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Dave Johnson
"Dave Johnson is a fantastic grandfather of the blogosphere." -- Mike Stark,

Dave Johnson is a Fellow with Campaign for America's Future and a Senior Fellow with Renew California.

Dave is founder and principal author at Seeing the Forest, and a blogger at Speak Out California. He is a frequent public speaker, talk-radio personality and a leading participant in the progressive blogging community.

Before starting Seeing the Forest, Dave had over 20 years of technology industry experience. Recently he helped co-found Carbon Tracing, Inc., the company developing the desktop systems to validate carbon trading in the US. He previously held senior industry positions including CEO and VP of Sales and Marketing. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic, and he was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational applications of personal computers. Send e-mail to Dave. Twitter:

Entries by Dave Johnson

Must Watch: Warren's Warning About the Coming Corporate Tax Giveaway

(38) Comments | Posted November 19, 2015 | 1:35 PM

"It's not that taxes are far too high for giant corporations, as the lobbyists claim. No, the problem is that the revenue generated from corporate taxes is far too low."
- Senator Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren gave a "Change Is In The Air" speech Wednesday, talking about corporate tax reform. If there was ever an Elizabeth Warren speech to see, it is this one.

Warren began by describing how lobbyists and corporate CEOs are swarming Congress and saturating the media with a pitch that says corporations are paying too much in taxes, that this is forcing corporations to flee abroad and the solution is to slash corporate tax rates. This story of overtaxation is told and retold.

Warren says there is just one problem with this: "It's not true."

Actually, on average corporations only pay 20 percent of their income in taxes. Some pay zero. Boeing, GE, and Verizon paid nothing in 5 years while reporting $80 billion in combined profits.

"So what's the problem with our corporate tax code? It's not that taxes are far too high for giant corporations, as the lobbyists claim. No, the problem is that the revenue generated from corporate taxes is far too low.

This trend line is unmistakable. Over the past 60 years corporations contributed a smaller and smaller share of costs of running government. Back in the 1950s, corporations contributed about $3 out of every $10 in federal revenue. Today corporations contribute just $1 out of every $10."

The Amount Is Staggering

Warren said the amount of money the giant corporations have stashed outside the country in tax havens - and the tax bill they would owe - is staggering. They have $2.1 trillion in untaxed profits sitting offshore. This is the same as the combined total earnings of all U.S. corporations in 2013. (This amount of profits in tax havens means these companies owe our government around $620 billion, and this amount is growing by about $90 billion each year now.)

The tax bonus is not shared evenly; it is rigged for the really big guys. "Out of the millions of businesses in the U.S., just 50 corporations hold 75 percent of the $2.1 trillion in untaxed offshore profits. And even in that rarefied air, there's a Tax Dodger Hall of Fame. Just 10 American companies hold more than a third of all those offshore profits," Warren said.

This rigs the game against families and smaller businesses that have to pick up the slack. Families and small U.S. companies pay 17.5 percent. The biggest corporations pay less, even zero.

"They get all the benefits but leave it to families and small businesses to pick up the tax bill," Warren said.

How To Fix Taxes

Warren laid out three principles for tax reform that benefits middle-class families and small businesses, not just wealthy multinational corporation:

1) Increase the share of revenue that corporations pay. The tax code now is so tilted toward the big corporations that any "revenue neutral" plan leaves the country with too little money to fund basic services.

2) Level the playing field between small and big businesses. The business tax code is rigged against small businesses, making it harder for them to compete.

3) Promote investment and jobs in the U.S. Lower tax rates and loopholes for hiding profits overseas encourages more outsourcing of jobs and investment. "Our tax code should protect jobs and investment here at home, period," Warren said.

Instead Congress Is Considering Giving Tax-Dodging Corporations "A Big Wet Kiss"

But instead of changing the tax code to benefit families and smaller businesses, Congress is acting under the influence of CEOs and corporate lobbyists.

"Congress talks to CEOs and their armies of lawyers and lobbyists who are pushing some genuinely terrible ideas," Warren explained. She went on to detail three tax proposals that are getting the most attention:

First, "deemed repatriation." Warren called this "a giant wet kiss for the tax dodgers who have already parked $2.1 trillion overseas. Deemed repatriation says bring home the money, but pay only half of what you owe on it. Or, if the kiss isn't wet enough, some are suggesting the repayment rate should be even less than half, maybe around 14 percent.

"Think about what this means. All the small business owners who have been paying their taxes in full can keep right on paying in full. But the tax dodgers will get a special deal.

"And what's the total price tag for this juicy smooch? Estimates are in the range of $300 to $400 billion paid by U.S. taxpayers."

The second idea in front of Congress is to have a lower offshore tax rate. Maybe 35 percent here, 19 percent there.

"It's like holding up a giant sign that says 'Higher taxes if you invest in the U.S., lower taxes if you invest abroad.' The result would be that every small business and family in America would be subsidizing foreign investments of multinational corporations -- which is a great deal for those multinationals and our foreign competitors, but a terrible deal for us."

The third idea is something corporate tax lobbyists are calling an "innovation box." Companies that say they are "innovating" can pay a lower tax rate. "For big pharmaceutical companies and giant tech companies, a provision like this just makes paying taxes -- or a chunk of taxes -- optional. I strongly support a robust innovation policy - like investing in the NSF (National Science Foundation) and the NIH (National Institutes of Health), funding basic research, and encouraging companies to invest in research -- but the innovation box doesn't do a single thing to encourage new innovation."

The Same Rigged Game

Warren warned that lobbyists are excited about the coming tax reform. "But when I look at the details, I see the same rigged game - a game where Congress hands out billions in benefits to big, well-connected corporations, while people who really could use a break - the millions of middle-class families and small businesses that have been squeezed for decades - are left holding the bag."

And this is where Warren makes the big point:

"And that's what this tax battle is really about: Who does this country work for? Is it just for the rich and the powerful, those who can hire those armies of lobbyists and lawyers? Or can we make this country work for millions of hard-working people?

"This isn't a fair fight. The corporate giants are lined up to make sure tax changes tilt their way. America's working families don't have a zillion-dollar PR team to counter the false claim that corporate taxes are too high. Small businesses don't have a zillion-dollar lobbying organization to fight back against tax giveaways for giant corporations."

Warren ends by saying she hopes people will pay close attention.

Also, in the Q&A Warren gives the best outline of what has led to the rigged game and the terrible inequality we have today. It is a must-watch.

Americans for Tax Fairness has produced a booklet of 16 charts and data tables that use publicly available data to disprove some of the claims made in support of the arguments for these huge corporate tax breaks.

See also:

● Report: "Single Sales Factor Apportionment of Global Profits to Broaden the Tax Base"

A Simplified Way To Tax Multinational Corporations

A Corporate Tax Idea That Fixes Lots Of Problems

Corporations Demand Budget Cuts, Owe Government $620 Billion

Should We Give The Worst Tax-Dodging Corporations A Huge Break?

Next Big One: Repatriation Tax Giveaway To Corporations

Trump: Don't Make Corporations Pay Their Taxes

Coming Up: Repatriation, A HUGE Huge Tax Giveaway To Big Corporation

A Better Way To Tax The Multinationals


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress...

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What to Look for When the Trans-Pacific Partnership Text Is Released

(15) Comments | Posted November 4, 2015 | 1:28 PM

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been completed. The agreement is a big deal. It is said it writes the rules for doing business in the 21st century and covers 40 percent of the world's economy. The agreement will determine whether the giant corporations will increase their domination or if regular...

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What Do Candidates Propose to Boost Stagnant Economy?

(64) Comments | Posted October 30, 2015 | 2:33 PM

Thursday's bad news: Third-quarter GDP lands with thud: just 1.5 percent growth. That is down from 3.9 percent growth the previous quarter. The economy appears to be slowing, partly because of the drag effect of our trade deficit and partly because of the drag on the economy...

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Exxon's Funding of Climate Denial Turned Americans Against Their Own Government for Profit

(191) Comments | Posted October 22, 2015 | 11:46 AM

Exxon and other fossil fuel companies may have committed a crime of enormous proportions, and more and more elected officials and others are demanding an investigation.

The charge is that Exxon scientists and management knew since the late 1970s that the company's product was helping cause our planet to...

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Don't Put Privatizer and Payday Lender Lobbyist on the USPS Board

(2) Comments | Posted October 5, 2015 | 12:37 PM

With corporate-conservative calls for full or partial privatization of the United States Postal Service (USPS) escalating, groups are sounding the alarm about new nominees to the USPS Board of Governors.

The Senate is scheduled soon to consider the nominations of Mickey D. Barnett, James C. Miller III and two...

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Another Attack on Our Postal Service

(170) Comments | Posted September 30, 2015 | 1:24 PM

Should we run our country for the benefit of We the People, or so that a few people can profit off of We the People? This is a question that is rising to the surface in a battle between those who want the United States Postal Service (USPS) maintained and...

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VW Case Shows Need for More and Bigger Government

(54) Comments | Posted September 25, 2015 | 12:33 AM

Again and again we hear about corporations doing bad things so they can make more money: polluting, selling contaminated food or otherwise harming people's health, selling products that injure people or just don't do what they advertise, tricking and scamming people out of their money, selling banned goods or providing...

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Will Trump Be the Reasonable One in the Debate Bunch Tonight?

(3) Comments | Posted September 16, 2015 | 2:24 PM

When "Jeb!" Bush started campaigning for president, people starting asking, "Wait, was W. the smart one?" Now the rest of the Republican candidates are causing people to ask, "Wait, is Trump the reasonable one?"

Wednesday night we will all get a chance to see the next round of the freak...

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The Wild Ride Gets Wilder - Only Government Spending Can Fix This

(1) Comments | Posted August 24, 2015 | 7:13 PM

The world is out of balance. Everyone's nervous. There is a glut of money floating around the world and no one offers a "safe place" to put it. The stock market is way up, way down, way up, way down - sometimes all on the same day. China's currency...

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Trump: Don't Make Corporations Pay Their Taxes

(202) Comments | Posted August 21, 2015 | 11:50 AM

Republican economics has been stated a thousand ways by a thousand (always paid) voices. But the basic idea behind all the schemes has been hard to pin down. Finally Republican front-runner Donald Trump has spelled it out in a way anyone can understand.

Thursday's Progressive Breakfast (you should subscribe,...

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When the Real World Confronts Trade Theories, the Real World Wins

(2) Comments | Posted August 5, 2015 | 9:31 PM

I had a conversation over the weekend about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). She's for it, because "more trade is always good."

TPP covers a whole lot more than what we would think of as "trade." Regardless, let's look here at the idea that expanding trade is always good.

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Oak Flat: The Latest Land Grab From Native Americans

(3) Comments | Posted July 22, 2015 | 9:44 PM

A "sneak law" attachment to a "must-pass" bill gives sacred Native American land to a foreign mining company. How did this happen?

Do you remember that "Citibank budget," where a budget bill to avert an imminent government shutdown suddenly had in it a Citibank-written provision deregulating certain risky...

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Next Big One: Repatriation Tax Holiday Giveaway to Corporations

(2) Comments | Posted July 14, 2015 | 11:21 PM

Here comes the next big one. Now that the corporations have fast-track trade authority in the bag, they are trying to push a huge, huge tax giveaway through Congress. We have to get the word out so this doesn't just sneak through. We can't let them continue to rig the...

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Now We Build a Fair Trade Movement

(1) Comments | Posted June 29, 2015 | 8:39 PM

Fast track trade authority passed last week. So many of us fought so hard but The money won again -- this time. What do we do now?

We take this awareness and energy into the fight against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). And then, win or lose, we build a...

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Wall Street and Big Corporations Got What They Wanted -- This Time

(70) Comments | Posted June 24, 2015 | 5:10 PM

"Fast track" passes. Our Congress -- the supposed representatives of the people -- voted to cut themselves and us out of the process of deciding what "the rules" for doing business "in the 21st century" will be.

How do the plutocrats and oligarchs and their giant multinational corporations...

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Will TPP Kill the Post Office?

(13) Comments | Posted June 5, 2015 | 9:14 PM

Corporations are notorious for sneaking things into laws and regulations before the public can find out and rally to stop it. And we know from the conservative Supreme Court arguments against the Affordable Care Act that even what amounts to a typo can be used to change the...

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Fast Track Hits House Next Week; Clinton Must Speak Up

(22) Comments | Posted May 29, 2015 | 12:28 AM

The House is expected to vote on fast track trade promotion authority as soon as next week. If it passes, the corporate-negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a done deal -- even though it is still secret. Why is presidential candidate Hillary Clinton still silent on this?

The Money Wants TPP --...

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Let the Public Read the Completed Parts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership

(7) Comments | Posted May 19, 2015 | 2:35 PM

Basic facts about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are under public dispute. Fast track must not be approved until this is cleared up. We the People deserve to know what is being voted on with fast track.

The Dispute

There is a big public dispute between President Obama and Sen. Elizabeth...

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Senate Fast Track Vote Tuesday -- Where Is Clinton?

(34) Comments | Posted May 9, 2015 | 11:19 AM

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has scheduled the voting process for trade promotion authority, commonly known as "fast track," to begin as early as Tuesday. If passed, fast track prohibits Congress from amending trade agreements, no matter what problems might show up, and it requires that these agreements be voted...

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Obama to Visit Nike to Promote TPP. Wait, Nike? Really?

(15) Comments | Posted May 7, 2015 | 12:25 PM

President Obama is scheduled to visit Nike's Oregon headquarters on Friday to promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Yes, Nike, a company that grew to be worth billions by outsourcing jobs to overseas sweatshops, a company that sets up P.O.-box subsidiaries in tax havens to avoid paying U.S. taxes, a company...

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