Why not just scrap all corporate taxes?

Both major-party presidential candidates claim to have tax plans that will help make the economy work for everyone. They will assist the anxious middle class, the downsized and the dispossessed while growing the economy and jobs. An important component of each is the treatment of corporate profits.

The candidates differ on how to reform the corporate tax code. Front-runner Hillary Clinton has not embraced President Barrack Obama’s proposal to reduce the federal corporate marginal tax rate to 28 percent from 35 percent, the highest in the developed world, and pair the reduction with a broader tax base (fewer exemptions) to generate savings to finance the proposed cut. Instead, Clinton has proposed tighter rules to deter corporations from moving abroad and measures to prevent corporate tax avoidance.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, favors a 15 percent corporate income tax rate and would offer corporations a reduced 10 percent rate if they bring home some of the $2 trillion American corporations have stashed overseas.

But the best path might just be to scrap the corporate tax altogether.

Neither candidate has addressed the issue of most high-income countries having adopted a territorial tax system, in which income earned abroad is not taxed by the home country. Yet the U.S. continues to use a version of a global tax system that taxes domestic companies’  income regardless of where it was earned.

The case for lowering the tax rate is that the gap between the U.S. rate and that of other countries encourages companies to shift investment and profits overseas. Corporations complain that high corporate taxes and a global tax system make it more difficult for them to compete in the world economy, attract foreign investment to the U.S. and create American jobs.

The American public is greatly unimpressed by these arguments. Polls show that the majority of Americans believe corporations pay less than their fair share in taxes. According to a survey by Citizens for Tax Justice, many Fortune 500 companies paid an average effective federal tax rate of just  19.4 percent, much less than the 35 percent marginal rate, the additional tax paid on an extra dollar of income.

A key target of public criticism is the expansion of deductions and exemptions to corporate income that have contributed to its decline as a share of total tax revenue over the last several decades. Corporate income taxes accounted for 32 percent of federal tax income in 1951; by 2015 it was 11 percent.

The U.S. has a dysfunctional and confusing tax code. Lost between fact and fiction is the question who bears the economic burden of taxing  corporate profits. You don’t have to be drunk, crazy or both to understand that this is a nontrivial question.

Are corporate taxes simply another way to tax firms’ shareholders, employees, and customers? When corporate income is paid out as dividends or realized as capital gains, corporations and shareholders pay tax twice on the same income. Are these the only people who actually end up paying the corporate income tax, or do employees also pay in the form of lower wages and fewer benefits?

If that is indeed the case, then perhaps it is time to scrap the corporate income tax altogether and instead tax individuals on their dividends and capital gains at ordinary income tax rates. The corporate income tax would go the way of Prohibition, and in the process make the U.S. a desirable place to locate and build businesses.

This certainly isn’t the last word on the subject, but it isn’t a bad approach to reforming the corporate tax code, which will likely be addressed after the 2016 elections if one party controls the White House and Congress . If not, we’ll just continue to improvise- and likely produce the same dysfunctional results.

Originally Published: Aug 23, 2016

And God created woman

The all-female leads in the latest “Ghostbusters” movie reboot have upset many misogynistic male fans. The film’s trailer is the most “disliked” in the history of YouTube.

No surprise here.

There are always men who are angered by women demanding their reproductive rights or running for president. From the dawn of human awareness, men have used their greater physical size and strength to control, oppress, subvert and generally abuse women, betraying a deep fear of losing male power.

Men have always come first in human societies. This is reflected in the standard version of the Adam and Eve myth that is enshrined in Judea-Christian culture and which, it goes without saying, was invented by men.

But there is a very different version of the myth, which draws on the Talmudic tradition of Midrash. According to this version, as God was nearly done populating the planet earth, he realized that he had not yet developed a really effective serial killer among land animals. He had created the shark, the barracuda, and the piranha, but these were sea animals. He needed a creature at least as formidably murderous to roam the earth’s land.

So God marshaled his creative powers and after much research and development, he finally came up with the greatest serial killer of all – the cat.

God immediately realized that this was his masterpiece among the earth’s creatures, so he developed more versions of cats than of any other species, ranging in size from 900-pound Siberian tigers to tiny felines of a little more than a few pounds each. All of them endowed with the physical and instinctive characteristics needed to be world champion serial killers.

God was so pleased with that he had done that he decided to award himself a prize. The prize was Eve, a remarkable creature who seemed to epitomize the grace and mystery inherent in the feline species. After admiring Eve for a while, God placed her in the Garden of Eden for safekeeping while he went off to clean up some loose ends on Jupiter.

But Eve, like all women, had her own ideas. One involved having a bigger, stronger, more-or-less mirror image of herself to take out the garbage, mow Eden’s lawns, bring her armloads of fresh fruit and fill her nights with ecstasy. So by herself, while God’s back was turned, she conceived Adam and brought him into the world to be her companion, even though Adam turned out to be something of a mixed blessing because of his domineering ways and general contrariness.

Thus began the great saga of human dominion over the earth. In metaphorical terms, this story is generally consistent with what many anthropologists believe actually happened when humans first appeared. But this Eve-first reality was too disturbing for the men who wrote the Old Testament men who, like all men, were instinctively terrified of women.

So they came up with a story that made Adam the first human being and reduced Eve to something of an afterthought created from, of all things, one of Adam’s ribs. They also invented numerous fairy tales to blame women for all the world’s troubles. “The woman made me do it,” Adam insisted when God asked him why he had eaten the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge.

This atavistic fear of women drove men to use their superior physical size and strength to develop male chauvinist societies in a fruitless attempt to make women seem less intimidating. Men denied them basic human rights, restricting their freedom, imposing on them the state of chattels (“Who giveth this woman in marriage?”) and all the other examples of male tyranny.

In one form or another, these irrational and fear-based attempts to suppress recognition of women as equals are universal in human religions, myths, cultural traditions, knee-jerk social norms and even legal codes. Now we can add the reaction to Hollywood casting decisions to that list.

Originally Published: Aug 6, 2016