We now know how Congress defines excess profits. ExxonMobil and Northrup Grumman are in two vastly different businesses. One would not base a thesis on a single number from their financial statements. Still, such a comparison permits some discussion.
ExxonMobil’s 2005 operating margin was 16.2 percent. Senators of all partisan persuasions are calling for “windfall profit taxes.”
Northrup Grumman’s fiscal 2005 operating margin was 7.1 percent. The United States Senate has voted to give Northrup Grumman $200 million to cover an insurance loss.
I do not know if such corporate welfare is subject to income tax, so I cannot be certain it flows directly to the bottom line. Considering the intent of such a bailout, however, it hardly seems sporting to tax it. On that assumption, the Senate has agreed to increase N-G’s profit from $2.4 billion to $2.6 billion – comfortably over an 8 percent increase to the bottom line.
The Senate obviously cannot consider 7.1 percent to be an “excess profit.” Therefore, the gray area the Senate leaves us with in defining “excess profit” is between 7.1 percent+ and 16.2 percent.
It would be interesting to know what number(s) the Soviet Union used to calculate how much value had to be created by an industry to justify its existence. It isn’t as if the Politboro could raise taxes above 100%, and any given industry would not want to perform too well lest they hear: “Comrade, great work to exceed your quota! Your reward is increasing your quota.”