Monday, March 22, 2010

As the Week Opens in Accra: On Taxes, and Why Obama's Tenacity is to Die For...

I spent the better part of the weekend monitoring the debate on the BBC World service regarding Obama and health care.

So, I don't quite understand why Europeans do not have a major problem paying tax (I even re-call once hearing on the BBC that Sweden is the country where they pay the highest tax, and rarely complain as they know where it goes to!) but the Americans do.

I re-call that just before we came back home from Belgium in 2004, the what Belgians called "TVA" in French--simply VAT--was around 20.5%. Whether you were exempt from taxes at some point because of the work you did or not, there was some tax you could not avoid. And really, there was no need: insurance companies almost-always reimbursed a large part of costs incurred at the "Pharmacie" on most of the drugs. It was always a joy to see the folks with receipts going to have money reimbursed at our insurance company. Even though I was still rather young to understand some of these intricacies of tax and its use and whatnot, the process spoke for itself.

Back in Ghana, when the government -- some weeks back -- decided to raise taxes on the toll booths, I understand it was problematic as many felt it was too much, too high, too soon. Fast-forward a few weeks later, Ghanaians have veritably put up and shut up.

That's the way, uh-huh, uh-huh! I like that! Uh-huh, uh-huh!

Seriously speaking, I pay income tax of around $200, but I don't bother to think about it, or even imagine what I could do with that money. At the end of the day, it is my trump card to hold the government accountable for what it is doing with my money. Is it not?

Back to Obama, reports in the media indicate that the biggest reforms include:

 1. Democrats say the overhaul will extend coverage to 32 million more people in the United States

2. Americans will be obliged to buy health insurance by 2014 and in 2016, if they have not bought coverage, they will be fined 2.5% of their wages.

3. By 2014, employers with 50 or more workers who do not offer coverage face a fine of $2,000 for each employee if any worker receives subsidised insurance.

4. Dependent children are permitted to remain on their parents' health policies until they are 26

5. The richest will be charged a higher rate of tax to pay for the government health insurance plan for the elderly, Medicare

If I am at all impressed by Obama, it has everything to do with how he has kept his steely resolve by working hard to get more supporters. That he failed to get even one Republican vote beggars belief, but him missing a trip to Australia (despite the lure of a Free Trade area) to ensure this domestic agenda is passed speaks volumes not only of his tenacity and steadfastness, but, in my humble opinion, continued commitment to the social, which the slip-ups in the first year seemed to have knocked.

I hope this victory provides sufficient fillip for him to work on other pressing areas he set out to work on!

labels: Obama, health care, ghana taxes

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