Economic Patriotism or Blackmail? Considering Corporate Loyalty Oaths

In the Daily Beast, Jonathan Altar advocates a kind of economic patriotism that uses “loyalty oaths.” The oaths are to prevent them from “deserting” the country by becoming owned in another nation with a lower corporate tax rate.

On top of all the wars and global messiness, 2014 will be remembered for the plague of “corporate inversion,” which the news media should start routinely calling “corporate desertion.” So far, 47 American-based companies have renounced U.S. citizenship and bought foreign subsidiaries in order to dodge American taxes. Many more are preparing to flee.

Flee what? I am sure that transferring ownership actually takes time, effort, and other costs. Why pay the price and go through the hassle? They must be fleeing something they really want to escape badly.

They are fleeing robbery. They are being raided so heavily that they are willing to be owned in other nations so that they can keep their money. Altar should be trying to figure out what is so bad about corporate taxes that American companies are driven to such measures. But he is not remotely interested. The fact that corporations are “deserting” just means that they are evil and need to be punished. End of story.

Altar gives lip service to the idea of lowering the corporate tax rate and then nullifies the idea in the same paragraph.

Most members of Congress favor a lower corporate tax to make American business more competitive abroad. And they’re right: a 35 percent tax rate is too high. But their wealthy campaign contributors—trying to have both cake and candy—reject closing the loopholes necessary to keep a big corporate tax cut from wrecking the Treasury.

Altar is the one trying to have it both ways. If the loopholes would mean a truly lower tax rates the corporations would favor it. They think they are going to get shafted. Wouldn’t corporations be able to get reasonable intelligence about what a new tax “reform” would bring?

And how is it that only the U.S. Treasury gets “wrecked” but other nations have no such problem? Altar admits,

Even if comprehensive tax reform miraculously passes, it wouldn’t reduce the corporate tax rate enough to stop the desertions. That’s because other countries have slashed their corporate taxes or eliminated them altogether.

Go thou and do likewise.

[See also: “Why Not Make the U.S. a Tax Haven for Corporations? Or for Everyone?]

Basically, Altar wants a loyalty oath enforced by a mark—much like how a “made in America” sticker is supposed to work. Customers will then know which company has taken the loyalty oath and can prefer those products. I can only hope that American consumers think more highly of their domestic dependents than they do about the Treasury. If you aren’t buying the best product at the lowest price, then you are despising your spouse, children, and anyone in need who you might be able to help.

But what is bizarre is how Altar can both admit that he is instituting a new form of corporate McCarthyism and yet pretend that those who oppose his position are to blame:

So it’s time for red-blooded Americans to take matters into our own hands. My answer is to make every corporation sign something.

Sign what? If Republicans cared about this issue, which most don’t, they would revive McCarthy-era loyalty oaths, where people were forced to swear that they weren’t communists.

Remembering those dark days, Democrats don’t like oaths, or even pledges, which have proven enormously effective.

So there you go. Republicans are blamed for McCarthyism in the past so that Altar can advocate his economic patriotism in the present and not get called on it. He is hiding in plain sight.