You Paid $3,652 For My Short Flight. Thanks!

Silver Airlines*update 6/13/2013 – common sense prevails as Essential Air Service subsidies for Lewistown and Miles City are finally cancelled


Thank you, taxpayers!

I just booked a flight from Lewistown to Billings.   I fly frequently out of Billings, and usually I just drive to the airport – it’s only a two-hour trip.  I often stay overnight at a Billings hotel so I can leave my vehicle there until my return, because long-term parking at the airport is pretty expensive.  But last week I read in our local paper that we are only averaging one passenger per day through our Lewistown airport.  That’s one passenger for two flights in and two flights out.  Per day.  Kind of embarrassing.

So I thought I would check it out.  My airfare was only $71!  Heck, I would spend that on gas taking my truck to Billings and back, plus I would have to pay for a hotel or parking.  Why not?

How, you may ask, can air transportation from a little town like Lewistown be such a bargain?  It’s called Essential Air Service.   You wonderful taxpayers subsidize our tiny airline to make sure we don’t have to buy gas from a greedy privately-owned gas station and spend money at some evil, profit-hungry privately-owned hotel.  It’s one of those programs that our federal government says we just can’t live without.   In fact, they absolutely must raise our taxes because programs like this are . . . well, essential.

I am just overwhelmed at your generosity.  I looked up the Essential Air Service subsidy for Lewistown to see how much you are paying for my trip.   Let’s see, the most recent annual contract provides a $1,325,733 subsidy to Silver Airlines for serving Lewistown.  One passenger per day for 365 days, that’s about 365 passengers per year . . .  hmm, according to my simple math, you taxpayers are paying about $3,632 for my short trip to Billings.

Denny Rehberg and Jon Tester and Max Baucus are all big supporters of Essential Air Service.   Some other stingy Congressmen tried to shut down the program, but your Montana buddies don’t have any problem with you guys paying $3,632 for me to fly to Billings.   Oh, plus $3,632 when I return.  I mean after all, heh heh heh . . . it’s not their money!

So thanks again, I’ll be thinking of you as I glide over the Rimrocks into Billings-Logan airport to make my connecting flight.  You know, the Rimrocks sure are pretty, you can look right over the fiscal cliff . . .

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right SideGimme a ticket for an aeroplane
I ain’t got time to take a fast train
Lonely days are gone, I’m a-goin’ home
My baby just wrote me a letter!
I don’t care how much money I gotta spend
Got to get back to my baby again
Lonely days are gone, I’m a-goin’ home
My baby just wrote me a letter!

The Letter – by the Box Tops

Sex, Monkeys, and Our Tax System

There is a colloquialism that accurately describes our process of calculating, filing, and paying our federal taxes.  I can’t say the term in mixed company, but it involves a large number of simians all having sexual relations at the same time.

There are so many things wrong with the IRS, our tax codes, and our attitudes about how we funnel money to our government, that this is one of those “Don’t Get Me Started” things.

Too late, I started.

At last estimate, only about 36% of taxpayers prepare their own returns.  Most Americans would rather pay somebody else to file their returns than do it themselves, blindly trusting that the tax preparer will accurately calculate the correct tax.  Many advertize that they will get you a bigger refund than the tax guy down the street!  The taxpayers don’t know how to file, don’t want to know, and will do anything to avoid it, including handing over their checkbooks to a total stranger named Block.

Waterboarding?  Ha!  They should have made Khalid Sheik Mohammed fill out a Schedule D!

We are not only forced to pay part of our hard-earned money to the government, we are also forced to pay somebody else to decide how much we are forced to pay to the government!  Even though many taxpayers could file a simple, one-page “simple” form, they are too afraid.  Or they have gone to public schools, where learning about anything with a dollar sign attached is really frowned upon.

Business tax reporting is even worse.

For instance, when a business buys equipment, it can “write off” the cost over a period of years, which reduces income and, thereby, taxes.  If the government allowed the entire cost to be deducted immediately, it would seriously reduce their cash flow.  So our big-spending brothers and sisters in DC make businesses spread the cost over a number of years.  How many years?  Well, nobody knows.  There is no chart where you can look up the depreciation percentage or number of years for, say a new widget-making machine.  There are chapters and paragraphs and exceptions and alternatives and recaptures – but nowhere is there a simple chart that a human being can understand.   Only the accountants can conjure up an answer, and ten different accountants will come up with ten different answers.   The IRS doesn’t really care – ten IRS agents will come up with ten more completely different answers.

Even more strange – our tax “police” send out checks to anybody and everybody who requests a refund, without checking first to see if the filer is a citizen, has a job, or has already received thousands of refunds at the same address.  The IRS doesn’t even attempt to collect the $1 billion in past due taxes owed by federal employees – Geez, guys, all you need to do is deduct them from their paychecks!

All I can say about our tax system is HOW BIZARRE!  Candidates talk about more taxes or less taxes.  But why isn’t anybody (other than Herman Cain) talking about our crazy tax system?

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Ooh baby, it’s making me crazy
Every time I look around, it’s in my face
How bizarre! How bizarre, how bizarre!

The Government Sucks – So We, the People, Have to Step Up

Today’s bad news: our economy added only 80,000 jobs in June – while another 85,000 workers dropped out of the labor force to join the ranks of the disabled.  As fewer people can find or keep jobs, our federal government continues to take former workers onto the “dole” to artificially hide the true unemployment rate.

Our President’s reaction?  “It’s still Bush’s fault”, and “We need more government union workers who will vote for me (teachers and firemen)”, and “Things are not all that bad”, and “There are no quick fixes”.  Not exactly inspirational, is it?

By the way, when did you agree to have your federal tax dollars spent on more firemen for the city of El Paso?

And when did your local school board decide that your federal tax dollars should pay for “hundreds of thousands more teachers”?

Punch after punch, the federal assault on citizens continues.  It’s enough to drive one to depression or drink, or both.  Unless . . .

Unless we conservatives can make ourselves so strong individually and collectively that we can fight and win the daily battles in our city, state and federal government offices – and strong enough to educate and convince our misguided or disengaged brethren to vote correctly this fall.

When times are tough I take comfort in something I learned a long time ago, when I joined a bunch of young friends in a civic group called Optimists, Intl.   Even the first line is enough to bring you out of your funk:  “Promise yourself to be so strong . . . ”

The Optimist Creed

Promise Yourself …
To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.
To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.
To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.
To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.
To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

Sounds kind of “Reagan-esque”, doesn’t it?

Tom Balek, Rockin’ On the Right Side

Give me a job, give me security
Give me a chance to survive
I’m just a poor soul in the unemployment line
My God, I’m hardly alive

“Blue Collar Man” – Styx

“First Class” Travel? Or “Government Class?”

Just a few random ideas for cutting government spending . . .Image

  • Require all government employees to travel in coach with the rest of us.  There was an effort to clamp down on first-class and business-class travel by government employees several years ago, but it appears that this perk has quietly become acceptable again.  Next time you are herded with the other cattle back into those crowded coach seats, take a good look as you walk through the comfy first-class cabin.  There’s a good chance most of these passengers are there on the taxpayer’s dime.
  • Take a good look at the use of expensive “smart phones” by government employees.  Most government employees would be adequately served by inexpensive “dumb” cell phones, and in fact most employees already have, or would purchase, their own cell phones.  I’ll bet the cost of this item, including air time for web surfing, is shocking.
  • Stop paying government employees for all of their accumulated “sick pay” when they retire.  You should get sick pay when you are sick.  That’s why they call it “sick pay!”  Or maybe take sick pay out of the employee’s retirement account.  Some government employees receive six figure checks for accumulated sick pay at retirement in addition to a fat guaranteed pension plan.

This is just a start. The notion that government costs can not be reduced is ridiculous – give me a room full of retired, miserly old accountants and we could cut the budget by a third in no time, without reducing services.  And for crying out loud, could we please at least pass a budget?