Tag Archive for taxes

Government Greed

Taxes don’t bother me.

Really, they don’t. Taxes pay for our roads, our schools, and several other services. I often disagree with the way some of the funds are spent, but that’s to be expected.

The part I can’t abide is the greedy manner in which the system works. The politicians only see projects they need more money for, so they pile on more tax codes to squeeze out more money, and that’s why we now have this bloated system powered by evil and greed.

Founder of the IRS

Founder of the IRS

The height of this evil? The fact there are tax codes concerning whether or not you can claim your child if the child is kidnapped. It’s bad enough that someone even thought that far, but can you imagine how you’d feel if you’re scrambling to find your kid, only to have an auditor knock on your door because you never thought about taking the child off your tax paperwork? No wonder people want to have IRS agents killed.

We’ve had stimulus checks, overhauls of the tax tables, many adjustments and exemptions, but when do we finally consider a complete overhaul to the system? Is it not obvious the system is broken when we’re taxed on the same money over and over, and nobody fully understands the system as it stands?

Last year I inherited some money when my aunt died. She had saved up money in a few different funds, plus she had a life insurance policy. We were advised by a lawyer and a tax professional to set aside a chunk of the money for the savings funds, but that we shouldn’t be taxed on the insurance payoff. Come tax time this year, and we still came up well short.

Okay, fine. I really wasn’t surprised. Then I started looking into the numbers a little deeper. I wondered if my aunt had put the money into the savings post-taxes; in other words, had she already paid her income taxes on what was invested? Turns out it doesn’t matter. The government hits the inheritor for a chunk of the entire payout, not just on what may or may not have been taxed or even just the interest that the account had accrued. As far as the government is concerned, it’s income and they want a chunk of it, just as if your employer had written you the check.

Kind of a swell guy, in comparison.

Kind of a swell guy, in comparison.

As for the insurance policy, we were “misinformed,” according to two different tax preparers. Fork over that shit, too.

But wait! The government’s not done yet! Because it’s income, they bumped us into a higher tax bracket! Nevermind that my aunt’s only going to die once. Nevermind that we’re not going to see a windfall like that again. We made more money (but not enough to enjoy the tax breaks of the mega-rich, of course), so now we owe more money, resulting in an increased percentage of their take from my paycheck.

Meanwhile, Illinois didn’t seem to care. I still got a modest refund from a state which now has a bigger reputation for corruption than the New York mafia. Our state was broke before the feds got in on the action, and our budget’s been out of whack for as long as I can remember, yet here they are, handing me my refund.

But hey, it’s nice to know that my money’s being used for something. I’d hate to see those AIG execs go hungry.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The Way the Wind Farm Blows

The local wind farm is finally seeing some progress, and the same company is starting a new development in a nearby town. I’m guessing it’s only a matter of time, however, before the crybabies start squealing again.

Now, I understand opposition. In fact, I expect it. It’s just a fact of life that you’re not going to please all the people all the time, and the good ol’ Bill of Rights guarantees the crybabies the right to speak up. What I can’t abide, however, is the horseshit they come up with to defend their tenuous position.

A particularly vocal crybaby says the wind farms aren’t paying the tax money they promise, yet offers no examples of this happening. The Mendota Hills Wind Farm not 70 miles from here has been up and running for five years, and I don’t see anyone bringing their bad news to our board. Wind farms are sprouting like weeds in Indiana, and my folks say the local communities have been very welcoming of them, and some of the schools are already starting to reap the benefits.

Board meetings throughout the summer were packed with people wanting to witness the hearings, and once the board even had to postpone a meeting because the crowd was so large it violated fire codes for the meeting place. However, near the end of the summer as those hearings wound down, it was down to about 30 people showing up to speak against the wind farm. When the board approved the wind farm building permits, they were accused of ignoring the voice of the people.

Hmm. 30 people is the voice of the people? I just did a quick calculation and 30 people is only 1.5% of my town’s population. How is that representative of a county that had nearly 25,000 registered voters in the last election? I guess some people have a very selfish definition of democracy.

I would hope the new wind farm would face less resistance with the board, but it overlaps Livingston County, and the folks in Livingston County are already fighting another development tooth and nail. They’ve already filed a lawsuit, and their wild claims make the Woodford crybabies sound perfectly sane. I saved a news clipping from the Woodford County Journal a few weeks ago — I don’t have the date, unfortunately — and it has a rather juicy quote:

Construction of the turbine will “endanger the public health, safety, morals, comfort and general welfare” of owners nearby, according to the lawsuit.

Gee, that sounds pretty bad. Let’s break it down, though, shall we?

Health: This no doubt goes back to claims that the electromagnetic fields surrounding the turbines cause cancer, or the same fields running along the power lines kill the farmers’ cows. So far, nothing’s been proven.

Safety: This usually involves everything from tornadoes knocking the towers over to planes crashing into them. The towers are supposedly built to resist winds up to a certain speed, but the other side of it is the towers are all required to be a set distance from homes. If they fall over, they’re not going to land on a house. F5 tornadoes can blow something fierce, but I don’t see them carrying off gigantic turbine blades and spearing houses.

Comfort and General Welfare: These probably tie right back into the above, with the possible addition of the towers ruining the view or being noisy. I can address view with this picture:

You see a view to block? I just see a long pancake of farm fields and nothingness. I happen to think the wind farms in Indiana and up in Paw Paw look pretty cool. As for noise, I don’t hear much of anything as I drive by them.

Morals: No, I didn’t skip it. I saved the best for last. The problem is, I don’t have any idea where they’re coming from. How are morals threatened by windmills? Are they accusing someone of bribery? Are they afraid “undesirables” will take the construction jobs to build the farms? Is the company going to put a hooker under every tower? Do the towers sit on ley lines? Will angels get smacked around by the turbine blades? Help me out, here!

Amazing, isn’t it? People are all for green power and renewable energy until you try to put a wind tower in their back yard. Meanwhile the county is half a million dollars in the hole and is raising property taxes. They’re knocking small pieces off the budget, trying things like cutting the county clerk’s hours by a half hour a day. Road salt prices have gone from less than $40 a ton to $117 since last winter, so we can’t afford to salt the roads (and as I type this, there’s a good 2″ of snow on the ground). The school district is seeing increases in utility bills, insurance premiums, and transportation costs, as well as facing an unfunded state mandate for additional testing for a big chunk of the student population. And let’s not forget our wonderful state and our corrupt governor have fallen behind on state aid payments and transportation reimbursements. As a result, the school is putting forward its own tax levy, which is a euphemism for “we’re asking for more money, too.”

The short version? Hooray higher property taxes!

At least it’s almost over for one wind farm. They’re supposed to start building pretty quick, so we’ll see if these people are right. Personally, I doubt it.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Stimulate Me

Congress just sent a bill on to Bush to spend $170 billion (yes, billion) to “stimulate the economy” by sending us tax rebates.

I’m all for more money in my pocket, but we’ve already got a deficit of over $9 trillion! How about we do something intelligent, like revamping the tax system or cutting pork barrel spending? Cripes.

Before anyone tells me there’s nothing wrong with the tax system, let me lay out an illustration. In the 2006 tax year, the feds refunding every penny I gave them. For the 2007 tax year, they only kept a couple hundred bucks. How does this make any sense?

If I get a $1200 check like the article suggests, the government is giving me free money, which is actually a loan we’re going to have to pay for later. They may as well be saying “Well, the economy sucks, here’s a free 42″, high-def Vizio for everybody! But don’t worry, you’ll pay it all back when the next administration raises taxes to fix the mess we made.”

Assholes.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

They Just Don't Get It

I’m really, really glad I only have one car to pump gas into.

Bush is headed out to Saudi Arabia to beg King Abdullah to reduce oil prices because the US economy is suffering. What makes him think Abdullah — or any of the sheiks or princes, for that matter — is going to give a flying dog turd what’s happening in the US? These guys live in ultimate luxury, surrounded by yachts and Rolls Royces, while right across the street their own people live in abject squalor. If they’re more interested in pouring their own money into making the Burj Dubai higher and higher than they are in improving their own country, they sure as hell aren’t going to sweat US unemployment rates or the mortgage crisis.

Meanwhile, a Congressional commission wants to increase gasoline taxes to pay for our aging highway infrastructure, including crumbling bridges. So while Bush is off pissing up a rope, Congress has a panel asking them to make things even worse.

Increasing the tax by 40 cents across five years doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but think about that for a minute: gas down the street from me was $3.07 per gallon last I checked. That means in five years it will be a minimum of $3.47, or a 13% increase. That, of course, is without inflation, speculation, conditions in the Middle East, etc., etc., etc., not pushing the per-barrel pricing up from where it is now (and it seems like every month it’s breaking record highs.

The article also discusses putting money into the rail infrastructure. That too makes a certain amount of sense, but it’s really only practical for people living in the city and the suburbs. While I was unemployed in 2005, I was exploring several job opportunities in downtown Chicago because I could jump on Metra for a reasonable rate; even if it did cost me a little more than gas, it saved time, frustration and wear & tear on the car. I could even have called it a bonus by bringing along a laptop to get some writing done.

But out here in the boonies, we’re not so lucky. Let’s say I want to visit Cullen Bunn in St Louis this weekend. If I drive, it would cost me about $52 in gas. If I take the Amtrak, it would only cost me $36 round trip. However, I would need a ride to the train station about 30 miles away. If my wife drops me off and picks me up with our van, that’s 120 miles for two round trips, which works out to a little under $20 in gas. We break even financially, and even the convenience of writing on the train ride is negated by having to arrange rides on both sides of the trip. (Incidentally, if I bring the whole family, the train ticket price jumps to $90 plus probably parking costs, making the van the clear winner in that scenario.)

Unless the ticket prices get more attractive than gas prices, people (out here) aren’t going to see an advantage in train travel. Even putting ticket pricing aside, we don’t have rail access like the city does. I was once chided by a city dweller for not using my bike or public transportation for day trips. He just couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that I lived in the middle of a cornfield and we have no train stations, and a five-minute bike ride isn’t going to get me past the cornfield, much less into the city. Building the infrastructure out to us would cost a fortune, which would in turn raise ticket prices, making the train even less an incentive than before.

The car companies tease us with electric cars, but they tell us they don’t make them because we don’t buy them. How can we buy what’s not there? Not to mention we just shift our spending from gas to the electric bill. That’s the whole reason I got my motorcycle license last summer: between better mileage and the availability of affordable bikes, they’re cheaper all around to operate (presuming I don’t get my ass run over riding it).

I guess the short answer is solving this problem is going to take some innovative thinking. (Or maybe Jimmy Carter has what we need.)

Unfortunately that’s something our government representatives have in very short supply.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.