No Death, But Plenty of Taxes

I am glad to say that of the two certain things that will happen in life, happily only one befell my family this month: Taxes. Does anyone enjoy paying taxes? Even if you harbor fond thoughts when you pay them, be sure not to “like” them just in case the IRS institutes the same rule as General Mills Foods so that you essentially forfeit your right to sue if you like them and/or download a coupon.Taxtime-300x221

I’m actually not opposed to paying taxes broadly speaking. All of us use a lot of services that the government provides. I’m all in favor of good schools, well-maintained roads, Social Security, etc. I understand that, since I live in a democracy and different people may have different priorities, I may not concur with all of my government’s spending decisions.

However, that’s not how it works anymore (if it ever did). Now more than ever, because of the Citizens United ruling, corporations are determining how our tax dollars are spent. Now, maybe you agree with the Supreme Court regarding Citizens United that corporations are “persons” too and should therefore have the right to make donations up the wazoo to politicians. Hey, they make more money consequently they presumably pay more taxes, right? So maybe they should get a greater say (never mind the whole one person=one vote thingy). But the funny thing is corporations – especially the richest of them – often pay little or no income taxes.

For the first time, my son has had to pay income tax. Nevermind that he isn’t even in the double-digits age-wise. We invested in a modest college fund for him which generated a small paper profit last year. So, for 2013, he had to pay more income tax than the Boeing Corporation has since he was born! That’s right, a child with a dinky little college fund is paying more taxes than a company that rakes in billions in profits every year.

Is that fair? I sure don’t think so. So what can we do? For a start, sign the petitions for I-1329 that are going around that seek to overturn Citizens United by Constitutional Amendment. It is a long process, but well-worthwhile. My husband has been passing it here in Washington; similar efforts are underway in many other states. It is vitally important that we get corporations out of our government and people back in.

If you want to know more, here is Robert Reich’s short video about how unequal our current tax code is. Don’t worry, it is easier to understand than the tax code.  Is Our Tax System Fair?

And here is an excellent 6 minute video on the mal-distribution of wealth in our country. What you think is reality, really isn’t.  Wealth Inequailty in America


The Joys of Hang-Drying Laundry

Today we had a beautiful sunny day which made me think: time to do laundry! Isn’t that what everyone thinks when there are blue skies outside? For about 8 years I’ve been hang-drying almost all of our laundry. The exceptions I make are sheets and towels (because sheets are too big and I like my towels soft). Otherwise, on the drying racks they go! I started partly because my husband already owned a drying rack or two as his home lacked a dryer (but had a washing machine). Additionally, my son, who was a toddler at the time, thought it was great fun to “help” me. Also, because dryers are the appliance that most suck electricity, it seemed a great way to reduce our energy consumption.

Although we do not live in a climate that is warm all-year round, we are able to hang-dry our clothes all year. This is because we use drying racks instead of a clothes-line. The clothes take a little longer to dry in the winter, but I place them over heat vents and that speeds up the process. Also, I like to think that I enjoy the bonus of adding moisture to the air this way (forced air heat really dries out the air and my skin starts to resemble a crocodile’s). Then, in the summer, I can put the racks out on the deck and the clothes end up smelling great from all that fresh air.  2014_0407Laundry

I also like to think that the sun’s UV rays can kill some germs, but I haven’t seen any evidence that really backs this up. But hey, it’s 64°F today which is pretty toasty for the Pacific Northwest in April. And it is not raining, thank you very much, so I’m not complaining!

Another bonus is that clothes that otherwise might require ironing, often don’t: score! We hang button down shirts and the like on clothes hangers and hang them wherever it suits us and they dry with fewer wrinkles. Ditto with our cloth napkins and placemats. I actually like ironing, but I am usually short on time so I’m willing to give it up (aren’t I the martyr?).

So, I suggest that you start doing the same. You don’t have to commit to hang-drying every load, just do what you can! We all need to do what we can to reduce our energy consumption so we don’t have so many mudslides, tornadoes, hurricanes, droughts, monsoons, earthquakes, etc. You know what I’m talking about here.

On a cheerier note, today I made my short-cut Mexican Soup. I love the real thing, but I don’t always have time to make it. Also, I often have a jar of half-eaten salsa in the fridge and I have learned that it doesn’t keep forever, like many other condiments, and I hate to waste food. So, here is my cheater’s recipe.

Short-Cut Mexican Soup
Salsa (at least one cup to make one serving)
Vegie broth
Assorted add-ins like:
Black beans
Frozen corn
Cheese, shredded or just sliced thinly
Avocado, diced
Cilantro, stemmed and chopped if you care
Broken tortilla chips from the bottom of a bag
Scallion, sliced

Heat the salsa, broth, beans, and corn (if using) until it reaches the temperature you want. Sprinkle the remaining ingredients on top and eat.

Manipulating Kids (and adults!)

There are some things that really drive me up the wall.  One of them is the incessant attempts (mostly successful I daresay) by companies to manipulate us and especially our kids.  Here is a primo example: Coal Propaganda in the Schools This really hits home for me because right now there is a coal company trying to build what would be the biggest coal terminal in the world right next to Bellingham, my hometown!! Yes, you read that right.  In  The  World.

Bellingham has about 80,000 residents.  But, since it has a nice deep water port, all that lovely coal mined in Montana and Wyoming could be transported by train across the west into Washington State.  It would pass through our agricultural county (we produce 65% of the raspberries in the U.S. as well as lots of strawberries and blueberries) and on to Bellingham where it would be loaded up onto ships and transported to China where they are building a new coal-fired power plant every week.  Cause we really want all that acid rain coming our way, right?  Cause we really want more of our manufacturing jobs to go overseas right?  But many of us are still leery.

However, the coal industry is savvy and they know it is never too early to start to brainwash people.  So, a few years ago, the coal industry partnered with Scholastic (which, in addition to publishing inexpensive reading materials for elementary kids sold primarily through the schools, also creates teaching materials for educators) to create an energy curriculum promoting the wonders of coal.  Luckily, someone caught it, wrote about it, and the coal propaganda was withdrawn.  But how often is such material not noticed and withdrawn?  Isn’t Scholastic kind of like Mr. Rogers who never sold out.  Except, Scholastic did.  Even now, every month when I pull out those order forms from my son’s backpack, so many of the books in the Scholastic flyer are product tie-ins.  It’s another book about Star Wars or Legos.  It is exhausting having to fight back against the blatant commercialism all the time.

And, just if there is any doubt, my objection to the coal terminal is not a NIMBY thing.  Of course I don’t want all that coal rattling through my town.  But even more, I don’t want that coal to ever get taken out of the ground.  This climate crisis thing is not going away and we have to do something to mitigate it as much as we can.