Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Stop! Thief!

I'm here in Tully's stealin' their wifi, except that it's free. Next to me there are some men truly stealing. Three guys, one bald, goatee-ed guy with an American accent and two Latinos, one who does not appear to speak much English or he's just quiet. Mr. Loquacious Latina, LL, is chatting with Baldy. Baldy is quizzing him all over the plave about some house LL is working in, apparently painting kjudging from the paint splattered Glidden Tee he is sporting. I wonder how many gallons of paint you have to buy to get one, or do they automatically throw in a T-shirt with each purchase? Hm.

LL answers each query about the job, possible repairs, "How's the floor? Did you do the floor? Should I do the floor?" asks Baldy. "Do you have other jobs lined up? Are you working all the time? Do you have lots of work? I got this $3000 dollar job they'd give me but I need another guy."

There's a bit of diversion as they talk about other contractors who hire cheap labor and do shoddy work. Baldy looks great compared to them. He reiterates how great this other job is, but he needs x, y, and z, and apparently, LL, too.

I can't hear LL too well as he is facing away from me, but he does not seem to want Baldy's other job.

Mid-conversation, Baldy hands LL $800 cash as was agreed for this painting job. There is one moment of theft, clearly. Baldy just stole from the State, Local and Federal Gov'ts. No payroll taxes are paid, no income tax is paid. Baldy stole from LL, too, no FICA, no health insurance, none of the security that comes with an above the table job.

Is LL legal? Unknown, and I don't want to judge, but he could be. There's more theft, if so, but I know plenty of fine, upstanding Americans who are happy to work under the table. Plumbers, electricians, after their day job, they might just stop by the house of a friend of a friend to pick up some extra cash off the books. If you're a home-owner squeaking by on a lower middle class income, it may be the only way you can afford repairs or improvements without doing it yourself and goofing it up.

It's theft. If you'll steal small things, where will you stop? I know some young people with felony convictions leaving them permanently un or under-employed and their crimes were theft related. If any theft is wrong and deserves punishment, all of it is.


Brett said...

So, although its a courtesy to use the toilet paper at a public facility, you don't replace it. Same goes for the electricity used to see where your wiping. I do see your point, and you do appear somewhat biased on the nature of 'under the table' labor (not a fan). The majority of contract jobs, such as interior work, is non taxed, from the two parties under agreement, even if the agreement is written, the contractor usually pays the taxes for all their jobs at the end of the year. LL, however, whether legal or not, prolly can't get a decent paying job, possibly due to no previous history on US soil. We all are thieves at one point or another in life, most o the time without realizing it.

Pat Kurz said...

I actually agree with you, Brett. It's often the only way homeowners can get by, and keeps construction costs low. If the low cost always translated into more affordability that would be one thing, but I think it often just becomes higher profits for the guy at the top of the food chain. Imagine how low our taxes could be if everybody worked above board?