Those costly conventions. How big was the tab for U.S. taxpayers for the two political conventions that recently concluded? At least $136 million. That includes $18.2 million to help cover the costs of both the Republican and Democratic national conventions, plus another $50 million spent on security at each gathering. While this is a tiny fraction of overall Federal expenditures (and deficits), does anyone want to suggest that it should be the political parties themselves — not the taxpayers — who foot the bills for these lavish affairs?
A whistle-blower gets a big payoff. Bradley Birkenfeld, a former employee of Swiss banker UBS AG, has been awarded $104 million by the Internal Revenue Service — the largest payout the agency has ever made to an individual whistle-blower. Birkenfeld previously pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States and received a 40-month sentence. As a result of the case, UBS agreed to reveal the names of some 4,000 U.S. taxpayers with secret Swiss bank accounts and to pay $780 million to resolve a related criminal case.
A more accurate measure of inflation. Years ago, the British magazine The Economist created something it called the Big Mac index as an easy way to compare prices of a common product in various countries. It’s also a pretty good way to measure rising prices in the United States. In the past three years, the Federal government says the official rate of inflation has been 6.2 percent. But in the same period, the price of a Big Mac has gone up, on average, by some 17 percent — or almost three times what Uncle Sam’s statistics say. Is anyone surprised?
Jay Leno takes a pay cut. Comes word out of Hollywood that NBC slashed the budget for the “The Tonight Show” in an effort to keep the long-running program profitable. As part of the cuts, host Jay Leno agreed to take a 50 percent pay cut, enabling the network to cut the show’s $100 million budget by 20 percent. Don’t feel too sorry for the veteran star, however. He’ll still be raking in about $15 million a year.