Joe and Janet the robber barons
Imagine if oil companies got together and agreed to charge consumers no less than $3.50 per gallon for gas. Let’s call it a “global minimum price.” How long—in minutes—do you think it would take for the news media to cry foul and for the Justice Department to file an antitrust suit?
In recent days, President Joe Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen endorsed the identical concept—so long as the perpetrators are governments.
Yes, unbelievable as it may be to small children, governments and double standards go together like peanut butter and jelly.
Biden and Yellen are leading the charge for a “global minimum tax” on businesses. They want to get governments all over the world to agree to charge companies no less than 15 percent for the State’s wisdom and beneficence. No more of this competition stuff that might encourage firms to move to, say, Ireland where the government only charges them 12.5 percent! “That’s not fair!” cry the anti-competition “progressives” like Biden and Yellen.
If private firms connived to fix a minimum price for their goods, they would be branded “robber barons” and their CEOs would be vilified before congressional committees. Do not expect Biden, Yellen and the government price-fixers who endorse a global minimum tax to ever face so much as a tough question at a press conference.
To date, major media has not only been silent on this glaring hypocrisy, but it has also cheered on the price-fixers—which reminds me of something Adlai Stevenson said more than half a century ago: “The job of the journalist is to separate the wheat from the chaff, and then print the chaff.”
Poor old John D. Rockefeller of Standard Oil! He still catches Hell from armchair historians who claim he colluded with competitors to fix minimum prices for oil products, even though the evidence is scant at best. Unlike governments, Standard charged less and less for products that steadily improved in quality. (See my essay, “Witch-Hunting for Robber Barons: The Standard Oil Story”).
In a May 27 editorial, The Wall Street Journal pointed out that Ireland is a superb example of the wisdom of tax competition between countries. For decades now, the previously over-taxed Emerald Isle has kept its flat-rate business income tax rate at 12.5 percent:
Ireland has reaped the benefits. Between 1986 and 2006, the economy grew to nearly 140% of the EU average from a mere two-thirds. Employment nearly doubled to two million, and the brain drain of the 1970s and 1980s reversed. Ireland became a destination for global capital.
If Ireland were to sign on to the Biden/Yellen global minimum tax proposal, it would have to impose a 20% tax hike. Its finance minister is no idiot. He’s against it.
So the next time your teacher or professor says that getting together with your competitors to fix minimum prices and reduce competition makes you an evil robber baron, raise your hand and ask, “You mean like Joe Biden and Janet Yellen?”
As we move through 2023 and into the next election cycle, The Prickly Pear will resume Take Action recommendations and information.