Your Tax Dollars At Work

Chuck Sheketoff

On today's "Marketplace" show from American Public Radio, our colleague Chuck Collins explains how "Google is a dramatic example of the way in which societal investment creates a fertile ground for private wealth creation" and that in return those getting the wealth have the obligation to be charitable and pay taxes.

“Marketplace” on American Public Radio
Thursday, August 19, 2004

“Uncle Sam is Google’s Real Angel Investor”
By Chuck Collins

LEAD: Now that Google has gone public…we will hear again about how its two founders have become instant billionaires. And we’ll wax on about another “self-made” technology fortune. But commentator and writer Chuck Collins says there’s a hidden “angel investor” in the picture.

SCRIPT: The world's greatest venture capitalist isn't one of those demi-Gods who live on Sand Hill Road in Silicon Valley.

It's Uncle Sam, whose taxpayer investments and innovations produced the Internet, the Human Genome Project and much more.

So while we celebrate the mortals who founded Google, we should remember their personal wealth is partly made of social investments and taxpayer-supported institutions.

Google would be nowhere without the Fairy God Mother of federal research funds that pour into places like Stanford, Alma Mater of Google's founders.

Google employees benefited from a publicly subsidized education.

A tax-payer funded judicial system is there for Google to enforce contracts and patents that protect its intellectual property.

And what about oversight of the stock market?

Google's early private investors will see more zeros added to their net worth as the company’s stock becomes liquid thanks to the existence of the Securities and Exchange Commission. It’s us who pay those toiling regulators’ salaries.

A regulated marketplace, with rules governing disclosure and accounting practices, gives investors the confidence they need to part with their money.

The wealth possibilities are only as good as the societal institutions that maintain the trust.

In short, Google is a dramatic example of the way in which societal investment creates a fertile ground for private wealth creation.

But in exchange, government and the rest of us have some obligations in recognizing this societal investment.

One is to give back to society through charitable giving. Google's founders have already pledged a percentage of the company's stock to a foundation.

The second obligation is to support the public investment and infrastructure that fosters the success of enterprise in this country.

Rather than clamoring for tax cuts and drilling the tax code for every possible loophole, it means paying back society so we can keep the ground fertile for the next Google to emerge.

In Boston, this is Chuck Collins for Marketplace

Chuck Collins is co-founder of United for a Fair Economy and co-author of the report, “I Didn’t Do It Alone

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