Paying for the Right to Work

President-elect Donald Trump made a deal with the CEO of United Technologies to keep some US jobs from moving to Mexico. At stake were 2000 jobs moving from a Carrier plant in Indianapolis, Indiana that manufactures air conditioners down to Mexico where labor is 80% cheaper. The nuts and bolts of the deal where that Indiana Governor and Vice President-elect Mike Pence promised $7 million dollars in tax benefits to Carrier. Carrier promised to keep approximately 800 jobs in the US. Moreover, Carrier also plans to invest $16 million in automation which would eventually eviscerate the remaining jobs at the plant. Additionally, this deal left hundreds of workers at a nearby Carrier plant in Huntington out in the cold.

United Technologies CEO admitted in an interview with Jim Cramer that 10% of his company’s revenue comes from government contracts. Hence, President-elect Trump actually had huge leverage. Yet, this was a sweetheart deal for Carrier including tax breaks , positive press, and increased profits for shareholders..

What about the workers?

The union leader at the plant, Chuck Jones, was not even consulted or invited to the bargaining table. Moreover, Chuck Jones called Donald Trump out for “lying his ass off” regarding the number of jobs saved. President-elect Trump has taken to Twitter to call Chuck Jones out by name and criticize him. Mr. Jones is receiving death threats  – for telling the truth about the deal and expressing concern for the workers who will still be laid off. I think that Mr. Trump has taken union-bashing to a presidential level. Trump’s next tweets went on to claim that unions are the reason why American jobs are being shipped overseas – a blatant lie.

This Deal Doesn’t Scale

Critics like (surprise, surprise) Sarah Palin have come out and said this deal is just “crony capitalism”. Will Trump starting picking up the phone and calling CEOs to offer more deals? Does this deal create a perverse incentive for CEOs to announce moves overseas in search of tax breaks and other government goodies? This deal simply doesn’t scale. Globalization encourages companies to seek out more favorable regulations and low-cost labor. Innovation, cost-cutting initiatives and automation exacerbate the job-crunch from globalization.

Moreover, Trump is promising more benefits to corporations including eliminating environmental regulations, allowing corporations to repatriate money overseas, and lowering the top marginal corporate tax rate from 35% to 15%. The funny thing is that the effective corporate tax rate was 19.4% between 2008 to 2012 and some corporations little or no tax at all.

chart

Source: White House Historical Tables

The reality is that the burden of paying taxes has shifted dramatically  from corporations to individuals. The Revenue Act of 1916 established annual income taxes in the United States. Between the inception of the annual tax to the 1960s, individuals and corporations contributed roughly the same amount in U.S. Federal taxes. The 1:1 ratio of individual and corporate tax burdens ran away in the 70s and 80s. The ratio as of 2014 is 6:1. Yes, individuals contribute 6 times the amount that corporations contribute in U.S. Federal taxes. This does not take into account Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, state taxes, property taxes, or sales and use taxes. Moreover, this data does not account for the fact that some S Corporations, Limited Liability Companies, and Sole Proprietors allow profits and losses to flow through their personal income taxes. The raw deal for the American people is that we must engage in a race to the bottom with weakened environmental regulations, lower pay, reduced benefits and greater tax benefits to “enable” corporations to compete with globalization and automation. Americans must literally pay for the right to work.

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