Perverse, reverse Robin Hood
Americans become outraged when they hear about people at the lower end of the economic spectrum receiving government welfare assistance because they’re not working and spending it on such frivolous, unnecessary pursuits as a trip to Disney World. People who work hard for their money don’t want to give it away in taxes to support the shiftless. Their anger is wholly understandable.
But how many of these indignant folks become incensed over corporate welfare? Not much noise is made when the rich get richer at the expense of those in the middle and lower classes. Yet common sense dictates that those leeches should generate far more antipathy than do the poor who manage to game the system, because the well-off already are enjoying the abundance of life.
What are the reasons for this strange phenomenon? One may be that average people cannot identify with the upper-upper
Another reason for apathy by common folks toward government largesse accorded the rich may be that they are largely unaware of the problem. Polls have shown that more people get their news from the cable channel Fox News than any other source, and the right-wing outlet pays little heed to corporate welfare except to support it with the justification that the fat cats are the “job creators,” a myth that one venture capitalist, Nick Hanauer, explodes by pointing out that the new technologies embraced by corporate America have cost millions of jobs. On the contrary, he says, it’s the consumer who creates jobs by creating demand for goods and services.
Rich get richer
Congressman Lloyd Doggett
The inequality in distribution of wealth has dramatically worsened in recent decades. U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, wrote an essay saying the average CEO was paid 29 times more than the average employee in 1978, and that figure rose to 273 times by 2012. Actually, figures approximating a multiple of 350 times have been bandied about, but assuming Doggett is correct, can anyone imagine a single person’s capabilities and value to a company at 273 times more than that of any other individual on the payroll? Executive compensation soared 875 percent over the past four decades, while the average worker’s wage increased a mere 5.4 percent.
If that isn’t breathtaking enough, Doggett said our tax code allows a special tax deduction to publicly held corporations for “performance-based” bonuses to their executives. And, said Doggett, the so-called performance that’s required “is rarely Olympic caliber and the bar can always be lowered if it proves too high.” The taxes avoided by these corporations force everyone else to pay higher taxes to pay the country’s bills, and require that things such as education, improvements to our crumbling roads and bridges, and medical research be sacrificed. It’s Robin Hood in reverse.
Big breaks for big shots
Walmart paid eight executives $334 million from 2009 to 2014, and 90 percent of it ostensibly was for performance. That cost the country $100 million in tax payments. Over the next decade, the nation will lose $50 billion to subsidies for CEO salaries, Doggett said, referencing the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation.
That isn’t the only way corporations duck out of paying their share of taxes. The highest-paid executive in 2013 was Anthony Petrello of Nabors Industries, whose compensation totaled $68.2 million. For one year. To avoid paying the taxes generated by such income, he moved the corporation to Bermuda in 2002. Two expired tax breaks that encouraged corporations to ship jobs overseas, where they can hide profits, might be considered soon by the House of
Doggett has devised legislation to close the loophole that allows big tax write-offs on executive pay, and the Senate is considering similar legislation. Americans should be mindful of which politicians support these efforts to correct an egregious wrong, and vote for, rather than against, their own self-interests.
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