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Billionaires are hiding out in the hedges 

Lowdown

Now, if your job paid $50,000 a year and you stayed at it for 47 years, your tally for a lifetime of work would be $2.4 million. Not bad — but hedge fund hustler John Paulson pulled down that much last year.

Most of us would consider an annual income of $2.4 million to be a windfall, but it didn't take Paulson a full 12 months of work to pocket his windfall — or one month, a week, or even a day. That's how much he made an hour. Yes, Paulson could've worked one single hour in 2010 and hauled off a paycheck equal to what a typical household gets for a lifetime of work.

Now guess who gets the lower tax rate — the $50,000-a-year family or the $2.4 million-an-hour Wall Street man? Right. Thanks to a loophole big enough to drive an armored truck through, billionaire hedge fund dealers like Paulson escape the usual 35 percent tax rate, instead paying (at most) 15 percent.

That's more than wrong — it's immoral. In Washington, Wall Street-backed Congress critters are working fervently to kill Medicare and defund everything from education to environmental protection — all on the grounds that the only way to cope with the growing federal deficit is to bulldoze programs that Americans count on. But look behind that lush hedge over there, and what'll you find? The 25 biggest hedge fund dealers who took $22 billion in pay last year. If just these 25 guys were taxed at the 35-percent rate, Congress would have an additional $4 billion this year to use for filling the deficit hole, rather than gleefully throwing sick seniors into it.

Since 1995, the total income of the 400 richest Americans has nearly quadrupled, yet the real tax rate they pay has been cut almost in half. America isn't broke — it's simply being gamed by super-rich tax dodgers.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, on sale now from Wiley Publishing. For more information, visit jimhightower.com.

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