By Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa
Published in the Detroit News on April 13, 2011
Some of the biggest U.S. corporations pay no taxes at all though they drive the roads, fly from the airports, call the police when there's trouble, summon the Coast Guard to clean up their oil spills, use the State Department to negotiate their trade deals, take billions from the Treasury when they’re about to collapse and rely on the military to protect their overseas factories, offices and oil fields.
General Electricmade $5.1 billion in the U.S. last year and didn’t pay a cent in federal taxes.
Chevron made $10 billion last year, paid no taxes and got a $19 million rebate from the IRS.
Nobody likes taxes, but most Americans understand that prosperity depends on educated and healthy workers. Most Americans understand that a decent and self-interested society teaches its children, cares for its sick, feeds its hungry, helps its poor and finds dignified work for everyone who needs a job.
But corporations aren't people and they have no loyalty to America. As their power grows, they give less and less to support our society. Corporate taxes contributed6.6 percent of federal taxes in 2009, down from 30 percent in the mid-1950s.
Last November, corporations brought a new breed of political stooge to Congress and to statehouses across the country. These “corporate-ticians” don’t even pretend to care about American workers. Corporations want more, so they give it to them. Corporations want workers to have less, so they take it away from them.
Last week, a Wisconsin Republican, Rep. Paul Ryan, proposed killing Medicare and Social Security so CEOs pay fewer taxes. Michigan Republicans propose taxing pensions and slashing education to pay for a corporate tax cut.
No one questions that we have budget problems. And it’s clear that America is in serious trouble. But until we tackle the real problem, we’re going to stay stuck in reverse.
The real problem is that corporations got too rich and too powerful over the past 30 years. President Reagan gave American corporations the green light to throw American workers overboard. Now we’re living with the consequences. We suffer from enormous inequality, an unbalanced economy that isn’t creating good jobs and governments starved of resources.
Most Americans are poorer now than they were in 1983. The Economic Policy Institute reports median household wealth fell 14 percent between 1983 and 2009, from $71,900 to $62,200.
One in three American families is flat broke or close to it, according to EPI. Thirty-seven percent of U.S. households have less than $12,000 in net worth.
An economic “recovery” started 18 months ago. But never in our history have so many Americans been unable to feed their families. Todaythere are 42.4 million Americans on food stamps. That’s more than the entire population of Argentina.
We still have one way to reverse America’s decline. We can vote. The corporations may have the money and the power, but there are more of us than there are of them. The ballot box may be the only place left where we can force corporate freeloaders to start sharing the sacrifice to solve our country’s problems.
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