How the middle class avoids income taxes (5×8 – 10/11/11)

Who’s not paying taxes, the devil in the front lawn, the key to the flu, the disappearing glaciers, and in sickness and in health.

There’s a new blog making its appearance at MPR this morning. Around 9 a.m., Paul Tosto begins The Big Story, which will concentrate on one major story a day and follow it through the day. Today’s focus will be on Occupy Minnesota in Minneapolis.


The fastest-growing percentage of people who don’t pay income taxes in the United States is people who make $75,000 to $100,000 a year, a report says this morning. The Detroit Free Press says about a half million people didn’t have to pay income tax in 2009, the most recent year for which data is available. That’s still just 1 percent of those who pay no income taxes, however.

The largest percentage of people not paying income taxes is people making less than $25,000.

It’s because of the way the tax code is written. In 2010, a married couple filing jointly didn’t have to pay any income taxes if their income was less than $18,700; couples older than 65, if their income was $20,900 or less. And even if you make more than that, the standard deduction — which goes up each year — and a myriad of other deductions and tax breaks reduce income tax exposure. In 2009, the most recent year for which Internal Revenue Service data is available, filers with adjusted gross income of less than $30,000 made up 83 percent of all the nontaxable returns. According to the Tax Policy Center’s calculator, a couple with two kids younger than 13 that makes $30,000 would get $5,000 back under current laws.


This is the time of the year when there are only two types of neighbors: The ones who obsess over the leaves on their lawn, and the ones who don’t. Which are you?

Trail Baboon’s Dale Connelly says it’s a task invented by the devil:

It’s not like I’m actually clearing the yard, I’m just putting the leaves on notice that someone is watching and a token effort will be made. I don’t pretend to have enough energy or interest to get every last square centimeter of leafage into the barrel, unlike my neighbor down the street who has apparently gone over his lawn with a vacuum and a pressure washer. It’s that clean. I suppose the fall chores are, for some, a welcome chance to be busy.

The task can almost make you root for the emerald ash borer. I haven’t decided, yet, which neighbor I’m going to be this year. If I rake the leaves that are on the lawn now, I’m probably raking the leaves that would be in someone else’s lawn this weekend. So, I’m not really saving myself any time by raking now. Better to wait until all the leaves have fallen, and all of the neighbors have raked.

Unfortunately, that won’t be long. Here’s the view outside the window four days ago…


And here’s the same view this morning…


That was a short foliage season, Minnesota. The devil, indeed.

Question: Would you rather rake leaves or shovel snow?


We’re a few days away yet from the end of the October heat wave, and a return to more seasonable temperatures. Any minute now some co-worker, who wanted to show his/her boss what a “gamer” he/she is, is going to sneeze on you, and then you’ll have to decide whether you want to be a “gamer,” and pass all of this along to someone else. Welcome to flu season.

(h/t: Bad Astronomy)

The fairly slow flu season so far isn’t all good news. Walgreen’s, for example, disappointed analysts with lower-than-expected profits, owing largely to sluggish — get it? — sales of cold and flu medicine.

Do your part for the economy, get the flu.



We can debate the cause (but why bother anymore?), but there is no denying that glaciers are melting on this planet.

The BBC documents the vanishing glaciers of the Greater Himalayas, the biggest concentration of subpolar glaciers in the world. They’re probably gone for good.

If current melt rates continue, thousands of glaciers will be severely diminished, potentially disrupting the water supply to millions of people across India and Asia, according to GlacierWorks.

More landscapes: Dustin Farrell has released his second volume of Landscapes. This time, it’s Arizona and Utah:

Landscapes: Volume Two from Dustin Farrell on Vimeo.

Getting banged about by comets today could spell the end of all life on Earth. But some four billion years ago, it may well have spelled the start, new research says.

And a rumor sweeping the northwestern part of the state and North Dakota is that the region may get 200 inches of snow this winter. Is that even possible? Not likely, WDAY reports.


Doctors discovered stomach cancer in Regan VanderBeek of Worthington in June, she began chemotherapy in July, and got married a week later. Last week she underwent more surgery, the Nobles County Review says.

The couple returned to Adrian and settled into an unfamiliar routine, working around treatments at the Mayo and recovery at home. Lonnie says, “I’m used to doing stuff – cooking, taking care of the housework and our pets – so it’s worked out well.” Regan chimes in, “He’s being modest. He has done SO much!!! I made sure that he went on a guy’s weekend not too long ago, just so he could get away for awhile.” Regan’s family and Lonnie’s family has been very supportive, helping the couple out whenever possible.

She hasn’t been able to work. She’s a City of Worthington dispatcher. A benefit for her is being held this weekend. (h/t: Bring Me The News)

Bonus: For no particular reason. Last year’s winner of the “Tell It Your Way” competition:

(h/t: @stephenfry, @thewindyapple)


More than 16 percent of the Minnesota population claims Norwegian ancestry, which may help explain interest in the current visit by the king and queen of Norway. Today’s Question: How much do you care about keeping a connection to your ancestral homeland?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: The Minnesota Vikings’ quest to get a new stadium has been going on for more than a decade. Will the team’s latest proposal for a publicly funded stadium in Arden Hills be the one that gets approval from the state?

Second hour: Stacey Schiff on Talking Volumes.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Former governor Tim Pawlenty.

Second hour: From the Washington Ideas Forum: The network TV news executives from CBS, NBC and ABC, and former longtime news anchor Tom Brokaw.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: TBA

Second hour: Twenty years ago, Anita Hill confronted Clarence Thomas in Senate testimony about his unwanted advances, which he disputes, and the economic pressure she was under.

We’ve really never seen anything like it since…

Did Jim Lehrer’s lead-in really refer to both African American participants as “articulate?”