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"America has become a kleptocracy in part because it's an oligopoly," writes Buchheit. (Photo: National Nurses United/flickr/cc)

The Absurdity of Corporate Tax Cuts During the Corporate Pillaging of the Middle Class

Paul Buchheit

It could be argued that the greatest American pillaging is the transfer of taxpayer funds into the bloated military, or a greed-driven private health care system that deprives human beings of essential medical care. But the conversion of American technologies into low-taxed plutocratic profit may be the most flagrant attack on the middle class. 

It can also be argued that the products of the technological companies have enriched and energized our lives in numerous ways, and that the high-tech job market has never been better. But the rest of us pay dearly for all the technological benefits, much more than just the hundreds of dollars for phones and phone service. We have lost middle-class jobs and middle-class wealth. We have lost our share of the national productivity that is the direct result of 70 years of taxpayer input into the technologies that have enriched fewer and fewer people. 

"About 40 years ago, 109 firms earned half of the profits of U.S. public companies. Today it's just 30 firms."Corporate Tax Cuts: Are They Kidding? 

Donald Trump and the Republicans want a lower corporate tax rate. But many of the largest U.S. companies have paid ZERO federal income taxes in recent years, and overall the corporate world pays anywhere from 13 to 19 percent, about half the 35 percent statutory rate that they so often complain about. 

In 2016, fifteen of the largest corporations in America, with combined revenue well over a trillion dollars, paid less than 6 percent in U.S. federal income taxes. 

Meanwhile, profits have been growing at the fastest rate in six years, with a double-digit increase in the most recent quarter.

Investing in America? No, Stockholders Suck Up All the Profits 

Until 1982 stock buybacks were deemed illegal, a type of stock market manipulation with a penchant for boosting share prices for investors and management. But since then they've become hugely popular on Wall Street. 119 companies in the S&P 500 spent MORE ON BUYBACKS THAN THEY GENERATED IN EARNINGS in 2016. Big Pharma spends more on buybacks than on "research and development" (R&D) for medicines and drugs.

Investing in Jobs? Yes, $100,000 Jobs and $15,000 Jobs 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics and Pew Research are confirming what we already know: high-paying knowledge-based jobs and low-paying service jobs are proliferating, while mid-level jobs continue to disappear. 

Median household income is about $2,000 less than it was ten years ago. Since 1970 the American middle class has shrunk, according to the New York Times, from 65% to 41% of the population, with an approximately even exodus to upper-income and lower-income households. 

"Mainstream media opinion editors don't appear to have the courage to risk the disapproval of their bosses by printing the facts about corporate tax avoidance." And that 'growing' job market? A Princeton study concluded that a shocking 94 percent of the nine million new jobs created in the past decade were temporary or contract-based, rather than traditional full-time positions.

Competition? No, a Few Big Firms Squeeze Out the Smaller Businesses 

America has become a kleptocracy in part because it's an oligopoly. About 40 years ago, 109 firms earned half of the profits of U.S. public companies. Today it's just 30 firms. 

Google has 88 percent of all search advertising; Facebook (including Instagram and WhatsApp and other acquisitions) has 77 percent of all social media traffic; Amazon processes nearly half of online retail sales. Dean Baker notes that we pay higher prices for computer software because of the patent and copyright monopolies claimed by Microsoft and other tech companies. Baker also discusses the monopolistic effects of patents in the pharmaceutical industry: "The breakthrough drugs for cancer, hepatitis C, and other diseases, which now sell for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, would instead sell for a few hundred dollars."

The Mainstream Media is Afraid to Speak Up 

American corporations benefit the most from our nation's security, public infrastructure, legal system and tax laws. Yet rather than support public education and job creation, they use much of their money for buybacks and foreign hoarding. As a result, our schools and infrastructure are crumbling, and the tax avoiders use this to justify their "government doesn't work" mantra while clamoring for even more tax breaks to 'stimulate' the economy. 

Mainstream media opinion editors don't appear to have the courage to risk the disapproval of their bosses by printing the facts about corporate tax avoidance. As the public remains uninformed, business-happy governors continue with the corporate tax breaks, and state governments are forced to rely on regressive taxes for education and infrastructure funding. It's all part of the pillaging. 


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Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit is an advocate for social and economic justice, and the author of numerous papers on economic inequality and cognitive science. He was recently named one of 300 Living Peace and Justice Leaders and Models. He is the author of "American Wars: Illusions and Realities" (2008) and "Disposable Americans: Extreme Capitalism and the Case for a Guaranteed Income" (2017). Contact email: paul (at) youdeservefacts.org.

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