If your batteries have been running a little low lately – maybe even threatening to catch fire like the ones in Boeing’s new, and alreadygrounded Dreamliner, you might get a good charge from the sparks flying off Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while he tears it up with his latest idea, the Corporate Tax Dodging Prevention Act (S.250).
The quite Independent senator from Vermont points out that America’s corporations, particularly its banks, seem to love America (literally) all to pieces when it’s corporate welfare they’re getting from America’s taxpayers – as in trillions of dollars in financial assistance during the economic crisis beginning in 2008. But that love has seemed a little short-changed lately as the very same American corporations have been laundering their record-breaking earnings through off-shore accounts to avoid paying American taxes. (… and to avoid creating American jobs. But that’s another article.)
Among the most scarlet of America’s cheating lovers is a rogue that somewhat disingenuously calls itself “Bank of America.” Our very own darling BofA has set up over 200 subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands, where they pay 0.0% taxes in order to pay less than 0.0% taxes inAmerica. In plain language, looking specifically at Bank of America’s 2010 tax returns, it was awarded a rebate from the IRS worth $1.9 billion. Raise your hand if you paid any income tax in 2010… Now, guess how much of that tax you paid ended up being part of that big present we all gave our favorite bank in 2010.
Senator Bernie goes on to point out that it’s not just the banks. For instance, Apple pays some nice engineering salaries here to a small, exclusive, dwindling minority in America, then turns around and outsources almost all the manufacturing to countries where the (lack of) labor laws allows the workers to be treated not quite as well as slaves (who, unlike employees, would have to be cared for to protect their owners’ investments), and then shifts its profits to offshore tax havens where all that savings on labor won’t get taxed for the benefit of either the labor or all the giddy American consumers of Apple’s tech candy.
Sending a little love Senator Sanders’ way might be a warm fuzzy to consider if you’re feeling a bit run-down and run-over by the usual suspects who insist that you pay them for love they have no intention of giving you. If Senator Sanders gets his way, maybe, just maybe, we can at least make them say, “Thank you.”
There’s actually more to it than just making America’s corporations pay, if not a fair share, then at minimum, some taxes. It’s also correcting the idea in the heads of the people who own and run those corporations that we, The People, owe them something, presumably simply for the favor of their living among us, choosing us to feed them.
Credit Suisse put together a list of the top 20 “tax expenditures” for the US government in 2012. Number 2 on the list is a $138 billion subsidy for private pensions. Number 13 is $26 billion for Social Security.
Social Security is a special program invented back when times were so tough that old people had few income alternatives to selling themselves for fertilizer, which is more or less what America’s business establishment would have preferred to do with them at the time. Social Security is supported by a special tax, FICA. The program is set up so well, that despite the insincere moaning of the usual, deviously clever crowd of scam artists, Social Security is amply funded for many years to come, and could be honestly well-padded for a great many more with just a little work, mostly on requiring the very wealthy and some of those corporations mentioned above to pay the kind of taxes we have every right to expect them to pay.
Social Security is a balanced program paid for by the people who will use it, and unfortunately not so much paid for by those who are using them until they die from the abuse, and providing a big part of the reason why we need Social Security in the first place.
The private pension subsidies pointed out by Credit Suisse, an expenditure six times higher than Social Security, are all investments lucratively managed by a very few, very wealthy people. The pensions themselves are subject to the vicissitudes of the private financial industry that theoretically “guarantees” their solvency. As one might expect of private industry, their pension products exist more to provide pension product industry owners with profit than to provide their customers with funding for retirement. The products and services are purelyincidental, and subject to devaluation whenever, say, the people who own and manage the services own and manage them into an epic global catastrophe. Those who watched their IRA and 401(k) accounts deteriorate following the crash of 2008 probably don’t require much explanation about how that works.
Many of those who bought into the private pension product known as “home investment” did even worse, despite enormous tax payer subsidies that have paid for more foreclosure services to benefit the financial industry than mortgage modifications to benefit hoodwinked home “owners.”
Unlike Social Security, private pension products aren’t especially guaranteed by anyone, although our Uncle Sam subsidizes them just the same. It’s just that the subsidizing is as much – or far more – a source of guaranteed income for the owners and managers of the corporations that hawk the pension products as value for pensioners or any of the tax payers who make the subsidies possible.
Not to put too fine a point on it, all Americans are required to pay for privatized retirement subsidies that at most, only 68% of all Americansmay benefit from. In probably most cases, the other 32% of Americans who are cheated aren’t capable of participating in the private programs whether they want to or not. Even worse, some substantial number of people who have swallowed the private pension pill have been given a placebo, because for whatever reason, the payments they are making aren’t enough to support retirement. They’re just giving up their savings to derive earnings for the retirement product industry.
To ice the cake, consider the average American’s less than spectacular health care, provided by an industry that spawns envy only of those who own it. Rather than recognize a certain level of health care as the right of all people who live in a society capable of providing it – as enjoyed by all the people who live in every other 1st World country, the US can’t seem to disentangle the concept of business from the concept of human decency. Instead of Medicare for all, the private health care industry’s health insurance companies are allowed to steadily chisel away at the Medicare for some that America already has.
President Obama’s signature policy, “Obamacare,” ostensibly an attempt to extend health care coverage to more (but not all) Americans, is instead a gift to the health insurance companies who are now wedged even more firmly in the middle between Americans and their health care providers. Almost all Americans will be required to purchase health care insurance one way or another, providing the largest source of revenue possible for the insurance companies, while allowing – in some cases even encouraging, many corporations to disgorge their often not terribly enthusiastic health benefits involvement and thereby abandon their employees to the tender caress of the market, which by law will have to “care for” them.
Corporations enjoy the privileges of personhood bestowed on them by the US Supreme Court and then disdain the responsibilities as if the person their hood was cloned from was the love child of larceny and rampage. While it makes the most sense to simply realize how tragically silly it is to think of corporations as if they were people and revoke their nonsensical “personhood,” the least we can do is make them pay their taxes – before they come up with yet more ways to abuse us with the gross financial advantage we give them than they already have. We need only to look at the way they corrupt our health care system with their insatiable lust for profit, and monetize our old age to understand how their view of the world works.
Links directory (Get the info straight from the sources! The article text that the links link from is in parentheses at the end of each line. The music video links are intended to help tell the story in ways that simple reporting just can’t manage, and the lyrics for all the tracks have their own links so you don’t miss any of that sometimes not very subtle messaging.)
- New Scientist (Paul Marks, 2013 Feb 11) – Grounded: Where the Boeing Dreamliner went wrong (grounded Dreamliner)
- Huffington Post (Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), 2013 Feb 09) – A Choice For Corporate America: Are You With America Or The Cayman Islands (corporate welfare)
- Logaster (Tony Stark, 2012 Oct 11) – Bank of America logo (Bank of America) As an interesting aside, Bank of America’s colors used to be based on blue. That was before red became the Republican Party’s color. BofA changed their colors to an especially red hue of red during the early Bush years, most likely to remind those who would be reminded who their daddy is. Isn’t it ironic that red used to be the short, unmistakable way of saying communism? Oh, and the Tony Stark that wrote the article for this link isn’t Ironman. Just so you know.
- Financial Sense (Karl Denninger, 2012 Jan 23) – Apple (and America’s) Chinese Slave Labor Problem (slaves) A little patience will be needed with this article. The writer is somewhat more fanatical than most (ahem), but he puts some good facts (and quotes) on the line in unmistakable context.
- truthout (Ellen Dannin, 2013 Feb 10) – The True Costs of Tax Breaks and Social Security (tax expenditures)
- New York Times (Paul Krugman, 2010 Aug 15) – Attacking Social Security (Social Security is amply funded)
- truthout (Ellen Dannin, 2013 Feb 11) – Making Tax Fair Would Guarantee Social Security for Future Generations (pay the kind of taxes)
- US News Money (Emily Brandon, 2012 Jul 26) – 5 Ways the Recession Changed 401(k) Plans (IRA and 401(k) accounts deteriorate)
- US News Money (Emily Brandon, 2012 Jul 23) – Retiree Net Worth Declines (did even worse)
- Worker’s Action (Shamus Cooke, 2013 Feb 09) – Obama’s Shakedown of Medicare (Obamacare)
- Mazzy Star – Fade Into You (YouTube, 4:29 min – MazzyStarVEVO) (Apple) Lyrics
- Ke$ha – C’Mon (YouTube, 4:48 min – keshaVEVO) (Sending a little love) Lyrics
- Jane’s Addiction – Of Course (YouTube, 7:10 min – montyill) (choosing us to feed them) Lyrics Patience, It all makes sense in the end.
- Lana Del Rey – Blue Jeans (YouTube, 4:21 min – LanaDelReyVEVO) (The pensions themselves) Lyrics
- Nirvana – Rape Me (YouTube, 2:52 min – zibzib20) (Not to put too fine a point on it) Lyrics
- Markus Schultz feat. Ana Diaz – Nothing Without Me (YouTube, 5:01 min – armadamusic) (health insurance companies) Lyrics
- Huffington Post (Rep Jim McGovern (D-MA) / John Stephens, 2013 Jan 30) – Jim McGovern's Constitutional Amendments To Repeal Citizens United Gain Steam OnReddit (Huffington Post, 10:27 min) (revoke their nonsensical “personhood,”)
- Kanye West and Jay-Z – Gotta Have It (YouTube, 2:25 min – mSmaabTX) (insatiable) Lyrics