To answer the poster's question. Yes, in the United States, salary pretty much only benefits the employer and poses little to no benefit for the worker other than guaranteed hours per week.
1) "You have no sick, vacation or personal time off? That would be so rare in the US that I've never known of a job with such few benefits."
Both Exempt and Non-Exempt employees usually receive vacation and sick time.
For many of us, that is 2 weeks vacation, 3 sick days. One illness or surgery, and those sick days are quickly used up.
Furthermore, such policies cause many to work while sick, further causing others to be sick.
If you have to stay 2 hours overtime, you get no pay or compensation. If you have to take 2 hours off for doctor's appointment, you are forced to use your vacation time.
2) "It was always my impression that salary wages were always advertised higher (pay scale wise) than standard hourly wages"
That's often not the case. In fact, a W2 salaried employee often earns a substantially lower wage than a 1099 Contract employee who has to supply their own benefits.
The idea being you would get vacation and sick time, 401Ks and benefits. However, such have been reduced to 2 weeks + 3 sick days, zero matching contributions, and healthcare plans that have $2,500 deductible and $10K out of pocket limits.
We've essentially had about $5K-$10K deducted from our salaries over the past decade or so.
3) " I don't have to watch the clock and if I want to leave 15mins early or arrive 30mins late that would be ok."
While employers will expect you to stay late and finish a task, even if it interferes with your personal life. They are often upset and critical of any tardiness.
4) "In the end, if your company has a good "employee" focus"
Almost no big companies have this anymore.
As for the below, pretty much NONE of those are accurate. And all of which are in fact often more true for hourly workers than salaried.
Being on a salary rather than an hourly wage does have it's benefits:
1.Potentially more flexibility over working hours.
2.Possible flexibility over duration and timing of lunch breaks.
3.Higher pay - this is the benefit you get for having to potentially work more hours or at weekends.
4.Time off in lieu for working weekends - this might not be available to a hourly paid employee who'd be getting overtime.
5.Possibly more holiday entitlement.