Last Thursday in this space I confessed to feeling some personal guilt for discovering that in my modest retirement portfolio some firms Ihold have moved abroad to avoid taxes. Patriot that I am, I condemn this, what is deceptively called “tax inversion.” It is tax avoidance, un-American, and shifts the burden on the rest of the citizenry. Of course, a simple Act of Congress could change that, but as we all know, Congress doesn’t act anymore.
Believe it or not, the very the next day I got an e-mail from Bernie Sanders that began with the intimate salutation, “Larry, I want to tell you about something that encapsulates so much of what is wrong with ... our corrupt political system.” Bernie went on to tell me that the venerable drug firm Pfizer was merging with a company in Ireland and could avoid as much as $35 billion in corporate taxes due here in the United States.
I was triply stunned. First, how did Bernie know who and where I was? We’ve never met or corresponded before. Then it dawned on me: He must have read my blog! But still, how did he know I held a hundred shares of Pfizer? That info wasn’t in my blog. Does he have a spy in my household? Did he think I had a hand in the scam?
Thirdly, $35 billion a year dodged? That’s a major heist and got me boiling mad. In a fighting mood, I did what I always do when I’m hot; I turned to poetry.
I also turned to another poet patriot, the illustrious Scot Sir Walter Scott. Together with Sir Walter’s ghost, I amended and updated this excerpt from his 6th Canto of The Lay of the Last Minstrel:
If Corporations Are People,
Breathes there the firm with soul so dead,
Who never to itself hath said,
“This is my own, my native land!”
Whose greedy selfish heart ever burned
To take its gain away from the healing hearth and
Friends in need and leave the homeland spurned,
Just to set up shop on some tax-escaping Irish strand?
If such there breathe, go, smear it well:
For it no local minstrel raptures swell,
High though its titles, proud its name,
Boundless its wealth, as Pfizer will surely claim;
Despite those titles, power and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit all renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the corporate dust whence it sprung,
Unwept, dishonored, and unsung.
There! Take that Pfizer! It’s all out. My real feelings dressed up in the elegant if edited words of Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet.
And Bernie, you keep reading my blog; and pass the word. You might even want to advertise.