Democrats should oppose, Congress should defeat and the American people will reject any windfall repatriation tax bonus to American companies that have exported American jobs, unless those companies are required to create new American jobs, independently verified, before they receive the tax “holiday.”
The Occupy Wall Street movement is spreading throughout the nation. The popularity of Congress has collapsed to historic lows. The pain of the American economy crushes citizens from the cities to the heartland. Attempts to pass a rigged repatriation bill are exhibit A of what enrages Americans about Washington and Wall Street.
The great singer Don Henley once sang that a man can rob more people with a briefcase than a gun. A decision on a tax break involving more than $1 trillion should never be made in secret. It should be made in public with the informed consent of the governed, after an honest and open debate.
I have written publicly and advised privately at high levels that a tax holiday for repatriation should be passed, but only if, as a precondition, the companies hire a significant number of new American workers (which they claim they will do), and the secretary of Labor certifies the hiring before the tax break becomes effective.
A tax holiday for massive repatriation without any jobs requirement would be a massive bonus rewarding American companies for exporting American jobs and outsourcing American prosperity.
This damaging deed was done in 2004. The promised jobs were not created. The money was used for purposes that were unhelpful to the nation. Doing this again would be even more destructive to a nation facing historic economic pain, grotesque economic disparities and unfairness, a global war against wages and near-universal public outrage.
As Warren Buffett and others have noted, if job-exporting firms conclude they can use influence-peddling to win this tax break every seven years, they would be incentivized to export jobs in greater numbers, in perpetuity. To lower their American taxes, in perpetuity. To promote a jobless American economy, in perpetuity. And to further destroy the revenue base and fiscal soundness of the nation, in perpetuity.
The tax code would become an ATM for tax-avoiding job exporters. They could spend seven years moving jobs and capital abroad, then bring profits back into the United States during the next tax holiday.
Firms now hoarding more than $2 trillion that refuse to hire despite sky-high profits would receive special treatment so they could hoard more money. Or finance job-destroying mergers. Or buy machines that replace humans. Or pay record compensation even as they perform poorly.
This would be destructive to American workers and alien to American notions of fair play and fair taxes. It would engender even greater public outrage.
I applaud those protesting in the Occupy Wall Street movement, especially the young and the poor, the workers and the women, the jobless and the vets, who should not be forced to inherit a lost generation of American jobs or punished by a corrupted generation of American politics and finance.
I give this protest a standing ovation in the highest tradition of American patriotism. They challenge the Big Lie of our generation: The American people are not doomed to be treated like human commodities, with their families and futures bought and sold like pieces of silver and nuggets of gold. Those who claim that American corporations are American people, seeking special advantages under the American tax code, should respect the duty, honor and patriotism of being an American.
If these firms create the jobs first, give them their tax break. If they do not, we should Occupy Repatriation and say to them: Hell, no.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at email@example.com.