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What ‘hidden taxes’ do we pay corporations when we shop?

Do we really know what we are buying when we shop?  As I meander into this topic, playing on the thought of corporations “taxing” us in their costs of doing business, I’m reminded by the editorial below to watch my words.

The lack of disclosure of what corporate entities support which political messages, started me thinking that perhaps we would not want to be “taxed” in our shopping to pay to fund political discourse we don’t “buy.”  For what else are we being “taxed”—as a compulsory assessment (usually to the government but with the talk of privatizing many government services bear with me)—in the cost of doing business included in the prices we pay?

• We know we are paying to buy political influence, in which we have no influence.

• We are assuring a certain level of profit that redistributes wealth to those who invest in the corporations.

• We are paying to cover many $40,000 payments for each 30-second ad on national TV broadcasts.

• We are paying for pretty packaging to entice us to buy products we didn’t know we needed.

• We may be paying for goodwill retailers and others seek to generate by advertising a “sale” or a business practice of donating to charities of their choice or our choice.  (I prefer not to run my charitable giving through a corporate entity.)

• We pay to assure that CEOs and top management receive astronomical salaries and bonuses to make executive positions competitive and to retain “quality” people.  (Why don’t corporations want all levels of their employees to have competitive salaries to keep quality employees loyal and productive?)

In the climate of tax-cut talk—whether to extend tax cuts for the most wealthy and in Washington whether to tax incomes of individuals earning more than $200,000—wouldn’t we rather have the built-into-the-cost-of-doing-business costs in our pockets, rather than the pockets of corporations?

Of course the word used isn’t “tax,” but seeing that some retailers are advertising 70 to 80 percent sales, I wonder how much of product prices are for such extra costs, rather than the actual cost of producing, transporting, marketing and selling the products.

While there are channels for us to speak out on how government spends our tax dollars—voting, campaigning, writing letters to the editor, going to town hall meetings, signing petitions, joining advocacy networks, making political contributions and writing, phoning or emailing elected officials—we may feel voiceless in face of the land grab through foreclosures and the ever inflating prices as incomes shrink.

There are, however, some channels for influence. Obviously, we can turn more of our shopping dollars for gifts, food, clothing and household items to fair traders, farmers’ markets, thrift stores and church bazaars.

We can also educate ourselves and other consumers to vote with our money.  That may be by making fewer purchases; by researching what corporations produce what products and promote what policies; by choosing to buy from producers more in line with our values, and by letting CEOs know we are not buying—maybe even organizing others in boycotting—their products and why.

Along with informing citizens about legislation, a number of advocacy networks now include action alerts to call corporations to be more accountable to the consuming public.

Big givers to new so-called nonprofits that funded some fear-producing, fact-denying political ads this season, clearly wish to remain anonymous, so conscientious consumers do not know what they are really buying when they shop.

We also need to be aware that if government services assuring the general welfare are privatized—as some wish—as a way to reduce spending and the official form of taxes, we may be paying more of another, hidden form of taxes, with a more limited voice and influence.

Mary Stamp - Editor

Copyright © November 2010 - The Fig Tree