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Paul Buchheit’s Annual Reminder that Business Tax Breaks Cheat Schoolchildren

April 5, 2016

Every year around this time Common Dreams blogger Paul Buchheit writes an infuriating post reminding readers of the millions of tax dollars that are lost because of legislation that gives huge corporations tax breaks. This year’s version, bluntly titled “Tax Time: How Corporations Are Cheating Schoolchildren”, provides specific examples of the impact of tax cuts on State revenues, links those lost revenues to the “budget crises” that each State is facing, and then drives home the fact that when State’s cannot fully fund their education funds that are designed to equalize spending it is the poor children who suffer the most.

This year Buchheit singles out Illinois for the most egregious example of how tax breaks impact schools:

The mayor and governor of Illinois are blaming each other for the Chicago Public School budget crisis, and Illinois colleges are in danger of being shut down. But Illinois lost over $1.3 billion (more than the $1.1 billion school budget shortfall) in 2015 state tax revenue to just six companies (Abbott, ADM, Boeing, Deere, Exelon, United), which together paid much less than 1% of their profits in state taxes, just pennies on the dollar for the required rate of 7.75%.

Yet it’s the children and the taxpayers of Illinois who bear the burden of reform. Illinois has one of the “Ten Most Regressive State Tax Systems,” according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. In Chicago, Mayor Emanuel recently announced another $200 million in education cuts and then raised property taxes by a half-billion dollars, but the mainstream media repeatedly hushes up the corporate tax avoidance. 

It is the last point that leads Mr. Buchheit to write columns like this repeatedly and leads a blogger like me to reinforce Buchheit’s work by spreading the information to as many people as possible. And it is NOT just one state that is providing this kind of  “tax relief” to corporations, tax relief that reduces their costs and increases their profits. He offers specific examples from California, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Indeed, these shenanigans are botlimited to our country: they have a global impact as nations compete against each other to lure corporations to their shores. In the end, Buchheit sees “a devious double whammy“:

Taxpayers are giving money to the corporations and then paying a second time to meet the needs of the underfunded public schools.

But when the public is unaware of the first part of this “double whammy”, they rebel by short-changing the second part— and it isn’t just schools that get short-changed: it’s all government work, it’s all government services, and it’s especially the children who are raised in the poverty that results from these devious practices that enrich an ever smaller group of individuals.

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