Food for Thought

Yesterday, I shared the story of a woman who cleans houses for a living, a hardworking woman whose financial situation is so precarious (and options so limited) that she felt she had no choice but to return to work just days after she’d had a heart attack.

Today, I want to share some data from an article from In These Times by Michael Winship. The contrast is quite illuminating:

Open the Books, a new nonprofit working for greater transparency in government spending, reports that between 2000 and 2012, Fortune magazine’s top 100 companies received $1.2 trillion from the feds. And, Aaron Cantú writes at AlterNet, “That doesn’t include all the billions of dollars doled out to housing, auto and banking enterprises in 2008-2009, nor does it include ethanol subsidies to agribusiness or tax breaks for wind turbine makers.”

Richard Rubin at Bloomberg News recently found that, “The largest US-based companies added $206 billion to their stockpiles of offshore profits last year, parking earnings in low-tax countries until Congress gives them a reason not to. The multinational companies have accumulated $1.95 trillion outside the US, up 11.8 percent from a year earlier.”

Alan Pyke at the website ThinkProgress adds:

While precise estimates of lost revenue are difficult to make, previous inquiries into profit offshoring found that it cost the US between $30 billion and $90 billion each year during the early and middle 2000s, when the pile of untaxed corporate profits was much smaller.

States and localities also lose out on tens of billions of dollars in tax revenue each year to similar offshoring strategies. A recent study found that by closing just one small loophole in state business tax laws, states could bring in a billion dollars in new revenue almost overnight.

Think of the highways, bridges and housing that money could build or repair, and the jobs that could be created, the teachers and tuitions it could provide, the mouths it could feed. Then throw in corporate malfeasance without punishment, gross mismanagement and exorbitant executive salaries—for example, Henrique de Castro, the failed #2 at Yahoo, who’s getting $109 million for his 15 disastrous months there, or about $244,000 per day (h/t to R.J. Eskow).

So let me see if I understand this. A social safety net that would allow my housekeeper a couple of weeks to recuperate from her heart attack is “charity” that would promote “an unhealthy dependency.” But the transfer of trillions of taxpayer dollars to businesses that hoard their profits, don’t hire new workers, and use every trick in the book to evade paying their fair share of taxes is common-sense encouragement of entrepreneurship.

Excuse me while I throw up.



  1. Interesting. Unfortunately some of the people who benefit most from the existing system are the ones that could initiate a change to it.

  2. Remember before the banks imploded? There were a lot of people who were running up against the ‘gotcha’ clauses of their mortgages and trying to pay usurious interest rates, balloon payments, etc., and the BANKS said, oh, NO we can’t support any kind of legislation that would help ‘those people’ because of the moral hazard that would create, i.e., you give somebody a one time break they won’t learn their, um, lesson. So what happens when the overheated mortgage market collided with jingle mail? The banks sent their favorite Goldmen Sachs boy to Washington to get trillions of dollars in tax payer money to bail them out. Where is the talk about the moral hazard that created? Five years later it is business as usual. Too bad Eric Holder is too busy prosecuting whistle blowers like Tim DeChristopher for civil disobedience. I don’t see Jamie Dimon wearing a serial number. Lesson? You got the money to purchase politicians you don’t do time.

  3. Here is the Republican response: Associated Press= WASHINGTON (AP) A€” Caterpillar Inc. executives defended a tax strategy Tuesday that has saved the manufacturing giant billions in U.S. taxes. They got support from Republican senators, including one who said the company deserves an award.

    Caterpillar has avoided paying $2.4 billion in U.S. taxes since 2000 by shifting profits to a wholly-controlled affiliate in Switzerland, according to a report released by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.

    Caterpillar got support from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who questioned why the subcommittee was even holding the hearing.

    “I think rather than having an inquisition, we should probably bring Caterpillar here and give them an award,” Paul said. “You know, they’ve been in business for over 100 years. It’s not easy to stay in business.”
    Paul said Caterpillar and its accountants have an obligation to shareholders to minimize their taxes.
    “It is a requirement that you try to minimize your costs. So rather than chastising Caterpillar we should be complimenting them,” Paul said.

    The Corporations of course want the USA to be a First World Country, but do not want to pay taxes to keep it that way.

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