Thursday, June 28, 2012

Part one. Tax Freedom is a Misnomer

Part one. Tax Freedom is a Misnomer
Tax Freedom Day is the day when Americans have earned enough money to pay off their total tax bill for the year; symbolically of course. Tax Freedom Day represents payment of all taxes, Federal, State, Local, and corporate; for example, FICA, income, sales, property etc., at all levels. 

In 2012, New Jersey taxpayers worked until May 1 (ranked 2nd nationally) to pay their total tax bill. The Tax Freedom Days of neighboring states are: Connecticut, May 5 (ranked first); Delaware, April 17 (ranked 17th); Pennsylvania, April 18 (ranked 14th); and New York, also May 1 (tied with New Jersey). (1) Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey have had the highest tax burdens in the country for some time.   

So, although I never would have guessed it, our tax burden is just as bad as New York’s, and that’s saying something, especially if you’ve driven on their roads.  At least NJ has good roads for the most part, and our sales tax is lower. Another way to visualize Tax Freedom Day for New Jerseyans is to say you worked 121 days, or 33% of the year, to pay all your taxes. Of course, we pay taxes every day in some form or another, so Tax Freedom Day is just symbolic. But as we all know by now, our vaunted American society couldn’t get far without taxes.    
 (1) Source: the Tax Foundation.
As a society, spreading societal dollars around to those who need it, and paying for good education and government services, whether State or local, will always be needed. Taxes are essential to government and order. Laws are needed, hence the lawmakers and enforcement agencies. Standards are needed, hence the standards making bodies like ANSI, the American National Standards Institute, responsible for tens of thousands of standards from the size of pipe threads, to computer languages.

Also there’s IEEE, pronounced “eye-triple-e,” which is the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers, the world’s largest professional organization.  Or even UL, Underwriters Laboratories, which promotes product safety among other standards. All of them promote commerce and enterprise to an extent not possible without them.
Regulation is needed as well, just like the corner traffic light, a combination of standards and regulations, or obtaining a driver’s license for the privilege to run through one. Standards and regulations are all necessary until circumstances change and they can be amended to conform to the exigencies of the time. Take the worst example, legal slavery, now universally banned and condemned. Britain banned it in 1833, a law of the best kind.

Yet slavery is worse than it’s ever been because of illegal trafficking, slave labor, forced labor, and pittances for wages in many countries. So laws, regulations, and standards are only as good as the people that make them and adhere to them. Yet the crime rate in the US continues to decrease. Are we getting better? Not according to the evening news we’re not. More on New Jersey taxes in Part two, Paying Taxes.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Consumers Need Computer Use Protections!

Hi, how are you today? I could be much better. I love my Dell Win 7 Pro/Office Pro, 64 bit Inspiron. But the hard drive crashed after only 15 months new! This set off countless hours of internet and internal searching and diagnoses before I called Dell. Luckily I have a two year warranty, so their help was free. I must say the two reps I worked with, for almost four hours all told, were excellent, clear, knowledgeable, polite and patient. Overall it was a good experience and things worked out the best they could. First he Dell independent contractor came within two days of my call and installed the new drive within 10 minutes, got Windows started, and left.  Then I called Dell again because the Windows Restore, was not loading my backup files from My Passport. But Saiyed got that problem solved after many hours of him working on it remotely. But of course, I have a few gripes about their process.

Luckily I had gone online before my system crashed and printed out the Dell Consumer In-Home Hardware Service Agreement, so I knew a little about what to expect before I placed my first call.  That was helpful and so I was prepared, which made it easier. The service agreement only covers the hardware and the operating system and any software I purchased with the system, and I certainly understood that. Luckily, by policy, when I opened the box their was a Do Not Discard card with my MS Office Pro Product Key, so I have the right to reinstall that.  I had to call Dell a second time, and they helped me download that from Microsoft.

Here's where it gets fuzzy. First, when the tech came to install the new hard drive, there was no paperwork at all.  No signoff, no indication he was taking the old drive, no description of the new drive, nothing.  That's very loosey-goosey. I was just so grateful he was there, I only asked a few questions. "What software is being installed?" I asked.  The tech replied "We have a record of your system as purchased, and this new hard drive was imaged by Dell with everything."  Well, that turned out to be semi-true.  When I got the system up, my McAfee, Office Pro, Skype, Adobe Reader and other programs were not pre-installed.  So, like I said, I had to figure out to call Dell, and they then helped me download the few software products that came with the system, but it truly wasn't a "system image." They would've also downloaded my McAfee, but that had just expired, and I thought I might switch to free AVG anyway.So now I have to call those vendors and chase each one of them down. Actually, when we were working on my restore, I ask the Dell tech about it, and he said "You'll have to go to the manufacturer or load from your program disks." This is a real problem since most of my other software, being a few years old, I couldn't find product keys, disks, paperwork or anything.  So I'll let you know how getting all them back works out. Dell also helped download my Acrobat Reader, and i installed Skpe, both free.

So it was a little disconcerting flying by the seat of my pants with no instructions, and I'm only a middlin' user. First no paperwork on the drive swap and how to restart Windows, which they should have given me. Second, failure to image that new drive with all my software like the tech had said, and failure to provide directions on getting it all back to snuff. Actually, the huge third problem, is that they didn't degauss the old hard drive while I watched.  Now I'm really concerned about the files I had on it!

Anyway, more on this saga next week, when I hope I'm done. After all, my first old hard drive failure was on May 16, so it's only been two weeks so far working on this.  Maybe I'll be done by mid-June? Let me know how you think these companies could improve their processes.