Everybody got this broken feeling, 21

22 01 2016

This is a piece about the not-so-curiously skewed understanding of security which marks our political discourse:

When you cannot be bothered to ensure that the sick can access health care, people die. When you cannot be bothered to stop corporations from polluting the earth, people die. When you cannot be bothered to monitor workplaces for the hazardous practices under which their employees operate, people die. When you cannot be bothered to protect citizens from a law enforcement apparatus charged with protecting them, people die.

But we rarely hear about these aspects of keeping Americans safe until a crisis like Flint emerges. The ongoing notion of safety in politics, absent something headline-grabbing like poisoning an entire city, is relegated to the foreign-policy sphere. And playing up threats from abroad, often of dubious relevance, numbs the nation to the numerous other ways in which Americans are put in peril every day. And of course, there are fewer special interests clamoring to protect water supplies and workplaces than there are defense contractors wanting to go to war against a foreign threat.

To which I can only say: hear! hear!

But it also points to the necessity of functional government, and of the taxes needed to sustain that government.

As such, whatever good Bill Gates, et. al., may or may not be accomplishing, that NGOs are stepping in to provide services like vaccination or education only points to the failure of government, be it due to corruption, war, or lack of resources.

I’m not necessarily opposed to such philanthropy in a misguided heighten-the-contradictions! way—the need for clean water or mosquito netting is an immediate one, and without them, as David Dayen noted above, people die—but the private provisioning of public services certainly does take pressure off of incompetent government.

It’s also worth pointing out that foundations such as Gates’s are possible because people are able amass incredible fortunes and, in the US, pay relatively low taxes.

To the chase: is Bill Gates responsible for poisoned water in Flint? No.

And yes, insofar as he has profited from a system which tells people that acclaim in one’s field and small fortunes are not enough, but that freedom if only possible if millionaires are allowed to become billionaires and that massive corporations require the protections of government which are disdained when offered to the poor.

We in the United States live in an incredibly wealthy society, more than able to pay for competent government; that our government is, as in Flint or Ferguson, so often is not reflects the dysfunctions within the polity itself—and one of the chief sources of that dysfunction is our unwillingness/inability to say Enough! to those who have way, way more than enough.





If you don’t want to pay some more

18 03 2015

So. I made considerably more money this year than last—which is good, sure, that’s good.

But: this means that instead of getting a state tax refund, I’ll be paying. Which is not good.

Yeah, yeah, I choose to live in a high-tax locale, and I generally support redistribution blah blah, but I’m not going to let a little political hypocrisy get in the way of some personal complainin’.

Anyway, since I owe NY money, I’ll wait to file that return: it’s almost the same amount that I’m getting back from the feds, so right around the time that money comes in, it’ll be time to pay out. BASTARDS!!!

I do have one question, however: if I made so much more money, WHY AM I SO BROKE? Where did all that money go?

Damn.





Everybody knows that the Plague is coming, 4

6 08 2014

File under: why would anyone be surprised?

First up: Professor John Ashton, the president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, who writes:

“In both cases [Aids and Ebola], it seems that the involvement of powerless minority groups has contributed to a tardiness of response and a failure to mobilise an adequately resourced international medical response.”

and World Health Organization director general Dr Margaret Chan:

“We must respond to this emergency as if it was in Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster. We must also tackle the scandal of the unwillingness of the pharmaceutical industry to invest in research [on] treatments and vaccines, something they refuse to do because the numbers involved are, in their terms, so small and don’t justify the investment. This is the moral bankruptcy of capitalism acting in the absence of a moral and social framework.”

Second, Allan Sloan, who is surprised enough to be outraged that American companies would park their “incorporation” overseas so as to avoid taxes:

Inverters don’t hesitate to take advantage of the great things that make America America: our deep financial markets, our democracy and rule of law, our military might, our intellectual and physical infrastructure, our national research programs, all the terrific places our country offers for employees and their families to live. But inverters do hesitate — totally — when it’s time to ante up their fair share of financial support of our system.

Profit-seeking companies seeking to maximize their profits?! Who ever heard of such a thing?

And those who don’t invert?

Wall Street is delivering a thumbs down to Walgreens’ announcement of a $15.3 billion plan to complete its acquisition of Europe-based Alliance Boots and decision not to pursue potential major tax savings by shifting its headquarters overseas.

Bad capitalists!

Since all is not gloomy, allow for a bit of intellectual-property absurdity:

Wikimedia, the US-based organisation behind Wikipedia, has refused a photographer’s repeated requests to remove one of his images which is used online without his permission, claiming that because a monkey pressed the shutter button it should own the copyright.

Cheeky monkey*!

David Slater/Caters—and monkey!

*Actually, a crested black macaque

~~~

h/t to a coupla’ folks at The Stranger: Charles Mudede, and Ansel Herz  (twice!)





Declare the pennies on your eyes

26 03 2014

Finished my taxes early.

Yeah, early: the last couple of years I’ve completed them on or just before April 15, so finishing them 3 weeks out counts as early for me.

When I first started doing taxes—paper forms, natch—-I almost always completed them in early February. Of course, it helped that I knew I’d be getting a return, so why not file early; given how rarely I’ve ever had to pay in, however, I don’t know why I started lagging.

Actually, last year might have been the first year I had to pay federal (I had that terrible independent contractor job, so got socked when I reported that income), but since moving to New York I’ve paid state taxes a couple of years.

Anyway, my income was lower in 2013 (boo!), which means I get decent returns from both the feds and the state (yay!).

Oh, and what prompted me to take care of all of this now? Welllll, I’m bumping up against a deadline on student loan paperwork which requires tax info. . . .

Yeah, there had to be a reason.





Declare the pennies on your eyes

14 04 2013

I am unreservedly a  “taxes-are-the-price-you-pay-for-a-civilized-society” sort.

Still. Principles are one thing, and payments are another.

I usually owe state taxes (beyond what I’ve already paid) because even though I earn shit I live in a state that taxes shit. So be it.

I usually get a return on fed taxes because I earn shit.

This year, or, y’know, last year, I earned 1099 freelance income (for the job that almost killed me until C. yelled GETOUTNOW!), and since I didn’t pay estimated taxes, knew I’d have to pay fed tax, too, as well as more state tax.

Does this explain why I waited until tonight to file my taxes? Hey, I think I’m good for not waiting until tomorrow. . . .

Anyway, the hit was about what I expected, and much less than I feared, so, while I ain’t happy to be sending off checks (yes, I filed electronically, but why not let my money sit in my account a few more days before they process the checks?), it’s not killing me.

Yeah, that’s the best I can say about this whole thing.

And the worst? Well, allow me this one day to say “Civilized society? Feh!”





Gotta have money

17 04 2012

I lied. I’m sorry.

I said I was going to put up a new post soon, and while I did compose any number of posts in my head, the words never made the trip from me noggin to the page.

It’s money’s fault.

Last year, as I mentioned once or twenty times, was a rough one for me, financially. I don’t particularly want to get into the details, but things got. . . bad.

Things are better now, which is why I’m able to write this (I find it much easier to write about bad things when using the past tense). Still, there are certain hangovers and shit left to deal with.

(Said shit won’t be discussed until after it’s been dealt with: past tense, remember.)

Anyway, one non-tangential thing to deal with was taxes. Given how low my income was last year, and thus how high the chances were that I would get back rather than pay, it shouldn’t have been a big deal to have taken care of them earlier.

I did not. I finished my taxes two and a-half hours ago. I’m getting money back.

So what does all of this have to do with me being a liar? (Oh, stop with the obvious joke about filing taxes.)Because while my brain and chest were filled with all of this built-up stress about money, I couldn’t quite find the levers with which to release the words from me noggin.

Given the hangover and shit (which I have been evading, ignoring, and otherwise repressing) and the attendant anxiety, it might still be a bit before I can free my mind.

One dread down, two to go.





Bam! Bam! Bam!

12 07 2011

Hellooooooo! Anyone hooooooomme? Democrats, are you theeeeere?

“We think public schools should go away,’’ says Teri Adams, the head of the Independence Hall Tea Party and a leading advocate — both in New Jersey and Pennsylvania — of passage of school voucher bills. The tea party operates in those two states and Delaware. They should “go away,” she says, because “they are hurting our children.’’ […] Adams says the current voucher program “discriminates” against wealthier students by providing public subsidies only to inner-city children in allegedly failing schools. Her group’s e-mails pushing vouchers caught the attention of James Kovalcin of South Brunswick, a retired public school teacher who asked Adams for clarification. She responded via email: “Our ultimate goal is to shut down public schools and have private schools only, eventually returning responsibility for payment to parents and private charities. It’s going to happen piecemeal and not overnight. It took us years to get into this mess and it’s going to take years to get out of it.” [emph. in original]

Can you do something with this? Or how about this—Orrin Hatch on taxation:

No matter what these Democrats tell you, the wealthy and middle class are already shouldering around 100 percent of the nation’s tax burden and 51 percent pay absolutely nothing in income taxes,” Hatch fumed before lambasting the entire system.

“Furthermore, because of this perverse distribution of federal income taxes, there is no way to fix our deficit hole and start paying down the debt by increasing taxes only on the so-called rich,” he said.

And here’s Senator Hatch again, on aid for workers displaced by trade deals (TAA):

I hope we can find a better path forward and the president will now act quickly and submit these agreements for congressional consideration, without including the TAA poison pill.

That’s right, help for workers thrown overboard on the rough seas of  ‘free’ trade is a poison pill.

You can’t do anything with that?

How about Eric Cantor’s proposal to make students begin paying interest as soon as they take out student loans? Republican resistance to corporate tax breaks?

Go after them, all of them. Go into their districts and raise hell, force them to deal with constituents who’d be burned by their policies, make them all answer for the worst of them.

Let the president play nice.

The party, on the other hand, needs to grow a pair of titanium tits and fight! fight! fight!

_____

h/t Zaid Jilani, Think Progress; Michael McAuliff, HuffPo; Pat Garofalo, Think Progress/Doug Palmer and David Lawder, Reuters





Bam! Bam! Bam!

7 07 2011

Here’s an idea for the Dems:

Shoot a basic video with shots of Grover Norquist and sundry Republican leaders talking about the debt, deficit, unwillingness to consider tax hikes/closing tax loopholes, perhaps superimposed with quotes about how defaulting on the debt wouldn’t be a big deal. Note somewhere in all of this that Republicans have “pledged” fealty to Norquist.

Leave blank spots sprinkled throughout this video, allowing editors to upload shots of the local Republican representative—perhaps the quotes could be superimposed over photos of the local rep.

Find someone from that member’s district who’s willing to go on camera, give her or his name, and talk about how the cuts in spending/govt shutdown/default would devastate them.

Then end the video with a shot of the rep, and the question: So who do you work for, Representative [Republican]?  The Washington insider/lobbyist/whatever term of approbation, or [local constituent]?

This shouldn’t be that hard to do or that expensive to shoot, not if you consider that the bones of the vid need only be shot once and then distributed to the state parties for tailoring. (You could also make variations of this for radio.)

This is a no-brainer. MAKE THEM PAY!





You who are not-me suck

12 06 2011

I’m not much of a fan of the “all people not-me are stupid/evil/greedy/hypocritical/whatever” mode of observation, nor do I think much of the name-calling (sheeple, Repugs, libruls, etc.) which passes for witticism these days.

That said, there are those whose words and deeds do indicate a specific cast of mind which justly be called contemptuous of their fellow citizens:

1. Those who, like Rick Santorum and those who put up billboards blaming “the abortion industry” for killing black and Latino babies and every fucking politician who’s ever advocated, voted for, or signed into law mandatory fetal ultrasound,and bullshit non-medical medical scripts regarding the status of the fetus and the made-up [as opposed to real: there are real] risks of abortion, clearly do not think women matter.

Do not believe we can think.

Do not believe we know what’s going on in our bodies.

Do not believe we are capable of thinking about the future.

Do not believe we possess any decision-making powers whatsoever.

Do not think our lives matter.

On this last point, I give you Senator John McCain and his air quotes when talking about the health exception for abortion, and, even more recently, the former senator and current (or almost) presidential candidate Rick Santorum:

SANTORUM: When I was leading the charge on partial birth abortion, several members came forward and said, “Why don’t we just ban all abortions?” Tom Daschle was one of them, if you remember. And Susan Collins, and others. They wanted a health exception, which of course is a phony exception which would make the ban ineffective.

A “phony exception”: that’s nice. Because no woman has ever risked either her health or her life, has ever been disabled or killed as a result of a pregnancy or delivery.

(I do have to note this delicious bit of turnaround, however: the very same Hyde Amendment which prevents federal funding for abortion also bans states from blocking funding for abortions to terminate pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.)

2. The attitude of Paul Ryan and all the supporters of his budget plan, as well as those at the Heritage Foundation who proposed that the feds

Eliminate marriage penalties from federal programs. Married couples tend to be better off financially than their single or cohabitating counterparts. Policymakers should encourage such beneficial economic decisions by removing financial disincentives to marriage from tax and welfare policies.

As Matt Yglesias pointed out, “the basic logic seems badly flawed. Married people are better off than unmarried people, so we need to give the married people extra subsidies?”

The logic, however, is impeccable: those who have more should get more, those who have less should get less.

In both cases, there is a smugness regarding not only the rightness of one’s position but also contempt for those on the short side of that position.

Goddess knows leftists can be smug and contemptuous Fuck that. It’s late and this is a rant and I ain’t got the patience for a game of spin-the-sinner.

Stomping on people with less power than you in order both to keep them powerless and to remind them of your power over them says less about them than you. It says you’re contemptible.

It says you suck.

h/t Matt Yglesias, HuffPo, ThinkProgress





Taxman!

11 04 2010

Here’s a little tip: If the free e-tax provider that you used last year tells you that you OWE FOUR TIMES MORE than what you received last year as a refund, and it sends you around and around its e-form trying to figure out what went wrong, it’s probably worth your time to try a different e-filer.

And yeah, I know, don’t wait until April to do your fucking taxes, either!