A taxing statistic
I almost became a statistic the other day.
I sat down the other night and did my taxes — why rush into things, as my friend Bill put it — and was startled to find that I owed almost $500 in federal taxes. I always expect to owe a little bit, as I have absolutely no assets to speak of, but $500 was a lot more than I was expecting. I then did my state taxes, which, I was relieved to discover, contained no surprises — as usual, I owed the state about $100.
Puzzled, I did my federal taxes again. I studied my W-2. For some reason, I’d withheld less money in 2009 than in 2008. But since I hadn’t changed the amount of money I withhold, I couldn’t understand why this had happened. The whole thing remained a mystery until a friend reminded me that the federal government had instructed employers to reduce the amount of federal withholding deducted from workers’ paychecks over the last year, as part of the stimulus act passed last year by Congress. The idea was to put a little extra more money in workers’ pockets.
“But now I owe more money,” I complained.
I did some googling, and learned that the reduction in federal withholding is actually part of a new tax credit, called Making Work Pay, that deducts $400 from the total tax bill for individual filers and $800 for married couples. Well, that certainly makes a difference! Like, a difference of about $400. Last night I ran home, re-did my taxes and tore up my $500 check. It felt great! I still owe money, but it’s so much less than what I was planning to pay that it actually feels like I got a refund, which hasn’t happened in about 10 years.. “Let’s go out for drinks,” I said to a friend.
Naturally, I felt like a fool for screwing up my taxes, but then I stumbled across a New York Times article that says that confusion over the new tax credit has resulted in errors in approximately 4 million returns. (Read it here.) So apparently I’m not alone. In any case, I take some comfort in knowing I made the same dumb mistake as millions of other people.
THE WORLD’S NEW DUMBEST HUMAN
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t been proven guilty of anything, or even faced criminal charges, but you’ve got to wonder about a guy who’s been the subject of two allegations of sexual misconduct since winning the Super Bowl in 2008. After the first allegation, you might try keeping a lower profile. Like, maybe stay out of college bars. Even Terry Bradshaw thinks Roethlisberger should wise up. (Click here.)
Anyway, this week the Steelers traded away Roethlisberger’s favorite target, receiver Santonio Holmes, who is also a bit of an idiot, having, among other things, violated the league’s substance abuse policy (he’ll miss the first four games of the season) and been accused of throwing a glass at a woman in a Florida and cutting her above the eye. (A witness has taken responsibility for this, according to Holmes’ lawyer.) This trade, according to Yahoo NFL writer Jason Cole, is the direct result of Holmes’ and Roethlisberger’s combined stupidity. “Ultimately, Holmes has some qualities that make him a truly elite player,” Cole writes. “Sadly, his penchant for irresponsible behavior is undermining what could be a great career. The other sad part about this is that Roethlisberger may have indirectly forced the Steelers to part with Holmes, who is going into the final season of his five-year contract, faster than they wanted. While it is impossible to quantify, the fact that Roethlisberger got in trouble just before Holmes’ latest shenanigans, it’s hard not to believe that Steelers management is getting a little weary of bad publicity these days.” (Read more here.)
I’m a little weary of the bad publicity, and I don’t even like the Steelers. Even if the case has been dropped, the details are troubling. As ESPN’s Jeffri Chadiha wrote, “Roethlisberger must be punished swiftly. He must be disciplined in a way that makes sense to anybody who heard [District Attorney Fred] Bright recount details of the alleged sexual encounter with a 20-year-old college student in March. You simply couldn’t listen to this story and expect Roethlisberger to walk away unscathed even now that Bright has decided not to charge him with sexual assault. ... [Bright] laid as much of the story out there as he could, presumably so everybody could know this wasn’t merely a case of an aspiring gold digger missing out on a big payday from a reckless star athlete. The most revealing details involved Roethlisberger’s allegedly buying an already inebriated girl (and her friends) shots, then meeting her in a bathroom. Even without knowing what happened next, Bright’s detailed account had to make the hairs on the back of [NFL Commissioner Roger] Goodell’s neck snap to attention.”
(Read more here.)
There are plenty of superstar millionaire athletes who have never been accused of sexual misconduct. Maybe Roethlisberger could learn something from them. Of course, maybe he could have learned something when he was accused of rape in Lake Tahoe in 2008. (When you’re a two-time Superbowl winner and the Wikipedia entry on your “off-field headlines” is almost as long as the one on your career accomplishments, it’s not good.) But he didn’t. Which is why he’s currently the world’s dumbest human.
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