August 21, 2019

Things that Baffle: Part I

To “baffle” means to to defeat by confusing or puzzling. Do any of the following baffle you?

Do American taxpayers understand their tax system? We get refunds because we’ve overpaid our taxes! By doing so, we’ve just made a loan to the U.S. Government for the past year— interest free. Had we done a better job of managing our deductions and withholding, we could have paid less tax during the past year.

The word “saving” in so badly misused that it frustrates me. Saving is putting away money for future use. Saving is not “paying less.” Paying $99.00 for something that was advertised at $109.00 is great but unless you banked the $10.00, all you may have is $10.00 more to buy another product.

Politicians that say they are going to “create” jobs. This amounts to a proverbial “bunch of crap.” No politician ever created a job unless they added another Federal Agency which would in turn be paid for by taxpayer dollars. All a politician can do is create an environment conducive to job creation by industry.

Politicians cutting taxes when the government is running a deficit. Reducing taxes is in effect reducing the government’s incoming revenue. If the government is running a deficit, the incoming revenue is already less than the outgoing spending. Thus, the deficit goes up and not down, thereby creating an even worse situation.

Buying a product “interest free.” You have no payments for three to five years but you better be prepared for that last payment as it will contain all the interest on your purchase for the last few years unless you have been making some form of regular payments to drive the balance down. Finance companies thrive on these naïve consumers.

Unsolicited mail. This is usually the result of our name being sold many times as part of a data base. In my case, I never fill out surveys that accompany a product that ask for too much information. I buy an electric drill at a store and then fill out a card supposedly to guarantee my warranty that asks how much I make (a range obviously) and too many other questions. Ninety percent of the junk mail we receive is the direct result of our name being sold.

The constant barrage of TV advertisements. It is almost impossible to watch a TV program today that does not have ads constantly interrupting the program. An hour TV program now contains up to 22 minutes of advertising resulting in the actual program being about 38 minutes long. In fact, it is becoming more common to “edit” movies and sports programs to accommodate the advertisements even if you as a viewer miss a few plays here and there.

Unemployment reporting which is actually a count of only those people currently seeking employment – the key words here being “currently seeking.” Those millions of unemployed workers who have exhausted their benefits drop off into a “black hole.” The Federal Government conducts a monthly survey called the Current Population Survey (CPS) to measure the extent of unemployment in the United States. It is based upon the current working population and usually reflects a number substantially higher than reported monthly by the government. It is estimated that the current CPS is about 20.1% while the current unemployment figure touted by the government is around 5.1%. Now obviously, the Federal Government doesn’t want to publish the CPS unemployment number for broad consumption. People might question the supposed “progress” that is allegedly being made.

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Written by
Donald Wittmer

DONALD WITTMER is a retired business executive who held key roles in the automotive and banking sectors. For a time, he also served as a Fiscal Agency Manager for the Detroit branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. He received his undergraduate degree from Cincinnati's Xavier University, an M.A. in business management from Central Michigan University, and earned certification in bank operations from the School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A husband, father, and grandfather, he teaches part-time at the Kent Place School for Girls in Summit, New Jersey.

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Written by Donald Wittmer
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