Political Animal


April 06, 2012 11:56 AM Dear Mr. Cook….

By Ed Kilgore

Below is a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook that its author shared today with the Washington Monthly. I think it speaks for itself:

Dear Mr. Cook:
Friends at Texans for Public Justice have informed me that Apple is on track to ask and receive $21 million in tax dollars to build your Austin-based “Americas Operations Center.” Another $14.5 million is reportedly on the way from city and county governments, offered as incentives to continue amassing more of your company’s Chinese workers-fueled profits.
As it is well-known, your cash reserves, based on your high-profit margins, are around $100 billion - greater than any other company in the U.S. Why are you risking your company’s reputation by becoming more of a corporate welfarist and taking Texans’ tax dollars at a time when public budgets, including education budgets, are strapped?
Already Texas public schools have laid off 32,000 workers, including 12,000 teachers. Another round of $2 billion in funding cuts from the state government is coming this September.
Who needs $21 million (plus another $14.5 million) more: the bulging corporate treasury of Apple or the school children of Texas? Please don’t trot out the shareholder obligation argument, when you have just, after many years of profitability, at last agreed to give some dividends back to your owners. Moreover, there is no such legal obligation and you, like many other massively-compensated executives, with a rubber-stamp board of directors, know this only too well. What was that new compensation package you announced so soon after the loss of Steve Jobs, who only took in $1 as salary per year? The press reported it at over 300 million Tim Cook dollars!
Mr. Cook, please take the high road and grandly announce that your company will not take this $34.5 million from Texas taxpayers. Say it is needed for essential educational and other public health and safety services in Texas and that you urge other companies to turn back their corporate welfare. Such a statement would set a good example. Tell Governor Rick Perry to stop treating capitalists as if they were welfare cases. Say that capitalists should behave like capitalists and not “have their hands in the government’s trough,” to quote a phrase Ronald Reagan used when I debated him at an American Enterprise Institute Symposium years ago.
As an Apple shareholder, I and other shareholders will pursue this matter further should you not give the people of Texas the good news that Apple intends to stand on its own two $100 billion feet.
Unlike individuals, artificial corporate entities get more than one bite of the apple. However, given your problems in China and elsewhere, you don’t need to take yet another bite of the Apple.
Sincerely yours,
Ralph Nader
Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Ron Byers on April 06, 2012 12:13 PM:

    Nader is grandstanding again. Texans should be going after their elected representatives for offering the handouts.

  • Doc Sportello on April 06, 2012 12:14 PM:

    Dear Mr. Cook:

    Please stop taking free money.

    Ralph Nader

    That should work. Or you could vote for a Democrat.

  • Gandalf on April 06, 2012 12:14 PM:

    Too bad Nader didn't stick to this kind of position instead of screwing up the election he was in and helping to make this all possible.

  • caphilldcne on April 06, 2012 12:16 PM:

    The letter means nothing coming from Nader. I can't actually imagine a single worse person to deliver it. Screw him. Why would you even bother to highlight this?

  • Anonymous on April 06, 2012 12:28 PM:

    Looks like Nadar is contemplating another run at the presidency. What he should make a run at is at a mirror so he can run headfirst into the idiot that helped to create the mess he is illuminating.

    Nauseating fellow that Nadar guy. Nauseating... he caused

  • stevio on April 06, 2012 12:30 PM:

    sorry, that anonymous was me...

  • TCinLA on April 06, 2012 12:41 PM:

    Given that Ralph Nader has been a corporate whore ever since he took money to write his hit-job on the Corvair (Unsafe At Any Speed), a collection of lies that anyone who has ever owned a Corvair after the second year of production could have demonstrated (and many did), who cares.

    Go fuck yourself, Ralph. You Republican stalking-horse.

  • meady on April 06, 2012 12:47 PM:

    While he is at it why not complain about where it is. Why not ask them to consider a different state entirely. One that cares about the water and air quality. Not only would Apple be taking tax dollars away from education; locating jobs in Texas is the equivalent of taking a stand against education,environmental laws etc. Plus, at the rate Texas is going, it will be a short-lived move. Ultimately Texas will not have the educated workforce Apple requires and within 10 years they will once again be forced to moved overseas to save costs. That move already paid for with Texas tax incentives. It is a self-fullfilling prophecy. If you are going to ask a company to take a stand against its own self interest, then swing for the fences for crying out loud. Quit shilling for Texas, Nader.

  • deejaayss on April 06, 2012 12:49 PM:

    I thought that in America anyone could run for office and any citizen could vote for anyone they wanted.

    Showing some respect for a man who fights for protecting citizens with safety and financial constraints on corporate juggernauts. Blaming Nader for the loss of Corporate Team Democrat always amuses me. I thought right wing Supreme Court judges gave the game to Corporate Team Republican?

    Nader has always fought (and sometimes won) for the ordinary citizen. His efforts are manifest in auto safety, clean air and water, etc. His organizations pressured Congress to pass the Safe Drinking Water Act, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA),
    Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and The Consumer Product Safety Commission.

    Show some respect.

  • zandru on April 06, 2012 12:50 PM:

    This is why I still love Ralph Nader, in spite of his odious presidential runs.

    If you can stop obsessing over the personalities involved, it's obvious that Nader is right. Nobody can turn a consumer advocate phrase like Ralph!

    And as for going to the Apple CEO instead of the elected Texans who made the offer - first, who do you think ASKED for (more likely DEMANDED) the money?

    And second - now that Texans know where their GRT and property taxes will be going instead of to their schools, you can assume that THEY will be talking to their elected village idiots --er, "representatives". Whose complaints get more weight with a Texas legislator, thousands of registered Texas voters in his district - or some lefty crank off in Florida or somewhere?

    I find it interesting, strategically, that Mr. Cook saw fit to publicize this. Is it so he can publicly draw back the money demand and look as if he's heroicly doing the right thing (the way he defused the Foxxcommm scandal) - or is he trying to smear Nader with the wingnutter set? Probably some of each.

  • Rick B on April 06, 2012 12:51 PM:

    Ignore the source. Nadar has a really important point here.

    David Cay Johnston in his book "Free Lunch" pointed out that Walmart's annual profit almost exactly matches the tax breaks local governments give them to induce them to move to their location.

    Since Walmart gets reduced taxes, they sell at lower prices than the local mom-and-pop stores, so the business flows to Walmart and the local tax-paying businesses go out of business. Then when the tax give-aways end, they move to another location after having wipe out the economy where they were. This is the model for the big box stores.

    Getting Apple is a little different in that they won't wipe out local business so much, but it's the same state and local government game of shifting jobs from somewhere else to relocate them at the location that pays the greatest taxpayer bonus.

    The result is that the American economy is pretty much based on a model of constantly reduced total number of jobs which are being relocated from place to place based on taxpayer subsidies.

    Taxpayers are being taxed to subsidized the job-shifting while the largest corporations report large profits for their owners and cut wages and benefits to the workers (who are the taxpayers being taxed to support this system.)

  • Rick B on April 06, 2012 12:57 PM:

    The only solution for the economic spiral downward is a national law making it illegal for local governments to buy jobs with taxpayer money. The entire market has to be changed and no state level or lower law or public protest will have any effect on the system.

  • jim filyaw on April 06, 2012 12:57 PM:

    as far as i am concerned, st. ralph can take his sentiments and shove them up his ass. i hold him more culpable for the dubya-cheney-rove regime than i do the scalia scotus. they knew they were installing an administration that agreed with them the great majority of the time. with st. ralph it was absolute purity or he would burn down the place (which he proceeded to do). clear headed fascists are less objectionable to me than nader's cranky,blinkered, crackpottery.

  • boatboy_srq on April 06, 2012 1:00 PM:

    Memo to Mr. Nader:

    Regardless what Apple decides here, those dollars were appropriated to business tax credits etc. by the Texas legislature: they'll still be available even if Apple turns them down. They could always be picked up by a company like Foxconn, who could open a plant in TX and introduce Texans to capitalism and industrialism PRC-style. It might be wise to spare a US-based employer (whould would at least keep those dollars in the US) and save your ire for the Texas legislature, who seems to prefer corporate dollars to providing for their citizens.

  • Lifelong Dem on April 06, 2012 1:01 PM:

    I'm not a Ralph Nader fan, but I'm glad he brought this matter to our attention. I hadn't heard about it, and Apple is really the LAST company that needs a subsidy for anything. It's truly outrageous.

  • skeptik on April 06, 2012 1:30 PM:

    I don't disagree with the sentiment, but the notion that the taxpayer money that Apple declines to take will somehow find its way into public school funding is patently absurd-and Nader knows it. this is the state allegedly governed by Rick Perry after all.

    hollowing out infrastructure spending and programs that benefit the public good is a feature of Repub governance-not a bug.

  • exlibra on April 06, 2012 1:52 PM:

    I find it interesting, strategically, that Mr. Cook saw fit to publicize this. -- zandru, @12:50 PM

    Cook didn't; Nader did. Reread Kilgore's introduction to the letter.

    On the subject, I agree with Rick B, @12:51 PM. Those tax incentives to corporations, under the guise of bringing in jobs, are a wicked waste of taxpayers' money. In many cases, the only jobs generated are the 500 or so construction jobs during the building of the new facilities. Then the tax breaks end, the firm moves to a greener pasture, and the new facilities become a concrete pile: a modern day graveyard to hopes and a monument to corporate cupidity and corruption.

    But, that Nader seems to think that the money Apple refuses to take would, somehow, revert to the common good of the Texan taxpayer simply proves what had been evident for many years (ever since Nader left off fighting for consumer protection and took on the role of wannabe politician): that, despite his advanced age, he's still a puerile peacock, with little knowledge of how things work.

  • Crissa on April 06, 2012 2:03 PM:

    Nader - still ineffective, still irrelevant. Let's go after the smallest tax dodge because it was in the news earlier this year for something else. That'll get him printed! And it did!

    ...Will it change the fact that other companies are getting hundreds of millions in tax breaks to put their factories into states with poorer schools and social supports than California? No.

    At most, this will just keep one company, getting one of the smallest benefits, from this one action. And probably not even that - see also Chris Christie's lack of gumption to remove tax credits for companies who pull back on their lans.

  • caphilldcne on April 06, 2012 2:12 PM:

    Show some respect? Sure - I respect his agency in knowingly and purposefully going out and spreading the falsehood that Bush and Gore were the same. I respect his agency in campaigning in swing states despite saying he would not do so, immeasurably assisting Bush's installation by the S. Ct. leading directly to the deaths of millions of Iraquis, Afghans and others, resulting in America becoming a torture nation. I respect that he's the proximate cause of our descent into so-called friendly fascism. I respect that he's an ancient conservative moralist who refers to civil rights as "gonadal politics." I respect him enough to believe that he should be treated with utter contempt.

  • Gaius Gracchus on April 06, 2012 2:20 PM:

    Thanks Ralph for bringing up this issue. As a Texas resident, I get to see the waste and crony capitalism in action, while Rick mismanages the state. I find the Texas Republicans (most all of whom were still Dems while Reagan was president) to be some of the worst of the bunch. They have zero understanding of basic, classical Republican values- good government, fiscal sanity, law and order, regulation of the marketplace (as a part of that law & order), etc.

    The Democratic Party is so lucky to have lost the Southern conservatives....

  • Old Uncle Dave on April 06, 2012 2:40 PM:

    Why do so many people think things would have been different if Gore had beome President?
    Gore's running mate was Lieberman. If Gore had won the election, Mossad could have taken him out and put one of their own in charge.

  • mudwall jackson on April 06, 2012 3:02 PM:

    the apple deal just highlights the absurdity of state corporate incentives, which amount to giving a taxpayer money to companies that by definition don't need it. the dollars involved are immaterial to apple's bottom line but are huge from a public standpoint. i'm not a nader fan, but ralph is doing a huge public service by shining a spotlight on this deal.

    apple btw is projected to become the first company in history to have a trillion dollar market cap. that's trillion, as in $1,000,000,000,000.

  • Amusing Alias on April 06, 2012 3:22 PM:

    I assume from your tepid lede that this letter was not your choice. Blaming a money-making entity for taking money is the very definition of foolishness. After this no one need take Ralph Nadar seriously any more (OK, sensible people have not taken him seriously for more than a decade). Unfortunately the Washington Monthly has also damaged itself by promoting obvious idiocy. I am a long-time fan of "Political Animal". I hope management has a big time damage control plan.

  • cwolf on April 06, 2012 3:39 PM:

    Nader is Great!
    Too bad "libs" have been smearing him since -
    seems like forever.

  • John on April 06, 2012 4:03 PM:

    I think there are far too many unknowns in this story to comment on intelligently. The money came from a fund already set aside for luring new businesses. So it is not clear how if Apple refused the money it would've gone to education. Apple already employs about 1000 people at this campus and they will add about 3600 new hires with the expansion of this campus. The money in question is pretty small. Seems like adding over $200 million in payroll to the local economy would rather quickly pay back this money anyway. Also, there is no reason to think that Apple will suddenly pick up and move in a few years. Did Apple ask for this money? We don't know. Would they have expanded here without this money? Who knows? Does Apple need this money? Certainly not.

  • Kuji on April 06, 2012 6:08 PM:

    It's a global market. Many other countries offer incentives to bring jobs, experience and expertise to their shores. Many states offer tax incentives to lure business from one state to another. Some states will spend millions of dollars building stadiums to bring sports teams to their cities. I don't see what the big deal is whether it's Apple or a small to mid size company that takes state incentives.

    The money that the a company like Apple would bring into Texas is a win-win for everyone. Not sure why Ralph Nader is making an example of Apple when this is the way Capitalism has worked for decades. I'm not sure why Americans think companies make decisions based on what's best for national or local interest.

    I don't see a problem with this. It's how business is done. If you want jobs in a state you have to put your money where your mouth is or sit down.

  • cwolf on April 06, 2012 9:24 PM:

    @ Kuji on April 06, 2012 6:08 PM:

    Not sure why Ralph Nader is making an example of Apple when this is the way Capitalism has worked for decades.

    Maybe it's because "this is the way Capitalism has worked Failed for decades.

  • Kuji on April 08, 2012 2:57 AM:

    Capitalism as an economic system has worked fine. All our standards of living has gone up. It's undeniable. What doesn't work is cronyism and special interest in government which is not an economic system. If a state wants to make a bid to bring in business thats great for the state and its a natural incentive to grow business and build partnership to bring money into local communities. When a state lets special interest write laws and corporate sycophants we call politicians rubberstamp those laws in favor of corporate interests - thats the failure. And that's not a failure of capitalism, that's a failure of lack of government oversight and a lack of human self restraint when it comes to greed on a political level. It's the fault of the voters to allow bad trends get to a critical point and let bad politics go unpunished and to not boycott businesses that subvert common good.

    I'm sure communism would also work great under ideal circumstances - but it failed in the USSR because of cronyism and human greed for wealth and power. That's the core ingrediant for collapsing an economic system.