US Chamber Of Commerce And Caterpillar Collude To Extort Illinois

The US Chamber of Commerce strikes again. Ed laid out Caterpillar's extortion of the state of Illinois in this clip. It seems that the CEO of Caterpillar, Inc., Doug Oberhelman, is bothered by the recent personal and corporate sales tax increases the Illinois legislature passed to balance their budget. Oberhelman has recently been courted by Nebraska, Texas, South Dakota and Virginia, all states with very low to no taxes.

So how does the US Chamber factor in? Well, the Group President of Caterpillar, Inc. is Gerald L. Shaheen, past chair of the US Chamber of Commerce and a current director of the National Chamber Foundation. The National Chamber Foundation recently issued a "study" entitled "Enterprising States", citing those states with the perfect environment for job creation. Unsurprisingly, the states mentioned were states with little to no state taxes, or states which recently cut tax rates -- Texas, North Dakota, Indiana, and Nebraska among them.

This isn't the first time Caterpillar has led the corporate charge against any policy which might actually benefit the middle class either. Last year they were at the front of the charge against health care reform, claiming it would cost them $100 million for retiree health care, which they took pains to write down immediately (along with AT&T and a few other Chamber bigwigs) so that they could show the hit on their balance sheets now for a charge that won't take effect until 2014. That move was intended to anger investors and others who might otherwise have remained neutral on the Affordable Care Act.

It's also no coincidence that Mr. Oberhelman sent his letter in just enough time for it to make the news and generate some buzz ahead of Wednesday's US Chamber-sponsored Capital Markets Summit, where I'm sure the main topic of discussion will be which states should be strafed by conservatives next as corporations strive to end the middle class entirely.

Other news bites from Caterpillar in the past week or so include this gem of a press release about how they're "in a hurry to increase production" -- in Asia. No jobs for the United States, nope, no way. But in Asia, they just can't wait to ramp up the production lines. Or this more specific one:

"By 2015, we will have made $5 billion in investments to increase production capacity at existing and new Caterpillar facilities to support customers in every region of the world, including plans to nearly triple machine capacity across our operations in Asia," said Oberhelman. "This is in addition to more than $10 billion in investments announced in 2010 for three significant acquisitions—Electro-Motive Diesel, Inc., Motoren-Werke Mannheim Holding GmbH (MWM) and Bucyrus International, Inc. Together, these moves represent Caterpillar's commitment to leadership in support of our growing base of customers and to expand our products and services," Oberhelman added.

See, here's how they did that. They sat on their cash after getting a bunch of federal stimulus money, then went on an acquisition spree with the billions in the coffers and built some new facilities around the world. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, they're whining about having to pay state income tax in Illinois. Aww. Poor, hungry Caterpillar.

If it isn't obvious to everyone by now that these corporations think they're running the country, it ought to be after this. They poured money into state-level elections in 2010 and now they expect a return on their investment. Isn't it time we started talking about de-funding THEM instead of letting them de-fund everything else?

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