Friday, January 30, 2009

Tax Hacks, Part 1: Give yourself some credit

Before we get into the glory of tax credits, let's cover some basics.

Tax brackets are based on your taxable income only (we'll get to figuring exactly what that is later) and determine how much tax you should pay for that year (called tax liability). For obvious reasons, I'm only going to cover the bottom three brackets here. Also, unless otherwise stated, calculations and figures are for the independent, single, and non self-employed, though I will talk about self-employment tax in a later post.

For a taxable income of $7,825 or less the tax is 10%. So if your taxable income is $5,000, your tax liability is $500. This doesn't mean, of course, that you suddenly owe the federal government 500 bucks. All of these taxes (and likely more) have probably already been withheld from your paychecks. The reason we get those wonderful tax return checks is that we've overpaid, i.e. we've withheld more than our tax liability.

Moving on... for taxable incomes of $7,826-$31,850, the tax is $782.50 + 15% of the excess after $7,825. In other words, 15% of however much you make over the preceding tax bracket plus the assigned base amount. It works this same way going all the way up the tax ladder. For taxable incomes $31,851-$77,100 the tax is $4386.25 + 25% of the excess over $31,850. Say your taxable income from last year was $30,000. You're in what's called the 15% bracket, and your tax is $782.50 + .15 x (30,000-7,825). Remember your order of operations here, kids. That means the tax on your earned income is $4,108.75.

The point here is to reduce your taxable income so that you reduce your income tax. We do that with deductions, exemptions, and credits. And that's where today's hacks come in.

The standard deduction for singles is $5,350; everybody gets that. But there are additional deductions and credits galore. Seriously, there are whole books that do nothing but list possible deductions. I'm not going to go into itemizing in this post, perhaps in a later one; I'm just going to mention a few credits that are particular to people under 30 years old (or thereabouts).

But first, let's talk about the difference between deductions and credits. Deductions reduce your taxable income, but credits reduce your actual tax. For example, say you have $1,000 that you can deduct. Sticking with our original example, the tax you would save would be $150 ($1,000 x 15%) because you'd be reducing your taxable income by $1,000, thereby saving the 15% you would have been charged on it. However, say you have a $1,000 expenditure that qualifies for a 50% credit. You would directly save $500 ($1,000 x 50%). It's the percentage of the credit that's important. If the $1,000 was only eligible for a 10% credit, the deduction would save you more.

Now, credit can be either refundable or non-refundable, which refers to the ability of the credit to count past your tax liability--in other words, if the amount of the credit exceeded the amount of your tax liability, for you to actually get a check from Uncle Sam for the excess credit. For example, if your tax liability is $3,000, but you get a refundable credit for $3,500, you'd get $500 back from the fed. Sadly, the vast majority of credits are non-refundable.
  1. Hope Credit (nonrefundable, up to $1,650 of tuition and mandatory fees actually paid in 2008, e.g. not including tuition covered by scholarship money, etc.). This one only applies to those of you who are freshman, sophomores, or juniors now and were enrolled at least half-time in 2008. You can only claim the Hope Credit for your first two years of undergrad.

  2. Lifetime Learning Credit (nonrefundable, up to $2,000). Cannot be claimed in the same tax year as the Hope Credit. It's calculated as 20% of a maximum of $10,000 of tuition and mandatory fees actually paid in 2008. There's no limit to the number of years you can claim this, and you just have to be enrolled in at least one course (credit or noncredit, degree or non-degree, any level) at a qualifying college or university.

    Note: If you're eligible for the Hope credit but paid more than $8,250, you'll save more by claiming the Lifetime Learning credit instead.

    Both these credits are reduced if your adjusted gross income (a figure somewhere between your net income and your taxable income) is above $47,000. Nothing about taxes is simple; check the links for more details. To claim either of these credits, you will need Form 8863.

    Coming Up: Saver's Credit, Earned Income Credit, and more.

Tax Hacks, Part 1: Give yourself some creditSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tip: You might be eligible for unemployment

Briefly, Unemployment Insurance (UI) is a federal program that requires each state to administer unemployment benefits in some fashion. And it’s the employers who pay into the federal and state UI systems through taxes, not you. Most states run their UI programs a bit differently, so your eligibility for UI benefits depends on the state you work in.

So, most everyone knows that if you get laid off from your full-time job then you’re probably eligible to collect these unemployment benefits.

But other circumstances could merit you unemployment benefits as well. For instance, you might qualify for unemployment if you:

  • Worked part-time and got laid off;
  • Worked under temporary contract and that contract expired;
  • Worked for a term-of-project (TOP) and that project expired;
  • Are still working but your hours have been drastically reduced (sometimes called WorkSharing, this program is offered in 18 states);1, 2 or
  • Were fired for poor performance as opposed to a violation or misconduct.

Notice I use the word might above, because all states have different regulations and you need to check your state’s rules before filing a claim. You can find your state’s UI program and contact info easily with CareerOneStop’s locater map.

Some states specifically exclude coverage for certain types of work. The U.S. Department of Labor’s 2008 “Comparison of State Unemployment Insurance Laws” can be a helpful for gauging this.

Finally, remember that with the economy as it is, the phone lines of your state’s UI program are going to be backed up. So before calling to file a claim you should collect some info about your last several months of employment. Make sure you check your state’s rules and have that info ready, but for general reference, here’s what the state of Massachusetts will want from you when you file:

  • Your Social Security Number;
  • The year you were born;
  • Your home address and telephone number;
  • Whether you have filed an Unemployment Insurance claim in Massachusetts or in any other state during the past 12 months;
  • Your last day of employment;
  • The names and addresses of all of the employers you have worked for during the 15 months prior to filing your claim and the dates you worked for each of these employers. If you are reopening a claim, be ready with the same information for the past 8 weeks;
  • The reason that you are no longer working or that your hours have been reduced;
  • The names, dates of birth and social security numbers for any dependent children, if you are going to apply for dependency allowance; and
  • Your alien registration number if you are not a U.S. citizen;3

Oh, and if there’s not enough heartbreak in your world already, those unemployment benefits are taxable income.4

[1] See "Companies Implement Part-Time Layoffs," by Curt Nickisch, NPR Morning Edition, Aug. 21, 2008.

[2] See, for example, the state of Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency's rules for "underemployment."

[3] Quoted from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.

[4] See "Taxation of Unemployment Benefits," by Christine Scott, Congressional Research Service, 2005.

Tip: You might be eligible for unemploymentSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Going Out Without Going Broke: How to have a blast on a budget

When you’re trying to cut back on your spending it’s easy to say that you won’t go out and that you’ll save money by eating at home and avoiding some costly activities that you enjoy. And that’s great and all but it’s never going to work to the degree you want it to. Budgeting is like dieting. A life of restriction and denial is only going to lead you to crave the things you love even more. Add to that the pressure from your social group to participate in their events and you’ve got a recipe for money splurge disaster. So, how can you avoid this? Go out, go out and have fun, just go out smart. It’s not always what we’re doing that gives us the satisfaction we crave; it’s that we’re doing something, anything, at all. Change a few of your habits and do things a little differently and you’ll be amazed by how much fun you can have while still keeping your wallet in your pants.

Hack One: Do your research. If you're reading this blog chances are you've got more than a passing acquaintance with the internet. It is your friend. It will teach you things. Almost every venue, restaurant, museum, and bar has a website these days, not to mention your mom. If they don't, you can find their *gasp* phone number somewhere. Look for happy hours (if you're lucky enough to live somewhere where they still have happy hours), most museums have a free night or weekend. For those of you who are students the likelihood of museums having a free or reduced price day for you is pretty high.

Hack Two: Plan ahead. If you drive, try to carpool. If you take mass transit be sure to leave while the buses and subways are still running. This is going to come as a shock, but cabs are expensive. If staying an extra 30 minutes is worth $30, that's great and I'd like to go to the parties you're at, if it's not, leave. No one will judge you, and if they do perhaps they would be willing to spring for the cab. If you have a couple friends who live near you splitting a cab three or four ways can make it affordable.

Hack Three: Go to movies during the day. There's always something surreal about leaving a movie theater while it's still light outside, but most theaters have a matinée price on movies that start before noon.

Hack Four: Take advantage of any deals available through your work or school. Re-read your benefits package. Sometimes there are surprising things there like cheap membership passes to museums or discounted tickets on movies released more than two weeks ago.

Hack Five: Go out for lunch instead of dinner. Most restaurants have a reduced price menu for lunch so that way you can also have a martini and not break the bank. Also, having a martini before five is much more fun than having one during respectable drinking hours.

Hack Six: Be the instigator. If your friends are always inviting you out to expensive bars avoid the issue by inviting them out first to a locale that fits your budget. Kitsch is hip.

Hack Seven: Eat before you go out. If you’re meeting people out for drinks and it’s anything close to dinner time you know someone is going to order food, and then someone else is going to order food and then you’ll want food too. However, if you have just eaten, your ability to resist the call of $11 stuffed jalapeños will be infinitely greater.

Hack Eight: Get hobbies that are free, or very close. Join a soccer league, a walking club, a book club (pssst, libraries are the places with books, just in case you’ve forgotten), tryout for a play, etc. You're smart you know what you like doing.

Hack Nine: Volunteer. It's free, it's fun, it's a great way to meet people, it's socially responsible, and it's good for your résumé.

Going Out Without Going Broke: How to have a blast on a budgetSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, January 26, 2009

Quick Update: New Hacker

Guest blogger Jane Stark will be joining our team of intrepid adventurers starting this week.

Her first hack:
Going Out Without Going Broke: How to have a blast on a budget

Stay tuned.

Jane is a member of the new generation of young urban professionals and is a little peeved about it. She loves NPR, wears cardigan sweaters un-ironically, and bakes a mean cupcake.

Quick Update: New HackerSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, January 23, 2009

More Piggish

Well, how did I do? (If you're confused, see the "Update" from the December 16th post.)

More PiggishSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Energy-Saving Money Hacks Pt. Deux

These ones are for year-round use, though. Here we go.
  1. This one is obvious, but some people don’t get it. Lights. Turn them off when you’re leaving the room (unless you’re returning in the next couple of minutes). And change your light bulbs. When the regular incandescent bulbs you have in your lamps burn out, replace them with energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL), or even better, LED bulbs. CFLs last ten times as long as regular bulbs and are four times more efficient, but LED bulbs last ten times as long as CFLs and are three times more efficient.1 Don't worry, the days of harsh fluorescent lighting are over—both CFLs and LEDs now come in “warm white” so as not to cause headaches and eye strain. CFLs and LEDs are more expensive than incandescents, but if you do the math, they’re worth it cost-wise and definitely environmentally. See Eartheasy’s page on Energy Efficient Lighting for additional important information about each type of bulb, including how to choose the right strength. Also, be sure to read their section on proper disposal of CFLs due to their mercury content.

  2. Vampire electronics: These are home electronics like computers and peripherals, video and stereo equipment, and kitchen appliances like coffee makers and toasters that suck juice even when they’re not being used. If there’s a light on it, it’s on and using electricity. Turn them off.

    Some appliances and electronics now are made to never be completely off unless they’re unplugged. It’s hard to know which of your belongings do this and which don’t, so it’s best to use power strips. You can get a bunch of power strips inexpensively from a department or general store (even dollar stores often have them). Place them anywhere you have multiple electronics within cord distance from each other. This way, instead of going around unplugging and plugging back in each device, just get in the habit of flipping the power strip off whenever they’re not being used. Some power strips also contain surge protectors which are especially important for expensive devices as they can save them from being fried if there’s a sudden surge from lightning, downed power lines, equipment malfunction, etc.

    The biggest perpetrator of all the vamps? Chargers, namely cell phone chargers. A lot of people leave their charger plugged in all the time and just attach their cell phones when they are running low. The bad news is that even when there's no phone connected to them, most phone chargers are sucking electricity. This goes for most chargers. Don't leave them plugged in when you're not using them, and don't use them if your device doesn't really need to be charged. Unplug them as soon as they finish charging.

  3. Turn your computer off if you’ll be away for more than an hour. I recommend you set your preferences to automatically turn the monitor off and sleep the computer when it’s been inactive for 15 minutes, and hibernate/standby after 30. What's the difference between sleep and hibernate? In laptops, sleep still uses a little electricity to keep whatever you were doing in memory, but hibernate stores it instead and shuts off completely, using no electricity (unless it's charging, i.e. plugged in). In desktops, they're pretty much the same thing; they're still using some electricity.

    If you're going to be away for more than a hour, shut the computer down completely and flip off the power strip. Contrary to rumor, it does not take significantly more energy to boot up a computer than to let it run for even relatively short periods of time.2 It is also not true that turning your computer off every night (and/or day while you’re away) is bad for it. It will not damage the hard drive.3 In fact, it’ll save some life and prevent possible overheating. Plus, as we all know, restarting a computer can solve a myriad of silly software problems. It’s good for it.

    If you have peripherals you rarely use, plug them into a separate power strip from your computer that you can then leave off until you need one of your peripherals.

    If you need help activating your computer's power-saving settings, see your OS's help program or check EnergyStar's tutorial. And if you're a Mac user, Apple has a cool energy use calculator for its computers.

    By the way, screensavers don't save any energy at all; they're completely pointless for flat screens. Some of them even keep your computer from automatically sleeping.

  4. Heating water is the next expensive energy suck after home heating. Be conscious of the time you spend in the shower—it will cost you. If you take short showers, fine. But if your showers last more than ten minutes, consider taking a bath instead. It'll use less water. The absolute best thing, of course, is to take short showers and install a low-flow shower head (you can get one for around $10 if you shop around).

    Also, if your hot water heater is electric, get in the habit of turning it off before you go to bed at night or when you’ll be on vacation or otherwise away from the house. I have to say, though, if you shower in the morning and aren’t going to want to trudge down to the basement when you wake up and then wait half an hour for the water to heat up, turning it off every night is probably not the best option. However, there’s no reason not to do it while you’re away or if you shower at night. It can save you a surprising amount on your electric bill.

    Whether your water heater is electric or gas, make sure you insulate the pipes. Insulating hot water pipes prevents heat-seep and insulating cold water pipes keeps them from freezing and breaking if the temperature drops very low. For specific directions on insulating water pipes (and even water heaters), see Eartheasy’s page on energy-efficient heating.

    Laundry: Most of us were taught to use hot water for whites and tough stains, warm water for permanent press, and cold water for delicates—but that really doesn’t hold anymore. Most laundry detergents now are powerful enough to clean laundry just fine with only cold water. There are even detergents that are specially formulated for cold water, although buying these may not be necessary. If you’re unsure, do a test load in cold water with your regular detergent and see if you can tell the difference. The same goes for dishes. There’s no need to use scalding hot water; room temperature water will usually do just fine. Also, turn off the "heat dry" option on your dishwasher; instead, when it's done just crack open the door an inch or two to facilitate air drying.

    Adhering to the “fill not run” rule will almost always save a significant amount of water (and money). This rule refers to the value of filling a basin with water rather than leaving the water running while you perform a task (bathing, shaving, washing/rinsing dishes, etc.). And please, leaving the water run while you brush your teeth is just plain careless.

  5. Cooking: My mother always said that the oven loses a fifth of its heat every time you open the door, but I guess I thought it was just an old wives' tale. Well, it's not. So don't keep opening the door every five minutes to check on the food. Another quick hack: turn the oven off ten minutes before the food is done. As long as you don't open the door, the remaining heat will be sufficient for the last ten minutes of cooking time. The same goes for electric stovetops.

    Ever wonder why one of the coils on your electric range is smaller than the others? It's so you don't waste energy when cooking with a smaller pot or pan. Remember, size matters.

    If you don't need a huge fridge, don't get one. Seriously, if there are two or three people sharing a refrigerator, a regular sized one is plenty big enough. The bigger the icebox, the more space needs to be kept cold and the more energy is used to do so. Also, make sure it's not set too cold. Good fridge temps are between 35 and 38 degrees, 0 for freezers.4

[1] "Energy Efficient Lighting," Eartheasy.

[2] Green Houston, the mayor's Office of Environmental Programming website.

[3] "User Guide to Power Management for PCs and Monitors," Bruce Nordman, et al. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. January 1997.

[4] "Refrigerators & Freezers for Consumers," Energy Star.

Energy-Saving Money Hacks Pt. DeuxSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, January 16, 2009

Money Hack #1: Reduce your heating bill

It's mid-January, and where I live it's ridiculously cold. (Thank you, global climate change, i.e. meat industry1, the Big 3, huge industrial polluters, U.S. government that refuses to comply with the Kyoto Protocol....) Heating generally consumes more energy than any other source for homes, and with energy costs rising it can be a huge expense. Not to mention emission2

Here are some ways you can reduce your heating expense by conserving energy:
  1. If you have a furnace, make sure you change the filters when recommended. You can waste a lot of energy trying to pump air through dirty, clogged filters. Off-brand or generic filters work just as well and are often half as expensive.

  2. If you have radiators, line the wall(s) behind them with aluminum (sheet is best, but foil works too). This prevents the heat from absorbing into the wall and reflects it back toward the room, where it's put to better use.

  3. Windows are probably the number one source of lost heat. If your window panes have less than 2 panes, make sure you have storm windows installed. Then, check around the perimeter of the windows for air leaks. If you can't quite tell if there's a draft, light a match and hold it near the suspect area. The flame will move if there's a leak.

    Problem spots can be filled with caulk or covered with weather stripping (both found at most hardware stores), but if it's more of a problem with the whole window being shabby, you can use plastic to seal them. They make kits for this, but those get expensive if you've got multiple problem windows. You can accomplish pretty much the same thing by using a large roll of plastic wrap, some tape, and a hair dryer. Just put some heavy-duty double-sided tape around the edges of the window, and cover the whole thing with plastic wrap, making sure not to stretch it too tight, as it'll shrink a bit in the next step. Then, run your blowdryer, on its hottest setting, over the plastic until it has a shrink-wrap effect. Make sure you keep the dryer moving so as not to melt the plastic. Tape around edges with some cheap masking tape, and you're good to go.

    If you have window box air conditioners, these should be covered also. You can use the same shrink-wrap method described above, or you can just use a plastic garbage bag and tape. Make sure that both the vents and the perimeter of the A/C are covered. The plastic will stop actual drafts of air, but for added insulation, you can put an old towel, blanket, or thick shirt over the plastic. It doesn't look very pretty, but it's quick, easy, and free.

    Thick drapes are also good for insulation but expensive to buy. If you're handy with a sewing machine, there's nothing easier to make than drapes; just be sure to use the right gauge needle for the thickness of your fabric. If you can't sew, you can sometimes find cheap drapes at Goodwill or Salvation Army stores.

  4. If there are any rooms in your home that don't get used often, e.g. storage closets or spare bedrooms, keep their doors and vents closed so that you don't waste energy heating them.

  5. On outer doors, prevent drafts coming under them with a draft-stopper. Again, you can buy these or you can make them yourself. They're really easy. I used this guide and modified it by connecting two with a piece of scrap material so it provides more protection and moves with the door. Make sure you connect the two long rectangles for the stoppers with the scrap connectors before you close up the cylinders and fill them.

  6. A word about space heaters: the only time these are an economical option is when you only need to heat one or two rooms in a large house. So rather than turn on the central heat and let it heat the whole house, you might save money using just a space heater or two. On the whole, however, radiator/gas heat is cheaper than electric heat.

  7. Adjusting the thermostat: Keep it set as low as comfortable--and I mean comfortable when you're wearing a sweater. You don't need to run around in shorts and a tank top at home during the winter. In my house we keep the thermostat at 60 degrees when people are home during the day and 52 when no one's home and at night. Since we have radiators, and once they heat up they're hot for a while, it usually ends up being on average several degrees warmer than what it's set as. In general, turning down the thermostat at night can save you around 10 percent on your heating bills for the season.3 Unfortunately, we don't have a programmable thermostat, so it's pretty cold for the first person up in the morning. Good thing radiators heat up quickly. But, regardless of what my father apparently believed, turning the thermostat all the way up will NOT make the house heat up more quickly.

  8. If you have an accessible water heater, set the temperature to 120 degrees. Anything higher than this is not only spending unnecessary energy and money, but it can be dangerous.
For more about making your home energy efficient, see the U.S. Department of Energy's website "Energy Savers," which has a wealth of information about saving energy with not only heating but cooling, lighting, appliances, and even cars. Or you can download the free PDF containing all the information on the website.

[1]Land-clearing for pasture space and for crops grown solely for feeding meat-producing livestock, water pollution by way of antibiotics and hormones injected into livestock, the fertilizers and pesticides used on the feed crops, as well as the livestock's natural emissions make the meat industry one of the leading causes of human-induced climate change.

The natural methane (which has 23 times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of CO2) and nitrous oxide (which has 296 times the GWP of CO2) produced by livestock damages the ozone more than transportation (automobiles, ships, and airplanes combined) does worldwide. See "Livestock a major threat to environment: Remedies urgently needed," 29 November 2006, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

See also the full report by the UN FAO,
Livestock's Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options, 2006.

[2]"Energy Savers: Tips on saving energy and money at home," U.S. Dept. of Energy, EERE.

[3]"A Consumer's Guide to energy efficiency and renewable energy," U.S. Dept. of Energy, EERE.

Money Hack #1: Reduce your heating billSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The future, at least for the blog, is bright.

Exciting and new stuff coming soon to an irreverent (and possibly irrelevant) little blog. This is what we got in store for the kiddies:

1. New content for is being added (almost) daily. There's loads of info there now.

2. Guest/co-blogger mdtrudeau (MDT for short--'cause I'm a lazy typist. See! I didn't even want to type "because." Of course, I know what you're thinking--that all this explaining of my lazy typist attitude is just making me type more and so the whole thing has backfired. Ok, fine. You're right. Whatevs.) ANYWAY what I was saying is that MDT has posted his first blog for TAiMH (there I go again...) and it rocks.

3. As most of the content (though it's a continuously evolving/growing site) is up at ToBP (I just can't stop. I'm on a roll.), I will be getting off my lazy blogger butt and getting down to some serious, you-ain't-seen-nothin'-like-this posting. That's right. Just you wait.

4. (Related to #3) It's nearing tax season. I just got my first state document, that's how I know. Hence, I feel as though I should devote some blog space to talking about filing taxes. Obviously I can't explain everything in detail because dudes go to school for that stuff, you know? But all the same, I'll do what I can.

5. (Related to #4!) In the early planning stages is a section on the main site all about taxes! Isn't that exciting, kids? Taxes! Everybody loves taxes, right? They're so fun and quick and easy to file! OK, I'd better stop or I'll soon be drowning in my own sarcasm.

6. Wondering where the actual money hacks are? Don't worry, they're on their way. Very soon, I promise.

7. I don't have anything else. Just thought 7 was a good number to end on.

Peace out! and thanks for reading!

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tired of Paying to Continue Being Poor

$2300 is an estimate tossed around lately of what it will cost each taxpayer for the $700 billion bailout of the U.S. banking system. And by most accounts the $700 billion is shaping up to be a modest estimate.

Surely we can all pull up our bootstraps, tighten our belts, and scrape together a mere $2300 apiece, can’t we? For the good of the financial system? For the good of the nation?

But wait. Economists are now saying that if you add the $700 billion bill to our already-bloated deficit, you actually get a $10 trillion total price tag of U.S. debt--for a war we placed on a charge-card, for all the government owes on Medicaid, Social Security, etc., etc. Which means that each one of us actually owes about $34,000 instead of $2300.1

And all this time we at Tired of Being Poor thought we were living within our means. . . .

So how will this debt be paid for? Rest assured that a federal tax collector won’t come knocking on your door requesting $34,000 in funds due. Maybe, but not likely. Although it would be nice if some fed bookkeeper sent each one of us an itemized account of how we’ll be paying for this bailout--namely, a list of cuts to the already-dwindling services we enjoy, and a list of hikes in the fees that we hate.

In other words, we all need to see an itemization of how each one of us will be paying MORE for LESS.

What will be cut? Will there be less tax benefits? Less grants for higher education? Less unemployment benefits? Cuts to Medicaid, gutting of Social Security and pensions? Should we not only expect less sums of money from these programs, but reconfigurations of them that would decrease who’s eligible?

Add the cuts to the hikes: Will there be more statewide tuition hikes at universities (i.e., as states cut support to schools even more)? Of course there will be. Hikes in interest rates for federal unsubsidized Stafford loans? Fewer subsidized Stafford loans? Hikes in sales tax and income tax? If your state doesn’t do so already, will it decide to tax the food and clothing you purchase?

Maybe we should change our name to Tired of Paying to Continue Being Poor.

In at least eight years, we have seen a steady divestment in the services like the ones above rendered us by our government.2 Now we’re being ordered to bail out the financial system and our government (for its bad check-writing) in historic proportions. Fine, dandy.

But for such a historic investment will we be guaranteed, strangely, nothing in return? And by that I mean something better than an unstable financial system that will continue to be unstable, and something better than government decision-makers who keep making such bad decisions with our money and future?

Smart investments should yield good returns, right? But our $34,000-apiece investment will not yield returns for us unless we make our government realize that investment in its people--and not divestment--creates the returns.

Do we now have an administration that's more likely to understand this concept? Ask for yourself.

[1]See “The $10 trillion hangover: Paying the price for eight years of Bush.” By Joseph E. Stiglitz and Linda J. Bilmes, Harpers’s Magazine, January 2009.

[2]See divestments made under Bush and under Clinton.

Tired of Paying to Continue Being PoorSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

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