You’ve been hearing a lot about corporations “renouncing their U.S. citizenship” through “tax inversions.” This is when a company buys or merges with a non-U.S. company and claims to no longer be based in the U.S. to get out of paying certain taxes. The company does, however, keep the same employees, executives, buildings, sales channels and customers it had inside the U.S. before the switch.
The epidemic of tax inversions represents just one of many ways corporations are dodging their taxes by taking advantage of our outdated and rigged corporate tax system. It is time for a serious debate about corporate taxes, and on Monday a new report by District Economics Group economist Michael Udell offered a bold new alternative that is so radically simple that even the most clever corporate tax accountant would have a hard time finding a way around its fair and universal proposition: If a company sells products or services in the U.S., it must pay taxes on the U.S. proportion of its worldwide sales.
Here’s the latest corporate tax scam: Companies are renouncing their U.S. corporate status and claiming that their headquarters are instead located in one or some other low-tax country, like Switzerland. The technical word for what they are doing is an “inversion.” It involves buying or merging with a company in the new country while actually keeping the same employees, operations, sales outlets and other assets right here.
Lately Walgreens – the nation’s largest pharmacy retailer with 8,200 stores and locations in all 50 states – is in the news because they are considering an “inversion.” The company is deciding whether to renounce its U.S. corporate status and instead claim on paper to be a Swiss company. To do this it will merge with a Swiss company, Alliance Boots. This would let them dodge billions in U.S. taxes. According to Americans for Tax Fairness, this move would mean Walgreens avoids paying $4 billion of taxes they would otherwise owe to the U.S. government in the next five years.
Walgreens is doing this even though, as Americans for Tax Fairness points out:
Walgreens receives nearly a quarter of its income from taxpayers through government programs. Of its $72 billion in 2013 sales, an estimated $16.7 billion, or 23 percent, came from Medicare and Medicaid.
U.S. taxpayers have spent $11 million subsidizing executive bonuses at Walgreens over the last five years. A table showing the Walgreens executives getting subsidies is available here.
Repeat: Walgreens receives a quarter of its revenue from programs like Medicare and Medicaid that are funded by U.S. taxpayers, but is renouncing its U.S. “citizenship” to avoid paying taxes for the U.S. services it uses and customers it gets. (How long will it be before we’ll be hearing another round of “we’re broke” and have to cut Medicare and Medicaid?)
[Illinois] gave Walgreen $46 million in corporate income tax credits over 10 years in exchange for a pledge to create 500 jobs and invest in upgrading its offices. The state also provided $625,000 in training money and $875,000 in other tax incentives.
Walgreens, collector of gobs of tax dollars, is preparing to renounce citizenship and stop paying taxes. But they’ll still be benefitting from the roads and schools and courts and military those tax dollars pay for – and will still be collecting those tax dollars from government programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
By treaty, the U.S. government can’t (and shouldn’t) discriminate against foreign corporations offering as good if not better deals than American companies offer. So if [the Walgreen Company] as a Swiss company continues to fill Medicaid and Medicare payments as well as, say, CVS, it’s likely that Walgreen will continue to earn almost a quarter of its $72 billion annual revenues directly from the U.S. government.
… In 2010 it lobbied for and got a special provision in the Dodd-Frank Act, limiting the fees banks are allowed to charge merchants for credit-card transactions — resulting in a huge saving for Walgreen. If it becomes a Swiss citizen, the days of special provisions should be over.
… Since the 2010 election cycle, Walgreen’s Political Action Committee has spent $991,030 on federal elections. If it becomes a Swiss corporation, it shouldn’t be able to spend a penny more.
One more thing. If Walgreens does this “inversion” it avoids $4 billion in U.S. taxes over the next five years. Here is what $4 billion could pay for:
Companies that invert are trying to dodge U.S. taxes. They say taxes are too high in the country that provides them with educated employees, good courts, police and military protection, infrastructure (admittedly deteriorating since the Reagan tax/budget cuts…), and other resources. If they “move” to Switzerland, Ireland, the Cayman Islands, whatever, they will still be able to get all of those things, still get fat government contracts, still get what’s left of our middle class as customers, etc.
The top U.S. corporate tax rate is higher than other countries, but there is a story behind that. First, this isn’t the “effective tax rate” – the rate they actually pay after all the tax-avoidance schemes and various breaks are taken into account. The effective rate for the companies that pay any taxes at all (several don’t) is currently 13 percent on worldwide income.
But there’s a more important reason at work. Our corporate tax rate used to be much higher than it is now. Companies complained that it was higher than other countries, so Congress danced with the ones that brung ‘em and lowered the rate. Then these companies went from country to country complaining that the U.S. rate was much lower, they were not “competitive” and had to lower their rate, too. (Alliance Boots, the company Walgreens might merge with, moved from Britain to Switzerland in 2008 to avoid “high” British taxes.) And now that the giant corporations have made the circuit, playing one country against another, extorting lower taxes in country after country, they’re back here. It’s called a downward spiral, a race to the bottom.
A Bill In Congress
The House passed an amendment by a vote of 221-200 denying federal contracts to American companies that have reincorporated in Bermuda or the Cayman Islands. This is not yet law, but is attached to the Energy/Water appropriations bill. It is a beginning, but only lists these two tax haven countries and won’t affect Walgreens, should they make themselves appear to be a Swiss company.
The “Stop Corporate Inversions Act of 2014” is a more comprehensive effort that “increases the needed percentage change in stock ownership from 20 percent to 50 percent and provides that the merged company will nevertheless continue to be treated as a domestic U.S. company for tax purposes if management and control of the merged company remains in the U.S. and either 25 percent of its employees or sales or assets are located in the U.S.” Republicans will obstruct the bill.
This one is simply outrageous. Corporations currently owe up to $700 billion in unpaid, “deferred” taxes. The country needs the money – partly because these companies owe so much in taxes. Which of the following choices should the country make?
1. Tell the companies to pay up what they owe, bringing us hundreds of billions to use now and tens of billions a year more from now on.
2. Let them off the hook from ever paying most what they owe, if only they please would let us have a little bit of it now.
Who Is The Boss Of Whom?
The choice depends on who you think is supposed to be the boss of whom. If you believe that We the People are in charge of this country, then obviously you’d say these corporations should just pay the taxes they owe. But if the corporations are in charge of us they’ll tell us they aren’t going to pay these taxes unless we give them something.
Not surprisingly, Congress appears to be working toward option ‘2.’ It’s called a “repatriation tax holiday.” They are proposing to tell the companies that moved jobs, factories and profit centers out of the country that it was the right thing to do. Unfortunately that will tell companies that didn’t do these things that they were chumps.
What Is A Tax Holiday?
Here is what’s going on. Giant, multinational U.S. corporations owe our government up to $700 billion in taxes on about $2 trillion in profits they have made (or made it look like they made) outside of the country. But there is a loophole that lets them hold off on paying those taxes owed until they “bring the money home.” So of course, many corporations have been engaged in all kinds of schemes to make it look like they make their money elsewhere – and/or move jobs, factories and profit centers out of the country.
[Sen. Harry] Reid and [Sen. Ron] Paul are quietly pressing for a one-time tax “holiday” — a special and lucrative tax deduction — to lure multinational corporations to bring profits home from overseas, producing a sudden windfall.
Instead of telling these corporations that it’s time to pay up, it looks like Congress is preparing to just let them keep much (85 percent) of the money. It’s called a “tax holiday.”
What is the “conflict” the headline talks about? It isn’t a conflict between those who want to hand corporations hundreds of billions of dollars and those who do not want to. The conflict is over how to hand them the money!
Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, the Finance Committee chairman, and Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the ranking Republican, want that money to help smooth passage of a broad rewrite of the tax code.
So if Senator Reid is on board for a tax holiday and Senator Wyden is on board for a tax holiday, it looks like the idea of giving this huge amount of cash to these corporations is baked in to the thinking in the Senate. And we’re talking about Democrats here. One side wants (Reid) to give them a tax holiday and get a little bit to use to pay for infrastructure, the other side (Wyden) wants to use it as a bribe to get these giant corporations to let the U.S. government “reform” the tax laws. Both sides are conceding that they’ll accept a tax holiday.
But no one in this discussion is just saying, “Hey, we’d get up to $700 billion and tens of billions every year from now on if we just told these companies to pay the taxes they owe.”
The cost: At Least $95.8 Billion
The idea is to give these companies an 85 percent deduction – the “tax holiday” – on their foreign profits and only taxing 15 percent of the profits. In other words, instead of taxing $2 trillion of profits being held out of the country they’ll only tax $300 billion. If these corporations “bring the money home.”
Bloomberg News looks at the cost of this, in “Repatriation Tax Holiday Would Cost U.S. $95.8 Billion.” The “holiday” would bring in a quick $19.6 billion, but would cost $95.8 billion of tax revenue that would come in anyway over the next decade with no changes – not even making these companies just pay up. (Note: This calculation assumes Congress won’t just tell these companies to just pay their taxes. That would bring in up to $700 billion at the top tax rate of 35 percent and tens of billions a year from now on. Companies can deduct any taxes already paid elsewhere, so “up to” means $700 billion minus taxes paid elsewhere.)
An Engineered “Crisis”
That’s right, after all these years of propaganda about budget deficits and the hostage-taking and the “fiscal cliff” and the “debt ceiling” and the sequester and all the resulting budget cuts in essential services and “austerity” and how this has held back the recovery … it looks like Congress is going to just let companies off from paying hundreds of billions of taxes they already owe. This is not about passing another tax break/subsidy, etc. These are taxes that are due and payable on profits that have already been made but that these companies are keeping outside of the country (and away from their shareholders).
Why would Congress even consider letting these corporations off from paying the taxes they owe? Because of rules about not increasing the deficit Congress “needs” the money. This is a “realpolitik” deal, recognizing that the companies have enough power to keep Congress from just making them pay up what they owe. The thinking is they can appease the corporations with an 85 percent tax holiday to get them to pay at least 15 percent of that they owe.
This is another engineered “crisis” where the country is made to believe that deficits are keeping us from doing things we need to do. We need to fund transportation infrastructure, we can’t borrow the money to invest in things like this that make our economy more efficient, hence the need to “incentivize” the corporations to please bring home some of the money they owe us.
They Did This In 2004 And It Made Things Worse
In 2004 corporations ran the same scam on Congress, except that time they promised to use the money they brought back to “create jobs.” So what happened?
In 2011 the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) looked at the results of the 2004 tax holiday and found that “their holiday didn’t just fail to create the promised jobs. Their holiday enriched corporations that actually destroyed jobs in the months right after they received their tax windfall.” IPS found that 58 multinationals who used the “American Job Creation Act of 2004″ tax holiday not only immediately laid off tens of thousands, they continued laying off, and laid off close to 600,000 workers between 2004 and now. From the IPS summary of the study,
One government study looking at the first two years after the repatriation windfall found that 12 of the top recipients laid off more than 67,000 American workers. These firms collectively brought back home more than $100 billion …
According to IPS, the companies that gained the most from the tax holiday actually cut jobs, on top of that they used the tax gift money to buy back their own stock, increasing its value, and pay out dividends, both thereby enriching executives and shareholders.
(This is from 2011. Another half a trillion of profits have been shifted offshore since then.)
In 2004, when Congress approved a similar holiday, lawmakers vowed never to do it again. If it became a habit, they reasoned, companies would keep their profits overseas waiting for the next tax holiday. That, the bipartisan Joint Committee on Taxation explained, is the idea’s “moral hazard problem.”
The 2004 tax holiday only made things worse because companies realized they could get out of paying taxes entirely if they moved profits offshore and held out until the next holiday season. If we do it again, every company will be compelled to move jobs, factories and profit centers out of the country to stay competitive.
They are going to try to sneak this through under the radar. Maybe We the People can stop it if we make enough noise.
Believe it or not, all four of the statements below are currently being made in Congress and in the hallowed halls of elite opinion:
“We’re broke” and we have to cut the budget. – House Speaker John Boehner.
America just can’t afford more government spending like hiring teachers or repairing bridges.
We have to cut entitlements like Social Security and Medicare or the country will go bankrupt.
Corporations and multinational giants don’t have to pay up to $700 billion in overdue taxes.
We’re broke. We have to cut back on all the things government does to make our lives better. Yet let’s let the giant corporations off the hook for hundreds of billions of dollars of taxes they already owe.
[P]ay for the typical CEO … surged 8.8 percent last year to $10.5 million, it rose a scant 1.3 percent for [the rest of us].
Here are five reasons why CEOs are enjoying lavish pay increases and five reasons many people are stuck with stagnant incomes.
WHY CEOs ARE GETTING HUGE RAISES
1. They’re paid heavily in stock.
2. Peer pressure. Corporate boards often set CEO pay based on what the leaders of other companies make. …
3. The superstar effect.
4. Friendly boards of directors.
5. Stricter scrutiny. … companies often raise pay to compensate for the risk of job loss.”
WHY MANY OF US AREN’T GETTING A RAISE
1. Blame the robots. Millions of factory workers have lost their spots on assembly lines to machines. Offices need fewer secretaries and bookkeepers in the digital era.
2. High unemployment. … Businesses face less pressure to give meaningful raises when a ready supply of job seekers is available.
3. Globalization. Companies can cap wages by offshoring jobs to poorer countries.
4. Weaker unions.
5. Low inflation.
These Didn’t Just Happen, These Are Choices
These ten reasons are framed as “just the way it is.” CEOs get compensated with stock as well as cash, and stocks are way up. That’s just the way it is. China sucks jobs out of the U.S., and robots are doing more of the work, so people are left without jobs or any way to make a living. That’s just the way it is.
Too bad, so sad.
Here’s the thing. Not one of these 10 points “just happened.” They are the result of choices that our country’s leaders made. All of those choices drive the national income and wealth to a few at the top, and away from We the People.
We Are Not Helpless
It comes down to choices, not inevitability. Inevitability implies helplessness. But understanding that these were choices leads to understanding that we have the opportunity to make different choices.
These are things that conservatives and neo-liberals convinced our Congress to DO (or, in the case of needed changes, to NOT do), and we are living with the results. These things are not inevitable. They are not things we just have to accept. They are things that we can change.
What Happened To We The People?
In a country where We the People make decisions, we would choose to do things that make our lives better. But when CEO and corporate types are in charge of the political system, what we’ve got is exactly what you would expect. Look at how things are set up and ask yourself if We the People are benefiting from that, or if only a few already-wealthy people are benefiting at the expense of the rest of us, and decide to do something about it.
Think about some of the things we have come to take for granted. For example – and just one of many, many examples – we are told that corporations are only supposed to be about making money for the shareholders. But would a country run by We the People to do things to make our lives better have set up these things called corporations to be like that? What do We the People get from a system like that? Would corporations have been created for the purpose of doing things that benefit We the People and our country and our economy, not only a few already-wealthy people at the expense of our country and economy?
Think that through. Think about how it would be set up if We the People wanted to make our lives better, and then start working to make it that way.
This is a moment to think about how we got here, and why we let things happen this way. This is a moment to realize that things do not have to be the way they are, and that we can change what is happening to us for the better. Even if we indeed have become a country that only does what CEO types want done, We the People can change that, too.
Word is there’s an economic recovery going on. But approximately 99 percent of us have no reason to believe that.
The public sees that the government bailed out the biggest banks and that the “recovery” is going really well for a very few people. But most Americans are actually falling behind, and know it. Wages are still stagnant at best and the minimum wage has fallen so far behind that people working full time remain in poverty. Unemployment is down largely because of people “leaving the workforce.” And all along government services are being cut and cut and cut.
People see the government working for a wealthy few at the top, and against the rest of us. People see the rigged game at work against them. This is not just an economic and human catastrophe. With an election coming, key Democratic constituencies have simply been left behind during the Obama administration. “Are you better off now than you were 4 or 8 years ago? HELL NO!”
So this could become a political catastrophe as well, potentially bringing the return of the very people and conditions that got the country into this mess.
An Ongoing Catastrophe For Regular People
What Washington has done since the “Reagan Revolution” and especially since the 2008 crash has benefited the few, usually at the expense of the general public. Washington rescued the big banks, and left homeowners and the rest of us to fend for ourselves.
Anti-inflation monetary policy has been a catastrophe for regular people. (Protecting Wall Street at the expense of Main Street? Really?)
Washington’s austerity, budget-cutting fixation has been a catastrophe for regular people. (Laying off hundreds of thousands of public employees, cutting public investment and cutting back on the safety net during an unemployment crisis? Really?)
Washington’s “free trade” policies have been great for giant, multinational corporations but have been a catastrophe for regular people, sending millions upon millions of jobs out of the country. (Not even confronting blatant currency manipulation that is costing 5.8 million jobs? Really?)
Washington’s corporate tax policies have been a catastrophe for regular people. (Giving companies huge tax breaks for moving jobs, factories and profit centers out of the country? Really?)
One catastrophe after another hitting regular people. And people see it coming from a system that is rigged against them, working just fine for a wealthy few.
But that was all it did, and that was it. It worked but it was just not enough to get things going again. And now it’s five years later. As most people can see, after the stimulus the Obama administration capitulated to Republican/Wall Street demands for austerity – and outright budget blackmail. The President even at times reinforced the right’s ideological position by boasting about government progress in balancing its books rather than emphasizing the human cost of not boosting government resources to drive job creation. Democrats even voted to cut food stamp spending and the president signed the bill! (Cutting Food Stamps in the middle of a national jobs and poverty emergency? Really?)
We demand full employment! Full employment means there is a job for everyone who wants a job. There is simply no reason whatsoever that we can’t have full employment – except for policies that are intentionally keeping us from having full employment.
We demand full employment! Why isn’t our government stepping up and just hiring all of the people who need jobs? It’s not as if there are not enough things that need to be done. Our infrastructure is in serious need of repair. We need to retrofit millions of buildings and homes in the country to be energy efficient. We need to build a modern energy grid to bring energy from wind farms that we need to build in the plains states (where the wind is) to the cities and industrial centers (where the need is). We need to cut the number of children per classroom in half. We need to do … so many things. Why isn’t our government the employer of last resort, just hiring people to do those things we need done – in the middle of an employment emergency?
We demand full employment! Unemployment is a human and economic catastrophe. There are so many things our government could do besides direct hiring (which they should be doing). Our government could fix our job-sucking trade deals and balance the trade budget. Our government could demand that corporations return the trillions of dollars they are holding outside of the country to avoid paying the taxes due on that money. That’s a double whammy; take away the huge incentive to move jobs out of the country because of the tax break – and use the money they already owe to just hire millions of people!
The New Populism Conference
Two speakers at this week’s New Populism Conference, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and economist Jared Bernstein will talk about the importance of growth and jobs in order to bring about a rapid change in inequality.
Tell your member of Congress (MOC) to vote for the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) “Better Off Budget’ (BOB). Click to call.
This week the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the “Ryan”/Republican corporate/conservative budget and the CPC “Better Off Budget.” This is a chance to offer the country a real and visible contrast that clearly shows off the advantages of a progressive approach to our economy over a conservative/corporate approach to our economy.
The “Ryan” Republican Corporate/Conservative Budget
Rep. Paul Ryan’s Republican corporate/conservative budget favors the interests of the wealthiest few Americans and their giant multinational corporations at the expense of American-based manufacturers and other companies, America’s middle class working people and the poor. It actually takes heath care and protections away from millions of people, transforms Medicare towards a complicated voucher system for the profit of insurance companies and drastically cuts the “safety net” that now enables millions of poor and unemployed Americans to get by, (even as Republicans obstruct increases in the minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits for millions.)
The Republican budget cuts $5.1 trillion from things government does to make our lives better.
The Republican budget keeps and expands loopholes in corporate taxes that encourage companies to move jobs and factories out of the country.
The Republican budget repeals the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), leaving millions with no insurance or possibility of getting insurance.
The Republican budget cuts Pell Grants for attending college by more than $125 billion over the next decade.
The Republican budget makes deep cuts to Medicaid, converts the program to a block grant administered at the state level, and repeals the Medicaid expansion.
The Republican budget cuts Food Stamps (SNAP) by at least $135 billion and converts the program to a block grant.
The Republican budget cuts domestic programs substantially – nearing 20 percent in some cases – for total cuts of $791 billion over a decade.
The Republican budget increases military spending by $483 billion.
According to Joshua Smith at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) the Republican budget “would decrease GDP by 0.9 percent and decrease nonfarm payrolls by 1.1 million jobs in fiscal year 2015… The following fiscal year, when Ryan’s cuts to discretionary spending kick in … [it] would decrease GDP by 2.5 percent and cost 3.0 million jobs.”
The Congressional Progressive Caucus “Better Off Budget”
The CPC “Better Off Budget” translates progressive values into a national budget that puts people to work, invests in our infrastructure and economy to drive our future prosperity, assists and provides greater opportunity for the less fortunate, protects our environment, drives down future budget deficits and demonstrates how a progressive approach actually addresses and fixes a number of our pressing national problems.
Here are some of the things this budget would do for the country if passed:
The CPC “Better Off Budget” increases employment by 4.6 million jobs in 2015 – 9 million by 2017 – and boosts gross domestic product (GDP) by 3.8 percent.
The CPC “Better Off Budget” increases taxes on the wealthiest by restoring Clinton tax rates for households making over $250,000 and implements new brackets for those making over $1 million.
The CPC “Better Off Budget” cuts out corporate tax loopholes that encourage companies to move jobs out of the country.
The CPC “Better Off Budget” ends subsidies provided to oil, gas and coal companies.
The CPC “Better Off Budget” enacts a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) on various financial market transactions to protect markets from excessive speculation and rigged high-speed trading.
The CPC “Better Off Budget” adds a public option and expanding payment reforms to Obamacare, and allows states to transition to single-payer health care systems.
The CPC “Better Off Budget” addresses the climate change crisis by enacting a price on carbon pollution while “holding low-income families harmless” – meaning paying back what they are taxed.
The CPC “Better Off Budget” restores food stamp – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – benefits and restores unemployment insurance.
The CPC “Better Off Budget” creates jobs in our building and construction industries with funds to repair and modernize roads, bridges, water and other infrastructure.
The CPC “Better Off Budget” includes a direct-hire Public Works and Education program that will hire physicians, students, construction and community workers, and an education program boost to hire more teachers and improve schools.
The CPC “Better Off Budget” enhances federal programs targeted at creating equity and improving outcomes for women, people of color, and their families.
The CPC “Better Off Budget” provides assistance to states to allow them to hire and rehire public employees such as police, firefighters and health care workers.
The CPC “Better Off Budget” invests in clean and renewable energy, which creates middle-class jobs, boosts the economy, and cuts pollution.
But wait, there’s more!
The CPC “Better Off Budget” implements comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship.
The CPC “Better Off Budget” funds public financing of campaigns to curb special interest influence in politics.
The CPC “Better Off Budget” endorses “Scrapping the Cap” – it would require high-income individuals to contribute payroll taxes at the same rate as people earning less than $100,000 a year – and expanding Social Security benefits separately from the federal budget process.
What The Public Wants
Here’s the thing: The CPC “Better Off Budget” respects what the American people want Washington to do. Take a look at the website Populist Majority to see what the polls show. It also fixes a number of America’s serious problems, like jobs and infrastructure, addresses climate change, and gets to work on helping people out of poverty. At the same time the public really does not like the things that are in this Republican budget.
If enough Democrats support the CPC “Better Off Budget,” the public will have the opportunity to see that we have real and different choices in the Fall elections.
Please call and write your member of Congress and ask him or her to vote for the “Better Off Budget” from the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
One way the corporate/plutocrat/conservative agenda gets foisted on us is through what I call “sneak laws.” These are laws that sneak through state legislatures and the Congress before We the People get a chance to learn about them and organize opposition. (Read to the end to learn about a monster of a sneak law sneaking through the Congress that could cost our government as much as $700 billion now and tens to hundreds of billions a year from now on.)
There are tons of federal, state and local sneak laws written to benefit a few key corporations or billionaires. These sneak laws limit competition, grant monopolies, provide subsidies, give (sometimes huge) tax breaks, grant special waivers from laws and regulations, prohibit consumers from fighting back when harmed … you name it. But they never, ever help regular We the People.
Sneak laws can be stopped if people find out about them and get the word out in time. One recent notable sneak law was exposed just in time – not long before it was going to be signed into law by the governor. The Arizona “anti-gay” law would have legalized bigotry under the disguise of “religious freedom.” But people found out about this law and got the word out. Organizations and citizens were able to rally opposition in time and Governor Brewer vetoed the law – even after her own staff had helped write it.
Tennessee’s Sneaky Whiskey Label Law
This Monday’s TPM writes about one of these sneak laws. Tennessee legislators managed to sneak through a state law last year to help the company that makes Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey. According to TPM, the law specified that, “If it isn’t fermented in Tennessee from mash of at least 51 percent corn, aged in new charred oak barrels, filtered through maple charcoal and bottled at a minimum of 80 proof, it isn’t Tennessee whiskey.”
The thing is, this law “resembles almost to the letter the process used to make Jack Daniel’s.”
The result of this sneak law? Many of Jack Daniels’ competitors aren’t allowed to call their product “Tennessee Whiskey.” Sneaky.
A Sneaky Law To Block Tesla
Another example of sneak laws written to help established special interests is in the news. Most (all?) states do not allow automobile manufacturers to sell cars themselves, instead requiring them to go through independent dealers. Electric-car maker Tesla wants to sell their own cars themselves. So to get around requirements that they sell their cars through dealerships, Tesla sets up local showroom galleries, but customers have to purchase Tesla’s cars online.
Auto dealers in New Jersey just got the Christie administration to come up with a new regulation that New Jersey customers cannot purchase a car without the help of a middleman, and Tesla now has to close two showrooms. (Texas and Virginia have similar rules and Ohio and New York are working on blocking Tesla, too.)
So what’s next? Will Best Buy cough up the cash needed to purchase laws or regulations to ban Apple stores?
Sneaking Guns Into Georgia Airports
The gun manufacturers’ lobby (NRA) is trying to sneak a bill through the Georgia legislature to allow people to bring guns into elementary schools, churches and even airports. Yes, guns in elementary schools and airports.
The bill would also expand Georgia’s “Stand Your Ground” law to allow felons immunity from prosecution if they claim they stood their ground after shooting someone, even though felons aren’t allowed to carry guns. Yes, you read that right, someone already convicted of murder in the past could now claim immunity from prosecution because they were just “standing their ground.” (Of course one part of this that is not written into the law but it is clearly understood by all involved: as long as the victim is black and the shooter is not.)
Teacher Sneak Law
A sneaky sneak law snuck through Congress in the bill that ended the government shutdown. This one lets states use low-cost trainees instead of teachers who are highly qualified. The Washington Post covered this last October, writing:
In language that does not give a hint about its real meaning, the deal extends by two years legislation that allows the phrase “highly qualified teachers” to include students still in teacher training programs — and Teach For America’s recruits who get five weeks of summer training shortly after they have graduated from college, and are then placed in some of America’s neediest schools.
SEC. 145. Subsection (b) of section 163 of Public 5 Law 111-242, as amended, is further amended by striking 6 ”2013-2014” and inserting ”2015-2016”.
Wow, extra sneaky! And now it is the law.
A Plutocrat-Enriching, Inequality-Driving, Job-killing, Corporate-Takeover Trade Sneak
The NAFTA-Style Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an example of an attempt to sneak in laws bypassing Congress‘ ability to regulate what corporations do. And an obscure Congressional procedure called “fast track” was planned to help sneak it through. But bloggers and others caught on to this one ahead of time and rallied enough people to start a response. So far fast track has been delayed but not killed. And TPP is still in the works. Keep your eye out for fast track and TPP!
Hide And Sneak: A Monster Of A Sneak Law Is Sneaking Through Congress Now
The mother of all sneak laws is quietly making its way through Congress disguised as corporate tax “reform.” Corporations have been avoiding taxes by moving production and profit centers out of the U.S. because of a loophole that lets them “defer” paying the taxes they owe until they “bring the money home.” Now they are hiding around $2 trillion or more outside of the country, which means they owe up to $700 billion in taxes!
So they are pushing “corporate tax reform” proposals and almost all of these would let them bring the money back without paying the $700 billion they owe. Not only that, these “reform” ideas would dramatically cut taxes they pay in the future. Some of the proposals would even let them pay little or no taxes on money made outside the U.S., meaning companies would move all the rest of the jobs, factories, labs, call centers, profit centers, intellectual property patents and copyrights, and so on out of the country to take advantage of this.
This is the big one, the monster sneak attack, and it’s worth $700 billion now and tens or hundreds of billions a year from now on – plus the rest of the jobs, factories and all the rest – if they are able to sneak this one through.
We can expose this if we act in time. Keep an eye out for “tax reform” because they are going to reform the taxes they owe like a lumberjack reforms a redwood tree with an axe.
The President’s 2015 budget proposal “pivots” away from the 2010 “pivot” to austerity, pushes modestly for jobs and prioritizes infrastructure repair. Republicans will obstruct this – just like they have obstructed every jobs plan since the stimulus. But the public fully supports what the President is trying to do.
Away From Austerity
This budget finally moves us away from the constant job-killing and economy-cutting “austerity” idea that taking money out of the economy will grow the economy. It proposes a whopping (that’s a joke, son) $56 billion in new spending, split between military and actual job-boosting programs.
In summary the budget proposal contains the following proposals that will help boost jobs:
$56 billion in new, added spending. This is above the discretionary spending cap that is in place for next year. This is split between added military spending and added funding for basic research, elementary education, manufacturing initiatives, jobs training, climate change preparation and restoring cuts to the Internal Revenue Service.
$302 billion in infrastructure spending over four years to maintain our highways, rail projects and mass transit (prioritizing those most in need of repair). This is a request for reauthorization of existing (underfunded) transportation programs. Note that the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) “Infrastructure Report Card” says we need to spend $3.6 trillion on infrastructure by 2020 just to get things to where they should be.
A series of tax breaks for lower-income workers, such as an expansion of the earned-income tax credit (EITC) by adding 5.8 million people and increasing it for 7.7 million people who currently qualify.
The budget proposal says these are “paid for” by closing tax loopholes on corporations and wealthy individuals. This includes proposals to reign in the way companies are moving jobs, factories, production and profit centers out of the country to take advantage of the “deferral” loophole that lets them avoid paying their taxes until profits are “repatriated.”
Again and again President Obama has proposed similar programs to help the economy and create jobs. Again and again these proposals have been obstructed by Republican filibusters in the Senate and/or Republican House refusing to allow members to vote.
Look at what happened to previous job and infrastructure proposals (note this is just a sample):
July, 2012, CNN: GOP senators block top Obama jobs initiative – “…refusing to allow a vote on a bill that would give tax breaks for companies that “insource” jobs to the U.S. from overseas while eliminating tax deductions for companies that move jobs abroad.”
Alliance for American Manufacturing/The Mellman Group (01/09/2014): 71% support increasing government investment to build and repair roads, bridges, high-speed rail, smart electric grid technology and other infrastructure needs. 65% say job creation should be a top priority, not deficit reduction. 82% support federal and state worker training programs.
Gallup (02/09/2014): 23% say the most important problem facing the country is jobs and unemployment. The economy ranks No. 2, with 20% saying it’s the biggest problem. Only 8% say the federal deficit.
Americans for Tax Fairness/Hart Research (10/30/2013): Nine out of 10 believe that any revenue generated by closing corporate loopholes or limiting tax deductions for the wealthy should be used for public investment and deficit reduction (82%), not to lower tax rates on corporations or the wealthy (9).
Washington Post-Miller Center (09/12/2013): 58% believe government investment in roads, water systems, the energy grid and other services is most/very important to help America compete with other countries economically.
Bloomberg News/Selzer & Co. (02/18/2013): 49% prefer proposals to invest in infrastructure, education and alternative energy to create jobs, compared to 44% who believe tax cuts will generate business.
“The new budget contains initiatives that would be widely popular with the American people based on opinion polling. With an emphasis on job training and job creation, new funding for education, and a reduction in corporate tax loopholes, the president has released a budget that reflects many of the people’s priorities.”
Here is a simple economic truth: Austerity – cuts that take money out of the economy – generally hurts economies and has held our economy back, government spending generally helps economies (and is what Reagan and Bush used to fight downturns).
The newly passed $1.1 trillion bipartisan budget appropriations bill includes myriad spending cuts, but the $526 million cut to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has to be the most foolish. Under the new budget, the IRS’s 2014 budget will be $11.3 billion, which is $1.7 billion less than the administration requested and about $2.5 billion higher than the radical 25 percent cut proposed by some House Republicans earlier this year.
… The newly passed $1.1 trillion bipartisan budget appropriations bill includes myriad spending cuts, but the $526 million cut to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has to be the most foolish. Under the new budget, the IRS’s 2014 budget will be $11.3 billion, which is $1.7 billion less than the administration requested and about $2.5 billion higher than the radical 25 percent cut proposed by some House Republicans earlier this year.
Thaysay they are worried about “deficits?” Bullshit. That’s not what the austerity is about at all.
We know for a fact it had nothing to do with “WMD.” We went through this huge sell-job, the “run-up.” The whole country was whipped into a terrified frenzy. Do you remember being told we would be attacked with smallpox, and all the news stories about what smallpox can do to a person, does Iraq have it, how will they spread it, etc?
For that matter, why did we get into the Vietnam war? No one ever answered that one, either.
If we had self-government maybe people could get our Congress to investigate these things…
In her first year in office, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno opened a frontal attack on an unlikely target, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.
Its contracting was “inexcusably” flawed, she said. Its practices were “unethical” and too cozy. Its director had to go.
Like Joe McCarthy, they needed a target.
In spring 2011, she began a new offensive. She went before legislative committees and pilloried a man doing work on an Arts Council contract, building a 9/11 timeline at Liberty State Park in Jersey City. His contract was no-bid, she said, the money unclear.
OK, there’s your waste, fraud and abuse. You’ve got to read the details.
Just like that, Mr. Aubrey fell into reputation’s ditch, and the Christie administration piled dirt atop him. Except — and this is not incidental to our story — Mr. Aubrey did nothing wrong.
Again, read the details, he really, really did nothing wrong.
“None of it was true,” the newspaper noted in a December 2011 editorial. “The state could find no evidence of wrongdoing.”
But wait, there’s more.
It was, in fact, worse than that. The lieutenant governor and Department of State, it turns out, had control of the Arts Council’s spending all along. Her divisions signed off on every payment.
So not only did these Repubicans smear a good man who had done nothing wrong — who in fact was practically donating his time — the Lt. Gov. office was the responsible party all along.
Think about that the next time you hear a Republican run down things like Arts Councils and other things government does to make our lives better – also known as “government spending.”