FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Nike Blackmails Oregon

by BEN SCHREINER

At the behest of Nike, Oregon hastily convened a special one-day legislative session on Friday in order to ensure the global behemoth retains its preferential tax status in the state.

The spectacle of an emergency legislative session to pass a tax break for a single company was prompted by Nike threats to take a planned expansion out of state. As Nike warned, other states are “heavily courting” the company.

Not wanting to “lose” Nike, which houses its 200-acre corporate headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber eagerly called a special session and deemed cowing to Nike threats a “no-brainer.” And with the support of Democrats, and calls from lawmakers to “just do it,” the Nike tax break easily passed both legislative chambers—the demands of Nike lobbyists codified by Oregon legislators into law.

Under the terms of the Nike tax-break deal, Oregon’s governor is now free to reach an agreement with the company in which the state will guarantee no changes to Nike’s current tax status will occur over the next 30 years in return for a company promise of 500 new jobs and a $150 million expansion.

Of course if one listens to the governor and Nike, the planned expansion will ultimately lead to 12,000 direct and indirect jobs and boost the state’s economy by $2 billion annually. Naturally, such rosy projections come from an “independent” economic study commission by none other than Nike. The data of the study, meanwhile, remains hidden from the public.

The sudden urgency Nike proclaimed in seeking to lock-in its current tax status stemmed certainly in part from a need to mask such shoddy claims from public scrutiny. It also, though, derived from a desire to protect another sweetheart tax deal it had previously wrested from the state.

Back in 2001, once again under pressure from Nike lobbyists, Oregon began to phase in a “single-sales factor” tax formula. This formula leaves only a company’s in-state sales taxable by the state—a boon for multinationals like Nike. In fact, according to the Oregon Center on Public Policy, this changed formula saved Nike $143.2 million in Oregon taxes from 2005-2009. That equates to a 90 percent reduction in the company’s state tax burden.

Still, prior to Nike’s Friday victory, the future of its privileged tax status was appearing slightly more tenuous. For amid drastic cuts to public education, social services, and mounting furlough days for state employees, Oregonians have demonstrated a repeated eagerness to increase taxes on corporations.

In November, for example, Oregon voters passed Measure 85, reforming the state’s rather inane “corporate kicker.” Under the provisions of the old kicker, all tax collections exceeding state revenue projections by 2 percent or more over a two year span were rebated to corporate taxpayers. Now, that rebate is slated to go for public education.

The reform of the state’s corporate kicker follows on the success in 2010 of state Measures 66 and 67, which saw voters pass modest tax increases on corporations and the state’s wealthy. In an op-ed appearing in the Oregonian newspaper at the time, Nike co-founder Phil Knight deemed the measures to be “anti-business, anti-success, anti-inspirational, anti-humanitarian,” among other things.

Nike’s most recent shakedown, however, now preempts any future citizen initiative which could have potentially targeted the company’s privileged tax status. It appears all inspirational humanitarians can now rest at ease.

Of course, corporate extortion of the kind Nike employed against Oregon is nothing new. Doling out corporate tax breaks in return for dubious corporate promises of jobs is a growing national trend. A recent New York Times series on corporate subsidies, for instance, found that state and local governments in the U.S. relinquish an estimated $80 billion every year in corporate tax incentives. At the same time, as the paper reported, state and local governments were forced to cut public services and raise taxes by a combined $156 billion last year.

In Oregon, the special Nike tax break comes at a time when the austerity fetish has led the governor is seek a cap on cost of living increases for current retirees enrolled in the state’s Public Employees Retirement System. But such is the real nature of the bipartisan dictum of “shared sacrifice.”

As Sheldon Wolin writes in his book Democracy Inc., we are living in “a system that represents the political coming-of-age of corporate power.”

“Exit the citizen,” Wolin writes, “enter the corporate actor.”

And in the age of corporate power, the brazen blackmail of a state government by a private corporation is not held to be a disgrace, nor even the least bit troubling. Instead, it’s merely business as usual.

The corporate actor now reigns supreme; all hail the corporate actor. As Oregon State Senator Ginny Burdick gushed on Friday of Nike, what a “wonderful, wonderful company.”

Ben Schreiner is a freelance writer based in Wisconsin.  He may be reached at bnschreiner@gmail.com or via his website.

Ben Schreiner is the author of A People’s Dictionary to the ‘Exceptional Nation’.  He may be reached at bnschreiner@gmail.com or via his blog.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
Lawrence Davidson
Moral Failure at the UN
Pete Dolack
World Bank Declares Itself Above the Law
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Israel’s Human Rights Spies
Patrick Cockburn
From Paris to London: Another City, Another Attack
Ralph Nader
Reason and Justice Address Realities
Ramzy Baroud
‘Decolonizing the Mind’: Using Hollywood Celebrities to Validate Islam
Colin Todhunter
Monsanto in India: The Sacred and the Profane
Louisa Willcox
Grizzlies Under the Endangered Species Act: How Have They Fared?
Norman Pollack
Militarization of American Fascism: Trump the Usurper
Pepe Escobar
North Korea: The Real Serious Options on the Table
Brian Cloughley
“These Things Are Done”: Eavesdropping on Trump
Sheldon Richman
You Can’t Blame Trump’s Military Budget on NATO
Carol Wolman
Trump vs the People: a Psychiatrist’s Analysis
Stanley L. Cohen
The White House . . . Denial and Cover-ups
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Marines to Kill Desert Tortoises
Farhang Jahanpour
America’s Woes, Europe’s Responsibilities
Joseph Natoli
March Madness Outside the Basketball Court
Bill Willers
Volunteerism; Charisma; the Ivy League Stranglehold: a Very Brief Trilogy
Bruce Mastron
Slaughtered Arabs Don’t Count
Ayesha Khan
The Headscarf is Not an Islamic Compulsion
Pauline Murphy
Unburied Truth: Exposing the Church’s Iron Chains on Ireland
Ron Jacobs
Music is Love, Music is Politics
Christopher Brauchli
Prisoners as Captive Customers
Robert Koehler
The Mosque That Disappeared
Franklin Lamb
Update from Madaya
Dan Bacher
Federal Scientists Find Delta Tunnels Plan Will Devastate Salmon
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Gig Economy: Which Side Are You On?
Louis Proyect
What Caused the Holodomor?
Max Mastellone
Seeking Left Unity Through a Definition of Progressivism
Charles R. Larson
Review: David Bellos’s “Novel of the Century: the Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables”
David Yearsley
Ear of Darkness: the Soundtracks of Steve Bannon’s Films
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail