Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wealth, Redistributed

For fifteen years, from 1982 until 1997, I was a single mother on active duty. (I’m still single and still a mother, but I no longer have financial responsibility for the tykes, the youngest of whom is 29.) Those were really tough years financially. I didn’t make a lot of money, and if I hadn’t had a house with a low mortgage payment and people who looked out for me, I honestly don’t know how I would have made it through that period of my life. Sometimes friends would donate their old furniture to me. One sold me a car; another, later, helped me buy a different used car. A few times, friends came over and did minor home repairs. One once found me a deal on a new central air compressor.

I wasn’t lazy. I wasn’t on welfare. I had three kids, a full time job, and all of those 15 years I was working on several college degrees, ending with a master’s the year after my youngest child turned 18. But I had very little money.

In short, times were tough, financially and otherwise.

One “person” who looked out for me was my Uncle Sam. Because we have a graduated income tax system under which people pay according to their means, I received tax breaks for my “head of household” status and for my three minor dependents. I don’t have easy access to my old tax records, but I probably paid well less than $1500 in federal income taxes in 1997, the last year I qualified as head of household and had a dependent other than myself. For argument’s sake, let’s say it was $1500.

In 1998, I became, for tax purposes, a “single” person. I no longer maintained a household for dependent children and had only myself as an exemption. My taxes might have skyrocketed, but for the next three years, ironically, I made even less money than before, in part because my previous job had ended with my boss’ retirement and I was teaching part time. For a while there, I also had a very crummy low-wage mortgage company job (with one of those companies that recently was bought out just before it collapsed). My income was even lower, but due to my new status, my taxes increased somewhat.

Six years ago, I obtained a full-time teaching job, and my income increased considerably, although I am still hardly a top-wage earner. Last year I made about $46,000, including summer work. Next year it’ll be a lot less because I will have little or no summer employment.

In 2007, I paid $5300 in federal income taxes. This means that over a ten year period, I have had an increase in taxes of more than 300%.

I have never once complained about this, and I’m not writing this post to complain now.* Between 1982 and 1997, I was financially insecure, and sometimes financially paralyzed. Now times are better, and I am comfortable enough not to have to worry about how I am going to pay for the groceries or if I’ll be able to make it to the next paycheck. (Other things are more problematic, but I can cover all the basics.)

For this reason – because I am financially stable and can afford all the basics – I think it’s just that I have received that 300% increase. Sure, I’d like to pay fewer taxes, but I haven’t forgotten that when I needed the “wealth redistributed” to me, it was. When I couldn’t afford to pay $5300 in taxes, I wasn’t asked to. And now that I can afford to pay it, I am asked.

On a small scale, this is Barack Obama’s tax plan. Some people can better afford to share the cost of running our country. And those complaining should consider that Obama isn’t asking anyone, not even those making over $250,000 per year, for a 300% increase.

So to those complaining, get over it.

*I have sometimes complained about how the money was spent, but never that I was required to pay it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Got lunch: check. Got groceries: check. Helped save the country: check.

The parking lot of the tag agency was as full as I've ever seen it, and parking spilled over into an adjacent empty lot. I stood outside in line with about 40 other voters (they let about 5 into the building at a time). A woman came out from time to time and spoke to the line about what kind of ID we needed to present, what the ballot would look like and how to complete it, and to otherwise answer questions. Inside, the voting area was crowded, but efficient. Because we were using a corner of the auto tag agency, there was a long countertop, and one of the poll workers offered to let me go to an isolated section of the counter rather than to wait for a plastic "booth" that was not one bit private (as I waited to show my ID and get my ballot, I watched a woman color in her choices). I took her offer.

I was prepared. I had looked over my sample ballot in advance, researched those races and issues I didn't already know about, and had it, filled out, with me.

Although I thought I was going to have to used the dreaded touch-screen machine (as I did in 2004), I instead used a PAPER ballot, which upon completion, I put into a scanning machine, just like in the olden days. Everyone in Florida now votes on the same kind of machine -- and it involves PAPER!
...unlike 2000, there is now a clear paper trail that shows voter intent in case of a recount. Voters now use pencil or pen to mark paper ballots, which are then counted by machine. Punchcards and their chad are no more.
However, before I turned in my ballot, I TRIPLE-CHECKED to make sure that the arrow I completed said Obama-Biden. It did, I assure you.

The cynical part of me wonders if our statewide paper-rich system -- which would presumably allow for a fraud-free recount -- is the reason that John McCain's campaign is focused on Pennsylvania. I'm not the only one worried about McCain's new obsession.

While I was still outside waiting, the helpful poll worker was telling someone that the turnout had been steady. The first couple of days, about a thousand each day. The lowest turnout day was over 500. Our county has about 120,000 registered voters. Some are voting absentee; some on the big day; some won't show up at all. My early-voting site is not that big. I suspect that the larger venues have significantly more traffic. Florida has five more days of early voting: through Saturday.

It took a half hour from the time I left the car until the time I returned. I had reading material and wasn't bored.

When I returned to the car, I could see that there were still about 40 people in line. And while I live in SuperRed County, I know that I wasn't the only one to vote Obama.

I know this because of the Obama bumper stickers on the car that was in front of me as we waited to pull out of the parking lot and off to the next task in our busy lives, having done our part to try to pull this country back into sanity.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Palin Says Election Result Rests in God's Hands

As the AP reports,

Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin describes herself as a "hard-core pro-lifer" and expresses confidence that in spite of disheartening polls, "putting this in God's hands, that the right thing for America will be done at the end of the day on Nov. 4."
So I presume she'll be as thrilled as those of us on the left when Barack Obama is elected President, seeing how it will be God's will and all.

Good to know.

Hillary Called Me

I received the nicest robo-call from Hillary Clinton today.

She didn't call anyone names.

She didn't try to scare me.

She asked me to vote early and to vote for Obama/Biden and the rest of the Democratic ticket.

She tried to be helpful and tell me where my nearest early-voting site is, although she was wrong. There's one closer. But thanks, Hils. As busy as you are, I wouldn't really expect you research the location of my home so thoroughly as to know that.

Did I say she didn't call anyone names or try to scare me?

That's how you do robo-calls.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

(Don't) Let Your Freak Flag Fly!

First, we need to establish that I live in a Very Red county.

I confirmed something driving to work today that I thought I had noticed before: on the signs and billboards dotting our landscape that advertise the candidacy of those running for local offices, "REP" is not prominently displayed. There's a lot of fine print under the signs, print you can't read while driving. It may show up there.

As I thought about it, I remembered that this same thing happened in 2006.

Bottom line: these guys are not willing to admit they're Republicans.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Monkey Business

Somewhat passively watching Anderson Cooper's show tonight, I thought I saw something in the footage from John McCain's visit to Missouri, but it was on screen for just a moment, and the reporter made no note of it.

When the show reran the next hour, I taped it. Sure enough, there it was: another monkey proudly waved over the crowd. Of course, this one didn't have Obama's name stuck to its forehead, so I'm not sure what, exactly, the message is this time.

Monkeys for McCain?

Yeah, right.

Monkey shows up right away, at about 5 seconds into the video.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

In Which Obama Listens to Me

My favorite moment in last night's debate went something like this.

McCain was complaining about Obama's plan to "just" give tax cuts to those making under $250,000. He couldn't see why EVERYONE couldn't get a tax cut.

As the floor went to Obama, I said aloud, "Bring up Warren Buffett," who has famously pooh-poohed the idea of giving tax breaks and cuts to the rich. From 2007:

Buffett cited himself, the third-richest person in the world, as an example. Last year, Buffett said, he was taxed at 17.7 percent on his taxable income of more than $46 million. His receptionist was taxed at about 30 percent.

Buffett said that was despite the fact that he was not trying to avoid paying higher taxes. "I don't have a tax shelter," he said. And he challenged Congress and his audience to see what the people who "clean our offices" are taxed, to loud applause.
Anyway, you know what happened next. Obama brought up Buffett.

Before that, I had no idea the debates were interactive.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Campaign Is Over

I just learned that Someone I Know, someone military, someone lifelong Republican (but not a crazee or a racist), cast his absentee vote for Obama.

If Obama can reach this person (or perhaps it was that McCain can't), it truly is all over.

Mouths of Babes and All That

My daughter and I were on the phone, talking politics long distance. Her six-year-old son wandered in to the room where she was, and she said, "Tell Grandma who you're voting for."

He hollered, "Barack Obama!" and giggled.

Well, that was cute, no doubt. I presumed he had heard Mommy talking about this and was parroting her, as so many children do of all ages, but I asked her just the same how he had made his decision -- was he saying it because she says it?

"Oh, no," daughter said, "he saw them both on TV and said that John McCain was scary looking."

A six-year-old doesn't come to this election with the literal prejudices that adults do. This particular six-year-old has never been indoctrinated at home in racial hatred, and he lives in a neighborhood where he plays with black, white, and hispanic children. So as he made his snap judgment, he never weighed whether race mattered or not. And a six-year-old doesn't know what "looking Presidential" means, but when he looked at these two men, he found one frightening and one (presumably) reassuring.

As do I, T. As do I.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Definitive Solution to the Economic Crisis

Today I received the email below. I'm not in a hurry for myself, so I sent it on to six friends, but the thing you can really thank me for is that I sent it to my Uncle Sam. Assuming he opens his mailbox today and sends it on to 12 (I know for a fact that Uncle Sam has at least twelve friends), the economy should be back on track by Sunday.

You're welcome.

Money Coming Your Way!'re it!

Money Angel
This is a money angel Pass it to 6 and be rich in 4 Days.
Pass it to 12 and be rich in 2 Days.
I am not joking. You will find an unexpected windfall. If you delete it, you will never know!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The After-Party

I watched the debate on a number of networks (switching back and forth) and recorded a rerun of it from C-Span.

Unlike the other networks, C-Span's cameras stayed with the debate room following the festivities, since its follow-up is not with talking heads but with ordinary folks who call in. The comments range on one end from thoughtful and articulate to the other end, or ranting, raving, and incoherence. This is true of supporters of both major candidates and of other candidates. For the most part, they're pretty entertaining.

Most of the time while these calls were airing, C-Span showed the after-party. It was telling. The cameras watched as the two candidates and their wives worked the room. (This included the moment when the McCains and Obamas were in the same part of the room, and John refused to shake Barack's hand, passing him on to Cindy instead.) All this was aired completely without comment, except for the occasional "we're watching video of the candidates talking with the audience" or something similar. The audience talked, shook hands with the candidates and wives, had their photos taken with them, solicited autographs. After a short time, I noticed that the cameras were trained solely on Barack and Michelle, who were surrounded. Even without sound, the crowd's excitement was palpable.

At first, I thought there was a bit of favoritism going on on C-Span's part, but then realized that the McCains had left (this was later confirmed by the on-air journalist, probably to explain why only the Obamas were being filmed). In the meantime, the audience -- independent/undecided voters, if I recall correctly -- were eating up the attention from the Obamas. This struck me as classy, for one thing, and wise for another. Maybe the cost benefit for spending extra time with those 80 people wasn't that high -- but maybe it was. Each of those people has friends, after all. Add to that all the people still watching at home who saw what I saw: the one man left the hoi polloi behind as soon as possible while the other one ("that one") stayed to mingle.

Yet another example of the wide gulf between the two candidates.

(Wish I could find video, but I can't, and I'm too technologically dumb to create my own.)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Excitement Continues for Mr. and Mrs. Marine Son

So, Marine Son returned home (to CA) from Iraq late Saturday afternoon.

About 60 hours later, today at 12:30 am Pacific time, his wife gave birth to their daughter Miss M, my first granddaughter -- two weeks early.

If you're a long time reader and are intimately familiar with this blog, you might think that wait, didn't Mr. and Mrs. Marine Son just have a baby?

And you would be correct.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Kitchen Remodel, phases 2 and 3

I'll expand on this later, but here's the kitchen at the almost-end of phase 3. Left to do in phase 3: installing baseboards and the pieces that go at the end of the countertops. Raising the feet at the back of the range so that it's level and even with the countertops.

The kitchen used to be an L-shape. Nothing on the left existed (although these photos barely show the left), and the refrigerator was in the left corner as this photo is oriented. Because the old, battered cabinets had a missing drawer (long story), I suffered through having only 2 drawers for about 15 years. Now I have 8.

Phase 4: replacement of upper cabinets, starting with the one above the range, and all cabinets to the right of it. (If the old and new cabinets look a lot alike, it's because I've used the same paint color on both of them.) Knobs for the cabinets (they'll match the faucet). New light fixture over the sink. Probably nothing fancy or even visible except by those standing at the sink and looking up. Combination microwave/exhaust fan over the range. This might be finished by year's end.

The color scheme was inspired by the Mexican plate that hangs over the range.

A big shout-out to Tall Son, who has done most of the work, but not without my help -- and interference. As I tell him, he has skills, but I have opinions.

For fun, here's Phase 2, the other side of the tiny room (mine is a tiny house):

The flooring on the right has since been completed.

This post shows the kitchen in the midst of phase 1. At the time, I had no idea how many phases it would take.

One More Thing the Demagogue Sarah Palin and I Do Not Have in Common

We do not both have sons in Iraq.

Mine came home Saturday, as scheduled, unharmed.

(Sorry I haven't been posting much lately. There just aren't many hours left at the end of the day to pull together coherent thoughts for publication. And this election is draining out all my emotional juices. Thank you to everyone who has posted concern messages. I'm fine -- just slightly overwhelmed.)

Edit: Hello, anyone who clicked over from Shakesville. I'm honored to see you here, and thank you for the kind thoughts about my son.

I'll add a few more thoughts for now. This was his second time there. He was also there when we first went into Iraq. While he was there this time, he said in his emails that it was very quiet. I never pressed for much info by email, assuming that his mails were probably read. I let him say whatever he wanted to say (or not say). Now that he's home, he says he's "glad to be out of that sand" and that he hopes to never see sand again. He's across the country from me, so all the talks that we've had, we've had by phone, with his wife sitting beside him, so I haven't asked for details.

But he kept saying, "it was ridiculous. Just ridiculous."

I don't think he was talking about the sand.