FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Great Corporate Tax Shift

by JACK RASMUS

The great corporate myth-making machine has been hard at work of late, attempting to create the false impression that US corporations are increasingly uncompetitive with their foreign rivals due to the fact they pay much higher corporate taxes in the US and abroad than their capitalist counterparts.  But that is one of the great myths perpetrated by corporate apologists, pundits and their politician friends.  The myth is high in the pantheon of conscious falsifications their marketing machines feed the American public, right up there along with such other false notions that ‘business tax cuts create jobs’, ‘free trade benefits everyone’,  ‘income inequality is due to a worker’s own low productivity contribution’, ‘overpaid public workers are the cause of states’ budget deficits’, or that ‘social security and medicare are going broke’.

If corporate America can create and sell the idea that they pay more taxes than their offshore capitalist cousins, then they are half way home to getting their paid politicians to provide them still more corporate tax cuts—a proposal by the way that both Republicans and Obama are on record for, in their joint proposal to reduce the top corporate tax rate from 35% to 28% (Obama) or 25% (Republicans).

The message of too high corporate taxes is appearing more frequently nowadays, since actual legislation for big corporate tax cuts is now working its way through Congress.  Driving the legislation are Teaparty favorites in the House of Representatives, like David Camp, head of the Ways & Means Committee, and Max Baucus, Democrat in the Senate, who is set to retire in 2014 and wants to give his business buddies yet another big cash freebie (you know Max, the guy who rode herd on that Health Insurance Corporation subsidy bill called Obamacare?).

So it’s time to debunk the ‘US Corporations Pay Too Much Taxes’ (and thus need another tax cut) myth. What follows is the first segment of a longer essay—with tables and graphs—on the same topic that will appear shortly in the December issue of ‘Z’ magazine.  More segments of that essay will follow.

US corporations don’t pay the nominal corporate tax rate of 35% today; they pay an effective (i.e. actual) rate of only 12%.  The additional effective state-wide corporate income tax they pay amounts to only a 2% or so—not the 10% they claim. And the effective corporate tax on offshore earnings is only another 2.2% or so—not the 20% average they’ll complain. So the total US tax for US corporations is barely 16%–not the 35% plus 10% (state) plus 20% (offshore) nominal tax rate.  And however you cut it, the story is the same: US corporations’ share of total federal tax revenues have been in freefall for decades. The share of corporate taxes as a percent of GDP and national income has halved over the decades.  And corporations since 2008 have realized record level profits during the ‘Obama Recovery’—while their taxes as a percent of profits since 2008 is half that of the average paid as recently as 1987-2007.  Okay, more detail on all that in parts 2 and 3 to follow.

For the moment, what all the corporate tax cutting to date has produced is a mountain of corporate cash.  US Corporations today in fact are sitting on more than $10 TRILLION in cash!

For example, even the US business press admits today that US multinational corporations have diverted more than $2 trillion to their offshore subsidiaries, to avoid paying the U.S. Corporate Income Tax. (watch for parts 2 and 3 of to follow for how they do this).

In addition to the $2 trillion now diverted by US multinational corporations offshore, after having paid federal taxes another $1 trillion is now held as cash on hand by the 1,000 largest nonfinancial companies based in the U.S. as of mid-2013, an increase of 61% in the past five years, according to a study by the REL Consulting Group.

For financial companies, deposits in US banks are currently at a record $10.6 trillion, while bank loans outstanding have been declining since 2008 and are now at a record low of $7.58 trillion—thus leaving US banks sitting on a cash hoard of nearly $3 trillion according to the Wall St. Journal.  That’s a total of more than $7 trillion so far.

This record after-tax cash exists despite corporations having bought back their stock and paid dividends worth trillions more since 2008.  Corporate buybacks of stock since 2009 passed the $1 trillion mark in 2012, according to a survey by Rosenblatt Securities—with projections to increase at an even faster rate of $400-$500 billion more in 2013. Corporate dividend payouts equaled another $282 billion in 2012 alone, perhaps at least that amount in years prior, and are today projected to exceed $300 billion in 2013. That’s another $2.5 trillion.

Include hundreds of thousands of US corporations and businesses that are not part of the largest 1000 or who don’t operate offshore—p;us cash socked away in depreciation funds and other special funds for all the above—and that comes to at least another $500 billion.

That $10 trillion corporate total, moreover, doesn’t include still further additional dollars that have been spent by US corporations abroad. While business investment in the US has been declining, total US corporate foreign direct investment is estimated at $4.4 trillion in 2012, up from $3 trillion in 2007 and from $1.3 trillion in 2000. So that’s another roughly $1.4 trillion in corporate income committed offshore since the official ‘end’ of the recession in June 2009.

Add all that up and its well more than $10 trillion in buybacks, payouts, and hoarded cash (onshore and offshore) by US corporations since 2009—i.e. during the sub-par economic recovery (for the rest of us) of the past four years.  That’s corporate income and cash that has been diverted, hoarded, or otherwise not committed to US real investment, and therefore never contributing to jobs, income creation and consumption in the US. No wonder consumption (70% of the US economy) for the bottom 80% households in the US has been stagnating, stalling, or declining in the US in recent years. No wonder all the US economy can do is create low wage, contingent, service jobs, while more than 20 million are still unemployed and uncounted millions more have left the US labor force altogether. No consumption recovery follows declining US investment, while tens of trillions of dollars go elsewhere or sit on the sidelines.

To summarize, at least as much as $10 trillion—and perhaps approaching $12 trillion—has  been taken out, redirected, diverted, or otherwise hoarded by US corporations since the 2008 crash. Keep all that in mind when you next hear politicians from the two wings of the one party system in America—Republicans and Democrats—and their friends in mainstream media trying to justify proposals for still more corporate tax cuts.

Dr. Jack Rasmus is the author of the book, “Obama’s Economy: Recovery for the Few”, published by Pluto Press, London, April 2012. He is the host of the weekly internet radio show from New York, ‘Alternative Visions’, on the Progressive Radio Network, prn.fm. His website is www.kyklosproductions.com and he blogs at jackrasmus.com. His twitter handle is drjackrasmus.    

 

 

 

Jack Rasmus is the author of  ‘Systemic Fragility in the Global Economy’, Clarity Press, 2015. He blogs at jackrasmus.com. His website is www.kyklosproductions.com and twitter handle, @drjackrasmus.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 19, 2017
Melvin Goodman
America’s Russian Problem
Dave Lindorff
Right a Terrible Wrong: Why Obama Should Reverse Himself and Pardon Leonard Peltier
Laura Carlsen
Bringing Mexico to Its Knees Will Not “Make America Great Again”
John W. Whitehead
Nothing is Real: When Reality TV Programming Masquerades as Politics
Yoav Litvin
Time to Diss Obey: the Failure of Identity Politics and Protest
Mike Whitney
The Trump Speech That No One Heard 
Conn Hallinan
Is Europe Heading for a “Lexit”?
Stephen Cooper
Truth or Twitter? Why Donald Trump Is No John Steinbeck
Binoy Kampmark
Scoundrels of Patriotism: The Freeing of Chelsea Manning
Ramzy Baroud
The Balancing Act is Over: What Elor Azaria Taught Us about Israel
Josh Hoxie
Why Health Care Repeal is a Stealth Tax Break for Millionaires
Kim C. Domenico
It’s High Time for a Politics of Desire
Shamus Cooke
Inauguration Day and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
More and More Lousy
David Swanson
Samantha Power Can See Russia from Her Padded Cell
Kevin Carson
Right to Work and the Apartheid State
Malaika H. Kambon
Resisting the Lynching of Haitian Liberty!
January 18, 2017
Gary Leupp
The Extraordinary Array of Those Questioning Trump’s Legitimacy (and Their Various Reasons)
Charles Pierson
Drone Proliferation Ramps Up
Ajamu Baraka
Celebrating Dr. King with the Departure of Barack Obama
David Underhill
Trumpology With a Twist
Chris Floyd
Infinite Jest: Liberals Laughing All the Way to Hell
Stansfield Smith
Obama’s Hidden Role in Worsening Climate Change
Ron Leighton
Trump is Not Hitler: How the Misuse of History Distorts the Present as Well as the Past
Ralph Nader
An Open Letter to President-Elect Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
NATO and Obsolescence: Donald Trump and the History of an Alliance
Zarefah Baroud
‘The Power to Create a New World’: Trump and the Environmental Challenge Ahead
Julian Vigo
Obama Must Pardon the Black Panthers in Prison or in Exile
Alfredo Lopez
The Whattsapp Scandal
Clancy Sigal
Russian Hacking and the Smell Test
Terry Simons
The Truth About Ethics and Condoms
January 17, 2017
John Pilger
The Issue is Not Trump, It is Us
John K. White
Is Equality Overrated, Too?
Michael J. Sainato
The DNC Hands the Democratic Party Over to David Brock and Billionaire Donors
John Davis
Landscapes of Shame: America’s National Parks
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Politicians and Rhetorical Tricks
Chris Busby
The Scientific Hero of Chernobyl: Alexey V. Yablokov, the Man Who Dared to Speak the Truth
David Macaray
Four Reasons Trump Will Quit
Chet Richards
The Vicissitudes of the Rural South
Clancy Sigal
“You Don’t Care About Jobs”: Why the Democrats Lost
Robert Dodge
Martin Luther King and U.S. Politics: Time for a U.S. Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Jack Sadat Lee
I Dream of Justice for All the Animal Kingdom
James McEnteer
Mourning Again in America
January 16, 2017
Paul Street
How Pure is Your Hate?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Did the Elites Have Martin Luther King Jr. Killed?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail