Was it good for you? Tax Day I mean. Did you get money back? Was it the same as last year? I am guessing…NOT.
My own taxes and subsequent return, left me somewhere between shock and trauma. I used to depend on my returned taxes to pay my ensuing property taxes. It was a fair deal. I earned returned dollars on my taxes (based on interest paid to banks) and gave those dollars back to the government in another tax (property taxes), in order to reside in a property without harassment from landlords. It worked fairly well until recently.
A myriad of reasons contributed, including less interest paid to banks based on a nearly paid off mortgage, and less income, attributed to Contra Costa’s nearly 3% wage decrease to employees, endured for the past 3 years. Couple that with a cost of living increase of nearly 10% during the past 8 years, that went unanswered in wages, and this year becomes a serious face to face with the economy and my viability to be a part of it.
Tonight the news claims food has quadrupled in 3 months! But when wages are not only stagnant for eight years but have gone DOWN, being employed by Contra Costa County is no longer a job of integrity, or an example of value and honor.
Contra Costa County is currently in negotiations with my bargaining unit but have yet to even make the same (unacceptably low offer) that they have made to other units. Those other units are largely paid higher wages and often receive better benefits than we do, so they have been better able to sustain the wage losses better than we have.
But my unit pays the same prices for health care, housing, utilities, food and gas. I’ve got to wonder. Is there a market for keeping or even MAKING people poor? One might think so if your job is to deliver services to the poor. More federal grants maybe? One of our Board of Supervisors actually sought to encourage our employees to apply for government provided Affordable Health Care, while reducing their participation in employees’ continued coverage.
More political clout for politicians is found in the sometimes popular “union busting” tactics, instead of paying fair wages so people can participate in a healthy economy with pride. And that is possibly happening within our own small group of County Board of Supervisors, despite the pledges to “end poverty” in Contra Costa County. A quick conversation with any of them indicates who are not so concerned with changing the face of poverty, while others possibly are. Maybe.
But all politics are not local. The search for money to pay for services doesn’t end locally. The State looks for more funding to do what it has to do, while taxes are being funneled from county to the State, and no where are corporate welfare and loopholes to the richest businesses in the world like oil, are not being touched. Are we being taxed fairly at all?
The top 1% (the richest Americans) are paying a lower tax rate than you or I. Some don’t pay any Federal income tax at all. Deductions for the wealthiest Americans include large interest payments on large properties, cost of business entertainments that are deductible, and the loopholes do go on and on. Twitter received $56 million in tax breaks last year for doing business in San Francisco, but they are far from alone. The question is, are these tax breaks and loopholes still relevant in a world where such a huge number of average working families are suffering?
There are new and continuing pushes to further reduce taxes for the richest 1% of America, even while Warren Buffet pays 17.4% of his income and his secretary pays 35.8%. Now that those who once considered themselves middle class are no longer participating in the local economies, buying products, able to take adequate care of their families, or keep their homes and health… surely some of that 275% growth for the top 1% in the past 30 years might indicate some relief is due to those on the bottom rungs.
A fair system would allow for everybody to grow. Call your legislator!
~ Evan Travis is a long time employee of Contra Costa County.