The deceased and fantastically brilliant comedian Mitch Hedberg once quipped that he wore a necklace “cause I wanna know when I’m upside down.”
Well, when the detached and fantastically buffoonish U.S. Sen. Carl Levin opens his mouth, one can get the clear sense that the world is upside down.
Levin, a long-time senator from Michigan, harangued Apple CEO Tim Cook on Tuesday for – and there is no way we could make this up – avoiding taxes by legally following tax rules generated by Levin and his peers in Congress.
Apple has a corporation in Ireland that accounts for revenue from product and service sales in non-U.S. markets. Levin and many other folks who believe that corporations exist for some other reason than to make money and employ folks, say that Apple is taking advantage of tax laws to keep more than $145 billion in cash parked outside of U.S. taxing authorities.
After all, Levin may again some day need tax dollars to prop up an auto industry based in his home state.
Levin and his party are angry that corporations use rules approved by Congress to make it difficult to confiscate enough money from the private sector to fund the fantastical growth of entitlement spending that was also approved by Congress. One can clearly see why the accounting decisions by Apple, potentially one of the most innovative companies in modern global history, are the problem.
We might also note that General Electric has parked more than $100 billion in overseas profits. But when your CEO raises money and campaigns for the President, he doesn’t get dragged before a committee chairman whose public display of economic understanding is just a little better than the kid who counts along with Count von Count on Sesame Street.
This is not a debate and should not be a debate about the amount of taxes and the process by which U.S.-based corporations pay taxes. This is about the attempt to bully, through a combination of hubris and a politically-motivated temper tantrum, a legitimate company engaging in legal tax accounting transactions.
While Levin was busy badgering a man who does a better job accounting to his shareholders than Levin has done for his, folks around the country were likely using products made by Apple to coordinate relief efforts for tornado ravaged Moore, Okla.
Do U.S. corporations use decades of patchworked tax law to their advantage to avoid paying taxes? Certainly. Are the tax-avoidance moves by Apple illegal? Nope.
But it’s not Apple’s problem that decades of pandering to every little special interest lobbyist who would slip money into a Congressman’s coat pocket has created a tax system that makes a Rube Goldberg machine look as simple as a shoelace.
OK, Mr. Levin, we realize you and your fellow Democrats are under pressure to divert attention from Benghazi, the growing IRS scandal and the dictatorial-style spying by the White House on a fourth estate that was once almost entirely buffaloed by Barack. We get that. But could you be a little less silly, shallow and sanctimonious about it? You of all people should know that we Americans like our double standards and political arrogance to come with at least a modicum of subterfuge and obfuscation.
It was merely frustrating when it was just Levin spouting this inanity. Then along came U.S. Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and John Boozman, R-Ark.
Pryor’s office issued this statement: “This investigation underscores the need for comprehensive tax reform. Corporations shouldn't be able to manipulate the tax code to line their own pockets by pushing the tax burden onto hard-working Americans.”
Boozman’s office issued this statement: “We need a tax structure that closes the numerous loopholes that are regularly exploited and improves our flawed corporate tax system. It is unacceptable for corporations to evade paying taxes. Understanding how businesses have been able to escape paying their fair share will connect the dots on ways we can improve and simplify the U.S. tax code.”
Amazing. Pryor and Boozman appear to hitch their cars to Levin’s silly train by suggesting that Apple has manipulated the tax code or has evaded paying taxes.
Is it too much to ask for a U.S. Senator from Arkansas to say something like: “We now have a clear picture of why our tax code is dicked up. Mr. Tim Cook, we want you to pass along our appreciation to Apple employees and shareholders for being one of the most innovative U.S. companies ever. Also, please know that we understand your tax accounting decisions and we will attempt to simplify the code so that our cluster f*&# of a system is transformed to one that is as equitable as possible for companies off all sizes and market reach.”
So far, the only U.S. Senator with a handle on sanity is the overt libertarian from Kentucky who, the national media tells us, is the silly simpleton of the Senate.
“If anyone should be on trial here, it should be Congress," U.S. Sen. Rand Paul said during the Senate hearing.
Hedberg’s necklace would most certainly be in the dangle position.