Thursday, August 11, 2011

Camping, Pavement, and Taxes, Oh My

Hello everyone.

I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing on a beautiful, sunny August morning than blogging. Actually, I can think of lots of things. But here we are, so let's get started.

Personal (with a little food and beer talk thrown in)

We had a fun time camping last night. A few months ago, we picked up a huge new tent to replace our old one, which had taken quite a bit of abuse when we went on our huge, five-week long mega trip. If you click on our photo website, OutTherePhotography.com, you can read all about the trip, and, of course, take a look at some of the many photos we took along the way. Anyway, we had been excited about trying out the new tent, but most of the summer so far has been spent traveling to writing conferences, art shows, friends' graduations, etc., that we just haven't had the chance (or haven't made time) to go camping. We finally made it happen last night.

The tent was awesome. It was a clear enough night to leave the rainfly off, and because the top is almost entirely netting, we were able to look up at the stars when we went to sleep. During our mega trip last year, we did lots of camping, and so we had set ourselves up for sleeping comfort by including a queen-sized air mattress and two extra-large rectangular sleeping bags that we zipped together to make one giant bag. We didn't exactly "rough it" on our trip. Last night we used the same set up, and naturally it worked great.

But it couldn't be a camping trip without food cooked outside, preferably over a fire. In this case we cooked cheese smokies over a campfire. Back in my vegetarian days, I would've gagged over the thought of a cheese smokie (before gagging down my Tofurkey kielbasa), but I've since been converted. This was no Oscar Mayer crap, either. The smokies were locally-made from locally, sustainably, and humanely raised meat, which is the only kind of meat I'll eat.

There was also adequate beer, in this case Session Lager from Full Sail. I've been into "smaller" beers lately, and a few ice-cold lagers around a campfire after a hot August day was perfect.

Did I mention that all this took place in our backyard? Normally, we would go somewhere else for camping, preferably some place with water. But this was Tucker's first camping trip, and in the unlikely event of him freaking out and barking or whining or who knows what, we didn't want it to happen in a campground where other people would get disturbed. Of course, he seemed to have no problem with the concept of sleeping in a tent for the night. He was curled up on the air mattress ready to go for bed before we were. I guess he's saving his freak out for when we actually do go to a campground where there's lots of sleeping people nearby.

And Now, a Musical Interlude

I had a dream last night that Pavement was playing in one on the local bars up here, and I've had this song stuck in my head all day. So without further ado...



Unfair (Music and Lyrics by Pavement)

Down to Santa Rosa and over the bay
Across the grapevine to LA
We got deserts we got trees
We got the hills of Beverly
Let's burn the hills of Beverly

Walk with your credit card in the air
Swing your nunchucks like you just don't care
This is a slow, sick suckin' part of me
This is a slow, sick suckin' part of me
And when I'm sucking kisses, sour

Up to the top of Shasta gulch
To the bottom of the Tahoe Lake
Man made deltas and concrete rivers
The south takes what the north delivers
You film hack, I don't use your pay

Lost in the foothills of Mount Pine
Drinking Euro, say goodnight
to the last psychedelic band
from Sac to Northern Cal
from Sac to Northern Cal

Taylor, neighbor
You're my neighbor
And I need favors
You're my neighbor
You don't need favors
'Cause I'm your neighbor
I'm not your neighbor
You crazy street trash

Politics

An IRS report showed that almost 1,500 millionaires and billionaires paid no income tax in 2009. Why? Because our tax system allows for all sorts of loopholes, and most of these loopholes aren't available to us non-millionaires (or at least not in a way that we can avoid paying income tax altogether), because we usually don't have the ability to donate heavily to charities and don't have sizable foreign investments. This is an example of how our tax system is skewed to benefit the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us.

Other examples? Long term capital gains are taxed at a lower rate than regular income, so if you make your living from buying and selling stocks or real estate (other than your home), you pay a lower tax rate than a school teacher or firefighter.

But it's not just income tax. The Social Security Wage Base (cap) is $106,800 for 2010. This means that someone making $106,800 in 2010 will pay the same amount of Social Security tax as someone who brings in $106 million in 2010. Not the same rate--the same dollar amount: $6,621.60.

Property and sales tax tend to also be regressive. Take two hypothetical people: one who made $50,000 last year (we'll call him Jack), and the other $5 million (we'll call her Jill). Property tax is based on property value, and while it's likely Jill's property is worth more than Jack's, it's extremely unlikely that hers is worth 100 times the amount. So a lower percentage of Jill's $5 million in income goes to property tax when compared to Jack. Same with sales tax. Jill is likely to spend more than Jack, but 100 times more? Not likely. It's possible Jill spends more on gas (and thus, gas tax) than Jack, but is she using 100 times as much gas? No way. And on and on.

As I discussed previously, Congress is eliminating programs designed to help Jack rather than have Jill pay one cent more, despite the fact that across the board, Jack pays a higher percentage of his paycheck on taxes than Jill does. Congress is doing this to help pay down a debt caused by tax cuts that mostly benefited Jill, wars that people in Jack's income bracket are much more likely to fight than Jill's, and rampant unemployment caused by a financial meltdown created by people in Jill's income bracket. I don't know how it could be clearer who Congress works for. Hint: it ain't you or me.

So the next time someone claims we shouldn't tax the wealthy to pay for programs to help poor people or to pay off the debt because "we shouldn't punish job creators," remind them the wealthy are already paying next to nothing, and then ask them just where in the hell are the jobs?

In Closing

On that note, enjoy this sunny August day (assuming it's sunny and/or still August when you read this), and I will see you next time.

Rob

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