supreme court snipes tax evasion amazon

Amazon Prevails in South Carolina as the US …
sales tax exemption south carolina wealthy millionaire commons

Government criminalizes successful actor Snipes

Taxes and tax breaks will plague us until we can answer clearly the question of what’s yours, what’s mine, and what’s our? We trim, blend, and append four 2011 articles from: (1) AP, Jun 6, on Snipes; (2) Update from Clawback, Jun 6, on taxing Amazon by M. Lee; (3) J.S. Hirschhorn on the income gap; and (4) Media Education Foundation on the commons by David Bollier.

by Associated Press, by M. Lee, by Joel S. Hirschhorn, and by David Bollier

The Supreme Court has turned away the latest attempt by actor Wesley Snipes to get his conviction and prison sentence on tax charges overturned.

The high court refused to hear an appeal from Snipes, convicted in 2008 on three misdemeanor counts of willful failure to file income tax returns.

Snipes started a three-year term in a federal minimum-security prison in December. He has appeared in dozens of films, from "White Men Can't Jump" and "Demolition Man" in the early 1990s to the blockbuster Blade trilogy.

Snipes wanted his trial held in New York City, where he says he lived, but the government brought charges against him in Florida, where Snipes held a driver's license. The lower courts refused to let him have an evidentiary hearing on this issue.

To see the whole article, click here .

JJS: Who is the real criminal here? The one trying to take the money that belongs to another or the one trying to keep that very same money? Just because someone makes a pile of money or a company grows gigantic, does such success somehow entitle government to take a cut? And what's behind jailing a black actor while exempting a big business?

Amazon will be allowed to help its customers in South Carolina dodge sales taxes, after all. In a dramatic reversal, Palmetto State legislators approved a bill that gives the online retailer a five-year exemption from collecting sale tax from the state’s residents. The move revives Amazon’s plans for a $125 million distribution center in the state that is projected to create 2,000 jobs. Unfortunately, the bill does not include strong clawback provisions.

The legislation is a defeat for Amazon’s brick-and-mortar competitors, both small businesses and big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart that lobbied hard against the exemption sought by Amazon.

As we previously reported, the original promise to exempt Amazon from its obligation to collect sale taxes was made last year by then-Gov. Mark Sanford and was a part of a subsidy package that included $5 million in free land; $3,250 in tax credits for each job created; and property tax breaks on equipment.

Initially, the House rejected the deal but gave into political pressure stoked by Amazon’s decision to increase its job-creation projection by 750 jobs. Gov. Nikki Haley has opposed the deal, though she now says she will let the bill take effect without her signature.

If the company does not meet job creation (2,000 jobs by the end of 2013) or investment ($125 million) obligations, the only penalty Amazon would face is cancellation of the exemption. There are also no wage requirements for the jobs, though Amazon is required to provide a comprehensive health plan for the workers.

JJS: Because stores suffer the sales tax, online companies should, too? Or, should shops catch up to onliners and be freed of the burden?

As long as wanna-be reformers try to tax the success of others -- instead of try to recover and share the values that successful societies generate -- they’ll never reach the shared goal of economic justice. The economy will continue to reward a few a lot and the many just a little.

Only the wealthy have escaped economic pain.

There are probably about 50 million Americans who are unemployed, underemployed or no longer trying to get decent jobs, or who are close relatives of them. There simply is no basis for believing that many millions of new, good jobs will be created for many years.

Single family home prices dropped in March, 2011 to their lowest level since April 2009. Millions of home foreclosures will be followed by even more. Of all homes with mortgages 23 percent are worth less than what is owed.

Meanwhile inflation is eating away at living standards. Gas prices climbed 52 percent over the past two years, and are only now decreasing a little as many Americans have cut back on their driving. Food costs are also rising just like health care.

Obama promised in 2009 that his $830 billion stimulus plan would unleash "a new wave of innovation, activity and construction" and "ignite spending by businesses and consumers." In 2010, he announced that the recovery was "well under way" and that it "is getting stronger by the day." Didn’t happen.

Nothing the government has done worked for ordinary Americans. Many billions of dollars spent on reviving the economy have mainly helped the business sector and the rich. The US still leads the world in millionaires, with 5.2 million millionaire households.

No member of Congress or the President deserves to be reelected. Neither does any other Republican or Democrat. Pass the poison.

[Contact Joel S. Hirschhorn through]

JJS: Joel perpetuates a couple common misunderstandings. It’s not true that the only way you deserve an income is by doing a job. You could start a business. You could also get a fair share of the commonwealth.

Also, the falling cost of housing, based on the falling cost for land, is not bad news but good news. Americans are biased toward the point-of-view of the speculator. But speculators actually do themselves more harm than good, like the guy in the cartoon sawing off the branch he’s sitting on.

Further, inflation is not an affliction that happens like the weather; it is the consequence of unsound monetary policy. When government or the central bank issues too much new money, inflation must follow sooner or later. In most modern economies, new money is issued to pay for debt, and most debt is either government spending or families and firms buying land. Shrink the mortgage and you shrink debt and reverse inflation.

Finally, many undeserved millionaires is what you must expect as long as you accept having the public purse strings remain in the hands of politicians, lavishing so much corporate welfare on favored insiders, and accept a well-positioned few owners and lenders capturing almost all of society’s spending for land and resources.

If critics and reformers are ever to succeed, they must look a little deeper, as the following does, and yet a little deeper still.

This film is subtitled, “The Fight to Reclaim the Commons” and was previously titled Silent Theft. For more than three decades, transnational corporations have been busy buying up what used to be known as the commons -- everything from our forests and our oceans to our broadcast airwaves and our most important intellectual and cultural works. Author David Bollier, a leading figure in the global movement to reclaim the commons, bucks the rising tide of anti-government extremism and “free” market ideology to show how commercial interests are undermining our collective interests. Placing the commons squarely within the American tradition of community engagement and the free exchange of ideas and information, Bollier shows how a bold new international movement steeped in democratic principles is trying to reclaim our common wealth by modeling practical alternatives to the restrictive monopoly powers of corporate elites.

To see the whole video, click here .

JJS: If you’ve not thought much about your heritage and the now-absent commons, Bollier’s film will be informative. But be forewarned: it perpetuates the stereotypes of rich vs. the rest, business vs. the rest, right vs. left, commons vs. market (which is actually part of the commons), as if reality is only black and white. It’s a common (no pun intended) mistake, but mistake it is. By alienating the people comfortable with freedom, it hampers progress toward justice.

The real issue is not ownership, whether holding some land individually or as a group. The real issue is: who gets the money? What money? The value, the worth, the rent, the flow of dollars that society spends for nature. Our spending for land, resources, spectrum, ecosystem services, and government-granted privileges such as corporate charters, utility franchises, copyrights/patents, and bankers’ sovereignty.

Recover that flow with land dues and other dues and fees and you can abolish taxes. Share the recovered public revenue and you can abolish subsidies such as corporate welfare. But to win your fair share of Earth’s worth, it might help some to talk about ownership and commons, but you’ll do the most good by touting geonomics and an equal extra income to all.


Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.

Also see:

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Economism and the Night Sky

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