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It Turns Out Steve Jobs was a Supervillain After All

A new report from Oxfam shows that Apple has BILLIONS of U.S. tax dollars in offshore accounts.

I remember, a few years back, having a conversation with a friend about whether any industries are really "clean." Sometimes the villains can be recognized quickly. The cigarette industry. The fossil fuel industry. But what about computers? They seem to have had a relatively benign effect on the planet, despite the obvious drawbacks of increased surveillance and loss of privacy.;rotten_apples.jpg

With the release of the Panama Papers, however, my original line of questioning, whether the negatives associated with multinational corporations inevitably outweigh their contribution to global well being, seems to have been on track. The bad behavior at the top of the corporate pyramid schemes is more or less universal. Some just hide the skeletons better.

Take Steve Jobs and Apple. The Oxfam Report notes that "Technology giant Apple, the world’s second biggest company, topped Oxfam’s league table, with some $181bn held offshore in three subsidiaries."

Apple's not alone, of course, Right up there with them are Wal-Mart, GE and Microsoft, each stashing more than $100 billion away offshore. To add insult to that immense injury to the U.S. public, most of these firms are awarded huge tax breaks, bailouts and subsidies, again, at the expense of the average American family, that pays its taxes diligently and worries about every dollar.

Of course, we don't know (yet) know all the facts. How much did Jobs know about the years of tax evasion? How much of it was legal (and does that matter?), under the corrupt tax avoidance schemes  put in place by the wealthy and endorsed by most of our federal leadership? Jobs kept tight control over his company. Anyone can tell you how clever he was. Did his cleverness end at basic accounting?

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The facts are these: Apple's stash of tax money is big enough to pay 16 years of college tuition for 4.8 million students the same as currently enrolled. That's enough money to END poverty worldwide THREE TIMES OVER, by Oxfam estimates. I include those statistics only because Apple promotes itself as a hip, socially and environmentally engaged firm. Turns out that's just frosting on what's rotten underneath.

In a nation where homelessness and poverty are rampant—and growing—don't we deserve better? An apology is not good enough. A boycott of Apple's overly controlled products is not enough. Dying with one "enlightened" book on your tablet is not enough. We want the damn tax money put back into the U.S. economy. We toss around the word "genius" far too lightly in this country, as the brilliant, late author of The Evolution of Technology, George Basalla, once told me. There are virtually no true individual geniuses, when it comes to technology. All of them, Steve Jobs included, rode on the backs of government and hundreds of other minds before them. Let's stop worshipping sacred cows, and demand the same behavior from corporations and their celebrity figureheads as we do from our neighbors.

Here's an update on other tax issues related to Apple.

Here is another update: Elizabeth Warren Calls Out Apple for Tax Dodging