The Hightower Report

Bush's IRS goes after poor folks; and the latest 'creep' of advertising


BUSH'S IRS GOES AFTER POOR FOLKS

You've gotta love the consistency of the Bushites. When they ram through their multibillion-dollar tax giveaways, it's the super-rich and corporations that gain. And when they unleash their IRS to look into tax cheating, they don't probe the tax shelters of millionaires or the multibillion-dollar offshore tax havens of corporate finaglers – instead, they go after the working poor, who're entitled to tax credits of only a few hundred bucks each.

With Bush & Co., them that's got is them that gets ... and everybody else should watch out! That's the hard lesson learned by some 1.6 million low-income workers who have not only had their tax refunds frozen in the past five years, but also have had their tax filings officially labeled "fraudulent" by the IRS. This crackdown on the poor has allowed Bush to claim that, by gollies, he's tough on tax fraud.

But the IRS's own in-house taxpayer advocate, Nina Olson, says wait a minute – she and her staff analyzed the returns of these accused poor folks and found that two-thirds of them were actually entitled to the tax credit they sought ... or entitled to even more money. Another 14% were due at least a partial refund, and of the remaining 20%, almost none had committed fraud, but instead had simply been confused by the complicated tax forms and made honest errors.

By the way, the average income of these supposed tax deadbeats was only $13,000. The great majority were working parents who were using the earned-income tax credit, which was first advocated by laissez-faire guru Milton Friedman and first implemented by Ronnie Reagan. But now these good folks are being browbeat by the Bushites for crass political gain.

If you're a corporate tax cheat, the Bushites and their congressional henchmen look the other way – but if you're a working stiff, you're presumed to be a fraud ... and the IRS comes down on you.


THE LATEST "CREEP' OF ADVERTISING

Get ready. They're coming. They've got you right where they want you, and they're convinced that you can't escape this time.

"They" are the big-time advertisers, who've been very PO'd at you recently, because you keep finding ways to ignore their come-ons. They've tried everything to grab you by the cerebral cortex and make you listen – they've got ads on public buildings, in elevators, at gas pumps, in schools, on the Internet ... yet, you're tuning out. Even for TV – the Golden Goose of the 30-second spot – you've bought gadgets that let you skip their ads altogether.

But now they're targeting an advertising medium that you always have with you: your cell phone. As one analyst puts it: "Unlike the computer or a magazine or television, the phone is a piece of you."

Also, since many cell phones have global positioning systems, advertisers can know where you are and pop you with an ad that directs you to a particular store: "Hey, Biff, it's 8am and there's a Starbucks half a block away. It's cappuccino time, baby!"

OK, technically, they can't run one of their text or video ads on your phone unless you invite them in. But if you choose to get, say, sports scores and highlights on your phone from ESPN, or up-to-the-moment reports from the Weather Channel, that's all the opening they need. ESPN, for example, will start running cell phone ads this year for Nike, Visa, and Hilton hotels.

Another trick is that you'll start getting offers to send your own text message to, say, Microsoft or Pepsi to receive free or discounted goods – thus inviting them into your cell phone forever.

While you now have to "opt-in" to receive their ads, I assure you that lobbyists for these hucksters are at work right now to twist the law so that you'll be getting their ads unless you "opt-out." It's just the latest in the insidious creep of advertising (in both meanings of the term "creep").

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

George W. Bush, IRS, tax shelters, tax filings, Nina Olson, tax credit, Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan, advertisers, cell phones, global positioning systems, text message

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