Tag Archives: tax

Commonwealth Press & a bunch of other South Side businesses need your support.


Support local small business owners, get some Christmas shopping done this weekend at Commonwealth Press, and help fight a senseless boycott.  Get $5 off in exchange for a stupid mailer, or a receipt from one of the listed local businesses…

common wealth press is literally a mom and pop shop.

common wealth press is literally a mom and pop shop.

Dan is good people. Commonwealth makes a great product.  (Like both rounds of Ernie and the Berts T-shirts!)  Check out the political side of things at the bottom of this page.  Don’t uselessly rail against any of these businesses, especially if you don’t understand the policies in question.

American Community Survey?


OK, so you may have read my earlier rant about the census.  This is a continuation of that.  I think.

As a follow up to that…  We filled out & mailed tn the census, then someone came knocking on our door informing us that we didn’t in fact fill out the census and return it in time.  My wife ended up answering all their questions a second time.

As to why I think this a continuation of this census malarkey… the pattern of insanity is the same.  A week or so ago, we got a letter in the mail warning us that a follow up survey to the census was coming, and that we’re obligated by law to fill out this survey.  We received the American Community Survey.  The FAQ pamphlet accompanying the survey evokes Title 13, U.S Code, Sections 141 and 193 – and it goes on to say “Title 13, as changed by Title 18, imposes a penalty for not responding”.  How “land of the free” does that sound?

The scary part is that the pamphlet later says “We may combine your answers with information that you gave other agencies to enhance the statistical use of these data.”  Other agencies? Like the IRS?  Are you going to make sure all my numbers match up?  Is this a lead-in to an audit?

The survey itself actually contains the word “Negro” in the race section.  It says “Black, African Am., Negro” and it only says “White” not caucasian or European or aryan or any other dumb name.  I thought “Negro” was offensive as of the 80’s.  Why doe sit matter if I’m of Hispanic origin?  Why doesn’t it ask then & there if I’m Swedish, or French, or Irish, or Indian, or Hungarian,  or Italian, or Arabic?

Why does it matter how I get to work?  Why do they need to know how many people are in my car on the way to work?  Am I going to be forced to carpool, or pay a “driving alone to work” tax?  Why do they need my work address, or my wife’s work address, or how much we make a year?  Shouldn’t the government already know that?

Did my neighbors get this?  The data for everyone on this street would be totally and wholly different from ours.  I’m not a great representation of the overall neighborhood.

Next time, will we include fingerprints and a hair follicle or cheek swab for DNA cataloging?

I call shenanigans on the whole thing.  It’s a ludicrous waste of money and resources.  In addition to the plethora of  reminders and follow-ups to the original census…  I got the warning letter for this survey, and accompanying the survey itself was a letter (that mentioned that we already should have received a letter about the letter we are reading), a 16-page “guide” on how to fill out the survey, a glossy “FAQ” brochure, and the return envelope.

In case I went over it too fast just now… I’d like to just focus on this one thing for a moment.

We got a letter (we’ll call it letter 1) telling us that a survey was coming and that we were obligated by law to fill it out.  Then, we got the survey along with another letter (we’ll call it letter 2) telling us that we should have gotten a letter telling us that the survey was coming, and explaining that the big fold-over in the envelope that says “American Community Survey” is a survey that we need to fill out, expressing that it’s required by law.

I’m sure well get  a follow up letter (if I get it, I’ll call it letter 3) saying that we should have received a survey and by now filled it out, as required by law.  This just sounds like something that belongs in a Monty Python sketch.

Through the magic of the internet, I have found all of the pieces…

arrow Materials Included in ACS Mailings

Ah, I may also get a reminder card.  I forgot about the reminder card.

I have a hard time believing that I’m going to benefit in any way from this survey, but I’m guessing only time will tell.

I didn’t forget.  There was a guide that accompanied the survey.  I’m guessing that if I couldn’t understand the questions in the survey… the guide’s not going to help me out all that much.  I’d love to meet the think-tank that comes up with this brilliance.  You know it’s a committee or group… no one person would or could be responsible for this kind of crap on their own.  Poking around their website, it appears that a shocking amount of time and research has been dedicated to this task.

How are the tree-huggers not all over this wasteful paper usage?  I mean, the waste here offends me… and I’m still not convinced that recycling is all that efficient in the first place.  I mean, there is a reason to conserve what resources we have, and make sure that when they’re used  it’s somewhat necessary.  (A letter telling you that you’re going to get a survey, a letter saying you should have already received a letter and that you now have in your possession a survey, and a letter saying that you’ve already received a survey that you should have filled out would all be unnecessary in my book.)

Is this all just a ploy to keep the Post Office in business?

I just may have to write to some politicians and ask about all the waste associated with this whole thing.  In the past I’ve heard from Gov. Ed. Rendell and Senator Wayne Fontana.  Maybe I’ll have to reach out to them again with my concerns.

I need to collect my thoughts & start sending letters to people in the government to let them know what I think.  Will it do any good?  Probably not, using the redundancy and bureaucracy of the census surveys as an example.  At the end of the day it may make me feel better if nothing else, as I’m still able to speak my mind.

The more I see/read the word census, the more it sounds like senseless.

Cut out the paper waste for a second, and think just about the time wasted.  If you did this kind of crap at work, can you imagine what your superiors would have to say about your productivity and efficiency?  Yet, we accept this from the government.

Hey Gilligan,

This is an email to say that I’m going to send you an email to ask you a question.

Hello again Gilligan,

This is the email where I’m going to ask the question.  You should have already received the email where I told you that I was going to ask you a question.

The question is: Do you like coconuts?

The Skipper wants an answer, he’ll be mad if you don’t tell us.  If we knew if you liked coconuts, it might help Mary Ann in preparing dinner.  We know you’ve already talked to the Professor about island cuisine, so we may factor that into our decision.

Dear Gilligan,

I have sent you an email asking about your thoughts on coconuts, the Skipper wanted us to remind you that you were already supposed to have answered the coconut question.

Now.  How ridiculous is that?

Oh well, it’s late… I’ve jumped all over the map and page with this as I’ve searched the internet for these documents and more questions and what not, and feel that I’m losing coherence… not that I definitely have any in the first place.  I’m lost in all the letters about other letters about other letters about other letters  Maybe I need to write blogs telling you that I’m going to write blogs, then write a reminder blog that I wrote a blog.

Archaic Alcohol Assize


Now, this just shows how ridiculous PA Beer laws can be…

I consider this yet another horrible waste of our tax money.

This quote says it all; “…bar owners say hard-to-spell beer names and typographical errors show how archaic Pennsylvania’s Prohibition-era liquor laws really are…”

Ridiculous.

Your tax dollars at work


…or lack thereof.  Yesterday, we got this in the mail:

2010 Census Warning Letter

Really?  I mean, really? I can’t imagine one person out there who thinks this is at all necessary.  Your government actually spent time writing a letter, translating one line into several languages, printing, assembling, and mailing this thing out to every residence?

The one line at the end must be the important line, because it’s the only one they translated… yet, it wasn’t important enough to be in the actual body of the letter.  Are we to ignore the thole main part of the letter?  How did they pick the languages in which to translate the line?  What are they?  Please excuse my public education.  I recognize the English of course, Spanish, what I think is Chinese, then most likely Japanese or Korean, under that… I have no idea, then the Cryillic letters… is that Russian?  Why no French, Italian, German, or at this point Navajo?  Did they just throw darts at a map?

What if I’m politically opposed to the social programs that you need this census data for?  Is this my warning to fill the census out incorrectly?  Doesn’t the government already know everything about me when I do my taxes?  What exactly is my fair share, and who determines that?  I’m sure it’s nothing even close to “if I pay more taxes I get more out of government assistance”… which would seem fair to me.

On the other end of the political scale, even if this paper is made from recycled material, the plastic window in the envelope couldn’t have been environmentally friendly… and this is still a giant waste of paper, ink, envelope glue, and the gas that went into the trucks/planes/cars that delivered these things.  I really hope the tree-hugging hippies pick up on this and rail against it.  If the government expects us to be more responsible with our resources, they ought to lead by example.  Even a fictional villain from the Captain Planet cartoon would find this wasteful.

Oddly, it didn’t even mention the not-so-humorous “Snapshot of America” campaign that’s been shoved down our throats via TV, radio, print, and the ‘net.  I could almost see if it was some expansion of that, or more of an explanation.  This basically translates to “please fill out the census when you get it”… and if you need help, we have a website you can go to.  They couldn’t have done that in the useless ad campaign?

Who paid for this?  We did.  You, me, and everyone else that pays taxes.  Wouldn’t the money used for this mailing have been better used in the schools, health care facilities, highways, and programs that the census letter speaks of?  Or, it could have gone to disaster relief, homeless shelters, cancer research, or better yet, you could have all gotten a few more tax dollars back in your refund.  Before you laugh…  It wouldn’t just be the cost of the paper, ink, envelope, & stamp.  Think of all the people who where paid to write, print, fold, stuff, stamp, & transport these things and how many hours they spent doing it… and imagine what they get paid an hour.  Even with automated machines to do most of the work, someone had to monitor the progress and set the ball rolling.

Was this a ploy to keep the post office running for another few months before it shuts down?  The one sentence that stands out to me is “Without a complete, accurate census, your community may not receive its fair share.”  This reads like a threat in a stereotypical “pay for protection” plot line on your favorite crime drama or Simpsons episode.  I imagine someone sounding like Joe Pesci saying “I would ‘ate for sometin’ bad to ‘appen to your community were you to ignore this important mailing coming your way.”

Yes, I just wasted more of your time.  Sorry about that.  Maybe I need a government job…