Blow, Nocera and Collins

In “Blacks, Conservatives and Plantations” Mr. Blow has a question:  Why do Republicans keep endorsing African-American voices intent on comparing blacks who support the Democratic candidates to slaves?  In “Here Comes the Sun” Mr. Nocera says despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary presented by a Senate panel, Apple denies avoiding taxes.  Ms. Collins, in “Somebody Did Something,” says yes, people, it’s true. Immigration reform has advanced in the Senate. At least the committee didn’t repeal anything.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Why do Republicans keep endorsing the most extreme and hyperbolic African-American voices — those intent on comparing blacks who support the Democratic candidates to slaves? That idea, which only a black person could invoke without being castigated for the flagrant racial overtones, is a trope to which an increasingly homogeneous Republican Party seems to subscribe.

The most recent example of this is E.W. Jackson, who last weekend became the Virginia Republicans’ candidate for lieutenant governor in the state.

In a video posted to YouTube in 2012 titled “Bishop E.W. Jackson Message to Black Christians,” Jackson says:

“It is time to end the slavish devotion to the Democrat party. They have insulted us, used us and manipulated us. They have saturated the black community with ridiculous lies: ‘Unless we support the Democrat party, we will be returned to slavery. We will be robbed of voting rights. The Martin Luther King holiday will be repealed.’ They think we’re stupid and these lies will hold us captive while they violate everything we believe as Christians.”

He continues:

“Shame on us for allowing ourselves to be sold to the highest bidder. We belong to God. Our ancestors were sold against their will centuries ago, but we’re going to the slave market voluntarily today. Yes, it’s just that ugly.”

(Jackson also took swipes at the gay community and compared Planned Parenthood to the Ku Klux Klan.)

The Democrat Plantation theology goes something like this: Democrats use the government to addict and incapacitate blacks by giving them free things — welfare, food stamps and the like. This renders blacks dependent on and beholden to that government and the Democratic Party.

This is not completely dissimilar from Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” comments, although he never mentioned race:

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.

Star Parker, a Scripps Howard syndicated columnist, failed Republican Congressional candidate and author of the book “Uncle Sam’s Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America’s Poor and What We Can do About It,” argued in an article in 2009 on the conservative Web site Townhall:

“A benevolent Uncle Sam welcomed mostly poor black Americans onto the government plantation. Those who accepted the invitation switched mind-sets from ‘How do I take care of myself?’ to ‘What do I have to do to stay on the plantation?’”

Mackubin Thomas Owens, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R. I., put it more bluntly in an editorial on the Ashbrook University Web site in 2002:

“For the modern liberal Democratic racist as for the old-fashioned one, blacks are simply incapable of freedom. They will always need Ol’ Massa’s help. And woe be to any African-American who wanders off of the Democratic plantation.”

That last bit hints at the other part of Democrat Plantation theology: that black Democrats and white liberals are equal enforcers of enslavement.

A 2010 unsigned article published on the Web site of the conservative weekly Human Events reads:

“If black Americans wish to be Democrats, that is their choice — or is it? Despite the fact that Democrats enjoy the support of over 90% of black America, the other 10%, those who dare to ‘stray from the plantation,’ have been routinely vilified — by other black Americans.”

The article continued:

“The not-so-subtle message? Support liberal dogma — or face social ostracism.”

Dr. Ben Carson, who delivered a speech blasting the president during the National Prayer breakfast this year and quickly became a darling of the right (The Wall Street Journal declared: “Ben Carson for President”), said of white liberals in a radio interview:

“They are the most racist people there are. Because they put you in a little category, a little box. You have to think this way. How could you dare come off the plantation?”

(Carson also got in trouble for comparing homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality. He later apologized for those comments, “if anybody was offended.”)

Unfortunately, the runaway slave image among many black Republican politicians is becoming ingrained and conservative audiences are applauding them for it.

Herman Cain, for example, built an entire presidential campaign on slave imagery.

C. Mason Weaver, a radio talk show host, failed Republican Congressional candidate from California and author of the book “It’s OK to Leave the Plantation,” said of President Obama at a 2009 Tea Party rally in Washington: “You thought he was saying was ‘hope and change’; he was saying was ‘ropes and chains,’ not ‘hope and change.’ ” Weaver continued: “Decide today if you’re going to be free or slaves. Decide today if you’re going to be a slave to your master or the master of your own destiny.” Weaver would repeat the “rope and chains” line on Fox and Friends that year.

The Rev. C.L. Bryant, a Tea Party member and occasional Fox News guest, even made a movie called “Runaway Slave,” in which he says that America should “run away from socialism, run from statism, run away from progressivism.”

While these politicians accuse the vast majority of African-Americans of being mindless drones of the Democrats, they are skating dangerously close to — if not beyond — the point where they become conservative caricatures.

The implication that most African-Americans can’t be discerning, that they can’t weigh the pros and cons of political parties and make informed decisions, that they are rendered servile in exchange for social services, is the highest level of insult. And black politicians are the ones Republicans are cheering on as they deliver it.

Now who, exactly, is being used here?

Next up is Mr. Nocera:

Among the many things Tim Cook apparently learned at the knee of Steve Jobs, during his long tenure as Apple’s No. 2, was how to create a “reality distortion field.” Or so it would appear after watching Cook, now Apple’s chief executive, testify on Tuesday at a Senate hearing on the company’s tax avoidance schemes.

Jobs was so persuasive that he could claim the sun was setting when it was actually rising, and everyone would nod in agreement. On Tuesday, despite the overwhelming evidence presented by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations that Apple engaged in dubious tax avoidance gimmicks, Cook claimed that Apple never resorted to tax gimmickry. Even though the company appears to pay about 10 percent of its pretax income in taxes — when the federal corporate tax rate is 35 percent — Cook said, “We pay all the taxes we owe — every single dollar.” He added that Apple had never shifted any of its American profits to an offshore tax haven when, in fact, that is basically what it has done, routing tens of billions in pretax profits to a shell corporation in Ireland that exists solely to avoid taxes in the United States. He even said that the low taxes Apple pays overseas is on the profits of its overseas sales. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this was a flat-out lie.

In other words, Cook spent Tuesday claiming that the sun was setting when it was actually rising, and, predictably, by the time the hearing had ended, most of the senators were agreeing with him. Senator John McCain, the committee’s ranking Republican, who had earlier labeled Apple “a tax avoider,” was soon swooning over Apple’s “incredible legacy.”

Indeed, Apple’s fabulous success over the past decade or so — its creation of the iPads and iPhones that the world lusts over — is a large part of the reason it always gets the benefit of the doubt, whether deserved or not. Two years ago, when David Kocieniewski of The Times reported on General Electric’s tax-avoidance prowess, a storm of protest resulted. Last year, however, when Kocieniewski and Charles Duhigg wrote about Apple’s tax avoidance schemes as part of a series about the company that won a Pulitzer Prize, it was greeted mainly with yawns. Nobody really wants to hear anything bad about Apple.

Yet as documented both by The Times and the Senate subcommittee, Apple is as much an innovator in tax avoidance as it is in technology. Take, for instance, a scheme known as The Double Irish, which it largely invented and which many American companies have since replicated. This strategy, which was the primary focus of Tuesday’s hearing, involves setting up a shell subsidiary in an offshore tax haven — a k a Ireland — and transferring most of Apple’s intellectual property rights to the dummy subsidiary. The subsidiary, in turn, charges “royalties” that allows it to capture billions of dollars in what otherwise would be taxable profits in the United States. In Ireland, according to Apple, it pays an astonishing 2 percent in taxes, thanks to a deal it has with the government. (The Irish government denies giving Apple a special deal.)

Here is another whopper from Mr. Cook on Tuesday. He said that his company not only doesn’t violate the letter of the law, that it doesn’t even violate the spirit. He may be right on the first part, but he is wrong on the second. As the subcommittee’s chairman, Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat, pointed out to me on Wednesday, one of the main goals of American corporate tax policy is to tax profits in the jurisdiction where they are produced.

“That intellectual property and patents are the crown jewels of the company,” Levin said. “The Irish subsidiary had nothing to do with creating those crown jewels. It has no employees. It has no offices. Yet most of Apple’s profits are now offshore because they were able to utilize a shift of their intellectual property to a tax haven.”

(Question for the government of Ireland: Do you really want your country to be known as an offshore tax haven? Indeed, at a time when your citizens are dealing with the pain of an austerity program, how can you justify allowing Apple to pay virtually no taxes on a subsidiary established solely to avoid taxes in the United States? Just wondering.)

Levin has proposed a bill that would curb the most blatant abuses of the tax code like the Double Irish. Part of the purpose of the hearing was to bring these abuses to light and generate bipartisan support for closing them. When I asked Levin whether he felt that the subcommittee had made a mistake in singling out Apple, given its Teflon reputation, he said no. “You can’t ignore the most blatant examples just because it is a popular company,” he said.

He’s right about that, of course. But that’s only obvious if you are willing to say the sun is rising when Apple says it is not.

And now here’s Ms. Collins:

Whenever the world of Washington seems hopeless, someone will point out that the Senate Judiciary Committee did a good job on immigration reform.

That’s it? Yeah, pretty much.

Immigration reform has been the 2013 bipartisan bright spot in the Senate, unless you were really moved by the day they voted to debate gun control before killing all the gun control plans. The committee members cheerfully plowed through 300-odd proposed amendments, while taking turns telling which country their great-grandfather came from. There was, of course, a lot of disagreement, although almost everybody seemed to enjoy slapping down ideas offered by Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama.

Mainstream Republicans have been super-energized to do immigration reform ever since the Hispanic vote went against them in the last election. Democracy does work. If somebody came up with a dramatic poll showing that all the people with diabetes, asthma and chronic back problems had voted against Mitt Romney, there would no longer be a problem getting funding for health care reform.

High points in the committee’s long slog toward passage included a proposal from Tea Party icon Mike Lee of Utah to exempt employers of “cooks, waiters, butlers, housekeepers, governesses, maids, valets, baby sitters, janitors, laundresses, furnacemen, caretakers, handymen, gardeners, footmen, grooms, and chauffeurs of automobiles for family use” from checking to make sure their help had the proper legal status. It didn’t go anywhere, but if you happen to run into Lee, feel free to say: “The butler did it.”

The most painful low point in the committee’s deliberations came at the end, when the Democrats gave up on an amendment allowing same-sex spouses the same right as heterosexuals to apply for permanent resident status for their partners. It’s not every day when you hear a senator announce that he had decided to support a move that involved “rank discrimination.” But the Republicans who were needed to get an immigration bill through the Senate had made it supremely clear that if any hint of gay marriage entered the legislation, they were going to take their toys and go home.

Decide for yourself how you feel about this one, people. Stand up for equality or finally get a major bill through the Senate? Defend equality or cave in and hope that the Supreme Court bails you out when it rules on the Defense of Marriage Act next month?

It is, at minimum, a useful reminder of what lawmaking looked like back in the days when the two parties made deals and we complained that nobody was sticking to their principles. Back to the can-do days when senators routinely said things like Senator Orrin Hatch’s explanation of his thinking on immigration: “I’m going to vote this bill out of committee because I’ve committed to do that.”

The bill, which would give millions of undocumented residents a path toward eventual citizenship, now goes to the full Senate, where it actually looks as though it’s going to pass. Any further progress would require cooperation from the House of Representatives, the circle of hell where the damned are condemned to spend eternity voting to repeal the health care reform law.

Perhaps you missed the one last week. Let me summarize:

■ “The Obamacare law must be ripped out by its roots!”

■ “The 37th time! The 37th time!”

■ “A malignant tumor that’s metastasizing on America’s liberty!”

■ “We have spent over 56 hours on the floor debating repeal of the law of the land!”

The House Republican leadership would probably rather have been working on something else. But the newer members whined that they’d hardly had any opportunities to vote to repeal Obamacare at all. “It sends a great statement back to our district,” said Representative Ted Yoho, Republican of Florida, who many people enjoy quoting because they like saying Ted Yoho.

Also, it’s hard for the Republicans to agree among themselves about anything else. One influential conservative organization recently urged Speaker John Boehner to drop the whole legislation idea completely and just hold committee hearings about the I.R.S. scandal and Benghazi forever.

“Recent events have rightly focused the nation’s attention squarely on the actions of the Obama administration,” argued the Heritage Action for America. “It is incumbent upon the House of Representatives to conduct oversight hearings on those actions, but it would be imprudent to do anything that shifts the focus from the Obama administration to the ideological differences within the House Republican conference.”

We really hate it when they get imprudent.


One Response to “Blow, Nocera and Collins”

  1. Parley Vue Says:

    It’s only after the fact that any congressman presents clear and convincing evidence of some scantily clad tax evasive procedure. It’s not like any of these white men r on any committees which have anything to do with taxes, corporate taxes, foreign subsidiaries, repatriation of earnings or just anything at all. Oh look Sid. There’s news here in the Journal. Wow did I vote for that? OK let’s start a committee to foul up the air and get some PR team to smother this. Yes Virginia our congress is made up of liars and dolts.

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