From the Herald's opinion page...
The circus-like scenes in several state legislatures facing budget disasters demonstrated the shallow ideology of ``no new taxes.'' No matter that school systems were firing teachers, inadequate social services were being reduced, essential government employees were being added to the unemployed and so on.
What happens to popularly elected and apparently sensible individuals when they gather in a legislative body? Are they really blind to the impact of their actions, or inactions, on the people whose interests they represent?
A recent visit to Copenhagen leads me to offer some comparisons. The Danes are widely considered the happiest people in Europe. How can this be when they face a flat 52-percent tax on incomes, plus a 26-percent consumption tax?
The answer is that they realize that 50 percent of their taxes come back to them annually in services. Excellent medical care with minimal costs, free schooling through university, excellent and reasonable public transport, government-supported day care, at least two years maternity leave with pay and a guarantee of getting their job back are some benefits high taxes make possible.
There is no poverty in Denmark, no homeless, no one begging on streets. The elderly and unemployed are given an income. Teachers receive about $65,000 annually in a society where salaries range generally between $40,000 and $120,000.
I was told that Danes are happy because they have low expectations; they are not afflicted by consumerism or status symbols. Only two in 10 people in Copenhagen own a car, reflecting in part excellent public transport but also the 180-percent tax on vehicle purchases. The Danes focus on socializing with family and friends, not on shopping.
The Lesson: ``You get what you pay for.''