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January 26, 2011     Sentinel Tribune
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SENTINEL TRIBUNE V IEWP O lNTw dnes ay, January 26, 2011 Page 4 BETWEEN .... ~,%iiiii~iiiiiiiill i ~z: ~,!i~i;iiiii,ii,ii,!,~,,,~ii~,:'' By Tom Merchant - Sentinel Tribune -- tmerchant@ncppub.com THE LINES Stupid is as stupid does... Last week a lady walk- ing and texting walked into a fountain in a mall in Pennsylvania and got com- pletely doused in the pro- cess. Well imagine that, tex- ting while walking is almost as stupid as texting while driving. Of course if you have. an accident while driving the consequences can be much worse, not only for the texter, but also for others in the path of a distracted driver. Accidents involving fatalities through forensic investigation have shown that the person driving was texting at the time. The same thing can be said for people talking on their cell phones while driving. Like it or not, cell phones have become almost sec- ond nature to people around the world. With that in mind a certain percent- age of people will disregard warnings, and even laws banning cell phone use in certain circumstances. Even with more and r~ore states looking at con- trolling cell phone use in var- ious ways, there will always be a certain amount of people that will break the law. Back to the lady who walked into the fountain. She managed to find a law- yer to take her case and sue the mall and the mall secu- rity company. It was interesting to hear the comments on the John Williams radio show the other day. Most of them thought that she should not get anything for her own negligence. One lady called in to say she agreed with the victim. I could tell, by her whining voice, that she would agree with her. I thought to myself, she prob- ably did something stupid like that herself. Then come to find out the woman allegedly has a criminal record including shoplifting, and fraud. Hmm, something smells fishy here. She also said she was so embarrassed when friends and relatives began calling her about it, If you look at the video there is no way you could identify the woman in the video. So if she had picked herself up and gone home, changed clothes no one would have known who it was. She did admit it was not very smart to text while walk- ing, because something like that could happen. It will be interesting to see if they can find a judge that will take the case. I would love to see Judge Judy on this one, but I doubt if she would even hear the case. I guess she got her fif- teen minutes of fame. One thing for sure, if you are walking or driving -- pay attention! Have a good week and do good! IRS to Start Processing Delayed Returns on Feb. 14 Most People Unaffected and Can File Now The Internal Revenue Service plans a Feb. 14 start date for pro- cessing tax returns delayed by last month's tax law changes. The IRS reminded taxpayers affected by the delay they can begin preparing their tax returns immediately because many sotb,vare providers are ready now to accept these returns. Beginning Feb. 14, the IRS will start processing both paper and e-filed returns claiming itemized deductions on Schedule A, the higher education tuition and fees deduction on Form 8917 and the educator expenses deduction. Based on filings last year, about nine million tax returns claimed any of these deductions on returns received by the IRS before Feb. 14. People using e-file for these delayed forms can get a head start because many major sottware pro- viders have announced they will accept these impacted returns immediately. The software provid- ers will hold onto the returns and then electronically submit them after the IRS systems open on Feb. 14 for the delayed forms. Taxpayers using commercial software can check with their pro- viders for specific instructions. Those who use a paid tax preparer should check with their preparer, who also may be holding returns until the updates are complete. Most other returns, including those claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), education tax credits, child tax credit and other popular tax breaks, can be filed as normal, immediately. The IRS needed the extra time to update its systems to accommodate the tax law changes without dis- rupting other operations tied to the filing season. The delay followed the Dec. 17 enactment of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010, which extended a number of expiring provisions including the state and local sales tax deduction, higher education tuition and fees deduction and edu- cator expenses deduction. AI Ball, .. "Stones from the BaH Cave" Next stop Kookamunga Women are hard to buy for. Men find that too many gifts come in sizes, colors, and styles. Some folks go south for the winter. Some go so far south that they can't get back. Not one to follow oppressive social norms, I took my wife north. We were in Juneau, Alaska on a gray day. No surprise. According to a USA Today article, Juneau is the cloudiest city in the United States. I had a brochure, of things to do and see in Juneau. The brochure said that the borough of Juneau, with a population of 30,000 people, consisted of 2717 square miles compared to 469 square miles for Los Angeles and 303 for New York City. It lauded Juneau's bus sys- tem. That gave me a gift idea. When the Queen Bee married me, she knew I was a prize. I had my own ratchet set. "Stick with me and you'll go places," I promised. She never dreamed it would be by bus, That's right, we boarded a city bus. She'd never been on a city bus before. You can see why I rock her world. 'q-he wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round, 'round and 'round, 'round and 'round .... " I sang as we found seats. Riding a bus is like being at a rich kid's birthday party--there is always a clown. I had launched into Weird AI Yankovic's "Another One Rides the Bus" before my wife shushed me. I kept "One of Us," with the lyrics "What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us. Just a stranger on the bus. Trying to make his way home," in reserve. Did you know that most buses are named Buster? Buses bring memories of childhoods spent on school buses. Kids shackled with powerlessness by the big people in charge. A city bus is an archaeologi- cal dig on wheels. A place to study ancient cultures through the examination of remains--us. A spot to see the world as it is. It had the smell of used whis- key and lemon meringue pie. Passengers fueled by alcohol quickly fell asleep, awakening just in time for their stops. They were gifted with internal alarm clocks that even strong drink couldn't silence. The bus wasn't a sorting factor. It was a melting pot. The bus wasn't solely for those with economic health in jeopardy. Everyone rode--from the homeless to the wealthy. I couldn't tell who someone was by his or her outfit. It was impos- sible to know what was in the heart of another traveler. There was no point in judging. There seldom is. A bus is a place to sit and think--or to just sit. I had brought along a used book I'd purchased at the Friends of the Library book sale. The author had signed it, '%o Gerald." It went unread on the bus. There was too much to see. Loud talkers prevailed on the bus. They were as earsplit- ting as those who yell into cell phones, though preferable to those strident phone users. At least I could hear both sides of the conversations. I regularly fight the urge to ask cell phone users to employ speakers so I could hear the rest of the story. The bus was reality rolling through the city. A bus ride would make a great reality TV show. Perhaps it already is one. I treated my wife to a city bus trip. A thoughtful gift. Before you think I'm parsimonious, you need to know that it set me back $1.50. The best is none too good. I talked to the driver as I got on the bus. He had the look of an undertaker and the charm of a corpse. Reorganizing his face into a smile was more work than he'd consider. He was one of those guys behind a wheel who looked like he'd happily put me under a wheel. An effort at badinage revealed him perfectly intelligible. Once the bus moved and he began announcing stops over the PA system, I couldn't understand anything he said other than, "Next stop." The bus passed some bleak areas. They reminded me that even in the middle of nowhere, rm surrounded by everywhere. I had no clue where we were going. I thought about asking but did not. Thurber wrote that it is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers. The bus route was like life-- each stop was a surprise. AI Batt 2011 71622 325 St. 1-1, MN 56042 http://albatt.net/ Minnesota's Tax Fairness Retreat: Lower-, Middle-income Shouldering More of State's Revenue Burden By Jeff Van Wyehen .' Minnesota. 2020 Fiscal Policy Fallow Since 2000, Minnesota's state and local taxes have become more regressive, meaning low and mod- erate income families shoulder a disproportionate share of the tax load. It's a nationwide trend pro- gressing more aggressively in Minnesota than nearly every other state, according to our latest report, Minnesota's Tax Fairness Retreat: A 50-State Study. It could be found at mn2020.org, http://mn2020.org/ issues-that-matter/fiscal-policy/ minnesotas-tax- fairness-retreat Minnesota is slipping when it comes to its level of tax fairness. Low and middle income families, who are already struggling to make ends meet, should not be asked to pay a larger percentage of their income to fund state and local gov- ernment services than high income households. Using data from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, our organization, Minnesota 2020, a St. Paul-based progressive policy think tank, compared tax systems ~nall 50 states. The study finds an creased reliance on property taxes--which are regressive--and decreased dependence on income taxes--which are progressive--as a major set of forces pushing Minnesota toward becoming a more regressive tax state. One of the main reasons for fhis shift is "no new taxes" state policy, which led to reductions in state revenue sharing with local govern- ments, thereby forcing property tax hikes. Middle-income Minnesotans saw a significant rise in property tax rates since 2000, compared to a sizable drop for the state's wealthiest households. Overall Minnesota's middle- income earners pay 10.3 percent of their income in taxes compared to the state's highest earners who pay 7.7 percent of their income in taxes. Minnesota's sales and excise taxes have also become more regressive. Efforts to reduce regressivity are not "socialism" or "class war- fare," but simple tax fairness. While making taxes fairer is the right thing to do, there's an eco- nomic benefit to giving low- and middle-income Minnesotans more purchasing power. These folks tend to spend a larger share of income in the local community on goods and services than high income families. Respected econo- mists agree that a stronger recov- ery will start when "aggregate demand" rises. That won't come by giving untargeted tax breaks to the rich. Despite conservative policy, more tax breaks for wealthy busi- ness owners will not result in more jobs. We need to put money back in workers' hands to spur the demand that will get :businesses hiring ag~n( We've tried the no new tax myth for eight years now. It's done nothing to improve our economy: * Minnesota ranks 32rid in per- centage growth in employment (Jan. 2002 to Nov. 2010) * Minnesota ranks 36th in the percentage growth in per capita personal income (2002 to 2009) Minnesota ranks 42nd in the per- centage growth in median house- hold income (2002 to 2009) There are several policy options which could halt or reverse the state's growth in tax regressivity: *Increase dependence on pro- gressive revenues, such as the income t0x, and reduce depen- dence on regressive revenues, such as property and consumption taxes. * Enhance income tax progres- sivity with a more steeply ~adu- ated rate structure and refundable credits, such as the working family and dependent care credits. * Reduce consumption tax regressivity by using progressive sales tax credits. Regressivity increases in Minnesota and other states should cause concern for many reasons, but most importantly because it undermines the notion of fairness which is essential for public sup- port of the tax system. Buy, Sell, or Rent in the Classified ads Sentinel Tribune Ph. 274-6136 1-800-410-1859 Mission Statement The Sentinel Tribune serves the residents and business com- munity Of Cottonwood, Redwood, Murray and Lyon County and southwest Minnesota by applying its available resources to accurately and consistently produce a quality newspaper which thoroughly covers the news of the area, stimulates thought and conversation, delivers advertising messages in a timely manner, and provides information of ;}eneral value to its public. In so doing contributes to the overall quality )f life and economic health of its readers, advertisers and community n general while stimulating the professional development of its ,~mployees. Sentinel Tribune (ISSN 8750-3905) Thomas Merchant Managing Editor Junette Merchant Office & Production Joan Spielman Office & Production Jessica Noding Marketing Specialist Published every Wednesday at Westbrook, Minnesota 56183 Periodicals Postage Paid at Westbrook, Minnesota 56183 SUBSCRIPTION PRICE FOR THE SENTINEL TRIBUNE WILL BE: In the following counties: Cottonwood, Redwood, and Murray $38.00 per year. Elsewhere in Minnesota $42.00 per year. Out of the state $48.00 per year. Canada and foreign countries inquire at the Sentinel Tribune Office. If wrong amount is submitted subscrip- tion will be pro rated accordingly. "Snowbirds" may put their paper on hold at no extra charge while they are gone, or pay $5.00 extra to have it mailed out of state. Missed copies cannot be furnished because the cost of mailing single copies is about $2.00. Any request for a back copy must include $3.00. Newstand price is $1.00 per copy. 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