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After Taxes: A look at a Busy Poor Dad’s tax bill.

April 23, 2012

It has been a bit.  I’m calmer.  I’m not as mad as I was on the 17th of April.

Yes, taxes suck.  Yes, I feel we are not being helped by paying them and in fact are harmed more by taxes than possibly helped.  (Now at this point most people will just want to close the tab and wait till next post which will be a really great recipe).

Here is why.  First the background.  I’m a busy poor dad.  Last year I worked three part time jobs – Army Reserves, Associate Professor at the University of Akron, and as an EMS provider in Cleveland area.  My spouse worked full time as a minister for the same pay she started at four years earlier. (yes, no increase in pay for four years.  No one said you would get rich being a minister so we do our best to live off what the church can pay.)  Even still we earned a Gross pay of just over $53,000 for a family of five.

Ok, that sounds like a lot, it is.  It is almost 200% of the federal poverty level.  Yet we paid over $6,800 in Federal, State and Local taxes.  Sure, Federal Tax represents a tax of “just” 10.4% on our earnings. Which is the current lowest tax level. (on 1 Jan that lowest rate jumps to 15%)

So why am I complaining?  That is even less than Romney paid!  Look at the other taxes my family paid: The State says we, as renters, paid about $2,484 in property taxes.  Our utility bills show $612.24 in taxes.  Our phone bill shows $228.72 in Federal, State, County, 911 – county and state, and Universal Access.  (You know those adds for “free cell phone with 250 minutes a month” adds on tv? That is the Universal Access phone money at work).  We also have pretty good records of what we paid in sales tax, about $1,292.  We know how many gallons of fuel we used and can figure out the tax on that – $557.20.  Add in the Licensing fees, registration fees, professional certification state fees, et al and we are looking at more than $150.  I’m ignoring tolls on the turnpike.

Total known taxes paid: $12,205.16, or 24% of all we earned.  And we are not “rich”.  Yet 24% of all we earned, that we can see, went to the government to do what for us?  Provide good roads?  No.  Study why monkeys in captivity throw poop? Yes. Foreign aid to China? Yes.  Hiring Fire, Police, and EMS responders? No.  Helping the poor? No.  Video Game Preservation? Yes.*

Really, what are we getting for paying over a quarter of our earnings to the government?

High School graduation rates are unchanged or lower even though class sizes are smaller and spending per student is double what it was in 1980.  We have more people in prison than any other nation and still have one of the highest property crime rates. (a positive is that violent crime against persons has gone down, mostly due to increases in CCW permits and the explosion in personal firearm ownership.)  Our military is now deployed to 107 nations out of 171.  We are in two hot wars, and facing three more while still blocking peace efforts with North Korea by South Korea.

Now, what the real question is, how could my family have been better off with out paying so much in taxes?  The BPD family saw the entire pay from EMS, University of Akron, and Army Reserves go to pay taxes.  That means I worked just so we could pay taxes.  A year of labor, roughly 2,000 hours, an average of 35 hours a week. (some weeks were 60 hour weeks and others were in the 10 hour).  This is on top of the 45 to 60 hours a week the spouse is working to put food on the table and cover all the bills.

Think about that.  A family has one parent working all year long just to cover the direct cost of taxes so they can make ends meet.  How is a family that has only one working parent going to avoid poverty if 24% of what they earn goes directly to taxes?  (We won’t think about how the cost of everything else is higher because of taxes being folded into the price.  Robert Reich, from the Clinton Administration, opposed corporate income taxes for that very reason.)  We struggle to get by, it is nearly impossible for others.

We could have been better off if we could have kept my income.  We could have had an emergency fund that would cover four months of living expenses.  We could have gotten a back up generator for the home, installed a single solar panel, built a chicken coop, afforded a second set of glasses for everyone in the home that wears them.  Lets face it, we pay a lot in taxes for very little in return.  More taxes mean less for the lower income to use.  This BS about half of all people not paying taxes means there are a lot more people living in poverty than they are letting on.

What is the solution?  Demand better.  Demand that every tax dollar be spent on the needed things first, and of those needed things priority should be given to spending that money IN the US first.  Why spend millions in other nations so citizens in other nations can get free Masters while we in the US can’t even get community colleges funded.  Refuse to endorse any candidate for any office who won’t hold the line on spending and will refuse to allow “special” projects. (like the video game preservation program).

Ok, my annual ranting is done.  Next year will be even more interesting, one of my jobs has ended, another cut hours, and the third is pushing for minimum duty this year.  The spouse is going another year with no increase in pay.  And the new method of counting “poverty” will be in effect.  Interesting times ahead.  It will be even more important to stretch the food budget, reduce expenses, plug money leaks, find ways of making things last longer.  Inflation is 6% this year (if you counted it like they did under Reagan, 2.8% official), another tax on our money.  We expect to see less income, higher prices, and tighter life style.

* http://www.coburn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?a=Files.Serve&File_id=b69a6ebd-7ebe-41b7-bb03-c25a5e194365

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Michael permalink
    April 23, 2012 18:45

    I feel your pain. Taxes are sucking us dry. I would be careful accusing the education system as being a failure. I believe it is not the education system failing but society failing. Schools are better today than they have ever been in history, teachers are more qualified and skillfull than ever before, and students are learning more than any generation before. Unfortunately, as schools get better, the world around them fall apart. A rise in single parent homes, divorce rates, “alternative” homes, video games, apathy, desensitizing of sex and violence, and the worst of all, a growing “the world owes me a living” mentality. Schools still have some improvements to make, but nothing will improve unless the world cleans up its act.

  2. April 23, 2012 21:23

    I think there is a problem with the educational system. It is not a lack of money though. There is no school district in the nation that has seen its graduation rate increase more than 10% over a decade but all districts have seen their per student spending double over the last 15 years. In any other business if you invested 100% more to produce a product you would expect to see a higher quality or greater quantity of that product or both.

    Of course this seems only to apply to government schools. Private and Religious (and home) Schools seem to some how take the very same kids and show massive progress at a much lower cost. The cost of the local Montessori school has only gone up about 2% a year for the last ten years. But the cost of government schools in the same area has increased by 70% in that same time. It now cost less per student to attend a private school than a government one, with higher grad rates, higher college acceptance, and a wider diversity of races. the only problem is you have to pay this ON TOP OF what you are paying for the government school.

    Some is due to the social issues, when a parent has to work all year just to cover the burden of taxes, this is going to cause problems that effect kids. Families can’t afford to stay at home and raise kids, keep them out of trouble, etc. And when someone suggests the tax payer should count raising kids as work for reasons of getting tax assistance the very people who say they care about letting a parent stay home (and lowering taxes for that matter) freak out and demand they put in more hours away from the kids because that would just be freeloading! The current GOP guy is on record as opposing raising the standard deduction and ending the Earned Income Tax Credit because it would be “fair”.

    Fair in that more low income people would see them laboring for half the year to pay taxes instead of supporting their families. (but hey, someone has to help subsidize the building of an IHOP in the “underserved community” of Columbia Heights, Washington DC. Sure is what the Fed Gov should be doing with our taxes.)

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