ONE WAY TO OWE NO TAXES:
HAVE NO INCOME
So today is the deadline for your fourth quarterly 2008 estimated income tax. But of course you have probably none due because all those taxable gains from early 2008 were wiped out by losses you took last month to lower your tax bill. Poor Uncle Sam is going to see his receipts fall off a cliff.
I just have to keep saying it. This is really dumb. I guess we have to do some of it, for political reasons, but that famous line – who can spend your money better, you or the government? – is not nearly as wise as it sounds.
You will spend your money to pay down credit card balances (as you should, but that hardly creates jobs) or to shore up retirement savings (as you should, but that hardly creates jobs) or to buy clothes (that creates jobs in Shanghai) or to buy a flat screen TV (that creates jobs in Seoul), or to take the kids skiing or to take your honey to dinner twice a month instead of once a month – which is good for the chef, waiters, and busboys, but here is the thing we have to ask ourselves:
Is now really the time to keep borrowing (for this tax cut will be financed entirely with borrowed money) to keep more busboys and waiters employed? Or is now the time to be borrowing to become energy independent, build a smart energy grid, digitize our medical records, dredge our waterways, repair our bridges, and educate our children?
Is now the time to be borrowing to give people with jobs a break (much as we’d like to), or is it the time to be borrowing to extend unemployment benefits – and, by spending on infrastructure, create new jobs?
Should we borrow to give people the money to go out to dinner and keep restaurants open? Or should we borrow to funnel money to the states to keep them from having to lay off teachers and cops and shut down after-school programs?
Which would be worse? Becoming a nation with fewer auto dealerships and fewer retail stores – perhaps even fewer real estate agents and fewer restaurants – or remaining a nation whose infrastructure continues to deteriorate and whose kids fall further and further behind the global competition?
And (while we’re at it) why do we have nice, bright people – who could be teaching math – selling something, automobile insurance, everyone is required by law to have in the first place? We don’t sell Social Security one policy at a time, why auto insurance? Why not just build the price of insurance into the cost of fuel and the cost of driver’s licenses (if we want an efficient way to charge young people extra), the cost of registrations (if we want an efficient way to charge more for muscle cars), and the cost of moving violations (because we want to charge bad drivers more than good drivers)? A fella could write a book!
As will become increasingly clear, we are not in a steep recession out from which we will emerge more or less as we entered it. We’re at the beginning of a process of reinventing ourselves as a more efficient, greener nation. This is ultimately a good thing, even though there will be widespread pain along the way.
In any event, it is a necessary thing.
And some of it doesn’t even have to be painful.
Mark: “I found another good article on check lists in medicine saving lives and money.
Maybe we can get Obama to move on this!”
☞ Well, and incoming HHS Secretary Tom Daschle for sure. That article screams out to be forwarded to your doctor and any hospital administrator – or elected official – you know.
Some of us still use Managing Your Money for DOS, first released in 1984, before PC’s had hard drives, and last updated in 1993. Hey, if it works, don’t fix it. (Though don’t buy it, either.) And when it doesn’t work, Mike Starkey – who is like the one guy left at NASA from 1969 who actually knows how to put a man on the moon – may just be able to fix it. Click here for his just-created MYM FAQ.
Quote of the Day
One definition of retirement: Twice as much husband and half as much money.~Unknown
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