It's Good to Be King (and it Ain't Bad to be Vice President Either!)

Sometimes the news cycle is very generous.

Take today. It's hard not to savor the juxtaposition of two news stories: one pegging Vice President Dick Cheney's net worth at just under $100 million, and one in which Cuban President Fidel Castro vehemently denies Forbes" claim that he's personally worth $900 million, placing him 7th on the magazine"s list of the world's richest "Kings, Queens And Dictators." (The list was topped by Saudi King Abdullah's oily $21 billion.)

As Mel Brooks said, "It's good to be king." (And, apparently, it ain't bad to be VP either).

The biggest assets in Cheney's portfolio were mutual fund holdings in the American Century International Bond Fund and the Vanguard Group's Short-Term Tax-Exempt Fund Admiral Shares, each worth between $5 million and $25 million. You can buy a lot of HazMat suits and salty buffalo steak with that.

Cheney also owns Ballintober, a nine acre waterfront estate in St. Michaels, Maryland that he bought for $2.7 million in September. (Maryland must be very "in" among the rich and powerful these days. Don Rumsfeld also has a place in St. Michaels, while Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and his immediate family have two multi-million dollar homes in the Terrapin state).

As for Castro, Forbes arrived at his sky-high net worth by assuming he's "skimmed profits" from a range of government owned companies including a convention center, a retail conglomerate, and a pharmaceutical company. Castro went on Cuban TV yesterday to denounce these claims as "rubbish," saying "all this makes me sick." He's long insisted that his personal net worth is zero (give or take a humidor packed with Cohibas and a burgeoning line of ready to wear Army fatigues).

Both El Presidente and The Most Powerful VPOTUS in History apparently enjoy a fondness for black power cars. The 79 year old Castro travels exclusively in a fleet of black Mercedes, while the 65 year old Cheney reportedly tools around St. Michaels in "brusque black-SUV convoys."

But they take a very different view of off-shore holdings.

During his TV rant, Castro railed against Forbes' insinuation that he has "large stashes in Swiss bank accounts", pounding the table and saying: "If they can prove I have an account abroad...containing even one dollar I will resign my post."

And while no one is claiming that Cheney has any secret bank accounts (or even accounts in secure undisclosed locations), it's worth noting that Cheney and his wife's income in 2005 was $8.8 million, the bulk of it from stock options accumulated during his days at Halliburton, a company that has no less than 17 subsidiaries incorporated in offshore tax havens. Indeed, during Cheney's time as CEO of Halliburton, the number of the company's offshore tax haven subsidiaries rose from 9 to 44. This kind of corporate sleight of hand is siphoning off an estimated $100 billion a year in collectable revenues from the U.S. Treasury.

Somehow I don't picture the Veep going on national TV, pounding the table, and promising to quit if anyone can prove that he's made even one dollar thanks to this taxpayer-cheating loophole.

PS Bonus Tax Return Tidbit: According to annual tax disclosure forms released last night, President Bush gave Cheney a $338 hammock for Christmas, while Cheney gave W a $400 pair of binoculars. Supply your own punchline about Cheney needing a nap, and Bush needing a much sharper vision of that which lies ahead.