Deep thoughts today. I was thinking about taxes, and how the U.S. is trillions of dollars in debt, and all the Occupy Wall Street protesting going on right now.
Foreclosures, bankruptcy, and unemployment are daily headlines in the newspapers and blogosphere. Interest rates are climbing on credit cards, college tuition is rising rapidly, and folks can’t make ends meet. New college graduates enter the world finding that 40-year old adults have taken the entry-level jobs they expected to get. Fingers point at the government, which continues to fund billions to the military while families lose their houses back home. No wonder folks are angry.
I then began pondering all the tax incentives and tax credits available to the “average American” – there’s quite a list over on at the IRS website. Heck, you can even write off state sales tax! At first I wondered if perhaps we are given too many tax credits – if maybe we’ve been dealing with a case of “too much of a good thing” – you know, not enough money going into the pot in the first place. Not really knowing where our federal income taxes go, I ran across this web site. That was interesting.
Then I found this article in the New York Times. Hmm.
I have a lot of sympathy for the “average American”. After all, I am in the same boat – I struggle to put food on our table and cannot afford to send my kids to college. But I also think that some of the problems that people are griping about are, to a certain degree, self-induced.
Hold on, don’t sic the dogs on me yet.
My mind leaps to the gross consumerism that grips most of the country. It got me to thinking even more than I already was, and questions bubbled to the surface.
How many “average American” kids have cell phones? laptops? iPods? iPads? portable DVD players? What about DSi, Wii, Xbox, etc.?
How many households have more than one TV? How many of those TVs are flat-screens? What about cable packages? High-speed internet?
How many cars does the average household have? How new are they? How many times per week does the average family eat out / buy fast food / go out to a movie?
I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I think an awful lot of people are labeling themselves as destitute when they really just have their priorities out of whack.
I saw some of the 99% Protestors march here in Seattle — a good percentage of them were carrying Starbucks coffee cups. The irony just kills me.
How many “average American” families, who are struggling to make ends meet while holding down three part-time jobs, still somehow manage to come up with money to buy cigarettes, Starbucks drinks, Wii games, and iPods? How many people who file bankruptcy turn around and buy a new computer or DVD player as soon as their debt is wiped out?
I know people in all demographics. Most of them struggle. Most of them carry debt. Most of them complain about how hard it is to pay their bills. Quite a few of my friends lost jobs in the last two years. Some are still unemployed. And then they whip out a brand-new cell phone and show off some app they just bought.
Circling back, I can’t help but wonder how many of the 99% are really living within their means. Their REAL means. What happened to the basics of food, shelter, and warmth? Those should be the priorities, with cable and yet another TV being luxuries that are reserved for when there is a surplus of money. How about socking $500 into a retirement account instead of buying an iPad?
There are truly needy people in our country. Families who live in their cars because they lost their homes. Homeless shelters and food pantries are getting hit hard, as more destitute people line up to accept a dwindling pool of public service resources.
I see the protestors in their North Face jackets and Lucky Brand jeans, and it makes a person think.