See updates through November 8, 2021, at end of post.
Somehow, remarkably, I have a tax situation that’s too complicated for H&R Block—or as they seem to be styling themselves now, Block Advisors.
I have a tax situation that’s complicated because despite the fact I have a Ph.D., I’m stuck driving for Uber and Lyft, two companies whose prospects for profitability are dubious at best, but who seek to bolster their failing (and likely fraudulent) business models through fraudulent driver misclassification, enabling them to skate by without providing employee benefits even as many of their drivers make less than minimum wage, with a status quo the companies are spending hugely to try to legally enshrine in ever more places and which ever more corporations across ever more industries are seeking to adopt.
Because slavery really is the preferred capitalist labor relationship and my role is to serve as an example of what happens to people who expect anything better.
This is not even remotely a situation I wanted. All I’ve wanted, for twenty very long, very infuriating years, even as I returned to school, finished my Bachelors’ degree and did a Masters’ and a Ph.D., was a real job. You know, one that actually pays rent, for example. You know, one that would enable me to take some time off, maybe even go on vacation, instead of jeopardizing my health through overwork.
But rather than go after corporations, which manifestly can spend vast amounts of money to resist straightening out and flying right, the taxing authorities are coming after me. Relentlessly. Because I’m poor. I can’t fight back. I am low-hanging fruit. So in addition to facing Pittsburgh road conditions that destroyed my last car in a mere two years, Pittsburgh drivers who routinely do what in California would be regarded as reckless, abusive companies whose demise seems inevitable, and the fact I’m doing all this for peanuts, I’m facing the tax man, whose language employs the vocabulary and syntax of English but none of its meaning.
And somehow, I’m supposed to believe I’m getting what I deserve.
Update, November 1, 2021: I’ve edited the second to last paragraph. I hope it’s clearer now.
Update, November 8, 2021: The upshot of my tax situation is that the tax preparation person H&R Block assigned to do my taxes in 2019 and 2020 was a real fuck-up and I now owe hundreds of dollars I did not expect to owe. The person at the local office seems okay but to say I’m upset that this fuck-up happened in the first place would be an understatement.
I wouldn’t object so strenuously but these taxes are due to governments that have not only failed to secure rights under international human rights law, specifically to a decent job, but which enable the multifaceted fraud I participate in for less than poverty wages and under duress—because I can’t find a real job. These governments, which should be protecting me, instead join Uber and Lyft as monsters and bullies, kicking me precisely because I am down.
- David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/; David Benfell, “About that alleged ‘labor shortage,’” Not Housebroken, October 16, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/05/09/about-that-alleged-labor-shortage/↩
- Lyft really faces the same challenges as Uber with really very much the same business model: Rich Alton, “Basic economics means Uber and Lyft can’t rely on driverless cars to become profitable,” MarketWatch, August 12, 2019, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/basic-economics-means-uber-and-lyft-cant-rely-on-driverless-cars-to-become-profitable-2019-08-12; Matthew Beedham, “Uber: Is this the beginning of the end for the ride-hailing Goliath?” Next Web, March 2, 2021, https://thenextweb.com/shift/2021/03/02/uber-is-this-the-beginning-of-the-end-for-the-ride-hailing-goliath/; Greg Bensinger, “For Uber and Lyft, the Rideshare Bubble Bursts,” New York Times, October 17, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/17/opinion/uber-lyft.html; Eliot Brown, “Uber Wants to Be the Uber of Everything—But Can It Make a Profit?” Wall Street Journal, May 4, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-wants-to-be-the-uber-of-everything-11556909866; Cory Doctorow, “End of the line for Uber,” Pluralistic, August 10, 2021, https://pluralistic.net/2021/08/10/unter/#bezzle-no-more; Richard Durant, “Uber’s Profitability Problem Is Structural,” Seeking Alpha, August 21, 2019, https://seekingalpha.com/article/4287055-ubers-profitability-problem-structural; Ryan Felton, “Uber Is Doomed,” Jalopnik, February 24, 2017, https://jalopnik.com/uber-is-doomed-1792634203; Laura Forman, “Uber, Lyft Drive Investors Away,” Wall Street Journal, August 4, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-lyft-drive-investors-away-11628115638; Edward Helmore, “Will Uber ever make money? Day of reckoning looms for ride-sharing firm,” Guardian, August 4, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/aug/04/uber-ride-share-lyft-ipo-earnings; Hubert Horan, “Can Uber Ever Deliver? Part Twenty-Two: Profits and Cash Flow Keep Deteriorating as Uber’s GAAP Losses Hit $8.5 Billion,” Naked Capitalism, February 7, 2020, https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2020/02/hubert-horan-can-uber-ever-deliver-part-twenty-two-profits-and-cash-flow-keep-deteriorating-as-ubers-gaap-losses-hit-8-5-billion.html; George Maier, “Will Uber still exist by the end of the decade?” London School of Economics, October 29, 2021, https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/businessreview/2021/10/29/will-uber-still-exist-by-the-end-of-the-decade/; Megan McArdle, “Uber can’t keep bleeding money, can it? It apparently thinks it can,” Washington Post, November 5, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/uber-cant-keep-bleeding-money-can-it-it-apparently-thinks-it-can/2019/11/05/4aa4fec0-000b-11ea-8501-2a7123a38c58_story.html; Tom McKay, “Surprising No One, Uber Continues to Hemorrhage Cash,” Gizmodo, November 4, 2019, https://gizmodo.com/surprising-no-one-uber-continues-to-hemorrhage-cash-1839625062; Tom McKay, “Uber Says It’s on Track to Maybe Make a Fake Profit,” Gizmodo, September 21, 2021, https://gizmodo.com/uber-says-its-on-track-to-maybe-make-a-fake-profit-1847716786; Edward Ongweso, Jr., “Prop 22 Was Declared Unconstitutional, and It’s Just the Beginning,” Vice, August 24, 2021, https://www.vice.com/en/article/4av8jb/prop-22-was-declared-unconstitutional-and-its-just-the-beginning; Yves Smith, “Uber Is Headed for a Crash,” New York, December 4, 2018, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/12/will-uber-survive-the-next-decade.html; Trading Places Research, “Uber And Lyft: The Limits Of The Amazon Model,” Seeking Alpha, August 15, 2021, https://seekingalpha.com/article/4449578-uber-and-lyft-the-limits-of-the-amazon-model↩
- Cory Doctorow, “End of the line for Uber,” Pluralistic, August 10, 2021, https://pluralistic.net/2021/08/10/unter/#bezzle-no-more; Yves Smith, “Uber Is Headed for a Crash,” New York, December 4, 2018, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/12/will-uber-survive-the-next-decade.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; Stephen Caruso, “How a Supreme Court ruling on an Uber driver could remake Pennsylvania’s gig economy,” Pennsylvania Capital-Star, July 28, 2020, https://www.penncapital-star.com/working-the-economy/how-a-supreme-court-ruling-on-an-uber-driver-could-remake-pennsylvanias-gig-economy/; 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; Andrew J. Hawkins, “California seeks to force Uber and Lyft to reclassify drivers as employees within weeks,” Verge, June 24, 2020, https://www.theverge.com/2020/6/24/21302140/california-ag-uber-lyft-drivers-classify-employees-preliminary-injunction; Andrew J. Hawkins, “California labor commissioner sues Uber and Lyft for alleged wage theft,” Verge, August 5, 2020, https://www.theverge.com/2020/8/5/21356096/uber-lyft-california-labor-commissioner-lawsuit-driver-classification; Sebastian Herrera and Tim Higgins, “California Sues Uber, Lyft Saying They Misclassified Drivers as Independent Contractors,” Wall Street Journal, May 5, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/california-to-sue-uber-lyft-saying-they-misclassified-drivers-as-independent-contractors-11588700626; Steven Hill, “The broken business model of Uber and Lyft is taking a heavy toll on society,” Fortune, December 19, 2020, https://fortune.com/2020/12/19/uber-lyft-business-model-proposition-22-worker-benefits/; Sam Levin, “Uber drivers often make below minimum wage, report finds,” Guardian, March 5, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/mar/01/uber-lyft-driver-wages-median-report; Farhad Manjoo, “The Uber I.P.O. Is a Moral Stain on Silicon Valley,” New York Times, May 1, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/01/opinion/uber-ipo.html; Alexa Noel, “Revised MIT Study Says Uber, Lyft Drivers Make About $8 or $10 per Hour,” Points Guy, March 8, 2018, https://thepointsguy.com/2018/03/revised-mit-study-says-uber-lyft-drivers-make-about-8-or-10-per-hour/; Therese Poletti, “Uber and Lyft’s ‘day of reckoning’ is finally here,” MarketWatch, August 12, 2020, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/uber-and-lyfts-day-of-reckoning-is-finally-here-2020-08-11; San Jose Mercury News, “CPUC rules Uber, Lyft drivers are company employees,” Sacramento Bee, June 11, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/business/article243464631.html; Daniel Wiessner, “Penn. Supreme Court says Uber driver is employee entitled to unemployment benefits,” Westlaw, July 27, 2020, https://today.westlaw.com/Document/I0c1a2c10d05911ea853294a23e704d3f/View/FullText.html↩
- Bryce Covert, “Can Anyone Stop the Uberization of the Economy?,” New York, October 18, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/10/can-anyone-stop-the-uberization-of-the-economy.html; Cory Doctorow, “The gig economy’s dark-money, astroturf ‘community groups,’” Pluralistic, June 19, 2021, https://pluralistic.net/2021/06/19/dynastic-wealth/#astroturf; Laura Forman, “Gig Companies Can’t Take Everyone for a Ride,” Wall Street Journal, October 30, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/gig-companies-cant-take-everyone-for-a-ride-11635602401; Michael Hiltzik, “How millions from Uber and Lyft are funding the harassment of a critic,” Los Angeles Times, September 2, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-09-02/uber-lyft-veena-dubal-twitter-bullying; Michael Hiltzik, “Uber and Lyft just made their campaign to keep exploiting workers the costliest in history,” Los Angeles Times, September 8, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-09-08/uber-lyft-most-expensive-initiative; Suhauna Hussain, “Prop. 22 was ruled unconstitutional. What will the final outcome be?” Los Angeles Times, August 25, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/business/technology/story/2021-08-25/after-prop-22-ruling-whats-next-uber-lyft; Edward Ongweso, Jr., “Prop 22 Was Declared Unconstitutional, and It’s Just the Beginning,” Vice, August 24, 2021, https://www.vice.com/en/article/4av8jb/prop-22-was-declared-unconstitutional-and-its-just-the-beginning; Jeong Park, “Fact check: Will Uber, Lyft drivers get paid less than minimum wage under Proposition 22?” Sacramento Bee, September 24, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/article245931545.html; Jeong Park, “Court rules California gig worker initiative is unconstitutional, a setback to Uber and Lyft,” Sacramento Bee, August 20, 2021, https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article253647838.html; Preetika Rana, “California Ballot Measure That Classifies Uber, Lyft Drivers as Independent Ruled Unconstitutional,” Wall Street Journal, August 20, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/proposition-22-is-unconstitutional-california-judge-says-11629512394; Justin Ray, “Prop. 22 is ruled unconstitutional: What it means, how apps reacted and what happens next,” Los Angeles Times, August 23, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/california/newsletter/2021-08-23/proposition-22-lyft-uber-decision-essential-california; José Rodríguez, Jr., “The Aftermath Of Prop 22 Is Not As Happy As Big Tech Promised,” Jalopnik, February 18, 2021, https://jalopnik.com/the-aftermath-of-prop-22-is-not-as-happy-as-big-tech-pr-1846299686; Margot Roosevelt and Suhauna Hussain, “Prop. 22 is ruled unconstitutional, a blow to California gig economy law,” Los Angeles Times, August 20, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2021-08-20/prop-22-unconstitutional; Alexander Sammon, “Prop 22 Is Here, and It’s Already Worse Than Expected,” American Prospect, January 15, 2021, https://prospect.org/labor/prop-22-is-here-already-worse-than-expected-california-gig-workers/; Faiz Siddiqui, “California judge rules unconstitutional the measure classifying Uber and Lyft drivers as contractors,” Washington Post, August 20, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/08/20/uber-lyft-prop-22-unconstitutional/; Levi Sumagaysay, “Uber, Lyft and other gig companies facing fights over Prop. 22 in California — and in states where they want to replicate it,” MarketWatch, September 16, 2021, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/gig-companies-facing-fights-over-prop-22-in-california-and-in-states-where-they-want-to-replicate-it-11631734329↩
- Sven Beckert, “Slavery and Capitalism,” Chronicle of Higher Education, December 12, 2014, https://www.chronicle.com/article/SlaveryCapitalism/150787/; David Benfell, “About that alleged ‘labor shortage,’” Not Housebroken, May 12, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/05/09/about-that-alleged-labor-shortage/; Jon Schwarz, “The Business Class Has Been Fearmongering About Worker Shortages for Centuries,” Intercept, May 7, 2021, https://theintercept.com/2021/05/07/worker-shortage-slavery-capitalism/↩
- John Cassidy, “Why Socialism Is Back,” New Yorker, June 18, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/why-socialism-is-back; Martina Hund-Mejean and Marcela Escobari, “Our employment system has failed low-wage workers. How can we rebuild?” Brookings, April 28, 2020, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2020/04/28/our-employment-system-is-failing-low-wage-workers-how-do-we-make-it-more-resilient/; Richard V. Reeves, “Capitalism is failing. People want a job with a decent wage – why is that so hard?” Brookings, April 29, 2019, https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/capitalism-is-failing-people-want-a-job-with-a-decent-wage-why-is-that-so-hard/↩
- Anna Bahney, “Minimum wage workers can’t afford rent anywhere in America,” CNN, July 15, 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/15/homes/rent-affordability-minimum-wage/index.html; Kate Gibson, “Minimum wage doesn’t cover the rent anywhere in the U.S.,” CBS News, June 14, 2018, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/minimum-wage-doesnt-cover-the-rent-anywhere-in-the-u-s/↩
- World Health Organization, “Long working hours increasing deaths from heart disease and stroke: WHO, ILO,” May 17, 2021, https://www.who.int/news/item/17-05-2021-long-working-hours-increasing-deaths-from-heart-disease-and-stroke-who-ilo↩
- Thomas M. Shapiro, “Introduction,” in Great Divides: Readings in Social Inequality in the United States, ed. Thomas M. Shapiro, 3rd ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 2005), 1-7.↩
- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, December 16, 1966, United Nations, General Assembly resolution 2200A (XXI), https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/cescr.aspx↩
- David Benfell, “Getting what I deserve,” Not Housebroken, November 1, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/10/31/getting-what-i-deserve/↩
- David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/↩