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Carl Gibson

Carl Gibson

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America Needs Taxes

Posted: 06/ 1/11 04:58 PM ET

What do USAA, CVS Caremark, Costco, UnitedHealth Group and Berkshire Hathaway all have in common?

They're all multi-billion dollar American corporations that pay their fair share of taxes and don't hide their money offshore. In fact, if you combined the federal tax receipts of just these five corporations, that accounts for more than $7 billion. Theoretically, that money paid for 175,000 teachers at $40,000 a year, or for the guaranteed healthcare for sick and injured 9/11 first responders outlined in the Zadroga bill.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. said "Taxes are the price we pay for civilized society." Taxes have paid for everything from the interstate system to national parks, the moon landing and the liberation of France. In fact, Eisenhower, a Republican, presided over an era where corporate taxes accounted for a quarter of all federal tax receipts, and the richest Americans still enjoyed their wealth while paying a 90% top tax rate. Americans were never more prosperous as a whole than during that era. Now, loopholes and lobbying have lowered the top tax rate to its lowest point since the Truman era, and corporate tax dollars only count for 5-7% of all federal tax receipts.

After the Great Depression, our leaders had a vision for America. They fought to see ours was a country where everyone was afforded the opportunity for free basic education, an affordable home, a steady income and free healthcare for the poor and the elderly. FDR took to the airwaves in his last months of life to push for a second bill of rights that guaranteed all of these things and more. MLK called for an economic bill of rights to be drafted in 1967 that guaranteed Americans a fair standard of living.

Instead, the American people who pay taxes and abide by the laws put before us are seeing these essential pillars of American democratic society crumble to pieces. The same corporations who pay for the campaigns of our elected officials and own the mainstream media are instead allowed the opportunity to not only avoid paying their fair share to participate in society, but also to spend millions lobbying our leaders to continue avoiding their obligation.

We're constantly bombarded by rhetoric about how businesses are "obligated" by their shareholders to avoid taxes at all costs. Talking heads on TV constantly deride America's corporate tax rate, calling for it to be lowered so we can be more "competitive." Yet, the aforementioned corporations paid close to, and in some cases more than America's marginal 35% corporate tax rate. And each year, they continue to be extremely profitable without dodging taxes through offshore accounts.

What if today's corporations abided by a more sustainable business culture, where taxes are seen as an investment in their country rather than something to avoid? What if those investments could pay for nationwide poverty relief? Or cross-country green energy infrastructure? If NASA had the money to carry out a Mars landing, instead of a moon landing? If we could guarantee high-quality free public education to ALL students, regardless of zip code.

If an American business wants to employ our workers, use our infrastructure, and depend on us to make them prosperous, they should be required to pay our taxes. Our leaders must reform our tax laws to reinforce that standard. Let's hold government and businesses accountable to the American people -- the real shareholders.

 

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