This is part of our U.S. Election 2012: Canadians in America series, with expats talking about life and politics south of the border. We’ve been getting a lot of questions from readers, including many for Dennis Sifton, a 69-year-old physician in Virginia who left southern Ontario in 1996. Dr. Sifton identifies as a Republican.
Barbara Alexander asks: 1. What made you leave Canada in the first place?
There is no single reason that we moved to U.S. I have always felt that it is good to reinvent one’s self periodically. Our children were grown and away and that provided an opportunity. The United States was recruiting heavily – especially for family doctors.
The marginal federal and provincial income tax rate in Canada in 1996 was 57 per cent and there was a sales tax of 15 per cent, so that 75 per cent of net income was paid to the government. So much for free health care! I was having a tremendous amount of difficulty in getting my patients timely health care – often spending a good deal of my working days begging for investigative work and consultations for my people.
2. What about Romney assures you he will revive the economy? I haven’t heard a thing. What am I missing?
Of course, none of us know what kind of a president Mitt Romney would make just as we didn’t know about Barack Obama. He was elected with great optimism but his policies and leadership have not been to my liking. Mitt Romney has experience in business, finance and government. To me, he is not the perfect candidate but what he says makes me think he is preferable to what we have.
Louise Wilde asks: Dr. Sifton, please compare for me the end profit you clear in Canada with its one-payer system, and in America, where some have insurance and some for whom you hold free clinics.
Thank you for your question. I would like to preface my answer by saying that I don’t think about profit or loss as I am working. I have always felt that if I did good work for my patients, the money would look after itself. Of course at the end of the month when the bills are due for my practice expenses and my family cost and savings, I do concern myself with the financial aspects.
In the United States, the gross income is much higher but insurance companies downgrade your bills to the extent that, depending on local reimbursement and demographics, we are able to collect about 65 per cent of gross billings. This thus makes our net income before expenses about the same in both countries. Office expenses are about the same with the exception of much higher liability insurance costs in US. Thus, net income to me is more or less the same. But in the U.S., my marginal tax rate is 26 per cent with a 5 per cent state income tax, a 4 per cent sales tax and lower property taxes with both mortgage costs and property taxes paid with pretax dollars.
Darryl Youzefowich asks: How do you define pure socialism? Are you saying Obama is a communist, or a social democrat as in Europe?
The idea of labelling someone or some policies as socialist is not what I would do. People and policies define themselves as subscribing to certain ideology. With politicians, particularly, it is not so much what they say but what they do.
The idea of taking from one segment to give to another segment at an increasing rate to try to promote "fairness" or "a level playing field" is part of Marxist ideology. In the U.S., currently, about half of people pay no income taxes. The top 10 per cent of income earners pay something like 75 per cent of the income taxes and incidentally provide most of the private sector jobs as well as finance almost all of the public sector jobs.