Tag Archives: taxes

Boy Am I Stupid

Of course, anyone reading this blog knew that a long time ago. Nevertheless, I just discovered how stupid I really am during the Trump-Clinton Debate on Monday night.

You see. I pay taxes.  I have been paying taxes for 50 years. I don’t like it. But I consider it part of my civic duty. An essential part of being a citizen. The price I pay for living in a free, wealthy society.

I know we need to pay for the military. For roads. For infrastructure. For food for kids who otherwise would not eat. For housing for poor people who have not had the good fortune I have had. For national parks. For the privilege of living in the “Greatest Country on Earth”.

Paying taxes , I thought , was a civic responsibility. I pay mine. You pay yours. We are in this together.

I was wrong.

From the debate:

“CLINTON: Third, we don’t know all of his business dealings, but we have been told through investigative reporting that he owes about $650 million to Wall Street and foreign banks. Or maybe he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes, because the only years that anybody’s ever seen were a couple of years when he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license, and they showed he didn’t pay any federal income tax.

“TRUMP: That makes me smart.

“CLINTON: So if he’s paid zero, that means zero for troops, zero for vets, zero for schools or health. And I think probably he’s not all that enthusiastic about having the rest of our country see what the real reasons are, because it must be something really important, even terrible, that he’s trying to hide.”

(To contrast, Clinton had an income of $10.6 million in 2015 and paid 34% in federal income taxes…$ 3,624,445)

Not paying your fair share is “smart”. Yes it is. If you have no concept of society, ethics and fairness. It is “smart” to let the counter worker at Wendy’s shoulder your load. To let the cleaning lady who scrubs out the toilet in Donald’s  penthouse pay your share. To let the cop and teacher and sewer worker and bus driver and airline pilot pay, but not you…well, you get the point.

Somebody has to pay taxes. And every penny that the “smart” guys like Donald Trump refuses to pay must be made up by people like me and you.

The Stupid Ones.

 

 

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Filed under debates, Elections, government, Politics, POTUS, Republicans, Society, Taxes, Trump, United States, workers

My $17.40 Tax Bill

This is the time of year when property taxes come due. I am not one of those tax complainers. I think we need reasonable taxes to provide a reasonable level of services. My attitude toward the IRS can be found at an oldie but goodie link at the end of this essay.

I am a retired teacher living on a pension and Social Security. Fixed income. My property is evaluated at about $145,000. Fair market value. No problem. My property and school taxes for 2014 were $3,974.45. Let’s round up to $4,000.00.

For this $4,000.00 I paid for a school system . And a county road . My water comes from my own well. My electric I pay for to a private company. I have no kids in school. So, I pay $4,000.00 and get the benefit of the local road crew plowing the road (and dumping piles of snow across my recently plowed driveway) right after their donut run.

And I don’t mind. Kids need an education. A good education. And roads need to be kept in good repair. And the local town road commissioner needs to keep his otherwise unemployable extended family engaged in some meaningful employment. Keeps them off the streets. Or on the streets.

So, unlike many folks I don’t mind paying my fair share of taxes. Which leads me to the following. One of my multitude of  vices is watching some reality TV shows. Not the vulgar ones like the Duggars. But ones like “Cupcake Wars” or “Property Virgins”. People who  are buying homes  or cooking. Pretty mild stuff.

Recently I was watching a “Property Virgins” segment profiling a couple of new home buyers who  were looking to buy in New York City. The Big Apple. They were being shown a brand new apartment in a new condo with a fantastic view. Across the East River. A view of the NYC skyline. A real million dollar apartment with a million dollar view.

The price? A paltry $1,000,000. A wee bit more than we  paid for our first “starter” home, but what the hell. You got? Spend it. And, to be fair,  it was a very nice apartment. Even had windows, floors  and appliances! But the best part. The very BEST part for these new home buyers was that the property was covered by the NYC “tax abatement zone”. So, the average monthly property tax on this $ 1,000,000 condo was, according to the realtor,  about “$10  a month”. For 25 years.

Let’s wait. I know that last two sentences destroyed 1.2 billion brain cells in the area of the brain called the ” Common Sensus Unbelievablus” so I will wait while you recover.  And I repeat. The property tax abatement, for 25 YEARS, meant they would be paying $10 per month. That is (using my calculator) comes to $120 a year. For 25 years.

Some math. Using a calculator again. If I suppose my property tax does not go up and my assessment never goes up for the next 25 years  (LOL) I will pay approximately $100,000 in property taxes. The folks who just moved into the $1,000,000 property with the view of NYC will pay, over the same 25 years , a total  of $3,000 in property taxes. I will pay $970,000 MORE in property taxes than they will. At least. (EDIT: It was pointed out to me that my math is wrong. I will pay $997,000 more).

Now, I don’t begrudge the wealthy their ability to afford a million dollar apartment. Not at all. Nor do I envy them. I like where I live.  But I do think that it may be nice if the top 1% paid their fair share. Or better yet, let ME pay MY fair share,  based on what they pay. If I did, my TOTAL tax bill over the next 25 years would come out to $435.00. American money.

If my tax property bill was the same , per assessed value, as this condo, I would get a tax bill this year for….$17.40. That would be my fair share. I did the math.

I’ll pay it. And I won’t even complain

http://www.nypropertytaxmonitor.com/2012/08/25/avoiding-property-taxes-in-new-york-exemptions-and-abatements-in-the-news/

https://www.habitatnyc.org/pdf/advocate/Pratt421a.pdf

https://josephurban.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/i-love-the-irs/

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The Economy or The People?

Watching parts (I have a weak stomach) of the GOP debate on the “economy” I think I finally figured out the problem. I am slow, I admit.

The first question by the Fox Business/ Wall Street Journal panel exposed the issue pretty clearly. Should the minimum wage be raised to $15 an hour? Which is about $31,000 per year according to the panelist.

The answer, across the board, was NO. It would hurt “the economy” to raise the wages of people now making maybe 7 or  10 or 12 bucks an hour. It would devastate the economy to have poor working people making a little more to spend.

Trump, by is own admission a billionaire, sees nothing but ruin if a fast food worker were to get a few more bucks. And Carson agrees.  The end of the US “economy” as we know it. Catastrophe.

Another question asked by the panelists was about the great disparity between a CEO average pay and that of one of his workers. It used to be 20 to 1. Now it is 300 to 1. I don’t think any candidate ever actually responded to that one. The non answers were clear. No problem.

So, what seems clear to me now (as I said, I am slow) is that the GOP candidates have a completely distorted world view of what an “economy” is and what an “economy” does. Or is supposed to do.

Simply put, an economy is how goods and services are organized and distributed in a given society. The purpose of an economy should be what? To be organized so all members of a society have a chance to benefit from the wealth of that society. If not, then we must assume the “economy” has, as it’s central purpose, the organization of goods and services to benefit only a portion of the society.

The GOP concept of an “economy” seems to accept the second concept, that the economy should be organized to help only portions of society.. The economy to them seems to mean only one thing. How much profit is generated for the investor class. While they talk about “job creation” they are really talking about cheap labor so that investor profits will be higher. Not job creation so workers can have a decent life. Or participate in the overall economy in the broadest sense.

Now there is nothing wrong with investors making a profit. That is how the capitalist system (flawed though it is)  works. Since investors are allowing others to use their money  they deserve a reasonable return. But what is not reasonable is defining the “economy” ONLY in terms of investor profits. It skews the argument and is not a realist view of what an economy is all about.

When the GOP candidates say that a higher wage for workers hurts the “economy’, what they mean is a higher wage for workers cuts into investor profits. Which is true. Of course, taken to it’s logical conclusion one could argue that slavery is the best system for the “economy” because it reduces all labor costs for the investor. Hence, a slave economy, by definition, would be the “strongest” economy under the GOP world view. Tried that once, if I recall.

The GOP candidates, with real concern for the plight of poor Americans, pointed out that 1 in 5 kids now live in poverty. But their solution to this is NOT to raise the minimum wage so these children and their parents can escape poverty. Somehow, this system of keeping poor people underpaid is “good” for the economy. And it is, if you define the economy as the GOP does. A system designed to promote investor profits.

For the Democrats the challenge is simple. Help folks understand that the GOP definition of the economy is narrow and incomplete. Not evil. Not anti- poor.  Not racist. But simplistic and wrong. An economy is more than profits for investors. It is a system that is supposed to work for ALL members, not just a few.

A productive economy is one that is balanced so that workers who provide the labor to create profits benefit from that labor. And they benefit to such an extent that they can take advantage of the wealth they create. Investors also benefit by making a reasonable rate of return on their investments. A balanced system that recognize both halves of the equation.

Back in the days when the CEOs made only 20 times as much as the average worker the economy was better than it is today.  Investors made good profits and paid their fair share of taxes. Guess what? The economy worked for most people. Yes, some were poor. But the investor class did ok.  Not a single member needed food stamps.

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Women and Children First

What has happened to our cowboys?

News item summary: A “rancher” named Bundy has been grazing his cattle for free on federal land for 20 years. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has taken him to court a number of times trying to collect. The fees,  by the way are incredibly cheap. The BLM charges $1.35 per animal per month. Try to feed a cow for that. (Private businesses charge $10-28 per month for the same grazing rights) But this cheat refuses to pay. And when, after 20 years and court cases the BLM finally did come to take his cattle, he called on his cowboy friends relatives to take up arms. And the BLM backed down. For now.

I am not even going to bother with whether or not this guy is legally entitled to use land that does not belong to him. The courts are clear. He doesn’t. And his claim that he does not recognize the “authority of the US government” may give him a leg to stand on in an insanity plea. But not good for much else. I prefer to focus on another aspect of the case. Cowboys and how they have changed.

Those who support Bundy with their guns and philosophy present themselves as heroes. Tough talking hombres. A couple cowpokes I saw on camera said they were ready to “give their lives”. Give their lives so a guy who Romney would describe as “wanting something for nothing” could continue to mooch off the government. OK.  I guess that is worth dying for.

Or, well, maybe not give MY life, exactly, but somebody’s.

As the story unfolded a former Arizona sheriff, Richard Mack , talked to Fox News (sic) about the strategy he intended to use. I am NOT making this up. Mack said that if things heated up the Bundy faction intended to put women in front of the men. Unarmed women. To be used as shields. To take fire from the federal “rogue agents”. To be casualties. This would prove just how evil the federal government was.  Can’t argue with that “reasoning”.  The cowboys would hide behind a human shield. What has happened to our cowboys?

Maybe it is time to remake some of those old westerns I watched as a kid. Try this:  “Shootout at the Nevada Chicken Ranch”, starring John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.

John Wayne: Well,pardner, I see the evil Land Management Goons are coming to try to take away our grazin rights. Gonna meet em at 12 noon at the Nutcase Corral for the big shootout.”

Clint Eastwood: (spits) There’s 10 of them and only 2 of us. But I’m a willin’ to die so Uncle Buck can continue to graze his 7 herd of longhorns for free.  How about you?

JW:Hmmmm…. I know a better way out of this mess. How many womenfolk do you have?

CE: Well, there’s my wife, Lilly Sue and daughter, Rosey Sue and the baby. Aunt Gertrude and my niece Mandy Sue.  That’s it.

JW: Well, lemmee see. I have my sister Honey Sue and she has 4 little uns, Sue Sue, Gunna Sue, Wanna Sue and Lets Sue. There is my Aunt Nelly and Aunt Kate. Oh…don’t forget Granny Grumplin. If we can git her started in her walker she’ll be fine. Hardly ever falls over. We can prop her up if needs be.

CE: Well,what’s yer plan?

JW: Here it is,  pardner. We’ll git all those womenfolk down there and stand them up between us and the feds. Then, when the shootin starts we’ll have good cover. Reminds me, how about the Pork Belly twins? Seen them around?

CE: I…I…don’t know, pardner. That jest don’t seem right. To use the womenfolk like that. It ain’t manly. It ain’t the cowboy way. It’s kind of cowardly, ain’t it?

JW: Aw, go on pardner.Times are changin.  This is a deadly situation. And you know what they always say. If there’s trouble it’s always “women and children first”.

Cowboys just ain’t what they used to be.

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I LOVE the IRS

It is April 16. Tax day has come and gone. I can finally admit it. I am a Revenuephiliac. I love the IRS.

I fear this admission will rain down anger upon my being. I will be hated more than Gandhi at an NRA meeting. Vilified more than Al Sharpton at a gathering of the White Aryan Nation. Be more harshly treated than Sarah Palin at a MENSA Convention.

But I confess. I love the IRS. Very Un-American, I know. But that’s the way I am. And here’s why.

The IRS is under attack. And has been for many years. The money budgeted for enforcement has been declining. Since 2002 the IRS budget has actually declined by 17%. Fewer agents means that the chances of getting audited are less than 1% for most folks, about 20% for millionaires and less than 1% for businesses. Some politicians, like Ted Cruz, have publicly stated they want to do away with the IRS completely. So, as a champion of the underdog, I take up the banner of our tax police. Seriously. They have a banner.

As the financial support for the IRS has waned on the one hand, fraud and corruption have skyrocketed on the other. Who could of guessed ? Fewer cops, fewer arrests. The Center For Tax Justice estimates that for every dollar spent on funding the IRS the US brings in $10 dollars in revenue that would otherwise be lost. WHAT ? A federal agency that makes money ? Others estimate that with long term modernization the actual investment return is closer to $200 for each dollar spent today.  There are BILLIONS of tax dollars going uncollected each year. Over $280,000,000,000 in overdue taxes will never be collected according to an IRS study from just a few years ago. And it is getting worse.

It has been a longstanding tradition to hate taxes. It is as American as racism or homophobia, to be sure. The nation was founded by tax dodgers. The Boston Tea Party was not a protest against free speech…it was a tax protest. And probably justified. Why pay taxes to those guys across the ocean? The Whiskey Rebellion? Same thing. Except this time it was why pay taxes at all. So, we have a solid history of being tax avoiders and tax cheats. All the more reason for the IRS.

After all, the IRS is nothing more than the domestic equivalent of our military or police force. And who can hate the troops? Or the police? They uphold the law, go after lawbreakers and make sure everyone plays by the same rules.  They support the democratic process and the rule of law.  They help collect the funds necessary to keep the nation moving ahead. They are the cop on the beat. The Marine standing guard over the flag.

Of course some taxes are pre-collected. The tax on the McDonald’s counter worker and the non-unionized VW assembly line worker. The cop. The teacher. The engineer. Anyone who works for a living. These shmucks can’t cheat on their taxes, and probably wouldn’t anyway.

Who could be against the IRS ? Tax cheats? Crooks? Organized crime? Money launderers for drug cartels?

Who benefits from a weak police force ? The honest citizen or the criminal?

So, join me in this IRS lovefest. Write your congressman. Ask for more money and better enforcement of our tax laws. What better investment is there? A $10-200 return for every dollar spent. In the end, if ALL taxes are collected, won’t you and I pay less? Won’t the honest citizen get a break?

Revenuephiliacs Unite! You have nothing to lose but your friends! And you might save a few bucks as well.

 

 

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