Our state’s healthcare exchange posted on their Facebook page Saturday morning, asking people to share their success stories regarding the Affordable Care Act. There are thousands of people who are thrilled with the ACA, but reading my state’s comment thread this morning, you wouldn’t know it. The majority of the comments went something like this:
You all are leeches, my taxes went up so you lazy bastards can have free health care! Obama SUCKS.
My husband is out of work, and neither of us can secure a job in our little, rural, Midwestern town. Unless we want to repair boilers, slaughter livestock, or suddenly become nurses, there are no jobs here. Thus, we have enrolled in the ACA. We pay $76 a month for health insurance for three people (two adults, one teenager), we keep our doctors, dental is included, as is vision, and our deductible is lower than it was with my husband’s last job. So, winning. Except that many people think we’re “leeches,” “lazy,” “bums.” and “sucking at the government’s teat.”
Those people, and so many others, are angry about the wrong things. People scream about their tax dollars going to help kids eat, or making sure families can go to the doctor, or that an elderly woman has heat this winter, but I don’t hear a peep about the American corporations that pay no taxes. Or the mega-churches who dip not just their toe, but their whole damn body into politics, yet enjoy their tax-exempt status all the way to the bank. Nary a peep about the NFL.
In 2012, Mother Jones ran a piece about ten big companies that pay no taxes. All of these companies actually had a negative tax rate. Do you have a negative tax rate? Want to know a not-so-secret secret? Our tax rate is almost double Mitt Romney’s. But people call US leeches. Here’s a list of actual leeches, from the 2012 Mother Jones article.
1) Verizon Communications. Profits: $19.8 billion. Effective tax rate: -3.8%
2) General Electric. Profits: $19.6 billion. Effective tax rate: -18.9%
3) Boeing. Profits: $14.9 billion. Effective tax rate: -5.5%
4) NextEra Energy, North America’s largest solar and wind power operator, based in Florida. Profits: $8.8 billion. Effective tax rate: -2%
5) American Electric Power, electrical utility based in Ohio. Profits: $8.2 billion. Effective tax rate: -6.4%
6) Pacific Gas & Electric, California electrical utility. Profits: $6 billion. Effective tax rate: -8.4%
7) Apache, oil and gas company based in Houston. Profits: $6 billion. Effective tax rate: -0.3%
8) Consolidated Edison, New York energy company. Profits: $5.9 billion. Effective tax rate: -1.3%
9) El Paso, Houston-based energy company that runs the country’s largest natural gas pipeline. Profits: $4.6 billion. Effective tax rate: -0.9%
10) CenterPoint Energy, electric and gas utility based in Houston. Profits: $3.1 billion. Effective tax rate: -11.3%.
According to a report out of the GAO (Government Accounting Office), U.S. corporations pay an average effective tax rate of of 12.6%. The corporate rate is 35%, but thanks to loopholes, offshore banking, exemptions, and tax havens, you will be hard pressed to find any American corporation that pays that rate. Our tax rate is 28%, which means every year, my family pays more taxes than General Electric. That is a sobering thought.
But many on the right don’t seem to understand who the actual leeches are. They continue to blame to working poor, the long-term unemployed, single parents, the elderly, and the disabled, and ignore the facts. One fact that a lot of conservatives refuse to address is if the companies on Mother Jones’ list had paid their fair share, the group, Citizens for Tax Justice calculates it would have put $78 billion into the government’s coffers.
And of course, there’s always war. In 2011, the U.S. government spent about $718 billion on defense and international security assistance. That’s 20% of the federal budget. Remember-that figure does not include benefits for veterans. This past week, Republican senators blocked the passage of a veterans’ bill because they want more sanctions for Iran. No money to help veterans coming back from war, but always money to make new ones.
Companies with a negative effective tax rate. A corporate tax rate very few, if any, U.S. corporations come close to paying. A government that spent more on defense in 2012 than the countries with the next 10 highest defense budgets combines. Defense contractors make a lot of money off of war. I should know: Honeywell paid for my private schools as a teenager, and General Dynamics bought our house in Vermont.
When people, primarily people on the right (side of politics, but the wrong side of history), yell about Reagan’s mythical welfare queen, or how single mothers are destroying society, or how America’s poor aren’t really poor because they have stoves, I wonder how they got so confused. We’re not the welfare queens, we’re not the moochers and the leeches. General Electric, ConEd, Verizon, Boeing, and other American corporations are.
My husband predicts that any conservative who reads this will, typing condescendingly, explain that all these corporations create jobs. The corporations create jobs so their employees will subsidize the corporations’ taxes. In other words, while Joe Blow is making $15 an hour, and trying to pay for his kid’s braces, his CEO is using Joe’s taxes to buy an Aston Martin.
Society is angry at the wrong people, and we’re angry about the wrong things. Instead of whining about my family paying $76 a month for health insurance, why aren’t you fuming about Verizon’s effective tax rate? Why aren’t you beyond pissed that Mitt Romney’s tax rate is 14.7%? Why aren’t you calling all your representatives, demanding they fight to overturn Citizens United?
Why are you angry at me?