3 The People on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition Can't Afford to Keep Their New Homes
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition features the world's most excitable man and his impossibly attractive crew building awesome new houses for people who have been shit on by life. The family gets sent on a complimentary vacation while the crew either does extensive repairs and renovations or replaces the entire goddamn thing. Truly, there is no aspect of this that anyone could be upset about.
Although whoever Photoshopped this picture was clearly feeling vengeful about something.
Why It's Depressing
For starters, you can't throw downtrodden waste management employees into a five-bedroom mansion when they aren't even able to make the payments on their leaky two-bedroom sadness bungalow. Sure, the show's producers may cover all the construction costs, but the lucky homeowners are left on their own to figure out how in the name of Warren Buffett's gilded butt hairs they're going to cover the utility bills and property taxes that have skyrocketed as a result of their extreme home makeover.
One family, which had a new home specifically designed to help their developmentally challenged son, was forced to put the house on the market after just a little over a year because they simply couldn't afford what it cost in both time and money to maintain a palatial four-bedroom estate while trying to raise three children, one of whom has special needs. That's like Santa Claus bringing a lonely kid an awesome robot friend who, by the way, must be fueled by human blood.
"Whoops, looks like you're low on fuel. Come on, let's get down to the homeless shelter."
Another couple fell behind on the $405,000 loan they had to take out just to keep their utilities connected in the million-dollar mansion built for them by the show (which inexplicably included a carousel and a movie theater, because those are things that a young husband and wife need to turn their luck around) and were forced to sell the house and auction off most of its contents.
Arguably worse is the fact that your eligibility for an Extreme Makeover visit is really only limited by the number of children's tears you're willing to sacrifice. The Leomiti family took in five orphans burdened with the debt of their dead parents, making them irresistible candidates for the show's producers. However, as soon as Ty Pennington swooped in to turn their shitty house into Xanadu, they immediately booted those smelly orphans the hell out.
2 Oprah Makes People Pay for Their Free Cars
Oprah is famous for giving out free stuff to her audience (which is a big switch for older readers, who may remember when she was famous for being fat and losing a bunch of weight). She started small, slinging gift cards and promotional material from her various guests, until she finally decided that all of that nonsense could kiss her billion-dollar ass and gave away 276 brand new cars to members of her studio audience.
"EVEN MY MICROPHONE IS GOLD! I HAVE SO MUCH MONAAAAAAAAAAAAY!"
This was followed by images of hysterical people crying tears of joy over Oprah's saintly generosity.
Why It's Depressing
Unfortunately, receiving a luxury item as a prize on a television show doesn't exempt you from having to pay the accompanying taxes (see Extreme Makeover, above). Which is the precise situation faced by everyone who has ever been given a car by Oprah Winfrey.
You see, for the purposes of her own tax records, Oprah declared all of her giveaway cars "prizes" instead of gifts. This may seem like a trivial distinction, but as far as the IRS is concerned, anything that's designated a gift is non-taxable, but a prize is basically just like any other income. This is why you never had to pay taxes on that Super Nintendo your grandmother gave you.
"For tax reasons, I can't give you Donkey Kong Country in the continental U.S."
But Grandma wasn't able to deduct the purchase of the Nintendo from her taxes, either, which is why Oprah didn't want to go that route. So, Oprah listed the value of each car at its full MSRP of $28,500, and that money counts as income whether you received it in the form of a car or a paycheck. And like any income, the audience owes taxes on it -- this meant that each lucky audience member who received a car from Oprah had to immediately pay as much as $7,000 out of their own pocket for a car they neither asked for nor were expecting.
This isn't like getting $28,500 cash, where you expect to get less after Uncle Sam takes a bite. This is a car -- you can't just lop off a quarter of it and keep the rest. So if the winners didn't happen to have that kind of cash sitting around, their only options were to either sell the car to pay for the property tax (hooray) or forfeit the car and get nothing (hooray).
Oprah's official comment? "And why should I have paid for them ...?"
"Just because I'm a billionaire and the giveaway generated millions in free publicity?"
She's got a point -- this would be an awfully expensive giveaway if she weren't able to write off the loss ... oh, wait. Oprah never paid a cent for the cars in the first place. They were all donated by the manufacturer.