Denouncing a "rigged" system that favors corporations over middle-class Americans, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said in a "must-watch" speech on Wednesday that any reform of the U.S. corporate tax code must force big businesses to "substantially increase" the amount of federal tax they pay.
Warren's address at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. "staked out the left-wing position on corporate tax reform," Politico said, an issue Congress is expected to take on in 2016. She lambasted three proposals currently getting attention on Capitol Hill, including one supported by President Barack Obama.
"When I look at the details, I see the same rigged game—a game where Congress hands out billions in benefits to well-connected corporations, while people who really could use a break...are left holding the bag."
—Sen. Elizabeth Warren
She described that "deemed repatriation" plan—which would allow U.S. companies to pay less tax on profits generated abroad if that money is repatriated to the U.S.—as "a giant wet kiss for the tax dodgers who have already parked $2.1 trillion overseas."
"When I look at the details, I see the same rigged game," she said, "a game where Congress hands out billions in benefits to well-connected corporations, while people who really could use a break...are left holding the bag."
Warren pushed back on corporate claims that U.S. taxes are too high, citing a White House study that found companies' contribution to government tax revenue had dropped from $3 out of every $10 in the 1950s to $1 out of every $10 today.
"Only one problem with the over-taxation story: It’s not true," she said. "There is a problem with the corporate tax code, but that isn't it. It's not that taxes are far too high for giant corporations, as the lobbyists claim. No, the problem is that the revenue generated from corporate taxes is far too low."
For example, a recent analysis by the coalition Americans for Tax Fairness showed that drug giant Pfizer, in a bid to justify a Big Pharma mega-merger that would allow it to dodge taxes through what's known as a corporate inversion, had dramatically overstated its corporate tax rates and was in fact paying just a fraction of what it claimed.
As Common Dreams has previously reported, America's Fortune 500 companies are notorious for "playing by different rules" when it comes to the federal tax system—adept at manipulating that system to avoid paying even a dime in tax on billions of dollars in U.S. profits.
The Huffington Post reports: "With Washington enamored by the idea of reforming the U.S. tax code in a bid to jump-start economic growth—a top priority of business interests—Warren's proposal represents one of the few offered to date by a top elected official that would significantly increase corporations' tax bills."
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal suggested that Warren's entry into the debate "may put pressure on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to either side with her or with Mr. Obama."
As Politico reports, Clinton "has supported higher corporate taxes, but has mentioned the subject little yet on the campaign trail during this presidential run...Bernie Sanders, Clinton's closest competitor for the Democratic nomination, has been more vocal about collecting more money from corporations."
In the end, Warren said, "what this tax battle is really about" is fairness.
"Who does this country work for?" she declared. "Is it just for the rich and the powerful, those who can hire those armies of lobbyists and lawyers? Or can we make this country work for millions of hard-working people?"
"This isn't a fair fight," she concluded. "The corporate giants are lined up to make sure tax changes tilt their way. America's working families don't have a zillion-dollar PR team to counter the false claim that corporate taxes are too high. Small businesses don’t have a zillion-dollar lobbying organization to fight back against tax giveaways for giant corporations."
Watch the full speech below: