Thursday, March 19, 2009

Is the Arkansas tax code archaic or draconian?

As usual, I'm hopping mad.

That happens regularly, of course, but I'm angrier than normal. Dig this.

A few weeks ago, we bought my wife a new Toyota Sienna minivan. Rather than finance the sales tax on the thing, we decided to go ahead and just pay it.

This week, then, we wrote a check for $1,900 to cover the taxes on the thing. Had we not been able to deduct the value of the trade in (a 2000 Saturn that my wife has driven to death), we would have paid $2,900 in sales taxes.

So, just what the hell is going on here? Why in God's name are sales taxes on new vehicles so high in Arkansas?

Before I tackle all of that, let me mention a couple of things. The maximum sales tax on a new vehicle in this state is 11.5 percent, meaning Arkansas might be one of the poorest states in the country, yet buying a new car here costs more than it does in most other parts of the nation.

Figuring out which state has the highest tax rate can get a bit confusing as it is fairly common to find a low tax rate -- or no tax at all -- on vehicles, but registration fees might be high. In Arizona, for example, you get the worst of both worlds -- a maximum sales tax of 10.73 percent and a registration fee of $568. In Arkansas, at least it only costs $34 a year to register my wife's van.

Regardless, there are a lot of states that choose low registration fees and low sales taxes. That, it seems, is the wise approach to take when you're dealing with a struggling economy. If it is urgent to convince people to run out and buy things like new vehicles, why on earth would you choose to tax the heck out of them?

And, folks, this new sales tax is very recent and came about as the result of the shell game that all politicians just love to play. About a decade ago, a serious movement was afoot to get rid of the sales tax on food in Arkansas.

Gov. Mike Beebe, when he was running for office back in 2006, promised to cut the sales tax on groceries. He kept his promise and cut it down to 3 percent. Of course, the governor and our legislators crowed about how great that all was.

What they weren't so vocal about was that the tax was simply shifted to other things. Therefore, taxes on new cars went through the roof, meaning that sales tax on groceries doesn't benefit you one whit if you run out and buy a new car (we charge sales tax on used cars here, too, but that's another story).

I'm not sure if cutting taxes in one area and jacking them up in others is a tax break at all. It's more of a con, really, but none of us should be surprised. The government is great at stealing our money, but not too keen on cutting us a bit of slack when times are tough.

That's just how things go here in Arkansas. Here's another example of how screwed up taxes are here. As part of my job, I'm in charge of my organization's trade magazine. We've printed that thing in Missouri for years.

Why? Because we don't have to pay sales tax in Missouri, but we do have to pay it if we're dealing with a printer based in Arkansas. Would we like to go with a local printer? Of course we would. However, we're also very interested on finding a printer that will produce a quality magazine at the lowest price possible (that's just good business).

We've solicited bids for years from Arkansas printers, but they simply can't compete in terms of price. It's odd that this state would be so hostile toward its own companies, but that's the reality that printers -- and most businesses -- functioning in this state have to deal with on a daily basis.

It's worth mentioning that we have found an Arkansas printer to take over our magazine, but that company had to cut its quote to the bone and I'm certain it won't realize much of a profit out of our contract. I'm certain, however, that particular company is thrilled to help support a state government that is downright hostile toward it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bum-rush the site!

Bloggers, of course, want traffic, but what's a good way to get it?

My favorite way to drive traffic to the li'l ole blog is Entrecard -- a site that has brought a lot of visitors here to The Natural State Hawg and enabled me to easily wade through the garbage and find some great bloggers.

Of course, it's a good idea to search around for some other sites that will drive traffic your way. A pretty good one I've found is EasyHits4U, a site that gives you credits for visiting sites. Those credits can be assigned to your blog or blogs so that you get traffic.

The site works pretty well and I got a ton of traffic after messing with the site for about an hour. That's not bad at all.

There are a couple of problems with EasyHits4U, however. For one thing, members over there seem to burn through their credits by the end of the day, so finding sites to surf on and earn credits gets difficult when only one or two hours is remaining before midnight.

Second, some of us participating in traffic exchanges hope to find some good blogs to read while we're working to attract visitors. There are far too many sites at EasyHits4U that promote those blasted get "rich quick schemes" that are annoyingly common on the Internet.

Are some of them legitimate? Perhaps, but you'll quit trying to figure that out in a hurry because the chances of getting ripped off are far too great. For example, let's say you run across a site with a blurb like this:

I'm not one of those "get rich quick" Internet guys. No, I'm just a normal cat like you. But I've got a system -- a system that anyone can use to make $100,000 a week for just 10 seconds a day of work on the Internet! I'm not just blowing smoke here or promising you something that's too good to be true. It really works! Since developing my system, I've bought a Jaguar, a mansion in a neighborhood so exclusive the Pope can't even visit and I've had a ridiculously beautiful android wife built who keeps my house clean, does what she's told, cooks my dinner and ... other things (ah, yeah!)

Do you want what I have? Do you want that Jaguar, mansion in a Pope-free neighborhood and sex toy of an android wife? Do you want to work only 10 seconds a day so you have time to enjoy those things? Fill out the below form and I'll show you how to get it all for the low, low price of $19.95. WHAT??? That's pocket change! How can I offer my system for such a low price? Am I insane? Maybe, but I'm also rich and I don't care.

Seriously, after reading a couple of those how likely are you to pay attention to the third one that comes along?

The problem with EasyHits4U is a lack of blogs that people actually want to read, interact with and visit regularly. Sure, there are a few of them over there, but not nearly enough of them.

That's where you, happy blogger, come in. Want to get some more traffic and give poor slobs like me something interesting to read? Then click right here, sign up and get busy.

Bum-rush the site, kids! Get after it...

A warning!

According to Sheila over at The Ad Master, getting involved with EasyHits4U might be enough to get someone banned from Google Adsense. Frankly, I don't care if I get booted off Adsense or not because those ads get clicked maybe 10 times a week, anyway. It's no great loss as far as I can see.

However, I do want to pass on Sheila's warning. It's certainly something for people who find Adsense beneficial to consider.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Watch Dog? More like Watch Hawg!

Folks, I had a heck of a time today -- I was a Watch Dog at my daughter's school.

Don't we look happy in the photo? Doesn't she look like the kind of little girl who could talk her daddy into anything? Brenda is able to talk me into all sorts of things, indeed, so it didn't take much pleading to get me to sign up as a Watch Dog.

Now, I preferred to think of myself as a Watch Hawg today, but that doesn't really matter much. Here's what does matter -- my eight-year-old daughter had a great time and will remember my being a Watch Dog (or Hawg) at her school for quite some time.

So, what is a Watch Dog? You can find out a ton of information about that national program right here. If you'd rather not wade through all those details, I'll just mention that the Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) was designed so that fathers could volunteer a day to hang around their kids' schools and help out where they can.

In my case, that meant I spent all day roaming around the school, helping kids read, talking a bit about my public relations job (which, as it turns out, is pretty boring as far as kids are concerned) and being climbed on at recess.

Recess is what killed me. My daughter started climbing on me. Her friends followed her lead and starting climbing on me, too. I wound up giving out some piggy back rides, pushing girls on swings and generally being used as a jungle gym for a good part of the day.

My daughter, by the way, said one teacher told the kids to "quit climbing on the Watch Dog" when they lined up to go back into the school after one recess. Apparently, that order didn't take.

The whole thing was tiring. In fact, being in a school full of energetic kids all day is tiring. I've always thought teachers should be paid more and now I'm convinced than ever that they do deserve raises. I don't know how many of you have been to an elementary school lately, but the threat of anarchy is everywhere and those teachers manage to keep everything running smoothly. Those teachers work hard and deserve more cash than they get.

Frankly, I'll be glad to get back to my office in the morning -- sitting at my desk, dealing with the phone and sipping coffee will be relaxing compared to toting kids around and contending with insane energy levels.

Regardless, I'm glad I volunteered a day to be a Watch Dog at Caldwell Elementary. I came away impressed with the work those teachers are doing with my daughter and was pleased to learn that my daughter has made some pretty good friends there.

Who watches the Watch Hawg?

Apparently, my daughter is a bit of a discipline problem. She's always getting notes home from school that, essentially, paint a picture of a charming little girl who just has trouble following the rules. It became clear to me today that I may be at fault.

Why? There's this elevator, see. The kids aren't supposed to ride on the elevator at school. My daughter mentioned that rule doesn't apply to Watch Dogs, so I took her on an elevator ride. One of her friends wanted to ride on the elevator, so I thought, "Why not?"

By the end of the day, my daughter and two other girls would talk me into riding on the elevator every time I got close to it. They thought it was great and I enjoyed the "fun dad" status.

And, folks, I got ratted out. That's right. Some kid tattled on me. I didn't get in any trouble, of course, but I started wondering what would happen if a teacher decided I needed some discipline. Would they call my wife?

"Mrs. Nobles," the teacher might say. "Your husband is being a problem. You need to come up here and get him."

That would seem almost like old times. Yes, I was in trouble a lot back when I was in school. The most trouble I got into was when I was in the third, fourth or fifth grade (I can't remember for sure) and we were at a Valentine's Day play.

This little girl started reading a poem. "Will you be my Valentine?" she asked.

"No!" I yelled from the back of the auditorium.

The kids thought it was funny. I didn't. I got jerked out of the auditorium, got a paddling (I got a lot of those) and wound up having to write an essay on why what I did was wrong (truth be told, I wasn't a bit sorry -- nothing is too mean if it's funny enough, right?)

I was, indeed, a lovable rascal in school. I think my daughter might be walking in my footsteps there.

Musical Monday -- Public Image Ltd.

Johnny Rotten did some great stuff after leaving the Sex Pistols, huh?

Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. One simple rule, leave ONLY the actual post link here. You can grab this code at LJL Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted without prejudice.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Daylight savings time makes me hate the government even more

Yes, daylight savings time was inflicted on us a week ago and I still can't get used to it.

It's the same thing every year. We're directed to "spring forward" and I wind up with headaches, insomnia and exhaustion for a couple of weeks. Daylight savings time messes with me something fierce and I hate everything about it.

I hate waking up when it's still dark outside. I hate feeling wide awake when I should be in bed and dog tired when it's time to get up in the morning and head to work. I hate sleeping until about noon on the weekends because my sleep schedule has been ruined.

And daylight savings time has given me -- and a lot of other Americans, I'm sure -- another reason to dislike George W. Bush. That man pushed for extending daylight savings time so as to save energy, so we've got more weeks do deal with it.

Bush, on some level, has managed to either annoy or infuriate most of us. I hope we Republicans actually nominate an honest-to-goodness conservative in 2012. Conservatives tend to work toward limiting the power of the federal government rather than finding ways to use it to annoy and anger people. Leave that kind of nonsense to the Democrats.