A Box of Soap
By DON VOWELL
You may be wondering how to tell if you are a corporation or a person. Mitt Romney’s early campaign statement that “Corporations are people, my friend” blurred the dividing lines a little. The Supreme Court decision that money spent on elections is free speech whether it comes from a citizen or a corporation also makes the differences less distinct. We are here to help.
Here’s an item from May 23rd’s morning business section – “The price of oil fell near $94 a barrel Wednesday as U.S. crude oil supplies fell less than expected and demand for gasoline remained weak. Benchmark crude for July delivery declined $1.90 to close at $94.28 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.”
You might expect that the cost of gas would go down on that news. Well no, the law of supply and demand is not applied equally to persons and corporations. If you are a person buying gas on River Road, you have noticed a price spike of more than 30 cents a gallon in the last several weeks. If you are a corporation, you have the supply, and can demand whatever price you like. As a corporation you can trot out the annual excuses – switching to summer blend, or refinery shut down for maintenance, or repairing damage from a small refinery fire. If you are a person, locally, you can count on two things year in and year out – Memorial Day will be cold and wet, and gasoline will cost more.
If you are a person instead of a corporation your treatment from the U.S. tax code may be a little rougher. If you told the IRS auditor that, because you had a home in Ireland, you declared your income in that nation, which relieves you of your U.S. tax liability, he would arrest you. He would explain that you live in the United States, enjoy the benefits of utilities, roads, security, and people who gave their lives for your freedom, and should willingly share in supporting that nation.
If you are a corporation, say, for instance, Apple, you can invent hollow corporations all over the planet and pay very low taxes on whatever amount you choose to name as taxable U.S. income. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, was righteously indignant when challenged at a Senate subcommittee hearing. He assured the senators that Apple had paid every dime of taxes for which they were legally obligated. Sen. Rand Paul went so far as to congratulate him for Apple’s ingenuity. That is the truth.
The other truth is that corporations have so successfully used corporate lobbying to secure tax breaks and exceptions that the U.S. tax code is impermeable to logic or fairness. When Apple says they obeyed all tax laws, they don’t mention the corporate lobbying it took to create those sweetheart laws.
I never understand the debate about privatization of government services. Your government is privatized, owned by corporations. In the face of tax obligations, those corporations don’t even claim to be American corporations. Since the 1950s the corporate share of federal tax revenues has fallen from four dollars out of every 10 to just one dollar out of every 10.
If you are a corporation you are in a time of record profits and Wall Street highs. If you are a person you see persistently high unemployment rates and wages somewhere between stagnant and falling. You’d best get down to the courthouse and incorporate if you ever hope to amount to anything.
(Don Vowell lives Keizer and gets on his soapbox in the Keizertimes.)