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Monday, July 14, 2008

Demolition is in the details

Please click onto the COMMENTS for the story.

47 Comments:

Blogger Bob said...

Part I of II

Scott Nichols
news editor

Most years, you could count on two or three hands the numbers of home demolitions performed in St. Paul.

But this year isn't most years.

In the last 18 months, the city's Department of Safety and Inspections has dramatically increased the number of demolitions it has ordered for vacant buildings deemed hazardous. With 56 homes to be demolished by the end of December, in fact, the city has already run through its demolition budget for the year - only halfway through the year - and had to come hat in hand to the City Council two weeks ago to approve an emergency budget transfer of another $640,000 to get them all demolished.

Any folks worrying that this number of demolished homes will dramatically alter the landscape around them need only keep in mind this fact: there are nearly 2,000 empty homes in St. Paul. And despite the wishes of some, who might long for a vacant lot or a bigger yard next door, only a small fraction of these homes are likely to be demolished.

The city hasn't produced any estimates of the actual percentage of vacant homes that need to be torn down yet, because it's a number that's still being calculated. Not only are more homes becoming vacant, but some of them that might be fine are being trashed by vagrants, thieves or vandals, while others will be pulled back from the brink as the homeowners or investors dig deep into their pockets to rescue homes from the wrecking ball.

Ward 6 City Council member Dan Bostrom authored an ordinance that was approved last week, that may just make it a little harder for some folks to rescue their homes - if they don't have the money to fix them up to spec and are desperately trying to sell to escape a mortgage they can't afford.

But Bostrom says the change to city code only affects those homes that are in such bad shape that people - many of them investors, he says - are better off walking away, as the money that needs to be put into some of the houses he's seen far outweighs the home's actual value.

His ordinance - after months of hard negotiations with real-estate groups - finally passed their muster. At first, Bostrom called for any city code fixes to be made to any vacant home before it could be sold.

But real-estate groups balked, and now only the worst two categories - what St. Paul calls its Tier 2 and Tier 3 homes requiring thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in repairs - need to be fixed up before being sold. Either that, or the buyer has to prove through bond or escrow the actual financial wherewithal to make the repairs.

Bostrom also recently pushed through a recent change to city ordinance calling for an increase in yearly vacant building fees, from $250 to $1,000. Those fees, if unpaid by the homeowners or investors, will simply get rolled onto the property's taxes, to be recouped when the home is next purchased.

The unwanted
While many of the vacant homes in the city may end up being pulled back from the brink of demolition, either by owners or investors, there are some properties that folks have simply walked away from and no one will touch.

In areas like Payne-Phalen, Frogtown, and Dayton's Bluff, community members have organized into walking committees, in some cases going door-to-door taking notes or asking about any houses that simply have to go. Or, conversely, the homes possessing enough redeemable value to perhaps qualify for a reprieve from a date with the wrecking ball.

Both Leslie McMurray, the executive director of the Payne-Phalen Planning Council, and Mari Bongiovanni, executive director of East Side Neighborhood Development Corporation, say their groups have such teams of people working on evaluating the housing stock in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood, one of the city's worst-hit neighborhoods by the real-estate meltdown.

"This is Ground Zero, right here," Bongiovanni says.

Next week: Just how decrepit are the vacant homes getting demolished?

Scott Nichols can be reached at eastside@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7816.

8:45 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

How would the city change if 2,000 homes were demolished?
Part II

Scott Nichols
news editor

Rory Matter, co-owner with his father of St. Paul's Rayco Excavating, has demolished roughly 14 homes in St. Paul in the past 12 months.

And as the bricks collapse and the dust rises, often a neighbor hustles over or pulls his car up alongside the site. It might have made them nervous at first, but now the pair pretty much know what to expect.

People will say "'Hey, this is great, this place was a s---hole' - pardon my French - "and I'm going to buy this lot.'" says Matter, an officer in the Navy Reserve. "Lately, people have been happy we're there."

If you think your friendly neighborhood housing inspector has horror stories to tell about the living conditions inside some houses, consider the tales possible from the guys who knock those houses down, sometimes months later.

To give you just an inkling, contractors will "bait" a house before they demolish it. They don't just catch rats, mice, roaches or other vermin. Sometimes, they catch pet animals that were left behind or strays that have snuck in.

"One, there was a live cat in a house," offers Matter. Dead cats, he notes, are all too common in the houses he sees.

Folks who do demolition tend to be a tough-skinned bunch. While there are plenty of folks willing to praise him for getting rid of the eyesore next door, some don't. Matter remembers three who wouldn't stop swearing at him, at homes on Lawson Avenue, Forest Avenue and West Seventh Street.

And that's even though Matter has but once felt a little guilty for demolishing a home, on Case Avenue.

So what was that house like?

He says there wasn't much wrong with it.

"Structurally it was still sound," he says, offhandedly mentioning that maybe a second-floor fire - not a big deal to fix if you know what you're doing - probably had something to do with its demolition.

"This house was probably a victim of the subprime market," he says.

One of many, probably.

2,000 in the process
At present, a mind-bogglingly large number of homes - 2,000 - are currently vacant or foreclosed in St. Paul.

And more are likely on the way, as homeowners find themselves unable or unwilling to make payments on homes worth less by the month.

While the city has a long-established, months-long process for registering vacant homes, and then figuring which ones are unfit - condemning them, boarding them up and getting them demolished - the simple fact is the city can't finance the demolition of so many homes.

"They may do like 500 bids a year, but they only have funds to do 100," says Richard Orthmeyer, with dumpster company Ray Anderson and Sons, which - like the Matters' Rayco Excavating - bids routinely on homes the city wants to get demolished.

In fact, the city has its eyes on getting 56 homes demolished throughout St. Paul by the end of 2008, most of them in the city's so-called Invest St. Paul areas in Frogtown, Payne-Phalen, and Dayton's Bluff.

To do so, however, the city just recently had to cough up another $640,000, as it has already run through its entire cache of funds reserved for home demolitions.

Depending on such factors as the size of a home and its proximity to neighbors, it generally takes anywhere from 1 to 3 days to knock a home down in St. Paul. Bids generally range from $7,000 to $15,000, a price that doesn't include issues like special cleanup for asbestos when discovered.

Talk to demolition contractors, and it becomes clear that even if one discounts the occasionally angry neighbor, the process is not for the faint of heart, given the vermin, the utilities issues, and extensive city paperwork, all of which can add up to two weeks of staff time to the process.

And then there's the guilt.

"I guess you hear about the city demolishing these houses without cause or whatever. That's pretty much untrue. Most of them, it's a shame someone bought them in the first place. I feel sorry for the buyers," says Orthmeyer. "I don't know how they can get a home inspection on some of these."

The big question
At present, neighborhood volunteers are spreading throughout St. Paul's harder-hit neighborhoods and canvassing door-to-door to discover which houses are worth saving and which need to go. By and large, members of the St. Paul City Council are depending on this word-of-mouth response to target which homes in their neighborhoods should really stay. And, of course, which should really go.

"When the neighborhood goes out there, and they look at 20 of them, they'll come back and say there's at least 10 or 12 of them that should be demolished," says Ward 6 City Council Member Dan Bostrom, who has taken the most aggressive position toward the city's vacant homes.

Which leads to the question of the actual number of homes to eventually be demolished: nobody knows what the finally tally is yet.

Another question still to be answered is just what the effect on the city will be if some blocks end up getting half their homes demolished.

No one on the City Council, not even Bostrom, admits to that outcome being a desirable reality. Politically speaking, that'd be asking for a serious beating come election time.

But a selective culling of homes? Perhaps.

"In general, I think I would lean on the side of trying to demolish as few as we can," says Ward 4 Council Member Russ Stark, adding that if the city takes out too many properties, the tax base might take a hit.

Not necessarily, according to Ramsey County Property Records and Revenue director Mark Oswald.

Oswald, actually, says that the worst-case scenario - the loss of all 2,000 homes currently vacant in the city - might not be the death knell folks make it out to be.

"There's only about a thousand variables in it, but the bottom line is, the tax implication is virtually negligible," he says. "At this point, the ones they are demolishing are the ones at the lower end of the tax base anyway, so they're getting really close to the property (lot) value itself. When the house is gone, the property has actually been improved. The house is a blight on the neighborhood, and by improving it the neighborhood improves, the land value of that lot improves."

Wendy Danks, director of marketing for the Builders' Association of the Twin Cities, says the price of city lots became prohibitive long ago, and the market for more affordable, larger suburban parcels boomed, leading to a long pattern of growth far from the urban core.

But with the price of gas, and enough parcels opening up in cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul, folks who might have purchased in the suburbs will start to look here in the metro again.

So while her association - representing both remodelers and builders - officially takes the position that as many homes should be saved as possible, Danks makes clear that builders would be quick to snap up buildable city lots if the lot's adjacent homeowners aren't able to snatch them up first.

"The Twin Cities has a lot of growth potential going out," she says. "As long as there's opportunity."

8:46 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

They should start demolition with 1179 East 7th. St., it's a DUMP.

Of coarse the owner Kalis is affiliated with the city so he gets a wink and a nod and isn't treated like any other citizen.

9:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scott did a nice job on the story.

I have been out there looking to buy some of these buildings and a lot of them are pretty sad. The copper has been stripped out and you would be looking at a total gutting and start over.

These are buildings that NEVER had been writen up in the past on code issues. They are buildings that had been purchase by speculators with nothing down, turned into rental and when they weren't able to spin them they have walked out of them.

Go through the MLS and you can see the pattern.

JMONTOMEPPOF

Chuck Repke

9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd prefer to go through city records Repke. That's where there will be some interesing patterns.

11:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, here is one that I am looking at. I won't share addresses because I don't want one of you clowns to picket the place...

In Sept 1992 it sold for $58,800
In Dec. 1997 it sold for $73,500
In July 2005 it sold for $217,000

In June of 2006 it was listed for $245,000 it didn't sell.

In Oct of 2006 it was listed at $235,000 MLS mentions both units rented and paying ($1,850).

Before the listing expired in March of 2007 the price was reduced to $199,000 and it said "motivated seller."

In July of 2007 it was listed at $185,000 subject to bank approval

Today it is vacant and listed at less than $100,000.

There are no write ups on the building with DSI until March of 2007 when it went on the vacant building list.

My point is this is what we are seeing all over Saint Paul and the country. There were way to many people who knew nothing about real estate that bought "investment properties" at more than what would cash flow figuring the price would go up and when it didn't lost the properties. That is the issue folks. This place would never cash flow at $245,000 if you were going to have a 20 year mortgage. It couldn't work. So, once the housing bubble burst all of these guys who were holding these things lost the properties.

JMONTOMEPPOF

Chuck Repke

12:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess you hear about the city demolishing these houses without cause or whatever. That's pretty much untrue. Most of them, it's a shame someone bought them in the first place. I feel sorry for the buyers," says Orthmeyer. "I don't know how they can get a home inspection on some of these."
----


Oswald, actually, says that the worst-case scenario - the loss of all 2,000 homes currently vacant in the city - might not be the death knell folks make it out to be.

"There's only about a thousand variables in it, but the bottom line is, the tax implication is virtually negligible," he says. "At this point, the ones they are demolishing are the ones at the lower end of the tax base anyway, so they're getting really close to the property (lot) value itself. When the house is gone, the property has actually been improved. The house is a blight on the neighborhood, and by improving it the neighborhood improves, the land value of that lot improves."
----


But with the price of gas, and enough parcels opening up in cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul, folks who might have purchased in the suburbs will start to look here in the metro again.

1:12 PM  
Anonymous Marcia Moermonds Salary said...

Thanks for Public Service Blog, todays www.twincities.com Published Data Base of Salarys

Good Grief Marcia Moermond makes $71 thous ,with now a paralegal Mya Vang (sp) demolishing Homes on the Poor, Disabled, etc.
http://extras.twincities.com/car/salaries/default.aspx

Objection to Outside Counsel of the Mark Briol Law Firm no 11 on Wed Consent Agenda

2:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Repke did you ever think the city made it worse by knocking all the experiance landlords out of business and then having the green horns become landlords.I know a handfull of old landlords not in the business because of the citys tactics.

Probably didn't help the situation thats going on nationally.Isn't St.Paul the most livable city in the country and shouldn't the be a step above the rest?




Tim Ciani

2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to 12:54 P.M.

the place wouldn't have been sold to the investor who couldn't aford it if the city had not forced the previous owner out of business.

5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can you imagine having Marcia Moermond's job, with all the fallout that goes with it? No thanks!

7:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! I just checked DSI salaries under "Inspector" on http://extras.twincities.com/car/salaries/default.aspx.

54 DSI employees are listed at $3,404,574, or an average of $63,047 apiece.

This is not to mention supporting inspectors, such as fire and water, as well as administrative salaries, and costs of the Legislative Hearings.

With so many people (dead asses) making so much money, do you think that they have become a force unto themselves, destroying houses and lives to feed their bureaucracy?

9:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tim,

The good experienced landlords were never the one's in the suit. They were mostly bottom feeders.

What went wrong was this belief that property values were always going to go up 5-10-15% a Year! It was insanity.

As to salaries folks if you think $63,000 a year is a lot for an inspector with the number of years most of these guys have, you know very little about salary scales.

JMONTOMEPPOF

Chuck Repke

9:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure that some of the inspectors are appropriately compensated. But is this department's budget in line with comparable cities, with the number of inspectors?

10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ive met those landlords Repke and also know a couple of th4em before the lawsuits started. They WERE NOT "Bottom Feeders." Most of their propertiues looked better than yours and Thunes and Dawkins. The only people feeding on the bootom are the ones like you and your government buddies trying to make a living off the backs of the poor and downtroden,

11:54 PM  
Anonymous Supervisor Steve Magner $95 thous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

11:54 you don't even know what I do. You guys are so unaware of the real world, it amazes me. Yes, I am sure when you cash you government assistance check for you "mental disability" that the thought of getting $63,000 to be a housing inspector seems like a lot of money. And, I am sure that once those space alliens stop sending you secret top coded messages through your refrigerator light bulb that you'll be able to return to the working world, but until that happens, at least pay attention to who is saying what to who about helping who.

Your "friend" the landlord who buys property with nothing down, doesn't make the bank payments and keeps renting the units right up until the Sheriff's sale isn't doing the poor any favors.

JMONTOMEPPOF

Chuck Repke

8:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No Repke,

I have personally encountered several of these inspectors. If they are being PAID as professionals they should ACT like professionals. Multiple times I experienced lies and slander by personnel making over $70,000. Another in the same $ range used deliberate vagueness to cover-up. Administration lied to support, and was all supported by City Hall. Collusion is a very serious thing Repke. These folks may be making their own work, while no one has the guts to stand up to it. How many inspectors does Minneapolis and suburbs have per capita?

9:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"11:54 you don't even know what I do. You guys are so unaware of the real world, it amazes me."

Unaware? Are you f***ing nuts or what Repke? There's people all over the city making the same accusations about code inspectors shaking people down, fabricating violations that don't exist, requiring people to do repairs without the legal authority to do so.

The city of St. Paul response to all of this and the many many Federal Lawsuits aginst them are to cover it up, refuse to do any investigation at all, destroy evidence, lie through their teeth in Depositions and send some moron like you out to put a favorable spin on it.

With all due respect sir, I would suggest that the space aliens are you friends in Government and the secret messages being through refirgerators are being sent to you.

3:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These code inspectors with their lies and cover ups are depriving citizens of their fair and honest services much like the policeman who was arrested for corrruption. These people should be arrested likewise. They're nothing but a bunch of thugs, the only difference is that they are government thugs.

5:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

chuck,

I do not make a dime on my rentals for sevenyears and I had sepend about $250,000.00. For fix up the units, lawyer fee, taxes,and I can only make my mortgage payment for four years. And you say ok for the inspector to Make 63,000.00.
To do a job for 4 hours aday and get a car and exspense account.

That sum job. I have work real JOb and my wife work too. Just pay
our bills and the tenants water , heat, trash. And for damages to units and up keep.

I can not give it away or sell it.
Because of the great city of St.Paul.


I try file charge against the tenants and the city and the police say it civil matter.

You tell dave t. The is full shit and will find way to sue the city for all my hardship.

Maybe I will find a way sue you too.

5:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most landlords don't make any money on their rentals. Money they can spend that is. All this money that these bleeding heart liberals like Eric and Chuck say landlords make is a crock. The money landlords make is the appreciation of the property which isn't much when you factor in the tenants trashing the palce3 every time you turn around and a city government that enables them to keep doing it by making the landlord the scapegoat because they don't have the guts to put the blame where it really belongs......on the person lviing in the property.

Whatever these damn liberals try to convince you of....just figure the exact opposite and you'll be very close to right!

6:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

3:58 Actually the reason why they tried this Federal suit was in hopes of catching a judgement based on the City's inability to produce every document ever sent to anyone that ever work in the City for the last ten years. That stunt didn't work. The court has already determined that the City isn't and didn't cover up anything. In fact the City has spent a small fortune wasting City staff time digging up all of the documents that the plaintiffs have wanted with them still not yet being able to define who is the conspirators and who if anyone benefitted.

5:43 is that you Dahn making up another identity. Because I am dying to see who put $250,000 into a building and doesn't have it leased up.

6:16 ah for the olden days when that was true. No, that isn't the way that it has worked for the last ten/fifteen years. The guys who know what they are doing keep the buildings in good enough shape that they cash flow and create enough surpluss to allow for additional investment. But, the guys who stayed up watching late night infomercials were buying and selling these huts before the ink was dry on the title transfer. We watched prices fly up on these units.

By the end even the strong landlords were selling everything they could while the prices were soaring. What we see now are the guys were still buying when the prices were to high and these babies can't cash flow and they are letting them go forecloser.

And it isn't as bad here as it is in about 2/3's of the country.

JMONTOMEPPOF

Chuck Repke

9:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are crazy Chuck. I know one of the landlords on those lawsuits and their reason for trying it wasn't a stunt. They already had the incriminating emails they need you fool. The reason they wanted the city to produce them is because they knew the city wouldn't produce the dirty ones. And there's plenty of them coming in and out of some of the council peoples offices. The city was set up you fool and they fell for it and now they can't turn them over and they're going to have to explain to a jury why they didn't! That will after the landlord attorneys show them to jury and read what they have to say.

Your misstatement about city staff spending so much effort digging up all kinds of documents is a joke. They spent that "small fortune" you speak of trying to sanitize the documents and vaccum out the NHPI files. Get a life man....you don't know what you're talking about.

11:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

11:24 said "They already had the incriminating emails they need you fool.."

What in the hell are you talking about? If these guys had anything that was incriminating we'd have seen it. The way this list went crazy over the Thune email confronting a constituant that he didn't want people targeting people because of their race or financial situation only showed how little you guys have.

What you don't get is that it doesn't matter if even at some point some one in the City said they had enough shit out of landlord X or landlord y and they intend to find a way to revoke his C of O. ITS NOT RICO! It is not a crime to be fed up with some ass hole and not want to give him any more breaks.

Try again for something to be RICO you need someone or a group of someones to take or threaten to take something from someone in order to BENEFIT someone else. That is RICO. The other charge is that those who were impacted by the City's enforcement were a protected class. That is the suit.

First you have no one who benefits by the actions of the City. Other than when you say the neighborhood benefits. Well if the benefit is that blite was removed and that is what you think some judge will find as criminal, then you are more insane than I think you are. Because the Federal government spends billions of dollars to remove blite! That is nuts!

As to the protected class the only thing that the landlords have in comman and the only thing that we see in any of these stories that create a "class" of peoples is that they were either unwilling or unable to repair their properties.

And, finally the last court hearing was where if your boys had anything they needed to show it. That was where they tried to get summary judgement over the City not producing everything. What the judge said was you can have the entire candy store all of the money the City has if you have on freaking piece of evidence that shows that the City is hiding anything. THEY HAD NOTHING! The judge basicly said, I can't give you money because you suspect the City is hiding something. You have to show that they hid at least one thing and then the world is yours otherwise zilch...

They got zilch.

The case is over.

JMONTOMEPPOF

Chuck Repke

8:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chuck we need landlords and we all know being one is tough.Small incomes to make a living.The money is made longterm when you paydown the mortgage.But you have to take care of the property along the way.I've looked and took pictures at some of the people in the suits and have found they are doing a great job maintaining.Better than you and Thune.



Tim Ciani

8:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here we go again, being a low-income landlord is soooo tough. Well, I agree it is. That's why being one is not something that anyone should be doing. There takes some skill and business and savvy to be successful at it.

If you think 60k or 70k is lot of money for the education and experience needed to get there, then don't look into the private sector, you'll have a heart attack.

If you think its so much money and most people don't make it, what the hell are you all bitching about when us liberal want to raise taxes in the top 2% (individuals making over 231,000/yr) and tax capitol gains?

You guys are mentally a mess.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Capitol gains, what a great tax.Lets tax someone for making an investment into the american economy and having a success.


Its almost as stupid as the death tax.Lets tax someones money that was taxed their whole life.Great idea.Keep up the great work you liberal idiots.

12:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

12:24
You are a very good dog for the rich.

The Death tax is actually the Estate Tax and here's the facts behind estate taxes:

One of the most enduring myths about the estate tax is that it constitutes double taxation that is, it taxes income that already was taxed under the income tax during the decedent's lifetime. This claim is seriously distorted:

* 99 percent of estates pay no estate tax at all, primarily because the first $1.5 million of any estate's value ($3 million for a couple) is entirely exempt from the estate tax. Thus, 99 percent of estates cannot face double taxation under the estate tax for the simple reason that they owe no estate tax.

* For those few, large estates that do owe estate taxes, a substantial proportion of their assets have never been taxed. Indeed, the majority of assets in estates valued over $10 million consist of untaxed capital gains that is, property, stocks, and bonds that have appreciated in value since they were first purchased by the decedent but have never been subject to tax.

* Given that untaxed capital gains make up a major part of large estates, some have suggested that it would be appropriate to slash the estate tax's top tax rate to 15 percent, the current capital gains tax rate. That, however, would reduce the share of an estate that is paid in estate taxes that is, the effective tax rate to an average of just 6 percent, a mere fraction of the capital gains rate, because of the large exemptions and deductions available for the estate tax.
-------
The rich continue to escape their fair share because the system is set up to protect them and manipulate the peanut brains to protect them while the masses pay four times the rate the rich do.

Next lesson, capitol gains.

Eric
-this guy can't be one bitching about 60k a year being a lot of money.

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eric,

For "professionals" to call in complaints, and threaten contractors, any amount of money is too much. Why does Minneapolis have .005 vacant houses and st paul have .017 vacant houses - it sounds like a bureaucracy out of control. But then what do you care?

12:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our plan for raising the tax on capitol will not affect revenue. That myth was debunked by comparing the economy of the 1980's and 1990's. More specifically:

*Under current law, the 5 percent capital gains rate applies to those who fall into the two lowest income tax brackets. In 2006, for married couples filing jointly, that included all making up to $61,300. For singles the cut-off was $30,650. The brackets are adjusted upward each year for inflation, and married couples can make up to $65,100 in 2008 before they would be affected by an increase in the top capital gains rate. For singles, the cut-off comes at $32,550.

* Democratic proposals exempts ALL making under $250,000 a year from paying any increase in the capital gains rate.

* Very few of them ($250,000 and up) pay the top capital gains rate that Democrats propose to increase for the over-$250,000 set. So they are already not pulling their weight.

* Just under 13 percent of all who filed tax returns for 2006 reported any capital gains income, however small. That means that raising capital gains tax rates could not affect 87 percent of all tax-payers, since they have no gains income to tax.

So, how about making those who have benefited the most from the working and middle classes in America pay a portion of the taxes the working and middle classes pay?

This tax system is set up to get the wage earner and middle class income earner at the expense of protecting the rich. I'm not sure If I would call every individual who makes 250k/yr rich but, knowing they are only paying at a rate that is a portion of what their own secretary has to pay is sick.

You, 12:24, want to defend this practice?

You would have done well in Medieval times. The lapdog for the King and Sheriff of kingdoms past. A traitor to the class who actually do the work and produce.


Eric

12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eric relax. Your assumption that the rich don't pay taxes is ignorant and reckless. I won't even bore you with statistics but do you know who pays the majority of the taxes collected.Yep you got it the rich.150k to 250 k is not rich.The rich and or business owners are the number one employer,creating jobs for the middle class.The better they do the more jobs they create and the bigger their business will get.

Look at GM for example they are making less then they were 10 years ago so now they cut the work force.If they were making more then they were 10 years ago they would be hiring.So having more capitol is always better for everyone.


Tom

2:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom

In the world - The richest 1% of adults owned 40% of the world’s total assets in the year 2000. The richest 10% of adults accounted for 85% of total assets. The bottom half of the world adult population owned 1% of global wealth.

In the US - In 1999, the poorest fifth of the US population received less than 4% of the total income. The second poorest fifth received 9%. The middle fifth received 15%. The second richest fifth received 23%. The richest fifth received 49%.

So, if half of the monies are in the top 20% of the population, it would appear reasonable that you would go after them for the taxes wouldn't it? And if the bulk of them get their wealth through capitol gains, shouldn't we have higher not lower capitol gains taxes?

JMONTOMEPPOF

Chuck Repke

3:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More stats...

In the late 1970s, the top one percent of the US population held 13 percent of the wealth; in 1995 it held 38 percent. (Levy, Frank. The New Dollars and Dreams ).

In 1998 the top 1 percent of the population owned 38 percent of the wealth, the top 5 percent owned over 60 percent (source: www.inequality.org/fatcsfr.html).

The top ten percent of the U.S. population owns 81.8 percent of the real estate, 81.2 percent of the stock, and 88 percent of the bonds. (Federal Reserve Bank data in Left Business Observer, No. 72, Apr. 3, 1996, p. 5).

One percent of the U.S. population owns sixty percent of the stock and forty percent of the total wealth. (Hawken, Paul, The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability. New York: HarperBusiness, 1993).

The top one percent of U.S. households owned 42 percent of all stock in 1997...
The top ten percent of households owned 82 percent of all stock-market wealth...
Only 27 percent of households held more than $10,000 in stock in 1997...
57 percent of Americans didn't own any stock at all...
The top fifth of households saw their income rise 43 percent between 1977 and 1999, while the bottom fifth saw their income fall 9 percent....
Since 1973, every group in society except the top 20 percent has seen its share of the national income decline, with the bottom 20 percent losing the most. They have just 3.6 percent of national income, down from 4.4 percent a quarter century ago.
Indeed, the top fifth now makes more than the rest of the nation combined...
Rebecca Blank, who recently left the President's Council of Economic Advisors, pointed out, ‘We've gone back to levels of income and wealth inequality that this country hasn't seen since the teens and 1920s.’" (Source: Merrill Goozner, Crash of '99?, Salon.com, Oct. 1, 1999).

The top one percent of Americans receive more income than the bottom 40 percent. (Korten, David. When Corporations Rule the World, p. 108).


Chuck Repke

3:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When "Big Slums" rule the city Repke you'll be working for them at minimum wage.

9:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chuck without the rich, middle class and the poor would have nothing.Don't we owe the rich alittle more then taxes and higher brackets and more taxes and more and more............Maybe a thanks for keeping the economy going and for paying taxes so you can have a non-profit job.Chuck because without them you wouldn't have a government backed paycheck.


Its like the old saying teach a man how to fish and he'll eat forever.Start taking more and more of the fish he catches and he won't be able to feed others and himself.Thats what higher taxes do.



Tom

9:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Repke get off your ass and try the private sector ya leech.


Your the type that likes the government to redistribute the countrys wealth no matter how hard you work and the risk you take.

St.Paul DFL ran----Business is booming huh Repke-even downtown.Thunes got that tuned like a broken fiddle.Then you guys bitch you can't even lure business in with kick backs and tiffs.I wonder why?



Sid

9:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good point Sid.St.Paul is a dead place for business due to regulation and restriction and high property taxes doesn't help.



Tom

8:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The middle class is in trouble. What I don't understand is support - like Repke - for mistreating people that negatively impacts the middle class, and makes it implode. It looks like repke wants to turn it into an epic struggle of BIG GOVERNMENT vs. BIG BUSINESS. Why not work with people, repke?

9:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Working with the people puts nothing in Repkes pocket. His non profit business feeds off the misery of others just like he says the landlords do. If there were not bad houses and a city knocking down some properties and taking others, there would be much fewer development opportinities for Chuck. And maybe that's OK, there's a place for that in society, but what's not OK is the way Chuk constantly sticks up for a government that's out of control violating people's civil rights.

10:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom wrote:
"...without the rich, middle class and the poor would have nothing.Don't we owe the rich..."

Not the case.

The economic engine of America is in the middle class not the rich. Why? Because Henry Ford is a dreamer without the talent of a workforce.

If anything, wealth gained in America is due to our workforce, subsidized education, regulation and professionalizing or support services to the point that almost anyone who isn't a slumlord can make it to the upper middle class.

I would agree that we 'owe' the rich- if they could do what they did here in other countries. They can't. Nobody owes anyone anything except their fair share. If the plumber has to pay 17% in federal taxes, so should Carl Pohlad and every ball player on his roster. That's fair and is the only way to lower taxes- when everyone is paying.

Tom is also using an ol' numbers game by saying the rich pay more in taxes. They do in whole numbers, but not in percentage of income which is how taxes are determined.

A single guy making $80,000 will pay about $22,000 in taxes, he's in the 28% bracket for taxable income. A person makes $500,000 profit in capital gains will only pay about $75,000 in taxes or 15% in taxes.

And that's fair?

The IRS believes that for decades capital gains have been reported under-valued. It estimates a loss of about 11 billion a year- 11 billion! So, that 15% is for the honest no loop-hole investor.

What if all income was taxed at 15% across the board?

We could do that if we change the tax code and go after the cheats.

But, Tom, you go ahead and defend the virtues of the rich like they made their money through some miracle of birth.


Eric

10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A single guy making $80,000 will pay about $22,000 in taxes, he's in the 28% bracket for taxable income. A person makes $500,000 profit in capital gains will only pay about $75,000 in taxes or 15% in taxes.


That single guy probably works for someone and goes home at night and can sleep not having to worry if his business will stand another year.

The guy making 500,000 made good choices,risks that could lose it all and probably employed many people.He probably worked 20-30 years of his life 50-60 hours a day and invested correctly.Very few people become wealthy overnight Eric.It takes time determination and calculated risk.Some succeed and some fail.But big government shouldn't be teaching lessons by taxing the people who have made it through the struggle and succeeded.

I'll take a 17% tax across the board Eric.I think its fair.

Ladies and gentleman we aren't losing the middle class.The middle class is getting ever more greedy.Instead of having a modest home,one 5-10 year old car,1 TV,having one parent home we want it all-Nice big house,two brand new cars,3 TVs(one flat screen) and so on.We want more.If you look at the top end of the poor that is how our parents and the middle class lived 30+ years ago.


And if you are to still believe the middle class is shrinking we should blame the democrats.They have been the middle clesses spokesman for sometime now.They must have failed.




Tom

12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom,
Who did the Democrats fail to? Who are they fighting against when it comes to the middle class agenda? Who's pushing for more and more tax cuts for the wealthy? Is it the party of the Wigs? No, its, for the most part the Grand Ol' Party. The republicans who's agenda, which you inadvertently prove, is about the rich being able to get richer and everyone else follows on their lead.

You said:
"The guy making 500,000 made good choices,risks that could lose it all and probably employed many people."

Really?
So, the person who got the money for born in the right family doesn't count in your assessment? Good.

Maybe you haven't heard of the multi-billion dollar bailouts taxpayers are funding for these investors that take 'all of the risks'? Or the half trillion dollars worth of 'risks' in real estate that has swung our economy underwater and we are now bailing them out.

Its clear to anyone reading that you don't value the work of middle class and below. Its clear that you have a little disdain for the guy who spent 30 years as an accountant, fire fighter, teacher, janitor, ambulance driver, writer, landscaper and other white and blue collar jobs who's compensation is in the form of a pay check.

You revere the investor (who needs money in the first place to invest at the rate were discussing) and believes that they need some higher place among citizenship. As if they don't use the roads, cops, firemen, teachers and others. It's not like they don't rely on the government to protect their investments from fraud and overt corruption.

We pay taxes for government services that benefits all citizens therefore it benefits all citizens. Not one of these people can you name who built it all did not benefit from our unique governmental system, even if we have to go back to that person's schooling that allowed them to have the faculties to grow money.

What is it that makes you hate working and middle class people so much? What is it that you can only see very little value in these hard working Americans? Are they but drones to you? Why are you willing to piss on these people?


Eric

1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You owe that monet to the rich Eric. STOP COMPLAINING AND PONY UP DEADBEAT.

8:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe you haven't heard of the multi-billion dollar bailouts taxpayers are funding for these investors that take 'all of the risks'? Or the half trillion dollars worth of 'risks' in real estate that has swung our economy underwater and we are now bailing them out.



Eric the Dems control congress and have created the bail out.I'm totally against bailouts.

I never said I didn't respect the middleclass.I make 75,000 a year.Aren't I middle class?

The middle class should thank the government for protectingour social security when we retire after 30 years.I think there the ones that don't value us.


Eric I love the middle class.You shouldn't.Doesn't the United States consist mostly of the middle class?Then aren't they the ones voting these right wing party in office.


Tom

10:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Democrats have had the congress for a year and a half Tom. Let's not forget that the President has been able to consolidate power in the executive branch (perfect for when President Barack Obama is sworn in) and the Republicans ruled the roost for 12 years until 18 months ago. Without going into economics, this is what just the last fours years brought us from them:

1. Memogate: The Senate Computer Theft

The scandal: From 2001 to 2003, Republican staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee illicitly accessed nearly 5,000 computer files containing confidential Democratic strategy memos about President Bush's judicial nominees. The GOP used the memos to shape their own plans and leaked some to the media.

The problem: The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act states it is illegal to obtain confidential information from a government computer.

The outcome: Unresolved. The Justice Department has assigned a prosecutor to the case. The staff member at the heart of the matter, Manuel Miranda, has attempted to brazen it out, filing suit in September 2004 against the DOJ to end the investigation. "A grand jury will indict a ham sandwich," Miranda complained. Some jokes just write themselves.

2. Doctor Detroit: The DOJ's Bungled Terrorism Case

The scandal: The Department of Justice completely botched the nation's first post-9/11 terrorism trial, as seen when the convictions of three Detroit men allegedly linked to al-Qaida were overturned in September 2004. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft had claimed their June 2003 sentencing sent "a clear message" that the government would "detect, disrupt and dismantle the activities of terrorist cells."

The problem: The DOJ's lead prosecutor in the case, Richard Convertino, withheld key information from the defense and distorted supposed pieces of evidence -- like a Las Vegas vacation video purported to be a surveillance tape. But that's not the half of it. Convertino says he was unfairly scapegoated because he testified before the Senate, against DOJ wishes, about terrorist financing. Justice's reconsideration of the case began soon thereafter. Convertino has since sued the DOJ, which has also placed him under investigation.

The outcome: Let's see: Overturned convictions, lawsuits and feuding about a Kafkaesque case. Nobody looks good here.

Jan 18, 2005 | 3. Dark Matter: The Energy Task Force

The scandal: A lawsuit has claimed it is illegal for Dick Cheney to keep the composition of his 2001 energy-policy task force secret. What's the big deal? The New Yorker's Jane Mayer has suggested an explosive aspect of the story, citing a National Security Council memo from February 2001, which "directed the N.S.C. staff to cooperate fully with the Energy Task Force as it considered the 'melding' of ... 'operational policies towards rogue states,' such as Iraq, and 'actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields.'" In short, the task force's activities could shed light on the administration's pre-9/11 Iraq aims.

The problem: The Federal Advisory Committee Act says the government must disclose the work of groups that include non-federal employees; the suit claims energy industry executives were effectively task force members. Oh, and the Bush administration has portrayed the Iraq war as a response to 9/11, not something it was already considering.

The outcome: Unresolved. In June 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back to an appellate court.

4. The Indian Gaming Scandal

The scandal: Potential influence peddling to the tune of $82 million, for starters. Jack Abramoff, a GOP lobbyist and major Bush fundraiser, and Michael Scanlon, a former aide to Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), received that amount from several Indian tribes, while offering access to lawmakers. For instance, Texas' Tigua tribe, which wanted its closed El Paso casino reopened, gave millions to the pair and $33,000 to Rep. Robert Ney (R-Ohio) in hopes of favorable legislation (Ney came up empty). And get this: The Tiguas were unaware that Abramoff, Scanlon and conservative activist Ralph Reed had earned millions lobbying to have the same casino shut in 2002.

The problem: Federal officials want to know if Abramoff and Scanlon provided real services for the $82 million, and if they broke laws while backing candidates in numerous Indian tribe elections.

The outcome: Everybody into the cesspool! The Senate Indian Affairs Committee and five federal agencies, including the FBI, IRS, and Justice Department, are investigating.

5. Halliburton's No-Bid Bonanza

The scandal: In February 2003, Halliburton received a five-year, $7 billion no-bid contract for services in Iraq.

The problem: The Army Corps of Engineers' top contracting officer, Bunnatine Greenhouse, objected to the deal, saying the contract should be the standard one-year length, and that a Halliburton official should not have been present during the discussions.

The outcome: The FBI is investigating. The $7 billion contract was halved and Halliburton won one of the parts in a public bid. For her troubles, Greenhouse has been forced into whistle-blower protection.

6. Halliburton: Pumping Up Prices

The scandal: In 2003, Halliburton overcharged the army for fuel in Iraq. Specifically, Halliburton's subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root hired a Kuwaiti company, Altanmia, to supply fuel at about twice the going rate, then added a markup, for an overcharge of at least $61 million, according to a December 2003 Pentagon audit.

The problem: That's not the government's $61 million, it's our $61 million.

The outcome: The FBI is investigating.

7. Halliburton's Vanishing Iraq Money

The scandal: In mid-2004, Pentagon auditors determined that $1.8 billion of Halliburton's charges to the government, about 40 percent of the total, had not been adequately documented.

The problem: That's not the government's $1.8 billion, it's our $1.8 billion.

The outcome: The Defense Contract Audit Agency has "strongly" asked the Army to withhold about $60 million a month from its Halliburton payments until the documentation is provided.

8. The Halliburton Bribe-apalooza

The scandal: This may not surprise you, but an international consortium of companies, including Halliburton, is alleged to have paid more than $100 million in bribes to Nigerian officials, from 1995 to 2002, to facilitate a natural-gas-plant deal. (Cheney was Halliburton's CEO from 1995 to 2000.)

The problem: The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prohibits U.S. companies from bribing foreign officials.

The outcome: A veritable coalition of the willing is investigating the deal, including the Justice Department, the SEC, the Nigerian government and a French magistrate. In June, Halliburton fired two implicated executives.

9. Halliburton: One Fine Company

The scandal: In 1998 and 1999, Halliburton counted money recovered from project overruns as revenue, before settling the charges with clients.

The problem: Doing so made the company's income appear larger, but Halliburton did not explain this to investors. The SEC ruled this accounting practice was "materially misleading."

The outcome: In August 2004, Halliburton agreed to pay a $7.5 million fine to settle SEC charges. One Halliburton executive has paid a fine and another is settling civil charges. Now imagine the right-wing rhetoric if, say, Al Gore had once headed a firm fined for fudging income statements.

10. Halliburton's Iran End Run

The scandal: Halliburton may have been doing business with Iran while Cheney was CEO.

The problem: Federal sanctions have banned U.S. companies from dealing directly with Iran. To operate in Iran legally, U.S. companies have been required to set up independent subsidiaries registered abroad. Halliburton thus set up a new entity, Halliburton Products and Services Ltd., to do business in Iran, but while the subsidiary was registered in the Cayman Islands, it may not have had operations totally independent of the parent company.

The outcome: Unresolved. The Treasury Department has referred the case to the U.S. attorney in Houston, who convened a grand jury in July 2004.

11. Money Order: Afghanistan's Missing $700 Million Turns Up in Iraq

The scandal: According to Bob Woodward's "Plan of Attack," the Bush administration diverted $700 million in funds from the war in Afghanistan, among other places, to prepare for the Iraq invasion.

The problem: Article I, Section 8, Clause 12 of the U.S. Constitution specifically gives Congress the power "to raise and support armies." And the emergency spending bill passed after Sept. 11, 2001, requires the administration to notify Congress before changing war spending plans. That did not happen.

The outcome: Congress declined to investigate. The administration's main justification for its decision has been to claim the funds were still used for, one might say, Middle East anti-tyrant-related program activities.

12. Iraq: More Loose Change

The scandal: The inspector general of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq released a series of reports in July 2004 finding that a significant portion of CPA assets had gone missing -- 34 percent of the materiel controlled by Kellogg, Brown & Root -- and that the CPA's method of disbursing $600 million in Iraq reconstruction funds "did not establish effective controls and left accountability open to fraud, waste and abuse."

The problem: As much as $50 million of that money was disbursed without proper receipts.

The outcome: The CPA has disbanded, but individual government investigations into the handling of Iraq's reconstruction continue.

13. The Pentagon-Israel Spy Case

The scandal: A Pentagon official, Larry Franklin, may have passed classified United States documents about Iran to Israel, possibly via the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a Washington lobbying group.

The problem: To do so could be espionage or could constitute the mishandling of classified documents.

The outcome: A grand jury is investigating. In December 2004, the FBI searched AIPAC's offices. A Senate committee has also been investigating the apparently unauthorized activities of the Near East and South Asia Affairs group in the Pentagon, where Franklin works.

14. Gone to Taiwan

The scandal: Missed this one? A high-ranking State Department official, Donald Keyser, was arrested and charged in September with making a secret trip to Taiwan and was observed by the FBI passing documents to Taiwanese intelligence agents in Washington-area meetings.

The problem: Such unauthorized trips are illegal. And we don't have diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

The outcome: The case is in the courts.

15. Wiretapping the United Nations

The scandal: Before the United Nations' vote on the Iraq war, the United States and Great Britain developed an eavesdropping operation targeting diplomats from several countries.

The problem: U.N. officials say the practice is illegal and undermines honest diplomacy, although some observers claim it is business as usual on East 42nd Street.

The outcome: Little fuss here, but a major British scandal erupted after U.K. intelligence translator Katherine Gun leaked a U.S. National Security Agency memo requesting British help in the spying scheme, in early 2003. Initially charged under Britain's Official Secrets Act for leaking classified information, Gun was cleared in 2004 -- seemingly to avoid hearings questioning the legality of Britain's war participation.

16. The Boeing Boondoggle

The scandal: In 2003, the Air Force contracted with Boeing to lease a fleet of refueling tanker planes at an inflated price: $23 billion.

The problem: The deal was put together by a government procurement official, Darleen Druyun, who promptly joined Boeing. Beats using a headhunter.

The outcome: In November 2003, Boeing fired both Druyun and CFO Michael Sears. In April 2004, Druyun pled guilty to a conspiracy charge in the case. In November 2004, Sears copped to a conflict-of-interest charge, and company CEO Phil Condit resigned. The government is reviewing its need for the tankers.

17. The Medicare Bribe Scandal

The scandal: According to former Rep. Nick Smith (R-Mich.), on Nov. 21, 2003, with the vote on the administration's Medicare bill hanging in the balance, someone offered to contribute $100,000 to his son's forthcoming congressional campaign, if Smith would support the bill.

The problem: Federal law prohibits the bribery of elected officials.

The outcome: In September 2004, the House Ethics Committee concluded an inquiry by fingering House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), saying he deserved "public admonishment" for offering to endorse Smith's son in return for Smith's vote. DeLay has claimed Smith initiated talks about a quid pro quo. The matter of the $100,000 is unresolved; soon after his original allegations, Smith suddenly claimed he had not been offered any money. Smith's son Brad lost his GOP primary in August 2004.

18. Tom DeLay's PAC Problems

The scandal: One of DeLay's political action committees, Texans for a Republican Majority, apparently reaped illegal corporate contributions for the campaigns of Republicans running for the Texas Legislature in 2002. Given a Republican majority, the Legislature then re-drew Texas' U.S. congressional districts to help the GOP.

The problem: Texas law bans the use of corporate money for political purposes.

The outcome: Unresolved. Three DeLay aides and associates -- Jim Ellis, John Colyandro and Warren RoBold -- were charged in September 2004 with crimes including money laundering and unlawful acceptance of corporate contributions.

19. Tom DeLay's FAA: Following Americans Anywhere

The scandal: In May 2003, DeLay's office persuaded the Federal Aviation Administration to find the plane carrying a Texas Democratic legislator, who was leaving the state in an attempt to thwart the GOP's nearly unprecedented congressional redistricting plan.

The problem: According to the House Ethics Committee, the "invocation of federal executive branch resources in a partisan dispute before a state legislative body" is wrong.

The outcome: In October 2004, the committee rebuked DeLay for his actions.

20. In the Rough: Tom DeLay's Golf Fundraiser

The scandal: DeLay appeared at a golf fundraiser that Westar Energy held for one of his political action committees, Americans for a Republican Majority, while energy legislation was pending in the House.

The problem: It's one of these "appearance of impropriety" situations.

The outcome: The House Ethics Committee tossed the matter into its Oct. 6 rebuke. "Take a lap, Tom."

21. Busy, Busy, Busy in New Hampshire

The scandal: In 2002, with a tight Senate race in New Hampshire, Republican Party officials paid a Virginia-based firm, GOP Marketplace, to enact an Election Day scheme meant to depress Democratic turnout by "jamming" the Democratic Party phone bank with continuous calls for 90 minutes.

The problem: Federal law prohibits the use of telephones to "annoy or harass" anyone.

The outcome: Chuck McGee, the former executive director of the New Hampshire GOP, pleaded guilty in July 2004 to a felony charge, while Allen Raymond, former head of GOP Marketplace, pleaded guilty to a similar charge in June. In December, James Tobin, former New England campaign chairman of Bush-Cheney '04, was indicted for conspiracy in the case.

22. The Medicare Money Scandal

The scandal: Thomas Scully, Medicare's former administrator, supposedly threatened to fire chief Medicare actuary Richard Foster to prevent him from disclosing the true cost of the 2003 Medicare bill.

The problem: Congress voted on the bill believing it would cost $400 billion over 10 years. The program is more likely to cost $550 billion.

The outcome: Scully denies threatening to fire Foster, as Foster has charged, but admits telling Foster to withhold the higher estimate from Congress. In September 2004, the Government Accountability Office recommended Scully return half his salary from 2003. Inevitably, Scully is now a lobbyist for drug companies helped by the bill.

23. The Bogus Medicare "Video News Release"

The scandal: To promote its Medicare bill, the Bush administration produced imitation news-report videos touting the legislation. About 40 television stations aired the videos. More recently, similar videos promoting the administration's education policy have come to light.

The problem: The administration broke two laws: One forbidding the use of federal money for propaganda, and another forbidding the unauthorized use of federal funds.

The outcome: In May 2004, the GAO concluded the administration acted illegally, but the agency lacks enforcement power.

24. Pundits on the Payroll: The Armstrong Williams Case

The scandal: The Department of Education paid conservative commentator Armstrong Williams $240,000 to promote its educational law, No Child Left Behind.

The problem: Williams did not disclose that his support was government funded until the deal was exposed in January 2005.

The outcome: The House and FCC are considering inquiries, while Williams' syndicated newspaper column has been terminated.

25. Ground Zero's Unsafe Air

The scandal: Government officials publicly minimized the health risks stemming from the World Trade Center attack. In September 2001, for example, Environmental Protection Agency head Christine Todd Whitman said New York's "air is safe to breathe and [the] water is safe to drink."

The problem: Research showed serious dangers or was incomplete. The EPA used outdated techniques that failed to detect tiny asbestos particles. EPA data also showed high levels of lead and benzene, which causes cancer. A Sierra Club report claims the government ignored alarming data. A GAO report says no adequate study of 9/11's health effects has been organized.

The outcome: The long-term health effects of the disaster will likely not be apparent for years or decades and may never be definitively known. Already, hundreds of 9/11 rescue workers have quit their jobs because of acute illnesses.

26. John Ashcroft's Illegal Campaign Contributions

The scandal: Ashcroft's exploratory committee for his short-lived 2000 presidential bid transferred $110,000 to his unsuccessful 2000 reelection campaign for the Senate.

The problem: The maximum for such a transfer is $10,000.

The outcome: The Federal Election Commission fined Ashcroft's campaign treasurer, Garrett Lott, $37,000 for the transgression.

27. Intel Inside ... The White House

The scandal: In early 2001, chief White House political strategist Karl Rove held meetings with numerous companies while maintaining six-figure holdings of their stock -- including Intel, whose executives were seeking government approval of a merger. "Washington hadn't seen a clearer example of a conflict of interest in years," wrote Paul Glastris in the Washington Monthly.

The problem: The Code of Federal Regulations says government employees should not participate in matters in which they have a personal financial interest.

The outcome: Then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, spurning precedent, did not refer the case to the Justice Department.

28. Duck! Antonin Scalia's Legal Conflicts

The scandal: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia refused to recuse himself from the Cheney energy task force case, despite taking a duck-hunting trip with the vice president after the court agreed to weigh the matter.

The problem: Federal law requires a justice to "disqualify himself from any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned."

The outcome: Scalia stayed on, arguing no conflict existed because Cheney was party to the case in a professional, not personal, capacity. Nothing new for Scalia, who in 2002 was part of a Mississippi redistricting ruling favorable to GOP Rep. Chip Pickering -- son of Judge Charles Pickering, a Scalia turkey-hunting pal. In 2001, Scalia went pheasant hunting with Kansas Gov. Bill Graves when that state had cases pending before the Supreme Court.

29. AWOL

The scandal: George W. Bush, self-described "war president," did not fulfill his National Guard duty, and Bush and his aides have made misleading statements about it. Salon's Eric Boehlert wrote the best recent summary of the issue.

The problem: Military absenteeism is a punishable offense, although Bush received an honorable discharge.

The outcome: No longer a campaign issue. But what was Bush doing in 1972?

30. Iraq: The Case for War

The scandal: Bush and many officials in his administration made false statements about Iraq's military capabilities, in the months before the United States' March 2003 invasion of the country.

The problem: For one thing, it is a crime to lie to Congress, although Bush backers claim the president did not knowingly make false assertions.

The outcome: A war spun out of control with unknowable long-term consequences. The Iraq Survey Group has stopped looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

31. Niger Forgeries: Whodunit?

The scandal: In his January 2003 State of the Union address, Bush said, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

The problem: The statement was untrue. By March 2003, the International Atomic Energy Agency showed the claim, that Iraq sought materials from Niger, was based on easily discernible forgeries.

The outcome: The identity of the forger(s) remains under wraps. Journalist Josh Marshall has implied the FBI is oddly uninterested in interviewing Rocco Martino, the former Italian intelligence agent who apparently first shopped the documents in intelligence and journalistic circles and would presumably be able to shed light on their origin.

32. In Plame Sight

The scandal: In July 2003, administration officials disclosed the identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative working on counterterrorism efforts, to multiple journalists, and columnist Robert Novak made Plame's identity public. Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, had just written a New York Times opinion piece stating he had investigated the Niger uranium-production allegations, at the CIA's behest, and reported them to be untrue, before Bush's 2003 State of the Union address.

The problem: Under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act it is illegal to disclose, knowingly, the name of an undercover agent.

The outcome: Unresolved. The Justice Department appointed special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to the case in December 2003. While this might seem a simple matter, Fitzgerald could be unable to prove the leakers knew Plame was a covert agent.

33. Abu Ghraib

The scandal: American soldiers physically tortured prisoners in Iraq and kept undocumented "ghost detainees" in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The problem: The United States is party to the Geneva Conventions, which state that "No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever."

The outcome: Unresolved. A Pentagon internal inquiry found a lack of oversight at Abu Ghraib, while independent inquiries have linked the events to the administration's desire to use aggressive interrogation methods globally. Notoriously, Gonzales has advocated an approach which "renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions." More recently, Gonzales issued qualified support for the Geneva Conventions in January 2005 Senate testimony after being nominated for attorney general. Army reservist Charles Graner was convicted in January 2005 for abusing prisoners, while a few other soldiers await trial.

34. Guantánamo Bay Torture?

The scandal: The U.S. military is also alleged to have abused prisoners at the U.S. Navy's base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. FBI agents witnessing interrogations there have reported use of growling dogs to frighten prisoners and the chaining of prisoners in the fetal position while depriving them of food or water for extended periods.

The problem: More potential violations of the Geneva Conventions.

The outcome: An internal military investigation was launched in January 2005.



Eric

4:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eric Eric Eric......these things are just allegations........just like the Rico lawsuits.

10:32 PM  

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