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Headlines periodically blare that this regulator or that has imposed another jawdropping assessment on some gross polluter or other corporate criminal. “Justice Department Slaps BP with $20.8 Billion Punishment” the media shouted months after the oil behemoth spewed billions of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico. That’ll teach ‘em!
Hardly. Corporate lawbreakers have colluded with Washington lawmakers to cut a sweetheart deal: Corporations are allowed to deduct huge chunks of their “punishment” from their corporate taxes, effectively forcing us common taxpayers to subsidize their criminality.
The US Public Interest Research Group recently analyzed the government’s 10 biggest settlements with corporate violators, finding that 60 percent of the total was quietly classified as tax deductible. For example, rather than BP taking the full $20.8 billion hit that had been so widely publicized, it was allowed – without fanfare – to treat more than $15 billion of it as a tax deductible “cost of doing business.” That was on top of $37 billion in Gulf clean-up costs BP had already deducted from the taxes it owed to our public treasury. Similarly, in 2013 JPMorgan Chase signed a $13 billion settlement for defrauding investors, but $11 billion of that was eligible for a tax write-off – just part of a corporation’s routine expenses.
As PIRG rightly points out, when these settlements are allowed to be tax deductible, our leaders are sending a message to huge corporations like BP and JPMorgan Chase that polluting our environment and ripping off the American people are acceptable ways of doing business. Not only that, it also sends a message that it’s okay to make ordinary taxpayers subsidize these corporation’s nefarious behaviors. To learn more, check out the report at www.uspirg.org.
What do chickens and our constitutional rights have in common?
Imagine the outcry by tea party Republicans if state legislators were passing laws banning the use of video cameras in banks to capture images of robbers.
Yet, those very same tea partiers have been passing laws in various states to ban the use of videos to capture images of such giant, factory-farm operators as Tyson that are engaged in inhumane, immoral, and disgusting abuses of turkeys, hogs, and other animals. The only reason the public knows about chickens being stomped to death and pregnant sows being driven insane because they’re caged so tightly they can’t even turn around is because courageous whistleblowers have secretly taped videos of the intolerable violence inside these animal concentration camps.
In response to the videoed exposés, however, eight states run by shameless, corporate-hugging Republicans have rushed to protect the worst abusers, making it illegal to release such tapes to the media or the public. North Carolina’s corrupt legislature, for example, has decreed that videoers who cause bad publicity for corporate animal torturers can be sued by the corporation and fined $5,000 for each day abuses are recorded. To add to the Kafkaesque absurdity of this “ag gag law,” the state legislature’s corporate buttkissers mandated that releasing videos of abuses in nursing home chains, day care centers, and veterans’ facilities is now also banned.
In their eagerness to please corporate lobbyists and get campaign donations from these grossly-abusive profiteers, tea party Republicans across the country are stomping on our constitutional rights to free speech and freedom of the press, just as mindlessly as the animal abusers stomp chickens to death. For information and action tips on stopping this disgraceful industry-legislative cabal, go to www.aspca.org/OpenTheBarns.
“No More Exposés in North Carolina,” The New York Times, February 1, 2016
Where inequality comes from
Last spring, President Obama got downright crabby toward Sen. Elizabeth Warren and muckrakers like me.
He was irked that we critics of his Trans-Pacific Partnership kept pointing out that this corporate power grab would directly undermine America’s very sovereignty. Under TPP, multinational corporations would be allowed to bypass our courts and go to secretive, corporate-run international tribunals effectively empowered to roll back our nation’s consumer, labor, environmental, and other laws that they don’t like. “They’re making this stuff up,” Obama wailed. “No trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws.”
But on December 18, the president veeery quietly repealed one of America’s consumers laws in response to a legal complaint that corporations in Mexico and Canada had filed with an existing international tribunal. In effect, the corporations used this secretive autocratic tribunal set up by the World Trade Organization to force Congress and Obama to change US law. So much for the “untouchable” sovereignty of We the People.
And now, at the behest of global oligarchs and plutocrats, Obama is asking Congress to extend this outrageous veto power to thousands of private multinational giants in the 12 countries – from Australia to Vietnam – that would be part of his TPP deal. To sell it, he’s the one making stuff up. “Put simply,” he declared in February,” TPP will bolster our leadership abroad and support good jobs at home.”
Put simply, that’s hogwash. As researchers at Tufts University have calculated, TPP will cost our country another half a million jobs and increase inequality by “redistributing income from labor to capital” in all 12 countries. You see, inequality doesn’t just happen, it’s caused by deliberate decisions – and deliberate lies – of corporate and political elites.
“12 nations formally sign Trans-Pacific Partnership,” The Washington Post, February 4, 2016.
“Portman Will Oppose Trans-Pacific Trade Pact,” The New York Times, February 5, 2016.