|CGI headliner WalMart, for example, was revealed in a 2007 report to have skipped out on $2.3 billion in state taxes (pdf). Insult on top of injury when you add in the $1 billion in state and local subsidies (pdf).
CGI headliner Goldman Sachs is likely to pay only $14 million dollars in taxes for 2008. Total. Worldwide. They took more than $10 billion from taxpayers, and a few comments by CEO Lloyd Blankfein stating the perfectly obvious truth that the finance industry should be more transparent and has perhaps created some socially useless products, doesn't really take that fact out of the realm of travesty.
I have been convinced of how much better things are these days, now that corporations have venues like the Clinton Global Initiative to pressure them to be socially responsible. CGI commitments have undoubtedly been part of that, helped a lot of people, saved a lot of lives. It's an unqualified good. But fundamentally, a conference like CGI exists because a great many people's societies have failed them, and part of that failure comes in the form of governments not being able to afford to provide basic services.
It's also an unqualified good that US state and municipal governments can afford water treatment that keeps us from getting parasites. It's an unqualified good that between our minimum wage laws and rock bottom social safety net, opposed by many corporate funders otherwise happy to be seen 'helping the children' in public, that there are very few US families living on the rock bottom world salary of less than $1 a day.
The less US citizens need to rely on the vagaries of private charity, the better that is for the whole world. It's even better for business, as a whole, if maybe not
Blackwater Xe. People's value as customers and entrepreneurs tends to vary inversely with their desperation and misery.
Which is to say that as praiseworthy as any philanthropy is, if Obama wants to do some good, if he wants to successfully tackle corporate offshore tax avoidance that costs the federal government billions, he should take a page from the Clinton Global Initiative and give high-flying taxpayers an annual gala with the president. Events like that seem to loosen wallets that don't usually open for the IRS, it'd probably pay for itself many times over.