Clip: The Real Cost of Corporate Tax Dodgers

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Microsoft had $60.8 billion in profits offshore in 2012. Citigroup, $42.6 billion. Exxon Mobil, $43 billion. And the amount of taxes they paid on those profits: zero. While hard-working Americans pay their fair share of taxes, many large corporations, bolstered by an army of lobbyists in Washington, are not.

The Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz tells Bill that Americans should be outraged. Watch:

Stiglitz says tax dodging represents a misallocation of America’s scarcest resource — young people — including the students he teaches at Columbia University. “I wish that they had gone into creative activities. But so many get involved in these kinds of activities, trying to help corporations avoid their tax responsibility,” he tells Moyers.

Then there’s the ethical issue of corporations using our resources without paying for them. Stiglitz says corporations like Apple are willing to take from our country by using “the ingenuity of America, based on the Internet, created, in large measure, by government spending, but not to give back” by paying their taxes.

And guess who makes up for the tax shortage to pay for our roads, bridges, education system and a host of other public goods and services that keeps our society running? That’s right — the rest of us.

Watch Bill’s full interview with Stiglitz

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  • Anonymous

    I like his suggestions and have heard the same pitch before. It will never happen here until there is a militant uprising of the voters demanding legislation to change the status quo.

  • Edward98

    America is definitely heading in the wrong direction. Americans should be outraged, but they’re not. Time and again we vote against our own economic self interests. What does that say about us? We’re damn stupid.

  • Roger Barton

    We ARE outraged. But not enough of us are outraged enough, and too many others are willing to believe the politicians who have been rented by the corporate overlords. I say “rented” rather than “bought” because I don’t think they’re honest enough even to stay bought.

  • Anonymous

    Most Americans are distracted.

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  • Pearl Orlind Bailey

    Will have to find Stiglitz’s books. Learned from Johnston’s “Perfectly Legal” anent offshore tax havens, executive compensations, deferred compensation packages, private and corporate jets, and more.

  • Anonymous

    “And guess who makes up for the tax shortage to pay for our roads, bridges, education system and a host of other public goods and services that keeps our society running? That’s right — the rest of us.”

    Actually, no quite true. Nobody is making up for the shortage, which is why we have 150 year old water and sewer lines exploding in our oldest cities (like New York) or crumbling bridges that are a few years away from total failure.

    It’s not just corporate tax dodgers, it’s private citizens at the top who enjoy the benefits paid for those at the increasingly growing bottom. Case in point, New York City, the entire revitalization of NYC’s water front was paid for by tax payers; in turn the areas bordering the newly gentrified waterfront became luxury apartments and office buildings. Yet NY politicians refuse to raise the taxes or close the loopholes on the one percent out of fear that they will move out of the city. Developers and luxury buyers all benefited from billions spent to revitalize and maintain what has become their backyards paid for by tax payers.

  • jules

    What about the disgrace that is NYC? Banks, chains of every kind. Pay no tax. No wonder the city has turned into a dump. No money to maintain essential infrastructure? The numbers of people increased. 55 million tourists yearly. Why cant the streets and subways be clean? Everywhere garbage. Compare it with European cities and weep.

  • Frank Grasha Sr

    That is why there is so much attention brought to such things as Furguson to move attention to . There are people shot everyday under suspicious circumstances but they pick the ones that will occupy the most for the longest !

  • jules

    We’re not all stupid! Perhaps there are some who question the propaganda they see daily on TV… Schools have stopped teaching geography history and civics… Corporatism. People in the U S are seriously and strangely trusting of their government. And highly xenophobic! Huge patriots!! Why?

  • Jeff Riopelle

    While citizen-based taxation of private US citizens, living and working abroad, is causing huge hardships, including often varying degrees of DOUBLE-TAXATION! The BIG guys continue to get away with it, though. The little guys, of course, suffer. Figures…

  • Henry Castleberry

    This is stuff that matters

  • R. Hamilton

    Cut spending and taxes enough that there’s no incentive to dodge the taxes. That would also increase employment and investment by encouraging businesses not to keep their money and operations overseas in the first place.

    Neither charity nor meeting every need should be expected of government, or of “society” as some large imaginary entity. Each individual should as much as possible, determine who and what they’re inspired to help, and get busy doing it without being drained of resources to be expended inefficiently and not particularly compassionately by government. Look at the recent VA hospital scandals as just one among many such examples of why various charities could do better.

    Government should stick to enforcing a minimum set of laws, perhaps doing a bit of research on rare diseases that there’s insufficient economic incentive to get done privately, and a bit of reasonably non-intrusive disaster preparedness and such infrastructure as nobody else will do; and leave as much else domestic as possible to the rest of us…or at least as much as possible, to local rather than federal government.

    “Any one may so arrange his affairs that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which will best pay the Treasury; there is not even a patriotic duty to increase one’s taxes.” — Judge Learned Hand, Helvering v. Gregory, 69 F.2d 809, 810-11 (2d Cir. 1934)

  • William Smith

    all we need to do is pick a week to band together across the country and not spend any money let the parking lots be empty for a week and demand change and you will get it

  • Eric Van Bezooijen

    0% taxes isn’t good enough, because beyond 0% lies negative taxation, in other words subsidies. The function of a corporation is to return the maximum value to the shareholders, not to pay “reasonable levels of taxes.”

  • Anonymous

    William Smith, your suggestion appears to be so simple and that is what makes it powerful. That’s our power as citizens and consumers and to fight for our lives. We are caught in a war that these Corporations declared against citizens by refusing to pay their fair shares of taxes. Why should we the citizens who are picking up their tab allow them to double dip. I agree, stop buying their products. All the tax dodging corporations should be placed on a billboard on the same highways that they refuse to contribute towards their maintenance. It’s time for them to be exposed very publicly and let’s stop whispering about them here.

  • GregoryC

    I pay for the shortfall locally. For example, my water and sewer utility charges a $25 ‘customer charge’ in addition to use charges – that money goes for the upgrading of physical repairs, renovations, replacements of sewer and water lines. I pay $25 every two months EACH for water and sewer utility upgrades in addition to use charges. Multiply that by every household in the metro Louisville-Jefferson County, KY area.

  • GregoryC

    535 Members of Congress and the White House would rather preserve their own financial interest than those of their nation, constituents, economic growth, infrastructure. It is very selfish. They’re all corrupt and easily bribed. Change won’t come from within, it is against their own self-interest, change will have to be forced by us from outside of the system.

  • GregoryC

    Agreed. Most of the corporate media doesn’t report the truth. Our news is the latest disaster, celebrity nonsense or just plain lies. Do Americans really believe we have a 6% unemployment rate? No inflation? 15% poverty? Look around. The evidence around us says differently.

  • GregoryC

    Huxley was right. Americans have been distracted by infotainment. As long as we’re distracted with the latest smart phone games, apps, twitter, celebrity culture, we won’t notice we’re slowing being boiled to death like frogs.

  • Anonymous

    I would tend to agree that shortfalls are made up on the local level, but out here in NYC there’s no making up for it on the local level. For example in areas that are and will continue to get hit with increasingly powerful storm surges (like Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island, lower Manhattan), the 100 to 200 year old sewer systems are overloaded. It will cost hundreds of millions per borough to replace the infrastructure. We haven’t even gotten to the eroded bridges yet. The dwindling middle class in the city can’t shoulder anymore of the burden and with State government refusing to raise taxes or close loopholes there’s just nothing left to cover these costs (or repay the loans used for existing work).