America’s pharmaceutical companies, as they are quick to point out, deserve big profits and robust patent protection because they invent drugs that save lives and enrich the quality of life.

Consider Pfizer Inc. In its glory days, which weren’t so long ago, it contributed Lipitor, the blockbuster cholesterol drug, and Viagra, the best-known erectile dysfunction pill. It’s been a long time since Pfizer had a hit.

Now Pfizer is back, announcing plans to merge with Allergan, makers of Botox, which does business from New Jersey but technically is headquartered in Ireland. Pfizer is pretending that Allergan is the lead dog in this $160 billion deal, so Pfizer can pretend that it, too, is an Irish-based company and pay taxes at Ireland’s 12.5 percent rate instead of being subject to the nominal U.S. rate of 35 percent.

In fact, few U.S. companies pay anywhere near 35 percent in federal taxes. The average, according to the Government Accountability Office, is 12.6 percent. Corporate pleaders have been very successful over the past five decades in arguing that their tax burden is too high. As a percentage of gross domestic product, corporate taxes have dropped from 7.2 percent to 1.3 percent since the mid-1970s.

This is part of what makes corporate inversions so despicable. These companies were built with the help of the same U.S. taxpayers whom companies like Pfizer now propose to stiff. The National Institutes of Health underwrite a lot of drug company research. University researchers, paid or subsidized by tax dollars, contribute to the cause.

Patent laws protect their corporate intellectual property, and the civil side of the federal court system does little but arbitrate corporate disputes. And then there’s subsidized public and private education, transportation and other infrastructure and countless other forms of citizen obligations that taxes pay for.

And now Pfizer wants to pretend to be Irish?

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