Open Forum: Sequester’s toll
Posted: March 2, 2013
Multibillion dollar companies like General Electric, Verizon, and Wells Fargo have been using corporate tax loopholes so well that they don’t pay a dime in federal income taxes. Now, a new report shows that another big company, Facebook, not only paid nothing, but also actually received an extra $429 million in tax “refunds” from state and federal governments. We can all appreciate these companies’ ingenuity, but not at such a high cost to the rest of us.
With Congress standing by as the “sequester” indiscriminately slashes funding to programs that ordinary Americans depend on, now is the time for Congress to finally require these multibillion dollar corporations to pay their fair share.
These days it is hard not to question Congress’ priorities. If the sequester goes into full effect over the upcoming months, $85 billion in spending cuts will mean new burdens for the people who can least afford it. In Virginia, this means losing $14 million annually for primary and secondary education, another $13.9 million for funds that support teachers and aids who work with disabled children, and $1.215 million annually in funds that provide meals for seniors. Instead of ensuring our children have the best education possible or that our seniors have nutritious meals, Congress is allowing corporations to use offshore tax havens and stash profits overseas to dodge U.S. taxes.
Simply closing offshore tax havens would make a big difference for local schools here in Winchester, which are already affected by a limited budget. We already cannot afford to build a new elementary school and fix overcrowding while paying to refurbish 40-year-old John Kerr Elementary. How will we manage after the city loses an estimated $102,000 from the sequester?
Low-income students enrolled in higher education will also share the burden. With the sequester in full swing, Virginia will no longer be able to offer financial aid to 2,120 students pursuing a college degree, and 840 students will no longer have work-study jobs to help pay for their tuition. These are hard-working students who will lose the opportunity to earn their education.
Yet as millions of people struggle to pay for college or hang on to their homes, Congress seems intent on protecting their corporate buddies and leaving these tax loopholes wide open. Like the one that let Facebook deduct more than $79 million of its top five executives’ pay from its taxes. Or the one that let it hold $9.8 billion in Bermuda to avoid taxes here.
As the sequester takes its toll, we cannot keep allowing companies like Facebook, GE, and Wells Fargo to pay no taxes. Putting our budget crisis on the backs of teachers, students, and the middle class isn’t just unfair — it’s bad for the economy and our communities.
Rep. Frank Wolf, R-10th, needs to make a choice in the coming days: lead Congress to support a bill that will close corporate tax loopholes, or bow to the pressure of companies like Facebook, GE and Wells Fargo.
Evan Clark represents Winchester’s Second Ward on City Council. Michael Wallace is field organizer for Virginia Fair Share.