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Mark Shields
Mark Shields
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Renouncing American Citizenship -- for Profit


The United States Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are people with all the rights of flesh-and-bone citizens — beginning, of course, with the First Amendment right to spend unlimited amounts of money in American election campaigns. But corporations, it turns out, do not have the same responsibilities as do their fellow citizens.

Corporations have all the rights and privileges of citizenship. Their copyrights, property and contracts are protected by American courts and law enforcement. The corporations' leaders, thanks to the work of the U.S. government, can confidently fly in safe skies, breathe clean air, enjoy national parks and, even more importantly, have their homes and their families defended and kept safe by the U.S. military. And unlike the Marine privates or the hometown firefighters who put their lives on the line, an American corporation can legally — and outrageously — evade paying a single cent in U.S. taxes.

All that corporation has to do is renounce its American citizenship and, through a legalized bait-and-switch technique called corporate inversion, pretend to be bought by a company located in a country, such as Ireland, with a low corporate tax rate. The U.S. corporation's legal headquarters moves on paper, but the company continues to do business as usual in this country, where the nation's public sector will continue to protect and defend that corporate freeloader.

All the corporations' leaders and stockholders have to do is shamefully put profits over patriotism.

Just over a half-century ago, a new American president pledged, on behalf of the nation he led, to "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship." These expatriate corporations, which welcome all the benefits of American citizenship and abdicate all the responsibilities, have rewritten John Kennedy's words: We, the privileged and the powerful, will pay no price; we will bear no burden; we will meet no hardship.

This is not about whether U.S. corporate tax rates are higher. They are. But let it be understood that the effective tax rate paid by profitable U.S. corporations is not the 35 percent in the federal statute but instead 13 percent. The New York Times reported that tax avoidance has helped push "down the corporate share of the nation's tax receipts — from 30 percent of all federal revenue in the mid-1950s to 6.6 percent in 2009." Apologists for the runaway corporations that refuse to pay any part of their fair share to support America argue that the entire tax code should be overhauled. But that cannot be done in the next six weeks. Just because we cannot do everything does not mean we cannot do something. Who should pay more to cover the public costs the parasite companies stiffed us on? Doctors? Nurses? Cops? Teachers? Small-business women?

This ought to be a defining issue in the 2014 campaign. If a corporation willing to renounce its American citizenship for the equivalent of 30 pieces of silver while sponging off working American families does not outrage us, then our moral compass is broken. It's time to find out.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at




6 Comments | Post Comment
I like Shields, this article is unusual for him. Maybe Froma wrote it for him, or he got his talking points from a White House memo.

"The United States Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are people with all the rights of flesh-and-bone citizens — beginning, of course, with the First Amendment right to spend unlimited amounts of money in American election campaigns. But corporations, it turns out, do not have the same responsibilities as do their fellow citizens."

How about a government that spends "unlimited amount of money"? 17 Trillion in unlimited, unfunded money. When a flesh and bone person spends more than he takes in he decides, if wise, to spend less. Way less if necessary. Government, being apparently omniscient and not of flesh and bone or brain, spends MORE. Taxes, regulations, mandates, labor relations, you name it and the government has a heavy fist on business. Ask Boeing; if the country is free why were they denied the right to move operations out of Seattle?

So it isn't just the taxes, it is the whole business unfriendly attitude of the Feds. Three thousand individual citizens renounced last year, up from 1200 the year before, up from zero for most of our history. Some people just do not want Government on their back. Doesn't matter if you want to think of infrastructure as gifts from the benevolent Gods of Government, they are supposed to work for us. Some people have found a new way to fire them: Liberty of the foot.

When customers stop buying corporations change and adapt. When citizens stop buying government liberals cry "But they owe us!"

The hell they do. It is the drunken sailor spending and regulating habits of government that bear no moral compass.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Tom
Fri Sep 12, 2014 12:25 PM
Sir;... Actually, corporations began as burial societies, much as the Knights of Columbus who may still be so. Lord Coke among others recognized their rights long before the Supreme Court bothered. And those rights back to Roman Society, and because they acted as one, and fulfilled a social purpose, they were allowed right is that age. The point is not whether they can act as they do under our law. Of course they can, just as under our conception of property, Dred Scott was portable. Here is the thing. As all of our schools systems, foundations, cities, and unions are encorporated so can the whole nation can consider itself as a corporation, and it is for them to decide what is in its interest to allow to corporation submisive to it. Capital is slavery. We have worked ourselves to the point where this capital should work for us, but we find ourselves in the position of many third world countries of not being able to control our imports and decapitalized so that the raising of it must be done in primitive conditions.
Henry the Eighth was able to wage war because his father was great at waging peace. Henry seven did not export money but goods. He did not import goods, but imported money. That is how England was made great. -For the son and grand daughter to kick around.
I would tell these people that they can leave, but the corporations have to stay. I would let any of these bums convert all their wealth into American Dollars, make them leave, and then I would change the color of all our currancy to Osage Orange, and not accept their money no more. How can mortal men fight immortal corporations. We have to be willing to think about it. Even within these states people have to pull up stakes and move to chase jobs they once had, and that they have worked for. If the relationship of a corporation is criminal towards its employees how do we declare these corporations to have anything like a good or pure public purpose, and why should we allow any other sort. Any one can break the law. Any one can destroy people and remove form them their livelihoods. We do not need corporations to do evil, but to do evil efficiently they are a necessity.
Comment: #2
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Sep 13, 2014 9:56 AM
Sir;... Why shouldn't corporations renounce their citizenship for profit when for that reason they have so often renounced their humanity.
Comment: #3
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Sep 13, 2014 8:08 PM
Pragmatically speaking, the corporations, added and abetted by their Supreme Court cronies, are making the huge mistake. They are allowing their greed to push the wealth divide to the brink of structural collapse. When the anomic level reaches its breaking point, the masses will rebel, and the oligarchy will collapse. People increasingly conclude that their input to the political and social realm is ignored at best, counter-productive is more realistic. A seven percent approval rating toward their law-makers is a symptom of this. If the corporations and their Wall Street controllers do not figure this out soon, they will have allowed greed to lose it all. Sad to say, I'm old, therefore, I already got mine, so it's for the youth I feel sorry.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Mike Ohr
Sun Sep 14, 2014 10:59 AM
Re: Mike Ohr;...As bad as the danger of revolution- which is almost always followed by civil war is the danger that the rich will use a world war we are not prepared for to first unite us, and then defeat us by proxy. With every war we are defeated. Some people get rich with war, but it is not the common people. War is not rocket science. You do not need an Augur to tell you whether this is the right time to fight. It is never the right time to fight. Next to pandemic, war is the best way to destroy excess population and the institution of Democracy. It is always under the threat of war that civil rights have been lost.
I know the people are unhappy. People get unhappy, and suck it up in a process called demoralization. If they expect others to do what is right. If they expect others to stop bullets to give them a better life they are not ready for revolt. Our American revolution may have been the exception; but the normal choice people are given is revolution; or death.
Some disaster is needed to point out once and for all the failure of our form of government to protect us from the greed of the rich. This may be another lost war. This may be pandemic, or a combination of war and disease. This may be some entirely new form of insult to our collective intelligence; but to make people move, IT has to be big.
As Jefferson said: Not for light or transient causes. There is still in revolution the need for mass impulse, for mob madness; not to make change, but to make change for the rich seem like the safer alternative to no change. Since so many people think behind their navels rather than with their heads, it will likely be mass starvation that changes people's minds and make them plastic, open to change, dynamic rather than static.
Practically speaking, the corporation and government are taking chances, but not real risk. Short of something major going wrong to knock people out of their sox, the natural conservatism of people is reliable. There is a sort of tipping point, beyond which people become too demoralized to act in their own defense. If people are suddenly thrown into poverty, or if war suddenly comes to our doors, we may find our freedom in danger, and find we can defend our freedom. It is the fact that humanity can adapt to almost any indignity even if it means joining in any crime has be shown by the death camps. Resistence and revolution are always possible regardless of the prospects of success. No significant acts of revolution happened among the average people in Nazi Germany; not even in the death camps. People waited patiently and cooperated and dreamed of their liberation. What would they have done if liberation by others was impossible? We think of the individual as a moral fact, and hold a moral prejudice against individuals who act on their own authority. Only that which tends to break down all bond of authority will change that fact.
I don't think the oligarchy is in much danger. We are at this moment too divided. And this works against revolution as well. Our inability to think internationally, to see human freedom as a revolutionary thought works against us. The wide spread reliance on faith to work miracles, and the rational rejection of miraculous solutions puts this people at odds. If we will be united, it is because we can work against the disunion spread everywhere by the rich. In any event; to lump us all together just because we are rationally all in the same mess is wrong. Our want of unity is intentional, and also very real. It seems that those who do not love us and want to profit out of us can play on our fears and vanities endlessly. We have only the hope that we can realize the danger of disunion, and act against it, and forever seek common ground. There is enough anger and frustration. You need so much more than anger and frustration to effect social change. It is easy with good reason to say there is nothing we can do. There is nothing we can do, alone. Events, and the rich have to make of our anger a driving force for social change.
Comment: #5
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Mon Sep 15, 2014 7:43 AM
Re: Tom. I agree that the feds are completely missing the boat when it comes to business planning for this country. Just look at the difference between the economic base of the U.S. and that of Germany. the only thing that is saving us right now is Silicon Valley, which doesn't exactly offer salvation to the masses of the American unemployed.

We are selling off and chasing off the family jewels, in exchange for cheap trinkets from China. Maybe that is our karmic due, given how we swindled the American Indians.

That said, corporations are not persons. The notion that corporate entities should enjoy the same legal status as human beings is just about the biggest legal whopper the robed idiots in our courts have ever tried to pawn off on our democracy.

The problem is, in part, that those robed idiots have just about nothing to do, and zero experience with, the pragmatic survival decisions businesses must make in every day life. How much experience as managers do they have? Just about ZIPPO.

And it shows. They are a bunch of sheltered students who got good grades, or didn't get good grades but knew more powerful people, and they all are creatures of appointment for political advantage. Skill, other than kissing up politically, has nothing to do with their status.

The only saving grace they have is that, once appointed, they are relatively sheltered from political whims, and it's hard to take them out on mere political grounds.

Just thinking out loud, but I come back to the point that corporations are definitely not "persons," and until we clean up the stinking mess created by that judicial excretion masquerading as legitimate legal reasoning, we will be searching out the path to progress with our heads up our butts.

Comment: #6
Posted by: Masako
Wed Sep 17, 2014 9:46 PM
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