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Comment Re: Penny (Score 1) 702

You know as well as I do that you'd have to go out of your way to do that (i.e. stating it to the cashier beforehand, every time ... and even then half of them would probably give you weird looks). That in itself is 'dealing with it'. It's an inefficiency that exists because of the penny. A small inconvenience each time, but add that up over hundreds of transactions a year, millions of people - it's significant.

Sure, I throw extra coins in those little jars if they have one, but often they don't. And they still had to hand me the useless change, and I still had to put it in the jar.

Comment Re: Penny (Score 1) 702

Yep, and in Australia they ditched the 1c coin (and 2c coin, which there is no US equivalent of) way back in 1990. No one misses them. New Zealand has also got rid of the 5 c, too.

I live in the US currently and having to deal with pennies again sucks monkey balls :(

Comment Re:Too late (Score 1) 113

The anthem, sure. A lot of countries sing that at sporting events.

But it's true that the pledge of allegiance is kinda creepy and has no equivalent in other Western, free countries. It is hard not to see the parallel with the kind of childhood indoctrination seen in places like NK (though obviously it's nowhere near the same scale in the US).

Same with the flags EVERYWHERE. I'm sure those that grew up in America simply don't see it as they've been immersed since birth. But as someone who first came to the US in adulthood, it's immediately noticeable and was one of the biggest 'I didn't expect that' things. In most similar countries (Western Europe, Australia, NZ, etc.) you'd only see national flags on government buildings and monuments, not every third person's front yard and every single Perkins/McDonalds/Wendy's etc.

There's a lot to like about the US, don't get me wrong, but there's a grain of truth to the GGP's post.

Comment Re:third world standards (Score 2) 303

They probably were the most modern, advanced nation with the best quality of life in the post-WW2 era, through the 50s, 60s, arguably 70s. They then rested on their laurels and have done virtually nothing 'big' for the last few decades in terms of infrastructure, reforming the tax system, education, healthcare, etc etc. Other countries have caught up and overtaken them, as evidenced by their falling rankings in HDI or any number of 'quality of life' or 'where to be born' indices.

The big problem as I see it (as someone who has lived in several countries but has lived in the US for the last 3 years or so) is that everything in the US is a patchwork. Everything is super-locally governed ... cities and counties have their own police forces, road construction funds, school curricula, etc...things that in most countries would be governed at a Federal or State/Provincial level. So you get this inconsistent, inefficient mish-mash of standards, laws and regulations. Makes it more difficult for different regions to work together or get big-picture things done. Their system of government doesn't really allow much 'top down' lawmaking - getting anything major done is hard and requires an unreasonable amount of consensus (which will never happen in the current hyper-polarised political environment). When my home country did major things - switched to the metric system, introduced universal health care, changed the coinage, completely rewrote the tax code - a political party said they'd do it as part of their election platform, they were elected, and then it actually happened. Can't see major reform like that happening in the US these days.

This 'patchwork' effect shows in the physical world too. You can be in a nice area with manicured lawns, shiny clean office blocks and nice houses ... then cross a road or some 'invisible' line (which might be some obscure town or district boundary) and be in what looks like a third-world shanty town. It really did amaze me when I first came to America - you simply don't see that in other developed/OECD countries. The very fact that you can gerrymander electoral districts in the US and that there isn't an independent body that sets the boundaries based on population/census data (and that most people don't see a problem with this) says a lot.

Don't get me wrong, it's not a BAD place to live (if you have money). But it's no longer the world-beater it was. It's 'just another country' these days.

Comment Re: Sad to see Kerry... (Score 1) 339

Not a ~complete~ lack of guns, sure. But it is significantly more difficult (and expensive) for criminals to get guns in places that have had long-standing gun bans in place. The police sometimes post pictures of seized weapons here in Australia (taken from criminals who were using them illegally) and they are usually (a) very expensive to acquire and (b) ancient (WW2-era pistols etc.), falling apart or otherwise in very in poor condition. Only ever rusty old pistols or shotguns. Hardly the sophisticated, modern rapid fire weapons available in the US.

It's true that if you ban guns only criminals will have them. But as the decades roll on and more of the few remaining illegal weapons get discovered and removed from the market by police, they get more and more expensive - out of the reach of the vast majority of petty criminals.

Australia is lucky of course that it's an island which makes it comparatively easy to stop new weapons getting into the country too (since there's only a finite number of places where goods can come into the country, all of which are monitored). Gun bans would be significantly less effective in a country with a more porous border I imagine (i.e. long land borders like the US and Europe).

Comment Re:Antennas (Score 1) 215

Hell, the first mobile phone I ever owned (~1995) was digital! GSM launched in the early 90s after all.

By 2005 most phones were so-called 2.5G (GPRS/EDGE) and many had internal antennas. I had a clunky rudimentary smart phone at that point (don't even remember the brand) ... it had a web browser but it was so unusable (small, low resolution screen) that email was about the only thing you'd actually want to do with it. It took the rise of the iPhone and Android phones a few years later to make the mobile web something you'd actually want to use.

I think the last phone I owned with an external antenna (which was just a little nub, rather than a long extendable thing) was the Nokia 7110 in the late 90s. But yeah, that phone could hold a voice call where many phones today probably couldn't. It was more important back then though as mobile towers were fewer and further between - I rarely find myself in a place with a super-weak signal these days, except for deep inside large buildings (and really, there's not much you can do about that - I often just connect to Wifi and use Skype/FaceTime/etc instead).

Comment Re:The plural of LEGO is LEGO Bricks Not LEGOs (Score 1) 93

Yeah this is a pet peeve of mine too. I think it's just an American thing though. I grew up in Australia and it was always just lego. As in, "go and pick up all your lego". Etc. I never heard the 'legos' thing until I moved to the USA in my late 20s ... at first I thought I was hearing things but no, they really say it that way.

I'm curious - anyone from outside North America that also says "legos"?

Comment Re:Sure it can work (Score 1) 418

Oh, I remember them. I agree that the cost of living is lower in the US overall (though not as much as you'd think - health insurance costs a huge chunk each month in America that you wouldn't have to pay at all in Australia. Land taxes/rates are also much higher in the US ... at least in my state/county).

But we're purely talking about tax burden here and the idea that America has much lower taxes than other developed countries. That's true if you're comparing to Norway or something, but not if you're comparing to Australia, NZ, UK, Canada etc.

Comment Re:4/5 in favor (Score 2) 755

Yep - that's the great thing about this concept. It allows countries to get rid of unemployment allowances, low income benefits, old age pensions/security, student allowances, food stamps, all that stuff and replace it with a basic amount that everyone gets.

In many countries you effectively have a minimum income already, made of of some combination of government benefits, tax offsets/credits, etc. If you get rid of all that, and have a simple system where everyone gets a standard payment, and all income from the first dollar above that is taxed (with no random credits/offsets claimable due to low income or family situation etc.), you'd make billions in efficiency gains. As someone that works in IT delivering social services systems to governments, I have seen how ridiculously complex some of these programs are and the amount of money and manpower spent in administering them.

Comment Re:4/5 in favor (Score 1) 755

Chances are this minimum income will be pretty pathetic - not enough to live in anything other than borderline poverty. Similar to the amounts people get today for old-age pension, workseekers/unemployment benefit, student allowances etc. in various countries - you can't really live on it unless you are super frugal. I was on Youth Allowance (for young people in full-time education) in Australia for 5 years and it only really covered the rent with maybe a few bucks a week left over. I still had to have a part-time job on top of that to have enough money for clothes, food, car registration etc.

So assuming a universal minimum income would be of a similar magnitude, I don't think people will be quitting their jobs to live on the 'free money'!

Comment Re:Great thing, but can this really work? (Score 1) 418

It can still work. There are other OECD countries that are as diverse or more diverse than the US right? 18% of Canadians and 24% of Australians, for instance, were born in a different country (i.e. they are first generation immigrants, so this isn't even counting the many second-generation immigrants). The equivalent figure for the US is 13%. Walk down a street in Toronto or Melbourne and you see people from everywhere on earth, just as you do in NYC or San Francisco. And these are places with substantially generous leave (and other) entitlements.

America used to be relatively unique as the world's melting pot, true, but it's not 1960 anymore. Most other developed countries have diversity on par with or exceeding the US these days.

Comment Re:Sure it can work (Score 1) 418

Don't also forget the fact that 'basically everywhere else in the entire fucking [developed] world' also gets a legal minimum of 4-6 weeks of paid vacation every year too. Everyone, from CEO to burger flipper. Admittedly most white collar Americans DO at least receive some vacation from their companies, but the fact it's not required is a bit scary. And pity those working in smaller businesses or in blue collar occupations where the vacation is minimal at best.

Comment Re:Sure it can work (Score 3, Insightful) 418

Yet, as someone who moved from Australia (a place with much more generous vacation, parental leave, healthcare etc. benefits) to the US, after you factor in everything (Federal income tax, State income tax, Medicare, Social Security...), my overall tax burden per year on the same income in the two countries is identical almost down to the dollar. But I can tell you I get sweet FA for my tax dollars here, by comparison. I even pay into Social Security which I will likely never qualify to receive (since it requires being a citizen or LPR and to have worked at least a certain number of years in the US).

So I haven't personally experienced "much lower taxes" here in the US. Overall taxes are definitely lower than many European nations, for sure. But not lower than quite a few other OECD nations that still have a bigger welfare state than you guys. My theory is that it comes from the inefficiency of having to administer tax at all these different levels, whereas in Australia the only mandatory deduction from your pay is basically the Federal income tax ... that's it.

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