On the News With Thom Hartmann: Walgreens Will Not Move Overseas to Avoid Taxes, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Walgreens has caved to public pressure and announced that they will not move overseas to avoid paying US taxes; in the last year alone, the default rate on federal student loans has risen by 5 percent; the US is the richest nation on the planet, but we’re the only advanced economy that doesn’t guarantee workers a vacation; and more.

TRANSCRIPT:

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

You need to know this. Walgreens has caved to public pressure and announced that they will not move overseas to avoid paying US taxes. However, we need to do a heck of a lot more to stop other businesses from moving offshore. The drug store chain was considering a move called an “inversion” to acquire a Switzerland-based company called Alliance Boots, and relocate their headquarters to the lower-tax nation. Walgreens CEO Greg Wasson said that the company was “mindful of the public reaction to a potential inversion.” In other words, they recognized that the American people were pretty ticked about Walgreens trying to dodge taxes. Public pressure was enough to keep this drug store chain headquartered in Chicago, but it won’t stop all US corporations from skipping out on their fair share. Congress could change the rules and take away the tax incentives that allow corporations to relocate overseas. However, we all know that it’s highly unlikely that lawmakers will suddenly stop the partisan gridlock and get some work done. In the meantime, a group of Democratic senators is calling on President Obama to put a stop to these so-called “inversions” with an executive order. Senators Dick Durbin, Jack Reed, Elizabeth Warren, and others wrote a letter to the president warning that billions of dollars in corporate tax revenue will be lost if these inversions aren’t stopped. They wrote, “The coming flood of corporate inversions justifies immediate executive action.” The President can direct the Treasury to issue rules that would make it more difficult for corporations to dodge taxes by moving overseas. In a speech last month, President Obama said, “You shouldn’t get to call yourself an American company only when you want a handout from American taxpayers.” Whether it’s through executive action, public pressure, or a combination of both, we must force corporations to pay their fair share. For now, Walgreens is staying here in the US, and it’s time for more businesses to prove their economic patriotism.

In the last year alone, the default rate on federal student loans has risen by 5 percent. According to the Department of Education, about half a million more Americans went in to default since this time last year. In fact, 20 percent of all borrowers are at least a year behind on repaying their loans. The high cost of education and a weak job market have left millions of students with no other choice than to stop making payments. Taxpayers have already dished out a fortune to prop up the too-big-to-jail banks, yet we’ve left students struggling to get by. To make matters worse, Congress gives corporations massive tax breaks but claims we simply can’t afford to bail out these students. Education is a fundamental part of the Pursuit of Happiness, and it should be considered a right in this country, not a privilege. In the richest nation on earth, no one should have to face a lifetime of debt to get an education. It’s time to give students a hand up, wipe out these loans, and guarantee a free education to every American.

The United States is the richest nation on the planet, but we’re the only advanced economy that doesn’t guarantee workers a vacation. The Vacation Equality Project is fighting to change that with a new campaign and petition. Countless studies have found that workers aren’t the only ones who benefit from a little “R & R.” As Alternet reports, people who get vacation time perform better at work, and productivity reviews rise an average of eight percent for every 10 hours of vacation time taken by an employee. Project organizers are calling on Congress and the White House to give every worker the ability to take time off, and they’re hoping to get 100,000 signatures for their petition by August 15th. To add your voice, and help give all workers the time off they deserve, check out VacationEqualityProject.com.

Extending unemployment benefits during the recession helped many Americans survive, but those benefits also prevented millions of home foreclosures. A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research says that for every $1,000 increase in unemployment benefits, the likelihood that the recipient may become delinquent on their mortgage drops by 25 basis points. In addition, benefits being available for longer has a dramatic effect on foreclosure as well. Every additional week that benefits are available lowers the chance of delinquency by 34 basis points. In other words, unemployment benefits don’t just help out-of-work Americans, they help our entire economy. Yet, Republicans in Congress have blocked efforts to extend federal long-term unemployment benefits since last December. They claim that we can’t afford to support the unemployed, but this new study provides yet another reason why we can’t afford not to. Foreclosures hurt community home values, they leave Americans on the street, and they leave taxpayers on the hook for numerous costs. Keeping people in their homes is the economic thing to do, and extending unemployment is a great way to do so.

And finally… About two dozen workers at Kentucky State University are getting a raise, and they have the school’s president to thank for it. Interim president Raymond Burse asked that his own pay be cut by $90,000 so that the low-wage workers at his university can be bumped up to $10.25 an hour. Currently, these workers only make $7.25 an hour, and President Burse’s decision will have a huge impact on their lives. After retiring from an executive position with General Electric, Burse explained that he does not need to work for financial reasons. He said, “the people who do the hard work and heavy lifting, they are at the lower pay scale,” and he is trying to fix that injustice. Some have criticized his decision as a publicity stunt, and an effort to shame other universities in to raising wages. He explained, “You don’t give up $90,000 for publicity. I did this for the people.” Perhaps a few other corporate and university leaders will take notice, and recognize that their workers also deserve a raise.

And that’s the way it is – for the week of August 11, 2014 – I’m Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.