billionaires fortunes charity snipes

Some wealthy pledge to give away half, some …
tax evasion hatch probation back taxes

Stars Snipes and Hatch dodge taxes, go to jail

What do the rich do with their money? Some give a lot to charity. Some give none to the US Federal Government and go to jail when caught. How should government deal with citizens’ income? We trim, blend, and append three articles from: (1) Reuters, Dec 9, on charity; (2) Associated Press, Dec 9, on Snipes; and (3) AP, Dec 10, on Hatch by Michelle R. Smith.

by Reuters, by AP, and by Michelle R. Smith.

Another 17 US billionaires, including Facebook co-founders Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz, have pledged to give away at least half their fortunes.

A total of 57 billionaires now have joined The Giving Pledge, which was launched by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and investor Warren Buffett in June.

They have asked US billionaires to give away at least half their wealth during their lifetime or after their death, and to publicly state their intention with a letter explaining their decision.

The Giving Pledge does not accept money or tell people how to donate their money but asks billionaires to make a moral commitment to give their fortunes to charity.

In addition to Zuckerberg and Moskovitz, the world's youngest billionaires, pledges were made by AOL co-founder Steve Case, financier Carl Icahn, and Michael Milken, a former Wall Street executive who went to prison in the early 1990s for securities violations.

Forbes magazine said the United States is home to more than 400 billionaires, the most of any country.

Individual Americans gave more than $227 billion in 2009 [ed. note: about half of how much the Federal Government spent on the safety net], down just 0.4% from the previous year despite the recession.

Gates has donated more than $28 billion to his own foundation.

JJS: Not to seem ungrateful, or cynical, but …
* Such giving is tax-deductible.
* Bill’s giving goes to Bill’s own pet projects, similar to buying a sports team.
* It’s a way to give jobs to friends at high salaries.
* It keeps the ex-owner, now donor, in control of those billions.
* Even after giving away half a billion, one still has $500 million dollars, more than one can spend in a lifetime.
* A good portion of the fortune is not earned but provided by government favors and natural values.
* And the impact on an actual poor person is minimal.

Charity, nice as it is, is far less beneficial than would be the impact of economic justice. Implementing that -- by applying geonomics -- would eradicate any need for charity.

Despite these misgivings, it is an attempt to do good, however classist. Others are behaving less charitably.

Actor Wesley Snipes began doing time at a federal prison in Pennsylvania for failure to file income tax returns for at least a decade.

At sentencing, the actor delivered $5 million in checks to the IRS. Still, Judge Hodges imposed consecutive one-year terms for three misdemeanors.

Snipes argued that the judge erred by not allowing defense attorneys to interview jurors about misconduct allegations. Snipes is a dues-paying member of a tax-protest group that challenges the government's power to tax citizens.

Snipes, who earned a reported $13 million for the "Blade: Trinity" sequel, will earn pennies an hour handling kitchen, laundry, or other campus chores. The mundane jobs run seven hours a day. He can spend $290 a month at the prison commissary.

There's little fashion flair to the prison-issued khakis. And contact in the visitors room is limited to "a kiss".

The daily wake-up call is at 6:35 a.m. Jailors impose five daily head counts, three during the overnight hours.

The prison is worlds away from the harsh fortresses depicted in the Snipes' films "Undisputed" and "Brooklyn's Finest." The minimum-security camp doesn't have fences around its perimeter. The 300 nonviolent inmates live in barracks that feature two-man rooms and daily showers.

The martial-arts enthusiast can get his exercise playing indoor basketball, sand volleyball, or badminton, or work out on an elliptical machine or stair climber. Should he pull a muscle, the infirmary co-pay is just $2.

He can play bocci or bridge. The camp shows double-feature movies Friday through Sunday. He can pursue his spirituality at weekly meetings of nearly any religious group imaginable, from Wiccans to Jehovah's Witnesses to Spanish-speaking Evangelical Catholics.

JJS: Unlike the billionaires above, other rich people try to hang on to every cent. However, why not? If it is fairly earned, it is their property. How could government justify taking any of what’s not theirs?

Statists might argue that politicians and bureaucrats would spend the money for public goods. But as Gates shows, rich people can spend their money for public benefit, too. And even if one enjoying a high income does not give to charity, and if that’s wrong, then the statists must still show that taking somebody else’s money is fairer than, say, taking away their citizenship.

Richard Hatch is accused of violating probation on his tax evasion sentence. Hatch became reality TV's first villain in the 2000 season of "Survivor".

His three-year probation began after he was released from prison last year following more than three years behind bars. He received extra prison time because the judge said he lied on the stand.

The judge demanded Hatch pay more than $400,000 in back taxes, not including interest and penalties, on his $1 million prize from the first season of "Survivor" and other income.

Hatch maintained throughout his trial and since that he doesn't owe taxes. Last month he said the Internal Revenue Service had given him two $1,000 refund checks, proving he owed nothing.

Besides pay all back taxes, his probation requires him refile tax forms for 2000 and 2001, to find work, and complete a mental health program.

JJS: A mental health program? For dodging taxes? Then why is not every rich person who hires a tax lawyer not sentenced to a psychiatrist’s couch? Puh-lease! At the least, refusing to pay a tax should not be a criminal offense but a civil one, just like a dispute between a customer and a business over a late payment or a faulty good.

Of course, the whole issue goes away if we abolish the income tax. At the same time, we could abolish corporate welfare, so that there would not be these huge fortunes to make us so envious. To keep government running (however efficiently or not), we could replace the income tax with a tax on the value of land and nature (the Henry George idea). This tax would redirect our spending for sites and resources from owners and lenders to the public treasury. So we’d save money; instead of paying rents to the landed and taxes to the government, we’d pay just a land tax to the government.

And finally, another option is to keep the income tax, flatten it to just one or two rates, close all the loopholes, and use all the money it raises for just one thing -- war. People who hate taxes might learn to hate war, or people who love taxes might learn to love war. But if people get sick of both, then they could get rid of both. Wouldn’t that be a Merry Christmas!


Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.

Also see:

Tax Deal Signed between US and Swiss, UK and Liechtenstein

Massive black money economy cripples nation

Land clashes common with 153 indicted MPs

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