Sunday, February 27, 2011

7 Top Corporate Tax Evaders

As you begin the dismal task of preparing your taxes before or on this year's April 18th filing deadline, think about the multibillion dollar corporations which Forbes reports had lower tax rates than you did for tax year 2009:

7) Hewlett-Packard (HPQ)

Hewlett-Packard earned pretax income of $9.4 billion, but managed to keep their tax rate the same as someone earning less than $33,950 a year. Their trickery? Book profits at lower-tax foreign subsidiaries.

6) Verizon (VZ)

Verizon has a lovely 10.5% tax rate. That’s better than a long term capital gain. Although Verizon earned $11.6 billion in pretax income, they have diverted much of their income through foreign wireless partner Vodafone (VOD).

5) Chevron (CVX)

Chevron paid $8 billion in taxes on $18.5 billion in pretax income. So why did they make the list? Chevron only sent Uncle Sam a check for $200 million. The rest was paid abroad in lower-tax countries. I think they should change their logo colors from red, white and blue to something more representative of the Caymans.

4) Ford Motors (F)

We all know Ford and other car makers have been skidding since the recession began. The struggling car maker still managed to earn $3 billion in pretax income. The beauty? Ford only plunked down $69 million in taxes — a 2.3% tax rate.

Not bad considering all the other subsidies, bailouts, and cash for clunkers we’ve already given as gifts to one of the oldest car manufacturers in the world.

3) ExxonMobil (XOM)

ExxonMobile did pay $17.6 billion in taxes on $37.3 billion in pretax income. However, unlike Chevron, none of Exxon’s taxes were paid in the US. That’s funny.. I think they sell a fair amount of profitable gasoline here.

2) Bank of America (BAC)

Bank of America earned pretax income of $4.4 billion in 2009, yet the financial services supermarket tallied up a $1.9 billion tax benefit.

How could such a travesty occur? Bank of America scoured the tax code for deductions like $860 million in tax-exempt income, $670 million in low-income housing credits, and a $600 million loss on shares of foreign subsidiaries.

Making matters worse for the US Treasury, Bank of America has a provision for credit losses of $49 billion which will carry over for a long, long time.

1) General Electric (GE)

Like those who received an Earned Income Credit (EIC), GE actually made money on their tax filing this year! Although the industrial behemoth generated $10.3 billion in pretax income, they recorded a tax benefit of $1.1 billion. Don’t we all wish we could be in that bracket.

But big tax breaks are nothing new for the 12th largest company in the world. In 2008, GE’s effective tax rate was 5.3% versus the marginal US corporate rate of 35%. In 2007, it was 15%. You’d think GE would at least pay a little more for paper and administration costs considering their tax filing to the IRS is an astounding 24,000 pages when printed out.

Now, aren't you relieved to know that President Obama's newest "jobs czar" is the CEO of GE, an expert at exporting jobs and avoiding corporate taxes?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Unanswered Questions as Obama Anoints George HW Bush With Presidential Medal of Freedom

Russ Baker is the author of an absolutely mind-blowing book entitled Family of Secrets: the Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government, and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years. He is no tin hat conspiracy theorist, but a highly regarded journalist with impeccable credentials. I'm reading this book right now, and will have more to say about it when I'm finished. But I was as stunned as Baker by Obama's anointing of Poppy with the Medal of Freedom.

by Russ Baker, Who What Why | Op-Ed

On February 15, President Obama bestowed the Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest award, to a group of people which includes former president George H.W. Bush. Having spent five years researching the elder Bush and discovering a staggering array of secrets to the man’s life—none of them favorable, I was curious why Obama gave Bush the medal.

Officially, it goes to individuals “who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” In fact, it goes to all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons. In the case of Bush, it was an obligatory Washington ritual for a former President who is in the last chapter of his life.

Notwithstanding the inevitability of the process, President Obama needed to trot out some explanation or other as to why each recipient was deserving. In remarks at the ceremony, he said that H.W.’s “His life is a testament that public service is a noble calling….his humility and his decency reflects the very best of the American spirit.” And he referred to Mr. Bush’s “extraordinary life of service and of sacrifice.”

His life has certainly been extraordinary. Though whether “decency” is the right term, or whether his activities “reflect the very best of the American spirit,” or whether his has been a “life…of sacrifice” seem to be debatable.

There’s another side to the elder Bush. It goes to the heart of his purported “humility,” and whether it is truly humility—or his need to hide so many secrets. Especially as it relates, remarkably, to the assassination of another president, John F. Kennedy.

Here are some questions that must be asked of George H.W. Bush, while he is still around to be asked. The underlying points are all documented and footnoted [in Baker's book] —and some of these questions have appeared before in an earlier post on this site and others. Former president Bush, we all know that you served for a single year as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. What about the fact trail suggesting that, just like the Russian leader Vladimir Putin, you actually spent your entire adult life prior to becoming vice president working in covert operations—but unlike Putin, have not admitted that? What about documentation showing that, as far back as the early 1950s, your small but hyperactive company, Zapata Offshore, was commercial cover for super-secret ops?
  • Some years ago you claimed not to remember where you were on the morning of Nov. 22, 1963? Have you since been able to recall?
  • Can you tell us about your decades-long friendship with George de Mohrenschildt, the man who was in and out of Lee Harvey Oswald’s house on almost a daily basis in the year before the Kennedy assassination?
  • Did you, as characterized in an FBI memo, work as a CIA officer in tandem with Cuban exiles at the time of the Kennedy assassination?
  • Why have you never spoken publicly about the documented call you made to the FBI on Nov 22, 1963, in which you identified yourself fully and claimed to have information on a possible suspect in Kennedy’s death? What was the purpose of that call, in which you mentioned your whereabouts at the time of the call, 1:45pm, as Tyler, Texas, i.e. about 99 miles away but just a short flight on the private plane on which you were traveling? Why did you tell the FBI that you were en route next to Dallas and would stay at the Sheraton there when you had already been at the Sheraton the night before — and right after that call flew to Dallas but only to switch planes and fly back immediately to Houston? Why were you giving the FBI the impression you would be staying in Dallas the night after the assassination instead of letting them know you had stayed there the night before the assassination?
  • Why was your own assistant at the home of the man you would finger as a suspect in the shooting, and why did he end up providing the man with an alibi? Was the ultimate purpose of that call not to cause the alleged suspect any permanent harm, but merely to use the call as an excuse to state in government files that you were in a place other than Dallas?
  • Since you claimed not to remember where you were when Kennedy was killed, how is it that after these FBI memos surfaced, your wife Barbara suddenly found and published an old letter placing you and her in Tyler, Texas shortly after the shooting?
  • On the day of the assassination, were you in touch with your friend and Republican running mate Jack Crichton, a military intelligence figure who was connected to figures forcing their way into the pilot car of Kennedy’s motorcade? The same Crichton who controlled the man who served as the interpreter between Oswald’s wife and police and reframed her words so as to implicate Oswald in Kennedy’s shooting? The same Crichton who was working out of a secret underground communications bunker below the streets of Dallas? The same Crichton whose secret military intelligence unit counted dozens of men who simultaneously held jobs as Dallas police officers? The same Crichton who did secret oil industry intelligence work in the Middle East while you did intelligence related oil industry work via your company, Zapata Offshore?
  • Finally, do you know people who consider the events of November 22, 1963 to, in their minds, “reflect the very best of the American spirit?” You say almost nothing, ever, about the Kennedy assassination, even skipping over it in your own memoir, which details much more trivial events of the same year. Why is that? And why then, in your eulogy for former President Ford, a member of the increasingly-discredited Warren Commission, did you go out of your way to oddly praise him for promoting the increasingly-discredited “single bullet theory?” You said:

“After a deluded gunman assassinated President Kennedy, our nation turned to Gerald Ford and a select handful of others to make sense of that madness. And the conspiracy theorists can say what they will, but the Warren Commission report will always have the final definitive say on this tragic matter. Why? Because Jerry Ford put his name on it and Jerry Ford’s word was always good.”

Why did you, so bizarrely, smile when you uttered those words?

Now, with your Medal of Freedom, given you by a Democratic president who ran as an agent of change, you truly seem to be enjoying the last laugh.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Rocky Times Ahead: Are You Ready?

This article is from David Korten's yes! magazine. Korten is the Stanford educated economist who has now devoted his life to preaching "the great turning" away from our unsustainable corporatocracy. No, this isn't about building an underground bunker and stocking it with five years of canned beans, assault weapons, and ammo.

by , Can forming a small group like this really make a difference, when the problems we face seem so overwhelming? History tells us they can.

"I don’t believe the economy is getting better,” says Billy R., a member of a mutual aid group in Oregon that he jokingly calls “my reality support group.” “All around me I’m surrounded by media and advertising urging me to keep borrowing, buying, and sleepwalking. I love meeting with others who are staring down the potential risks and challenges of the future.”

Maybe more of us could use a reality support group.

Even with the announcement that the official unemployment rate fell to 9.4 percent, millions of people remain in dismal economic straits. The pace of home foreclosures has barely slowed and millions remain out of work. Even upbeat scenarios still assume protracted unemployment and economic stagnation for much of the decade ahead. The unspoken scenario is that things could get worse.

Sometime during the next couple of years, there will likely be a fundamental shift. It might be another economic meltdown along the lines of 2008, or a shock to the economy thanks to a rapid spike in energy costs. It could be a series of extreme weather events that result in flooding, drought, or unprecedented heat waves. Think Hurricane Katrina on a larger scale. These changes could lead to food and water shortages—and test our personal and community preparedness in ways that we have not experienced in our lifetimes.

Read more here.

Why Isn't Wall Street in Jail?

By Matt Tabibi, Rolling Stone

"Over drinks at a bar on a dreary, snowy night in Washington this past month, a former Senate investigator laughed as he polished off his beer.

'Everything's fucked up, and nobody goes to jail,' he said. 'That's your whole story right there. Hell, you don't even have to write the rest of it. Just write that.'

"I put down my notebook. 'Just that?'

"'That's right,' he said, signaling to the waitress for the check.' Everything's fucked up, and nobody goes to jail. You can end the piece right there.'

"Nobody goes to jail. This is the mantra of the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world's wealth — and nobody went to jail. Nobody, that is, except Bernie Madoff, a flamboyant and pathological celebrity con artist, whose victims happened to be other rich and famous people."

Read the whole article here.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The new class war starts in Wisconsin

What were they thinking, the fools who voted this tool into the governor's seat? Welcome to America, post-Citizens' United (thank you Clarence, John, Antonin and Anthony). How do Rethuglicans convince so many people to cut their own throats?

"TPM's Brian Beutler reports that half of Wisconsin's budget shortfall results from three of Walker's own business-coddling initiatives. According to the Capitol Times, as quoted in Beutler's piece, in January, Walker pushed through '$140 million in spending for special interest groups.' Walker claims a budget shortfall of $137 million. You do the math.

"Walker is carrying out the wishes of his corporate master, David Koch, who calls the tune these days for Wisconsin Republicans. Walker is just one among many Wisconsin Republicans supported by Koch Industries -- run by David Koch and his brother, Charles -- and Americans For Prosperity, the astroturf group founded and funded by David Koch. The Koch brothers are hell-bent on destroying the labor movement once and for all.During his election campaign, Walker received the maximum $15,000 contribution from Koch Industries,
according to Think Progress, and support worth untold hundreds of thousands from the Koch-funded astroturf group, Americans For Prosperity." -- Adele M. Stan, Alternet

Monday, February 07, 2011

Goodbye, yellow brick road

From our friends at BuzzFlash:

Robert Kuttner just wrote a column in which he stated "America's corporations no longer need America's workers."

As BuzzFlash has recently criticized, President Obama's response has been to appoint the CEO of GE, an expert at exporting jobs and avoiding corporate taxes, to be his "jobs czar."

Even more detrimental to those in disproportionate need of work, Obama is going to cut federal assistance for grassroots organizations that aid the impoverished.

Click here for more BuzzFlash headlines

Sunday, February 06, 2011

The Conservative Class War Continued

by Eric Alterman, The Nation

"Can it be mere coincidence that the right-wing media promoted this phony-baloney story at a moment when, as Charles Loveless, legislative director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, points out, conservatives are 'readying a massive assault' on the pensions and benefits of these same employees? Led by Newt Gingrich, conservatives are floating the notion that states should be allowed to declare bankruptcy to escape their pension obligations to firefighters, cops, teachers and, yes, sanitation workers. The assault on public employee unions is the next phase of a forty-year class war in America by the rich against the rest of us. It is of a piece with the steady dismantling of our progressive taxation system and the explosion of economic inequality." Read the Article

Is Ginni Thomas Getting Rich Off Clarence Thomas' Supreme Court Decisions?

by Ian Millhiser, Think Progress

"Supreme Court spouse Ginni Thomas has a new job — as the head of a Tea Party lobbying firm called ‘Liberty Consulting.’ Her new firm, which promises to give ‘voice to principled citizens and the tea party movement in the halls of Congress through governmental affairs efforts’ also offers very unusual service to its clients: Liberty Consulting offers advice on optimizing political investments for charitable giving in the non-profit world or political causes.Ginni Thomas’ new career advising clients on how to donate money to political causes is striking in light of the fact that this career path was much more difficult to break into just one year ago. In Citizens United v. FEC, Ginni’s husband Clarence cast the key fifth vote enabling corporations to spend unlimited money influencing U.S. elections. As a result of this vote, outside groups spent nearly $300 million influencing the 2010 elections — much of which would have been illegal before Justice Thomas greenlighted this spending."
Read the Article