Perrspectives - Bringing light to Darkness

The GOP Presents Stupid Millionaire Tricks

October 11, 2010

It's awfully tough to present your party as the champion of populist fury when the centerpiece of your 2010 campaign is another $700 billion tax cut windfall for the wealthiest two percent of Americans. Alas, for Republicans, that steep challenge is getting much worse. After all, at a time of record income inequality and growing poverty, GOP candidates nationwide - many of them millionaire recipients of government largesse - are waging war against the unemployed, minimum wage employees and working Americans of all stripes.
The poster child of this new breed of Republican water carrier for the wealthy is Oregon gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley. Son of a well-to-do family who converted his professional basketball career into providing financial advice to the gilded class, Dudley has called for slashing the state's capital gains tax rate in a move that would drain $800 million from Salem's already broken budget.
Like billionaire Meg Whitman in California, Dudley would be reap a big payday from the tax cuts he proposes. Then again, Dudley was even better at gaming the tax system than playing basketball.
As the Oregonian reported, in the 1990's then Portland Trail Blazer Dudley claimed to live across the river in Washington state. Why?

By claiming Washington residency, Dudley -- who was already earning a National Basketball Association salary before coming to Portland -- could shield any other income from Oregon income taxes, such as capital gains, investments and endorsement deals.

But as public records and interviews with former neighbors revealed, "Republican candidate for governor Chris Dudley continued to use his Portland home during the years he claimed Camas, Wash., as his residence to avoid paying thousands of dollars in Oregon taxes."
As it turns out, Dudley was also playing with fire with the IRS.
As the Willamette Week and later the Oregonian detailed, in 2004Chris Dudley claimed a $350,00 tax deduction for letting the Lake Owego burn down house his house in a training exercise. In a nutshell, Dudley got U.S. taxpayers to help pay for the new home he built there.
The Willamette Week described the Dudley's 2004 "Burn to Learn" gambit, the same one which got ESPN announcer Kirk Herbstreit in hot water with the Internal Revenue Service in Ohio:

In December 2002, during the last of his 16 NBA seasons, then-Portland Trail Blazer Dudley bought a 1.81-acre property in Lake Oswego for $1.15 million. The property included a 4,900-square-foot home with four bedrooms, four bathrooms and a four-car garage...
Dudley claimed a $350,000 deduction for the house on his 2004 federal tax return. He based the value on an appraisal he supplied to WW, which says its purpose was to "establish both the overall market value of the property, and the market value of the site."
Given Dudley's career NBA earnings of more than $30 million, he probably faced a combined federal and state income tax bill of 40 percent in 2004. That means the $350,000 deduction saved him about $140,000.

And while Americans debate the morality of Tennessee firefighters watching a man's home consumed by flames over an unpaid $75 fee, Dudley's burning-down-the-house scheme has gone unnoticed.

But as BlueOregon was among the first to document, Chris Dudley isn't content to cut business and upper-crust tax rates. Another Dudley gift to business would be slashing Oregon's $8.50 minimum wage. As he explained at an Intel forum in September:

"It doesn't make sense that our waitresses are getting tips plus the highest minimum wage in the country."

When a questioner lamented that "it attracts the wrong end of the labor pool to our state," Dudley concurred by responding, ""I agree with you on that issue." But for the cell phone camera which caught the exchange, Chris Dudley confessed that his opposition to the minimum wage is the hate that dare not speak its name:

"I'm not going to make a forefront campaign issue on it because I think it's something - it's a hot button that people don't really understand."

But if Dudley is hesitant to put gutting the minimum wage at the forefront of the 2010 campaign, many of his fellow Republicans are not so shy.
Of course, it was Democrats who overcame Republican opposition to increasing the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25. But in Connecticut, millionaire wrestling mogul and GOP Senate wannabe Linda McMahon insists "we ought to review" the minimum wage. John Raese, the Republican businessman who sought "hicky" actors to portray his West Virginia electorate, wants to eliminate the minimum wage altogether. In Minnesota, GOP gubernatorial hopeful Tom Emmer wants to reduce the wage floor for mythical waiters and waitresses he claims earn $100,000 a year. Meanwhile, up in Alaska, Tea Party favorite and Yale law school graduate Joe Miller rejected the 1937 conclusion of the Supreme Court and deemed the minimum wage unconstitutional:

"There should not be [a minimum wage]. That is not within the scope of the powers that are given to the federal government."

Of course, Joe Miller believes virtually the entire framework of the New Deal regulatory regime and social safety net is unconstitutional. But as ThnkProgress noted, that didn't stop Miller from accepting Medicaid benefits he now claims are unlawful. And he has plenty of company among the GOP handout hypocrites. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) raked in a quarter of a million dollars in farm subsidies. In Wisconsin, Senate candidate Ron Johnson owed his job to a HUD grant. And in Nevada, government health care foe Sharron Angle (and her husband) receives government health care.
And it was Angle, the would-be privatizer of Social Security and the VA, reserved her harshest words for the unemployed. As the battle to renew jobless benefits heated up this summer, the woman who would "take out" Harry Reid called the unemployed "spoiled."

"They keep extending these unemployment benefits to the point where people are afraid to go out and get a job because the job doesn't pay as much as the unemployment benefit does. ... What has happened is the system of entitlement has caused us to have a spoilage with our ability to go out and get a job. ... There are some jobs out there that are available. Because they have to enter at a lower grade and they cannot keep their unemployment, they have to make a choice now."

Sadly, that position is a mainstream one within the Republican Party. As Jon Kyl (R-AZ), the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, described the program of unemployment insurance which has kept 3.3 million Americans out of poverty:

"It could be argued that it is a disincentive for work, because people are being paid even though they're not working."

And so it goes.
Not all of the class warriors of the Republican candidate class of 2010 are millionaires. Nevertheless, by supporting upper class tax breaks and ending the estate tax to their crusade against Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, the minimum wage and so much more, the GOP is doing the millionaires' bidding. As West Virginian John Raese described his own background while voicing opposition to the estate tax paid by less than 1% of American families:

"I made my money the old-fashioned way, I inherited it."

As things now stand, the voters of West Virginia, among the poorest in the nation, as set to make John Raese their next Unites States Senator. Meanwhile, some Republicans are already starting to compare Chris Dudley to another supposed conservative man of the people, Ronald Reagan.
That's quite a trick, indeed.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

Follow Us

© 2004 - 
 Perrspectives. All Rights Reserved.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram