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Corporate Freeloader Chief is Bush's Choice to Head Treasury
December 10, 2002 8:30 AM   Subscribe

Corporate Freeloader Chief is Bush's Choice to Head Treasury John W. Snow, President Bush's choice to replace the fired Paul O'Neill as Secretary of the Treasury, is the CEO of CSX.
In three of the past four years, CSX Corporation, paid no federal income tax at all. Instead of paying taxes, CSX supplemented its $934 million in pretax U.S. profits over the four years with a total of $164 million in tax rebate checks from the federal government.
"If the President's goal is to encourage even more corporate tax sheltering, then Mr. Snow looks like a fine choice to help him do so," said Robert S. McIntyre, director of Citizens for Tax Justice.
posted by Blake (82 comments total)

 
Also, from Page 18 of their '01 annual report.
"CSX will persue all available opportunities to pay the lowest federal, state and foreign taxes....CSX also works through the legislative process for lower tax rates."
posted by Blake at 8:35 AM on December 10, 2002


Oh, and I almost forgot, why this is important:

"The Secretary of the Treasury is the principal economic advisor to the President and plays a critical role in policy-making by bringing an economic and government financial policy perspective to issues facing the government. The Secretary is responsible for formulating and recommending domestic and international financial, economic, and tax policy, participating in the formulation of broad fiscal policies that have general significance for the economy, and managing public debt. ", USTreas.gov's Job Description.

There's also a list of Past Secretaries
posted by Blake at 8:41 AM on December 10, 2002


OT, but all of this is making this 'The Fellowship of the Ring' series more of a political metaphor. I just hope to see part III.
posted by four panels at 8:45 AM on December 10, 2002


Cooper's Two Tax Theories:

1. If you pay more tax than you need to, and you know it, then you're an idiot.

2. If your company pays more tax than it needs to, and you know it, then you're a lousy recruiter. You picked the wrong accountant.


Tax avoidance is not illegal and should be encouraged. Tax evasion is illegal and should be dealt with harshly. Tax avoision is somewhere in the middle, and you should only try and get away with it if you can accept the risk.

Companies who pay less taxes generally have more money left over to hire more people, or pay out bigger salaries. The government sees their cut out of the salaries rather than the company profit and more people keep their jobs.

Admittedly, a non-Libertarian government is at cross purposes with good business sense.. since a non-Libertarian government wants to rake in plenty of tax dollars to spend on their socialist Medicare programs. But effectively, it's a tax on the stupid.. since the smart will always find a way to pay less tax.
posted by wackybrit at 9:16 AM on December 10, 2002


I find it hard to believe that the Bush team can't come up with a Republican equivalent of Robert Rubin - i.e., a rabidly intelligent, dynamic leader with an eye to both the interests of the economy as a whole and the whims of Wall Street. But the No. 1 comment that pundits have about Snow is that he's almost identical to O'Neill - except that he's much smoother, an asset the administration wants when it pushes through its next round of tax cuts. Leaving the issue of tax cuts aside for the moment, isn't the job of the treasury secretary to formulate, rather than promote, the administration's economic policy? Just as Paul Begala and George Stephanopolous didn't tell Robert Rubin what policies to push, Karl Rove shouldn't be telling Snow - but that's exactly what the administration appears likely to be doing. (After all, O'Neill was a pretty crappy secretary, but it seems the back-breaking straw was his continued bucking of the administration line.)
posted by risenc at 9:18 AM on December 10, 2002


actually it amounts to a tax on everyone that doesn't have enough money and time to hire people for the express purpose of avoiding taxes.

As far as payroll taxes - I hear a lot of bitching about taxes from people making around 100,000 a year. Do these people think the amount of tax they have to pay could be cut if only corporations paid something close to what the working poor pay in taxes, around 12%.
posted by chris0495 at 9:25 AM on December 10, 2002


Companies who pay less taxes generally have more money left over to hire more people, or pay out bigger salaries.

but can we trust them to do it?
posted by mcsweetie at 9:26 AM on December 10, 2002


Yes, they will have more money to pay bigger salaries to their already-rich executives. Hopefully they will have some left over to hire more people at minimum wage, though! Or even some left over to pay lobbyists to help remove the minimum wage (wouldn't want to make people dependent on the state) so they could pay employees $2.00 an hour!

Oh, rapture! Thank goodness we can always depend on the high moral standards of corporate executives.
posted by botono9 at 9:36 AM on December 10, 2002


chris0495: That's why any good capitalist would have at least a workable knowledge of tax law.

In a capitalist world, time = money. If you can't afford the time to learn about tax, then you'll pay out more tax. The time I have spent learning tax laws has saved me a lot of money, legally. But I've had to work for those savings (the time spent studying tax law). You cannot get something for nothing. That's what makes capitalism so great! (Anyone can do it, I'm not particularly intelligent.. except when it comes to my $$!)

mcsweetie: That's the crux of capitalism. A healthy market would encourage them to do so. But since most capitalist markets are propped up by governments with socialist tendancies.. you can't be too sure.
posted by wackybrit at 9:36 AM on December 10, 2002


Companies who pay less taxes generally have more money left over to hire more people, or pay out bigger salaries.

and also to buy Jack Welch's newspaper and his maid's (not vibrating, one hopes) broom


to rake in plenty of tax dollars to spend on their socialist Medicare programs

*cries*
posted by matteo at 9:42 AM on December 10, 2002


But effectively, it's a tax on the stupid.. since the smart will always find a way to pay less tax.

Actually, it's a tax on the honest.

But since most capitalist markets are propped up by governments with socialist tendancies.. you can't be too sure.

The idea that markets exist without governments to prop them up, or maintain them, is an illusion.

You cannot get something for nothing. That's what makes capitalism so great!

I hear a lot of bitching about taxes from people making around 100,000 a year. Do these people think the amount of tax they have to pay could be cut if only corporations paid something close to what the working poor pay in taxes, around 12%.

Give that man a prize!
posted by Ty Webb at 9:52 AM on December 10, 2002


wackybrit: get a psych book, read up on the concept of denial, look in mirror and explain to yourself how the mother of three working two jobs and taking four buses every day pays more tax than CSX, formerly run by Snow, Bush's new treasury secretary.

I've tried it. It's not possible.
posted by chris0495 at 9:58 AM on December 10, 2002


Actually, it's a tax on the honest.
Ty Webb I take it then that your definition of honest is to pay to the government money that you don't actually owe? I don't understand this attitude. Do you think the gov't is some sort of noble charity contributions to which are somehow contributing to the betterment of man?

Depending which side of the fence you are on taxes seem to be capable of doing one of two things:

1) Contributing the the growth of Big Gub'mint.
2) Supporting the evil military-industrial complex in its efforts to project US imperialism throughout the world.
So either way you're screwed. A corporation or indivudual should pay what it/she owes, not more not less.

On preview, chris0495 - There is a legitimate argument here about the tax code inequities/baroque structure but I don't understand that outrage directed at a company which pays the smallest amount in taxes required by law.
posted by tcskeptic at 10:10 AM on December 10, 2002


I've tried it. It's not possible.

Yeah, but that woman is probably a socialist and doesn't understand the beauty of it all, a mix of a Darwinian social experiment corrected by heavy corporate Welfare and political corruption
posted by matteo at 10:11 AM on December 10, 2002


wackybrit: Your "education" towards "legally" paying less taxes is little more than justifying ways to break the rules.

If you want to split hairs and play semantics, fine, you're not doing anything technically wrong. But, in the end, you're searching for ways to circumvent a system that has been put in place by (ostensibly) popular consent. It's not like the system was designed with "Easter Eggs" that the government is encouraging people to seek out. No, they're called "loopholes", because they're meant to be closed.

And I'm glad you had the opportunity and time to invest in learning how to buck the system. Because, you know, that kind of thing is available to everyone, even people who can't afford to take time off work because otherwise they don't make rent or feed their families. Oh, wait...
posted by mkultra at 10:11 AM on December 10, 2002


So tell me - when some virtuous "poor" person claims all of their dependents on their tax return, and makes use of possible means to lower what they pay, and winds up paying no taxes, are they a "tax dodger"?

I'm perpetually amazed by threads like this. He's not being charged with doing anything illegal - his company is simply doing basic tax accounting - within the existing IRS tax codes. Apparently, however, if you even dare think about being rich, and running a successful, profitable company that creates jobs for 40,000 people, you are a "corporate freeloader" if you attempt to pay the least amount of taxes you can.

Guess what - everyone in America attempts to pay the least amount of taxes they can. (No? Are you saying that you voluntarily don't make use of deductions and write-offs to make sure you pay your "fair share"? Or is it that when you do this, it is just "the little guy" taking what he rightly deserves, but when any person or corporation that you deem to be "rich" does it, it is a "shelter")?
posted by MidasMulligan at 10:16 AM on December 10, 2002


The point isn't that he's trying to pay the least taxes, that's acceptable behaviour. The problem is that corporations have means available where they don't have to pay taxes. This is fundamentally broken. If I make poor decisions as a citizen and run up credit card debt with things I can't afford and as a result spend more than I earn I don't get a tax break. In fact I'd better be damned sure I have enough money set aside for taxes because the government charges interest and assesses penalties. If you're a corporation you do get tax breaks for poor judgement.

Everybody should take advantage of every tax shelter available, but the availability should be equal.
posted by substrate at 10:21 AM on December 10, 2002


I'm not too impressed with Snow, but this is sort of ridiculous - keep in mind that the statement is directed at shareholders, and not, I think, given to the sort of interpretation the majority of this thread's posters are attributing to it. Frankly, I doubt it's open to any particular interpretation at all - it's boilerplate, and whatever accusations you want to through against it will apply equally well to all American corporations. What is the point of this line of argument?
posted by risenc at 10:42 AM on December 10, 2002


I like the idea (I think proposed by Robert Reich) a while ago of completely getting rid of corporate taxes. Companies pour millions into gaming the tax system and if that fails, many of them just move offshore. It's inefficient and pointless. Let corporations go tax free and make up the revenue by taxing capital gains. After all, there's nothing particularly progressive about taxing corporations. Whether corporations are "rich" or "poor" is a pretty meaningless concept morally, and they have no "fair share" since they are not people. They should be taxed at whatever rate is most socially useful, and there's a pretty good argument that the most socially useful rate is 0. Tax the hell out of Bill Gates (I would tax him at, like, 98%, btw) but there's no obvious benefit to taxing Microsoft, if the same revenue can be found elsewhere.
posted by boltman at 10:43 AM on December 10, 2002


Ty Webb I take it then that your definition of honest is to pay to the government money that you don't actually owe?

Uh, when did you stop beating your wife?

I'm perpetually amazed by threads like this. He's not being charged with doing anything illegal - his company is simply doing basic tax accounting - within the existing IRS tax codes.

Showing, of course, that one can stay safely within the law and still be a cheat (which says more about the tax code, those who write it, and, most importantly, those who fund their campaigns, than anything else). For example, if, say, the Enron gang were technically found to have broken no laws, that doesn't change the fact that what they did was still dishonest, unethical, and immoral.

Apparently, however, if you even dare think about being rich, and running a successful, profitable company that creates jobs for 40,000 people, you are a "corporate freeloader" if you attempt to pay the least amount of taxes you can.

(weeping) You're so right! (sniffle) We are just. so. cruel. to those corporate tax cheats!

Seriously though, Midas, this is so much straw. Of course many corporations deal fairly with taxes while providing huge benefits to society. Point is, Snow didn't.
posted by Ty Webb at 10:46 AM on December 10, 2002


Yes, they will have more money to pay bigger salaries to their already-rich executives.

Those executives will pay income tax on their bigger salaries. They will also pay sales tax on all of the pointless purchases they make (spa, gym fees, maid service, hotels). The point is.. the government will get the tax back either way so losing it at the corporate level hurts no-one.

MidasMulligan, you are totally on the money, you have my respect.

look in mirror and explain to yourself how the mother of three working two jobs and taking four buses every day pays more tax than CSX, formerly run by Snow, Bush's new treasury secretary.

CSX is not a corporation sole, and does not have the same legal standing as a person. You cannot compare corporate finance against personal finance.

Your mother of three made a decision to have three children. That's her choice. She made a choice to bringing them up, paying for their food, and to suffer financially because of it. In America you choose how you want to live. Having kids is like buying a Lexus on credit. If you don't have the money to pay for it, DON'T DO IT! You accept the consequences!

That said, the mother of three in this example is likely paying less taxes than the majority of American citizens. Is it 'fair' that she uses more public services but pays less than someone who might not?

Thankfully the original Libertarian-minded presidents like Washington understood these things, but today's society appears to have been brainwashed by the 'everyone must pay for everyone elses' mistakes' mentality.
posted by wackybrit at 10:49 AM on December 10, 2002


What you are seeing is pre-tax profit on a book basis from CSX's annual reports. Book income and expenses differ from tax income and expenses because there are different rules for book and tax reporting (e.g., accelerated depreciation rules for tax purposes). After applying those different tax rules, many companies show book income but losses for tax purposes. It's simply the result of having two different sets of rules. To say the company has pre-tax profits and pays no taxes is comparing apples to oranges. If CSX didn't pay any taxes that is because it showed a loss on a tax basis. Unless someone has more information, there is nothing here that shows CSX was doing anything particularly aggressive in its tax accounting, other than following the two sets of rules required by law.
posted by probablysteve at 10:55 AM on December 10, 2002


What's interesting about this is that in this climate where corporate responsibility is in the public eye that they couldn't find a CEO of a company that paid any taxes for the job. Perhaps most corporations do not pay taxes these days? Maybe Snow's appointment will serve to throw light on the fact that this is so common. Then the newly informed electorate can decide if they agree with this type of tax policy, and vote accordingly. I agree with MM there's nothing wrong with hiring the best to ensure compliance with the law, and its exercise to your advantage. What's despicable is the laws themselves, and the huge amounts of additional federal funding (subsidies, grants) and government obstruction (tariffs) that is funneled to companies like these.
posted by tellmenow at 10:59 AM on December 10, 2002


I wonder if wackybrit is a Libertarian. You'd think if he was he'd make a reference or two to the party in his posts or something.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:12 AM on December 10, 2002


Having kids is like buying a Lexus on credit. If you don't have the money to pay for it, DON'T DO IT!

That's right: that way, the poor will stop having children, only the upper middle class and the rich will, and we'll cleanse the gene pool -- we'll finally get rid of that ugly, defective poor people DNA (actually, millionaires' kids are all so smart, aren't they!). One has to wonder who will you hire then to clean your nice house and prepare your kids lunch, Wackybrit

I'm pretty ashamed to have to actually make the following argument, but it's probably the current political climate's fault. The (not very difficult to grasp) issue here is:

the system's rigged towards the rich and the big corporations (they finance politicians and actually get to draft favorable legislation that way -- tax loopholes and subsidies). They don't do 24-hours-a-day illegal stuff (well, except Enron et al) because they _make the laws in the first place_ (they get their honorable employees in Congress to do that of course -- the poor mother of three working at McDonald's doesn't)

Most economists think that your 18th Century economic ideas don't work that well nowadays (just check out the ugly post-1929 stuff that happened in the USA, your Hooverian buddies didn't have many solutions back then). Also, corporations are first in line when it comes to be awarded a big government subsidy, where's their free-market, anti-Keynes, socialism-equals-cancer stance then? (socialism exists mainly for corporations, in the post-Reagan United States)
posted by matteo at 11:12 AM on December 10, 2002


oh, my mistake. The man that THE MAN has chosen to be head of the treasury headed a company that reported a profit to shareholders and reported a loss to the IRS. Two stories, one company.

I don't think that the libertarian minded founding fathers were thinking about corporate welfare over a hundred years before corporations achieved "personhood".

Why do you think the woman with 3 children working 2 jobs is using more public services? Why don't you applaud her for using public transportation? I suppose your vehicle floats in the air. I suppose you don't alert the police when you're having a problem that is outside your control. Why are the poor (yes, even the working poor) afforded zero dignity in our society? What is it? Are you really convinced that you'll ever be rich? Why lie to yourself? You wont ever be rich unless you get it from daddy or get extremely lucky. Don't bother with the rags-to-riches stories. They are crap; it's like pointing out last weeks lottery winner and saying "See, people win the lottery all the time!"
posted by chris0495 at 11:15 AM on December 10, 2002


today's society appears to have been brainwashed by the 'everyone must pay for everyone elses' mistakes' mentality.

Isn't that the truth!
posted by ZupanGOD at 11:21 AM on December 10, 2002


tellmenow said: Then the newly informed electorate can decide if they agree with this type of tax policy, and vote accordingly.

Unfortunately the electorate is the worst body that could vote on economic issues since only a tiny minority of the population even understands economics at a basic level. (As the British government is now finding, since most of the nation opposes the Euro even if it would be economically ideal for the country.)

Thankfully this is why the Federal Reserve is separate from the US Government, and we don't see colossal inflation caused by the government printing its own money. Imagine if the Federal Reserve were a body controlled by the government and voters! We'd have to call the USA 'New Russia' instead.

matteo said: That's right: that way, the poor will stop having children,

Do you understand demographics and social change? The poor do not stay poor. A majority of the people who were poor in the 70s were in the top 10% of the country's richest people in the 90s. (See 'Basic Economics' by Thomas Sowell.)

This is not about the oppression of the poor.. since the majority of us are poor at one time or another, and quite often are rich at other times. Have children when you think you can afford it. That might mean you do it in your late 30's instead of your early 20's.. so be it!

One has to wonder who will you hire then to clean your nice house and prepare your kids lunch, Wackybrit

Believe it or not, I live below the average level. If I can believe in capitalism while not being rich, then clearly that says something about the merits of it. I am not some rich guy who likes capitalism because it gives me more $$. I am a hard worker who believes in keeping what he earns and earning what I need rather than the government helping me out!

Also, corporations are first in line when it comes to be awarded a big government subsidy, where's their free-market, anti-Keynes, socialism-equals-cancer stance then?

On this whole area, we agree. Corporate socialism is wrong and extremely damaging to the economy. Companies should not be bailed out. There is no excuse why a decent streamlined company cannot survive in this world. But some of these corporations get way too greedy BECAUSE THEY KNOW THE GOVERNMENT WILL BACK THEM UP.

Rid socialism from the government and people/corporations will waste a whole lot less of their money.. resulting in a benefit for all of us.

chris0495 said: Why are the poor (yes, even the working poor) afforded zero dignity in our society? What is it? Are you really convinced that you'll ever be rich? Why lie to yourself? You wont ever be rich unless you get it from daddy or get extremely lucky. Don't bother with the rags-to-riches stories. They are crap;

Clearly you are unaware how some of the world's most prestigious companies came about.. Microsoft, Virgin, Mercedes-Benz, Tiffany's, WAL*Mart.. NONE were started with 'daddy's money'. They were started by damn hard workers who believed in capitalism and fought hard.

If you don't have the drive to make money, you never will. Communism would suit you better. But let the rest of us hard workers get on with making our rent without the government handing some single mother THEIR rent for NOTHING.
posted by wackybrit at 11:25 AM on December 10, 2002


chris0495: Don't bother with the rags-to-riches stories. They are crap; it's like pointing out last weeks lottery winner and saying "See, people win the lottery all the time!"

Why not? I'm a living example.
posted by ZupanGOD at 11:26 AM on December 10, 2002


A majority of the people who were poor in the 70s were in the top 10% of the country's richest people in the 90s.
Surely, I'm not the only person whose bullshit alarm just went off...

If I can believe in capitalism while not being rich, then clearly that says something about the merits of it.
No, it says that the rich have successfully propagandized you. Read "One Market Under God" by Thomas Frank.

I am not some rich guy who likes capitalism because it gives me more $$. I am a hard worker who believes in keeping what he earns and earning what I need rather than the government helping me out!
Well, wackybrit, capitalism isn't about working. It's about investing. You make a little money by working, but amass a fortune only through investments.
posted by Slothrup at 11:36 AM on December 10, 2002


WackyBrit, we agree about the electorate setting fiscal policy. I do believe if we want to end corporate welfare/socialism that this will have to become an issue the electorate cares about, and votes about accordingly. My only point was that cases like snow, and for that matter the US corporations moving offshore to avoid taxes, should serve to create electorate visibility into the issue, and if they want to do something about it, it will be visible enough for one of the parties to make it a polarizing platform issue.
posted by tellmenow at 11:38 AM on December 10, 2002


Matteo: Do refrain from equating calls for personal responsibility with eugenics, yes? I might also point out that the best way to keep the poor from having children appears to be to get them out of poverty.

I know not a damn about Snow, but will welcome the administration's shakeup if it will get Bush to start acting like a damned Republican.

Entirely OT: I really like this headline.
posted by apostasy at 11:46 AM on December 10, 2002


I'm not a big believer in corporate subsidies. But I'd argue that in the case of CSX, it's actually appropriate. Why? First, we have to recognize that a lot of people in this country need their freight delivery services, which they do. Trains carry tons o' freight, and pollute much less than trucks. The fact is, that running a railroad is expensive, so it's difficult to make a profit. That's why so many rail lines go out of business. Furthermore, bear in mind that we're implicitly giving their competition, the trucking industry, help whenever taxpayer dollars are used to maintain highways. CSX helps maintain their rails, but the trucking companies get the highways almost free of charge. That's a pretty big (and unfair) advantage, and without a subsidy to balance it, CSX would suffer, leading to polluted highways clogged with huge semis. The fact is, freight rail companies provide a necessary service, but at a high operating expense. So, it's probably worthwhile to give them a break.
posted by unreason at 11:49 AM on December 10, 2002


Surely, I'm not the only person whose bullshit alarm just went off...

Sorry, I was still stuck on how Microsoft apparently became the company it is today through fair and honest business practices. And Tiffany's- yeah, that Diamond market sure is a free-market benefit-for-all-workers paradise, isn't it.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:50 AM on December 10, 2002


The problem is that corporations have means available where they don't have to pay taxes.

No, the problem is that one-sided articles that the one in this FPP imply that companies pay no taxes. This simply isn't true. The federal tax on income is what we are talking about here - which is one of a multitude of taxes. Large amounts of money (especially in a company with 40,000 employees) goes to paying the employer's share of payroll taxes and FICA, property taxes, state and local taxes, etc., etc. This isn't how it's presented in the article though ... which, while being very careful to state that it is only talking about federal income tax, implies that the company paid no taxes. THIS IS FALSE.

What the company does do is often defer taxes (which ultimately have to be paid - see 1999). They also invest in the future, and take write-offs for depreciation. This line is interesting:

"The strangely high tax rate in 1999 reflects payment of $75 million in taxes previously deferred. Despite that reversal, CSX indefinitely deferred a net total of $472 million in federal taxes over the four years, largely due to excess depreciation write-offs for tax purposes."

Look at everything implied here ... they are taking "excess" (so the "Citizens for Tax Justice", not the IRS, is the arbiter of what "excess" is?) depreciation write-offs for "tax purposes" ... tell me, what other purpose does "depreciation" have? All it is is a tax concept. CSX does take a larger amount of write-offs for depreciation than is the norm therse days ... but why might that be? Because they're a freakin' brick-and-mortar transportation company. They own large numbers of things like boxcars, and ships, and locomotives. They wear out. The company is going to have much higher depreciation on it's books than a financial services firm, or one of the many others in the modern economy whose value is mostly intellectual, not physical.

The article in this FPP is badly misleading, and purely political. A man that has successfully run a large corporation through the depths of a recession without any of the shenanigans of the Enrons and Worldcoms (when many other companies in his industry have consolidated, or gone out of business), kept a lot of people employed, and used nothing other than fully legal tax strategies, is being smeared simply because he is good at business.

For those that believe anyone that is rich is not paying their "fair share", and any company that takes legal deductions is making use of "shelters", this means little. To others reading this FPP, however, that are interested in any sort of objective analysis of this fellow's fitness for the post - I might suggest that this FPP, and the implications article it refers to, is so badly misleading - and so selective in the facts it presents and the way it presents them - as to lack any credibility at all.
posted by MidasMulligan at 12:02 PM on December 10, 2002


Is there something inherent to stridently right-wing MeFi'ers that makes them write incredibly long posts?
posted by risenc at 12:13 PM on December 10, 2002


chris0495: Don't bother with the rags-to-riches stories. They are crap; it's like pointing out last weeks lottery winner and saying "See, people win the lottery all the time!"

Actually, my father is a rags to riches. He started out as a mailman who didn't have enough money to pay his college tuition and eat 3 meals a day. Now he has a very successful business. He didn't get it through family money (his family didn't have harly any), or through subsidies, or through "luck". He got it through hard work. So don't insult him and those like him by claiming that they didn't earn what they built.
posted by unreason at 12:14 PM on December 10, 2002


Is there something inherent to stridently right-wing MeFi'ers that makes them write incredibly long posts?

Relative to strident left-wing MeFi'ers who seem capable of expressing themselves entirely in one-line, bumper-sticker slogans? I guess so. I'll certainly try to use less complex concepts, and shorter words, if you feel this will help you.
posted by MidasMulligan at 12:18 PM on December 10, 2002


I'll certainly try to use less complex concepts, and shorter words, if you feel this will help you.

See Midas, this is the problem with your posts, here and elsewhere - there's some argumentation there, but most of them, like the above, are bare, logical fallacies. What is it about asking for concise comments translates into asking for "less complex concepts"? What about the question makes me a "strident left-wing MeFi'er"? If you'd drop the strawmen, you'd be much better received. I don't mean to make this personal, but I figured it necessary to respond.
posted by risenc at 12:25 PM on December 10, 2002


See Midas, this is the problem with your posts, here and elsewhere - there's some argumentation there, but most of them, like the above, are bare, logical fallacies.

Please point out his fallacy. Stop accusing and start proving your own, rather unfounded, argument.
posted by BlueTrain at 12:29 PM on December 10, 2002


Having kids is like buying a Lexus on credit. If you don't have the money to pay for it, DON'T DO IT! You accept the consequences!

Um, it strikes me that "the consequences" that our public benefits system is designed to mitigate are the consequences for the entirely innocent children. Or should they be punished as well?
posted by boltman at 12:33 PM on December 10, 2002


The other thing that is not being recognized here is that taxes by themself are an injustice. When politicians talk about cutting or raising taxes for programs we never think about the men with guns they are sending to our houses to take our money. Washington said, "Government, like fire, is a dangerous servant and a terrible master," and he was right. Government is a tool of force, and the only suitable use of that force is to bring to justice those that violate your rights to life, liberty, and property. But taxes are a theft of property, and a penalty for success, perpetrated by the very body that is supposed to protect your rights.

"A government with the policy to rob Peter to pay Paul can be assured of the support of Paul"
- George Bernard Shaw
posted by MarkO at 12:38 PM on December 10, 2002


BlueTrain - this is getting kind of meta. You're accusing me of unfounded arguments in regards to my accusing Midas of unfounded arguments, but you don't explain what my unfounded arguments are (therefore making your own argument unfounded)! HAH! OK, so, for starters, calling me a left-wing MeFi'er, simply for pointing out that those who are taking a right-wing/Libertarian perspective on this thread are pretty long-winded. There's no basis for that; it's faulty logic. Similar arguments - setting up his opponents as extreme PoV's (ie, "anyone that is rich is not paying their 'fair share') - populate his posts on this thread. Like I said, not all, but they tend to crowd out what is at heart a pretty straight-forward argument.
posted by risenc at 12:40 PM on December 10, 2002


MarkO - not arguing against the content of your post, but it's somewhat disingenuous to quote Shaw - he was, after all, a socialist, and I think he'd pretty heartily disagree with your position.
posted by risenc at 12:43 PM on December 10, 2002


Oh, for the love of God, can we avoid the left-wing / right-wing stereotypes that will guarantee to sidetrack us? I hear just as many 'one liners' from left and right wingers alike: that's why I avoid columnists/journalists like Rush Limbaugh, Tom Friedman, Maureen O'Brian, etc. I don't want interpretation, I want data.

What MidasMulligan says I take as neither right nor left. Style aside, he has made a very good and valid point. Nobody is talking about punishing children nor letting the wealthy get away with robbery, etc.

What I read here is about the tax shelters that any rational human being would take advantage of given the proper information and motivation to do so. It sounds to me like Snow did what a good chief executive does: spend money where it will create the most wealth, and avoid spending money that doesn't. We as consumers do the same thing-I know that I go out of my way to avoid paying taxes. Doesn't everyone?

I believe strongly in supporting myself and helping to teach skills to those who are willing to learn. I believe strongly that corporate tax shelters, "corporate welfare" and abuse are wrong and should be dealt with. Just as the corporate gifts are corrupting to business, I believe they can have the same effect upon individuals too. Minimize that and you lessen the corruption that has led to the idea that its all 'somebody else's money'.

Work hard, think straight and succeed. This, of course, does not preclude help and assistance from time to time-but make that a last recourse.
posted by tgrundke at 12:53 PM on December 10, 2002


Additional point: we have something called a social contract, which makes us responsible, to a degree, for the welfare of the disadvantaged. This applies to PEOPLE, not to corporations with CEOs pulling in $20 million US per year.

In this light we view the difference between the Head Start program and corporate tax breaks.
posted by 4midori at 1:43 PM on December 10, 2002


4midori:

This makes an interesting segueway. What does "disadvantaged" really mean? I am completely serious in this question, I have never received a good definition of what that word entails.
posted by tgrundke at 1:52 PM on December 10, 2002


OK, so, for starters, calling me a left-wing MeFi'er, simply for pointing out that those who are taking a right-wing/Libertarian perspective on this thread are pretty long-winded.

You didn't "simply" point that out - you did so in with a snarky tone, that generated a like response. Were you asking a serious question, in a non-confrontational tone, I would have answered - politely - that there is a reason. It is easy to post a short, one-liner attack posts. The FPP here does just that ... "Corporate Freeloader Chief is Bush’s Choice to Head Treasury" is the intro, and the article it leads to is one-sided to the point of being almost complete BS. It takes more words to call bullshit on such things than it does to simply post them. The fact that it seems as though "strident right-wingers" commonly post longer posts results from the fact that they are usually the ones doing the defending - how often do you see an FPP that starts "Gore again demonstrates complete duplicity" with a link to a one-sided, right-wing article? Yet there are often dozens a week like this current one "Corporate Freeloader Chief is Bush’s Choice to Head Treasury".

As with this post itself - it takes more to defend against an attack than it does to attack. And while I haven't seen anything in the guidelines talking about posts over a certain length being worng, I do continually reference this:

And lastly, don't troll (quick definition: posting purposely inflammatory things for the sole purpose of baiting others to argue the points until blue in the face - basically people do this for kicks, to destroy conversations and communites, for the hell of it).

Which is exactly what this current FPP, and many others do. You want strident right-wingers to write shorter posts - then talk to the people that post that sort of pure troll bait on a daily basis. As long as they keep doing so, you'll have to forgive right-wingers for explaining, point - by - point, where the bullshit lies.
posted by MidasMulligan at 1:56 PM on December 10, 2002


Clarification:

Rich = money forever. Anyone that could quit their job today, do nothing and maintain their current lifestyle is rich.

Poor = everyone else. I know a lot of people that make 100,000 a year that are poor. If their job went away or if they were physically/mentally disabled their lifestyle would be dramatically different. They would either have to move in with family or get used to a concrete pillow.

Again, I say, unless daddy gives it to you or you get extremely lucky, you will not ever be rich. The certainty of wealth that beats in every ambitious twenty five year old's heart, especially common to lower middle class people, is a delusion. A delusion that assists this country's powerful interests (the founding fathers called them factions) in operating the federal government (think regulatory agencies and the IRS) to their own advantage.
posted by chris0495 at 2:01 PM on December 10, 2002


we have something called a social contract, which makes us responsible, to a degree, for the welfare of the disadvantaged.
I entered into no contract, and claim no responsibility.
posted by thirteen at 2:12 PM on December 10, 2002


It is not true to say that all Libertarians are right wing.

The opposite of 'libertarian' is 'authoritarian', and there are many left and right wing authoritarians, and many left and right wing libertarians. I actually have quite left wing social beliefs, whereas my financial and economic beliefs fall into this 'right wing/libertarian' area you mention. I am not 'conservative' in any non-financial sense. I am not 'right wing.'

chris0495, your definitions of rich and poor border on the ridiculous. Your definitions would classify a chairman working 20 hours a week, earning $500k a year, with two upmarket properties.. poor, simply because he doesn't have $10m in his bank account to retire on!!

I have to worry where the money comes from month to month (I work for myself), but I wouldn't consider myself 'poor' even with my relatively paltry income. If you have to think long and hard before spending every single dollar, then you're poor. Thankfully at least 80% of people aren't like that.

And I think MidasMulligan just became my favorite MeFier.
posted by wackybrit at 2:21 PM on December 10, 2002


I'm trying to follow CTJ's analysis, and I need help.

Their release says that CSX's pretax US 2001 profit was $347 million, and cites CSX's annual report for proof. I cannot find that number anywhere in CSX's annual report, available here. They do list net earnings of $293 million. How could profits be higher than earnings? I also couldn't find the tax refund reported there, but I did find $155 million in "income tax expenses" for 2001. (All of this is on Acrobat p. 32). What am I missing?
posted by profwhat at 2:27 PM on December 10, 2002


What I read here is about the tax shelters that any rational human being would take advantage of given the proper information and motivation to do so

I agree with you up to a point -- I don't think corporations can be blamed for taking advantage of legal loopholes in the tax code when given Congress' complicity in the whole rotten scheme. However, I think we have every right to expect corporations to behave morally in other areas such as consumer privacy, layoffs, the environment, safety, sweatshop labor, honest accounting, etc. Maximizing profit is certainly a comendable and important goal for corporations, but I think society can insist that corporate executives respect other basic community values as well.
posted by boltman at 2:42 PM on December 10, 2002


chris0495, again, this is simply not true. See my post above. Believe it or not, people exist who have become well-off or rich without help from their parents. It's difficult, but it happens. The fact that you or many people you know haven't succeeded at this doesn't mean it's impossible, or only possible with luck. How do I know? I've met people who are rich, by YOUR definition of the word, who got no help from anybody. There are public examples, as well. The founder of Papa Johns, for example, started out by selling his car and using the money to sell pizzas out of his father's bar. He now definitely fits it your category of rich. So do the founders of FUBU, who started out in a poor inner city neighborhood making their own clothes. There are, of course plenty of other examples. And perhaps if you spent less time saying it's impossible and more time giving it a try, you might be rich too. That's your choice. But don't insult hardworking people by claiming that if they're rich and you're not that they must have "gotten lucky" or "cheated" somehow
posted by unreason at 2:43 PM on December 10, 2002


We live in a nation of 250 million people. Why naming a half dozen or even a hundred self-made millionaires proves that hard work and good ideas will get you ahead, or rich even, only shows that you do not understand how large numbers work.

Of course, there will be people that succeed. That has got nothing to do with it. I've seen a football player catch a pass with his facemask, that does not mean that getting a football stuck in your facemask is the best way to catch a football, it only means that it can happen, albeit infrequently.
posted by chris0495 at 3:11 PM on December 10, 2002


Again, you seem to believe that these people are successful due to luck. This is somewhat similar to the student who gets an F on his test, then says that the smart kids were cheating. Entrepreuneurship ain't easy, I never said it was. It requires intelligence, an astounding amount of hard work, and many other things. Most people never even try entrepreuneurship, because it's hard. But that doesn't mean it's impossible, or that you can't do it if you try, or that it's just luck. Go ahead, complain about how you're not rich, and everyone who is is either lucky or a cheater, and how it isn't really possible to make anything of yourself. I'll be busy working on starting my own company without the help of anyone. Maybe I'll succeed, maybe I won't, but at least I'll have tried, which is more than most people ever bother to do.
posted by unreason at 3:27 PM on December 10, 2002


A majority of the people who were poor in the 70s were in the top 10% of the country's richest people in the 90s.


Surely, I'm not the only person whose bullshit alarm just went off...


I thought I'd look up exactly what the statistics are, just for you.

I quote: 'An absolute majority of the people in the bottom 20 percent in income in 1975 were also in the top 20 percent at some point over the next 17 years.' This comes from Thomas Sowell, one of America's finest economists.

What's more, he says that for a family to fall into the richest 10%, they need to have a household income of $75,000 per year, and a couple making $38,000 each per year hardly seems like 'the rich'.

Another choice quote.. 'Fewer than 3 percent of those in the bottom 20 percent in 1975 were still there in 1991, while 39 percent of them were now in the top 20 percent.'

Okay, so I skewed it a bit, but the point remains.. the poor rarely stay poor. Young people are more likely to be poor because their wages are lower and they have less experience. The old are more likely to be poor because they're retired.

'The poor' and 'the rich' are not statically defined groups. Nearly all of us move between them at some point.
posted by wackybrit at 3:30 PM on December 10, 2002


Wackybrit, you don't seem to understand that you're talking about the poor and the not so poor. You are not talking about the rich.

unreason - yes, yes, yes, I'm stupid and unhappy because I realize how extremely difficult it is for poor people to get ahead. yes, yes, yes, I'm bitter and difficult because I realize that this nation's government kneels at the feet of the rich.

For the record: I'm a 30 year old, college educated, middle class mongrel. My yearly wage has fluctuated between $14,000 a year and $230,000 a year. I haven't used credit cards since 1995, haven't made a payment since 1997, I own my car and my monthly expenses are roughly 30% of my after tax income. I've lived in a condo on miami beach and i've lived out of my car in Wyoming (currently, i live in a house in texas). Extrapolate some simple stereotype of a hippie from that info.

entertain me! i'm waiting.
posted by chris0495 at 4:02 PM on December 10, 2002


wackybrit: one would hope that the majority of the people in the bottom 20 percent were not there 10 years later--that would quite a problem indeed considering that the typical person in the bottom quintile is probably quite young. Of course most "poor" 20 year olds are not going to also be poor ten years later. This is hardly a relevation and it really tells us nothing useful about income mobility. Show me that the people we traditionally think of as "poor" (e.g. single mothers, people living in slums or very rural areas, etc) have significant mobility and I'll be more impressed.

Also, I believe your second statistic was based on a very flawed study. (scroll down to the part about income mobility).
posted by boltman at 4:39 PM on December 10, 2002


Thomas Sowell maybe one of America's finest economists, he certainly has the resume, but these statistics would need to be better documented and explained to support any theory of poor people's mobility in the US.

Let's look at the unsited statistics from an undated survey.

'An absolute majority of the people in the bottom 20 percent in income in 1975 were also in the top 20 percent at some point over the next 17 years.'

First, the top and the bottom 20 percent are not defined in actual income terms. The leap out of poverty these poor people are supposedly making could sound more impressive than it actually is. What is the minimum income per year needed to make this jump?

Second - all this statistic is stating is that at one point some number more than half during almost twenty years at least once reached the top 20 percent. This hardly represents the almost complete turn over in the poor population in the United States wackybrit proposes. It means in some year some poor people made more money. This does NOT mean they are no longer poor.

How is this information representative of the '90s? 1975 + 17 years will only put us at '92.
posted by birgitte at 4:44 PM on December 10, 2002


entertain me! i'm waiting. Always happy to oblige! Believe it or not, I agree with you on one point, the rich get far too many perks from the feds. And I never said you were stupid, or poor, or a hippy. I merely inferred that you were not an entrepreuneur, which is pretty much the classic way for poor people to get rich. The one you say doesn't exist, except where it happens by accident. My point is that this way does exist, and has been successful in many (MUCH more than 100) cases. The fact that many haven't done it doesn't mean it requires luck, it just means that mostly, few ever try to make a serious effort, sometimes, like in your case, because they don't believe it can happen. And yeah, if you try, there's no guarantee that you'll succeed. But it's not statistically unlikely or uncommon, as you suppose. Believe it or not, not every rich person in the US got that way by inheriting it, or by winning the lottery.
posted by unreason at 4:52 PM on December 10, 2002


wackybrit- CSX is not a corporation sole (sic), and does not have the same legal standing as a person.

reminded me of those crazy times we had back in the 1870s:

'With the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, the owners of the what were then America's largest and most powerful corporations—the railroads—figured they'd finally found a way to reverse Paine's logic and no longer have to answer to "we, the people." They would claim that the corporation is a person. They would claim that for legal purposes, the certificate of incorporation declares the legal birth of a new person, who should therefore have the full protections the voters have under the Bill of Rights.'

wackybrit- 'The poor do not stay poor. A majority of the people who were poor in the 70s were in the top 10% of the country's richest people in the 90s.'

are you familiar with the gini coefficient? it is another 'use of economics'. Sowell has his (on preview: numerous)detractors too, as inequality does seem to be increasing in the us.
posted by asok at 5:15 PM on December 10, 2002


chris0495, you seem to have a pretty skewed idea of what it means to be rich. Under your idea, a frugal person with a good pension plan is considered rich while a law firm partner who has a house in the Hamptons, his own yacht, and multiple luxury cars would be considered poor.
posted by gyc at 5:17 PM on December 10, 2002


For the record: I'm a 30 year old, college educated, middle class mongrel. My yearly wage has fluctuated between $14,000 a year and $230,000 a year. I haven't used credit cards since 1995, haven't made a payment since 1997, I own my car and my monthly expenses are roughly 30% of my after tax income.

I'd say your monthly expenses as a percentage of your after tax income are a good measure of how rich you are, independent of your savings and investments. How rich you are also depends on how you want to live.

If you're a travelling nomad who can live on a buck a day, and then you make $1000, you're rich. If you can live on 30% of your after tax income, which leaves 70% of your income entirely for savings and luxuries.. you're pretty rich!

Many families barely scrape by on 100% of their income, let alone 30%. Indeed, housing costs take up 25% of the average budget. Even the majority won't approach 50%. Face it.. you're pretty well off.
posted by wackybrit at 5:19 PM on December 10, 2002


North America -- Canada and the USA both -- despises the poor. Hates 'em with a passion.

Some examples:

- several states and provinces have work-for-welfare initiatives. In some of these areas, those that are on welfare are being bused a couple hours a day to go work in wealthy communities, where they earn minimum wages at tax-subsidized mall outlets and factories. There's no money being saved: it's just been transferred from the welfare program to employer tax-break programs. Rich get richer, and the poor are effectively removed from their roles as parents.

- in BC there's movement afoot to force 12 year olds to go to work! If you're a parent who becomes disabled on the job, the government wants to force your kid to go to work, instead of paying out welfare. What a horrific concept.

- in BC also there's a lot of hoopla right now over street nurse drug programs. These are, of course, used exclusively by the poor. They're taught how to safely inject, how to sterilize their needles, taught about the risks of sharing needles, etcetera. Turns out those in the program tend to work towards weaning themselves off drugs, by abstinence, by drug rehab, or by changing their living conditions. But the BC government wants to cancel the program: we hate the poor, and would prefer them to die than to use drugs safely.

- again in BC, we have an old several-stories abandoned department store complex that has, for at least a decade, been a refuge for the homeless street people. It's right in the heart of the most poverty-striken area of Vancouver, to boot. Do we turn it into social housing? Hell no! We kick them out and talk about turning it into office space.

- might was well mention that BC food banks are up against the wall, and a number of community support services targeting the poor and disadvantaged have been axed.

- lots of cities have anti-panhandling laws, anti-windshield washer-kids laws, anti-loitering laws, dismal social housing projects, unfair cops, politicians who change zoning bylaws to kick out the homeless or poor, etcetera.

When you start looking at what goes on, it becomes really damn clear that there's a war against the poor. Our society wants them to either enslave them or kill them. There's no real in-between.

Pretty damn shameful.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:49 PM on December 10, 2002


Some of those things sound pretty bizarre, five fresh fish, and, if true, some are quite disappointing. However, I wanted to call attention to this:

Turns out those in the program tend to work towards weaning themselves off drugs, by abstinence, by drug rehab, or by changing their living conditions. But the BC government wants to cancel the program: we hate the poor, and would prefer them to die than to use drugs safely.

Are you suggesting that because someone chose to become a drug addict that we must feel obliged to help them? If so, can I venture that we help people who are in debt too? What about people who abused their teeth with candy and cola? Dentistry is not cheap, so should we make it free so that people cannot suffer from their bad decisions?

Okay, it's not very 'people friendly' to leave people to be responsible for their own actions, but it's practical. PS. I am only playing devil's advocate here.
posted by wackybrit at 6:16 PM on December 10, 2002


asok said: wackybrit- CSX is not a corporation sole (sic),

Please explain the use of 'sic' here.

I spelt 'corporation sole' correctly, and a company name is used as a singular noun so 'is' is correct, as opposed to 'are'. Or are you questioning the fact that CSX, being a corporation aggregate, cannot by definition be a corporation sole too?
posted by wackybrit at 6:28 PM on December 10, 2002


I don't know, I'm torn on this one. If the $0 tax payout on the part of CSX was perfectly legal, there isn't much to be angry about; they had a terrific accountant. And yet, it offends me that they could pull it off.

I have no objection to a certain amount of taxes I pay being dedicated to help shore up the disadvantaged, but I don't want to subsidize a corporation that isn't willing to share the financial burden of the government services, security, etc. we're all using.

Boltman was spot on when he made reference to "community values". If you value the community you live in, you're willing to help shoulder the burdens as well as capitalize on the benefits. So while it may be legal for them to have paid $0 taxes, it most certainly highlights the need to review corporate welfare programs.
posted by Tiger_Lily at 7:16 PM on December 10, 2002


Wackybrit - Most people who advocate helping out drug addicts, myself included, don't look at it as a question of "should" or obligation in a moral sense, but from a public policy sense. People are going to abuse drugs, and yeah they shouldn't, but that's the fact of the matter. If nothing is done about it, advocates argue that their numbers will increase, that they will drag others (family, friends) down with them, commit crimes, etc. And, sure, providing counseling might encourage some to start abusing drugs, but the numbers that such programs help get off drugs are usually statistically greater than those who begin because of them.
posted by risenc at 8:06 PM on December 10, 2002


Chris095:

You have a fantastically skewed vision of what it means to be rich and poor. I cannot stand those terms, anyhow-there is absolutely no objective standard by which to judge them.

I grew up in one of the top 10 wealthiest communities in the United States and yet my parents were square middle class as we ran a social service agency that paid squat-but part of the deal was residence in this nice neighborhood. Was I lucky? Partially so. But my parents learned how to take a very *very* meager salary and parlay that into a comfortable amount of *wealth*.

This is not rags to riches, it is a common sense story with common sense thinking. To me, wealth is something that appreciates and grows due to proper use of a sparce commodity.

The problem in North America today is that so many people have grown to believe they *deserve* wealth without initial sacrifice and some ridiculous hard work. In the wealthy community where I grew up I would have to say that many people there never were wealthy or "rich" - they relied on all the credit they could to project the image of wealth.

I have a deep appreciation and understanding of the need to help those who have been disenfranchised. I believe in fair treatment for all and an opportunity for those who demonstrate competence, intelligence, and eagerness. I want the government to stay off my back on most social issues-and to keep the amount they take from my income to a bare minimum. If that is right wing in the negative tone I see implied around here, then I am guilty as charged.
posted by tgrundke at 8:16 PM on December 10, 2002


I believe in fair treatment for all and an opportunity for those who demonstrate competence, intelligence, and eagerness. *snipped for brevity* then I am guilty as charged.

I think you speak for most down to earth hard working Americans with that statement. I also think that perhaps some of us have jumped on one camp or another too quickly in this debate. It is assumed everyone wants to be rich and no-one wants to be poor.

After some daydreaming on this, I've realized that not everyone wants to be financially rich, and that some people even like the idea of a poor lifestyle (see all the people who became backpackers, organic farmers, etc.) I know people who have lots of friends, enjoy their way of life, and while they wouldn't mind a bit more money, they're happy with their lot. And that's what I'd call being rich of life.
posted by wackybrit at 8:51 PM on December 10, 2002


Now, back to Dr. Snow and his nomination. I look forward to learning more about him in the upcoming confirmation hearings, and I hope they don't become some kind of circus. I am somewhat cynical in my view of some of George Bush's choices to fill some of his posts. For example Harvey Pitt was a classic case of the fox guarding the hen house.

I for one would like to pay less taxes, but unfortunately we have this incredible national debt to pay off, and we have huge problems in entitlements spending. George Bush can cry about all the tax cuts he wants, but he, nor does anyone in our government have any balls to solve some of our national problems and reduce our government spending. Bring on deficit spending and it will cure our economy and we'll have plenty of money for our future. (insert sarcasm font) Quite honestly, I can't really stand either party these days, I am just cynical about all of the government. Why can't anyone just want to simplify government, the tax code, and so on....? (Rhetorical Question)
posted by Eekacat at 9:08 PM on December 10, 2002


Eekacat: I seem to recall Bush raving on about how he was a little guy and how he was going to shake up Washington. He also said he was going to make changes, and the biggest would be to make government smaller and more accountable. Hopefully he will unveil this new government soon as I cannot believe he would go back on his promises.
posted by wackybrit at 9:19 PM on December 10, 2002


I don't know, I'm torn on this one. If the $0 tax payout on the part of CSX was perfectly legal, there isn't much to be angry about; they had a terrific accountant. And yet, it offends me that they could pull it off.

But please examine the why. We're in a down economy - many businesses are making no profits at all. Many are going into debt - losing money - waiting for economic conditions to recover. While in intellectual firms, this means a lot of capital expenditures can be put off ... but for brick-and-mortar companies, it is not so easy to do. If a railroad car falls apart, you cannot just put off buying a new one (a certain percentage of cars are retired and replaced every year in that business). And with large capital expenditures, it is possible to choose when to take depreciation. Obviously, during down times (in the general economy for the last couple of years, or the transportation industry, which has been hurting for somewhat longer) you try to defer taxes until times get better. You invest in new capital because you have to, but you certainly try to get every bit of tax advantage possible.

On balance, America as a whole judges it to be a good idea to keep businesses running. You may think it is "unfair" (by what standard?) ... but the 40,000 people CSX employs (and pays a lot of taxes for), the states and cities that make money off of CSX taxes, and the many other businesses that wind up supported by the spending of CSX employees, probably think different.

I repeat - it is one of a multitude of different sorts of taxes that is the focus of the article here. The way the article presents things leads any reasonable person to conclude it is "unfair". The point of the article was to do exactly that. But it presented such a radically partial, carefully selected set of "facts" that it is close to being a flat out lie.
posted by MidasMulligan at 9:23 PM on December 10, 2002


I seem to recall Bush raving on about how he was a little guy and how he was going to shake up Washington. He also said he was going to make changes, and the biggest would be to make government smaller and more accountable. Hopefully he will unveil this new government soon as I cannot believe he would go back on his promises.

I swear to god I have no idea if you're being sarcastic or not.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:37 PM on December 10, 2002


Midas,
On the whole we're in agreement here. I don't mind aiding corporations (in fact I'd use the same "community" argument to support their limited aid)--I just mind being played for a chump when they loophole their way out of paying a single cent in taxes (economic slowdown or not).

Individual citizens are not privy to tax advantages that would relieve us of our fiscal responsibility to support our government when the economy hits the skids. Why then would a corporation be granted a disproportionate advantage? Give them aid? Sure. Legislate the possibility for complete relief? No--that's pushing it.
CSX depends heavily on federal government services--the DoT comes to mind as a primary agency on which they rely. That agency doesn't stop working during economic slumps--and corporations like CSX should be pulling their weight to keep federal agencies like the DoT operational.
So when I say we need to reevaluate corporate welfare--understand that I'm proposing something fundamentally different than scrapping those programs altogether.
posted by Tiger_Lily at 9:56 PM on December 10, 2002


starts singing:

united together
in friendship and labour.............
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:02 AM on December 11, 2002


"Are you suggesting that because someone chose to become a drug addict that we must feel obliged to help them? If so, can I venture that we help people who are in debt too? What about people who abused their teeth with candy and cola? Dentistry is not cheap, so should we make it free so that people cannot suffer from their bad decisions?"

Er, yes. In Canada, we have bankruptcy laws for those who go so far into debt there's no way out. We have food banks for those who are not quite that poor, but who can't make ends meet. We have rent-subsidized housing for the same. We have welfare. We have subsidized dentistry.

Your devil's advocacy doesn't work. You're trying for black-and-white, but playing in the grey areas. If you want to go hardcore, you're going to have to advocate that every man look out for himself, and screw everyone else.

That, alas, just leads to anarchy. Look to Haiti, several African countries, and other third-world countries for examples of how dog-eat-dog societies just don't work at all.


Came across another example of hating the poor:

-- Internet filtering down at the public library. All the filters give false positives on various health-oriented sites. Of course, the very people who would be accessing such sites from a public terminal are those who don't have a computer & internet access at home -- ie.) the poor.

We want them to be dead.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:12 AM on December 11, 2002


I should mention corporate taxation, I suppose.

What's the point of taxing a corporation? EVERY business cost must be passed down to the consumer.

Seems to me that the best taxation would be either a value-added tax/general services tax, with exemptions for the "necessities of living" so that the poor aren't penalized; or a progressive income tax, again so that the poor aren't penalized disproportionately.

I think the income tax is the way to go. And make it simple: no exemptions, no loopholes, no bullshit: just write down your income, calculate a simple percentage, and send it in. I hate doing my taxes.

If I'm wrong here, please correct me!
posted by five fresh fish at 10:19 AM on December 11, 2002


As usual, we have the tired old "greed is good" justification for whatever CSX and their ilk want to do. As usual, we have a few here who want us all to believe that whatever fattens their wallets is good for the rest of us. As usual, we should all look out for number one at the expense of everyone, and everything else.

That's quite a philosophy for life. I believe Attila the Hun may have originated it. Bush and the others devoting their lives to sucking at corporate kneecaps are merely the latest novitiates. More's the pity...

And the usual spin is this: since CSX employs people, we really should cut them some slack. We never hear our corporate apologists get to the truth of the matter: that 40,000 workers do all the real work and produce all the real fruits of the corporation -- but don't make six and seven figure incomes, don't belong to the Country Club of Virginia, Commonwealth Club, Augusta National Golf Club, Metropolitan Club, and Chevy Chase Club (as John Snow does), and don't have the United States tax code tailored such that they can defer taxes when the economy goes south (the economy has tanked in large part because of the misdeeds of corporate executives, as well as the "greed is good no matter what" school of investing).

John Snow. Yeah. CSX. Sure. No need for corporate welfare in their case, right? Just fine upstanding Americans, trying to do their best for ordinary Americans, don't ya know.

'Course, one does wonder about:

Railroad Giant CSX Seeks Huge Government Bailout In Amtrak Bill On House Floor This Week

Taxpayers Would Foot Bill for Damages Caused by Train Wrecks Due to Corporate Negligence & Wrongdoing


One recent case illustrates the outrageousness of this taxpayer bailout. This past July, a Florida jury imposed a $50 million punitive damage award against CSX for misconduct that led to a 1991 derailment and crash of an Amtrak Silver Star No. 82 train traveling on CSX track. The derailment occurred due to a defective switch on one railroad track, which was negligently maintained by CSX. Eight passengers died in the crash and 78 were injured. The jury awarded an additional $6.1 million in compensatory damages...

On October 9, 1997, Florida judge Arthur J. Franza, in upholding the jury's punitive damages verdict, issued a stinging rebuke of CSX calling their actions that led to the Amtrak train crash "borderline criminal." He also noted that with respect to CSX, "the consequences of carelessness and greed resulted in death, the ultimate violation."

"The clear and convincing evidence shows that Silver Star No, 82's tragic derailment was caused by willful, wanton negligence, which is the functional equivalent of manslaughter," said Judge Franza.

"The CSX bailout bill would represent a huge government shield for corporate wrongdoing and cause the American taxpayer to foot the bill for the lax safety standards of America's biggest railroad companies," said Frank Clemente, Director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch.

This legislation is doubly ironic given an October 8, 1997, report from the Federal Railroad Administration that details safety shortfalls in all areas of CSX's operation. "FRA found an atmosphere at CSXT in which some CSXT field managers consistently failed to demonstrate full commitment to safety," says the FRA report. "Some front-line managers emphasize train operations over safety precautions."

"These provisions are corporate welfare, plain and simple," said Clemente. "Look at what the FRA and Judge Franza say about CSX's utter disregard for safety. With CSX's record, you know the next catastrophe is just waiting to happen. Why should American taxpayers pay for this company's -- or any other private railroad's -- future misconduct?"


But, hey. They "employ" 40,000 Americans (of course, if corporate salaries weren't so high and corporate executives didn't have their heads up their asses half the time, you could employ a hell of a lot more Americans, but never mind that now...). What's a little corporate negligence and corporate welfare among friends, anyway (especially when it contributes to our bloated executive salaries...wink...wink...)? Really...what does right and wrong have to with it when it comes to money, fer chrissakes?

Clearly you are unaware how some of the world's most prestigious companies came about.. Microsoft, Virgin, Mercedes-Benz, Tiffany's, WAL*Mart.. NONE were started with 'daddy's money'. They were started by damn hard workers who believed in capitalism and fought hard.

At best, many of these corporations are merely the equivalent of lottery winners. Someone had to make a killing off the advent of software, for example, no matter how primitive the technology they produced. At worst, many of these corporations were merely better at stealing than others.

As long as they keep doing so, you'll have to forgive right-wingers for explaining, point - by - point, where the bullshit lies.

~guffaw~

That would be oh so great...IF it ever happened. Instead, we have the usual drivel, which is quite clearly where the real bullshit lies. The post is "biased" because it doesn't coincide with your worldview. The post is "close to a lie" because you interpreted a brief that states that federal income wasn't paid to mean no taxes were paid at all (the linked article make no such claim whatsoever). The poster is a "troll" because he/she didn't parrot your own particular philosophy. Your "points" are merely mistakes in logic, repeated ad nauseum.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 12:11 PM on December 11, 2002


if corporate salaries weren't so high and corporate executives didn't have their heads up their asses half the time, you could employ a hell of a lot more Americans, but never mind that now...).

If corporate executives were paid too much that it jeopardized the success of their businesses, then their stock price would plummet.

Executives don't just sit at the top working out how many people they can fire and how much money they can get as a bonus. Most of them are accountable not only to each other, but also to bankers and investors who will pull out if they smell too much greed in the air.
posted by wackybrit at 2:28 PM on December 11, 2002


If corporate executives were paid too much that it jeopardized the success of their businesses, then their stock price would plummet.

If only that were true. But, as this story shows, it's only now that major investors feel sufficiently empowered to challenge the 'cash for failure' attitude that's pervaded executive pay policy.

In previous years (and decades) it's been a question of 'vote for my pay rise, and I'll vote for yours' across the boardrooms of London and New York. And to think that chief executives are truly 'accountable', after such high-profile cases as Marconi, EMI, Enron etc, is capitalist fantasy on a scale to match The Lord of the Rings.
posted by riviera at 11:05 AM on December 12, 2002


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