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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

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#EndorseThis: NRA Makes Porn For Unhinged Gun Owners, John Oliver Calls Them Out

The National Rifle Association is run by hypocrites who use the same manipulation tactics they accuse the media of using. You probably knew that, but few journalists have been exposing the NRA’s shameless propaganda like John Oliver of HBO.

In today’s clip (a tad longer than usual, but well worth it) Oliver takes on some of the creepier moments of NRA TV, including Dana Loesch’s “clenched fist of truth” speech, Charlie Daniels (who else?) giving a sermon about guns, blood and gator-grappling, and bank robbers getting complimented on their weapons skills.

Does gun-porn for the heartland sound sad to watch? Prepare to giggle. Oliver destroys every last excerpt from the NRA network, and lets gun-obsessed women know they’re just as absurd as men like Charlie Daniels.

Click play. It’s happening, Harry. It’s happening.

GOP Tax Plan Hides Trillions In Sweetheart Deals For Apple And Other Multinationals

Reprinted with permission from DCReport.

James S. Henry, an economist and expert on global tax avoidance, reports that the new Trump tax law gives Apple and other multinational companies a sweetheart deal—several sweetheart deals, actually—that could total as much as $2.6 trillion.

This is an important story that the mainstream news missed. We have it all because Jim—a DCReport senior editor and a contributing editor at the American Interest, where his story is also being published—actually read the tax bill and applied his skills as an economist, former executive and lawyer to analyze the tax payment terms.

You don’t get these terms. But if you did, they would sure make you a lot better off financially, though the country would suffer from huge increases in borrowing to pay our government’s bills.

The superficial story that the mainstream media covered: multinational companies like Apple will pay taxes on profits they earned in America, but stashed offshore to delay payment.

The real story is that these companies get layers of new tax breaks on profits they shipped overseas without paying any corporate income tax. When companies siphon profits out of the country they obtain, in effect, loans from Uncle Sam at zero interest. The loan is the amount of tax not paid.

Profits earned by domestic American companies are subject to a 35 percent tax. Profits that are technically–and we do mean technically–shipped offshore are taxed at a rate of zero unless and until the profits are returned to the United States.

Instead of paying a 35 percent tax on profits it earned in years past and sent offshore as interest-free loans from Uncle Sam, Apple will pay only a 15 percent tax. Some companies will pay less than 10%.

What you likely haven’t read before is that Apple and the other multinationals get eight years to pay their much-reduced tax bills. Imagine if Congress said you could pay your 2017 income taxes in installments, with no interest charge, over eight years. Sweet deal.

Apple’s reduced tax payments are backloaded. They pay a little this year and delay a big chunk until 2025.

Apple and others will pay only eight percent of the tax bill this year on profits they have earned over decades and then stashed–untaxed–in accounts overseas.

Those profits, by the way, are actually here in America, but the address on the tax deferral account is overseas, a profitable financial game Congress allows under President Reagan’s 1986 Tax Reform Act. You don’t get that deal because you are a human being, not a multinational corporation.

Not until 2025 will Apple pay the last one-fourth of the reduced tax bill it owes on profits from years past. Sweet deal, but Trump and Congress deny you the same deal.

Because of inflation and the opportunity to invest money to earn investment income, each dollar of tax paid in future years is worth less than a dollar paid this year. Jim Henry analyzed the real tax cost to Apple using standard financial measures that compare the cost of a dollar of tax today with a dollar of tax paid in future years.

Examined this way, what will be the real tax rate Apple will pay by these standard measures? Between negative 0.5 percent and two percent.

The number is a range because of assumptions about what Apple would do to invest its unpaid taxes. Jim’s analysis uses reasonable figures that may understate just how low the effective tax rate paid by Apple will go.

As an individual, your lowest federal income tax rate on your pay is 10 percent. And while Apple and other big multinationals got to defer past taxes and now get to defer them for years more, your taxes come out of your paycheck before you get your money.

The difference depends on the value of future dollars against today’s dollar. Because of inflation, a dollar of tax paid in 2025 is worth less than a dollar paid today.

By the way, have you asked Trump, your senator, or your congressperson to loan you the income taxes that are taken out of your paycheck so you can get these loans at zero percent interest?

And did you then ask them to cut your tax rate by more than half and spread your actual payments out until 2025?

Don’t bother. Trump is not going to give you that deal, though some of his companies should qualify.

Imagine how rich you would be if Congress loaned you 92 percent of the income taxes you paid over the last 30 years or so. Just investing that money would have made you rich. Then imagine Congress said you can pay the delayed income taxes in installments with most of the money due more than five years from now.

Here is the awful part–there is a cost to deals like that. Apple and other multinationals get the tax savings and investment income, you get stuck with the bill.

Jim calculated the financial benefits to Apple using extremely modest assumptions on how much Apple earns on the taxes it delays paying. Even applying the less than two percent annual return on investment Jim used, the hard math shows Apple will offset half of its final tax payment with investment earnings.

Use the return on capital that Apple tells shareholders, the company’s cost of capital is 9.6 percent. Apple will turn a huge profit on the delay in paying the taxes it has already delayed paying for years.

You can read the whole awful story, carefully and fully explained by Jim Henry here.

Who Really Pays For Subsidies To Big Business?

The hustlers claim that job incentives are a sound investment of our tax dollars, because those new jobs create new taxpayers, meaning investments soon pay for themselves. Hmmm … not quite. In fact, not even close.

Last year, a watchdog outfit called Good Jobs First tracked the 386 incentive deals since 1976 that gave at least $50 million to a corporation, and then it tallied the number of jobs created. The average cost per job was $658,427. Each! That’s likely far more than cities and states can recover through sales, property, income and all other taxes those jobholders would pay in their lifetimes. Worse, the rise of megadeals in the past 10 years has made the job-incentive argument mega-ridiculous:

—New York gave a $258-million subsidy to Yahoo and got 125 jobs — costing taxpayers $2 million per job.

—Oregon awarded $2 billion to Nike and got 500 jobs — $4 million per job.

—North Carolina shelled out $321 million to Apple and got 50 jobs — $6.4 million per job.

—Louisiana handed $234 million to Valero Energy and got 15 jobs — $15.6 million per job.

The rosy jobs-creation claims by incentive boosters also tend to be bogus, for they don’t subtract the number of jobs lost as a result of these deals. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and CEO, for example, has leaned on officials in every major metro area to subsidize its creation of a nationwide network of warehouses, data centers, and other facilities. This web forms Amazon’s all-encompassing business structure, giving it the reach to achieve near monopoly power in industry after industry.

In its 2016 report Amazon’s Stranglehold, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance found that more than half of Amazon’s facilities had been built with government subsidies. The “Amazon Tracker,” a continuously updated web page produced by Good Jobs First, reports that since 2005, the retailer has been showered with $1.1 billion in local and state subsidies to build their private business.

Each of those taxpayer handouts (given to the world’s third-largest retailer) was made in the name of local workers. And, yes, the Amazon warehouses do employ thousands, but their subsidized network enables the giant to undercut local competitors, causing devastating job losses that greatly outnumber jobs gained. The ILSR report notes that at the end of 2015 Bezos did indeed employ 146,000 people in his U.S. operations, but — oops — they calculated that his taxpayer-supported behemoth had meanwhile eliminated some 295,000 U.S. retail jobs.

Plus, there’s an ugly blotch on Amazon’s ballyhooed job-creation numbers: Working conditions in those sprawling, windowless warehouses are grim, and 40 percent of the employees are low-wage, temporary hires with no benefits and no job security. While warehouse wages everywhere are low, an ILSR survey documented that Amazon’s average 15 percent lower than what other corporations pay.

Almost every city/state giveaway program ignores smaller and locally owned businesses (which really do create jobs), and instead tries to land brand name corporations with blockbuster deals. This emphasis — subsidizing big outfits to come from afar to compete unfairly against local, unsubsidized firms — is spreading an epidemic of vacant storefronts across America. It’s also altering the very essence of our communities. Rather than each having its own diverse, unique commercial character, our towns are being transformed into corporatized, homogenized versions of Everywhere, USA.

Beyond local business, our larger society also pays a substantial cost for these subsidies. Most of the deals woo the giants by granting 10-year, 20-year, or even longer exemptions from paying property taxes — the chief source of funding for local schools, roads, fire departments, water systems, parks and other essential public services. To cover the loss of revenue, school districts, cities and counties respond both by cutting services and by hiking the property taxes of homeowners, renters, and hometown businesses. As a result, the community gets more inequality, gentrification, homelessness, and divisiveness. The corporate favor-seekers, however, fail to see (or care about) the connection between this result and their grab for the public’s money.

Institute for Local Self Reliance is an excellent resource on how to support all things local.

Populist author, public speaker, and radio commentator Jim Hightower writes The Hightower Lowdown, a monthly newsletter chronicling the ongoing fights by America’s ordinary people against rule by plutocratic elites. Sign up at HightowerLowdown.org.

With Massive Tax Breaks, Corporate Chiefs Are Behaving Like Con Men

Apple CEO Tim Cook announced this week that the company would repatriate $252 billion, give or take a few billion, then create some American jobs and invest in America – for a change.

This is a result of the massive tax cut Congressional Republicans awarded corporations like Apple that were hoarding trillions in profits overseas.

Corporate lobbyists told Congress to lower the tax rate on those overseas caches or companies like Apple wouldn’t pay a cent of the taxes they owed on those profits. Congress complied. That is highly productive corporate extortion.

As a result, Apple’s announcement that it would invest some of the repatriated profits in U.S. operations is tainted. Also sullied are the boasts by other corporations that they’ll use small parts of their annual tax savings to pay workers one-time bonuses and tiny wage increases – only to turn around and lay off thousands of workers.

 The corporate extortion and maltreatment of workers defy the advice that BlackRock CEO Laurence D. Fink offered the CEOs of the world’s largest companies in a letter delivered Jan. 16. Fink’s words carry some weight since his firm is the largest investor in the world with more than $6 trillion. The letter described as flawed the CEO-favored philosophy of shareholder capitalism, under which corporations shirk responsibility to everyone but shareholders.

Fink said stakeholder capitalism, under which corporations are accountable to employees, customers and communities, as well as shareholders, is a more effective long-term strategy. “To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society,” he counseled.

But CEOs at the likes of Apple, AT&T and AFLAC don’t want to hear that. These executives want their corporations to be considered people for the legal perks. But they don’t want their firms to assume humans’ citizenship obligations. These CEOs are trying to make Americans think corporations should get good citizenship awards because a handful of the nation’s 30 million employers are paying bonuses to workers from the gargantuan tax breaks that Congress gave them.

But it’s a con. The bonuses are fine, but they’re one-time events and trivial compared to the bountiful and permanent tax breaks corporations reaped from their years of lobbying Republicans.

In addition, the President’s Council of Economic Advisors said that slashing the corporate tax rate would boost the average American’s wages between $4,000 and $9,000 a year. A one-time bonus of $1,000 doesn’t get close to that.

Apple, for example, held $252 billion in profits off shore, refusing for years to pay the 35 percent corporate tax rate that would be required to return it to the United States. Now, however, Republicans in Congress have slashed the rate corporations will have to pay on overseas profits to 15 percent. Republicans also cut the rate that corporations must pay on U.S. profits to 21 percent, giving firms like Apple that moved work offshore a better deal than corporations that remained exclusively American.

It means Apple will pay only $38 billion in taxes on its overseas profits and get to keep $43 billion that it otherwise would have owed the federal government. For actual-human American citizens, as opposed to corporate-humans like Apple, that means the federal government will have $43 billion less for important services like the Children’s Health Insurance Program, opioid addiction treatment, federal school funding for special-needs children, adoption services for foster kids and workplace safety inspections.

Cook tried to sound like a Boy Scout in a statement about bringing the money home: “We have a deep sense of responsibility to give back to our country and the people who help make our success possible.” But if the corporation really had a deep sense of responsibility to the United States, it would have paid the taxes it owed and not moved all of its manufacturing off shore.

 But, hey, Apple will invest its ill-gotten gains in the United States, right? Well, maybe not so much.

Apple, which had more money stashed overseas than any other American corporation, projected that its direct impact on the U.S. economy over the next five years would be more than $350 billion, but the New York Times determined, based on Apple’s past spending and projections, that its investment would be only about $37 billion more than what Apple would be expected to spend over that time in the United States. That’s good. But it’s not $350 billion in new dollars. It’s a con.

Apple says its investment will include a new headquarters and 20,000 new hires. And that’s great too. But it pales before Amazon, which had 10 percent of what Apple did overseas.  Long before any tax break, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos promised a second headquarters and 50,000 new high-paid positions.

BlackRock CEO Fink told Apple’s Cook and other large company CEOs this week that they have a duty to explain to investors and shareholders what they will do with the extra cash that the Republican tax break will afford them and how they’ll use it to create long-term value.

Fink, whose investment firm is looking for sustainable, enduring growth, not illusory, short-term profits, warned, “Without a sense of purpose, no company, either public or private, can achieve its full potential. It will ultimately lose the license to operate from key stakeholders. It will succumb to short-term pressures to distribute earnings, and, in the process, sacrifice investments in employee development, innovation, and capital expenditures that are necessary for long-term growth.”

But the vast majority of executives who announced they’d share the bounty of the Republican tax breaks with their employees didn’t explain how they’d spend their windfalls or offer workers long-term value.

The conservative group Americans for Tax Reform, which supported tax breaks for the rich and corporations, compiled a list of about 125 companies that announced their workers would benefit this year from some portion of the corporate tax break.

The overwhelming majority of these are one-time bonuses. It’s true that the average worker will appreciate an extra $200 to $1,000. But none of the companies promised that $1,000 would arrive in workers’ paychecks every year, even though corporations will enjoy the tax breaks every year.

Some firms, mostly banks, said they would increase the wages of their lowest-paid workers to $15 an hour. That bank workers, responsible for the correct calculation of savings and withdraws and for safekeeping depositors’ life savings, are making starvation wages of less than $15 an hour, is frightening.

In addition, the list of financial institutions includes big ones like Wells Fargo, Capital One and PNC Financial, all of which pay their CEOs more than $12 million a year, raising the question of why those fat cats made sure they got the big bucks but never got around to paying the workers who handle the money a living wage.

Other big names that have announced one-time bonuses or pathetic wage increases are Walmart, AT&T, Comcast, Boeing and AFLAC. Again, it’s great any time additional money finds its way into the pockets of those whose labor creates corporate profits. But all of these companies were involved in a massive public relations con.

Comcast and AT&T announced $1,000 bonuses, then laid off workers. Comcast dumped 500 and AT&T dumped thousands.

Walmart pulled the same trick. It boasted of bonuses ranging from $200 to $1,000 and raises for its lowest-paid workers to $11 an hour. That’s still not a living wage and was done only to keep up with Target, which announced in September a base wage of $11. And Walmart topped it off with layoffs. About 11,000 former Walmart workers won’t be around to get those raises.

AFLAC said it would place a one-time contribution of $500 in workers’ 401(k) accounts amid allegations in lawsuits that it lied to applicants about the pay they would receive and failed to give workers commissions they had earned.

Boeing got in on the good publicity by saying it would spend $300 billion on workers, but its workers will see no new money. Instead of raises or bonuses, Boeing will spend the money on worker training, upgrading its factories and matching workers’ donations to charities – for which, of course, it can claim another tax break.

Clearly, none of these con men CEOs actually care about their workers. Maybe, however, they will care about what activist investor BlackRock thinks. And its CEO has made it clear he believes good corporate governance takes into consideration worker, community and environmental needs.