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., the only job I can get is driving for Uber and Lyft. 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, 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.
- David Benfell, “Human Science: The mother of the social sciences,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/the-mother-of-the-social-sciences/↩
- David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/↩
- 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↩