NEWS 
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Economists Recommend Extending Bush Tax Cuts

CNN Money surveyed 31 economists for their economic forecasts and asked what they would recommend Congress doing about the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. From a list, eighteen of the thirty-one chose to extend the tax cuts for everyone, not just those outside the two top tax brackets. Three of the thirty-one supported President Obama’s proposal and nearly all of them opposed doing nothing and letting the cuts expire.

For those not entirely familiar with the backstory on this, President Bush signed into law back in 2001 and 2003 a series of tax cuts now known as the Bush tax cuts. It lowered tax brackets, capital gains taxes, and are set to expire at the end of this year. With the sunset provisions set to take place in a few months, there has been much debate on what should be done. President Obama’s proposal would extend the tax cuts for all but the two top tiers, individuals making more than $200,000 and families making more than $250,000. If Congress were to do nothing, tax rates would increase back to pre-Bush tax cut levels.

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 NEWS 
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Governments Benefits Direct Deposited in 2011

Social SecurityToday, the Obama administration will announce that all benefits payments from the government will be paid electronically, rather than with paper checks. This includes, but is not limited to, Social Security, unemployment, veterans benefits, railroad retirement, and other government benefits. If you do not have a bank account, you will instead receive a debit card through the Treasury Department’s Direct Express Debit MasterCard program.

This is a good thing and a long time coming. With electronic deposits, you get your money faster and taxpayers save money. Currently, 85% of benefit recipients are already getting their benefits direct deposited into their bank accounts. It’s estimated that this will save $303 million over the first five years and then $120 million each year thereafter. It’s estimated that it costs $1 to mail a check and only 10 cents to direct dpeosit it.

If you enroll for benefits on or after March 1st, 2011, you are required to receive them by direct deposit or debit card. Existing beneficiaries have until March 2013 to supply direct deposit information or request a debit card. The debit card has no monthly fees, no required credit check, and signup is free.

(Photo: swanksalot)


 Government 
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Searching For Your Unclaimed Money & Property

Stack of moneyI originally published this post in July 2005 but recently updated all the links to the correct state Unclaimed Property division website.

If you’ve ever rented an apartment, you’ve left a deposit… but did you get that back before you left? They said they’d mail it… but did you actually get it? How about the utility company, did you get your deposit back from them? What about those six months you lived in another state, were you entitled to a state income tax refund? Did you actually get it? Unclaimed or abandoned property departments exist in every state and through free online searches you can find a ton of money you may have inadvertently left behind. I haven’t lived in enough places to have left behind any hard earned cash (I looked, no luck though) but you might have.

Below is a comprehensive list of every state’s (even D.C. and Puerto Rico) website that has a search for unclaimed property. Take a few minutes and see if you’ve discovered any cash and leave a comment if you do! I didn’t find any but perhaps you can find a nice fat check somewhere with your name on it. :)

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 Cars 
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Cash For Clunkers Program

Beater Used CarUpdate: The bill has passed both chambers of Congress, getting through the Senate on Thursday, and President Obama is expected to sign it into law soon.

The Cash for Clunkers program would provide a voucher worth $3,500 to $4,500 to consumers trading their vehicles in. The vehicles have to be in running condition and get less than 18 miles a gallon in fuel efficiency. The value of the voucher is determined by this schedule:
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 Frugal Living 
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Your Take: Could You Live Off Food Stamps?

Sean Callebs will try and he’s documenting the whole experience on CNN. This is a little more realistic than the $1 a day meal experiment, which was more about publicity than reality. What I find most interesting about Callebs’ reports is the insight it gives him and his readers. “… it stinks being hungry when you go to sleep.” (Feb 13th) How many people go to sleep hungry? I probably have only a handful of times in my life and it was mostly because of scheduling, not because I couldn’t afford it. I think that unless you have lived it, you can’t faithfully criticize.

Much like when I talked about living on minimum wage, it’s difficult to understand the lifestyle until you try to live it. For some, the thought of food stamps invokes the image of someone on welfare spending it on cigarettes and alcohol. For others, it’s seeing a bright light when you’re lost in the woods at midnight. Regardless of how you feel about food stamps, the majority of people who get food stamps need them. They’re not living the good life financially, sipping a Mai-tai on the beach; they’re struggling.

I find myself struggling with the idea of handouts because I believe, especially in America, you can, through hard work and determination, succeed regardless of where you start. Food stamps and welfare, while necessary, will give some a reason not to work as hard and I recognize that; but I think you have to accept those who will take advantage of the system if you want to help those who just need a little bit extra to get them over the hump.

What are your thoughts on food stamps and other welfare programs?

(Photo: pengrin)


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