Since Ray was employed by the airlines, we traveled a lot. We took advantage of the flying privileges. So we had at least three major trips a year. Back in the 80’s we visited Sweden. No computers back then, so I actually used travel guides and magazines to book hotels, apartments, etc. In my reading I came across a retired guidance counselor from NJ who arranged for Americans to hook up with like-minded people in Sweden. Just my thing! I love meeting new people, conversing about their culture, social issues, lifestyle, etc.
I had booked a hotel in Stockholm and prior to our trip the arrangements had been put in place for us to meet with a couple on our second day there and we were invited to their home for dinner. Wilhelm worked for SAS Airlines and Ingrid worked as a journalist. Ray worked for the airlines and I was an aspiring writer and RN. (I had indicated either nursing/medical or writing for my career/interests) It was a perfect match! They picked us up at our hotel on Sunday afternoon. We felt like we’d known them forever. They were warm, friendly and very informative about their country. They drove us around first to various “must see” sights/places that normal tourists don’t experience. Then we went to their home for a lovely traditional Swedish dinner. And we got to meet their teenage children, Per and Anna.
Over the course of the evening, we learned about them and Sweden. The topics that made the most impact on me was the national healthcare in their country and their social programs. I constantly heard whining and complaining in my own country about taxes. Not so in Sweden! Quite the opposite! At that time, 52% of their salary went to taxes. Yes! FIFTY-TWO percent! And not only did they not resent this………..they welcomed it. And when we found out why, I completely agreed with them.
They are covered cradle to grave. For healthcare. For social programs. For education. And probably even more that I can’t now remember. They were mystified by us Americans. WHY, they asked, would we want to pay the high prices that we paid (and that was about 30 yr. ago) for daycare for our children, education for ourselves and then our children, hospitals, doctor visits, testing, etc. I had NO answer for them. Because I have always felt if high taxes covered all that Sweden provided for its citizens………not only provided, BUT proved it works……then I absolutely would have no qualms on high taxes.
Over the years we’ve made many wonderful friendships with people in France, England, Canada and Denmark. And it’s always the same……..yes, they pay much higher taxes than we do, but they have a sense of security that most (unless you’re independently wealthy) of us do not have in this country. They do not have to worry about losing their home or going bankrupt because of unfair and exorbitant drug costs, medical costs, education costs, etc. They can focus on LIFE. On enjoying life. On savoring the days, their friends, their family, their SIX weeks vacation each year!
And so…..at age 70………I have to agree with Europe about paying more taxes. For an average, middle class family? I can’t say this country has done you any favors with less taxes . Just my opinion.
See you here next time………….