Apr 302012

There’s a very depressing trend in the media these days, one I suspect has been present for decades: using unsubstantiated sources to say stupid things about successful entities. Hitwhores like Business Insider and Gizmodo use sensationalist headlines and rumors about Apple the same way outhouse TP like OK Magazine and Us Weekly use “close friends” to titillate stupid people with their headlines about that status of Brad and Angelina’s relationship. Up until their scathing non-expose of Apple’s management of its supply chain, respected publications like The New York Times kept out of this cesspool. Now it seems like they’ve dove in head-first and are gleefully doing laps.

Our latest derision under the theme “Apple has so much cash” comes in a Times piece “How Apple Sidesteps Billions in Taxes.” It make come as a shock to some people, but Apple actively employs several means at its disposal to minimize its tax burden – all of them perfectly legal and used by hundreds of other tech companies. Why is Apple special? Because it’s so successful, obviously. Which leads us to statements in the article like this one, which ties Apple’s reduced payment of California sales tax to the welfare of state programs (cue the violins):

Such lost revenue is one reason California now faces a budget crisis, with a shortfall of more than $9.2 billion in the coming fiscal year alone. The state has cut some health care programs, significantly raised tuition at state universities, cut services to the disabled and proposed a $4.8 billion reduction in spending on kindergarten and other grades.

And California is such a well-run state! Apple is taking money from cripples! From kindergarteners! Why do you hate America, Apple?!

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: if you want corporations to become more responsible for the tax revenue “experts” bellyache about not getting, change the tax laws. Apple employs practices that every one of its competitors employs and pointing out how what you’re not getting from them affects social services does nothing. I was happy to see, however, that Apple didn’t like being singled out by the Times and actually had a response to the article printed. My favorite part:

We have contributed to many charitable causes but have never sought publicity for doing so. Our focus has been on doing the right thing, not getting credit for it.

Maybe the Times could direct its attention to the laws and lawmakers that make these practices possible, as opposed to pointing out hypothetical dollars lost by one of the numerous companies taking advantage of them. You know, what journalism used to look like.

Update: well it looks like the Times couldn’t even be bothered to accurately depict Apple’s tax rate. According to this piece in Forbes, the 2011 tax rate calculated by the Greenlining Institute was based on Apple’s profits in 2010, a laugher that sailed past the Times’ crack fact-checkers and used in the article. Tim Worstall, the author of the Forbes piece, calls it an “Appalling, ignorant, calculation cobbled together by [a] small time think tank.” Another fine piece of journalism from The Gray Lady.

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