Tax time

You can have no idea just how traumatized I am about money until you have seen me at tax time.

H&R Block managed to reduce my alleged gross income of over $68,000 to a taxable income of less than $14,000 (these amounts come from the profit and loss statement the tax preparer created). Most of the difference is in mileage and commissions, the latter being a part I never even see: Uber and Lyft deduct those before paying me. This brought my amount due to just barely within the amount I managed to accumulate, even with a late tax due date.

But I am a wreck. I had trouble even printing out the return, printing out the payment vouchers last night. Then I couldn’t sleep. Today I had trouble managing the self-service machine at the post office to mail (priority mail, certified—I do not trust snail mail) the returns and an application to renew income-based repayment plan for my student loans.

But simultaneous with this is my abject fury that, even with a Ph.D.,[1] the only job I can get is driving for Uber and Lyft.[2] I have no grand aspiration to be a misclassified “independent contractor” in a scam California, New Jersey, and now Massachusetts have at least attempted to crack down on,[3] not even any desire to be in business for myself.

And when tax time comes, I’m having to deal with all the complexity of a situation I don’t even remotely want, following a life of near-continuous impoverishment in which my sole significant achievement is that precious Ph.D., a life in which so-called “friends,” even when they pull down six-figure incomes, seem to think my poverty is just fine.

So here it is: I make less than $14,000 per year, working seven days a week, almost always at least six hours a day, often a lot longer. I’m making about five bucks an hour, maybe less (I don’t keep track of my hours). This, having worked as a driver on and off since the 1990s. And not just this neoliberal economic system, but this society thinks that’s just fine.

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Human Science: The mother of the social sciences,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/the-mother-of-the-social-sciences/
  2. [2]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/
  3. [3]Tina Bellon, “Massachusetts sues Uber, Lyft over driver status as contractors,” Reuters, July 14, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-uber-lawsuit-massachusetts-idUSKCN24F2OX; Sophia Bollag, “California Uber, Lyft drivers to become employees under measure Gov. Gavin Newsom says he’ll sign,” Sacramento Bee, September 11, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article234973107.html; Alexia Fernández Campbell, “California is cracking down on the gig economy,” Vox, May 30, 2019, https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/5/30/18642535/california-ab5-misclassify-employees-contractors; Aaron Gordon, “Uber And Lyft Don’t Have A Right To Exist,” Jalopnik, August 30, 2019, https://jalopnik.com/uber-and-lyft-dont-have-a-right-to-exist-1837680434; Aaron Gordon, “Uber To California: Make Us,” Jalopnik, September 11, 2019, https://jalopnik.com/uber-and-lyft-drivers-shouldnt-expect-to-be-employees-a-1838048966; Matthew Haag and Patrick McGeehan, “Uber Fined $649 Million for Saying Drivers Aren’t Employees,” New York Times, November 14, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/14/nyregion/uber-new-jersey-drivers.html; Hastings College of the Law, “UC Hastings Professor, Academic Leaders Call for Support of AB5,” August 26, 2019, https://www.uchastings.edu/2019/08/26/uc-hastings-professor-academic-leaders-call-for-support-of-ab5/; Nathan Heller, “A New California Law Takes Aim at Uber and Lyft,” New Yorker, September 12, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-silicon-valley/a-new-california-law-takes-aim-at-uber-and-lyft; Robert Maxim and Mark Muro, “Uber’s IPO fallout underscores the need for a new labor model,” Brookings, May 23, 2019, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2019/05/23/ubers-ipo-fallout-underscores-the-need-for-a-new-labor-model/; Diane Mulcahy, “California’s New Gig Economy Law Is All Bark, No Bite,” Forbes, September 20, 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/dianemulcahy/2019/09/20/californias-new-gig-economy-law-is-all-bark-no-bite/; John Myers, Johana Bhuiyan, and Margot Roosevelt, “Newsom signs bill rewriting California employment law, limiting use of independent contractors,” Los Angeles Times, September 18, 2019, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-09-18/gavin-newsom-signs-ab5-employees0independent-contractors-california; Lia Russell, “The Silicon Valley Economy Is Here. And It’s a Nightmare,” New Republic, January 16, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/156202/silicon-valley-economy-here-its-nightmare

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