Monday, April 28, 2008
1) They are not all bad. I will support any increase in tobacco taxes simply because, come on: quit already, you douche. You're killing yourself. It's a deterrant tax, and that's okay with me. Simimlarly, I support taxes that help balance out environmental impact.
But many of these are excessive, inappropriate taxes for taxes' sake. I agree with Lisa: you want to tax gastric bypass surgery? How about putting an extra tax on trans-fat containing food, instead? (deterrant tax)
2) They just raised our sales tax by 20%. That wasn't enough?
3) The Maryland State Legislature has been debating naming a state dessert.
Maryland State Legislature, don't you dare add more taxes so you and your wankerous companions can charge the state $17,184 a day to debate cake.
Simultaneously, another bill argues that 31 percent of Marylanders get no exercise, that almost a quarter of the state's adults are rated as obese, and that designating walking as the state exercise would help promote a healthy lifestyle. Um, how about not designating a state dessert then??
This is the bullshit they're spending our tax dollars on.
Until they come up with better ways to spend my money, I'm going to continue to begrudge giving it to them.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Taxes, Taxes, and More Taxes (2008 Edition)
From The Maryland Republican Party Research Department Visit the MDGOP Web site (www.mdgop.org
During the 2007 Special Session, Democrats pushed through the largest tax hike in Maryland history.
Now, in the 2008 Session, they have found even more ways to take hard-earned money from working families. If the Democrats are successful, the government would start taxing teeth whitening, laser eye surgery, body piercing, and eight other services. Consumers would be required to pay more for heating and cooling systems for their homes, tires for their cars, and premiums for their health insurance due to new taxes. Democrats have even reintroduced legislation to take the balance from gift certificates and gift cards if consumers do not use them.
With gas prices on the rise, another hike in electric rates expected this summer, and the cost of consumer goods at all-time highs, working families need relief – not more taxes
Following is a list of new taxes being contemplated during the 2008 Session. Names in parenthesis represent the sponsors of the respective bills.
Income and Consumption Taxes
1.State Income Tax Surcharge
– SB 1004 (Jones)
a) Increases the highest state income tax bracket from 5.5% to 6.5%
b) About $231.8 million in new taxes expected in the first year
2.State Income Tax Surcharge
- HB 737 (Elliott, et al)
a) Imposes a state income tax surcharge of $1,000 per single and $2,000 per couple for not having health care insurance, if the person’s income is at least $50,000 ($100,000 for couples)
b) About $43.2 million in new taxes expected in the first year
- HB 178 (Barve, et al)/SB 131 (King, et al)
a) Authorizes municipalities to impose a maximum 2% hotel tax
b) Additional $3.2 million in taxes expected per year
4.Alcohol Tax Increase
- HB 904 (Gutierrez, et al)
a) More than doubles alcohol tax from $1.50 to $3.50 for distilled spirits, $0.40 to $1.00 for wine, and $0.09 to $0.25 for beer
b) Approximately $43.9 million in new taxes expected in the first year
5.Alcohol Tax Increase
- HB 1310 (Bronrott, et al)/ SB 562 (Madaleno, et al)
a) Triples alcohol tax from $1.50 to $4.50 for distilled spirits, $.40 to $1.20 for wine, and $.09 to $.27 for beer
b) Approximately $57.5 million in new taxes in the first year
6. Alcohol Tax Increase
- SB 232 (Forehand)
a) Triples alcohol tax from $1.50 to $4.50 for distilled spirits and $0.40 to $1.20 for wine, and raises the beer tax by 600%, from $0.09 to $0.54
b) Approximately $86 million in new taxes expected in the first full year in effect
7.Tobacco Tax Increase
– HB 1095 (Rosenberg, et al)/ SB 513 (McFadden)
a) Increases the tax for tobacco products other than cigarettes from 15% to 25% of the wholesale price
8.Tobacco Paraphernalia Tax
– SB 363 (Muse)
a) Imposes a $20 surcharge on the purchase of tobacco paraphernalia
9.“Little Cigar” Tax Increase
– HB 617 (Tarrant, et al)
a) Redefines cigarettes to include “little cigars” so the higher cigarette tax applies to “little cigars”
b) About $1.9 million in new tax revenue expected in first year
10.Moist Snuff and “Little Cigar” Tax Increase
– SB 383 (Currie and McFadden)
a) Increases moist snuff tax from 15% of wholesale value to 54-cents per ounce
b) Redefines cigarettes to include “little cigars” so the higher cigarette tax applies to “little cigars”
c) About $3.9 million in new tax revenue expected in first year
- HB 517 (Burns, et al)
a) Requires a new tax of 5-cents per round of encoded ammunition (in addition to the new 6% sales tax)
Gas and Vehicle-Related Taxes
12.Gas Tax Increase
– SB 567 (Garagiola, et al)
a) Increases the gas tax by 33% (from 23.5-cents per gallon to 31.5-cents per gallon)
b) Repeals the computer services tax and shifts the tax burden to gas consumers
13.Fuel Efficiency Vehicle Surcharge
– HB 338 (Cardin, et al)
a) Imposes a $250 surcharge on each new automobile if the fuel economy rating of the automobile is less than or equal to 15 miles per gallon
– HB 338 (Cardin, et al)
a) Imposes a $10 surcharge on each tire sold other than an energy-efficient tire
15.Property Tax Increase
– HB 512 (McIntosh)/ SB 302 (Conway)
a) Imposes an additional state property tax of $0.02 per $100 of assessed value for most property and $0.05 per $100 of assessed value for operating real property of a public utility
b) About $130.7 million in new taxes expected in the first year
– HB 338 (Cardin, et al)
a) Imposes a $100 surcharge on the sale of any residential heating or cooling system other than an energy-efficient heating or cooling system or solar energy property
17.Building Excise Tax
- HB 663 (Barve, et al)
a) Authorizes municipalities to impose building excise taxes – in addition to the building excise taxes already imposed by counties
18.Fertilizer Application Impact Fee
- HB 466 (Kullen)
a) Requires that homeowners pay a new fee of 10% of the total cost of applying fertilizer to residential land
19.Recordation Tax Increase
- HB 260 (Kaiser, et al)/ SB 559 (Madaleno, et al)
a) Would subject indemnity mortgages to the recordation tax
b) Montgomery County expects $30 million in taxes, a 30% increase over current collections
c) Harford County expects $750,000 in taxes, a 4% increase over current collections
d) Other counties still calculating their specific increase
Health Care-Related Taxes
20.Health Insurance Premium Tax
– HB 1093 (Morhaim)
a) 50% increase in the health insurance premium tax from 2% to 3%
b) Additional $20.3 million in taxes in the first year
21.Mandatory Employer-Provided Health Insurance
– HB 1540 (Benson, et al)
a) Mandates that employers provide health insurance coverage at an expense to the employer of at least 7.5% of wages paid to employees
b) In the alternative, the employer will be required to pay into the state’s Health Trust Fund
22.Teeth Whitening Tax
– HB 614 (Ali)
a) Applies the 6% sales tax to teeth whitening services
23.Laser Eye Surgery Tax
– HB 614 (Ali)
a) Applies the 6% sales tax to laser eye surgery
24.Breast Reduction or Augmentation Tax
– HB 614 (Ali)
a) Applies the 6% sales tax to breast reduction or augmentation services
– HB 614 (Ali)
a) Applies the 6% sales tax to rhinoplasty surgery
26.Face Lift Tax
– HB 614 (Ali)
a) Applies the 6% sales tax to face lift surgery
– HB 614 (Ali)
a) Applies the 6% sales tax to liposuction surgery
28.Gastric Bypass Surgery Tax
– HB 614 (Ali)
a) Applies the 6% sales tax to gastric bypass surgery
29.Laser Hair Removal Tax
– HB 614 (Ali)
a) Applies the 6% sales tax to laser hair removal services
30.Tanning Services Tax
– HB 250 (Morhaim, et al)
a) Applies the 6% sales tax to tanning services
b) About $545,600 in new tax revenue is expected in the first year
– HB 614 (Ali)
a) Applies the 6% sales tax to tattooing services
32.Body Piercing Tax
– HB 614 (Ali)
a) Applies the 6% sales tax to body piercing services
33.Mixed Martial Arts Tax
– HB 795 (Reznik, et al)/ SB 649 (Conway)
a) Imposes a new mixed martial arts license fee of $10 per participant, $15 per judge, and $25 per manager per year
b) Imposes a new tax on mixed martial arts admission fees of $200 or 10% of gross receipts, whichever is greater
c) Imposes a new tax on mixed martial arts television charges of 10% of gross receipts
34.Unused Gift Card Assessment
– HB 613 (Pena-Melnyk, et al)/ SB 998 (Pugh and Harrington)
a) Requires companies to pay unused gift certificate and gift card balances to the state government
b) About $5.7 million to be collected by the government in 2009 and $55.7 million anticipated by 2013
35.Commercial Bank Fee Increases
– HB 752 (Chair, Economic Matters Committee)
a) Substantially increases fees imposed on commercial banks, including a 1000% fee increase on a new commercial bank charter examination from $1,500 to $15,000
36.Clean Air Permit Fee Increase
– SB 442 (Frosh, et al)
a) Doubles the maximum clean air permit fee from $25 to $50 per ton
b) More than doubles the maximum fee for a single source from $200,000 to $500,000 and in 2010 would remove the maximum fee for a single source altogether
37.Greenhouse Gas Emissions Fee
– HB 712 (Barve, et al)/ SB 309 (Pinsky, et al)
a) Authorizes a greenhouse gas emissions fee with a maximum fee of four-cents per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent emitted
Thursday, April 17, 2008
You need to read this article. It's about how you can have a million dollars socked away by retirement by saving for only one year. Pretty impressive, if you can make the lifestyle adjustment.
Even at 26, we still feel like we are just starting out in life, but, as the article says, this is absolutely the prime time to start saving money. It will grow SO MUCH over time. Think about this: if you save the money you would have spent on a week-long vacation in Cancun this summer, by the time you retire, that money could BUY A SUMMER HOME in Cancun.
I'm not saying to save ALL your money and live like a hermit, but wouldn't you rather be able to quit working in 40 years entirely and just have FUN for the rest of your life? Those are the kind of things a lot of us 26-yr-olds don't (want to) think about. You don't want to have to have a job when you're 60 do you?? Just saying.
A few easy ways I save (and I know this is a reiteration of a previous post, but it bears repeating):
Every time I sell something on Etsy, I transfer that money directly into my savings account. It's "free" money. I won't miss it.
When I get a bonus at work, it goes right into the savings account. Again, it's extra, so I won't miss it.
If I resist my urge to buy something I really don't need (like an expensive dinner out), I take the money I would have spent and transfer it to my savings account. I normally would have spent it, so I still take it out of my checking account. But now it goes into savings, and I still have it, AND I'm earning interest on it.
Obviously, this is just a savings account. I'm a long way from maxing out my 401(k) contributions or even starting an IRA. But I am thinking about it and starting to put long-term practices into place.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Friday, April 4, 2008
Wow. I don't know if I was especially affected by this article because I make stuffed animals, but something about this makes me think Emily Bazelon is the one without the soul. She advocates parents replacing traditional stuffed animals with Webkinz, an online application wherein your stuffed animal actually "lives." If I have this straight, the child has the actual stuffed animal at home with you, but its "soul" lives in your computer. Therefore, if the actual toy is lost or destroyed, it can easily be replaced and still be . . . the same stuffed animal. This will alleviate all the parental headaches that come when a child loses an inanimate object to which s/he was attached.
Are you kidding me? That's so wrong on every level. The first problem is that the online "world" would seem to all but eliminate any imagination on the part of the child to impart life into the stuffed animal. Yes, stuffed animals are inanimate objects. No, they are not alive. No, they do not have actual souls. But the child's love and imagination are what impart those characteristics onto the stuffed animal. Goddammit, I'm in the Velveteen Rabbit camp!
The second problem is that you're taking away from your child valuable lessons about loss. Yes, it's going to be a disaster when they lose their favorite teddy bear. But it's a step towards maturity so it will be less of a disaster when they lose their favorite dog. Then their favorite grandparent.
A child's attachment to and love for a toy is a wholesome, natural, beautiful thing. Trying to co-opt that notion into an online application is utterly soulless.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
When I was a kid, my mother would not spend a lot of money on clothes for my brother and me. We would shop at places like C-Mart (a discounted department store overstock warehouse), K-Mart, and Goodwill. I also received a lot of handmedowns from a family friend. I was absolutely mortified to have to buy my blue jeans at Goodwill and wear sweaters that had been owned by someone else, so I kept these secrets close to my (thrifted) vest.
We were not a "poor" family by any means. My mother was (and still is) a very thrifty person, and chose to spend our family's money on other, more valuable and lasting things, such as taking a family vacation to a new place every summer. As an adult, I cannot fault her for this at all. As a kid, though, I have to admit that I was pretty bitter. I was the only girl on the basketball team without white umbro shorts (I wore cut-off white sweatpants--handmedown), and my "pump" sneakers were off-brand, from Payless. I didn't get to have a "poet blouse" like the popular girls at North Harford Middle School until I got one for my 12th birthday, and they were already out of style. I wore it to please my mom, but I was secretly embarrassed to be so late.
As a kid from elementary school up through the beginning of high school, my "style" was essentially to cobble together what I had into something that didn't suck. Thank god for the thick skin that artsy, weird kids are forced to grow. One of my favorite things to wear when I was 7 or 8 were extraordinarily loud bermuda shorts with solid color t-shirts. I remember being teased because I dressed like a boy. In fact, one my most vivid early memories is that I was in the bathroom at Hickory Elementary (I was probably 7 years old) and I heard a girl outside the stall gasp and say, "There's a boy in here!" She'd seen my shoes (knock-off Chuck Taylors, black rubber with navy canvas) and thought I was a boy. Another girl corrected her snidely, "Oh no, that's just Elly Zupko." That ended my early tomboy phase really quickly.
By the time I got to high school, I started to try to own my weirdness. I was no longer concerned with looking like the other girls; I realized that the pieces I was finding at Goodwill or got as handmedowns were unique, and could afford me a unique look. Being fairly shy, I realized I could stand out and be noticed (whether in a good or bad way) through my appearance. I was also starting to have a little bit of money, so I could buy strategic new pieces to liven up the other stuff. I think my greatest fashion moment to date was when my mother offered to go halfsies with me on my first pair of Dr. Marten's boots, a pair of 1460s in brown leather. They were $140 (I got ripped off; I know), so the contribution on my mother's part was huge, and I will never forget it. I think the first time I wore those shoes was the first time I ever really felt cool.
My fashion through high school (I still cringe to deign to call it "fashion") largely fell into two camps: one was wearing vintage t-shirts with jeans or cordoroy pants and my Docs. I still hold fast to the notion that I started the vintage t-shirt craze. I got a couple cool foreign t-shirts from my grandfather's trips to Hong Kong, got weird old stuff in my handmedown bags (huge trash bags full of clothes, brought home by my dad after church), and revisited old clothes from childhood that had been packed away. My brother made constant fun of me when I ransacked a box full of striped polo shirts that he'd worn in elementary school. I thought they were awesome, and they made my boobs look great, lol. I grabbed a couple of old oxfords from my grandfather's wardrobe (which were huge, but I thought looked cool with jeans). I also started wearing my middle school gym uniform shirt to class, and I thought that made me the coolest person ever. Take that 80stees.com. This picture is from college, but I am wearing one of those Hong Kong tees here (please, please, please ignore the hair):
After I graduated college, fashion was just about a non-issue for me. I worked at a job in a basement where the only person I ever saw was my boss, so I certainly didn't dress for the office. And I also had the just-out-of-college-and-I'm-poor blues, so clothes were not at the top of my to-buy list. After that, I had the "my boyfriend spends all my money and I've been buying too much stupid shit on eBay like Sheena Queen of the Jungle comic books and I'm poor" blues, so I still did not buy a lot of clothes. When I did shop, I bought double-duty pieces I could wear to the office (I got a "real job") and as casualwear. For a woman, I owned very few pairs of shoes and almost no accessories.