George Graham

Corporate Aristocrats, Today’s Privileged Elite

Would it surprise you to learn that Bank of America paid no income taxes on profits of more than four billion dollars in 2010? It doesn’t surprise me. I’ve been reading for years about the way America’s corporate giants dodge taxes. And I’ve been wondering why nobody does anything about it.

Today, I got an email from Senator Bernie Sanders announcing he is taking action. He has authored a bill – the Corporate Tax Fairness Act – to stop profitable corporations from sheltering their income from the tax ax.

Bernie’s latest initiative on behalf of the American taxpaying public was prompted by  the Government Accountability Office’s new study showing American corporations paid just 12.6 percent of their profits in federal income taxes in 2010, a far cry from the 35 percent they’re supposed to pay.

Good ol’ Bernie. You can always count on the Independent senator from Vermont to fight for fairness. But he is a lonely figure on the Senate floor these days. Most of his colleagues are so beholden to corporate contributors that they dare not get on their wrong side. Instead they vote to slash food stamps. After all, those po’ folks can’t do anything about it. They can vote, of course, when the time comes, but they probably won’t, or their vote might be influenced by some cause like banning abortion. That might be one reason they’re poor – they don’t know what’s good for them.

But however the poor folks vote – if they vote – they certainly aren’t among politicians’ key contributors, are they? And those children who will go hungry when they lose their free school lunches, what can they do about it? Nothing, that’s what.

So when Congress cuts, you can bet it won’t be corporate subsidies and tax breaks that get targeted. It will be the social safety net – codgers’ Social Security benefits and Meals on Wheels, kids’ school lunches, medical aid to the poor, family planning, food for the families of the unemployed…

Meanwhile, the politicians defend corporate welfare on the pretext of creating jobs. But where are the jobs? If there were enough jobs, there would be no need for aid to the unemployed, would there? But these Snidely Whiplash types don’t see it that way. They introduce “austerity” programs that get American workers laid off, and then they slash unemployment benefits and food stamps.

But it’s no wonder global corporations bask in Washington’s benevolence. You can bet that anybody who is anybody (including just about every member of Congress) has shares in those corporations. You don’t think these shareholders are going to do anything that might reduce their dividends, do you?

It’s a culture in which corporate executives are pampered. They sit on one another’s boards and vote huge pay increases for one another. The ordinary shareholder,  you perhaps, can’t do anything about it. Your shares don’t carry much weight, I’m afraid. The big investors call the shots, and they’re members of the club.

Consequently, American society is evolving into a new kind of aristocracy in which the Wall Street millionaires and the millionaires in Congress feed high on the hog and the rest of us can go eat cake.

As for the jobless and their families? The old and the sick? Exploited undocumented immigrants? No cake for them. This is America, and they’re on their own. They can watch the corporate aristocrats drive by in their limos or cruise by in their yachts while they pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. If they have boots.

Click here for more on Bank of America’s tax dodging.

Click here for Bernie’s bill.

Don’t know who Snidely Whiplash is? Click here.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for