I thought voting was supposed to be easy?

February 5, 2008 at 9:02 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ok, so I haven’t voted in six years. I know, I know, not very civically responsible of me, but I have some good excuses. In 2004, when James and I moved to NYC right before the presidential showdown, I went to a lot of trouble to fill out and send in all our paperwork for absentee ballots. But they were the first of many parcels we never received due to the third-world nature of the United States Postal Service in Brooklyn. And because we’ve moved almost yearly since then, it’s been hard to justify voting in local elections for places I don’t really consider home. We didn’t own property. Hell, we didn’t even own a car!

But this year, I vowed to break my trend. I hurriedly registered to vote before January 15 so I could participate in Super Tuesday. I watched the Democratic debates. I argued with my republican husband (who actually agreed with me on a few liberal points, like healthcare and the war – gasp!). I did my research. I even went so far as to email my friend in England to ask her about the healthcare system there, which was featured in Sicko. (See below for her informative answer). This morning I got up early, drove to my polling place (the presbyterian church by my house, which sort of irks me, as separation of church and state is a big issue for me), braved the inclement weather. And when I got there, I only saw one other car in the parking lot. Not. Good. The doors were locked. Damn. I called the election office number on the back of my voter registration card. I got a recording: “There are no presidential primaries in Kansas.” Goddamnit. I’m here! I’m ready to vote! What gives?!

Turns out Kansas holds a caucus, which operates differently than a primary (I knew that it was a caucus, but I had assumed I could vote at the polls). So, tonight I’ve got to drive to JCCC after work, stand in line with some fellow liberals (good) and wait in a room for who knows how long until the decision is made (bad). And all of this during a possible sleet storm. This being my first caucus, and with such a close candidate race, I really want to go. I’m going to try my damnedest. Stupid Kansas.
Here’s my email and my friend’s response about UK Healthcare:
Subject: question about socialized medicine

Sort of a heavy question, but i figure you’re the best person I know to answer it. James and I watched Sicko the other day — Michael Moore’s documentary on the failing US healthcare system — and he touts the benefits of socialized medicine. He goes to doctor’s offices in the UK and interviews all these people about it. In the US, James and I have to pay about $100/month (or maybe more) EACH for health and dental insurance, for which we still pay a $15 fee for each doctor’s visit, and 20% of any procedures, etc. Plus, there’s a likelihood that if we had some serious ailment, our insurance company could deny coverage. In this documentary, he cited several cases, and even talked to insurance people who said it was company policy to deny everyone they could. Such a sham! In the UK, as I understand it from the documentary, all visits and procedures are free. No paperwork. No premiums. And no one is denied. I feel like it’s too good to be true, so I figured you might know the catch, if there is one. I assume you pay for all of this with taxes — in the US, our sales tax is roughly 7%, and our income tax is between 30%-40%, depending on your income bracket. Is that comparable to UK? Do doctors get paid less in the UK than they do in US? It would seem so, assuming your medical school was free, and in the US, most doctors starting out have very high loan to pay back, hence their high salaries. Is there something I’m missing, or is the UK system really the Golden Ticket for healthcare?

And her response:
Well I’ll do my best to answer it though I’m probably ignorant about quite a lot!

Our health care is completely free – you don’t pay to go and see the doctor / go to hospital, and all investigations and procedures are completely free. Of course if you ask people over here, a fair amount of people would do nothing but complain about the NHS (you don’t value anything you don’t have to pay for!). Of course it’s not perfect – there are limited funds and limited time and people to run it all. Sometimes you have to wait for things. Some expensive, specialist treatments (e.g. some cancer medications) may not be available on the NHS. You also have to pay a nominal fee towards prescription medications. On the whole though, I think we’re really lucky (but then again I work for the NHS).

We pay 17.5% tax on all goods (which you can claim back if it’s equipment for work etc) and I think our salary tax is roughly the same (think I pay about 40%) although that can go up if you earn more. You also get taxed on your savings interest. We also pay a lot of tax on fuel and pay car tax. We pay a council tax for our houses. I think there are quite hefty taxes on tobacco and alcohol. That’s all I’m aware of although I’m sure there are sneaky taxes all over the place that just haven’t occurred to me!

What does that sound like to you then?? It’s tax city over here! Did I answer your questions? Golden or fools gold??


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