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Tim Cook, Taxes, and Avoiding the Right Thing

Apple CEO Cook testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee on investigations
Apple CEO Cook testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee on investigations Photograph by Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

Apple seems a little embarrassed. In a 16-page statement prepared for Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook’s testimony to Congress today, the company explains that it employs tens of thousands of Americans, makes “revolutionary products” that improve our lives, and pays billions in tax dollars every year. It lists these things first. Then it explains it has provided returns to its shareholders, among them public pension funds, for whom the company “safeguards the capital entrusted to it.”

Apple is saying two things. First, it has done good things for America. Simply by existing, it creates jobs, makes our lives better, and even kicks some money back to the Treasury. This is true. Second, Apple has not only provided asset growth and dividends to its shareholders, it has a moral obligation to do so. This is also true. But two true things don’t add up to an argument.