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Home > Politics
Corporations Should Pay Taxes
by Bob Powell, 9/4/14
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Corporations have paid an ever-decreasing share of taxes. And yet they still complain.

Note that the share of regressive taxes on Social Security has continued to climb.

The tax 'burden' has gone up for individuals.
U.S. tax revenues at record high. Who's paying? by Heather Long, CNN Money, 8/14/15

Contents:

Summary
-- Corporate Theft
-- Corporations are Psychopath: Trump Illustrates
The Pervasive Propaganda
What about Those Corporate Taxes?
Why Corporations Should Pay Taxes
Will Conservatives "Get It"?
Exchange on Facebook

Short Summary

Corporations, separate legal entities from stockholders, should pay taxes, despite the irrelevant fact that people ultimately pay all taxes.

Business facts: First, they do not necessarily pass on costs to customers because prices are set by supply and demand, not costs. Second, they do not necessarily pass on costs to stockholders because higher costs can motivate innovation to reduce costs or allow higher prices.

Economic facts: First: For market forces to properly balance supply and demand, all costs (including the costs of necessary government services) must be internalized, that is, all costs must be built into the product or service. Absent this, market forces will promote the purchase of products and services that are fundamentally uneconomic, resulting in the purchase of products that would not otherwise be bought or other products chosen. Second: Though "conservatives" maintain that "taxes are theft," the real theft occurs when they don't pay taxes and the public bears the burden of costs that should be paid directly by corporations.

Summary

Those who call themselves, "conservative," tend to believe that corporations should not pay taxes because the costs in taxes are passed on to customers or stockholders and that, in the end, because only people pay taxes, corporations should not pay taxes.

This pernicious belief is a result of pervasive right-wing, corporatist propaganda that sticks thanks to a lack of understanding of both business and economics. This is ignorance.

Now we're all ignorant of lots of things, so generally, that's not a slam. But, seriously, "conservatives" are very vocal about how they are the ones who understand business and economics, and that it's naive and ignorant liberals who are clueless.

What's more, this belief is enormously resistant to explanations that entirely disprove its validity. This resistance is likely because it is true that only people do eventually pay all taxes. Problem is, this fact is entirely irrelevant as to whether corporations should pay taxes. Unfortunately, simplistic cognitive shortcuts such as this are all too difficult to resist.

Corporations Not Paying Taxes is theft!
Business Ignorance:

Businesses do not necessarily pass on costs to customers because prices are based on what the market will bear, not costs. Prices are often set much higher than overall costs so increased costs can be absorbed.

Businesses, which are separate legal entities from stockholders, will not necessarily pass costs on to stockholders because they can find ways to cut other costs. They can innovate. Too often the only motivations for businesses to innovate are cost and competitive pressures ... without them, they too often sit back, relax and are overrun. With innovation they become more cost-efficient with more competitive products and services to maintain sales and profits.

Economic Ignorance:

For market forces to properly balance supply and demand, all costs must be internalized, that is, all costs must be built into the product or service. That is, rather than externalizing costs onto the public (e.g., by way of environmental damage, consumer & employee injury and death, etc.).

Absent this, market forces will promote the purchase of products and services that are fundamentally uneconomic, resulting in the purchase of products that would not otherwise be bought or other products chosen.

To increase profits, corporations promote a "free market" without the "burdensome regulations" that require the internalizing costs. This cost-redistribution is the cost-side socialism that inherent in capitalism.

Policies based on such ignorance are a major reason why national and local economies are failing. One hears from many "conservatives," and especially from libertarians, that "taxes are theft ... it's my money."

Individuals pay a greater share of taxes while their compensation has been flat for 40 years. That's even as corporations pay less.

That said, people aren't taxed too much; they're paid too damn little.

Corporations pay less as corporate profits have soared.


But the real theft occurs when they don't pay taxes and the public bears the burden ... people pay the externalized costs. In fact, capitalism is another form of socialism ... socializing costs rather than income.

 

Added 4/29/17: Corporations are Psychopaths: Trump Illustrates

This is well-illustrated in the movie, The Corporation.

In the AP's 4/23/17 interview with Trump:

TRUMP: Well in business, you don't necessarily need heart, whereas here, almost everything affects people. So if you're talking about health care - you have health care in business but you're trying to just negotiate a good price on health care, et cetera, et cetera. You're providing health. This is (unintelligible). Here, everything, pretty much everything you do in government, involves heart, whereas in business, most things don't involve heart.

AP: What's that switch been like for you?

TRUMP: In fact, in business you're actually better off without it.

This perfectly illustrates the fact that corporations are inhuman psychopathic machines run by psychopaths who don't give a damn about your life, much less your health and well-being.

Another clear and horrifying example of corporations being willing to kill you to increase profits:

If someone says, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." Know that that's a lie. Listen to this at 1:08 ... can click on the bar to go to that time.

4/28 Majority Report with Sam Seder: Max Blumenthal: The Proxy War in Syria, Social Justice and the Courts, & Remington's Self-Firing Guns

Arthur H. Bryant, the Chairman of Public Justice The Remington Rifle defect that makes the gun fired without pulling the trigger. Remington's long history of causing deaths and doing nothing about the trigger defect. Court secrecy and PR. Remington knew about the problem and did nothing and what you can do if you are still endangered by Remington.

Added 3/11/17: Corporate Theft

This article describes corporate thieves:

Corporate Tax Dodgers Exposed, Debunking Trump Myth That Rates Are Too High by Deirdre Fulton, Common Dreams, 3/09/17
Citing new analysis, Bernie Sanders and other lawmakers introduce Corporate Tax Dodging Prevention Act

Undercutting President Donald Trump's assertion that U.S. corporate taxes are too high -- the justification for his and Republican leaders' pitches to lower the business tax rate -- a new report finds that many profitable American companies pay far less than the 35 percent often cited by lobbyists and GOP officials.

"For years, corporate lobbyists have claimed that they can't be competitive because the corporate tax rate is too high. They have a receptive audience for those complaints in the current Congress and Trump administration, but it doesn't make these claims any less false."
- Robert McIntyre, Citizens for Tax Justice:

In fact, the analysis reveals, 18 of the country's most profitable corporations paid nothing in taxes between 2008 and 2015, and fully 100 companies enjoyed at least one year in which their federal income tax was zero or less.

"This study is a long-term, unprecedented examination of corporation taxes paid-or not paid-by the nation's biggest, most profitable firms," said Matthew Gardner, a senior fellow at the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) and lead author of the report. "It reveals that many of the big corporations that are lobbying for a lower corporate tax rate to be more 'competitive' already pay substantially less than the 35 percent statutory rate."

Indeed, added Robert McIntyre, a co-author of the report and director of ITEP sister organization Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ): "For years, corporate lobbyists have claimed that they can't be competitive because the corporate tax rate is too high. They have a receptive audience for those complaints in the current Congress and Trump administration, but it doesn't make these claims any less false."

The ITEP report, entitled The 35 Percent Corporate Tax Myth, ... [... the article goes on to list some of the findings ...]

Added 10/16/15:

Speaking of theft, ex-governor, ex-Christian preacher Mike Huckabee Suggests Poor People Should Be Sold Into Slavery For Stealing BY SCOTT KEYES 10/15/15. On an interview on Mickelson in the Morning, a leading Iowa radio program, there's this on Huckabee's Christian opinion on punishment (there's audio of the exchange):

Host Jan Mickelson began by bemoaning that the "criminal justice system has been taken over by progressives." In order to fight back, he argued, conservatives should look to the biblical Book of Exodus. "It says, if a person steals, they have to pay it back two-fold, four-fold," Mickelson explained. "If they don't have anything, we're supposed to take them down and sell them."

Mickelson went on to argue why jails, which he claimed are a "pagan invention," are inferior to slavery: "We indenture them and they have to spend their time not sitting on their stump in a jail cell, they’re supposed to be working off the debt."

"Wouldn't that be a better choice?" the host asked.

"Well, it really would be," Huckabee replied without missing a beat. "Sometimes the best way to deal with a nonviolent criminal behavior is what you just suggested."

Mighty Christian of him. But I'm betting Huckabee wouldn't have the same point of view about what to do with executives who allow their corporations to steal, injure, maim, and kill for profit.

Added 4/5/15:

Article You Owe Us, Corporations: Four Reasons Why and One Way to Pay, 3/30/15
1. Our Tax Money Pays for Much of the Research
2. Fewer and Fewer People are Reaping the Benefits of Our National Productivity
3. Corporations Use Our Resources but Avoid Their Taxes
4. Corporations Have Stopped Investing in America

The Pervasive Propaganda

One would think it would be obvious why both individuals and corporations, which are separate economic entities, should pay taxes ... including federal taxes. Somehow though, it's not obvious to "conservatives" who have had this idea drilled into their heads. In a way, it's not surprising that those less informed about business and economics buy into this idea. Right-wing corporatists are relentless:

From the American Enterprise Institute: Why corporations shouldn't pay any taxes -- zero, zilch, nada, 9/4/14: [Hot Air (exactly) reposts this as does David Stockman here.] Excerpt:

"Corporations are not required to have America's best interests at heart."

That's at least honest ... they DON'T.

The article continues:

"This is business. ... It has nothing to do with a lack of patriotism, or the evasion of some sort of national duty, and everything to do with reducing costs and maximizing profits."

At least the article makes it clear that business does not give a whit about America and American values. "This is business."

Just below the headline there's this:

It's time to stop feigning surprise and outrage when corporations relocate abroad. They're just logically and legally fleeing an aggressively confiscatory tax code.

Oh, boo hoo. Yes, it's logical and legal ... legal because they've lobbied to make it legal.

What they're doing should be viewed as economic treason. From Forbes, Corporations Do Not Pay Tax:

"Oh sure, they hand over the checks for taxes often enough but all taxes are, in hte end, paid by some real human being."

From The Liberty Professor, The Federal Tax Code is Part of Our Problem

Only people should pay income tax, not corporations.  ... If businesses and corporations didn't have to pay federal taxes, imagine how much of their earnings could be invested in building new factories, hiring new employees, and developing new products or services. ...  Only those who prefer government control over free economic enterprise could oppose this idea.

No economic arguments, only the fantasy that they'd invest, increase hiring, and develop new products. This economic Great Recession has shown this to not be true at all.

Forbes, 4/23/13:

All told, U.S. corporations are sitting on a collective cash pile that the St. Louis Federal Reserve tallies up at $5 trillion, with a good deal of it overseas.

What about Those Corporate Taxes?

Contrary to what's above from the AEI, the tax code for corporations is hardly "confiscatory."

Corporations do not pay the "corporate tax list price" of 35%. They pay, according to a U.S. News & World Report article, The Truth About Corporate Tax Rates, an "average rate of 13%. Regardless of our nominal rate, our real corporate tax rate is among the lowest." The API is lying.

Indeed, Reuters reports, Study says most corporations pay no U.S. income taxes, 8/12/08:

"The Government Accountability Office said 72 percent of all foreign corporations and about 57 percent of U.S. companies doing business in the United States paid no federal income taxes for at least one year between 1998 and 2005."

They obviously won't be happy until all corporations pay NO TAXES AT ALL.

And then there's the "corporations are double-taxed" argument. As I note at Explaining Liberal Principles:

Conservatives say:

"Dividends and capital gains are double-taxed. It's immoral to require individuals to pay taxes on earnings that are already taxed."

Liberals should reply:

First, time is money. It's immoral to require that people who invest their time to make money pay taxes, but not those who invest their money to make money. It's class warfare to make those who work for a wage pay for the infrastructure, courts, police & fire protection, and national defense that make it possible for investors to make money.

Second, dividends and capital gains are not double-taxed because the law defines a corporation as an "individual" that is legally separate from individual stockholders to shield them from liability. Because the taxes apply to distinctly different "entities," there's no "double-taxation."

There's multiple-taxation on people when they pay income taxes, payroll taxes (Social Security and Medicare), property taxes, auto license taxes, and sales taxes on the same income. Why are "conservatives" not protesting this?

Conservatives argue that Corporate Taxes Drive Corporations Offshore! Despite the fact that they're going offshore anyway, even when they don't pay taxes. That's because the U.S. Subsidizes Offshoring of Jobs in many ways.

This "going offshore" for lower costs is the same "race to the bottom" in taxes that occurs between regions of the U.S. (see Colorado Springs: A Broken Region) to create enormous and growing infrastructure backlogs and pressure for taxes on the public to pay for them ... pressure that is blamed on "tax and spend" liberals because of spending on government services.

Why Corporations Should Pay Taxes

This misunderstanding is only possible because "conservatives" have only a superficial understanding of, or almost total ignorance of, the fundamentals of business and economics.

The "corporations don't pay taxes, people do, so they shouldn't pay taxes" campaign is quite successful with "free market", right-wing ideologues. Here's an example of this flawed "conservative" belief from a Paul Smith on Guy Derrick's Facebook post, 8/30/14 (see the full exchange below). He wrote:

Corporations are in business to make money, not to pay taxes. Every dime goes to the bottom line as an expense and is passed either to the stockholders or to customers in the form of higher prices. One way or the other, the people pay ALL taxes.

Here he is from a previous post:

"Corporations should pay ZERO taxes. Every damn dollar gets passed through to us. Don't y'all get it?"

So those who don't "get it" are stupid. Though it's obviously true that ultimately people pay all taxes, this has absolutely nothing to do with whether corporations, as well as individuals, should pay taxes. It's totally irrelevant.

Conservative Ignorance of Business:

Conservative: The expense of taxes are passed on to either stockholders or customers in the form of higher prices.

What's true: Expenses of all kinds (taxes included) are not necessarily passed on to stockholders or customers.

Note: While there are many costs that may increase to make businesses less competitive, it seems that "conservative" disdain for, and indeed even hatred of, government makes them pick on taxes.

Relative to costs being passed on to Customers: Prices are *not* set by costs. This is basic to understanding the nature of business and markets; prices are set by what the market will bear. Often, the market will bear quite a lot thanks to corporations working to eliminate competition by developing actual and effective monopolies and oligopolies. They do this thorough strategies that develop economies of scale & scope, network effects, and complementary goods (see The Engines of Growth for an overview of growth strategies. The form cartels to suppress wages.

Conservatives tout the wonders of competition, but when corporations develop effective monopoly power that eliminates competition, they fight against doing anything about it, saying that over the long run the "free market" will take care of it because the huge monopolies will eventually die. While some huge monopolies have died, it's clear now that times have changed ... the banks are even more "too big to fail" and government-subsidized WalMart continues gobbling market share ... driving smaller competitors out of business or buying them.

Report: Walmart Workers Cost Taxpayers $6.2 Billion In Public Assistance by Clare O'Connor, FORBES, 4/15/14

Libertarian policies of deregulation (lawlessness) that allow monopoly lead to increased corporate economic power, a greater ability to control government, and the alliance between corporations and government that is fascism.

There are possible cost pressures from many sources: material, transportation, competition, etc. A company has options: pay CEOs less, find more competitive suppliers, or maintain prices as they are with reduced profits. It may even be that the product or service is no longer competitive and it may be necessary to discontinue its sale.

These effects are experienced all the time due to costs from many sources. There's no reason to pick on "taxes" as being the major culprit.

What about costs being passed on to Stockholders?

"Well, there you go," the 'conservative' likely says. You've admitted costs of taxes can be passed on to CEOs, suppliers, or stockholders -- or the company may go out of business for a particular product or service. Case proven and closed."

Obviously, this can happen if costs of *any* kind increase, but it will not necessarily happen. That's because it's often only as a result of cost and competitive pressures that businesses are motivated to innovate to improve processes or design more cost-effective products and services.

Therefore, added costs may not be passed on to anyone. Instead the company may become more competitive.

My experience is that there is enormous potential for improvement, but most organizations are either not motivated to improve, don't know how to improve, or are unwilling to be patient enough to invest in improvement that might take 6 months ... they want quick fixes (see Exponential Improvement). The problem with the quick fix is that it takes too long.

Conservative Ignorance of Economics:

The so-called "free market" allows businesses to externalize costs onto the public. Corporations hate regulations that prevent them from doing so. Examples of often externalized costs include pollution, customer & employee injury and death, and infrastructure costs paid for by government that are necessary for the company to do business and be more productive.

Indeed, when companies are not required to pay a living wage, the costs of employees' and their families' malnutrition, illness, and even death are passed on to employees and their families. Such businesses are, in a word, uneconomic and should be considered as such. We should not allow their products and services to be sold here, whether they're in the U.S. or not.

Regulations are, as they say, "burdensome regulations". Indeed, they are burdens, burdens corporations should bear or else someone else does bear them. When you here "conservative" cries for "deregulation," understand they are calling for lawlessness.

Corporations should pay taxes required to support the services they require to do business. These include, but not limited to, the national costs of the "Defense" Department, "homeland security", federal law enforcement, the federal court system, and federal spending on infrastructure.

Much of so-called "national defense" is to protect oil transportation and distribution. Most governmental environmental cleanup is to do so after corporations. Growth interests impose an enormous infrastructure costs on the public; all over the nation there are enormous infrastructure backlogs. I expect corporations use the court system as much or more than the general public.

"Conservatives" worship the "free market", but the unregulated, untaxed "free market" does not allow market forces to properly balance supply and demand. For this to be so, costs must be internalized, built into the product or service. Absent this, customers will choose to products and services when they would not buy them at all or when they would logically decide to spend on alternate products and services.

Not internalizing costs promotes the sale of products and services that are fundamentally uneconomic. No true conservative should be in favor of this. Nevertheless, "conservatives," and especially libertarians, tend to promote the view that "taxes are theft" and exclaim, "It's my money!"

The "conservative" says, "Taxing corporations is just another way to steal from the people." But the truth is that the real theft -- from everyone -- occurs when they don't pay taxes.

It is the "socialism of the right" ... socializing costs is the socialism inherent in capitalism ... making enormous profits by way of driving systems into Overshoot & Collapse, making the planet unfit for life on earth by denying global warming, and polluting that kills & injures people & wildlife, the land, waterways, & the oceans.

Will Conservatives "Get It"?

To say "Unlikely" is being generous. The "true" conservative's response to these realities of business and economics? The same as before:

"In the end every damn dollar in taxes gets passed on to people ... and it's theft. Get your filthy hands out of my pocket!"

Conservative ideology is impenetrable to facts and logic! Cognitive shortcuts such as this are so simple that they're extremely difficult to resist.

For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong. H. L. Mencken

Why is this?

From "Learning in and about complex systems" (another link) by John Sterman, Director of MIT's System Dynamics Group, from the System Dynamics Review, Vol 10, Summer-Fall 1994, p. 308; also in Business Dynamics: Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World, Irwin/McGraw-Hill,  2000 by John Sterman, p. 28.

... while markets may reduce the magnitude of errors caused by the misperceptions of feedback, they do not eliminate them. Even well-functioning markets do not render the bounds on human rationality irrelevant. The robustness of the misperceptions of feedback and the poor performance they lead us to create across many domains are due to two basic and related deficiencies in our mental models of complexity.

First, our cognitive maps of the causal structure of systems are vastly simplified compared to the complexity of the systems themselves. Second, we are unable to infer correctly the dynamics of all but the simplest causal maps. Both are direct consequences of bounded rationality; that is, the many limitations of attention, memory, recall, information processing, and time that constrain human decision making.

To be fair, all fundamentalist ideologies are impenetrable, dysfunctional and dangerous. As he wrote in All models are wrong: reflections on becoming a systems scientist:

"Fundamentalism, whether religious or secular, whether the unquestioning belief in an all-powerful deity, the all-powerful state or the all-powerful free market, breeds persecution, hatred and war."

Exchange on Facebook (if you want to wade through it):

This is an exchange with a Paul Smith on Nathanial Pittman's FB post, August 6, 2014. In this exchange I explained what's above and that should have been enough. But of course, it did not penetrate.

It illustrates how thoroughly he, and others like him, have absorbed the "conservative" meme that corporations should not pay taxes because ultimately only people pay taxes. While this is a fact, it is totally irrelevant to whether corporations should pay taxes. He also argues, as a true "conservative," that "taxes are theft".

I should give him some credit for at least attempting to make an argument when he says corporations do pay some taxes: "corporations pay for infrastructure, etc. when they pay sales taxes on the materials they buy, when they pay energy taxes, when they pay electricity/water/utility bills, when they register their vehicles."

The problem is, corporations get enormous tax breaks (tax expenditures) as incentives (bribes) to locate in many regions (that's competition among regions) that allows them to evade lots of infrastructure costs, they don't pay sales taxes on materials incorporated into their products and they deduct the costs of materials from income to only pay taxes on their profits, utility bills and vehicle costs are also deducted as a cost of doing business.

Businesses only pay taxes, when they do, on profits. Whereas individuals pay taxes on *income* with deductions that are nowhere near as generous or comprehensive as what can be deducted by corporations. For example, corporations can deduct the costs associated with training employees and even training foreign workers to take over jobs being exported. But individuals can ONLY deduct educational expenses if they're directly related to their current line of employment ... NOT for training in an entirely new field.

The exchange:
__________________

IF YOURE CONSERVATIVE, A REPUBLICAN OR A TEAPARTY MEMBER WHY DO YOU THINK ITS OK FOR COMPANIES AND CORPORATIONS TO PAY LESS TAXES THAN THE PEOPLE IN THE MIDDLE AND LOWER CLASSES?
______________

Paul Smith wrote: "Corporations should pay ZERO taxes. Every damn dollar gets passed through to us. Don't y'all get it?"
______________

My response:

This is a typical false, unthinking "conservative" meme that's been pushed by the corporatists for decades. It illustrates that "conservatives" don't understand the market forces they profess to revere. Here's conservative vs liberal on this point from Explaining Liberal Principles.

Conservative: Corporations shouldn't pay taxes at all because that expense is passed on to consumers and it's ultimately individuals who pay the taxes.

Liberal: Corporations selling products and services require the support of common infrastructure and government services. The market can only efficiently allocate resources when the costs of supporting the creation of those products and services is built into all the products and services people purchase. Individuals in turn pay sales tax to pay for the services that support their own economic activity.

Why don't y'all get it?
______________

Paul Smith unbelievable. stupid. idiotic. short sighted. get your hands out of my pockets.
______________
My response:

Paul Smith, of course you don't get it. Yes, you want this "get your hands out of my pockets" policy so you, like corporations, can free load on everyone else. You are a cost redistributionist, otherwise known as a cost-side socialist.

Why don't you explain why my explanation of why corporations should pay taxes is incorrect? Clearly you don't understand market forces.

Your suggestion that corporations shouldn't pay taxes: Stupid, Idiotic. Short sighted. Pathetic ignorance of basic economic principles.
______________

Paul Smith Whatever you say, Robert. Just get your filthy hands out of my pockets.
______________

Paul Smith Corporations do not pay taxes, Robert. People pay taxes. Either the consumer pays the taxes or the owners pay the tax and the owners are stock holders - you know, you, your parents, your children, etc. Taxes raise prices of goods and services.

But to your comments, corporations pay for infrastructure, etc. when they pay sales taxes on the materials they buy, when they pay energy taxes, when they pay electricity/water/utility bills, when they register their vehicles. Taxing corporations is just another way to steal from the people.
______________

Robert Powell Of course taxes can raise the prices of goods and services, but prices aren't based on costs alone; they're based on what the market will bear so taxes don't necessarily raise prices. People also pay sales taxes, energy taxes and vehicle taxes ... AND people pay income taxes to support infrastructure and defense, etc. Corporations should as well.

Besides, corporations get enormous tax breaks and subsidies that let many of them pay low taxes or no taxes at all ... now *that's* stealing! It's cost redistribution onto the public. Developers are masters at this cost-side socialism that drives up infrastructure backlogs. See Colorado Springs: A Broken Region.

You do know that "conservatives" don't want taxes on capital gains or dividends either, don't you? Here are the two sides:

Conservative:

"Dividends and capital gains are double-taxed. It's immoral to require individuals to pay taxes on earnings that are already taxed."

Liberal:

First, time is money. It's immoral to require that people who invest their time to make money pay taxes, but not those who invest their money to make money. It's class warfare to make those who work for a wage pay for the infrastructure, courts, police & fire protection, and national defense that make it possible for investors to make money.

Second, dividends and capital gains are not double-taxed because the law defines a corporation as an "individual" that is legally separate from individual stockholders to shield them from liability. Because the taxes apply to distinctly different "individuals," there's no double-taxation.

Note: There is triple-taxation when people pay income taxes, Social Security taxes, and sales taxes on the same income. Why are "conservatives" not protesting this?

____________

Paul Smith You do like that web site, don't you Robert? A bit of tunnel vision there?
_____________

Okay, then. It's my site. Yep. I'm the one with tunnel vision.

 

 


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