BY WILLIAM C. HENRY As you’ve no doubt already heard, Apple, Inc.’s CEO Tim Crook — oops, I mean Cook — appeared before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations to be grilled as to why the company screwed the U.S. Treasury out of some $12.5 billion in federal corporate income tax over the passed two years. Guess who won? Turns out it wasn’t even close. Tim “The Skim” wowed ’em, cowed ’em, and put ’em down for the count! Hell, by the time it was over, the old Crookster — there I go again, Cookster — had them eating out of his hand. There’s just nothing that impresses Congress more than being able to rub elbows with the all-powerful head of a phenomenally successful corporation that managed to accumulate a humongous stash of cash — especially if said kingpin exudes an air of loftiness and unrepentance regarding their success in keeping so much of it out of the clutches of the IRS! It’s like poppin’ oxycontin or chewin’ on coca leaves to pols. They just can’t get enough. It was really quite a show. A puffy-chested big-time grifter conning his marks for all the world to see.
The first thing you need to know about the corporate tax ruse is that it’s a pretty complicated endeavor. That’s on purpose of course. Hell, if it was easy to hoke up, a whole lot of top notch corporate tax attorneys and CPAs would be drawing unemployment checks. Even some of the government’s best forensic accountants have been known to shed the occasional clump of hair trying to unravel the twists and turns requisite to pulling it off. Incidentally, let’s get the “why they do it” out of the way right now. The answer is pure unadulterated hubris and greed. Simple as that. They do it for the praise and the money, folks, but mostly for the money. There are no intricacies, no shadings, no sub plots, no ulterior motives. A CEO’s income is usually, but not always — that’s where the hubris comes in — based at least partially on the corporation’s profit, consequently the more of it they can divert from the government’s coffers, the more they can stuff into theirs. Oh, and how can you tell that they really don’t give a shit about who it hurts? Each time they cheat on their taxes, a little more gets added to yours! Good old fashioned time-honored corporate civic and social responsibility at its self-indulgent best!
Lest you be lulled into thinking that the extent of press coverage concentrated on such a large and innovational all-American success story as Apple, Inc. somehow brands it as a lone wolf in the tax evasion business, allow me to dispel any hint of that notion once and for all. Apple is but a single iceberg off a glacier the size of Antarctica itself when it comes to Uncle Sam’s biggest and best corporate tax cheats. In fact, if you’ve got some loose change in your pocket, you’ve got more money than ExxonMobil, General Electric and Bank of America paid in taxes last year, COMBINED! The amount of tax avoided in 2012 by America’s largest and most politically powerful corporations through loopholes and dodges — most of which they themselves surreptitiously created through the efforts of a “special forces” lobbying bunch that might have made even the Twelfth Army Group quiver — would have payed for the budget “sequester” two times over! It’s amazing the benefits that could accrue to ALL Americans if only we could find a “few good men” among our most influential business and political leaders willing to accept their moral — and in many instances, legal — obligations and responsibilities as United States citizens. Instead we have to settle for tax cheats and their enablers.
Perhaps the most egregious aspect of this whole contemptible matter is the gall exhibited by these corporate tax deadbeats with their continued expectation (and receipt) of American monetary, military and legal protections, both nationally and internationally, while contributing nary a dime to their enormous costs. And since they’re not paying a red cent for such indispensable requisites to any large corporation’s global success these days, guess who’s footing the bill? Of course, you are. I mean, just how greedily depraved can you get? Believe me, there’s no irony lost on the fact that many of those very same leeches are currently engaged in withholding what should be their share of those costs from the paychecks of employees who can in no way afford it because they are still barely getting by in the remnants of a belly-up economy brought about by the corrupt criminal practices of those very same corporate parasites. In the inimitable words of P.J. O’Rourke: “No drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we’re looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn’t test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power.” Or, as George Carlin so aptly put it: “The owners of this country know the truth: Its called the “American Dream” because you have to be asleep to believe it.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Fed up early stage septuagenarian who has actually been most of there and done most of that. Born and raised in the picturesque Pocono Mountains. Quite well educated. Very lucky to have been born into a well-schooled and somewhat prosperous family. Long divorced. One beautiful, brilliant daughter. Two far above average grandsons. Semi-retired (how does anyone manage to do it completely these days?) and fully-tired of bullshit. Uncle of the Editor-In-Chief.