Leave it to Jonathan Alter to jump the already laughably overblown "problem" of corporations seeking friendlier tax jurisdictions elsewhere right past parody. Forget any discussion of why businesses are relocating. At the Daily Beast, Alter wants potential "corporate deserters" to take…wait, I have to check this again…yep…loyalty oaths.
And you thought the whole Benito-tastic flag-draping thing already jumped the shark when President Obama demanded "an economic patriotism that says we rise or fall together, as one nation, and as one people."
Must… resist… the… urge… to… include… Italian… and… German… quotes.
Yes, it's true. Jonathan Alter went there. In response to the dread specter of "inversion"—U.S. corporations merging with overseas firms in order to escape high corporate tax rates, daunting bureaucracy, and a regime that taxes worldwide profits, unlike other G-7 countries—Alter says that reforming our tax system to make it competitive just isn't good enough. Instead, Americans, and the government in particular, should pressure corporate executives to sign promises that they won't take their businesses out of the country.
Even if comprehensive tax reform miraculously passes, it wouldn't reduce the corporate tax rate enough to stop the desertions. That's because other countries have slashed their corporate taxes or eliminated them altogether.
So it's time for red-blooded Americans to take matters into our own hands. My answer is to make every corporation sign something.
Sign what? If Republicans cared about this issue, which most don't, they would revive McCarthy-era loyalty oaths, where people were forced to swear that they weren't communists.
Ummm…That paragraph struck him as a good idea? Apparently so. Anyway, how does that work?
For those companies less able to act as Americans or recognize their real interests, there are two ways to make this work. The president should issue an executive order that says any company that wants to keep its federal contracts must sign a new-fangled [non-desertion agreement]…
But other companies with few or no federal contracts might be tempted to desert anyway.
That's where the rest of us come in. Under my scheme, companies that sign non-desertion agreements would embed a tiny American flag or some other Good Housekeeping-type seal in their corporate insignia for all to see, just as companies during the Great Depression that agreed to Franklin Roosevelt's recovery plan hung an emblem of a blue eagle in their windows with the legend, "We Do Our Part."
German historian Wolfgang Schivelbusch and occasional Reason contributor Thaddeus Russell are among those who have directly connected the New Deal's National Recovery Administration, and its blue eagle, to fascism. Which is to say, this whole "economic patriotism" crusade starts at a bad place and spirals down into a cesspool. So, if that's the model you work from…
To make it clear where this all goes, the National Recovery Administration once boasted, "The Fascist Principles are very similar to those we have been evolving here in America." Its head, Hugh Johnson, noted about the adoption or rejection of the blue eagle symbol and its code, "Those who are not with us are against us."
Or you could just go with, "we rise or fall together, as one nation, and as one people."
As I've noted before, the United States is not especially competitive in terms of corporate tax rates, scope of business taxation, or ease of negotiating tax bureaucracy. On PriceWaterhouseCooper's study of "189 economies worldwide, ranking them according to the relative ease of paying taxes," Ireland ranked six, Canada ranked eight, the U.S. came in at 64.
So…Maybe fewer loyalty oaths and more making the tax system less sucky? Just a thought.