Honolulu Lite


Monday, June 11, 2001

Taxpayers win
their own money back

We can't all be as lucky as Alex Aris, the Ewa Beach man who just won $1 million playing keno in Las Vegas. But thanks to George W's trillion dollar tax cut, we'll all soon have a little money jangling in our pockets.

Politicians like to make a big deal out of giving us back a small chunk of our own money. In this case, most Americans will get a $300 "rebate." And just to show how generous they can be, proponents of the tax bill gush that married couples will get $600! Wait. If my eight years of math study at Aiea High School (four regular years and four sessions of summer school) serve me, $600 divided by two is still $300. So "married couples" aren't getting a special deal. Although, I suspect in certain households, like mine for instance, the hubby isn't going to get his hands on his half of the loot.

That's nothing compared to what poor old Alex is about to go through as he shepherds his $1 million back to Hawaii. The first thing the Fremont Hotel and Casino did after Alex won was comp him the Presidential Suite and gave him anything else he wanted free. In the time it took for 80 numbered Ping Pong balls to stop jumping around, Alex went from an Ewa Beach guppy to a Las Vegas whale. Whales are the rich guys that Las Vegas loves. They get everything free, as long as they bet millions of dollars. When people start giving you free rooms in Vegas, it's time to get out of town or slit your throat.

It's a dirty trick to stick a guy who just won $1 million in the Presidential Suite. If he doesn't immediately begin to lose some of that money back to the casino, he feels like a jerk. Even $1 million evaporates faster than a tear drop on a Las Vegas sidewalk in summer. First the feds will take nearly half of Alex's winnings in taxes. Then, even though he won the money in Nevada the State of Hawaii will demand its cut. He'll have to spend a bundle on presents to bring home for his family and friends, so figure about $100,000 on beef jerky.

By the time he's home, he'll only have a couple hundred thou left. That will disappear as long-lost relatives and new friends materialize out of the woodwork. In the end, Alex may be as happy as the rest of us to get his $300 tax rebate.

Now, the government expects us to immediately spend our $300. That way we can "kick start" the economy. The theory is that if we are given $300 of our own money and spend it, then the stock market will come roaring back and all those billionaires who became only millionaires during the crash will become billionaires again.

The problem is, $300 doesn't go very far these days. Your best buy would be overseas because of the exchange rates. For $300 you could buy a small (Eastern) European country. Here in the U.S., $300 will get you a couple of tanks of gas for your SUV. I went on the Internet to see what I could buy for $300 and, I swear, my computer started laughing hysterically and then shut itself off.

For about $300 you could buy a junket to Vegas like Alex did. The odds of you winning a million bucks are astronomical, but at least you might get a few free drinks while you throw your money away.

Alo-Ha! Friday compiles odd bits of news from Hawaii
and the world to get your weekend off to an entertaining start.
Charles Memminger also writes Honolulu Lite Mondays,
Wednesdays and Sundays. Send ideas to him at the
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210,
Honolulu 96813, phone 235-6490 or e-mail

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