Monday, August 27, 2012

Villification of the Poor... Another of Those Big Lies

I spent a fair amount of time reading the newspaper yesterday, a Sunday tradition for many people. One thing I notice is the increasing villification of the poor - people with low incomes or no incomes. And there are certainly a lot more of those than there were a couple decades ago. This category also includes a significant, and growing, percentage of those at retirement age. I guess this is the "when attacked, counterattack" strategy of a certain wealthier segment of the population. They don't like the idea of paying more taxes, and feel entitled to pay a much lower rate for return on capital investments than most people pay for return on their labor (i.e., salaries).

A letter to the editor complained that it was just so unjust for the wealthiest among us to pay more, when 50% percent of the population pay "no taxes at all." This is another of those "Big Lies" that political hucksters of all stripes delight in. And I am just so darned sick of these kinds of lies and half truths!

In fact, virtually every adult in this nation pays taxes. If you buy things, you pay taxes. Even here in Delaware, where there is no sales tax, merchants still pay a percentage of their sales to the state as a tax, so the consumer is just paying less directly. There are actually a lot of these kinds of indirect taxes that consumers ultimately pay for, in the forms of fees and taxes on manufacturers and service providers. Without customers, these companies don't contribute to the public till. And it is an indisputable fact that the poor pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income as sales and related taxes, direct and indirect. Lower income folks, by necessity, have to pay out most of what they make for goods and services they need to survive. Rent, food, clothing, transportation costs. There's very little left over.

The poor usually pay property taxes, too, which are important for funding our schools and city and local services, such as police and fire protection. Property owners know they pay these, but renters do too, just indirectly. When property taxes go up, so does the rent. Even people who live with family or friends contribute to property taxes if they pay their host a share of the rent or mortgage payment. Again, the wealthy generally pay a much, much smaller proportion of their income in property taxes than do those with lower incomes.

Even the taxes for Social Security and Medicare, that percentage taken out of each worker's paycheck, or paid directly by the self-employed, represents a much bigger percentage of income for the poor, compared to the wealthy.

The better-off, especially the wealthy, are able to put away some or most of their income, rather than having to spend it on food, housing, transportation and services. They typically invest it, and some have argued that the growing disproportionality of wealth in the country, leading to a bunch of wealthy folks looking for high yield places to park their "extra income," actually fueled the very risky housing and related financial investment bubble, the bursting of which did so much to cripple our economy.

Anyway, if we oldsters are in a low income bracket, and pay little or no federal or state income tax, it doesn't mean we're not doing our share. If you could see the percentage of your meager income that actually goes to direct taxes, as well as the indirect taxes and fees paid by retail and service vendors that you pay, not to mention real estate taxes on your housing, you'd probably be surprised. You may actually be paying a higher percentage of your income in taxes than people who have incomes far, far higher than yours.

Friday, August 3, 2012

NOT New Earbuds.. a New MP3 Player for My Walks

It turned out not to be my earbuds! It was my old reliable Sansa Fuze that failed. The one I have had for maybe five years, that is so old it has little teeth marks all over it from back when Petey was a puppy and used to steal and chew it.

Well, this was very sad. The pretty red (albeit chewed) Fuze was like an old friend. It accompanied me on countless miles of walking and all my bus rides to and from work, in the middle of blizzards and the heat of summer. RIP good ol' Fuze.

I really do need a music player of some kind, due to the terminal boredom that can set in during long walks, waits for the bus, and so on. I did some research to see what's available in MP3 players these days. Gotta be frugal, but frugal does not necessarily mean the lowest cost!

I gave up on Ipods a long time ago, when I discovered that for the cost of just replacing the Ipod battery, after only two years of use, I could buy a very nice Sansa MP3 player and have money left over! First I got a Sansa Clip - chewed to death by Petey. Then the Sansa Fuze - chewed, but survived, and the battery is still going strong, far outlasting my old Ipod. I briefly had another Clip, but dropped it in the dishwasher and it became history. The Sansa players, made by Sandisc, seem very tough and reliable - I'm the problem, and Petey too.

So I decided to get another Clip, and to spend a few more dollars for the new Clip Zip, at $37.99. It holds 4 gb (plenty for me),, with a micro SD card slot if I ever want to overload it. It is tiny, comparable to an Ipod Nano, and has that great strong little clip built in (hence the name). I decided on the newer Zip version because they have added a time display and a stopwatch timer. Sansas, including the clip, are easy to use and sync with Windows Media Player on the computer. The Clip takes a little practice to navigate, but once you learn the ropes it's quite easy.

The price I quoted is from Amazon. I checked my other go-to for electronics, Radio Shack, but they were $10 more! No wonder Radio Shack is not doing that well. With my Amazon Prime subscription I got free 2-day delivery, and as often happens, they actually gave me next-day delivery! (Maybe they do that when they are not too busy?)

Anyway, the new Clip is a huge success, and I've loaded up my walking music on one playlist and a recorded book (free from my library) on another, and I'm a happy walker again. I just need to remember to not clip the Clip above counter height when doing the dishes!

By the way... I often time my various walking routes, and in the last month and a half, I've cut five minutes off each. I'm walking faster, and I feel stronger. I've started doing some simple calisthenics and a few yoga stretches, too. No weights yet. But in addition to feeling stronger and having more energy, the plantar faciatiis in my right heel is pretty much in remission, if not completely healed. Yay!