Friday, May 24, 2013

Real Men Don't Type

I was just listening to a segment of NPR's Science Friday on teaching seniors how to deal with computers, and a man named Andy called in with a story about his 80 year old father, who is an accountant, and who has for thirty years refused to learn to use computers.  He still does accounts on paper.  Andy complained that his father is underemployed for that reason, and he couldn't understand why all their efforts to convince him to change had failed.

In the late 1970s I worked for one of the (then) Big Eight accounting firms.  I was their office librarian and records manager.  And I remember a phenomenon that may explain Andy's father's reluctance, which he may not have thought of.  This was when personal computers were just coming in; I remember "borrowing" the Apple IIe that the consulting arm had bought, so I could put my department budget onto Visicalc instead of 17 column ledger.

The consultants, as you may gather, were perfectly happy to play with this new toy, but I remember that the older accounting partners were very very reluctant.  And it was obvious then why:  in that era, businessmen did not type.  They didn't use keyboards at all; the closest they came to a keyboard was a 10-key adding machine (and you haven't seen fast until you've seen one of these guys adding a column!).  They dictated or wrote notes to their secretaries, and the secretaries typed, and brought the documents in for review and correction, and retyped if needed.

So these men wouldn't use computers because they couldn't type, and it would have been a major loss of face to try to type and fail.  Andy's father is about the age of the partners I'm talking about, they were in their early 50's and up. He may not want to use a computer for the simple reason that he never learned to type and at 80 years of age, he may not even have the manual dexterity to learn any more.  Andy, he's 80; just leave him alone.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Fix the Damn Tax Code

I can't stand this any more.  I have to speak out.

Senators Levin and McCain are yelling at Apple because they don't think it pays enough taxes, and it has "offshore entities" that have "no legal residence for tax purposes."

Everything Apple did was LEGAL under the U.S. Tax Code.

The Senate Finance Committee is freaking out at the IRS because of the way it audited some Tea Party "social welfare" organizations, trying to find out if they were doing enough political lobbying to invalidate their tax-exempt status.

Nothing I've seen suggests anything more than an overzealous first-line IRS employee trying to establish the rules for a legal entity that shouldn't exist anyhow.

All you congresspersons and senators trying to make publicity points out there:  YOU wrote the tax code.  Most of you have been in office for at least 20 years.  You built this mess.  Now you're complaining that you don't like it.

Well, go and fix it.  You, Congressmen and Senators, are the only people who can fix the tax code, but instead of doing some actual work (negotiating what a tax code ought to look like, for instance), you'd rather sit around and yell publicly about the awfulness of corporate tax evasion.

The tax code is what it is because Your Corporate Masters told you they wanted all those loopholes - and you obediently set the loopholes up.  Why else would the tax code allow corporations to stash money overseas and not pay tax on it?

The whole 501(c)(4) tax entity exists because some large donors wanted a way to collect tax-exempt money, without revealing their donors, and still be able to do some political organizing as long as they could say it "wasn't the primary activity."  And the Tea Party groups wanted to set them up because political organizing is their primary activity; it's what the Tea Party does.  Tell me one real piece of "social welfare" work any 501(c)(4) organization has done.  When I see one of them running a soup kitchen I'll believe the "social welfare" bunk.  For that group.

So, outraged Senators and Representatives, until you fix what's wrong with the tax code, I don't want to hear one more word out of you about the awfulness of corporate tax evasion or the terrible abuse the IRS heaped on the poor Tea Party.