On the News With Thom Hartmann: Fortune 500 Companies Have $2.1 Trillion Stashed in Overseas Tax Havens, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Fortune 500 companies have $2.1 trillion stashed in overseas tax havens; workers in Washington, DC, could soon be guaranteed 16 weeks of paid family leave; the proposed “Student Loan Relief Act” has more to do with helping banks than any real relief for students; and more.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

TRANSCRIPT:

Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News…

You need to know this. America’s biggest companies are playing by their own set of rules. According to a recent report from two major watchdog organizations, our nation’s Fortune 500 companies have $2.1 trillion stashed in overseas tax havens. To put that number in perspective, it’s worth noting that the entire federal budget for 2015 was only about $3.8 trillion. This stunning report, called “Offshore Shell Games 2015,” was the result of a study conducted by Citizens for Tax Justice and the US Public Interest Research Group. They found that about 70 percent of these massive companies have subsidiaries in low-tax nations like Bermuda, Luxembourg, Ireland and the Netherlands. In many cases, those subsidiaries are really just PO boxes used to pretend like they do business in those nations. By stashing money away overseas, those corporations have left taxpayers to foot the bill for as much as $620 billion of unpaid taxes. And, that means they’re getting huge benefits from our nation without contributing their share of the costs. Michelle Surka of US PIRG said, “The American multinationals that take advantage of tax havens use our roads, benefit from our education system and large consumer market, and enjoy the security we have here, but are ultimately taking a free ride at the expense of other taxpayers.” We give these corporations the privilege of doing business in our great nation, and they make a boatload of profit at our expense. The corporate powers have taken our pensions, reduced our wages, and destroyed our environment. The least they could do is contribute their fair share of taxes, instead of skirting the system to make a few extra bucks for shareholders. If corporations want to do business in the United States, it’s about time they start pulling their weight. Let’s make these companies pay their fair share by demanding that they bring their money back from overseas and fork over the taxes that they skipped out on for all of these years.

If seven city council members in DC get their way, workers in the District could soon be guaranteed 16 weeks of paid family leave. Last week, council members David Grosso and Elissa Silverman introduced legislation that would protect workers who need to take time off to care for a new child or sick family member. If it’s approved, that bill would offer workers more protection than the Congressional Democrats’ plan of 12 weeks paid leave. And, it would be a huge improvement over the current policy, which only offers 16 weeks of unpaid family leave. The proposed plan would go even further than the plan introduced by Democrats by guaranteeing 100 percent of a workers income up to $1,000, and 50 percent of the next thousand. The plan in Congress only provides two-thirds of a person’s paycheck, which means that many workers couldn’t afford to take time off. Hopefully this new measure becomes law and provides real protection for workers in Washington, DC. And, hopefully it will inspire Congress to improve their proposed family leave legislation as well.

While Democrats are working to provide college students with real relief, Republicans just want to give the banksters another big handout. Last week, Republican Senators Kelly Ayotte and Shelley Moore introduced the so-called “Student Loan Relief Act,” which has more to do with helping banks than any real relief for students. That legislation would allow students to refinance their loans at private banks, but it wouldn’t require those banks to take on any of the risk. Those loans would still be guaranteed by the federal government, but it would banks, instead of taxpayers, who rake in all that interest. And, it would leave students vulnerable to the scams and schemes of the banking industry. All we have to do is look to the homeowners who were the victims of illegal foreclosures to see why this proposal would be horrible for students. If Republicans really want to provide students with relief, they should help make public college free for all students – it’s that simple.

New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippmann is refusing to wait on Congress to reform our broken bail system. Last week, Judge Lippmann said, “Defendants who are unable to post bail serve a sentence before their cases are ever resolved.” And, he added, “They do so regardless of innocence or guilt, and the harm that this injustice causes is intolerable.” That’s why Judge Lippmann announced that he will use his legal authority to set up automatic bail reviews for everyone brought in for misdemeanor charges. Although he can’t change national policy, Judge Lippman’s new guidelines will require all New York state judges reconsider bail amounts within 10 days, and he will urge them to consider affordable alternatives to high bail costs as well. He said, “It is fundamentally unfair for a person’s liberty to be all about how much money you have.” And he is exactly right. Our entire Justice System is biased against those who can’t afford a strong defense, and Judge Lippman’s policy is one strong step towards re-balancing the scales of justice.

And finally… The Fight for $15 movement has declared victory in cities and states all around our nation. But, that doesn’t mean that the group is done fighting for workers rights. While the continue to work on lifting wages for underpaid Americans throughout the country, they’re also teaching workers the benefits of forming a union. Thanks to that hard work, more low-paid workers than ever support unions. According to a recent Gallup poll, 72 percent of underpaid workers approve of unions and believe that labor groups can make a real difference in whether or not they get raises. That percentage is higher than any recorded study conducted by Gallup since 1959, and that may be because of the amazing work the Fight for 15 movement has done in our country. That group of workers has seen the value of standing together, and that’s a good thing for the labor movement in our nation. Republicans have been chipping away at our bargaining rights for some time, but it looks like they’ve met their match. The Fight for 15 will keep working for living wages, and keep inspiring workers to fight for what they deserve.

And that’s the way it is – for the week of October 12, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.