So. Two things. First, I saw my accountant yesterday and discovered I'd saved more than four times as much as I needed to for my income taxes this year. That was mostly down to my paranoia and I had been pretty sure I was oversaving, but it was still good news. Thrilling news, in fact. But later, something was added to the thrill, as it dawned on me that the figure was really far too low. I ran a quick simulation to see what I'd have to pay if I was an employee instead of a contractor, and realized I would have had to pay twice as much - easily.
And that set me off, of course. I'd had an abstract understanding for some time that tax systems in the Anglo countries serve to wed the interests of the extremely rich to the - what would you call it? Entrepreneurial class? Sounds too flattering . . . small business class? I'm not sure. I'm sure there's a real word for it somewhere.
In Australia I think it has the effect of sort of uniting the interests of everybody who owns a shop or service with cunts who are really, really rich - fixing things up so we pay very little tax. Which means we - the self-employed, the really really rich - are effectively being subsidized by proportionately higher taxes being paid by poor people and by employees. (Less so by poor people now because the tax-free threshold has just been tripled, this year, to north of $18,000, which is enough to live on, if not live on well in the cities - but of course raising that limit also benefits people making a lot more than $18,000).
I can see the arguments for it in terms of job creation but I think many small businesspeople are like me, with no or else very casual employees, and I can see an argument for it - a very theoretical one - in the breaks being offered for the self-employed to encourage them to get into something a little bit risky. But the thing is, in an Australian context being self-employed isn't really riskier than being an employee. This isn't Europe. Severance pay is poor, notice periods are short, and there's a perfectly adequate public healthcare system - from what I can figure out, all private coverage buys you in Australia is cups of tea when you're in hospital, where you'll still get taken care of by a public-system doctor if there's an emergency. The new mat leave scheme isn't something employers pay into, it's a government handout, and it's as available to the self-employed as it is to employees. Unless you as an individual or you as represented by a union (and unions catch MASSIVE fucking flack in the media here) can negotiate a really great contract with your employer (as does still happen, actually, since there's a labour shortage in so many fields in Australia), there's really no substantial benefit to being an employee.
There is one, actually, again in theory. Superannuation payments. Employers are required to contribute, I think, a figure representing 10% of their employee's base salary into a sort of retirement investment account - the sort of thing that's done in the US and Canada too, a replacement for a decent pension, and the reason why normal people's lives have got completely fucked up by financial markets over the last three years, and the reason why so many things suddenly seem "too big to fail" - if they do, an army of broke, angry pensioners will start voting Commie, or something. And of course nobody pays the self-employed superannuation benefits.
But the thing is, if I was an employee, there's no way by base pay would be this high. When I negotiated my contract, I asked for more money to make up for no super. And when jobs are advertised in my field and pay is mentioned, the super contributions are always part of the ad - you're expected to think of your pay as a combination of the two.
So. In conclusion. I've left the middle classes and joined the parasite classes. And I don't feel bad about it. Well, I do, but not bad enough to not keep the money.
Second thing. To celebrate me joining the parasite classes, we went for a run on the beach in Lennox Head last night, and then out for dinner to the Lennox Thai Garden. And shockingly, it was MARVELLOUS. I whine alot about the poor quality of rural Australian food, but there are three restaurants in L--- that are quite decent - I mustn't knock it too much. But this was the first time that we'd been outside of the big cities here that I'd had a meal where I actually felt that it was proportionately good to how fucking expensive it was. I had this sort of coconut soup and some king prawns in tamarind sauce, and everything was actually fresh - especially the king prawns - they were enormous and delicious. Good lord. I was really shocked. The idea of value for money when it comes to food is really something I didn't think I'd ever experience again in this fucking countryside. Top notch!