Poli-ticks

Arlene Violet: Some are more equal than others

By Arlene Violet
Posted 6/19/21

Nothing strikes me as more inimical to the values of the United States than examples of privilege extended to a class of people which are not enjoyed by others. Take, the ProPublica report in early …

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Poli-ticks

Arlene Violet: Some are more equal than others

Posted

Nothing strikes me as more inimical to the values of the United States than examples of privilege extended to a class of people which are not enjoyed by others. Take, the ProPublica report in early June that detailed how America’s richest men avoided paying their fair share in taxes, and, in some cases, paid none. Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk , Michael Bloomberg and Warren Buffett are bona fide billionaires. They also are tax dodgers, dishing out far less pro rata in taxes than middle class taxpayers. In fact, the 25 richest people in America paid only about 3.4 percent, which is far less than a middle class American on the lowest rung of “middlin.” Mr. Bezos has paid no taxes on occasion despite his billions and in 2011 actually claimed and received a tax credit of $4000 for the care of his children.

Meanwhile, when it comes to paying for the upcoming infrastructure legislation in Congress, republican U.S. representatives and senators, including a democrat or two, scoff at financing the proposal with a tax increase on the most wealthy. In fact, President Joe Biden has capitulated to the sobs of the rich. Even the plan of taxing multinational tax avoidance gimmicks seems off the table.

Closer to home, General Assembly democrats never fail to reinforce the perception of running a favor factory. One of the most startling privileges that exists is first the passage of and then the tabling of any change to a 2019 that allows firefighters throughout the entire state to use sick and vacation time to pad their salaries for overtime without the firefighter first using his regular work time. A Hummel Report investigation in May found that in Warwick there was the equivalent of a round robin where a firefighter could clock a sick day and vacation day and then start his/her regular shift collecting time and ½ even though they never started the assigned shift yet. This provision opens the door to internal scheming where the firefighters choreograph coverage among themselves to receive overtime for what should have been their regular shift.

These employees are in a privileged class since state workers cannot game the system this way. Despite this extraordinary tool to manipulate coverage, the General Assembly “tabled for more study” legislation sponsored by Patricia Morgan to curb this practice. There is not a person reading this column who works in the private sector who can use this ploy.

Meanwhile, the General Assembly, but for the Republicans, continues its corporate welfare for IGT/TWIN RIVER by overpaying these multinational corporations $800 million. As the Republicans pointed out, R.I. only takes 12.7 percent of the table game action whereas Massachusetts gets 25 percent. This dimunition alone puts $400 million into the coffers of the heavyweight giants. RI is so “flush” with cash that it pays IGT 2.5 percent of slot revenues for a defunct computer system which IGT charges Kansas for at 1 percent. Unlike 90 percent of the casino owners in the United States, R.I leases slot machines rather than buying them at a cost of $221 million. This no-bid contract is so deficient and emblematic of a backroom deal that there should be outrage. Rhode Islanders, however, are so domesticated they let the good times roll for the privileged.

Arlene Violet is an attorney and former Rhode Island Attorney General.

Arlene Violet

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