I think we have all seen stories on the news about the backlogs at the IRS that are causing delays in return processing, delays in refunds being issued and erroneous tax notices being mailed to taxpayers. Luckily, 2020 is an otherwise stress-free year or this would be troubling. Tax Analysts, a non-profit tax publisher, stated in a press release yesterday that the current backlog of tax returns to be processed is 9.2 million and that they have 7.9 million pieces of unopened mail. They further noted that IRS staffing has decreased 30% since 2000 and that the agency is still using IT systems dating back to the Kennedy Administration. Back then, IT systems were commonly referred to as pencil and paper. This would be shocking to hear at any time, but in a period when our national debt is over $27 trillion and we are spending trillions in stimulus, one would think we could allocate some billions to get our agencies into the 21st century with respect to the technology they use.
I don’t want to conclude this week’s edition on a low note about the IRS so let’s look at how some are coping with the Covid restrictions. The Washington Post had an article on September 17th about some airlines offering “flights to nowhere.” These flights take off and land at the same airport and are targeted at people who miss traveling so much, that they just want to be on an airplane. Quantas reported that their first flights sold out in 10 minutes. Prices ranged from $575 to $2,575. I wonder who would want to go through the hassle of airline travel and not get anywhere. In addition to the current Covid protocols and risk of being in a confined space with others, travelers have to deal with airport security, etc. I wonder if the pilot will create turbulence just as the less than appealing meal is being served so that one feels just like they do on a normal flight.
All joking aside, it got me thinking about how we can fool ourselves about our environment to improve our moods. Surely, everyone going on the flight to nowhere realizes that they are going nowhere but somehow, the flight must evoke feelings and memories that are pleasant. Over the past six months, many of our normal distractions are no longer available leaving us all a lot of time for reflection on life’s meaning, our future trajectory, and past mistakes. As I have noted before, one way to help lessen these stresses and anxieties is through mindfulness, meditation or yoga practices. But, by all means, if you need to get moving even if you don’t get anywhere, check with the airlines for the flight to nowhere. However, please be mindful not to confuse motion with progress.
This week’s selection is:
The Index of Self-Destructive Acts by Christopher Beha
As written by reviewer Paul Sedan “Christopher Beha’s thoughtful and entertaining novel “The Index of Self-Destructive Acts” probes the intersecting lives of a small group of people in New York City caught up in the aftermath of the 2008 financial meltdown. The book’s title refers to a baseball statistic, invented by American baseball writer and statistician Bill James, which is the total number of hit batsmen, wild pitches, balks, and errors committed by a pitcher, per nine innings. Beha, a baseball fan, has taken this metric to give the reader a deeply readable, contemporary take on the spirit of the age in which we live.”