My dad was a RTS bus driver for 35 years. A good guy. I never had a single argument with him, but we did have some political discussions. Back in 1967, I had just finished faking my way through seven years of what they now call post-secondary education, and I was really smart. I told Dad that “as big business goes, so goes the country.” He wasn’t so sure. He was no rabid union guy, but he told me that if it weren’t for the union he wouldn’t have anything.
Well, anyway, he and my mom, who worked ‘til she was 83, tried to teach me some basic things before I could establish that I actually knew everything. Among them, work hard, be honest, pay your taxes. I could grasp basic things back then, and ever since I’ve pretty much tried to live the life of an innocent simpleton. Kinda like Forrest Gump. Most of my friends and colleagues would say I’ve succeeded.
But recently my innocence took a hit and I seem to be on the verge of becoming, God forbid, a cynic.
According to an article in Fortune magazine, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy reported on Wednesday that Amazon, which is valued at $800 billion, paid zero taxes on profit (not gross) of $11.2 billion in 2018. It only profited $5.6 billion in 2017, but its tax bill for that year: zero.
To top if off, Amazon actually reported a $129 million federal income tax rebate in 2018, making its tax rate minus-1 percent. I’m so glad we could all help them out.
ITEP suggests that Amazon’s tax-free existence is the result of a certain president’s corporate-friendly tax cuts. Not only did the revised tax code reduce corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 21 percent; it failed to close tax loopholes that allowed acquisitive corporate giants to get, I’m sorry, free rides.
Now, my application to the School for the Gifted was rejected, so I’m not an authority on tax matters. All I really know is that I, along with all my friends, have paid our taxes, decade after decade. Our civic duty, based on a set of first principles most Americans share.
Oh, I know something like 80 percent of a certain president’s party approve everything he does and they’ll say I’m picking on him and Amazon, generalizing from the specific. But my guess is that anyone who thinks Amazon is the exception, or that little people benefit from corporate welfare, probably also believe in the Tooth Fairy.
I know the free enterprise system and capitalism encourages profit, and that there are many captains of industry, like Bill and Melinda Gates, who have civic consciences. I just don’t know how the system evolved so as to let Goliath laugh at David.
There is a sort of silver lining. I’ve read that some of my hardworking friends might get increase refunds of as much as $100 or $200. Wow. There’s nothing fake about all that money! I know, friends of ACP will say, oh, it’s more than that; everyone’s better off. I’m not sure about that, but Amazon is certainly better off.
Nor was there anything fake about the approximately $3 billion corporate welfare payment New York state engineered for Amazon to build a distribution center in New York City. Certain politicians refused to join in the gift-giving group hug, so Amazon picked up its marbles to go to some other state cowed by the culture of a state-endorsed Santa Claus. Corporate America is playing us off against one another. We’re compliant, like sheep following the herd.
Just think: those 25,000 NYC jobs were lost to people who would have actually paid taxes. It’s no wonder the governor is apoplectic. New York might have to increase taxes on pot to make up the shortfall.
Meanwhile, I’m wondering if my trusting friends and I might get to share the $3 billion that would have gone to Amazon. Ha!
I can’t imagine how Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, will be able to fund his quest to find out how the National Enquirer, that paragon of journalistic excellence, obtained compromising photos of him. It certainly is vitally important to all of us simpletons. I’m worried about it.
Mom and Dad taught me that if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. And don’t be sarcastic! Back in the days of “I Like Ike,” that was a good rule. But now, when we all have to pay homage to billionaires, I’m conflicted. My transformation from innocent simpleton to cynic has become a crisis.
I think I need therapy.
John E. Tyo is a Shortsville resident.