The Hightower Report

The Paris Hilton Minimum-Wage Hike; and Superrich Tax Cheats


THE PARIS HILTON MINIMUM-WAGE HIKE

Step right up folks and get your own bottle of Dr. Republican's fabulous, new, magic cure-all potion! It's 100% guaranteed to eliminate the minimum-wage blues and lift you into a state of euphoric prosperity (side effects might include nausea, delirium, or bouts of rage, and all promises expire after Election Day, Nov. 7).

In a cynical legislative flimflam, GOP leaders in the house passed a bill in the dead of night to raise America's minimum wage to $7.25 an hour. Thankfully, Senate Democrats blocked the legislation the following week. Never mind that $7.25 an hour still amounts to poverty pay of $15,000 a year for full-time work, and never mind that even this wage would not be phased in until three years from now – the most cynical part of the Republican scam is that the minimum-wage hike is tied to yet another massive tax giveaway to the very richest people in our country!

For the past decade, the superwealthy heirs to such fortunes as Wal-Mart, Gallo wines, and M&M candies have been quietly but furiously lobbying to avoid paying taxes on their windfalls. And now, under the ruse of raising the bottom wage for poor people, Republicans are trying to deliver by slashing America's estate tax, saving these privileged elites $268 billion over just 10 years.

Take the hardship case of Paris Hilton, the celebrity and heiress to the Hilton hotel empire. Aside from the millions she has made as an actress and model, Paris is in line to haul off $158 million when her daddy, Barron Hilton, dies. That's after paying the estate taxes on her inheritance. If the Republican tax giveaway becomes law, however, this poor little rich girl will walk off with $250 million from daddy's fortune.

So there's Dr. Republican's magic elixir, folks. While loudly praising themselves for doling out a $2.10 raise to poor workers – they're slipping an extra $91 million to Paris Hilton.


SUPERRICH TAX CHEATS

The truly rich are very different from you and me – they don't pay taxes. Instead, they pay millions of dollars in fees to lawyers, bankers, and accountants to devise scams so they can dodge paying billions of dollars in taxes they owe.

The Senate Permanent Investigations subcommittee has just issued the most detailed analysis ever of high-level tax schemes that are tailor-made to allow billionaires to cheat on their taxes. The 400-page report found that this cheating is widespread, deliberate, and tightly organized – costing our public treasury some $70 billion every year. By dodging their taxes, the superrich force the rest of us either to pay a greater share of the cost of our country's highways, wars, national parks, etc. – or to endure cutbacks in public services we need (for example, $70 billion a year would go a long way toward providing health care for everyone in America).

"Ain't capitalism great?" wrote one of the lawyers with a tax-shelter boutique that was devising a scam for Robert Wood Johnson IV, the billionaire owner of the New York Jets. These convoluted schemes use circular transactions, offshore tax havens, sham corporations, fantasy stock transactions, fake losses, and a complex veil of secrecy to ... well, to cheat.

Take the Wyly brothers of Texas, billionaires who also rank among George W.'s top money donors. They pocketed about $190 million in a stock deal, but, with the help of such mainline outfits as Bank of America, they were able to hide their ownership of this stock haul. So, instead of paying the taxes they owed on it, the Wylys bought jewelry, had portraits painted of their families, and bought homes, a horse farm, and an art gallery.

Meanwhile, Bush & Co. are cutting back on the IRS staff that pursues superrich tax cheats – and putting more money into auditing returns of America's working poor.

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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