An organization calling itself “Tax Justice Network USA” has launched a rather nasty shot at U2 front man Bono (Paul Hewson), calling him a “draft dodger.” I’m all for tax fairness – whatever that may be – but this has the look, smell and texture of a hit job, and if I take what they’re telling me at face value, you’re a draft dodger, too, if you work to claim every deduction and break legally available to you.
But let’s examine the article a bit, because there are issues I need addressed:
1. Is Bono breaking any laws or is he merely taking best advantage of the laws as they’re currently constructed? It seems from the article like it’s the latter, but the author seems to want me to believe that if you promote charitable causes you have an obligation to pay as much in taxes as humanly possible. That, of course, is overripe bullshit, and the fact that all the damage is done via implication tells us something important about the writer.
2. There is, however, a fair question about hypocrisy: is Bono advocating a standard that he is unwilling to live by? Again, we have no evidence that this is true, but the writer wants us to believe it, anyway. The answer boils down to whether or not Bono is contributing his fair share. That is, if his fair tax burden were $X and he managed to shelter the bill down to $Â½X, we might be okay with a bit of criticism. Unless his overall charitable giving added up to, say, $4X, in which case somebody needs to shut up, step off and sit down. Taxes are the means, not the ends. If the ends are met and a fair portion of funds flows to the right places, I don’t personally care whether he paid a cent in taxes. This may not be a satisfactory answer for the IRS guy doing the audit, but from a moral perspective it’s fine with me.
3. To this last bit I’d also broaden the scope to include contributions of time and the eventual results of his efforts. If a person who earns $X an hour and can get work at that rate at will spends 100 hours on a charitable enterprise, then that looks to me like $100X in contributions. Further, if those hours lead to contributions by others – say Rockstar Blogger Sam Smith gets Bill Gates and Oprah and Rupert Murdoch and a few other brazilianaires to pony up $1M apiece – then do we really need to hear about how he’s a hypocrite and a tax dodger?
There may be a real criticism lurking beneath this dog-and-pony post and if so I want to hear it. Just because Bono fronts the greatest band in the world today doesn’t mean I think he’s infallible. But if there is a legit criticism it’s impossible to see from this article.
So maybe the Tax Justice Network can provide us with some actual substance – either that or a look at the tax returns of all their people so we can see where they didn’t claim every deduction they were legally entitled to, as well.