Tax Day 2011: "The More You Make, The Less You Pay"

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Corporations are dodging taxes, governments are cutting social services, and Americans are fed up. How they're fighting back.

 At a time when federal and state lawmakers are grappling with huge budget deficits, the impact of corporate tax dodging is getting vigorous attention.

On tax day, April 15, 2011, protesters gathered in St. Paul, Minnesota to call for increasing taxes on the wealthy—instead of budget cuts for social services like education and health care.

Photo by Fibonacci Blue.

Public outrage is growing over reports that General Electric paid no taxes in 2010. Other global companies such as Boeing, Verizon, Bank of America also haven’t chipped in a dime to Uncle Sam.

At the center of the movement to change that is US Uncut, a 7-week-old grassroots effort with the message: “No Budget Cuts Until Tax Dodgers Pay Up.” Since February 26, US Uncut has organized over 170 local demonstrations at the storefronts and offices of notorious tax dodgers.

On April 13, US Uncut teamed up with the theatrical Yes Men to play a huge prank on General Electric. They issued a mock General Electric press release with the headline “GE Responds to Public Outcry—Will Donate Entire $3.2 Billion Tax Refund to Help Offset Cuts and Save American Jobs.” Associated Press and other news outlets ran the story before the hoax was revealed, and the value of GE stock dipped dramatically.

With Congress virtually captured by corporate interests, it will require a powerful social movement to turn the tide on budget and tax matters.

US Uncut activists are planning over 100 demonstrations over the tax day weekend, April 15-18th. Some of the more creative actions include a reenactment in Boston of the ride of Paul Revere—and a “guerilla book-signing” in Washington, DC with Nicholas Shaxson, the author of the new book, Treasure Islands: Uncovering the Damage of Offshore Banking and Tax Havens.

According to Shaxson, tax havens—or “secrecy jurisdictions”—are the mechanisms through which wealthy individuals and multinational corporations move money around the planet to avoid taxation and regulation. These same mechanisms facilitate criminal activity, from laundering drug money to financing terrorist networks.

The cost of tax havens is estimated to be over $100 billion in lost revenue each year. And a coalition of more than 20 U.S. companies have launched a “WinAmerica” campaign to lobby for a “tax holiday” on $1.2 trillion in overseas profits they want to bring back to the United States. US Uncut is mounting a campaign to educate the public about this organized tax dodge.

With Congress virtually captured by corporate interests, it will require a powerful social movement to turn the tide on budget and tax matters.

A year ago, the Tea Party’s views about taxes dominated the news around Tax Day. But this year, media and public focus is on millionaire and corporate tax dodgers. Business Week’s cover story this week is “The Billionaire's Guide to Paying No Taxes.” Reporter Jessie Drucker, who wrote the article, summed up his findings: “the more you make, the less you pay.” For our nation’s millionaires and billionaires, “this could be the best tax day since the early 1930s.”

At a time when many governors and lawmakers are saying “we’re broke,” polls show that the public wants to hike taxes on millionaires and corporate tax dodgers before cutting budgets.

An American Uprising
Wisconsin and beyond: While wealth and power concentrate in the hands of a few, the rights, jobs, and services that everyday Americans depend on are on the line. Across the country, people are rising up to defend them.

A new report that I co-authored, Unnecessary Austerity, demonstrates that budget cuts are unnecessary if we reverse fifty years of huge tax cuts for the wealthy and tax dodging corporations. If corporations and households with $1 million income paid at the same levels they did in 1961, the Treasury would collect an additional $716 billion a year—or $7 trillion over a decade. 

The budget cuts will likely worsen over the coming year—but the seeds of a movement to build a more fair economy are starting to sprout.

The good news is efforts like US Uncut are touching a nerve as Americans think about unequal sacrifice in the face of budget cuts to schools, mental health services, infrastructure, and even home heating oil for low income elderly residents.

The creative spirit of local actions is flourishing as volunteer organizations use Facebook and Twitter to meet up and protest. The budget cuts will likely worsen over the coming year—but the seeds of a movement to build a more fair economy are starting to sprout.

 


Chuck Collins wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Chuck is a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies where he directs the Program on Inequality and the Common Good.