Hey Dems! How's that 'war on inversions' going?
It was supposed to be the populist issue that would enrage the middle class and set them with pitchforks against big corporations who were being "economic traitors" by moving their headquarters overseas in order to avoid the high corporate taxes in America.The so-called "inversion" issue would allow the Democrats to ride a wave of popular disgust against Republicans to victory in November.
Instead, as Politico points out, the issue is so much of a dud, that the Democrats have quietly de-emphasized much of the white hot rhetoric the president has used to portray corporations as "un-American" who move their operations overseas.
Meanwhile, the GOP isn't losing any points by pointing to America's sky-high corporate tax rate as the reason for most inversions, and that tax reform is necessary.
The one recent high-profile corporate name to consider the move, fast-food chain Burger King, did so with the stamp of approval from top White House ally Warren Buffett. Almost no one is talking about the issue on the campaign trail. And there is little chance legislation will advance or even come to a vote on Capitol Hill before the midterm elections. Meanwhile, some influential tax policy analysts suggest any of the administration’s possible unilateral actions could make the problem worse, be deemed illegal, or wouldn’t have much impact at all.
At the same time, Republicans seem increasingly comfortable arguing that companies looking to “invert” by moving their official address out of the U.S. highlights the disaster of the American Tax Code and the need for a complete overhaul, not another one-off fix sure to be shredded by corporate accounting wizards.
“The politics and policy of inversions are both really challenging and we have seen that play out over the summer and into the fall,” said Chris Krueger, policy analyst at Guggenheim Securities. “You had the one marquee name in Burger King taken off the table. And it’s really just a very esoteric and complex issue.”
Democrats on Capitol Hill and in the administration insist they are absolutely not giving up on turning inversions — often taking the form of a U.S.-based company acquiring a foreign firm from a nation with a lower tax rate and moving its headquarters there, often only in name — into a big campaign issue.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew gave a speech this week promising some type of unilateral proposals through the Tax Code to reduce inversions “in the very near future.” Lew, however, offered no new specifics and couched his remarks in very mild language, dropping most of the fiery, populist “un-American” rhetoric that Obama used on the issue in an interview with CNBC at the beginning of the summer.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation Wednesday to make inversions less attractive.
But if Congress does not pass any inversion legislation — and few expect it will — Schumer told POLITICO Democrats still plan to hammer the issue in the midterms, arguing that Republicans are soft on “corporate deserters.”
Several Republican proposals to reform corporate taxes have been made, most of them revenue neutral. The trick is, to cut the overall rate enough while closing some loopholes without damaging the investment climate. Of course, every mutli-national has their own idea about what would constitute "reform," which gives corporate lobbyists a lot of influence. Small and independent businesses will suffer as a result.
Unfortunately, it would seem that business tax reform will be another bill largely written by lobbyists.