The protests in Wisconsin could easily spread. While not every governor will recklessly attack collective bargaining, all states are facing major budget constraints.
This is the strategic moment to dramatically juxtapose the pain of local budget cuts with the scandal of corporate tax dodging. This April 15th Tax Day, let’s make our national focus be on stopping tax haven abuse and closing corporate tax loopholes.
States must close combined budget gaps of over $102 billion –and most are choosing deep budget cuts. Meanwhile, thanks to ways that U.S. corporations game the system to reduce their taxes, overseas tax havens cost the U.S. treasury over $100 billion a year.
In England, the movement UK UNCUT, has galvanized street protests, media investigations and legislative action. They have dramatized the scandal of billions lost thanks to overseas tax havens and corporate loopholes with the human face of federal and state budget cuts.
In every U.S. state, we should be doing the same. Every time a politician complains that “there is no money” or “we must make these cuts,” we should be pointing to the corporate tax dodging that could immediately close our budget gaps.
We should name names and show up at their branches. First there are the banks that wrecked our economy and accepted billions in taxpayer funded TARP funds. These include Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America. Our message: Pay up!
Pay up! General Electric, Carnival Cruise lines, Boeing, FedEx, News Corp, ExxonMobil, Pfizer. They pretend their profits are earned in tax havens like the Grand Cayman Islands and their losses are earned in the U.S., lowering their tax bills.
These US companies use our shared infrastructure, but don’t pay their fair share. They enjoy our roads, national defense, emergency services, and federally-funded research. They are profitable but don’t pay their full freight. They undercut local businesses that pay their taxes while struggling to compete on an unlevel playing field.
“There’s a direct connection between corporate tax dodging and what’s happening in people’s lives,” said Carl Gibson one of the founders of US UNCUT Mississippi. “If we close those loopholes, we wouldn’t have to be cutting back on firefighters, library hours and student loans.”
Gibson started a web site after being inspired by the movements in England. “I work three jobs and can barely cover my $450 per-month rent,” said the 23-year old Gibson. “But I still pay my taxes. All I’m asking is that the wealthiest corporations pay what they owe, too.”
US UNCUT is launching the first wave of protests this Saturday, February 26th with a focus on Bank of America. There are actions planned in over 20 states. Bank of America has launched a glitzy PR campaign about how charitable and community-minded they are. But we should remind them the only way back into our good graces is to “Pay up!”
The Tax Justice Network and Business and Investors Against Tax Havens have been pressing over the last year to keep these issues in the public spotlight. With US UNCUT teaming up with the Other 98 and other coalitions focused on corporate tax dodging, we can anticipate a lively April 15th Tax Day.