By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Election reality show conceals tax debate

Can you think of one good result from this year’s presidential campaign?

Don’t think too hard. Instead, imagine what might be happening while the media diverts our attention with its TV reality show of political bombast. One of those camouflaged activities involves multinational corporations seeking to avoid hundreds of billions of dollars in American income taxes.


Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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The U.S. taxes big corporate profits at 35 percent — admittedly too high, but difficult to analyze in an overly-complex tax system. In protest, Fortune 500 companies have stashed an estimated $2.4 trillion in foreign tax havens.

Our laws postpone taxation on offshore profits until those dollars are repatriated, with credit given for taxes paid to other governments. Multinational companies reportedly use accounting gimmicks to overvalue foreign profits allegedly earned in low-tax nations.

Investigative reports about tax havens name companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, General Electric, Pfizer and Symantec … companies such as Google, Chevron, IBM, Oracle, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America … such as Citigroup, Walmart, Nike, Qualcomm, Medtronic, Merck, Levi Strauss and Coca-Cola … such as JPMorgan Chase, Safeway, American Express, Wells Fargo and Advanced Micro Devices.

To name a few.

While we listen to presidential candidates verbally assault one another, politicians on both sides of the aisle are quietly lining up to support a huge one-time tax break to encourage repatriation of foreign profits. Estimates of total tax forgiveness from various proposals range from $400 to $700 billion.

For their part, some multinational companies threaten “inversion” — mergers with foreign companies to relocate headquarters in countries with lower tax rates. Also, many companies allegedly engage in aggressive “earnings stripping,” which involves American operations borrowing heavily from a foreign parent. Resulting interest payments (to themselves) offset U.S. profits.

It’s being called “tax reform at gunpoint.”

Journalist/author William Greider, writing in The Nation, concluded: “Political reporters covering the candidates have shown little interest in alerting the public. I blame them for failing democracy.”

Actually, most presidential candidates have at least provided lip service to tax reform, while often including massive tax forgiveness to bring those profits back home. It makes one wonder:

Should companies based solely in this country be allowed to stash profits in the bank until the government agrees to slash taxes when funds are withdrawn? Of course not.

Unfortunately, the multinational corporation tax controversy is driving proposals for unfair tax plans that will damage companies now playing by the rules.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.


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