Do We Need To Throw Them A Party?

by: Natasha Chart

Mon Sep 28, 2009 at 08:30

"Taxes are what we pay for civilized society" - Oliver Wendell Holmes

Before I write anything else about the Clinton Global Initiative, there's something I've wanted to say about charitable corporate giving of all kinds ever since I went last year.

Companies like WalMart and Goldman Sachs who headline such well-intentioned, high-powered gatherings where so much good is done should be told every day, that if they want to really help their fellow humans, they should just pay their sodding taxes as a small demonstration of good faith.

They should be asked, perhaps, for their charity commitment next year to be that they will faithfully pay their full dues to the governments that provide the roads, educated workers, municipal utilities, free community policing and regulatory services that let customers feel comfortable buying sealed containers from complete strangers - all the things that allow them to make those profits in the first place. You couldn't have most modern businesses without these things, except maybe Blackwater Xe. Seriously. Pay. Your. Taxes.

Natasha Chart :: Do We Need To Throw Them A Party?
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.

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Why Do You Hate America, Natasha? (4.00 / 3)
Obviously you haven't been asked that often enough of late, to go around saying such things!

Pay your taxes?!!!

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

Real Americans (4.00 / 2)
pay taxes.

Hey I think I've got my poster idea for the next teabagger party.

Montani semper liberi

We need to say this more often (4.00 / 4)
Excellent post, Natasha, thank you.

Just imagine what ills could be cured if only the U.S. would collect taxes on obscene corporate profits...let's start a campaign on this.  

Corporate taxes (0.00 / 0)
are the most popular taxes of all.  Give the people what they want.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
We already threw them two parties: Republicans and Democrats. (4.00 / 5)
What other party or parties can we throw them?  At any rate, it seems there's nothing to be done about that except try to throw ourselves a party, one we control and which we can build from the ground up, vigilant against corruption.

Incentivize Paying Taxes (4.00 / 1)
Appealing to the patriotism of corporate entities, or trying to guilt them into paying taxes is pointless. These are not conscious beings that will be swayed by emotion, these are businesses constructed to generate profits for the shareholders and function as conduits to pump $ into the executive's private accounts. Besides, they are multi-national, to which nation do they pledge?

If one hopes to incentivize corporations to pay taxes, leaving aside punitive measures for the moment, you need to find an approach that accounts for the true nature of the corporations, not one based on appeals to humanity and citizenship. Save that approach for the execs and shareholders.

Corporations seem to care about their "brand". If one can make paying taxes a benefit for the brand, you may gain leverage. Maybe the IRS can grade corporations like hotels and restaurants are graded? Or meat? Then the corporations can use these in advertising, so educated consumers can favor and disfavor the businesses as they see fit.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

I miswrote (4.00 / 3)
Corporations seem to care about their "brand".

Its so pervasive, this brain infestation that makes us think of corporations as sentient beings! Correction:

The people running the PR and advertising campaigns for the corporations seem to care about the "brand"

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
Incentivize? (4.00 / 2)
Since when do we incentivize people into following the law?

Corporations are not "real" entities that need to be "swayed by emotion," they are organized groups of wealthy, powerful scofflaws. If they can't follow American laws they should not have access to American markets, let alone subsidies.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
Yep. (4.00 / 3)
Incentives can be good or bad, based on what you want people to do.  The incentive of not going to prison for failure to pay taxes can be a powerful one, which is why corporate lobbyists and other wealthy individuals get legislators to repeal taxes or, failing that, create loopholes in the tax laws so that the wealthy may avoid paying taxes that way.

[ Parent ]
Corporations are not people (4.00 / 1)
The are amoral and need to be kept in line by regulation, by consumer actions, by advertisers, by taxation with positive and negative intent.

Deal with the scofflaws with personal taxation, criminal justice, and such.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
I think there is a fair amount of corruption surrounding these charities (4.00 / 1)
First of all, bill clinton is a big reason why these businesses like goldman sachs and walmart make so much damn money becoz he helped pass laws that benefited them.  Can anyone argue ... even the clinton lovers out there ... that goldman sachs has made a lot of money due to the deregulation madness that went on during the clinton administration?  Can anyone argue that walmart did not greatly benefit from the free trade policies of the clinton administration?  So, as you see clinton preen in the spotlight once again and mc his charity events, think about that.  And think about the absurdity of cheering a man that helped pass laws that helped these corporate behemoths make mondo money which then turned around and gave a fraction back to him, and a lot of money directly into his pocket via speeches, via his charity so that he can use that money to continue to wield power and play God as he sprinkles some of it back on a lot of people that wouldn't need the help anyways if the bastard hadn't sold them out to begin with.  

And think about how this whole process leads to corruption and how this "charity" giving can be used as a shell game to conceal bribes to tap into these former government officials' power and launder illegal campaign contributions.  Wasn't there some shady situation between clinton, some Canadian dude involved in mining and some former Russian republic?  Khazakhastan and arinco?  (I'm just taking a guess on the names and I don't have the time to look it up right now.)  It was some kind of deal in which clinton flew with this Canadian guy, who was a huge contributor to his foundation, to the country and gave him access to the leader of that country and the Canadian guy walked away with a big deal to do some mining there.  The deal will probably help rape the country of its natural resoruces and create environmental problems for the locals, but clinton will probably give a fraction of that charity money back in the form of aids awareness or something and people will cheer him and say what a great guy he is without ever looking at the entirety of what he helped effectuate.

And I also wonder if this particular charity wasn't used in some way to help pay for hillary's campaign.  She did use a ton of her own money, supposedly, to pay for her campaign.  I certainly don't expect eric holder to ever open up an investigation on the matter.

These charities are often used as a way for these people that run them to ingratiate themselves to themselves.  Even bill gates' charity, which I've heard is very efficiently run, comes partially on the back of American workers' wages being depressed thru the actions of bill whining to congress, and probably giving a ton of money to members of congress to "listen" to him, about the need for cheap skilled foreign labor to flow in this country via h1-b visas.  And robber rubin, who has done a hell of a lot to put a ton of innocent people into poverty, has got one too.  What a great guy, huh?  I hear he's got very good table manners so he must be.  

So hold the applause please and ask yourself how these people hold this kind of influence over these corporate entities that contribute to them and also why these heartless, strict adherence to the bottom line, and their personal compensation packages, leaders of these corporations suddenly get all warm in the heart for these charities and give a small amount back to the former government officials that helped them make that money.  And then how even a smaller amount gets back to the people that these two entities worked together to disempower and effectively steal from.  

I am not touched at all.  I get disgusted at the whole spectacle.  


The CGI donor list was made public (4.00 / 1)
There was some private back and forth about it, but the donation history for CGI was made public when Sen. Clinton was tapped for Sec. of State. No credible allegation of improper pass-through to her campaign has ever been made, not during her presidential run, not when the donor records were revealed.

While I'm not going to go to bat for the financial purity of the entire non-profit world, specific allegations of electoral impropriety re the Clintons and charity funds are baseless trolling. That's a serious charge to throw around if you don't have anything to back it up with, and you don't.

Further, while I'm not going to either defend or cheer deregulatory laws passed during Clinton's presidency, he had help. Specifically, Democrats in Congress were massively on board, with only a few lonely voices in the wilderness warning (accurately) of what was to come. The deregulatory consensus was overwhelming at the time, not springing entire and fully formed from Clinton's forehead. There was at the time virtually no pushback on opinion leaders, and the Washington Consensus economics had yet to be revealed for the blatant failure it is.

It's taken the current systemic financial meltdown, following WorldCom, following Enron, for it to even be marginally allowable to criticize 'free'-market dogma. Only when it became clear that the few-bad-apples argument was so utterly wrongheaded was it possible to question the premise without getting rhetorically tarred and feathered among the Very Serious People who use Matt Drudge as an assignment editor. And again, that doesn't excuse politicians of their responsibility as independent moral agents, but they are products of their times as all people are.

[ Parent ]
The system of privately funded campaigns is inherently corrupt, though legal (0.00 / 0)
It tilts the playing field on every issue toward the class of people that make big contributions.

It creates a high hurdle for potential candidates even to enter a race.

It forces politicians, whatever their ideology, to devote a disproportionate share of their time to dialing for dollars.

If the supreme court decides as expected in the corporate "free" (ie, prohibitively expensive for ordinary citizens) speech case, the problem will become even worse.

We need to be mobilizing now for public financing of campaigns, on the Clean Money Clean Elections model.  

There is no such thing as a free market.

[ Parent ]
Natasha, how the hell do you know how this money winds around? (0.00 / 0)
Do they open up to you?  Do you have access to all the financials surrounding the foundation?  Do you think that the democrat party would look very much into this and risk a major scandal?  Or that the bush "justice" department would look very closely into his daddy's bff's foundation finances?  You don't know ... and I don't know either, but at least I admit it which is why I state that I "wonder if this particular charity wasn't used in some way to help pay for hillary's campaign".  So, please hold your bullshit about baseless trolling.

No, the entire deregulation madness that went down during the clinton administration did not come from clinton's forehead ... who said it did?  It did have to pass congress didn't it?  But it did also pass through his office and went thru his pen.  As far as some of the deregulation regarding the derivatives, Brooksley Borne warned about it but she was shouted down and ignored.  

The danger of this deregulation madness was not something that was unforeseeable and it's something that clinton could have prevented, but didn't ... just like nafta which he made a concentrated effort to pass.  Was it really that hard to see the danger of allowing the brokerages and banks to merge?  To deregulate derivatives?  To pass nafta?  

And it isn't the president's job to "go with the flow".  He is supposed to check it.  clinton did not and he politically benefited from it in the the form of campaign contributions and a temporarily boosted economy as wall street used their "freedom" and sophistication to manipulate markets and create bubbles ... aided and abetted by greenspan ... and give a temporary and unhealthy boost to our economy.  And clinton continues to personally benefit from his decisions to "go with the flow" when he was president in the form of paid speeches by many of these entities that benefited from his decisions as president.



[ Parent ]
I also want to add that several members of his adminsitration ... (0.00 / 0)
... such as robber rubin and larry summers had a huge role in this deregulation madness.


[ Parent ]
I also want to add that several members of his adminsitration ... (0.00 / 0)
... such as robber rubin and larry summers had a huge role in this deregulation madness.


[ Parent ]
Derivatives were actually never deregulated, they never were regulated to begin with (0.00 / 0)
Borne wanted to regulate them, but got push back from summers, rubin and greenspan.


[ Parent ]

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