A judicious writer avoids adjectives like "mind-blowing," especially when covering political or economic issues. But no other word seems to describe the stunning reality of corporate taxation in modern America, which cries out for the italics-heavy, exclamation-point-driven format made famous by "Ripley's Believe It or Not."
Stylistic overkill? Read these 13 facts and you may change your mind.
1. We're told we can't "afford" full Social Security benefits, even though closing corporate tax-haven loopholes would pay for Obama's "chained CPI" benefit cut more than 10 times over!
Abusive offshore tax havens cost the U.S. $150 billion in lost tax revenue every year (via FACT Coalition). That's $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years.
The "chained CPI" cut, proposed by President Obama and supported by Republicans, is projected to "save" a total of $122 billion to $130 billion over the same time period by denying benefits to seniors and disabled people.
It's true. "Serious" politicians and pundits are demanding that ordinary people sacrifice earned benefits, while at the same time allowing corporations to avoid more than 10 times as much in taxes.
2. Corporate tax rates are near their 60-year low, even though profits are at a 60-year high!
Need we say more?
(Source: Americans for Tax Fairness.)
3. Wells Fargo got $8 billion in tax breaks, even as executives at its subsidiary Wachovia avoided indictment for laundering money for the Mexican drug cartels!
That's right. Wells Fargo paid a negative tax rate of -1.4 percent between 2008 and 2010 while Wachovia, a Wells Fargo subsidiary, admitted to laundering more than $378 billion for Mexican drug gangs.
We're talking about crazed killers like "El Loco" and gangs like "Los Zetas" -- gangs who cut people's heads off and toss them out onto disco dance floors or display them in the town square.
Wachovia bankers ignored repeated warnings from law enforcement officials, and continued to launder money for cartels that have murdered tens of thousands.
And yet no criminal indictments were handed down because, as a Senate investigator told Bloomberg News, "There's no capacity to regulate or punish them because they're too big to be threatened with failure."
4. Some other huge corporations paid less than nothing, too.
Pepco Holdings (-57.6 percent tax rate)
General Electric (-45.3 percent)
DuPont (-3.4 percent)
Verizon (-2.9 percent)
Boeing (-1.8 percent)
Honeywell (-0.7 percent)
(Source: Citizens for Tax Justice)
5. The amount of money U.S. corporations are holding offshore is an estimated $1.6 trillion!
Rather than tax these profits the way other countries do, corporate politicians are promoting a tax "repatriation" break that would let corporations "bring this money home" while paying even less than their currently low rates.
They tried that in 2004 and it didn't create any jobs. In fact, corporations took the tax break and then fired thousands of people. What "repatriation" did do is line a lot of wealthy investors' pockets.
So, naturally, they want to do it again.
6. One building in the Cayman Islands is the official location of 18,857 corporations!
According to the Government Accountability Office, a five-story building called "Ugland House" is home to nearly 20,000 corporations. That's impressive, especially for such a small edifice. (Perhaps it has supernatural half-floors and space-time defying "mind tunnels" like the office in "Being John Malkovich.")
While impressive, Ugland House's distinction pales next to that of 1209 North Orange Street in Wilmington, Dela. According to one investigation, that address is home to 217,000 corporations.
That's because Delaware has very generous tax rules -- and, as a result, is home to more than half of all the corporate subsidiaries in the United States.That's startling, since only 1/342 of the nation's population lives in that state (917,092 residents, out of a national total of 313,914,040, according to the latest census results).
7. Conservatives complain about the "official" corporate tax rate in this country, but corporations actually pay roughly one-third of the official rate in actual taxes.
The official, or "statutory," corporate tax rate is 35 percent. But the actual rate paid by American corporations is only 12 percent, less than that paid by many middle-class Americans.
(Source: The FACT Coalition.)
In fact, U.S. corporations pay less tax as a percentage of the GDP than corporations in Canada. Or Japan ...
... or South Korea. Or Norway. Or Luxembourg, New Zealand, Israel, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Belgium, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Finland, and Italy.
(Source: OECD StatsExtract interactive database.)
8. Corporations used to pay 30 percent of federal taxes, and now they pay less than 7 percent!
That's because the corporate tax rate has plunged since Dwight D. Eisenhower was president and is now the lowest it's been in modern history.
(Source: FACT Coalition.)
9. Big corporations paid $216 million to Congress and got $223 billion in tax breaks!
As Citizens for Tax Justice and USPIRG reported, 280 large and profitable corporations contributed $216 million to congressional campaigns over four election cycles and got nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars in tax breaks.
That's a terrific investment for them -- a return of more than a thousand to one -- but it's a bad deal for the American people.
10. We don't even know who owns some corporations, even though that makes it easier to evade taxes, dodge creditors, avoid paying alimony or child support, and even fund terrorism!
Here are some examples of investments that might represent a terror threat. Corporate interests are blocking disclosure rules that would help protect our national security.
11. Bank of America committed foreclosure fraud, was bailed out by the government, and then paid no taxes on $4.4 billion in profit!
That's right. In 2010, while BofA was negotiating a sweet settlement deal for its foreclosure fraud, it paid nothing in taxes. (Source: FACT Coalition.) Zero, on $17.2 billion in offshore earnings. (Source: Americans for Tax Fairness.)
Its $4.1 billion tax break came on the heels of the bank's taxpayer-funded bailout, immunity from prosecution for its criminal employees, and a cushy government settlement for its foreclosure fraud.
Now David Dayen reports that the bank has apparently continued to defraud customers in violation of its government settlement. Whistle-blowers have stated in affidavits that they were "told to lie" to customers, continued to deceive homeowners before foreclosing on them, and flipped customers to new servicing companies to invalidate previous homeowner agreements.
12. What they call "tax reform" would actually prevent our elected representatives from giving businesses financial incentives to improve our lives!
The word "reform" is an honorable one that's been put to some dishonorable uses lately. "Entitlement reform," for example, is merely a euphemism for gutting Social Security and Medicare.
Similarly, corporate-backed politicians are pushing a formula for permanent corporate tax breaks and calling it "tax reform." They insist their "reform" be "revenue neutral" and say it will "broaden the base while lowering the rate."
Here's an English translation: The current, unsustainably low rates for corporations would be made permanent, while eliminating many tax deductions in the name of "simplification."
Here's what that really means: The domestic tax credit for creating jobs? Gone. Tax breaks for protecting the environment with clean energy, rather than harming other people's health and leaving a mess for the rest of us to clean up? Gone.
All in all we'd lose dozens of important policies that make our lives better, while permanently fixing corporate taxes at today's cushy giveaway rates.
"Reform"? Rip-off is more like it.
13. Despite their greed, mismanagement and freeloading, tax-dodging corporations are using shell organizations like "Fix the Debt" and "the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget" to tell ordinary Americans they have to sacrifice even more to preserve corporate wealth!
These organizations are using the heads of failed banks -- people like Chase's Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs -- to dispense "advice on the economy." That's like getting navigation tips from the captain of the Exxon Valdez.
(Tax breaks for Exxon Mobil: $4.1 billion between 2008 and 2010. The company paid no taxes at all in 2009.)
These executives and their paid spokespeople tell the rest of us we need to "sacrifice" and "tighten our belts" so that their party can go on forever. And too often they're treated as credible sources, rather than as corrupting influences on our public life.
It's all true -- and there are many more astonishing facts to be found in the world of corporate taxation. To fix the economy more people will need to learn about them -- and demand that they be changed.
The writer and analyst in me wants to apologize for all the italicizing and all those exclamation points. But the American citizen in me wants to shout the truth out for all the world to hear -- believe it or not!