How I Spent Super Tuesday
by mgee, Wed Feb 06, 2008 at 04:51:24 PM EST
I'm a new poster on mydd, but I've lurked since 2004. (Strictly off and on - if I'm a political junkie, I'm a fair weather political junkie.)
This isn't a story about my voting experience, or the caucus I attended. It's not a tale of slogging through wind/rain/snow/tornadoes to volunteer for my preferred candidate. I don't live in a Super Tuesday state. (Well - there was some Super Tuesday news from my home, but it was the least democratic of any of the contests held anywhere at home or abroad in either party on February 5. Perhaps that's enough to guess where I am?)
So I didn't vote. I didn't volunteer. Instead, running late, I left the office around 5:45 p.m. and headed to the public library where I spent the next three hours preparing tax returns for people who make less than $40,000 per year. There were six volunteers there last night. I'm not sure how many returns we prepared - maybe 18, maybe 20? - as there are always people whom we can't help, or can't help just then. (Consider the woman - an immigrant - whose husband has his return prepared at H&R Block, where they tell him to file married filing separately in order to maximize his itemized deductions and sell him tax preparation services and a refund-anticipation loan, without ensuring that he understands that this has consequences for his wife, too. She's going to come back next week, with a copy of her husband's return, so that we can figure out how much he's 'saving' with that option, and compare it to how much it will cost her. How's that for "people" on your "side"?)
H&R Block charges low income Americans about $150 a person to prepare the most basic of tax returns. Then, they turn around and (often) sell their customers unnecessary refund anticipation loans at exorbitant interest rates. Why unnecessary? - Well, the IRS acts pretty quickly on e-filed returns, especially when the taxpayer elects to have his or her refund directly deposited into a bank account.
So: fifteen people, maybe twenty. I finished four, maybe five. Or six? Maybe it was six. Most of my clients were single people, no dependents, with several different jobs. There were a couple of other clients who didn't have all the information we needed. They'll be back next week, or the week after. Or I'll see them at one of the Saturday sites. I did a return for a housekeeper at the local university, and a gentleman, fifty-something, in a retraining program learning to become a woodworker. I helped a couple of nursing assistants from a local nursing home, and an eighteen year old working as a sales clerk and telemarketer. None of these folks made more than $18,000 last year.
So, in the post-mortem from Tsunami Tuesday - in the headachy aftermath of all that work, and all that energy - I just wanted to share my evening, and remind folks that there are other outlets for some of our political energies - direct ways that we can help real, actual, physical people in need.
P.S. - we have to ask everyone whether they want $3 to go to the presidential election campaign fund. Mostly, people say NO! or HELL NO! - but last year (probably March or April 2007), one of our clients - a single, middle aged woman who fit every country stereotype - told me that she did want to contribute to the presidential election campaign fund, because she really liked Hillary Clinton, and wanted her to win.