Monday, February 17, 2014

News That Matters - February 17, 2014 - The We Tax You In Creative Ways Edition

News That Matters

News That Matters
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Telling it like it is for 10 years and counting...


It's going to snow again but relax, spring is in the air. If you step outside you'll notice the sun is warmer and sets later and rises earlier. Our mornings are no longer dark and when we come home there's still enough light to shovel snow. The maple sap is running and if you listen early in the morning you'll hear the birds practicing their spring mating songs. All of this is an indication that though there may be snow on the ground and the air is still cold that spring is coming close.

With the warmer weather coming at the end of the week along with the possibility of rain, it's best to get some of that snow off your roof so the added melt water/rainwater weight doesn't crush your house.

I'm currently waging battle with Verizon FIOS. When my previous two-year contract ran out in December they jacked my rate 64% and, unlike two years ago where they were willing to work with customers to retain them this time around each operator I spoke with asked if I'd like to be connected with the disconnect department otherwise known as the "Lets Get Rid of Whining Customers Department."

While were talking about disconnects, in the past few weeks I've spoken to three people who have given up their FIOS accounts and switched back to cable all because of the pricing structure. And Verizon, a monopoly on my road, doesn't care. And though reports say they're losing customers left and right they still don't care. And when they've lost so many they can't make ends meet they'll just go to the NYS Public Service Commission and ask for another rate increase which, of course, they will get. What would happen if the PSC said no? Probably not much.

When I looked at my November bill I was being charged $64.99 for the TV service they forced me to take two years ago, $30 for poor internet speed and $30 for my landline. This was then given various discounts to retain me as a customer. this time around a Customer Service rep told me that it costs FIOS $60 to provide TV service alone. So I said, if you can provide me with internet service for $30 and make a profit and $30 for basic phone service and make a profit, pull out the TV package and we're good to go! But they told me that the phone and internet alone would cost $99.99 and my head exploded - as anyone's would. And let's not even talk about the deceptive pricing on their website...

Did I mention the ~$3.50 per customer Sports Tax and the ~$3.50 fee that every Verizon customer in the Town of Kent pays and the $1 on every invoice so they can recover the cost of constructing their fiber network?

If anyone out there knows anyone on the New York State Public Service Commission please dope-slap them silly for me.

Last night I was bemoaning the mandatory fees and taxes that small businesses have to pay, especially that of general contractors, that other business do not have to pay. It's especially true in a place like Putnam County, NY where licensing and other mandatory taxes fees and costs are high and fines for even the smallest infraction are steeper than one would pay if convicted of an actual criminal offense! And you have to turn your employees into Homeland Security as a condition of employment. Forget that you held the kid at his bris, Putnam County won't be happy until every aspect of your life is *their* business. But, I digress... back to the money part:

Let me give you an example so that you better understand what's happening:
I have a job that I'm going to hire on a couple of kids to help me do. Because of the law I must carry Workman's Compensation (WC) to cover them and they'll earn about $5k each on that job. The cheapest WC package I can get is $2000 + 16% of their income which means it costs me $3600 ON TOP of the $10,000 they're going to be paid.

But wait, there's more! I also have to cover medicaid, social security and unemployment taxes so add several hundred more dollars to that making my total costs to hire a couple of kids for a part-time job somewhere approaching $15,000! And then there's the bribe we have to pay Putnam County Consumer Affairs which comes along with the cost of a $25,000 bond and a $1,000,000 liability insurance package. How is this rape of the working class even legal?
Well, it is and you're paying for it every time you have a contractor or lawn guy or any number of others touches your home. So if you want to know why it costs $500 to paint a bedroom, you can thank a state legislator and Maryellen Odell.

None of our elected reps, not Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, not State Senator Terry Gipson NY, not County Executive MaryEllen Odell, not State Senator Greg Ball nor his presumptive opponent, the ethically challenged Justin Wagner, cares. And it all comes down this:

Had we the money to alter elections you can be sure they'd be kissing our asses instead of having their hands in our pockets.

And yet we are the backbone of the economy. Our earnings go directly to other small shops and business in our towns and villages. We provide essential and vital services to our neighbors, our dollars aren't shipped and hidden overseas, we don't outsource our workers. We often give young people their first employment experience and training and teach skills that are useful for the rest of their lives.

And in response they fee us and tax us either to a point where we stop being 'legal' and work in the cash economy or we give up altogether.

There is no assistance for us if we have a bad year. There are no unemployment or job programs for us. There are no programs to help us hire people, no tax breaks, no credits, no IDA's that support what we do. We float - alone - in a sea of barbed governmental arrows. But damn, if we were IBM which outsources its jobs oversaes AFTER accepting millions in NYS tax breaks or Chase who robs from the poor to give to the rich or GE who pollutes our rivers - and gets a tax write-off to do so, well, it would be different.

So why does government hate the small guy so much? Anyone?

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