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Do as I say, not as I do

POSTED February 1, 2013 9:47 p.m.

There’s a lot that Al Gore says that makes sense.

Ditto for Warren Buffet.

But the next time they lecture us you may want to see if their words match their actions.

Gore has a long history of “do as I say” and “not as I do.”

It goes back as far as his speech as vice president, lecturing us on the immorality of buying and driving big SUVs and then being photographed caravanning away in a small convoy of Chevrolet Suburbans.

And it continues in his latest book “The Future.” Gore lectures readers about excessive consumerism and materialism just weeks after closing a $500 million deal for his Current TV network. It’s a deal he pushed to have inked before the end of 2012 so he could avoid big tax increases. Yes, the same Al Gore who in the past has lectured us about not paying enough taxes.

Buffet - the Oracle of Omaha — gets lauded for telling Congress that corporations and the rich aren’t taxed enough. He talks about fair competition and open markets.

Yet look at how the firms he owns controlling interest in go about doing business.

Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad — whose shareholders Buffet bought out in 2009 — is an example.

Government regulators stood by as BNSF upped shipping prices 40 percent faster than federal economic data showed was justified when costs were taken into consideration. This was done to “captive shippers” – economic groups such as wheat farmers and coal producers who rely on one shipping source. Federal agencies were created to protect such shippers from price gouging.

Then there are Buffet companies such as MidAmerican Energy Holdings that pay, or more precisely, don’t pay taxes.

It’s part of Congress’ profit-now and pay-taxes-at-a-reduced-rate-later corporate tax laws that lobbyists working on behalf of Buffet’s energy firms helped put in place.

In 2009, Buffet told Mid-American shareholders the firm’s tax bill came to $313 million on pretax profits of $1.84 billion. That is a 17 percent tax rate compared to the 35 percent tax rate in place. It gets worse. The government allows Buffet’s firm to collect the 35 percent tax bill directly from consumers of energy — you and I — and then pocket half the money as profit rather than pay it in taxes.

Then, up to 35 years down the road, the firm may have to pay the balance in taxes, if it hasn’t used tax credits and other deductions to its advantage. Even so, they can invest the money they pocket and literally pay just a portion of the interest they earn on the delayed tax which does not have an inflation factor or interest tacked on.

The same hypocrisy is about to be used to push a new cigarette tax in California. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom — who believes we aren’t doing enough to fund college scholarships and that sin taxes on smoking are too low — is behind a new plan to tack another $1 per pack tax on cigarettes.

Newsom, for the record, has a net worth of $5 million and bought a home in San Francisco for $2.3 million. Instead of worrying whether smokers are paying enough in taxes, perhaps he should double check to make sure he is paying taxes at a rate as least as high as the typical smoker, who tends to be young, poor, and blue collar.

And if he’s worried about college scholarships, why not set up part of his own holdings into a trust to generate such funds?

Again Newsom, like Buffet and Gore, has great ideas. It’ just too bad he doesn’t necessarily practice what he preaches.

This all might sound like class envy, but it’s not.

It’s just amazing how the rich — which Gore, Newsom and Buffet are, even if they don’t think so — can not only lecture us and push for taxes and laws to make us “act better” but very nicely exclude their tax sins and such from being addressed.

That was what was rich about the One Percent flap of 2012. Those celebrities manning the barricades such as filmmaker Michael Moore — who is worth $50 million — are part of the One Percent they delight in condemning.

Such hypocrisy isn’t new. Jane Fonda spent her youth attacking capitalism then made millions off the fat — think exercise tapes — of the land. Her net worth is $120 million.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.

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