A (long) postcard from Denmark. By a Dane, not someone reading bullshit on newspapers!
(……..) Yes, it true: all Danes enjoy six weeks of paid vacation and, for the time being, paid retirement pension. But these benefits are slowly vanishing.
Today we are paying the price, but like the frog in the boiling water, we haven’t noticed, and we love to tell everybody else that it’s just a nice warm bath.
I spoke with a young Danish welfare recipient who was very angry at the government because it hadn’t given him a job. I felt a bit offended and went into a diatribe about personal responsibility, taking self-ownership, etc.
He listened and then stated, “The system we have in Denmark is a totally socialistic system. The state takes everything we earn and decides everything. So, as I see it, the state has also taken over the responsibility to find me a job!” Perversely, it was hard to disagree with his argument.
The Danish system is very expensive. It has turned into a juggernaut and taken on a life of its own. It has grown like a cancer. Every little office, school, education and sport facility, every public department, military, police department or agency fights to get its piece of the cake and to make its budget grow bigger every year.
To finance this overwhelming and still growing public sector, the Danish government keeps inventing new taxes with more and more creative names, like “amenity value tax.” The creative Danish tax system – or “how to tax the same service more than once without people noticing” – is big business. It all started with Medicare.
While taxes have been raised time and again, wages have not changed much, except for management salaries. Politicians are very eager to work in Brussels (in the EU), partly because they know the member states are dying and the real power is in the EU, and partly because the salary is tax-free. Our schools and hospitals are old and worn down, our senior care is terrible and money is draining out of every hole in the state.
We have roughly 5.5 million inhabitants, including citizens and noncitizen residents. The Danish workforce consists of 3 million people, of which 1 million are public employees. That means that 2 million people in the private sector support 3.5 million other people with their taxes, plus their own use of the public sector.
We have been hammered with the “fact” that the only way forward is education, education, education; the higher, the better. It is a brilliant plan, keeping people in school where they can be told “the truth.” Later, most of the graduates of higher education go to work in the public sector. Even a job as a police officer requires a bachelor’s degree. It’s not normal thinking to become an entrepreneur and start up your own business. If you do, a lot of the time is spent trying to find loopholes in the tax laws or fighting your way through both Danish and EU regulations. In typical Danish manner, the state is now fighting this by creating a full university degree in entrepreneurship! What a great way to start tunnel vision.
Around 1900, we had 200,000 small farms (76 % of Denmark’s area), so everybody could, if they so wished, buy fresh eggs and potatoes from the farmers. Now we have around 10,000 left due to the EU, because the biggest farms get the most subsidies, which in turn buy out the smaller ones.
I would encourage readers to follow Nigel Farage, a Euro-skeptic from the United Kingdom. His brave work in exposing the failures of the European Union, both monetary and otherwise, has made him the lone light in a very dark place.
One example of how the state gets money is by raising taxes on real estate lots. I own an empty half-acre lot in the middle of nowhere, for which I used to pay $180 a year in “dirt tax” (tax for owning the land). I then had the lot subdivided into three lots, each about one-sixth of an acre – still empty land, no rights, utilities nor other improvements. For this, I am now paying $1,250 per lot, or $3,750 per year. This amounts to a tax hike of approximately 2,100 %! When I complained, I received a letter informing me that I could expect an answer in eighteen months. I am still waiting.
The state decides every year what your house and lot is worth. It’s usually not far from the market value. First we pay “lot-due tax.” In our case, it runs around $7,000 a year. On top of that, we pay something called “rental-value tax of your own property.” The state thinks that as a homeowner, you are better off than a person who rents his home. Therefore, it decided that homeowners should pay rent to the state for living in their own home. This also goes if you own a home outside of Denmark. As the name was too obvious, it was changed to “real-estate value tax.” It is 1% of the assessed value of the house below $542,850, plus 3% of what’s above. Based on home prices in Denmark, this adds up to a significant sum in short order. Every year we get a valuation on our house, which the government uses to tax the owner.
Almost every rule implemented, almost all due to climate, safety or similar odds and ends, costs extra in some form.
Contrary to common belief worldwide, our hospitals are not impressive. A few years ago, I cut an artery in one arm and, knowing that the ambulance doesn’t always come when called, I rushed in myself. It’s not unusual to get an answering machine, to be asked to call another number or to wait for a very long time for the ambulance.
At the hospital, I was met by Dr. Muhammad, the doctor in charge of the emergency room. His Danish was so bad that no one understood him, nor did he understand us. After pulling my artery for 20 minutes with forceps (yes, it hurts, in case you are wondering) and not listening to my or the nurses’ requests for anesthesia, he decided to call a Danish doctor. The Danish doctor’s first question upon arrival was why I wasn’t sedated. He was also curious as why Dr. Muhammad hadn’t seen fit to wear gloves. After “treating” me, Dr. Muhammad spent 20 minutes trying to reset a young carpenter’s dislocated shoulder. While he was unable to reset the shoulder, he was successful in getting the poor man to cry like a baby. After that fiasco, he left the room burping loudly.
As we left, an old, senile man was walking around confused in the hallway, wearing nothing more than underwear and wetting himself. My wife told this to seven nurses in the intake office, only to be asked if she couldn’t take care of the old man!
Next day, I called the hospital to report my experience with its emergency room. I was informed the hospital had already placed Dr. Muhammad on probation. Nevertheless, he was left in charge of a large emergency room.
This may sound like a rare experience, but unfortunately, no – I could go on. In “the best country in the world,” 5,000 people die and 100,000 are injured from medical malpractice every year. One out of four hospitalized in Denmark picks up a new disease during hospitalization.
We are the world’s top user of “happy pills” and alcohol. Our youth are among the heaviest drinkers. We have 500,000 (10 % of the population) alcoholics, and we are seeing more kids developing ADHD and eating disorders.
Couples in old-age homes risk separation to different retirement homes after 50 years of marriage. It is considered normal to offer old people a bath every seven to ten days, and it is right now being discussed to take away their daily lemonade from them.
We hardly ever see a police car in the streets anymore, except for the many speed traps that bring more money to the state. This is hardly efficient use of our workforce, considering it takes four years of education to become a police officer. Police officers have become a de facto collection muscle for the IRS. I just received a $270 fine for talking on a cellphone while driving.
While we have virtually no corruption in the police force – something that we should be grateful for and proud of – we also have a force blindly loyal to any orders from the system.
We have both public and private parking attendants everywhere, writing tickets for US$125, which is a lot of money, considering that you pay 50% tax first. The town hall of Copenhagen alone writes $18 million worth of parking tickets every year.
We never see our paycheck, as it goes through a public account called “Easy-ID.” This means that anything you owe the public is automatically withheld from your account before you get it.
If you pull out more than $1,780 from your own bank account, the teller may ask you why, and if not satisfied, the bank clerk will report you to the Danish IRS; the same goes for any “suspicious” activities in your account. Should you get the stupid notion of opening a bank account outside Denmark, don’t use a credit card. If a person residing in Denmark takes out money from a foreign account, it is reported to the IRS.
In one way or another, more than 90% of our wages goes back to the state in some form, but it is never enough. As our politicians are keen to say, “Either lose your standard of living or pay more tax.” As elsewhere, never is a word uttered on saving. Predictably, there seems to be no end to public extravagance. The latest news is that local municipalities over the last five years have built 54 cultural centers. Not one cost below $8.9 million, and one of them ended up running $125 million. These boondoggles end up running in the billions of dollars. These “prestige” projects invariably experience significant cost overruns and end up costing a fortune to maintain.
For over two hundred years a “cooperative association,” similar to a credit union or a mutual insurance firm, issued loans to homeowners so that everybody could afford a home. About ten years ago, the association’s board turned the association into a company and sold it to the largest bank in Denmark without asking the “shareholders,” which are also the mortgage holders. The proceeds, which should have been issued as dividends to the owners, were placed in a trust, which is now run by “friends of friends in high places,” distributing money to various cultural events and programs. It’s called the biggest fraud in Denmark. Nobody knows or cares.
So while we may not have obvious corruption in the traditional sense in Denmark, job perks and benefits from “good old boy” network access are the standard.
Steaks cost up to US$70 per kilo, a bottle of liquor runs over $26, plus there’s a 25% VAT on everything. There is a 180% tax on cars, which of course also is reflected in equally expensive insurance rates. We have a graduated registration tax scheme on cars. Normal vehicles have white plates and are subject to a 180% sales tax; yellow plates are two-seated, company-cargo cars, where the backseats are permanently removed and which are in turn subject to less tax; and yellow/white for cargo cars with VAT paid and thus allowed to be used privately. If you drive a white-plated company car, you are heavily taxed if using it privately. This does not apply for cars driven by chauffeurs, as they are tax-free. All ministers have chauffeurs.
Almost all transactions in Denmark have numerous hidden taxes. To give an example, let me try to analyze an electricity bill for you. We pay around $0.35 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), which is about $1,400 a year for a normal home. The basic price is roughly $0.078 per kWh, but after adding energy tax, appendix tax, distribution tax, energy saving (CO2) tax, public duties, transport of electricity, actual consumption and subscription, and 25% VAT, we end up with $0.35!
Gasoline is now at US$9.60 per gallon and still rising. By far the largest part of that price is tax.
And it’s like that with almost everything in Denmark.
A Toyota Hilux pickup, which is similar to a Tacoma but has only four cylinders, is a two-seated car on yellow plates. You have the option not to pay VAT, but then you can’t drive it privately. If you do and get caught, you have to pay full (white-plate) registration and a fine of the same amount. This Hilux, incidentally, costs $1,600 a year in road taxes.
A guy just got caught in a Ferrari on temporary plates. He was charged for private driving and got a combined ticket and registration tax for $1,070,000 PLUS six months in jail. It’s considered tax evasion, and tax evasion is punished more severely here than violence. In normal law, the police have to prove you guilty. With the IRS, you have to prove your innocence. The IRS can conduct a search on your private property without a warrant.
A recent legislative proposal is that the buyer of a service from a craftsman can be held responsible if the craftsman fails to pay tax. That means that the buyer has to make sure that the service provider pays the tax!
For the sake of illustration, the latest survey of estimated prices for craftsmen in Denmark shows that companies charge the following hourly rates:
|Carpenters and bricklayers||$90|
To compare, a policeman or nurse makes roughly $33 an hour – before taxes.
It will be illegal to pay a craftsman in cash on transactions exceeding US$1,780. Transactions exceeding that have to be done through bank transfer, so the Revenue Ministry can track in detail what you do with your money. (………)
As always, be careful of what you want. You could get it!