Friday, January 28, 2011

Merry income tax return

$1.48 cash
$9.87 food stamps
4 days 'till payday

It's income tax return season.  You can tell a person's income bracket by their giddy eagerness for a W-2 form.  I just filed mine and look forward to a hefty return. This time of year is the real Christmas for poor families, believe me. I've thought about changing the date of our celebration many times. It's the one time of year we can spend with abandon and join the ranks of all the "real" American Dreamers. The singular annual moment we can get that plasma TV, or hell, I would even settle for  bra without a broken underwire that impales me in the ribs. 
But just for a second,  I would like to take pause and consider, what do we spend our money on? Head to Walmart about now and you'll see us income tax returners on a buying spree. We're like an insincere alcoholic after rehab at the liquor store, but with a huge chunk of money. It's hard when the only cash you've had for months went immediately to bills. It's tempting to go to Walmart and buy cartloads of shit. I've been there. I know this might sound like a dirty word, but I wold like to figure out how to save money. I mean, if I can have the discipline to spend right up to the very last penny, can't I have the discipline to save 5%? I like to say this, but I won't be doing it. What, you ask, will you be spending your tax return on Kristy? The glamorous answer is: I already spent it.
All my tax return is going to  good ol' Sears Credit Cards. Which is like saving 5% every month and I won't feel like I'm licking the man's balls every time I drive my payment up to Northtown because otherwise it would be late. I admit, part of my financial hardship is due to credit cards. I thought I was missing out on some vital part of life, and that if I charged a vacation and some meals out and those super cute kids clothes that were on clearance at The Gap it would somehow complete me. Completion I suppose, complete retardation. Now I get to pay for it. I knew this was coming, and now have to look for ways to enjoy my austere life as a fiscal monk. 
It's a double-edged sword really. Sure I would like to make more money, but honestly, I kind've like the fact that the federal government sends me money every year. I really like the fact that my money doesn't support a war in Iraq or Afghanistan. It's astonishing to consider that the US military spends $1.4 trillion dollars (that's as large as the federal deficit!) on military spending each year.  

Meanwhile the desperation mounts, a DSHS recipient goes to jail for firing off threatening e-mails to Christine Gregoire because he was panicked about his medical benefits being cut. 17,000,000 children live in food insecure households in the US and an elderly person goes without medication because it's too expensive. In droves, we plunge into the precipice. I sometimes wonder what it would be like if everyone elected to make incomes that put them at zero tax liability? What would happen? Would the war machine come to a grinding halt? Would congress get laid off? Would the Postal Service implode? What would happen if we insisted that the money is re-directed towards improving quality of life? What if poverty became a form of protest? If we don't have a choice in the matter, we can at least make it sound cool. It's not so bad if you can celebrate Christmas on Valentine's Day.



  1. I love your blog. A friend of mine and I were arguing over who was more poor the other day. I asked, "Did you boil your family's toothbrushes to get another month out of them? Did you cut the sleeves off your shirts so you could wear a new outfit? Have you mastered the art of baking with 3 ingredients? When your kids leave the water on while they're brushing their teeth do you have visual hallucinations of change falling down the drain? Did you ask someone at work to cut your hair at break?" Yeah...I win. It's so nice to win. I never win anything.

  2. For several years I entertained the idea of writing a book that I would title Creative Poverty. To live well within limited resources is a creative endeavor and I have really enjoyed certain aspects of this challenge. I have more money than I used to but I continue to look for the cheaper more creative way to do something. Plus that route usually means less environmental damage.