We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Wednesday, January 4. 2012
I was informed, as 2011 waned, that my tax credit for commuting would fall from $230 a month to $125. This bothered me. Not because I feel I deserve a credit to commute, but because I can't figure out what the government is trying to do.
The fact is, if public transport is a 'good' we should all take advantage of no matter what, then the government should pay for it by taxing everyone and making it available for 'free' - as they do in Portland. Of course, I oppose this idea entirely. However, if the theory is that we can get people to do something that is 'good for everybody', then isn't this the way to do it? Half-measures, like credits, subsidies, and other methods of this ilk only mask what is possibly (though probably not) a problem - that public transportation isn't really viable. There are ways to determine whether this is true, but not for the average commuter.
What is the premise behind having a tax credit for public commutation? I like it, I'll use it if it's offered, but I didn't demand it, nor did I write Congress to keep it at $230/month. The cost, to me, of increased taxation due to the lower credit will be about $270 over the course of the year, so it's not a big deal. Why not just get rid of it altogether? If public transport is truly efficient, then it would make much more sense for me to take it, rather than driving into the city myself (or carpooling).
My commute is about $330/month. The cost of driving (assuming the Federal allowance of .55/mile and $150 a month parking) is about $780/month. Even if I made a more realistic assumption of about .25/mile, public transport is still an advantage. But public transport is heavily subsidized. So I really don't know which is more efficient, and determining this is very hard.
Here is the issue: Subsidies and tax breaks are supposed to promote the 'public good'. But how do I know which is more efficient, let alone even better, for me personally? If it is a 'public good', then its value will be transparent without subsidies and credits. I'll take whatever credits get offered. It would be crazy for me not to. But I'd much rather have a clear means of determining which makes more sense by comparing simple features like cost, time and effort (hey - in the end, I like reading on the train, so if it did cost more I'd probably still take it).
It is precisely this lack of transparency that makes other government initiatives, like Obamacare, a pure misallocation of resources. Unable to determine where our real efficiencies lie, we opt for what we assume is 'best' or costs us least. But we cannot know for sure if these things really make sense at all.
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
Light rail in Portland isn't "free". There is a small area downtown that is called "fareless square" but it is a very small area. All the feeder lines into downtown cost money to travel.
I understand - I linked to it.
I'm making a point, though. Nothing is "free".
Portland's light rail was incredibly expensive. It was implemented in spite of voters voting against it. It has done nothing to help the traffic problem. It barely carries a fraction of 1% of commuters. It has succeeded in one significant area; crime! Where ever the Max line goes crime follows it. The gangs, drug pushers, pimps and prostitutes use and abuse the Max system in spite of the mini-TSA employed to try to make it safe. One of the nicer suburbs of Portland is fighting the next unasked for and unfunded Max extension because they don't want the crime that comes with it. However I have no doubt the Marxist/socialist that run Portland and dominate the legislature will win and force another light rail into another community that wants no part of it. Why, you ask, would they build it if most people don't want it? Easy, the union workers who build it and the union state workers who operate it will vote in any Marxist/socialist who pushes it forward. Next they will replace the I-5 bridge into Washington state. The existing bridge is fine, arguably needs 1 or 2 more lanes to help during rush hour. But the NEW bridge will have a light rail line on it. Did I mention Vancouver Wa. voted to NOT have light rail come across the river to their city? No matter they will get it. The no bridge will cost $3.4 billion!!! It will have no more lanes then the old bridge!! It will do nothing to alleviate the existing traffic problem. A replacement bridge could be built for under a billion but the grand design Portland has in mind will cost $3.4 billion (which probably means $5 billion including overruns) and of course (wait for it) employ more union voters. So the taxpayers will get f**ked. But wait, but wait! It gets better. even though the taxpayers will pay for the bridge the Marxist/socialist in Portland city hall know a good deal when they see one and the new bridge will be a toll bridge!! Not to pay for it the tax payer will have already paid for it, but to provide more money into the slush fund the politicians love to have in their back pocket. An endless slush fund since the toll will last forever, after all it isn't to pay of bonds or fund the bridge is is just because they want it. Portland is known as the Moscow on the Willamette but that is a slur to Moscow.
BTW, I agree and understand this.
My point, of course, was that if you really want to push your agenda (assuming the agenda is use of public transport), then make it 'free'. Don't do this mixture of public subsidy/private credit BS. It's just a way to mask the charade of revenue loss that makes it all useless.
If it's not viable, then public transport shouldn't exist.
One of the major problems with "free" - as amply demonstrated with regard to light rail in Portland, OR - is that it becomes a magnet for gang-bangers and other criminal elements. An interactive map republished on Redline clearly shows the correlation between crime and light rail in Portland.
Although light rail ostensibly costs money to ride, in practice, fare enforcement occurs infrequently. Bus riders, by contrast, are required to present proof of payment upon boarding.
This post confuses me. Do you mean that you get a tax credit to take public transportation that costs less than driving? Is this a state or local credit? I've never heard of this. Is this another big government wealth redistribution program? Do you get cash or just check some box on a tax form and your taxes are reduced? As a taxpayer who pays for his own transportation, I am intrigued. I need some education, off to google before I rant...
Yes, I get a federal credit of $230 (now $125) off my income to use public transportation. Basically, the 'savings' are 12 X 230 X my tax rate. It's not going to make or break me, and it's not an incentive to use public transport.
It's "cheaper" because it's subsidized. I could run the numbers if I wanted to, but I'm not inclined. It is what it is right now. A back of the envelope guess indicates that public versus personal transport is a wash, price-wise. Part of that is determined by where you live, of course. Further away (more tolls/gas), public transport is cheaper even without credits.
The most odd thing, which I didn't even discuss because I only found it out today - this credit applies to parking at public transportation, and more money is offered for the parking portion. So you can drive, as long as you drive to public transportation.
It's odd how it works, because it varies, depending on the service your employer uses.
One employer I had simply deducted it, pre-tax, from my paycheck, then added it back in without taxes being taken.
Another offered me the option of having what NYC calls "Transitchecks" sent to my home, which could then be used to buy tickets or MetroCards for the subway/train. The money for this was removed, pre-tax, from my paycheck.
Yet another has me set up my commute deduction online, the tickets are sent to my home each month and the money deducted pre-tax.
I get the feeling that not only does it 'cost' the government money in reduced tax collections, but it's a make-work program at the same time. Inefficiency of bureaucracy built upon inefficiency.
OK. I want to know how much in Human Resources (or whatever) dollars your company spends complying with the "laws" and how much is taken out of MY tax dollar to make up a system that is SO complicated that NO ONE has the energy/brains/resources to say "This is D-U-M-B" ) period.
Geez...now I'm getting angry (again). Another one of the 3,500,000 rules, regulations, Acts, judicial decisions that empower the mob but do nothing to protect any one individual.
Does the right g-n-d know that the left g-n-d is doing?
"Geez...now I'm getting angry (again)"
Don't get angry...get even!!
Taxes are meant to fund the government. A constitutionally limited, federal arrangement where states and localities are dominant. Social engineering through top-down central planning was THE fail of the 20th century yet they just can't give up trying (vote buying with OPM is free and fun for the grifter class). Every g-damned piece of federal, progressive era "reform" should be thrown out, post haste. BTW, the cost commuting to your employer's place of business is paid for with taxable "income".
Obama is on tv just now selling Richard Cordray --the new consumer swindle bureau --remember?
Sweet baby Jesus, will these people EVER let up on their rackets? Have they no mercy? Is there no balm in Gilead?
Why do we congregate in cities for work at all? In the age of teleconferencing and the internet flow of information why do we have to all go to the same place everyday? Wouldn't a more dispersed model be more efficient? Why not just have the office buildings at the Park and Ride?
And why is it that large cities tend to elect liberal/elitist leadership?
I actually do telecommute several days a month. But management doesn't feel powerful if it doesn't see people in an office. Who do you manage? The phones?
You're right, of course. In my town, AT&T used to have a 'virtual office'. It was a huge success, by all accounts. Nobody had offices or desks, and were only required to show up once a week. They had cubbies to keep their 'stuff' in, and empty desks with phones, faxes, copiers, etc. all available.
Apparently it was one of their most productive offices. I don't know if it's still there.
My daughter-in-law works for an insurance company at home - in fact their entire staff tele-commutes and it saves the company a ton of money for IT infrastructure not to mention the reduced cost of "business class" Internet access. They pay a portion of the cable or dsl bill, buy the computers, software and routers and 2/3rds of the personal phone bill. I was told that they saved a lot of money doing it this way and it seems to work. She has had two bosses who she has never met and probably never will.
I did it for a few years while I was consulting, but the whole concept was in its infancy - still had to go in once in a while.
I've been telecommuting for about 12 years. Clients like it; they weren't expecting to see me in person, anyway, being in other cities for the most part. My colleagues are a mixed bag. The ones who are focused on getting the client's work done think it's great. The ones who feel better if they have people to "manage" have a harder time. It turns out to be a pretty good way to sort your potential co-workers out into the kind who are providing value and the kind who are just padding the bill and are hoping you'll collaborate.