Tuesday, February 27, 2024
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The Long Way Home

Benjamin Franklin, of hundred dollar bill fame, notoriously said (or wrote), “Our new Constitution is now established, everything seems to promise it will be durable; but, in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.”

I won’t rant, yet, about the original meaning of the constitution and how it is used by dishonest folks to deceive the honest and the gullible. I prefer to rant about income taxes.

I just completed our tax forms using an online service offering free preparation and filing for those of us living with modest incomes. The online service I use is a private company. I’ve known since I was a boy there is no such thing as a free lunch so these companies must collect a tidy sum from our government. So there’s that.

We used form 1040-SR, and the form title is U.S. Tax Return FOR Seniors.

I must have spent two or three hours online, starting when we received our 1099s from Social Security last month until the other day when we got the 1099 for the pittance of interest from the credit union. Not a staggering time commitment, but I wanted to do it right–my obligation as a citizen.

I completed and filed six forms and two worksheets for our Federal taxes.

After the aforementioned Senior 1040, there was schedule 1 (Form 1040) reporting additional income resulting from my writing habit. Schedule 2 calculated the self-employment taxes from said habit. Schedule C was a profit and loss statement for the “sole proprietorship” of my writing habit. Schedule SE to calculate additional Self Employment Tax. And Form 8995 for business-related deductions for my freelance writing habit.

A country as prosperous as the United States, with the ability to harvest tax dollars directly out of paychecks and with a “standard deduction” of almost $30,000 should make tax filing simple for most of us, without creating a new industry of private, online preparers.


Okay, I’ll rant now about the shysters who want to pull the wool over our eyes about the Constitution. The second amendment gets a lot of press and not much in the way of reasoned discussion. But it is the First Amendment that sets me off today.

Last week, Marjorie Taylor Greene, a sitting member of Congress representing the 14th House District of Georgia, chastised an executive of Twitter for violating her first amendment free speech rights by permanently banning her from the social media site because she made numerous false posts about the Covid virus, violating Twitter’s corporate policy. Notably, Twitter is a private company. As such, it can choose to ban or censor anyone it pleases. If a business can deny service if customers don’t wear shirts and shoes, it can deny service to customers and contributors who consistently violate its standards.

The First Amendment reads in part, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;” Congress has made no law, at least so far, about what speech Twitter or other social media companies may abridge. Since it hasn’t, MTG as she’s known, still has all her first amendment rights.

One is left to ponder if she’s that wrong about the First Amendment, can she be trusted with any of the others?

Steve Fernlund
Steve Fernlund
Typically these “about me” pages include a list of academic achievements (I have none) and positions held (I have had many, but who really cares about those?) So, in the words of the late Admiral James Stockwell, “Who am I? Why am I here?” I’m well into my seventh decade on this blue planet we call home. I’m a pretty successful husband, father, and grandfather, at least in my humble opinion. My progeny may disagree. We have four children and five grandchildren. I spent most of my professional life in the freight business. At the tender age of 40, early retirement beckoned and we moved to Grand Marais. A year after we got here, we bought and operated the Cook County News Herald, a weekly newspaper in Grand Marais. A sharp learning curve for a dumb freight broker to become a newspaper editor and publisher. By 1999 the News Herald was an acquisition target for a rapidly consolidating media market. We sold our businesses and “retired” again, buying a winter retreat in Nevada. In the fall of 2016, we returned to Grand Marais and bought a house from old friends of ours on the ridge overlooking Lake Superior. They were able to move closer to family and their Mexico winter home. And we came home to what we say is our last house. I’m a strong believer in the value of local newspapers--both online and those you can wrap a fish in. I write a weekly column and a couple of feature stories for the Northshore Journal. I’m most interested in writing about the everyday lives of local people and reporting on issues of importance to them.
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