HAVE YOU HUGGED a friendly multinational corporation today? So the PR campaign for corporate America may go if the left’s populist anger toward corporate benefits continues to ramp up.
Hackles were raised in the lead up to tax day this year when it was reported that not only was General Electric (the nation’s largest corporation) not paying a dime in federal taxes on $5.1 billion in domestic profits, but that it was actually going to receive a refund of several billion more.
“Do you wonder (like I do) what the tax accountants and executives are doing over at GE this weekend?” asked Michael Moore in an April 15 missive aimed at whipping up progressive citizens to protest corporate tax breaks. “Frantically rushing to fill out their IRS returns like the rest of us? Hardly,” he scoffed. “They’re taking the weekend off to throw themselves a big party and have a hearty laugh at all of us. It must really crack them up to see us like suckers scurrying around to make sure we report everything to Uncle Sam—and even send him a check, if necessary.” Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart got into the act, pointing out that GE cut one-fifth of its U.S. jobs in the last nine years while creating more overseas. “I know the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are people,” Stewart deadpanned, “but what I didn’t realize is that those people are assholes.”
Claims that GE paid no taxes for 2010 were later corrected, very technically speaking, in an April 7 Washington Post article (reported jointly with independent news source ProPublica). They found that GE had actually paid estimated taxes for 2010, made payments for previous years, and that they were not, in fact, getting a refund. Even so, GE is notoriously adept at minimizing its tax burden, and other multinational companies have certainly taken pages from GE’s playbook.
Factoring in the reality that powerful corporations can now spend freely on elections and already have a good number of anti-labor officials in their employ, it becomes harder and harder to imagine what might stop them from ratcheting up, as Michael Niman puts it in his editorial on page 8, “their fight to bring the sweatshop economy home.” Also writing on this topic in “Corporate Power and Today’s Humanist,” David Niose likens the problem to putting the genie back in the bottle. And in his piece on theories of distributive economic justice, Namit Arora ponders how we can enlighten those who “happily” vote against their own economic interests.
And if that’s not enough to furl your brow, in this issue of the Humanist we also take a look at the flagrantly unfair “spiritual fitness” component of the U.S. Army’s Global Assessment Tool, a lengthy questionnaire intended to gauge a service member’s health and well being that penalizes those who aren’t religious, and even those who are but whose righteousness is less than rote. And finally, we consider our nuclear future in the wake of the crisis at the Fukushima power plant. When a natural disaster triggers a human-made catastrophe, or the potential for one, can we thoughtfully reassess and come up with new strategies—in this case for generating an ample amount of safe power and for coming up with a plan, once and for all, to store all the spent nuclear fuel?
We try to strike a reasonably populist, in some cases moderate, and decidedly humanist tone in the pages before you.
Focusing seriously on hot-button issues while keeping a cool head is always key.