If you want to make Americans of all stripes mad, tell them about the billions of dollars in subsidies and tax breaks our government gives to companies that outsource jobs, exploit workers (both here and overseas) and dodge taxes. Tell them about Accenture, for example, which advises other companies how to outsource jobs overseas while avoiding its fair share of tax payments by incorporating offshore in Bermuda. Yet like many other US corporations, Accenture continues to qualify for tax breaks, and it currently has more than $500 million in government contracts–courtesy of taxpayers.
Meanwhile, urban communities and small towns are devastated by plant closings. Often these plants are owned by profitable corporations like Maytag, which moved its Galesburg, Illinois, plant to Reynosa, Mexico, in 2004, leaving 1,600 workers without their good-paying jobs. The number of manufacturing jobs in the United States has fallen all the way back to the level it was in 1945. And our government continues to provide carrots–and no sticks–to companies harming our economy.
To end this race to the bottom, we must stop rewarding outsourcers and tax dodgers, and start rewarding companies that care about America and American workers.
A sensible proposal to create “Patriot Corporations” was developed by Bill Edley, a former State Representative in Illinois, and political scientist Robin Johnson of Monmouth College. Funded by rolling back all of President Bush’s tax cuts and recouping taxes lost through corporate offshore loopholes, the Patriot Corporations program would be entirely revenue-neutral and voluntary. It would give significant tax advantages and shareholder incentives to corporations that agree to create a real partnership with American workers. Patriot Corporations would also move to the front of the line for federal contracts–no small incentive.
To qualify, corporations would have to produce at least 90 percent of their US-sold goods and services in the United States. They would also have to:
§ limit top management salaries to 100 times the lowest-paid full-time worker;
§ spend at least 50 percent of their research and development budgets in the United States;
§ operate a profit-sharing plan for all employees, contribute at least 5 percent of payroll to a portable pension fund and pay at least 70 percent of the cost of a standardized and portable health insurance plan;
§ agree to neutrality in employee organizing drives;
§ be in good standing with EPA, OSHA and NLRB regulations;
§ and agree not to price-gouge consumers.
Companies that meet those standards are the ones that deserve carrots. With Patriot Corporations we can create a new class of companies as committed to American workers as they are to selling goods in the American market. And we can create a new patriotic ethic in America–one that unites workers and their employers in the mutual goal of building a stronger, more prosperous, more democratic business sector that can vigorously and proudly compete in the twenty-first-century global economy.