How big corporations are unpatriotic

Raytheon presentation

Big corporations want to keep selling weapons to the US government while at the same time sending jobs overseas and dodging US taxes. Photo: Jason Tester/Flickr.

Many giant profitable U.S. corporations are increasingly abandoning America while draining it at the same time.

General Electric, for example, has paid no federal income taxes for a decade while becoming a net job exporter and fighting its hard-pressed workers who want collective bargaining through unions like the United Electrical Workers Union (UE). GE’s boss, Jeffrey Immelt, makes about $12,400 an hour on an 8-hour day, plus benefits and perks, presiding over this global corporate empire.

Telling by their behavior, these big companies think patriotism toward the country where they were created and prospered is for chumps. Their antennae point to places where taxes are very low, labor is wage slavery, independent unions are non-existent, governments have their hands out, and equal justice under the rule of law does not exist. China, for example, has fit that description for over 25 years.

Other than profiteering from selling Washington very expensive weapons of mass destruction, many multinational firms have little sense of true national security.

Did you know that about 80 percent of the ingredients in medicines Americans take now come from China and India where visits by FDA inspectors are infrequent and inadequate?

The lucrative U.S. drug industry – coddled with tax credits, free transfer of almost-ready-to-market drugs developed with U.S. taxpayer dollars via the National Institutes of Health – charges Americans the highest prices for drugs in the world and still wants more profits. Drug companies no longer produce many necessary medicines like penicillin in the U.S., preferring to pay slave wages abroad to import drugs back into the U.S.

Absence of patriotism has exposed our country to dependency on foreign suppliers for crucial medicines, and these foreign suppliers may not be so friendly in the future.

Profits up, taxes down

Giant U.S. companies are strip-mining America in numerous ways, starting with the corporate tax base. By shifting more of their profits abroad to “tax-haven” countries (like the Cayman Islands) through transfer pricing and other gimmicks, and by lobbying many other tax escapes through Congress, they can report record profits in the U.S. with diminishing tax payments. Yet they are benefitting from the public services, special privileges, and protection by our armed forces because they are U.S. corporations.

On March 27, 2013, the Washington Post reported that compared to forty years ago, big companies that “routinely cited U.S. federal tax expenses that were 25 to 50 percent of their worldwide profits,” are now reporting less than half that share. For instance, Proctor and Gamble was paying 40 percent of its total profits in taxes in 1969; today it pays 15 percent in federal taxes. Other corporations pay less or no federal income taxes.

Welcome to globalization. It induces dependency on instabilities in tiny Greece and Cyprus that shock stock investments by large domestic pension and mutual funds here in the U.S. Plus huge annual U.S. trade deficits, which signals the exporting of millions of jobs.

The corporate law firms for these big corporations were the architects of global trade agreements that make it easy and profitable to ship jobs and industries to fascist and communist regimes abroad while hollowing out U.S. communities and throwing their loyal American workers overboard. It’s not enough that large corporations are paying millions of American workers less than workers were paid in 1968, adjusted for inflation.

Corporate bosses can’t say they’re just keeping up with the competition; they muscled through the trade system that pulls down on our country’s relatively higher labor, consumer and environmental standards.

Less about “shareholder value” than CEO perks

Corporate executives, when confronted with charges that show little respect for the country, its workers and its taxpayers who made possible their profits and subsidized their mismanagement, claim they must maximize their profits for their shareholders and their worker pension obligations.

Their shareholders? Is that why they’re stashing $1.7 trillion overseas in tax havens instead of paying dividends to their rightful shareholder-owners, which would stimulate our economy? Shareholders? Are those the people who have been stripped of their rights as owners and prohibited from even keeping a lid on staggeringly sky-high executive salaries ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 an hour or more, plus perks?

Why these corporate bosses can’t even abide one democratically-run shareholders’ meeting a year without gaveling down their owners and cutting time short. To get away from as many of their shareholder-owners as possible, AT&T is holding its annual meeting on April 26 in remote Cheyenne, Wyoming!

Pension obligations for their workers? The award-winning reporter for the Wall Street Journal Ellen E. Shultz demonstrates otherwise. In her gripping book Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder and Profit from the Nest Eggs of American Workers, she shows how by “exploiting loopholes, ambiguous regulations and new accounting rules,” companies deceptively tricked employees and turned their pension plans into piggy banks, tax shelters and profit centers.

Recently, I wrote to the CEOs of the 20 largest U.S. corporations, asking if they would stand up at their annual shareholders’ meetings and on behalf of their U.S. chartered corporation (not on behalf of their boards of directors), and pledge allegiance to the flag ending with those glorious words “with liberty and justice for all.” Nineteen of the CEOs have not yet replied. One, Chevron, declined the pledge request but said their patriotism was demonstrated creating jobs and sparking economic activity in the U.S.

But when corporate lobbyists try to destroy our right of trial by jury for wrongful injuries – misnamed tort reform – when they destroy our freedom of contract – through all that brazenly one-sided fine print – when they corrupt our constitutional elections with money and unaccountable power, when they commercialize our education and patent our genes, and outsource jobs to other countries, the question of arrogantly rejected patriotism better be front-and-center for discussion by the American people.

Reposted from The Nader Page.

— Ralph Nader, Transition Voice

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  1. Auntiegrav says

    The rich get richer because the poor work for them and buy their stuff..until they can’t.
    Americans are choosing to be comfortable with the status quo (as much as you can call what we do “choosing”).
    Until the choice comes down to “die starving or die fighting”, Americans will not stop believing that this is the “greatest country the world has ever known”, even though they wouldn’t be threatened with starving if they simply walked away from the System and formed new community ties and started living from the ground up instead of waiting for Trickle Down Life to happen in the next episode of “Dumbass Reality” TV.
    We all want to blame the corporations because that puts the mode of action ‘out there’ somewhere, rather than in our own hands and hearts.
    If you want Change, keep it in your pocket.

    • says

      I especially like the part about keeping change in your pocket. As the Empire becomes more self-referential and separated from the reality of the end of the middle class, impending climate chaos and energy depletion, I think we should stop waiting for the barbarians to storm the city gates and instead, get busy starting our own villages. Yet, maybe because I live in the South (a place where people act like Pickett’s Charge happened last month), I’m also concerned about any kind of nullification, whether regional or just on a household scale. If you’re going to secede from the Union, you need to be careful that you don’t get something worse in exchange. So I still think that, even as you plant your own garden, it’s helpful to band together with others who still care to preserve what’s good about our common society and fight the power of plutocrats. After all, they’ve been defeated in the past and I don’t see why they can’t be put in their place again in the future.

  2. James R. Martin says

    ” I think we should stop waiting for the barbarians to storm the city gates and instead, get busy starting our own villages.”

    Yes! (Eco-) villages! Car free, bicycle friendly, food (etc.) self-provisioning communities comprised of people who conceive “community” as a place where folks actually care about — and for — one another. Gawd only knows why these real, sane communities aren’t popping up everywhere.

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