“Multinational corporations’ use of tax havens allows them to avoid an estimated $100 billion in federal income taxes each year,” says a new report just released by Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ), Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) and U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund (U.S. PIRG).
That report, “Offshore Shell Games 2016,” explains how “U.S.-based multinational corporations are allowed to play by a different set of rules” when it comes to paying taxes.
Congress – for obviou$ rea$on$ – refuses to stop this “deferral” loophole. And then these same companies fund “think tanks” and other propaganda mills that tell us we have a huge budget “deficit” and “debt” problem and therefore need to cut spending on things that make people’s lives better.
Most of America’s largest corporations maintain subsidiaries in offshore tax havens. At least 358 companies, nearly 72 percent of the Fortune 500, operate subsidiaries in tax haven jurisdictions as of the end of 2014.
-All told, these 358 companies maintain at least 7,622 tax haven subsidiaries.
-The 30 companies with the most money officially booked offshore for tax purposes collectively operate 1,225 tax haven subsidiaries.
Some of the key findings from the report:
● Fortune 500 companies now hold nearly $2.5 trillion in earnings offshore and we estimate that they are avoiding $718 billion in taxes on these earnings.
● More than 73 percent of Fortune 500 companies maintain at least one subsidiary in a tax haven.
● Apple has booked $215 billion offshore on which it owes $65.4 billion in taxes.
The solution is for Congress to end the “deferral” loophole and make these companies just pay the taxes they owe.
Tue, Sep 27 2016 – 6:30pm
Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley; Former Secretary of Labor; Author, Saving Capitalism
Holly Kernan, Executive Editor for News, KQED—Moderator
In the midst of an unpredictable presidential election, get insight from a veteran political figure who knows Washington inside and out. Time magazine named Reich one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He is a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. Come hear his provocative thoughts on the presidential election and the future of America.
The manager instructed her to push accounts but not to tell the customers about the downfalls and fees of new accounts. “Make them read the paperwork.” She replied, “But you know no one ever reads the paperwork.” His response: “Exactly.”
You might have heard that Wells Fargo Bank was busted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for opening millions of fraudulent accounts – ruining customer credit scores and finances to rack up profits from big fees – and had to pay a $185 million fine.
You might have heard that the bank said management didn’t know about the 1.5 million to 2 million fraudulent accounts that were racking up big profits, gave the head of the division responsible for those accounts a $125 million bonus, blamed low-level employees and fired more than 5,000 of them. Now those former employees have the words “ethics” and “fraud” on their records.
BuzzFeed is running a very important investigative series called “Secrets of a Global Super Court.” It describes what they call “a parallel legal universe, open only to corporations and largely invisible to everyone else.”
Existing “trade” agreements like NAFTA allow corporations to sue governments for passing laws and regulations that limit their profits. They set up special “corporate courts” in which corporate attorneys decide the cases. These corporate “super courts” sit above governments and their own court systems, and countries and their citizens cannot even appeal the rulings.
Corporations are more and more in the habit of telling governments that they are the boss of them. If corporations get their way, “trade” agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will formalize their dominance. But not quite yet.
The European Union (EU) just told Apple that it is the boss of them, and not the other way around. The EU has ruled that Apple’s tax-avoidance scheme with Ireland’s government is illegal, and Apple owes Ireland $14.5 billion — plus interest. The EU decided that Ireland’s tax deal with Apple, based on Apple demanding a tax break to “bring jobs” to Ireland instead of somewhere else, constitutes “state aid” to the company. The EU pointed out that other, smaller companies are hurt when giant corporations like Apple get special tax deals.
In other words, the EU has ruled that it is illegal for an EU government to give in to corporate extortion, because giving in and paying the extorting company a tax break ransom means the government is providing “state aid.”
Are We the People the boss of giant multinational corporations, or are they the boss of us?
Imagine, if you will, going to the IRS and saying, “I don’t think the tax rate is fair so I’m not going to pay it.” Regular Americans can’t do that. But Apple just did.
Apple’s CEO Tim Cook was interviewed by The Washington Post early this month. He was asked about the vast sums of profits that Apple has shifted into overseas tax havens thanks to a loophole in US tax law that lets them “defer” paying taxes on those profits as long as the money technically stays outside the country. Cook said (emphasis added, for emphasis):
And when we bring it back, we will pay 35 percent federal tax and then a weighted average across the states that we’re in, which is about 5 percent, so think of it as 40 percent. We’ve said at 40 percent, we’re not going to bring it back until there’s a fair rate. There’s no debate about it.
What would happen to any regular American if they did what Cook did, and said they they aren’t going to pay taxes because they don’t think the tax rate is “fair”? (Hint: Jail. And maybe 2 or 3 years added to the sentence for the contempt of saying, “There’s no debate about it.”)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says she opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) but is having trouble convincing people to believe her. Imagine the trouble Hillary Clinton will have trying to build support for her effort to govern the country if TPP is ratified before her inauguration.
According to Politico’s Wednesday Morning Trade, the Obama administration is launching a “TPP blitz” push to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP),
Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker last week said the administration is planning at least 30 trade events by the end of the month. That effort, similar to last year’s “all of Cabinet” push for trade promotion authority, is expected to shift to Capitol Hill in September when lawmakers return from their summer break.
In spite of the opposition of much of the public, both presidential candidates, all of labor, almost all Democrats, all progressive-aligned consumer, human rights, environmental and other organizations and even the Tea Party right, what is happening here is that Wall Street, the multinational corporations, most Republicans and unfortunately President Obama are preparing to insult democracy by pushing to ratify TPP. This undermine’s Clinton’s credibility while campaigning for election, and if it passes it harms her ability to govern if she is elected.
There is something Clinton can do to bolster her credibility on the TPP. Clinton on Thursday is giving an economic speech near Detroit. This speech is an opportunity for Clinton to put this behind her for good. She should loudly call on President Obama to withdraw TPP now, and call on Democrats to vote against the TPP if he does not do that.
Clinton has stated her opposition to TPP, but has not asked Democrats to join her in opposition, particularly during the “lame-duck” session of Congress that follows the election. This is one reason that Clinton continues to have a credibility problem on TPP.
Donald Trump repeatedly tells audiences that Clinton isn’t really against TPP; she is just saying it for votes. He says she will “betray” us. This is Trump in his Monday “economy” speech in Detroit:
The next betrayal will be the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Hillary Clinton’s closest friend, Terry McAuliffe, confirmed what I have said on this from the beginning: If sent to the Oval Office, Hillary Clinton will enact the TPP. Guaranteed. Her donors will make sure of it.
Along with McAuliffe, who is the governor of Virginia, Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue has said she will reverse herself. And it was Clinton delegates who blocked putting specific TPP opposition in the Democratic platform. So yes, there is a credibility problem.
Clinton came out against the agreement last year to put herself in alignment with Sen. Bernie Sanders … But in doing so, she put herself at odds with the views enunciated by her husband, Bill Clinton, when he was president, and raised questions about whether her change of heart was mere political expedience.
Which is why her position on trade and global economics has remained suspect to those on the left…
What does Clinton really think about this aspect of economic policy? How do her views today square with what she has thought and advocated during her public career? …
Those are issues about which she has so far been relatively silent. … Trump has presented her with a challenge; is she is prepared to take it up?
… In her responses to Trump’s Detroit speech, Clinton did not address what the GOP nominee said about trade. It’s difficult to believe that was an oversight.
… Does Clinton not owe the public a fuller explanation of her views on a topic that her rival has made central to his candidacy?
Passing TPP Would Destroy Clinton Presidency Before It Starts
Polling shows that Clinton continues to have a problem with “unfavorables” and credibility with the electorate. As of now it appears Clinton will almost certainly win the election – maybe even in a blowout. But this will not necessarily be due to overwhelming support of Clinton. Instead it will be at least partly because of the ugly words and actions of her reprehensible opponent. After the election, much of the public will likely remain divided, looking for signs that things will be OK after all under a Clinton presidency.
Imagine if TPP does come up for a vote in the lame-duck session and passes. The public, particularly progressives, will certainly feel betrayed. It will also bolster the opposition, who will say, “I told you so” because of Trump’s predictions of a betrayal on TPP. If that happens, it won’t matter that Clinton has said she opposes TPP. People will feel she just said it to get votes, and now that the election is over…
This is a terrible recipe for beginning a presidency of a divided country.
Progressive Groups Asking Clinton To Lead Opposition To Lame Duck TPP Vote
Progressive groups are urging Hillary Clinton to publicly announce that she opposes a lame-duck session vote on the Obama administration’s Pacific Rim trade deal.
After initially supporting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Clinton reversed after Bernie Sanders made his opposition to the deal one of the cornerstones of his insurgent campaign for the presidency.
On Wednesday, the grassroots liberal groups Democracy for America and CREDO will begin circulating petitions urging Clinton to go further by making a public statement “urging the White House and Democratic congressional leadership to oppose any vote on the TPP, especially during the post-election lame duck session of Congress.”
The groups would like Clinton to make that declaration in her policy address on the economy this Thursday outside of Detroit.
“Right now, Donald Trump is running around the country using the specter of a lame-duck vote on the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership to divide Secretary Clinton from the millions of voters who agree with her that this disastrous trade deal has to be stopped,” Robert Cruickshank, a senior campaign manger at Democracy for America, told BuzzFeed News in a statement.
CREDO’s Murshed Zahee also weighs in:
“Now we need her help to stop it from being jammed through Congress in a lame duck session. A personal and public statement from Secretary Clinton in opposition to a lame duck vote would provide huge momentum in the fight to stop the TPP once and for all,” CREDO’s political director Murshed Zaheed said in a statement to BuzzFeed News.
Sign The Petition
You can add your own voice to this effort to get Clinton’s help stamping out TPP by adding your name to this CREDO petition:” Tell Sec. Clinton: Lead against lame-duck vote on TPP“: “Make a public statement urging the White House and Democratic congressional leadership to oppose any vote on the TPP, especially during the post-election lame-duck session of Congress.”
Here is a real shocker. AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons) has been a paying member of the notorious right-wing, Koch-tied lobbying organization American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) since at least 2014.
Yes, that AARP, once known for protecting the interests of senior citizens and fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare. Yes, that ALEC — an organization dedicated to, among so many other things, privatizing Social Security and Medicare, and getting rid of public-employee pensions. AARP apparently joined ALEC even as many corporations were fleeing thanks to exposure of ALEC’s reprehensible actions.
AARP, the non-profit seniors organization that exists to promote the financial security, pensions and healthcare of those over 50, is secretly funding the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization whose bills have acted against the interests of ordinary Americans, including retirees and their families.
The Center for Media and Democracy has learned that AARP has recently joined ALEC, and that it is a named sponsor of the ALEC annual meeting taking place in Indianapolis, Indiana from July 27-29, 2016.
Among the policies that have been promoted by ALEC are several that arguably undermine the interests of seniors and retirees, AARP’s core constituency. ALEC has pushed for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which has saved Medicare enrollees millions of dollars by closing the Medicare drug benefit “donut hole.” It has opposed Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. It has targeted public pensions, pushing to cap benefits and shift workers toward defined contribution plans, which layer more market risk on individual workers’ shoulders.
ALEC’s right-wing, corporate agenda is all about privatizing Social Security, gutting pension plans, turning Medicare over to insurance companies and pushing laws that would make prescription drug prices even higher for seniors.
Talk about selling out your constituency. Just wow.
Many companies dropped ALEC after the organization’s right-wing ties were exposed by CMD. These companies include Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kraft, Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft. (Click here for a list.) And then AARP apparently decided this all sounded good, and joined up.
Is This Even Legal?
Hiltzik’s column contains a revealing statement from AARP,
AARP’s statement acknowledged that it paid a fee to ALEC in 2016 to provide “an opportunity to engage with state legislators and advance our members’ priorities from a position of strength at ALEC’s annual meeting. AARP added, “given that Republicans control one or more chambers in 39 of the nation’s 50 state legislatures, we believe having a seat at the table at the ALEC annual meeting was necessary to our mission of representing the interests and needs of people 50-plus and their families.”
AARP says it paid a fee to “engage” with legislators and get “a seat at the table.” Paying the fee gives them a “position of strength.” This statement reveals how ALEC is set up as a “pay-to-play” corruption operation; the organization charges companies a fee for access to legislators, companies pay a fee so they can influence legislators, conservative legislators show up so they can be influenced. The public loses out on every side of that pay-to-play triangle of corruption.
Really? Paying a fee for an opportunity to engage with legislators? Or the other side of that equation, charging a fee? If this blatant corruption is legal at all, it is what is known as “lobbying.” But ALEC is a tax-exempt 501(c)3 charity that is prohibited from lobbying or engaging in politics at all. (Never mind a license for corruption.) Various complaints have been filed with the IRS, but nothing happens… Just wow.
For decades, ALEC has plied state legislators with disinformation about Social Security, climate change, and other issues along with bills and resolutions that undermine Americans’ financial security and our future.
Please sign the following letter (and if you are a member of AARP, please also contact the organization directly and ask that they DUMP ALEC).
The Center for Media and Democracy investigates and exposes corruption. You might know CMD for ALEC Exposed, which brought ALEC to public attention. You might know them for PR Watch, which keeps an eye on how corporations use “spin.” They also operate the SourceWatch wiki.
However you know them, they do great work. Check them out.
I have been hounded for months by a company attempting to collect money for a gym membership that I canceled more than 15 years ago.
I was paying $150 a year for the membership before I correctly canceled the membership in writing. That “fitness center” was bought by a national chain that is known for hounding people for unpaid memberships, even if the membership has been canceled and nothing is actually owed.
In my case, they say I owe $2,500, but they will “settle” for less. And I can’t stop the calls.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is now proposing new rules that would put a stop to this kind of behavior and give consumers who have been victimized options for relief.
The CFPB is a new agency of the government that protects regular people from scams, frauds and abuses by the financial industry. The bureau came about as part of the minimal Dodd-Frank re-regulation of Wall Street and the rest of the financial industry following the 2008 crash.
One such often-abused financial scheme is debt collection. It’s an entire industry. Many people don’t know that there is a market where “debt buying” companies can actually buy “bundles of debt.” A company can actually purchase a “portfolio” of old debts like loans, installment car or store loans, even gym membership contracts that have been written off because a company has decided it is just too much trouble and expense to try to collect.
Instead of just giving up, though, the original lender “sells” the debt for pennies on the dollar to companies that specialize in doing nothing but collections. The collection company is all set up with “boiler rooms” full of people and phones, where they have refined techniques to hound the debtor, trying to collect what they can.
Often the collection companies don’t even verify that the debt is even legitimate.
Another scam is “fraudulent service” where the debt company falsely claims they served papers on a debtor, and when the debtor doesn’t show up in court they get a judgment allowing them to garnish paychecks and extend the legal period for collecting debt.
The U.S. watchdog for consumer finances unveiled on Thursday a major proposal to toughen regulation of the multibillion-dollar debt collection industry, with a focus on keeping agencies from pushing people to pay debts they do not owe, informing borrowers of their rights and cutting down on calls to debtors.
“Today we are considering proposals that would drastically overhaul the debt collection market,” said Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray in a statement. “This is about bringing better accuracy and accountability to a market that desperately needs it.”
… Roughly 13 percent of consumers have a debt currently in third-party collection, with an average amount of $1,300, data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows.
Some 77 million people — roughly one in three adults with a credit report — have a delinquent debt in collections, according to an estimate by the Urban Institute.
… Susan Macharia, 39, an administrative worker who lives in Buena Park, Calif., said she was blindsided in January when she got a call from a collector saying that her wages would be garnished unless she paid off a $10,000 credit card debt that she allegedly ran up in 2003.
A debt so old would normally be beyond the statute of limitations, and legally uncollectable, but the company had a copy of a 2006 default judgment that was entered against her when she failed to respond to a collection lawsuit.
But Ms. Macharia, who opened her first credit card account just three years ago, had no recollection of being notified of a lawsuit, and she was living in Atlanta when the papers were said to have been served on her in California. …
While Ms. Macharia tried to figure out how to contest the debt, the collector began garnishing nearly $800 a month from her paychecks.
It’s about time the government starting acting like a government again. Meanwhile Republicans in Congress are trying to gut the CFPB’s effectivenessbecause the bureau cracks down on scams like these.
The long-abused cafeteria workers of the U.S. Senate, who risked their jobs to fight to earn a living wage only to have the private contractor that runs the cafeteria renege on an order to increase their pay, won a key victory this week.
The Labor Department declared that the contractor had engaged in wage theft from 674 of its workers, deliberately misclassifying them so that they would earn less than their actual work entitled them to earn. The contractor also forced employees to do unpaid work “off the clock.” As a result, the multinational conglomerate Restaurant Associates and a subsidiary will have to give the workers back pay totaling $1,008,302.
Senate food service vendor Restaurant Associates and its subcontractor, Personnel Plus, improperly classified workers in order to pay them for lower-wage positions and required them to work overtime without compensation in violation of federal and local labor laws, the agency said in a news release. The contractors also failed to pay required health and other benefits.
“Workers in the restaurant industry are among the lowest-paid workers in our economy,” said the department’s Wage and Hour Division Administrator David Weil . “Most struggle to afford life’s basic expenses and pay their bills; they shouldn’t have to deal with paychecks that don’t accurately reflect their hard work and the wages to which they are legally entitled.”
The Privatization Scam
“Privatization” transfers something that We the People publicly own for OUR benefit, and hands it over to private interests so a few can make a profit for THEIR benefit. The scheme is sold with claims that privatization “saves money” because the private contracting company is “run like a business.” The bet is that no one will think through just how a private company might “save money” when they have to “run like a business” and make a profit that government doesn’t have to make.
Of course what happens is the private company “saves money” by laying off the government employees and hiring them back or replacing them at minimum wage with no benefits, then transferring the wage and benefit differential into a few pockets at the top of the company. But guess what? Now those workers make so little they qualify for government benefits, other poverty programs are strained, local stores are selling less, homes are foreclosed so local property values drop, the tax base is reduced … so the government didn’t “save money” at all, it just cut its own revenue and shifted spending from one part of the government to another – all at the expense of working people. And the money that was “saved” went into a few private pockets.
Beyond impoverishing workers with low wages, there are even worse ways private corporate contractors “save money,” such as cutting service, cutting quality, cutting corners, fighting unionization – all of which hurt the public that is supposed to be served. Plus, because it is “run like a business,” contracting corporations cut some of those corners by doing things like committing outright wage theft.
The Privatized Senate Cafeteria
In 2008 the U.S. Senate “saved money” by privatizing its food services. At the time California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said, “There are parts of government that can be run like a business and should be run like businesses.”
The Senate cafeteria was, indeed, “run like a business.” The company paid low wages, fought against unionization efforts and engaged in various schemes to keep the workers down. After a while things got so bad that workers had to work two, even three jobs just to get by. Some of the workers were even homeless. In April 2015, the Washington Post reported on that:
For a week’s work at the Senate cafeteria — sweeping floors, mopping bathrooms, cleaning dishes, composting leftovers, transporting laundry — he says his take-home pay is about $360. And while he takes enormous pride in serving the country’s public servants, he is not sure these public servants are returning the favor.
“Our lawmakers, they don’t even realize what’s going on right beneath their feet,” he says. “They don’t have a clue.”
The usual ways to “run like a business” were not enough for the Senate cafeteria contractors. SO they added another way to “run like a business”: wage theft. When after months of protests the Senate cafeteria workers secured a wage agreement from Restaurant Associates, with the help of Good Jobs Nation and members of the Senate who voiced support for the workers, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the company immediately worked to undermine the agreement by reclassifying Senate cafeteria jobs so that the workers ended up not getting the wage increases the agreement called for. The jobs themselves did not change; Restaurant Associates changed what the jobs were called in order to justify not increasing the workers’ pay.
If This Is Happening Literally Right Under The Senate’s Nose …
The Huffington Post has a great quote from Joseph Geevarghese, director of Good Jobs Nation. “This is symptomatic of a larger problem,” Geevarghese is quoted as saying. “If federal contractors believe they can get away with breaking federal laws right under the nose of lawmakers, imagine what they’re doing all across the U.S., where workers don’t have access to power and access to the media. I would argue that what we’re seeing in Washington is just the tip of the iceberg.”
The Washington Post report, “Senate workers will get $1 million in back pay after Labor Department probe,” highlights a wider need this wage theft ruling points to: a “Model Employer” policy of contracting with employers that pay good wages and recognize workers’ right to form a union. In the Post, Geevarghese notes that “the truth is the Labor Department cannot investigate every federal contractor in the U.S. – we need a systemic solution, not just case-by-case fixes.”
Democratic Platform Demands “Model Employer”
The 2016 Democratic Party Platform calls for an executive order “or some other vehicle” directing the U.S. Government to spend taxpayer dollars on “Model Employers” and not on corporations that violate workers’ rights. From the platform:
Democrats support a model employer executive order or some other vehicle to leverage federal dollars to support employers who provide their workers with a living wage, good benefits, and the opportunity to form a union without reprisal. The one trillion dollars spent annually by the government on contracts, loans, and grants should be used to support good jobs that rebuild the middle class.
“Currently, the federal government is America’s leading low-wage job creator, funding more poverty jobs than McDonald’s and Wal-Mart combined. 60% of federal contract workers are women and 88% are women of color working contracted jobs in areas like food service, janitorial work, or landscaping.
A Model Employer Executive Order would begin to reverse the federal government’s low-wage contracting policies by providing as many as 21 million people– 8 million workers and their families who rely on low-wage jobs in the federally supported economy – with good jobs that provide a path into the middle class.”
“Comparative advantage.” It used to mean that one region can grow bananas, another region can grow cotton. So they trade, and both regions can have cotton AND bananas. That is not what the term means today. Now it means low wages and lack of environmental protection.
In the US we (used to) have democracy. When people get to say what they want, they say they want good wages, good schools, good infrastructure, protect the environment, good courts, things like that. These of course cost money, but they money comes from the advanced business environment supported by good schools and infrastructure… So the prosperity from businesses growing due to good infrastructure and schools and courts etc is the fruit of democracy.
In places without democracy people are told they can’t have those things so wages are low and there is no cost to protect the environment.
If we let companies just close factories here and open them there and bring the same goods back to sell in the same stores, what we have done is made democracy a “comparative disadvantage.” “Free trade” lets those companies escape the costs of good wages and protecting the environment while still enjoying open access to the good market that democracy had created.
“Free trade” turns democracy into a comparative and competitive disadvantage. Over time it erodes the tax base that gave us good schools and infrastructure — the fertile soil in which businesses can grow. Also known as “look around you.”