Archive for the ‘Communications’ Category

What Whoopi Said: ‘Back Off Me!’

March 11, 2009

An anti-tax rant from the mouth of actress and talk-show hostess Whoopi Goldberg:

“I don’t mind payin’ a little more tax ’cause I make a good living. But I don’t wanna get it comin’ and goin’. I don’t wanna get the federal raised, and then the state raised, and then the phone tax raised, and then the television tax raised, and then the city tax. Back off me!”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. (Hat tip to the National Taxpayers Union)

Advertisements

Tax Bites By The Numbers

November 13, 2008

The Americans for Tax Reform Foundation has created an enlightening chart that estimates how much more money Americans must pay for certain goods and services because of taxes. Some of the taxes — the kind I have tracked here — appear on consumers’ bills, but many others are hidden.

Here’s the rundown from ATR:

  • Cigarettes: 81.3 percent more
  • Distilled spirits: 79.6 percent
  • Car rentals: 60.6 percent
  • Beer: 56.2 percent
  • Domestic airfare: 55 percent (much more for international, based on reports from a friend who travels abroad frequently)
  • Landline phones: 51.8 percent
  • Gasoline: 51.2 percent
  • Hotel stays: 50 percent
  • Cell phones: 46.4 percent
  • Cable television: 46.3 percent
  • Firearms: 45.6 percent
  • Restaurant meals: 44.8 percent
  • Soda: 37.6 percent

I don’t drink or smoke, so I’m not personally affected by the “sin taxes.” And while I own a couple of hunting guns, I haven’t bought a new one in almost 20 years, so firearms taxes aren’t likely to rob me of more cash. But I have been hit by every one of the other taxes on the list more than once this year.

I keep a copy of ATR’s chart in my office at work as a stark reminder of how intrusive the government is in my life and my wallet. You should print a copy, too, at fiscalaccountability.org.

A Century Of Tax Mischief

May 5, 2008

My Dad forwarded to me an e-mail that included this gem about all of the taxes conceived in the minds of politicians over the past century (the impact of several of them on just our family has been chronicled on this blog):

Accounts receivable tax
Building permit tax
CDL license tax
Cigarette tax
Corporate income tax
Dog license tax
Federal income tax
Federal unemployment tax
Fishing license tax
Food license tax
Fuel permit tax
Gasoline tax
Hunting license tax
Inheritance tax
Inventory tax
IRS interest charges (tax on top of tax)
IRS penalties (tax on top of tax)
Liquor tax
Luxury tax
Marriage license tax
Medicare tax
Property tax
Real-estate tax
Service charge taxes
Social Security tax
Road usage tax (truckers)
Sales taxes
Recreational vehicle tax
School tax
State income tax
State unemployment tax
Telephone taxes
— Federal excise
— Universal service fee
— Federal, state and local surcharges
— Minimum-usage surcharge
— Taxes on recurring and non-recurring phone charges
— State and local phone taxes
— Telephone-usage charge tax
Utility tax
Vehicle registration tax
Vehicle sales tax
Watercraft registration tax
Well permit tax
Workers compensation tax

The kicker to the e-mail: “Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago, and our nation was the most prosperous in the world. We had absolutely no national debt, had the largest middle class in the world, and Mom stayed home to raise the kids. What happened? Can you spell ‘politicians?'”

The Disconnect At Comcast

March 11, 2008

The premise of this blog is that taxes are too burdensome and the government too overbearing. But last week, I found myself turning to the government as a last resort to complain about the incompetence at Comcast, our communications provider.

The atrocious customer service at Comcast is well-documented and has even spawned anti-Comcast blogs like ComcastMustDie. The company’s track record is so abysmal that it drove a 75-year-old woman in our region to take a hammer to the computer and telephone of one Comcast official. I just read a new gripe about the company in The American Spectator this morning.

But I’ve been a Comcast customer for years and hadn’t been of victim of its incompetence — until last week when the company cut off our service.

I discovered the error on Sunday, March 2. When we left for worship service that morning, everything was working fine. When we returned after lunch, Comcast’s much-ballyhooed “Triple Play” — cable, telephone and high-speed Internet service for one discounted price — was a strikeout. All three services were dead.

That posed a problem. I couldn’t call Comcast because I had no phone service, and I couldn’t e-mail because the Internet was down, too. Fortunately, my new employer had just provided me with a cell phone days earlier or I would have had to register my complaint in person (without a hammer in my hand!).

Over the next three days, I was put on hold for a total of three hours; subjected to a condescending lecture about Federal Communications Commissions rules by one Comcast representative; and lied to by another who said she had scheduled an appointment for Monday evening but entered it as Wednesday morning in the system.

On Sunday, I scheduled a repair visit for noon-3 p.m. by Comcast on Monday. When my wife called the company from the hospital that morning after my car accident, she was told that the company had canceled the appointment, without contacting us, because they had concluded that the disconnection was the result of a neighborhood problem. We were assured it would be fixed by 5 p.m.; it wasn’t.

The next day when I asked to speak to a supervisor, she refused to get on the phone or return a call, and Comcast refused to schedule an appointment for earlier than Wednesday. I reminded the representative of the lecture about FCC rules one of her colleagues had given me — that phone companies had to restore 911 emergency service within 24 hours. Comcast ignored that obligation.

The repairman finally came at about 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday. He quickly diagnosed the problem: A Comcast field technician had disconnected all of our services while halting service to the house next door that recently went into foreclosure. He acknowledged that the error was Comcast’s and that there had never been a bigger problem in the neighborhood — which we knew because all of our neighbors had service.

That brings me back to the main point of this blog entry: As much as I hate the government, I was glad the FCC existed. I have filed two complaints against Comcast.

I’ve also asked Comcast to give us one month of free service as compensation for the lost service and for my time and hassles in correcting the company’s inexcusable error and inattention to our repeated complaints.

I doubt I’ll ever get a response from either the bureaucrats in the FCC or the incompetents at Comcast. But I feel better now because I blogged about it!

Tax Shenanigans In Los Angeles

February 2, 2008

Everyone is focused on the presidential primaries in several states next Tuesday, but Los Angeles voters also will cast their votes on a local tax issue — whether to make a nominal cut in the telephone tax (from the current 10 percent down to 9 percent) but apply it to new technologies.

The liberal Los Angeles Times thinks the tax cut is a “clever” but tolerable gimmick when the real goal — or revenue necessity, according to the Times — is to keep money flowing to the city by tweaking tax law.

But the rival Los Angeles Daily News has the smarter take on this tax debate:

Rattle, rattle! That clanging sound you hear is Los Angeles city leaders shaking their tin cups, pleading poverty and warning of dark, dark times to come. It must be election season, with a tax hike on the ballot. Because when politicians warn of tight budgets, they only want one thing — more.

… City Hall wants you to think that if you don’t approve an inestimably huge tax hike on all telecommunications devices, there will be no more cops, no more library books, no more fire service, no more Mom or apple pie.

Of course, no one suggests that if Measure S fails, we’ll get no more pay raises for city workers that average 7.5 percent a year, no more subsidies for downtown hotels, no more ignoring … audits that could save L.A. millions. Those are City Hall’s sacred cows — not the services that taxpayers pay for.

Which is all the more reason voters should ignore city leaders’ poor-mouthing and scare-mongering — and vote no on Measure S. Only this measure’s defeat will force City Hall to actually go to work and stop overspending.

Mobile Taxes Will Stay Hidden

January 22, 2008

Those hidden taxes on your cellular telephone bill will stay hidden a while longer thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision today not to hear a dispute over whether the public should be told about the fees on their monthly bills.

Here’s the report from News.com:

The case at hand, which pitted Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA against state utility regulators, centers on whether states should be allowed to forbid wireless carriers from breaking out various state and local taxes as line-item fees on a customer’s bill.

Sounds like a simple enough matter, but it has actually stirred up quite a fuss.

The wireless companies, naturally, maintain they should be able to establish a visible separation between the base prices of their services and the fees required by various regulators. States and localities have increasingly been passing laws prohibiting those line items expressly in order to “hide” arguably unpopular taxes and fees from consumers, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile said in their brief to the high court.

Communications Don’t Come Cheaply

January 12, 2008

Late last year, the Comcast “Triple Play” — telephone, television and high-speed Internet service rolled into one bill at a lower introductory price — finally came to our area. I had been waiting months for a chance to try it.

I’m not whether sure we’re saving any money on taxes as a result of the lower communications bill, however. We pay five — count ’em, five — different taxes, surcharges or fees every month.

Here’s the combined tally from our first two bills, one that covers Dec. 16-Jan. 15 and the other that runs from Jan. 16 to Feb. 15 (just got it in the mail today):
— Universal (connectivity charge): $1.51
— Digital voice (taxes, surcharges and fees): $6.67
— FCC reg fee: 12 cents
— Virginia communications (sales tax): $3.30
— Rights-of-way use (fee): $1.34

Total: $12.94