Online Tax Software

I personally have used H&R Block and TaxAct before.  They both seemed fine.  H&R Block is a bit more expensive this year.  So how do I decide?

This online article comparison was EXTREMELY helpful.  Given the 10/10 rating for TaxAct on Thoroughness, I’ll put up with a little difficulty in use.  The good thing about filing now, is the return is processed quickly.  Happy tax  season everyone.

Oh yeah, and if you wonder why Social Security taxes went up so much, it’s because the Bush cuts expired.

Infinite Learning (&) Is the answer to our political discourse rooted in Education?

Infinite Learning

As a young child, we learn just about everything society has developed to date.  Young children are a whiz on the computer, changing profiles to access certain information and quickly finding the Disney website or downloading Tigger on your iPhone.  Many of us who can remember the times before the internet might wonder, “How do these kids know so much?”

Well we did the same things as kids, quickly learning about the world around us while our parents had to learn these things at the slow rate of development.  See it takes an incredible amount of knowledge to develop technology and make such advances.  But it doesn’t take much to learn them once developed.

So really, I like to think that children have the capacity for infinite learning.  They quickly catch up with the rest of us to understand everything developed to date, and then they can expand on that knowledge depending on their skills.

Differing View of Education at the Heart of Political Disagreement?

It’s clear that the liberals want higher taxes to pay for programs giving basic needs and opportunities to all.  Just as it’s clear that conservatives feel they have earned their wealth and do not want to give a free ride to people who are willing to work for it.

So who is right?  Well on this superficial level they both are.  But I think this argument is a symptom, not an underlying cause of the issue.  I think the underlying issue is the different opinion about education, opportunity, and how people learn.  Well actually it’s a lack of understanding of these issues and therefor a mis-belief about the necessary laws and regulations.  What exactly do I mean by this?

It’s as if the conservatives belief that they have earned every opportunity they experienced: good education both schooling and culturally, adequate nutrition and emotional support, the means to pay for an expensive education to mingle with a group of people having similar opportunities, and the list goes on.  (Sure there are success stories of people lacking these opportunities and support, but for now lets consider them outliers.)

And the liberals act as if these opportunities are not inherent to everyone’s life situation and that they are the major factor for success.  They ask for society to provide extra support for those lacking such opportunities.

So on some level we agree that, in general (not counting outliers), we would all benefit from these opportunities and have a fair chance as success.  And the breakdown occurs when we get to the discussion on Motivation.  If something is provided for free, people may stop working for it.  But when we don’t have something, we are motivated to work for it.  So how do we provide equal opportunity (we can never provide exactly equal) without also creating a sense of entitlement?  Maybe that discussion will bring the 1% and the 99% closer together.

The Substance of the Occupy Wall Street Movement

The Occupy Movement has received a lot of support from people around the world, and a lot of criticism for not having a clear request or agenda.  To simply state a problem ” We are the 99%”, referencing the wealth gap between rich and middle class (I don’t think this is about or will become a movement the conditions of the working poor) is not enough to gain action from the political powers for change.

The list of complaints includes a variety of topics from the various participates in the movement.  The underlying theme of complaints that seem to be universal include:

  • The economic gap between rich and poor is widening.
  • The quality of living for the middle class is dropping.
  • Capitalism is out of control and has given all the power to the wealthy.

The middle class wants to be able to earn a certain standard of living.  They are doing everything requested of them to earn that lifestyle: gone to college, worked hard to move up the ladder, invest in home, and save for retirement and now the people demand the promised return: 1.  A secure retirement lifestyle with decent health care and 2. Similar opportunities for the younger generations.  They do not understand how those two concepts are now threatened after years of hard work that filled the coffers of the rich 1%.  And the ruling rich do not believe they are responsible for providing those entitlements, but the Occupiers believe  the rich have some responsibility because they have controlled the government spending and taxation which now threaten the promised entitlements.  The rich say: You are now taking more than you paid for these entitlement programs.  But if the middle class was paid more, or the rich didn’t get out of their tax obligation, or the government was forced to save, then the government may be able to support the entitlements, making the necessary revisions as the population ages.

Capitalism has allowed the wealthy to become the ruling class and overpower the majority.  Nothing is perfect, and capitalism certainly is not a perfect economic system.  So I think the real message from the Occupy Movement is that we need to revise our economics (demonstrated on their holiday card) and politics to support our values and responsibilities.

On Monday’s show, Charlie Rose subtly presented the issues and the solution at the root of the Occupy Movement discussion and the Congressional Super Committee deadlock.  His guests presented the two fundamental sides of the issue.   David Brooks discussed ideas relating to he conservative point of view “We need less Government involvement and cost”.   The Tea Party represents the extreme view: we don’t want to pay taxes to support programs with excessive waste and programs that support freeloaders.  Then Dov Seidman discusses his work to help companies develop Ethical Business Practices that are also prosperous because they resonate with the values of the public.

The solution is increase ethics and responsibility in business and politics.  This can’t be mandated, but has to be a cultural change from the ground up.  We have to change our behavior and practices in a way that creates the right incentives for businesses to change, and no longer look for ways to cheat the system.

One of the fantastic developments with this movement is the creation of “Participatory Democracy”.  I think this type of development in the political process is the next revolution, to find a modern political model that represents the wishes of the people and not the ruling class.