Taiwan Surpasses U.S. on Key Achievements: Health Care, High Speed Rail and Fiscal Responsibility

After living in Ecuador for some time, I recently traveled to Taiwan, where Truth Publishing is headquartered. Returning to the United States after spending time in Taiwan has allowed me the perspective to make some observations about the differences between the USA and Taiwan.

The bottom line on these observations? The USA is falling behind the world in many important areas, and unless we reprioritize our spending, with each passing year we are looking less and less like a world leader and more and more like an agricultural exporter “developing” nation.

For example, Taiwan now boasts a stunningly-efficient high-speed rail transportation system that zips passengers from one city to another in mere minutes. Last week, as I was zooming along the Taiwan countryside at 300 kilometers per hour, experiencing the remarkable comfort and ease of travel (no silly security checks, no long lines, just automated ticketing machines and on-time departures), I asked myself the obvious question: “Where is America’s high-speed rail?”

The answer, of course, is that it’s still on the drawing board. America virtually abandoned rail travel in the 1960’s, allowing a once-great network of rail lines to become largely defunct. So today, America lacks the kind of efficient transportation infrastructure that Europeans, Japanese and even Taiwanese citizens enjoy every day. And this means Americans burn more oil and waste more time driving from one place to another.

The lack of high-speed rail harms America’s efficiencies and international competitiveness because it raises the prices of virtually everything that has a transportation component (food, oil, concrete, raw materials, people, mail, etc.). Trucking all these goods around costs roughly ten times what it costs to move them via rail. It does sell more oil, though, which is probably one of the reasons why rail was abandoned in America in the first place (to appease the powerful oil companies).

Smoking bans and national health care

Taiwan has also passed and enforced a nationwide ban on smoking indoors. No smoking is allowed in restaurants, hotels, train stations, airports or anywhere other than private homes. The fine for violating this smoking ban? About 1/3rd of an average citizen’s monthly wage.

This progressive, health-oriented initiative could never happen in America due to the highly influential (and destructive) tobacco lobby. In states like North Carolina, where tobacco is still big industry, anti-smoking laws get virtually no traction. The result is that North Carolina feels like a third world country, whereas Taiwan feels like a progressive world leader. Seriously, the last time I visited North Carolina (in 2008), I thought I had been teleported to a third-world nation full of race cars (NASCAR), tobacco and religious evangelists.

Speaking of health-related issues, Taiwan also has an extremely efficient, affordable health care system that covers everyone for just a few dollars a month. Using high-tech hospital equipment and U.S.-trained doctors, the Taiwan health care system still manages to cover virtually all medical needs (pregnancy, dental and vision included) for about $30 / month through your employer — which includes coverage of your entire family, including children. Your employer pays about $25 / month in addition to what you pay, so it’s roughly $50 / month for full coverage of you and your entire family. Not bad, huh? Why can’t America do this?

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