On Thursday, 80 CEOs of big corporations published a statement pushing Congress to reduce the deficit. Unfortunately, they published it in the Wall Street Journal, so you have to be someone with a subscription in order to read it (how apropos!). To their credit, they encourage not just more spending cuts, but also higher tax revenue, however their letter is short on specifics other than saying that we need to “reform” Medicare and Medicaid. Of course, with both houses of Congress controlled by Republicans who abhor tax increases, it is hard to imagine seeing any tax increases in our near future.
So what’s the purpose of this letter? I don’t know. To pretend to care?
The really hypocritical part – pointed out by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders – is that the list of CEOs who published the statement includes people who helped create the current deficit by wrecking the economy, and continue to do so by lobbying for tax loopholes for big corporations.
This includes CEOs of corporations that used offshore tax havens to avoid US taxes: Bank of America – $2.6 billion; Goldman Sachs – $2.7 billion; JP Morgan Chase – $4.9 billion; Microsoft – $19.4 billion; Qualcomm – $4.7 billion; Tenneco – $269 million; and others.
Others moved jobs overseas (like GE – 25,000 jobs; Boeing – 57,000 jobs; Verizon – 13,000 jobs), not only reducing tax revenues from displaced US workers, but forcing workers to receive unemployment insurance and other federal benefits.
Still others managed to pay zero in taxes in 2010: Bank of America, which received a $1.9 billion tax refund; GE, which received a refund of $3.3 billion; Verizon, which received $705 million; Boeing, $124 million; and others.
A few even received massive taxpayer bailouts: Bank of America – $1.9 billion; Goldman Sachs – $824 billion; JP Morgan Chase – $416 billion; GE – $16 billion.
All told, since 2008 these 80 companies evaded at least $34 billion in taxes by setting up more than 600 subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands and other offshore tax havens, a dozen of them avoided paying any corporate taxes at all and instead received $6.4 billion in tax refunds, and received taxpayer bailouts of over $2.5 trillion (yes, that’s Trillion).
As Sanders puts it:
There really is no shame. The Wall Street leaders whose recklessness and illegal behavior caused this terrible recession are now lecturing the American people on the need for courage to deal with the nation’s finances and deficit crisis. Before telling us why we should cut Social Security, Medicare and other vitally important programs, these CEOs might want to take a hard look at their responsibility for causing the deficit and this terrible recession.
Our Wall Street friends might also want to show some courage of their own by suggesting that the wealthiest people in this country, like them, start paying their fair share of taxes. They might work to end the outrageous corporate loopholes, tax havens and outsourcing provisions that their lobbyists have littered throughout the tax code – contributing greatly to our deficit.