for a system of governance, even though it primarily serves their corporateinterests. The U.S. government exists primarily to make the world safe formultinational corporations, but those firms feel no obligation to pay for thatprotection in return.Think of that perfectly legal and widespread racket when you go to pay yourtaxes in the next weeks, and consider that you have to make up the gap left by the big boys’ antics. Also, when you contemplate the painful cuts coming because of the sequester that undoubtedly will further destabilize theeconomy, remember that, as the Wall Street Journal estimated, the tax savingsof just 19 of those companies would more than cover the $85 billion inspending reductions triggered by the congressional budget impasse.The most skilled at this con game are the health care and technology companies, which, as a Senate investigation last year revealed, have becomequite expert at shifting marketing rights and patents offshore to low-taxcountries. Microsoft boosted its foreign holdings by $16 billion last year, and by the end of the company’s fiscal year on June 30, 2012, had $60.8 billionstashed internationally. Through creative accounting, Microsoft was able toclaim that only 7 percent of its pretax profit last year was domestically generated.Oracle increased its foreign holdings by one-third, including new subsidiariesin low-tax Ireland, and thereby was able to add a cool $272 million to thecompany’s bottom line by avoiding U.S. taxes. Abbott estimates that it saved$1.6 billion in U.S. taxes through its operations in more than a dozencountries. By moving $8.1 billion of its profits overseas, Abbott was able toclaim a pretax loss on its U.S. operations. Johnson & Johnson, another healthindustry giant, has almost all of its cash—$14.8 billion out of $14.9 billion—abroad, yet still claims to be a U.S. company.One of the longtime leaders in offshore tax avoidance has been that once- American-as-apple-pie company GE, which in a more innocent time hiredRonald Reagan to advertise its wares. Now GE has nearly two-thirds of its jobsabroad, avoided U.S. taxes in the previous two years and has $108 billionstashed overseas.Two years ago, President Obama appointed GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt to chairhis Jobs Council, despite the fact that Immelt had cut his company’s U.S. workforce by a fifth. GE’s expertise is no longer in appliance manufacturing, adivision Immelt has tried to shed, but rather in financial manipulation.