Poor people pay higher time tax


if you live in most American cities, public transit is slow, infrequent and overcrowded. Without a car, you lose hours every day to a commute spent standing on a lurching bus. And while a private car can substantially shorted(sic) that commute, people who can afford taxis or Ubers get even more time every day.

This makes sense, although the effect of hiring a car over having your own seems like it would be marginal. Obviously having a private driver would be the most effective, and also least accessible. There’s a later paragraph that describes a similar situation with air travel.

Means-testing for benefits means that poor people spend endless hours filling in forms, waiting on hold, and lining up to see caseworkers to prove that they are among the “deserving poor” – not “mooches” who are defrauding the system

No one should have to justify their needs. I feel like I shouldn’t have to say that, but there it is…

Also, means-testing is also non-free in terms of both time and money for the organization providing the benefit. I would wager than eliminating means-testing would reduce costs overall.

A person from a low-income household (sic)“an hour more waiting for the same set of services than people from high-income household.” That’s 73 hours/year.

That’s nearly 2 weeks of time, in addition to the fact that most of those affected likely receive little or no paid time off.

A larger determinant of the gap (25%) is working flexibility. Poor people work jobs where they have less freedom to take time off to receive services, so they are forced to take appointments during peak hours.

You know, I’m pretty sure this is one of the major impediments to voting as well. I’m not going to go so far as to say that it was designed that way, but more that a subset of the population (around 1%, I’d guess) certainly take advantage of it.

If a poor person and a wealthy person go to the doctor’s on the same day, the poor person waits 46.28m to receive care, while the wealthy person waits 28.75m. The underlying dynamic here isn’t hard to understand. Medical practices that serve rich people have more staff.

And the wealthy person is likely angrier for having to wait that long too. The gap there is smaller than I would have expected, but I’m not sure what their definition of wealthy is, which might account for some of it.

“Low-income White and Black Americans are both more likely to wait when seeking services than their wealthier same-race peer” but “wealthier White people face an average wait time of 28 minutes while wealthier Black people face a 54 minute average wait time…wealthier Black people do not receive the same time-saving attention from service providers that wealthier non-Black people receive”

I’m not surprised, but I’d be interested to know what the reason behind this discpreapancy is.

“Low-income women are 3 percentage points more likely than low-income men and high-income women are 6 percentage points more likely than high-income men to use common services” – it gets even worse for low-income mothers, who take on the time-burdens associated with their kids’ need to access services.

Surprisingly, men actually end up waiting longer than women to access services: “low-income men spend about 6 more minutes than low-income women waiting for service…high-income men spend about 12 more minutes waiting for services than high-income women.”

That’s a seemingly counterintuitive result. I wonder what the explanation for that is as well.

I didn’t read the referenced paper, which might answer some of my questions above, but I do recommend reading Cory’s entire essay, despite the fact that I quoted probably too much of it above.


The thing about having one’s own car and being low-income is paying for auto insurance and vehicle license fees. I can’t afford them any more, but I’m not going to sell my car because who knows if I could ever get another one?

To renew my driver’s license was only $10, btw. That I could do.


It was certainly the main reason so many voter polling places have been closed in red states.


In some states (like Kansas), you also have to pay personal property taxes along with registration fees. Since insurance is required by law, a tag will not be issued unless effectively all three of these are paid. At least in the case of registration fees and taxes, those are set low(ish) and based on the value of the vehicle, respectively, so those with newer more expensive cars will pay more than those with older less expensive ones.

Here’s a thought, how much would we have to increase that tax rate to pay for state required liability coverage. Let me take a stab at some bad math:

Approximate number of registered cars in Kansas: 900,000
Approximate minimum annual cost of State required minimum coverage: $400
Target value: $360,000,000
I’m not sure how to figure out the average value of the registered cars, so I’ll substitute a likely flawed value of $35,000, which is approximately the average price of a used car in Kansas.

Given the calculation from the Kansas Department of Revenue(PDF):
$35000 x 30% x 133.046 / 1000 = ~$1400

If we increase the tax rate to 37%, that would result in ~$1800, which would cover the gap.

That’s obviously a completely unworkable solution. It doesn’t change anything other than shift the point of collection, which obviously doesn’t help anyone. It’s entirely regressive as well, placing an unfair burden on those least able to afford it. Also, there’s no way anyone would even suggest a 7% tax increase.

Instead, and without expending a lot more effort, here are a few ideas:

  • Implement a progressive taxation scheme:

    • Start at a much lower rate (10-15%, or even 0)
    • Create multiple brackets, all the way up to an Eisenhower approved 90% at the top
      That gives people at the bottom a break, while (hopefully) compensating with revenue from the top. Honestly, even separate from the insurance proposal, I’d support this. It would still be a hard sell, especially in a conservative state. Based on my entirely arbitrary math above, the money could probably be found in less than a 10% increase at the top.
  • Collect the money somewhere else:

    • Gasoline taxes:
    • This one is easy to hide, but still highly regressive. The rich and poor likely don’t use wildly different amounts of gas, just like they don’t eat wildly different amounts of food.
    • Income Taxes:
      • This has the bonus that it’s already progressive, even if the brackets are stacked in favor of the rich, even ignoring how they have so little taxable income to begin with. This would probably be the easiest to successfully pass, though.
    • Corporate Taxes:
      • This is entirely sensible, and entirely unrealistic.

There are other factors to consider, like creating a state-run insurance agency that would likely be able to provide coverage for less than the amount I mentioned above, since it wouldn’t need to be run for a profit, but that probably sounds too much like Socialism. You know, unlike everything else I just wrote.


Holy fuck! Are those pristine used cars?



The used car market is in an interesting state.


That is incredible. And the average non-luxury car goes for $44,584.


My car, a 2004 Toyota Solara, was bought for me in October 2019; the sticker price, I think, was $4,995. I’d say it was in very-good condition then.

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As a non-driver, that wouldn’t get my vote. We already suffer a significant lack of sidewalks, bike lanes, and public transit in a country that is too much geared toward car culture and car infrastructure. Making non-drivers pay extra to further subsidize the cars of wealthier people (on average) would be adding injury to insult.

The whole license, registration, tags, insurance, and vehicle tax thing could certainly be simplified and made more progressive though. There’s really no reason they couldn’t just be one form and one fee at one place. As-is, it seems like just extra bureaucracy for the sake of bureaucracy. Streamlining that would probably also significantly reduce costs.


Birth of a new bureaucracy:


@LockeCJ - why was this study made in the first place, do you know?

Although I understand the sentiment, I would argue that having guaranteed insurance coverage for every driver provides benefits to more than just the drivers.



I haven’t read the whole paper, as stated above. The final version is behind a paywall, but the pre-print(PDF) is available. It’s 54 pages, so that’s a bit more of a commitment than I’m willing to get into today.

Here’s the abstract:

Time spent waiting for services represents unproductive time imposed on individuals
trying to fulfill basic needs. While qualitative and ethnographic work has found that
income disparities also translate into disparities in time kept waiting for services, little
evidence exists to confirm the scale and extent of socioeconomic differences in waiting time. We use time diary data from the nationally representative American Time
Use Survey (ATUS) to estimate the difference between high- and low-income people
in time spent waiting for basic services. We find that, relative to high-income people,
low-income people are 3 percentage-points more likely to spend time waiting on an
average day and their waiting spells are 12 minutes longer on average. The income gap
in waiting time cannot be explained by differences in family obligations, demographics,
education, work time, or travel time. Further, we find that high-income Black people
experience the same higher average wait times as low-income people regardless of race.
Our results suggest socioeconomic and racial inequalities in neighborhood quality, work
schedule flexibility, and access to services exacerbate inequality in daily quality of life
and the availability of productive time.