52 States in 8 Months

Smoke detectors in the US and the Abwrackprämie in Germany

Posted in Europe, USA by Ulf on March 9, 2009

Before I came to the US I believed that this would be an exceptionally free country, for example having less laws than other countries. Well, this is not true. America is very similar to Europe. Actually, I already realized this when I got in touch with American bureaucracy.

I had a chat with my Korean office mate a few days ago. We talked about the tax rates in different countries. He was quite shocked when I told him that the VAT rates would be around 20% in Europe, and that I could expect to be paid out about 50% of my gross income. In Korea the VAT is still at 10%, and any income is taxed with about 15%. Here in the US the federal income taxes are somewhere in between, at about 25%. But I don’t really know about the additional state taxes. At least the US public spending ratio (about 34% compared to about 50% in Europe) suggests that the tax levels here are lower.

An example regarding the governmental influence on private life here in the USA: Smoke detectors. There are laws in most US states which enforce the installation of smoke detectors in all residential buildings. And if I understand our state website correctly, then the state will even pay for those smoke detectors in some cases! Haha. I really can’t imagine that something like this would be done in Europe ;-). (EDIT: Seems like some places in Europe and even in Germany make up laws which enforce the installation of these smoke detectors. But at least the community doesn’t pay for them.)

It seems to be quite common here that the government pays for technical devices which are installed in most households. The US will switch to digital television in a few months. And guess what: The government pays 1.5 billion dollars for converter boxes! And yes, this happens in the United States of America! Oh my god, what a federal waste of taxpayer’s money. Yes, that’s about the same amount of money which we Germans pay for the Abwrackprämie. Well, to be honest, it’s not the current taxpayers who pay for it, but the next generation. Me, for example.  You damn bastards in the German government, you’re wasting my money! Argh! Just because you want to be reelected in about half a year. Stupid you, I guess even my Erststimme will go to the FDP or the Grüne. And people who apply for the Abwrackprämie: Don’t you feel bad about spending other people’s money? Once your children grew up, they will have to pay for the 2500€ you saved on your new car. And it won’t just be 2500€. The interest rates will multiply these debts exponentially. Now, you can imagine what my opinion on giving money to Opel is. A company that apparently hasn’t even paid taxes in the recent years (but they still got tax refunds). Enough about that.

This is what happens if the state gives away smoke detectors for free:

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Instead of buying a new battery for the old smoke detector, Americans simply install a new one. Paid for by the community. Sometimes the old one is demounted (right-hand side picture), sometimes not (lhs).

Fire extinguishers are not given away for free in the US. Else our two fire extinguishers wouldn’t be 30 years old. I think it would make sense to test one of them. This might give us a clue if we can still rely on the other one.

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