Washington is as cynical a place as you will find on earth but President Barack Obama's latest attack on corporate "deserters" in a speech in Los Angeles and an interview with CNBC's Steve Liesman sets a new bar.
Obama brought the full weight of the Oval Office to the issue of U.S. companies acquiring sizable stakes in foreign firms in order to reduce their U.S. tax burden, saying doing so is "neither fair nor is it something that's going to be good for the country over the long-term."
Obama added, "If you are doing business here, if you are basically an American company but you are simply changing your mailing address in order to avoid paying taxes then you are really not doing right by the country and the American people."
Obama went on to urge Congress to pass a one-off bill making corporate inversions illegal, something that has actually been done repeatedly but never worked. These kinds of stand-alone proposals, in fact, are the main reason the corporate tax code, unreformed in nearly 30 years, is a horrific, tangled 70,000-page mess that mainly serves as a full-employment program for creative bankers and accountants looking to game the system.
Obama went on to say he stands "four square behind" broader tax reform that would lower the overall rate and close loopholes beloved by individual companies and industries.
The fact of the matter, however, is that the administration has never pushed hard for corporate tax reform proposals put forward after many years of hard work by former Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, whose prize for getting stiffed by the White House on his main objective—fixing an antiquated and anti-competitive U.S. tax code—was an ambassadorship to China (a posting that puzzled the Chinese).