It’s not just people fleeing the Bay Area — these businesses are leaving, too
Chevron was part of another generation’s departures from the Bay Area when they moved their headquarters from San Francisco back in 2001, but more recently, the energy giant also moved 400 jobs from San Ramon .
“At this point, it’s basically a truism that hordes of people are moving away from the Bay Area in search of sunnier, more affordable climes, yielding a U-Haul shortage and a whole mini-industry devoted to helping people relocate from the Bay Area.
It’s not just people, though (unless you count corporations as people, like the Supreme Court does). There’s also an exodus of businesses, some say.
This year, outdoor apparel brand the North Face announced plans to move its headquarters from Alameda to Denver in 2019 after Colorado offered the company millions in tax incentives. About 650 people work at….”
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.’
‘Let’s be real.’ Gavin Newsom says he’ll cut back on California’s high-speed rail plan
“In a change to a project voters first approved with a $10 billion bond during the Schwarzenegger administration, Newsom said there “simply isn’t a path” to build high speed rail to connect the northern and southern parts of the state without more funding. The project as originally designed now is estimated to cost at least $77 billion.
Instead, he called for focus on a section linking the Central Valley cities of Merced and Bakersfield, which he said have long been neglected by lawmakers.
“The Valley may be known around the world for agriculture, but there is another story ready to be told. A story of a region hungry for investment, a workforce eager for more training and good jobs, Californians who deserve a fair share of our state’s prosperity,” he said. “The high speed rail project can be part of that.”
He promised more oversight and transparency for the project, and announced he is appointing his economic development director, Lenny Mendonca, to chair the High Speed Rail Authority. The larger rail project isn’t dead. Newsomsaid the state will still complete an environmental review for the proposed rail between San Francisco and Los Angeles and will continue work on regional projects in the north and the south of the state.
Newsom acknowledged critics who want the state to abandon the project entirely, but said he doesn’t want to waste the billions already spent on the project, nor does he want to return $3.5 billion the state has received in federal funding.”
Study: Ending All Legal Immigration for 40 Years Maintains U.S. Workforce
“The United States could suspend all legal immigration to the country for the next 40 years and maintain a workforce where there are still more than two U.S. workers for every one retiree, a new study finds.
The latest study by the Center for Immigration Studies’ Steven Camarota reveals that despite claims by the big business lobby, Wall St., and corporate executives that mass legal immigration is necessary to maintain a sizeable workforce, current legal immigration trends have little to no impact on the working-age population.
The workforce population is generally measured by the ratio showing the number of U.S. workers per every one retiree. Camerota’s research finds that if the U.S. implemented an immigration moratorium for the next 40 years, it would hardly have an impact on the number of workers per retirees.
For example, at current legal immigration levels where the U.S. imports more than 1.2 million legal immigrants a year — at the detriment of American workers’ job prospects and wages — the working-age population would decrease from 64.3 percent of the total population in 2017 to 59 percent in 2060.
Likewise, under a scenario where the U.S. halted all legal immigration, the working-age population would dip to about 56.7 percent of the total population by 2060 — only a 2.3 percent difference from projections where current mass legal immigration trends continue.
(Center for Immigration Studies)
The ratio of U.S. workers per retiree would be little changed if lawmakers halted legal immigration for 40 years. With current legal immigration levels, the U.S. is on track to have about 2.5 workers per retiree by 2060.
Should legal immigration be halted, the U.S. would have about 2.1 workers per retiree by 2060, a subtle difference in the working-age population.
At the same time, continuing current legal immigration levels for the next 40 years would dramatically increase the total U.S. population to an unprecedented 404.5 million by 2060. This would mean that in less than half a century, 80 million residents would be added to America’s population due to current legal immigration levels.
If the U.S. implemented an immigration moratorium for the next four decades, though, the U.S. population would stabilize at a healthy 329.2 million — an increase of only about four million residents.
FBI corruption probe of L.A. City Hall focuses on downtown development boom
|| LA Times
“The rapid transformation of downtown Los Angeles’ skyline is being fueled in good measure by huge investments from Chinese companies eager to burnish their global brands and capitalize on L.A.’s real estate boom.
The warrant, which was filed in federal court in November but reviewed by The Times this weekend, sheds new light on the investigation and shows federal investigators are seeking records related not only to Huizar but also other City Hall officials, including Councilman Curren Price and current or former aides to Huizar, Council President Herb Wesson and Mayor Eric Garcetti.”
Now some of those projects have become a focus of federal agents seeking evidence of possible bribery, extortion, money laundering and other crimes as part of a corruption investigation at City Hall.
Federal investigators have cast a wide net for information about foreign investment in Los Angeles real estate development, according to a search warrant that names an array of political and business figures.
Among those named are executives of Chinese firms bankrolling two ambitious downtown projects that would result in three new towers on Figueroa Street. Investigators are also seeking records about L.A. development projects involving other foreign investors, including firms with large-scale hotel and residential projects in downtown.
The warrant does not say the FBI has gathered evidence of criminal activity by any of the people or companies named in the document. No one has been arrested or charged in the investigation.
The federal investigation became public in November, when FBI agents descended on the home and offices of L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar, who represents the vast majority of downtown. Since then, The Times has reported that investigators have sought records involving a longtime lobbyist and a fundraiser close to City Hall.
The warrant, which was filed in federal court in November but reviewed by The Times this weekend, sheds new light on the investigation and shows federal investigators are seeking records related not only to Huizar but also other City Hall officials, including Councilman Curren Price and current or former aides to Huizar, Council President Herb Wesson and Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Until recently, Huizar headed the powerful council committee that vets development projects. Price, in turn, heads a council committee focused on economic development, which reviews taxpayer subsidies offered by the city to hotel developers in and around downtown.
The warrant is not the only sign of FBI interest in L.A. development.
In recent months, real estate developers with projects in Huizar’s downtown-to-Eagle Rock district have received federal grand jury subpoenas instructing them to turn over communications with the councilman and dozens of current and former Huizar staffers since 2013, according to two sources familiar with the FBI’s instructions.
Those developers also have been told to provide information on any contributions they have made to Huizar’s reelection bid, his officeholder committee, any legal defense fund or his alma mater, Bishop Mora Salesian High School, the sources said. The subpoenas seek information on any donations made to two political committees with ties to Huizar — Community Support PAC and Families for a Better Los Angeles.
Developers in Huizar’s district also have been instructed to provide information on any gifts, meals, trips, vacations, flights, event tickets or rounds of golf they have provided to Huizar, his staff or any other council member, the sources said.
Among the information sought in the warrant were records related to trips to Las Vegas and stays at four hotels, including the Palazzo and Caesars Palace. The document does not explain why investigators want them.
Depending on where it goes, the FBI investigation could spur Angelenos to demand reforms of real estate development and campaign contributions and gifts at City Hall, said Kathy Feng, who was until recently the head of California Common Cause, a watchdog group that monitors ethics and money in politics.
“People already have a level of skepticism about how City Hall decisions are made around major development projects,” she said.
In the warrant, agents sought information from Google about a Gmail account tied to Ray Chan, a former deputy mayor for economic development for Garcetti who once headed the city building department and has worked since then as a consultant. Agents said they were looking for evidence related to an investigation into bribery, extortion, money laundering and other crimes that could involve more than a dozen people.
Among those named were two executives linked to Shenzhen New World Group, a Chinese company that has unveiled plans to redevelop the L.A. Grand Hotel downtown with a 77-story tower and build a 31-story hotel near Universal Studios.
The Times was unable to reach Wei Huang, president of Shenzhen New World Group, and Ricky Zheng, who was identified in state campaign contribution records as a Shenzhen New World LLC executive. Besides evidence of any possible crimes involving the two men, the federal warrant sought records relating to Shenzhen New World Group and two of its hotels.
The warrant, first reported by George Washington University counterterrorism expert Seamus Hughes, also named Fuer Yuan, founder of another company called Shenzhen Hazens. In 2017, the City Council approved a Shenzhen Hazens project on Figueroa Street, allowing the developer to demolish the nine-story Luxe City Center Hotel and replace it with two skyscrapers, one for a hotel, the other for condominiums.
As part of the approval process, the developer signed an agreement to contribute to initiatives long backed by Huizar, including $750,000 to support a planned downtown streetcar and $550,000 to the effort to revitalize the Broadway corridor.
Investigators asked in the warrant about the Luxe Hotel and George Chiang, who city records indicate was involved with the skyscraper project. David Chaiken, a company attorney, told The Times that Shenzhen Hazens was unable to share any information about its activities or the investigation.
“President Trump signed an executive order this week allowing adults who illegally enter the United States with children, claiming to be family units, to be detained together in federal facilities.
The question of a valid parental-child relationship is at the center of how the Department of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services handle detainment. Because of fraudulent documentation, profits to smugglers, and false asylum claims, there is essentially no way to prove or verify adults traveling with children are indeed their parents.
In April 2016, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley warned about catch-and-release policies enabling the smuggling industry. In the past, any non-Mexican or Canadian individual illegally crossing the border with a child was considered a family unit, processed and released into the interior. Current zero-tolerance policies require they be detained until prosecution.
“A recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report confirmed that human smuggling rings are exploiting children in order to prevent the detention of the undocumented immigrants they’re smuggling into the United States. They are pairing children with unrelated adults, knowing adults who enter the United States with children won’t be detained,” he said.
“At least one Honduran interviewed by DHS officials reported that children are kidnapped or adopted then smuggled with their unrelated adult “family member” to the United States. This smuggling practice has bolstered an underground market for counterfeit birth certificates according to the report, which was prepared by the DHS Human Smuggling Cell. Once in the U.S., these children are vulnerable to labor or sex trafficking,” he continued.
Fast-forward to 2018 and this is still the case.
“If there’s no documentation to confirm the claimed relationship between an adult and a child, we [separate] if the parent is a national security, public or safety risk, including when there are criminal charges at issue and it may not be appropriate to maintain the family in detention together,” DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said at the White House Monday.
“We also separate a parent and child if the adult is suspected of human trafficking. There have been cases where minors have been used and trafficked by unrelated adults in an effort to avoid detention,” she continued. “And I’d stop here to say, in the last five months, we have a 314 percent increase in adults and children arriving at the border, fraudulently claiming to be a family unit. This is, obviously, of concern.”
Current and former Border Patrol and ICE agents who have worked extensively on human trafficking cases continue to have these concerns. Worse, they’re alarmed the majority of current media coverage is downplaying the smuggling angle.
“You can never really verify who the parents really are,” former Border Patrol and Customs Special Agent Jason Piccolo said during an interview with Townhall. “Especially in light of adult males showing up with kids.”
In 2015, Piccolo blew the whistle on the Obama administration releasing unaccompanied minors to unvetted, criminal sponsors. During that time, he served as the sole ICE and Enforcement and Removal Operations representative to the White House Security Council’s DHS Human Smuggling Cell. It was his job to disrupt or dismantle human smuggling organizations domestically and internationally.
“Without doing some kind of in-depth interview or interrogation or some kind of biometrics [DNA] there’s no way you can tell if the kids are actually family,” he said.
Piccolo explained how adults and children are given fake documents, including birth certificates to “prove” they are “related.”
“They’re given fake documents in order to get through Mexico and a lot of times they’ll give those fake documents back,” he said.
Smugglers are hired for as much as $20,000 per person and pair unrelated adults to unrelated children. The entire purpose is to claim asylum, valid or not, with the understanding that “family units” are apprehended and then released to the interior of the United States. Since 2008, asylum claims have ballooned by 1,700 percent according to DHS data.
Under the Obama administration, 80-90 percent of individuals making asylum claims with children were released after being processed and given a court date. Inevitably, they started living in the U.S. illegally for years to come. This is the policy the Trump administration is trying to change.
“When they’re presenting themselves they’d get an asylum interview and they’d get released,” Piccolo said. “It was widely known that the human smuggling cell knew that aliens coming in from South America stated that they were told if they were a family unit they would be released at the border.”
Piccolo suggests a joint effort with USCIS, DHS and FBI is necessary for vetting and that a joint task force must be developed to do interviews and interrogations of adults traveling with children.
“If you really want to fix this problem you have to really vet these adults,” he said. ”
Apple announces plans to repatriate billions in overseas cash, says it will contribute $350 billion to the US economy over the next 5 years
“Apple will invest $350 billion in the US economy over the next 5 years
Apple on Wednesday made a slew of announcements about its investment in and contribution to the U.S. economy in part because of the new tax law.
The headline from Apple is that it will make a $350 billion “contribution” to the U.S. economy over the next five years, although it’s unclear exactly how the company came to that number.
The company also promised to create 20,000 new jobs and open a new campus.
It said it expects to pay about $38 billion in taxes for the horde of cash it plans to bring back to the United States. This implies it will repatriate virtually all of its $250 billion in overseas cash.
Apple also said it will spend over $30 billion in capital expenditures over the next five years. About $10 billion in capital expenditures will be investments in U.S. data centers, the company said.
Apple added that it will spend $5 billion as part of an innovation fund, up from the $1 billion CEO Tim Cook announced last year on CNBC’s “Mad Money.”
The job creation will include direct employment and also suppliers and its app business, which it had already planned to grow substantially (app developers earned $26.5 billion in 2017.) The new campus will focus on customer support.
Wednesday’s announcement indicates that Apple will still have hundreds of billions of dollars in cash. It could spend that money on buybacks, dividends or acquisitions or moonshot projects.
The announcement raises the bar for the world’s most valuable company — now a huge driver of the economy — to continue its dominance and growth in the wake of political pressure on big tech companies. The plan calls for Apple to keep up 2018’s $55 billion “supercycle” spending rate with domestic suppliers and manufacturers.
“We have a deep sense of responsibility to give back to our country and the people who help make our success possible,” Cook said in a statement.
In 2016, then president-elect Donald Trump publicly called out Apple’s reliance on its Chinese supply chain, telling The New York Times that he would “get Apple to build a big plant in the United States, or many big plants in the United States.”
Apple shares were up about half a percent after the announcement, adding about $5.6 billion to the company’s market capitalization after the stock opened Wednesday’s trading session down 0.3 percent.
SoCal Gas Faces Violation Notice for Recent Aliso Canyon Gas Leak
|| NBC San Diego
Regulators contend that SoCalGas didn’t notify the community about the leak until more than two hours after it began.
“The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a violation notice to Southern California Gas Co. Friday stemming from a nearly hour-long gas leak that occurred Monday at the Aliso Canyon storage facility in Porter Ranch.
The notice accuses the gas company of causing a public nuisance, and regulators contend SoCalGas didn’t notify AQMD or the community about the leak until more than two hours after it began.
According to the AQMD, the leak was caused by the failure of a flange gasket, and SoCalGas did not notify the agency or the community about the leak until “more than two hours after it began.”
“We take all nuisance odor incidents seriously,” AQMD Executive Officer Wayne Nastri said. “SoCalGas and all facilities in our region have an obligation to protect residents from foul odors that can impact their communities.”
The Aliso Canyon facility was the site of the largest methane leak in U.S. history. That leak began in October 2015 and wasn’t capped until February 2016. Roughly8 8,000 families were forced from their homes, with many residents complaining of a variety of health issues. Many residents continue to call for the permanent closure of the facility.”