Monday, July 28, 2014

Corporate Tax Avoidance

Enough U.S. corporations have essentially switched their citizenship to avoid paying taxes that the process even has its own name now, inversion. Essentially it means that U.S. corporations invert reality and declare that they are owned by one of their foreign subsidiaries. If Walmart, for instance, continues along the path it has declared itself committed to, it will soon become a Swiss company. Nothing in Walgreen's operations will change, except for the amount of taxes it pays in the U.S.

Since the Supremes have been going out of their way lately to stress that corporations are persons, I like the proposal I read recently that corporations who engage in this slight of hand be prohibited from spending money in U.S. political campaigns. A Swiss citizen may not contribute to, or attempt to influence, the U.S. electoral process. If Walmart wishes to become a Swiss citizen, it should be subject to the same restrictions. No more donations to PACs or to political campaigns.

Apologists for this practice on the right like to point to imperfections and loopholes in the U.S. tax structure and say what is needed is all-encompassing tax reform. As if that is going to happen in the current political climate. And in the meantime, these corporate tax dodges would continue indefinitely in their world.

I love the way conservatives throw up smoke screens to divert attention from real problems. I'm reminded of a panel discussion I watched recently in which the subject of the immigrant children on the border came up. One of the conservatives bemoaned the fact that this situation was draining money that we could be spending on solving the problems faced by poor American children. And he did it with a straight face. They're good, you've got to admit.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Republicans and Irony (and Chutzpah)

I read two news stories this morning back to back. With regard to immigration, Boehner bemoans the fact that Obama has been president for five and a half years and hasn't done anything. Let's set to one side the fact that Boehner is factually wrong and just remember the fact that Republican obstructionism is the main reason nothing gets done anymore.

Ironically, the next news story of the morning had to do with Boehner's justification for the lawsuit against Obama, namely that he is abusing his executive powers by doing too much to circumvent the above-cited obstructionism.

The Republicans have long had this problem of not being able to make up their mnds about Obama. The very same same people at times castigate Obama as a revolutionary socialist with a master plan for destroying the country and at other times as a pathetic weakling who couldn't lead John Boehner to a tanning salon with free booze.

It can't be said often enough. Oh, for the days of a sensible Republican party.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Breaking News: Right Wingers Caught Lying

People on the right have been spreading the story that liberals have been over-reacting, nay lying even, about the significance of the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby ruling. Their story is that the ruling only applies to a select few birth control methods, the abortion-y ones. They say all the other government-approved contraceptive measures are still covered for Hobby Lobby employees and everyone else. The implication, if not outright allegation, is that liberals are playing politics with the issue, and of course there is no right-wing war on women.

The truth is that some lower courts have ruled in favor of similar closely-held corporations that object to coverage for all contraception methods. The Supremes not only left all of those lower court rulings in place, but they also ordered those lower courts which had ruled the opposite way, in favor of the Obama administration, to reconsider their decisions in light of Monday´s 5-4 Hobby Lobby ruling. There are supposedly something like fifty lawsuits in the pipelines challanging all contraception coverage, and the Supremes have just settled all of them.

So no, it´s not about abortion. It´s about contraception. And yes, this is the 21st century.

Ahh, the Good 'Ol Days

There is an obituary in the NY Times today for the Russian (Soviet) Air Force General who, in 1983, relayed the order to shoot down the Korean Air Lines plane which had strayed into Soviet territory, killing all 269 people on board.

It would be good if today's neo-con blatherers and right wing sabre rattlers would keep in mind, as they go on and on about how Obama is making America weak, what their boyfriend, Ronald Reagan, did at the time, i.e. nothing. Which, face it, was about all he could do.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

When the Law Becomes Personal

There was a story in the NY Times 10 days ago that looked at a study showing that Supreme Court justices with daughters are more likely to vote in favor of women's rights than are those without daughters. Even William Rehnquist, in 2003 after his daughter divorced and became a single mother with a demanding job, became enough of a feminist to write in one of his rulings against “stereotypes about women's domestic roles.”

Now the Supremes have ruled 9-0 in favor of cell phone privacy, despite the eagerness that the conservative core have shown in other cases to expand the rights of police and limit the definition of unreasonable searches and seizures. In her column today, Linda Greenhouse looks at this ruling and wonders why the change in this particular case. Her suggested answer: because all of the justices are cell phone users themselves, the issue became personal.

This correlates with a similar 9-0 ruling a couple of years ago that the police could not place a GPS device on a suspected drug dealer's car. During oral arguments in that case, in response to a question from the bench, the government conceded that the justices themselves could be subjected to such an invasion of privacy. It became personal.

Fourteen years ago, Greenhouse says, Rehnquist was part of a 7-2 majority ruling that limited the ability of the police to inspect checked luggage. Again, because the justices were all travelers themselves, the issue was personal.

The best justices have always kept in mind that their rulings have concrete effects in the lives of real people, and are more than just interpretations of the law or applications of abstract ideology. Apparently even the most ideological of justices recognize this when they see themselves as part of that mass of real people.