OK, so it's not looking too good for the forces of truth, justice, and the American Way just now. These are the times that call for pluck and persistence.
Besides, the Republicans have already made a colossal error. Or two. In the course of turning the Homeland Security bill from a thirty-five-page rearrange-the-bureaucracy plan into a 484-page "mon-stros-ity," as Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia kept calling it, the R's went one special interest too far. They took out "the Wellstone amendment," introduced by the late, great populist Senator, that would have barred corporations that move to offshore tax shelters like Bermuda from getting federal government contracts related to homeland security. The technical terms for these tax dodges are "corporate inversion" and "corporate expatriation." But they're tax dodges, pure and simple. The U.S. Treasury estimates we lose $70 to $155 billion each year from American corporations taking advantage of offshore tax shelters.
As Representative Richard Neal, Democrat of Massachusetts, said during the debate on the bill, "Let's take Tyco, formerly of New Hampshire, now of Bermuda, for example. Tyco avoids paying $400 million a year in U.S. taxes by setting up a shell headquarters offshore but was awarded $182 million in lucrative defense and homeland-security-related contracts in 2001 alone. If Tyco had just paid its tax bill, Congress could easily have paid for 400 explosive detection systems, which are badly needed to protect U.S. travelers at airports around the nation.
"Or let's examine corporate expatriate Ingersoll-Rand, formerly of New Jersey, now also in Bermuda. Ingersoll-Rand earned as much last year in U.S. defense and homeland security federal contracts as it avoids in U.S. taxes annually merely by renting a mailbox in Bermuda and calling it home. If Ingersoll-Rand paid its U.S. tax bill, Congress could easily fund the proposed Cyberspace Warning Intelligence Network estimated to cost $30 million, or could also buy 400,000 gas masks for American citizens."
I rely on Limbaugh to explain to us all just why financial traitors should be given government contracts.
The 318 members of the House of Representatives who voted for the Wellstone amendment clearly thought there should be no more tax benefits for runaway corporations. But somehow, most amazingly, the House Republican leadership decided all by itself to replace that amendment with an ineffective provision that affects no one. The leadership has also thwarted all efforts to have a debate and vote a separate bill, the Corporate Patriot Enforcement Act, that would crack down on the same tax dodgers.
One can conclude, to paraphrase George Bush, that Republicans do not care about national security. OK, that's fine with me. Let them sneak through their amendments to benefit their corporate contributors. Just please spare us any lectures from these people about patriotism. In Texas, home of the blunt, what we call legislators who pass and amend bills in return for large corporate contributions is "whores."
The matter of the special amendment to protect the Eli Lilly company from lawsuits by parents who believe the company's vaccines may have caused their children's autism is another abomination.
Thimerosal, which is 50 percent ethyl mercury by weight, has been used as a vaccine preservative since the 1930s in the diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus shot known as DPT. The preservative was later added to other vaccines that had become routine by the 1990s, according to author and expert Arthur Allen, who wrote about this in The New York Times Sunday Magazine. Newly required vaccines had tripled the doses of mercury infants got in their first few months of life, Allen wrote. He estimated that as many as thirty million American children may have been exposed to mercury in excess of EPA guidelines.
After Allen's article appeared in the Times--whap!--suddenly there was a provision in the Homeland Security bill to prevent the Lilly Co. from getting sued over it.
You have to admit: The corporations are getting prompt service from Republicans in return for their donations.
Molly Ivins is a syndicated columnist based in Austin, Texas.