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WFTRA and How one working mother experiences the cruelty of NewSpeak

Are you a working parent? Do you have what the police state condescendingly refers to as a "domestic partner"? Do you and your "DP" (that is, your mate) have a child together? If your family is made up of people who are unrecognized by George Bush & co, then you're about to feel the sting of yet another rip-off, hidden in the fine print, behind the reassurances of yet another lie. It's called the "Working Family Tax Relief Act," (WFTRA) and like the "Healthy Forest Initiative," or the "Clean Air Act," or any of a number of other Bush doctrines, it's title is bald faced disinfo.
Many people aren't aware of its impact just yet. Although Bush signed the WFTRA into law last October, and it became effective in January, it's been somewhat of a sneak attack. It was slipped quietly past us, and those who crafted it purposefully distracted us with the banner headlines above the stark reality contained within. Because despite the title, it actually means a tax INCREASE for many, many working families, mine included. You won't really see the impact until you see your tax return next year, but if you're in the midst of filling out open enrollment forms for your health benefits, like I am, then you are getting an education in slimy tax policies right now.

Let me back up for a moment. As I've written here before, I'm a social worker. And as I am a working mother, I have accepted the piss-poor wages of a public employee in a trade-off for two things. The first is a sense that the work I do is for the public, not for some creepy privateer who would parasitize other people's lives for profit. But the second is something every working mother desperately seeks: health benefits for her family. In a world where corporate medicine blackmails us over our children's health, most of us cannot afford the astronomical costs of basic healthcare for our families. So while a job in the private sector might pay more in wages, many of us choose public sector employment soley for the benefit package that protects us from the peril of an uninsured illness.

That is why the so-called "Working Families Tax Relief Act" is such a cruel blow. What it does, basically, is slash the value of my insurance benefits and raise my taxes by setting stern limits on who counts as a "dependent" to the IRS and who does not. Domestic partners, children of domestic partners, or children or dependents who are living with you without benefit of a church-sanctioned relationship, for example, are not considered legitimate dependents. That means that, although my fairly progressive employer considers all the people in my family to be dependents, and allows me to enroll them on my insurance plan, the IRS does not recognize some of the people in my family. Therefore, the money taken out of my paycheck each month to pay for health insurance must come out of post-tax, rather than pre-tax income. This reduces my paycheck. In addition, when tax time rolls around again next year, I will be taxed on the "value" of my health benefits.

In the past, health insurance has not been taxable income. Now, however, it will be. At least for those of us whose dependents are not recognized as legitimate family members by the state. That means that even though my wages have not increased, I will be in a higher tax bracket. Anyone who makes $1000 a month in wages, but also has an insurance package that the IRS values at, say, $500, will now be taxed on $1500 of "earned income," even though their income is still only $1000. That really sucks. Really.

This is a huge impact on my family. I mean, it's not just the fact that our already painfully tight belts will have to tighten yet again just to put food on the table, thanks to the unexpected decrease of my paycheck. It's more than that. Although my mate and I have been together for fully 15 years, suddenly the government wants me to call him an "unrelated individual." FUCK that. I absolutely refuse. And although our child is covered (because he's mine by birth), if we had a child that belonged by birth to my mate but not to me, he or she would not be covered. That, too, rally sucks.

I have made a conscious choice to keep my relationship with my mate between him, and me, our child, and God. It's no one else's business. To pretend that a paper from the state somehow sanctions my relationship, somehow makes it more than it is without that paper, is to cheapen it. For personal and spiritual reasons, I have chosen not to turn my relationship with the person I love into a cheap and consumerist orgy of toaster ovens, expensive stationary, and a transfer of me as property from one man to another. I am not Mrs. Your-Name-here. I am me. And so that is why I am not married. That does not make my mate an "unrelated individual," which is the box that I am expected to check on my new insurance forms.

While this is insulting and perverse, it is even more so when one considers that gay and lesbian couples were denied the very right to marry earlier this year. So while it's sick and wrong for the government to be ripping me off based on the personal and spiritual choices I have made about my relationship to the person I love, it is even more so for those people who do not even have that choice to make. It seems purposefully cruel to tell thousands of people that they cannot get married because that might "erode" marriage, and then to tell them that because they are not married, their benefits will be cut.

But that's what the WFTRA will do. It will not relieve any working class families of anything except their wages. Instead, it's just another dagger in our backs at the hands of a malicious cadre of false prophets who are overstepping their boundaries and underestimating what it will cost them. This pathetic society is allowing itself to take yet another step back to the dark ages. Why do we allow a supposedly secular government to impose its own brand of pseudo-religious rules on who we can call our family? (And by the way, I say "pseudo-religious" because there is nothing even remotely Christian about anything this government does to its people or to the people of the world.) So go ahead, Bush. Take the food from our mouths. I'm still not calling the man I love an "unrelated individual," and I'm still not going to ignore the very real families in my community just because some withered little man who can't really win an election says to.
thanks 09.May.2005 20:53

shaker

Conform or die, right? This is getting sick. Thanks for the info and good luck to you.

You offend us who are married 10.May.2005 07:56

---

Your inflamatory language that you choose not to cheapin your relationship by getting married, blah blah...sounds a bit self rightous to me. If you don't believe in marriage fine, some people do.

Sometimes, in my case, my partner did, so I married him cause it was important to him, 16 years ago. Big fucking deal. Sorry you're getting screwed by bush, aren't we all. but chill out on the anti-marriage flame...you offend your sisters and brothers for whom it is important for one reason or another to wed, and who are not denied due to gender.

To the "offended" person 10.May.2005 09:25

Give it a rest.

Please. There was nothing inflammatory about Matilda's words except that maybe they made you stop and think for a moment. Her decision not to marry, and her reasons for it, are her own, and she has every right to them.

The point of the article is that people who either choose not to marry, or are not able to marry, are being grossly discriminated against. So I guess I just can't pull out a hanky for your feelings of "offense." If you're married, hurrah for you. You're not who I'm worried about. You are supported and condoned in mainstream culture, and your family members are considered to be "legitimate." The whole point of the above article is that other people love their families at least as much as you love yours, but you and the rest of mainstream culture are allowing them to be oppressed. You're letting governmental policies goad you into pretending that their relationships are not real or important. Yet all you got out of that heartfelt essay was, "Hey, what about meeeeee, the married lady." Geez.

"Working familes tax relief"? 10.May.2005 17:42

How much more callous can they get?

Using the pain of working families trying to make do in order to slide this act by is just unforgiveable. It's a laugh in our faces. It's some market research asshole going, "Hey, these people are going hungry out there. Every little cent on their paychecks is really important. Let's use that! Let's pretend that we're giving them a few coins. But REALLY, we're just gonna take more."

All public employees, as far as I know, are having to fill out their benefits stuff right now. So we're finding this out now. Is everyone reading the fine print? Are people as angry about this as I am? My job is precariously balanced on the brink right now. I'm scared for my family. I'm terrified that I will be thrown to the wolves soon. I have mouths to feed, goddammit. I was already angry, and now I find that something with a smily little title promising to "feel the pain" of working families, to bring some tiny morsel of relief, is actually gouging me even further. Shit. I fucking hate those fucking assholes. I really do.

Where's my country?!? 11.May.2005 18:35

julia

Matilda, thank you so much for your article. This is disgusting and heartbreaking. On a personal note, it made me feel very empowered to read another woman's story of why she does not like marriage - I usually have to keep mine to myself to avoid criticism and harrasment. This country is so backwards - we may as well be in the 1950's. I have always felt that marriage is a sexist institution. It seems that everywhere else in the world has National Health care except the U.S., so it would be hard to pull this one elsewhere. I lived in Europe froom 1985-1989 and in Brazil from 1992-2001 and live in relationships, after a certain matter of time (5 years) get the same benefits as married couples (in Brazil). Few people marry - many more live together, have children together, and are considered the same as married by society. And women don't change their names - it's shocking to me to come back into the U.S. and see women taking his name or hyphenating their names. One more example of ownership, even if it is symbolic. How many men do you know who took her name? Or hyphented their names, while their wife kept hers the same?

Anyway, this got off the subject but I identify very strongly with what you wrote. When will we stand up as a group and fight?

This marriage bullshit pisses me off! 11.May.2005 19:52

wannabe anarchist (except not a "joiner")

I hate the idea that the state can license us to fuck! That's the idea of it, ain't it? Because if they can license us to fuck, then that means they can tell us when where and how, don't it?

What the fuck is this?

We went to Mexico and got married back in the days. We found some kind of attorney who took my money and gave us a brief lecture on the duties of man and wife under Mexican law and then gave us our document. That's what I think you could call a "civil union" and you could take it to a church for a regular wedding or not.

Anyway the reason we did that was partly for the fun of it, excuse for a vacation in Mexico, and partly because of the various work related or government benefits, such as this article. It shouldn't be a big deal, anybody should be allowed to do it, I guess just one at time though so no polygamy, AND RELIGION SHOULDN'T HAVE SHIT TO DO WITH IT. (People that want the church thing could still do that if they wanted to.)

The law should just recognize what it is. Okay, you go to some office and you say -- this is who we are, we're living together, with such and such kids, this is our household, so here's $2 and give us our document so we can get our tax break like the ritzy middle class fucks do. Okay, we'll sign that this is our only couple thing that is going on right now, this year.

Now, goodbye.

End of story.

You pay less taxes 11.May.2005 20:02

jim

Are you for real. You file as two single people one is head of house hold. If you make only $12,000 and have a depentent you get earned income tax credit around $2,000. The tax rate for two with the standard deduction would be around zero. So you get back more than you pay (EIT credit). If you got married you would pay more in taxes. Your second income is taxed on the highest rate of the last dollar you made. You would no longer get the earned income tax credit. The way I see it you should pay as if you are married.

Wrong, Jim. 11.May.2005 20:33

For real

The point is, the "working family tax relief act" is just another way to remove any of the progressive functions of a tax system. Simply put, it's more $ for the rich, less money for working class families. And by the way, you make $12000, now you get taxed for $20000. Because, under the WFTRA, you now have to pretend that your health insurance is "wages." It's another way for Bush to give a bone to his friends. Privateers have been foaming at the mouth to remove anything at all that might make workers choose the public sector over the private one, without actually having to pay those workers competitively. So when workers chose safe retirement benefits over the risky, self-serving joke offered in the private sector, corporate henchmen went to work dismantling PERS, the Public Employee Retirement System. And when workers chose the health of their familes over the lack of any healthcare generally offered in the private sector, corporate henchmen went after medical benefits in the public sector -- and with a puppet king in the whitehouse, it's been a lot easier to take benefits away from people than to actually have to give them something competitive.

As for this statement, "The way I see it you should pay as if you are married," I have to ask what you can be thinking. The whole point of the article is that we, those of us who either choose not to jump through that hoop, or those of us who are not allowed to, are not treated "as if we are married." We are being discriminated against, both in the financial burden and in the discriminatory bullshit that declares that our families are not as legitimate "as if we were married." Bullshit.

Taxing Health Benefits as income?! 11.May.2005 20:49

Working Class Mama

That is so fucked!!! Thanks for the heads up! I hadn't even heard anything about this. That bastard son of a bitch, his head needs to roll!

I hear you on the marriage thing. I did the legal paper marriage thing when my partner and I were very young but only because of all the legal bullshit we'd have to deal with if we didn't, as parents. Kudos to you for standing up to the temptation. We were considering publicly burning our marriage certificate in protest of G&L rights to marry being denied.

Australian Welfare IS So Similar 11.May.2005 22:45

martin, Nimbin Australia nimfm@nimfm.org

Hi there everyone in Portland. I couldnt resist to comment on the very recent neo conservative Australian budget. Here mothers have to give their children to questionable childcare places of potential abuse, while they can study intensely the workings of a sweatshop for 3 dollars per hour.
My neighbour will take on his 4th insecure, casual part time job, adding together a whopping 70 hours of weekly working time, but will still loose his car, and become homeless nevertheless. From July 1st , this year, dont just get a haircut, go, and eat your neighbour, or go away, is what our treasurer says to the average Australian. Cannibalism commences soon. Bon Appetite!
The sick and disabled people will be cryogenically stored in deep freezers for future slavetrading. We here in Australia surely are told quite bluntly: BIG MINING, called Australia, does not want an expensive theme-park, called society, attached to their minig operations. If you did not know this yet, we are all slaves to whatever the corporate world deems us to be enslaved to, UNLESS, as a lot of people already have done, DISSENT, get your own water, firewood, and garden, play, and live out affordable anarchy.
Cheers to everyone!


YOU PAY LESS TAXES, by JIM 12.May.2005 09:12

see previous comment by Jim

i don't want you doing my taxes,Jim. Mr Tax Expert. What the hell do you know about anything?

Everyone knows that The IRS taxes non monetary benefits, like employer compensations, as in kind income.

That's paying MORE taxes, dumb ass.

and don't feed me some lame line about the EIC refund. getting an EIC refund is the first step to getting an audit. And YOU WILL Be Audited.

Due to the gestapo IRS, most people who are otherwise eligible, are too fearful of an audit and the arcane, punitive requirements of filing the fucking paperwork. Either that, or they end up forking their "credit" over to HRBlock, Inc. in gratutitous, HIGH scalper fees.

common law marriage? 12.May.2005 11:58

anti-paper relationship

I think the poster is in what the state of Oregon and most other states call a common law marriage. After living continuously with someone for several years the relationship is legally considered a de facto marriage. She should just go ahead and check the related box for her partner.

"Common Law," EIC, and Revolution 12.May.2005 14:41

I'm no lawyer, but...

I believe there is no such thing as a "common law" marriage in Oregon. In other words, such a relationship is not recognized under Oregon State law. I'm not a lawyer, but I have a friend who is, and that's what she told me.

I think it's total BS that other people think they have the right to tell us who is and who is not part of our families. I also think it really sucks that bush thinks we're so stupid we won't notice a blatant tax increase under the guise of a tax "break."

As for the EIC thing, yes, the EIC is a very progressive link in an otherwise unforgivably regressive tax structure. Progressives fought tooth and nail for it, with very little fanfair, but it's an important allotment to working class people with dependents. However, it did not come from bush, and it CERTAINLY does not make up for the rip-off that this tax "relief" act is perpetrating. In fact, part of this act seems bent on decreasing the breadth of the benefit received from the EIC.

I used to support the idea of paying taxes, because I believed (and still believe) that it's important for rich people to pay to support the society that made them rich. Taxes are supposed to be a way to redistribute some of the wealth of society. But the tiny elite has gutted that function, in effect creating a system that completely insulates them from having to share what is not theirs in the first place. This system asks that working class people shoulder a disproportionate tax burden, and then asks us to allow OUR tax dollars to be used for purposes that we do not agree with. War, Halliburton, Enron, and tax breaks to wealthy corporations, for example. I believe we should all remember that a revolutionary war was fought over taxation without representation, and until we have some working class folk who really represent us making decisions about our money, we should be thinking hard in that direction.

Go buy Turbo Tax 12.May.2005 15:56

jim

Go buy Turbo Tax and do your own taxes. If you make 20,000 a year and you have one child, you get $7,150 in standard deduction, $6,200 for the two exemptions. That leaves a taxable income of $6,650. The tax on $6,650 is $668. Your child tax credit takes your taxes to $0. You get a EIC credit of $332. So you pay $0 in taxes and get back $332. Now tell me how the rich are not paying and you get back more than what you pay. I receive medical insurance and it is not taxable. I do pay taxes for life insurance over $50,000. If I should buy medical insurance for someone not related to me why should I not have to pay taxes on that income?

Fuck off, Jim. 13.May.2005 08:57

Matilda

"If I should buy medical insurance for someone not related to me why should I not have to pay taxes on that income?"

Um, Jim, the whole fucking POINT is that my family IS "related to me." So your idiocy is irrelevant.

For anyone who is not permanently obtuse like Jim, just to make it clear, my family is my family. As I think I made fairly clear above. That makes them related to me. It's the IRS and weirdos like Jim who cannot accept that. And Jim, did you vote to shove your values down the throats of gay and lesbian couples? If so, then try telling THEM that they should pay taxes because the person you told them they were not allowed to marry is "not related." Asshole.

To everyone else who wrote comments, though, thanks. Especially Julia.

2008 is so far away 13.May.2005 12:47

Joe

Ok, no doubt, I hate Bush with every inch of me being and I agree with you all on the parts of our rights being taken away one by one by these religious zealots running our country. No man can tell another what to do period!! Now as for this new tax law, you have to understand that it is all about documentation to the government. If you live with someone for 5, 6 ,7 or more years you should definitly consider them part of your family, but where is the proof, that is the problem that I see here. I agree with you in many ways but if you have been with the same man or woman for a long time there is still no legal document showing that you support each other. It should be standard practice in this, well what used to be a progressive country that if you live with someone for a given number of years you should be recognized as dependants of each. Shit just get a damn checking account or something. Or if you buy a house together, there is your document- now whatever coverage I get, you get.

But If you think logically about it, how can your health ins. cover someone who is not legally part of your family. That is how you have to look at it and I am mostly against marriage, because it seems as if more and more people are getting married for the wrong reasons. To save money and get tax breaks is no reason, but the govt. sure makes it a reason don't they. Is there some way I am unaware of that could show you are legally part of someone's family without a marriage licencse etc. If not, there should be.

But what can you expect from this administration. Feed the rich and bury the poor. That is what they are all about.
Just an outsiders thoughts.

The worst thing about all of these new religious based rules that are being imposed on us is that as Christians, which most of us are, we are suppose to be tolerant to all, even if religious views clash - people are forgetting what being a true person of god means. And believe me I dont consider myself religious, because religion is a disease on mankind. Christian means taht you treat everyone the same no matter what their beliefs. And these days a crusade by the, you guessed it "the so called religious right" is out to oppress all those who choose to live their lives in different ways. Well to all those conservative right winged fucks - see you in hell, I'll be waving from above. I aint telling anyone what to do and no one else should either. Just be good to your fellow man, something people have seemed to forget. Ok, I hope I got my point across. Sorry for getting off on a tangent but Bush does that to me.

Family 13.May.2005 14:31

To Joe

" Is there some way I am unaware of that could show you are legally part of someone's family without a marriage licencse etc."

Yes. You tell them so.

Seriously. My mate and I have been together for more than a decade. We have a home together, we have a child together, we have cats and a dog together. We put each other through school, we've had a joint checking account and both our names on all our (numerous!) bills for ever. But I, too, am finding that the government expects me to call him an "unrelated individual." And I, too, refuse.

The thing is, my family is my business. My family is who I say it is. Why should I need to prove that to anyone? And for the record, healthcare should be a right, not a privilege. Everyone should have access to healtcare. It should not be only those who are employed outside the home, and it should not be considered taxable income. If we can afford to send more than a BILLION dollars a day to fight a war none of us believe in, then why is it we cannot afford universal healthcare? I'll tell you why. It's because none us us care enough (YES) to really do anything about this.

Family reply 16.May.2005 11:52

Joe

Well, than frankly that's just BULLSHIT. You have more than enough to prove who your family is for the love of god. God almighty I hate the Bush Administration. I wish they had just one person in the white house that has more than a 3rd grade education that would research some of these laws and bills and see how they are affecting everyday people. It just makes me sick to my stomach the way we are being raped by these bastards.
Whatever Bush has passed along his desk he signs, you know why, cause he doesn't understand any of them and he rich as shit so why should he give 2 shits about any of us. Its quite obvious isnt it!!

And on Healthcare - the iraq disaster (its no war) has cost this country so much that had that money been used correctly there would be universal health care. But you forget my dear, there is no money in universal healthcare. And how it god's name could we live without the likes of Merck, Pfizer, Glaxo Klein Smith etc. putting out pill after pill that dont cure shit, by only delay its affects. But Hell they've already spend what like 200 some billion on a country that I could care less about. They should have to deal with their own problems, its not our to help where help is not wanted. I mean we didnt intervene in the sudan when all the genocide was happening, but then they dont have oil there so...

And this is to anyone who reads this - about Healthcare!
For the love of God, stop taking prescription pills, you don't need them!!
You are only making Healthcare more expensive - so if you have more than 1 useless prescription, you are not aloud to bitch about healthcare - cause you are part of the problem - self prescribers take note.
Sure I'll pop a pill now and again, but for fun, cause afterall drugs are fun.
Got arthristis - then go stretch and take a walk it feels better then a pill and you don't get fat. Fat people make me sick by the way and if anyone is obese and reading this, then take heart and go by a treadmill cause you make me sick.
Depressed - go to the terminally ill wing at some local hospital, shut the fuck up and quit your bitchin. Or Get some sex, cause that always brightens my day when I feel down. Depression is all in your mind period.
High Cholestoral - dont eat fatty or deep fried foods.

Need I go on... cause I will.

What health care benefit charges are being taken out of post-tax income? 16.May.2005 15:04

a bit confused

The benefits of the employee? Or the benefits of the child(ren)? Or of the DP?

Another question: Is all health care coverage being called "income" now? So if my employer is covering health care for myself and my child, but I am paying for health care for my DP is it just the employer-covered health coverage that is considered "income"? Or could the coverage for my DP be called "income" too if it's being partially subsidized by my employer?

Anyone who knows, thanks!