Editor’s note: Today’s editorials originally appeared in The Columbian and The Olympian. Editorial content from other publications is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.
House Speaker Paul Ryan’s visit to the Boeing plant in Everett last week contained plenty of ideology, politicking, and lobbying for Republican efforts to reconfigure the U.S. tax code. But it was woefully short on facts — a situation that should play a role in the upcoming congressional discussion about how much American corporations pay to the government.
“For Boeing, we are taxing this business, these planes, your jobs in this country at a much higher rate than our foreign competitors tax theirs,” said Ryan, R-Wis. “You know what the tax rate here is? Thirty-five percent. I’m just in awe that in spite of all that, you’re still doing so well.”
The awe actually should be over Ryan’s selective use of facts. As Danny Westneat of The Seattle Times reported: “Not only is Boeing gushing cash, but its own financial documents show it has actually paid an average federal income tax of just 3.2 percent of profits over the past 15 years. That’s less than one-tenth the figure Ryan cited.” Westneat also quoted Matt Gardner of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy as saying, “The question with Boeing isn’t whether high taxes are hurting them, because that’s ludicrous on the face of it.”
Republicans, led by President Donald Trump, have taken aim upon the United States’ allegedly exorbitant corporate tax rate, turning it into a trope that requires more examination than they are willing to provide. According to NPR fact-checkers, the U.S. corporate tax rate of 35 percent is, indeed, the highest among industrialized nations. But because of a broad swath of loopholes and tax breaks, few American companies pay that percentage. American corporations typically pay taxes at a rate of 18.6 percent.
As Gardner told The Seattle Times: “Corporate profits are gangbusters right now. Corporate taxes as a share of the economy are, in the past 10 years, as low as they’ve ever been.” One study of 258 profitable Fortune 500 companies found that 18 of them have paid no corporate taxes over the past eight years, despite profits of $177 billion.
Boeing, one of the 10 largest manufacturing companies in the United States in terms of revenue, has become symbolic of how corporations lobby for lower tax rates in order to boost profits and benefit stockholders. In 2013, the Legislature approved a 16-year tax break expected to save the company $8.7 billion in exchange for assembling the 777X in the state.
Almost immediately, Boeing began shedding other jobs from its Washington operations, adhering to the letter of the law if not the spirit. Since then, the company has removed more than 12,000 jobs from its workforce in the state, but in 2015 and 2016, the tax breaks saved the company a total of $547 million in state taxes. Meanwhile, Boeing’s stock prices have increased 50 percent this year.
Boeing remains the largest private employer in Washington and provides numerous benefits to the economy. In addition to its facilities, it supports hundreds of suppliers throughout the state that help make the Northwest a hub of the high-tech aerospace industry. And while Boeing is essential to the Washington economy, it is incongruous for Ryan to point to the company while making the case that corporate taxes are harming U.S. businesses.
Republicans want to reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. In pursuing that goal, congressional leaders should employ facts rather than misleading rhetoric.
Penned salmon ‘spill’ needs closer look
Last week’s escape of as many as 185,000 penned Atlantic salmon into the waters of Puget Sound could have been handled better.
The Canada-based Cooke Aquaculture Pacific, which owns the mangled fish pen near Cypress Island, was not forthright about the cause or size of the Aug. 19 spill.
Company spokesmen initially estimated closer to 5,000 fish escaped, and the firm was too quick to blame the pen breakage on high tides related to the solar eclipse.
The real cause, however, remains under investigation by experts from three state natural resources agencies that formed a command center near Anacortes. Cooke and its insurers also are reportedly investigating.
Meanwhile, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a halt to new fish-pen permits issued by the Washington state Department of Ecology “until a thorough investigation of this incident is completed.”
The moratorium on permits and new marine leases for fish pens is a prudent call — at least until state experts get a good handle on what happened and how this kind of release can be prevented. Washington is one of the nation’s top producers of net-pen-raised fin fish.
Cooke Aquaculture operates eight net-pen facilities in state waters, and it has a proposal to relocate and expand one operation in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, according to Ecology spokeswoman Jessie Payne. Cooke also has an upland fish farm near Rochester.
Some of Cooke’s escaped fish were found as far south as Hood Canal, and Canadian fisheries were monitoring their waters to the north for impacts. Atlantic salmon are non-native fish and may compete with native runs that are already under stress for survival.
Tribal representatives have expressed worry that the Atlantic species will eat up smaller food fish needed by native salmon, or even eat juvenile salmon in the Sound.
By Monday, the Lummi tribe near Bellingham reported capturing some 200,000 pounds of renegade fish. That amounts to about 20,000 individual Atlantic salmon averaging 10 pounds.
State Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Cori Simmons said 120,000 fish also were recovered in the pens but that up to 185,000 might have gotten loose.
Brian Cladoosby, chairman of the Swinomish tribe, called for a closure of the salmon-pen industry in Puget Sound. Investigators should help determine whether closures or other regulatory steps are needed to ensure safer operation of net-pen operations.
Though there is some dispute about the extent of impact that nonnative fish have on native salmon, it is foolish to take big risks with native fish that our state and federal governments are spending millions to save from extinction.
Given the wider concerns about intruder species in our marine environments, most of the burden for proving the safety of Atlantic salmon farming must fall on industry.