Recently Tim Cook the CEO of Apple was interviewed on 60 Minutes by Charlie Rose. In response to a question from Charlie Rose Mr. Cook said that the notion that his company is avoiding taxes on overseas profits is just “political crap.” Mr. Cook explains that he would love to bring all the money home, but he can’t “. . .because it would cost me 40% in taxes to bring it home. And I don’t think that’s a reasonable thing to do.” Mr. Cook goes on to say that the problem is the antiquated tax code in this country which should have been changed a long time ago. What I find most startling about this is that Mr. Cook seems to be unaware of what he’s saying, which is, basically, the taxes are too high so I won’t pay them. How about if you and I try that in April? But, someone might say, Apple is doing nothing illegal. . .many multinational companies do the same. From a wider perspective, however, the arrogance and greed demonstrated in Mr. Cook’s comments are a blatant sign of the times. . . they reflect the culture Mr. Cook lives and works in. To try to point out to him how outrageous his remarks truly are would be, I suspect, like trying to explain the nature of water to a fish. His job, what he gets highly rewarded for, is to make as much money for Apple as possible and to keep as much as possible for expansion and for shareholders. But that’s the way our system works, someone may say. There’s nothing illegal about any of this. While this may be true, who made these laws? And whom were they designed to reward the most? And what is the impact of these laws? All we have to do is look at the growing economic inequality in our country and in our world to see at least part of the impact. Here’s a truly fanciful idea. . . what if Apple brought all the profits home, paid the taxes due, and used the rest to, over time, increase the salaries of all their lowest paid employees and the employees of their major vendors both here and overseas? How in heavens name could they bring that off, one might ask. I don’t know, but they’ve figured out how to keep the money, so I expect they could figure out how to distribute it wisely, too. I know this may sound like a totally crazy idea. And this is exactly the kind of thinking we need to be doing if we are going to remain viable as a country with fully participating citizens living in a healthy environment. We need to stand up and say “OK, this is enough”. We need to figure out a better way. In this brand new year, let’s begin!
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