Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Still, Opportunity

During last week's presidential debate in Denver, President Obama stated

When it comes to corporate taxes, Governor Romney has said he wants to, in a revenue-neutral way, close loopholes, deductions — he hasn't identified which ones they are — but thereby bring down the corporate rate. Well, I want to do the same thing, but I've actually identified how we can do that.

And part of the way to do it is to not give tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas. Right now you can actually take a deduction for moving a plant overseas.

Former governor Romney replied in part "The second topic, which is you said you get a deduction for getting a plant overseas. Look, I've been in business for 25 years. I have no idea what you're talking about. I maybe need to get a new accountant."

First, pundits expressed wonderment at Obama's failure to jump on Romney's quip "I maybe need to get a new accountant."   Perhaps he could have asked Romney for the name and number of his accountant so that he, too, might be able to pay at a rate of 13.7%.  "While you're at it," Obama might have mentioned, I'd like to consult your financial consultant, so that maybe Michelle and I could make $21.7 million too; I know a lot of other Americans would like to get in on that."

Of course, in terms of policy (rather than politics), how Mitt Romney made his millions is more significant than how much he got, though reactions from the debate demonstrate that in politics, style trumps substance.

Fact-checkers eagerly analyzed Obama's contention that companies receive tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas, which prompted Romney's denial that such an IRS preference exists.   The consensus, it appears, is that companies receive a deduction for moving expenses for shifting jobs anywhere, abroad or domestically.

Jobs moved from one community to another- as private equity firms like Bain Capital practically specialize in- disrupt communities (permanently damaging some), slash benefits for its employees, and slash the jobs of other employees. Nevertheless, the damage done to the country is eclipsed by offshoring.    That is one way, the guy who claimed Wednesday a President should be "fighting for jobs for the American people" was right in the center of the drive to destroy the American workforce.   The Washington Post in June found

Mitt Romney’s financial company, Bain Capital, invested in a series of firms that specialized in relocating jobs done by American workers to new facilities in low-wage countries like China and India.

During the nearly 15 years that Romney was actively involved in running Bain, a private equity firm that he founded, it owned companies that were pioneers in the practice of shipping work from the United States to overseas call centers and factories making computer components, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

During this Administration, congressional Democrats have twice (twice!) attempted to lure jobs from abroad- and both times been thwarted by the Gas and Oil Party.  In October, 2010

Senate Republicans, aided by four Democrats and Connecticut's Joe Lieberman, torpedoed the proposed law, which sought to stimulate U.S. jobs with a tempting two-year tax break for businesses that brought overseas jobs back to the country and a new tax on products imported back to the U.S. from companies that ship production out of the country. The bill also would also have made it illegal for off-shoring companies to deduct expenses that they incur when shipping jobs overseas.

Almost two years later, a similar effort failed in Congress.  ABC News reported

Under existing law, employers may take tax deductions for the costs associated with moving jobs out of the country. The proposed legislation would have eliminated that, and used the resulting new revenue to fund a 20 percent tax credit for the costs companies run up “insourcing” labor back into the U.S. The bill failed by 56-42. A count of 60 was required to end debate and move to a final vote.

"A count of 60 was required" by the GOP leadership in the Senate, which has demanded that cloture be approved before practically any Democratic initiative.   All 53 Democrats, joined by New England Republicans Snowe, Collins, and Brow,n voted to impose cloture while all other Republicans voting (42) voted to keep jobs in foreign countries.

Let's take inventory.   The two efforts aimed at enticing corporations to bring jobs back to the country Republicans love so dearly garnered the support of 106 Democrats and the opposition of five Democrats, and the support of four Republicans and the opposition of 82 Republicans.

Certainly, it was the responsibility of Barack Obama to make this point in some fashion.  But not only did the President neglect to describe GOP obstruction of his struggle to help the country, he didn't even slam Congress.  That is political malpractice from a President facing re-election with at least one chamber controlled by the opposition party.

It wouldn't have taken much for President Obama to echo the words of the Senate Majority Leader, who noted "It's fairly easy to see why Republicans are blocking our bill to stop outsourcing.  They're obviously defending their presidential nominee, who of course made a fortune by shipping jobs overseas."    Harry Reid understands that Mitt Romney is vulnerable on outsourcing and the tens of millions of dollars he made off the misery of American families, and the Obama campaign needs to understand it, too.

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