Want to know your child’s lunch options? Go online.
Constant updates are now available on your child’s academic progress. Online.
Your check gets deposited directly. Want to know your deductions? Go online.
And now, when you file taxes, you need to file online? The proposal is to charge an extra fee if you file that old fashioned paper tax form—the paper forms that used to be distributed free through post offices.
There is an assumption, a terribly wrong assumption, that everyone has or soon will have computers connecting them to the internet at work and at home.
According to a direct marketing trade publication, after many years of increasing internet access, the percentage of households with computer internet connections peaked in 2006 and has gone down for the last three years in a row. This is due to the economic downturn, of course.
Add together the monthly cost of a broadband internet connection, perhaps an extra phone line, and the initial cost of buying the computer and hookup and peripherals (divided by the 3-5 year life of this rapidly-obsolete equipment) and each hooked up household is paying close to a thousand dollars a year to be part of the online generation. More and more households can no longer afford it.
Direct marketers such as Lands End and even Amazon recognize the downturn. Online advertising while cheaper, has not been as effective as originally touted. While there has been an a decline in all advertising formats, the percentage using printed direct mail is now going up. Your mailbox is again filling up with commercial mail.
But government, business and education entities remain mesmerized by the computer-industrial complex into thinking that every American is going to be online in just a few more years. Most colleges and universities no longer publish catalogs or schedules. From one-fourth to one-third of rural Kansas students are without internet at home and will have to go to schools or public libraries to get online. Non-traditional students, the unemployed, the elderly, and the rural isolated become “non-persons.”
It is true that to get around in America takes a car. And folks who do not have a car are handicapped in finding work and getting around. But we don’t require you by law to have a car, and charge you a penalty for not having one. That is exactly what an extra charge for filing taxes by paper will do. Unlike driving, you are required to file taxes.
Sure, it is more costly for the state to process a paper tax return than one filed electronically. But that newfound state economy was bought by many Kansans paying far more for their electronics and connections. We admittedly use our electronics for more than paying taxes, but our behavior should not penalize those who cannot afford this expensive medium or chose not to use it.
Futurists who dream of every newborn baby being connected to the internet need to write science fiction stories, not state policies. They also need to get out a little more and see that there is a significant population in Kansas who are not online—folks who actually have a life not tied to a computer screen.
“Life, liberty, and the possession of a computer” is not how the U.S. Declaration of Independence reads.