Random Musings on Tax Day

As I, like many other Americans, try not to get too depressed over the forms I’m still scrambling to fill out and the taxes I must pay this year, I try to remember that I could be much worse off. Here is some information and commentary related to April 15:

Longing to Return to W-2 Status

In this commentary, published in the Christian Science Monitor, Joseph H. Cooper’s essay (semiautobiographical, according to the author’s bio) reflects on the pain caused by being unemployed on April 15. Cooper’s anonymous character muses: “It’s the 1040 time of year and he longs for a return to W-2 status. With a mix of memory and desire, he sighs, `I’d never complain about owing taxes, if only I had a salary again.'” The pain of Cooper’s protagonist is echoed in an article which appeared in the New York Times Magazine this past weekend, entitled Commute To Nowhere. In this extensively researched and well-written article, reporter Jonathan Mahler profiles three out-of-work professionals who grapple with long-term unemployment after reaching the pinnacles of career success. One former computer-industry wiz now sells khakis at the Gap, while a former IT professional with a Ph.D, unemployed for two years, now works as a substitute teacher. As the author comments,

While the recession of the early 90’s took a heavy toll on white-collar workers, this one seems to have institutionalized the phenomenon. Advanced degrees, no matter how prestigious, offer little protection. The economy is grim nationwide, but the picture in New York City is especially bleak. Since the end of 2000, the media-and-communications sector has cut 15 percent of its jobs, telecommunications 27 percent, advertising 25 percent. Eighteen percent of jobs on Wall Street have been slashed, and firms continue to lay people off. Given the delirium with which most high-tech jobs were first created, there’s no reason to believe that many of them — and the jobs in other sectors that they generated — will come back anytime soon.

By the numbers, women have been hit as hard as men, but white-collar men tend to experience unemployment differently, organizational psychologists say. For most women, survival trumps ego; they simply adapt and find some job. For men, grappling with joblessness inevitably entails surrendering an idea of who they are — or who others thought they were.

There are far too many Americans who aren’t submitting their W-2s to the IRS today.

You Can Stop Working for 2002 Now: If You’re Female, That Is…

As if April 15 wasn’t depressing enough, today is also Equal Pay Day–our annual reminder that women have to work a few extra months each year in order to catch up to their male counterparts. Today is symbolic of the day women finally earn as much — since Jan. 1, 2002 — as men earned by Dec. 31, 2002. (See KC Star article). Creative protests of the pay gap are planned: in Boston, working women plan to hold an “Unhappy Hour” at a downtown bar; women’s drinks will cost 76 cents, while men will have to pay $1. (See AFL-CIO News: Equal Pay Day. Similar hijinks happened during previous Equal Pay Day observances: in 2002, activists for pay equity in Minnesota sponsored a morning “UnHappy Hour” event; those who attended were given 3/4 cups of coffee or latte, received 3/4 of a muffin and had 3/4 napkins to symbolize the almost 3/4 of a dollar that women are paid. (See Equal Pay Day 2002). Similar strategies were recently employed in Utah, by some teenagers who are already pretty smart cookies themselves when it comes to gender equity. (See Women’s E-News article.) It’s a pretty savvy way to draw attention to a very real issue that refuses to go away.

Other resources on Equal Pay Day:

Equal Pay Day: Legislative Background

The Case for Equal Pay

AFL-CIO State-By-State Pay Equity Reports

Civil Rights Plaintiffs Pay More Than Their Fair Share

On this day, some are paying far more than most…those who have successfully vindicated their rights through our legal system. Many will celebrate their victory in court or through a successful settlement by writing a large check to the IRS–for some, the amount will be larger than the check they received when they won or settled their case. Here are a couple of news stories about those people:

Women Victors in Bias Suit Seek Tax Law Reform

Winners and Losers

These cases illustrate why we need your help in passing the Civil Rights Tax Relief Act, so that on April 15, 2004, there won’t be any more winners who become losers that day.

More Information on the Civil Rights Tax Relief Act

Lobby Days for Tax Relief

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Madeline Messa

Madeline Messa is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. With her legal research and writing for Workplace Fairness, she strives to equip people with the information they need to be their own best advocate.