By David Berman
We can’t resist passing this little nugget along: Cash-rich Apple Inc. (AAPL) now has more cash on hand than the U.S. government.
In its latest earnings announcement, Apple said that its cash holdings had swelled to more than $76 billion thanks to a combination of big iPad and iPhone sales and not a lot of spending. Meanwhile, as the deadline to the U.S. debt crisis ticks down, the Treasury Department – which has enormous spending commitments – reported that its bank account had dwindled to less than $74 billion and could hit zero by Aug. 2.
You can insert any joke you want here – that the U.S. government should start selling iPads or that Apple should take over the reins in Washington. But it also underlines the fact that the respective health of the U.S. government and corporate America are two very different things.
Indeed, U.S. companies have accumulated some $1.2 trillion in profits, mostly held in overseas subsidiaries. Everyone dreams of the possibilities of bringing some of that cash home to help stimulate the economy with hiring, expansion and various research and development activities. To that end, Washington is working toward a tax holiday for these overseas profits, which would allow companies to bring the money back to the United States without losing it to the tax man.
Unfortunately, previous tax holidays have done little to stimulate the economy: Most repatriated funds are returned to investors through dividends. But hey, even dividends could find their way into the economy if investors decide to turn that Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) payment into a flat-screen television or an iPad.