Ah tax time! Who doesnt love it? All the shoe boxes emptied on the kitchen table. The stacks of papers. The rows of numbers. The plussesthe minuses. Unlike life, spilling from one year into the next, figuring yearly accounts comes to an end.
Money is finite: Heres where you were smart, and heres where you were dumb. Better luck next year.
And you have the satisfaction of knowing your money is going to pay for schools, fire protection, safer neighborhoods, and to help the single mom down the street pay for health care. Not.
Every year, a group forms in front of the post office on April 15 and hands out papers printed with a graph showing where your tax money goes. So much for agriculture, so much for education, so much for weapons. Im interested in seeing how theyll handle the three trillion dollar war. It will take a generation to pay it off.
At least in 2007, filing taxes will bring a $600 thank-you from Uncle Sam, to be paid back by your children, like all the other debts of this administration, with interest.
This $600 thank-you is supposed to stimulate the economy. Which economy would that be? OPECs? Chinas? You can bet the stimulation is supposed to help big business and it wont provide jobs.
As far as I can tell, my friends are using their windfalls to pay credit card bills and other debts incurred because theyve already spent too much on gas from OPEC and plastic stuff from China. Those credit card bills mount up fast. Miss a payment by just a few days and your rate goes up, forever. You may have gotten a card with a single-digit rate, but if youre a little late in paying it they can charge a much higher rate18% or more.
Its not called Bait and Switch. Its called Low Introductory Rate.
Bring back the usury laws! Please!
But lets talk about your $600. Or, if youre married, $1,200. Or, if you have kids, an extra $300 per kid. Were talking real money here. And, rather than spend your bonus dough on more stuff, why not donate a percentage to your favorite not-for-profit?
This could be the year, for example, you actually support a political candidate. Or maybe youll help the environment or cure cancer. Or, heres an idea, give a subscription to your favorite political journal to all your friendsand, yes, thats a hint.
But lets say you want to invest some of it, but you cant think of a good, trustworthy investment. Three words: The Forever Stamp.
If the Bush administration had done nothing else to screw over the future, the Forever Stamp wins them a place in the Rogues Gallery. Priced at 41 cents, you can buy as many as you want and use them to send letters forever. No matter how high the real price of mail delivery climbs.
And it will climb. In fact, it will climb to 42 cents on May 13, maybe before you get your $600. And, at the rate of climb in the last few years, it will be into the fifties before your junior high student is in college. So if you invest, say, $410 in Forever Stamps thats 1,000 stamps, youve made $10 every time the stamp price goes up a penny. Again, selling forever stamps today is a way for the government to take money now and defer costs to the future. Those that dont buy them today will pay the extra freight, and that means deferring extra costs to the young and the poor.
Business as usual for this administration.
But maybe a drawer full of stamps isnt your idea of fun. Please use your tax gift to help your local economy. Shop in your neighborhood!
One neighborhood in our county-seat town has surveyed residents and found that there is a jewelry maker, two quilters, a plumber, a baker and other neighbors with special skills in the blocks that make up their district. And if neighbors are looking for furniture or appliances, this neighborhood, near the University and with a component of students, is also well-fixed with garage sales every spring.
And theres the farmers market.
I havent done my comparison shopping for 2008 yet, but every year Ive done as well or better on food buys from the farmers market than from the Big Box stores. This year, Ill probably do even better, with the price of gas as high as it is because all the stuff at the Big Box stores gets there on waves of petroleum.
Or, wait, heres an idea: How about building your own self-sufficient system for your household. Maybe youll buy a couple of solar collectors to run the lights in your living room. Or maybe youll hire someone to dig up the front yard and help you plant a vegetable garden. Or spend your money to fix up that old bicycle. Or buy a sewing machine. Or start a neighborhood business of your own.
Whatever you do with your bonus bucks, make sure youre part of the solution by fighting the big business scheme.
Margot Ford McMillen farms and teaches English at a college in Fulton, Mo. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
From The Progressive Populist, April 15, 2008
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