POLITICS

McCain Supporter Fiorina Deserves The Same Scrutiny As Obama Veep Vetter

Barack Obama is under fire this week for having named former Fannie Mae CEO Jim Johnson to his vice-presidential vetting team, a position for which Johnson is receiving no compensation and a role that he has traditionally played for other Democratic candidates, including John Kerry. But, as the Washington Post headlines say, "questions were raised!" Perhaps even by the RNC! And so, we're enduring a heaping plate of coverage over this issue, leading up to Johnson stepping down from this role with the Obama campaign.

Fair enough. As the Post's Dan Balz points out, "Johnson is drawing fire over his jumbo home loans from Countrywide Financial, a major actor in the subprime mortgage mess, that may have been below market rates," and has also "drawn criticism in the past for his role in generous compensation packages to executives of companies on whose boards he served."

So tsk-tsks all around and a good golly gotcha for the ravenous press! But, let me tell you, if the media liked feasting on Johnson in this way, they are going to really get a good leg tingle going once they start applying the same open-segment scrutiny to McCain's CEO-run-amok, Carly Fiorina. Surely, in the interest of "fairness and balance," this will happen!

Fiorina is serving the McCain campaign as their "point person [on[ business and economic affairs," as well as serving in the larger capacity as the Republican National Committee's "Chair of Victory." Which just sounds great! Because, really, who doesn't love Victory? Well, sadly, if Fiorina is the person in charge of spreading the Victory around, it's not likely that every American will be cut in on the dispensation. You see, Fiorina - perhaps sensing that there is some flexibility in the Bush administration's post-9/11 admonition that you are either "with" America or you are "against" America - is actually pretty hostile to the cause of hard-working Americans, historically preferring to feather her own nest by seeking cheaper labor far from these shores.

In 2004, at a press conference for the Computer Systems Policy Project - "a group of eight chief executives from the nation's top information technology firms" who have been lobbying your government since 1998 - Fiorina spat: "There is no job that is America's God-given right any more. We have to compete for jobs as a nation. Our competitiveness as a nation is not inevitable. It will not just happen." For Silicon Valley's highly-qualified and well-paid workforce, the message was clear: profitability would be borne on the backs of lesser laborers from overseas. The pushback was, dare I say, bitter?

"I am curious how Ms. Fiorina would feel about her job being outsourced to China or India," Sean Ryan of Alameda, where the county unemployment rate is 6.1 percent, wrote in a representative e-mail to The Chronicle. "I am certain that there are many extremely bright, ambitious and successful executive types in those countries who would be able to do her job just as well if not better than she can at a cost savings to HP shareholders of millions of dollars per year."

Many Bay Area residents argued that it was the low wages in India and China that were motivating Silicon Valley corporations, not a lack of skilled U.S. workers. Some argued for "Buy America" campaigns and greater U.S. self- sufficiency.

"I have many, many friends who are unemployed, and continue to be so because they are 'over-qualified' or 'not a good fit' for a particular position," one tech worker at Bechtel Corp. in Seattle wrote. "I'm talking about people with degrees from Caltech and Stanford. ... It's not that Indians and Chinese are better educated. It's that they'll work for cheap, and they'll work for what most Americans couldn't live on. That's the issue."

It sort of makes you wonder whose side Fiorina is on, anyway, even as she pursues the GOP's "Victory." Well, in a more contemporaneous appearance on the May 11 edition of This Week With George Stephanopoulos, Fiorina was furiously dodging questions on her favorite topic: how awesome offshoring is - especially as a means of evading taxes. The resulting exchange is a hilarious example of circular arguing: Fiorina opens with a complaint that only Japan has a higher tax rate on businesses, Stephanopoulos chases her all around Robin Hood's barn, Fiorina exhausts all of the dodges she brought to the table, and ends up back at Japanese tax rates.

[WATCH.]

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STEPHANOPOULOS: You come out of the private sector. Democrats are signaling that they're going to use your background and other supporters of John McCain as an issue in this campaign. One issue they cite especially is the issue of offshoring of U.S. jobs, and Senator Obama, as you may know, said he wants to take away the tax break for companies that keep their profits overseas. Why should there be a tax break for companies that keep their profits overseas?

FIORINA: Well, I think the issue is that United States today has the second highest tax rate in the world, second only to Japan. And that encourages people to put jobs and factories overseas. If you look at the example of Ireland, Ireland used to be the slowest-growing economy in Western Europe. It's now one of the fastest. How did they do that? They focused on their education system and they reduced their tax rate on businesses dramatically. And that encouraged businesses. Hewlett-Packard did this. It encouraged businesses to put factories there and put jobs there. We have to address the tax rate on businesses. Whether it's small businesses or large businesses.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Senator McCain has come out for cutting the corporate tax rate, yet he still wants to preserve this tax break for keeping profits overseas. Why is that right?

FIORINA: Well, I think first of all, Senator McCain understands that you must focus on why jobs are going overseas. There are really two issues. One as I said, the tax rate we have in place today. The other is education and worker retraining, another area, for example, where John McCain differs from President Bush. He said a year ago, let's take our unemployment insurance programs, let's reform them. And let's make sure that when workers lose their jobs because of globalization, for example, that we just don't leave them behind. That we don't just pay them while they're unemployed, that we prepare them.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I understand he's called for that, but why is he preserving the tax break for keeping profits overseas?

FIORINA: Describe for me the tax break that Obama feels is being maintained for companies who leave profits overseas? There is not an incentive today, I can tell you as a CEO, you don't get a tax break for leaving profit overseas. What you get --

STEPHANOPOULOS: You defer to the taxes on those profits as long as they stay overseas, and that's what he wants to take away.

FIORINA: That's exactly the point. If the tax rate were lowered on businesses in this country, businesses would bring money back. The reason they cannot bring money back is because the tax rate is so onerous --

STEPHANOPOULOS: Not if they can pay no taxes for leaving them overseas!

FIORINA: The way it works today is that if you choose to bring cash back into this country you have to pay at a tax rate that is the second-highest in the world.

So, who emerges the Victor in Fiorina's Victory? Fiorina's money, that's who! And really, its hard to blame her, seeing as how her own career as a CEO was a little less than "victorious." See, Fiorina is probably best known for her time at Hewlett-Packard, where she pursued corporate leakers with a paranoid flair rarely seen outside the Bush Justice Department, as well as a disastrous merger with Compaq - a move that earned HP a brief boost over rival Dell before the whole thing cratered and HP's talent base began fleeing the company in droves. It's a fitting example of the numbing, Enronian incompetence that the American people are surely itching for these days, and are sure to get with a McCain presidency.