I scared this poor girl. She was having a conversation with a banker in front of the federal reserve, and I sort of butted in. Surprising, since I rarely have much of an opinion on anything. In my defense, she was struggling. He had facts and knows the system, as he should. it seemed a great opportunity to engage someone on the other side in a friendly and thoughtful conversation. The banker, dressed in a neatly pressed blue shirt had taken the time, very much to his credit, to engage with his fellow Americans. Unlike Congress, he was showing his humility and ,In my opinion, was absolutely open to what the protesters had to say.
“I’d lower the corporate tax rate, because they are already paying 19%, the highest corporate tax rate in the world,” he said. The girl did not have the figures. This guy lives and dies by numbers. He needed numbers.
“You know, through deductions, loop holes and subsidies, large corporations in this country pay little or no federal tax. When they do, they usually settle for less than ten cents on the Dollar.”
Technically speaking it does have the second highest rate in the industrialized world, just behind Japan. My banker friend pointed that out, but practically speaking they pay much less than foreign competitors, again thanks to loopholes, deductions and subsidies which often do not exist in competing nations.http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/25/business/economy/25tax.html?_r=1 http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/03/business/economy/03rates.html
“So what would you do?” he asked.
I proposed, first, an international minimum wage, tied to an individual nations GDP, which takes the romance out of playing populations against each other in a never-ending race to the bottom. That would level the playing field internationally, keeping corporations at home, and all but erasing potential trade war issues.. He nodded,thoughtfully, but wasn’t convinced it could be enforced. I replied that I was involved in Bosnia and Rwanda, and that the perpetrators of the genocides are now on trial in an International Court, under International law. There are sanctions that are applied to rogue states, The IMF and World bank, all of which are vehicles for compliance.
“All right, what else?” he pressed, accepting the basic premise at least.
Greater enforcement, I said, in the tax code. Success and wealth and prosperity are fantastic and should be nurtured. Indeed, this country-this country-this nation provides a rare opportunity to encourage wealth and success, and that should come at a cost. No one gets to abuse that privilege. If we take a page from the Right, who famously argues that things like health care are not a right but a privilege, can’t we also say that about wealth, or anything in this society? If rights are now completley negotiable, they all are negotiable-for everyone. Perhaps we defer to the anti-choice crowd and say that being a fetus is a right, after that, it is up to the powers that be to decide what is and isn’t a privilege.
“But do you just take it from them?” he said, truly with sincerity.
Even if it is only in the short-term, corporations have to understand their responsibility to this society as a condition of the privilege to succeed here. If corporations were suffering, but their profits are historic, while the gap between rich and poor becomes obscene. Fiscally that responsibility is no different that a soldier who risks their life for this nation. “When people are suffering you have that responsibility to the nation that nurtures your success. That is, in summation, is what all of these people are out here saying.”
With that we shook hands with a respectful smile and parted ways.