## Llama's Pasture.

### Math and Corporate Taxes

I just love hearing people who argue that the corporate tax burden in the United States is too high. GE, as an example didn't pay any corporate taxes in 2010, and was eligible for a refund, but there aren't any flaws in our system. People talk about the crushing 35-45% corporate tax rate, much of which is allegedly collected by the Federal Government, but let's throw out some truth. I did some number crunching, and by no means is this super scientific, but it's based on publicly available information. First, I set out to find out how much the federal government collected in tax revenue from corporate taxes in 2010.

\$191.4 billion(1). Wow! That's a lot of money. About \$1.7 trillion was paid by individual taxpayers between income and social insurance taxes as well(1), so the \$191.4 billion doesn't seem like a lot.

Now, with a 35% tax rate, we can do the algebra: 0.35x = 191.4 billion. x/0.35 = 191.4 / 0.35. x = 546.9 billion. Thus, we would expect that American corporations profited approximately \$546.9 billion in 2010.

What actually happened? Well, according to the New York Times, US corporate profits in 2010 were the highest ever at \$1.659 trillion(2). To make it simple, I'll convert the billions to trillions. \$191.4 billion actually paid= 0.1914 trillion. 0.1914 / 1.659 (actually made) = about 11.5%, which means effectively, the US has one of the LOWEST tax rates in the world for corporate entities(3).

### Fix the budget

The New York Times (I know a few of the conservatives on this site who read that just had an aneurysm) recently added a Budget Puzzle. Granted, it's overly simplistic but I think it's a good talking point and worth looking at: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/11/13/weekinreview/deficits-graphic.html. What's your proposal?

### Hard-Working or Elitist?

I'm curious why certain individuals are labeled as elitist, while others are lauded for how hard-working they have been to earn their fortunes. In America, I think people generally have a fair amount of mistrust for any group that they feel wields too much power. The Elitism label is one I see tossed around frequently, though, and it's almost always attached to liberal academic elites.

I guess the bigger question here is why do we regard academics- professors, scientists, and the like - as these snobby elitists?

Why do we regard business owners as hard-workers?

I don't have statistics to measure it, but it seems that a reasonably attentive person with a fair amount of drive can have some success in either department.

Now, I have something not very politically correct to say: I think that part of it is that people don't feel like they can succeed in the academic realm. Think about it - most people dislike school. And part of that needs to be addressed by the people who run the education system. But, in general, I think a person gains a higher amount of respect for being a corporate executive than a senior professor, more respect for being a middle manager than a laboratory scientist, more respect certainly for being just about anything than for being a teacher.

Succeeding in academics requires a lot of hard work and dedication, just the same as succeeding in any other arena of life. Let's have some thoughts!

### Homelessness

The following are a series of quotes from this paper's illustrious comments section about Homelessness.

"Build it and they will come, feed them and they will stay.. Pretty simple. Send most of Burt Nash (sic) somewhere else, along with the other agencies that exhist to give our tax dollars to many who choose not to work and the problem starts to correct itself."

"I am all for helping the homeless, not enabling them. I work at a facility where we care for a large homeless population. Much more often than not, they are chronic drunks, who however, manage to be able to afford cigarretes, more alcohol, but never seem to be able to afford food. Homeless are the refugees in Darfur...most of the homeless I am use to seeing are "enabled"."

"No effort = No money"

Ban the bums and be done with this issue. Downtown is for conducting business. Panhandlers are for disrupting business. Ban them, throw them in jail but get rid of them one way or the other.

...you act as if having a drug or alcohol problem happened to those people by accident. It didn't. Take accountability. Third, not one homeless person has lost access to health care. They can go to any ED and be treated without having to pay a dime. And last, not all of us are "just a few weeks....away from homelessness." Some of us plan for that possibility by saving, not running up debt (or using any), and spending within our means. Life is hard and not fair. Get over it."

I could go on, but I feel like it would be excessive. According to Nationalhomeless.org, between 20 and 25% of homeless people are veterans. http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/veterans.pdf Do we hate veterans? Do you want to look someone in the eye who has just spent six years in Iraq or Afghanistan, seeing horrible things, that they are just lazy and need to stop asking for handouts?

Many homeless are experiencing mental illness. And yet, we, as a society, have an intense hatred for the homeless. Why? I'm curious as to what people think the reason is for such vitriol. In the quotes above, we see the idea that the homeless are like stray animals. We see that assisting the homeless is "enabling them," that they might buy cigarettes and alcohol (how might they have gotten addicted to those substances in the first place)?

We see such "solutions" as banning homeless people. We see this notion that apparently, everyone was born 18 years old with a job in hand and can avoid debt.

The problem with these assertions is that they are generally false. They are also almost exclusively based on anecdotal evidence... "I see a drunk homeless person..." "I knew someone who panhandled..." etc. There is no recognition that these are people - possibly veterans - who haven't had the same advantages as any of us have had. I've worked since I was 14 years old. I've been fortunate enough to have the foundation for success that comes from a stable (or stable enough) home and a quality education. What hope do you think a teenager in a terrible home situation has of getting a quality education, getting a job, etc? Where do you think substance abuse comes from?

Does anyone think about these things beyond the initial unpleasant awkwardness of having to look into a homeless person's eyes and tell them you just don't have any money for them?

So, for all the people who think we should "pull the plug" on them - where do they go? Do they find a hole somewhere to die? What do you want them to do? What is your SOLUTION? Are you willing to let them use your shower, to claim your address so they can even apply for a job? Of course not. Effort goes so far, but effort alone can't get you off the street, now can it? If you're a hiring manager, are you going to hire someone who hasn't had access to a shower for a week and only has a few sets of dirty, tattered old clothes?

Conservatives - it costs roughly \$26,000 to put someone in jail for an entire year. That's \$26,000 of taxpayer money. Do you think that a homeless shelter costs as much as that per person?

Liberals - Do you actually spend any time or contribute in any way to helping the homeless? It doesn't have to be a massive government problem if more private citizens would give their time and efforts of their own will.

And to everyone - political or not - Let's be reasonable. Is it better to bus the homeless away, to refuse them, to tell them to get a job and suck it up - or is it better to help them, but help them the right way - get them to a point where they can contribute to society again?

### Political Discourse

I'm through with it.

You know what I'm talking about, LJWorld.com.

I'm through with the people who have tirelessly accused our President of wanting to convert our country into some sort of Stalinist regime. I'm tired of people who cannot exist outside of absolutes, of people who purport to be "moderate" but hold extremist beliefs. I'm sick of many of the things on this very website.

Readers, I'd like for you to answer this for me. How does the political discourse in this country improve? Or is it hopeless?

Let's have a dose of common sense. Socialism is a dirty word here in America, but we need to keep in mind that there are shades of gray to everything. Are we socialist because the government is providing markets for health insurance companies to sell us a product? Nope. What is socialist about the Obama administration? Two major actions are pointed to - the takeover of GM, and the takeover of banks. The bank takeovers hearken back to the Bush administration, and General Motors is going to buy itself out of government control. Take a deep breath. Think critically. This government doesn't want to run our businesses.

What's so wrong with striking a little balance? America, you're failing me. You're failing me because 5% of you get out there every day, go to your newspaper website, and post - thousands of times - about Obama being a socialist. America, more of you fail me when you read this website and you lack the critical thinking to really understand what you're talking about. Then when someone points that out, you accuse them of elitism. Grow up. It's time for all of us to grow up, on both sides of the aisle. A disaster is a disaster is a disaster, end of story.

For those on the left who still don't think that personal responsibility matters, you're wrong - but there are few of you who think this. This country wouldn't work without some motive for people to act. That motive in our system is money. There's not going to be an era in my lifetime where that's not true. But remember that motive also serves to corrupt, individuals on the right, perhaps moreso than any other motive outside of political power.

Dictators don't have term limits. Stop throwing around the words socialist or Nazi, unless you understand the horror of what you mean when you say Nazi, or you understand that the United States has had "socialistic" policies for many years, but that doesn't mean there aren't private solutions. Think critically - please. I'm not saying you have to agree with the other viewpoint, but what makes America great is not our ability to remain unchanging forever. It's our ability to adapt - to take the best the world has to offer, and then we're going to make it better.

If there were an honest effort to take the political discourse in our country to debates of ideas, rather than the pure waste we see today, then we could finally have some peace from the squawking media personalities on both sides of the aisle. And if we could remain a little more calm, maybe we could do something productive - rather than alienating even more of the people who already don't care about politics in America. Just a thought.

### Pasty Office Worker Blog: How to know when you’re being a jerk

*Note - this is coming from the angle of a tech support cubicle monkey.

It's been said that "you can catch more flies with honey than fish with a cactus." Or something similar to that. Nevertheless, it is true that sometimes, to get what we want in life, we have to be a little bit nice.

Well, apparently that lesson hasn't sunk in with some of us yet, but, fortunately for you, my dear reader, you will now be indulged with some helpful tips to "check yourself" when you're going into jerk mode.

First of all, it's important to assess the situation. It's okay to be a jerk sometimes. As an example, let's say you were wandering onto the LJWorld.com homepage, hoping to find a heartwarming human interest story, when suddenly, you come upon a foul blog written by some devastatingly handsome, delightfully anonymous and adverbally adjectative fellow telling you how to act, while inventing his very own words. Well, you better let that guy have a piece of your mind!

After that, though, let's see what we're up against. Do you have to go depend on a total stranger to render the services you're attempting to receive?' Are you actually hopeful of achieving something? Or do you just want to let off some steam?

If you have to depend on that stranger, you better stay away from jerk mode. Sure, you can go into your local retailer or call/email your local firm with the "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore" line, but where would that get you? (As an aside, Network is a fantastic film. Simply fantastic. If you haven't viewed it yet, I highly recommend checking it out. [As a second aside, does anyone have any idea how I can do some basic formatting such as bold/italic/underline in this blog? Crampin' my style, man. Crampin' it bad.])

I'll tell you where it gets you with most service industry folks - the bare minimum. You see, there are indeed blurry lines at MANY establishments(not all, and note that I didn't even say most - this isn't a scientific blog with numbers and things). but in my experience, if you are working with someone motivated and empowered, you're going to get treated fairly.

I'll give you an example. Let's say two people call in to a customer service line to check on an order that seems to be backordered. Jack (our "jerk" caller) and Bob (our "nice" caller) both missed that the order is displaying backordered and need it shipped faster than the ground shipping they selected.

Jack might call and immediately voice his frustration with the order system. He might blame the company for not doing more to alert him to the problem. He might even say "I need to talk to a supervisor RIGHT NOW," since his problem is clearly the most important problem ever to have happened.

What will Jack get? Well, he may get that supervisor. He may even get a courtesy credit or get his order expedited. But if he is too abusive, it's also possible he'll accidentally get disconnected, or if the supervisor finds him more abrasive, he may even be disconnected.

Bob, meanwhile, may go back to the order site and notice that the item says it will ship in three to seven days. He may notice it's only been two days since he ordered, but he calls anyway to politely inquire to the status of his order. Learning it is not slated for shipping for two more days, he may even say "well, I must have missed that on the site. I really need to get it here sooner." Bob will probably not only get his order expedited, but Bob will also get free two-day shipping as a courtesy. You see, when you motivate people to help you, they value you more.

This is an interesting concept to many. As it turns out, retail workers, customer service workers, and support personnel exist to help you with your experiences at those businesses. They do not exist to be your therapist. They do not exist for you to use as your personal servants. One thing that people may not realize is that most of them go into work every day just wanting to help customers - something that most people in the industry actually like to do - but they find that the greatest barrier to helping their customers is the customers themselves.

With all that being said, let's run down some things you might do which could throw you in the "jerk" category, and how to change them so you can get into the "nice" category.

-Never assume you know more than the person you are working with.

This is vital. If you try to tell a cashier how to ring up your order, a waiter/waitress how something is usually prepared, or a support technician how good you are at computers, you're probably going to end up losing some respect.

Alternative: demonstrate your knowledge by asking questions to affirm something. If a cashier rings up something that was on sale, say "that was a really good deal on those dish towels," or if you're talking to a computer tech, you could say "Oh, I thought it might be the hard drive going bad on account of all the spyware/adware I've been downloading.

-Never assume your issue HAS to be escalated.

Don't call a place and demand someone's boss immediately. Never go straight to a service counter at a store and ask to speak to the manager unless you know for certain that your business must go straight to the manager. Don't use the old line, "Well, if you won't work with me, then why don't you run along and get your boss." For one thing, unless you know that isn't the person in charge, you might be making yourself look awfully foolish. Not only that, but many times, you'll end up finding out that the person you were working with was (gasp) doing their job appropriately as the guidelines directed them.

Alternatively, if you are simply polite and state your expectations directly, without looking like you're trying to get something for nothing, you'd be surprised at just how many people you deal with have the power to deal with your issue appropriately and kindly.

-Treat people like human beings.

True story: Going to a restaurant in Lawrence, I observed a fellow customer calling out to their server "Waitress... Waitress... WAITRESS!" until she finally got the attention she wanted. This, I thought, is a pretty easy concept. The server came up to your table. She gave you her name, and I understand not remembering names (I struggle with it), but you forgot it. Instead of saying "Waitress," how about "Ma'am," or "Miss," or walking eight steps and saying "excuse me, I'm sorry to bother you..."

(Side note: This case particularly resonated with me due to the way it happened. There are rarely any good reasons to address someone by their job position. Would you walk into an office and say "Sales Manager, Sales Manager!" Not only that, but this couple actually enjoyed over two-thirds of a sandwich before declaring it improperly prepared and demanding a replacement on the house.)

If you are sending an email or calling someone, just remember, you're asking for assistance or relying on the person on the other end to read/listen to you. The easier you make that, the better things are going to be.

So, dear readers (all four of you. AKA, the people I bribed to come read this), what other tips do you have for avoiding becoming the proverbial "jerk" in these situations?