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Man of the People

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Milton Street 2.jpgI was in City Hall the other day reading over the ethics disclosures of various candidates for public office in this May's Primary Election.  It was a dreary chore, thumbing through mundane one- or two-page filings that listed income and debts, until I came upon the filing of T. Milton Street.

Street offered up the equivalent of a Russian novel. Thirty-seven pages, including handwritten annotations, reprints of civil suit proceedings, a clip about his conviction for federal tax evasion.

Unlike War and Peace, it did not have a cast of hundreds.  It was all about Milton. And it was all about his phobia of paying taxes.  Any taxes.

The man who wants to be our next mayor just got done serving 30 months in prison for a 2008 conviction for evading federal taxes (as in, he never filed returns for several years). He was fined $413,000 for those shenanigans.

But wait, there's more.

Street also owes $383,037 to the city in back taxes.  He owes another $105,563 to the state of Pennsylvania.  The Inquirer reported that he owes another $400,000-plus to the state of New Jersey

In terms of negative wealth, Street is a millionaire.  His combined tax liabilities total more than $1 million.  The odds of anyone ever seeing that money? Negligible.  Street lists his sole source of income as "retired - social security."

It takes hard work to avoid that much in taxes, a persistence that borders on monomania.

During his 2008 trial involving the IRS, Street offered two explanations as to why he didn't pay his federal taxes. One: He had searched the law books and found no clause in any law that actually authorized the IRS to collect taxes. (As you can imagine, this defense has been made many times before with the same result. The IRS, it turns out, is not an optical illusion.)

Two: After his younger brother, John, became mayor Milton cashed in, so to speak, and raked in millions in consulting fees and the like.  They totaled $3 million over the years and, as Street explained, the money ran through his hands like water.  He just spent it without ever considering setting some of it aside for taxes.

In other words, success ruined Milton Street.

You may recall those halcyon days. Street getting a plum contract to provide food services at the ice skating rink run by the Penn's Landing Corp. (subject of another law suit by Penn's Landing saying Street failed to pay it money due); Street getting another plum contract at Philadelphia International Airport, where he was put in charge of advising the people who supervised the people who supervised the people who repaired and maintained the luggage belts. The word sinecure comes to mind -- from the Latin words sine (without) cura (care).

Finally, there was creation of Notlim, Inc. (Milton spelled backwards --I love it.) a consulting company that offered, um, access to the mayor. John Street put the kibosh on that idea after it hit the papers.

Notlim, Inc. still exists as a legal entity.  Maybe Milton could reactivate it if he is elected mayor so he can get contracts to offer access to himself. Just a thought.

My guess, though, is that it wasn't his sudden success as a businessman that motivated Street to become a serial tax evader.

It was his highly refined sense of self. His belief that there are two sets of rules in this world: one for us and one for him. And that paying taxes is for chumps.  So is paying debts and fees and parking tickets.

For a guy who portrays himself as a man of the people, Milton Street shows a lot of disdain for the people. There they are working at legit jobs, struggling to make ends meet, doing stuff like paying their taxes and meeting their bills. What a bunch of losers.

Better to live the Milton Street way. Don't pay taxes. Don't worry about those bills. Parley the fact that you are the mayor's brother into real cash.  And if you get caught, and the IRS comes after you, and you end up spending 30 months in jail, so what?

You can always run for mayor.

 

-- Tom Ferrick

 

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