It turns out that your little bundle of joy is going to cost you a big bundle of cash.
That’s according to a recently released U.S. Department of Agriculture report calculating the average cost of raising a child born in 2012. Accounting for food, shelter, schooling and other basic necessities, the report estimates that from birth to age 18, a kid will rack up a total bill of about $241,080, or just shy of $13,400 per year. When adjusted for inflation, that total translates to more like $302,000, or about $16,800 per year. And no, that does not include college. Continue reading →
And for that reason, most of us have flocked to clothing stores like H&M and Old Navy for the unbelievably cheap and expansive selection they offer.
T-shirts for five bucks; jeans and dresses for under $20. It’s almost like you can’t afford to not buy it.
Clothing is cheaper now than it’s ever been: today average Americans spend less than four percent of their total income on their wardrobes, about half what was spent 50 years ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
It’s almost cheaper today to buy a whole new wardrobe than to pay to wash your old one (a bit of an exaggeration, yes, but really not all that far off).
But you know the saying that there’s no such thing as a free lunch? Same thing goes with your $5 t-shirt – it comes with some steep hidden costs. There’s no possible way retailers like H&M could be making billions in profits selling clothing at such low prices without there being some catch.
Benjamin Franklin once famously wrote: “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
Well, the deadline for the latter inevitability (and hopefully not the former) is just around the corner.
For many Americans, mid-April means last minute scrambling and groaning, a last ditch effort to get taxes filed by the April 15 deadline.
So what happens to all that hard-earned cash of yours?
The federal budget – on which the government operates – consists mainly of revenue from income taxes and payroll taxes. In an effort to demystify what the government actually does with that cash, Google and Eyebeam last year put out a call to graphic designers and developers to help visualize how our federal income tax dollars are spent. The Data Viz Challenge, as it was called, drew some very cool entries, including the following interactives (click on each to explore the multimedia versions).
Where Did All My Tax Dollars Go?
Designed by Anil Kandangath, this won first place in the contest. It allows users to enter their income and view a clear breakdown of what services that money went towards.
Every Day Is Tax Day
Designed by Fred Chasen, this project took second place in the contest. It allows viewers to explore how many hours they actually spend working directly for the government over the course of a year, and what programs that cash funds.
Much of President Obama’s State of the Union address last Tuesday centered on the theme of boosting America’s dwindling middle class.
“It’s our generation’s task,” he implored, “to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth — a rising, thriving middle class.”
Among the more tangible policies mentioned that evening to further that objective, the president proposed raising the federal minimum wage – from $7.25 per hour to $9 by the end of 2015 – and provide for annual cost of living adjustments. (This would apply to most hourly jobs, with some exceptions, including some tip-based work.)
“Let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty,” he said. “Working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up, while CEO pay has never been higher. So here’s an idea that Gov. Romney and I actually agreed on last year: Let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.” Continue reading →
Wait … Californians actually voted to tax increase their own taxes?
Get outta here!
Like most Americans, California residents don’t look too kindly on the notion of raising taxes. In fact, voters have rejected statewide tax measures the last seven times they’ve been on the ballot!
So in many ways, it’s pretty miraculous that on Tuesday 54 percent of California’s electorate approved Proposition 30, which temporarily increases sales tax for everyone by a quarter cent and raises income taxes for those making over $250,000. The measure, which Governor Jerry Brown crafted and threw himself behind, is expected to raise about $6 billion a year and prevent massive cuts to the state’s already beleaguered public education system.
“I know a lot of people had some doubts and some questions: Can you really go to the people and ask them to vote for a tax?” Brown told supporters at the victory party late Tuesday night. “Well here we are. We have a vote of the people – I think the only place in America where a state actually said, let’s raise our taxes for our kids, our schools, for our California dream.”
And he was right. In a state where voters haven’t approved a tax hike in almost three decades, the very real threat of huge cuts to education appears to have actually resonated with voters.
The consensus seemed to be: “Yes, taxes suck, but some things are just too important to lose.”
The temporary nature of the tax, also, likely made the measure more palatable to voters.
Interestingly, it was younger voters who turned out in force on Tuesday in support of the measure. Voters ages 18-29 – who Brown and his campaign targeted – made up almost 30 percent of the electorate and were critical in pushing the measure through.
Includes our first original animation on California's tax system!
Taxes. Not too many folks like paying ‘em, and even fewer understand what they’re actually paying for. In November, California voters will decide on two major competing tax measures – Proposition 30 and 38. The initiatives are both intended to shield public schools from devastating budget cuts, although they each propose to do so in pretty different ways. Deciding which path makes the most sense requires first understanding the basics of California’s tax system. Pretty enticing, huh? Well, before we lose your attention to the latest gripping cat flick on YouTube, at least take a quick look at this animation produced by freelancer Josh Kurz. It’s a surprisingly digestible primer on a topic that’s admittedly pretty freakin’ dry … but one that’s also got some pretty huge real life consequences for almost all of us. (Scroll down to see another KQED video and detailed summaries on both propositions)
Individuals and organizations are spending millions in this election to win support for, or to defeat, a variety of propositions on California’s ballot. Anyone who’s watched even a smidgen of TV in the last two months can attest to the inundation of prop commercials out there. Often times, the names, affiliations, and locations of the big funders (who are oftentimes out-of-state groups) are left intentionally vague – organizations like Americans for Responsible Leadership, a conservative Arizona-based group that’s donated $11 million in favor of Prop 32. Such opaqueness makes it nearly impossible, from the ads alone, to decipher a funder’s political affiliation or long-term agenda. So, a little sleuthing can go a long way to find out who’s behind what. Bottom line: you always gotta follow the money! And the Vote’s Edge project at MapLight – a nonpartisan, nonprofit research firm – makes it pretty easy to do just that. Check out their cash flow tracking app.
Source: Center for Responsive Politics (www.opensecrets.org)
The 2012 presidential and congressional elections will cost roughly $5.8 billion, making it the most expensive in U.S. history. That’s according to estimates by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which predicts about a 7 percent increase from 2008′s $5.4 billion price tag. The presidential race, alone, CRP estimates, will cost about $2.5 billion.
$5.8 billion! That’s nearly twice the state of Wyoming’s entire 2012 budget!
The biggest difference in this year’s election is the sharp rise in contributions – and influence – from outside groups, namely Super PACs. Remember that the current races – both presidential and congressional – are the first in which the new, post-Citizens United rules will be in effect. While outside spending groups did exist in previous presidential election cycles, significant legal developments, including the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision – which determined that political spending is a form of protected speech and lifted spending limitations for corporations and unions – have led to a rapid rise in super PACs and other outside spending groups that don’t have to disclose their donors. And that means a deluge of negative campaign ads paid for by organization’s you’ve probably never heard of. Continue reading →