Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching. So what better time is there to talk about the turkey deals of 2017?
This has been a banner year for turkeys — there’s an unusually large flock of them, even though I’ve decided to carve President Trump out of the list. Otherwise, I’d be falling into the trap of making everything about him and not paying enough attention to other things. That’s a mistake far too many people are making.
Ready to gobble up my choices? Some of them are mine, some from friends and colleagues. Let the roast begin.
Equifax: What can I say? Here’s a company that gathers tons of information about you without seeking your permission, sells it to Lord only knows whom without your permission, then is so incompetent that the information gets hacked. To protect yourself from possible damage that Equifax has done to you, you’ve got to shell out money to its competitors and possibly to Equifax itself. Thanks, guys. You’re a credit to capitalism. (Yes, the pun’s intentional.)
FAT fools: Facebook, Alphabet (parent of Google) and Twitter — a threesome that I’m calling FAT — get your permission to know more about you than you know about yourself. Somehow, these companies, which employ supposed geniuses and live off algorithms, ended up selling our country down the river — at a low price! — by letting Russia run wild on social media. That may have helped tip a close election to Vladimir Putin admirer Trump rather than to Putin adversary Hillary Clinton. The FATties say they’ll do better next time, but I sure wouldn’t bet on it.
GE: It’s hard to figure out where to start. This is a company that I used to respect because even though GE upset me by playing endless games to minimize its U.S. income taxes — I once tried to write a Fortune cover piece featuring the then-head of its tax department, whom we were going to call GE’s most valuable employee — I considered the company extremely competent. Recent events show that I was wrong. I don’t know what’s going on over there, but it looks like a total mess. I hope GE doesn’t get taken over, because it would wipe out thousands of jobs and hurt many communities. But it wouldn’t surprise me if GE becomes Gone Electric rather than General Electric.
Allergan: This company — full name Allergan Plc. — has deserted our country to become nominally Irish to reduce its tax bill. But it’s happy to keep doing business here, benefiting from what the United States has to offer. Now, though, Allergan has outdone itself in tackiness by proposing to extend patent protection on its lucrative Restasis drug by paying the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe to take ownership of the patents. The idea is that as a sovereign nation, the tribe wouldn’t be subject to U.S. patent law. We’ll see. If Allergan prevails in court, which I hope it doesn’t, maybe it will decide to become American again by making a deal to move from Ireland to Mohawk tribal headquarters in Akwesasne, N.Y. Then Allergan can try to declare itself a sovereign nation not subject to drug safety rules, price restrictions or anything else it doesn’t approve of.
Wells Fargo: What is there to say? My local Wells Fargo branch, where I do my banking business, is full of terrific people who are helpful and cheerful — but the parent company should adopt as its theme song the new work by Sparks: “What the Hell Is It This Time?”
Turkey of the Year: The hideous tax-cut (not tax reform) legislation Congress is preparing to unleash on us. At this point, it’s impossible to tell what’s going to emerge. With luck, it will be nothing. But I doubt we’ll get that lucky.
My friend Henry Dubroff, who owns a Santa Barbara, Calif., business journal, suggests we call it the Oligarch Enabling Act rather than the Tax Cut and Jobs Act. A second friend, Jim Toedtman, suggests that instead of calling it “Cut Cut Cut,” as Trump suggested, we call it “Gift, Gift, Gift.”
Both my friends are right.
I’m calling this a Dooh Nibor plan. Don’t recognize that name? Not surprising, I just thought of it. It’s Robin Hood in reverse, taking from the poor and middle class and giving to the rich. It eliminates (House version) or scales back (Senate version) the estate tax, lavishes tax cuts on corporations (whose stock is owned disproportionately by the wealthy and by upper-middle-class types like me), cuts rates for “passive owners” of businesses and opens vast new tax-avoidance possibilities. It would stuff goodies into the pockets of the likes of Trump and his family and foul up the lives of non-plutocrats who are just trying to get by.
Republicans, the last political party to which I belonged, are trying to cram this through with narrow majorities, without holding hearings. It almost seems designed to hurt the parts of the country, including my home state of New Jersey, that don’t tend to vote Republican. The whole thing smells like rancid turkey meat.
Bottom line: I love Thanksgiving, the quintessential American holiday. I hope you do, too. Let’s try to celebrate this year by talking civilly to people with whom we disagree and remembering that as Americans, we’re all in this together. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.