Tim Cook, Apple, and Runaway Limitless Corporate Greed

Photograph Source: Mike Deerkoski – CC BY 2.0

David Gelles, the New York Times reporter, likes to report about corporate plutocrats raking it in while stifling or endangering their workers. We’ve all seen those large advertisements by big companies praising the sacrifices of their brave workers during this Covid-19 pandemic. When workers ask for living wages, most of these bosses say “No” but take plenty of dough for themselves.

Gelles reports that Boeing, after its criminal negligence brought down two 737 MAX planes and killed 346 people, went into a corporate tailspin. The company laid off 30,000 workers and its sales and stocks plummeted as it reported a $12 billion loss. No matter, the new Boeing boss, David Calhoun, managed to pay himself about $10,500 an hour, forty hours a week, plus benefits and perks.

“Executives are minting fortunes, while laid-off workers line up at food banks,” writes Gelles. Carefully chosen Boards of Directors rubberstamp lavish compensation packages, as they haul in big money themselves for attending a few Board meetings.

It gets worse. Hilton Hotel had many rooms empty due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But CEO Chris Nassetta made sure his pockets weren’t empty. He was paid $55.9 million in compensation in 2020 or more than a million dollars a week!

Gelles goes on to report that with “the cruise industry at a standstill…,” the Norwegian Cruise Line, “doubled the pay of Frank Del Rio, its chief executive, to $36.4 million.” That is more than $700,000 per week. He must have worked overtime counting empty ships and red ink.

T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint got government antitrust approval with the assurance that more jobs would be created with cost savings. Instead, they’re starting layoffs while awarding CEO Mike Sievert over a million dollars a week. Sometimes, CEOs make more dollars from their company than the entire company itself makes in profits. Companies that lay off workers pay their top executives huge amounts, and still have the avarice to demand and get federal stimulus grants.

On March 22, the New York Times reported a new analysis by IRS researchers and academics about tax evasion by the richest 1% of U.S. households. Taken as a whole, these super-rich don’t even report a fifth of their income, according to this study. The ultra-wealthy get away with this heist by offshoring to tax havens and pass-through businesses. Adding to this unlawful evasion is their upper-class power over Congress to rig the tax laws so they can avoid even more taxes.

The Republicans, by starving the IRS budget and audit staff over the past decade, have aided and abetted enormous tax evasions. Curiously, the cowardly Democrats have not made this an issue in their campaigns against the GOP. Hundreds of billions of dollars a year are at stake.

Trump, of course, made matters worse. ProPublica found the IRS audited the poor at around the same rate as the richest Americans.

Big Corporations make out like no mere individuals. Earlier this month, the New York Times told its readers that The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) study revealed: “55 of the nation’s largest corporations paid no federal income tax on more than $40 billion in profits last year.” These companies even received $3.5 billion in rebates from the Treasury Department, so zany are the fine-print tax bonanzas.

Twenty-six corporations paid no federal income taxes since 2017, according to the ITEP study. These included Nike and FedEx.

Corporations get lots of these tax breaks by arguing before Congress that they need them to invest and create jobs. Repeatedly, these promises turn out to be false. Some have called them lies, citing profits totaling over 7 trillion dollars in the past decade being shredded in buybacks of the companies’ own stock.

Apple, whose quasi-monopoly reaps huge quarterly profits, just announced another $90 billion in stock buybacks. Apple doesn’t know what to do with its cash from vastly overpriced computers and iPhones. Apple, not surprisingly, pays very little in federal income taxes to Uncle Sam – despite the U.S. being the land of its birth and source of ample R & D corporate welfare paid for by U.S. taxpayers.

CEO Tim Cook, arguably the most miserly CEO plutocrat in America, turns a deaf ear to health, labor, and environmental specialists pleading with him to address the solid waste of its junked electronic products and pay its serf-labor in China a living wage. These two expenditures would not consume 10 percent of Apple’s enormous profits. To which, Emperor Cook says no dice.

Testifying before the Senate Finance Committee, Kimberly A. Clausing, a U.S. Treasury official, said according to the Washington Post, that while other wealthy nations typically raise roughly 3 percent of GDP through corporate taxes, in the United States that share fell to just 1 percent following the 2017 Trump tax cut−all while corporate profits, as a share of U.S. GDP, were setting records.

The usual progressive members of Congress issue denunciations of this whole corporate, ultra-rich tax escape racket. Nearly 7 in 10 Americans believe corporations pay too little in taxes, according to Gallup polling. Unfortunately, nothing happens in Congress to address this injustice.

When are the American people going to move on to Congress and their Big Boy paymasters? When the plutocratic class evades taxes, either there are fewer public services, more public deficits, or higher taxes on the middle class. As Joe Biden says – they must pay “their fair share.” People, use your civic muscle to make your members of Congress act and do it, now!

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

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