We know a lot of Canadians who winter in the USA and/or visit a lot. They love America - the weather, shopping, entertainment, restaurants, roads, etc etc. "It's a great place, why is Canada so far behind?" they lament. Having lived in the USA for 20 years recently and in Canada for about 40 years, I was a little puzzled by this absolute affection.
Well, I figured it out. When you visit from Canada or spend 4 months in Florida during the winter, what do you do? You shop, go to the beach, entertain yourself, eat out, drive around on the nice big roads... These are all things that America does better than Canada. What don't you do? You don't interact with the government, you don't use the medical system, you don't go to blighted areas, you don't deal with natural disasters, you don't deal with insurance companies, you don't buy medicine, you don't deal with the justice system, etc.
These are the Achilles heels (both feet) of America:
- Governments at all levels are starved of cash and cannot provide adequate services. Try lining up at the Social Service bureau, try getting a license at the DMV, try to get help on your taxes from the IRS. Trust me, it is almost always a nightmare, and you feel sorry for the poor civil servants, who look like all they can afford for clothes is the bargain section at Walmart.
- Some areas of town are so blighted that you never go there at night and you keep your car doors locked if you go during the day. Your American neighbors will advise you to get a gun for personal protection, in spite of the fact that these guns are almost exclusively used for suicides and family violence.
- The rules for health insurance and Medicare are almost undecipherable. Did you get COBRA when you were laid off? Did you turn 65 and stay on COBRA? If yes, you will pay a penalty for Medicare for the rest of your life because you saved the government money. And good luck if you get a bill from the hospital, it will be pages long, and show that you owe a lot even if you have insurance, and you will spend hours on the phone trying to whittle it down to something like your insurance deductible.
- Many areas of the USA like Texas routinely experience major natural disasters like tornados, hurricanes, and flash floods. Yet the building codes do not mandate much in the way of protection. If you get hit, your home will be featured on the 6 oclock news as they show the pieces floating down the street. Your insurance company will then tell you that you are not covered for floods so tough luck.
- If you get an exotic disease or condition, your drugs may bankrupt you, in spite of whatever government or private drug insurance you bought. In the USA, there are typically over 30 drug plans for the elderly on Medicare and you get to choose one a year and it may not cover your particular condition. Better luck next year!
- Don't get involved in the justice system! The conviction rate is over 99%. So if you drive drunk, get into a fight, decide to make extra money selling drugs to friends, get into a family fight, you will go to jail for years and years if you get caught. You will also get convicted even if you are innocent. The prosecutor will offer you a deal: "plead guilty to this charge and you will get 2 years or go to court and the maximum sentence is 15 years and we will demand this punishment." Unless you have the best lawyers, lots of money, and lots of luck, you will plead guilty even if you are innocent.