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Owing a debt

Money | Legislator wants to make sure all government workers pay their taxes

Issue: "Cities of God and Man," March 27, 2010

According to an analysis by USA Today, federal workers make more money than their private-sector counterparts in 8 out of the 10 occupations surveyed. They receive far more than private-sector workers in the way of benefits and job protections. And, in the current economic downturn, they are in one of the only fields to gain jobs and even receive hefty raises.

But some government employees want more. According to IRS data, nearly 100,000 federal workers, including 678 congressional staffers, failed to pay $962 million in taxes in 2008. And, unless they work for the IRS, they cannot be fired for it.

U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, wants to change that. On March 3, Chaffetz proposed legislation that would allow Congress, the White House, and federal agencies to fire workers who are seriously delinquent in paying their taxes. Under current law, the IRS is the only agency that can fire such workers. "Federal employees have an obvious obligation to pay their federal income taxes," Chaffetz said. "Because they draw their compensation from the American taxpayers, federal employees owe it to the taxpayers themselves to pay their taxes. If not, they should be fired."

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The Chaffetz proposal comes as President Obama is pushing for a ban on federal funds to government contractors, or "deadbeat companies," that haven't paid all their taxes.

Slim margin

The son of a shopkeeper in Mexico has become the richest man in the world. Forbes magazine reports that Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim is now wealthier than Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, making Slim the first person from a developing nation to top the magazine's annual list of the world's richest billionaires.

Slim, who is 70 and who made most of his fortune in the telecom business, has an estimated net worth of $53.5 billion. Gates and Buffett, who have given away billions recently, came in second and third with $53 billion and $47 billion, respectively. American Lawrence Ellison was sixth with $28 billion. Four of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton's heirs were among the top 18, including Christy Walton, Jim Walton, Alice Walton, and S. Robson Walton, each with a net worth of over $19.8 billion.

Overall, Forbes found 1,011 billionaires in the world, with 40 percent of them hailing from the United States. China and Hong Kong together have 89 billionaires and Russia has 62.

Going broke faster

The federal government reached a milestone of sorts in February. For the first time, the budget deficit for a single month topped $200 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Revenues were actually up $16 billion over February of 2009, but spending was up even more, driving the deficit to $223 billion. That means the government had a higher deficit for the single month of February than it had for the entire year of 2007. The CBO had more bad news on March 5: The White House, according to CBO analysts, had underestimated the deficits over the next 10 years arising from its proposed budgets by about $1.3 trillion. Instead of adding $8.5 trillion to the national debt, the Obama administration would add $9.8 trillion.

Timothy Lamer
Timothy Lamer

Tim is managing editor of WORLD magazine.

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