I did my best to stay out of the whole Taxes/Tea party/Socialism argument, but i’m grouchy about some stuff …
Here are my views on taxes:
1. Taxes are a necessary part of a democracy. The other alternative would be for the government to own our banks and car manufacturers and … wait …
2. Most people, even being aware of the necessity of taxes, don’t like them. All year long they eat of the fruit of tax-funded government projects, and then when tax season comes, they’re suddenly anti-government. That’s a ridiculous way to look at things.
3. Not defending the tax system, though! There are a lot of problems with how it all works, and i’m going to address some of those below.
A little first-hand story here:
I grew up poor. Not “Middle class”, though if you couldn’t peer into our checkbooks you would never have known … but poor. We ate rice for weeks at a time. we ate frozen generic-brand pizza once a month to celebrate dad’s paycheck. We couldn’t afford Ramen. I grew up refusing to put a quarter in the arcade games at the entrance to every grocerystore, never went to movies, and didn’t eat fast food … because money spent on those things was gone quickly. I still bought things with the quarters i earned from mowing the lawn on our half-acre, but they were more permanent things, like pens or paper or books. We were poor.
A lot of other poor families had their kids get “free hot lunch” at the school. it was part of some sort of government program … kind of like food stamps. We didn’t want people to know how poor we were, so we didn’t do the free lunches. My mom scraped together the $2.00 a week or whatever hot lunches normally cost, and we ate. most of the time.
When i grew up and went out into the working world, i was like every other spoiled rotten american. i started eating at McD’s one my way home from work. i bought movies (VHS, later DVDs), owned a color TV, hung out with my friuends, etc. I wasn’t rich, but i wasn’t poor anymore. By the time i was 25, i grossed more a year than my dad – even then. Where i was living, however – and likely how i was living – didn’t stretch those dollars very far. I paid over $1000 a month for my *cheap* apartment, i had the cheapest cable TV package, i had no savings account, a small 401k, and usually a negative balance in my checking account. I lived on “payday loans”, taking out one to pay another.
Payday loans aren’t the monsters they’re made out to be. A lot of people like to say “and the interest on those loans – gosh!” … but really, the “interest” rates are just a technicality of the process. they way it works is you’re borrowing some money from someone because your an idot and living beyond your means, and you agree that you will pay that money back, plus $25 or so (it used to be $15 per $100) for the convenience of their service. Not a bad deal, they’re not doing anything illegal, etc. The way they “get ya” is really based on your own personal lack of self-control, addiction to spending and bad money management. They thrive on this like casinos thrive on lazy people who want to get rich with little effort, or like tobacco and liquor companies thrive off of addicts. Blaming the payday loan places is like blaming the opportunity instead of the fool.
I had a lot of friends who were poor too, and who were in the same cycle. some of them realised they could get government aid … “welfare’ and “social security”. a lot of these people had more “toys’ than me – big screen tvs, game systems, cellphones (mine was cheap because of a deal i got through work). most of them drove nice cars. few of them worked … instead, they sat around in their apartments, smoking weed, getting drunk, and playing video games. On the weekends (and a lot of week nights), they’d hit the bars. I cut a lot of the social life out of my life, and never took government aid. i also worked full time.
Eventually i got out from under my weekly debts, and at some point i was completely debt free (if you consider ‘renting’ being debt free). I had no car payments, I owned two cars, no student loans, etc. I also didn’t have a lot of spending money, but i had a lot of peace.
After my wife and i married, we moved from the “big city” to a small rural town in a different state. Houses in the new location were seriously around 30%-40% the price of the same kinds of houses in the other state, and most of the rest of the ‘cost of living” was better too. There was less crime, and seemingly less poverty.
After being here awhile, i realised that there is MORE poverty, because government programs (like a lot of the new ones Obama is coming out with) are geared toward “urban areas” and “minorities”, which really doesn’t mean anything special or fair. It’s just another way of the government throwing money to the people that are more readily accessible – those living in the same big cities as the politicians. The scheme doesn’t represent an accurate picture of America – but the politicians never figure that out, because they don’t really go to the small towns. Politicians already have their minds made up … they “know” that people in small towns “cling to their guns and religion”, and that “the people of Boise, Idaho think mass transit and the internet are only in the imagination”. I also learned that another (perhaps bigger) reason rural poverty is not as obvious is that there is a vastly different ethic among rural people than in the herds of city dwellers. There is a work ethic and a pride ethic and a make-do-with-what-you-have ethic. City “poor” are so busy keeping up with their neighbor’s new iPhone/Blackberry/iMac/bling/clothing that they have no money left for food, while rural poor put their money into fixing up their eisenhower-era pickup and buying seeds to plant gardens for food that they have no money left for the luxuries like iPhones, Blackberries, etc.
We built a business in the area, and were able to employ four people. We paid our business bills, our personal bills, paid my wife’s disabled parents $900 a month for childcare (they didn’t qualify for government benefits because they “owned’ a trailer house somewhere in Washington state. the trailer was actually lived in by an illegal immigrant woman who couldn’t qualify for credit, and the inlaws thought they would be nice and let her live there and have her pay them and then they would pay the bank. unfortunately – and predictably – the woman rarely made payments, so this thing the government considered their “property” or “source of income’ was actually a huge burden of debt that they coukldn’t get out of).
We also tried to contribute to the community as much as possible. we hired people who were just out of rehab to mow our lawn, a homeless woman to wash our laundry, kids trying to save up money for college were hired to mow our lawn, and we donated money, time and items left and right. We spent our “leftover” money on little things … i collected some old books & stuff on ebay, my wife bought clothing. Nothing big … we didn’t go buy new, expensive cars, or giant entertainment items or boats or beach houses … we couldn’t afford those things.
Our lives were like they were before, except this time we could help people in need, and buy a couple extra presents for the kids at christmas time.
Things dramatically changed for us, however, about three weeks ago. We had hired a guy to build a wall for us (to divide the living room from the dining room), and some friends were helping us paint. Our accountant was doing our taxes (a local business, paying her $80 an hour to do something we could have done ourselves, but we were trying to support our community!). our main client, a large corporation, had started sending us less work because the economuy was forcing them to cut some of their outside workers to keep those in the office busy, but we thought things would be fine.
We met with the accountant, and learned some of the most terrible, most stressful news of our lives: we owed nearly $45,000 in taxes. There’s been some misunderstandings between me, my wife, our payroll/business tax people and numerous consultants, and as much as it would be nice to point a single finger, there were a lot of things at work to generate the problem.
had this tax thing happened while we still had steady work, it would have been painful, but manageable … but we were in the process of layiong off our employees, closing the office, moving the remaining trickle of work back into our home, and my wiofe – who is the primary worker while i am in school – is pregnant with our third child and due in a month.
The high amount of our taxes is due to the nice little formula that enables the government to “courageously” tax the rich a higher percentage of their earning than the poor. Because of the way our business was set up, a lot of our “profit” actually went right back into keeping the business running … everything from power and telecommunicatioons bills (together over $600 a month), the office lease, paying off business loans, and all the costs in providing for employees – the thousands of dollars monthly it took to pay for their unemployment taxes, health insurance packages, their accrued vacation time, sick time, not to mention the cost of paying them for the time spent sitting in front of their computer waiting for more work to come in. Our over-regulating government, opportunistic plaintiffs and other social ugliness also causes small businesses to maintain liability insurance and other expensive paperwork in order to operate “within the law”. Finally, added to all of this, the government actually taxes ADDITIONAL taxes on people who are “self-employed”, and on “businesses”.
So much for the American Dream! We built what we thought was a sound business, created four new jobs in the community, paid for some of the poor and sick so the government wouldn’t have to, created several small temporary jobs for other needy people in the community, and definitely were not living “rich”, despite what the paperwork might have pretended to reveal. How were we rewarded? by being taxed at a higher PERCENTAGE than people who sit on their butts all day playing video games and smoking weed.
I don’t understand it … as a higher-producing member of society, having me pay the same percentage of my gross as those below me would still generate MORE money for the government … after all, 10% of 140,000 is way more than 10% of 14,000. To assume that i have “enough” money so i can afford to give more to the promotion of laziness and non-productivity of the most worthless of our nation’s citizens (as well as those few who have a legitimate need for aid). Why reward those members of society who are already TAKING money from the rest of us (student loans, welfare, social security, etc) by giving them a tax break? or, conversely, why punish those who are CONTRIBUTING to society by forcing them to pay higher taxes?
Did i participate in the “tea party” protests? No. Do i agree with them?
What’s NOT to agree with the largest-scale NONVIOLENT protest of recent years? There were no stinky hippies hurling bricks, angry dykes spraypainting church walls, hooded creeps pushing over police cars, setting fire to trashcans, starting fights and then whining that their rights were violated. That alone should be enough …. but to my personal further shock and amazement, THERE WERE PEOPLE FROM BOTH MAJOR PARTIES INVOLVED. When was the last time that happened?
From the news coverage i saw, it looked like the protests covered a variety of things, but one of the bigger points was the population’s anger at our elected officials spending billions of our money on things that ‘we the people’ – if given the chance to vote – would NOT spend the money on. do you know anyone who wouyld have handed money over to the car companies, the banks, and freaking polar bear exhibits in iowa, had there actually been a vote?
Those who opposed the tea parties are too blinded by their undying devotion to Obama. These obies don’t realise that no one is blaming just Obama for these issues …. Bush granted the first “little” portion of the bailouts.
These protests were not about political parties, they were about political accountability, about the American people wanting a little “change” in their pockets too.
Don’t talk to me about how “only 1% of the popluation controls 95% of the money”. I’m not that 1%, but these tax laws still punished me out of business. Obama’s plan would have hurt me even more.