
McD's refused her request for help with the medical bills (as Tracie said, they basically offered her an insulting token to go away)(see how it relates the present topic).
In the suit it was found the coffee was being kept apallingly hot, despite being against corporate policy, reprimands from McD's, and previous incidents of similar burns in other people.

To drift to issues of "tort reform": the jury made it's award (which I recall as 3.2 million, but memory is fallible) buy granting the profits from one day of coffee sales. It was a measured response.

For the, "anyone could have done it", I have a triangular scar on my left arm from a tray of swedish meatballs buckling and hitting me with the corner when removing it from the oven.

Because we were catering a wedding, I didn't give it as much attention as I should (young, and foolish), and it infected (very common with 2nd degree burns).

re kali: I didn't understand the comment at all. Anyone able to unpack it for me?

#96 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2009, 04:39 PM:

Adrian, go gently.

Sorry, I was afraid *you* might jump on her for it, and thought I'd try and pre-empt.

#97 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2009, 05:05 PM:

Adrian @96:

Have I been that waspish? I am finding the health thing stressful, depressing and difficult, but I was hoping I wasn't taking it out on people.

#98 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2009, 05:08 PM:

Have I been that waspish?

Not you. I did see TNH lay into someone in a way that made me wince a bit once (can't remember the circumstances so I'm not saying it wasn't completely justified).

#99 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2009, 03:36 AM:

And yay, now I get to find out what it costs to have an 8 day old baby in the hospital for a night or two. More than in the NHS I'd think.

#100 ::: Therese Norén ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2009, 05:27 PM:

Sweden, working 40 hours a week and then some in a well paid job, married with one child, a healthy family.

Taxes (local, regional, national, church) and retirement fund: 26.25%
Taxes and healthcare: 26.33%
(I think I bought OTC medications for that sum.)

My employer pays an additional 41% of my salary on top of that in social taxes. Sales tax is (mostly) 25%. I pay for my own glasses and dental. If I'd need an opthalmologist, it'd be covered.

#101 ::: Jenny Dybedahl ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 04:56 AM:

Sweden, working 38.5 hours a week in a well-paid job, married, no children. Have a chronic illness (endometriosis) for which the treatments is really expensive. I pay the maximum co-pay of SEK 1800 (about USD 300) for meds each year, and most people never reach that.

Taxes: 28.60%
Taxes and healthcare: 29.70%

Everything else is the same as Therese Norén wrote.

#102 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2009, 10:36 AM:

Jenny Dybedahl @101: I'm curious, how are they treating your endo (if that's not too personal a question)? I had it too, though in my case I was lucky enough to go into remission once put on hormonal control. I wasn't aware there was ANY treatment modality besides, "try Depo, sometimes that makes it go away."

This was years ago, perhaps Science Has Advanced.

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