Sunday’s New York Times had an interesting story (PDF) about federal immigration policy and the problems technology firms are having recruiting. In it, Intel Board Chair Craig Barrett states: “We are watching the decline and fall of the United States as an economic power — not hypothetically, but as we speak.”
To what does Barrett attribute the country’s economic decline? According to the article, “Mr. Barrett blames a slouching education system that cannot be easily fixed . . .” This isn’t the first time Barrett has complained about the nation’s education system.
Barrett, unfortunately, wants to have his cake and eat it too. He wants a good education system while escaping responsibility for paying for it.
Intel helped lead the way in getting the Oregon legislature to change Oregon’s corporate income tax law to avoid taxes on the company’s profits. Once upon a time (the mid- to late-1990s), Intel contributed over $50 million a year in Oregon corporate income taxes, tops among all corporations paying taxes to the state. Intel used to boast about it and allowed state officials to talk about Intel’s payments. That's how I know about it. But today Intel is probably a $10-a-year taxpayer under the new tax code. Intel doesn’t allow the state officials to disclose its tax payments like it used to, and Intel doesn’t boast about them either. But Intel’s sale of energy tax credits confirms our suspicion that it is only paying our $10 minimum tax. (Why else would the company sell its tax credits for 25 cents on the dollar unless it didn’t need them?)
So much for “innovations that move the world forward,” as one of Intel’s taglines would have us believe. The company’s lobbying efforts that reduced its tax payments from $50 million a year to $10 have sent us backward.
Hanging above my desk is a copy of a full-page ad from the May 2, 1977, New York Times (PDF). In it, Intel co-founder and then-CEO Andy Grove thanks the City College of New York for getting him started three days after he arrived in New York as a Hungarian immigrant with limited English proficiency.
But for a tax-supported public institution, what would Andy Grove have done on day three in the U.S. and where would Intel be today? No private sector school was there with open arms for the kid from Hungary. Barrett followed Grove at Intel but apparently didn’t learn the lesson about the importance of public education in Intel’s history.
A good public education system requires money. If Barrett thinks Oregon – home to Intel’s largest workforce – has an educational system that is "slouching," then he ought to put his money where his mouth is and restore Intel’s proud place at the top of the heap among Oregon corporate income taxpayers.
So, BlueOregon readers, tell Craig Barrett what types of investments could be made in education if Intel started paying $100 million a budget period again. Give the legislature reasons and permission to change our corporate tax code and to turn Intel and other profitable companies into good corporate citizens.
Chuck Sheketoff is the executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy. You can sign up to receive email notification of OCPP materials at www.ocpp.org