Can LeBron James Inspire Corporate America?

Steve Novick

Reading the business pages is depressing these days. Every time you look, there’s another big company doing an “inversion” – merging with an overseas company in order to renounce its American citizenship to avoid taxes. And that’s just the new trend; old-fashioned tax avoidance is still going strong, too. Recently, Floyd Norris of the New York Times wrote about the corporate practice of pretending that a large share of their income was generated from somewhat unlikely places:

Did you know that United States companies earned $129 billion in 2010 in three small groups of islands?

That is what they told the Internal Revenue Service they earned in Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands.

Those islands together had a population of 147,400 that year, about equal to that of Joliet, Ill. Assuming you believe those figures, the productivity of workers in those countries is amazing. On average, United States companies had profits of $873,611 per person living in those islands."

I thought about these stories when LeBron James announced that he was returning to Cleveland – one of the most heartwarming developments of the decade, in my book. I found myself wondering if there is any chance that corporate America might follow James’ example.

Wouldn’t it be awesome to pick up the Wall Street Journal one day and see an op-ed by the Fortune 500 (as a group), echoing James’ beautiful essay in Sports Illustrated? Something like this:

Our relationship with the United States is bigger than profits. We’ve been forgetting that for the past few decades. LeBron James made us remember.

Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands, for us, have been almost like college for other kids. Without the experiences we had there, we wouldn’t be able to do what we're doing today.

But we feel our calling here goes above business. We have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and we take that very seriously.

Our money can make a difference in the Cayman Islands, but we think it can mean more where we’re from. We want kids in the good old U.S. of A. to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make us smile.

Our nation, which has struggled so much in recent decades, needs all the talent it can get.

In America, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.

We’re ready to accept the challenge.

We’re coming home."

Wouldn’t that be just great?

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