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Chronicling the collapse of a failed society
In late 2003, I was working in a supermarket meat room slowly saving money to fund a trip to Asia. My coworkers were quintessential working class Americans, staunch believers in the virtues of Capitalism and the existence of the American Dream, self-professed conservatives to the core who firmly supported any and all military action undertaken to defend “our freedoms.” And so it was not surprising when, on December 14, I clocked in to work to be greeted by the exultant manager. “We got ‘im!” he proclaimed gleefully. For some inexplicable reason, he and my other coworkers seem to have derived some sense of self-worth from the capture of a Middle Eastern dictator who had previously had the tacit support of our own U.S. government.
My response then was the same as it is today, in the wake of the fresh claims that Osama Bin Laden has been killed in Pakistan: who cares? Just as the capture of Saddam Hussein bore little relevance to the concerns of ordinary Americans, so too does the purported death of Bin Laden – also a one-time ally of the United States – have little impact on the life of the common person.
It has long been an open secret that the largest and most profitable corporations in America pay very little, if any, taxes. In light of our alleged financial woes, and the ongoing calls from the Right for the slashing of government services of any kind (outside of defense spending and corporate welfare, of course), it seems highly puzzling that such corporations are able to get away with tax evasion on such a massive scale. According to the 14th amendment, corporations are legally humans; so why don’t they pay the same 20-25% tax rate as most other Americans? If loopholes exist in the tax code that allow them to legally avoid paying taxes – and, in some cases, even receive substantial “tax rebates” – then the tax code must be rewritten to ensure that everyone is paying their fair share.
Over at Suburban Guerilla, one of my favorite blogs, Susie Madrak has linked to an excellent site entitled Pay Up Now. The site’s main page contains a list of 17 of the largest corporations in America, and explains in detail how each one has managed to avoid paying as little taxes as possible, in spite of unprecedented profits. Many corporations, such as GE, Wells Fargo and Boeing, actually claimed tax rebates/credits, amounting to billions of dollars in corporate welfare.
With all this talk of deficits and budget reductions, let’s take at look at just the first five corporations on the list, and find out how much federal revenue could be gained if these bastards were forced to abide by the same rules as ordinary, red-blooded Americans. I encourage you to check the site yourself to ensure that my calculations are correct, but the following figures give some idea as to just how much these corporations are scamming us. I have applied a conservative 25% tax rate, which should be much higher considering how enormous these profits have been:
1 – GE: Approximate annual profit of $14.7 billion; $0 taxes
Lost tax revenue: $3.675 billion + $1.33 billion tax rebate = $5 billion per year in lost revenue
2 – Bank of America: Approximate annual profit of $4.4 billion; $0 taxes
Lost tax revenue: $1.1 billion per year in lost revenue
3 – Exxon Mobile: Approximate annual profit of $34 billion; $0 taxes
Lost tax revenue: $8.5 billion per year in lost revenue
4 – CitiGroup: Approximate annual profit of $4 billion; $0 taxes
Lost tax revenue: $1 billion per year in lost revenue
5 – Wells Fargo: Approximate annual profit of $12.3 billion; $0 taxes
Lost tax revenue: $3.075 billion per year in lost revenue, + $19 billion tax credit
Just examining the first five corporations on the list, we have $18.675 billion in lost tax revenue, a substantial figure by any estimation. Consider the fact that the United States is filled with similar such corporations, and we realize that the budget emergencies being faced around the nation are entirely fabricated. As Michael Moore recently declared, the United States isn’t broke — we’re just being conned by perhaps the greediest, most powerful institutions in the history of mankind.
When we also take into consideration a military budget approaching – and in some years exceeding – $1 trillion per year, it becomes much more difficult to swallow the myth that we somehow can’t afford universal health care, or a free college education, or even the most primitive of social safety nets. The United States is the wealthiest country in the history of the earth, and if poverty exists here it is only because a powerful few created it. Anyone who tells you we lack the means to meet the most basic of human needs and rights is one of those despicable few, and should rightfully be considered the enemy.