it's remarkable how quickly the storm of outrage over Apple's epic tax avoidance has passed over Washington. All it took was for Apple CEO Tim Cook (2011 compensation: $378 million) to share some yuks with senators about their love for his company's products ("I love Apple. I love Apple," enthused Claire McCaskill) and to cast Apple's extreme measures to avoid taxes (paying not a cent on $30 billion in global profits parked in an Irish subsidiary that has as much physical reality as a leprechaun) as a mere matter of subjective perspective: "The way that I look at this is there's no shifting going on that I see at all," Cook told John McCain. "I see this differently than you do, I believe."
There's one aspect of the Apple tax avoidance that I'm particularly surprised has been allowed to slip unscrutinized. As you're probably aware, the Silicon Valley giants have been in Washington a lot of late for something other than explaining the postmodern relativism of tax liability: to lobby for immigration reform. They're interested, in particular, in greatly expanding the number of H-1B visas, which Apple, Google, Facebook and the rest of the tech behemoths rely on to hire foreign software engineers. They need to bring these workers over from India, China and elsewhere, the companies say, because there simply aren't enough qualified native ones being trained here at home. One of the biggest champions of this demand was none other than Steve Jobs, Cook's predecessor, who made the pitch directly to President Obama in 2011. Sometimes, the companies phrase it euphemistically: The lack of H-1B visas, Google's public policy shop explains, is "preventing tech companies from recruiting some of the world's brightest minds." Mark Zuckerberg was slightly more candid in his big Washington Post op-ed, throwing his weight behind immigration reform: "To lead the world in this new economy, we need the most talented and hardest-working people" (you hear that, Middle America?) And sometimes it comes out just plain awkward: "There are simply more smart Indians and Chinese than there are Americans," Google CEO Eric Schmidt said over the weekend on CNN. (Yes, he is of course literally correct, sample size and all—there are more dumb people over there too!—but still…)