The Hightower Report

The Pentagon bills an injured soldier, and Home Depot gets a tax break


A SOLDIER'S STORY

When challenged directly by a crowd of America's troops about the Bushites' ongoing damnable failure to provide adequate armor for our soldiers, Pentagon chief Donnie Rumsfeld was momentarily speechless. As the crowd murmured, Rummy said: "Now, settle down, settle down. Hell, I'm an old man, it's early in the morning, and I'm gathering my thoughts here." If any of the Bushites need clarity on the scandalous way they treat our soldiers, they need only visit Army Spc. Robert Loria of Middletown, N.Y. Last February, he was in one of Rumsfeld's unprotected Humvees when it was hit by a roadside bomb in Iraq. Loria's left hand and forearm were blasted off, and shrapnel ripped through his body. He spent months in rehab, trying to learn how to live without a hand. Finally, just before this Christmas, he was due to be released and return home when he was hit with another bomb. Rumsfeld's Pentagon presented Loria with a bill for $1,700, claiming he'd erroneously received family separation pay while in rehab, plus travel expenses connected to his treatment. Also, they billed him for some of the Humvee parts damaged in the bombing that tore off his hand! Loria was devastated, but the Army brass didn't care, demanding payment before they would release him. Hello. The Halliburtons rip off billions from us taxpayers, but the Pentagon is hounding the grunts! "It's almost like I'm being abandoned," Loria said. "Like, 'You did your job for us and now you are no use.' That's how it feels." Is that clear enough for you, Mr. Rumsfeld? Thanks to press coverage and intervention by some members of Congress, Loria's nightmarish treatment by the Pentagon has finally ended. The Army was forced to clear Loria's hokey debt and send him home. But why should a soldier who's made such an extreme sacrifice be treated so shabbily in the first place? And how many others are getting the same back of the hand?


HOME DEPOT WINS, KIDS LOSE

Home Depot is coming to town, riding in on tracks of gold – courtesy of us taxpayers. This is not merely another of Home Depot's big-box stores, mind you, but, by gollies, a high tech data center! To get the giant corporation to choose Austin, state and local officials approached it in the professional manner that corporations now expect: by frantically hurling huge sackfulls of taxpayers' money at them, desperately hoping that our sacks are fuller than those being hurled by other cities. In this case, our sacks contained more than $30 million, and – lucky us! – Home Depot grabbed them. Our public officials are high-fiving each other and peacocking around over this deal, bragging that they're delivering 500 jobs to We the People, averaging $58,000 a year in pay! Actually, though, you wouldn't get one paying 58K. That average includes the salaries, bonuses, and such of those up in the new data center's executive suite. Averages, you see, are tricksters – if you are paid $20,000 for example, and the top dog gets $200,000, you're averaging $110,000 each. Home Depot's package includes nearly $6 million in a special tax break from the Austin school district. Yes, that means that $6 million that should go to the education of schoolkids will not, for district officials have given this corporation an exemption from paying its school taxes. Yet, the Austin school board is trying to pull a fast one on us by asserting that the state reimburses school districts for any revenue they lose when they dole out tax breaks to corporations. As one board member put it: "There is no cost to the Austin taxpayer." Earth to school board: The Austin taxpayer is also a state taxpayer! The tax giveaway to Home Depot still comes from our pockets, and it's still $6 million that could have been added to education ... but now won't be. Home Depot is a superrich corporation. Why shouldn't it pay its taxes, like our homegrown businesses do?

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld, Robert Loria, Home Depot, Austin Independent School District

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