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Off-shore patriotism

04/23/03 12:00AM By Bill Seamans
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(Host) Commentator Bill Seamans reflects on patriotism, veterans and paying taxes.

(Seamans) Like millions of others at this time of year, I licked the envelope, put on the stickum stamp (the one with the waving American flag) and mailed the check to our friends at the IRS. Instead of resenting the income tax hit as I have in the past, this time I felt the least I could do was to gratefully mail off my contribution with the hope that, even though it's like just a grain of sand on the seashore, it will somehow help pay for more and better care for our deserving veterans after President Bush substantially cut their benefits over the next ten years.

Then, with my conscience filled with thoughts of income tax patriotism, I kept running into that disturbing story of how other Americans are avoiding their income taxes openly, blatantly and legally. Our friends at the IRS tell us that some of our largest corporations, and some very wealthy individuals, continue to avoid at least $75 billion tax dollars a year via their phony paper headquarters or residences established offshore in the Bermuda and Cayman Islands tax havens. [It's] a tough story to take while our young service people were being killed or wounded in Iraq.

While the story has been reported here and there, it has not been given the big media push nor resulted in the public outrage I had expected and, admittedly, had hoped for. It's the shamefully familiar story of politics superceding patriotism. Both houses of Congress voted to bar those tax cheating corporations from bidding on very lucrative homeland security and defense contracts. But the Republican leadership stripped the measure from the homeland security bill in a closed conference. So the offshore tax dodgers can get those contracts worth billions and continue to legally avoid their income .

Meanwhile, Republican House leaders, Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader Tom Delay, are blocking a vote on the Corporate Patriot Enforcement Act which would crack down on the offshore tax cheaters. Congress watchers say the bill would pass overwhelmingly if Hastert and Delay allowed it to come to the floor. The Nation commentary magazine observed recently that "Even the war wasn't enough to goad the Bush administration into taking on its tax-dodging allies, nor has the call to sacrifice had any dampening effect on payoffs to party contributors."

Anyway, I'm glad I put that American flag stamp on my income tax the other day.

This is Bill Seamans.

Award-winning journalist Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East.
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