Thursday, June 16, 2011

Who said corporate America has the national interest in mind?

I was listening to the Seattle “news and information” radio station KOMO last night to get the latest guess on the following day’s weather, not for its right-slanted populist mob commentary. Unfortunately, before the astrology lesson they had to sneak-in something by John Carlson, the former right-wing newspaper columnist and Republican gubernatorial candidate whose views were simply too extreme for the state. He again towed the party line that Barack Obama alone was to blame for the slower than hoped economic growth figures in the last quarter, telling us that businesses are delaying hiring new workers until they see what’s around the corner. Supposedly this simply means cutting the federal deficit (meaning cutting federal programs, not raising taxes), without exactly stating why this would convince businesses to start hiring, particularly if there is a partisan political angle to this. Apparently this doesn’t include cutting away the billions in corporate welfare, the generous government pension plans and the military budget—only social programs that effect the most vulnerable in this country. The funny thing is that businesses are not sitting on their trillions of dollars not hiring because of the federal deficit—that’s just the excuse they give; they were not hiring much during the Bush years, either (a net of 2 million jobs compared to 22 million during the Clinton years), and one presumed that the Bush administration was “business friendly”—the kind of “friendly” that always seems to eventually lead to economic turmoil. The reality is that save for a few consumer protection regulations that the Republicans are furiously trying to water down or do away with altogether, we still live in the Bush economy.

Carlson also told us that state governments reported four percent less revenue than expected in May. Could this be because all those Republican governors are giving tax cuts and tax breaks to businesses who are not using those breaks to hire tax-paying wage-earners, only padding their bottom line? How much more proof do we need to show that tax cuts for the well-off have never translated into economic growth and jobs? One of the biggest frauds perpetrated on the public is the amount of taxes the largest corporations pay. As Forbes reported last year, the biggest names in the corporate world, like Exxon and GE, did pay some taxes—only it wasn’t to domestic treasuries, but to the foreign governments they did business with; although in many countries business taxes are low (quite the opposite for individuals), oil-producing countries tend to charge foreign companies much higher tax rates than the U.S.. Much of the rest of their profits go to overseas tax shelters. The largest multinationals are moving capital and jobs overseas, in order to avoid paying national and state domestic taxes, because they have no problem at all paying the Chinese government their 25 percent tax rate. Many companies leave their high-cost operations in the U.S., where profits—and thus taxes—are low, while making their money in their overseas operations where taxes are allegedly lower, or in the case of island outposts with small populations to support, non-existent. While companies with huge profits claim to pay significant taxes, what their 10-k statements show is not what they actually paid in taxes, but the amount of money they’ve allotted to the purpose as a potentiality; this is particularly true concerning federal taxes. In time, this money is quietly added to the profit ledger. Of course, Forbes didn’t suggest that we put an end to any of this; we are fed that tired line that taxes on the wealthy prevent job creation and subsequent tax creation. The reality is that as we have seen with the end of the Obama stimulus program in 2010, it was government spending that created economic growth by saving state-generated jobs; businesses had little to do with growth. Even with the surprising hiring this past April, this seemed only because businesses were forced to because they couldn’t keep demanding more productivity from the same workers.

Carlson is “right” that corporations are sitting on their vast largesse waiting for a change in the political atmosphere. In other words, they will harm Americans and American interests for their greed-ridden purposes. And let’s not forget that government is not a “business.” Are corporations paying for the schools required to supply an educated workforce? Well? Are they building and maintaining infrastructure that they benefit most from? Didn’t think so. Are they looking after the needs of the workers they throw out onto the streets so that they can make stockholders happy? Who do you think they are—isn’t that the government’s job? There has to be a balance—and businesses are lagging in doing their part in the country’s interest.

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