“YOU can be a millionaire and never pay taxes,” Steve Martin would tell audiences, repeating for effect.
“You ask: Steve, ‘How can I be a millionaire and never pay taxes?”
“First, get a million dollars . . .”
Martin’s punch line? If the taxman inquires about not paying taxes, simply say, “I forGOT.”
The point, of course: The easy part of being a millionaire for most of us is getting a million dollars. “Most of us” would include Rick Perry and me.
I won’t divulge where I got my million, but we’ve been reading of late that Perry got a big chunk of million from a land deal that made no sense at all.
Well, maybe it made sense to someone who was interested in rewarding Perry for being Texas’ presumed governor for life.
Unlike in Steve Martin’s bit, the issue isn’t that Perry paid no taxes on his lucre-ative transaction. The issue is that Perry bought a nice plot on Lake Lyndon B. Johnson’s Horseshoe Bay for a super-nice $150,000 below market value and sold it for a super-duper $350,000 above market value. Sale price: $1.5 million, netting $823,000 profit. Super.
Another issue may have been that, as the Dallas Morning News reports, Perry’s profit was “enhanced by a series of professional courtesies and favors from friends (and) campaign donors.” Among those friends cited: Sam Jaffe, owner of Horseshoe Bay Resort. The News also reported that Jaffe was an investor in an airline company that was lined up in 2006 for a grant from the Perry-controlled Texas Enterprise Fund. Portending to bring jobs to Texas, Sino Swearingen Aircraft Corp. actually ended up laying off people, and rescinded its bid for a state grant.
Being the humble millionaire that I am, I won’t pretend to cast aspersions about how Perry got his million, like, say, Democratic challenger Bill White has been doing. All I can say is that I hope the money was accrued by honest means, like, say, how the Wyly brothers — Charles and Sam — of Dallas did it.
True: Right now the Securities and Exchange Commission is saying the billionaires cheated to make oodles, not only transferring assets to overseas tax havens but masking their ownership of certain companies and engaging in insider trading on their stocks. But when you’ve got Carl Sagan money like th Wylys do — billions and billions — decimals get misplaced.
Surely the Wylys can explain away these concerns — the $550 million in undisclosed gains alleged by the SEC — and get back to being good citizens who help Republicans hold power.
Should they not, a lot of Republicans will have tainted money on their hands, and they don’t want that. Key recipients: Texas congressmen Pete Sessions and Jeb Hensarling. Hensarling managed to pay the bills between being an aide for Phil Gramm and ascending to Congress by being a vice president of Maverick Capital, the hedge fund founded by Sam Wyly.
Hensarling later would receive generous campaign contributions from the Wylys, who were truly prolific in that arena. They also were among those who footed the bill for the “Swiftboats for Truth” campaign attacking John Kerry’s war record. Truth about the Wylys’ earnings is now what the SEC seeks.
Oh, and Rick Perry harvested $352,500 in campaign booty from the Wylys in the last decade, while he fended off every challenger and any doubt that the Texas governorship is his for life.
Like I said, for a few of us, the easy part of being a millionaire is getting that million. After that, it’s all about serving our fellow man to the best of our ability and maintaining the highest ethical standards as we do what we do with all that money.
Sure, some people may profit from the virtues of proximity to power. But that happens elsewhere. Rest assured, nothing of the sort happens in Texas.
Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.