Corporate Freeloaders Make Taxpayers Pick up the Tab

Some of the biggest corporations in the U.S. are moochers.

They’re like the guy who shows up at your Labor Day picnic empty-handed. He drinks all your beer, eats four helpings of barbecue and leaves a huge mess for everyone else to clean up. Then he asks you for 20 bucks in gas money to get home.

A troubling number of U.S. corporations behave as moocher guests at our national cafeteria. They help themselves to all the taxpayer-funded goods and services we create and pay for together — and leave patriotic small businesses and individual taxpayers with the bill.

According to a new report by the Institute for Policy Studies that I co-authored, 25 corporations among the top 100 firms paid their CEOs more in compensation than they paid in taxes. Twenty of them spent more on lobbying Congress than they paid in taxes.

Twenty of the 25 paid not one dime in federal taxes last year. Many use offshore tax havens to shift their profits overseas to avoid U.S. taxes. In fact, their hands are out, collecting millions in government subsidies.

This elite group of super-moochers includes Ford, eBay, Verizon, Boeing, Motorola, Honeywell, Dow Chemical, General Electric, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Prudential Financial, Capital One Financial and International Paper.

These companies utilize roads, ports, Internet broadband, weather services — our entire public infrastructure. They spin off products created from a foundation of Uncle Sam’s investments, such as the Internet, drug research and innovation in aviation and science. They hire educated workers from our school systems — and complain when they don’t have adequate skills.

When someone tries to steal their product or idea, they rush to the U.S. court system and law enforcement agencies for help and justice.

They claim to love America. They just don’t want to pay for its upkeep.

These companies imply they should be relieved from taxes since they are creating U.S. jobs. But as new studies show, many of these same global firms are shifting jobs overseas as fast as they can.

General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt advises President Barack Obama on how to create jobs in America. He was paid $15.3 million last year as his company paid no U.S. taxes and collected $3.3 billion in refunds. In the past three years, GE has closed more than a dozen U.S. factories and eliminated 19,000 American jobs. In the past decade, the percentage of GE’s global workforce based in the U.S. has declined from 54 to 46 percent.

Many companies avoid disclosing the breakdown of their workforce between the United States and other countries. They don’t want the public to know how aggressively they are outsourcing jobs. Once-patriotic U.S. firms now view the United States as a platform for shifting capital, jobs and profits around the world to their narrow advantage.

Our country is part of a dynamic global economy — and there are many benefits to our communities as a result. We benefit from global trade in goods, food and services.

We could really use some patriotic CEOs who understand that to have first-class infrastructure and education systems, the businesses that benefit must pay their fair share. They can’t complain about government waste and inefficiency — and shift their money offshore — leaving everyone else to pay.

An earlier generation of CEOs of these same companies would have been ashamed to personally be paid more than their company’s entire U.S. tax bill. Today’s CEOs get rewarded for dodging taxes and their national responsibility.

Chuck Collins is a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and co-author of “The Moral Measure of the Economy.” He wrote this for McClatchy-Tribune News Service and is a co-author of the new IPS report Executive Excess 2011: The Massive CEO Rewards for Tax Dodging.