Monday, April 14, 2008


The first year I was required to file a tax return was in 1959. I don't actually remember if I had to pay but I did have to file. That was in the days when the short form was really short. Pretty much of how much did I make, then this was my tax liability. All done on a cardboard IBM punch type card. Now the short form is a full page and the instruction alone is about 42 pages long. Last year - for the first time - I made a mistake which resulted in me owing extra monies to IRS. They sent me a letter, telling where my mistake was, how much more I owed and then to top it off, assessed me a penalty for not paying the full amount on time. The penalty was only about $3 but it was irrating to be fined over a simple mistake. But I got over that. Until this past Sunday. In the Sunday paper (actually the PARADE Magazine) there was an article about taxes. According to that article, 61% (that's right, 61%) of U.S. Corporations paid no taxes. That included 39% of large corporations but did not list them. Wal-Mart? Ford? GM? Yellow Freight? Sprint? Who knows? In 2007, according to the article, corporations shouldered just 14.4% of the U.S. tax burden compared with about 50% in 1940. Guess who made up the difference? This year, individuals are expected to pay $1.21 TRILLION (an increase from $1.16 TRILLION in 2007. Corporate taxes declined from $370 BILLION in 2007 to $364 BILLION in 2008. That's right: you and I pay trillions while corporations pay billions. And guess who is responsible for that? Your friendly elected representative. According to the Citizens for Tax Justice, the corporate tax burden in this country is the worlds third lowest when measured as a percentage of gross domestic product. So, the bottom line is that you and I are paying high taxes so that corporations do not have to. In all fairness, some elected officials are trying to end this. In February, the house passed a bill to end $18 billion in tax breaks for oil companies. But will the bill clear the senate and be signed by the president? Probably not. At the same time the head of the House Ways and Means Committee has introduced legislation to trim corporate tax rates while reducing loopholes. "Trim tax rates" "Reduce loopholes"? What does that mean. Less taxes for corporations or more? So, when you mail your check to uncle sam this year, think about how much you would pay if all corporations (and all citizens)paid taxes. No deductions. Everyone pays.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


I was at Bob Evans restaurant last week with friends. One of the couples split a meal (but asked for separate plates), ordered water, and at the end of the meal, asked for a take home carton. Their bill came to $9.93 for which they left a $1 tip. The waitress was very attentive, refilled water/pop/coffee glasses frequently and when she brought the take home carton, included an extra dinner roll for that couple. I was embarrassed - even though I really do not believe in the practice of tipping. As I see it, it is the responsibility of the employer to play a salary based on the skill/difficulty of the job. Be a broom pusher at the mall - receive minimum wage. Be a doctor - receive a whole bunch. The salary does not nned to be enough to earn a living on, just a fair wage for the services performed. But somehow the restaurant industry has convinced us that we should pay those wages. Worse yet, they have also convinced the government that minimum wage does not apply to their business. Back to this couple. They are both in their 70's so have been around long enough to know how the restaurant business operates: Waitresses and waiters depend on tips for thier income. a lousy $1 tip will not go far. Even at 20%, the tip would only have been $2. As I said, I hate the whole idea of tipping. Unfortunately though, it is here to stay so I play the game. But I do not tip, the trashman, the mailman, the barber, the grocery store bagger, etc. I only tip at restaurants. I don't tip on the value of the meal however. After all what does that have to do with it? I mean 20% of a $60 meal is $12. That is $12 for about 10 minutes work. I know: the waiter must share with the cook, the runners, dishwasher, etc. But then, go to a Waffle House/I-Hop/Perkins/etc for breakfast with a bill of $8.00. A 20% tip is only $1.60 but the service is so much better. Constant refills on drinks, constant checks on how things are going, etc. Again, what does the cost of the meal have to do with how much you elect to tip? Go to a McDonalds type restaurant. Friendly service, fast service, food is always done right, etc. Tip? Nope. The employer pays a fair wage. So the moral of this is: If you feel obligated to tip, then tip on the service you receive, not the value of the meal.
P.S. The couple mentioned above? I went to a breakfast with him a few days later and he left $0.00

Monday, April 07, 2008

The State of Kansas

My home state of Kansas is somewhat noted for a few crazy organizations. For one, The State Board of Education has been trying for several years to require that creationism (as an explanation for the origins of man) be taught in the schools. I think that controversy is over. Recently, the Westboro Baptist Church has taken the limelight away from the Board of Education. For those of you who do not know who that is, they are the "christian" Church that pickets the funeral services of service men and women killed in Iraq and Afganistan. They do so because they claim the soldiers were killed as punishment for the nation's tolerance of gays and lesbians. (I don't believe than anyone can speak for god so how do they "know" this? And if we are all created in god's image, does that make god gay?) Yes, I understand the concept of free speech. Without it, we would not have a free and open form of government. But there are limits. You cannot yell "FIRE" in movie theatre. You cannot say "I have a bomb" in the airport and expect to escape punishment. You cannot slander someone. Where am I going with this? Well just recently the govenor of Kansas signed into law a bill requiring protestors to stand at least 150 feet from funerals. There is also a restriction that limits the protest to so many hours before and after the funeral. Other states have passed similiar laws. In fact a federal judge in Maryland just issued liens against the church in the amount of $5 million for its protests at the funeral of Marine Cpl Matthew A. Snyder, age 20. Unfortunately that will not stop the church. Only laws similar to the KS one will do that.