Making your complaints count

Funny, the things that stick in your brain. A few weeks ago, I heard about a bunch of couch potatoes who were so outraged at the way Tiger Woods stood behind his ball to tap in a putt at the Masters that they were moved to call the network to complain.

The “charges” -- for a one-inch putt -- were discounted.

Then there are all the Vox Populi calls that the Morning News continues to run -- year after year -- about the proverbial man on Whitfield Avenue who doesn’t signal before turning, the nasty woman on Broughton Street who throws trash on the ground, the ignorant couple in Forsyth Park who allows their dog off the leash. Horrors.

And don’t forget the indignant calls we get when we dial someone by mistake and -- following an old habit -- hang up the phone without speaking only to get a return call demanding to know why we called and what did we mean by calling them like that.

I made a mistake, OK? I’ll never do it again. I promise!

There’s a whole list of things people frequently complain about -- no carts at the grocery store, the price of gas, a piece of lost mail (among the millions of pieces that do get delivered), junk mail, junk email, junk telemarketing.

But come the April Tax Day, the only thing I hear people fuss about is getting the package mailed out on time. My accountant wouldn’t even let me complain about the check I was writing to Uncle. “If you have to write a check,” she said, clearly exhausted, “it means you made money.”

At the risk of sounding like a third-grader, “But what about everyone else? What about all the companies that don’t pay any taxes at all? Not fair.”

Specifically, what about all the corporations we keep hearing about, way past 50 percent now, who don’t bother writing any check? What about the tax breaks their executives get every time they fly a company jet to vacations in the Bahamas or drive a new Hummer to a golf outing? Both legitimate tax deductions.

As columnist Molly Ivins wrote lately after reading David Cay Johnston’s book, Perfectly Legal - The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super-Rich and Cheat Everyone Else (now there’s a topic you won’t be seeing on reality TV), people making $60,000 a year (that would not be me) paid a larger share of their 2001 income in federal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes than a family making $25 million.

The latest Internal Revenue Service data, Johnson continues, also shows that people making $400,000 paid a larger share of their incomes than the 7,000 households who made $10 million or more. Not fair!

My first question is, where’s their patriotism now? My second question is, where is the outrage from the rest of us about this? Or do we enjoy subsidizing the super-rich? Do we like bequeathing our earnings to the big corporations?

Ivins also notes something else: the IRS’s computer system was installed when John Kennedy was president. That should tell you something about how serious they are about catching the big guys. And, when the IRS oversight board asked for money to go after these cheaters, both Congress and President Bush refused.

No surprise there. This is a president who spends our money galavanting around the country talking to prescreened audiences who are recruited to sit and listen to panelists who have been rehearsed on what to say.

This is a president whose administration provides TV stations with hundreds of video news releases created to simulate actual news reports. Outrageous! And we thought George Orwell’s 1984 was crazy.

The other crazy thing here is that major networks run these pieces as if their own reporters were filing the stories. Thank goodness there is the start of an independent voice, especially Check it out.

While we’re talking about fairness and money, is it too much of a stretch to move over to the issue of equal wages for women? Is that a subject to get angry about? Let’s just say that based on the 76 cents a woman makes to a man’s dollar, she would have to work three months and 19 days longer in a year to earn the same amount. Fair?

Using those statistics, someone figured out that over a lifetime, the average working woman gets bilked out of $523,000. That’s not even counting pensions, which are based on salaries.

Maybe it’s time for companies to make a list -- in the privacy of their own offices, on yellow legal paper, not in the computer, so it can’t be traced- - of what their male employees and female employees make. And then do something about balancing the totals.

Maybe it’s time to redirect our anger toward the things that count the most. That would not be the way Tiger Woods taps in a putt.

E-mail Jane at

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