Tax cheats on the rise

Tax-avoidance is soaring, according to the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS inspector general says that while prosecutions are up 18 percent in the last four years, at least $30 billion in taxes is lost because of citizens who fail to file _ a 33 percent increase over the last three years.

The agency estimates that 7.4 million wage-earners did not report their taxes in 2003 _ and that figure does not include an estimated 5 million illegal aliens who are paid in cash and are part of the flourishing “black economy.” Investment banker Bear Stearns says cracking down on employers who pay their workers “off the books” could bring in $35 billion in federal taxes.

As she sets a path for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York is facing choppy waters steering along what looks to be a very determined middle course. Her refusal to endorse an immediate withdrawal from Iraq has angry peace advocates vowing to picket her appearances. Meantime, from the other side, the American Legion is blasting her support of federal legislation against burning the American flag, contending it’s just a clever political move to defuse efforts for an enforceable constitutional amendment.

P.S. Watch former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner to force Hillary to the left. Warner is virtually unknown nationwide. But he is an attractive centrist from a southern state who raised a respectable $2.5 million in Northern Virginia, and he’s making a determined bid for the nomination.

Remember that toxic soup of chemicals covering New Orleans? The Environmental Protection Agency says that scientists retested soils taken from flood-ravaged areas of New Orleans, and the results confirm the agency’s original conclusions that contamination really isn’t a major health concern. However, the agency said it did find marginally higher levels of petroleum-related benzene compounds and arsenic in the soil samples.

Are landlines headed the way of street-side pay phones? The Consumer Electronics Association says that young renters increasingly are opting to stay with wireless phones rather than rigging their temporary digs with wall phones. Of those who bought cell phones in the last three months, 17 percent told the group’s surveyors they had no plans to buy a landline phone.

Counterfeit drugs are increasingly being found in the United States, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Counterfeit drug sleuths say underground groups have become adept at copying product labeling protections designed to thwart counterfeiting.

It’s been long anticipated, but expect a lot of political hoopla when the first of the nation’s 77 million baby boomers turns 60 on New Year’s Day. As the sons and daughters of the World War II generation move into their retirement years, the White House is encouraging boomers to volunteer their services and get deeply involved in their communities.

Yes, there’s some value having a sheriff on the streets. After the government started prosecuting some of the most notorious spy ware abusers, a survey by American Online and the National Security Alliance found the number of computers infected with the noxious programs_ which monitor a user’s Internet activities and periodically report that back to a home computer_ fell from 80 percent in 2004 to 62 percent this year.

After 13 years of trying, the U.S. Department of Transportation is going back to the drawing board to draft regulations requiring truck and bus drivers to get at least some on-the-road training before they obtain a commercial license. Congress ordered the new courses for truck and bus drivers in 1991, noting that few have any training before getting behind the wheel of the large and often unwieldy vehicles. The courts threw out the most recent rules, noting they required only 10 hours of course work and no on-the-road tests.

(Contact Lance Gay at GayL(at)