Sen. Carl Levin, one of those liberal politicians leaving few harms unvisited as he does his big-government best to limit American possibilities, decided recently to beat up on Apple Inc., a business that helped pioneer a new computer age in this country and around the world. In its innovative quest for profits, it served us all far more than any current senator or bunch of them I can think of.
No wonder, then, that someone like this Democrat from Michigan is disgusted. Nothing generally infuriates neo-socialist curmudgeons of his ilk more than free enterprise of the vigorous, corporate kind expanding the reach of our lives.
They want a world devised by showoff politicians who then spend us into oblivion to pay for their failures.
The left needs money for this spending, lots of it, and if that means incurring ruinous debt threatening to impoverish future generations, these men and women are up for it. But they would like to do some of their hard hitting in the present, too, which is why we have one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. The mishmash needs reform, starting with a reduced-rate grab that would then serve the public at large while almost surely increasing revenues.
Conservatives cannot help observing that high, high, very high corporate taxes mean higher prices for consumers, lower pay for employees, fewer employees and lower returns to union pension funds and other investors. High rates mean less competitiveness with overseas corporations whose countries happen to be smart enough to understand that more reasonable rates beget such benefits as economic growth and businesses more liable to stay in business.
Progressives ordinarily refuse to acknowledge it, but overly high rates can result in less revenue than lower taxes that lead to more wealth creation and less tax avoidance.
Levin nevertheless was scathing in a congressional hearing last week about Apple paying no more than it had to pay under the law. And it’s true: Company managers, benefiting from sanity and finding a special, helpful deal in Ireland, did not go out of their way to smother the Internal Revenue Service with unrequired charitable giving. As for Levin’s outrage, it seems to have been at a level comparable to when he asked the IRS to more closely examine tax-exempt conservative groups prior to the agency’s untoward interrogations becoming a national scandal.
It should be noted that Apple, which Levin insisted on investigating, is possibly the top corporate taxpayer in America, handing over $6 billion to Uncle Sam last year. That’s not so insignificant a contribution to the liberal project of further enlarging government as the crucial answer to whatever ails us.
A consequence of that project is government doing some good, of course, but too often making our pursuit of happiness more problematic. What should really be investigated is the kind of politics that in 2009 gave us an out-of-whack, deficit-inflating stimulus bill less likely to produce a plethora of jobs than to produce votes for senators who thought they had a great idea.
They wanted to include $40 billion worth of pork projects in the stimulus, and yes, a few of those would do some good, though not as much as alternative projects, and there would be lots of waste, according to an internal White House memo revealed in The New Yorker magazine after the deed was done.
You may or may not be surprised at Levin’s own pork contribution.
He wanted to do a favor for General Motors, which happens to be headquartered in his state of Michigan. And so he helped arrange for the stimulus to include erasure of a $7 billion or more tax liability, the kind of favor that could have helped Apple to a very special bliss. I’d advise Apple to set up headquarters in Michigan except that Levin is retiring from the Senate.
Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado and a senior fellow at the Independence Institute. Email SpeaktoJay@aol.com.
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