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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Biden's crew redirects traffic between political and corporate America

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin

The role corporations play in public affairs suddenly has become a salient topic in national politics, largely shaped by the change in White House administrations.

On Monday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen pushed the idea of a global minimum-corporate tax. "Competitiveness is about more than how U.S.-headquartered companies fare against other companies in global merger and acquisition bids," she said in a speech in Chicago. "It is about making sure that governments have stable tax systems that raise sufficient revenue to invest in essential public goods and respond to crises ..."

Turning away from ex-President Donald Trump's corporate tax cuts enacted in 2017, President Joe Biden seeks to boost the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% and increase minimum taxes on U.S. companies' foreign income. That would in part fund Biden's planned rebuilding of various aspects of the nation's infrastructure.

In her speech, Yellen widened the talking points. "Over the last four years, we have seen firsthand what happens when America steps back from the global stage," she said.

The question is where the rights and responsibilities of profit-making entities begin and end.

Last week, Georgia's Republican-run House of Representatives voted to strip Delta Air Lines of state tax breaks after the company's CEO joined other private leaders in denouncing new ballot rules widely perceived as targeting Black voters. It was a symbolic censure since the state's Senate did not follow up.

Similar GOP backlash is directed at The Coca-Cola Company. When Major League Baseball joined in by announcing it will not hold its summer All-Star Game in Atlanta as previously planned, Trump urged in a news release: "Boycott baseball and all of the woke companies … Are you listening Coke, Delta, and all!"

The uproar over Georgia's voting law followed on the heels of Trump's false insistence that he'd won the state in November. He pressured Republican state election officials to alter the results during conversations now under investigation.

Biden also leaped into the realm of partisan distortion last month when he said Georgia's new law would end voting at 5 p.m. when people are leaving work, instead of 7 p.m. That is untrue.

Some corporate policy choices, such as those involving the coronavirus pandemic, are more intricately political than the ballot-law protests. For one, the question of whether employers should compel their workforces to be vaccinated against COVID-19 is roiling the health care industry, The Washington Post reports.

The rights and responsibilities of business corporations are regularly debated — to the point where corporate "personhood" becomes a perennial topic. U.S. Supreme Court cases have hinged on companies' assertions of rights granted to individuals. At a moment of political ferment, the behavior of different corporations grabs an extra dose of attention, prompting the question of whose side businesses are on.

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