What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. AFGE Local 1904. Here we are 16 weeks past the “end of max telework” and the union, such as it is, still hasn’t come through on delivering the new and improved telework agreement. So, we’re still grinding along with only two days a week like pre-COVID barbarians… as if 30 months of operating nearly exclusively through telework didn’t prove that working from home works. All this is ongoing while hearing stories of other organizations tucked in next door that are offering their people four or five day a week work from home options. It’s truly a delight working for the sick man of the enterprise. There’s probably plenty of blame to go around, but since the updated and perfectly acceptable policy for supervisors was published 16 weeks ago, I’m going to continue to go ahead and put every bit of blame on Local 1904 for failing their members (and those of us who they “represent” against our will) for not getting this shit done.

2. Missing motivation. You know it’s bad when I don’t even want to sit down and write. I do more reading on days like that, so it’s a bit of a trade off, but still, it’s not exactly good tidings. I’m assuming my current lack of being motivated by anything is part and parcel of the mid-winter doldrums when the yard is a mud pit, I see very little sunlight, and the temperature very rarely claws above 50 degrees. It’s about as bland a time of year as you could ask for and it can’t help, it seems, from seeping into my bones. The days, though, are ever so slightly longer than they were a month ago, so help on the way. Probably.

3. National sales tax. Republicans are currently hung up on pushing a national sales tax. If it were to, in fact, replace the current Byzantine income tax regime with a dead simple x% addition to the cost of goods and services, I could probably get behind it. What the whole program will end up being, though, is a sales tax in addition to an income tax. I mean even if, despite all odds against, Republicans manage to implement a sales tax and eliminate the income tax, does anyone really believe that some future Congress wouldn’t come back to the income tax trough so that John Q. Taxpayer ends up getting hit with both a federal sales and income tax? In the absence of a Constitutional amendment declaring for all time that income taxes are abolished, I’m a hard “no” on a national sales tax.

Death and taxes…

Depending on your news source of choice, you’ll hear a lot about the tax bill that just passed through Congress being the best tax overhaul in a generation or the worst catastrophe to ever befall the republic. The line I heard today that most sticks with me, though, is that “the tax bill does the most for the people at the top of the income ladder.”

Um, well, yeah. I guess it does. Those are the people who are paying most of the income taxes collected by the federal government. It seems that any changes at all to the tax code would likely impact them more than it does the 43% of the population who currently pay no income tax.

In a quick review of the discussion, I found that “A Pew Research Center analysis of IRS data from 2015, the most recent available, shows that taxpayers with incomes of $200,000 or more paid well over half (58.8%) of federal income taxes, though they accounted for only 4.5% of all returns filed.” Drop that income level down to $100,000 and it accounts for 80.6% if all federal income tax receipts but only 16.8% of tax returns filed with the IRS.

Let that sink in for a moment. About 17% of those filing their taxes carry more than 80% of the burden of paying income taxes. This doesn’t even account for people who for whatever reason aren’t required to or don’t file with the IRS. I’m not now nor have I ever been a math major, but the numbers do seem to indicate pretty strongly that a small percentage of the population is doing a very large percentage of the heavy lifting when it comes to the overall income tax burden.

Knowing all this, when the discussion comes around to who needs to pay their “fair share” or how wrong it is that the people who actually pay the vast majority of income taxes should benefit from a reduced tax burden, I honestly have no bleeding idea what you’re talking about.

Welcome to the People’s Republic of Maryland…

One of the last discussions about taxes I remember hearing in Tennessee was the need for an amendment to the state constitution that would permanently bar the government from levying a state income tax. Lord knows the state, county, and city still got their cut of your income through use fees, car registration fees, sales taxes, and property taxes so it wasn’t exactly like Tennessee was some kind of bizarre tax-free never-never land. Now that I’m back in my beloved Maryland and starting to pay attention to things again, I’ve seen a governor that has already increased tolls across the state and now wants to increase the state income tax and gas tax as well as increasing just about any fee he can think of.

Now I had my share of issues with Tennessee, but the tax thing is one that they were addressing pretty well. If I would have rented an apartment instead of becoming a property owner, by tax footprint there would have been almost negligible. Here in Maryland I’m already seeing a ridiculous percentage of my pay getting sucked up my direct taxes and by a laundry list of special fees and excise taxes… and that’s before I get around to buying a house and paying yet more taxes. Still, the governor says he needs more, but hey, he was able to slow the rate of spending growth to only 2% this year so we should all be congratulating him. That’s not a 2% decrease in spending, people… It’s “only” growing spending at 2%. If my income were growing at the same 2%, I’d be happy to kick in a little extra every month, but since it’s been frozen for two years it’s hard to be very sympathetic.

Maybe the General Assembly will stave off some of the more wild-eyed increases, but I suspect that most of the governor’s agenda will pass in some form or another. It may not be a mortal lock, but it’s a safe bet that come July 1st, we’re all going to have more bills to pay. Thank Governor O’Malley, kids.