Column: For GE, it’s time to pay the taxman

General Electric chairman Jeffrey Immelt. Immelt sent an internal memo regarding the corporation’s search for a new location, as, in his words, GE requires “a more pro-business environment.” (eschipul/Flickr)

General Electric, one of the world’s largest corporations, has over the past months, been holding their residency in Connecticut over the head of the Malloy administration. According to the Hartford Courant, GE chairman Jeffrey Immelt sent an internal memo regarding the corporation’s search for a new location, as, in his words, GE requires “a more pro-business environment.” GE, as with most other transnational corporations, has moved to equate a rise in corporate taxes with an “anti-business” environment.

The false equivocation rests in the notion that the State cannot put the interests of its coffers, and thus the welfare of its infrastructure, schools, and hospitals, above the vaults of a monolith like GE. For matters of precedent and ethics, Governor Malloy cannot genuflect at the whim of Immelt & Co. 

General Electric has been headquartered in Fairfield for over forty years; the talk of a move outside the state has come from a “a plan [put forth] by Malloy and legislative Democrats to increase business taxes by more than $700 million over two years” according to the Hartford Courant.

Gov. Malloy, when questioned regarding GE’s comments, argued “G.E. has not paid any substantial amount of corporate taxes” in Connecticut. The Governor is correct, as GE has most often paid the bare minimum $250 state income tax, as reported in the Hartford Courant, meaning GE employees pay far more to the state in personal incomes taxes than the corporation pays as a whole. 

The concern here should not be on debates relating to dollars and cents, but rather on principle. With or without a substantial contribution to state corporate income tax, GE has a tremendous socio-economic impact on Connecticut. To argue otherwise is ludicrous. However, the notion that Connecticut is anti-business is the product of political arm wrestling and the alchemic fruit of Jeffrey Immelt’s vacuous imagination.  

A state exists as the protector of its citizenry, not as a bastion for corporate profiteering. As it stands, many corporations – not solely GE – waltz through tax loopholes, vehemently and bellicosely defending these contrived windfalls, whilst painting any who would dare infringe upon them as fire breathing communists.

While corporations like GE do end up paying taxes, as do their employees, the amount is reduced in a symbolic allegory of the enormous political clout these corporations maintain. If GE were to leave the state, there would be a grave economic price to pay. However, if Malloy follows in the footsteps of most all governors and contorts at the will of GE, then the trend will continue. Though, according to the Hartford Courant, Gov. Malloy and legislators have already chipped away at the proposed tax increase in an effort to rekindle their romance with General Electric, there still exists an opportunity to create real change. 

For GE, threatening to move from Connecticut and implying that the state is anti-business is a masterful use of political language in pursuit of self-promotion and the deification of their bottom line. Residents of the state view GE as a barometer of local economic stability and profitability, and GE, masters of marketing, understand this all too well. If GE vacates their Fairfield home, residents will revolt in voting booths, as GE holds a place in Americana that no other Connecticut mainstay rivals. 

Governor Malloy must shun vanity and polling numbers and swallow the bitter pill. The ethical compass will be made obsolete if GE gets their way and forces a rewrite of legislative progress or worms their way to a special incentive package. This plain reality is on display for the residents of Connecticut, and any observer with enough intelligence to see through GE’s cunning political and economic deception. 

In modern America, special interests and corporations have gained an extraordinary level of political clout, so much so that they have convinced a large proportion of Americans that corporate profits are under attack; that pro-citizen equates anti-business; that rising corporate taxes are the signs of rapture. George Orwell wrote, in a diatribe on political language, “political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.”

With Immelt & Co.’s verbal assault against Governor Malloy’s proposed tax plan, GE has shown itself to be a wellspring of such tripe. Corporate tax codes should hold corporations responsible for paying their fair share, not a game of intellectual Pac man. If, for matters of political contributions via Citizens United, corporations push for status as private citizens, then closing loopholes means that we commit ourselves to demanding the same responsibility and requirement from corporations as we do private citizens.

In order to rebuild the clout of political and economic ethics, Gov. Malloy cannot let GE dictate state politics.


Christopher Sacco is opinion editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at christopher.sacco@uconn.edu.