Amazon puts the smile in federal income taxes — by not paying any
|| Seattle Times
“”Last week I suggested that Amazon isn’t so much a Seattle company as “sovereign, borderless nation-state.” It turns out I left a key descriptor out of that phrase.
That would be “taxless.”
This past week, ironically just before Amazon broke up with New York due to that city’s annoying doubts about why it was giving the company billions in tax breaks, a tax wonk was poring through Amazon’s 2018 financial statements and made what he calls a “garish” finding.
The nation’s third-largest company booked record profits last year. But paid nothing in U.S. federal taxes.
“Zero, as in not a cent,” says Matthew Gardner, of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a D.C.-based think tank.
Amazon did pay taxes to state and foreign governments (more on that in a minute). But the financial statements mean that one of the most powerful corporate entities in the world paid fewer dollars to the upkeep of the national government than tens of millions of individuals — such as, say, your average lowly newspaper columnist.
That’s right – I’m paying more to the U.S. government for 2018 than Amazon (I’m talking about the corporate entity, not its mass of employees). So, probably, are you.
Gardner says the internet giant was able to zero out its bill — actually go below zero, as it qualified for a rebate of $129 million — in large part due to Congress and President Donald Trump’s year-old tax-cut law.
“That law didn’t reform much of anything; it was simply to slash taxes,” Gardner said. “So it isn’t surprising this is happening. Cutting corporate taxes was the whole point.”
All the way to nothing?
The company also got a series of tax credits (for equipment purchases, for example) and booked allowable business deductions (the largest of which was writing off stock options).
Businesses often pay little or no tax when they make low profits. But Amazon’s total U.S.-booked profit for 2018 nearly doubled to more than $11 billion.
Gardner isn’t saying Amazon did anything wrong, and of course its hundreds of thousands of employees pay income taxes. But last year total corporate taxes paid to the U.S. government plummeted 31 percent, a drop described by a debt watchdog group as “unprecedented during a time of economic growth.”
The freight paid by U.S. businesses is already down another 18 percent in the first quarter of the 2019 year (the fiscal year for the government started last October). It’s part of the reason why the federal deficit soared 42 percent in that same quarter, despite a booming economy and no major war straining the budget.
The latest head-shaking factoid about our red ink is that the federal government next year will spend more on interest on the debt than it will on children. As one critic put it: more on the past than on the future.
Amazon’s financial statements also show it’s only the U.S. that’s letting the company contribute nothing of late.
Amazon’s total taxes paid to the U.S. and all U.S. states the past two years amounted to just $267 million (counting rebates, on more than $16 billion in profit). While its taxes paid to foreign governments totaled $1.3 billion. So a company we call “ours” contributed nearly five times as much into the kitties of countries abroad as it did here at home.
Gardner says he calls out when rich, successful companies pay nothing not because he thinks they’re evil. But because it’s “spurring a crisis of democratic legitimacy.”
It isn’t just that vital public services might go wanting (though they may). It’s that everyone else may eventually say: If even Amazon doesn’t have to pay, then why the bleep should I?
“It’s an extremely potent reinforcement of distrust,” Gardner said. “It signals strongly that we have a system that’s tilted to benefit the big and powerful, not the rest of us.”
Gardner said the obvious answer is to actually reform the tax system, so that those with an ability to pay at least contribute something.
We’re so distant right now from that more democratic ideal — the notion of asking not what your country can do for you, but what you could do for your country. Unless you’re a sovereign, borderless, taxless nation-state. Then what’s going on makes perfect sense.”
Senior fellow at ITEP Matthew Gardner said corporations like Netflix, which has its headquarters in Los Gatos, California, are still ‘exploiting loopholes’ and called the figures ‘troubling’.
Netflix says they paid $131 million in taxes in 2018 and this is declared in financial documents. But Gardner says this figure relates to taxes paid abroad, according to a separate part of their statements.
He told DailyMail.com: ‘It is pretty clearly true that Netflix’s cash payment of worldwide income taxes in 2018 was $131 million. But that is a worldwide number—the amount Netflix actually paid to national, state and local governments worldwide in 2018. This tells us precisely nothing about the amount Netflix paid to any specific government, including the U.S.’
Gardner added: ‘Fortunately, however, there is another, more complete geographic disclosure of income tax payments.
‘The notes to the financial statements have a detailed section on income taxes. And what this tells us is that all of the income taxes Netflix paid in 2018 were foreign taxes. Zero federal income taxes, zero state income taxes in the US.’
Gardner said the public is now ‘getting its first hard look at how corporate tax law changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act affected the tax-paying habits of corporations’.
He said: ‘With a record number of subscribers, the company’s profit last year equaled its haul in the previous four years put together. When hugely profitable corporations avoid tax, that means smaller businesses and working families must make up the difference.’
Obama Declared 13 National Emergencies — 11 Are Still Active
“There are a lot of national emergencies going on. In fact, there are 31 active national emergencies declared under the National Emergencies Act.
Bill Clinton used this authority 17 times. President Trump has only used it three times so far.
Sorry Democrats, this “national emergency” business is not quite the work of “dictators.”
Conservative Tribune reports: “Of Obama’s 11 continuing national emergencies, nine of them were focused exclusively on foreign nations, while only one seemed focused on protecting America — a declaration aimed at punishing individuals “engaging in significant malicious cyber-enabled activities.”
All of the rest of Obama’s national emergencies were focused on blocking property or prohibiting transactions/travel for individuals engaged in various activities in — by order of the date of enactment — Somalia, Libya, transnational criminal organizations, Yemen, Ukraine, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Venezuela and Burundi.
The American people stand with President Trump following his amazing Oval Office address explaining the human cost of illegal immigration.
If President Donald Trump uses the U.S. military to build the border wall along the United States’ international with Mexico by declaring a national emergency, won’t liberals simply run to a Federal judge whom they believe to be left-wing within the Ninth Circuit and block Trump? Can Congress vote to overturn Trump’s declaration of an emergency?
No. If the federal courts actually follow the law, President Trump cannot be prevented from “reprogramming” funds appropriated for the U.S. Department of Defense and actually using the military (such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) to build the border wall.
As noted in the first installment on this topic, Congress has given a president the power to declare a national emergency by 50 U.S.C. 1621 and 50 U.S.C. 1622. A declaration of an emergency allows the President to reprogram funds in the military budget. See 33 U.S. Code § 2293 “Reprogramming during national emergencies.”
Trump could reprogram funds from other parts of the Department of Defense budget — including from other DoD construction projects such as on bases, military housing, etc. — and engage in construction in areas of need for the national defense. The statute says that explicitly (although statutes are never easy reading).
But Democrats are threatening and commentators are warning that such an action would be challenged in court and in Congress immediately. Can such a plan be blocked?
First, 50 U.S.C. §1622 allows the Congress to over-turn a president’s declaration of an emergency. If both the Senate and the House each pass s resolution terminating the President’s declaration of an emergency, than the emergency status terminates under 50 U.S.C. §1622. But clearly the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate would not join the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives. Unless a significant number of Republican Senators vote against a border wall built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or contractors with military funds, Congress could not block Trump’s efforts.
(Note, although I argue in the next section that this power has been invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court, if a court disagrees on that, a legislative veto power should block a lawsuit. Where Congress has provided a specific method for challenging a declaration of an emergency, the federal courts would normally hold that that method becomes the exclusive remedy. A lawsuit would be blocked by the fact that Congress provided a non-litigation remedy.)
Second, however, the Congressional veto process described above has been ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, in INS v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919 (1983), finding a legislative veto of Executive Branch action unconstitutional. Congress passed many laws which specifically enabled Congress to veto regulations or actions under that law. The U.S. Supreme Court found a legislative veto violates the structure or architecture of the Constitutional system.
Laws go to the President for signature or veto. Congress cannot reach over and pull a law back. Congress must pass a new law and present it to the President for signature if dissatisfied with how the law is working out. The U.S. Supreme Court had no hesitation finding that the Congress had over-reached, based only on the implied architecture of the Constitution.
In Chadha, 50 U.S.C. 1622 was one of the laws explicitly discussed. The dissenting opinion specifically warned that the Chadha decision invalidated Congress’s ability to overturn a presidential declaration of a national emergency.
Therefore, Congress cannot overturn a declaration by President Trump that the open border is a national emergency. Even if the U.S. Senate were to side with the Democrats, Chadha explicitly ruled the Congressional veto (termination) of a presidential declaration to be an unconstitutional distortion of the familiar “Schoolhouse Rock” means by which laws are passed and signed by presidents. Once a law is signed, there is no “claw back” right by Congress.
Third, of course, critics are discussing whether Trump’s actions would be constitutional. Here, however, Congress passed a specific statute, in fact a series of statutes. So there is no question about the President’s power to do what the Congressional statute has explicitly empowered him to do.
Some even point to a rather famous Constitutional landmark case — Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579 (1952) — in which the U.S. Supreme Court explicitly ruled that President Dwight D. Eisenhower did not have the power to temporarily nationalize the U.S. steel industry to avert a strike for national defense. However, Youngstown was not that simple. Youngstown analyzed the inherent powers of Commander in Chief as modified by Congressional agreement by statute.
The U.S. Supreme Court explicitly analyzed that the President’s powers are at their greatest (zenith) when he acts not only by his inherent powers as President but also by the agreement of a statute passed by Congress. In Youngstown, Eisenhower did not have any statute supporting his action and the Court reasoned that he was actually acting in conflict with relevant statutes.
Here, the Congress has already enacted and President George W. Bush signed into law, the Secure Fence Act of 2006. It is already the law of the land that a border wall shall be built along the United States’ Southern border. Neither Congress nor any private plaintiff can challenge the official determination that a border wall or barrier shallbuilt. That is the law. That is the official determination of both the U.S. Congress and the Commander in Chief.
The Secure Fence Act of 2006 was never implemented (other than a few miles) because Congress did not appropriate the funds to pay for it. There are two steps: Authorization and Appropriation of funds. The decision to build a border wall is final. The only question is applying funds to make it happen.
Building of a border wall under the 2006 Act was also not completed because the Swamp and Deep State sabotaged it. Using classic bureaucratic games, the bureaucracy and open borders legislators followed “designed to fail” steps that ground the construction to a halt.
Note that in spite of the word “fence” in the title, the law does not actually mandate a “fence” in particular. The wording of the Act is not about a “fence” but about any kind of barrier customized to the particular terrain in each location to the extent necessary to “the prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States, including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, instruments of terrorism, narcotics, and other contraband.” That is “all.” As in “all.”
So the Secure Fence Act of 2006 requires building “whatever it takes” — not a “fence” per se. The Act does require specific enhanced barriers and lights, cameras, and sensors, in some named locations.
Fourth, could liberals run to the courts to block Trump from using the military to build a border wall? No. Only those with “standing” can bring a lawsuit. How is anyone harmed?
The federal courts have been waging Jihad against citizens bringing lawsuits for decades. The federal courts have been raising the bar higher and higher to make it nearly impossible for anyone to challenge the actions of government agencies or public officials. Specifically a complaint that is shared generally by much of the population cannot establish standing.
Contrary to strongly-held popular belief, the U.S. Supreme Court has clearly ruled that taxpayers do not have standing to challenge government spending, revenue, or action merely because they are taxpayers. See, Daimlerchrysler Corp. v. Cuno, 126 S.Ct. 1854, 164 L.Ed.2d 589, 547 U.S. 332 (2006). So the Left cannot block Trump’s plans by suing as taxpayers. (The only exceptions involve use of funds to establish a religion or local government taxpayers.)
To bring a lawsuit, one must show that they are tangibly harmed, personally, not just in disagreement with a policy. If Trump uses some of the $700 billion in the omnibus bill to build a border wall, everyone will be more safe. How is anyone harmed?”
President Trump’s Full State of the Union Speech | C-SPAN
– This occasion was historic on many levels. Some great moments, especially when the Women’s Caucus acknowledges the tremendous progress women have made in society and the U.S. Congress at this state of the union at 52:00 min into the video.
Ending with the great cheers of “USA, USA, USA!” in the Congress of the United States.
The speech was historic moreover for it’s freshness and authenticity. Most state of the union speeches are boring promises of a future agenda that the audience understands will never be implemented. This was the first in my lifetime that was real. / CJ
CNN Tries To Explain Away Its Own Viewer Poll’s HUGE Numbers For Trump
“CNN’s David Chalian struggled to explain why President Trump scored 76 percent “somewhat positive” or “very positive” in the cable network’s instant poll. The poll only counted “speech watchers,” Chalian explained, so Trump’s supporters might have been over-represented because they were watching the speech. CNN seems to be having a tough night. Incidentally, the CBS News viewer poll also clocked in at exactly 76 percent approval for President Trump’s State of the Union address.”
Obamacare thrown out by judge, raising insurance uncertainty | Straits Times
“DALLAS (BLOOMBERG) – Obamacare was struck down by a Texas federal judge in a ruling that casts uncertainty on insurance coverage for millions of US residents.
US District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth agreed on Friday (Dec 14) with a coalition of Republican states led by Texas that the signature health-care overhaul by President Barack Obama, known formally as the Affordable Care Act, was unconstitutional after Congress last year repealed a key provision – the tax penalty for not complying with the requirement to buy insurance.
The decision came just before the end of a six-week open enrollment period for the programme in 2019 and underscores a divide between Republicans who have long sought to invalidate the law and Democrats who fought to keep it in place.”
Idiot Mazie Hirono Says Kavanaugh Did Not have Anyone to Corroborate His Story But Christine Ford Did
|| The Gateway Pundit
“This woman is dumb as a brick.
Senator Mazie Hirono told CNN on Sunday morning Judge Brett Kavanaugh did not have anyone to corroborate his story but Christine Ford did.
Once again, Hirono has NO IDEA what she is talking about.
EVERY ALLEGED WITNESS to Ford’s 36-year-old story says they don’t remember the incident and don’t even remember the party!
Even Ford’s friend, who was pressured by Democrats to lie about the incident, told investigators she did not remember the incident and had NEVER been to a party with Brett Kavanaugh. Someone needs to explain to Mazie what corroboration means.”
Dianne Feinstein: ‘Twas The Media That Outed Kavanaugh’s Accuser
“Is that right? The way DiFi puts it here, you would think Christine Blasey Ford’s name appeared like a bolt from the blue in the pages of the Washington Post on Sunday afternoon. In reality, the press had spent the previous 72 hours murmuring about a mysterious letter in Feinstein’s possession that may or may not contain a serious allegation against Kavanaugh. No one would say what the letter alleged but the Intercept knew that Feinstein knew something about it. BuzzFeed also knew that Feinstein knew something. Under pressure, Feinstein herself announced that she had finally referred the matter to the FBI. After sitting on it for two months. Six days before the Judiciary Committee was scheduled to vote.
All of which is a long way of asking: Who do you suppose it was that tipped the media to Ford’s accusations, putting them in a position to “out” her at the eleventh hour?
Democrats outed her. Maybe not Feinstein personally or someone acting at her behest, but someone in the Capitol high enough up the chain to have known Ford’s name. (Given that the Intercept and BuzzFeed are both online-only outlets, I’d guess the leaker trended younger.) And the very obvious reason they did so was because they were frustrated that Feinstein had held this weapon for two months and never used it, even during the closed session of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, leaving him on track to join the Court before the end of the month. A liberal, possibly on Feinstein’s own staff, shoved Ford into the spotlight for reasons of political expedience. Feinstein can babble all she likes about respecting the privacy of victims but them’s the facts.
Also, not to nitpick, but no one “outed” Ford. Unless I missed something, at no point did any media outlet reveal her identity against her wishes. She chose to speak on the record to WaPo over the weekend after Ronan Farrow and outlets like BuzzFeed came knocking, believing that someone *would* end up revealing her name against her wishes before long. But no one (I think) actually did so before the WaPo story came out. Whether Democrats might have been so frantic to stop Kavanaugh that they would have forced Ford’s name into print if she had declined to speak up this past weekend is a fascinating what-if. Probably they would have — which seems to have been Ford’s conclusion too. Again, so much for the privacy of victims.”
Is Dianne Feinstein the Most Corrupt Senator in the United States?
“On top of her McCarthyite smear of Judge Kavanaugh, she’s closely tied to both Chinese and Russian operations in the United States.
To date, only one fairly obscure member of Congress has asked our intel people—in this case, the FBI–to look into the alarming case of a Chinese agent becoming her office manager and personal chauffeur. An excerpt from Rep. Jim Banks’ letter to FBI Director Wray:
It has recently come to light that U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the former chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, employed a staff member who was using his position to secretly report information to the Ministry of State Security in China. Given the type of information Senator Feinstein had access to and China’s position as a top foreign adversary of the United States, this revelation is alarming.
The Chinese agent is apparently working without annoyance in California. Feinstein is running for reelection. I wonder if he is planning to vote for her.
Banks asked for an investigation and a briefing. That was last month, and I haven’t seen anything since. Have you? Yet the “news” is chock-a-block with thousands of column inches on an unknown event alleged by an unknown woman who claims it happened when she and Judge Kavanaugh were in high school 35-40 years ago.
This is a good way to measure how little Chinese espionage matters to the nation’s law enforcers and opinion makers. Well, of course, and we all know why: nobody is accusing Trump of colluding with Beijing.
Funny world. So many things are backwards. We have apparently hard evidence of Chinese espionage in the office of the number one senator on the Senate Intelligence Committee—the FBI told her about it five years ago, and she did nothing (nor did the bureau)—but nobody seems concerned. Meanwhile, there is no evidence of any collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, yet half the world constantly frets about “it.”