Ask Mr. Fix-it Guy

Over the last several days I have received many angry letters from readers who were upset over a statement I made in my previous column—the one about taxes. I know exactly how you feel. I would be upset too if I had just learned that the government requires us to pay taxes! It’s a good thing my readers pay attention to the outside world. Actually they were complaining about my depiction of Republicans and Democrats; the former being all-too-ready to kill a harmless, defenseless, disease-infested rat, and the latter jumping up on a chair to avoid it, yet desiring to let it live and name it Rusty. Before I get into today’s topic, allow me to apologize.

The death threats are right; my depiction of our nation’s political parties is off-center. Allow me to correct this mistake. The Republicans wouldn’t be trying to kill the rat; they would be unleashing about 10 tons of nuclear weapons on it, while the Democrats give over their bedrooms so that the rat may be as comfortable as possible. Of course, the Green Party is pounding on the front door, screaming “Let me in! Let me in!” And that brings us to our topic of today…home-improvement.

Spring is upon us and just as every other home-owner in our credit-breathing country, I want to improve my home—except that I don’t live in one, I rent an apartment. So, in reality, I am no help. But before you go running off to that gigantic warehouse depot, listen to some timely advice. I want to help you make the wise decisions that are necessary in order for you to get worked over properly by the inspector when you try to sell your home. That’s why I’ve decided to bring in everyone’s favorite home-improvement guru, Bob Vila. No, wait, he’s unavailable. I believe it has something to do with an unfortunate mobbing incident outside of a Barnes and Noble on his latest book signing tour. Instead, let me introduce you to America’s second favorite home-improvement maniac, Mr. Fix-it Guy. He is going to respond to your questions using the always-popular question and answer format.

Mr. Fix-it Guy, I want to improve my home (mainly because my wife keeps threatening to make me sleep with the dog if I don’t), but it’s hard for me to get excited about home-improvement when the prices are so high. What can I do to save money while improving my home? That’s easy! Most people think that in order to “do the best job” you have to hire a contractor or landscaper to do the work for you. I say that’s poppycock. Everyone has the ability to do it themselves. So what if your lawn turns into a spawning ground for countless insects and rodents, that’s the way Mother Nature intended it. And if you’re putting in a fire-place, a few large holes in key places can make the difference. You’ll be able do anything if you have the right tools.

Mr. Fix-it Person (I prefer to use non gender-specific terms so I can always be politically correct), I want to build a porch off my back door. What steps do I need to take so that I do it right? Hire a contractor.

Mr. Fix-it Guy, I am an incredibly rich, over-paid executive who likes to waste money. I want to redecorate my home. What do you recommend I do? Allow me to give a plug to the best furniture store out there for the over-paid money wasters—Nebraska Furniture Mart (“I’m afraid I can’t answer that for you, let me find a supervisor.”). This retail establishment is phenomenal at making you pay insane amounts of money and somehow managing to not give you any product in return. I’m just impressed that they found a more efficient way to throw money away than just throwing it away.

Mr. Fix-it Guy, what’s the difference between a load-bearing wall and a “stud” behind the dry wall? That is a great question. Imagine the load-bearing wall is like Wal-Mart (“We’ll be taking over your small town next!”). You wish you could get rid of it so you can turn your basement into suburban pool hall, yet it’s not going anywhere. Of course, you always find yourself going to it at three in the morning for a late-night snack craze. The “stud” is more like Hollywood. It’s there, but if it weren’t, you’d never know the difference.

Mr. Fix-it Guy, are you available for private contracts? Absolutely! I am available any time, except for Monday-Sunday. My prices are on average with other contractors, but I give you the added advantage of never having to actually deal with me. I make you feel like I was never there. When it comes to payment, I require it upfront. I found that if I waited until the job was finished before collecting the bill, I would have to work a lot harder. I take checks, cash, and all major credit cards (except for Discover, that’s a fake company set up by the National Football League so they can spy on their viewers).

That’s all the time we have for today, but make sure to thank Mr. Fix-it Guy for coming and sharing his wisdom. I certainly learned a lot, and I even hired him to paint my apartment for me, but he seems to be running out the door now rather quickly.

“Hey, come back here, I just gave you my credit card!” Oh well, I’ll try to catch up to him. Those contractors are wily characters.

A Tax Break—Up

Well, it’s officially tax season again, and we all know what that means: a rise in accountant-assisted suicides. That’s right, Dr. Kevorkian has transferred over to the money management field to help all those facing the impending doom of the IRS (“The William Wallace of government agencies”). As is ninety-nine percent of America, chances are you will have to pay the government instead of receiving a refund. We know things have turned sour when a near poverty-level friend of mine did his taxes last night and learned that he owed the government more money. And he’s in the easiest tax bracket!

That’s right folks, each year it’s getting harder and harder to get money back from Uncle Sam, unless, of course you are his off-spring or your name is Donald Trump. Why does he get a tax break? He should be having people over to the Taj Mahal for dinner saying things like, “Everybody, this round of tax penalties are on me!” But of course, he doesn’t have to pay extra taxes because he has this special word he uses anytime the IRS come near – I can only say it once, for fear that a spying government official might hear it and shrink back under their desks in horror. The forbidden word is “deductions”. Deductions, deductions, deductions. That’s right. Donald Trump has more deductions than Wilt Chamberlin had sleepovers. And you, my friends, have none.

You might be saying to yourself, “I may not have any deductions right now, but I sure will once I get married!” To a single individual looking for the easiest way to scheme money back from the IRS, marriage is the quickest answer. And the plan seemed to actually work for a while. A couple would get married, have scores of children and receive a golden egg’s worth of deductions (I apologize if any undercover IRS agents have stuck gigantic pencils in their ears to block out my repeated use of the word “deduction”). Yet that is not the way it works anymore. Congress, always working for you, has found ways for the IRS to get around the child deduction and still force you to pay an arm and a leg each year. It’s incredibly comforting to know that the legislative branch of the government is working so hard for my benefit, yet I wish they would spend less time finding creative ways for me to give my money to them and start figuring out how to legislate romance.

Thanks to another astute friend of mine, it has come to my attention that Congress (“We cost the most, but we do the least!”) has been spending a lot of time pondering the question of homosexual marriage. Is it legal for two individuals of the same gender to get married? Let me explain the two arguments. One side of Congress wants to allow gay marriages because by the joining of two people together into a legal oneness, it pushes them up into the next tax bracket allowing for more money, and henceforth more cocktail parties of the likes where Ted Kennedy continually manages to always lose his trousers. Ted’s version of the moon-walk has become the stuff of legend around many-a-gossip rings in the Cambridge area. The other side of the argument has to do with the fear that if Congress allows it, many right-wing conservatives will bash their heads in with very heavy books.

Personally, I choose not to hold an opinion on this subject. And this is not just because I could care less. It is because I think the alternative lifestyle community is crazy to push for legal registration for their marriages. Before you go labeling me a bigot, give me a chance to say why. I think it’s in their best interest to keep things the way they are. The gay and lesbian community currently holds a reputation of being chic (“cool” for those that have never picked up a magazine). They congregate in the urban centers of America, where hot coffee shops and late-night dance clubs rule. Why change that? Why trade that in for a suburban home with a back-yard (not that I don’t love mowing the yard in sweltering heat) and a mini-van that is secretly rusting from the inside out? You people are cool, don’t go hanging out with the bath-robe wearing, newspaper reading, early-to-bed crowd!

Before you NRA-trained ready to attack conservatives come running at me, weapons cocked and ready to pummel, hear me out. You all are our nation’s “moral” conscience; the group that is willing to do the dirty work. We all know that the liberals won’t be ready when the time comes to throw out the dead rat they found in the basement—they’ll be screaming at the top of their lungs for you to come and rescue them, the whole time standing on their chairs in panic. And when you catch the rat, they’ll beg you not to kill it, because they decided that its name is Rusty.

I say the non-gay community should let homosexual marriage pass—let our alternative friends take over the mini-vans and the extra tax penalties. The straight community can then go live it up in the recently vacated downtown apartments, making off with their tax returns and laughing all the way to the bank. That’s what everyone wants, isn’t it? The gay and lesbian community can join the real world (“There is NO reality in this reality show”), while the straight people like myself can skip out on all the responsibility and party it up (except that’s what I do now, anyway).

And here’s one last point to give up the fight against homosexual marriage. Over half of all marriages end up in divorce, costing the individuals even more money and tax penalties. I say, if that’s what they want, let’em have it. As for me, I’ll be taking my spare change and putting it in some off-shore account. Or maybe I’ll invest it and open up an all night wedding chapel/accountant’s office/IRS defense headquarters. That way I’ll make sure to have plenty of DEDUCTIONS!