Tax-evading corporations bribing legislators to get gov’t favors need to be stopped

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The Koch brothers, owners of the oil and gas conglomerate Koch Industries, are slated to spend $889 million in the 2016 presidential election. Most of the money will go toward campaign financing, while the rest will be awarded to climate change denying think-tanks and conservative foundations. Marco Rubio, one of a handful of Republican presidential candidates who is chomping at the bit to get a taste of some Koch cash, claims the brothers have no interest in special government favors. According to Rubio, the oil moguls merely wish “to be left alone.” Rubio and his Republican cronies have always left me alone, and I never had to dish out a billion dollars. So either the U.S. government has gone Mafia and is extorting these poor billionaires, or our elected officials are attempting to throw a specious veil over blatant bribery. Being the cynic that I am, I wouldn’t doubt either scenario, but in this case I’m leaning toward the latter.

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Koch Industries has a net worth of $115 billion. Say what you will about these boys, but they know how to make money, and they aren’t going to sink hundreds of millions of dollars into an investment without expecting to turn a profit. Don’t be fooled — that is exactly what these political contributions are: investments. They are apparently very lucrative investments at that, evidenced by the fact that Koch Industries has been dumping an exponentially increasing amount of cash into campaign coffers and lobbying efforts since 1998.

In 1998 they spent $200,000 on oil and gas lobbying. Last year they spent $13.8 million and lobbied on 63 different bills. They threw their proverbial two cents in on a wide array of issues, arguing against everything from environmental and public safety regulations to campaign finance reform and sustainable energy development. The billionaire bros lobbied in favor of a few things as well, most notably tax reform and ever more subsidies for the oil and ethanol industries.

The Tax Reform Act of 2014 is designed to fix the tax code so that it “works for American families and job creators.” (Can you guess who those so-called “job creators” are?) Proponents of the act claim it will generate $3.4 trillion in economic growth and eliminate barriers to corporate expansion by lowering the federal income tax. This, I suspect, is what Rubio was referring to when he purported that his billionaire benefactors just want to be left alone: They want lazy liberals to stop pestering them about paying taxes. Not that the brothers don’t want to pay their taxes. In fact, I suspect the opposite is true.

It was recently revealed that the Koch boys are big-time tax evaders. Through a complex internal banking system, they are able to transfer their prodigious profits to bank accounts in Switzerland and Luxembourg, thus avoiding U.S. corporate taxation. In response to these incriminating allegations, Koch Industries and its defenders claim they aren’t evading taxes, they are merely delaying taxes. After all, they point out, they will eventually want to bring their money back home to the states, at which point it will be taxed. Therein lies the ROI on tax reform lobbying. If the reform act or its equivalent is passed, they will be able to return all of their American-made money back to the U.S. without having to pay the current 39.1 percent corporate tax rate. (It shouldn’t come as a surprise that every serious Republican presidential candidate enthusiastically supports corporate tax reform.) Thus, by investing less than one percent of its total capital in campaign contributions, Koch Industries can hope to save nearly 38 percent of its net worth, while finally shedding the ignominious tax-evader label.

I consider myself to be pretty politically active, yet I only emailed legislatures on like six issues last year. I was happy to receive automated messages basically saying, “Thanks, we’ll take your concerns into consideration.” Meanwhile, this deviant pair of deep-pocketed oil tycoons lobbied relentlessly on 63 different bills and were sickeningly successful. What’s more, I actually paid my taxes — on time! There was a time in American history when we proudly rebelled against the tyrannical government policy dubbed taxation without representation. Today, we are living under a government that affords the wealthiest individuals in the country a ridiculously unequal amount of political power. They are awarded billions of hard-earned American dollars in the form of government subsidies, bailouts and contracts without having to contribute their fair share. This repugnant practice might be termed representation without taxation, and it is equally as unjust as the policy that our founding fathers once rebelled against. Will we have the courage to follow in their justice and freedom-loving footsteps? Or will we continue to allow rapacious corporations to hijack our beloved democracy? The decision is ours. At the end of the day, money can buy media coverage and extravagant political campaigns, but it cannot completely mask the truth. It is our responsibility to be engaged and informed citizens, and so long as we uphold that democratic duty, we will forever reap the fruits of political freedom.

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