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Webster's Blog

Posts from March 2013

'One for You, Nineteen for Me...'

I put it off as long as I felt comfortable with putting it off but I finally got my income taxes filed this past weekend.

I use a popular tax program you've probably heard of, TurboTax.

It's the one our former Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner claimed tripped him up on filing his taxes in a timely fashion.

Call me wacky but I think a former Treasury Secretary and president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York would have a better handle on a hold-your-hand, fill-in-the-blank tax program but that's not important now.

I've been using TurboTax for about ten years and the nice thing about it is, each year the program takes your pertinent information from the previous year's file and fills in a lot of blanks for you. That's a time saver when it comes to things like 'Dependents Social Security #'.

My wife and I file a joint return and the bank where she works has provided online access to the TurboTax program so that all the information on her W-2 is also automatically loaded into the program and all I have to do is doublecheck for accuracy. Maybe we'll get that next year.

Anyway, so the taxes are done and e-filed and that's a relief to have that behind me for another year even with the program doing most of the heavy lifting.

I was a little bit disappointed with the outcome though.

Two years ago I got back $3600. Last year it was a $600 refund. This year I owed the federal government 72 bucks.

In the grand scheme of things, what's $72, right? That's about what it takes to fill my gas tank when it's on empty. Still, I'd feel a lot better if I thought the money wasn't just going to be tossed along with the rest of our taxpayer dollars into a gaping maw; that pitchblack bottomless abyss of federal overspending and unaccountablity.

I would have gotten a bigger kick out of putting a match to the $72..
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Topics: Business_Finance
People: Timothy Geithner

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The Age of Stupid

A video that was posted on my Facebook page by Rick Manwiller. It's a 6 min video. I hope it's an exaggeration but I'm not convinced that it is.

(There is one fast word of questionable appropriateness which would render this NSFW for most. If you are offended by a four-letter word, don't click the video.)
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I Love a Parade

A beautiful day for a parade this past Saturday in Scranton and I'm glad that it's over.

Once upon a time I thought I looked forward to the parade. I know now what I looked forward to was the 'fun' to be had afterward but 'afterward' has become, for me, an activity meant for those less distant from their arrival at legal drinking age than the point where I find myself now, those whose definition of 'fun' no longer matches mine.

The allure of what has been called Scranton's version of Mardi Gras'has gradually diminished for me over the years until now the only thing I'm concerned with is how to get around the noon-time police barricades to get to where I'm supposed to be before we 'step off' and then how to get back to my car and outa Dodge as quickly as possible once we pass the reviewing stand.

On a separate note, I'm not Irish so I wonder, is 'step off' an Irish thing? The newspaper uses it every year. 'The parade steps off at 11:45'. Steps off what?

And while we're on things I don't understand, does the parade committee have someone who is expert in estimating attendance? The number in the paper this morning was quoted as somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 people in downtown Scranton this year.

That seems a little optimistic.

If 200,000 people came to Scranton and they arrived four to a car that would mean 50,000 cars were looking for somewhere to park this past Saturday morning? Are there 50,000 parking spots in Scranton?

I'm sure the parade 'wheels' aren't afraid to goose the attendance numbers a little. We hear the same number tossed around every year for La Festa Italiana so why not?

Realistically though, my guess would be something closer to 30,000 people show up for the parade and that's probably the high end.

Anyway, back to my favorite time of year.

I have lost all interest in being in an elbow-to-elbow after parade crowd of green-haired people whose brains are in moderate or greater degree of marination while we wait 25 minutes to get inside an overloaded, slippery floored porta-potty. Call me crazy. That sounds more like punishment than fun.

Maybe I'm wrong and this is just my continually evolving cranky old man talking.

And if that ball comes in my yard one more time I'm keepin' it and I'm callin' your father!

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Topics: Human Interest

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They're Just Numbers

We toss words like billion and trillion around without any thought about their significance.

I suppose inherently we know that these are words that represent numbers that none of us will ever deal with on a personal level and so, aside from being able to pronounce them and spell them, we instinctively realize that there's no use in trying to understand their magnitude or their relationship one to the other.

Which brings us to the sequester.

As it approached we were told of the disaster that awaited once it kicks in. Borders thrown open. Food inspection halted. Air traffic controllers unable to do their jobs. Programs for children, for the elderly, for the mentally and physically disadvantaged tossed aside. Education funds slashed.

And then the sequester cuts came and while most of that doom-and-gloom scenario came from behind a podium with the Presidential seal on it leading up to last Friday, when the day actually arrived the President said 'This is not going to be an apocalypse, I think, as some people have said.'

Some people?

Okay,  so let's get back  to billions and trillions.

The sequester cuts are $85 billion. The federal budget comes to about $3.7 trillion. Anyone know how many billion are in a trillion?

It's a thousand.

A thousand billion equals one trillion.

That means the federal budget  is equal to three thousand, seven hundred billion dollars. Can you get your head around that?

How about this? Start counting aloud from the number one and go all the way up to a thousand. Then do that two more times and then after that count again up to seven hundred. Each number you spoke represents a billion dollars.

A trillion is a lot, huh?

What this boils down to is that $85 billion out of $3.7 trillion is about 2% of the federal budget.

Still hard to get those numbers in line, right? Imagine this. If you have a dollar and someone says you have to hold back on 2%, that leaves you with 98 cents to spend.

The oldest political trick in the book is to scare people. Elderly will suffer. Children will suffer. Teachers will lose their jobs. there will be no money to pay firefighters and police.

The natural extension of the oldest political trick in the book is to scare people and try to make them believe that if all these terrible things happen it's the other side's fault.

I suppose the question is how far will one side go to pin the blame on the other?


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