The Poison In The Pen

This morning over breakfast we were talking about where jobs seem to be going.  (Into the wormhole, but that’s not what we mean.)  Yes, we were talking about it for the usual reason – we fear the one full time “regular work” job in this household will end up going that way too.

In a way it’s almost inevitable.  You pile regulations on something and make it really difficult to do it legally –ie the regulations contradict each other – people WILL stop doing it.  Only…

Only people still have to do something.  Well, right now, as someone who occasionally hires contractors to help in my work, (yes, I wish I could hire full time, but I don’t think it’s happening) I can tell you the regulations are crazy.  You have to read through tome-like volumes to figure out what you have to pay and how much and… It adds a week of admin work onto your work.

But people still have to work.  And people still need employees.  So, what we see happening is a lot more temp/contracting/part time, and the work of managing the regulations etc to a great extent off-loaded to each individual as “self-employed contractor.”

As someone who has worked on this for ever, I can tell you we get the ugly stick on taxes.  No, seriously.  We pay self-employment tax, for the privilege of working for ourselves.  Many states have other taxes on top of that.  We contribute both sides of social security.

Tax policy lags reality and I think most of the self-employment beating we get comes from the fact that forty or so years ago most self-employed people were in the very well paid professions: doctors, lawyers – people who could hire secretaries and accountants to not only manage the paperwork but to find every possible loophole.

We don’t have that, so the end of the year, unless I made nothing (which has happened a couple of years) is hectic and vaguely angsty, as we gather all the paperwork, etc and make sure every I is doted and every t is crossed.

Which brings us to where all these regulations on employers is leading (into the kaki, but that’s not important right now.)  I think over the next few years everyone we know is going to become a contractor and working  probably for multiple people every year.

I suspect the people making these laws, if they’re thinking at all beyond the “this would be nice to make employers do”, think that the fact that this will make life more uncertain will make people rely on government more.

That’s not how it works.

Looking back the level of confidence in big government coincided the era of cradle to grave employment in large companies.  People who thought their bosses were competent to manage their job security and retirement would also trust other large, faceless entities.

The level of distrust in government has been growing since the eighties and while the people in government – who, after all, have cradle to grave security at least most of the time – might think this was because of Reagan’s rhetoric (Which is part of the reason Obama wanted to be the anti-Reagan) I think they have it wrong.

The world my generation faced when we came of working age was one of temp work, of layoffs for being less than absolutely efficient, of…  Yeah.  What it meant was that we learned to trust only ourselves and our network.  People we knew well, people we could trust.  No big, faceless entities, which, of course, means not government, by extension.

I don’t think they understand that in a world of all-contractors, first, resentment against tax regulations is going to grow like mad – when you spend your holidays doing books and trying to figure out how much you made and how much you’re going to owe, you get a tadbit resentful.   When you see how much you have to pay for the “freedom” of working for yourself, particularly for people forced into it by new laws, you get even more resentful.

Your reaction is not to go “Oh, daddy-government, look after me” – it’s “Those right bastards are robbing me blind coming and going.”

I don’t think the people making full time employment impossible (though I’ll admit that it was going that way anyway with technology, to where people might PREFER to be contractors – but not by force and not this quickly) realize this.

I don’t think they know they’re making their own poisoned pill.

101 responses to “The Poison In The Pen

  1. This leads to black markets – working for kind or cash – and straight out criminal enterprise. However what is really criminal about running a jitney that doesn’t have a $1,000 taxi badge on it, or cutting your neighbor’s hair without a state license? Just that you cut the local state protection racket out of the loop and took their hand out of your pocket. Make no mistake – they are willing to do what is needed to get their cut – right down to shooting you dead if need be. All government regulation and tax has the power of the gun behind it, no matter how they try to make it sound voluntary and benign.

  2. One of Newt Gingrich’s daughter’s ran a couple of book store coffee houses in Guilford County NC. They were low key places dealing primarily in used books, a place most any bookie might enjoy on occasion. I gather that at some point in the process she made good and sure that daddy knew the level of paperwork and the costs entailed in running your own business. He spoke about it at a presentation on government in Charlotte some years ago. Apparently the policy wonks in Washington, D.C. really do have no idea what the burden they have been creating is costing. They have hirelings to do any of that kind of business that applies to them. Small business owners and most contractors have to fill out mounds of paper and comply with laws that are often contradictory. Is this any way to nurture a growing economy? No.

    • That’s as old as the 60s. George McGovern tried to run a B&B and was stunning at the level of regulation he faced. He wished he had known that while he was governing.

      • McGovern’s experience supports my contention that we need business owners to stand for office. From Wikki regarding the matter:

        McGovern had made several real estate investments in the D.C. area and became interested in hotel operations.[223] In 1988, using the money he had earned from his speeches, the McGoverns bought, renovated, and began running a 150-room inn in Stratford, Connecticut, with the goal of providing a hotel, restaurant and public conference facility.[223][233] It went into bankruptcy in 1990 and closed the following year.[234] In 1992, McGovern’s published reflections on the experience appeared in Wall Street Journal and the Nation’s Restaurant News.[233][235] He attributed part of the failure to the early 1990s recession, but also part to the cost of dealing with federal, state and local regulations that were passed with good intentions but made life difficult for small businesses, and to the cost of dealing with frivolous lawsuits.[233] McGovern wrote, “I … wish that during the years I was in public office I had had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day. That knowledge would have made me a better U.S. senator and a more understanding presidential contender.”[233]

        • Wayne Blackburn

          How dare you suggest that real-world experience is necessary, rather than simply being taught theory! Scandalous!

          It used to be a standard joke that the guy who was fresh out of getting a degree made an ass of himself until he had some of the cockiness knocked out of him. Now, the ones who didn’t learn anything except resentment for their embarrassments have changed the rules so that the ones who don’t have any experience get to make the decisions, so they don’t have to have their foolishness rubbed in their face.

  3. People who think socialism lacks a profit motive are mistaken. Under socialism it’s more profitable for the poor to steal than to work, more profitable for the middle class to cheat than comply with the law, and more profitable for the wealthy to seek influence than produce something of value. Plenty of profit to go around! You just have to adjust to the new realities.

  4. … so the end of the year, unless I made nothing (which has happened a couple of years) is hectic and vaguely angsty

    The part I just bolded, I first read as “hectic and very angry”. Which makes total sense to me, because I too get the “privilege” of paying 15.3% of my income to a Ponzi scheme that will never pay me a penny, because it will be broke long before I retire. I could put that money to much better use if I was allowed to keep it. Shoot, force me to invest that 15.3% of my income in retirement savings of my own and I won’t complain too bitterly. But do me a favor, Uncle Sam: don’t take that money from me and claim I’m going to get it back later. (I had another phrase in mind when writing that sentence, but it’s not polite. Let’s just say that it ended with “and tell me it’s raining”.)

    • Oh, and I wrote that comment immediately after reading the relevant sentence, so I hadn’t even gotten to the rest of your post yet. Resentment among contractors? Gee, ya think you maybe got that one right? ;-)

      Especially since by the actual structure of my job, I’m not really self-employed. (It’s complicated.) So having to pay those self-employment taxes every year really harshes my melon. Hashes my mellow. Whatever.

    • force me to invest that 15.3% of my income in retirement savings of my own and I won’t complain too bitterly.

      They did that in Chile something like thirty years ago and it has worked out rather well.

      Walter Russell Mead writes regularly on the failure and costs of the “Blue State Model” wherein states offer defined benefit pensions that lock people into jobs (as do “employer provided” health care plans) in hope of collecting their benefits.

      In reality, no “employer provided” benefit comes without cost to the employee because the employer only looks at Total Cost per Labor Unit, subtracting tax “contributions” and benefit costs to find the residual available for the employee as actual wages.

    • Look on the bright side! They’re talking about stealing that idea of grabbing the retirement funds of all of us who realized that the ponzi scheme wouldn’t work, roll it into the ponzi scheme then give us a “fair” share.

      • Wayne Blackburn

        The only positive I see in that (and it’s a mighty small positive) is that if they do that, they just might wake up a bunch of the Seniors who think that the SS system doesn’t need to be overhauled.

  5. I wouldn’t hire a doctor to design a bridge or a veteranarian to sell cars. Isn’t it awesome we have all these lawyers(seems like every other person elected to government is a lawyer) making economic policy?

    • “Isn’t it awesome we have all these lawyers(seems like every other person elected to government is a lawyer) making economic policy?”

      Lawyers who are incapable of understanding one simple law–the law of unintended consequences.

      • Lawyers like to argue the point of “Well, you SHOULD have known,” when someone they’re pers — er, PROSecuting claims the consequences of an act were/are unintended.

        Since, as anyone with the experiential baseline to recall a few congressional sessions back can tell you, ALL consequences of any matter up for debate have been chewed most throughly, swallowed, digested, and cast back out in the scat of the arena of ideas … (OK, we’ve strained that metaphor until a baby could drink it.) … there is no reasonable way that ANY consequence can be called — scorn quotes — “unintended.” They were known in advance and warned of ad nauseam. The only reasonable conclusions are two: 1) the person(s) engendering the consequences is/are incompetent or B) the consequences which eventually … er … eventuated were the intended ones.

        “Unintended consequences” — especially of bad law — is a dodge and its use should be taken as prima facie evidence of bad faith intent.

        I really need to get a new paint job on this hobby horse.

        M

        • The consequences are unintended, not unforeseen nor unforeseeable. It is a consequence of the unquenchable belief, in some, that if you mix yellow and blue a sufficient number of times and sufficient myriad ways, eventually something other than green will result.

          Expecting rational thought from people who achieved their exalted statuses via magical thinking is, itself, irrational.

          • I don’t buy it. If you know x,y, and z negative consequences WILL eventuate from your chosen course of action, and are warned by knowledgeable persons of this fact as a reason NOT to pursue the course of action, it can hardly be claimed after the fact that the consequences were — how can one load this with enough sarcasm — unintended.

            M

            • The trouble is that if you subscribe to magical thinking, you never do actually know that any consequence arises from any action. Consequences are just inexplicable things that happen, probably because some evil conspiracy was out to get you. If you eat too much and get fat, it’s McDonald’s fault. If you spend money you haven’t got and go bankrupt, it’s the evil bankers’ fault. Whatever goes wrong, it’s always somebody else’s fault, because actions have no consequences. That’s how the mental process works. It is endemic in large segments of society — it’s actually taught in schools, for pity’s sake — and it is nearly universal among politicians.

              As for being warned by knowledgeable persons, if you are convinced that your actions cannot possibly have negative (or any) consequences, how can you possibly believe that anyone who says otherwise is knowledgeable? This kind of wilful stupidity is self-reinforcing and cannot be penetrated by external information.

    • This is why I have been known to thank God that our present Prime Minister is an economist. Canada has not exactly come out of the last five years unscathed, but we’re in better shape than most industrialized countries. We’ve even made one or two small steps towards recovering our personal liberties, though that, of course, is a constant fight, and there’s no guarantee we won’t lose on the roundabouts what we gain on the swings.

  6. The geniuses that organize our regulatory state never recognize the consequences of their acts, in part because they are insulated from those consequences, in part because they are incapable of perceiving those consequences. Because they have determined that there are no such thing as elephants they cannot acknowledge the elephant in the room.

    Businesses, especially small ones, have to cope with that environment or fail. Thus we see small manufacturers with no factory employees. They maintain administrative staff and use temp contractors for shop labor. The factory has a fixed cost per labor hour and the flexibility to adjust hours to production needs, the temp contractor has the burden of complying with labor laws and the labor has to eke out existence on the pittance remaining.

    Washington DC politicians mostly live in a well-cushioned bubble of the sort few have known since the court of Louis XVI, surrounded by courtiers. There was reportedly a book during the Clinton Administration by a reporter who examined the zip codes of our media elites and found they typically reside in gated communities and, like David Gregory, send their kids to elite private schools where armed guards provide the security, even at Quaker academies.

    • One of my dreams is to require the Sec. Treasury and head of the Federal Reserve, whoever they are, to do all their own shopping, especially for groceries. Over the past three years, my favorite luxury bread has gone from $5.00 for a 1 lb loaf to $7.50 for a 12 oz loaf, and yet there is no inflation. Amazing.

      • I think I would require them to do it on a fixed budget, based on the average disposable income for a family at the median income bracket.

        I ALSO think that all White House operating costs ought be in a publicly searchable data base, especially their entertainment budget so that when they throw a party for the Sultan of Brunei (or just put out a spread for the Congressional Leaders at the Cliffs of Fiscal) we know whether they’re serving burgers & dogs or wagyu steaks.

        • Wayne Blackburn

          It’s interesting to think of scenarios like that, or where they have to try to live on Social Security for a month, or whatever, but I think it would backfire. I think the response would be to call for higher withholding taxes and to triple SS payouts.

          • That is why they should be required to buy their food on the budget of a working American who is paying taxes — and not the live on SS or Welfare for a month stunt.

            • That is why they should be required to buy their food on the budget of a working American who is paying taxes — and not the live on SS or Welfare for a month stunt.

              Oh, that’s easy! You just shift taxes to a higher income bracket, and give hand-outs to everyone else!
              Works even better if you require folks to buy something, rather than pay taxes.
              Or tax the folks who sell the things they have to buy, instead of individuals.

              • Ah yes, the French solution. Because of course if you raise the tax rate on the rich they would never attempt to shield their wealth from your depredations or ultimately move to a more agreeable clime. And when you tax the folks who make and sell the things you need they will of course eat the loss, not pass the cost on to the ultimate consumer. For government never seems to have figured out that they are the only institution that can continually operate at a loss and stay viable. For a very twisted definition of viable that is.

                • Why would the political leeches care, so long as they get their short-term boost?

                • For government never seems to have figured out that they are the only institution that can continually operate at a loss and stay viable.

                  Ah, but that is part of the myth as well. At some point even the government has to face the wolf at the door. And that is the horror, for it is the citizens who have to take the consequences.

                  This is in part why the people need to recognize that they own the government and not the other way around, however safe the latter makes them feel for a time. This requires an educated and willing populace to work. Unfortunately no instituted system of government can work successfully forever, not where people are involved. From an excellent book, I just finished reading and which I highly reccomend (Darkship Renegades), an observation:

                  Oh, Thena. Do we expect the revolution to last forever? No. We don’t. It never does, does it?

      • Wayne Blackburn

        ??!?!? (Crossed eyes) When I splurge, I sometimes pay $3 for a loaf of specialty bread, for some particular dinner or party snacks. But yes, I agree. They really should not have taken food off the list of items that contribute to inflation calculations.

        • It’s white chocolate, apricot, and walnut bread. I should clarify – it used to be my favorite luxury bread. Now it is “enjoy fond memories of” bread.

        • Ours can be $7. we buy low carb bread, and we do treat it like a luxury

          • /crossses eyes/ Low carb bread? Isn’t that an oxymoron, I thought the purpose of eating bread was to consume carbs? (Unless of course you are a Jack in the Box aficionado, in which case it is to keep the meat and cheese off your fingers)

          • From my research, most low carb breads are actually delayed carb. Diabetics have verfied this by checking their blood sugar levels several times after eating some.

            Apologies on the late comment, I woke up about 4:15 am Saturday shivering violently. After making sure that the furnace was running, I checked my temperature and found it to be 100.3F. I took 2 extra strength Acetaminophen, grabbed a mug of water and went back to bed. The shivering eased off and I went back to sleep for a couple hours. When I woke up again, my temp was 101.8F. So I added 2 Ibuprofen, warmed up a bowl of chicken broth with a tablespoon of butter, ate it and laid back down. My husband offered to drive me to the dr. I reminded him that it was Saturday, and it would have to be the emergency room, which I really didn’t want to do. Hospitals are germ factories and I didn’t want to add more stress to my immune system. Instead,I kept checking my temp every time the Ibuprofen wore off, and took more of both meds as long as I was still feverish. About 1:30 this morning I also had a can of Campbells chicken noodle soup, after figuring out that there were only 20 grams of carb in the whole can (8 in one of their servings). Got up around 9:30 and my fever was gone. I still feel like crap, though.

            • Nah. We’ve checked too — it’s mostly nut flours and VERY small quantities. There’s also a lot of soy… which has its own issues, so we keep it to a minimum around here.

            • I am so sorry. Sends wishes that your recovery continues.

              • Thank you. I’ve been vertical now for about 4 hours, and am just about ready to lay back down.

                • Hope you feel better soon Naleta–

                  • Seconded or thirded. If misery loves company, Kate Paulk and half of my other friends are suffering along with you too…

                    • Thank you, Sara.

                      I’m sitting up for a while to reply to my comments because my touchscreen on my phone won’t keep the cursor where I want it. Grrrrrrrrr!

                  • I felt better for awhile yesterday, but I feel much worse today. I called the local hospital, and they paged my doctors partner. She prescribed a different antibiotic, and I send my son to go get it. It turns out the Blue Cross computer system is down today, so I had to pay full price but once the system is back up, I take my reciepts back to the pharmacist and get a partial refund. I also have to call my doctor tomorrow, for an appointment, and get an excuse slip because I don’t think I’ll be up for driving and that’s my job. Driving forklifts. *sigh*

                    • UGH! A friend of mine is in the hospital for pneumonia this morning– she has lung problems and the winter cold is really bad for her–

                      Just take care of yourself, Naleta-

                    • Thanks Cyn. It turned out I was reacting to the older antibiotic. I hadn’t noticed, but I also had a rash along with the fever. The new antibiotic worked, and my fever quit and the rash is fading. When I saw my Dr, he excused me from work through Monday, and sent me to the hospital for IV re-hydration. The nurse there told me that it’s very difficult to force yourself to drink enough when you’re fevered.

                      I’m feeling a lot better now, but I still get tired just washing a couple bowls, so I definitely need to rest up.

                    • I’m so glad you’re feeling better!

                    • I am glad you are feeling better– get that nap. ;-)

                    • Thanks, Sarah and Cyn. My husband and cats are glad, too!

                    • A third on the glad you are feeling better, and a second on getting a good nap.

      • There is inflation, they just continue to redefine the unit of measurement so that they can show more modest numbers. If you run with the 1980 BLS inflation calculations I think we’re at a several times higher inflation rate…

        • Obama’s numbers are as bad as Carter’s were, if you use the same measurement

            • Lately the value of dollar seems to have dropped quite a bit in comparison to euro. Europe is not exactly financially in a good place, but, one example, during the last year the prices of American paperbacks have dropped noticeably – something that used to cost a bit over 7 euros can now be had for a bit over 5 euros. Other items I regularly buy have been some vitamins, mostly from iHerb, and those are also now quite a bit cheaper, for this end. (Which is nice since our VAT will rise beginning of next year, and that means that while the amount you can buy from outside of EU without paying taxes used to be up to about 40 euros, now it’s going to be half that. Maybe some parties finally noticed that we had started to buy quite a lot from abroad since the net makes it so easy now. And that won’t probably chance much, even with that VAT rise it can still be considerably cheaper than buying the same items from here.)

  7. Gated communities only have one way out.

  8. yeah, looks a lot like we’re heading for that pitchfork session the President warned Wall Street about. But it won’t be directed at Wall Street.

  9. Briefly, bad enough that the state takes a scandalously large portion of my income, but making it so hard to figure out just how much to pay adds insult to injury.

  10. we need to get these leeches (of our time and money) off our backs so that we can live our lives again.

    If one is trying to live off investment income and there is a negative interest rate things don’t go very well.

  11. I’m self employed, live in a very major city and my product is geared to small to mid-sized businesses. I can’t believe how basically screwed I am. Things are at a standstill and with all the business networking I do (fairly considerable) everyone has the same story. They are waiting for the economy to get in gear…..only it doesn’t. I don’t blame it all on gov’t I think corporate malfeasance and corruption is a big part of it. Obama reminds me of the spoiled 2nd or 3rd generation corporate owner who spends his time on the golf course instead of generating wealth and his supporters are the very kind of people who see an opportunity to tell that slob what he wants to hear rather than helping the business run as a business. The attitude that life is a scam is what is driving America right now and Repubs and Demos both have the disease. In fact they represent the disease not the citizenry.

    Violence is built into the American system of gov’t as a last recourse. It is considered inevitable that when a state, states or federal gov’t is malignant. The rest of the states or the people themselves will take action. The Constitution is a document for a working system. Revolution is the means to fix a non-working system.

    • It is a problem we ran into in the Depression, as well. “Help those who can help you” should not be any administration’s motto, yet this administration, like FDR’s, believes in one hand washing the other: special deals for special friends and the back of the hand for those who don’t pay to play — it’s the Chicago Way.

      Corporate execs should not build their company’s strategies around milking the government teat, but that is the way GM and GE and numerous other companies feed. Unions provided millions of dollars and thousands of “volunteers” to campaign for Obama (check Shadowbosses by Mallory and Elizabeth Factor http://www.forbes.com/sites/johntamny/2012/08/26/book-review-shadowbosses-by-mallory-factor-and-elizabeth-factor/) and businesses that are not “part of the team” find themselves playing by a different set of [Boeing] rules.

      Back in the Thirties it extended the Depression and so long as the players suffer no harm this time around they see no reason to not rerun the program.

      • Corporate execs should not build their company’s strategies around milking the government teat, but that is the way GM and GE and numerous other companies feed.

        Look at agriculture– any time you hear a big push for “humane” this or “environmentally friendly” that, you can bet dollars to beans that the main people funding it are the big ag companies. They can afford for half of all the piglets their sows birth to be killed when the mother rolls over, it will average out alright; a smaller operation (or one that doesn’t want to pull little, crushed piggy corpses out of birthing pens) will want farrowing crates.

        Even “free range” chickens are more expensive because of the number that are pecked to death when they’re in huge flocks. (When it’s not worded so that “open range” means “slightly different design of boxes that are more expensive for start ups, but easy if you can hire someone to put in thousands.” I’m still amazed at how many people thing “organic” means “didn’t use any chemicals,” rather than “used the same chemicals, at half the strength, four times as often.”)

  12. Has anyone been watching the impending strike by the ILA? Michelle Malkin has been writing about it.

    • In this economy they would have to be crazy to go on strike. Which means about a 60-40 likelihood they do.

      The amusement will be whether this administration will invoke the Taft-Hartley Act on them.

  13. I see these bumper-strickers saying “Abolish Corporate Personhood”. I say “To hell with that. In fact, do the opposite: Create Personal Corporatehood — declare oneself a corporation, and ‘base’ oneself in one’s preferred tax haven; then start applying all the other benefits of being a corporation to oneself”. See enough Rich People do that, watch the Actual Tax Base disappear, then ask De Gub’mint: “OK, wise-ass — *now what*?”.

    • It’s been considered: http://www.amazon.com/The-Unincorporated-Man-Essential-Books/dp/0765318997/

      NB I have not read this book, have no idea if it’s any good, but it was mentioned by Elitist Book Reviews, whose tastes have generally jived with my own.

    • Apparently doctors can do something like that. My ER doctor friend whom I’ve mentioned before keeps separate accounts for personal expenses (the checks say “John Smith”*), and for his business-related expenses (the checks say “Dr. John Smith, LLC”, or something like that: I don’t think it’s actually an LLC, but I can’t remember the actual acronym right now). On occasion when I’ve fixed his computer for him, he’s offered to pay me from the Dr. John Smith, LLC account: since that’s his main work computer, it’s a business expense and thus tax-deductible for him. He’s a good enough friend that I would have been willing to fix his computer for free, but at the same time, if he wants to pay me a fair market price for my work despite knowing that I’d do it for free, I’m not going to turn him down.

      * His name is not actually John Smith, of course.

  14. I can’t help thinking of the character in one of Heinlein’s juveniles who dealt with his taxes (as a self-employed businessman) by throwing one dollar of every four he received into a basket, and giving the basket to the IRS man when he came round every April to complain.

    I am not, philosophically speaking, a libertarian, but I have a libertarian streak in me that may be wider than my actual self. (Don’t ask me how that works.) If there is something that warms my heart more than malicious compliance with bureaucracy, it’s malicious non-compliance — the sort where you follow the spirit of the rules whilst breaking each individual letter into a thousand pieces. This is why Heinlein’s basket technique is a sore and standing temptation to me.

    • Susan Shepherd

      I seem to recall seeing something about a college student who, when the tuition was hiked up yet again at the state college he was attending, paid for a year’s tuition in full … but in $1 bills. He had to go to a bank with a bunch of suitcases to carry all of it, and it was admittedly something of a stunt (after his friends heard about it, one of ‘em contacted the local news media, and then it hit the internet which is where I heard about it).

      I don’t know that I agree with the idea that state schools should freeze tuition — goodness knows, we’re spending enough taxpayer dollars as-is, and we’ll have to cut something (or rather a great many little somethings and a few huge ones). But the idea of paying one’s taxes that way is amusing. Pity it would probably never fly.

      • College has grown more expensive in large part because of administrative bloat — some universities now have more administrators than professors — and the absence of any cost control incentives. Higher Ed is one of the few industries these last fifty years where costs have outpaced inflation and benefits from technological advance have been few.

        The fact that the government subsidizes this lack of fiscal discipline is one of the great unreported crimes. Where else does the government encourage increased debt to purchase a product of increasing expense yet diminished value? Drug dealers display greater integrity.

        • And yet American colleges are the sole remaining institutions that foster and encourage indentured servitude in the form of RA and TA graduate students. Students working on advanced degrees, especially those with teaching and communication skills, are commonly paid a pittance for their work and treated worse than the most base Irish immigrant of a hundred years ago.

          • Yet it’s not like they lack for candidates. higher wages would attract more to waste years of their lives in academia while learning nothing that would help them in private enterprise.

            The appropriate reform would be to accurately inform them what are the chances of getting that tenure position they need the degree for.

          • And the next time a tenured faculty member wonders aloud why I have not yet found tenure-track employment (“but you’ve published so much!”) I am going to do something uncharitable. Like put a “Palin – Haley 2016″ sign in their yard and tell all their neighbors that they secretly listen to Mark Steyn because Limbaugh is too liberal.

            • LOL. And then you’ll come over, and we’ll head out to NYC and do that all over the publishing district. (“I can’t understand why you don’t have more awards” gets the same reaction from me.)

        • It’s also that with their student loans, the students start to think there was no reason to live in poverty and demanded all sorts of middle class amenities. Athletic centers. Posh dorms. etc.

          One notes that even if the colleges tore the stuff down, they still have to pay for the construction.

          • One thing about the amenities, there was a period where the baby bust hit the colleges. At that time colleges were trying very hard to keep enrollments up. They began selling the need of a college education and promoting students loans. Student and recreation centers were created or expanded, and amenities were added to attract students. Colleges are in the business of selling seats …

    • Also, giving your profession as Spy (It’s from Have Space Suit.) Of course in the days of Homeland Security that might not be safe.

      • I’d suspect that listing yourself as “Spy” might be the safest possible thing– as long as you list your religion as “Muslim” or “Atheist” and do other signals that you might not be harmless.

        Recently found out that the gal who approved the student visas for two of the 9/11/01 hijackers, six months post-attack, didn’t even get fired. Just moved. Thank you, Mark Steyn, for depressing me even as I must laugh….

    • I don’t think 25% would be enough, as much as it turns my stomach to type that; the deductions from my husband’s paycheck come to slightly less than that. (Includes legally required health insurance, but also includes deductions for three dependents; fee is a flat rate for “family,” since he works for the DOD.)

      I’m really not looking forward to when his business gets off the ground.

  15. Mind you, I’m currently a contractor. . . but that ends tomorrow. January 1st, I’m in a small, growing company AND not only getting paid, but a piece of the action for any business I bring in (and I’ve already brought some in. . .)

    Oddly enough, EVERYONE is a conservative-to-small-L-libertarian. Funny, that. . . .

  16. You do your taxes over the holidays? You’re entirely to much on the ball, I usually do mine the last week of March;)

    If your income stream looks like mine; more like a swamp than a stream, with a little trickle of income coming in over here, and another trickle over there, some that just kind of appears in a low spot, and the vast majority of which either evaporates or sinks into the ground before it reaches the other side; well you know no matter how much time you spend, or how thorough and careful you are doing your taxes, if they really want to check and go over them with a fine tooth comb, they will find something illegal. The tax code is simply to convoluted and contradictory for anybody to successfully obey it unless they are an employee of a single company with NO other sources of income.

    • Susan Shepherd

      My guess is that Sarah is doing tax prep stuff because she has to pay quarterly taxes. So January is tax time, and the month when budgeting and tax amounts have to be figured out.

  17. Uggg! I Hate January. Property taxes are due. And because we bought this house in January, the insurance is due. _And_ the fourth quarter estimated taxes. Which, since my husband joined the ranks of the self employed contractor, are substantial. And let’s _not_ talk about health insurance, OK? Another five, six years, sanity will have returned to the field, right? Right?

    And this is where a whole lot more of us will be, in a few more years.

    • What I’m afraid is what will happen before sanity. Most anon. First I must caffeinate, otherwise I’ll write a six page post.

      • Yep. My husband’s COBRA’s expireing and we bought a policy that sounds good until you look at the upper limits of what they’ll pay. And it’s infuriating paying double SS when you know you’ll be lucky to collect . . .although I suspect SS will be one of the last bastions of socialism to fall. But it’s got to fall. There just aren’t enough workers coming along behind us, and the better educated one have (on average) a huge burden of debt coming out of college. Raise their taxes? Well, only if you want them to not be able to buy a car, a house, get married, have children . . . till they’re so old they can’t.

        • As is at ten years (a little less, I guess) younger than you, my generation has lived on the knife’s edge. We have no retirement accounts — couldn’t afford them and the necessities of lives. Really, in our circle, people ten years older than us are traveling and enjoying life and my generation is mostly unemployed, broke, with no savings, and trying to survive and put our kids through college.

          See, the houses we bought were pre-inflated by the boomer boom, and our taxes were higher, on average and … well…

          • Yea– I realized a long time ago that I wouldn’t be able to travel unless I joined the military (I am off the same generation). The boomers used to call us in the 1980s as the materialistic generation. We were the ones hit with 70s inflation… slow starts, etc, etc.

          • And here I am, a few years younger than you, and I fell off the knife’s edge — on both sides. Not only do I have no retirement account, I can’t afford the necessities of life and have to rely on the charity of others. (I do mean charity in the strict sense: not government assistance — I don’t qualify to receive any.)

            Fortunately I’m not trying to put my kids through college, since I was never able to have any; couldn’t afford them — couldn’t even afford to try to find a mate. And the house I bought had to be sold, and I am now living in a rented apartment that I cannot afford. My closest friend of about my own age is living in a trailer park, which means that he has money tied up in the trailer (which is worth nothing on the resale market) but still has to pay rent for a place to park it.

            Then there are those of my friends who are a decade or so younger than I am. Their sufferings would be truly appalling if they did not have relatively well-off Boomer parents to bail them out when they need it.

            • Don’t worry – we’re importing “undocumented” aliens to keep labor costs low. That way folks in your generation can get six-figure starter jobs the way Chelsea Clinton did. /sarc

        • Well, only if you want them to not be able to buy a car, a house, get married, have children . . . till they’re so old they can’t.

          Which, of course, will cause further damage to the economy.

          • Damage which the government will mitigate by requiring banks to grant mortgages without regard to people’s ability to pay, insurers to provide coverage without regard to actuarial costs and employers to provide benefits without regard to long-term cost.

            And politicians will stand ready to “bail-out” the eventual collapses with money we don’t have, blame the industries for venality while prescribing more of the same medicine that made us ill in the first place.

  18. Didn’t you mean “make full-time employment impossible” (rather than “unemployment”) in the last paragraph?

  19. My taxes are usually very easy. My VA disability isn’t taxed, so I don’t have to worry about that. My Air Force retirement IS taxed, but I have enough taken out that it covers my taxes (and then a bit, just in case of unexpected surprises), my writing income this year will be the highest it’s ever been, and it will still be under $100. My wife and I are both over 65, so we get the extra exemptions, AND we have Timmy (with no support, so that’s not an issue). By the time I quit figuring out how much of our combined Social Security is taxable, it’s so minimal our personal deductions and our standard deduction more than cover the total.

    One thing I absolutely refuse to do is to try to get back more than I paid in. The Government has had the use of my money for a year, and that’s fine. I still get back all my withheld taxes. I refuse to file for the “earned income credit”, simply because it’s not a credit we all can claim, or that even all filers with children can claim. It’s also used by the underclass to get more from the government without every contributing anything — either work or taxes. It’s also an area where there’s an enormous amount of fraud.

    The Congressional Budget Office once calculated that if the federal government could eliminate taxpayer fraud, the government could collect an additional $800 BILLION a year in taxes. Almost all of that fraud is committed by the upper and lower 20% of all filers. If we stopped the fraud, and stopped the more than one-half TRILLION dollars in waste every year, we could even balance one of Obama’s idiotic budgets. Somehow, though, that NEVER comes up for discussion.

    • And yet one interesting thing is that US taxpayers are more honest than European ones according to several studies I’ve seen.