It’s been years since I last wrote about the shenanigans of Dr. Mehmet Oz, America’s favourite celebrity marketer (and sometimes MD). Though I thought my comma-riddled rantings about Oz’s Quackery (and for that matter of The Doctors, his then prime-time television MD counterparts) from the mid-2010s would be the last time I would ever mention the man, it turns out that I was wrong.
Though my headline isn’t exactly accurate (Dr. Oz has been making news off and on all through the pandemic, and arguably since my last post mentioning his existence), Dr. Oz – America’s Favorite Celebrity Dr. And Tax Cheat isn’t technically true. Though there is certainly subjectivity to be found in analyzing the tax breaks made available to primarily land owners, such behaviour is hardly cheating in the legal sense. It’s no shell company-owned nest egg in a tax haven like the Bahamas or Canada.
This brings us to today’s article of interest. Resigned from his old cushy position of prime-time television marketer of all things faux-medicinal, Dr. Oz now has political ambitions. His campaign was based around his in-law’s property in Pennsylvania, of all places.
Fetterman Demands Dr. Oz Answer for $50,000 Tax Break Intended for Pa. Farmers
“Dr. Oz does not want to live in Pennsylvania, and he doesn’t want to pay taxes here; he just wants our Senate seat.”
Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman on Tuesday slammed his GOP opponent in the state’s U.S. Senate election, Mehmet Oz, for taking advantage of a tax break under a program originally intended to help struggling farmers, saying the tax relief underscores how the celebrity doctor seeks to benefit from Pennsylvania instead of serving the state.
Oz, who has been known for years as TV personality Dr. Oz, purchased a farmstead in Montgomery County late last year, weeks after he announced he was running for Senate. Oz has homes in Florida and New Jersey and has been staying at a Pennsylvania house owned by his in-laws since 2020, when Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) announced his plan to retire.
As the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Tuesday, the $3.1 million Montgomery County property is eligible for a tax relief and conservation program called Act 319, which gives landowners a more favorable tax assessment in return for protecting land from development.
Oz’s home, where he still doesn’t live, has been held back from development as a “forest reserve,” with Oz and his wife agreeing to preserve tree cover that exists on the property.
In exchange, the state has assessed the value of the property at less than $450,000, subjecting Oz to an annual tax bill of just $21,473 instead of $72,000.
While the tax break is meant to incentivize homeowners to refrain from developing forested land, according to the Inquirer, Oz agreed when he bought the home to “not construct any improvement of structures” on the property.
He applied for the Act 319 tax break months later.
“The intent here was to induce [Oz] to not develop the land,” tax attorney Richard Booker told the Inquirer. “But he’d already agreed to that.”
On Twitter, Fetterman posted an image of a check made out to “Farmer Oz.”
Oz’s use of Act 319 is completely legal—but with tax break affecting a local school district’s budget, Fetterman said the doctor’s actions demonstrate that “Dr. Oz does not want to live in Pennsylvania, and he doesn’t want to pay taxes here; he just wants our Senate seat.”
As far as republican cronyism goes, this is small potatoes. Compared to the past (and probably present!) financial shenanigans of the Trump organization, focusing on Oz’s $50,527 tax break seems petty, particularly with the environmental consideration considered.
But, as Fetterman remarks, it’s hardly about the ecological stewardship for Oz, is it?
Considering that he agreed not to develop the property, this amounts to a little more than a nice incentive for not selling his little forest retreat. Which had the added benefit of putting a senate seat within his reach when the time turned out to be right.
Taking a step to the side for a moment, we have all been in this Bizzaro world for so long now that the thought of Dr.Oz running for senate hardly elicits any response from most of us. Until the occasional moment when you have a brief realization and place yourself in the past, maybe 7 years ago.
Back in 2014, Dr. Oz had to sit in front of congress and admit that a lot of what he was selling on his primetime show amounted to little more than medicinal woo. Now, he’s running for a seat in the US Senate.
Even Donald Trump has never had to confess his sins in front of congress and the nation before his 2015 rise to infamy (though he did use his celebrity influence in 1991 to try and convince congress to enact more business-friendly tax reform). Trump claimed the taxation paradigm of the time to be very detrimental to the real estate market (and by extension, to his businesses).
What an era. I was 3 and completely politically unaware. And Donald Trump had not yet demonstrated the unbelievable ability (or I suppose, lack thereof) to go bankrupt whilst running a gambling empire.
Anyway, back to present-day hell.
Fetterman noted that according to the Inquirer, Oz has claimed that ongoing renovations have kept him from moving into the home he purchased—”on two recent afternoons, there were no cars in the driveway or signs of construction activity at the house.”
“Dr. Oz hasn’t even moved into his ‘home’ in Pennsylvania yet, but he’s already found time to claim a tax break on his new mansion in Pennsylvania—a tax break meant for struggling small-time farmers,” said Fetterman. “It also looks like Dr. Oz is no longer even pretending to be renovating and getting ready to move into this house where he supposedly plans to live.”
“Honestly, he’s just acknowledging what we all already know: that as soon as he loses, Dr. Oz is heading back to his mansion in New Jersey,” he added.
While I don’t feel a need to comment on this rather petty commentary (I’m not overly concerned with people owning vacation properties), such is how things are in politics.
It does bring to mind the interesting dynamic that can be brought about by wealthy investors buying property in distressed (primarily rural) locations. Some would consider the cash infusion a good thing due to the economic gains (though often exaggerated, they are usually not non-existent). However, the double-edged sword often shows up in the amount of power these land owners can have over local area town councils and other leadership. For example, if the town/county/parish/municipality decides that the free (or very lenient) taxation ride is over and it’s time for the wealthy land owners to pay up. Often the threat of abandoning the current locale in favour of a locale that is less hostile to business as usual is enough to stop such attempts at fairer governance.
Keep in mind that I am not saying that Dr. Oz is playing the part of a big-name box store digging its claws into a small-town economy. The home he owned may be for political gain, maybe just a vacation home, maybe both. It just brought the phenomenon to mind, so I decided to explore it.
In fact, to jump on the side of the devil’s advocate, John Fetterman may want to be careful what he wishes for. If Dr. Oz does indeed drop the property and high tail it back to the tri-state metroplex, there is no guarantee that the next owner will be as interested in not developing the land as they see fit.
Campaigning as “the pro-choice, pro-equality, pro-worker, pro-democracy candidate” for Senate, Fetterman has harshly criticized Oz for only recently moving into his in-laws’ home in Pennsylvania and for still owning a home in New Jersey.
He rebuked Oz last week for newly resurfaced comments in which the doctor said, “It’s very hard to discern significant differences in happiness in someone who’s making $50,000 and $50 million,” calling Oz “out of touch from reality.”
“Dr. Oz is a fraud who is just using the people of Pennsylvania, he does not care about us one bit,” said Fetterman on Tuesday.
While I am not going to touch on the last paragraph, the one beforehand is certainly correct. Having watched a few consecutive weeks of his show all the way back in 2009 showed me how far in orbit he was in comparison to the everyday Americans that he was supposed to be helping live a better life. My favourite from this era was an angry episode wherein he came out against a certain brand of mineral water that he seemed to claim had hidden caffeine content. Being unable to sleep for a couple nights, he was surprised to find that the mineral water he enjoyed had added caffeine. While we never learn what the brand is, I think I identified it at the time as Glaceau (being the only mineral water I knew of to be caffeinated at the time. I was, and still am, quite fond of it actually).
Interestingly enough, I recently found myself in a situation wherein I had purchased a product in which the caffeine content did in fact seem to be almost hidden from view. Available all over the US and Canada (and consumed by many popular YouTubers who are targeting the teenager and below youtube demographics), I introduce you to Bai. Though I have only ever come across 3 flavours here in Canada, many are clearly available stateside.
One day, after a long day of work (which preceded another early morning) I decided to try the blueberry-flavoured variant. Having walked past the bottles many times before in retailers (and having seen YouTubers purchasing them as healthy snacks) I figured I would one out. It was only after purchasing the bottle and cracking the lid wherein I spotted the little green band on the back of the bottle.
Interestingly enough, this label is even more ambiguous than the bottle I had at the time (I’m not sure if Health Canada has a different labelling requirement than the FDA, or if the one pictured is an older/newer version than the one I seen).
While it is true that caffeine is indeed listed as an ingredient, the issue I have is that one is not expecting it based on the front face of the bottle. Unlike the bright yellow appearance, Energy name and clearly listed caffeine content on the front of the Glaceau mineral water offering, one look at Bai leaves someone with the impression of an antioxidant drink, and little more.
While I ended up spotting the caffeine listing soon enough to avoid a terrible night of rest, I have to wonder how many people (teenagers?!) don’t. I am also unsure of what benefits (if any) come from the antioxidants. This isn’t exactly a bad thing, though I can’t help but think that these beverages would have been right at home on the Dr. Oz Show.
Then there is the caffeine. This aspect introduces a possible addiction vector by way of the fact that it’s hidden (or at very least, ambiguously labelled). You know what you are getting if you purchase any variety of energy drinks in a can, but not if you think you are buying juice.
With the Bai rant out of the way, back to America’s most decorated sellout . . .
The author of the article raises an interesting question with the mention of John Fetterman as the pro-choice, pro-equality, pro-worker, pro-democracy candidate. It makes me wonder what Dr. Oz’s stance on abortion is.
While seemingly on the right side of this, the bit about this being up to the American people and their elected representatives is certainly problematic. Something that the man knows, given past comments on the subject.
Either way, he’s wrong. It has been obvious for decades what can and WILL happen if the uneducated people are allowed to have a say in the abortion debate. And in this age of Republican extremism, there is no longer any room for feeble pro-life pandering.
You are either a crusader for equal access to healthcare and equality, or you are not. By that metric, Dr. Oz has lost the plot.