“I agree wholeheartedly that our tax system is insufficiently progressive. I also agree that the estate tax at levels above $10 million should be retained. Higher tax rates for higher levels of income [up to at least 50%, maybe higher] not only are socially responsible but also would encourage more charitable giving.”
In one six year period, during which he increased his net worth enough to land him on the Forbes list of the 400 wealthiest Americans, Kaiser reported taxable income to the Internal Revenue Service just once, totaling $11,699 — equivalent to a full-time hourly wage of $5.62.
And it’s not like the Internal Revenue Service has been exactly dogged in their pursuit of Kaiser’s billions. For example:
[I]n 1997, [the IRS] sent him a bill for $48.6 million in back taxes, interest and penalties… After negotiating with the IRS, Kaiser settled for $11,891 in back taxes.
Solyndra is just the latest episode in a long-running drama that includes — on the negative side of the ledger — Great Plains Airlines (and the taxpayers’ ultimate payback of money we didn’t owe to Kaiser’s Bank of Oklahoma), the downtown baseball stadium (and the heavy-handed approach to its surrounding development), the mediocre candidates Kaiser has backed for public office in Tulsa, the county river tax, and — on the positive side — RiverParks trails improvements, supplemental funds for beautification for new public construction, financial support for the comprehensive plan process and the city government efficiency study, purchase and preservation of the Blair Mansion and grounds, support for the Tulsa Fab Lab, and financial support for countless worthy projects and programs.
On one level, I’d question the judgment of anyone who didn’t work diligently to minimize his tax liability:
“Anyone may so arrange his affairs that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which will best pay the Treasury; there is not even a patriotic duty to increase one’s taxes.” — Judge Learned Hand in Helvering v. Gregory, 1934.
Then again, that 0.02-cent-on-the-dollar deal Kaiser struck for his 1997 tax bill might strike some of us as just a hair too sweet. I know I would have greatly enjoyed getting last year’s $6000-plus income-tax liability cut down to a buck and a quarter. But I shrug: this is what has to happen when government becomes big enough to hand out favors, and it’s not like anyone is threatening to cut it down to size. (There are the usual noises from the GOP; I’ll start believing them the moment I see the Department of [your choice of any beyond the original four] relocated to an ice floe.)
There are some, of course, who believe that there shouldn’t be any billionaires at all. I figure, wait long enough, and we’ll all be billionaires — and a Big Mac will be around $400.
(Suggested by Glenn Reynolds.)