17/365 – ‘Cuz I’m the taxman

Step into my parlor, said the spider to the fly

Step into my parlor, said the spider to the fly (This is where I do taxes at an H&R Block office.)

The federal government collected nearly $2.4 trillion in income taxes in fiscal year 2007 (Oct. 1, 2006, to Sept. 30, 2007), and individuals paid in more than $1.3 trillion of that.  This year, I am helping them collect even more, or not, depending on the taxpayer.  If you work but your income is below a certain level and you have a child, you can collect up to $4,380 in Earned Income Credits.  That’s a nice refund.

I work in an H&R Block office in my off-hours from my day job.  I figure it’s the kind of second career I can keep doing as long as I’m able.

Speaking of taxes, Jane and I were having a discussion of whether the Obama stimulus plan is going to work.  I was pointing out that none of the previous attempts to stimulate the economy through government deficit spending actually produced the desired results, yet we keep trying to over and over.  I had to agree with her, though, that raw competition and capitalism doesn’t work for a lot of people either, and that we should expect our government to keep a closer eye on the Wall Street sharks from now on, at least what’s left of Wall Street after most of the investment banks have gone blooey.

As Floyd Norris wrote in a book review in the International Herald Tribune last year, “With the American financial system apparently threatened by paralysis after an era of easy credit that now seems ridiculous and venal at the same time, Wall Street may be about to endure another of its periodic brushes with public scorn and reprisal.”  This seems to have come true.

Funny thing is, it’s nothing new. Way back in 1792, Wall Street  endured its first crash. writes Norris. “A speculation in government bonds had gone horribly wrong, and a formerly wealthy and influential man named William Duer was being chased through the streets of New York City.  In the end, he was lucky that the sheriff got him rather than the mob. As a result of his machinations, Steve Fraser reports in Wall Street: America’s Dream Palace, ‘real estate prices collapsed, credit dried up, house building stopped.’ The decline spread from businessmen to shopkeepers, widows and orphans.”

Let’s hope it doesn’t get that bad this time, and that we learn a permanent lesson abou greed and how we should always care for each others’ interests, not just our own balance sheets.

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