The Real Cost of Corporate Power...

When I say that it's time to make corporations pay their fair share, you're probably thinking taxes. But, if corporations paid back their full debt to society, they'd be paying each of us about $10,000 bucks a year.

That figure comes from Paul Buchheit over at Alternet, and he says, “That estimate is based on facts, not the conservative-style emotion that might deny the responsibility for any debt to the American people.”

Using data from the National Science Foundation, Paul calculated that about half of that yearly stipend would be our return for all the public money invested in research. About 30 percent of all development, applied, and basic research is paid for by the tax payers, and thirty percent of $2 trillion in annual corporate profit works out to $5,000 bucks a year for each of us.

Another two grand would be payment for pollution and other disaster relief costs paid for by John Q. Taxpayer, and it would reimburse the American public for things like drilling for oil on public lands and cleaning up toxic chemical spills. In addition to the $2 trillion dollars stashed in offshore tax havens, corporations rake in tons of cash in direct and indirect subsidies.

So, the remaining $3,000 dollars would reimburse us for corporate welfare and tax dodging, like overseas tax havens and government subsidies to giant, corporate industries.

When we add all that up, it comes to $10,000 dollars per person, per year – and it's a pretty “small-c” conservative estimate. That's the real price of corporate power in the U.S., and that's a cost being paid by the American public.

Corporations used to return these public investments in the form of larger paychecks and pensions and benefits. Today, they simply buy back their own stocks and call workers greedy for demanding a living wage.

We give them the opportunity to do business in our great nation, so if the corporations won't pay up the way they used to, perhaps it's time they simply cut each of us a $10,000 dollar check.


trueamericavet's picture
trueamericavet 9 years 17 weeks ago

With the help of the Surpreme Court they have stoleden the country and we are going to need to fight to getb it back! Peace out!

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 9 years 17 weeks ago

The only problem with them giving each of us a 10k check is that soon after that a loaf of bread will cost 5k.

They can leave this country if they want - they already have mostly - we'll take their closed factories and run them ourselves.

PhilNelson's picture
PhilNelson 9 years 17 weeks ago

Can we be a bit more concise? When we talk about "Corporate" power, it bothers me who we are talking about. Which corporations are the worst offenders, and which the least parasitic and egregious? I work in a business with 50 employees, and I think the business owners believe they are a "corporation" insofar as they are trying to make profits, but I also think they fail to see that their business suffers because many of the larger corporations don't have to follow the same rules that they do.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 17 weeks ago

Dream on, Thom. Great idea, Mark!

Let's run those closed factories ourselves and transform them into worker-owned co-ops!

PFNELKAK 9 years 17 weeks ago

With corp. over--sight and corp. regs., how much of a check should mother earth get?

PaulHosse's picture
PaulHosse 9 years 17 weeks ago

Very good article Thom, but I'm not sure how we truely can estimate what is owed. Yes, corproations do not pay their "fair share". They use every accounting trick in the book and more than a few which aren't even in the book. How else can you explain mulitnational companies like Exxon and many others who not only pay notin in taxes, but actually get millions back, or corporations which offshore assets or outsource jobs overseas and still get tax breaks and access to taxpayer based funds? Of course, there is the costs to the average America in their control of Congress, the presidency, and the judicial system and the windfalls they make through their manipulation of policies and laws, or abiity to acquire public lands or use of public lands at below fair market value. What about their damage to the environment or harvesting of ideas and inventions that could change, for instance, the amount of polution put into the air or curtail alternative energy projects? And there's the taxpayer based "superfunds" to clean up their industry's waste rather than have the industry itself be responsible to the cleanup. How do we calculate those costs?

RFord's picture
RFord 9 years 17 weeks ago

Truth is the problem. Corporations are so profit driven there is no concern for workers. They may say they believe in safety but what they believe in is keeping lawsuits down. We get no truth from the main TV news shows about how the American public helps corporations to make more & more money while the American public makes less & less money. From Fox News we get a flowing river of lies designed to promote the welfare of corporations. Politicians lie and say they will help the people but only help corporations when they get in office. Elected officials swear to uphold the constitution but use their office to promote their Christian faith when they know that the constitution prohibits them from doing so. The truth is there are more people who are decieved by corporations, news outlets, and politicians than there are people who seek and recieve the truth. We are a nation of ill-informed and miss-informed people. So until we are better informed about what's really going on in this country, corporations will keep taking what they want from us The truth is "lying" is the problem.

RichardofJeffersonCity's picture
RichardofJeffer... 9 years 17 weeks ago

State Capitalism at its finest.

cccccttttt 9 years 17 weeks ago

Excellent article.

Suggest two stratagies to improve prosperity of the modern US worker

who without a union is now at the mercy of corporate power.

1. Adapt the German model where 1/2 the board of directors are by

law required to be active workers.

2. Eliminate corp tax if the company reinvests its profits in a select list

of US private or goverment enterprises.

Not enough space here to show detailed advantages of these proposals

but would also mention Singapore.

While aware of Tom's view of authoritarian capitalism of Singapore,

it offers simple buisness rules, flat tax of 10%, and well trained workers.

Although their model needs democratic reforms, they do have prosperous workers,

relatively low crime, and Asia's cleanest air.

In this modern world, multi national capital can move anywhere, and the US

must attract it in a manner beneficial to all parties.


Ou812's picture
Ou812 9 years 17 weeks ago


Since Singapore has well trained, prosperous workers, low crime, and Asia's cleanest air

What reforms could they possibly need?

Uncle Geo's picture
Uncle Geo 9 years 17 weeks ago

Left out of the accounting:

  • The cost to educate workers
  • The cost to local communities who need to subsidize families who are paid low wages by parasitic corporations like Wal Mart
  • Courts that uphold contracts
  • Road building and maintenance (though trucking firms do pay some taxes for this)
  • Increased health insurance costs from the failure to cover everyone or every disease
  • Loss of savings and wages from irresponsible and greedy gambling by Wall Street
  • Air traffic control, military and state department protection of business interests, regulatory agencies that would be largely unecessary if some corporations wouldn't always put profit before common good, etc. etc., etc. and etc.

So I don't want to hear whining from the huge corps or the Kochs about how terribly unfair we are to business. Near as I can tell we all contribute plenty for their benefit. Citizens can turn this around -but not from their Laz-e-boys. They need to not only vote, but get off their asses and volunteer to show others who is really screwing them.

Republicans have succeeded in damaging our country far more than many realize -the only reason there is not an uprising is that we are coasting on the public investments we've made over many decades. As bridges crumble, kids can't go to college, public education gets sold off -I hope voters won't continue to be frogs in hot water.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 17 weeks ago

EXCELLENT points, Geo! You’ve got my resounding applause.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 9 years 17 weeks ago

Singapore probably has clean air mostly because it's on the tip of a peninsula. Geography matters.

Ou812's picture
Ou812 9 years 17 weeks ago

Mathboy, no argument from me. Geography does matter for both positive and negative consequences.

RLTOWNSLEY's picture
RLTOWNSLEY 9 years 17 weeks ago

In the early 1950s a radical Republican member of Congress, Joseph McCarthy, called for a law that required every citizen to sign a pledge affirming their mandatory allegiance to the government, Fascism had come to America. In the same period Right Wing Religious elements in Congress added the words "Under God" to the pledge obliterating the rights of all secular Americans who sought protection, backed up by the Constitution, from mandatory adherence to a state sponsored religion. Elements of the Right persisted in their attempts to create a country where the citizens are required to march in lock step behind an all powerful and oppressive government with more recent Contracts with America that effectively challenge any and all forms of Constitutionally guaranteed rights and individual self expression. Given the obvious total sell out by our government in recent years to private financial interest, any form of capitulation to these people amounts to a further surrender of everything we once celebrated and held dear as individual free thinking American Citizens !

mathboy's picture
mathboy 9 years 17 weeks ago

It is not legal to smoke marijuana in public here in Colorado. I have had the smoke forced on me by people behaving illegally (and inconsiderately) in that regard. I opposed the law change was because it relaxed things so suddenly, I didn't expect the culture to adapt quickly enough.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 9 years 17 weeks ago

Saddam Hussein is not the one whose head popped off in his hanging. That was Barzan Ibrahim, 2 weeks later.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 9 years 17 weeks ago
Quote Ou812:


Since Singapore has well trained, prosperous workers, low crime, and Asia's cleanest air

What reforms could they possibly need?

How about democratic reforms and freedoms? That country functions well for the purposes of billionaires with its obesiant, externally disciplined population but what about the people and their purposes and concerns? They need to let their masters, the billionaires tell them what they want and what's good for them?

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 9 years 17 weeks ago

ct, you can't have it both ways. You can't have democracy and a society that disproportionately serves the purposes of the billionaires at the expense of the people's concerns - and a regressive flat tax. Authoritarian dictatorship can sometimes be simple and efficient, can bring low crime and clean air - if the dictator(s) happen to be into that - but is at the expense of far too many much more important values and concerns and not good for the people and society (that that you said sounds a little like the Leninist communist philosophy of the benevolent dictatorship).

China, by the way, has polution problems that are WAY beyond anything.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 17 weeks ago

cccttt - You forgot to mention no freedom. -c8

Ou812's picture
Ou812 9 years 17 weeks ago
  • Saulys, I don't hear the people of Singapore complaining. Only outsiders like yourself who enjoy sticking their nose into other people's business.
chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 16 weeks ago

Ou812 -- How would you hear the people of Singapore complaining? Is there some poll around that we do not know about?

Ou812's picture
Ou812 9 years 16 weeks ago

Chuckles, there is quite a bit you don’t know.

Here are some facts about Singapore:
• Singapore is a sovereign country with the second highest population density in the world.
• According to the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions World Happiness Report (2013), Singapore ranks 30th among 156 countries, and is number 4 in Asia.
• In terms of GDP per capita, Singapore is the 3 richest country in the world.
• In terms of life expectancy, Singapore is ranked number 4 by the World Health Organization.
• In terms of corruption, Singapore remains 5th least corrupt country in the Corruption Perceptions Index released by Transparency International.

Speaking for myself that sounds like a great place to live.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 16 weeks ago

Ou812 -- I do not see anything about freedom in your list.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 16 weeks ago

Ou812 -- I forgot to mention I have been to Singapore a couple of times. Somehow it seemed like a police state to me.

Ou812's picture
Ou812 9 years 16 weeks ago

Chuckles, Kris Kristofferson in his song 'Me and Bobby McGee' defines freedom as 'nothing left to lose'. What is your definition of Freedom? When you WUL'S are confronted with facts, you try to distort them. I'm not surprised. Let me repeat the residents of Singapore are happy, as the UN report shows. I feel pretty safe in saying I don't think the people of Singapore care what you think.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 16 weeks ago

Ou812 -- What I want to know are you going to believe the UN or me?

My definition of freedom is that the governing body let's me have my Playboy magazines.

Ou812's picture
Ou812 9 years 16 weeks ago

That made me smile :))

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