CEOs from several big corporations meet with House Republican leaders on November 28, 2012, in Washington. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Majority Whip.
A merry band of corporate executives is zig-zagging Washington today, meeting with almost every principal player in the “fiscal cliff” negotiations. The CEOs are meeting with administration officials at the White House, with House Speaker John Boehner, and with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
According to most press accounts, these business titans are “pressing for a solution to the so-called fiscal cliff” (Bloomberg), while “touting the virtue of bipartisanship and shared sacrifice” (The Washington Post).
But what’s important to understand—what every press account of these meetings should note—is that they’re not, in practice, proposing any sacrifice from their companies in particular nor their industries in general.
Key planks of their proposals, explicitly articulated by the Fix the Debt campaign and other industry coalitions pushing for a deal, include a lower corporate tax rate—even though many of these companies pay little or no corporate taxes as it is. Then there’s a territorial tax system, which would allow corporations that have profits parked overseas to bring them back home without paying any taxes. (Right now, they’d be obligated to pay the normal 35 percent corporate tax on those profits if they were repatriated). Some, but not all, of the CEOs also want the Bush tax rates extended for all earners.
That’s not exactly “shared sacrifice.” A report from the Institute for Policy Studies notes that the 63 CEOs behind “Fix the Debt” would reap $134 billion in tax windfalls for their companies just from a territorial tax system alone. That naturally would increase, not decrease, the deficit, so somebody’s got to pay—hence the Very Serious pleas to “reform” Medicare and Social Security.
“These CEOs paint a stark picture of hypocrisy,” said Scott Klinger, co-author of that IPS report, in a statement. “They’re simply taking advantage of the so-called ‘fiscal cliff’ to push the same old agenda of more corporate tax breaks while shifting costs onto the poor and elderly.”