On his MSNBC program, The Last Word, Lawrence O'Donnell spent an entire segment criticizing his show's part-owner, General Electric, for paying no income taxes on over $5B of profits in 2010. He went even further by attacking the loopholes written into the tax code, many of them sponsored by GE's lobbyists, that allowed such an egregious outcome to have occurred. He railed at GE's stable of 975 tax lawyers and accountants, producing such a long and complicated tax return that the understaffed IRS could never mount an effective investigation.
Now, that is integrity writ-large, for which O'Donnell should be recognized and applauded. It is rather pathetic that integrity has become such a rare commodity in our public discourse that it is now a special event, worthy of praise and recognition. But, O'Donnell has earned himself a place at the top of his profession for this.
None of the MSNBC commentators ever had a segment on Comcast's takeover of NBC. It would have been a story fit for an Olbermann, Matthews, and certainly a Schultz or a Maddow. But, not a peep.
O'Donnell has directly taken on other sacred cows. Although I thought he spent far too much air-time on Glenn Beck's delusions, O'Donnell transformed an exposé of Beck's latest rantings into a more general and worthwhile exposé of the hypocrisy in fundamentalist Christians' insistence on Biblical literalism, pointing out that none of them truly believe that death is the appropriate remedy for working on Saturday or committing adultery as stated in the Bible. The unspoken (but clear) message is that focusing on the Bible's condemnation of, for example, gay sex, is also selective, seeking "higher" authority to justify personal bias.
Here, O'Donnell has taken up a cause that is directly against the financial interests of his part-owners, and in an area that it devotes enormous amounts of time and resources to further and defend.
As you pointed out from your own experience in 1986, eliminated loopholes have a strange way of making their way back into the code, after enjoying the lower tax rate, perhaps an alternative minimum tax on corporations making over $500M per year in profits is in order? What do you think?
Kudos, Lawrence. Keep up the good work. It is inspiring to know that integrity still exists in our public discourse -- at least somewhere.
Follow Paul Abrams on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pabrams2001