The Nitty-Gritty Matters

When I tell people I work at a school of public policy, I can often see their eyes glaze over. Policy is so…boring.

Politics, on the other hand, is interesting.

Political horse-races are so much more exciting than the intricacies of the tax code. And let’s be honest: people can decide how to vote on the basis of a candidate’s skin color or his willingness to stick a probe up a pregnant woman’s vagina; they don’t have to know anything about that candidate’s stance on tax policy.

Today’s politics, especially, is all about distraction and the “shiny object.”

And while we are all engaged with that shiny object,  American taxpayers are getting ripped off–and it’s all legal.

We’ve heard a lot lately about so-called inversions.

Companies striking deals to become technically foreign can be found in all corners of American business, from California computer-equipment manufacturer Applied Materials to Minnesota medical-device giant Medtronic to North Carolina­based banana behemoth Chiquita. Little is changing in the core business of these firms. They will just pay less in taxes – and to a foreign government, often Ireland or the Netherlands.

As the article notes, however,

[I]nversions are just the tip of the iceberg. The crisis of corporate tax avoidance is far more pervasive – and destructive – than either Obama or Lew is letting on. At a moment when Congress appears impossibly divided, a strong, bipartisan consensus has, in fact, emerged in Washington: The world’s richest corporations will get away with fleecing hundreds of billions of tax dollars from the rest of us….

Last year the IRS finally collected more in tax receipts than it did before the crash in 2007. But dig a little deeper into the numbers and it is clear we haven’t returned to normal: Corporations paid nearly $100 billion less in federal income taxes last year than before the Great Recession….

The top names in American business – from Apple to Xerox – have joined in the greatest tax dodge in world history. Using clever accounting games, these corporations have siphoned majestic sums out of the country and into tax-haven shell companies – where the money is untouchable by the IRS.

 The numbers are staggering. More than $2 trillion in U.S.-based multinational profits currently sit in offshore accounts, representing, by credible estimates, in excess of $500 billion in unpaid taxes. If that money were deposited in federal coffers tomorrow, it would wipe out the deficit for 2014. And every year that Congress dithers on a crackdown, America is forfeiting an approximate $90 billion in revenue.

The article details a variety of tax provisions–all legal, all part of the U.S. Tax Code–that privilege corporate America at the expense of individual taxpayers. The people who are outraged–outraged–by the use of tax dollars to provide poorer citizens with access to healthcare are curiously silent about the immense costs of this preferential treatment of corporations.

The silence of the elites, of course, is understandable. People who understand that our tax code is massively tilted toward America’s “haves” tend to be beneficiaries of those provisions. They are unlikely to complain.

Most of the silence, however, can be attributed to the average American’s deep-seated disdain for policy, our preference for easy issues, “shiny objects” and pop culture distractions from all those boring details.

I guess it’s just too much trouble to figure out who is picking our pockets, and how they’re doing it. And too much work to vote their lapdogs out of office.


  1. This tax code blog takes me directly back to my daughter-in-law with Pence’s Indiana state health care system rip-off to keep her from applying to the ACA earlier this year. She is custodial supervisor at a Catholic church and school on the east side; what this means is she IS the custodian with one part-time, call-in as needed helper except for snow removal. To cover her Anthem-Blue Cross/Blue Shield $450 monthly health care with that $9,600 annual deductable she took on a part-time kitchen duty job this semester in the school kitchen, 2 additional hours per day. She received her first paycheck yesterday and the amount of taxes deducted was more than she earned for that part-time job. Please don’t lose sight of the fact that this is a Catholic church and school and they are tax free; her salary doesn’t come close to paying for the manual she does alone. This tax increase is due to the end of the lower tax rate plus the higher Social Security contribution. This is one example of a tax code victim family. My son is a brick mason which is seasonal, my daughter-in-law is a janitor with a salary not much above minimum wage but Pence’s state health care system qualified them for coverage for $1,200 monthly with a $12,000 annual deductable which means they would pay more for no coverage than they have been for years. It all comes out of the paycheck the same as all of the taxes deducted; leaving middle and lower income families less and less to live on. Factor in additional financial responsibility of their oldest son, an honor student at BSU, and 13 and 15 year olds being home-schooled to escape bullying in a school filled with voucher students. Yes, this does relate to taxes – their tax dollars pay for public education and for privately educated voucher students. They are one family among millions who are caught in the tax code rip off of most American families. I have Googled information from Forbes but…explaining the tax code facts doesn’t ease or change the burden of anyone – except that 1% who understand it fully. As Sheila has pointed out in the past; those of us who receive Social Security must pay the same taxes on everything as everyone else except income. We are not getting full value for our tax dollars; as always this is a case of follow the money. We can improve – but never get rid of this burden – by voting in November. THIS November; do not wait till 2016 for the presidential election, it is the currently elected administration that is destroying us. We must vote them out on their collective butts by voting in every election. I support President Obama 100% even though I do not agree with every decision he has made; his biggest mistake was not ending Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy when it should have expired. We have been playing catch-up every since but falling further and further behind. No I don’t understand tax codes but I recognize thievery when it is in front of my eyes…at all levels.

  2. Since these are corporations and not private companies, why are the shareholders not getting this money as dividends? They should be demanding it.

  3. “In 1952, the corporate income tax accounted for 33 percent of all federal tax revenue. Today, despite record-breaking profits, corporate taxes bring in less than 9 percent.” – Senator
    Bernie Sanders – August 27th, 2014.

    Workers and their families were shot and ten killed with 9 permanently disabled in the Republic Steel Massacre in 1937 by the Chicago Police Department.

    The Working Class the 99% has always been under attack, except when the 1% need the Working Class to send their sons into Combat in one of our many wars to make the World Safe for Corporations. Taft-Hartley Act was a post WW 2 (1947) Law that essentially placed the Unions on the defensive. Truman vetoed the Bill, but was over ridden.

    Fast Forward to 1980 PATCO supported Ronald Reagan for President. In 1981 PATCO went on Strike – Reagan now President invoked the Taft-Hartley Act. Calls for solidarity by other Unions with PATCO were met with silence and crossing PATCO’s Picket Lines.

    The Occupy Demonstrations would have seemed to be the perfect vehicle for Democrats if they truly represented the Working Class, but they set course well away from Occupy.

    Labor Day is now a National Holiday, but it is a hollow holiday.

    I had an interesting thought after reading some comments elsewhere justifying Burger Kings move to Canada. As A Baby Boomer I recall the Draft – in fact I was drafted into the Army in 1969. Some people of that era fled to Canada to avoid the draft, and some deserted from the Military to Canada- they were for most part vilified as traitors to the USA.

  4. We vote, consume and invest. What’s between us and fixing these problems is only the will to. All the 1% causing these problems need to know is that we’re on to them and we won’t be treated this way.

    Throw the bums out.

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