Sunday :: Apr 30, 2006

Topping Off The Lowly Toppers

by pessimist

Ah, pity the Poor Rich! No matter what happens to the rest of us, the wealthy continue to get even more so:

Chevron profit up 49 percent from a year ago to four billion dollars. On Thursday, market leader ExxonMobil announced a first-quarter profit of 8.4 billion dollars, up seven percent from last year but below the fourth quarter's record of 10.7 billion. ConocoPhillips reported Wednesday first-quarter profit rose 13 percent from a year ago to 3.29 billion dollars with revenues surging on high oil prices, adding fuel to a debate over skyrocketing energy costs.

Chevron, in its statement, indicated that profits were driven by higher energy prices. Revenues leapt 32 percent from a year ago to 54.6 billion dollars, the company said, "mainly as a result of higher prices for crude oil, natural gas and refined products and the inclusion of revenues related to the former Unocal operations acquired in August 2005."

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, a consumer advocacy group, said Chevron's report showed a 260 percent increase in its US refining and sales profits, "further proof that retail gasoline prices are rising far faster than the cost of production, despite oil company excuses about the price of crude oil."

Some lawmakers have been pushing for a windfall profits tax, and on Thursday a group of Democratic senators urged an end to certain tax breaks for oil companies [worth an estimated] 5.4 billion dollars over 10 years.

"At the same time that American consumers are suffering under these high gasoline prices,
oil companies are reporting record-breaking profits
and their executives are receiving multi-million dollar retirement packages,"

the senators said in a statement.
"There is no reason to continue tax policies that provide further tax windfalls to these companies."
Analyst Kimberly DuBord at said the industry remains attractive to investors. "It has been a big week for big oil," she said. "There have been some disappointments and some surprises, but for our part, we continue to recommend investors stay long on energy as the upside potential continues to outweigh the downside risk."

Ah, pity the Poor Rich! Minimizing risk is something that all wise investors pursue, and there is no better way of protecting one's meager assets from risk than to see to it that only the little people pay taxes.

18 rich families pay for campaign to kill estate taxes
Sabrina Eaton, Plain Dealer Bureau

Eighteen of America's wealthiest families, including the Timkens of Canton, are bankrolling efforts to permanently repeal estate taxes that would save their families a total of $71.6 billion, according to a report released Tuesday by public interest groups. The report says the 18 families financed business groups, trade associations and lobbyists to push for their goals. Information about their participation was obtained through lobbying reports and IRS forms filed by anti-tax groups, the report said.

This year, all assets under $2 million for individuals and under $4 million for couples are exempt from estate taxes. Current tax law will boost those exemptions to $3.5 million and $7 million in 2009, eliminate the estate tax in 2010, and reimpose it in 2011 with a $1 million exemption. Ohio GOP Sen. George Voinovich says the cost of eliminating it is too great: about $290 billion over the next 10 years. Voinovich would prefer a compromise to elevate the minimum threshold for estate tax liability to $3.5 million and regularly adjust it for inflation.

Groups funded by the super-rich have engaged in a deceptive campaign to convince the public that estate taxes cause widespread problems for small businesses and family farms when they actually affect about one in 370 estates, said the report released by Public Citizen and Boston-based United for a Fair Economy. They said families including those that founded Wal-Mart, Gallo wineries, Nordstrom's department stores, Wegman's grocery stores, the Mars candy company, Cox media chain and Campbell Soup Co. joined the Timkens in bankrolling an effort the groups' report called "one of the biggest con jobs in recent history."

The groups that released the report called it a "myth" that estate taxes force families to sell farms and businesses. They said the taxes raise revenue from those most able to pay, prompt the rich to give to charity and deter concentrations of wealth. Based on the Timken family's estimated $201.5 million stake in its company, the report predicted estate tax repeal would save its heirs about $79 million. A Timken Co. spokesman did not return phone calls.

Ah, pity the Poor Rich! I don't know HOW they manage! How can they survive if they have to pay their own way like the rest of us? Feel some sympathy, for example, over the losses just suffered by the World's Richest Man:

Microsoft's one-day stock plunge: enough to buy all of Costco
By Benjamin J. Romano, Seattle Times, April 29, 2006

Microsoft's stock took its biggest one-day fall in more than five years Friday, shaving about $32 billion off the company's market value. That's enough to buy Starbucks, with plenty left over to treat everyone in China to a tall cafe Americano. Or maybe buy Costco and Getty Images and get back about $2 billion in pocket change.
It's almost as much as the United States spends every three months in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, who had about 978 million shares in February, lost more than $3 billion on paper. But don't worry. He's still the richest person on the planet with a net worth of about $47 billion after Friday's loss, using estimates published by Forbes magazine last month. The endowment of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world's largest charity, is [now worth] a few billion less.

Ah, pity the Poor Rich! Such a burden they bear!

Meanwhile, on the other end of the earnings spectrum, 'them what's not' carry on - without tax breaks, pocket politicans... or sometimes, jobs:

Military Spouses Job Program in Jeopardy
By NANCY ZUCKERBROD, Associated Press Writer

When her husband's Air Force job took him to Colorado, Vydia Torres became a cashier just so she could join him even though her resume included stints as Puerto Rico's housing secretary and the head of a nonprofit group. "I did not have the network. I did not know the labor market," Torres says of her move in 1993. Military spouses face similar career dilemmas, she said, because they relocate so much.

Today, Torres heads a Colorado Springs, Colo., program — also in place in a half-dozen communities nationwide — that helps military spouses with job training, placement, tuition and child care.

Mary Sabillo, who helps run the program in San Diego, says the program has served as a retention tool for the military.

"If the spouses could gain employment and provide more dollars into the family income,
it was more likely the military spouse would stay in the military,"
Sabillo said.
"What we have seen is the ability of thousands, thousands of Americans to be working to develop skills to move into the job market," said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican.

But that doesn't matter when 18 families whose assets are protected by the military far in excess of the benefit to the rest of America, have decided that they pay too much in taxes:

Despite its popularity, the initiative is in jeopardy because government officials do not intend to renew its federal grant. Mason Bishop, the Labor Department's deputy assistant secretary for employment and training, said Friday the department has told program administrators the grant money no longer will be available because it comes from a pool of money meant for emergencies. These grants, he said, are intended to assist with one-time events such as plant closings or natural disasters. "We have to be prudent in administration of these monies," Bishop said.

Susan Kamas, who helps administer the program near Fort Hood, Texas, says Labor Department officials told her group "they have different priorities for their money."

But Kamas said people who leave jobs because of a spouse's military career should be viewed similarly to other workers who leave involuntarily. "They really didn't have any choice about leaving their employment if they wanted to be with their family," Kamas said.

Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, says the program is vital for local economies because military spouses often go home to extended families when their husband or wife is deployed. "If all those spouses went home every time, it would be an economic disaster," he said. "If they don't have jobs, they're liable to go home."

"We've been turning people away," said Leland Lewis, who manages the program in the Norfolk, Va., area.

"There's a letdown" when potential applicants learn they no longer can sign up, he said.
Stephanie Youngblood recently went through the program in Tennessee, where administrators will not accept new applicants. Youngblood's husband, Army Sgt. 1st Class John Youngblood, is stationed at Fort Campbell but now is in Iraq. Stephanie Youngblood said spouses faced with the deployment of their loved ones have a great need for the program.
"We have to be prepared for the possibility that, you know, they might not come back,
and we might, you know, have to survive on our own income, with our own skills,"
Youngblood said.

You could always join the military if that happens, Ms. Youngblood. The wealthy are always crying loudly about how no one protects them, or looks out for their safety or welfare.

Pity the Poor Rich!

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