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Mexico`s $49 billion man
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March 11, 2007, 12:18 AM
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The most obvious problem facing Mexico is that its the rich won`t pay their fair share of taxes, so there isn`t enough money for schooling, law enforcement, agricultural productivity development, and the like. Life is pretty crummy for the tens of millions of poor people, but it`s sweet indeed for Mexico`s remarkably rich rich people. From the LA Times:

$49 billion is Slim`s pickings in Mexico By Marla Dickerson MEXICO CITY — On Thursday, Forbes magazine estimated [Carlos Slim Helu`s] net worth at $49 billion.

That represented a stunning $19-billion increase from 2006, the biggest one-year jump in a decade for anyone on the magazine`s annual list of the world`s richest people.

In other words, Senor Slim personally made about as much money last year in Mexico after taxes (such as they are), $19 XXXXXXtra Large, as all the Mexicans in the U.S. sent home to relatives in Mexico.

Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates` $56 billion helped him retain the top spot. Investor Warren Buffett was again runner-up with $52 billion. …

Although his third-place ranking didn`t change from 2006, he increased his wealth by 63%. That`s a growth rate of $2.2 million an hour.

When Mexicans talk on the phone or use the Internet, they`re almost certainly doing it through a company controlled by Slim, who in 1990 bought control of the old state-owned telephone company Telefonos de Mexico, or Telmex, and turned it into a cash machine. …

The portly Slim has more than tripled his fortune since Forbes published its 2004 list, thanks to a string of acquisitions and the ballooning value of his telecom holdings. His current net worth is equivalent to nearly 6% of his nation`s gross domestic product, a feat unmatched even by America`s robber barons at the height of their influence. …

That`s the equivalent of $780 billion in America, fourteen times the size of Bill Gates` fortune.

To some Mexicans, the son of a Lebanese immigrant shopkeeper represents the triumph of hustle over heredity in a nation where a few dozen families have held sway for generations. …

But critics say his purchase of Telmex was a sweetheart deal that merely replaced a public monopoly with a private one. Studies have shown that Mexicans pay some of the highest telecom rates in the world, which is undermining the nation`s competitiveness. …

And it`s not just telecom that`s locked up tight. Of the 10 Mexican billionaires listed on the latest Forbes list, seven made their fortunes in industries where there is little competition in Mexico.

Mexico`s problems are severe, yet they are hardly as incomprehensibly insoluble as Iraq`s, where we throw $1 or $2 billion per week down the toilet just making things worse. But the idea of America exerting any pressure on Mexico to push it in the direction of meaningful reforms, such as having its billionaires cheat on their taxes a little less, is simply not part of normal public discourse in America.

[Crossposted at Isteve.com]