10 Filthy-Rich, Tax-Dodging Hypocrites Pushing Disastrous Austerity on America
Brace yourself for one of the most aggressive corporate lobbying campaigns of all time. And one of the most hypocritical.
“Fix the Debt” is a coalition of more than 80 CEOs who claim they know best how to deal with our nation’s fiscal challenges. The group boasts a $60 million budget just for the initial phase of a massive media and lobbying campaign.
The irony is that CEOs in the coalition’s leadership have been major contributors to the national debt they now claim to know how to fix. These are guys who’ve mastered every tax-dodging trick in the book. And now that they’ve boosted their corporate profits by draining the public treasury, how do they propose we put our fiscal house back in order? By squeezing programs for the poor and elderly, including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
Fix the Debt claims their agenda is not just about spending cuts. But when it comes to their tax proposals, they use the slippery term “pro-growth reform” to push for cuts in deductions that are likely to include credits for working families and — you guessed it — more corporate tax breaks. Chief among these is a proposal to switch to a territorial system under which corporate foreign earnings would be permanently exempted (instead of being taxed when they are returned to America).
This idea, also supported by the Bowles-Simpson deficit commission, would make it even more profitable for big corporations to use accounting tricks to disguise U.S. profits as income earned in tax havens. Citizens for Tax Justice estimates that such tax haven abuse will cost the Treasury more than $1 trillion over the next decade.
So who are the CEOs who are telling the rest of us to be responsible and tighten our belts after they’ve spent decades stiffing the U.S. Treasury? Of the 80 members of Fix the Debt’s CEO Fiscal Leadership Council, here are 10 that stand out as the biggest hypocrites:
1. Jeffrey Immelt, General Electric
Perhaps no tax-dodging U.S. corporation has done more to drain the U.S. Treasury than General Electric. Over the last 10 years GE reported more than $80 billion in U.S. pre-tax profits and yet paid a federal corporate income tax rate of just 2.3%.
One of GE’s favorite tricks is the “Active Financing Exception.” U.S. corporations are supposed to pay U.S. taxes on interest income earned anywhere in the world. But GE enjoys this special exception for companies that have “captive” foreign finance subsidiaries, such as their credit card arm. The measure was repealed as part of fair taxation reforms in 1986, but GE led a successful lobbying effort to bring it back in 1997. Although the exception was supposed to be temporary, Congress has renewed it six times. And, despite all the public hand-wringing over the deficit, lawmakers are seriously considering extending this and other corporate loopholes before the end of the year.
2. Jim McNerney, Boeing
Last year, Boeing was one of 25 major U.S. firms that paid their CEO more than they paid Uncle Sam in corporate income taxes, according to an Institute for Policy Studies report. The aerospace giant enjoyed a $605 million tax refund in 2011, despite reporting more than $5 billion in U.S. pre-tax profits. CEO Jim McNerney made $18.4 million in personal compensation. In fact, Boeing is a serial tax dodger, having paid federal corporate income taxes in only two of the last 10 years.
One of the ways Boeing avoids paying taxes is by taking advantage of the Research and Experimentation Tax Credit, which saved the $137 million last year alone. Government investment in basic research is not a bad idea, but current R&D credits are structured in a way that primarily benefits large, well-resourced high-tech firms like Boeing that would probably do the research anyway. CEO McNerney also chairs the Business Roundtable, which aggressively lobbies for more corporate tax breaks.