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It’s said that there’s nothing more vicious than a wild animal that’s cornered, but I’d add that there’s nothing more devious than a top corporate or political official caught in a scandalous hypocrisy.
Witness the huge menagerie of political critters who’ve recently been backed into a corner by the “Panama Papers.” This is a trove of thousands of internet documents leaked to global media outlets, revealing that assorted billionaires, rich celebrities, corporate chieftains, and – yes – pious public officials have been hiding their wealth and dodging the taxes they owe by stashing their cash in foreign tax havens. Of course, we’ve known for a while that tax dodging is a common plutocratic scam, but the details from the leaked files of an obscure Panamanian law firm named Mossack Fonseca now gives us names to shame.
One is David Cameron, the ardently conservative prime minister of Britain, who has loudly declaimed tax sneaks in public. But –oops! – now we learn that his own super-wealthy father was a Mossack Fonseca client, and that David himself has profited from the stealth wealth he inherited from the elder Cameron’s secret stash.
Trapped by the facts, the snarling, privileged prime minister used middle-class commoners as his shield, asserting that critics of his secluded wealth are trying to “tax anyone who [wants] to pass on their home… to their children.” Uh-uh, David – we merely want to tax those who try to pass-off tax frauds on the public.
One of Cameron’s partisans even claimed that critics “hate anybody who has a hint of wealth in them.” No, it’s the gross, self-serving hypocrisy of the elites that people hate. Yet now, doubling down on their hypocrisy, Cameron & Company have announced that they’ll host an anticorruption summit meeting to address the problem of offshore tax evaders! As Lily Tomlin says: “No matter how cynical you get, it’s impossible to keep up.”
“Mud is Slung in a Debate On Overseas Tax Havens,” The New York Times, April 12, 2016.
How do you feel about subsidizing corporate crime?
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.
Who are the pickpockets prowling your city’s airport?
If you take the word f-r-e-e and rip the “r” out of it, what do you get? Two things, actually: One, instead of “free” you get “fee” – and then you get mad.
This is happening to millions of airline passengers who’re discovering that the advertised price of a ticket is not the half of it. Beaucoup fees have been added, charging us for items that previously were (and still should be) free. People’s rage-ometers zing into the red zone when they see that these fees-for-former-freebies will often more than double the cost of a trip.
Like diabolical bankers did years ago, top executives of airline corporations have learned to goose up prices and profits (as well as their own pay) by nickel-and-diming customers. Only, their fees are way more than nickel and dimes. For example, if you schedule a flight, but something comes up and you have to change the time, day, or destination of your trip – BAM! – airlines zap you with a $200 fee. Basically for nothing! Computers quickly make the change, costing the corporation a mere pittance, but rather than graciously accommodating your need and making you a satisfied customer, they pick your pocket and make you angry.
Gouging and infuriating ticket buyers might seem like a poor business model for the long run, but airline CEOs these days insist that their duty is not to please consumers, but only to make their major stockholders happy by maximizing their short term profits. And, indeed, the ripoff is very lucrative for the corporate elite – airlines pocketed nearly $3 billion last year just from fees they charged passengers who needed to alter their flights.
To curtail this “Great American Plane Robbery,” several senators have proposed a “FAIR Fees Act.” For information contact Sen. Ed Markey’s office: 202-224-2742 or www.markey.senate.gov.
“As Passenger Ire Rises, Bill Is Introduced to Restrict ‘Ridiculous’ Airline Fees,” The New York Times, March 9, 2016.
“Reservation Cancellation/Change Fees by Airline 2015,” www.rita.dot.gov, December 15, 2015.
“Airlines Are Swimming in Profits Thanks to Cheap Fuel, High Fees,” www.time.com, January 21, 2016.