SID SALTER: Tax cut debate nears ‘cartoonish’ extremes

By Sid Salter

STARKVILLE – In the wake of the latest dismal jobs numbers, President Barack Obama is returning to a campaign theme that served him well in the 2008 campaign: He wants Congress to pass a one-year extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for American households earning less than $250,000 a year while allowing the same tax cuts to expire for households earning more than $250,000 annually.
It’s a political theme that harkens back to the Occupy movement in the fall of 2011 and the class warfare rhetoric that movement embodied of the wealthy “one percent” against the struggling “99 percent.” Despite the fact that both Obama and presumptive Republican nominee and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney are millionaires, it is also a political theme designed to focus attention on Romney’s superior personal wealth earned in the private sector.
The present tax cut debate creates almost cartoonish extremes, but in reality the stakes of the debate are far more complex for Democrats and Republicans alike.
One example of the complexity of the debate is Mississippi native Richard Adkerson, the president and chief executive officer of Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold – the largest publicly traded copper company in the world. The company generated revenues of $4.61 billion in the first quarter of 2012 with profits of $764 million.
Advocates of politi cal class warfare would argue that Adkerson is in the vaunted “one percent.” But he didn’t grow up that way in Tupelo and in Kosciusko, where he graduated from high school. Adkerson wasn’t born with a copper pick in his hand, either.
Adkerson was the son of a storekeeper who put his son to work at age 8 sweeping floors in the store. Bright and hardworking, Adkerson became the first member of his family to go to college as a Mississippi State accounting major.
Copper has the property of conductivity and that quality makes it a building block of semiconductors for computers, cell phones, and a host of other electronic gadgets and tools.
Automobiles contain a substantial amount of copper components. The U.S. Geological Survey reports: “Copper wiring and plumbing are integral to the appliances, heating and cooling systems, and telecommunications links used every day in homes and businesses.”
In a June 20 “Wall Street Journal” interview, Adkerson predicted that copper demand would continue to increase exponentially as it has for the last quarter-century. But he cited these obstacles to mining copper: “You operate in areas that have severe altitudes, severe weather, dangerous equipment, moving massive amounts of material, complicated process and facilities. At our flagship (mine) in Papua, Indonesia, the mine is at 13,000 feet, five degrees from the equator, next to a glacier, where it rains 200 to 400 inches a year.”
The trouble with class warfare political arguments is that “one percent” men like Adkerson and the corporation he serves take the financial risk to go after the copper with no guarantees of success. The copper produced provides jobs for U.S. workers in the “99 percent” not only in mining and transportation, but in manufacturing plants and in retail as well.
Freeport-McMoran and Adkerson’s leadership in that company is an authentic American success story. Class warfare tax policies will only guarantee that there are less of those success stories – and less U.S. jobs – moving forward.
Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at 601-507-8004 or sidsalter@sidsalter.com