Friday, April 02, 2010

TGIF Again

This week, my TGIF is for real; two whole days of no income taxes.

We got a call yesterday afternoon that Debbie's mom had been taken by ambulance to the hospital with stroke-like symptoms. Still no word on if it really was a stroke, but we do know that her potassium was very high and blood pressure was very low. The doctors think it may be medication-related. By evening, they had gotten her potassium down and BP up. She's been admitted to St. Mary's in Saginaw and the family is posting updates to her status page. Like before, no phone calls and visitation is very limited. More when we know more.

Tax season is coming to an end. Business has picked up a little bit; we are completing 4-5 returns a day instead of the 0-1 we've been doing the last couple weeks. This is still nothing like the tax rush I remember. I'd blame it on working in a new office where the company I work for is completely unknown, but the other office that is in its second year is doing far fewer returns than last year. Even the IRS is reporting that only about half of the people who should be filing have done so as of last week (should be around 80%). If everyone waits until the last minute, my office could be in some deep doodoo; there is only one other tax preparer in my office other than myself. In any case, there is only two computers, so it wouldn't matter if we could somehow wave a magic wand and hire more people; we would still be screwed. The good news is that there is only two weeks left and, no matter what, it's over.

I've been spending a lot of time reading all the posts over at The Archdruid Report. It's been interesting catching up on just what the Peak Oil folks have been up to since their heyday in the 1970's. It has been especially interesting to read about the various opinions inside the movement of just what impact declining fossil fuel stocks will have; from grim apocalyptic visions where we are all Mel Gibson living in a Mad Max world, to a burst of technical innovation that will replace fossil fuels with a clean, infinite power source that will allow mankind to finally reach his destiny among the stars. As always, the reality will be something very different and much more boring. Anyway, with all that as background, I found three energy-related items this morning: The first is a graph showing how higher energy prices squeeze out entertainment spending. Duh, but an important duh given the weighting of entertainment-related stocks in most funds. The second is how declining output from existing oil fields and higher prices are pushing off-shore drilling into deep water. Literally.Will it help?

US domestic oil production notoriously began to decline in the 1970s and the hope is that these renewed efforts will lead to something of a resurgence for the country’s output - although it will be fairly fleeting.

Expensive. Risky. Temporary. Not much of a "solution" in my book. So lets do a lot of it. No chance that will end badly. Which brings us to the third item which claims renewable energy will save us all. As long as we do several impossible and/or insanely expensive things: completely change the political structure of an entire continent; stop spending money on everything else and spend it all on renewable energy; reinvent capitalism into a form more amenable to investments that will likely never pay out; and replace the entire power grid. And if I had a magic wand....

And just when you thought a stake had been driven into the heart of that ugly beast called The 1970's, inflation is back. Maybe. Or maybe deflation. Something bad for us ordinary schmoes, in any case. And a beautiful liars-damned-liars-and-statistics quote:

...the government tends to understate inflation and has changed the way the CPI [Consumer Price Index] is calculated nine times since 1996.

Another common inflation metric is the Federal Reserve's core inflation, which it uses to measure overall inflation. The Fed excludes food and energy prices to smooth out short-term volatility. However, based on government data, food and energy purchases make up 36% of the average consumer's budget. The Fed's inflation graph might look nice and smooth, but it's probably not the best indicator for how your wallet feels when paying bills or buying groceries.

Yea. Our government lies to us. There's a shocker. And no matter what, I'm not wearing bell-bottoms.

I need to get ready for work now. We're supposed to have sun and temps in the 70's and 80's the next few days and I intend to enjoy them thoroughly, so it may be a quiet weekend here.


Anonymous said...

>> doing far fewer returns than last year

Do the unemployed don't need to file?

Maybe folks have gotten so fed up with the bailouts, nationalizing medicine, endless wars, etc that they decided to drop out of it all. On can hope, right?

Ric said...

There is a common misconception that unemployment comp is non-taxable. It isn't, although for 2009 the first $2,400 is exempt.

I'm sure there are many more people working off the books in 2009 for either cash or barter. This part of the economy has been steadily growing since the 1970's, along with various attempts by the state and federal tax authorities to stamp it out.