There is a bar in Vail, Iowa, called “Homer’s.”  The bar has been there since I was a kid.  The owners have changed, the name hasn’t.

Francis Devaney was an old bachelor that owned the original Homer’s.  His nickname was Homer.

Almost everyone who grew up in Vail has a very good memory of Homer’s.  As I first knew it, the bar was on the west wall, you entered from the east.  Later, he had the bar run east to west on the north side.  The wall had a mirror, like most bars, and the walls were plastered with cutesy little signs, like: “The bank and I made an agreement.  They don’t sell beer; I don’t loan money.”  And another that read: “Helen Waite is our credit manager.  If you want credit, you’ll have to go to Helen Waite.”

My favorite memory of the place was when I was in my teens.  I must have been fourteen or fifteen.  I played pool, pinball, cards with the old men, and, when Homer would get sloppy drunk, I tended bar.  Imagine walking into a bar today and seeing a fourteen-year-old boy behind the bar asking, “what’ll ya have?”

Most people drank beer.  That was no problem.  If it was a bottle or a can, it was in the cooler.  If the customer wanted a draft, a basically clean glass was available and you tilted it under the tap, let a little run down the drain, and fill the glass until foam reached the top – or over the top.  It didn’t matter.  Eventually, you had to wipe the bar off with a wet, dirty, off-white rag.  If the bar became too sticky, you might have to find a new rag and break it in.

Often, Homer would be passed out in a booth.  Or, he might be sitting at another bar, disturbing any of the other bar’s customers.  That’s when some of them would leave to go to Homer’s.  This was always after dark, and the crowd wasn’t large at that time of day.  Homer’s was mostly a daytime bar.

One night, Homer closed up in a hurry (it’s not like he ever swept or cleaned the bar before closing) and told me drive him and Ray Norton to Denison in Homer’s car, a 1958 Chevy.  I didn’t have a license, just a learner’s permit.  I drove, Homer in the middle, and Ray in the passenger seat.  We all had a beer.  As we were driving down Highway 30 west, entering town near the Lucky Lanes Bowling Alley, Norton rolled down the window and threw out an empty beer can.

“Norton!”  I yelled.  “There’s a highway patrolman behind us!”  Norton, with his permanent sad puppy eyes laughed and make a smart-ass remark.  The trooper didn’t pull us over, thank God.

We pulled in the Oasis parking lot (Yes, in Denison, Iowa, there is a bar called the Oasis, and it was there long before Garth Brooks wrote his famous song Friends In Low Places).  Once inside, Homer went to the bar while Norton and I sat at a table in the darkest part of the bar.  Homer came to the table with three beers.  I drank that beer with no problem.  Besides Millie, the bartender, we were the only people in the bar.  Millie is another story for a future blog.

After the Oasis, we traveled uptown to a bar that was owned by Crawford County’s only black man.  I had no trouble getting served there, either.  But when we hit the third bar of the night, I was refused service.  Well!  We didn’t give them any of our business!

I know the time period was school time, and it wasn’t a weekend night.  I can’t remember the ride home that night or going to school the next day.  I don’t think it was because I had too much to drink.  The memory lapse is most likely caused by time.

Many kids in Vail will tell you that they had no trouble getting beer from Homer.  You see, Homer was a dirty old pervert.  He greeted every man by calling him false face, and he called young teenage boys the same.  But with boys, he added, “how’s it hangin’?”  He would reach to grab you by the genitals, but I’m not sure he actually grabbed anyone.  At least, they’re not telling.  “Getin’ any?” was another phrase he used a lot.

I don’t know of anyone under age that was ever caught with beer they obtained from Homer.  And there was plenty.

After my stint in the Army, I stopped at Homer’s a few times a week.  One evening, a guy I once worked with stopped at our house (I was living with mom).  I suggested we go get a beer, and I suggested Homer’s because I knew it was quiet and we could talk and hear each other.  So, we sat at the bar and ordered a beer (in a bottle – I had to warn Steve not to order a draw).  We were the only customers.

All of sudden the door swung open and two guys came rushing in and headed right for the pool table.  They dived under it.  I knew one of them.  The other would eventually become my brother-in-law.  Looking out to the street we could see about six or seven cars pull up to the curb, in front of the bar, and across the street.  Each car had at least three passengers, some more.

The people getting out of the cars assembled in front of the bar.  The door opened and a few big, burly, husky guys stepped in first.  “Oh shit!  This isn’t looking good,” I told Steve.  About that time Homer comes from around the bar with a big revolver.  I had never seen a pistol so big.

He told those guys to get the hell out of his bar.  Steve and I didn’t know what the hell to do.  We sat. Still.  The crowd backed out of the door and gathered in the street.  Homer pointed the weapon at the two guys under the pool table and told them to get the hell out, too.  The guy I knew said something like, “They’ll kill us if we go out there.”  And Homer replied, “them or me!”

They scurried out the back door.  Homer went back behind the bar, placed the gun in a drawer, and told us he was closing.  No problem.

I never saw or heard from Steve again – ever!

Today, Homer’s is much different place.  I haven’t been in it for the past twenty years, but from what I’ve heard, it serves good food and the place is clean and clientele has changed.  Homer served food, too, I guess.  If you liked pickled pig’s feet out of jar, or pickled deviled eggs (also out of jar), or a packaged Slim Jim, Homer had it.  Not that I ever tried it.

There are so many stories and memories around Homer’s.  I can see that this is going to be Part I.

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Big Yellow Taxi

When I was a child, our home had a row of American elm trees separating our property from our neighbor to the south.  I climbed one of those trees so often that I could get to a branch 20 feet up within a few seconds.  Unfortunately, Dutch elm disease came along and wiped out just about every elm in Iowa and the nation.

The one good thing that came from all those diseased elms was the morel mushrooms that sprout in spring (that’s as far as I’m going to go on that subject – too many people have been harvesting them as it is, especially when newspapers love to publish stories on how to locate the tasty morsels).

After the Dutch elm disease, everyone was encouraged to plant ash trees.  I have planted so many ash trees that I couldn’t begin to estimate how many locations my hands got dirty planting them.  Now, along comes the emerald ash bore and eats up all the ash trees.  At a community meeting, we were told to plant Kentucky coffee trees.  Yeah, right.  They grow slowly and create a mess at almost every time of the year.  But to each their own.  Is the Kentucky coffee tree the next species to encounter a deadly disease?  A few years ago, we planted a pear tree to replace the only ash tree we had.  This fall, we have begun to reap its fruit.  I have canned 15 jars of pear preserves.

Although the American elm trees of my youth were in the west-central town of Vail, Iowa, today I have the same amount and same size of elm trees on the south part of our yard.  As with the Vail trees, you can plainly see that they grew up in a fence line, and the fence line was removed; at least, part of it was on my current property.  The trees have grown into the fence, and as long as they are still alive, the fence and trees will remain conjoined.

The derecho[1] we experienced this past August knocked a good fifteen-foot branch of the top of one of the elms.  The branch was hanging over the playground of the daycare, which abuts our property.  The daycare owner had it removed within a day or two.

I began thinking of trees last week when the Cedar Rapids Gazette published an article about the massive loss of Cedar Rapids’ tree canopy as a result of Iowa’s derecho.  A loss of trees as big as eastern Iowa’s loss, and in particular, Cedar Rapids’, removed decades (and in some cases – centuries) of shade, habitat for wildlife, oxygen production, soil erosion prevention, and most of all, beauty.  Those thoughts recurred when we traveled to Ankeny a few days ago.  Trees, removed from the ground, roots still clinging to the soil, were piled high in the middle of several former fields in order for ground-leveling machinery to alter the sites for future warehouses.  Sure, once the warehouse is built, a spattering of small trees will be planted in front of the mammoth structures.  But those trees will take a very long time to match the work of the trees that have been removed.

Our backyard in Des Moines cannot handle one more tree.  In addition to the elms, we have four apple trees, an oak tree, a peach tree, and five very small serviceberry trees (planted by accident).  Likewise, our front yard is limited.  In front, we have a maple tree, a pear tree, a crabapple tree and a tree that was here when we moved in (we have no idea what it is).

We haven’t mowed the back yard in years.  The trees along with a small garden, blueberry bushes, black raspberries, blackberry canes, cup plants (from Sandy & John – thank you), and a few other prairie plants, provide squirrels, ground hogs, birds of numerous species, deer, opossum, and raccoons with food, water, shelter, and places for raising the young.  The natural selection process would not be complete without the occasional feral cat or Coopers hawk.  We chase them away – sometimes – but our backyard, neighbors’ opinions notwithstanding, is a thing of beauty.  The backyard is a Certified Wildlife Habitat, designated as such by the National Wildlife Federation.  In order to have a certified backyard or garden, all that is necessary is to confirm you have provided food, water, cover, and places to raise young birds and/or animals.

Check this out:  https://www.nwf.org/Garden-for-Wildlife/Certify

They took all the trees
And put ’em in a tree museum
And they charged the people
A dollar and a half to seem ’em

Joni Mitchell – 1970

[1] Derecho:  a line of intense, widespread, and fast-moving windstorms and sometimes thunderstorms that moves across a great distance and is characterized by damaging winds.  Definitions from Oxford Languages


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John Patrick Ryan 1953-2020

Our brother, John Ryan, died sometime during the weekend of August 28-30, although the official date of his death is September 1, we were notified on the 31st, a day earlier.  Some things just don’t make sense.

John was a typical Ryan boy in many respects.  We were more than outlaws; we were collectively and individually terrorists in the minds of many Vail, Iowa, residents.  I’ll get some disagreement here, but John never really searched for trouble; it found him – often.  And although John had friends, he was a loner for much of his life.  Unfortunately, John was addicted to just about anything a person can be addicted to, except religion.  Gambling, drinking, drugs, sex, food, and the list goes on into areas I never knew were addictive.

Maybe John was in more trouble than the rest of us boys, it could be because he was caught more often.  John is the only person I have ever known to be cited for  “nightwalking.”  “One who walks the street at night is a night walker. Night Walkers are of suspicious appearance and behavior. The term denotes persons who sleep by day and walk by night. The purpose of such behavior can be commission of crime, nuisance, mischief or to disturb peace. Night Walkers are subject to criminal law in respect to misdemeanors actually committed.”  The circumstances were strange.  He was walking by the softball field around 11:00 pm.  There was a town curfew for juveniles, but he was over eighteen years old.  I suspect there was a conversation of which I am unaware.  He didn’t actually respect law and order.

He rarely showed emotion, concern, or disappointment.  There is no doubt that he was smart, but he was also lazy.  He was short 3 credit hours of earning an associate’s degree in golf course management.  His GPA was more than respectable.  No one knows why he wouldn’t complete the course.  He also started his own cleaning business in Omaha, which was successful, until he hired two of my brothers to work for him.

He was creative.  My favorite story about John is the one in which he was homeless at one point and asked if he could rent a room in my basement.  I didn’t want him sleeping outside, and I knew he couldn’t afford much, so we agreed that he would pay my first wife, Terri, one dollar a day for every day he stayed there.

One Saturday afternoon, I stopped at the Lincoln Club (better known as “Lucky’s”) in Vail after playing 18 holes of golf.  He approached me and asked if he could borrow fifty bucks.  I was reluctant, but he promised he would have the money by Monday.  I gave him the $50, he bought me a beer and drank one with me, and left the bar.  When I arrived home, Terri smiled and said, “guess what?  John was behind on rent and I brought it up to him.  Today, he finally paid the forty-five dollars in arears.”  I went down to the basement, drained his waterbed and sold it for thirty dollars.

John didn’t make the world a better place, as many of us strive to achieve, but it wasn’t a part of his life’s goal, either.  He had no ‘legal’ offspring, as far as any of us know.  However, one cold winter afternoon, I was home alone and the doorbell rang.  I looked outside.  A small woman with a baby in her arms was standing on the stoop.  Being cold and windy, I invited her in to keep the child from the bitter cold wind.  She said, “I would like to introduce you to your son (or daughter, I don’t remember; it was such a shock)”.  I had to tell her that she was sorely mistaken.  I had never seen her before in my life.  I realized almost immediately what had occurred.  John used my name, and it wasn’t the first time.  He had used this modus operandi of using my name, previously.

There are numerous John stories out there.  I can’t begin to write them all in a small blog.  I don’t intend to write a book, either.  All I want to accomplish is some small tribute to a brother that went from trouble to recluse.  The last time a family member had seen John was when I was traveling to Michigan’s Northern Peninsula circa 1997 and Robin and I stopped in Hancock, WI, to see him and his new wife, Judy.  Prior to that, I doubt anyone in the family had seen him since 1990 or the late 1980s.  Even John’s wife, Judy, hadn’t seen him in two years prior to his death.  My brother Joe provided the photo below of John and his friend, Patti.  We don’t know when it was taken.

Patti, John’s friend, and John.

I learned how to play chess at an early age.  I become quite good at it.  I had purchased some books and read about moves – the Queen’s Gambit, the Italian Defense, etc. (Other than playing my grandson, I have quit playing chess; don’t challenge me.)  It was the early 1990s and big news was the World Championship between Bobby Fisher and Boris Spassky.  It seems like everyone was paying attention to the matches on a daily basis.  Conversation in a bar led me to teach several patrons how to play.  Eventually, Mick Buck set up a tournament.  I suppose I was favored to win it.

When I noticed that John had entered the tournament, I questioned him: “You know how to play chess?”  He gave me some simple answer and I gave it no more thought, until I had to play him in the early rounds.  He was sharp and knowledgeable about moves and defenses.  He had me scrambling to save my queen, and when that was gone, my king.  He beat me!  I found out after the tournament that he went into my bedroom and borrowed my books.  Of course, I should have known, money was involved.  It probably wasn’t much, but I know he won back more than the entry fee.

He did things like that.  He managed to die on a day other than the official date on his death certificate.

There are several times in my life when someone would criticize or curse one of my bothers in front of my mom.  She took the side of her boys, which wasn’t easy.  “They’re my sons, and I love them unconditionally!”  John was often “the least of my brethren,” but like mom, I loved him unconditionally.  Rest in peace, John.  Finally!

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Popcorn, Peanuts & Cracker Jack

Sunday afternoons were slotted for room inspection during my childhood.  My father was a military man and he believed in duty, integrity and most important of all, humility.  As the youngest of six children, it never occurred to me to challenge this parental practice.  We always passed the inspection and would gather around the colored television happily chomping away on bowls of hot buttered popcorn as our family eagerly watched the latest episode of Bonanza.  It remains a treasured memory of momentary, blissful escape from the raging war and civil unrest that constantly circulated around us.

So when my spouse and partner fantasized for years about retiring and watching his beloved Kansas City Royals baseball team’s daily games, it made perfect sense.  He had fulfilled his duty by lobbying injustice at the Iowa Capitol for twenty-seven years, where I joined this mission for the last seven.  We battled the evil side of the behavioral approach to social problems, enhancing criminal penalties to control behavior.  He spent long hours at his computer researching and preparing for upcoming sessions year after year. He simply couldn’t justify taking time away from this charge to selfishly watch television. So he remained focused on social justice, although he longingly tracked his Royals through the daily sports page.

The main difference between lobbying for corporate interests versus criminal issues is that when we lost the debate, lives would be damaged or destroyed and liberty lost.  Enhancing penalties aren’t effective, but they are powerful and some legislators arrive at the Capitol full of anger. Pushing punitive laws serve as an outlet for their personal biases and frustrations.  Though possibly the most dangerous legislator of all is the one using social problems to attract media attention.  Vanity is easily manipulated, so when the motivation for change isn’t pure, the person will alter his position when the attention begins to shift elsewhere.

A number of years ago, before the legislature gaveled in, a state senator stomped up the east entrance steps at the Capitol, and spotting me immediately he swiftly turned and made a bee line towards me.  It seems a radio station used a recording of me during a subcommittee meeting and not him, the chair of the meeting.  After this odd episode, it became easier for me to spot attention seekers.  They will introduce controversial legislation hoping to attract far reaching exposure.  Lobbyists wanting to get meaningful legislation passed need to maintain a wide berth of the media or risk alienating the posturing politician from future support.

So recently retired Marty happily turned his back on these political games at the Capitol and switched on Royals baseball.  Soon it became clear that he wanted to share America’s pastime with me.  So after digging out the slightly yellowed Minnesota Twins 1987 Homer Hanky from a dusty old cardboard box containing my inheritance from my father, I embraced the game of baseball willing to learn all its little nuances.  The Minnesota Twins gained another fan as we watched both teams navigate the shortened 2020 season due to COVID-19.  With great pride, I accurately remembered every word to the song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” that was traditionally sung during the 7th inning stretch.  Childhood memories of games past filled me with such warmth, only to come crashing down when “God Bless America” was slowly and painfully sung during the break in the 7th inning.  With no fans in the stands, and since America wasn’t the “home sweet home” for many baseball players, the song seemed both insensitive and quite frankly, sadly superficial.  But we adjusted accordingly by happily munching away on peanuts and Cracker Jack and using the mute button when needed.

But then the Twins decided to be one of a handful of sports teams to participate in the boycott of games in the name of racial injustice that took place at the end of August.  They didn’t lose any pay and played a double header the next day, which meant they played 14 innings instead of the 18 they would have played over two days.  It just didn’t play out as a big sacrifice on their part, given that George Floyd died in Minneapolis.

Now the Royals didn’t participate in the boycott.  Whit Merrifield, a star hitter for the Royal’s and a fan favorite stated:

“We feel what we do is a separation from what’s going on in the world.  We feel we have to go out and do our job and give people a three-hour window to enjoy a baseball game and to not think about what’s going on in the world.”

Merrifield gave me renewed hope.  But sports players, like legislators are public figures.  Some may genuinely care about racial equality, while others just like the attention it brings.

The other night we simultaneously watched the Royals play the Indians and the Kansas City Chiefs play the Houston Texans, the socially distanced and masked Chief’s fans did the tomahawk chop to support their team.  Those genuinely dedicated to racial sensitivity have a whole lot of work to do.

This article appeared in print in the Fall 2020 issue of the Prairie Progressive.  We recommend subscribing to this quarterly newsletter.  Details on the website at: https://theprairieprogressive.com/


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Take A Pill

One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you, don’t do anything at all

White Rabbit by Grace Slick, Jefferson Airplane.

This week I have my yearly visit with my primary care doctor at the Veterans Administration Health Clinic of Central Iowa.  Instead of seeing my doctor in person, I will converse with him about my health concerns via telephone.

This appointment is going to take some time.  I rarely watch television, but I try not to miss any Kansas City Royals or Minnesota Twins games.  During commercial breaks, I keep getting messages that I “should ask my doctor if [insert name brand medication here] is right for me.”  I have a list.

If you’ve seen these commercials, have you noticed that you are never told what the medication is supposed to relieve?  You have to use a search engine to find out everything about the drug.  That’s the advertisement’s goal, getting you to click on their website.

Can you even pronounce some of these medications?  Will I have to spell out Baqsimi to my doctor to see if it’s right for me.  I certainly can’t pronounce it.  I don’t want to be insensitive to people who may need these medicines, but scanning the possible side effects should be enough to keep anyone from wanting to take a drug that eases one particular ailment.  I rarely see one anymore in which death is not one of the possible side effects.  And often, the list of side effects includes both constipation and diarrhea.  No, thank you.

It has to be impossible for both diarrhea and constipation to occur at the same time.  So, which is it?  Has the drug company not researched this pill completely to have the possibility of two adverse conditions as a side effect?  This is the point in which the manufacturer blames the patient.  “The medicine affects each individual differently.”  Think about that for a minute.  If side effects can range wildly from the runs to plugging up, wouldn’t the effect of the medicine be different to each individual user?  Okay, I know the answer, and that’s why I’m skeptical about drugs advertised on television.

I used to think that only old people used pill boxes.  Today, I use two pill boxes.  The red one is for the pills I take before bed.  The blue one contains medication I have to take in the morning.  That makes me feel older than old.  Twice as old.

For as many years as possible, I tried to keep from taking pills if I didn’t need them.  I rarely took an aspirin or ibuprofen when I had a headache or pain.  I still hesitate to use over-the-counter medication, although I do, occasionally and continuously.  That’s a confusing statement, isn’t it?  It’s sort of like throwing in constipation and diarrhea in the same sentence.  I take an over-the-counter antihistamine twice a day.  However, I rarely use any pain relievers such as aspirin and ibuprofen.

The pills I take have been prescribed to keep me alive, or at least aid in the everyday functions that seem to have a link to healthy living.  That must be the way of life for so many of us who have become senior citizens.

If you have paid attention to previous blogs of mine, you would understand that I experimented with far too many drugs as a young man.  My aversion now is probably some unnecessary fear of getting hooked or overdosing.  I can’t explain it, and it probably cost too much to find a shrink that would explain it.

Or, I could just take another pill.

Doctor please, some more of these
Outside the door, she took four more
What a drag it is getting old

Mother’s Little Helper by Keith Richards / Mick Jagger. The Rolling Stones

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A Taxing Dilemma

Saturday and Sunday, August 7th and 8th, is the tax-fee weekend in Iowa for purchases of clothing and footwear.  What that means is that there is no addition of sales tax, state or local, on purchases of certain cloths or shoes, boots, sandals, etc.  As with just about everything, there are exceptions.

If one item of clothing or footwear exceeds one-hundred dollars, the entire item is taxed at the usual rate.

Clothing does not include: “watches, watchbands, jewelry, umbrellas, handkerchiefs, sporting equipment, skis, swim fins, roller blades, skates, and any special clothing or footwear designed primarily for athletic activity or protective use and not usually considered appropriate for everyday wear.”  Question.  Does that now include face masks in the exemption?  Hmmm.  Although face masks are designed for protective use, it is now considered appropriate for everyday wear.

What is “athletic activity?”  Is Yoga considered to be an athletic activity?  “In the West, yoga is less understood for its spiritual component and more commonly known as a physical workout of specific poses, or asanas.”  Merriam-Webster defines “athletics” as 1: “exercises, sports, or games engaged in by athletes. 2: the practice or principles of athletic activities.  Using these definitions, are yoga pants excluded in the tax-free sales?  The administrative rule on this section of the Iowa Code specifies that “jogging suits” would be included in tax-exempt clothing, but what about jogging shorts, sweat pants, and sports bras?  Why would a sports bra be taxable but not a regular bra?  Does this tax-free exercise include purchases at Victoria’s Secret?  Furthermore, who in government is going to determine that a person is wearing a swim suit (tax-exempt) for everyday use and not used by a member of the swim team(taxable)?

As you can tell, I have never liked this law.  At the time it was first enacted, I saw many parents running out to buy school clothing and shoes.  One month later, JC Penney had a weekend sale with ten percent off.  You can do the math.  The sales tax was 5 percent at the time.  Today, it is seven percent in most areas of Iowa.

No longer do I pay much attention to clothing sales, but perhaps Penney’s and several other stores have finally offered their sales on the tax holiday weekend.

Items sold as a unit must remain a unit.  “A suit is normally priced at $125.00 on a single price tag. The suit cannot be split into separate articles so that any of the items may be sold for under $100.00 in order to qualify for the exemption.”  First of all, I don’t necessarily want to see a suit that sells for $125.  Here’s the loophole:  Buy a sports coat and a few pairs of pants.  But once again, can you even buy a decent sports jacket for less than $100?

If the store doesn’t have what you want during this holiday, and you request a rain check, the item is taxed when you pick it up after the holiday is over.  That doesn’t seem fair, does it?

Layaway – This is a strange exception.  If you place an item on layaway on the first day of the sales tax holiday, and the item is priced under $100, you will not have to pay a sales tax on any portion of the costs of the item if you pick it up on day two of the holiday, but if you pick it up on any other day after the holiday, you must pay sales tax on the entire price of the item.  Who places something on layaway for one day?

There are quite a few other exemptions in Iowa.  You can find the entire list here.  It also spells out what to do about tailoring, rentals, refunds, etc.

Fifteen other states also have this silly promotional ‘holiday’.  You’ll have to check out your state’s Department of Revenue website to discover what is acceptable or not in Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.  Some of these states have more than one weekend.  A few states include school supplies such as pencils and paper tablets, and a couple include backpacks and computers.

Iowa’s silly holiday began in 2000.  The law’s intent was twofold.  It was supposed to give an incentive to businesses and promote economic growth locally and throughout the state.  Also, it was sold as an “effective tool for providing relief to low-income individuals.”  Neither goal was obtained, yet Iowa and other states hang on to these scams.  The District of Columbia and a few states have suspended or entirely dropped the schemes since they began in 1980.  “Ohio and Michigan enacted the first sales tax holidays in 1980 when they offered one-time tax holidays for automobile purchases. But it was New York that sparked the modern trend, with the first sales tax holiday for clothing in 1997. New York’s objective was to tackle cross-border shopping, the phenomenon of residents traveling to nearby states to take advantage of lower sales tax rates (particularly clothing purchases in New Jersey).”  The Tax Foundation.

The Tax Foundation cites a 2017 Federal Reserve study that claims some retailers raise prices during the tax-exempt holidays, and that there is no significant increases in consumer spending during these holidays.  Although sales taxes are regressive, and low-income people may reap a benefit, the tax-exempt holiday also applies to those with large financial resources.  In effect, it once again gives those that got – more.

You can check out the links above and here to see what is available for a tax-free shopping weekend.  Or, you can go to a neighboring state, such as Minnesota, where clothing and footwear is non-taxable all year long.  Either that, or wait for quarterly sales, either in-store or online.



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