THE BLOG
09/03/2007 12:41 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Labor Day Has Gone to the Dogs

The way this country's going, Labor Day should be called Dog's Day. Not only is that rich woman's dog getting a big chewy chunk of her fortune - with more generous tax breaks than working people get - but workers in the Third World don't get treated much better than Michael Vick's dogs. Canines are in the lap of luxury, because politicians are a Dog's Best Friend.

Everybody knows that Leona Helmsley left $12 million to her little furball, but here's some Purina for thought: The pooch named Trouble will get better tax treatment for her unearned wealth than working Americans will get for their hard-earned and stagnating income. And if the GOP had its way, the poodle would pay no taxes at all.

Let's say Trouble were a rich human kid who had never worked a day in her life - like Paris Hilton, without the sex tape (or at least let's hope so). In that case she would have received the first $2 million of that $12 million completely tax free, while working stiffs trying to raise families on inadequate wages would pay their full share (and do it without guaranteed health care, too.) But Trouble's an animal. She can't directly inherit money, because nonhuman living things don't have the same legal rights that humans - and corporations - do.

(This point is covered in the new environmental documentary The Eleventh Hour, which we saw yesterday and is strongly recommended. But it was also addressed many years ago in a famous legal essay called "Should Trees Have Standing?")

Don't worry about Trouble, though. Ms. Helmsley did what Doris Duke and others before her have done, and created a trust to care for her pet. It is my understanding that the dog's trust will also receive more favorable tax treatment than working people get. (If any CPAs reading this want to clarify, please do.)

Michael Vick tortured and killed dogs, and for that he should fry in hell. (I'm with Richard Belzer and not Lawrence O'Donnell on that one.) But why did he torment them? Because they were employees who had underperformed at their job, which was fighting. He would have been better off tormenting human workers. If Vick ran a large corporation whose employees worked in Third World sweatshops, under conditions not fit for - well, a dog - he could still hold his head up in polite society.

(Not that we're naming - any - names or anything.)

But hey, it gets better - for dogs. Just down the road in Santa Monica, the town Harry Shearer aptly calls "The Home of the Homeless," they're opening a "Three Dog Bakery" this weekend. There, bakery patrons will be able to buy Lick 'n Crunch Carob Cookies with Peanut Butter Flavor Filling for $4.79, or pay $11.95 to join the "Bone of the Month Club."

Don't get me wrong: It's all pretty cute, what with their "Dogalog" instead of "Catalog" and all. And pets should eat healthy food, too. But there's something a little Marie Antoinette-ish about it all. When I walked past their new location the other day a homeless guy was sleeping in their doorway.

I wish I'd had my camera (and more photography talent). That street person looking for shelter in a dog's luxury bakery was an icon of the new America, one that's being built with a massive upward redistribution of wealth. (Money quote: "The only group for which earnings in 2006 exceeded those of 2000 were the households in the top five percent of the earnings distribution. For everybody else, they were lower.")

Roll over, Walker Evans, and tell Margaret Bourke-White the news.

Leona Helmsley's housekeeper says that Trouble kept biting the employees, and that Helmsley and her managers did nothing to stop her. Why should they? It's a perfect illustration of the relationship that exists today between workers and their bosses' pets.

Oh, and Happy Labor Day.

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