In a June conference call with the National Federation of Independent Business, Mitt Romney advised business owners to talk to their employees about the election and what the stakes are for the business.
Romney: “I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections.”
At the time, this video did not make many headlines, however, it has recently been getting more attention due to the fact that several CEOs have been doing exactly this. In These Times, Gawker, and MSNBC have all reported about businesses that sent their employees memos about the election. These memos usually amount to slightly veiled threats of layoffs if Obama is re-elected. This type of campaigning is now being encouraged and the National Federation of Independent Business now offers advice on how to do so: 5 ways to talk to your employees about politics.
According to the Yale Law Journal, it used to be prohibited for employers to use their workplace as a forum for campaigning to their employees. Now, because of Citizens United, there are no such restrictions.
“Under Citizens United’s robust conception of corporate political speech, employers may now be able to compel their employees to listen to their political views at such meetings on pain of termination.”
Prior to Citizens United corporations could not directly campaign to, or solicit money from rank and file employees. Such behavior could only have been conducted through a PAC, and only through the mail. Additionally, any solicitations for money had be done in a way that allowed employees to remain anonymous, so management would not know who did or did not contribute.
Again, according to the Yale Law Journal, Citizens United permits “corporations to freely use their treasury funds to advocate for candidates and political parties to their rank-and-file employees.” This advocacy could include: requiring employees to attend one-sided partisan speeches, rallies, watch videos, or attend other events that advocate in favor of a candidate or party. Employees who do not comply could be fired.
How long will it be before contracts and terms of employment include an obligation for employees to actively campaign for the interests of the company? Are we headed down a path where employees could be required to volunteer for or donate money to the candidate or party of their bosses choosing? Is this the type of society we want? Do we want to give employers and corporate executives yet another tool that they can use to influence our political system?
It seems, to me, that as a society we are headed down a slippery path. One that gives employers more and more control over the lives of their employees (and this is to say nothing about the demand that bosses have more control over their employees’ health care). Our entire society is becoming more and more undemocratic both economically and politically. Wealth and power have been increasingly concentrated into the hands of the few. Now, it appears that some want to use the workplace as another tool to control politics, society, and the lives of people.
America’s 10 most profitable corporations paid an average corporate income tax rate of just 9 percent in 2011, according to a study from financial site NerdWallet reported by the Huffington Post. The 10 companies include Wall Street banks like Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase, oil companies like ExxonMobil and Chevron, and tech companies like Apple, IBM, and Microsoft. The two companies with the lowest tax rates were both oil companies. ExxonMobil paid $1.5 billion in taxes on $73.3 billion in earnings, a tax rate of 2 percent. Chevron’s tax rate was just 4 percent. None of the companies paid anywhere near the 35 percent top corporate tax rate … .
The necessity of corporate support for, or at least acquiescence to, liberal policies is not a new development in the history of American liberalism. Indeed it has been one of its hallmarks.
Roosevelt may be remembered for his combativeness toward corporations; he famously said, “I welcome their hatred.” But he said that in 1936, only after key New Deal legislation had passed with the help of the United States Chamber of Commerce and the American Bankers Association.
The necessity of forging coalitions with corporations is understandably difficult for progressives to accept. Every time it happens, corporations seem to quickly go back to their usual tricks. They lobby to weaken enforcement. They litigate to have rules overturned. They abandon politicians who risked compromise for them. Corporations are exasperating, irritating and untrustworthy partners.
But most of the time politics is exasperating and irritating, not euphoric and cathartic. As Roosevelt himself told a group of dissatisfied youth activists in 1940, “if you ever sit here you will learn that you cannot, just by shouting from the housetops, get what you want all the time.”
In the wake of all of this news on the Supreme Court’s health care decision, the ruling that clears the way for Citizens United and the increasingly influential role of corporate money and Super PACs may be forgotten…but ultimately more important for the future of the U.S.
Thinking about not voting this year? It’s the Supreme Court, stupid.
Five members of the Supreme Court think corporations are people. Mitt Romney agrees. And now the minority leader of the Senate — the highest-ranking Republican official in America — takes this logic to its absurd conclusion: If corporations are people, they must be capable of feeling harassed and intimidated if their shareholders or consumers don’t approve of their political expenditures.
Hell, they might even throw a tantrum. Or cry. Corporations have feelings.
This isn’t just whacko. It also defies law and logic. What are corporations anyway, separate and apart from their shareholders and consumers? Legal fictions, pieces of paper.
And whom do corporations exist for if not the people who legally own them and those who purchase the products and services they sell?
NEW AFL-CIO WEBSITE | EXECUTIVE PAYWATCH:
Corporate Cash Hoarding Holds Back Job Creation – Since the Wall Street financial crisis, the largest U.S. non-financial corporations have amassed record levels of cash. But rather than investing these cash hoards to expand their operations and create jobs, many companies have shed workers in the United States. At the end of 2011, the largest non-financial companies in the S&P 500 Index had accumulated more than $1 trillion in cash, a historic high. Corporate cash was up 66 percent from the end of 2007, before the Wall Street financial crisis. This comes at a time when the U.S. unemployment rate has exceeded 8 percent and more than 12 million Americans are looking for jobs. While overall employment at S&P 500 Index companies has grown since 2007, cash stockpiles have grown even faster. Most of this job creation has been overseas. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the U.S. parents of multinational companies cut a total of 864,000 jobs between 1999 and 2009, while their foreign affiliates added 2.9 million jobs. Public companies are not required to disclose the percentage of their global workforce that is based in the United States. However, they must disclose the total number of employees, and a number of large companies have been cutting jobs while stockpiling cash.
A new Ernst & Young LLP study – Leading corporate sustainability issues in the 2012 proxy season: is your board prepared? – indicates that investors are challenging boards to further improve oversight and disclosure around hot-button topics.
The Ernst & Young LLP report shows that environmental and social proposals will lead all other major proposal categories, in terms of shareholder resolutions on proxy ballots. These proposals accounted for 40% of all shareholder resolutions in 2011, up from 30% in 2010. The proposals also broke new ground averaging support from 21% of votes cast, up from 18% in 2010.“Not only do resolutions on corporate sustainability issues represent the largest portion of all shareholder proposals we now see, but average support for these topics reached an all time high last year – and we expect this trend to continue to gain traction,” said Steve Starbuck, Americas Leader Climate Change and Sustainability Services, Ernst & Young LLP.
Pay no attention to the lies already coming from the Right – corporations are paying less in taxes in America than they’ve paid in 40 years. According to the Congressional Budget Office – despite American corporations making enormous profits last year – their second best in a generation - they paid on average only 12.1% in federal taxes. That’s far below the 35% corporate tax rate that Conservatives claim is crippling business in America. At 12.1%, American corporations are paying the lowest taxes in the entire developed world.
It’s also a staggering drop off since the last quarter century – between 1987 and 2008 – when corporations paid on average a 25.6% corporation tax rate. When corporations and the very, very wealthy aren’t paying their fair share in taxes, then working people have to pick up the slack. That’s exactly what’s happened in recent years – and one reason why the United States has one of the highest level of wealth inequality in the developed world – and why the middle class is disappearing right in front of our eyes.
The Supreme Court will weigh next week whether corporations can be sued in the United States for suspected complicity in human rights abuses abroad, in a case being closely watched by businesses concerned about long and costly litigation.
The high court on Tuesday will consider the reach of a 1789 U.S. law that had been largely dormant until 1980, when human rights lawyers started using it, at first to sue foreign government officials. Then, over the next 20 years, the lawyers used the law to target multinational corporations.
The case before the court pits the Obama administration and human rights advocates against large companies and foreign governments over allegations that Royal Dutch Shell Plc helped Nigeria crush oil exploration protests in the 1990s.
Administration attorneys and lawyers for the plaintiffs contend corporations can be held accountable in U.S. courts for committing or assisting foreign governments in torture, executions or other human rights abuses.
Attorneys for corporations argue that only individuals, such as company employees or managers involved in the abuse, can be sued, a position adopted by a U.S. appeals court in New York. Other courts ruled corporations can be held liable.
Citizens United says that corporations are people with the same free speech rights. So if they are people they get the responsibilities along with the rights.
The coalition of corporations pushing for a temporary repatriation tax holiday on money that companies have stashed offshore renewed its efforts in a letter to Congress and the White House today, a day after the Congressional Budget Office released a study showing that such a holiday would have a minimal impact on job creation. Executives at Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco Systems, and Pfizer are among the 15 executives that signed the letter, which asserts that Congress can’t wait any longer to push the holiday through…
Just yesterday, the CBO found that the repatriation holiday would have the weakest effect on job creation of all the major policy proposals made by both parties.
“We used to have a deal: A rising tide lifted all boats. These days, a few gleaming yachts power comfortably past the wreckage of smaller vessels… executive pay at the country’s largest companies has more than quadrupled since the 1970s. Median wages have stagnated through much of that time and declined since the crisis.” — Ezra Klein
The CEOs have a point. Not on the tax holiday for overseas income — that’s a scam. But the U.S. could make it easier to do business here. We do need more high-skills visas. We do need to reform our tax code, reduce our deficit, upgrade our education system and repair our infrastructure. We even need to compete with the incentives these companies receive to relocate their factories and research centers; it’s a fact of the modern economy, and we can’t pretend otherwise.
But the self-pitying, self-righteous tone of these complaints misses the big picture, and makes the underlying problem worse: The rest of America doesn’t trust corporate America right now. The rich have been getting fabulously richer, corporate America is sitting on trillions in cash reserves, and where has that gotten the rest of the country? A shabby, jobless recovery in the early Aughts, followed by a credit bubble, followed by a crash in which ordinary Americans had to bail out Wall Street, followed by the worst economy in generations.
[…] That’s why corporate America’s solutions are looked on with suspicion. Executives say corporate-tax reform and more immigration would be good for the economy? Well, they said that about the Bush tax cuts along with financial deregulation, the rise in housing prices and credit-default swaps, too. But that era ended with Main Street a shambles and Wall Street richer than ever. Fool me once, and all that.
Anyone interested in the capital-gains tax and the marginal rate on income over $250,000 should spend an hour or two paging through the stories at WeAreThe99Percent. The blog, which posts pictures of people holding signs describing their situation, is a powerful primer on the very real sense of betrayal rippling through the country.
KEEP THIS IN MIND: do you immediately jump to the defense of the CEO’s right to make a huge salary? If so, understand that NO ONE disputes that right. So what do you suppose is the BASIC ISSUE after that knee jerk, ideological malarkey?