Bizarro World: GE Pays No Taxes; Charen Responds By Complaining Corporate Tax Rate Is Too High

When the New York Times reported that General Electric paid no federal taxes -- and in fact claimed a $3 million tax benefit -- on $14.2 billion in worldwide profits, $5.1 billion of which came from operations in the U.S., I figured some conservatives would defend GE's ability to avoid paying taxes on billions of dollars in profits. But I must confess some surprise at one response to the story: Mona Charen's argument that GE's tax-free billions somehow demonstrate that corporate taxes in the U.S. are too high.

a responsible company will seek to minimize costs and maximize profits. That's how companies are able to provide jobs. The corporate rate in the U.S. is 35 percent, among the highest in the industrialized world. Even “spread the wealth around” Barack Obama has recommended reducing it so that some of those dollars (and jobs) currently hiding out abroad can be repatriated.

It takes an impressive amount of audacity to use a column about GE paying no federal income taxes as an opportunity to complain that the corporate tax rate is too high. A more honest column would have noted that the effective corporate tax rate in America is much lower -- after all, Charen was writing about a company that paid no taxes on more than $5 billion in US profits.

Even when Charen grudgingly concedes that there may be reason to be dismayed at GE's ability to avoid taxes, she doesn't seem to think there's any problem, in and of itself, with GE not paying taxes:

The Times is clearly scandalized -- and perhaps it should be. After all, at least some of the tax breaks GE has been able to take advantage of were the result of aggressive lobbying.

This is like complaining that burglars pried open a window, rather than that they stole everything in the house.