Commonwealth Journal

December 19, 2011

Try this ...

by Robert Moore CJ‚ÄąColumnist
CNHI News Service

— Is there anyone left who just doesn't get the message of the Occupy movement? If so, then try this.

By employing a plethora of tax-dodging techniques, 30 multi-million dollar American corporations expended more money lobbying Congress than they paid in federal income taxes between 2008 and 2010, ultimately spending approximately $400,000 every day -- including weekends -- during that three-year period to lobby lawmakers and influence political elections, according to a new report from the non-partisan Public Campaign.

International Business Times

This is a telling allegation because it tells us that it is profitable to spend this kind of money in order to get Congress to legislate in a friendly way. Not only is it friendly but some of these giant corporations even get the United States Treasury to send them a tax rebate check because they end up with a negative tax rate. That's right. They get the treasury (that is you and me) to pay them for doing business and bribing our legislators. How messed up is that? Did you get that part about influencing elections?

Now, Mitt Romney and the other Republicans say that corporations are people too and the money they spend to prostitute our government is free speech. I will agree that I also have the right to try to influence my Congressman to do things the way I want him to. And I can influence elections by going to vote. But who do you think any of them will listen to? Will it be me with my concerns and no free speech in my pocket or will it be the corporations with banks just full of free speech? That is a no-brainer.

Now, the GOP along with some inappropriately named Democrats would try to make us believe that if we ask corporations to pay some kind of tax that it will mean that they will stub up and not create jobs. If that is the case then they are not very patriotic citizens. What! You say that the corporations are in business of making money? Well, I’m OK with that as long as they don't drown out my free speech with their version that speaks louder than words and that they pay taxes like the rest of us.

Of those companies, General Electric (GE) spent the most on lobbying, expending about $84 million on lobbying while paying a federal income tax rate of negative 45 percent on more than $10 billion in U.S. profits. PG&E Corp. followed General Electric, spending almost $79 million on lobbying, while paying a negative 21 percent tax rate on $4.8 billion of U.S profits, and Verizon Communications, which spent $52 billion on lobbying while paying a negative 3 percent tax rate on $32.5 billion of profits.

International Business Times

It may bear mentioning that Jack Welch is the former CEO of General Electric and is lionized in the corporate world as a management visionary and that the current CEO of General Electric, Jeffrey Immelt, is the chair of President Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Don't get me wrong. It is good for America to have extremely profitable corporations and for them to be influential but it is also good for America for them to be on our side. The truth is that corporations are on no one's side other than the stockholders and that is just the way it is. I'm OK with that, just pay the taxes and keep your money away from my free speech.

So, do you get it yet? The Occupy movement says that it is not enough to just change people in Congress. The problem is that the system is rigged to emphasize the power of the 1% at the expense of the remaining 99%, When a corporation can claim that its money used to influence elections and legislation is free speech the system is rigged and must be changed. When Wall Street banks can come up with nefarious ways to extract money that no one can understand then the system is rigged and must be changed. When the Wall Street banks can cause people's life savings and pensions to disappear without anyone going to jail the system is rigged and must be changed.

This is no mystery. There are very simple things that can be done to effect the necessary change but it will require people for whom the lust for power is not overwhelming to act. That is what the Occupy movement is doing. No one has all the answers yet but the conversation must be changed. It will do no good to tinker with a repressive system. I have a few ideas that I think would work. Maybe you do. But I can assure you that somewhere in the great body that is the United States the answers exist.

My take is that the Occupy movement is idealistic and sometimes unrealistic but they do have a point. Something that our Congress seems to have lost.