Dear advice man: Can this marriage be saved?

CODA

GREG BEAN

Dear Expert Financial Advice Person:

I’m writing you today in the hope of saving my marriage. I love my wife, but she does some economic things that drive me crazy. We both put our paychecks into the same joint account, but I manage our finances, and make sure the bills get paid on time.

Here’s the rub. For the last few years, she’s been spending some of our money on things to which I am very much opposed. For example, she donates every year to some hug-a-tree bunch that seeks to stop whale hunting by confronting Japanese whaling vessels on the open ocean. I say it’s wrong for us to meddle in foreign economies. Not only that, but I don’t much care for whales in the first place (nonmonogamous), and I have asked her to stop subsidizing lustful cetacean infidelity. She refuses, claiming that because she earns as much as I do, and pays her share of our joint bills, she ought to be able to support the occasional cause without my making a federal case out of it. Same thing with her donations to the local National Public Radio station during their semiannual fund drive. She says she listens to that station every day and feels she ought to pay a little something for the value she receives. I say there’s no way that even a penny of my hard-earned money is going to wind up in the pockets of those liberal goofballs so they can spread more propaganda than they already shovel out. I’ve asked her to stop on many occasions, and she tells me to shut my pie hole and write the check.

There are lots of other examples of areas where we disagree on how to spend our revenue, but you get the point. How long do I have to put up with this nonsense before I draw a non-negotiable line in the sand? I say I’ve put up with it long enough.

Last week, I told her that unless she does things my way, I’m going to stop paying all the bills. Granted, there might be some unpleasant side effects to that action, like losing our house and cars, and the orthodontist might take back the braces we just put on little Ricky’s teeth and are paying for by installment, But I figure it’s worth all that to get my way. She says we ought to talk about it, and maybe compromise, but I’m sick of compromise, so I’ve refused to sit down at the kitchen table and hash out a deal.

So here’s the question: Do you have any advice on making her do what I want? She’s packing her car as we speak, but I’m hoping to find a way to get her to cave before she absconds and our entire life collapses.

John in South Brunswick

Dear John:

Of course I have some advice. I wouldn’t be much of an expert if I didn’t. My advice is: Do not try this at home. Leave it to the professionals.

Next week, John Boehner and Harry Reid write in for expert financial advice on the division of community property (What would Solomon do?).

Mr. Expert Financial Advice Person

  

Speaking of expert financial advice, I sure wish someone could advise me on how to feel about a property tax increase in my home community of East Brunswick.

The Township Council recently adopted a $56 million budget for 2011 that reduces spending by $750,000, but still includes a 6 percent hike in property taxes. Township Chief Financial Officer Lou Neely (who has been in that position longer than Dorian Gray) explained that the tax increase is necessary just so the township can stay even. The overall tax base has shrunk by $50 million because of the dramatic downturn in home and business values, and the township has paid out $25 million in tax appeals, he said.

I agree that a modest property tax increase is probably necessary, but I do think Neely and some of the other folks at town hall ought to work on how they’re framing their message.

Here’s what I heard:

“Look, we know that your home, or business property, might not be worth what you paid for it, and you stand to lose a bundle. We also know that you’ve suffered for the last few years in this lousy economy. But we need you to pay more anyway, in large part because we’ve had to pay out a lot of moolah we’d already spent to people we’d charged more than they owed. Were mistakes made? Obviously. But that horse is way out of the barn, pard, and somebody needs to make good on our errors. Unfortunately, that person is you.”

See what I mean? In the same Sentinel story, Neely had a complicated explanation of all the other reasons a tax hike is necessary, but I was so upset about the tax appeals business I couldn’t focus on them. I might be this newspaper’s Expert Financial Advice Person (self-proclaimed), but that one was beyond my awesome powers of cogitation and elucidation. A little help, please?

  

My column last week on the dangers I foresee in raising the taxes on soda and other so-called “junk foods” got a lot of response, and it’s no surprise that some of it came from readers who disagree. Sue, from Little Silver, was representative of that group when she said, “We already have ‘sin’ taxes on cigarettes and alcohol. I don’t mind paying extra for my beer because it’s a luxury, not a requirement. If I don’t like the tax, I don’t have to buy it.”

That’s the first time I’ve ever heard a Happy Meal described as a luxury, but if it is, how would she categorize a double Baconator, like they have at Wendy’s? If these junk food taxes go into effect, the only people who’ll be able to afford one of those are the millionaires certain politicians are trying to protect.

Gregory Bean is the former executive editor of Greater Media Newspapers. You can reach him at gbean@gmnews.com.