Corporations and the Super Rich Tax Democracy

November 30, 2017
Greg Coleridge

The House and Senate Republican tax bills help corporations and the super rich, but hurts or “taxes” most people in our nation over the long term, as well as what’s left of democracy itself.

One or both bills permanently slashes corporate tax rates, doubles the estate tax exemption for the exceedingly wealthy and lowers the tax rate for an increasing number of very rich taxpayers — among other tax break goodies.

Trump’s claim that “[w]e are giving them a big, beautiful Christmas present in the form of a tremendous tax cut” is spot on when applied to corporations and the super rich.

Corporations would benefit by $1 trillion over 10 years by cutting their tax rates from 35 to 20 percent. Few companies ever paid 35% in taxes as a variety of special deductions reduced their actual rate to about half that — 18.6%. The same would hold true if the lower rate becomes law with corporations paying just 9% in taxes. 

Congressional corporatists argue that cutting corporate taxes will dramatically boost economic growth, job creation and wages. This  “trickle down” regurgitated claim of more money in corporate coffers will result in greater investments in their businesses was yet again debunked within days after both bill were introduced by of all people — large corporate CEOs.

When Trump’s top economic advisor Gary Cohen asked CEOs at a Wall Street Journal CEO Council meeting this month to raise their hands if their company plans to invest more if the tax reform bill passes, most sat on theirs. More corporate tax breaks simply means more corporate profits, which are already booming. Huge corporations, however, benefit disproportionately, which is why the National Federation of Independent Businesses said it would oppose the bills, saying the legislation “leaves too many small businesses behind.”

Gains by super rich under the tax bills would be no less gluttonous. Tax rates for many of the very rich would be reduced. Additionally, the doubling and eventual elimination of the estate tax, which only applied to a mere 5,500 estates to begin with out of 3 million in total, will add tens of billions in additional wealth to a crowd that’s seen their wealth soar as the stock market has rocketed upward. So much for dedication to rock solid conservative principles that people should pick themselves up by their bootstraps. The continued but now expanded standard is to let the kiddos of the super rich born on third base claim they are huge success stories that can be emulated by anyone in only they worked hard enough.

The vast majority of people in our nation will be harmed over the short or long term by these bills. Tax cuts for the majority of taxpayers will be small and temporary. Scrapping tax breaks for mortgage interest deduction, state and local tax payments, medical expenses, moving expenses, graduate student tuition, alimony payments, among others, to pay for the corporate and super rich tax breaks will be devastating to millions who are economically teetering. Eliminating the Affordable Care Act mandates will drive insurance costs upward — making insurance unaffordable to millions.

Nevertheless, the bill would add up to $1.5 trillion over 10 years to the national deficit — with long term consequences for further cuts to social programs, if not Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, down the road.

With polls showing voters want corporations and the rich to pay higher, not lower, taxes and disbelieving that corporate rate cuts will translate into more jobs and higher wages, how could such bills be even proposed? The answer is a simple but chilling one — the capture of government by corporations and the super rich via lobbying and political campaign investments.

Anchoring the interconnection between economic and political power in our society are constitutional rights provided to corporate entities and wealth that for over a century have hijacked the ability of We the People to authentically govern ourselves. 

Activist Supreme Courts have anointed corporations with never intended constitutional 1st Amendment free speech “rights,” 4th Amendment search and seizure “rights,” 5th Amendment takings “rights,” and 14th Amendment due process and equal protection “rights,” as well as application of the constitutional Contracts and Commerce Clauses to corporations. The Supremes for good measure also defined money as 1st Amendment protected “free speech.”

The cumulative effect of these judge-made decisions, beyond the direct reach of the public and our elected representatives, has been massive economic and political inequality with devastating harm to the majority of the public and the natural world.

The current tax bills are merely the latest examples of not so much a tax system as they are political and legal systems in need of fundamental change. Changing elected officials, laws and regulations, while important, are less so than changing or amending our constitution to end all corporate constitutional rights (“corporate personhood”) and the doctrine that “money is speech.” 

Move to Amend’s We the People Amendment addresses both the urgent need for fundamental change through a constitutional amendment and including in that amendment the need to end all forms of corporations having the same Bill of Rights and other constitutional protections as human beings. Simply reversing the 2010 Citizens United decision or only ending money as free speech is insufficient in the face of a century-long legacy of corporations preempting democratically enacted laws protecting workers, consumers and communities by a variety of constitutionally claimed “rights.”

Until and unless all corporate constitutional rights end, We the People will forever and ever be on the defensive side of proposed bills that are taxing not just to our pocketbooks and livelihoods, but to whatever amount of democracy exists or ever existed in our nation.