MSNBC Host Attacks Rich Tax Holiday

On his weekly segment on The Dylan Ratigan Show, The Young Turks/MSNBC host Cenk Uygur explains why corporations should not get a so-called 'tax holiday'.

 

A Crock Pot Tax-Exempt Idea

 

 

 

 

by Walter Brasch

 

            A wall of suffocating heat nearly vaporized me as I walked into Marshbaum's house. In the kitchen was a portable kiln spewing fiery venom that was curling the linoleum. In the den, wildly pumping a potter's wheel flinging clay all over the room, was Marshbaum.

            “Got a new hobby?” I asked from a puddle of water that I assumed was what was left of my body.

            “Hobby, nothing!” shouted Marshbaum over the noise. “This is my path to fame and fortune.”

            “Every one of your fame-and-fortune paths have ended in a cul-de-sac,” I reminded him. “You scamming the public into believing that slops of glazed clay dipped into leftover house paint are the last sculpture of a dying genius?”

            “They're cookie jars,” said Marshbaum wounded.

            “Still looks like schlock to me,” I suggested.

            “Work with me on this,” Marshbaum commanded, “it could result in a column for you.”

            So I played straightman while Marshbaum threw pots together. “Who,” I asked skeptically, “is going to buy ersatz cookie jars?”

            “Corporations,” he replied smugly.

            “For gifts?”

            “For receipts. Taxpayers keep their receipts in cookie jars,” Marshbaum explained, “so why not corporations? It’ll help them avoid paying any taxes. It’s easy. It’s simple. It’s—”

            “Probably illegal.”

            “It’s in the Tax Code,” said Marshbaum. “Individuals pay; corporations don’t.”

            “I doubt the IRS Code says anything like that.”

            “There are four million words in the IRS Code,” said Marshbaum. “Lower-class and middle-class Americans get a few thousand of those words. The rest of the code is a roadmap to help the wealthy and their corporations avoid paying taxes.”

            “The IRS encourages corporations to cheat?”

            “No, Congress does that. It writes the code to give rebates, tax deferments, subsidies, and all kinds of tax shelters that only the wealthy and their corporations can take advantage of. It’s just a way to reward their friends.”

            “But, it’s the people who vote for their representatives,” I said naively.

            “You think some homeless vet can afford to donate to Sen. Sludgepump’s campaign? You think Rep. Bilgewater even listens to the opinions of the impoverished and disenfranchised? Why do you think the Republicans want to cut into Medicare and Medicaid?”

            “To balance the budget?”

            “Because, Ink Breath, the rich don’t need those programs. That’s also why they want to cut funding for public education. The rich can afford private schools. The poor can’t. Besides, you can’t have an educated population of middle-class citizens. They might do something un-American, like actually learn something about the issues.” The issue, said Marshbaum, slinging clay and getting high on pot fumes, is that Congress allows the rich to realize their dreams that greed is not only good, it’s encouraged.

            Marshbaum explained that a Government Accountability Office analysis showed that almost three-fifths of all American-based corporations pay no federal taxes. The GAO study didn’t identify individual companies. Marshbaum, with the help of the Securities and Exchange Commission and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), did.

            Pretending that the international crisis-of-the-week has led to the highest gas prices in years, the oil companies—smirks of greed tucked neatly into their wallets—made record profits, paid no taxes, and even received rebates and refunds from the IRS. Exxon Mobil made $19 billion in profits in 2009, paid no taxes, but received a $156 million rebate. Chevron made $10 billion, paid no taxes, and received a $19 million refund. ConocoPhillips during a three year period had a $16 billion profit, paid no taxes, and received a $451 million tax break. Valero Energy had $68 billion in sales, and a $157 million tax refund.

            General Electric had a $26 billion profit in five years, and a $4.1 billion refund. Boeing, tucked into bed with a $30 billion Defense Department contract, got a $124 million refund to sleep better

            Even those that received taxpayer-supported bailouts, after being a major cause of the sub-prime housing debacle, made profits, paid seven-figure executive bonuses, and received refunds. Bank of America scammed the people for a $1 trillion bailout, made a $4.4 billion profit, and received a $1.9 billion refund. CitiGroup, with a $2.5 trillion bailout, paid no taxes on a $4 billion profit. Goldman Sachs and Carnival Cruises were model corporate citizens by paying all of 1.1 percent taxes. Goldman Sachs had a $2.3 billion profit on an $800 billion bailout; Carnival, which took passengers and the taxpayers on a cruise, made $11 billion in profit over five years.

            “Assuming everything you say is true, how does your overpriced crock pot cookie jar allow the rich to cook the books to avoid paying taxes?”

            “Because it comes with extras,” said an enthusiastic Marshbaum. “With every 25 jars, you get a scanner and software that I created. All you have to do is scan the receipts, and my patent-pending pot ware zooms through the receipts to match the tax code and declare that the rich guy and his even richer corporation are tax-exempt.” The best part, said Marshbaum, is that corporations will be able to lay off thousands of six-figure income CPAs in order to maximize their profits.

            “But wouldn’t that just increase the problem we already have with unemployment?” I asked.

            “Not when the accountants and auditors—the ones who know all the corporate secrets—realize that the government pays 15 to 30 percent of all money it collects from whistleblower tips.  They may never have to work again.”

            “You’re brilliant,” I said commending my pot throwing friend. “Just brilliant.”

 

            [For decades, Walter Brasch has used cookie jars to collect his tax receipts, much to his wife’s and accountant’s annoyance. His next book is Before the First Snow, a work of journalistic fiction that explores war in the Gulf, the peace movements, and the effects of “clean” nuclear energy. The book is available from Amazon.com for pre-orders.]

 

 

 

 

Small Government: One Small Fly in the Ointment

Conservatives – especially their tea partying faction – are yelling, “Hell no! We won’t grow!” in their quest for government with a microscopic “G”. Their biggest quibble with St. Ronnie of Reagan’s government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem mantra was that he didn’t lay off the entire government (except for a staggeringly expensive, ass-kicking military…and it’s associated contractors and arms makers) and outsource everything to the states, or preferably, India by way of multinational conglomerates.

I suspect they’ll be getting a rude awakening soon. They’ll find it next to impossible to fight the strong running political tide, agree on what needs to be shed, or even agree on what small government means.

For example, arch-conservative Michele Bachmann wanted to prohibit earmarks only to find that, oops, her state wouldn’t get any money either. Suddenly her perception of pork changed in the face of angry voters who saw that Michele’s financial acumen was roughly equivalent to a high school home economics course in buying canned hams at rock bottom prices.

One man’s crumbling highway is another’s canned ham. Let those drivers give up the ham. They need to be put on the fiscally conservative South Beach Minnesota Diet. Same for those homeless people too by golly. It’ll be good for their no account goldbricking asses.

Conservatives never met a regulation they liked – unless it benefits them or is written by lobbyists. And one of the biggest government expenditures of all is creating and enforcing regulations. The baggers and Republi-Goobs are of a similar mind that only the private sector is smart enough to do anything – apparently ignoring that whole financial derivatives thing. But who’s counting.

So here’s an idea.

Regulations and regulators are a huge chunk of the budget, right? The Tax and Spend It All on Me Crowd frequently reminds us, usually in high-pitched squeaky voices, that the private sector is where smart, upstanding CEOs can do anything. They even have big paychecks to prove it.

Since the Supreme Activist Court (SACOTUS) took it upon themselves to give corporations Constitutional rights far and away more important than the rights of all individual citizens combined, it makes sense that corporations would be the very picture of responsible citizens in thanks. And smart as whips too.

So, corporations are just terrific, and honest, and thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. We know this because Cryin’ John Boehner and the boys tell us so. So, how about we just trust them to do the right thing? No need to regulate when the free market unfailingly leads companies to the path of righteousness and honor.

We’d cut thousands of regulators in a jiffy. Legislators would have absolutely nothing to do except rubber stamp appropriations bills for the War du Jour. And lobbyists? Well, they’d become pro bono advisers to a micro-government that runs as smooth as BP oil rushing out of a broken wellhead. Yeah, THAT’S the ticket!

Um, only one small fly in the ointment on that one. Forget I mentioned anything.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

 

 

The Elephants Eat the Carrot and Beat Obama with the Stick

There are many things Barack Obama has reneged on during his first two years and as a result the country has never benefited from his promises of change. Instead, he’s become more Bush Lite in many ways.

The War of Error goes on – apparently indefintely. Gitmo is still open and many of the accused are still waiting for counsel, much less actually getting a trial. He’s cast aside promises on gay marriage, DADT, transparency, and limitations on presidential powers hoping some lucky Washington voodoo will somehow resolve the issues for him. On every major issue, he begins compromising before negotiations even begin. But perhaps his biggest blunders are in the way Americans live and work , or often, don’t work.

Obama faces a host of accusations that he’s a raving socialist busily fist-bumping the ghost of Karl Marx. The problem is, the facts don’t fit the accusations and they don’t fit because Obama has perfected that Bushian ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Profits Up, Obama Down
Despite the cat calls, profits at American corporations have steadily risen since that awful commie took office. In fact, they set a record in the Q3. Profits are up, not because Obama opposes business, but because he colludes with them. The CEO compensation juggernaut is traveling like such a runaway locomotive that even the richest of the rich are calling for higher taxes on themselves – yet, Obama is open to the idea of extending Bush tax cuts for the rich before the debate gets underway.

No wonder the head Mertle of the Grand Old Turtles, Mitch McConnell, feels justified in treating Obama persona non grata. He knows The Messiah™ will crack at even token opposition. Obama’s once sterling approval overseas is eroding quickly too, making it hard for him to effect meaningful change on the global stage.

Perhaps the best example of his special talent in taking too long to do too little to benefit the wrong people is his woeful stewardship of flagship issue, health care.

Before the debates even began, Republicans, who trumpeted their alleged bipartisan civility, said the bill was DOA. As Democratic lawmakers ineptly tried to hammer out compromise after compromise, they went all dirty sanchez on every Republican with a case of political hemorrhoids while caving to hundreds of demands and letting Republicans call them uncooperative, hyperpartisan Visigoths favoring the offing of your 90-year old grammy because she has a hangnail.

Grammy’s Hangnail

Hidden among those compromises were plenty for health insurers who are some of the most despicable miscreants in American economics. These are people who literally put grammy’s well being far behind their own. They have a proven track record of rationing health care and reaping the rewards in excessive compensation.

Despite a bill that was popular at the time and is now favored by voters 49-40%, Americans got a huge bill from the insurance companies before almost anything actually took effect. They got that because Obama caved to their demands just as he caved to the neo-tea baggers. In return, he was charged with shameless socialism…by the same Republicans and lobbyists who brokered – if one could call it that – the sweetheart deal. Repblibaggers say they’ll repeal it bit won’t  – unless by repeal you mean rejigger it so the deals get better for the unhealth care giants and their minions in striped suits and whigtips.

BO may know sports, but politics? Not so much. He has established a firm and repeatable record for setting himself up for the Big Fail. He gives a carrot to the Grand Old Elephants, who throw it a few feet down the road. Trying to be a nice, agreeable guy he bends down to pick up the carrot. Suddenly, the elephant breaks out a huge stick and beats him like a rug. Then, after the beat down, he dutifully hands the carrot back to the elephant who accuses him of being an oafish prick for dropping it, throws it down the road, and starts the cycle again.

For such a smart guy, you’d think he’d learn this is a really mean game of carrot and stick.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

 

 

 

Campaign Cash: Corporations Get More Power, Political Parties Get Less

 

by Zach Carter, Media Consortium blogger

War chests from right-wing billionaires and corporate titans are funding tremendous portions of political activity, from the so-called grassroots activism of the Tea Party to the streamlined lobbying assaults of the nation’s largest corporations.

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s wildly unpopular ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, secret election financing by elites is exploding, even as the public visibility of such electoral purchasing power evaporates.

 

Corporations get more freedom as political parties get less

As Jamelle Bouie emphasizes for The American Prospect, election funding from political committees and non-profits is already up 40 percent from 2008 levels. But the oft-cited the liberation of the corporate purse was accompanied by less-well-known constraints on political parties themselves. While corporations like Wal-Mart and Bank of America are free to spend as much as they want attacking or promoting specific candidates, the political parties themselves cannot.

As Bouie notes, this scenario further rigs the electoral game in favor of the wealthy and corporations. Candidates who know that their party can’t help them out become even more dependent on corporate cash during elections. And while few entities are less popular right now than the Republican and Democratic parties, they are ultimately accountable to their voters. They reach out to a broad array of individuals across the country, while corporations merely advance their own interests.

Political parties—however imperfect—can serve as a check on such destructive corporate influence. Citizens United has made that check much weaker. As Jesse Zwick writes for The Washington Independent, political parties used to dominate independent election spending. This year, for the first time, thanks to Citizens United, front-groups and corporations have taken the lead.

The Tea Party “grassroots” movement is anything but

Billionaires are on the attack, exploiting campaign finance loopholes to prop-up phony “grassroots” political movements. The most egregious—and successful—effort has been waged by David Koch, a long-time GOP fundraiser who is now backing major Tea Party organizers. Koch is the executive vice president of Koch Industries, Inc., which refines and distributes petroleum and other raw materials.

As Adele Stan details in her latest in-depth expose for AlterNet and The Nation Investigative Fund, Koch has found ways to funnel money to the Tea Party in just about every way imaginable. But it’s most sinister maneuver was the establishment of two right-wing front groups that keep their donors anonymous. After Citizens United, we’ll never know how much money Koch is funneling to the Tea Party, and his front groups—FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity—provide the same cover for other elites.

How much cover? Americans for Prosperity brags that they’ll spend at least $45 million on the 2010 elections, while FreedomWorks plans to throw in another $10 million.

As Stan emphasizes, these two groups are the major organizers of all things Tea Party. They provided logistical organizing for Glenn Beck’s 9/12 rally, held over 300 rallies against health care reform and hosted “voter education” workshops pushing the glories of deregulation to anyone who would listen. They even have an unofficial partnership with Fox News, hosting conservative Fox personalities at their rallies, which are, in turn, promoted by Fox programming. Glenn Beck is even featured in advertisements and fundraising pitches for FreedomWorks.

The anonymity provided by Koch’s front-groups is critical to the Tea Party’s appeal. In popular media, the Tea Party is often described as a grassroots coalition of ordinary, mad-as-hell citizens. That image is hard to sustain in the face of a wildly expensive top-down campaign orchestrated by billionaires. As Stan explains:

The armies of angry white people with their “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, the actual grassroots activists, are not the agents of the Tea Party revolt, but its end users, enriching the Tea Party’s corporate owners just as you and I enrich Google through our clicks.

Of  course, Koch isn’t the only man operating anonymous front-groups. The Citizens United decision allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts of their own cash directly influencing elections. But so long as that money is laundered through a third-party, they can keep these expenditures out of the public eye.

Oil giants dominate U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Nobody has exploited this loophole more aggressively than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a lobbying clearinghouse for the nation’s largest corporations.

The Chamber doesn’t just rely on domestic donors. It also accepts cash from dozens of foreign corporations. As Kate Sheppard explains for Mother Jones, no less than 14 foreign oil giants belong to The Chamber, paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual dues alone. This is important, because as sweeping and destructive as Citizens United was, it did not grant foreign corporations the right to spend on U.S. elections.  There’s nothing xenophobic about that—it’s a U.S. election, after all, and foreign firms don’t have to live with many of the social and ecological consequences of U.S. deregulation. The Chamber insists it has accounting devices in place to separate its funding and keep its operations within the law, but so far, it hasn’t explained how these work.

But ultimately, as Sheppard and her MoJo colleague Nick Baumann note, the influence of domestic corporations on the American political process is equally sinister as foreign corporate influence. If the narrow interests of a U.S. corporation hijack our democracy with campaign war chests, that can be just as bad as subjecting our democracy to the whims of a foreign corporation. Whether the Chamber’s foreign funding follows the letter of the law or not, the organization is still running a destructive campaign to further entrench corporate power in our political system—and shield those same corporate titans from public accountability.

And the existing campaign finance regulators aren’t even enforcing the meager laws that do exist to curb legalized bribery. As Jesse Zwick explains in another piece for The Washington Independent, three recent appointees to the Federal Election Commission have waged an all-out war to mire the agency in gridlock, preventing it from cracking down on straightforward abuses.  President George W. Bush actually named former Rep. Tom Delay (R-TX)’s campaign finance lawyer to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC). His term has expired, but getting new FEC commissioners confirmed by the Senate in the face of Republican filibusters appears nearly impossible. So Delay’s lawyer, Donald McGahn, is still working to keep campaign finance laws from being enforced, and succeeding.

Democracy is not a corporate bidding war. Corporate cash belongs in the board room, not the voting booth.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the mid-term elections and campaign financing by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit The Media Consortium for more articles on these issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

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