Last year, with the Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court informed us that not only are corporations people, but they are entitled to the same rights as people. In that particular case, the decision was made based on the right to free speech. Or at least the right to give almost unlimited amounts to "communicate" via paid ads and commercials to the public on election year. Even Mitt Romney jumped on the bandwagon to defend his favorite people -- corporate America. However, here's what we should be asking. If corporations are entitled to the same rights as everyday Americans, why don't they have the same responsibility to pay their fair share in taxes?
Last Wednesday, 1Miami rightly attended Carnival's shareholder meeting, along with concerned citizens that owned shares of the tax-dodging company, to tell them to pay their fair share. The response we received from the Carnival CEO ranged from an indignant insistence that Carnival does "a lot" for us to a veiled threat to relocate to China if the cruise giant was forced to pay their fair share. If Carnival were a person, there would be a word to describe its behavior: bratty and spoiled. You know, the way none of us would want to see our kids act.
But, it's not just Carnival. This issue is much bigger. In the same conversation, we need to include the likes of Wells Fargo, Royal Caribbean, Florida Power & Light, Exxon Mobil, Fedex and of course, GE. With the exception of Royal Caribbean, which only made hundreds of millions, the others made billions of dollars over the past three years. However, only one of those corporations, Exxon Mobile, paid more than 3 percent in income taxes, while GE and Wells Fargo actually paid negative taxes in some instances! That means they contributed nothing in taxes to the people who bailed them out. How does that happen? To put that all in perspective, the collective corporate brat pack pays about the same percentage in income taxes as most Floridians pay in sales tax!
While many of us have become desensitized to the lack of corporate accountability, it should still anger us that paying lobbyist versus paying less taxes go hand in hand for the brat pack. The proof is in the pudding, as I use to hear as a child. Wells Fargo made much of its money thanks in part to a major hand-up/bail-out by taxpayers, that never really stopped it from being one of the largest owners of those same taxpayers' foreclosed South Florida properties. They aren't alone. Florida Power and Lights' execs were flying around in company-owned private jets (sometimes with politicians), while they were making "difficult cuts" and layoffs. Three of the corporations paid more to lobby our politicians than they did in taxes. Wells Fargo makes the list again. From 2008-2010, they paid no income taxes with a negative tax rate of -1.4 percent, while paying more than $11 million in lobbying efforts. In some cases, they were actually lobbying for better tax rates! Then, of course, all the CEOs for leading these corporations are raking in millions for themselves, while laying off workers, and in Well Fargo's case, foreclosing on homes left and right.
On tax day this year, we should be angry. Because while 99 percent friends and families are struggling to make ends meet, there's a very select 1 percent that is taking a one-way trip to the top of "prosperity hill." In the past, when we've asked for a little bit more of their fair share, we've gotten threats of relocation and job cuts while the 1 percent continues wining and dining lobbyists, sometimes on our dime. This year, 1Miami will lock arms with the rest of our community and demand that they start paying their fare share. We will also tell bought-out politicians that they will get back to work for the 99 percent, or we'll find elected leaders who will. Because, if corporations really want to be treated as people, this bratty bunch of corporations is in dire need of a decent spanking!