Well, actually, just FUN with taxes. It's just too soon after the sudden death of the Monkees' Davy Jones to joke about it.
Announcing: We're going to try to make this a regular feature. We've done two annual polls this month and have the third going. We don't know how regular a feature because installments will be based partly on events in the world and partly on the fact that these are really hard to construct. The secret and patented disgronificater and patisserie catalyzer we use to construct these instruments is a precision machine that needs constant maintenence and still keeps breaking down, and repairing it leaves both of us a bloody mess.
We've adopted the term "Fake Social Science to Make Real Arguments" as our motto and created an archive by that name. If you like our Fake Social Science, please Watchlist the Group and the tag "fake soc sci" so you won't miss one. Thank you and Enjoy!
Our most recent instrument revealed some very intriguing findings, but before we get into those, a couple of technical points. First, No, Girl Scout cookies are not tax-deductible if you eat them. And who on earth would buy a box of thin mints and not eat them? All at once? Second, if your Newsvine earnings are below $400, you probably don't owe income taxes on them, but you might depending on other factors in your return. So consult your local tax-preparation service to make sure you get that correct.
Question #1 was me fooling around in the field of Behavioral Economics, which I know just enough about to pretend. "Zero" was never the correct answer because the government would never propose a 0% tax rate on a new tax. "Twenty" would be confiscation. I was actually trying to figure out how much people think of found money as theirs, rather than either belonging to no one or, perhaps, the person who lost it. Looks like Finders Keepers rules, but not by quite as much as I expected. I really was concerned about the social effects of the "View Results," so not only did I include the direction not to check it, I started each answer with a vote so that if/when somebody did check, the fact of a Zero wouldn't dissuade them. And speaking of zero votes ....
Question #4 blew me away. As with our first effort, where we tried to leave at least one answer in every question that a good Catholic could answer in good conscience, we left some answers sprinkled around this instrument to allow Libertarians and other Free-Market-First-Principle types to answer in good conscience. And it took days before poor, lonely Bastiat got even the one vote he got. What happened to the poor guy? Ten years ago, Bastiat was all the rage among teenage right-wing boys. I guess they decided Robert Heinlein was the better writer. If I could try this question again I'd slot Phillip K. Dick in the Bastiat spot and really make those boys sweat.
The other zero-votes answer was the "giddy" one from Question #7, referencing the H & R Block ad. I guess our universe of respondents is smart enough not to get too excited about getting their own money back, even if they are getting a smartphone with the proceeds.
--mymymy: Jack, one little teensy thing to confess. I never liked the word 'giddy'. It made me think of Victorian drawing rooms and fainting couches. I wouldn't want to admit to being 'giddy' in a public poll. Nuh, uh.--
Questions #s 3 & 4 together worked beautifully. Each question signalled about half the answerers were moving to the other question in the pair. And the numbers roughly lined up. And about half the answers in each were devoted to the practial aspects of filing taxes, half to the ideological as expressed via the quotations.
Finally, the two questions about specific elements of the tax code, #s 9 & 10 (or three questions if you count the intro question #8), revealed a most striking result: The Home Mortgage Interest deduction is much more popular than the Charitable Donations deduction, and not just with Marge and her well-meaning if somewhat doltish and as-yet-unidentified husband. If I were a tax reform advisor for EITHER major political party--that is, tasked with constructing a tax reform proposal that had to pass not just economic-efficiency muster but political muster, I would think I see an opening here. The Charitable Donations deduction might not be as popular as Beltway conventional wisdom might suggest. Once again, thanks for being our fake lab rats for our fake social science. If you Watchlist our Archive you'll soon discover to your little brains' delight that there'll be more delicious food pellets for you soon--although we really can't guarantee there won't be a few surprising and uncomfortable (but not dangerous, we promise) questions wired for electric shock along the way.