The Powell Memo, August 23, 1971

Confidential Memorandum: Attack of American Free Enterprise System

DATE: August 23, 1971
TO: Mr. Eugene B. Sydnor, Jr., Chairman, Education Committee, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
FROM: Lewis F. Powell, Jr.

This memorandum is submitted at your request as a basis for the discussion on August 24 with Mr. Booth (executive vice president) and others at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The purpose is to identify the problem, and suggest possible avenues of action for further consideration.

Dimensions of the Attack

No thoughtful person can question that the American economic system is under broad attack. This varies in scope, intensity, in the techniques employed, and in the level of visibility.

There always have been some who opposed the American system, and preferred socialism or some form of statism (communism or fascism). Also, there always have been critics of the system, whose criticism has been wholesome and constructive so long as the objective was to improve rather than to subvert or destroy.

But what now concerns us is quite new in the history of America. We are not dealing with sporadic or isolated attacks from a relatively few extremists or even from the minority socialist cadre. Rather, the assault on the enterprise system is broadly based and consistently pursued. It is gaining momentum and converts.

Sources of the Attack

The sources are varied and diffused. They include, not unexpectedly, the Communists, New Leftists and other revolutionaries who would destroy the entire system, both political and economic. These extremists of the left are far more numerous, better financed, and increasingly are more welcomed and encouraged by other elements of society, than ever before in our history. But they remain a small minority, and are not yet the principal cause for concern.

The most disquieting voices joining the chorus of criticism come from perfectly respectable elements of society: from the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians. In most of these groups the movement against the system is participated in only by minorities. Yet, these often are the most articulate, the most vocal, the most prolific in their writing and speaking.

Moreover, much of the media-for varying motives and in varying degrees-either voluntarily accords unique publicity to these “attackers,” or at least allows them to exploit the media for their purposes. This is especially true of television, which now plays such a predominant role in shaping the thinking, attitudes and emotions of our people.

One of the bewildering paradoxes of our time is the extent to which the enterprise system tolerates, if not participates in, its own destruction.

The campuses from which much of the criticism emanates are supported by (i) tax funds generated largely from American business, and (ii) contributions from capital funds controlled or generated by American business. The boards of trustees of our universities overwhelmingly are composed of men and women who are leaders in the system.

Most of the media, including the national TV systems, are owned and theoretically controlled by corporations which depend upon profits, and the enterprise system to survive.

Tone of the Attack

This memorandum is not the place to document in detail the tone, character, or intensity of the attack. The following quotations will suffice to give one a general idea:

William Kunstler, warmly welcomed on campuses and listed in a recent student poll as the “American lawyer most admired,” incites audiences as follows:

“You must learn to fight in the streets, to revolt, to shoot guns. We will learn to do all of the things that property owners fear.”2 The New Leftists who heed Kunstler’s advice increasingly are beginning to act — not just against military recruiting offices and manufacturers of munitions, but against a variety of businesses: “Since February, 1970, branches (of Bank of America) have been attacked 39 times, 22 times with explosive devices and 17 times with fire bombs or by arsonists.”3 Although New Leftist spokesmen are succeeding in radicalizing thousands of the young, the greater cause for concern is the hostility of respectable liberals and social reformers. It is the sum total of their views and influence which could indeed fatally weaken or destroy the system.

A chilling description of what is being taught on many of our campuses was written by Stewart Alsop:

“Yale, like every other major college, is graduating scores of bright young men who are practitioners of ‘the politics of despair.’ These young men despise the American political and economic system . . . (their) minds seem to be wholly closed. They live, not by rational discussion, but by mindless slogans.”4 A recent poll of students on 12 representative campuses reported that: “Almost half the students favored socialization of basic U.S. industries.”5

A visiting professor from England at Rockford College gave a series of lectures entitled “The Ideological War Against Western Society,” in which he documents the extent to which members of the intellectual community are waging ideological warfare against the enterprise system and the values of western society. In a foreword to these lectures, famed Dr. Milton Friedman of Chicago warned: “It (is) crystal clear that the foundations of our free society are under wide-ranging and powerful attack — not by Communist or any other conspiracy but by misguided individuals parroting one another and unwittingly serving ends they would never intentionally promote.”6

Perhaps the single most effective antagonist of American business is Ralph Nader, who — thanks largely to the media — has become a legend in his own time and an idol of millions of Americans. A recent article in Fortune speaks of Nader as follows:

“The passion that rules in him — and he is a passionate man — is aimed at smashing utterly the target of his hatred, which is corporate power. He thinks, and says quite bluntly, that a great many corporate executives belong in prison — for defrauding the consumer with shoddy merchandise, poisoning the food supply with chemical additives, and willfully manufacturing unsafe products that will maim or kill the buyer. He emphasizes that he is not talking just about ‘fly-by-night hucksters’ but the top management of blue chip business.”7

A frontal assault was made on our government, our system of justice, and the free enterprise system by Yale Professor Charles Reich in his widely publicized book: “The Greening of America,” published last winter.

The foregoing references illustrate the broad, shotgun attack on the system itself. There are countless examples of rifle shots which undermine confidence and confuse the public. Favorite current targets are proposals for tax incentives through changes in depreciation rates and investment credits. These are usually described in the media as “tax breaks,” “loop holes” or “tax benefits” for the benefit of business. As viewed by a columnist in the Post, such tax measures would benefit “only the rich, the owners of big companies.”8

It is dismaying that many politicians make the same argument that tax measures of this kind benefit only “business,” without benefit to “the poor.” The fact that this is either political demagoguery or economic illiteracy is of slight comfort. This setting of the “rich” against the “poor,” of business against the people, is the cheapest and most dangerous kind of politics.

The Apathy and Default of Business

What has been the response of business to this massive assault upon its fundamental economics, upon its philosophy, upon its right to continue to manage its own affairs, and indeed upon its integrity?

The painfully sad truth is that business, including the boards of directors’ and the top executives of corporations great and small and business organizations at all levels, often have responded — if at all — by appeasement, ineptitude and ignoring the problem. There are, of course, many exceptions to this sweeping generalization. But the net effect of such response as has been made is scarcely visible.

In all fairness, it must be recognized that businessmen have not been trained or equipped to conduct guerrilla warfare with those who propagandize against the system, seeking insidiously and constantly to sabotage it. The traditional role of business executives has been to manage, to produce, to sell, to create jobs, to make profits, to improve the standard of living, to be community leaders, to serve on charitable and educational boards, and generally to be good citizens. They have performed these tasks very well indeed.

But they have shown little stomach for hard-nose contest with their critics, and little skill in effective intellectual and philosophical debate.

A column recently carried by the Wall Street Journal was entitled: “Memo to GM: Why Not Fight Back?”9 Although addressed to GM by name, the article was a warning to all American business. Columnist St. John said:

“General Motors, like American business in general, is ‘plainly in trouble’ because intellectual bromides have been substituted for a sound intellectual exposition of its point of view.” Mr. St. John then commented on the tendency of business leaders to compromise with and appease critics. He cited the concessions which Nader wins from management, and spoke of “the fallacious view many businessmen take toward their critics.” He drew a parallel to the mistaken tactics of many college administrators: “College administrators learned too late that such appeasement serves to destroy free speech, academic freedom and genuine scholarship. One campus radical demand was conceded by university heads only to be followed by a fresh crop which soon escalated to what amounted to a demand for outright surrender.”

One need not agree entirely with Mr. St. John’s analysis. But most observers of the American scene will agree that the essence of his message is sound. American business “plainly in trouble”; the response to the wide range of critics has been ineffective, and has included appeasement; the time has come — indeed, it is long overdue — for the wisdom, ingenuity and resources of American business to be marshalled against those who would destroy it.

Responsibility of Business Executives

What specifically should be done? The first essential — a prerequisite to any effective action — is for businessmen to confront this problem as a primary responsibility of corporate management.

The overriding first need is for businessmen to recognize that the ultimate issue may be survival — survival of what we call the free enterprise system, and all that this means for the strength and prosperity of America and the freedom of our people.

The day is long past when the chief executive officer of a major corporation discharges his responsibility by maintaining a satisfactory growth of profits, with due regard to the corporation’s public and social responsibilities. If our system is to survive, top management must be equally concerned with protecting and preserving the system itself. This involves far more than an increased emphasis on “public relations” or “governmental affairs” — two areas in which corporations long have invested substantial sums.

A significant first step by individual corporations could well be the designation of an executive vice president (ranking with other executive VP’s) whose responsibility is to counter-on the broadest front-the attack on the enterprise system. The public relations department could be one of the foundations assigned to this executive, but his responsibilities should encompass some of the types of activities referred to subsequently in this memorandum. His budget and staff should be adequate to the task.

Possible Role of the Chamber of Commerce

But independent and uncoordinated activity by individual corporations, as important as this is, will not be sufficient. Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.

Moreover, there is the quite understandable reluctance on the part of any one corporation to get too far out in front and to make itself too visible a target.

The role of the National Chamber of Commerce is therefore vital. Other national organizations (especially those of various industrial and commercial groups) should join in the effort, but no other organizations appear to be as well situated as the Chamber. It enjoys a strategic position, with a fine reputation and a broad base of support. Also — and this is of immeasurable merit — there are hundreds of local Chambers of Commerce which can play a vital supportive role.

It hardly need be said that before embarking upon any program, the Chamber should study and analyze possible courses of action and activities, weighing risks against probable effectiveness and feasibility of each. Considerations of cost, the assurance of financial and other support from members, adequacy of staffing and similar problems will all require the most thoughtful consideration.

The Campus

The assault on the enterprise system was not mounted in a few months. It has gradually evolved over the past two decades, barely perceptible in its origins and benefiting (sic) from a gradualism that provoked little awareness much less any real reaction.

Although origins, sources and causes are complex and interrelated, and obviously difficult to identify without careful qualification, there is reason to believe that the campus is the single most dynamic source. The social science faculties usually include members who are unsympathetic to the enterprise system. They may range from a Herbert Marcuse, Marxist faculty member at the University of California at San Diego, and convinced socialists, to the ambivalent liberal critic who finds more to condemn than to commend. Such faculty members need not be in a majority. They are often personally attractive and magnetic; they are stimulating teachers, and their controversy attracts student following; they are prolific writers and lecturers; they author many of the textbooks, and they exert enormous influence — far out of proportion to their numbers — on their colleagues and in the academic world.

Social science faculties (the political scientist, economist, sociologist and many of the historians) tend to be liberally oriented, even when leftists are not present. This is not a criticism per se, as the need for liberal thought is essential to a balanced viewpoint. The difficulty is that “balance” is conspicuous by its absence on many campuses, with relatively few members being of conservatives or moderate persuasion and even the relatively few often being less articulate and aggressive than their crusading colleagues.

This situation extending back many years and with the imbalance gradually worsening, has had an enormous impact on millions of young American students. In an article in Barron’s Weekly, seeking an answer to why so many young people are disaffected even to the point of being revolutionaries, it was said: “Because they were taught that way.”10 Or, as noted by columnist Stewart Alsop, writing about his alma mater: “Yale, like every other major college, is graduating scores’ of bright young men … who despise the American political and economic system.”

As these “bright young men,” from campuses across the country, seek opportunities to change a system which they have been taught to distrust — if not, indeed “despise” — they seek employment in the centers of the real power and influence in our country, namely: (i) with the news media, especially television; (ii) in government, as “staffers” and consultants at various levels; (iii) in elective politics; (iv) as lecturers and writers, and (v) on the faculties at various levels of education.

Many do enter the enterprise system — in business and the professions — and for the most part they quickly discover the fallacies of what they have been taught. But those who eschew the mainstream of the system often remain in key positions of influence where they mold public opinion and often shape governmental action. In many instances, these “intellectuals” end up in regulatory agencies or governmental departments with large authority over the business system they do not believe in.

If the foregoing analysis is approximately sound, a priority task of business — and organizations such as the Chamber — is to address the campus origin of this hostility. Few things are more sanctified in American life than academic freedom. It would be fatal to attack this as a principle. But if academic freedom is to retain the qualities of “openness,” “fairness” and “balance” — which are essential to its intellectual significance — there is a great opportunity for constructive action. The thrust of such action must be to restore the qualities just mentioned to the academic communities.

What Can Be Done About the Campus

The ultimate responsibility for intellectual integrity on the campus must remain on the administrations and faculties of our colleges and universities. But organizations such as the Chamber can assist and activate constructive change in many ways, including the following:

Staff of Scholars

The Chamber should consider establishing a staff of highly qualified scholars in the social sciences who do believe in the system. It should include several of national reputation whose authorship would be widely respected — even when disagreed with.

Staff of Speakers

There also should be a staff of speakers of the highest competency. These might include the scholars, and certainly those who speak for the Chamber would have to articulate the product of the scholars.

Speaker’s Bureau

In addition to full-time staff personnel, the Chamber should have a Speaker’s Bureau which should include the ablest and most effective advocates from the top echelons of American business.

Evaluation of Textbooks

The staff of scholars (or preferably a panel of independent scholars) should evaluate social science textbooks, especially in economics, political science and sociology. This should be a continuing program.

The objective of such evaluation should be oriented toward restoring the balance essential to genuine academic freedom. This would include assurance of fair and factual treatment of our system of government and our enterprise system, its accomplishments, its basic relationship to individual rights and freedoms, and comparisons with the systems of socialism, fascism and communism. Most of the existing textbooks have some sort of comparisons, but many are superficial, biased and unfair.

We have seen the civil rights movement insist on re-writing many of the textbooks in our universities and schools. The labor unions likewise insist that textbooks be fair to the viewpoints of organized labor. Other interested citizens groups have not hesitated to review, analyze and criticize textbooks and teaching materials. In a democratic society, this can be a constructive process and should be regarded as an aid to genuine academic freedom and not as an intrusion upon it.

If the authors, publishers and users of textbooks know that they will be subjected — honestly, fairly and thoroughly — to review and critique by eminent scholars who believe in the American system, a return to a more rational balance can be expected.

Equal Time on the Campus

The Chamber should insist upon equal time on the college speaking circuit. The FBI publishes each year a list of speeches made on college campuses by avowed Communists. The number in 1970 exceeded 100. There were, of course, many hundreds of appearances by leftists and ultra liberals who urge the types of viewpoints indicated earlier in this memorandum. There was no corresponding representation of American business, or indeed by individuals or organizations who appeared in support of the American system of government and business.

Every campus has its formal and informal groups which invite speakers. Each law school does the same thing. Many universities and colleges officially sponsor lecture and speaking programs. We all know the inadequacy of the representation of business in the programs.

It will be said that few invitations would be extended to Chamber speakers.11 This undoubtedly would be true unless the Chamber aggressively insisted upon the right to be heard — in effect, insisted upon “equal time.” University administrators and the great majority of student groups and committees would not welcome being put in the position publicly of refusing a forum to diverse views, indeed, this is the classic excuse for allowing Communists to speak.

The two essential ingredients are (i) to have attractive, articulate and well-informed speakers; and (ii) to exert whatever degree of pressure — publicly and privately — may be necessary to assure opportunities to speak. The objective always must be to inform and enlighten, and not merely to propagandize.

Balancing of Faculties

Perhaps the most fundamental problem is the imbalance of many faculties. Correcting this is indeed a long-range and difficult project. Yet, it should be undertaken as a part of an overall program. This would mean the urging of the need for faculty balance upon university administrators and boards of trustees.

The methods to be employed require careful thought, and the obvious pitfalls must be avoided. Improper pressure would be counterproductive. But the basic concepts of balance, fairness and truth are difficult to resist, if properly presented to boards of trustees, by writing and speaking, and by appeals to alumni associations and groups.

This is a long road and not one for the fainthearted. But if pursued with integrity and conviction it could lead to a strengthening of both academic freedom on the campus and of the values which have made America the most productive of all societies.

Graduate Schools of Business

The Chamber should enjoy a particular rapport with the increasingly influential graduate schools of business. Much that has been suggested above applies to such schools.

Should not the Chamber also request specific courses in such schools dealing with the entire scope of the problem addressed by this memorandum? This is now essential training for the executives of the future.

Secondary Education

While the first priority should be at the college level, the trends mentioned above are increasingly evidenced in the high schools. Action programs, tailored to the high schools and similar to those mentioned, should be considered. The implementation thereof could become a major program for local chambers of commerce, although the control and direction — especially the quality control — should be retained by the National Chamber.

What Can Be Done About the Public?

Reaching the campus and the secondary schools is vital for the long-term. Reaching the public generally may be more important for the shorter term. The first essential is to establish the staffs of eminent scholars, writers and speakers, who will do the thinking, the analysis, the writing and the speaking. It will also be essential to have staff personnel who are thoroughly familiar with the media, and how most effectively to communicate with the public. Among the more obvious means are the following:

Television

The national television networks should be monitored in the same way that textbooks should be kept under constant surveillance. This applies not merely to so-called educational programs (such as “Selling of the Pentagon”), but to the daily “news analysis” which so often includes the most insidious type of criticism of the enterprise system.12 Whether this criticism results from hostility or economic ignorance, the result is the gradual erosion of confidence in “business” and free enterprise.

This monitoring, to be effective, would require constant examination of the texts of adequate samples of programs. Complaints — to the media and to the Federal Communications Commission — should be made promptly and strongly when programs are unfair or inaccurate.

Equal time should be demanded when appropriate. Effort should be made to see that the forum-type programs (the Today Show, Meet the Press, etc.) afford at least as much opportunity for supporters of the American system to participate as these programs do for those who attack it.

Other Media

Radio and the press are also important, and every available means should be employed to challenge and refute unfair attacks, as well as to present the affirmative case through these media.

The Scholarly Journals

It is especially important for the Chamber’s “faculty of scholars” to publish. One of the keys to the success of the liberal and leftist faculty members has been their passion for “publication” and “lecturing.” A similar passion must exist among the Chamber’s scholars.

Incentives might be devised to induce more “publishing” by independent scholars who do believe in the system.

There should be a fairly steady flow of scholarly articles presented to a broad spectrum of magazines and periodicals — ranging from the popular magazines (Life, Look, Reader’s Digest, etc.) to the more intellectual ones (Atlantic, Harper’s, Saturday Review, New York, etc.)13 and to the various professional journals.

Books, Paperbacks and Pamphlets

The news stands — at airports, drugstores, and elsewhere — are filled with paperbacks and pamphlets advocating everything from revolution to erotic free love. One finds almost no attractive, well-written paperbacks or pamphlets on “our side.” It will be difficult to compete with an Eldridge Cleaver or even a Charles Reich for reader attention, but unless the effort is made — on a large enough scale and with appropriate imagination to assure some success — this opportunity for educating the public will be irretrievably lost.

Paid Advertisements

Business pays hundreds of millions of dollars to the media for advertisements. Most of this supports specific products; much of it supports institutional image making; and some fraction of it does support the system. But the latter has been more or less tangential, and rarely part of a sustained, major effort to inform and enlighten the American people.

If American business devoted only 10% of its total annual advertising budget to this overall purpose, it would be a statesman-like expenditure.

The Neglected Political Arena

In the final analysis, the payoff — short-of revolution — is what government does. Business has been the favorite whipping-boy of many politicians for many years. But the measure of how far this has gone is perhaps best found in the anti-business views now being expressed by several leading candidates for President of the United States.

It is still Marxist doctrine that the “capitalist” countries are controlled by big business. This doctrine, consistently a part of leftist propaganda all over the world, has a wide public following among Americans.

Yet, as every business executive knows, few elements of American society today have as little influence in government as the American businessman, the corporation, or even the millions of corporate stockholders. If one doubts this, let him undertake the role of “lobbyist” for the business point of view before Congressional committees. The same situation obtains in the legislative halls of most states and major cities. One does not exaggerate to say that, in terms of political influence with respect to the course of legislation and government action, the American business executive is truly the “forgotten man.”

Current examples of the impotency of business, and of the near-contempt with which businessmen’s views are held, are the stampedes by politicians to support almost any legislation related to “consumerism” or to the “environment.”

Politicians reflect what they believe to be majority views of their constituents. It is thus evident that most politicians are making the judgment that the public has little sympathy for the businessman or his viewpoint.

The educational programs suggested above would be designed to enlighten public thinking — not so much about the businessman and his individual role as about the system which he administers, and which provides the goods, services and jobs on which our country depends.

But one should not postpone more direct political action, while awaiting the gradual change in public opinion to be effected through education and information. Business must learn the lesson, long ago learned by labor and other self-interest groups. This is the lesson that political power is necessary; that such power must be assidously (sic) cultivated; and that when necessary, it must be used aggressively and with determination — without embarrassment and without the reluctance which has been so characteristic of American business.

As unwelcome as it may be to the Chamber, it should consider assuming a broader and more vigorous role in the political arena.

Neglected Opportunity in the Courts

American business and the enterprise system have been affected as much by the courts as by the executive and legislative branches of government. Under our constitutional system, especially with an activist-minded Supreme Court, the judiciary may be the most important instrument for social, economic and political change.

Other organizations and groups, recognizing this, have been far more astute in exploiting judicial action than American business. Perhaps the most active exploiters of the judicial system have been groups ranging in political orientation from “liberal” to the far left.

The American Civil Liberties Union is one example. It initiates or intervenes in scores of cases each year, and it files briefs amicus curiae in the Supreme Court in a number of cases during each term of that court. Labor unions, civil rights groups and now the public interest law firms are extremely active in the judicial arena. Their success, often at business’ expense, has not been inconsequential.

This is a vast area of opportunity for the Chamber, if it is willing to undertake the role of spokesman for American business and if, in turn, business is willing to provide the funds.

As with respect to scholars and speakers, the Chamber would need a highly competent staff of lawyers. In special situations it should be authorized to engage, to appear as counsel amicus in the Supreme Court, lawyers of national standing and reputation. The greatest care should be exercised in selecting the cases in which to participate, or the suits to institute. But the opportunity merits the necessary effort.

Neglected Stockholder Power

The average member of the public thinks of “business” as an impersonal corporate entity, owned by the very rich and managed by over-paid executives. There is an almost total failure to appreciate that “business” actually embraces — in one way or another — most Americans. Those for whom business provides jobs, constitute a fairly obvious class. But the 20 million stockholders — most of whom are of modest means — are the real owners, the real entrepreneurs, the real capitalists under our system. They provide the capital which fuels the economic system which has produced the highest standard of living in all history. Yet, stockholders have been as ineffectual as business executives in promoting a genuine understanding of our system or in exercising political influence.

The question which merits the most thorough examination is how can the weight and influence of stockholders — 20 million voters — be mobilized to support (i) an educational program and (ii) a political action program.

Individual corporations are now required to make numerous reports to shareholders. Many corporations also have expensive “news” magazines which go to employees and stockholders. These opportunities to communicate can be used far more effectively as educational media.

The corporation itself must exercise restraint in undertaking political action and must, of course, comply with applicable laws. But is it not feasible — through an affiliate of the Chamber or otherwise — to establish a national organization of American stockholders and give it enough muscle to be influential?

A More Aggressive Attitude

Business interests — especially big business and their national trade organizations — have tried to maintain low profiles, especially with respect to political action.

As suggested in the Wall Street Journal article, it has been fairly characteristic of the average business executive to be tolerant — at least in public — of those who attack his corporation and the system. Very few businessmen or business organizations respond in kind. There has been a disposition to appease; to regard the opposition as willing to compromise, or as likely to fade away in due time.

Business has shunted confrontation politics. Business, quite understandably, has been repelled by the multiplicity of non-negotiable “demands” made constantly by self-interest groups of all kinds.

While neither responsible business interests, nor the United States Chamber of Commerce, would engage in the irresponsible tactics of some pressure groups, it is essential that spokesmen for the enterprise system — at all levels and at every opportunity — be far more aggressive than in the past.

There should be no hesitation to attack the Naders, the Marcuses and others who openly seek destruction of the system. There should not be the slightest hesitation to press vigorously in all political arenas for support of the enterprise system. Nor should there be reluctance to penalize politically those who oppose it.

Lessons can be learned from organized labor in this respect. The head of the AFL-CIO may not appeal to businessmen as the most endearing or public-minded of citizens. Yet, over many years the heads of national labor organizations have done what they were paid to do very effectively. They may not have been beloved, but they have been respected — where it counts the most — by politicians, on the campus, and among the media.

It is time for American business — which has demonstrated the greatest capacity in all history to produce and to influence consumer decisions — to apply their great talents vigorously to the preservation of the system itself.

The Cost

The type of program described above (which includes a broadly based combination of education and political action), if undertaken long term and adequately staffed, would require far more generous financial support from American corporations than the Chamber has ever received in the past. High level management participation in Chamber affairs also would be required.

The staff of the Chamber would have to be significantly increased, with the highest quality established and maintained. Salaries would have to be at levels fully comparable to those paid key business executives and the most prestigious faculty members. Professionals of the great skill in advertising and in working with the media, speakers, lawyers and other specialists would have to be recruited.

It is possible that the organization of the Chamber itself would benefit from restructuring. For example, as suggested by union experience, the office of President of the Chamber might well be a full-time career position. To assure maximum effectiveness and continuity, the chief executive officer of the Chamber should not be changed each year. The functions now largely performed by the President could be transferred to a Chairman of the Board, annually elected by the membership. The Board, of course, would continue to exercise policy control.

Quality Control is Essential

Essential ingredients of the entire program must be responsibility and “quality control.” The publications, the articles, the speeches, the media programs, the advertising, the briefs filed in courts, and the appearances before legislative committees — all must meet the most exacting standards of accuracy and professional excellence. They must merit respect for their level of public responsibility and scholarship, whether one agrees with the viewpoints expressed or not.

Relationship to Freedom

The threat to the enterprise system is not merely a matter of economics. It also is a threat to individual freedom.

It is this great truth — now so submerged by the rhetoric of the New Left and of many liberals — that must be re-affirmed if this program is to be meaningful.

There seems to be little awareness that the only alternatives to free enterprise are varying degrees of bureaucratic regulation of individual freedom — ranging from that under moderate socialism to the iron heel of the leftist or rightist dictatorship.

We in America already have moved very far indeed toward some aspects of state socialism, as the needs and complexities of a vast urban society require types of regulation and control that were quite unnecessary in earlier times. In some areas, such regulation and control already have seriously impaired the freedom of both business and labor, and indeed of the public generally. But most of the essential freedoms remain: private ownership, private profit, labor unions, collective bargaining, consumer choice, and a market economy in which competition largely determines price, quality and variety of the goods and services provided the consumer.

In addition to the ideological attack on the system itself (discussed in this memorandum), its essentials also are threatened by inequitable taxation, and — more recently — by an inflation which has seemed uncontrollable.14 But whatever the causes of diminishing economic freedom may be, the truth is that freedom as a concept is indivisible. As the experience of the socialist and totalitarian states demonstrates, the contraction and denial of economic freedom is followed inevitably by governmental restrictions on other cherished rights. It is this message, above all others, that must be carried home to the American people.

Conclusion

It hardly need be said that the views expressed above are tentative and suggestive. The first step should be a thorough study. But this would be an exercise in futility unless the Board of Directors of the Chamber accepts the fundamental premise of this paper, namely, that business and the enterprise system are in deep trouble, and the hour is late.

Footnotes (Powell’s)
  1. Variously called: the “free enterprise system,” “capitalism,” and the “profit system.” The American political system of democracy under the rule of law is also under attack, often by the same individuals and organizations who seek to undermine the enterprise system.
  2. Richmond News Leader, June 8, 1970. Column of William F. Buckley, Jr.
  3. N.Y. Times Service article, reprinted Richmond Times-Dispatch, May 17, 1971.
  4. Stewart Alsop, Yale and the Deadly Danger, Newsweek, May 18. 1970.
  5. Editorial, Richmond Times-Dispatch, July 7, 1971.
  6. Dr. Milton Friedman, Prof. of Economics, U. of Chicago, writing a foreword to Dr. Arthur A. Shenfield’s Rockford College lectures entitled “The Ideological War Against Western Society,” copyrighted 1970 by Rockford College.
  7. Fortune. May, 1971, p. 145. This Fortune analysis of the Nader influence includes a reference to Nader’s visit to a college where he was paid a lecture fee of $2,500 for “denouncing America’s big corporations in venomous language . . . bringing (rousing and spontaneous) bursts of applause” when he was asked when he planned to run for President.
  8. The Washington Post, Column of William Raspberry, June 28, 1971.
  9. Jeffrey St. John, The Wall Street Journal, May 21, 1971.
  10. Barron’s National Business and Financial Weekly, “The Total Break with America, The Fifth Annual Conference of Socialist Scholars,” Sept. 15, 1969.
  11. On many campuses freedom of speech has been denied to all who express moderate or conservative viewpoints.
  12. It has been estimated that the evening half-hour news programs of the networks reach daily some 50,000,000 Americans.
  13. One illustration of the type of article which should not go unanswered appeared in the popular “The New York” of July 19, 1971. This was entitled “A Populist Manifesto” by ultra liberal Jack Newfield — who argued that “the root need in our country is ‘to redistribute wealth’.”
  14. The recent “freeze” of prices and wages may well be justified by the current inflationary crisis. But if imposed as a permanent measure the enterprise system will have sustained a near fatal blow.

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Congress Exposes That DoJ Overruled Recommendation to Indict Money Launderer HSBC Over Too Big to Fail Worries

The House of Representatives released a bombshell today out of its three-year investigation as to why the UK-based bank HSBC got off lightly for money laundering, both for with states subject to economic sanctions like Iran and Sudan, as well as narcotics traffickers. The report found that Attorney General Eric Holder “misled” Congress about the evidence against the bank, and that staff prosecutors had recommended indictment but were overruled by Holder. In addition UK regulators interfered in the case, and argued that criminal sanctions would lead to a financial nuclear winter. That was demonstrated to be false in 2014, when BNP Paribas, which apparently had fewer friends in court, pled guilty to criminal money laundering charges and paid $8.9 billion in fines.

Or was it that the New York Department of Financial Services, which was then headed by Benjamin Lawsky, was going to embarrass the crowd in DC into doing more than it wanted to? Recall that Laswky had run rings around the Fed, Treasury, and UK financial services regulators over money laundering at another UK bank, Standard Chartered. This led to a firestorm of financial media outrage as Lawsky ordered Standard Chartered executives to appear and explain why he should not revoke their New York banking license. That would mean they could no longer clear dollar-based transactions, which would be extremely damaging to any international bank.

But even the debate over whether or not to charge a bank criminally again reveals how the regulators and prosecutors protect the looting professionals. Corporations do not commit crimes. Individuals employed by those firms commit crimes. In the case of HSBC, the misconduct was institutionalized. Multiple units of the bank were involved. Either top management was well aware of what was going on or there was a major breakdown in controls. The latter would be a criminal violation under Sarbanes Oxley, the law passed after the Enron bankruptcy and designed to end the “I’m the CEO and I know nothing” defense.

And let us not kid ourselves as to how well orchestrated the HSBC money-laundering machine was. As Matt Taibbi wrote:

[“Longtime Bill Clinton pal Lanny”] Breuer this week signed off on a settlement deal with the British banking giant HSBC that is the ultimate insult to every ordinary person who’s ever had his life altered by a narcotics charge. Despite the fact that HSBC admitted to laundering billions of dollars for Colombian and Mexican drug cartels (among others) and violating a host of important banking laws (from the Bank Secrecy Act to the Trading With the Enemy Act), Breuer and his Justice Department elected not to pursue criminal prosecutions of the bank, opting instead for a “record” financial settlement of $1.9 billion, which as one analyst noted is about five weeks of income for the bank.

The banks’ laundering transactions were so brazen that the NSA probably could have spotted them from space. Breuer admitted that drug dealers would sometimes come to HSBC’s Mexican branches and “deposit hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, in a single day, into a single account, using boxes designed to fit the precise dimensions of the teller windows.”

If you remember the Frontline series on the crisis, it was Lanny Breuer who said he lay awake at night worrying if his actions might hurt banks. Oh, the horror! And at the time, the $1.9 billion was widely depicted as a slap on the wrist.

Mind you, Bill Clinton also received a large speaking fee from HSBC while the bank was being investigated. From a 2015 Associated Press story:

State Department ethics officials also gave quick approval to Bill Clinton’s $200,000 appearance in Florida for British-based HSBC in 2011 despite a 2012 money-laundering settlement with federal prosecutors.

Since the settlement was announced in December 2012, and the House investigation makes clear it was rushed so as to keep ahead of the intrepid Benjamin Lawsky, the fee was clearly paid well before anything had been concluded.

And a query for well-connected British readers: AIG, by virtue of its very large network in Asia, is widely believed to have curried favor with the US government by providing cover for CIA agents. HSBC has a similarly extensive presence in that part of the world. Could HSBC have been playing a similar role for MI6? That would give it even deeper connections with the Government, making it easier to enlist official support.

The House Financial Services Committee provided a crisp, damning overview of its findings:

The House Financial Services Committee on Monday released a staff report of its investigation into the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision not to prosecute HSBC or any of its executives or employees for serious violations of U.S. anti-money laundering laws and related offenses.

The Committee initiated its investigation in March 2013.  The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of the Treasury failed to comply with the Committee’s requests to obtain relevant documents, necessitating the issuance of subpoenas to both agencies.

Approximately three years after its initial inquiries, the Committee finally obtained copies of internal Treasury records showing that DOJ has not been forthright with Congress or the American people concerning its decision to decline to prosecute HSBC.

These documents show that:

  • Senior DOJ leadership, including then-Attorney General Eric Holder, overruled an internal recommendation by DOJ’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section to prosecute HSBC because of DOJ leadership’s concern that prosecuting the bank would have serious adverse consequences on the financial system.
  • Notwithstanding Attorney General Holder’s personal demand that HSBC agree to DOJ’s “take-it-or-leave-it” deferred prosecution agreement deal by November 14, 2012, HSBC appears to have successfully negotiated with DOJ for significant alterations to the deferred prosecution agreement’s terms in the weeks following the Attorney General’s deadline.
  • DOJ and federal financial regulators were rushing at what one Treasury official described as “alarming speed” to complete their investigations and enforcement actions involving HSBC in order to beat the New York Department of Financial Services.
  • In its haste to complete its enforcement action against HSBC, DOJ transmitted settlement numbers to HSBC before consulting with Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control to ensure that the settlement amount accurately reflected the full degree of HSBC’s sanctions violations.
  • The involvement of the United Kingdom’s Financial Services Authority in the U.S. government’s investigations and enforcement actions relating to HSBC, a British-domiciled institution, appears to have hampered the U.S. government’s investigations and influenced DOJ’s decision not to prosecute HSBC.
  • Attorney General Holder misled Congress concerning DOJ’s reasons for not bringing a criminal prosecution against HSBC.
  • DOJ to date has failed to produce any records pertaining to its prosecutorial decision making with respect to HSBC or any large financial institution, notwithstanding the Committee’s multiple requests for this information and a congressional subpoena requiring Attorney General Lynch to timely produce these records to the Committee.
  • Attorney General Lynch and Secretary Lew remain in default on their legal obligation to produce the subpoenaed records to the Committee.
  • DOJ’s and Treasury’s longstanding efforts to impede the Committee’s investigation may constitute contempt and obstruction of Congress.

The Committee is releasing this report to shed light on whether DOJ is making prosecutorial decisions based on the size of financial institutions and DOJ’s belief that such prosecutions could negatively impact the economy.

This investigation proves what critics have long argued, that Obama Administration has consistently give priority to protecting banks over meaningful enforcement. But until the perps pay a career price, this sort of corruption is guaranteed to continue.

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Garrison Keillor on Trump

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The Punk Who Would Be President

By Garrison Keillor, Madison.com

18 June 16

t is the most famous ducktail in America today, the hairdo of wayward youth of a bygone era, and it’s astonishing to imagine it under the spotlight in Cleveland, being cheered by Republican dignitaries. The class hood, the bully and braggart, the guy revving his pink Chevy to make the pipes rumble, presiding over the student council. This is the C-minus guy who sat behind you in history and poked you with his pencil and smirked when you asked him to stop. That smirk is now on every front page in America. It is not what anybody — left, right or center — looks for in a president. There’s no philosophy here, just an attitude.

He is a little old for a ducktail. By the age of 70, most ducks have moved on, but not Donald. He is apparently still fond of the sidewalls and the duck’s ass in back and he is proud as can be of his great feat, the first punk candidate to get this close to the White House. He says that the country is run by a bunch of clowns and that he is going to make things great again and beat up on the outsiders who are coming into our neighborhood. His followers don’t necessarily believe that — what they love about him is what kids loved about Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious, the fact that he horrifies the powers that be and when you are pro-duck you are giving the finger to Congress, the press, clergy, lawyers, teachers, cake-eaters, big muckety-mucks, VIPs, all those people who think they’re better than you — you have the power to scare the pants off them, and that’s what this candidate does better than anybody else.

After the worst mass shooting in American history on Sunday, 50 persons dead in Orlando, the bodies still being carted from the building, the faces of horror-stricken cops and EMTs on TV, the gentleman issued a statement on Twitter thanking his followers for their congratulations, that the tragedy showed that he had been “right” in calling for America to get “tough.”

Anyone else would have expressed sorrow. The gentleman expressed what was in his heart, which was personal pride.

We had a dozen or so ducktails in my high school class and they were all about looks. The hooded eyes, the sculpted swoop of the hair, the curled lip. They emulated Elvis but only the look, not the talent. Their sole ambition was to make an impression, to slouch gracefully and exhale in an artful manner. In the natural course of things, they struggled after graduation, some tried law enforcement for the prestige of it, others became barflies. If they were drafted, the Army got them shaped up in a month or two. Eventually, they all calmed down, got hitched up to a mortgage, worried about their blood pressure, lost the chippiness, let their hair down. But if your dad was rich and if he was born before you were, then the ducktail could inherit enough wealth to be practically impervious to public opinion. This has happened in New York City. A man who could never be elected city comptroller is running for president.

The dreamers in the Republican Party imagine that success will steady him and he will accept wise counsel and come into the gravitational field of reality but it isn’t happening. The Orlando tweets show it: The man does not have a heart. How, in a few weeks, should Mr. Ryan and Mr. McConnell teach him basic humanity? The bigot and braggart they see today is the same man that New Yorkers have been observing for 40 years. A man obsessed with marble walls and gold-plated doorknobs, who has the sensibility of a giant sea tortoise.

His response to the Orlando tragedy is one more clue that this election is different from any other. If Mitt Romney or John McCain had been elected president, you might be disappointed but you wouldn’t fear for the fate of the Republic. This time, the Republican Party is nominating a man who resides in the dark depths. He is a thug and he doesn’t bother to hide it. The only greatness he knows about is himself.

So the country is put to a historic test. If the man is not defeated, then we are not the country we imagine we are. All of the trillions spent on education was a waste. The churches should close up shop. The nation that elects this man president is not a civilized society. The gentleman is not airing out his fingernail polish, he is not showing off his wedding ring; he is making an obscene gesture. Ignore it at your peril.

Humor: The Borowitz Report

Borowitz Report

Trump: Mexicans Swarming Across Border, Enrolling in Law School, and Becoming Biased Judges

By


Credit PHOTOGRAPH BY SIPA USA VIA AP

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA (The Borowitz Report)—Unless the United States builds a wall, Mexicans will swarm across the border, enroll in law school en masse, and eventually become biased judges, Donald J. Trump warned supporters on Monday.

At a rally in San Jose, the presumptive Republican nominee said that “making America great again” meant preventing the nation from becoming “overrun by Mexican judges.”

“We don’t win anymore,” he told the crowd. “We don’t win at judges.”

While Trump offered no specific facts to support his latest allegations, he said that he had heard about the threat of incoming Mexican judges firsthand from border-patrol agents.

“They see hundreds of these Mexicans, and they’re coming across the border with LSAT-prep books,” he said. “It’s a disgrace.”

In a line that drew a rousing ovation from supporters, Trump blasted Mexican leaders for their role in the crisis, claiming, “They’re sending us their worst people: lawyers.”

Naked Capitalism on the Lies Told About Social Security

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The 7 Biggest Myths and Lies About Social Security

Yves here. While the arguments made in this article will be familiar to many readers, it’s a good piece to circulate to friends, family and colleagues who have or are in danger of swilling the Peterson Foundation anti-Social Security Kool Aid.

By Steven Hill, a senior fellow with the New America Foundation. Excerpted from his new book Expand Social Security Now!: How to Ensure Americans Get the Retirement They Deserve (Beacon Press, 2016

Social Security is bankrupting us. It’s outdated. It’s a Ponzi scheme. It’s socialism. It’s stealing from young people. The opponents and pundits determined to roll back the United States to the “good old days” before the New Deal regularly trot out a number of bogeymen and bigfoots to scare Americans into not supporting their own retirement well-being. That hasn’t worked too well. Americans of all political stripes remain strongly supportive of Social Security and other so-called “entitlements” like Medicare. But the other reason for plastering the media waves with a chorus of myths and lies is to stir up a political climate that causes politicians of both parties to cease looking for better alternatives other than to cut, cut, cut, or even to maintain the inadequate status quo. Below are rebuttals to some of the biggest whoppers regularly told about one of the most popular and successful federal programs in our nation’s history.

1. Social Security is going broke and will bankrupt the country.

Social Security is not going broke, not by a long shot. The Social Security Board of Trustees released its annual report to Congress in July 2015, and among all the tables, charts, and graphs in that big fat report, it would be easy to miss the most important take-home message: Social Security is one of the best-funded federal programs in U.S. history. That’s because it has its own dedicated revenue stream, which is composed of the insurance premiums paid by every worker (deducted from our paychecks by what is called “payroll contributions”), which are automatically banked into the Trust Fund. Even the Pentagon and the defense budget do not have their own dedicated revenue stream.

In fact, Social Security has not one dedicated revenue stream, but three. Besides the payroll contributions, Social Security is also funded by income generated from investing all those set-aside wages into U.S. treasuries. That money earns a sizable return on the investment. And Social Security is also funded by revenue that comes from levying income tax on Social Security recipients (yes, your Social Security check and that of other Americans is treated as income and taxed—and it brought in $756 billion to the Trust Fund in 2014). Those three revenue streams combined have banked $2.8 trillion in the Trust Fund and resulted in a $25 billion surplus in 2014.

Bankrupt? That charge does not even pass a good laugh test.

Indeed, because Social Security has its own funding source, and by law is not allowed to spend any money it does not have, it is actually impossible for Social Security to add to annual operating deficits or the national debt. Moreover, the Social Security Board of Trustees is required by law to report to Congress every year about the financial fitness of the program. The annual trustees report projects its revenues and payouts, not just for the next five, ten, or twenty years, but for the next seventy-five years. It’s one of the few programs anyone can identify that has had the wisdom to plan for the future, rather than planning around short-term political calculations and the next election cycle.

Over the next twenty years, as more and more of the huge population bloom known as the baby boomers continues to retire, Social Security is projecting a modest shortfall of just 0.51 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). If nothing is done to plug that gap, sometime in the 2030s the Trust Fund will have enough to cover only 75 percent of benefits. But there are so many budgetary ways to cover that shortfall, it becomes clear that the problem is not the finances of finding the money but the politics of partisanship and paralysis. No other government program can claim that it is fully funded for almost the next quarter century. What government critics ever say that the Defense Department or the Departments of Energy or Education are going bankrupt? Yet those programs don’t have dedicated revenue streams, and certainly no one plans or projects costs for those programs over the next seventy-five years.

For example, simply removing the payroll cap and taxing all income brackets equally would not only be fairer to all Americans, it would also raise all of the money and then some to plug any Social Security funding shortfalls twenty years from now. Opinion polls have demonstrated that most Americans—even 70 percent of Republicans—think if they pay Social Security tax on their full salary, others should as well. That’s just one example of the many adjustments we can enact that would make the U.S. retirement system more fair, robust, and stable, and better adapted to the realities of today’s economy.

2. Social Security is unsustainable because we have fewer workers for every retiree, even as our society is “greying” and people are living longer.

Another charge leveled by critics is that the number of workers compared to the number of non-workers—what is known as the dependency ratio—is declining, and so as a result Social Security is unsustainable. President George W. Bush really pushed hard on this point in his bid to gut the program and turn it into private accounts. In his 2005 State of the Union address, President Bush said:

“Social Security was created decades ago, for a very different era. . . . A half-century ago, about 16 workers paid into the system for each person drawing benefits. . . . Instead of 16 workers paying in for every beneficiary, right now it’s only about three workers. And over the next few decades, that number will fall to just two workers per beneficiary. . . . With each passing year, fewer workers are paying ever-higher benefits to an ever-larger number of retirees.”

President Bush’s key strategist, Karl Rove, had the president tour the country to promote his privatization plan for Social Security, and he repeated his talking points everywhere he went, in state after state. President Bush must have set some kind of record: rarely has anyone been so wrong so often about Social Security as the president was during his “privatization or bust” tour.

Yet this claim by not only President Bush but key Republican and even some Democratic leaders reflects a deep misunderstanding. The “dependency ratio” is not just a factor of the number of workers compared to the number of retirees. It has to be configured according to the number of total dependents, including children. A different picture emerges when children are included.

The fact is, declining birthrates have resulted in a fall in dependent children, so the rise in the number of retired will be partly offset by a decline in the number of dependent children. According to Gary Burtless, an economist and demographic expert at the Brookings Institution, when the decline in children is factored in, total dependency ratios in many countries in 2050 will look more favorable than the ratios were in the 1960s. In the United States, for example, the dependency ratio peaked in 1965, when there were ninety-five dependents (both children and retirees) for every one hundred working adults. By 2050 the figure will be eighty dependents for every hundred workers, which, while much higher than the highly favorable figure of forty-nine dependents in 2000, will still be markedly lower than the number of dependents in 1965.

How did we as a society manage to get wealthier in the 1960s and ’70s despite a much higher dependency ratio? The answer, in a word, is “productivity.” Labor productivity is a measure of the amount of goods and services produced by each worker, which in a well-functioning economy increases over time due to the implementation of technology, greater education and job skills training, as well as more efficient business practices. If our labor productivity continues to increase, and the political system passes on the economic gains in the form of a broadly shared prosperity, then the rising tide will float all boats. Political analyst Michael Lind has argued that “productivity growth can solve much or all of the pension funding problem,” and as proof of that he points out that if the ratio of workers to retirees goes from 3 to 1 today to the expected 2 to 1 in the future, that is quite a minor shift compared to a change from a ratio of 16 workers to 1 retiree in 1950, or even 8 workers to 1 in 1960, to 3 to 1 today—a shift made relatively smooth and painless by education, training, and technology-driven productivity growth over the past half century.

That doesn’t mean that we can ignore factors like dependency ratios, but the fact is that as long as our economy is healthy, robust, and growing, creating jobs and increasing productivity, and the political system is inclusive and passes on the increased prosperity to the general public in the form of higher wages and a robust safety net, there is no reason that the greying of society or the ratio of workers to dependents should hamper the nation’s economic future.

3. IRA s and 401(k)s have replaced private pensions and Social Security. Americans want to be self-reliant on their own private retirement accounts, because you can do better investing on your own.

One would think that the volatility and havoc wreaked by the stock market in recent years would have laid to rest the notion that “self-reliant” Americans can invest and save on their own. It’s really not that easy to build up a private nest egg in savings that an individual will need to cover their needs during their post-work years. The fact that three-quarters of Americans nearing retirement have less than $30,000 in their private savings—less than 5 percent of what they will need—shows what a bust of an idea this really is.

For years, advocates for deregulation and entitlements have pushed for privatized retirement accounts—401(k)s, IRAs, and other private savings vehicles managed by Wall Street’s financial managers, which skims off the top their own lucrative fees. At the same time, businesses have pushed to shut down their “defined-benefit” pensions, which have long provided a guaranteed monthly payout for life, just like Social Security’s lifetime annuity. Now that we have nearly three decades of experience with replacing pensions with 401(k)s and IRAs, and of Americans trying so hard to stuff their retirement piñatas, it’s clear that most American retirees are no more secure than before. In fact, they are much less secure.

The 401(k) system that was positioned in the 1980s to replace pensions was sold to American workers as the new and improved successors to the guaranteed payout of a defined-benefit pension. Business leaders and the politicians took away what worked and replaced it with an experiment. But that experiment has failed, and proven to be more fragile and inefficient than the system it replaced. Besides having failed to produce enough retirement savings for the vast majority of Americans, the 401(k) system has forced everyday Americans to face a number of significant risks, the most obvious being that you can lose your personal savings to unpredictable stock market gyrations or a housing-market downturn, especially since most people have little expertise in how to navigate the ups and downs. But there is also the uncomfortable fact that, with wages flat over the last few decades, millions of individual workers have been unable to save enough. Consequently, as we have seen, 80 percent of the federal subsidy for individual retirement savings goes to the top 20 percent of income earners—the people who need it the least.

4. Social Security is stealing from young people and saddling them with a level of overwhelming debt.

Billionaire Peter G. Peterson has been one of the pioneers of this kind of intergenerational doom-saying. Headlines about the old stealing from the young certainly grab the media spotlight. But this one is an old, old trope that never made any sense. Peterson first raised it back in 1982, in the midst of the deliberations of the Greenspan Commission. Social Security, Peterson wrote, “threatens the entire economy. . . . The Social Security system will run huge deficits . . . these deficits will push our children into a situation of economic stagnation and social conflict and create a potentially disastrous situation for the elderly of the future.”

But Peterson hasn’t been the only Cassandra prophesying a generational war between young and old. More recently, the Washington Post’s Robert J. Samuelson took up the cause. “We need to stop coddling the elderly,” he wrote in a 2013 column, calling Social Security and Medicare “a growing transfer from the young, who are increasingly disadvantaged, to the elderly, who are increasingly advantaged.” In a 2014 column, Samuelson continued his anti-elderly and antigovernment debt diatribe, writing, “Giving the elderly as a class special treatment heaps the costs of deficit reduction on workers and children.”

Pitting the elderly against children makes little sense for many reasons, but one obvious one is that today’s children will one day be seniors themselves. And they will need the retirement benefits that people like Peterson and Samuelson are trying to cut from retirees. Robbing Peter to pay Paul might make sense from a maniacally focused budget buster’s perspective, but it makes little sense from a public policy perspective. If that makes sense, then why not cut funding from cancer research, or diabetes treatment, since those ailments mostly affect older people and not the young. But obviously the young today could be attacked by those ailments tomorrow. Society benefits as a whole when it tries to address conditions that affect humanity as a whole.

5. We have to raise the retirement age because people are living longer and the nation can’t afford to pay for all these aging retirees.

Wrong. We do not have to raise the retirement age.There are common-sense changes we can make to Social Security that would not only safeguard it financially for the future, but would actually allow us to double the monthly benefits for retirees. For example, we could increase tax fairness by lifting the cap on the payroll tax so that wealthy Americans make the same percentage contribution as every other American. At the same time, the payroll contribution base could be extended to profits from investment income, such as capital gains. This would raise additional revenues in a progressive fashion that could be used to enhance the program for all Americans.

6. Social Security is un-American and too “socialistic” for most people in the United States.

Un-American? Too socialist? Social Security remains one of the most popular and successful government programs in history—opinion polls show nearly 70 percent of Republicans don’t want it to be cut or hurt. So if Social Security is too “socialist,” Americans must all be a bunch of closet socialists. Millions of Americans from all political persuasions now depend on Social Security, and no amount of divisive rhetoric, or even Pete Peterson’s billions of dollars, can change that fact.

7. The United States already has the world’s highest living standard, with an overly generous retirement system for seniors. We must be more realistic.

The United States is quite a bit less generous to its retirees than other developed nations. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) tracks and compares features like national pension systems. According to its numbers, the U.S. pension “replacement rate” for the average earner—the share of gross income the pension is expected to replace—is 38.3 percent, which is below the OECD average of 54.4 percent and 58 percent for countries in the European Union. For low-income workers—defined as earning 50 percent of the average wage—the United States was even more stingy, with a replacement rate of 49.5 percent compared to the OECD average of 71 percent and 73.9 percent for EU countries. Like in the United States, retirement pensions in most of these other nations are funded by regular payroll deductions from both workers and employers.

On other replacement metrics like “transfers in retirement income,” which measures the share of retirement income made up by both public pensions and social welfare assistance, the United States also looks stingy. The OECD average is 58.6 percent while the U.S. average is only 37.6 percent, barely half the average of the EU countries at 70.6 percent and just above Mexico and South Korea. Consequently, the poverty rate for seniors in the United States is substantially higher than in most other OECD countries, nearly 20 percent compared to 12.8 percent in the OECD and 8.9 percent among EU countries in the OECD. The U.S. rate is even higher than in Chile and Turkey.

My proposal for Social Security Plus shows how to greatly expand the retirement payout for America’s retirees, as well as how to pay for this expansion. This proposal would not only double the current payout, it would also make our retirement system fully portable. That’s the type of bold step that our country needs. Our American nation is heading into an anxious era driven by a new, high-tech economy in which more workers will have to gain access to a portable safety net without the benefit of a single employer or a regular workplace. Many workers will have multiple employers, none of whom would be expected to provide much of a safety net under the current, antiquated model. If we are going to provide adequate resources for our retired seniors, we have to update, upgrade, and modernize our retirement system.

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Naked Capitalism on Tax Inversions

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Bogus Defenses of Tax-Dodging Corporate Inversions

Posted on May 20, 2016 by 

By Roger Bybee, a Milwaukee-based writer and activist who teaches Labor Studies at the University of Illinois. This is the second article in a three-part series, originally published in the May/June issue of Dollars & Sense. You can find part one here.

Why Inversions?

The crucial motive in transferring corporations’ “nationality” and official headquarters to low-tax nations is that inversions shield the “foreign” profits of U.S. corporations from federal taxation and ease access to these assets. This protects total U.S. corporate profits held outside the United States—a stunning $2.1 trillion—from any U.S. corporate taxes until they are “repatriated” back to the United States.

Major corporations benefit hugely from the infinite deferral of taxes purportedly generated by their foreign subsidiaries. “If you are a multinational corporation, the federal government turns your tax bill into an interest-free loan,” wrote David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer-Prize winning writer and author of two books on corporate tax avoidance. Thanks to this deferral, he explained, “Apple and General Electric owe at least $36 billion in taxes on profits being held tax-free offshore, Microsoft nearly $27 billion, and Pfizer $24 billion.”

Nonetheless, top CEOs and their political allies constantly reiterate the claim that the U.S. tax system “traps” U.S. corporate profits overseas and thereby block domestic investment of these funds. But these “offshore” corporate funds are anything but trapped outside the United States. “The [typical multinational] firm … chooses to keep the earnings offshore simply because it does not want to pay the U.S. income taxes it owes,” explains Thomas Hungerford of the Economic Policy Institute. “This is a very strange definition of ‘trapped’.”

In fact, these offshore profits can be, and are, routed back into the United States through the use of tax havens. (Tax havens, where corporations and super-rich individuals place an estimated $7.6 trillion, were thrust into the international spotlight with the recent release of the Panama Papers. See William K. Black, “Business Press Spins Elite Tax Fraud as ‘Good News’,” p. 5.) “‘Overseas’ profits are neither overseas nor trapped,” explained Kitty Rogers and John Craig. “It is true that for accounting purposes, multinational corporations keep these dollars off of their U.S. books. But in the real world, the money is often deposited in U.S. banks, circulating in the U.S.”

However, the “overseas” profits come with some significant constraints on their use, pointed out David Cay Johnston. “The funds can only be accessed for short-term loans back to the U.S., and are not useful for major investments like new factories or long term R&D, or for investment outside the U.S.,” said Johnston. But inversions eliminate these restrictions on how such funds can be used. “By inverting and then using a variety of tax avoidance schemes, the firms can have access to these earnings virtually free of U.S. taxes,” notes Hungerford. “This is undoubtedly the primary motivation to invert.”

The inversion route is not the only means for U.S. corporations to radically slash their U.S. taxes and gain access to offshore earnings. Any particular company’s tax-avoidance strategy is dependent on the specific conditions it faces. As tax expert Johnston notes, “Every company has its own unique issues so it will decide what works for it.”

Some giant multinational corporations, like Apple, Microsoft, and Google, have chosen to bypass inverting. Instead, they utilize immensely complex shifts of their revenue to minimize their taxes and maintain access to their offshore earnings. These maneuvers have gained exotic names like “Double Dutch Irish Sandwich,” reflecting the multiple transfers of capital that they employ. The corporations involved are able to avoid the public backlash brought on by jettisoning their U.S. nationality. On the other hand, such ploys require careful planning and execution, compared to the simple, direct step of inverting.

Corporate inversions also head off the possibility of higher rates being imposed in the United States, an idea with very broad public support as shown by polling. But in addition to the vast political resources that corporations bring to any fight in Congress on corporate taxes, inversions remind U.S. public officials that their policies can be undermined by CEOs’ unilateral decisions to relocate anywhere on the globe. Companies use this trump card to weaken the push for increases in corporate taxes and instead build momentum for further federal concessions.

Johnson Controls: The Ugly Truth

The most recent inversion deal, orchestrated by Johnson Controls—called the “latest and quite possibly the most brazen tax-dodger” in a New York Times editorial—explodes the myths underlying the standard rationale for inversions. Johnson Controls, which has been based in the Milwaukee area for 131 years, is the 66th largest firm in the United States.

Much media coverage has focused on the $149 million in annual tax savings that Johnson Controls will purportedly reap by jettisoning its U.S. identity and moving its official “domicile” to Ireland, where the tax rate is 12.5%. This is a tidy sum, but not because Johnson Controls was victimized by paying the statutory rate of 35%.

On the contrary, Johnson Controls has already been benefitting handsomely from a U.S. tax system that is remarkably generous to major corporations. As Matthew Gardner of the Institute on Tax and Economic Policy pointed out, “Between 2010 and 2014, Johnson Controls reported just over $6 billion in U.S. pretax income, and it paid a federal income tax rate averaging just 12.2 percent over this period.” Significantly, “This is actually lower than the 12.5 percent tax rate Ireland applies to most corporate profits.”

Far more central to Johnson Controls’ inversion is the virtually tax-free status that it will gain over its vast pile of profits accumulated offshore, Gardner argues. Digging beneath the surface, Gardner found, “At the end of 2014, Johnson Controls disclosed holding $8.1 billion of its profits as permanently reinvested foreign income, profits it has declared it intends to keep offshore indefinitely.”

The tax stakes for Johnson Controls are therefore much higher than the annual savings so often cited. “Reincorporating abroad would allow Johnson Controls to avoid ever paying a dime in U.S. income tax on profits currently stashed in tax havens,” Gardner stated.

Johnson Controls is using the common inversion strategy of arranging for a smaller corporation based in a low-tax nation to purchase a much larger firm operating in the United States. In this case, the Ireland-based Tyco International (itself an inverted firm which had long been based in the United States) is buying Johnson Controls. Tax expert Edward Kleinbard describes this as a “minnow swallowing a whale” scenario that characterizes many inversions.

The Johnson Controls-Tyco deal qualifies as a so-called “super inversion,” as Fortune put it, because it evades a number of new ownership regulations set by the U.S. Treasury Department to discourage inversions. “Tyco shareholders will own 44% of the deal after it is done, avoiding any penalties the Treasury Department has tried to impose on these deals,” Fortune reported. “The Treasury Department had set an ownership requirement in 2014 of 40% for foreign firms involved in inversion deals with U.S. corporations, in an effort to discourage inversions.”

The deal with Tyco will change virtually nothing for Johnson Controls International except for its slightly modified name—“Johnson Controls plc.”—and its ability to manipulate the U.S. tax system. The company’s new domicile will officially be Cork, Ireland, but it will retain its real operating headquarters in its present site near Milwaukee. It will continue to be listed on the S&P 500 stock index. Johnson Controls will still be protected by the vast legal architecture safeguarding U.S. firms, like those on securities, intellectual property, and patents.

The corporation’s CEO Alex Molinaroli insists that the firm is simply acting to best serve its shareholders: “It would be irresponsible for us as a company to not take advantage of the opportunities that come along.” The inversion will also provide some advantages to the CEO himself, with Fortune observing, “Molinaroli will receive at least $20.5 million and as much as $79.6 million for doing the deal over the next 18 months.”

Johnson Controls also stands to retain other advantages. It will remain eligible for U.S. government and state contracts under current law, as have Accenture and other firms which have staged inversions. Between 2010 and 2014, Johnson and its subsidiaries received more than $1 billion in federal contracts—more than $210 million a year, according to ITEP’s Gardner. Furthermore, Johnson Controls’ ability to gain federal and state tax incentives for job creation will apparently continue.

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Naked Capitalism: Corporations Ducking Taxes

Wolf Richter: Which US Companies Stockpile the Most Profit “Overseas?” But Where the Heck is the Money?

Posted on May 14, 2016 by 

Yves here. As we’ve written before, the idea that US companies’ profits booked offshore means actual cash is sequestered is a complete canard. Most of the time, the funds are in the US. Yet it seems this point needs to be made repeatedly to penetrate the corporate spin otherwise.

By Wolf Richter, a San Francisco based executive, entrepreneur, start up specialist, and author, with extensive international work experience. Originally published at Wolf Street

There is a misconception about the uncanny ability of very profitable US companies, like Microsoft and Apple, to park their profits overseas in order to dodge US taxes: the money from these profits that are parked “overseas” isn’t actually overseas.

It is registered in accounts overseas, for example in Ireland, but is then invested in whatever assets the company chooses to invest it in, including in US Treasuries, US corporate bonds, US stocks, and other US-based investments. This was revealed to the public during the Senate subcommittee investigation and hearings in March 2013 that exposed where Apple’s profits that were officially parked “overseas” actually end up.

“Tim Cook emerged smelling like a rose, the triumphant CEO of America’s most iconic welfare queen,” I wrote at the time. And so the practice continues in all its glory.

These funds cannot even be “repatriated” because they’re already here — or wherever the company wanted to invest them.

According to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GOA), this and other practices give large corporations a big advantage over small businesses and individuals. Some key findings:

In each year from 2006 to 2012, at least two-thirds of all active corporations had no federal income tax liability.

Among large corporations (generally those with at least $10 million in assets), 42.3% paid no federal income tax in 2012.

Of those large corporations whose financial statements reported a profit, 19.5% paid no federal income tax that year.

For tax years 2008 to 2012, profitable large U.S. corporations paid, on average, U.S. federal income taxes amounting to about 14% of the pretax net income that they reported in their financial statements (for those entities included in their tax returns).

Federal Tax collections from corporate income taxes are now around 2% of GDP while those from individual income taxes are over 8% of GDP and rising. I added the red arrow and label to indicate where we stand:

US-income-tax-percent-gdp

 

The report points out the vast difference between the much bemoaned statutory corporate income tax rate of 35%, one of the highest in the world, and the Effective Tax Rate, which is zero for some of the most profitable companies.

But how much of their profits are registered overseas? The interactive chart below shows the 50 US companies with the most profits stockpiled “overseas” to avoid taxes in the US, while the actual money is wherever, including in US-based assets (hover over the blue bars to get the amounts):

Total Profit Stockpiled Overseas by Company | FindTheCompany

OK, disclosure, I’m envious. I wish I could legally do that. As American, my worldwide income is taxed in the US (plus in other jurisdictions) even during the times I lived overseas — which makes American expats the laughing stock of much of the rest of the world. And we have no one else to blame but us; we voted these geniuses in Congress into office.

Apple shares have plunged 32% from June last year, and $282 billion in shareholder wealth has evaporated, on swooning sales and crummy data from suppliers. But still, Apple’s market capitalization is over $500 billion. And Alphabet’s is nearly $500 billion. Along with Facebook, Amazon, and LinkedIn, they constitute the Big Five in Silicon Valley, with a giant footprint on commercial real estate. And this could get very ugly! Read…  Silicon Valley Commercial Property Boom Ends, Totally Exposed to Big-5: Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, LinkedIn