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Monthly Archives: May 2011

An interesting and disturbing article came out today from Nancy Folbre on Economix. It describes how grants are given to universities–with strings attached–to hire economics professors with views that are consistent with conservative foundations.

No problem with grants to help fund the services of good professors, but when the political views of professors become the condition of hire, academic integrity is lost.

Concerns about this trend are often framed in terms of academic freedom, putting the onus primarily on universities. After all, if they don’t like the strings attached to donations, they can turn them down.

An editorial in the St. Petersburg Times, which recently broke the story about the Koch Foundation’s support for two professorships at Florida State for which it has the power to screen appointments, musters some admirably old-fashioned outrage.

But, as that editorial points out, the issue reaches well beyond principles of academic freedom.

In the marketplace of ideas, people with a lot of money can buy whatever they want, and that’s fine. Unfortunately, they also have the power to influence other people’s ideas in ways that violate principles of justice, undermine democracy and distort the truth.

I am optimistic that the best US universities recognize the poor influence on their curriculums and refuse such grants. Still, there are plenty of colleges and universities hungry for money that I can see them accepting, and apparently that is happening.

What a shame.

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Lots of news today about the US Senate hearing on ending tax breaks for US oil companies. This article focuses on one executive’s claim that ending the tax breaks is un-American. Another article says that subsidies for exploration and drilling dates all the way back to 1916.

There is also an explanation of the different ways they measure tax obligations. The companies include local and state taxes, while the Senators are counting only federal taxes.

Just how much do big oil companies pay in taxes?

Exxon Mobil says it pays plenty — more in U.S. taxes than it earned in the United States last year.

Not so, say critics of the oil industry; the Center for American Progress says the oil giant’s effective federal income tax rate is about half the 35 percent standard for U.S. companies. The liberal-leaning think tank, citing Exxon Mobil’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, says the corporation didn’t pay any federal income tax in 2009.

It all depends on how you count.

Exxon Mobil counts everything — not just federal income taxes, but also local property taxes, state taxes, gasoline taxes and payroll taxes. The Center for American Progress (CAP) and other analysts count only the company’s federal corporate income taxes.

“We pay our fair share of taxes,” said Kenneth Cohen, Exxon Mobil’s vice president for public affairs, who in a conference call recently lumped more than $6 of sales, state and local taxes together with every $1 of federal income tax paid in 2010.

But Exxon Mobil’s tax rate is “lower than the average American’s,” Daniel Weiss, an energy expert at CAP, countered in an analysis that put the company’s U.S. federal income tax rate in 2010 at just 17.2 percent.

Of course average Americans also pay state and local taxes. Whatever, it is pretty clear that oil companies–with their high profits–could afford to help with the US deficit better than most.

Unless the US want to continue draining the middle class to support big business and the rich.

Interesting report here on the old US bases in the Philippines, Clark Air Force Base and Subic Bay, a navy base.

Two huge former US military bases have found a new lease on life in post-Cold War Philippines, with budget airlines and cargo ships taking the place of fighter jets and destroyers.

The conversion of Subic Naval Base and Clark Air Base into tax-haven special economic zones nearly two decades ago has drawn a few thousand investors that include shipbuilders, electronic firms, airlines and tour operators.

The transition, however, has not been smooth and the vast areas, each about the size of Singapore, still do not live up to their potential with parts resembling ghost towns, officials involved in running them acknowledge.

But they now employ around 150,000 people, nearly four times the 42,000 locals when US forces gave up what were then their biggest overseas military facilities in 1992, according to Subic’s state-administrator Armand Arreza.

Though not 100% successful because of ongoing economic troubles in the Philippines, they must be happy about kicking out the US. Not only are they creating more jobs, but the work supplements other parts of the Philippine economy, encouraging tourism and manufacturing.

Among the biggest recent investors at Clark are chip-makers Texas Instruments of the United States, which arrived in 2009, and South Korean giant Samsung, which set up operations last year.

The two have so far ploughed 860 million dollars and 135 million dollars respectively out of their initial billion-dollar investment pledges.

Japanese tyre manufacturer Yokohoma, which has been one of the most enduring foreign companies at Clark after arriving in 1996, also has expansion plans.

Meanwhile, regional airline AirAsia is due to make Clark its main Philippine hub in September, joining seven other budget carriers already there.

Over at Subic, Korean shipbuilder Hanjin Heavy Industries has built one of the 10 largest yards in the world which has delivered 20 ships over the past five years.

I first visited Philippines in 1978, working on a merchant ship that was moored in Manila for eight weeks. Never visited Clark, but I did spend one weekend at Subic Bay. The industries being supported by the US presence were bars and prostitution. These days there is still plenty of that around, but no doubt it is positive that there is better diversification.