The Hightower Report
Reining in Corporate Tax Dodgers; and Doping Racehorses to Win Fast Bucks
Reining in Corporate Tax Dodgers
The British Virgin Islands – the very name conjures up a Caribbean paradise of soft sand beaches, tropical breezes, and the leisurely island lifestyle. Surprisingly, though, this tiny spot is home to more than 400,000 major corporations!
Not that you'd find any factories, corporate headquarters, or even employees on the islands. Indeed, all 400,000 companies are located in one gray, two-story building in the town of Tortola. This is where the global giants register incorporation papers for their very special subsidiaries. You see, the place is a tax haven. By registering there, corporations can claim they are based on the islands – even though they do no business there – letting them dodge paying taxes back home.
This is the kind of scam that President Obama intends to stop. He has recently proposed to close loopholes that allow such giants as Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, Citigroup, Pfizer, and Procter & Gamble to hide income in order to shirk their tax responsibilities to America.
Corporate America, whose lobbyists and political lapdogs plugged these loopholes into our tax code, has been a frequent flyer to tax havens all over the world. Of the 100 largest U.S. corporations, 83 have created subsidiaries to stash profits in these havens, located in such places as the Caribbean, Liechtenstein, the Philippines, Uruguay, and Labuan – wherever that is.
Citigroup, for example, has created 427 of these tax-avoidance subsidiaries! In the past six years, it has more than quadrupled the amount of profits it tucks into the havens, presently stashing nearly $23 billion in them. This is, of course, the same Citigroup that has taken a $45 billion bailout from us taxpayers.
To support the crackdown on this shameful corporate shell game, contact the Public Interest Research Group at www.uspirg.org.
Remember the old folk song about a horse named Stewball? "Stewball was a race horse/and I wish he were mine/He never drank water/He always drank wine."
Gosh, those were the good ol' days for racehorses. Today, they're "drinking" exotic cocktails containing corticosteroids, hyaluronate sodium, and even – get this – cobra venom! Actually, horses are not drinking these painkillers, anti-inflammatories, and stimulants. They're getting injected with them.
I'm not talking about nags and losers running on third-rate tracks but top-of-the-line thoroughbreds. It is now common for billionaire owners to medicate their multimillion-dollar animals with drugs that cover up their ailments and fragilities, making the horses themselves vulnerable to painful and fatal breakdowns on the track.
This is one reason that there are about three breakdowns a day in our country – more than double the rate in England and Australia, where such careless doctoring is prohibited. The motivation of those in charge of these animals' welfare has become a selfish desire to win at all costs, to reap big purses and glory. Training these delicate horses has become "chemical warfare," says one prominent breeder.
Indeed, in a survey of 20 owners or trainers of horses intending to run in the recent Kentucky Derby, only three would reveal the veterinary records showing what substances were injected into their animals. Most claimed this was proprietary information, one actually invoked his horse's right to privacy, and one pleaded ignorance, saying: "I'm a mortgage banker. I don't know what goes on back there [in the horse stalls]."
What's going on, of course, is a race in which ethics are losing to the fast buck. As one of the honest owners says: "[We] should be taking care of these horses. We're the ones that speak for them."