Nobody likes taxes and today's the deadline to pay them. If taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society, then some people are getting a great bargain and others are getting gouged mercilessly. The AP's Stephen Ohlemacher takes a look.
millions of procrastinators scramble to meet Monday's tax filing deadline,
ponder this: The super rich pay a lot less taxes than they did a couple of
decades ago, and nearly half of U.S. households pay no income taxes at all."
"The Internal Revenue Service tracks the tax returns with
the 400 highest adjusted gross incomes each year. The average income on those
returns in 2007, the latest year for IRS data, was nearly $345 million. Their
average federal income tax rate was 17 percent, down from 26 percent in 1992."
"Over the same period, the average federal income tax rate
for all taxpayers declined to 9.3 percent from 9.9 percent."
"The top income tax rate is 35 percent, so how can people
who make so much pay so little in taxes? The nation's tax laws are packed with
breaks for people at every income level. There are breaks for having children,
paying a mortgage and going to college. Plus, the top rate on capital gains is
only 15 percent. A total of 45 percent of U.S. households will pay no
federal income tax for 2010, according to estimates by the Tax Policy Center, a
Washington think tank."
Last week, the independent commission that sets politicians' pay decided to yank lawmakers' state-paid cars. Now, the panel is looking at halting the practice of paying lawmakers per diem -- even when they are absent from the Capitol.
From the Bee's Jim Sanders: "The seven-member panel
decided Thursday to ask the Franchise Tax Board for a legal opinion on
whether legislators' per diem should be taxed."
receive $142 per day during the legislative session to defray their living expenses while in Sacramento. Only lawmakers
living within 50 miles of the Capitol currently pay state and federal taxes on
"The letter also will ask
whether lawmakers can be barred from receiving per diem if they miss a Capitol
session. "If they're sick or
out of town, should they really be paid a per diem?" Commissioner Kathy
Sands asked during the panel's Thursday meeting."
One lawmaker who was not happy with the panel's earlier action was Sen. Noreen Evans, the Democrat who represents the sprawling 2nd District.
From Guy Kovner in the Press Democrat: "My average is 2,000 miles p/mo on state business.
$300 p/mo works out to 15 cents per mile," Evans tweeted on Thursday
That's unfair to legislators like her who represent large
rural districts, Evans said. Her sprawling 2nd Senate District stretches 300
miles from Rio Vista to Arcata and 150 miles from Fort Bragg to Middletown, she
"While Los Angeles-area lawmakers can easily traverse
their postage-stamp sized districts, Evans said rural lawmakers must drive much
longer distances to meet with constituents."
"I don't know how a person in my position would do
this," she said."
Will all the talk about budget woes, one would think the entire fiscal climate of California is sinking into a morass. But that's not true, at least in Silicon Valley, which is enjoying its biggest business boom since the 2000 bubble. The Mercury News' Brandon Bailey and Jack Davis tell the tale.
"Revenue and profits soared as consumers flocked to buy
new handheld gadgets, while corporations and public agencies resumed buying
hardware and software to handle a rising tide of digital data -- from emails,
tweets and videos to all manner of online transactions and Internet search
"Those trends drove tech sales and profits higher than
they were before the downturn of 2008 and 2009. For companies on the Mercury
News' SV150 list, combined sales for the past four quarters rose 20.3 percent
from a year earlier. Combined profit skyrocketed 78.6 percent. The list
comprises the 150 biggest public companies, measured by revenue, that are based
in Silicon Valley."
"Companies responded by significantly boosting their
spending on research and development, new plants and equipment, and stock
repurchases. Big companies bought up dozens of smaller ones. But after laying
off thousands during the downturn, many were cautious about adding new jobs. "The industry definitely came out of
recession in 2010," said Stephen Minton, an analyst for the IDC research."
Gerrymandering gets a bad rap, but one thing is sure: If Democrats could still engineer the drawing of political boundaries, a state budget deal likely would have been signed, sealed and delivered. The LAT's George Skelton takes a look.
"Yes, I'm being a tad facetious. But not entirely."
"It shouldn't shock anyone — even idealists and
ignoramuses — that political calculations are part of politics. And politics is
democracy. And that's the way it works."
"This is the way it might have worked if voters had not
stripped legislators of their traditional power to draw legislative and
congressional districts: A backbench Republican is summoned to an isolated,
windowless room in the Capitol. There are two large maps on a table.
are two districts," he's told by a Democrat Tom Hagen type. "Which
one do you want? Run in one and you survive. Run in the other, you
sleep with the fishes."
"I'll take the first," the GOP lawmaker
replies. "And, of course, I strongly support the governor's tax
And from our "No ticket, No Laundry" file, comes word that scalping, which one might think is limited to sporting events and pop concerts, is now moving into sacred territory: Yosemite National Park.
"Campsite reservations and permits to scale Half Dome have become
such hot commodities that the National Park Service is
scrambling to halt the auctioning of park access to the highest bidder."
"The flipping of reservations and permits in Yosemite –
the third-most-visited national park – is so rampant on Internet sites like Craigslist that park
officials are "becoming more aggressive" in trying to shut down these
operators, said Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman."
"We want to stop it as much as we can," he
said. "It's not fair. These (reservations and permits) aren't intended to
go into the after-market. But it's becoming more sophisticated. … People are
finding ways to abuse the system."