Wednesday, August 31, 2011

It's Time To Tax

The following story appeared in Reuters and made my stomach turn.

Some U.S. firms paid more to CEOs than taxes: study

 Here's an excerpt:

"Compensation for the 25 CEOs with pay surpassing corporate taxes averaged $16.7 million, according to the study, compared to a $10.8 million average for S&P 500 CEOs. Among the companies topping the IPS list:

* eBay whose CEO John Donahoe made $12.4 million, but which reported a $131 million refund on its 2010 current U.S. taxes.
* Boeing, which paid CEO Jim McNerney $13.8 billion, sent in $13 million in federal income taxes, and spent $20.8 million on lobbying and campaign spending
* General Electric where CEO Jeff Immelt earned $15.2 million in 2010, while the company got a $3.3 billion federal refund and invested $41.8 million in its own lobbying and political campaigns.

Though the companies come from different industries, their tax breaks fall into two primary areas.

Two-thirds of the firms studied kept their taxes low by utilizing offshore subsidiaries in tax havens such as Bermuda, Singapore and Luxembourg. The remaining companies benefited from accelerated depreciation."

I can fully understand Warren Buffet's call for more (and better structured) taxation.  And how else can the U.S. ever get out from under the massive debt pile?

Look at the chart below.  If we merely revert to more historically "normal" tax receipts as a percentage of GDP (excluding social insurance which is a completely different issue) the extra revenue will come to some 4% of GDP, or $900 billion per year.  The federal budget deficit in 2010 was $1.17 trillion.

 Chart: The Big Picture

US Tax Revenue as a Fraction of GDP by Component


  1. Corporations are owned by people and those people pay taxes.

    I don't get very concerned by corporate taxation.

    What I hate is the legal fiction that corporations are "people". That's where a lot of this problem lies.

    My issue is more metaphysical than economic.

  2. By the time the tangled web of ownership gets un-tangled down to the actual, physical person owning the corporation, tax has been minimized down to nothing.

    In other words, "these people" DON'T pay taxes...

  3. And to top it all of "these people" have been allowed to buy off the majority of the Supreme Court.

  4. If you raise the tax on the richest 1% by 2% ~(i.e. a very small raise that impacts meaningfully on nothing, or perhaps, a couple of feet off the new yacht) you get the same affect as taxing the bottom 50% by an EXTRA 40% (i.e. half of everything they earn, money that will impact on food / shelter levels)

    You don't even have to raise anything, just close some of the sillier loop holes.

    I know what I'd do... Make yachts from poor people!

  5. Hi hell,

    The following story appeared in Reuters and made my stomach turn.

    Of course this is something that is unacceptable here in continental Europe. But I understand that US is different!

    What shocked me even more is the following :

    As reported by the Spiegel, the finance sector aka banking would account for 40% of the profit made by corporate America.

    Yes 40% would be related to the handling of money.

    Do you know whether this figure - also mentioned in some US democrat circles by the way - is exact?

    Should that be true, this is exactly a TAXATION system.

    Sure, in view of the way capital has been allocated to investments and markets since 1997 that was worth that level of sophistication and brain injection...

    Yes, indeed, the American capitalist system is dead as Soviets would say. But not exactly starved.

  6. Just out of curiosity....
    What happens to the take home pay of the CEO'S who are flesh and blood people and not institutions ?
    Do they stick it into the bank ? Get stock options with it ?
    Do they even, perhaps, PRIVATELY GIVE SOME OF IT (how much ?) TO CHARITIES WHERE IT WORKS TOWARDS THE PUBLIC GOOD (in rather altruistic fashion, I might add...) ?
    Taxation shows our faith in the social institutional way of solving COMMON human problems.
    Personally, I have lost my faith in the ABSTRACT IMPERSONAL INSTITUTIONAL solutions that have made me feel more and more like COGS IN A BIG MACHINE than like flesh and blood human beings on this earth for a little while.
    Granted that this position is radical and marginal.
    But I think that my disgruntledness is shared by many at this time.
    Tired of the shoal of fish...
    Sorry to sound contradictory on this issue.
    Just a short while ago I was saying that TAKING PERMANENT DIGS AT TAXATION ultimately was an attack on the very idea of government.
    Certainly our Western ideas of the State go hand in hand with the AUTOMATIC ASSUMPTION of the necessity of taxation to fund it.
    Are there other ways to work ?
    I don't know.

  7. "Before you reach Greece, number 8 on the list with a mere 2.5%, you are already up to 89.99% of total GDP. That is to say, the "black sheep of the family" is a relative spiffle and its fiscal troubles should have been dealt with firmly and - most importantly - FAST."

    LOL Hell. Aren't you essentially saying that if Bernanke dealt with subprime loan issue fast in March 2007, we would still have our brothers (Lehman) alive?

  8. the above comment is from me..


  9. Pay no attention to that chart up there, distract, obfuscate, and ignore. That's the way you do it, money for nothing...

    Let us see what the chart is telling us: Social taxes increased about 250% and corporate taxes decreased about 50%, yet the cries in Washington are about how we have to cut these oppressive social programs!

    Pay no attention to trillion dollar wars and trillion dollar military budgets, reduced taxes for the uber rich and corporations. It is Grandma's fault for drawing down decent health care and a subsistence check every month, after paying into the system her whole life. Yeah that's our big wasteful spending here!

    you can't imagine a more absurd script.

  10. So now the best way to increase profits, isn't to fixate on taxation, but CEO compensation.

  11. I really hate tax month and not interested in any issue out of it so I used to pay it fairly.You have shared an experience by this story so well.Thanks for such post.