Obama Helping Lobbyists Weaken Offshore Tax Crackdown Dems Passed in 2002 over GOP Opposition

One of the few - and I sincerely stress the word "few" -
concrete legislative successes progressives notched in the Republican
Congress under President George W. Bush came on the evening of July
26th, 2002, when they humiliated the House into passing a bill sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) banning federal contracts
from going to companies that engage in tax "inversions." These are the
schemes whereby a corporation that is based in the United States buy a
P.O. box in Bermuda and use it to legally avoid paying American taxes.

The bill, reported Congressional Quarterly at the time, "was
expected to fail [but] when the 15-minute voting clock ran out,
DeLauro's amendment was five votes ahead." Ultimately, industry-owned
Republican legislators who had tried to vote down the measure realized
they weren't going to be able to stop it, and "after a nod from
Republican leadership, more than 100 Republicans recast their votes to
give DeLauro an avalanche victory." Having witnessed this firsthand on the floor of the House, I can tell you it was indeed a sight to see.

And yet in the now-Democratic Congress seven years later, with
deficits exploding and the government clearly needing to strengthen any
and all incentives for corporations to pay their taxes, I was more than
disheartened to read this story in the Hill newspaper this week:

Multinational corporations are fighting to preserve language in a spending bill that would weaken a ban on federal contracts.

The provision, inserted in the Senate version of the bill at the
request of the Obama administration, would weaken a ban on federal
contracts for inverted companies...

Before the ban began in 2002, four of the 100 largest federal
contractors were inverted, according to a Government Accountability
Office (GAO) report.

In 2001, those four companies received $2.7 billion in federal
contracts, but they have unable to win the contracts since the ban was
put into place.

The Obama administration is justifying its push on the grounds that
the ban may - at some point in the undetermined future - conflict with
our trade agreements. It's a charge North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan (D)
rightly calls "absurd."

What this is all about is corporate lobbying against
provisions that both use taxpayer money to reward domestic companies
that pay their fair share of taxes and disincentivize companies from
trying to rip off the public through offshore "inversions." And it's
one of the first examples we've seen of the Obama administration and
the Democratic Congress potentially doing something even worse than the
Bush administration and the Republican Congress.

Here we have a commonsense progressive tax measure that
Democrats managed to pass and then expand under Bush and the GOP, and
here we are less than a year into an era of full Democratic control of
Washington watching Democrats aiming to weaken that tax measure. When
you look at this move and remember that candidate Barack Obama himself promised
to strengthen - not weaken - laws cracking down on offshore tax rip-off
schemes, you wonder why we even waged that tough progressive fight back
in 2002.

You wonder, in short, whether you are getting sold down the river.

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