In recent days, some multinationals have come under scrutiny following revelations that some operating in New Zealand have not paid nearly $500 million in tax. MyThinks thought it was unfair that the multinationals didn’t have a chance to give their side of the story so we went out and asked them to comment.
BRIAN GOOGLE, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, GOOGLE:
There has been a few things mentioned to me over the past couple of months. Mostly related to tax. Where do you pay tax? How do you pay tax? Where is all the money? How is it that I, as an individual, am taxed on my GROSS income, yet you, as a company, can claim all sorts of nonsense back off the taxman and pay about three bucks in tax?
My friends, there is a very simple answer.
None of our earnings are actual money. For years myself and Mrs. Google have not really done very well. We are, as they say, in a bit of a pickle.
Last year we only earned $US 75 billion. That’s hardly anything. Money isn’t what it used to be. Back in the old days, before computers, people could go down to the shop with, say, £6, and buy a house. Now a house costs heaps more than that. Last time I looked you had to pay well over $10,000. That’s like a whole different kind of money.
Dollars are more expensive than pounds. So $US 75 billion really is only about £8. So we at Google are thinking that you’d be lucky to get anything for that kind of money so we sloshed it around and it kind of disappeared. Until our CFO picked up a 747 full of cash from the Cayman Islands.
COLIN SUPERNERD, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, FACEBOOK:
People look at me and think, man what a dork. That nerd really is a dork. But when they find out I have billions and billions of dollars they all want to sleep with me. I’m not going to put that at risk by paying a few million in tax in a tiny little country that people think is part of Australia.
DR. DAVID RICHBASTARD, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, ASTRA XENICA:
We make our money out of shafting sick people. So… meh.
SIMON FARQUEUE, PRESIDENT, EXXONMOBIL:
We don’t comment on tax matters.
TIM COOK, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, APPLE:
Look, man. We’re so cool. We have all the cool stuff. Have you seen the latest iPhone. It’s like a totally different iPhone to the last iPhone, even though it looks, feels and is, exactly the same. It’s really cool. I’m cool. Have you seen me on the stage when I do something with a new Apple product. Man, I look cool. You’re just not very cool so… we won’t be paying tax.
Many of the other companies didn’t return our calls or laughed down the phone at us while playing this song:
With the recent release of the OECD report into inequality, My Thinks thought it imperative we delve further into this and get some clarification on neoliberal economics. Emeritus Professor Archibald Ineruditus, head of the Ayn Rand College at the University of George W Bush in Texas, has studied classic neoliberalism since it’s inception following a meeting between William Randolph Hurst and Satan, the Prince of Darkness, at the birth of Rupert Murdoch in the 1930s. Professor Ineruditus joined our interviewer by internet phone from his palatial home in the leafy suburbs of Austin.
My Thinks: Thanks for joining us professor.
Professor: My pleasure.
My Thinks: Let’s get straight into it. Do you feel, in the wake of the release of the OECD report into inequality, that classic neoliberalism is on the way out?
Professor: Great first question Mr Thinks. Like all neoliberal theorists, I’m actually going to answer a different question by saying the weather in Austin is fine, thanks for asking.
My Thinks: If I could ask you again, do you think that neoliberalism has had its day and western democracies are going to start bringing in other, more egalitarian forms of economic management.
Professor: Oh no. We have to remember that all western governments, be they Republican or Democrat, Tory or Labour, or whatever you have in New Zealand, are all totally funded by monies obtained from very rich people. Normal people and poor people don’t have the kind of money they can splash about on paying for political party membership. It’s a well-known fact.
My Thinks: You’ve been studying classic neoliberalism for years now. What would you say is its strongest feature?
Professor: Well… over my many years of study I would say definitely the strongest point of neoliberalism is its comprehensiveness. Everybody benefits. From those running the multinationals right through to the people who own the multinationals.
My Thinks: Is there anyone who doesn’t benefit.
Professor: Because of the trickle down effect, everybody benefits. The extra growth created from those higher income earners reinvesting their tax cuts into housing and their superannuation funds or other tax-free investment opportunities really does mean that the whole economy does really, really well.
My Thinks: How?
Professor: It’s hard to quantify in terms of actual money, but certainly there is a vibe that trickles down. I’ve been many, many poor people standing outside in the rain looking with excitement at my house and where I live (Thanks to the many grants I get from various think-tanks and business lobby groups I have certainly benefited from the trickle down effect in a monetary way). Anyway, when this vibe is pretty all-encompassing.
My Thinks: If you were to sum up neoliberalism as a list of key elements, what would they be?
Professor: Oh, excellent. You read the list of questions I emailed. The first tenant of neoliberalism is user-pays. All government services are user pays for every single citizen. If you use it, you pay. The only legitimate exception to this would be those people who are able to structure their finances in such a way as to appear poor despite owning several million dollars worth of stuff.
My Thinks: What else?
Professor: Just quickly. Small hands-off government. If we have too much red-tape and bureaucracy that will stifle growth. Private business will be given absolute freedom to develop and run themselves as they see fit. Public services, such as health, education and social services, will be micro-managed with the paper fist of bureaucracy. If we paid tax, that would be our tax dollars being wasted.
My Thinks: So trickle down, user pays and small government. Is there anything else that you would say defines neoliberalism.
Professor: Yes. It’s important to ignore any scientific or empirical evidence that proves your entire life’s work is a complete joke. If I was to accept any research into, say, the economic impacts of climate change or inequality, then I would have to reject all the hard work I have done for my wealthy benefactors since the 1980s. I would be utterly discredited and I would probably have to sell all my Harley Davidsons.
My Thinks: Really?
Professor: Yes. I own a fleet of Harley Davidsons. That’s why neoliberalism is so important to the economy, growth and the future of the world.
My Thinks: So you absolutely reject the OECD’s findings that inequality is actually hurting growth in economies who’ve adopted neoliberalism.
Professor: Totally. Anyway, everybody knows the OECD is full of hippies and anything they say is a joke.
My Thinks: Except when you’re using data that supports your theories?
My Thinks: Once again, thanks for speaking with us this morning professor.
Professor: Thank you Mr Thinks.
I was ruminating yesterday while I was planning for the upcoming term. Earlier in the year I suggested to the class they might want to learn about World War 1 – the Great War – and they agreed, so I’ve been planning a number of different projects based on this nation-defining epoch.
Yesterday, as commemorations of the 99th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings took place, and as we near the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War, I began thinking…
If those young men were alive today, what would they think about the current state of the nation they had fought so hard to protect?
What would they think about the increasing gap between rich and poor that sees the top 10% of income earners in New Zealand earn so very much more than the bottom 50%?
What would they think of New Zealanders supporting this very same government to the tune of (up to) 50% – depending on which political poll from the mainstream media you look at?
Our soldiers fought for freedom. They fought for four years in appalling conditions to protect those freedoms. Freedom of movement. Freedom of association. Freedom of belief. Freedom from tyranny.
Are you free if you have to work two jobs to pay rent and electricity so you can live in Auckland (where most of the jobs are)?
Are you free if you are injured, can no longer work, yet are forced by bureaucrats to go out and look for work to satisfy a work test?
Are you free if you have every part of your life monitored so the government are satisfied you meet the criteria to receive an unemployment benefit.
Are you free if you have nothing in a world where owning everything is considered success?
But then, this government doesn’t want you to be free. They don’t want you thinking freely and questioning their authori-tigh.
No. This government would rather you struggle along focused on making things better for your family because if you stopped to think for just a nanosecond about how little the Western political elite actually care about you and your family you would rise up and take back your life.
But then capitalism was never about freedom anyway.
Benefits cut for 21,000 overseas travellers: Paula Bennett press release, April 3rd, 2014
Henare apologises for comments about cleaner: NZ Herald, Sept 27, 2013
Why are teachers used as targets?: Allan Alach (The Daily Blog), December 18, 2013
WORKING FOR THE FEW – Political capture and economic inequality: Oxfam NZ, Jan 20th, 2014
When I was younger I had several books put out by Ripley’s of the “Believe it, or Not” brigade. Often these would feature bizarre coincidences such as twins who grew up in nearby towns, never met, yet both had wives called Eve, worked as teachers, had three kids and lived at 47 Luck Street. I loved reading this sort of thing – as any 12-year-old boy does.
There is nothing more awesome when you are that age than sitting down with a book of facts or records and absorbing.
My love of the Ripley’s slowly morphed into a love of other stories of the bizarre or strange. This interest culminated in me reading about the JFK assassination and its associated conspiracy theory. At the time I had no reason to disbelieve the idea of a second gunman. After all, the story was plausible and who was I to doubt the point of view being represented.
Of course now I am of a much sounder mind. I realise my easy acceptance of conspiracy theories in my late teens was a bordering on the ridiculous. I blame too much listening to, and believing the lyrics of the Dead Kennedys (pun probably intended).
I’d put conspiracies away in that locked draw in my brain. Until I heard something very interesting at a conference I went to during the holidays.
Charter schools were not ACT’s idea.
Yes. That’s right. That’s what I heard.
I was talking to another delegate who said they had been talking recently to a back-bench government MP. This MP didn’t support the charter schools legislation AND said that was a National Party policy / idea that they pulled out as part of the coalition agreement with John Banks the ACT Party. This MP is also meant to have mentioned many of his colleagues disagreed with the policy, but were being forced to vote for it to either: a) remain in the good books with the Key factions, but also to b) tow the party line.
I was blown away – not by the bombshell of the secret policy of our Tory leaders, but the fact that I was completely unsurprised by the suggestion.
Let’s get back to reality. This news I heard from someone who heard it from someone else. The Farrars and Whaleoils of this world, if they stumble across this post, will spit and huff that I am making all this up and where’s the proof and how dare I slander the name of our dear leader even though we’re quite happy to slander the name of people who disagree with us (another National Party policy).
After al, hearsay is inadmissible in a court of law.
But this isn’t a court. This is a blog. It’s also my opinion, so let’s hypothesise… How true could this be?
Question: who is more likely to have connections to international investors with the amount of money needed to set up chains of McSchools across New Zealand? A man who spent the 80s and 90s making millions gambling on the international money markets with his Merril Lynch BFFs, or a man who has a few million in a family trust and spent the 80s in New Zealand as a politician and the 90s as a Police Minister and talkback radio show host? Which John?
Question: who is more likely to be really into taking money out of the public purse through subsidies for private business, yet will not address the key issues impacting on child poverty? The man who has $50 million and a network of neoliberal millionaire & billionaire friends, whose kids go to private schools (which have received recent government subsidies and/or bailouts) and whose deputy
is was a farmer (a group which have also recently received government subsides for irrigation and drought relief)? Which John?
I could come up with many more of these but it ultimately it comes down to this question: Which John is more likely, through his previous networks and experience, to completely believe in the Global Education Reform Movement promoted by Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch, a pair of Kochs and other multi-billionaires?
John Key is the answer. He has the networks. He has the millions. He has the ideology. He even consciously promotes his deal-making abilities with various multi-national media and gambling companies. THAT is the PM he has sold himself to be.
John Banks is just an idiot who says he can’t remember the biggest German in New Zealand giving him $50,000 in two separate cheques after riding in a helicopter with him.
For me it all comes down to secrecy. The plans for charter schools were deliberately withheld from the New Zealand public before the last election. If the plans had been released then education would have become the main issue rather than the irrelevant nonsense about who owns what power company (This is still getting all the media coverage despite the fact that the charter schools legislation edges ever closer to becoming law).
The National Party have a well documented history of secret dealings with anonymous networks. One only has to read the Nicky Hagar book The Hollow Men. The book is based on actual National Party emails, not fake ones, or made up conspiracies. Actual National Party emails.
If you’ve not got time to read the book, watch the film at NZ On Screen. The book’s subtitle says it all: A Study in the Politics of Deception.
Speaking of deception… what better way to launch a far right neoliberal policy. Release it as part of a coalition agreement with a far right neoliberal party representing business interests so if it doesn’t work out they can blame the “small party of crazies” that thought of the idea in the first place.
In short, what National tell us (about most things) is all lies. But I don’t really know this for a fact because I’m not in National neither do I have millions of dollars, therefore I am not in their loop. So at the moment, like Nicky Hagar and most of the left-wing commentators in this country, I am a conspiracy theorist.
I believe in the theory of a neoliberal conspiracy.
The problem is that 40% of New Zealanders buy into the lies because they’ve either always voted National or John Key passes himself off as such a bumbling fool who can’t even shake hands properly.
Remind you of anyone else with big business links, rich friends and a strong ideological bent to take us somewhere insane?
The story of Chicken Little and Henny Penny was floating around when I was a child. Briefly, this is the story of a small chicken who, when hit on the head with an acorn, believes the sky is falling and the world is going to end. Chicken Little flaps around the countryside issuing warnings to all her friends – Henny Penny, Drakey Lakey, Goosey Lucy, etc – about the world ending. Her friends believe her word. After all, there is nobody to doubt her.
The story ends with Foxy Loxy telling all the animals they can come and stay at his place because it’s underground and will be safe from any falling sky. Once everyone is inside, the fox eats them. To death.
This week there was a small acorn of power regulation that fell out of the sky on the heads of the neoliberal establishment.
They are now running around like crazed chickens spouting all manner of warnings about communism, North Korea, Muldoon (who was a Nat!!), and Albanian power policies.
It really is a sight to behold. The acorn has well and truly hit, my friends! It turns out the sky is indeed falling, and the world is coming to an end.
But not for me. And people like me. Workers, families, people who don’t have three homes and several cars – one for each of the kids and one SUV to head out to the bach at Whangamata on the weekends.
I welcome lower power prices. I also welcome lower house prices. Go on, get in there Labour and Greens. Don’t just tinker at the edges either. Roll your sleeves up and get stuck in.
It is very rare for the market to provide for the likes of us. Ordinary people with ordinary lives. But then again, none of us are chairing the board of a power company and earning over $1 million.
No our world isn’t coming to an end. It is just beginning.
And about bloody time.