Whens The Money

June 5, 2002
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When President George W. Bush rearranged the tax code and decided to give everyone (or at least those who pay taxes) a check this summer, the common folk rejoiced and economists, upon word of that rejoicing, smiled.

That’s because for the tax “rebate” to work, everyone who gets a check has to spend it. Economists call it fueling the economy. The common folk call it spending.

Whatever the terminology, the check will be in the mail.

When? That’s where Congressman VernEhlers, R-Grand Rapids, can help. Ehlers has put an interactive tax-refund calculator on his Web site.

Go to http://www.house.gov/ehlers. Then go to the bottom half of his home page and click on “When will you get your tax refund?” After clicking on the link, type the last two digits of your Social Security number, click “Go,” and the calculator will instantly reveal the week the check will be sent.

The calculator doesn’t reveal the amount of the check, but Bush’s plan calls for rebates of up to $300 for single taxpayers, $500 for single heads of households and $600 for married persons filing jointly.

Upon arrival of the check, economists will urge you to “go forth and spend.”

It’s the American way.

  • Something else that’s truly American is talking on a cellular phone while driving. While it doesn’t rank up there with applying eye makeup, eating a Big Mac, fries, apple pie wedge and a McFlurry (simultaneously) or even scrounging around under the seat for that Led Zeppelin IV CD, there is at least one group out there trying to squelch the road work.

“The ability to do multiple tasks in the workplace is a skill most every manager desires in their employees,” said DanVartanian, coordinator for the Michigan Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS). “However, when this skill is attempted behind the wheel, it often leads directly to a negative impact on the organization’s bottom line.”

NETS is a nationwide effort to get drivers to hang up while operating a vehicle. The organization claims that distracted driving is a contributing factor in between 25 percent and 50 percent of traffic crashes — 4,000 to 8,000 crashes daily. (Annually, this would work out to 1.46 million to 2.92 million traffic accidents across the U.S. No wonder insurance agencies stay in business.)

Annually, U.S. employers spend $53 billion on costs related to traffic crashes, according to NETS.

While the numbers seem high to us, Vartanian says it’s the thought that counts. People who talk on cell phones while driving can be distracted. To that end, NETS is working on the 2001 Drive Safely Work Week Campaign to focus on the issues of distracted driving and buckling up — the best defense against distracted drivers.

The best way to go about this, the organization believes, is to appeal to employers. Michigan NETS has put together a public service campaign to raise awareness among employees, especially during Drive Safely to Work Week, Sept. 10-14.

Employers who would like the campaign kit can contact Vartanian at (517) 333-5322 or by e-mail at vartanid@state.mi.us

  • If talking on a cell phone while driving seems rude, it’s nothing when compared to what goes on in the workplace, according to a recent University of Michigan study conducted by U-M psychologist LiliaCortina, who is affiliated with the university’s Institute on Women and Gender.

Rudeness and bad manners have become increasingly common in the workplace, said the researcher, who found that 71 percent of workers surveyed had been insulted, demeaned, ignored or otherwise treated discourteously by their co-workers and superiors.

Employees who experience uncivil treatment report lower job satisfaction, the study shows. They also are more likely to withdraw from their jobs by being tardy repeatedly, taking unnecessary sick days or simply not working very hard.

“When they are silent, they experience a higher level of psychological problems, including depression and anxiety. So there’s a real dilemma about how to respond,” she said.

The research team surveyed 1,100 employees of a large federal court system. Participants were mainly white females with at least some college education, and were employed in jobs ranging from mail clerks and secretaries to data analysts, attorneys and department heads.

“This kind of behavior is pervasive,” Cortina said. “Since we asked about rude treatment in the last five years, the incidence rate is, if anything, an underestimate. Also, we didn’t ask about rudeness from the public, delivery people or others from outside the organization, just from co-workers and superiors.

“This workplace is representative of many U.S. organizations with similar gender ratios and power structures. Women are in the numerical majority while men dominate at the top of the structure.”

What to do? Well, that’s the problem, according to Cortina. Workers who speak out against such activity are slighted, ostracized and even gossiped about. Keeping silent, however, comes with its own set of ramifications: significantly more psychological and health complaints such as nervousness, sadness or frequent minor illnesses.

“Given these patterns,” she said, “it’s clear that organizations need to establish climates that empower employees to speak up and ensure the safety of doing so.”

If it isn’t possible to confide in colleagues, Cortina suggests, consider talking to family and friends who don’t work at the same place.

But for employers who really care about sensitivity in the workplace, that shouldn’t have to be an option.

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