Thursday, May 07, 2009


Barack just threw down the gauntlet – and I don’t mean to the Republicans. This week, he made a statement to his fellow Democrats. If there’s a reason to have 60 votes in the Senate, if there’s a reason to dominate both houses of Congress, it’s to enact bills like the one he has in mind. A bill to eliminate foreign corporate tax havens within two years.

This is the kind of bill that if it were promoted by a Republican President, he’d be thrown out of the Party. Even some moderate Democrats – like Senator Max Baucus of Montana – have been lukewarm, lest they come across to their campaign contributors as “anti-corporate.” But there’s nothing anti-corporate about the desire to compel corporations to pay their fair share.

One of the litmus tests of being an enlightened and devoted citizen is the willingness to pay a significant amount of one’s disposable income in the form of taxes. If those who can afford to give weren’t willing to be taxed, we would never have decent public schools, a well-equipped military, an adequate transportation infrastructure, or numerous other services that we’ve all come to expect in an advanced economy.

In theory, the tax on corporations is a robust 35%. In practice, however, according to the Treasury Department, American multinational corporations have been paying only 2.3% of their foreign income in the form of taxes. The result is that our tax base has been suffering a 12-figure loss each year at a time when our national debt is bursting at the seams.

I’m all too aware of the fear-mongering on this issue. Once we force our multinational corporations to pay real money in the form of taxes, they’ll flee the United States for good. But my response to this argument is always the same: why do we simply assume that our largest corporations are run by men and women without a drop of patriotism in their blood? Why don’t we challenge them instead to serve their country by supporting their government and their country, rather than simply their shareholders?

At this time, we are asking our soldiers to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan under anything-but-ideal conditions. We are asking our nation’s poor to continue to live without health insurance. We’re asking our children and grandchildren to please bear with us, as we continue to go deeper and deeper into debt. And we’re asking our elderly population to make do on a whole lot less money than they thought they had when they retired, only to recognize that the stock market isn’t the panacea it was cracked up to be. Is it not obvious that everyone is being asked to pitch in for the greater good? And if so, why shouldn’t that apply to our multinational corporations?

Over the next few weeks, I expect that the business community will fight like devils to retain their tax havens. They’ll surely be joined by most, if not all, of the Republican legislators, not to mention some frightened Democrats who don’t want to bite the hands that feed them. But Barack must stand firm. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the Presidential thing to do. And it’s the Democratic thing to do. It’s about time he took a courageous stand and showed the nation that while Rush and his minions might have succeeded in destroying the Republican Party, the Party of the donkey is alive and kicking.

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