If I had Tom Foley’s tax accountant, there is one thing I most assuredly would not do: I would not run for public office pretending I had any idea about what is and is not sound public policy. Foley lives as a free-rider, avoiding taxes while living like a plutocrat. Why would anyone vote for him?
Foley paid $2,000 in federal taxes in 2011 and 2012. Yet in 2010, he spent $11 million of his own money in a failed attempt to become governor. He didn’t go broke running for governor. Odds are, he still has millions of dollars tucked away.
But he is a savvy tax planner: He reported $2.8 million in income in 2011, but that was offset by some $2.8 million in losses. His tax bill for the year was $1,008. His tax bill for 2012 was $815. I doubt there is a workingman in New Haven who paid much less.
Foley most likely filed his 2013 returns on October 15, 2014, the deadline for late filers. What did Tommy the Tax Dodger pay for 2013?
Welcome to the heady world of tax avoidance.
There’s nothing illegal about tax avoidance. Tax lawyers and certified public accountants make small fortunes advising the well-heeled about how to avoid paying taxes. The tax code is complex; loopholes abound. A savvy millionaire can live like a king while paying a pauper’s tax.
The difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion is simple: Tax avoidance involves sophisticated financial planning so as to structure assets in such a way as to make your income stream as tax proof as possible. It is legal.
Tax evasion, on the other hand, means either refusing to pay taxes due either by out-and-out deciding not to pay them, or hiding income and assets with the hope that the government won’t find out.
Tax avoidance will get you a big house in Greenwich; tax evasion will get you a prison cell. Savvy accountants and tax lawyers can help you navigate the fine line separating avoidance from evasion.
But just why a guy who spends his time trying to figure out how to live like a social parasite, benefiting from all the services government provides, whether those services be roads, policing, access to the courts, regulated air travel, should be entrusted with governing is a question I’d like Tax-Dodging Tom to answer.
Yes, you’re a crafty and shrewd businessman, Tom; but do you really think skill in learning how to beat the system translates into good governance?
Foley strikes me as the kind of guy who keeps a copy of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged by his bedside for inspiration. Rand’s 1957 novel was a dystopian world in which the truly creative geniuses, in the arts, industry and science, withdrew from society, forming a separate world all their own. They revolted against collectivist pressures, the grimy needs of those without their gifts. The leader of the revolt was a man named John Galt. Throughout the novel, supporters of this revolt of the One Percent leave their slogan as a rallying point for others: “Who is John Galt?”
So who is Tom Foley? He is the former owner of the Bibb Corporation in Georgia, now a bankrupt entity. Before Bibb died, it paid Foley and his management team some $20 million in management fees. Great gig, Tom — suck the life out of a company, get rich, and then watch it crash.
Foley then owned T.B. Wood’s Sons Co., in Pennsylvania. He harvested some $40 million in cash from the sale of that entity in 2007. He still owns Stevens Aviation in South Carolina — I suspect that firm is now on the corporate endangered species list.
Foley has become wealthy managing, and then dismantling, out-of-state corporations. Just how does that make him qualified to do anything but ride a polo pony in Connecticut?
Please don’t mistake my point here. I am not a supporter of Dannel P. Malloy — stuttering Dan leaves me cold. Watching Malloy govern is like watching a mortician try to manage a greenhouse.
But in the lesser of two evils bargaining that defines voting, Malloy at least has the benefit of being a contributing citizen of this state. His tax returns reflect something other than a commitment to out-smarting the taxman.
Go ahead, call me a limousine communist, I’ll accept the moniker. We’re all thrown together by accidents of birth into communities that come to define us. Despite the overheated rhetoric of individualism, natural rights, and the state of nature — the hoary abstractions of a political philosophy that glories in small parts at the expense of the whole—- no one really believes that it takes anything other than a community to raise a child, build a business or go about the business of living.
Throughout recorded history, government has played a role in creating the minimum communal conditions necessary for the lives we lead. Government has, and always will, require taxes. Pretending things can be otherwise is a stupid form of utopianism. You can hate government while recognizing its necessity.
No one likes paying taxes. But they are part of life. Those who refuse to pay them and have the wherewithal to avoid doing so have that right. But the effort they spend in doing so renders them unfit to lead a republic.
Tom Foley lives his life planning how to laugh all the way to the bank, leaving to the rest of us suckers the responsibility of paying for the public services he uses, but does not pay for. Now he wants to play the niftiest trick of all by tap-dancing into the governor’s mansion, a home we taxpayers would put over the head of a man who thinks taxes are someone else’s problem.
Tom Foley may not be a tax cheater. What he does to avoid paying taxes is perfectly legal. But that doesn’t mean he is not tax dodger. I don’t want to be governed by a man who thinks supporting public services is someone else’s problem.